Tractor Parade

This past weekend we decided it was time to check out our first local seasonal event: The Christmas Tractor Parade. This parade I have been told is the biggest of the year and at least a thousand people bundled in their warm clothes line up along the parade route.

The main route goes through  old downtown Centralia. Fortunately we live only blocks from there. So Luke and I put on our warmer clothes and walked downtown.  There we met some family friends, some of their kids, and nephews and found our spot along the brick street.

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Please Note: these pictures are from the Centralia downtown’s website: http://downtowncentralia.org

You may wonder: what makes a Christmas parade a tractor parade? Well most of the lighted floats were either pulled by tractors, pulling tractors, carrying tractors, or had tractor themed decorations on them. We saw a motorcycle dressed up in cardboard to look like a tractor, several holiday blow up santa-riding tractors, the parade queen sat on the bucket of a tractor, and we saw a lumber tractor on a semi truck bed decorated with full limbs of fallen timber.

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We were told the entry fee is minimal so on average there are 80 or more float entries! Floats are judged for different categories before the parade begins at 6pm. Each tractor or float was creatively decorated and lit; advertising their organization, church, farmers market, or store. Many had music, bubbles, or snow machines.

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What was most suprising to me was how interactive the parade was. Young people dressed as angels, elves, snowmen, reindeer and more walked alongside each float with buckets. When they saw children, they would pass out candy, toys, stickers, coupons and information about their organization.

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The family we came with were prepared with plastic grocery bags. The kids were given so many goodies they could fill up their stockings! Eventually we were given a bag too as the parents tried to get rid of some of the sugar heading home with them. When we got home we opened our bag to find some really amazing treats (not only candy canes and dum dum lollipops).

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Other than floats the local high school band played, motorcycle groups wove up and down the street passing out candy, and a local equestrian team came through with very disciplined horses who were unfazed by the semi truck horns, tractor engines, or the lights they were decorated in.

Overall it was a lively and inviting Christmas parade. It was well attended too in-spite of the rain and cool temperatures. Let’s just say it was a great first local outing and we will probably go again another year.

 

Christmas Cookies 2016

Every Christmas I embark on a epic cookie baking session. This year is no exception. Actually, because I am closer to family the cookie tins have increased this year. In spite of working with a new oven with less counter space nothing seems to keep me from the joy of holiday baking.

So what’s on the list for this year?

White Chocolate Peppermint :

This year I am going to try a new method for making these minty favorites. In the past I have struggled with the cookies flattening. My current theory is that they are weighed down by the andes peppermint chunks in them. To try to prevent this, I am going to melt the peppermint with the white chocolate and only sprinkle a few morsels on top afterward. We will see if that makes a difference.

White chocolate dipped Ginger:

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These are my new favorites. I made them for the first time last year and they went over so well I’m making a larger batch this time. They are a bit more time consuming as they require cooling before dipping or decorating but they are so yummy and they catch everyone’s eye. For more see:

https://agreenesadventures.org/2015/12/23/christmas-cookies-2015/

Chocolate Bakers:

A basic for chocolate lovers. I have done several variations on this over the years including adding chili to make them more like Mexican Coco and of course also peppermint. But classics are still great. I’ll try to get a recipe out for those to you soon.

Holiday M and M:

Speaking of classics. This is a basic as it gets, well at least for me. The secret I find to these salty and sweet upscale chocolate chips is the use of a little bit of oat flour and vanilla pudding mix to keep them moist on the inside and crunchy on the outside.

Holiday Red Velvet :

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In the past I’ve made these with holiday velvet cake mixes, cookies come in both red and green. The green ones don’t seem to go over as well even though they taste the same. So instead of making it extra colorful we are skipping the grinch coloring this year.

For a recipe see:

https://agreenesadventures.org/2015/12/22/holiday-velvet-cookies/

Organic Gluten Free No White Sugar Oatmeal Cookies

This is my new experiment this year. I took a basic oatmeal cookie recipe and did some work substituting ingredients. I was able to come up with an alternative to meet the needs of a few family members with food allergies, something I completely understand.  (for more on this put the words “tree nuts” and “barley” into my search box on this blog). If this goes well and I get thumbs up from those who will enjoy them then a recipe may be down the road for this as well.

In addition to these wonderful cookies I am making a few candies and snacks including peanut brittle, butterscotch haystacks, and spicy cajun peanuts to name a few.

Are any of these your favorites? If not what is your favorite holiday treat?

Lamberton Conservatory and Highland Park

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While my parents were here for Christmas we took them on several outings. One, during our day in Rochester was to Highland Park, the  largest (150 acres) and probably most well known park in Rochester. It holds many city festivals including the annual BBQ (for more see  Two festival and Korean BBQ) and Lilac Festival, both of which Luke and I have attended in past summers.

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The park has many walking paths through well maintained and developed gardens and orchards. It also includes a band shell for summer concerts, amphitheater for summer movies and plays, seasonal ice skating rink, lodges for rent, and Warner Castle home to Rochester’s Civic Garden Center . Parts of the park can also be driven through as well.

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Although Luke and I had been to Highland Park several times, we had never gone to the Lamberton Conservatory. We decided to take my parents because at Christmas the conservatory does a poinsettia display.  Also during the Christmas season the conservatory is open late, until 9pm, so you can see colored lights they have hung throughout up against the nature and the glass walls.

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We went during the day and their poinsettia display was beautiful and included great variety. We were told as we walked through the separate rooms to watch for quail and tortoises. The conservatory cares for quail, tortoises, and turtles in the different green houses, as well as fish but no worries about stepping on those.

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Although these gardens are much smaller than the botanical gardens in Buffalo (for more on this see Buffalo Botanical Gardens) they have done a great job with the smaller space providing a large variety of plants from all over the world.

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My parents were entertained by pointing out all of the succulents and cacti they have at home which are so rare and unusual to us here.

Even though it has been unseasonably warm, the conservatory I think is always a great mini-retreat in the winter months, take off your coat and for a short while and imagine you are in another climate on an adventure.

After the conservatory, we drove the scenic way through a good portion of the Highland park on our way out and on to our next adventure. (More on this to come)

How do you escape the winter blues?

Christmas Review

Christmas week is over and it was full of fun and festive events with my family. Most of which is to come in future posts. But for now, on Christmas Eve we prepared holiday dishes. When making our traditional meat pie for Christmas Eve dinner Luke wanted to cook up 2pound of meat but I was concerned it would not fit in our small pie tins, Next thing I know out comes an early Christmas gift labeled “kitchen Santa”. So we had a new large deep dish fiesta-ware pie tin to put our Christmas Eve dinner in.

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That night went to service at our church where Luke and I sang in the choir. It was a wonderful celebration with plenty of singing and of course a candle lighting. We enjoyed cookies and punch downstairs then came back and enjoyed our meat pie.

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Later that evening we opened our one Christmas Eve present then enjoyed  a local favorite: concord grape pie from Monica’s with homemade whip cream.

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On Christmas day the tree was full with presents around one of our other gifts a homemade quilted Christmas Tree Skirt. Below’s picture was before it was full so I could see the skirt.

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We started the morning with coffee and opened Kira’s stocking which my mother brought. She found treats and new toys to keep her busy as we opened our own stockings.

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We then had our traditional breakfast of scrambled eggs, sausage, and blue/blackberry buckle. After this we read our Christmas story for the year, a children’s book my grandmother gives us each year focusing on the Christmas story. Then opened presents.

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I had to wake her up from a nap to give her her gift on Christmas Eve

She enjoys the new blankets she got: lightweight but warm easy for her to pick up and drag to the living room

She enjoys the new blankets she got: lightweight but warm easy for her to pick up and drag to the living room

We cleaned up some of our Christmas morning mess and spent the rest of the day playing board games and skyping other family members in our PJ’s. We had prime rib with au jus, and family dipping sauce called ‘ham sauce’, parmesan green beans and rosemary/thyme potatoes for dinner.

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Then we enjoyed more pie from Monica’s and watched a movie we got for Christmas. It was a fun holiday.

 

White Chocolate Ginger Snap Cookies

So my second new cookie experiment this year was a white chocolate dipped ginger cookie. I’ve always wanted to learn how to make ginger snaps and found this recipe on pintrest.

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The cookies themselves ended up taking a long time to bake, I’m guessing because of the molasses.

White chocolate can be hard to work with it can burn easily or harden quickly. So I decided to use my fondue pot to dip the white chocolate halves; the perfect solution.

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I found a sprinkles pack that had red balls, and Christmas trees. This worked out perfect to make holly. I think they were the biggest hit this year because they are so attractive and they taste great.

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Unfortunately the pictures you see are the leftovers least attractive cookies, but they taste just as good as the rest.

I do not have a modified recipe for them yet but I got the recipe from a fellow blogger Cookingclassy

Hope you are all enjoying the holiday season!

 

Holiday Velvet Cookies

So if you follow my blog at all you know I love to bake and most of all to bake cookies. And Christmas is the perfect time of year to experiment with new recipes.  This year I did two new experiments.

In the past I have worked with several different cake mixes to make cookies for more on this see 4th of July funfetti cookies or strawberry cheesecake cookies.

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So when I saw in the store a holiday velvet cake mix I thought: why not? I have before done a cake mix cookie for Christmas with the funfetti cake, but I had to add a lot of food coloring to make them festive.

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So this year the color was already in the mix and they turned out great! Similar to the other cake mix cookies I used the cake mix, vegetable oil, but this time I also add a little extra coco for a stronger velvet taste and cheesecake pudding mix.

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Here’s the full recipe below.

Holiday Velvet Cheesecake Cookies

Makes about 32 cookies

Prep time 10 minutes

Cooking time 30 minutes

  • 1 box Holiday Funfetti cake mix
  • 1 ½ small box instant cheesecake pudding mix
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ C of flour
  • ¼ C coco
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla
  • 1/2 cup white baking chips, divided

 

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, vegetable oil spray, or a Silpat.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the cake mix, pudding mix, coco and flour
  3. Add in the 3 eggs, vegetable oil, and vanilla until a dough forms
  4.  Stir in  the white chips.
  5. Using a cookie scoop, drop dough by tablespoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheets 2 inches apart.
  6. Press a few chips onto the tops of each cookie or seasonal sprinkles

Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until cookies just start to lightly brown.

 

The centers will still be very soft – that’s okay!

Cool for 2 minutes, then remove from cookie sheet to wire rack.

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To make them extra festive I rolled the tops of the cookies in red, white, and green sprinkles and placed a snowflake on each. They are bright, ,moist, colorful and most of all taste great!

And for the second experiment . . .  you’ll have to wait for the next blog.

O Christmas Tree

This past weekend I was in-between classes: finished grading finals with one and preparing to grade final projects with another and I needed a break. So we went to get our Christmas tree.

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Fortunately, where we live there are many farms, including Christmas tree farms so finding a great tree is easy. We drove less than 2 miles up the road from our house to the closest tree farm. We were given a saw and told to bring back the tree to pay for it  when we were done.

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We were able to take Kira with us, who thoroughly enjoyed smelling all the trees and playing with pine cones.

Growing up we didn’t have much choice in trees. We would go to open lots or hardware store parking lots that have a limited selection and high cost. All trees had already been dead for days and transported from the Northwest.

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On the opposite end, Luke’s family owned a Christmas tree farm for a few years. So I am usually done searching and ready to settle for something much sooner than Luke who who enjoys the hunt for the “perfect tree”. He was even able to tell me different types of trees and if a different person was trimming a different row or section of trees than another.

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After I reminded him that this was mini-break we finally settled on a tree. He cut it down for us and dragged it to the car. They offered to wrap it up for us but since we lived so close we just used some straps and headed home.

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We had it home soon after and it didn’t take long to get it decorated. This year I was finally able to use the crochet snowflakes my mom made me last year on the tree. I think they help balance out the multi-colored lights.

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It’s amazing how much getting the tree up and ready for the holiday makes a difference in the home-it feels like Christmas.