Tag Archives: holiday photography

Christmas Cookie Sprinkle Snitchers

Vacation days are for the taking, especially this time of year when the paycheck arrives in your mailbox with more PTO hours than you know what to do with (and a memo from HR saying “use ‘em or lose ‘em”). Now, of course, I try to stash my PTO like a squirrel stashing nuts (three weeks in Italy, anyone?), but I must say, Wednesday’s day off was one of the best days of the year.

We went and baked Christmas cookies with our nephews: Andrew, Isaiah and Jeremiah.

Hosting the festivities was my mom, who the kids affectionately call “Oma” (German for grandmother). Joining Hailey and I — and meeting the twins for the very first time — was Hailey’s mom, Diana. The kids took to calling her “Nana King.” Things got off to a rip-roaring start when Hailey and Nana King turned the mixer on and sprayed powdered sugar all over Hailey (above left). The kids, undeterred, snitched sprinkles off the kitchen table.

I started off by helping the boys with icing the gingerbread cookies. Those metal canisters aren’t easy to operate for 5-year-old fingers (let alone 3-year-old hands). As I showed him how to push the tip down to dispense the icing, Isaiah had a great idea: “in my mouth?” He tilted his head back and opened wide.

Pretty soon, the boys were in the mood to leave the kitchen and go play, and that pretty much ended up being the rest of my day. Isaiah dumped a deck of animal flash cards on the floor, and Jeremiah promptly showed me which animals were what (above left).  St. Nick had also recently visited, and delivered some cool kitchen-tool figurines for the boys. A man with a spoon head. A man with a spatula head. A man with a whisk head. Andrew quickly noted their “bungus”  and I only encouraged him to say “bungus” some more by taking pictures of Mr. Spoonhead’s “bungus.”

Is that Colonel Klink hiding in the pantry (below)?

Each one of these boys is a natural comedian. Andrew and Isaiah can be absolutely rubber faced sometimes, coming up with these hilarious expressions out of nowhere. And Jer’ — Jer’ just knows how to make up a good time with any toy.

The boys and I went downstairs to the living room and played dodgeball for an hour, but to make sure we didn’t break any of Oma and Funpa’s stuff, we rolled the balls at each other. Isaiah — always the independent, self-entertaining type — decided he’d rather play pretend and be a doggie. So as I rolled balls with great velocity at Andrew and Jeremiah’s feet, Isaiah would crawl over with a ball in his mouth, drop it and pant. So we played fetch, too. His idea. Honestly.

After about two or three hours of cookie crazed mayhem in the kitchen, Oma took a break to carry on the renewed tradition of reading “The Christmas Cookie Sprinkle Snitcher.” I just looked this out-of-print book up on Amazon and its paperback is selling for $200! It’s a great book, one from my childhood, and for the past five years, Mom has dusted it off and read it to Andrew, and now, the twins.

It’s a cute story about a goofy fur-covered villian with feathers and wings who steals an entire town’s Christmas sprinkles. The whole village cries, and a determined little boy sets off to make things right again by retrieving the stash of sprinkles.

Below you can really see each boy’s personality: Andrew, rapt with attention; Jer leaning forward into the story and scanning the illustrations, Isaiah hanging back and listening from afar.

I was charmed by Jer during the reading. He’s very sensitive — a kid with a lot of heart. During the part of the story where the villagers cry about losing their sprinkles, Jer wore this concerned look on his face:

After the reading, it was time to suit up and sled before the sun slid behind Carpenter Peak (which happens at 2:30pm this time of year). Andrew, Amy and I went down to a slope below the house which Funpa had recommended. Shortly after we arrived, Oma showed up, towing the twins. Jer — as it turns out — is a little daredevil and loves sledding. I mean, check out that smile…

Amy and Andrew went down the steeper part of the hill. Despite Andrew’s reservations, he joined Am’, only to roll off the back ten feet down the hill (below). Then I took Jer down the steep part. I somehow managed to spin us and go down backwards…whoops.

Back at the house, Hailey and Diana were busy putting on the finishing touches on the brandy balls. Isaiah parked himself at the table next to Nana King and told her about the cookies (and pretended to be a doggie again). A few more snitches, a few more sprinkles, and then it was time for the kids to pack up and head back home to Colorado Springs with Amy.


Below are just two of the seven types of cookies made. On the left, Amy’s hazelnut chocolate chip cookies, and on the right, Mom’s German linzer cookies. Speaking of which, maybe I’ll go have one here.


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When Chefs Are Also Food Photographers

2008-11-27thanksgiving-4101Thanksgiving is the closest most of us will come to being Iron Chef. Those last few minutes — when the turkey is out and starting to get cold and a last-minute blitz of reheating, reanimating and gravy-making takes place — are about as pressure-packed as the 55-minute mark in Kitchen Stadium.

So if you are hosting, like Hailey and I were yesterday, and you’re cooking…how do you even make time to set the food right for a yummy photograph?

Well, lesson learned. But while the 14-pound turkey was reaching perfection, me, Hales, and my mom and dad noshed on crackers, olives and apple slices and sipped some wine. I showed Mom and Dad my new 24mm lens, and they gave me one of the best portraits of the two of them. I love this…

2008-11-27thanksgiving-4108These are our prized napkin rings. Never thought I’d be that domesticated, but yes, I love my napkin rings. You gotta problem with that??? We bought them in Quito, Ecuador last year. This one is nursing a baby. Now that’s realistic!

2008-11-27thanksgiving-4104Things came out of the oven, and I tried to catch them while they were hot. Hailey’s garlic-and-corn mashed potatoes on the left, and the new recipe of the year — stuffing with apples and sausage — on the right.

2008-11-27thanksgiving-4145The turkey came out of the oven and cooled under some foil. Just before carving, I snapped a few angles (without much time to fix the light or even adjust it) while my Dad patiently waited, sharpening the carving set. Turkeys look great for maybe two minutes once they’re out of the oven. After that, they start to look like a glistening carcass.

2008-11-27thanksgiving-4141And here is the final result…I was on the verge of irritating our company with all the picture taking, so I snapped one shot (with too narrow a depth of field) and discreetly put the camera away for grace, a toast and the feasting.

2008-11-27thanksgiving-4150Thanksgiving is the pinnacle of American cuisine. Anyone from the outside looking into this country may be temped to think our cuisine revolves around hamburgers, hot dogs, steak, French fries and a gamut of imported and co-opted dishes like pizza, spaghetti and burritos. But take another look on this holiday. This is the real zenith of our kitchen priorities: a long-roasted bird, harvest fruits and veggies concocted in all sorts of ways, stuffing, and the essence of rosemary and sage everywhere. It’s the best.

I often feel more patriotic on Thanksgiving than I do on the Fourth of July. It’s my favorite holiday, probably because it forces reflection on what matters most. Any place where they take a day to stop and do that is a place worth living. Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I know I did.

And in case you haven’t yet, be sure to vote for my travel photo of the year in the blog post below or by clicking here.

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