Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Dresses

Here are the girls in their Christmas dresses for their 2009 portraits.

A Very Carey Christmas

I hope your Christmas was safe, warm, and full of only happy surprises. Ours was.

My Christmas Eve started with a trip to the dentist - 7:00 am, to be precise. It's admittedly a strange way to start the season, and I hope to not make a habit of it. But there you go. They did a periodontal cleaning, so they numbed my whole mouth. Fortunately, yogurt in a tube can be eaten even with a numb mouth (as long as you have a good napkin).

I still had a bit of shopping to do - some for Christmas presents, some for the regular weekly needs, and some for Christmas Eve dinner. My first stop wasn't too bad, since it was 8:00 am. However, by the time I finished my errands at around 1:00, parking lots and checkout lines were cram-packed with people.

To top it off, Mother Nature decided to bless us with a white Christmas, and she was in full-force delivery mode. I drove home in some very heavy, blowing snow. Fortunately, the day before had been in the mid seventies, so there was no real danger of snow sticking to the roads. By mid-afternoon, the yard was covered. The girls desperately wanted to go out and play, but I convinced them that snow blowing horizontally at 35 miles per hour was best enjoyed from behind glass.

Our Christmas dinner tradition is to have the big, formal meal on Christmas Eve, and then munch on left-overs Christmas day, so that's what we did.

Throughout the evening, Alyssa would periodically ask, "Where's Santa," at which point she and I would go into the office and check out the Google Maps/NORAD Santa tracker. By the time Santa was headed from Brazil to Uruguay, we were able to get the kids to bed, and then I finished up the present wrapping. I managed to get most of the gifts taken care of during the previous week, leaving me just a half-dozen or so to wrap that night. We got to bed before midnight for the first time on a Christmas eve in many, many years.

Alyssa was up pretty much every hour, and around 4:00 Anna sent her in to our room. Fortunately she was willing to snuggle up and go back to sleep. I walked her into her room a while later, and then went back to sleep until about 8:00! Yes, it was our own little Christmas Miracle.

Part of the reason we were able to sleep in and take a leisurely morning was because the snow outside was even more exciting than the presents.

The girls played in the snow, and I made up a buffet of finger foods designed to replace breakfast and lunch. High in fruits, veggies, and protein, it worked like a charm - quick, easy, convenient, and not a single blood sugar crash all day!

One of the things I wanted to make was a sour cream dill dip. Our dill was in the garage, where it's been for the last few years. I brought it in and started sprinkling it into my bowl of sour cream. In addition to the dill weed, this jar had some dill seeds mixed in. I thought that was unusual, so I checked the label - it didn't mention seeds. So I took one of the seeds into the office, where I have a magnifying loupe, and on closer examination I found that the seed had legs.

I rinsed out the bowl and invented an oregano parmesan sour cream dip to take its place.

I won't bore you with a laundry list of our gifts, but I do want to show you the doll high-chair Santa brought for Alyssa. She absolutely loves it, and has spent hours playing with her babies in it. She even has me buckle it into the van so the babies have a car seat to sit in.

Thanks to all who sent cards and letters and gifts. We had a great Christmas, and hope you did, too.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Piggy Saga

This is a post far too long in the making, but it's time I get it up here for you to see.

As longtime readers of the blog will know, we here at the ranch are raising guinea pigs. It's a small operation, and with only little girl piggies it's destined to stay small.

We started out last year with Lillie and Duchess.

Then this summer, in a moment of tremendous weakness, I allowed Anna to get a third guinea pig named Mia (or Mina, as Alyssa calls her).

All was fine in piggy land until around Halloween, when Duchess got sick. Her little lymph glands grew to the size of large marbles, and after a course of antibiotics they still weren't reduced. About this same time, Lillie's glands started to swell as well.

So the vet lanced Duchess' glands and gave us a different antibiotic - enough for both Duchess and Lillie. The new antibiotic worked on the infection, but it also robbed the piggies of their appetites. Neither one would eat anything.

Despite our best efforts to nurse her back to health, Duchess passed away on November 30th, and Lillie had lost so much weight she seemed destined to follow.

Kara, however, was determined to keep Lillie alive. For two weeks, she made a mash of parsley, grass, and pellets, and fed this to Lillie with a syringe.

After a what seemed like forever, Lillie finally started eating a little on her own, and now her appetite for grass and dandelions has outstripped the ability of our December yard to produce. And she's gained back most of the weight she lost while being sick.

So, for now, all is well here on the guinea pig farm.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

First Annual Carey Family Gingerbread House

It was an epic holiday project two and a half weeks in the making!

Well, okay - maybe it wasn't really all that much. But it did manage to take two and a half weeks. However, the gingerbread house is now done, and bringing joy and laughter to all who see it.

Here's how it went down.

I mixed up our favorite gingerbread dough way back on November 29th, and then put it into the fridge to chill for two hours. Six days later, I took the dough out of the fridge, and rolled it out onto parchment paper.

I then cut out the five pieces that make up this modernist masterpiece and backed them to perfection.

After the pieces spent six days hardening, I put them together using nasty white frosting made from stale Crisco.

The unconventional design is so the finished product can live under glass.

Then the next day I attempted to move the house to its home on the cake plate, and it totally fell apart.

So the next time I put it together, it was on the cake plate itself. Then last night - finally! - I got the girls together and we decorated.

I mixed up a batch of thick run sugar (powdered sugar and water) and colored it green with some vegetable dyes we bought, and set Anna to work coloring the ice cream cone trees.

I piped on doors and windows, and then laid out the licorice sidewalk. Notice the marshmallow snowmen under the dome. We made those shortly after mixing up the dough. I especially like the little ET.

Then we took turns embellishing with candy canes, Sundrops, and jelly beans - all with natural colors, of course. Even the gummy worms and fruit slices are colored with fruit juice.

I bought enough candy to cover a small mansion, so there is a lot left over. In a fleeting moment of strength, I gave the bag to Kara and told her to hide it - I know I could never keep my hands off otherwise.

Then I made it "snow" on the roof and ground and landscaped with Anna's trees. Sadly there was only room for one snowman, but I think he looks sharp.

Since food smells can sometimes be a problem around here, I designed the house to fit under the cake plate. This will also have the added benefit of keeping the goodies free of dust, just in case we decide to eat the thing come New Years Day.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Fortuitous Forgetting and Santa Claus

This past Saturday, I convinced Alyssa to go shopping with me by promising to take her to the mall to visit Santa. I was not exactly looking forward to standing in a long line, only to have her hide when the big moment came. But I was willing to try.

As Santa didn't get to the mall until 10:00, we made Wal-Mart our first stop, where we stocked up on groceries and pull-ups and children's Motrin - all the essentials. We also needed to return a video to the Redbox there in the store, but I realized that we'd forgotten it on the seat of the van.

No problem- we just loaded the groceries in the van and took the video back into the store.

By this time, it was getting pretty close to 10:00, and my hopes of making it to the mall a little early were not to be. However, as we walked back into the store, I noticed a sign that said Santa would be at Wal-Mart at 10:00 - and they were taking free pictures.

Now, "free" is one of my favorite things, and I felt pretty certain the line for Santa at Wal-Mart would not be anything like the one at the mall. Granted, Santa and the whole set-up were Wal-Mart quality, but you get what you pay for and I didn't want to pay an hour of my Saturday if I didn't have to just for someone with a real beard and actual boots.

So Alyssa agreed to see Santa at Wal-Mart, and sure enough there were only two other kids waiting. Alyssa hid from him at first, covering her eyes, but by the time the other kids were done she was willing to stand by him, hold his hand, and hand him the picture of the doll high chair we had printed out to give him.

And she even almost smiled in the free picture.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Honor Band Anna

A couple of weekends ago, Anna spent nearly her entire Saturday with the rest of her band friends auditioning for a spot in one of the two All-Region Middle School Honor Bands. The region covers a pretty good chunk of the surrounding area, and includes probably a dozen middle and junior high schools.

Now, bear in mind that auditioning is not Anna's favorite thing. Add to that the way she aggressively guards Saturday time, and it becomes clear that the only way Anna would agree to do this audition was if it counted towards her grade.

Which it does.

So she did.

But despite not wanting to spend her Saturday auditioning, she made third chair in the second band, which was very exciting!

It also meant that she would have to give up another Saturday for rehearsals and the concert. Said Saturday was yesterday.

The combined bands practiced all day Friday - into the early evening - and then again Saturday morning, with the concert early Saturday afternoon.

She did a great job, despite feeling like a penguin in her band uniform. Congratulations, Anna!

Next concert, this Thursday evening. It's a busy baritone season.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Winter Arrives in North Texas

I'm sure my friends and family in Utah and other points north will be tempted to mock us and our pitiful little snowfall, but when such a thing only happens once or twice a season - and the weatherman predicted rain - even a little snow is a big deal.

I decided to try and take a picture with the Christmas lights on - the lights I hung five days ago in short sleeves - but you'll have to click through to the larger image to see them. I was able to hang them from the ladder, without actually climbing on the roof. So, yay!

The girls were excited for the snow, and I'm excited to be working from home and not have to commute in the white stuff.