Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Christmas 2015

I hope you all had a truly lovely and joyous Christmas!  I have so much to post about as the last couple of weeks have been full of exciting changes and new directions, but I'm going to start with Christmas Eve and Christmas day!

Though I didn't feel like I got to all of our usual Christmas doings this year, we did touch on all the important ones, time with friends (our Christmas breakfast included) and family.  Christmas Eve was spent with my family eating dinner and attending our church service.  Also, please notice that Bryce has shorts on while reading to the children.  It felt entirely too warm to be Christmas Eve!

Christmas morning was wonderfully relaxed (my children don't wake up early!) and exciting at the same time.  The children were thrilled with Santa's gifts and our delicious breakfast of Eggnog Cinnamon Rolls, Jarlsburg Oven Omelet, Citrus Fruit with Mint Sugar and Candied Bacon.

We rounded out the day at my Mom's for Christmas dinner and opening gifts together with my sister's family Christmas afternoon.

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Nutcracker 2015

Saturday was Grace's last performance in this years Nutcracker ballet!  Since September, she has rehearsed every Saturday and Sunday and has participated in 11 shows in 4 venues sprinkled throughout the state.

One of the most wonderful things about performing is the friendships that are forged and community that is created. When Grace first started taking ballet, I was concerned about her lack of team sports. I needn't have been!

Her major role this year was as a Pollichenille but she once also performed the Chinese role.  Her ballet school has a professional company so principal dancers do the majority of the parts with students filling in the supporting roles.
After so much time and effort, I was sure that she would be relieved to be done, but she's is on the fence as she is really glad to be done with all the classes (they had intense classes before every performance) but would love to perform more.

My whole family went to her last performance Saturday evening.  I love this particular venue because they dance to a live orchestra and the girls choir also performs.  They did a wonderful job and it was the perfect way to kick off Christmas week!

Photos 1, 2 and 6 by Leighton Chen

Friday, December 18, 2015

Beauty and Grace

I posted this last night to Instagram and thought I'd also post it here...

Last night was observation night at ballet.  I love watching my girl dance.  She might see lots of things she wants to correct but I just see beauty and Grace.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Old Friends

I feel like we've been friends with Jack and Kathleen forever, which means that we are well past the point of trying to figure each other, and all of our quirks, out and just love each other for who we are. Spending time with old friends is a comfort and a soul refresher and we were so happy to have the opportunity recently to do just that.

Jack came up for work related business and Kathleen joined him!  They were only here for 2 1/2 days but we packed a lot in and, though we all missed their children dearly, it was wonderful to sit around and visit for hours on end (we never run out of stuff to talk about).  It wasn't easy for either Kathleen nor myself to clear our schedules during this busy season, but in the end these are the relationships that I want to prioritize and give back to so it's well worth the extra effort.  It's a reminder, especially during this season, that it's our relationships that are to be treasured the most. 

While we galavant all over town, this is what the boys are doing... working!

Monday, December 14, 2015

A Pop Up Party

For the past several years Gretchen and I have contemplated hosting a small Christmas party together.  We've discussed a beautiful dinner with china and crystal, a bigger bash with loads of people and even a brunch.  However, in the end, we haven't done any of them for various reasons, the main reason being that this time of year is crazy busy and planning time is hard to come by.

Thus, with nothing on the calendar, we were about the throw the towel in again this year when we decided to host a pop-up party.  It came about because we both looked at our calendars, saw that we had Friday free and decided to go for it.  We sent an invitation out via Paperless Post a day before the party and  hoped that some would be free to join us!  The invitation read:

Pop on Over for Drinks and Cheer
Last minute parties are fun this time of year!

You guys, this is the way to host a party.  There was no stress, high expectations or craziness because there wasn't time.  We knew that we wouldn't have time to make food so we simply assembled an awesome cheese, meat, cracker, condiments type of tray and called it a night!  We had drinks and a festive punch cocktail and that was it!  In the end, we had a really lovely crowd of friends and it was one of my favorite parties to date!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Hot Cocoa Stand and Mix

Remember the cart I picked up on the side of the road for free?  I repurposed it to make a hot chocolate cart for Christmas and it has quickly turned into a favorite around here!  The children, particularly Harris, love hot chocolate so it is getting a lot of use.

In the past, I've made cocoa mixes that used dried milk and all you had to do was add water, but after too many disappointing results we've given that sort of mix up and always use milk.  Our very favorite cocoa mix only calls for 3 ingredients and is really, really good.  Plus, it's easy to guss up with peppermint, whipped cream, sprinkles, etc.!

Hot Cocoa Mix

3 1/2 cups sugar
2 1/4 cups cocoa*
1 tablespoon salt

Mix all ingredients together.  Add 2 tablespoon to warm milk and stir to dissolve.  Enjoy!

The better the cocoa, the better the finished product.  I use this cocoa.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Christmas Tree Meringues

For our tree trimming dinner, I usually try to make a dessert that I haven't made before and that compliments our tree theme.  However, this year none was sounding particularly good to me as we had just finished up Thanksgiving.  The thought of having more sweets in the house and, frankly, putting effort into a labor intensive cake was not sitting well with me.

Enter these darling little meringues!  They were just sweet enough to hit the spot but not at all heavy. Plus, the time spent making them was minimal!  The only catch is that they need about four hours from start to finish to be ready to eat so that is something to plan for.  I will definitely be making these again as they are just so darling and tasty!

Christmas Tree Meringue Cookies

4 egg whites at room temperature
1 cup sugar
pinch of cream of tartar
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
green food coloring (I used gel)
sprinkles of choice

1.  Heat oven to 200 degree. Place egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar in the bowl of your stand mixer. Boil water in a sauce pan and place bowl on the pan to heat up.  Whisk until sugar dissolves and there are no more sugar granules visible.  Remove from heat and whisk in extract.

2.  Using the whisk attachment on your mixer, mix on medium speed until egg whites become bright white but are still soft and a little runny.  Add in food color until you get your desired color.  Continue to beat until stiff peaks form.

3.  Using a piping bag with a large star tip, pipe cookies onto baking sheet lined with a silpat mat or parchment paper.  Sprinkle with whatever sprinkles you are using.

4.  Cook for 2 hours.  After 2 hours, turn off oven and open the oven door slightly, and let sit for an additional 2 hours.

I didn't have any star sprinkles so I used a heart for the top.  To "glue" the heart on I mixed a little water with powdered sugar to make a tiny bit of icing.  However, I'm wondering if you couldn't just stick the heart/star on before it cooked?

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

2015 Ornaments

Our tree is up and we all agree that it is the most perfect and beautiful tree!  Sunday night, we had our annual tree trimming and dinner and a record was set for how fast the tree was trimmed.  The children took charge and it was done in the blink of an eye.

This years ornaments represent guitar lessons for Harris and the getting of braces for Grace.  I simply love how our ornaments tell the story of our lives!  It makes me happy and adds even more meaning to our Christmas season.

Monday, November 30, 2015

A Turkey Dessert for Friendsgiving

On Saturday, we got together with one of our favorite families for Friendsgiving.  We had a fun time eating together, playing peanuts (a card game) together and then watching their favorite football team in a nail biting (heartbreaking) final!  We had a fun twist on the regular Thanksgiving meal with cranberry cocktails, turkey pot pies, and a salad with stuffing croutons.  For dessert, we had turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy!

That's right, dessert.  This turkey is an ice cream cake that I picked up at Baskin Robbins and it makes me chuckle every single time I think of it.  The whole thing is simply ice cream (they come in different flavors) covered in caramel sauce.  It was the perfect dessert for a fun, casual get together to celebrate Thanksgiving and friends!  And did I mention it was easy?

Friday, November 27, 2015

Giving in Grammar School

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  We spent the day at my sister's beautifully renovated old home where we had great family time and delicious food!  It was a good day.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the end of an era for us at the children's grammar school.  For the past 9 years we've had the honor and blessing of being able to participate in a Thanksgiving tradition of giving back to our community.  Every Thanksgiving our grammar school participates in providing meals for our local soup kitchen.  Each grade level brings in hundred of items that go toward the making of a Thanksgiving meal; turkeys are donated and carved and each grade level makes pies.  The school helps contribute to 700 meals and the children bake 288 pies!  This has been one of my very favorite things about our school and I can only hope that it has made as much of a positive impact on our children as it has on me.  It's a really beautiful example of giving: time, food and love!

Last year for this group of Moms!  

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Harry Potter World- Hogsmeade

On our second day at HP world, we explored Hogsmeade and the castle!

You guys, the castle.  It's wonderful and it was, by far, my favorite ride!   In fact, our first time through I wished there was a line so I could take my time taking it all in (Dumbledore's office, the hall of portraits, the history classroom).  I shouldn't have worried because we rode it 4 more times!

Hogsmeade has three rides total; Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (the castle), Dragon Challenge, and Flight of the Hippogriff.  The Dragon Challenge is set up to be a part of the Triwizard Tournament and is where you can see the Weasley's car!  Near Flight of the Hippogriff (which is the shortest ride in the history of rides) is Hagrid's cabin!

We explored the shops and stores of Hogsmeade in between riding the rides.  Here too they have areas for the children to use their interactive wands.

As you can imagine, Harris' very favorite store was Honeydukes.  He was a kid in a candy store!

We ate lunch in the Three Broomsticks and got The Feast for all of us to share!  Though it was a ton of food, it was less expensive than four meals and was so delicious!  Right next door to the Three Broomsticks is the Hog's Head.

We were advised to go back to see the castle all lit up at night so we made a special trip before dinner one evening.  We were glad we did as the whole village looks beautiful lit up.

A funny side note: We actually had three days that we were in Florida, with plans to spend the first two in the HP parks.  However, after an hour or two in the regular park, we found ourselves wandering back to the HP worlds!  As Harris said, "we just seem happier when in Diagon Alley."  So even though we had no intention of going back to the parks, we ended up going back to both of them! They were our happy places!

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