Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Do You Fon-Due?

What better way to celebrate the kindness of good friends... ...than to gather 'round vats of hot oil and cook an assortment of meats???

It all started when we were talking with our friends, Ken and Kathy Christiansen. (Hayley is good friends with their daughter Karen, and Kathy and I have discovered a kinship based on A LOT of similarities. And we have that good old Catholic connection going! And all the guys are at the Pistol Range right now, so there's that!) Anyway, we mentioned fondue and all agreed we should do it sometime. Well, long story short, our new friends loaned us their 4-wheel drive vehicle to get us through the recent "Great Snow of 2008." You know, the one where more snow fell on the PNW region than anyone can EVER remember? Yeah, that one. So, as a small gesture of thanks, we invited their family over for a fondue feast. Filet, lobster, scallops, shrimp, chicken, pork and mushrooms all took their turn in the hot oil jacuzzi's (better known as the fonduzzi.) Then, they were slathered with horsey, dill, deviled, lemon butter, cocktail and Asian sauces. Oh and there was classic Swiss fondue, which is basically a cheese/wine melt and you dip chunks of french bread into that. Yeahhhhhh!

We thought the kids would prefer chicken strips and Dano's home fries, but really, they would have been just as happy with fondue for their dinner. They eventually headed back upstairs for more Guitar Hero World Tour, but did come back downstairs for this: That is Swiss Chocolate Fondue. From a recipe circa 1973...that cracks me up! Basically, it is cream and chocolate and a dash of liqueur...with hunks of banana, pound cake and rice krispie balls for dippins'.

Take a moment....

Now, I do apologize for the lack of photos. But honestly, it is really hard to hold a camera when you're holding a fondue fork in each hand! Trust me.

Ken, Kathy, Rob and Karen, thank you so much for lending us your truck and for a really fun evening!

Thursday, December 25, 2008


Well, Dan and I got our morning exercise shoveling snow off of both decks! It was snowing pretty heavy earlier, but now it seems to be warming (?) up a little bit and dare I say, the sun is poking through? Regardless, we are hunkering down inside today and staying warm.

We hope everyone near and far has a wonderful Christmas!

With love from us PNW Liebels =)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

One Year Ago Today...

Dan's mom passed away. Just think...Christmas Eve. (You have to be a Liebel to get that one...)

It was a pretty sad moment to get the call that we knew was coming, but somehow it made perfect sense for Mom to leave us on Christmas Eve.

Mom loved Christmas and what better way to make her exit than to go hang out with Jesus on Christmas? I know in the days that followed, her entire family all took comfort in that thought. I didn't think we had a lot of photos of Mom, but going through the files, I found that we do! And for the record, I have this labeled under "Celebrations" because really, I think we should celebrate Mom today.

Here she is keeping watch over Thanksgiving gravy. She was really good at that!

With the kids after the annual Grandparents Day Mass at school. The first few years, I'd always go get a fresh corsage, but one year, I found a beautiful ivory silk rose corsage and gave that to her. (It is in the top photo next to the angel.) I think Mom really liked the functionality of the silk corsage and she wore it every year after that.

Mom also loved Halloween. Living close to her, we'd usually drive over and start our Trick-or-Treating at her house before heading back to our own neighborhood. I'm really struck by the color coordination here!

This is Grandma Liebel and Hayley after her First Communion. I'm not sure there was a happier day for Mom than when any of her grandchildren received their First Holy Communion. Mom was a woman overflowing with faith.

Here is Mom with her youngest, her baby. Her Danny. We miss our Mom. We miss our Grandma Liebel.

I'm sure I speak for everyone in simply saying...we miss her.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

I Posted the Wrong Photo...

This is the entire Roadhouse.
I can't believe I posted the wrong photo of the gingerbread Roadhouse! So, instead of swapping the photo out (which entails basically doing the whole post over again) I will just post it here. It's just too cute not to share! I think I originally did the close-up version so the "smoke" in the smoking area would be visible. Anyway, enjoy! The rest of the post is below.

The Big Gingerbread Reveal

Sigh. Here is our house. I save all the decorations from our house every year and then pile them on the next year. Overkill? Perhaps. But we wouldn't have it any other way. So, how do we get here?

Remember this? All baked up, edges evened out and stacked up ready to assemble. One of them is longer than the others. You'll see why later on.

You can't assemble an edible gingerbread house without Royal Icing. After years of making this, I truly believe it is an art form. If the icing is not right, as in too thick or too thin, there is lots of unsavory language in the kitchen while the houses are being assembled. Trust me on this. I grew up with it....and I am carrying on the "tradition." But, if the icing is good, it is a thing of beauty. I make my icing tubes out of freezer paper. That plastic lining is a lifesaver.

I found a lovely pastry tube with all the fancy tips, and in a weak moment, I bought it. Meh. This is the last time you will see the fancy-schmancy pastry tube. Anyway, the windows have to be attached and allowed to dry before any real construction can take place.

Now, the actual construction takes many hands and those hands cannot be holding cameras while holding the pieces. So, fast forward.......

You can see the house in the back has no roof. The order goes: Front and side. Other side. Back. Then the two roof pieces. Usually about that time, I am thinking, often out loud, "These look horrible!! Not a GOOD YEAR!" (Josie Grandma, does this sound at all familiar??) You see, it is a PROCESS. Like any process, you have to trust in the final vision. They just don't look that cute while they are being put together.

This is my subcontractor, Hayley. (Well, these are her hands.) I wouldn't dare try to decorate these little gems without her help. She would shoot me. And then never speak to me again. I can't have that, so she does a lot of the decorating. This is her friend Karen's house.

And here is our Bobo with the finished Christiansen house! We're not thinking the houses are horrible anymore!

See, they go from ugly ducklings to cute swans! We include a little light to insert in the back to provide yummy light through the door and windows.

This is Molly, our kitty. She only gets to go outside in our gingerbread world!

We have a snowman. And the mailman leaves presents outside the door!

That's me...standing in the doorway. Teehee. Can I just say it was a pretty good year for icicles? (Another familiar term for Josie Grandma!)

And Santa and Rudolph hang out on the roof. Can you stand it???

This is The Roadhouse Bar and Grill. They've kind of adopted Dano as their own. It's his Joe Josts of the PNW. That is his car there in the middle.

I thought they deserved a little gingerbread replica of the Roadhouse. It came complete with the fenced-in smoking area and neon pub signs. Normally, recipients love the houses and they gush over them. This might have been the best reception ever. The women in the Roadhouse went nuts, but the male owner and male manager pretty much acted like little boys on Christmas morning! I love it. It is why I make these little houses year after year!

So that is the story of our gingerbread houses. There is just one drawback to having a house made of gingerbread. The mice enjoy them as much as us people do!

I know. =)

I can't stand it either!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Breaking News...


Elves wielding glorious cans of spray paint. They travel under the cover of darkness and are very sneaky...as elves usually are!

This is not an elf. This is my Boy. Can you tell how happy he is to be home? He got all bundled up and headed right outside this morning to shovel the snow. Why? Because we're going to get dumped on again tonight. That's why.

Back to the elves. The naughty elves. They do good work. Very colorful and precise. I love these elves. One realizes while taking photos of the elf art, one sees ones own shadow. Yes, I was still in my robe. Don't judge.

Sighhhhh. I love it here. You don't see this kind of love down in SoCal. The elves down in SoCal use toilet paper. (no, not like that! They throw it in the trees and wrap up your car in it!)


P.S. The gingerbread reveal might have to wait for tomorrow. I may have used up all my blogging time today!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Gingerbread Contractor

Can you stand it??? Another new blog post! So, I'm going to have to do this in two parts because there are just too many pictures of the Gingerbread House process and I don't want anyone to lose interest. Okay? Okay. Here goes...

Everything is all ready to go here. The dough, baking sheets (brand spankin' new unwarpable Cuisinart pans...that will come into play very soon!) rolling pin, pattern pieces, scraper, etc.

I just have to add here that when we were looking at homes to buy, I may have done a little jig when I saw this granite island. I mean, to a girl who rolls out gingerbread dough every year, this island sealed the deal. Just had to share that tidbit.

So, we place a hunk of dough on the heavenly slab of granite and start rolling. This dough is a rollers dream.

See? All flat and even. {{sigh}}

Okay, I use the scraper to cut out the pieces. This is a roof. I'll need two for each house. I am a gingerbread contractor. We came up with that name the other day. I like it!

Next, pan by pan, the pieces are baked. Do you like my new non-warping pans? Can I share with you my horror when after only 3 1/2 minutes of the very first pan baking, I heard the lovely wrenching WARPING ping in the oven. Nice.
Gingerbread contractors do not like it when their roofs (rooves??? I'm going with roofs.) are warped. Or maybe it is the homeowners that don't like their roofs warped. Either way, this sight really pissed me off. Sorry, just keepin' it real folks. I was ready to march back into Costco with my unwarpable pans and have a chat. But then, the pans unwarped. Just like that. Maybe they were afraid of my wrath? We'll never know. They've not warped since that baking day, so I'll move on.

This is where the pieces cool. Those little pieces are various cookies that I bake to keep the wolves (aka: my children) from chewing on the house pieces. Actually, they like to eat the raw dough, so I got up early to bake these.

My gingerbread Santa always presides over the baking.

So, do the scraps go in the trash? Do they go in my children's mouths? What does one do with all those scraps?

No. They are not really scraps. They are perfectly good to re-roll.

And the scraps are happy about this. See?

I hear your thoughts. "Diane has got WAY too much time on her hands." Shush.

Ahhhhh. That is a glorious, re-rolled sight.
In fact, the re-rolled dough behaves even better than the first rolled dough. Let's take a moment to take in this goodness, shall we?

Ohhhhhhmmmmmmmmm. Okay. Moving on.

Now, I don't want you all to think that my kitchen always looks neat and pristine. Because it doesn't. Gingerbread contracting is a messy, flour-y, spread out MESS. Behold:

But, that is what sponges and towels and elbow grease is for. Everything cleans up all nice and tidy and in the end, this is what you get:

A clean island with nicely stacked building supplies all trimmed and ready for assembling. It's a good thing.

Check back tomorrow for the final chapter in this Gingerbread story. It will be worth it. Meanwhile, this morning, I woke up to this:

I love this shot so much so I made it my new header photo. And then I got a wild hair and changed the background to a Christmas-y color. I'm not sold on it yet. =)

It is a stunningly beautiful day here in the PNW. And the hubs comes home from SoCal this afternoon. And we're heading to the Christiansen's for their holiday Open House tonight.

Truly a good day in this neighborhood!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Snow Day Y'all

Reporting live from beautiful Marysville. Snowed in, if you will. Yep, we're on our 2nd Snow Day from school. Tomorrow is only half day, so really, Christmas vacation started yesterday! Woohoo! This is part of the front yard. Taken before it dumped another six inches on us yesterday.

I think we had about a foot of the white stuff yesterday. These shots were taken early in the day. The patio table on the back deck:

Seeing how Hayley and Brian didn't grow up with any snow in their lives until now, they tend to get a little excited when it snows. So there was a lot of this: Abby is licking up the residue from the kids spraying cooking spray on the bottom of their boogie boards for extra sliiiiide. For the record, I believe the kids have used their boogie boards (meant for the ocean) up here in the snow wayyy more than they ever used them in the water down in SoCal!

There was a lot of this: This snow was perfect for packing into snowballs. Just sayin'. Abby...still licking.

There was this, where Hayley buried Brian in the snow: Abby....still licking.

There was a lot of chasing: Its not easy capturing them as they run up the stair at you.

Say it with me:

"Later dudes!" If you don't get that reference, go watch "Christmas Vacation" and get back to me. =)

Hayley came inside to thaw out, but Brian got busy doing a lot of this:

That is some heavy snow. Trust me.

Because it took two of us to hoist the middle section of Frosty onto his bottom portion.

He actually does have a hat, gloves and scarf. But we took them off so they wouldn't get lost in the snow that was still to fall.

Abby had a ball out in the snow.

Here she is wondering if there is any more cooking spray to lick up out there. You can see the snow piled up on the patio furniture. It got worse.

This is my gratuitous composition shot. And some serious snow flurries.

What, praytell, are you looking at? Well, that is a candle pot on the corner of the railing of our bedroom deck, nicely framed by the arbor over one of the gates in the backyard. And a lot of snow.

This is one of my favorite shots of the day:

I went out on the front porch and saw these darling little birdie footprints. The little guy must've hop-hop-hopped his way all over the porch. Can you stand it? Actually, this little bird looked like a fat little golf ball with feet and a beak. Cutest.Thing.EVER.

And finally, another of my favorite shots. Check this out:

My wonderful friend Kathy came over on Monday, and after she drove my children to school in the snow (Thanks again Kathy!) we baked cookies for NINE HOURS STRAIGHT! I believe we counted 14 varieties of cookie goodness. Seriously good times. Burgers at the Roadhouse for dinner...it was truly a great day!

So, that gets you all up to date on the big snow of 2009. Oh, and Dano? He had to head down to SoCal on business earrrrrly Sunday morning, so he's missing all this. We miss you Dad!!!

Tomorrows post: THE BIG GINGERBREAD REVEAL! Oh, you'll want to come back for that!