Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Year in Review

I've just completed the 4th year of documenting my weekly happenings. (Woohoo!) My favorite thing about doing my Week-in-Review project every year is getting to the end of it & looking back at all the events that occurred over the past 365 days.

The highlights of my 2012:
•Flying to Washington in February to help celebrate my grandmother's 90th birthday.
•Coyote hunting with Susan.
•A family trip to Omaha in March where I got my first tattoo. And, a family trip in the summer to Lincoln.
•A spring road trip to Denver with Susan, for my 37th birthday, where we saw Wicked, had oodles of fun in the city {& at the Curtis Hotel} & completed 37 Random Acts of Kindness.
•A birthday scavenger hunt from Susan. (No one has ever done anything like that for me.)
•A summer full of fun & craftiness & sand castles & adventures.
• Before moving from Bridgeport to North Platte, making a stop motion video with Susan as a celebration of our friendship.
•A 2-week visit from my mom, dad & grandmother. (They drove 1258+ miles!) 
(And surprising Zoey early with a birthday party while all our family was together.)

Here's to a fantastic 2013!
Happy New Year to all my friends & followers & fans & readers. You are THE BEST!!!



Week in Review: December 24-30

Last week I...
...survived a quick run to Walmart on Christmas Eve.
...attended a candlelight service.
...played with my kids' new Christmas things. (Namely: spirograph & Little House on the Prairie DVD's.)
...enjoyed a quiet, relaxing Christmas at home with my little family & our friend Randy.
...prepared my first ever Christmas dinner.
...happily watched the pretty snow fall outside.
...caught snowflakes with Pazely.
...took Zoey for a haircut re-do after her daddy failed to get the exact cut that she wanted.
...was surprised when the Mr. came home with a freshly pierced Pazely!
...made banana bread.
...knitted.
...played 1/2 the role of "mean parent" as the Mr. & I are making the girls do practice school work during their winter break.
...stayed up late every night this week & slept in the next morning.
...ate at my favorite local Japanese restaurant in town.
...played Pass-the-Pigs with friends.
...wondered what 2013 will bring me.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

My First Christmas Dinner Prep

Well, I did it. I prepared my first Christmas dinner ever. EVER! It seems so sad that at ages 8 & 10, my girls have never enjoyed a holiday meal prepared by their own mother. But, we've always ever eaten at mom or grandma's for holidays in the past---or received other invitations from friends. There was never a need to do it on my own. Until now.

I'll be honest & say that the day before Christmas dinner didn't start out so nifty. I cooked the pumpkin pies ahead of time, so as to take off as much of a load on Christmas day as I could. And sometime during baking in the oven, the cookie sheet, carefully holding the two pies, warped with a horrible rumble in the oven & slopped pie filling all over. The house smelled like burnt pie for 3 days.

It was a simple meal. I cooked a ham. Which was already cooked. So, really, I heated a ham. And then I prepared a faithful scalloped potato pinterest dish, sweet potatoes (topped with french vanilla marshmallows in the shape of snowmen), green bean casserole, & homemade rolls. A friend brought over a fruit salad & apple pies.

Silly me, so consumed with the food prep, totally forgot about the table setting. So, a few hours before guests came over to partake in a happy holiday meal, I rounded up everything mismatched: chairs, place settings, & cloth napkins. (I don't have enough matching plates. And I barely had enough forks to use! And there were only 8 of us.) The tablecloths I had on hand were much too short, due to the extra leaf in the table. So, I draped a few here & there until the whole table was one mismatched glob. Which I love. At each setting, I placed a vintage angel decoration, tied with a tag & each person's name.


It wasn't as much fuss as I'd anticipated, although I did spend a lot of time in the kitchen. So, not mingling with my company & family was kind of a bummer. 
After dinner we sipped hot drinks & ate pie & played games. I'm kicking myself that I never got my camera out after my dinner guests arrived! I was so mentally occupied with making sure everything went smoothly, that I just plain forgot to photograph it. But I proved to myself that I can do it, & I'm awful proud of that.


Friday, December 21, 2012

Dancing queen

Today the Mr. worked a half-day so he could take all 3 of his girls out to lunch. We were using a gift card to Applebee's, which has a silly story attached to it that maybe is only funny if you were actually there.
(The short version of the story: We got the gift card as a prezzie last month. We've waited until now to use it. That is, until  the Mr. went to a Christmas party 2 weeks ago & needed a White Elephant Gift to take. He grabbed the gift card & I stuck it in a pair of ugly Christmas socks as a disguise. I was so mad he would use OUR gift card. "Don't worry," he said. "I'll get it back." And he did. At the party, he stole the socks from some lady. Stealing, you know, is part of the game. Nobody even knew there was $25 worth of free food inside the socks until the game was over. Yes!) 

We shuffled into the car, made it a few blocks down the road & then realized we forgot the gift card. So we turned around & came back home. I ran inside, grabbed it from the Mr's cupboard in the kitchen, (Yes, he has a cupboard.), & then we scooted on back toward the restaurant.
As we pulled into a parking spot, I glanced back at the girls in the backseat & realized that Pazely was not wearing shoes. Well, she was wearing shoes, but not anything that I would deem acceptable for going out in public.
Pazely was wearing thick sporty socks & clunky vintage tap shoes that were WAY too small for her. Tap shoes that she had lovingly covered in bright hot pink duct tape. So, not only was she loud, she was loud. When she saw the way the Mr. & I were looking at her, she replied, "What?! I like these shoes!" Oh brother. The Mr. threw his hands up in the air & seriously considered going back home for good.
Thankfully we were seated at a corner booth, where her feet could hide under the darkness of the table.
After our lunch date, we were headed to grab a few groceries from Walmart. I breathed a soft sigh of relief.
She would be united with her people.

Although the Mr. murmured something about Pazely having to walk 10 paces behind him, he ended up holding her hand as she TAP-TAP-TAPPED along the aisles in the store. As normal-tennis-shoe-wearing Zoey & I went to grab grocery-type items, the Mr. accompanied Pazely to the toy section so she could pick out a Christmas gift for her sister with her allowance. I couldn't help but giggle at that  6' 4" man & his tiny crazy-footed sidekick.
But, man, if I were him I would've given her a piggy back ride or something. There was a terrible racket coming from the soles of her shoes.
I was just grateful to be going in the opposite direction.

I am convinced part of my children's responsibility here on earth is to make me humble/embarrass the crap-o-la out of their dad & I.
Tonight their mission was a success.

And the tap shoes may, or may not, have "mysteriously" disappeared.







Thursday, December 20, 2012

Week in Review: December 10-16

Last week I...
...had a colonoscopy for the first time evers. Interesting procedure I tell you.
...made sugar cookies with the girls.
...helped with a Christmas party at my church, complete with cookie decorating & a hot cocoa bar.
...attended the girls school Christmas concert. (Zoey even had a little solo!)
...went out to lunch with the Mr.
...made rice krispie treats.
...knitted Christmas ornaments.
...exposed my girls to cheese-in-a-can for the first time.
...began wrapping prezzies.
...watched oodles of holiday movies.
...mailed Christmas gifts to nieces & a nephew.

Click HERE for a photo play-by-play.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

magic

This doesn't look like much. But that's magic right there.

As I began to make my annual holiday kitchen mess this year, I cranked the Christmas tunes, rolled up my pajama sleeves (which was really just the shirt I wore the day before) & then proceeded to whip up a batch of sugar cookie dough. It's the same recipe my mom used when I was a kid. It's a recipe from a 1960's cookbook that my mom & dad received as a wedding present from a relative, so long ago. And some of my all-time favorite memories center around this exact concoction of shortening & flour & sugar & vanilla & other stuff.  

Decorating Christmas cookies as a kid with my mom, dad, brother & sister was the best!! Every year my mom recruited the help of her family to frost & decorate oodles & dozens of these cookies. She really didn't have to do any convincing or pleading. We all willingly jumped into action, licking the icing off of our fingers as we went along. I can still see the cookie cutters she used. There was a snowman & a gingerbread guy, an angel, a dove, & even a circular biscuit cutter. The mess was always epic. And so were the memories. 

My daughters are now 8 & 10 years old. And every year I have continued the tradition of making & decorating Christmas cookies with them. I understand why my mom needed help. It's a lot of work. And I bet she was grateful & quietly pleased when eager hands volunteered their assistance. That's exactly how I feel every year. 
Although, unlike my mother, I am on finger-licking patrol. That just grosses me out.

Sometimes we get fancy with our decorating. Other times we toss red hots & jimmies like they're going out of style. But the whole time we are together, & things are happy. 
I stop & make Zoey & Pazely wash their hands several times during the process, but, still, things are happy. 
*Stop licking your fingers!!*

Now that her kids are all grown up & moved out, (some of us very far away *sniff, sniff*), with families of their own, my mom doesn't always make her sugar cookies every Christmas. It's too much to do by herself. (But I have heard she enlists the help of my dad & 90-year-old grandmother on occasion.) 
I am happy & honored to continue the tradition. This perpetual routine has become ceremony. Something so powerful as this ritual, has become my heritage. And because of this, my mother has given me an inheritance of memories.
If a ball of dough can do that then, yep, it's magic.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

DIY: Cinnamon Ornaments

 I first made these ornaments when I was a kid/pre-teen. My Auntie Beth gave my mom the recipe & we made them as gifts one Christmas. I've kept the recipe & make an occasional batch every few years or so.
They smell DELICIOUS. I seriously wish you could smell my house right now. 

The recipe calls for a few ingredients:
•4 oz. (or 1 CUP) cinnamon
• 1 TABLESPOON ground cloves
•1 TABLESPOON ground nutmeg
•3/4 CUP applesauce
•3 TABLESPOONS white glue

You'll also need:
• cookie cutter(s)
•rolling pin
•string/twine/ribbon for hanging

 Combine all the ingredients; work with them until smooth.
Divide into 4 portions.
Roll out 1/4" thick & cut out with cookie cutters.
Make a hole in the top for looping ribbon through.
Dry at room temperature for 1-3 days.
Thread with ribbon.

MY TIPS: 
•The dough will seem super sticky, but just keep mixing & stirring. I used a spatula, which helped to scrape the sides of the bowl & get every bit of dough. The dough eventually formed a ball as I kept smooshing & stirring. 

•As you roll out the dough & work with it, it may begin to dry out if you take too long. So, have fun, but don't take your sweet time. Otherwise you'll notice "cracks" in the surface of the dough.

•The ornaments will shrink a tiny bit as they dry.

•I got fifteen 2 1/2" stars & two small 1 1/2" stars out of my batch. (Most of my stars tended to be slightly thicker than 1/4".) That's just to give you an estimate of how much the recipe makes.

 I plan on making these into ornaments as gift toppers for the girl's teachers.

 We had lots of extras leftover, so I made a garland.


Happy Christmas crafting!

Monday, December 17, 2012

On cheap corn flakes, Christmas feasts & marshmallows.

It's a Monday morning. I know there's a whole big stance about the "horrible Monday" scene, but I actually don't mind Mondays. Now, Wednesdays? Wednesday is my least favorite day of the week. That day is full of hustle & bustle & popping frozen TV dinners in the microwave because there's no time for anything else. And kiddos getting to bed late because of church activities, which means they wake up cranky the next day.

Anyway...

I just finished a bowl of generic corn flakes. I ate them fast. Quick as lightning. I eat all my morning breakfast cereal in a speedy fashion. Because soggy cereal is just a morning ruiner. But that's about all I do in the morning that falls under the category "Lickety Split".

As I plan my to-do's for the day, I realize it includes a trip to my least favorite place to go during the Christmas season: Walmart. I need groceries. I'm stocking my pantry for the fine Christmas meal I'll be making this year. I actually haven't cooked a lot of fancy holiday meals in my time. When I've always lived near my mom who cooks it up every year, (or other people's mom's who cook it up & invite me over), why would I bother with the trouble? Bringing my offering of dinner rolls or stuffed celery has always been adequate enough. But now that the Mr. & I & the littles have been out here in the midwest on our own for a few years now, it's high time I attempt to whip up a tasty Christmas feast. But still, it's intimidating. Overwhelming. And this year we're inviting over a few folks who, like the WhiMSY love clan, don't have family of their own around. And I want to make it special. Like their mom might have made it.

Have you been to the baking aisle at Walmart lately? That's the aisle with all the flour, sugar, spices, seasonings, shortening & such. That aisle is serious mayhem. Carts so crowded you can't even get by. And if you get caught in the baking aisle lane, you'll be guaranteed to move at a snail's pace. I was just at Walmart yesterday, with Zoey. (I know! Why do I torture myself 2 days in a row?!) I let her push the cart. Until she clipped the back of my heel. Then it was mommy's turn.

I needed marshmallows, for my making-rice-krispie-treats plans. And the marshmallows are on the baking aisle. Zoey stayed with the cart, which I practically parked in the very next aisle. "I'm going in," I told her. And I began to wiggle & twist & hop & turn about from one end of the aisle to the very item I needed. Like a basketball player dodges his opponents, I cut right, faked left, maneuvering shopping carts like a beast. All of this strategy for a 10 oz. bag of soft candy.

I have some friends who work at Walmart. They are all part of the late-night/early-morning crew that stock the shelves & such. They recently told me the best time of day to shop at Walmart is between 6 & 7 in the morning. Well, that's not ever happening. Do you know what I'm doing at 6 in the morning? I have the most amazing view: the back of my eyelids. And do you know what I'm doing at 7 in the morning? I'm quickly eating cereal.

So I'll just fight the crowds later. 
On this fine Monday. 
Lickety-split.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Printable Gingerbread Houses

I found some fun printable gingerbread houses on Pinterest. Like, super cute & adorable ones. They are from the blog We Love to Illustrate for Children, & there are are 6 different designs. The girls loved cutting them out & assembling them. (They pulled out their Littlest Pet Shops & other tiny toys to play too.) With Christmas break quickly approaching, this would be a perfect project to keep little ones ones busy.
Happy holiday crafting!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Week in Review: December 3-9

Last week I...
...spent a complete WHOLE day working on a stop motion video for a friend's birthday. It was totally last-minute & I did it in a hurry. But I know she'll love it! If you have 8 minutes, click HERE to view it.
...have continued enjoying the "Truth in the Tinsel" advent experience with the girls. (I've been posting a few of our ornaments on Instagram. Click HERE to follow me on Instagram!)
...was delivered coffee & my favorite Starbucks petite vanilla bean scones by the Mr. (Him loves me.)
...took a lovely visit to the library with the girls.
...had a "girls night in" with Zoey & Pazely. We ate stuffed baked potatoes, watched a holiday movie & crafted. 
...helped with some Christmas decorating at the church.
...talked to my mom, dad & grandma via Face Time on my iphone. Coolest ever.
...watched Pazely eat her first Whopper. Woot! Woot!
...slept in on Saturday, waking to find that the Mr. fed the girls ice cream cupcakes for brekkie.
...made guacamole for the first time, with the Mr.
...finger knitted.
...thoroughly enjoyed watching the documentary "Jiro Dreams of Sushi".
...cooked another yummy Pinterest dinner: Cheesy Chicken & Rice Bake.
...crafted Christmas prezzies like a mad-woman, for all the little people in my life. The "Build Your Own Snowman Kits" turned out awesome!!

Click HERE for a photo play-by-play.


Monday, December 10, 2012

DIY: Build Your Own Snowman Kit

I found the idea for a "Build Your Own Snowman Kit" on Pinterest & immediately knew I wanted to make them for all the little people in my life: my own munchkins, + a nephew, a few nieces, & as a gift for each of the girls to give a classmate at their school Christmas party gift exchange.

If you search Pinterest for "build your own snowman kits", you'll see tons of different ways to assemble them.
Following is a collection of where I found all the parts & pieces...
My original inspiration came from The Fickle Pickle.

HAT
The DIY for the felt black top hats can be found at Make It Do. These were easier to put together than I thought. If I had time, I would've added cute little flowers to each one. (But I'm on a time crunch due to my last-minute gift making!!)

CARROT NOSE
The carrot noses I saw ranged from carved wooden noses, to pieces formed from clay, to fake plastic carrots. I chose to make them from felt as on The Fickle Pickle, but couldn't find a tutorial with measurements, etc. So, here is a little one I made up:

Supplies:
•Orange felt (you can get 2 carrot noses out of one piece of those inexpensive orange felt rectangles)
•Stuffing
•Orange thread
•Sewing machine
•Needle (for hand stitching)
•Wood skewer or small dowel

Fold one side of the felt so that the widest part measures 3 inches. Pin in place.
Sew along the long pinned side with your sewing machine.
Cut out the the triangle piece.
Snip the short edge straight.
Turn inside out. (Use something pointy to help invert the narrow tip.)
Fill with stuffing.
Hand stitch around the opening using a running stitch. Pull tight & stitch shut.
Insert wood skewer or small dowel. (So it's easy to poke into the snowman's face.)

EYES & MOUTH
Instead of using black clay or rocks painted black for the eyes & mouth, I came up with a simple method. I glued black pom-poms to the end of bamboo skewers. (Also known as shish kabob skewers.) I loved the idea of using sticks or dowels to easily insert the accessories onto the snowman. First, I cut the skewers (found at grocery stores) to about 4 inches long & then used hot glue to adhere the pom-poms. (I sanded the end of each skewer to remove any sharp or jagged parts.)
Seven total will go in each kit: 2 for the eyes, 5 for the mouth.

SCARF
I loved the idea Fickle Pickle had about the scarf: instead of buying fleece by the yard, I found a fleece blanket on sale (at Old Navy) & cut that up!  My scarves ended up being 6 " wide x 52" long. I got 8 total scarves from the blanket. (Plus 2 small ones for Zoey & Pazely's American Girl dolls. hee hee!)

BUTTONS
To display the buttons in the kit, I hand-sewed 3 large mis-matched buttons onto a big ole tag.



ETC.
You could really have a lot of fun with the accessories. Add: earrings (large faux ones or made from felt), a bow tie, a neck tie, a mustache, glasses, beads for a necklace, a purse, mittens, a pipe, earmuffs, a princess crown, etc.

TAGS
Package up your snowman accessories & top off with a tag.
I couldn't find any printable tags for these kits online. So, I made my own & am sharing them with you! I have 2 different styles you can choose from & print yourself!






 I'm hoping the little people will love their prezzies.
Gotta run! I'm shipping these today so they'll make it in time for Christmas.

Happy holiday crafting!


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Week in Review: Nov. 26 - Dec 2

Last week I...
...put up the Christmas tree.
...went to the doc & was scheduled for a colonoscopy. (*frowny face*)
...completed a fun crafty project for Mod Podge.
...filled all the pockets in my advent hanging shoe organizer with goodies.
...knitted.
...freaked out that I haven't even started making Christmas prezzies.
...enjoyed lunch over at some friend's house.
...played with vintage games & vintage toys.
...enjoyed morning devotion by Christmas tree light.
...helped in the girls' classes at school--after two weeks off from being home with a sick kid or a sick self.
...began a wonderful advent experience with Zoey & Pazely called Truth in the Tinsel.
...watched "A Charlie Brown Christmas".
...indulged in a gingerbread sundae at Burger King.
...fought the Christmas tree with all its burned out bulbs. (Still fighting.)
...finished my first knitted fingerless glove. (What a mess! I'm not awesome at knitting fingerless gloves yet.)

Click HERE for a photo play-by-play.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Day 26-30 GIVING THANKS: Show & Tell

Ok, so how much of a loser do I feel like, that I totally dropped the ball on my Giving Thanks project?
A BIG one. I hate that. I have zero random acts of kindness to show for the last 5 days in November. I'm not gonna lie: I'm glad it's over. So much pressure to be kind on purpose every day. haha! 

I was very inspired by my friend Sue. She took this challenge head on & it was fun reading her random acts of kindness for November. She adopted many of the acts of kindness that my friend Susan & I performed while on my birthday trip earlier this year in Denver & used it as a starting point to go all wild-n-kind in her own way. It's so much fun to see kindness spreading, & in a completely different part of the world. So, please, help yourself & peek over at her blog, My Home Wellington.

I am thankful for so much. I am blessed beyond belief. Really, & seriously. And I always--not only in November--want to express my gratitude by giving to others. 
Kindness is such a simple way we can all give.