Tuesday, December 28, 2010

One of those days.

Do you ever have one of those days?  Where your mom dresses you too warm all for the sake of a Christmas card photo?  Where the mid-December weather is awfully toasty?

Where the dress (and possibly a new tooth or two) makes you hot?  And irritable?  And downright fussy?

Where all you want is to get out of that dress and scream for joy?

You do?

Yeah.  Me too.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

What happened to December?!

I know that today is the 23rd of December. 

And I know that means Christmas is Saturday.

But, I sure feel like Christmas snuck up on me this year!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Cards.

I love getting mail.  Growing up, I even enjoyed getting the mail (as in, walk to the box, pick up the mail and trot it to the house).

Real mail seems to be in short supply these days.  Getting an email is just not the same thing as getting a piece of physical mail.  (Mind you, I totally accept that some communications are easier, and - possibly - better, by email.)

As it has become easier and cheaper to communicate in so many other ways, the letter seems to be going the way of the dinosaur.  Heck, most of our bills are even delivered electronically!

However, in December my physical mail always increases a bit.  I come home and enjoy opening new cards.  We ooh and aah over the photos, laugh at the annual recaps and then line them up on our bookshelves.  (I also enjoy the e-Christmas cards we have received.  I just print them out and line them up too.)

I love getting Christmas cards so much that I cannot not send them myself.  Not too long ago, we had some photos taken, decided on a card layout, placed our order and waited excitedly for them to arrive.  Well.  They are here.

I have a few more addresses to compile, but the cards are stuffed, licked, stamped and - mostly, at least - addressed.  I'm hoping to send them out in tomorrow's mail.  (Minus the few stragglers that I looked at and thought, "That isn't the correct address for her anymore!")

Soon our smiling faces will grace mailboxes around the world ... hopefully, creating some smiles in the process.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Ah. Chocolate Triscuit Bites.

These cookies are dumb stupid simple.  (I dunno, are they cookies, are they candy?  Who can tell?)

Buy some Triscuits.  Break them up in a large bowl.  (Do not reduce them to shreddings, but each cracker should be broken into at least 4 pieces.  Unless you want bigger pieces ... then go with bigger pieces.)

Put some chocolate chips into a microwave safe bowl.  Hit go.  Stir every 30 seconds until melted (aiming for liquid here).

Pour the chocolate over the Triscuit crumbles.  Stir.  Drop by the spoonful onto wax paper (we had parchment on hand, so I used that).  Chill until firm.

Quantities?

I bought a Costco-sized bag of chocolate chips and a Costco-sized box of Triscuits.  It worked out about right.  (But, if it weren't for two cookie exchanges, these would be coming out of my ears!)

I'm not sure you could have too much chocolate, but if the chocolate isn't holding the Triscuit pieces together, well, then more chocolate is definitely in order.

I used semi-sweet chocolate.  So it has a dark chocolate bitterness (which I like).  I am positive that milk chocolate would also be tasty.  I imagine that mixing in marshmallows or toffee bits or un-melted chips (chocolate, white, peanut butter?) would also be tasty.

I don't have any photos. 

But I found the 'recipe' here:

http://atimetoeat.blogspot.com/2010/11/chocolate-triscuits.html.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Cookies. Christmas Cookies.

Now.  It seems that almost every family has a different approach to Christmas cookies.

Some people make many kinds and offer guests a medley of yummy treats.  Some people make one kind and use a cookie exchange to then offer guests a medley of yummy treats. 

I have two such exchanges on the calendar this year!  Cookie medley here I come.

My offering for (both) exchanges is this:  Chocolate Triscuit Bites.  OK.  It technically isn't baking, because I didn't actually turn the oven on.  But they are super tasty.  Super Tasty.  Now.  They are not super pretty, just focus on the Super Tasty. 

All that being said.  Growing up we did not ascribe to the cookie medley doctrine.  We are one cookie people.  (Perhaps this is pastry discrimination.  So be it.)  Sugar cookies.  Iced and decorated.  It is one of the traditions that I most enjoy about Christmas.  Unfortunately, getting together with my Mom and my brother and my sisters and our spouses and any others ... well, getting us all together with time to mix and roll and cut and bake and decorate just doesn't happen that much anymore.  Drat distance!

But, I'm hankering for these cookies.  So I had planned to make and decorate some.  With family if possible, but by myself if need be.

However, I tried to bake a lasagna last night, and my oven never heated up.  Yup.  As it turns out, the ignite-er (gas oven) that was at the end of its rope finally gave it up.  Stone. Cold. Oven.

Not so good for either the lasagna or my cookie dreams.  (Good thing I planned no bake 'cookie' contributions!)  We will get it fixed, but I'm voting we will not get it done before Christmas.

Regardless, I am not yet giving up on my cookie dreams for this Christmas.  (There are other, functioning, ovens in town.)  Maybe it will happen.  I am hopeful!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Waiting to Breathe.

The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas sometimes feels like a race.  When I plan ahead, it feels like I imagine a long distance run might feel.  When I do not, it is a sprint to the finish.

Unfortunately, with all of this (metaphorical) running, it is easy to miss the Joy of the Christmas season.

Thankfully, with a little bit of planning, most of my gifts are wrapped and under the tree.  I have a few on the table waiting to be wrapped this evening.  One is waiting to be picked up from Stephen, who owns the UPS store where I have a PO Box.   (Yeah, that is largely for business purposes, but, for a body to sign for packages, it is also ideal!)  I have one gift that is (hopefully) being shipped as we speak.  It may be the one Christmas gift this year that doesn't make it until after our celebrations.  (Boo.)

Yes.  Celebrations.  We are celebrating with Hoopingarners and Headleys and Thiels ... and then Amundgaards and Grigorievs ... who can get a whole dispersed family together at the same time?!  If you do it successfully, you better tell me the secret!

But, we have our house fully decorated.  It is hard not to be cheerful when surrounded by twinkle lights!  I am working on a very belated knitting project (that I realized last night has more to go than I expected - Arg).  This is the perfect project for right now, because there isn't much you can do while knitting away except be still and mull your thoughts - or have a great conversation - or enjoy the lights of the Christmas tree - or sit quietly with your husband and enjoy the moment.  (Now, it is not the perfect project for now because I'm not sure I have enough quiet time to give so that it will be finished.  But I am hopeful!)

May you too find some time to be slow amidst all the busy-ness that comes with this time of year.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A little late.

So.  Olive has this toy:


While his technical name is Mini Mr. X, we call him Blabla.  Sometimes Monsieur Blabla (which Kyle accompanies with a French-inspired accent, having decided that his chapeau and striped shirt make him French.)

He isn't a toy that we take everywhere, but Olive grins big he is along for the ride.

We received Mr. Blabla from my Dad for Olive's birthday this summer.  He said the lady at the store assured him that, "It was the next big thing."

Next big thing or not.  We think he's cute.

I don't really think much about Mr. Blabla, no more than any of the other toys around our home.  But I have recently been on a hunt for a baby doll for Olive.  By way of disclaimer, I am very picky about this crazy doll.  Very likely too picky.  But.  Well.  I am picky.

After much searching, I employed some google-foo and realized that the company that makes Mr. Blabla, er, Blabla, also makes dolls.  (In fact, one such doll may just be under the tree for Olive come Christmas morning.  We shall see.)

In my search, I also came across the link to a commercial from last year's (maybe technically, this year's?) super bowl.



One member of the carousing group of toys is a Giant Mr. X. (He has to ride in the back of the car.)

Does that mean that we really do have the next big thing? That we are cooler than we think?

Somehow, I doubt it.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Santa.

Our neighborhood moms' group hosts an annual breakfast with Santa.  So, Saturday morning we gussied up Miss Olive and headed to the local elementary school cafeteria for some kolaches, donuts and Santa.

Olive was very intrigued by Santa.  She kept trying to climb on stage with him (when it wasn't yet our turn).  Then she walked around and around the cafeteria - and for awhile chased a little boy who was chasing another little boy.  Kyle kept two steps behind Olive, and I waited in line for Santa.

It was a great time.  Olive clearly had a ball.  My cousin Jamie recently pointed out that mothers learn to have conversations in 1.5 sentence bursts.  This was completely my experience at the Santa breakfast.

It is one of the few downfalls of parenthood: my nascent small talk skills have been further stunted by the needs and interruptions of my sweet Olive.  I wouldn't change it for the world, but it has been an unexpected consequence of this thing called parenthood.  (I say parenthood rather than motherhood, because Kyle totally agrees.  Conversation with a child in the proximity = hard.)

By the time it was our turn to sit with Santa.  Olive was pretty over it.  (Note her expression in the photo below.) We all trooped up there to get her in the spirit, but we only came away with photos of us all.  Olive was not keen to go one-on-one with Mr. Claus.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Christmastime is Here Again.

After all of the Thanksgiving hoopla, Kyle and I enjoyed a quiet Sunday. 

We cooked for the week ahead and extracted our Christmas decorations from the garage.

I was very excited to put up the tree and watch Olive's reaction.  Well, as it turns out, our new ceilings aren't quite as tall as our old ceilings.  Only the bottom 3/4 of our tree fit.  It wasn't quite the look I had intended.


(See, I didn't cut off the top of the tree with my photo.  There just is no top of the tree.  Fun.  The angel would be floating on a flat platter of pine!)

We are seeking a home for the old (only 3-years old) tree.  (I'm sellin' cheap, $50.  I promise I paid more than that!!  It is 8+ feet, pre-lit, white light, GE tree.  Let me know if you want it!)  We got another, smaller tree.  It isn't as nice as the old tree, but it fits much better in the house.  And, it is awfully pretty, if I do say so.



Olive loves the sparkle.  She loves the ornaments.  So far, she has been really good about touching them gently.  (We do hope that continues!)

Our celebratory festivities start up soon.  I am almost done with Christmas shopping, and I am excited to experience Christmas through Olive's eyes.  (I know, she's too young to "get it," but I'm still excited.)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Whew!

Olive had a cracker-jack Thanksgiving.  With so many wonderful friends and family around, she was never far from a loving hug, a mischevious grin, or a willing playmate.

She played Nativity with Dad and cousin Kate.


She danced (and danced and danced and danced) with Elmo.


She played with Grandma at the zoo.


She rode on our new glider with Grandpa.



She vegged out to Baby Einsteins with Kate.


I neglected to pack my camera for the weekend.  (After reminding myself several times.  Arg.)  These photos are from Russ and Rae.  (Thank you!!) I may add more, if I can convince the other photo takers to share!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

An Extravaganza.

So.  I've tried to come up with good words to describe our Thanksgiving celebration, and extravaganza really seems to sum it up best.

There were 33 people at Mom and Tim's house on Lake Conroe, just north of Houston. 

My Mom and Tim.
Janna, Eugene, Chad, Emily and Kate.
Russ and Rae.
Gramma, Mary, Steve, Joshua and Jonathan.
Bonnie, Bob, Sean, Krissy, Tyler, Lindsey, Jonathan, Candice, Nyjah and Kenai.
Mary, Charles, Tom, Joyce, Bobbie and Sandy.
Me, Kyle and Olive.

I think that covers everyone.  Lots of family.  All in all it went off in a more or less timely fashion.  The food was tasty and plentiful.  There was laughter and good conversation.

Some of Mom and Tim's neighbors were out of town.  They were generous enough to offer their homes for our use.  So, we were scattered among three houses - but everyone had a reasonable sleeping situation.  It really was a blessing.

It was fun to see so many people find a way to fit: by helping or cooking, or making people feel welcome, or chatting and listening to the things that have come up since we were all together last, by watching little ones and football, by helping clean, and by making sure everyone had a place set especially for them. 

As I look back on Thanksgiving day, and the weekend overall, there were moments when it all seemed like chaos, but, with a little bit of clarity, it really was a symphony - of love and friendship, generosity and sharing, rest and movement. 

It was a wonderful time to celebrate everything and everyone that we are thankful for.  I can't wait to do it again.