December 31, 2011

Christmas Jammies 2011

Here's our annual Christmas PJ photo.

Starting with Tomas, he got football themed jammies. However, the neat thing is that his pajamas are 3D. Of course, you have to wear the special glasses, but they are pretty darn cool looking.

I lucked out this year in finding Katie's PJs. I knew what stores she had been in looking for pajamas for Chloe, so I avoided those. The very first store I went into, JCPenny, and on the very first rack I looked on had these striped Liz Claiborne pajamas. They screamed Katie. And, she loved them. Chloe even thought I did a good job.

Liam knows practically every Chuck Norris joke there is. So when we saw these PJs with a countdown of the top 10 Chuck Norris facts, we knew we had to get them for him.

I got Snoopy PJs. The pants are made out of some of the softest fabric I've ever felt. If I could, I would wear them round the clock.

And finally, Chloe got cute plaid pajamas. Though she's not wearing it in the picture, she also got a BYU hoodie that matches the PJs.

And here is a photo of the Christmas morning aftermath. I think it's obvious from the mess, we had a wonderful Christmas.

December 29, 2011

Christmas Letter by Tomas

Ah...the annual Christmas letter. What a pain in the bum.

I really don't mind writing it (or helping Katie write it). But, we always procrastinate until it's almost too late to get them in the mail to make it by Christmas. And then, we always wait until we are so busy with work, kids' stuff, and other various church and holiday activities that finding a spare second to sit down and get it written is difficult.

This year, I had a brilliant idea (and those do not come along very often). I thought I'd ask our seven year-old Tomas to write the letter, and I'd even pay him. Let me tell you, he's a happy little worker, and he's dirt cheap. It was five bucks well spent.

I thought I'd post the letter here, so it will always be part of our family history. Enjoy reading! And, I hope you all had a merry Christmas! (click to enlarge)

December 28, 2011

What? I Like Brussels Sprouts?

Who would've thunk? And, I certainly did not know that they were named after the capital of Belgium, which would also explain why there is an "s" at the end of the word and why it is also capitalized. How did I discover that these little green cabbage thingys can be so tasty? Let me 'splain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up. (I love that quote. Gold star for you if you know where it's from.)

A tradition in our home is that Christmas Eve dinner is always made up of cuisine from another country. We've done German, Italian, Chinese, Indian, and more. This year, the choice was obvious. You may be thinking Austrian after our stint with the BYU Vienna Study Abroad. However, we actually went with the British Isles. Katie, Chloe and Liam absolutely fell in love with London on their little side trip this summer. Not a day goes by that London isn't mentioned in our home. We are trying to figure out how to get the family over there. Yes, I know—big dreams. But anyway, English fare it was.

A bunch of photos from Katie, Chloe and Liam's trip to Londo
Katie did a lot of internet research on what constituted a typical Christmas dinner in England. It looked like turkey and goose seem to be pretty standard. Well, we just had turkey for Thanksgiving, and although Katie does not shy away from trying new things in the kitchen, she didn't have a clue where to go to buy a goose. So, she found a recipe online for Somerset chicken. Maybe not Christmas-y but definitely British and a recipe that's been around since Elizabethan times.

The table set and we're ready to dig in. Notice Chloe's double-decker bus t-shirt, Katie's argyles, and Liam's Abbey Road t-shirt.
Katie discovered that Brussels Sprouts are an absolute must have dish for any British Christmas dinner. My first reaction was "yuck!" But Katie would not be dissuaded—we were trying them. Katie made a recipe that added in walnuts. I was very skeptical.

We all gave them a try and the results were mixed. Katie, of course, loved them. Chloe liked them. Tomas licked them but would go no further. Liam came dangerously close to throwing them up. And I, shockingly, thought they were fantastic.

Katie also made British food queen Nigella Lawson's recipe for lemon green beans. This may now be a new family favorite. Katie also made roasted potatoes done the British way where you boil the potatoes first. They were also a hit.

For dessert, Katie had planned to make a figgy pudding. However, I had already made a cake. We felt one dessert should suffice. Katie still plans to make the pudding before the holidays are over.

While in London, Katie and the kids discovered Mr. Kipling's Battenburg cake. Katie had heard them mentioned in various British movies and TV shows. She brought back some to Vienna for Tomas and I to try. And, OH. MY. GOOOODNESS! Those little things are heaven. I knew right then that when I got back to the States, I would have to learn to make a Battenburg cake.

I was a bit nervous since the recipe is a bit involved. But, I was more than happy with the results. The whole family agreed it was every bit as good as Mr. Kipling's. I will get the recipe posted soon on my food blog.

And finally, Katie made oatmeal scones with clotted cream for Christmas Eve morning to eat as we listened to the live presentation of the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from King's College on the radio. Clotted cream is another of Katie's discoveries. It's a super-duper thick cream you can get in England. Sadly, you can't find it here, but Katie found a recipe that she thinks is pretty darn close to the real thing. The scones were amazing. I'll post this recipe, too.

Clotted cream—a yummy way to clot the arteries.
British food usually seems to get a bum rap, but we loved everything we had. I just hope the entire family can someday make it across the Atlantic to sample it all in person.

Any suggestions for next year's country?

December 27, 2011

Hooray for Santy Claus

You spell it S-A-N-T-A C-L-A-U-S.
Hooray for Santy Claus!

We made our annual trip out to the mall to visit Santa. We finally got it right this time and arrived just as the mall opened. There was no waiting at all.

Once again, we purchased a photo package. We've been buying these since way back in the day when Chloe was a baby and we didn't have a decent camera. I guess forking over a ridiculous amount of money for a photo I could now do myself is part of the tradition. This year, they didn't allow any personal photography at all, even if you paid for a package. Those people are making some serious bank.

This year's Santa was much better than last year's, who creeped the kids out a bit. I stood behind the girl who only knew how to press the button photographer and made strange faces and danced my goofy dance to get the kids to smile. I did get Santa to laugh. He appreciated my efforts so much he gave me an extra See's candy sucker.

I never did find out what Chloe and Liam asked Santa for Christmas, but I know that Tomas asked for an iPad. Fat chance fella! Nobody's getting an iPad around here before me, and I have serious doubts I'm getting one anytime soon.

Another family tradition is to watch our favorite Santa movie, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. It's now on Netflix. This is a carry over from my childhood that I have introduced my children to. And who cares if this movie has made almost every list of the worst movies ever made. We love it. We laughed, cried, and quoted lines throughout all 120 minutes. (Katie slept through most of it, but we made sure she was awake for the best parts.)

If you have never seen this movie, you can watch it on Youtube here.

If you don't have 120 minutes to waste, watch at least the end credits beginning at 1:16:54. You can sing along! That catchy tune is usually sung nonstop around here during the holidays.

Or, here's the trailer.

That Santa Claus. What a guy!

December 26, 2011

The Christmas Puppet Theater Presents

The tradition continues.*

You could feel the excitement in the theater. The audience sat in anticipation waiting to discover one of the most closely guarded secrets. What would this year's Christmas Eve puppet show be? A hush fell over the crowd as the lights lowered. Only three notes from the orchestra and everyone knew it was Dr. Seuss' Christmas tale, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! Not only is this a classic Christmas story and cartoon, but this puppet version will be one for the ages.


Here's a closer look at the cast.

Once again, a fabulous performance. The reviews are in.
"Three thumbs up!"—Katie

"I laughed. I cried. It was better than Cats. And, it was certainly better than that Jim Carrey version"—Curtis
We can't wait for next year's production!

*Chloe thinks this was her final performance since she will be in college next year. (Yikes! Did I just write that?) Tomas is very excited to fill her shoes. However, I think we haven't seen the last of Chloe. It's tradition! Plus, I have very close ties to Santa Claus.


December 24, 2011

MVHS Choirs Christmas Concert

As you read in my earlier post, I forgot the memory card at home so I didn't get any video of Chloe's choir performing at Temple Square. I learned my lesson and made sure I had the memory card for the Christmas concert. I also borrowed a nicer video camera and made sure the battery was charged.

Mountain View has an extremely impressive choir program. In this first clip of the combined choirs, you can see how many kids are involved. I think its more than my entire graduating class.

This next clip is the Chamber Choir. It's tradition that every year the Chamber Choir ends its portion of the program with the song, "Fruitcake." Each section comes up with something to do during their featured part. Chloe along with the other sopranos was tired always being the boring section, so they came up with something very different. I think they win the "most creative" award.

The next clip is the A Cappella Choir. Chloe has been serving this year as the A Cappella Choir president. She's really enjoyed it, but she has also had to put in some long hours. The final song of this section, "Bethlemhu," is also tradition. I remember last year's group blowing me away. I wondered how this year's group would compare. Once again, blown away. The percussion section was really fun to watch.

There you have it. Congratulations MVHS Choirs on a job well done! I'm looking forward to the next concert.

December 23, 2011

Christmas at Temple Square

We went to Temple Square to watch Chloe and the MVHS choirs perform and see the lights. The choirs gave several performances throughout the afternoon and evening, but we were only able to catch the Chamber Choir performing in the North Visitors Center. I had planned to videotape them, but as I got the camera ready, I discovered I had left the memory card in the computer at home. Argh. So, I just got some stills.

The choir sounded beautiful, and looked fantastic in their new dresses and tuxes.

My favorite part came at the end of the Chamber Choir's performance when the director turned around and all the kids in the audience who are part of the other MVHS choirs joined in singing "Worship the King." It sent chills down my spine.

Here is the director. From all that I hear, she can really be a task master, but the kids love her, and results are amazing.

After the concert, we walked around looking at the Christmas lights. This red tree has been my favorite for many years. There has to be 100,000 lights on this tree alone.

I also really liked the blues lights which are more intense and a new addition since the last time I was here.

As we were leaving, we saw this guy playing the bagpipes. It was only 13°! I'm willing to bet he's not a "real Scotsman."

And no visit to Temple Square to see the lights would be complete without a stop at Crown Burger.

This was a great start to our Christmas season!

Drummer Boy

When Liam was just about three, he decided his name was no longer Liam but rather Li Li Boom Boom. He was very insistent that we call him this, and we did. It eventually shortened to just Boom Boom. Even now that Liam is 13, family members still occasionally call him by his nickname. My guess is he will probably insist we quit in the coming high school years, especially when girls enter the picture.

Katie and I were always wondering if this nickname would somehow prove prophetic. And, it has. Liam loves all things loud and explosive. Luckily this year, Liam has channeled this energy and interest into something artistic—learning percussion.

We attended his end-of-semester percussion concert. Katie and I really enjoyed it. I felt the kids did a great job for only having been at it a few months. Below is the video. The quality is terrible because I was using my little point and shoot camera.

Right now, Liam just practices at home with a drum pad and concert bells. I'm not sure how I feel about when the time comes that we have to buy him a full drum set. Our basement isn't that sound proof. Oh well, I'll just be thankful he's not blowing things up. 

December 04, 2011

Can I Have a Do-Over?

It's been a crazy busy fall with work, church, family activities, and various other miscellaneous things. This meant way too little sleep*. My body finally had had enough and gave out.

On Wednesday, we traveled up to Preston to spend Thanksgiving with Oma and Opa. On the way up, I felt I might be coming down with a cold, but shortly after stepping through the door, I knew it was going to be much worse. I got back in the van and went to the grocery store to pick up the largest bottles of Nyquil and Dayquil I could find. I took a giant dose of medicine, but it all went downhill from there. I was sick, sick, sick. I completely missed Thanksgiving and basically didn't get up until Saturday. The bottle of Nyquil was virtually empty.

Still achy and having little to no energy, I ventured out with the family to see the Preston Festival of Lights Christmas Parade. This festival and parade has kind of gone downhill in recent years, but it's still a fun tradition. Where else can you see a tractor decorated in Christmas lights?

Below is my favorite parade entry of the evening.

And, here's the family just after the parade. 

I did get to eat some Thanksgiving leftovers. But you know, it's just not really the same. All I can say is that I had darn well better not be sick for Christmas.

*Some of you may be wondering why Katie, who sleeps less than I do, doesn't get sick. We've decided she's a vampire. Really. In addition to not sleeping, she's pale (or as she says, "I have alabaster skin."), she loves very rare meat, and her special power is that she can find anything (Mom, where are my shoes?). Bella ain't got nothin' on her.

December 02, 2011

Back in Primary

In my humble opinion, when it comes to church callings, the Primary is where it's at.

After a long absence, Katie and I were called again to serve in the Primary to teach the 7 year-olds, and we love it. And speaking for myself, I wouldn't mind if I get left there for a good long time, too.

Below are a couple of pictures, the serious and the goofy, following the annual Primary Program. Each of our kids did such a great job. I'm always so amazed at how chaotic the practices can be, and yet the program runs without a hitch. 

Let me introduce the class to you.

Going from left to right, we begin with Jeffrey. Jeffrey cracks me up. He's smart and quick-witted. He has a great sense of humor.

Next comes Cedros. Cedros loves to sing and sing out loud. He has no fear of trying new things and loves to participate. Cedros also likes to be goofy and can get Chetna laughing better than anyone.

Chetna is in the middle. She has cerebral palsy and can only communicate with her eyes and her smile. Her favorite part of Primary is singing time. I hold her hand and help her conduct songs. She does her best to make noises and sing along. One of my favorite parts of our time in Primary is when I make a connection with Chetna where she understands me and I understand her.  The other children in class are very good with Chetna, and it's amazing what we learn from her.

Daisy is one of the happiest little girls I've met. She gets so excited about every single part of Primary.
Daisy is also very observant. She always notices what Katie is wearing and how Katie has matched and coordinated everything from her earrings to her shoes.

Even though Veronica is very quiet, she is extra sweet. She is a budding little artist. We love it when she brings us pictures she's done each week.

And finally, Karlee. She's our newest class member, so I don't know her as well. But, she's a good little girl.

Katie and I recently found out we are going to move up with this class and be their teachers next year. This makes us very happy. For me, it's like going to church each week and having a little party.