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We had an incredible Christmas this past year. One of those holidays that was so wonderful because we did nothing, had no travel, and had nobody over. It was divine!

During the Christmas break, the men of the house poured over a Christmas gift from the woman of the house. A book called “Backyard Ballistics”. Before I knew it, the boys were coming home with things like lighter fluid, hairspray, PVC piping, long matchsticks, bags of potatoes, Pringles cans, duct tape, and things I don’t have names for. For two days a flurry of activity took place in the kitchen and in the garage.

When the moment came to actually perform the launch, our son elected to do his “video” time, rather than witness the fruition of those hours of hard work.

EEEERRRRR. Stop the tape.

I was about ready to turn the boy inside out, but Tom Builder had given him a choice, and Mr. Incredible handled the side issue of our son’s ridiculous indecisiveness (not wanting to disappoint Dad, but really wanting to do PS2 Star Wars for the 5oth time) with stunning ease. Our Princess of Wails, on the other hand, knows good Daddy time when she sees it, and was all about launching potatoes out into the pasture.

And so this is how it came to pass that two girls and the man of the house found themselves strapping our self made potato cannon to a paddock gate to prepare for her maiden launch.

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None of us were quite sure of what to expect, but Mr. Incredible had high hopes of launching potatoes to infinity and beyond. What none of us were expecting was the enormous sonic boom generated by a squirt of hairspray, a spark, and a mere potato! The launch was a complete success with potatoes blasting far out into our first pasture, while Ken and I giggled over how loud the gun was. So ear busting, that we could only convince ourselves to launch five potatoes for fear that the cops would be at our door in another five minutes. Who knew that plunging potatoes into pastures could be so much fun for grown men?

So if you knock at the door, and no one answers, head around back. We’re probably just shooting spuds.

Tabula Rosa

Hard wired deep in my soul, I have a fresh desire to begin each year with nothing on my plate. I want the clutter in every room to be sucked up in some imaginary vortex. Everything must have clean lines and surfaces. The fridge. The desk. The floor. The school schedule. The blog. The devotional. I want to simplify every iota.

I have become a machine. Nesting. Aiming high for my Tabula Rosa. Oiled by sheer will. Inspired by literally the presence of nothing. After looking under every bed and through every closet, I still can’t seem to find where I misplaced that magic vortex button. However, I find myself taking rest in the smallest of victories. A clean desktop on a computer. The holy trinity of hamper, washer, and dryer found empty. One step closer to the almost unobtainable goal of printing out five years of digital pictures. And reworking the blog at a feverish pitch during a 2AM attack of pregnancy insomnia.

I’m taking a deep breath in until it almost hurts and tickles all at once. Before exhaling and beginning the fresh blessing of a new year; before welcoming 10 more tiny toes over the threshold of life.

I promised myself I would be in bed 15 minutes ago, but I had to share one of our most interesting advent activities from the last week: Transforming those lovely junk magazines into beautiful Christmas trees. Set those kids to work on that unwanted stack of magazines today with this inspiration over at Just Like Martha‘s. The results are well worth the effort.

The Elfin Times

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Knucker Hatch Farms is not responsible for any noxious amounts of Hydrogen Sulfide that may be present in the air on Christmas Day. Knucker Hatch Farms would also like to add that it will not be liable for any mass extinction that may take place due to the toxic levels of Hydrogen Sulfide (as is theorized to have happened to the dinosaurs.) Please send all complaints to Global Warming.

What you don’t know about me is that I am a pretty paper and fabric FREAK. I don’t scrap, and I hardly ever find time to sew, but in the second half of my life, I know this is where I will be spending all of my time. While I don’t have time to do things now, I do have a habit of hoarding. I have rolls of beautiful fabric and stacks of gorgeous papers in my closet begging for attention. Every one of them seeming to say, “You paid for me. Use me. I’ve been in a dark closet for 5 years. Please pick me up.”

So with that background in mind, you might be able to understand how I had to be a part of this next Knucker Hatch Advent activity. You can do this activity with paper or fabric, and the results are quite cute. (From left to right, the work of: The Queen’s Grace, Mama Knucker Hatch, The Princess of Wails, and Sir Bugga-Lot).

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A special thanks to The Small Object for the original idea in fabric w/ a very useful template and to Bella Dia for the inspiration to try paper. The only modifications we made were to stick small wads of tissue inbetween each cone for lift. By the way, both aforementioned blogs are wonderful places to sit with a cup of coffee and dream about rescuing my hoards and hoards of lovelies.

The Knucker Hatch Activity Advent Calendar continues to be an out of the ballpark hit. And the pressure is on to keep it running. So today, an easy craft to eat that my two year old “Do-er” adored: Holiday Pretzel Treats.

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Pretzels, chocolate kisses, and M&Ms. The Princess of Wails was hooked on unwrapping the individual kisses and sorting out green and red M&Ms from the others. It might have even been more of a treat than the occasional swipe of chocolate. And for this Mama, lots of fun and yumminess for very little effort.

O.K., so it wasn’t a bajillion, but by midnight, after 10 hours of straight biscotti cooking, toasting, glazing and packing, you could have told me it was a bajillion and I would have believed you. The count was more like 900, and I’m pretty sure the smells of biscotti heaven were wafting into the next city. As I mentioned in my previous post, it has become a tradition for the wife of my husband’s business partner to bake biscotti for customers and employees in the company. She receives incredible compliments and the men joke that when they fly in to visit their clients and talk about their product, the first questions they are asked are about the biscotti.

The recipes are outstanding, and Rachel outdoes herself with new ones and tweaking old favorites every year. This year: Andies Mint Chocolate Biscotti w/ chocolate icing, Peppermint Biscotti w/ peppermint pieces inside and iced in white chocolate, Cranberry Chocolate Biscotti iced in white chocolate, and Gingerbread Biscotti iced in wonderful lemon flavored white chocolate. On top of it all, her biscotti comes out beautifully perfect.

This year, I had the privilege of opening up my kitchen, and being allowed inside the factory of “Willy Wonka” so to speak as I watched the master and tried my best to be a helpful oompa-loompa. Rachel had already premade all of the dough for weeks ahead of time and frozen every batch. So the first step was separating the biscotti and placing them in special biscotti pans.

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Here the biscotti is baking and rising in individual slots. These pans keep each and everyone looking perfect.

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Following baking, the biscotti is allowed to cool for a few minutes, and then they are slid on to hot tiles to slowly toast. The tiles, I am told, help to distribute the heat evenly. She’s right. I think we might have burned the edges of only 10 biscotti out of 900.  Simple floor tiles will do the trick nicely.

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After toasting, the biscotti is laid out on wax paper to await their glazes. This is where I would become a very confused oompa-loompa. Rachel was so patient with my inability to keep each icing with the right biscotti! Look at these beauties. Can anybody say “Etsy”???

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Once the icing had set, we were packing up gift bags of six, and preparing gift boxes for the customers. This is my dear friend Rachel looking beautiful as ever at midnight:

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At 12:30am I was biscotti toast myself, and she sent me to bed, only to cook for two more hours! We had a wonderful time together, even with the nine kids running underfoot. And now we get to eat extra biscotti for breakfast, lunch and dinner, which are scrumptious even with Faithie’s teeth tracks running over all of the iced tops.