Sunday, November 30, 2008

Activity Advent Calendar

This year we are doing a different kind of advent calendar. Each day is associated with an activity for us to do together as a family. I read about this somewhere - I think one of the many blogs I frequent. (If it's your blog, let me know and I'll give you proper credit.)

This is our calendar wall - we started the day before Thanksgiving. Behind each picture is an activity. Today's activities included taking the girl's Christmas portraits (see below). Some other activities we have to look forward to are making cookies for friends, looking at Christmas lights, a few Christmas parties, and singing carols as a family.

Many of the activities involve watching a favorite Christmas video. I want to try keeping the favorites locked away this season, only watching them once, rather than over and over, ad nauseum infinitum.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Christmas Portraits 2008

As promised, here are some portraits of the girls in their new Christmas dresses.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Our Contribution to Black Friday

In our home, the day after Thanksgiving is traditionally a day of decorating. This year, about all we got done was the tree.

The day started out late and lazy, as most of our Christmas shopping is done and we just didn't care what kind of doorbusters were going on. I know: It's because of lazy shoppers like us that the economy is in such a funk. Sorry.

We worked our way through breakfast, and I spent some time with my book, then I went into the attic and got down the tree and the lights. Kara and the girls put the tree together, and I spent the next hour trying to get any of our 5 strands of white lights to work. Not a one was interested in lighting up.

So after lunch, I piled Anna into the van and together we contributed $7.64 to the global economy by picking up three new strands of lights. I showed Anna the correct way to string 300 lights on a 4' tree, because Kara and I still remember how much work the 8' tree is. (Anna has forgotten, however, and begged us hopelessly. Maybe next year.)

We then began the task of decorating.

Anna was self-appointed decoration-meister.

Kara is the expert.

Alyssa did her share.

Kara made me put down the camera long enough to help.

The finished product turned out like this.

We also cleared off the mantle and set up the nativity. Now it's really starting to feel like the holidays.

Then after dinner, which amazingly did not include left-over turkey (we had that for lunch) I loaded the whole family into the van and we headed over to Belk to repent of our slothful consumer ways. We spent someone else's money (thanks, Grandma!) to buy the girls Christmas dresses and a few other items of clothing.

A photo shoot in front of the tree has been scheduled for Sunday afternoon. Stay tuned for details.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thankful for Thanksgiving

We had a very nice Thanksgiving yesterday. Kara's friend Cara stayed with us for a few days, and enjoyed dinner with us. We tried to get my sister Karra to join us as well, but she had other commitments.

Kara can eat many of the things one finds on a traditional Thanksgiving menu - turkey, potatoes, olives, green beans - so we made a very simple meal that everyone was able to eat together, and it was very nice.

We did run into one logistical issue, as Kara has her own style for cooking the turkey - she blasts the bird at 425 for a short time, to brown the skin, then turns the temp down and covers the turkey in foil. As a result, all of the juices are sealed in for tender, delicious meat.

As another result, the bird is done in half the time it says on the wrapper - a fact we seemed to have forgotten - so we scrambled around trying to get everything else ready for dinner.

For dessert, we made a pumpkin custard with squash, soy milk, tapioca, and spices. It turned out really well, and I thought the girls and I would have to fight Kara and Cara for our fair share.

We played games and visited, and got out some of our more simple Christmas decorations. The heavy-duty decorating takes place today and tomorrow.

I hope each of you had a good Thanksgiving as well.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Kara's Cookie Recipe

Here's the recipe for cookies Kara got off the back of Bob's Red Mill Teff Flour. They're gluten free, and the ingredients are all on the list of foods she can eat. I posted pictures back in June.

* * * * * * *

Peanut Butter Cookies

1 1/2 C teff or buckwheat flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 c maple syrup
1/2 c canola oil ( whatever you tolerate)
1 tsp vanilla (optional)
1 c peanut butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a food processor blend syrup, oil, vanilla and peanut butter. Add wet ingredients to dry; combine well. Shape dough into balls. Place of cookie sheet and flatten gently with the tines of a fork. Bake about 13-15 minutes. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Alyssa: Child of Shyness

This week was all about Alyssa. On Tuesday, it was "Lights, Camera, Action!" the 4th grade music production. They sang a half-dozen songs from various kid movies. Alyssa had been given a CD with the music on it so she could practice, and I actually caught her singing and dancing and doing the hand motions in her room several times. Despite her knowledge of the songs, I really wondered how well she would really do up on stage.

We got a message from her aide that she did very well during the school performance in the morning, but I held my optimism in check until we had a chance to watch the parent performance that evening.

We bundled Alyssa in her jammies, (she was a "hot chocolate" kid from the Polar Express) and delivered her to the school early, as requested. A couple of friend from her class swooped right in and took her under their wings while I went back home and got Kara and Anna.

The curtains opened to reveal the 4th graders, with Alyssa right in the middle of the stage. Then the music started, and all the kids began singing and swaying and doing their hand motions. All the kids, that is, except Alyssa. She stood there, not moving a muscle, except to stick her tongue out when she saw Anna running the video camera. The kids on either side tried to encourage her, and even pulled on her jammies to see if they could get her to sway, but all to no avail.

Then the "Hot! Hot!" song from Polar Express came on, and amazingly enough, she did the hand motions - and did a pretty good job, too. We clapped and laughed when we saw her actually participating.

Since that song fell right in the middle, we had high hopes that she had overcome her stage fright and would finish out the program in style. But unfortunately, that was the end of her performance. Except for another four or five tongue stinking outs.

She said he had fun and enjoyed herself, so I guess that's what counts.

Then on Friday, we made an "unscheduled" visit to the local independent bookstore, where our Writing Group meets. They were hosting Cookies and Cocoa with Santa, and poor Alyssa was hiding behind her hands as soon as she saw the jolly old elf through the large plate-glass windows.

"Santa scares me," she said, although I think a better word would be 'intimidates,' as she is absolutely fascinated by Santa and all things Christmas. She drank cocoa and ate a cookie, but it was all we could do to get her to talk to Santa from a safe ten-foot distance, and that was after fifteen minutes of prompting and prodding.

She told Santa she wants a camera for Christmas. I think that's a gift he should be able to deliver.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Happy Birthday, Kara

Yesterday was my dear wife's birthday. She turned 29 - again. The girls are really into the whole birthday scene, and it was fun to watch them. I put Anna in charge of the video camera. Note the fancy left-eyed video technique.

Kara got:

Warm, fuzzy pajamas;

holiday earrings;

and Season 6 of the Cosby show. I think she was ready to stay up all night and watch the whole season. Then for dessert, she had some of her special buckwheat/maple syrup/peanut butter cookies.

Happy Birthday, Kara!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Whitney Award Benefit Auction

I've mentioned a time or two my recent writing hobby (see my other blog for details). The book that I'm working on falls into the category of LDS Fiction, and it won't get out no matter how hard I try. ;-)

Last year, a group of LDS authors began an award program to recognize excellence in LDS Fiction. It's called the Whitney Award, and right now they are having a benefit auction to raise money for the award.

There are quite a few items up for bid - some are geared towards writers, but many are not. You can find out more about the auction by going here, or you can go straight to the ebay auction by clicking here.

Both the award and the auction are super ideas, but the lackluster economy seems to have stalled the bidding, and the items are selling for far less than expected. What this means to you is that you can get some great stuff for a great price.

I intend to win a Whitney Award at the 2011 banquet, (this is a blog about my delusions, after all) so I want to do my part in supporting the award.

Take a minute to check out the auction. You'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Seasiders and Village People

A couple of years ago, I went to Hawaii for my 20th (!) high school reunion. While I was there, I made my way to the BYU-Hawaii bookstore and bought a bunch of stuff, including t-shirts for my girls.

Alyssa fell in love with hers instantly, and insisted on wearing it every week. "My 'Y' shirt," she called it. And now that she's outgrown her shirt, she's taken over Anna's. This, of course, filled my little heart with all kinds of Seasider pride.

One day, however, I discovered the true source of her love for this shirt, and my little bubble burst. We asked her to pick out her clothes for school, and she grabbed her BYU-Hawaii shirt. Then she began singing "Y-A. Y-A." which is how she sings one of her favorite songs - "Y.M.C.A."

So much for Seasider pride.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Carey-oke

Our TV's broken. Actually, the TV itself is OK, but the antenna got beat to pieces in last spring's hail storm. And since it never really worked all that well anyway, I didn't bother to replace it. Back then, I didn't have time for TV, and now that Kara's well I've chosen to spend my time doing other things.

Unfortunately, our lack of broadcast television hasn't translated into quite as much quality family time as one would think. Lately the girls and Kara have watched two or three episodes a night of the old Cosby show on DVD.

Now, let me tell you something. We only have 5 seasons, so watching several episodes a night soon turns into watching reruns of reruns.

I knew we could do better.

Last night I got out a puzzle. 500 pieces of kitties in a tree. Kara said "So you think we're going to get this whole thing done tonight?"

"Sure!" I said.

We got the border put together, and then it was time for bed.

Tonight, I had a little more success. Years ago, we got a karaoke machine for Christmas. We used it a few times, but that was it.

Then a couple of years ago I got some karaoke CD+G discs on close-out at Target. These are the ones that show the words on the screen. But we didn't ever use them until tonight.

I must say, I'm quite impressed. Everyone sang, and sang pretty well. Even Alyssa put the mike to her lips and did her best.

I'm quite proud to point out that Anna knew most of the songs from the '80s disc. I have taught her well. (Kudo's to the first person who can name that tune...)

In all, we had a fun night, didn't watch any Cosby, and will likely be a bit hoarse in the morning.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Wrapping Up Another Weekend

It's Sunday night again. That means we go to bed in a bit, and soon a new week starts all over again. Yes, I realize that if I were to actually pay attention to the calendar, the week started today. But it my mind, the week starts when the alarm goes off Monday morning. And I'm pretty sure I'm not alone.

Anyway, the weekend was a pretty good one. Here are a few of the things I did:
  • Pushed, prodded, and harangued the girls into cleaning up the living and dining room.
  • Convinced (I hope) the family to have the house "Guest Ready" by Thanksgiving, even though there are currently no plans for guests.
  • Broke and replaced an office chair.
  • Baked two batches of scones.
  • Baked two loaves of whole wheat bread.
  • Explained to Anna why we will be eating whole wheat bread.
  • Failed to make protein bars, and instead filled a jar with protein bar-flavored trail mix. (They turned out all crumbly)
  • Quit taking my antibiotic (twice) due to a rather nasty side effect.
  • Went to the park.
  • Made pizza.
  • Watched (and enjoyed) Kung-Fu Panda.
  • Moved a dozen boxes into the attic.
  • Helped Kara discard a dozen more boxes.
  • Made a valiant effort at starting to clean up the office.
And now it's almost bedtime, and tomorrow the weekly cycle starts all over again. I suppose I should be glad to have so much to keep me occupied.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Up On The Housetop...

...The Boys make noise. And a mess.

Today we get our new roof, to replace the one damaged in the hail storm this past April. My buddies at work say it's only fair that I have to suffer through some pounding and banging, as the main office has been under renovation for the past few weeks. So today, we get to join in the fun.

I also made some scones this morning. This is part of a test kitchen project for my writerly buddy Josi Kilpack, who is writing a culinary mystery and needs bakers to help test the recipes. Since I was often mistaken for a Baker growing up, I decided to volunteer. This is the first recipe, and I think it turned out pretty good.

In fact, the scones should be cool enough that I can go try one. Short post today - there's food in the kitchen!

Update: The scones turned out good, if a little big and underdone. Second batch the next day turned out much better!

The things are all bagged and frozen for weekend breakfasts so I don't gain back in a day the few pounds I've managed to lose since summer.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

And November Begins Like This

Today was yet another big action Saturday. It started with us hosting a Young Men service project, dismantling the blown down section of fence in our back yard. Yes, it's been a while, but it hasn't been a real big priority. Now at least the taking apart has been taken care of.

When that was done, I took the girls shopping. Being the day after payday, we went everywhere - Kohl's for new shoes; Costco and Whole Foods for food, and Wal-Mart for a little bit of everything.

While we were at Wal-Mart, I shook my head at the Christmas music being piped through the speakers. At least they waited until after Halloween, but I still told the girls "I'm not ready for this yet."

When we got home, I found the Oriental Trading Company catalog in the mail. This is Alyssa's favorite catalog in the world, and she will wear each one out looking through the pictures. This catalog happened to be, of course, the Christmas catalog - extra bonus!

Alyssa loves Christmas, and loves Santa, although she has this habit of hiding her eyes whenever she sees him. So it was with great amusement that Kara and I watched Alyssa look through this catalog and hide her eyes whenever she came across a picture of Santa.

It seems we are destined to hit the holiday season early this year, as Kara picked, for family movie night, the Polar Express. Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course. We've had the movie for three years now, and this is the first time we've actually been able to watch all the way through, as in previous years Kara has gotten so sick in the middle that we had to stop the video. (Note: she didn't get sick from the video - she just got sick a lot in the past. Hooray for progress!)

Also, the garage door sensor got knocked out of alignment today, so the door won't go down. I guess I'd better go work on that now.

Yes, indeed, it has been a big Saturday.