Tag Archives: holidays

A Christmas wish

Dear Santa,
This is Finnegan Murphy here. You may not have our new address because my family moved to a place where there is no snow in the wintertime.

christmas in florida, holidays, florida, IMG_8625

If anyone will understand my situation it’s you. I’m a Swiss MOUNTAIN dog for goodness sake. I live for snow. I like to pounce in the snow, eat snow, freeze my paws in the snow (not the salty sidewalk just the snow) stick my nose in the snow and eat the snow. All of it.

greater swiss mountain dog, puppy, finn, swissy, gsmd, dog,

finn, dog park, skinner park, chicago, west loop, greater swiss mountain dog puppy, swissy

There’s no snow here. None. I’ve tried to eat that grainy stuff by the water but it’s not the same. Trust me. So you’ll forgive me if I’m having a hard time finding my holiday spirit this year.

finn, greater swiss mountain dog, swissy, puppy, dog, brohard dog peach, paw park, florida, gulf coast, dog beach

I’ve been waiting patiently for winter to come since we made that super long car ride, but it’s still warm here. Sure there are weird inflatable creatures that I’m not allowed to play with in everyone’s yard but did I mention there’s no snow? What’s a guy to do without the one thing he loves more than his mom and dad? And peanut butter. And car rides. And naps.

greater swiss mountain dog, puppy, finn, swissy, gsmd, dog,

On January 9th I turn two and a half. My mom and dad seem to think I’m much older than that because they keep leaving me for long (and short) periods of time without supervision. Crazy, right? I still need them. Like must be touching them at all times to keep them from touching each other need them.

greater swiss mountain dog, puppy, finn, swissy, gsmd, dog,

So I’ve been trying my best to show them how much I miss them by displacing items they love from their permanent locations while they are gone. What kind of things you might ask? Well anything that they will notice obviously. So there’s a couple holes in mom’s favorite t-shirt. Dad has plenty of koozies in the drawer so he won’t miss it if I just eat one of them. LL Bean sends a catalog at least once a week anyways. Come to think of it mom did seem particularly upset when I learned how to open drawers and moved her DSLR camera from the island to the kitchen floor so you may want to bring her something nice this year to make up for that. My bad.

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I know they love me. I can tell because they leave food out for me while they’re at work, Santa! They hang the bananas up so high on the counter I really have to stretch to get to them and end up knocking other stuff over in the process, but it’s totally worth it. I love bananas, peel and all. Just like I love snow. And naps. And peanut butter…

family photographs, children, photography, springfield, illinois, old state capital, christmas cards, holiday, boys

Anyways. I guess if I had one wish this Christmas it would be for my mom and dad to lose their jobs so they could stay home with me all day long.

Too harsh?

Ok what if you help them win the Lotto?

Too much?

Fine. If I can’t have any of that I will just ask for a few toys that will wear my brain out so I can take more naps. Stuff like this.

source

Or this.

 

And just one more thing as you evaluate your lists this year, Santa. I’m sure you’ve noticed that mom and dad brought a giant tree into our house and I’m not even allowed to pee on it? What’s up with that?

greater swiss mountain dog, puppy, finn, swissy, gsmd, dog, christmas tree, christmas, holiday

Barks and kisses,

Finnegan Murphy

 

 

The perks of a long weekend

Bet you didn’t think Tuesday could feel like a Monday, did ya? Neither did I but here it is. The dreaded post-Labor Day Tuesday that feels like a Monday. At least we’re all in it together. Well, except for those smart people who took the whole week off. But they’ll be right there with us next Monday. You can trust that.

I’ve decided that all weekends should be four days long. And yes, I realize that this would then make my Tuesday feels like Monday situation a regular thing but I’m OK with that.

If not all weekends at least one per month. Let’s consider the benefits:

  • You would be able to visit your family more often (this is assuming you like spending time with your family. If not please skip to bullet #5)

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  • And while visiting your family you would have time to pick up your nephews from school. And within minutes one would open the car door into the other one’s forehead. Aunt of the year material right there. I can’t make this stuff up.

baskin robbins ice cream

  • You could eat ice cream at 3:00 in the afternoon. Mostly because you planned to do it, but also because it’s 100 degrees and you feel bad that you are returning a damaged child.

springfield illinois running trail baseball game

  • You get to spend more time outside. Enjoying a hot and humid nice long run along a water-less beautiful trail and enjoying an even hotter lovely baseball game.

incredibly delicious vanilla strawberry cake, thumbprint cookies, young house love book, blueberry lemon poppyseed scones

  • A chance to celebrate with presents, birthday cake and thumbprint cookies. And if a holiday is not cause for the weekend, you can justify the cake because a 4-day weekend is a holiday in itself. You’re welcome.

greater swiss mountain dog finn

  • Naps.

sunset country roads illinois

  • More time to experience sunsets like this. A chance to roll the windows down (if your 4-day weekend occurs from May-October) and find beauty in the place you were raised.

So now that I’ve made you hot, hungry, tired and reconsidering children with my Tuesday that feels like a Monday post I’d like to remind you that tomorrow is….

And we can all find humor in that. Have a great week!

For the Love of Pranking

I thought about dedicating this post to Easter celebrations of this past weekend. Things like family gatherings, sunshine, spring renewal and chocolate.  But since my favorite holiday of the year fell the day after, I’m afraid to say colored eggs just didn’t make the cut. Well, actually they did make an appearance but more on that later.

colored easter eggs

Not only did April Fool’s Day fall on the day after Easter this year adding to the distraction level for those that normally might have been somewhat aware, but it landed on a Monday. Double-Whammy. Post Easter and a Monday? Even more of a chance to catch ‘em unsuspecting while their glucose is low.

I come from a family who pranks. It’s in our blood. Well most of us. My grandmother was the Queen of the April Fool’s. She was so good that even a lover of pranks like myself avoided answering phone calls from her altogether when the First of April came around each year. I learned early-on it was better to be on her team than against her and that neither law enforcement nor age would inhibit her from a chance to play a joke on the family members she loved most. And while she may have led the April Fool’s parade each year, she did so with good-humored intent and a kind heart. I think it’s the reason I don’t see practical jokes (when done correctly) as mean-spirited still today.

That being said, I’ve realized over the years there are many families that don’t prank. And let me tell you, those that don’t prank may not always appreciate those that do.

Rule #1: Don’t prank a hater.

This never ends well. Not only can these people not appreciate the love that comes with practical jokes, but you completely lose the chance of instigating a day-long, week-long or even lifelong prank war. And there’s no joy in that. Notice I referred to the potential victim as a prank-hater and not a non-pranker. Believe it or not, there is a contingency out there that is just unaware of the fun that days like April Fool’s can bring simply because they’ve never experienced it. Take a chance. You never know when you’ll discover a natural talent.

rule #2: Know your audience.

This is an important rule. My mother doesn’t exactly come from a family of practical jokers but having lived with my father nearly 35 years she’s picked up a couple of tips along the way. But even after years of prank mentorship with the Murphmaster, she’s still very trusting (bless her heart). She’s also easily-startled. (See here) Playing an April Fool’s joke on her is like taking batting practice. You’re sure to hit a good one. It just might not mean as much as facing an Ace.

And so Monday morning, just before my mom left for work we put one of her grandsons in the coat closet. I suggested Owen (6 years) to do it, but Jake (nearly 3) volunteered. A few blueberries and a game on his iPod and the kid was cozy as can be. And less than 10 minutes later down she came. Door opens, ‘Oh my goodness!’ ensues.

april fools

Whoosh. Crack. Base hit.

Rule #3: Break a habit.

The best practical jokes replace the expected with the unexpected. Like clear wrap on a toilet seat or a locker filled with jelly beans, things that once seemed normal suddenly are not. Something’s changed. People have hilarious reactions when their routines are thrown out of whack. That telling moment when realization washes over their face. This coffee is salty. Why is my coffee salty? I just put sweetener in it. (tastes again) WTF is going on here!?

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Oh just your simple baking soda sweetener swap, that’s what. And for someone who loves their iced coffee all day long, this is the prank that keeps on giving.

RBI.

Rule #4: Play up your strengths

To explain this rule, let’s take a page from the matriarch O’ practical jokes herself. The best jokes not only involve understanding your audience and their routines, but they utilize your strengths. Do you have a good poker face? Are you creative enough to implement the items needed to make the joke believable? Can you keep it simple? Nana adjusted her pranks along with her age and because she did so she was able to pull off a simple yet stellar April Fool’s joke. A few years ago she used that sweet little 85 year-old voice of hers to call my Minnesota-based aunt (a nurse, mind you) and leave a voicemail saying over and over that she couldn’t see.

Oh Pat, I can’t see. I just can’t see. Can you call me back?

When the panicked daughter called her back inquiring why she wasn’t contacting her son who lived just a few minutes away, she calmly informed her that the reason that she couldn’t see was, wait for it… because her eyes were closed.

Grand Slam, Nana. Grand Slam.

Murphy’s Law

homemade oreosSt Patrick’s Day has always been highly regarded in my family. How could it not be? With Murphy as your surname you learned at a young age:

  • The lyrics to MacNamara’s Band
  • Everything can be dyed green with the proper amount of food coloring-even chicken salad.
  • Wearing green underwear will not win you the tiebreaker in the grade school green outfit competition if the unwritten ‘visible clothing only’ rule is applied. 

Since St. Patrick’s Day fell on a Sunday this year, I spent the better part of the week trying to decide which day(s) to celebrate. Should I make treats for work in the days leading up? Should I wait for the weekend and share them with friends? Maybe something salty for the Monday after to soothe the effect of green beer? I’d love to be able to attribute this obsession only to the annual celebration of my Irish heritage, my German half begs me to be honest with myself. Who are you kidding, Sarah, you love any excuse for a holiday.

It’s true. I do love a good holiday. Any holiday really. Better yet, any excuse to get people together to eat something and celebrate. So you can imagine my excitement when Owen reminded me that were just a few short weeks away from one of my all time faves: April Fools’ Day. Don’t get me wrong, Easter is great and all, but an April Fools’ celebration is nearly as Murphy as being Irish is.

But back to that surname. The adage known as Murphy’s Law says that anything that can go wrong will. And while I’ve heard the reference my entire life a few times, I’ve been fortunate that my Murphy has come with a good amount of luck. If a front-row parking spot is already taken when we arrive for a family dinner or at a crowded sporting event, you better believe my dad already snagged it. Murphy spot. Cardinals baseball ticket raffles Friday nights at Barrel Head? And the winner is Number 980679. Murphy win. A long wait at a local restaurant? Reservation for Murphy, please. (Ok so I’ve never actually taken another Murphy’s reservation, but if you’re in a hurry and hungry, there’s a good chance there’s one on the list!)

As I drove home this weekend for an unplanned visit, I thought I might be entering into my first Murphy’s Law experience. It seemed that our family luck was dwindling the closer we got to Sunday. I could feel the excitement for the holiday wane as we focused on surgeries and next steps, far more important than the shamrocks and sprinkles that filled my thoughts earlier in the week.

Fortunately in my family, we have an A-team of copers to adapt to nearly any situation. And I’d imagine there are a lot more families out there just like us.

My dad is a great runner. And I don’t mean the marathon-type. I mean the guy with the car who can run things back-and-forth and make sure everyone is transported to their assigned locations. My sister is a logistical guru. She’ll coordinate everyone’s schedule and make decisions faster than you can say ‘We need to deci..’ Mom is the peacemaker. She has an introspective calmness in stressful situations. Like a deer. Easily startled, but calming just to be in the presence of. The little ones in the group prove that life goes on no matter what stress you’re under. They exude happiness and joy at the points when you need them most. And me? Well I guess I try to bring optimism and light conversation. Light referring to the topic of course. Not the amount. And if that doesn’t work? Homemade Oreos. Because who doesn’t love a homemade Oreo?

homemade oreos Lucky Homemade Oreos

  • 1 1/4 C flour
  • 3/4 C cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 C sugar
  • 10 TBL unsalted butter
  • 1 large egg

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add egg. cookie dough In a large bowl whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

cocoa flour

Add dry ingredients into wet until combined. Using a cookie scoop or tablespoon, scoop 1-2 inch sections of dough. Roll into balls and place on non-stick baking mat on cool pan.

homemade oreos

Use a small glass to flatten cookies to approximately 1/4 inch thick. Note: these cookies spread. If you don’t want giganto oreos like I made use teaspoon scoop instead.

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Bake cookies for 10 minutes or until firm. They may be soft when they come out but they tend to harden when they cool. But don’t fret, thick buttercream icing will soften them up once you make sandwiches out of them. Remove from oven and place on cooling rack. homemade oreos If you are going to cut into the cookie now is the time. I used a knife but recommend a small cookie cutter. Don’t try this at home kids. And don’t wait until they are cool because they will crumble into an oreo powder you can only salvage to make a cookies n’ cream shake or blizzard. Not that that sounds tasty or anything. Butter cream Frosting

  • 1/2 C unsalted butter
  • 1/2 C Crisco
  • 3 1/2 C powdered sugar
  • 1 TBL vanilla extract
  • Green and Yellow food coloring paste

In your stand mixer, cream butter and shortening together on medium speed. Turn speed down to low, add powdered sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add vanilla. Add green and yellow food coloring until you reach the desired green color you are looking for. I used gel, but liquid will be fine as well.

green buttercream icing

Add icing to piping bag and ice flat side of cookie. Don’t worry about the edge as that will fill once you place the other cookie on top. IMG_2913 Assemble sandwiches and pass the luck on! homemade oreos Prefer the original? Recipe adapted from the Whipped Baking Blog. homemade oreos And while the cookies may have been the only indication of St. Patrick that day, we did a pretty good number disputing Murphy’s Law over the next several. It’s still early but I’d say we have the luck of the Irish, lots of prayers and a very qualified medical team to thank for it. lucky homemade oreos Luck can get you a lot of things, but I’ve come to believe a chance to simply celebrate life is enough to make every day a holiday.

Conversation Heart Cookies

I apologize that I embargoed my Wednesday post until Thursday. But holidays trump blog schedules and I highly doubt any of you were waiting at your computers for that recipe to come through.

(Sigh) Maybe someday?

Plus, our last baby season baby was born this week. Hooray! I shared Ella’s shower in the baby season post in case you want to check it out. She’s beautiful, healthy and came just in time for Valentine’s Day!

If you didn’t already assume by this whole blogging thing, I’m a communicator. I like to talk. Let’s get serious, silence makes me uncomfortable. I believe in the power of the spoken written word.

And because I like to engage in social conversation, every year leading up to Valentine’s Day I bribe my co-workers  fill my candy jar with a supply of Sweet Tart Hearts with the hope that sweets will lead to a friendly hello, a restaurant suggestion or even just a brief life-update. And I make sure they are the Sweet Tart versions because I think we all know those chalky ones won’t do the job.

making co-workers feel uncomfortable one heart at a time

My candy dish is out of sight this year and after low traffic in the first week, I decided to move it into the open space to let go of the inventory. So for the remainder of the holiday lead-up, I was left to merely yell hello across the wall as I heard the ting of the lid each time someone dug in. And you’re kidding yourself if you think that ‘someone’ would announce who they were. Pshh. They were off just as soon as that powdery sugar substance hit their veins.

One thing I did learn is that people love them some sweet tart hearts. So while contemplating ideas for what kind of treat to bring in the office on Valentine’s Day, I decided to stick with the theme and whip up a batch of conversation heart sugar cookies.

Can I have a moment for a brief aside on what I am calling the ‘flash’ flood of February holidays this year? (there’s a bead reference there in case you missed it) Anyone else think it’s kind of cuckoo that Mardi Gras and Valentine’s Day are happening in the same week? Talk about holiday treat idea overload!

valentine sugar cookies

So back to those cookies. You may have seen a sneak peek of these cookies in my earlier post about finding balance. Well after gearing up to make these cookies late Sunday night in time for Valentine’s Week, I decided take my own advice and postpone the decorating until the actual day. Fortunately both the cookie recipe and royal icing keep very well for up to a week.

I tried a new recipe this time around and while the jury is still out for taste, they seemed to cook to the proper consistency and shape I wanted. Typically I do a yogurt or sour cream and traditional sugar dough but the powdered sugar in these makes them puff up nicely.

Sugar Cookies
1 C butter
1 C powdered sugar
1 egg
1 ½ tsp. almond extract
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. salt
2 ½ C sifted flour

Cream butter in mixer on medium speed. Add powdered sugar. Mix in egg, almond and vanilla.

In a separate bowl whisk dry ingredients together. Slowly add dry ingredients into wet. Place dough into plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour. Flour rollpat or counter top

Roll dough to desired thickness. Cut out cookies with floured cookie cutter and place on baking mat.

heart sugar cookies

Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes. Cookies will not turn golden but should move from the pan when touched. Cool for 2 minutes on pan and then transfer to cookie rack.

heart sugar cookies

Want to try the original? Recipe adapted from Annie’s Eats.

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Royal Icing

2 C powdered sugar, sifted
1 TBL meringue powder
3 TBL water (add more to get desired consistency)

royal icing recipe

While dough is chilling, combine powdered sugar and meringue in a stand mixer. Add water. Mix on low for 1-2 minutes. Then increase speed to 3 or 4 until stiff peaks appear on paddle. (up to 10 minutes)

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Divide into bowls and add gel coloring (gel works better as food coloring is water-based and can thin out icing). Add water and stir until icing pours smoothly but isn’t runny. This is the best icing for outlining (piping). Pipe outlines around hearts and let stand until dry. Add more water to icing to create fill and then ice as if you are coloring in a picture.

royal icing heart sugar cookies

apologies for the bad lighting

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Let base layer completely dry before piping on the letters. I wasn’t patient enough with mine (story of my life) so they are a little messy. Don’t be afraid to add more powdered sugar or water to get your icing to the desired consistency.

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And don’t be afraid to have fun with the messages. I kept it pretty PC this year although the later it got in the night the more I felt the urge to write blasphemous things. Ah, Valentine’s Day. Initiating awkwardness every February.
valentines conversation heart cookies
What is your favorite childhood memory of Valentine’s Day?
Mine was circa 1993 when I got a box of chocolates, a gold necklace and $25 from 3 separate boys in my class (it was a small school.) I can still see the look on my mother’s face when I burst through the door and I told her that one boy gave me $25!
I mean chocolates and jewelry are nice and all but $25 Mom. Isn’t that awesome!
My excitement was quickly doused as I was instructed to return to school the next day, thank the young boy for his contribution towards my life savings but inform him that I could not accept cash gifts.
Aw, Mom!
Hmmm, maybe I should have just brought cash into the office today.
Happy Valentine’s Day!