Tag Archives: Christmas 2008

Christine’s award-winning Gingerbread House Bundt Cake

OK, we have been waiting to blog about Christine’s award-winning bundt cake for a year. Literally! See, by the time we finished making it for Christine’s work Christmas party, it was already too late in the season to blog about it, so, we skipped it. Well, not this year!

Actually, there isn’t much to this thing…all you need is a Nordic Ware Bundt Pan, Gingerbread cake mix and all kinds of crazy candy for the outside. We bought our Bundt pan the year before at an after-Christmas sale at Sur La Table, and from what I can gather, our exact style is no longer available on most sites. But I did find a similar pan at Wal-Mart that would work just as well.

For the cake itself, we used Trader Joe’s Deep Dark Gingerbread Cake and Baking Mix, which is freaking delicious on its own, but even better in tiny Christmas house form. Yum!

As you can see in the second picture above, the cake comes out of the over kind of rounded on the bottom, so, we cut that part off and promptly ate it. Then, with the bottom of our Gingerbread house flattened, we placed it in the center back of our cake plate (gotta leave room for a big, snowy front yard, yo!) and got down to decorating the outside of our house.

Aside from the little jelly candies we used in the windows — which we found in the candy aisle at our local CVS — we stuck to pretty traditional candy decor: M&M’s, Red Vines, candy canes, and marshmallows.

The most expensive “building materials” we used were probably the Williams-Sonoma chocolate covered peppermint sticks (aka North Poles) we used for the fence. They weren’t cheap, but we only needed a few of them and since we had them in the house already, we used them.

The snowy ground cover in the yard was powered sugar mixed with water and, lemme tell ya, that stuff was hard to work with! You have to wait for it to kinda half-dry before anything will stick to it and if you wait too long, it gets too hard and you’re screwed. Trust me, this is where having two people working on the house came in very handy!

After plopping down a marshmallow snow woman in the front yard, we dusted the entire house with more powdered sugar and hurried off to the party where, lo-and-behold, we actually won a prize! Hooray!

But even cooler than the shiny award certificate or the $20 Target gift card that went with it, was the fact that the people at the party positively devoured our Gingerbread house. I’m not kidding, man. I saw a dude scraping the sugar snow off the plate…crazy!

I’m not saying everything we used wasn’t edible, because it totally was, but, wow, we never thought anyone would actually eat the whole thing. Yikes…guess the pickings on the buffet table were slim.

Anyway, if you’re looking for a quick, easy-to-make Gingerbread house this holiday season, Nordic Ware has the pan for you. Happy Baking, amigos!

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The Flip Mino HD

Christine and I both got some kick-ass Christmas presents this year — our Criterion Collection DVD of “The Red Balloon” is gorgeous, the “Complete Elvis Presley Gospel Recordings” has not left my CD player since I cracked it open, Christine’s scads of baby knitting books rock, and our new “Guitar Hero: World Tour” video game has been making our fingers sore ever since we got it —  but I think my favorite gift under the tree was the beautiful little HD video camera pictured below.

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Smaller than my digital camera (and my wallet for that matter!) the Flip Mino HD is kind of amazing. Not only can it record up to one hour of beautiful, High Definition video, but with the flip of a button, a USB jack pops out of the top of the camera for quick and easy transfer of all your footage to your computer. Crazy, huh? And best of all, the Flip Mino HD is totally customizable!

As you can see, we picked the rocking little “eL Diablo” design by artist Scott Lipe. But, seriously, there are hundreds of different designs to chose from…we literally spent days sorting through them all.

And while I have a few quibbles with the camera so far — the viewing screen is kinda small and the zoom is pretty much non-existent — the fact that I can carry it with me when I’m out for on-the-go videography is pretty damn awesome.

My last video camera was big with tons of wires and cords and transferring the footage to my computer took forever and involved this crazy machine. So, smaller and easier is way better in my book…especially when the baby comes! I mean, really, who wants to be fumbling for their clunky old video camera when she does something insanely cute? With “eL Diablo” I can point and shoot like the most seasoned stalkerazzi.

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Oh, and did I mention that the Flip also formats your footage for YouTube? Yep, how’s that for ease of use? And probably my favorite thing about this crafty little camera is the fact that it is totally Mac friendly. Yay!

I haven’t shot anything remotely blog-worthy yet, but once I do, rest assured that you’ll be the first to see it! Thanks again to Christine for the coolest joint-Christmas present ever and que viva, “eL Diablo”!

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The last days of Mervyn’s…

Just a couple of days before Christmas, I made the sad, lonely trek to the Burbank mall to visit our once- glorious Mervyn’s department store one last time before they went the way of Mother’s Cookies. And, trust me, sad and lonely doesn’t begin to describe what I found. Seriously, that store was decimated, yo…

Christine and I had trolled the baby sale racks a couple of times recently, but nothing I had seen then could begin to prepare me for the war-torn anchor store I encountered. The few departments that still had merchandise: kids, women’s lingerie and shoes had the oddest size selection you’ve ever seen.

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I kid you not, a drag queen on the market for some giant old lady heels and a khaki pantsuit in a size 20 would have had a field day in that joint. It was insane!

And though the horribly-stained carpets looked like a crime scene and the place had a strange, post-apocalyptic vibe that kind of creeped me out, I couldn’t help remembering the way Mervyn’s looked to me in its prime. Yes, that’s right, amigos, even cheap-ass discount department stores have a heyday.

For me, it was when the Mervyn’s opened at the Capitola Mall in my hometown in the early-80’s. It wasn’t exactly Barney’s or anything, but to a kid used to doing all his back-to-school shopping at Sears — my Dad had a card there, sue me — Mervyn’s was a freaking revelation!

And though I still had — and, ahem, have — a hard time finding pants that fit my husky ass, Mervyn’s had some pretty styling duds back in the day. So when I moved up to San Francisco to go to film school, the Mervyn’s at the Serramonte Shopping Center was my home away from home.

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Seriously, who else would have given a college student instant credit back then? And if you needed new sheets and towels — as we all very often did in soggy San Francisco — Mervyn’s was the place to go, baby. Cheap, basic and colorful, those sheets and towels kicked ass.

High-thread-count snobs like Oprah might disagree, but Mervyn’s was the shit back in the early 90’s, and when we moved to Burbank, man, we kept that joint in business. Sadly, Mervyn’s historic run as a cheap chic mecca came to an end a few years later with the proliferation of Target.

Ironically, Target owned and ran Mervyn’s for years, but once the suits in St. Paul sold the chain to focus on their own stores, Mervyn’s fell hard and never really recovered. Literally overnight, the styles, selections and quality at Mervyn’s went from cheap chic to just plain cheap, and with Target courting bargain-hungry hipsters like never before, it was pretty apparent that “La Mervyn’s” was on their way out.

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But even though we all saw it coming, I gotta tell ya, I was more than a little bummed to step out of that ratty old store for the last time. Yes, it looked like hell (and smelled even worse!) but Mervyn’s was a major retail touchstone for me, so, watching her go the way of Bullocks, Robinsons-May and Buffoms, was totally sad.

On my way out I grabbed a “Store Closing” sign off the floor for a souvenir. And though Christine thinks I’m crazy for hanging it in the garage (which I promptly did!) I know that every time I look at that bright yellow and red sign, I’ll remember the power and the glory that was Mervyn’s California.

RIP old gal, you will be missed…

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Enya: “And Winter Came…”

OK, I know I can’t be the only Enya lover out there…I mean, the woman has four Grammy’s and an Oscar Nomination for God’s sake. But in our circle of friends and family (barring my Grandma Romero and my Dad), I am the only hard-core lover of all things Enya.

It’s not that Christine doesn’t appreciate some fine Celtic songsmithery now and again, because she does, but, for some reason…she’s just not that into Enya. Sad, huh? All I know is that before our little girl arrives on March 8th, my goal is to have her hooked on Enya…big time!

Enya "And Winter Came" #1

Seriously, I’ve been blasting those New Age Irish jams in the general direction of Christine’s belly every chance I get. And though our baby girl had no reaction to speak of when I played her Enya’s dreamy 2005 release “Amarantine”, she did kick up a storm to Elvis a few nights later. So…I have the sinking feeling she shares her mother’s feelings towards my beloved songbird.

Either way, Enya has a new CD out this year and for New Age Christmas music fans, it’s a doozy! Yep, that’s right, she may have put out a couple of holiday singles over the years, but 2008 marks the first time the fair maiden from Gweedore, County Donegal has released a full-fledged Christmas album.

And lemme tell ya, this record delivers on all fronts. Casual fans will love it, Enya haters will gag on their eggnog and true, dyed-in-the-wool Enya lovers from way back will be in weepy tune heaven. Seriously, there are some beautiful, shimmery Christmas jams here, amigos. Really lovely stuff…

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Working once again with longtime-producer Nicky Ryan and his wife, lyricist Roma Ryan, Enya belts out some amazing songs here, and even if they weren’t composed in the haunting Loxian language Roma Ryan and Enya invented for “Amarantine”, they do the trick. I mean, hey, if you dig the music, does it really matter what language the gal is singing in? Hell no!

So, if you’re in the mood for some sweet, Middle-earth-friendly Christmas tunes, pick this album up, pronto. I promise you, it’ll be the talk of the Shire…every Hobbit you know will be dying to burn it off you.

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“Olive, the Other Reindeer” Pop-Up Advent Calendar

Christine and I got this rocking advent calendar as a gift last Christmas and have seriously been counting down the days till we could use it. So, even though we haven’t mailed a single Christmas card yet and just put up our beautiful, fake tree last night, we eagerly cracked open our “Olive, the Other Reindeer” Pop-Up Advent Calendar at the stroke of midnight on December 1st! Yay!

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Unlike other advent calendars, where you gradually build towards something cool on Christmas day, this Olive calendar is fun the minute you crack it open. Vivid, colorful, and just as insanely cool as the illustrations in the kick-ass book by J. Otto Seibold and Vivian Walsh, the moment you break the seal, the pop-up calendar unfolds into a beautiful Santa’s Castle scene.

And if you thought the book and super cute, animated movie were packed with cool characters and imagery, the 3D version of the story is even more fun.

Not only are the little paper characters almost painfully cute, but the details seriously rock! Aside from a helicopter landing pad on the ceiling of one of the buildings, there is a little workshop for the elves under one roof and a reindeer barn under another…awesome!

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So, while I know it’s too late to pick one up for this year, I highly recommend snapping up an Olive advent calendar now for use in December, 2009. And if you have kids, forget about it, they’ll love it!

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, we haven’t figured out how to put the little paper people back in their number slots for next year, so, this might be a one-time-use advent calendar…but, either way, it rocks!

Go, Olive!

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