Thursday, December 27, 2007

Emma's first subjects

Rich and I feel honored to have been Emma's first portraits with her new camera. She has really taken an interest in photography. From now on, our blog pictures should be considerably improved!

I posted this shot for my dad and sis...I think I look like my Mom!

Christmas Eve

Thurston really misses you, Hoyers!! (not!)
Gene pools unite!

Lindsey the cupcake maker

Uncle Davey clowning as usual

Kyle seems happy with his Best Buy gift!

Jordan opening stocking stuffers

Karen & Kristen

Drew just hanging

Amy flips over Starbucks!

Rich going nuts!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Emma's Christmas Party

I love my daughter's friends...they are wonderful blessings from God to her and our whole family.
From left: Courtney Brooks, Kaitlyn Guyle, Emma, Stephanie Tubbs, Lindsey Tubbs, Katherine Brooks and Emily Tubbs. Kylie Dempsey joined later.
A trip to the mall, dinner of barbecued chicken salad, creme brulee for dessert, Love Comes Softly movie, hot apple cider, gift exchange and wild sleepover...what fun and what treasured memories. These girls have grown up together and will be lifelong friends - precious!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Holiday Soup Recipe

I just LOVE creamy soup. Particularly Butternut Squash Soup. I just put together this wonderful soup and I thought I'd share. It is kind of based on a Butternut Squash Soup recipe I had from Alton Brown - but it has much better flavor. Gotta love Trader Joe's - you can get all the ingredients there and have this amazing soup on the table with very little effort and time. Enjoy!

Harvest Soup

2 packages (1 lb. each) Trader Joe’s Fresh Harvest Medley
(combo of fresh yams, butternut squash, and turnips)
2 bags (8 oz each) peeled and cubed fresh butternut squash
olive oil
salt and pepper
1 box organic chicken broth
4 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. nutmeg
½ tsp. ginger
1 cup heavy cream

Place aluminum foil sheets over two jelly roll pans; spray with Pam.

Spread all vegetables out evenly between the two pans. Drizzle with a nice amount of olive oil and sprinkly generously with salt and pepper.

Roast at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. Transfer veggies to a saucepot. Add broth, honey, nutmeg and ginger. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Turn heat to low and simmer 30 minutes. Add cream. Puree with stick blender (or in small batches in regular blender). Add more salt if needed. May thin with a little half and half or milk if needed. Heat a few more minutes and serve!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

For you, Myra!

Here's a sweet picture of our kids for you! Even Brady made it into the picture! (see right - frame on piano) We just picked Savannah up at Master's, ran through Panda Express, and she is now playing the piano. We are having such fun with her! Where did all the time go?
Savannah says she loves you!
P.S. We were reminiscing about the Western Bagel tour long ago - Adam and the hat!! Remember???

Christmas Traditions, Pt. 3

Christmas trees
Growing up in a Jewish home, of course there weren’t Christmas trees. So my first one was my first married Christmas. We didn’t have any decorations at all, so I purchased some white lights, shiny silver balls and thick plaid ribbon to tie into bows on the tree. It was probably my one and only “theme tree” that wasn’t just decorated willy-nilly!

And I do love to admire “theme trees.” Like the ones at Macy’s and the like. You know, the ones that you practically have to have a design degree to put together. Beautiful repetitions of color and pattern. Stunning. Or, the ones I saw recently at the shops at Disneyland, completely decked out in Disney characters – magical. But, I must say, I think my tree is the best of all. Why? Because it is filled with ornaments that reflect our family. I don’t have any matching things or repeating patterns. What I do have are homemade clay ornaments fashioned by small hands and baby Jesus made out of popsicle sticks. Our ornaments represent something from our lives. For example, there are the Cubbies Christmas trees –my personal favorites- pictures of my little Cubbie underneath a felt tree frame, decorated with colored sequins. Then there are the kids’ own ornaments – they are given one each year by Rich and I. There are the ballet slippers from the year Emma took ballet class; the Toy Story figures from the year that movie came out; the wooden baseball bats and pewter baseball gloves representing the years our boys played in leagues; the kittens and puppies from the years we added pets; the flip flops and Tiki man from our trip to Hawaii; each kid's favorite sports teams, like a mini Rams helmet (Drew) and a replica Colts football (Brady). This year the kids each got a small motorcycle ornament as they have both taken up riding dirt bikes. I can tell a story about where we got each ornament and what it stands for. This year, while we were decorating the tree, I asked my kids if they wanted to take their collection of ornaments with them someday when they get married. They both said they did. Honestly, I’m not so sure I like that idea! I want them!

One more thing – we are officially fake tree people now. After years of plopping down $50 or more for a real tree (and coming home with a dried out dud), worrying about water overflow from the tree stand onto our wood floor, and harboring an extreme fire hazard in our home, we made the switch a few years back. But really, it's a GOOD fake tree. If it weren't so perfect in shape, you might think it's real! Although I do miss the smell, I don’t miss the mess, the cost, and the urgency to “get rid of the tree.” You can put it up right after Thanksgiving and enjoy it until clear after New Year’s Day. It's even pre-lit! Thank you, Costco!

A tradition from Rich: The Waterford tree

Some husbands give flowers or candy, jewelry or other romantic things to their wives. Mine gives strictly Waterford. Believe me, I didn’t even KNOW what Waterford was when I met Rich, but oh, he was quite familiar with it. His mom had collected it for years (she even had a Waterford chandelier!). And when we registered for our wedding he didn’t have much of an opinion on anything we picked out but he absolutely knew that he wanted the Waterford Araglin pattern. It’s really quite amusing to me that I married someone who loves delicate crystal and I am someone who pretty much breaks everything I get my hands on. Nice combo!

I guess you could say that it all started with the proposal. When Rich proposed to me, I was presented with a sweet Waterford bud vase with a yellow rose inside (yes, I broke it). Over the years, there have been multiple vases, a photo frame, a letter opener (broke that too), a ring holder, a perfume decanter – all memorable gifts from Rich to me in Waterford. When each of our children was born I was even given a precious Waterford solid baby block. On our first Christmas (while just engaged) he gave me a Waterford ornament. Since then, he has given me one every year. He used to be very clever about it – hiding it around the house. He’d hide it in the freezer and then ask me for some ice cream. Or he’d put it in the medicine cupboard and ask for some Tylenol. One year I think he even forgot where he hid it! This year he just walked up and handed it to me- simple. That’s OK. I treasure each one as they symbolize all the years we have been together. I love to count them all…21 blessed years of celebrating the birth of our Lord together. The Lord has been so good to me!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Christmas Traditions, Pt. 2

While on the subject of food traditions…

Rich’s family is Polish, and has always celebrated that heritage at Christmas time. On Christmas Eve, while most people are eating roast turkey and all the trimmings, we have what is called Wigilia (pronounced “vig-eel-ya) We dine on filet of sole stuffed with sautéed mushrooms, onions, and baby shrimp, topped with with a light and creamy cheese sauce, spinach salad with strawberries, and peroghi (potato dumplings). We used to have Borscht but nobody liked it so it got ditched several years ago. Don't ask me why we have fish. It's tradition I guess for Polish people. We also have straw under our the lace tablecloth to represent Jesus' humble birth in the manger. Rich’s sister Kristen graciously hosts us in her cozy home in La Canada and it is a special and cherished time. This year will be very different without Dottie.

Another tradition from Rich’s family are our unique Christmas stockings. Long ago, when Rich and his sisters were little, Dottie found a pattern and handcrafted these charming velvet stockings for her children. There are two types – one for each gender. Girls are red; boys are blue. The blue ones have "boy" angels and the red ones have "girl" angels. I know, I know - all angels in the Bible are male; you'll just have to try and overlook that or you'll not enjoy my story.
When my brother in law and I joined the family, we each received a stocking of our own. And, as the grandchildren came along, each received one as well. Kristen sewed the later ones and did her best to make sure the embellishments were as close as possible to the original ones. You can see by the photos that the stockings were very labor intensive, with each person’s name hand beaded in gold, angels’ hair french knotted and skirts sequined. So it was a special privilege and honor for me to have received such a labor of love. I just adore these stockings! More than just their charm, my personalized stocking conveyed to me that I was now an official member of the Harasick family - that I was part of their tradition by having a stocking of my own. I want to remember to make my children's spouses feel special someday - by including them in some personal way in our family's traditions. Maybe I'll make them one of these stockings!

We bring the stockings to Christmas Eve dinner and fill them for each person in the extended family. Then, at home on Christmas morning, just the four of us stuff them again for each other. I admit that we all kind of go overboard a bit on stuffing them- as little wrapped presents often overflow into a basket beneath the stocking – but we don’t mind! We each take turns opening something and the process goes well over an hour! I must say, it was easier and cheaper when the kids were little - as they would be thrilled over a new toothbrush with a Disney character on it, a package of gum, or some stickers. But it is still so much fun, and I take great joy in stuffing each one as well as opening all the small treasures. This is a tradition that our whole family truly enjoys.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Christmas Traditions, Part 1

Chocolate Mint Sticks - A new tradition!

Today I shall begin a little Christmas series to share Harasick Family Christmas traditions. Of course, I choose to begin with food. Are you surprised?

I used to do quite a bit of baking for the holidays. Double batches of English toffee, Nupulups (a type of rugalech), Russian Tea Cakes, Cranberry-coconut chews, Lemon bars, Pecan pie bars, and of course cut-out kid-decorated Sugar cookies. After preparing a solid freezer stash weeks ahead, I would then make mixed boxes of treats for friends, bible study, kids' Sunday school teachers and AWANA leaders, neighbors, etc. Then, somehow, my sister and I also got hooked into bringing my mom's office a big cookie platter as well. I think it all began with my mom asking us to give her some homemade treats one year, as she had signed up to bring some to the office and she didn't bake. Everyone raved about the cookies, so it became a yearly tradition to bring them. We had to keep increasing the amount because somehow when the platter arrived more and more people came streaming in from other departments at her office to eat some. My mom truly beamed when my sister and I, plus all our kids, came to the office with our platter each year. We would bring 12 dozen cookies and they would all get eaten in 1-2 days! Incidentally there were only 5 or 6 people in my mom's office.

Well, this year it came down to only Russian Tea Cakes and Sugar cookies. Russian Tea Cakes are Rich's absolute favorite and the kids would never let me drop the Sugar cookie tradition. We do it with Suzanne and the boys at our house. We make powdered sugar frosting in all colors, and lay out a smorgasbord of sprinkles. Believe me, I still find the sprinkles clear on the opposite side of the house in March. But it is a lot of fun, and a tradition I'm glad to preserve.

However, Rich needed something for his office today, so yesterday I decided to try a new recipe called "Chocolate Mint Sticks". I came across the recipe online, and had been dying to try it. It sounded like something I knew and loved from the past, kind of a Creme de Menthe brownie. It has a not-too-thick brownie layer on the bottom, topped with a mint creme layer, finished with a dark chocolate shell on top. You could call it perfection in the form of a cookie bar.

Well, I must say, they're a keeper! They turned out FAB! I highly recommend you make some - as they are so easy, and are absolutely incredible.


2 ounces semi sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup butter
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9-inch square cake pan with aluminum foil and lightly grease.Melt chocolate and butter together in a small bowl in the microwave, stirring after every 30-second interval until smooth. Set aside to cool. In a large bowl, beat eggs with sugar, salt and vanilla extract until smooth. Beat in chocolate mixture, then stir in the flour. Mix in chocolate chips, then pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 28 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Mint Icing
2 tbsp butter, melted
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 tbsp milk or cream
1/2 tsp peppermint extract

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl until smooth. Spread evenly on cooled chocolate base, then refrigerate until hardened.

Bitter Chocolate Glaze
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate
1 tbsp butter

Crushed Peppermint candy, optional

Melt together chocolate and butter in a small bowl, in the microwave, stirring after every 30-second interval until smooth. Immediately pour the hot glaze (it should be fairly fluid) over the chilled chocolate/mint base. Tilt the pan around to coat the mint layer as much as possible, or drizzle over evenly. Some white will show through; this is ok. Sprinkle with crushed peppermint candy if desired. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before removing foil and chocolate bars from pan and cutting into 24 thin bars with a sharp knife. Sticks can be served at room temperature, but are best when chilled or frozen.

Makes 24.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Peace on Earth

I deliberately avoid Christmas cards that bear that expression. The reason I do is that the world has a completely different idea of "peace on earth" than the bible does. The world desperately wishes for peace. When people wish others "peace" they refer to a dictionary definition: a state of tranquility or quiet; freedom from civil disturbance; a state of security or order. But they want it for the current world, and it can never be obtained. I like the baby onesie below that says "visualize whirled peas" rather than "world peace." Wishing for world peace is almost as ridiculous, and is completely impossible. A baby has a better chance of getting "whirled peas" than anyone has of "world peace."

Our pastor John has been teaching about the future of this earth. The bible is very clear that the world is not headed for a state of peace. In fact, the bible predicts more and more unrest, suffering, and the like as the time of Christ's return approaches. However, there is a type of peace that is obtainable, and I was reminded of that this morning in my reading of John's book, God's Gift of Christmas. To quote:

"In Messiah's kingdom there are no conflicts because He is the Prince of Peace. He offers peace from God (Romans 1:7) to all who receive His grace. He makes peace with God (Romans 5:1) for those who surrender to Him in faith. And He brings the peace of God (Philippians 4:7) to those who walk with Him.

As we hear so often at Christmas, the beginning of Jesus' earthly life was heralded by angels who pronounced peace on earth (Luke 2:14). There never really has been peace on earth in the sense that we think of it. Wars and rumors of wars have always characterized the entire two millennia since that first Christmas, as well as all the time before it. The announcement of peace on earth was a two-pronged proclaimation. First, it declared the arrival of the only One who ultimately can bring lasting peace on earth (which He will do when He returns to bring about the final establishment of His earthly kingdom). But more importantly, it was a proclaimation that God's peace is available to all men and women. Read the words of Luke 2:14 carefully and note this emphasis: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with WHOM HE IS PLEASED." God is pleased with the people who yield their lives to Him. "The LORD takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in His mercy." (Psalm 147:11) When the angels proclaimed peace on earth, they were speaking primarily of a very personal, individual application of God's peace that grows out of a firsthand knowledge of the Prince of Peace."

So, next time you hear the words "peace on earth" take time to ponder the special meaning from God's Word. It is not to be found any other way. Praise God that we can celebrate this peace from God at Christmas and always.