Saturday, December 31, 2016

Looking Back on 2016

2016 has been so good to us. Here's a look back at our highlights.

Hiking is my absolute favorite activity we do as a family. It's good for our souls and good for our family. So it's no wonder that these pictures are a good representation of our year.

We started hiking early in the year. This picture was taken in January! Snow on the ground makes for a great hike.

We discovered some amazing views on our hikes this year. This view can hardly be seen in the summer. It makes a winter hike completely worth it.

We learned that Lex doesn't like crossing moving water where there may possibly be crawdads.

This was the time that the boys made me stop climbing the tree because they thought I would break it. The whole tree. They thought I would break the tree. I laughed so hard (but did stop climbing - you know - just in case..).

The boys however climbed on whatever they could find.

It took us three days of exploring to find this lookout spot. Totally worth it.

I just love this hiking hobby of ours.

My three favorite men.

And then there were the other outings and adventures we experienced this year.

Like zip-lining for the first time. I was so proud of these two for trying something new and then realizing that they loved it!

Then there was the time the boys went rolling around with their cousins in Ohio.

And went down the giant hillside water slide.

There was the mud run in July that was a perfect mid-summer activity.

We went to the Science Museum where these guys learned how to power a giant ball machine with their leg power.

And went to the state fair where the boys did bumper cars for the first time. How cute are they?

There was loads of bike riding - sometimes in minion costumes.

Extracurricular activities were a big part of our schedule this year.

Eli joined Lex in tball.

And soccer. He was a natural.

 Jeremy and I actually coached the boys' soccer team in the spring. We had so much fun and loved the kids on our team.

Eli got a speaking part in the kindergarten Christmas program and only fussed a little bit about getting so dressed up for it.

Lex continued his piano studies.

 He earned a trophy for his spring competition accomplishments and also won second place in the state in the first grade division. We were so proud of him!

He was also invited to be the "opening act" for Anthony Hernandez at the Boone County Historical Society concert series this past summer.

And then there was the downtime...

Like on the 4th of July when they refused to just smile for a picture. And now I can't help but smile every time I look at this one. 

Lex started reading stories to Eli.

And Eli spent endless hours on the trampoline. Seriously.

When we asked Eli what kind of cake he wanted for his birthday, he said, "trifle," ... and then made it himself. He has grown up so much this year.

Two big accomplishments for the grown-ups in this family...

First, Jeremy earned his Bachelor's Degree after 20 years of working on it. That's right. We are still getting used to all the extra time he has now that he isn't constantly taking a class here and there to finish.

And also... Jeremy and I celebrated our 20 year wedding anniversary in December. We celebrated with a romantic getaway to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, which I plan to write about soon. What an enchanting little place.

So from our family to yours, we wish you a happy new year! 

Friday, December 30, 2016

Springerle Cookies

Two things I love are good wooden cutting boards and beautiful wooden rolling pins. Clearly, it doesn't take a lot to make me happy. It all stems back to the gifts my Granny gave me before she died years ago. One was her cutting board that she didn't use for cutting, but working pie dough, and her wooden rolling pin, to roll out the pie dough. I cherish them both. Now, whenever I'm in a flea market or antique store, and come across an old wooden rolling pin, I just can't help but hold it and imagine the story behind it.

Last summer, my mom came to visit and I took her to Hermann, an adorable little German town nestled right beside the Missouri River. It's known for the wineries, but also the quaint little shops. It was in one of those shops, that I came across this rolling pin. I had never seen one like it before and thought it was so pretty.

There are tiny little nature themed molds with incredible details. My favorite was the little dragonfly below. I couldn't believe how unique it was. My mom bought it for me for an early birthday present and the shop owner carefully wrapped it in tissue paper, a plum colored gift bag, with a white piece of yarn wrapped around it. She wrote down the name of the cookies, "springerle" on a piece of paper and put it in the bag so I would remember what kind of cookies to make with it.

So when I started putting my baking list together for Christmas, I added springerle cookies to the list. They are a traditional German cookie/biscuit. Perfect. The ingredient list is easy, but does have an ingredient I've never used before - anise seed. If you're not familiar with it, it has the flavor of black licorice. Even more perfect. 

Here's the ingredient list. 

4 Large eggs
2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons anise seed (OR 1 teaspoon anise extract)
4 cups all purpose flour. 

Now a little disclaimer.  I am making the amateur version of these. As in the recipe seemed somewhat technical - and well - I did the best I could. They turned out delicious although may not win the springerle cookie of the year award. Maybe next year. 

Here's how I made them. 

1.) Beat the eggs with electric mixer until light and fluffy. 

2.) Add sugar, butter, and baking powder to the eggs. Beat on high speed for 10 minutes (here's where I may have cheated. 5 minutes is the same as 10 minutes, right?)

3.) Add anise seed and then add in a little bit of flour at a time until it's all mixed in.

4.) Knead the dough on a floured surface until it's manageable. 

5.) With a normal rolling pin, roll the dough into a rectangle about 1/2 thick. 

6.) Now to get your springerle rolling pin ready... Lightly flour it, but be careful not to let too much flour get in the little crevices. You may need to brush out the excess. Remember that where there is flour, there will be no dough.

7.) Slowly and ever so carefully roll your springerle rolling pin over the dough. You will need to cut the cookies apart with a knife. Set aside the scraps and repeat the process. 

8.) Lay the cookies on a baking sheet. Most recipes say that at this point you let the cookies sit out on the counter from 12-36 hours. However, if you are like me, you don't make cookie dough just to let it sit on the counter. With a little research, I learned that the point of this step is to preserve the stamped image while they are baking. Since I was okay with an unpreserved image, I went ahead and baked them. They still turned out so pretty. 

9.) Whether you wait to bake, or just bake, put them in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes.

And there you have it!

Notes: They are supposed to be golden brown on the bottom and white on the top. Also, apparently the longer you keep them stored, the better they are. Also, it's okay if they are crispy. I think that's all.