Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas in Idaho

We're still in Idaho and I have some fantastic photos of the kids playing in the snow this morning but first I want to share our Christmas photos. Christmas in Idaho is always a whirlwind of activity and this year wasn't any different. Christmas Eve found us at David's Opa and Oma's house with all of his aunts, uncles, and cousins. It's a zoo. It's also a lot of fun and always involves plenty of yummy food! Part of the celebration includes a gift exchange. Since there are 22 of us we draw names after Thanksgiving and thankfully only have to shop for four presents. This year we drew three of David's younger cousins and one of his aunts. We open presents starting with the youngest, which is Ethan, and end with Opa and Oma. We started earlier then usual this year and were home by 9:30pm which was pretty good for Christmas Eve. I attempted to put the kids down to bed though I doubt Grace did much sleeping that night. After we got the kids to sleep we helped Santa out by putting out the shoe stuffers (remember we do wooden shoes!) and the Big Santa Presents. This year Santa left Grace a Princess Tiana doll which is what she has been talking about all month. Good thing that Santa remembered to include it in the sleigh because it nearly got forgot! Santa left Ethan a marble run because he knows how much he enjoys the one in the toy store by Grandma's house. That Santa sure is clever.

We actually woke up before the kids Christmas morning but they were stirring by 7:30am so we didn't have to wait long. Grace was ecstatic to find Princess Tiana by her shoe and Ethan was enthralled with his marbles. We spent a few hours opening presents and it was so much fun to watch Grace. Every present was met with such exclamations as "what a wonderful bracelet!" and gasps of delight. She was a very lucky girl. Ethan was slower in opening presents because he likes to enjoy each gift a bit before moving on to the next. He seemed mostly thrilled with a Diego bat and baseball I scored on clearance at Kmart for $1.49 last August. Just goes to show that it's not always the spendiest present that gets the most love! After all the presents were opened we enjoyed our traditional Christmas breakfast of Butterscotch Rolls (two pans worth because David and Sam inhale one all by themselves!) and Breakfast Egg Casserole.

Grandpa and Grandma came over to join us in time for an early Christmas dinner. They both received a Snuggie as a gift (as did my Mother in Law...though hers was tainted with BSU paraphernalia) which I had to get photos of. I still don't get the point of those things. Wouldn't wearing a fleece robe be about the same thing?

Oma helped Grace get beautiful before going to the Christmas Eve gathering. She curled her hair and helped her put on lip gloss which is a super cool thing when you're four. She looked beautiful!

Here's Grace in her Christmas dress on Christmas Eve.

And here is Ethan on Christmas wearing his brand new basketball pajamas and holding onto the new $1.49 baseball bats. He's one happy camper!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Santa Made a House Call!

We made the long drive to Idaho on Tuesday and on Wednesday morning a special visitor arrived at the front door. Santa made a house call because he heard that Grace and Ethan would be spending Christmas at Opa and Oma's house and he wanted to be sure he could find them on Christmas Eve. Grace was delighted to see Santa and Ethan wasn't very sure. But Santa brought candy and presents which calmed Ethan down pretty quick, and he even smiled at him...from a distance. Before Santa had to leave he got a hug from both kids. They're pretty lucky kids to get a visit from Santa!

If you can't tell from the photos (and the kids didn't catch on either!) Santa is my father in law in disguise. David about died laughing when he asked his Dad how he was going to disguise himself and he said he'd take off his glasses. Now we know that not only does it work for Superman, but also for Santa Claus!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Painted Cookies Recipe

I've been making Painted Cookies for Christmas for as long as I can remember. Of course when I first started making Painted Cookies my job was to paint. These days my job is roll out the cookies so my kids can do the painting! It's a great recipe to make with little kids. Our cookies turned out beautiful this year thanks to both Grace and Ethan's artistic touch. Grace's cookies were mostly done in solid colors while Ethan was into swirls of color.

Painted Cookies
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
3 1/2 cups flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla. Stir in dry ingredients and then chill dough. Roll out dough and cut with cookie cutters. Decorate with Egg Yolk Paint and then bake at 375 degrees for 5-6 minutes.

Egg Yolk Paint
1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp water
food coloring

I do the same four colors we've always done but you can use as many colors as you want. Make the Egg Yolk Paint recipe for as many colors as you plan to use. I bought cheap paint brushes from the Dollar Store several years ago for this recipe. It's definitely a kid pleaser!

Holiday Happenings

It's been a busy week and I'm sure you all can relate. We've been busy trying to keep up with our regular schedule while adding in fun holiday activities and unsuccessfully dodging the stomach bug. Every family has their own holiday traditions and we're no exception. Some traditions started out very purposefully and others just sort of happen on their own accord. Here's how we're doing on my list of "Christmas Stuff I Hope Will Happen This Year".

*Nightly Devotional & lit candle with dinner
*Christmas Tree set up with lights
*Bake Painted Cookies
*Bake Candy Cane Cookies
*Attend our small town's tree lighting ceremony and visit with Santa
*Decorate the house & put up the nativity
*Attend Indoor Park Christmas Party

Yet to Be Accomplished or Just Plain Not Happening This Year:
*Putting up Christmas lights outside (decided against it this year)
*Putting ornaments on the tree (supposed to happen's hard to get the four of us at home at the same time!)
*Bake Egg Nog Cookies, Gingerbread Boys, and Sugar Cookies
*Bake a rum cake for David
*Finish Christmas shopping (I'm probably 10% done....eeeeek!)
*Wrap all of the gifts
*Christmas Cards...not sure I have the energy to do them this year. Can I just do one on the blog or is that tacky?)
*Attend the Salem Festival of Lights Parade (it's tonight but the weather forecast is looking a little iffy)
*Watch Christmas Vacation
*Take my Mom and Grace to see The Nutcracker (we go next weekend!)

I'm sure there's more to add to both lists but you get the idea. This weekend we're hoping to finally put the ornaments on the tree, take Grace to see the new Disney Princess movie, go to Salem's Festival of Lights parade (depending on weather of course), go to our Church's Christmas Cantata (Grace is singing O Little Town of Bethlehem), and possibly go to our church's Community Christmas Carol Sing. I may need to bake some more Christmas cookies to bring to church on Sunday to share for fellowship time as well. Hmmmm. Maybe we're too ambitious.

This is the only decent picture I have from when we got our tree last Monday. It was FREEZING cold so we were fast. We got our tree from our favorite tree farm in town owned by a couple that attend our church. We found them before we realized they went to our church and were super impressed and will be repeat customers as long as we live in the area!

I almost forgot my camera in our haste to get to Indoor Park Friday morning for our Christmas party. We had a last minute scramble to find a Santa and wound up with a junior high aged Santa. The kids didn't seem to care, and Ethan was super happy to get a candy cane.

I took Grace outside to brave the cold for two minutes to take some pictures because she looked so cute in her Christmas outfit yesterday. Afterwards she bundled up to play on the swingset for 5 minutes before I got too cold and made her come back inside.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Swimming Lessons

Grace just finished up her second round of swimming lessons today and I have to say she has really improved from her first round of lessons last spring. Such a change in maturity in such a short span of time! At the end of her first round of Pre-Level 1 lessons her greatest improvement was confidence (she has that in spades!) and she needed to practice floating and listening. Funny how that listening part hasn't changed. Hmmmm. Today's report card listed her greatest improvement as putting her face in the water and she needs to practice her floats. Her swim instructor said she's doing really well and showed a lot of improvement which I heartily agree with. I think finally being brave enough to put her face in the water the last few weeks has really helped and I'm hoping that the next swim class she does she'll get even more confident in the water.

One of the reasons I think Grace did so well this time around is that she had a lot of individual attention. The very first time the class met there were four kids (the max. number per class). Two kids dropped out after that class the other little girl in her class missed the class a few times which meant Grace had individual instruction for a half hour. I think the reason our class was so small was because we had the worst time slot available...12:25 to 12:55pm. That's right. After lunch and at the start of most kids' nap times. While that doesn't matter to Grace since she refuses to nap these days, it does matter to Ethan who desperately needs his after lunch nap. After the first session when Ethan and I sat and watched from the bleachers and he very obviously let me know that he wanted to be in the water too I started bringing his swim diaper and letting him "swim" in the infant pool while Grace had her lesson. Ethan loved playing in the water and "swimming like a fishie" and playing with the purple plastic toys. Swim lessons start at 3 so he's got another year before he can take lessons too.

I asked Grace if she wanted to sign up for gymnastics or swim lessons after Christmas and she wants to do swim lessons again so I'll probably sign up for the same crappy time slot in the hopes that everyone else will avoid it and get another small class. Or maybe not. Today Ethan refused to nap once we got home from swimming and that might have changed my mind. A toddler who misses his nap is not a fun toddler to spend time with.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Our WinterFest Santa Visit

Tonight our family froze outside for an hour of good fun at our small town's WinterFest. The party started at 5pm but we showed up at 6:15 and got front row parking. As in we literally couldn't have parked any closer to the event. Then we walked the half a block to find the end of what appeared to be the Santa Visit line. It's not hard to miss with a zillion kids, strollers, and babies. We waited 15 minutes in the cold before Santa arrived via motorcycle accomapanied by another 45 bikes. We were in the front row and got a great view and it was really cute to watch Grace light up at the sight of Santa. Ethan was much more impressed by the bikes then the big guy in red. After Santa turned the lights on the big tree in front of the courthouse he was ready to begin the onslaught of children eager to ply him with their toy requests.

Grace was very excited to see Santa. She already visited him last weekend but we didn't get any photos because that Santa was charging $5 for me to take my own photos. I really don't think so. He was a very good Santa though and Grace liked talking to him. This Santa was less of a talker but he still did a good job. Ethan got pretty nervous about the whole thing when he got up close and got the gist of what we wanted him to do. I was almost sure that I was only going to get photos of Ethan crying (observe the upper right photo of the two kids with Santa below) when Santa whipped out the candy canes. That did it. Ethan's cries stopped and he craned his neck around to get a better look at the scary guy that handed out candy. Handing out candy made Santa much more interesting. Grace made sure to tell Santa about the Princess Tiana doll she wants for Christmas (which I'm still trying to hunt down...I refuse to pay 2x-3x the retail price to the idiots on Amazon!) and Ethan asked for a basketball.

After the short visit with Santa was done we headed back to our primo parking spot with a very cranky boy and a very excited girl. I think Ethan was cranky because his hands were cold but that was his own fault for refusing to wear the mittens I just got for him. At least I was able to force the hat to stay on. Hopefully he learned his lesson and will keep the dang mittens on next weekend for the Festival of Lights Parade! Our entire WinterFest experience lasted one hour from start to finish. A lot shorter then last year when we arrived too late and at the end of the line!

I used a seventies action on the photos from tonight for fun. The photos are pretty grainy because I didn't use a flash and instead cranked up my ISO to 1600 and used my f/2.8 50mm lens. I did shoot in RAW which helped quite a bit. So since I knew my photos were going to be grainy I figured I could have fun with it! The lighting by Santa was a lot better so I moved my ISO down to 800. I only had about 30 seconds to work so I moved FAST! All in all I don't think they came out too bad considering the lack of available light and my disinterest in flashing the bejezuz out of everyone.

Thanksgiving 2009

We had a lovely Thanksgiving with my Mom and brother this year. It was low key and relaxing, a perfect holiday! Thanksgiving is actually my favorite holiday. Any holiday that is about good food and enjoying time with friends and family is right up my alley. Plus it features my favorite foods...mashed potatoes and pie! David thought that making four pies for four adults and two kids was excessive but obviously he doesn't know any better. If anything it wasn't enough. Since we were left to our own devices this year we decided to eat at noon so we could put Ethan down for a nap at a reasonable time and also so we could chow down on Thanksgiving dinner all day long. Definitely a bonus! The kids loaded up on veggies and dip (more dip then veggies in Ethan's case, but Grace did eat her fair share of carrots) before eating the cran-raspberry salad and a bite of sweet potato casserole. They wouldn't touch the mashed potatoes, turkey, or cornbread stuffing. I really don't know what's wrong my kids but they don't see to like potatoes. Of course they both share my love of pie, Ethan especially so!

Mom and I set out for our Black Friday shopping fun at 6am with a goal of hitting up Target for the $3 appliances before heading to Fred Meyers. Target was a war zone and the $3 appliances were cleaned out (probably in the first 30 seconds the store was open at 5am) and the lines wrapped around to the back of the store. We were there all of five minutes before we left. Fred Meyers was a much better stop. We were there for an hour and a half and found several good deals. Not only were they well stocked but when we went to check out at 8:30am we didn't even have to stand in line. It was fantastic. We also hit up a really cool toy store near my Mom's place before we got back home at 9:30. A record for us! I was battling a cold and didn't have the energy to hit up the mall, plus I'm not sure it would have been worth it anyways.