January 05, 2012

Happy 18th Birthday, Chloé!

Eighteen years ago today, my little princess, Chloé Madeline, was born.
I remember when she turned one, I sang this song to her. 

On the day that Chloé was born,
On the day that Chloé was born,
On the day that Chloé was born
the angels sang and they blew on their horns,
and they danced, they danced
they smiled and raised up their hands
On the day, on the day that Chloé was born.
—Lyrics by Red Grammer

A few years later, I gave her a teddy bear with a little sound box inside so when she squeezed the bear's hand, she would hear my voice singing her a song. This is sort of an internet version of that idea.

Before Chloé was even born, I knew I wanted her to grow up to be a strong, independent woman. I definitely got what I asked for. This sometimes proved to be difficult during the teenage years when we would butt heads. However, it all worked out for the best. Chloé has a great head on her shoulders. She knows what's important, and she knows what she wants. She's going to do great things in her life, and many people will be blessed because of her.

Chloé brings the party wherever she goes, whether she's dancing up and down the grocery store aisles, screeching during a scary movie, or going into hysterics over a wacked out piece of modern art. If you want to love life, spend a day with Chloé.

Chloé is totally awesome and stuff! Nuff said! No really though, she's awesome.

Chloé is the best sister in the world. We have lots of fun together. Sometimes she's kind of crazy, but she's always nice to me.

Happy birthday, Chloé!

January 02, 2012

Christmas Ornaments 2011

Here's the roundup from this year's after-Christmas ornament shopping. For those unfamiliar with the tradition, I go out the first thing on the 26th (or 27th if it's a Sunday) and buy an ornament for each member of the family. This is when all the ornaments are 50% off. I try to find an ornament that personally fits each individual. I do take some razzing for this, but it's a tradition I like, so I do it anyway. Maybe it's because it shows kind of a history, and someday when I'm gone, they will look back at what Dad gave them and have good memories.

This year, it seemed like people are starting to believe the recession might actually be coming to an end. The Hallmark store was the most crowded I've ever seen it. I had a hard time trying to get close to the ornaments for a look. And, it was even more difficult to find an ornament for everyone because so many were sold out. But, I think I did well.

Click to enlarge.

Starting top left and going clockwise:
  1. A Star Wars ornament for Liam—This one was the biggest stretch. However, Liam really does like Star Wars and loves playing his Star Wars game on the Wii. This ornament even says a bunch of lines from this scene in the movie.
  2. Stained glass for Katie—This just reminded me of all the cathedrals and stained glass we got to see in Austria this past summer. We had the absolute best time on the Study Abroad, and Katie was an amazing instructor. All the students have told me how much they love her and learned so much from her.
  3. A double decker bus for Chloe—This ornament was actually from Santa. I think he gave it to her to remind her of the trip she, Katie and Tomas got to take to London.
  4. A London taxi for Katie—This was also from Santa. The topic of London comes up daily in our home. We're not quite sure how yet, but we'll make it over there together someday.
  5. Snoopy the Baker for me—I did all the Christmas baking this year from the gingerbread house to the neighborhood gifts. In my next life, I think I want to be a pastry chef.
  6. Marvin the Martian for Tomas—Tomas LOVES Looney Tunes. For Christmas, he got several DVD collections of cartoons. If we don't pay attention, he will sit in front of the TV for hours watching them.
  7. Michael from "The Office" bobble head for Chloe—This year, Chloe discovered "The Office" on Netflix. She can probably carry on complete conversations only quoting lines from the show. When you press a button on this ornament, you can hear Michael say several different lines.

January 01, 2012

A New Family Holiday Tradition

What to do? Oh...what to do?

No one was to keen on eating it.

But, just dumping it in the trash would seem like such a waste.

What to do? Oh...what to do with our lovely, but stale, gingerbread house?*

Thanks to a neighbor, Leslie, who posted this idea on Facebook, we now have a new family tradition. It's the best!

Take a look.

Anyone who wants to join in the fun next year, give us a call. Who knows? This could turn into an annual neighborhood bonding activity. Well...maybe not, but it would be hysterical.

*You can read about our Gingerbread House Extravaganza here.

Gingerbread House Extravaganza 2011

Welcome to the third annual Gingerbread House Extravaganza!

Once again, the event was held at the Mc family residence. They are extremely kind to host the madness. Their kitchen is usually quite a mess when all is done. Last year, the bottoms of my socks became so hard and stiff from stepping on of gingerbread, candy, and frosting that ended up on the floor I just deposited them in the trash when I got home. They were seriously gross.

However this year, things didn't get too out of hand. This was mainly due to the fact that the kids weren't really involved much. They were more interested in playing with each other downstairs. This was fine with the adults because we and the Mcs had chosen more architecturally advanced gingerbread houses. Rob and Mary Ann researched books and found a great pattern for a New England style church. Mary Ann even made stained glass windows for it. I found a pattern online based on a stately English home. I put in candied glass windows, as well.

I do remember Maddie, Sebi and even Joss coming up from downstairs to help do a few of the finishing touches on the Mc's church, but I think I only saw Liam, Tomas and Will come up to snitch candy. Chloe showed up late after her ballroom performance and helped apply candy to our house. Both Katie and Chloe didn't care for it, but they finally gave into my way of doing a gingerbread house. My philosophy is the more candy the better. And then, I usually get bored with the entire process halfway through, so I just start slapping candy up all over the place just to get done.

I'll start by showing you the Mc's creation. I swiped the photos from Mary Ann's blog. I think it's beautiful. The local grocery store had a gingerbread house contest with about 30 entries. I liked the Mc church better than any of them, especially the winner.

I love the brick work and the Milano cookie tombstones in the graveyard of the Mc's church.
Those stained glass windows are awesome!
And, here is our stately English home.

The roof of the middle part gave us fits the entire night. No matter how much frosting we used, the back part of the roof kept caving in. After trying to repair it for the 10th time, I accidentally broke the roof piece in half. I then just gave up. So, the back side doesn't look so good. We just tell people we meant to have the back open so we could easily put lights inside. Yeah...that's it.

And a side shot.

And a shot with the inside lit with battery operated tea lights. Rather cool, I think.

The Mcs gave us some books on making gingerbread houses for Christmas. I read them completely and have the choice for next year narrowed down to about four. I've also learned a few things from this year's experience that I'm planning to implement.
  1. Have the house completely assembled well in advance. This way, the frosting has had time to completely harden up before applying all the decoration. Also, I might not get so impatient during the decorating stage.
  2. Plan out what candy to use and where to put it. Because I didn't really know what I was doing, I bought way too much candy. With the leftover candy, I could have done three more houses.
  3. Bake the gingerbread a little longer so it's harder. If I'm going to be eating it, I like my gingerbread soft. However, this may have added to our roof collapse problem.
All in all, I was very proud of our efforts. It was a wonderful evening. I don't know what Rob, Mary Ann, and Katie think, but I hope this tradition continues long into the future. I can totally see us as in our old age still getting together for the Gingerbread House Extravaganza.