December 31, 2010

Trimming the Tree

Here's the round up of ornaments added to our tree this year.

Click to enlarge.
  • Each year, we get the new Hallmark Frosty Friends ornament (bottom center). We have them all the way back to 1983. We are only missing the first three years. I would love to have these three, but each one is now going for hundreds of dollars on Ebay. So, I'm just hoping to get lucky and  someday find them at a garage or estate sale for only a few bucks.
  • This year, the Mc family and we decided on a new rule for our gift exchanges. Namely, the gifts had to come from Deseret Industries or some other thrift store. Rob and Mary Ann were truly inspired with one of their gifts, a Michael Jackson jukebox ornament (bottom right) that lights up and plays several of his hits. This was the perfect gift because Santa left in my stocking the Wii Michael Jackson Dance Experience. How did Santa know I secretly wanted this? Even though I provide lots of laughs and entertainment for the kids, who has the most high scores? That would be me. Thank you! Also, Tomas can't go past the tree without pressing the button on the jukebox to play a song.
  • Several years back, I began my own new tradition—a tradition for which Katie gives me the one raised eyebrow look. I go out the day after Christmas to the local Hallmark store. They have all their ornaments on sale for 50% off. This brings the ornaments into a price range I'm willing to pay. I love looking through the ornaments and choosing an ornament for each member of the family that reminds me of him or her. Someday each kid will get to take all their ornaments with them. I just haven't decided if that's when they get married or when I'm dead. But anyway, for Tomas I got the Green Eggs and Ham ornament (top right) because he has become such a great little reader this year. Currently, his favorite books are the Captain Underpants series, but they shockingly didn't have any of those ornaments. For Liam, I got the H-1 Racer airplane (center top). Liam is really into WWI and WWII airplanes. He can tell you all about them, and I mean ALL about them. This plane shattered all kinds of speed records. Chloe, the Tim Burton fan, got the Corpse Bride ornament (bottom left). Corpse Bride is one of her favorites, and the piano duet scene is fantastic. For Katie, I got the stained glass window ornament (center). I picked out this ornament for her because the angel looked very Jugendstil and reminded me of some of the amazing cathedrals and artwork we saw in Vienna a couple years ago. The Kirche am Steinhof  and the Dr. Karl Lueger Kirche are definitely on our list of places to see when we go back this coming summer. Finally for me, I bought the stand mixer ornament (top right) because this is the year I really got into food blogging.
On a related topic, I thought I'd write about our tree. When Katie and I were newlyweds, we won a really nice fake Christmas tree with lights and ornaments from a store at the mall that sold Christmas stuff year round. It made me laugh to have something so nice in our dumpy apartment. This tree has served us well over the years and saved us lots of money, but it's beginning to show its age. It drops as many needles as a real tree that's dying. I decided this was to be the year to get a real live tree. And, I must say I made that decision unilaterally because no one else in the family seemed to really cared that much. So one day, I took Liam with me to a  tree lot. I had in mind to get one of those trees where the branches come out perpendicular to the trunk. These look more European to me than the full bushy kind. After about two minutes at the first lot, Liam began sneezing uncontrollably. This was followed by puffy, itchy eyes and a runny nose. I got him back into the car, and the hay fever attack subsided. We thought we would try another lot to see if it was a particular type of tree causing the problem. However, as soon as we approached the trees at the next lot, it began all over again. Liam was very kind in offering to take his allergy medicine so I could get a real tree, but I didn't think it was right for him to have to take medicine to be in his own house.

Each of the kids ended up commenting several times over the Christmas holiday how much they liked our tree. Once you get all the ornaments on, you can't see much of the tree anyway. So, I guess we'll be getting a few more years out of the old thing.

December 30, 2010

Sled Fest

More snow and more fun!

December 28, 2010

Liam Takes to the Slopes

Much of Liam's Christmas this year revolved around snowboarding. He actually spent most of Christmas morning playing with Tomas because there wasn't much he could do with the snowboarding equipment. I decided to take him to Sundance today to try out all the new gear.

I've never actually seen Liam snowboard. He took lessons last year through his school. I admit I was a bit nervous, but I calmed down after watching him come down at the end of his first run. He's pretty darn good. I guess I was just picturing what it would be like if I tried snowboarding. I'm sure I'd have to be life-flighted off the mountain.

For the first hour, I sat on a bench outside. It was a beautiful day. As long as I was in the sun, it was rather warm. I brought along a book to read, but it was more interesting to people watch. It was a busy day on the mountain, and there were people from all over—lots of Asians and Europeans.

The scenery as viewed from my bench.

Liam waiting in line.

Coming down the hill.
After an hour outside, the sun went behind some clouds, and it got a little too chilly for me. I found a quiet little corner in one of the buildings where I sat and read. When I met Liam to go home, he was tired, hungry, and happy—just the way a snowboarding day should end.

December 27, 2010

At Least, I Bleed Blue

Blood makes me queasy. So much so that I don't watch any doctor or medical dramas on TV. And don't even get me thinking about those reality shows on Discovery or The Learning Channel where they show real operations; I could pass out right here at the computer.

Once when Katie and I were newlyweds, I was outside repairing a burned out turn signal on the car. I accidentally broke the old bulb trying to remove it and cut my finger. There wasn't a ton of blood but enough to make me nauseous. I went inside looking pale, breathing rather heavily, and clutching my still bleeding finger to my chest. Katie panicked thinking I was having a heart attack. Visions of being a young widow flashed before her eyes. When she found out it was just my finger, she was not pleased at all. (The fact that my father died very young of a heart attack didn't help either.)

I've tried giving blood only twice in my life, both times for friends who were going into surgery. Unfortunately, both times did not end well. The first time I passed out shortly after they got the needle in me, and the second time, I made it till the bag was just about full before the lights went out.

The Sunday before Christmas, they announced in church that a local scout was organizing a blood drive for his Eagle project. I gave Liam the look of "when pigs fly." Later that night, I received a call from the scout asking if I would be willing. It turns out the scout was a kid I used to coach in soccer—a great kid from a great family. Katie and I wanted to be supportive, so we both signed up. I would give it one more try. Besides, the last time was more than 20 years ago. Maybe they've improved the process, and it goes quicker.

Even though Zach, the scout, gave me a reminder call, I had completely forgotten about our appointment. I think subconsciously I didn't really want to go through with it, so my brain just threw out that piece of information. However, as Chloe and I were heading out to do some after Christmas sale shopping we drove past the church and saw the signs advertising today's blood drive. Rats.

Katie and I arrived to donate. I made sure to eat and drink beforehand—but not too much, just in case. I brought The Cake Bible to read to help keep my mind occupied. Some might think a cookbook is not the thing to read while donating blood if you tend to get nauseous, but I really love to read cookbooks, and this one has a lot of technical stuff to keep me distracted.

After filling out all the paperwork and being interviewed, my turn finally came. The woman, a BYU student, was very friendly and talkative, which helped me forget what I was about to do. She did have some problems finding a vein, but she eventually got me hooked up and draining. She told me the blood was flowing nicely and I would be finished in no time. What a relief.

I laid there for a while trying my best to focus on the book, and things were going seemingly well—that is until the worker came back over to check on me. She noticed the blood had quit coming out. She jiggled the needle to get it flowing again, but it didn't work. She jiggled some more, which was really painful. Then, she finally called another worker over to help. After more twisting and jiggling, they got it going again. But by this time, I was not doing so well.

I told the worker I wasn't feeling so well, and she put an ice pack under my neck and one under my chin. This seemed to be working until a man sat down in the chair next to me. It just so happened that he was a technician at some local blood and platelet donation center. He and the lady helping me ended up knowing a lot of the same people. They also began to share work stories, each one getting progressively more gruesome and detailed. When the guy got to the part about blood splattering on his goggles, I felt my arms go numb followed by my torso and neck. And just as I was about to completely pass out, I turned to the lady and said, "I'm going to be sick!" She then quickly fitted me with a barf bag and called for some orange juice. She asked me how I was doing, and all I could get out without revisiting my peanut butter sandwich and banana with Nutella was, "Please quit talking about blood." The worker apologized, and to bring this story to a conclusion, I ended up staying there an extra 30 minutes till I could quit shaking and the nausea resided.

However in the end, I was able to fill the bag. A small audience also gathered wondering if I was going to make it or not. They tell me I was looking mighty pale. Katie got to retell the story of replacing the signal light and how we should all be thankful I didn't throw up because when I do, I power barf.

But, I made it! I survived, filled up the bag, did a good deed, and helped out a scout. 

Will I do it again? And, Liam better not get any strange ideas about his Eagle project.

Here is a photo of me with Zach, the almost Eagle scout. They gave out t-shirts to all the donors. I, of course, chose the BYU-themed one, and I darn well earned it.

This photo was taken after recuperating quite a while. Good job, Zach! And to those who donate blood regularly, good for you, too! Maybe next time, I'll be supportive by baking culinary creations from The Cake Bible.

December 23, 2010

35th Annual Adventsingen and Heartbreak

On December 5 was the 35th annual Adventsingen sponsored by the BYU German Department. It was held in the Provo Tabernacle. It's an evening of Christmas music from Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. This was Katie's second year as director although we've been involved for close to twenty. For me, it's always the official start of the Christmas season.

Katie did a wonderful job putting the program together. All the performing groups were in top form, and there was a completely full house. Katie also deserves a medal for managing to keep the program to an hour—a feat never been done.

After the performance, I had a strong feeling of appreciation for the opportunity to be involved with the Adventsingen. Not only do Katie and I get the opportunity to sing with the women's and men's choirs, it's a time when we get to see friends from the mission and college days. It's also time of year when we can don our German/Austrian garb. We were so happy with how everything went, we were excited to do it all over again next year. I love this tradition.

Katie waits all year for the opportunity to wear what she calls her "princess dress."
But then on the morning of December 18, I turned on the news to see the horrible sight of the Provo Tabernacle on fire. I just sat there in unbelief praying that the firefighters could save that beautiful building.

However, as I drove by a couple days later, I stopped to take a few photos. They haven't decided whether to tear it all down or not, but it doesn't look good.

It was a very gray day.

This is so very, very sad. The historical Tabernacle is over 100 years old and is a cultural hub of the city. Our family has attended so many cultural and church events in that building. I can't stop thinking about the loss of all the magnificent woodwork, the stained glass, the original Minerva Teichert painting, and so much more.

As for the Adventsingen, Katie and I are going to do our best to make sure it continues. Where? We don't know, but we don't want to see this tradition end.

As for the Tabernacle, I truly hope the Church will restore the Tabernacle to how it was (only with a better fire alarm and sprinkler system). This building means so much to the community. And, I know it's possible. I've seen many cathedrals in Germany that were destroyed or heavily damaged during WWII and was amazed at how they were rebuilt.

Before the fire.

I also believe in miracles.

Look at this photo of firemen pulling the Harry Anderson painting, "The Second Coming," from the ashes. I think it's pretty miraculous how it burned all but the image of Christ in the center. Just a reminder to me that Christ needs to the be the center of everything, especially during this holiday season.

December 22, 2010

Here Comes Santa Claus!

In our house if you don't believe in Santa, he doesn't bring you anything. Period. And, I mean it. That's why each year we head to the mall to have pictures taken with the big guy.

This year, I brought along my new camera. Except for the Christmas border they put around the photos, my pictures turned out just as well, or even better. Plus, I saved $13 for one 5x7. I put that money towards taking the family out to lunch (a bribe for some).

Liam and Tomas asked for the standard stuff—Legos, Playmobil, and video games.

Definitely one for the memory book!
 Chloe, on the other hand, had this conversation.

Santa: So, what do you want for Christmas this year?

Chloe: I'm still undecided.

Santa: Do you know how many days till Christmas?

Chloe: Uh... I don't know. A couple?

Santa: Now, were you the youngin' who submitted a request for a rhinoceros?

Chloe: Uh... Not quite, but I'll take it if it comes. I'm just not sure I have room for it.

Santa: Well, be a good girl, and have a merry Christmas. 
Santa then proceeded to lean over to Chloe and give her a really goofy/creepy look with googly eyes. That's when I snapped this.

I just love going back and forth between the look on Santa's face and the look on Chloe's.
Chloe and Liam insist Santa's voice was raspy and slightly akin to Voldemort's which only added to his charm.*

I love Christmas traditions!

*This reminds of a Facebook status Katie told me about:
"Santa, Quit watching me while I'm sleeping. You're creeping me out!"

December 21, 2010

Sledding in a Winter Wonderland

Although the weather reports predicted rain, we woke up this morning to a foot of snow. It looks like we might just have a white Christmas! We shoveled out and helped several of our neighbors, and then the boys wanted to go sledding in the park. I followed along with the camera.

Tomas getting ready to go down the hill with Liam and friend, Jeffrey, looking on.

And away he goes!

Liam decided to try out his new snow board. The hill's not really big enough to do much, but he still had fun. He's ready to hit the real slopes.

Liam found he didn't need the snowboard or a sled. He picked up some good speed.

Tomas went down the hill on a sled with Liam in tow on his belly.

The boys made a jump. First, Tomas tried it and caught some air.

Next was Jeffrey's turn. This was the point were rider and sled parted ways.

But as you can see, all turned out well.

And finally, Liam. Ouch, that hurt!

Beginning the long ascent up the hill.

The two friends going down together.

Jeffrey is quite the model. Each time, he arrived at the bottom of the hill, he'd look up at me, pose, and smile.

If you know Jeffrey, this photo captures his personality.

What a great hat! Our friends from Canada gave it to Tomas, and he wears it every day.

After about 30 minutes, I was frozen and went back to the house. The boys, however, stayed a couple more hours. When they finally did come in, Katie got some hot cocoa in them. Good times, for sure!

December 12, 2010

Gingerbread House Extravaganza

Last year, we began a tradition with the Mc's—the Gingerbread House Extravaganza. Tomas began asking each day the week leading up to the event how many days were left.

We are so grateful to the Mc's for willing to host the evening. Not only is their house better suited to entertaining and larger groups, but the aftermath is always one ginormous mess. Plus, they served us a wonderful dinner. I think we owe them.

See what I mean? And, the floor was even worse. The bottoms of my socks had so much frosting, gingerbread crumbs, and crushed candy on them that they could stand on their own.

This time, we decided to be brave and not use a gingerbread house kit from the store. Katie created the pattern based on one of our Alpine Village pieces, and I provided the decoration. The Mc's are always quite adventurous.

I didn't take any pictures during assembly because I wasn't taking the chance of getting anything sticky on my camera. However, I did snap this photo of Rob as he was adding final touches. His philosophy is "less is NEVER more," which I believe works very well with gingerbread houses. And, I did not use that thing of frosting after him.
The entire Mc clan helped with their house. Maddie and Sebi made fantastic looking trees out of upside down ice cream cones and candy.Will did a cool rooftop with a type of ribbon candy I've never seen. I can't really remember Joss' contribution, but I know he had a lot of fun smashing and throwing things.

The Mc's gingerbread house. You can't tell from the photo, but they have lights inside.

My favorite part of their house is the bay window.
After Katie helped me get the basic structure of our house put together, she moved on to help the boys put together and decorate Snoopy gingerbread houses that came in a kit. I've decided there is one thing I like about the kits. They know approximately how much candy to give you to decorate. For our gingerbread house, I way over bought on candy.

Tomas with his Snoopy houses. Nice job!

Liam with his house. He turned the pieces to the other house into Snoopy's plane.
I had a lot more plans for our house, but after an hour of standing hunched over the house decorating, my back hurt, and I lost interest. I would someday like to try something really elaborate, but I think I will have to bring the house partially completed to the extravaganza.

Our Alpine farm house. I really like our balcony with Boston baked beans that look like geraniums.

And, the back view. We stole the idea for the pretzel fence from the Mc's.
The tradition in the Mc home is to let the kids smash the houses on New Year's day and eat them with hot cocoa. Gingerbread isn't quite as popular in our family, so our house last year ended up in the trash. Maybe we'll also try the cocoa thing and see how it goes.

The 2nd Annual Gingerbread House Extravaganza was a great success. I'm already excited for next year, and I hope there are many extravaganzas to follow.

PS Just in case you're wondering, Chloe couldn't join us until the very end because she had to work. 

December 11, 2010

The Thanksgiving Napoleon Tour with our Favorite Canucks

I'm back.

Where have I been, you might ask? Well, I've been here but without a computer. Our HP laptop, which was still under warranty, broke down for the fourth time. HP finally decided to replace it. It only took them 5 weeks and a whole lot of hassle to do it. I could practically write a novel on the customer service fiasco, but I'm afraid I would get so worked up that I would toss the new computer out the window. And, then where would I be?

There was a lot I could have blogged about over the past month. I'll try and do a little catch up, but with Christmas almost upon us, I don't know how much will actually get done. However, looking through some photos still on my camera, I found a bunch I knew I wanted to post first.

Some of our best friends came all the way from Canada to join us at Katie's parents house for Thanksgiving. As always, we had a fantastic time. It turns out they are also "Napoleon Dynamite" fans, and since Katie is from Preston, ID, the land of Napoleon, we were only too happy to give them the grand tour.

We began the Napoleon tour at Pedro's house. If there hadn't been snow and ice, we just might have set up a bike jump.
Here are all the kids in front of Napoleon's house. In the field next door is where Tina, the "fat lard" llama was kept, and across the street is where some poor cow met his end as a bus load of school kids looked on.

We made a stop at Deseret Industries, the local thrift store, where Napoleon found his sweet leisure suit and D-Qwan's dance video. Our friends also found a lot of sweet junk souvenirs to bring back to Canada.
I wish I could tell from the photo what Shauna is holding, but I'm sure it will help her train to become a cage fighter with serious ninja skills.

They know they can't afford the 12-pack! Why don't they go get some Pampers?

She's not quite Summer Wheatley, but she'll do.
Yes, the Cuttin Curral, where Napoleon gets that famous haircut is a real place. Only in Preston...
Preston High, home of the Indians and the Helping Hands Club. Katie is so proud to be an alumna.
They all wish they had a ride as frickin' sweet as Pedro's.
I like her bangs. Why don't you build her a cake or somthin'?
Summer's house. Pedro's too good for her.
A sign at one of the largest, tackiest, quaintest, and yet funnest Christmas light displays.
My sentiments exactly. Gosh, thanks for coming! I think meeting up in Preston with our friends from the North Pole needs to become a yearly tradition.