We took Clara to see Santa the day before Thanksgiving again this year. Clara enjoys waving at Santa when we pass him at the mall and anytime she spots a Santa anywhere (in signs, as part of a light display, in a book, etc.) she gives a hearty little "ho-ho-ho-ho!" (she usually does one extra "ho" for good measure).
But when I handed her to Santa for a picture, she was NOT happy about it. She cried and kept repeating "mommee! mommee!" in her sweet little voice while I stood right off to the side and told her that it was okay and tried to get her to say "hi" to Santa. In the end, Paul and I honestly weren't sad about her tear-filled picture with Santa because doesn't every kid have that photo of themselves being frightened by the man with the long white beard and red suit? I'm pretty sure we have one of me like that from when I was a kid. Maybe I can find it when we are at my parents' house. This Santa is so kind and good with kids though and we just love him. I am including all the outtakes that Paul took from the side just so you can see her scrunched up little face.
And here is the final picture that we chose...
This is the first year that Paul and I have done white twinkly lights on our tree instead of red. I grew up with a red tree and Paul remembers multi-colored trees from his childhood but this year we just felt like trying something different. It has been a very pretty tree even though we only ended up putting on only half of our decorations - the uniform red and white sparkly balls and a few other favorite glass ornaments. We have an entire box of souvenir ornaments that we have collected on our travels - a Mozart marionette from Austria, a Swiss cowbell, a Czech doll, a Turkish evil eye - that sort of thing - but we left them off because we got lazy and threw the tree up right before our Virginia trip and then afterwards we just couldn't get up the motivation to finish decorating. It was a pretty tree anyway though and Clara was mostly good about leaving ornaments and lights alone. Mostly she just liked getting up close and looking and sometimes touching but she usually didn't pull things off the tree.
We went to the Oakland temple one of night to see the lights there. We had dinner and shared a banana split at Fenton's first (the ice cream parlor from the Disney movie "Up" is a real place in Oakland that loads of members go to in conjunction with temple trips here). Clara really enjoyed the lights and being bundled up in her coat and blankets to stay cozy despite the chilly temperatures.
We also went to a live nativity program put on by a Baptist church in Santa Clara every year called "Bethlehem" where they cover their parking lot with tons of sand and erect buildings to create a setting like the time and place where the Savior was born. They have live animals for the kids to look at and "stations" where you can see things like carpentry, forging, weaving, etc. and then they do a program with Mary and Joseph coming in on a donkey and wise men come in on camels and everything. There is music and a little bit of acting and parts of it are just a little cheesy but it really is a fun and wonderful thing for this church to do each year and we certainly enjoy it.
Then the past few nights Paul and I have had fun making up neighbor gifts of goodies to take around to a handful of people. Paul called and got his grandma Nash's 60-year old recipe for toffee and for the first time ever my toffee set up properly. It was delicious and I am including the recipe here so I don't lose it (and so you can try it too if you want although she told Paul that it doesn't work for her in Utah so we made a couple of extra batches to take with us for her and Paul's family to enjoy). I am also including the recipe I used for Rocky Road Fudge which also turned out beautifully for me (I have had fudge disasters in the past so I was leary about trying it again and spending all the money on the ingredients). I also did a dark chocolate fudge topped with pretzel pieces and M&M's but I didn't like how that one turned out as well so I will have to keep looking for a better recipe.
Great-Grandma Nash's Toffee Recipe
1 cup chopped roasted almonds
1 cup butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp water
1/2 tsp baking soda
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped pretty fine (or you can use dark or milk chocolate if you like - and the original recipe only called for 3 ounces but I knew that ratio was totally off when I saw it and I am wondering if it was a misprint)
Sprinkle half of the chopped almonds on a buttered 9x13 surface (either a cookie sheet or a silipat mat). Melt butter in a heavy pan; add sugars and water, then mix well. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat (be patient! if you rush it you will regret it!), stirring constantly. Continue stirring and cooking at a boil until a candy thermometer (you MUST have one to make this) reaches 300 degrees (hard crack stage) - this step will take some time. Remove from heat and immediately stir in baking soda (work fast). Pour carefully over almonds in pan; let cool slightly for 3-5 minutes before sprinkling chopped chocolate over the toffee. The heat of the candy will melt the chocolate and then you can spread it out with the back of spatula or knife so that it is even. Sprinkle the remaining half of the chopped almonds over the chocolate and press in lightly. Cool, then break into pieces. Makes about 1 1/2 pounds.
Rocky Road Fudge
20 large marshmallows
4 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups evaporated milk
2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips
1 cup butter
1-2 cups chopped walnuts (I used 2 and the fudge was just the way I like my rocky road - extra rocky)
1 tsp vanilla
4 cups miniature marshmallows (freeze beforehand so they hold their shape better and don't melt when added to the hot fudge mixture)
In a large pot, combine large marshmallows, sugar and evaporated milk. Bring to a boil and boil for 6 minutes, stirring constantly. (Don't be alarmed by the brown bits that will appear in the mixture while cooking.)
Remove from heat and immediately add the butter and chocolate chips. Stir until completely combined, then add the walnuts and stir to incorporate. Let it sit just a couple minutes longer to thicken slightly, then add vanilla and frozen miniature marshmallows. Pour into buttered 9x13 pan and allow to set completely.