December 28, 2012

Christmas Ornaments 2012

It's time for the unveiling of the 2012 Christmas ornaments.

As a reminder, the rule is that I must purchase each member of the family an ornament (usually Hallmark) at an after Christmas sale. I try to pick ones that are somehow meaningful to the individual. If I see an ornament that is perfect for someone and it sells out before Christmas, too bad. That's exactly what happened this year. I wanted to buy Tomas the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man ornament since that was his Halloween costume this year.

See? It would have been perfect. Oh well.

I still think I did pretty well though. Beginning with the top left and going clockwise, we first have my ornament, a German beer stein (not because I drink beer but because I speak German, served a mission there, and have been back several times). Then, we have Katie's stained glass ornament. It's the third and final one of the series. Katie now has all three. I know Katie often dreams of being a nun where she could hang out in a quiet cathedral all day surrounded by beautiful stained glass windows. In my opinion, LDS chapels could use more stained glass. Next comes Chloe's ornament. It was probably the biggest stretch, but I don't think she'll ever forget the year she received it. It is an ornament of Willie Mays. I didn't give it to her because Chloe is an avid baseball fan but because Willie Mays came from Alabama. This will always be remembered as the Christmas that Chloe had her mission call to Birmingham, Spanish speaking. Only a little over a month to go before she leaves, and we're all very excited. For Liam, I chose an electric guitar ornament. His big present from the family was a Jackson Kelly electric guitar. Once he gets the amp to go with it, we may need ear plugs. And finally, I gave Tomas a Nightmare before Christmas ornament. This was Tomas' first year taking part in the annual Christmas Eve puppet show. Tomas and Liam put on the Tim Burton classic. You can check it out here.

Chloe asked if the kids will get to take the ornaments with them when they move out. Even though that was original intent, I might just renege. It will be hard part with them and their memories.

But...I'm sure I'll give in.

December 27, 2012

The PJ Parade 2012

Here's the rundown on this year's Christmas PJs.

The only thing missing from this photo is our friend Tracy, who used to be part of this tradition. Now she lives on the other side of the country. We're always hopeful she'll join us for another Christmas Eve.

Tomas got flannel PJs with sock monkeys in Santa hats on them. This past year, Tomas has turned into a sock monkey fan.

Perfect for Liam, his pajama pants were made out of Beatles fabric.

Chloe got lighter weight fabric PJs since she's headed to the warm south. Even though they're pink and the pants have colorful citrus wedges on them, they are actually BYU pajamas. If you look closely, you can see that the shirt says Brigham Young University and the pants have the word Cougars printed all over them.

This year when I was looking for Katie's pajamas, I totally lucked out and found them on the first rack  in the first store I looked in. We rarely go into Macy's let alone buy anything there. However, once a year they usually come through for me with something perfect for Katie and on sale. This year, Katie's jammies are navy blue with a silver satin collar. I also gave her a matching robe.

For me, Katie and the kids found me Cookie Monster PJs. I love the pants because they're made out of that super soft flannel material. Chloe said they got them for me because I'm a monster and I like to make cookies.

Merry Christmas and 
Happy New Year!

Christmas Eve Dinner 2012...Y'all

Our Christmas Eve dinner tradition is to have cuisine from a different place in the world. A couple months ago, we decided we would have a meal from wherever Chloe got her mission call to. When it turned out she would be going to Alabama, we had no idea what they ate down there. Katie did some research online and came up with the menu.  And even though Chloe will be a Spanish speaking missionary and will most likely eat a lot of food from south of the border, we decided to stick with Alabamian fare. I, of course, looked up desserts from Alabama and found cobbler is big down there.

Here are Katie and the kids just before sitting down to our southern feast.

We had pulled barbecued pork with a very interesting white sauce, collared greens with carrots and bacon, black-eyed peas, and corn bread with honey butter. We unanimously loved the pork with the sauce. The sauce was little bit like ranch dressing. Everyone also loved the corn bread. Katie found several recipes that have whole kernels of corn in the bread but knew the kids would go for that. Although, I really want to try it someday. Everyone but Tomas liked the black-eyed peas. But, he didn't really give them a fair shot. They were similar to re-fried beans. The collard greens were the only thing that didn't get the best reviews. Katie liked them, but she pretty much loves all vegetables. I thought they were a bit bitter. I think I would prefer the same recipe but made with spinach. None of the kids liked the greens. However, we're glad we tried them, and the kids and I were very appreciative of all the hard work Katie put into the meal.

For dessert, I made a recipe called Crunchy Peach Cobbler from a Alabamian cook book we received for Christmas from the Mc family. It was really good—maybe my favorite peach cobbler recipe yet. What made it different was the addition of fresh lemon juice and almond extract.

December 26, 2012

The PPP's Annual Presentation—The Nightmare before Christmas

I bring you this year's Paper Puppet Productions' Christmas Eve puppet show.

Since Chloe, a founding member of the PPP, has moved on to college, she thought she was a bit too old to participate and opted to spectate this year. However, eager Tomas was waiting in the wings praying for his chance to join the fun and fill in the gap. Liam took the lead in the production, and did an excellent job mentoring Tomas.

The reviews are in, and the show was a huge success. Here's what the critics are saying:

"What an original and creative take on Tim Burton's classic tale. I loved every minute of it. I think we're going to hear Liam and Tomas' names a lot come awards season."  —Katie
"I'm so proud! They have taken the annual production to the next level."  —Chloe
"I laughed. I cried. It was better than CATS."  —Curtis
"Liam's directing was spot on, and I loved Tomas' lavish costume and set designs. The attention to detail was awe-inspiring"  —Oma
"It had everything a wonderful puppet play should have—action, adventure, romance, suspense, paper bags. It's definitely going to be a hit this holiday season."  —Opa
 Please enjoy this wonderful Christmas Eve tradition.

Santa 2012

Here it is—our Santa 2012 photo. With Chloe being gone on her mission next year, Liam pretty much always hating every second of the ordeal, and Tomas quite possibly figuring things out (if he hasn't already), it just may be the end of this yearly tradition. This year, we even broke with convention and didn't purchase the photo they took. It's always been, in my opinion, a bit of a rip. But this year, what the heck?! Twenty bucks for a 5x7. Uh, no thanks. So, below is what I took over the shoulder of the "elf." I didn't have a decent flash with me, so the photo's not very sharp. But for free, I'm happy.

Included with the yearly tradition is dinner out afterward. It seems like over the past few years, Red Robin has been the popular restaurant of choice. Once again, we had a fun family meal together, and I finally learned you can request their bottomless fries without the nasty seasoning salt. Everyone else in the family seems to like the salt, but now we can all season our fries to suit our own tastes. It's amazing how this improved my dining experience. Ahh...the simple things in life.

Maybe if we keep the eating out at a restaurant as part of the deal, the boys will still play along. But, I'm not gonna hold my breath. I'm afraid it might be, "So long, Santa."

December 25, 2012

Gingerbread House Extravaganza 2012

Gingerbread House Extravaganza 2012 was a huge success. And once again, many thanks to the Mc family for offering up their home for the event. Their kitchen has a lot more counter space than ours, but I always leave feeling guilty for leaving them with such a mess at the end of the evening.

This year, the Mc family made a village of little houses. Each person was assigned a color and decorated his or her house with candy in that color. I was very impressed with this coordination and  the preparation Mary Ann put into organizing it. It turned out wonderfully well. I loved each house, but I got a kick out of watching Joss' decorate his. That little four year-old knew exactly what he wanted and how he wanted it done. And, he told me all about it in great detail as he did it. His excitement was contagious. You can read more about the Mc creations and see great photos here.

My gingerbread pallies
Last year for Christmas, the Mcs gave us two books on gingerbread houses. I chose a saltbox house from one book and Katie and the boys chose a Spanish mission-style church from the other. 

I was in the mood to do a historical building, and I have always liked saltbox style homes. There are several around Provo dating back to the early days of the city. A saltbox is a building with a long, pitched roof that slopes down to the back. A saltbox has just one story in the back and two in the front. If you look at the house from the side, it's asymmetry and roof line resemble a wooden lidded box in which salt was once kept.

I was most pleased with how it turned out, especially with my stone work on the chimney and around the base of the house. This pattern was either very easy, or I'm getting better at gingerbread house construction. My roof didn't collapse like last year. It may have boosted my confidence enough to try something really challenging for next year. I've got some ideas in mind, but I won't share them yet. I don't anyone to get their expectations too high.

Unlike last year, I remembered to leave a hole in the back to insert tea lights to light up the windows of melted hard candy.
Katie and Tomas built a Spanish mission church out of graham crackers and frosting. This reminds me of how all fourth graders where I'm from have to build a replica of one of the California missions out of sugar cubes as they study California history. Tomas worked very hard on the garden in front. Liam's contribution was the taco shop next door—perfect for those hungry monks. The colorful ribbon hard candy added a very authentic touch. I also liked his gum drop cactus. Katie's detail work with the well and the cart was also impressive. 

Another sign of a successful gingerbread experience is the amount of candy bits stuck to my socks at the end of the evening. I admit it's not as much this year as in past because the kids are getting older and not as prone to drop or throw everything on the floor. However, it is a true sign that a good time was had by all.

OK, that does look a little gross. Sorry.

Goodbye Scooter

Scooter had breath that could kill.
Scooter barked uncontrollably when the doorbell rang.
And it drove me nuts how Scooter could never be more than six inches from my side whenever I was at home, especially when I was in the bathroom.

However, we've all got our faults, right?

Scooter was always so excited to see me when I got home from work.
Scooter didn't shed.
Scooter was a very good-natured dog.
He always tried so hard to please and be a good dog.

December 14 was a sad day. It happened quickly, and Scooter's health declined rapidly. The vet thought he had cancer. We had him put to sleep. I was surprised at how hard it was on me.

Scooter was a good little friend, and we will miss him a lot.

December 11, 2012

SLC's Christkindlmarkt

One of my favorite German Christmas traditions is the Christkindlmarkt/Weihnachtsmarkt. It's a street market during the four weeks of Advent. When we heard this was the first year for a Christkindlmarkt at This Is the Place Heritage Park, we knew we had to go.

It was on the chilly side, so we began at the Heidelberg "Hot" Schokolade booth. I was amused at the mixture of German and English, and I wondered what made it "Heidelberg" cocoa. It was kind of like getting "Swiss" Tacos and "Swiss" hamburgers at Midway's Swiss day. However, the coco was really good. It also turned out that two students I worked this semester with were running the booth.

The market had about thirty booths. Everything was done extremely well, and in my opinion, it was as authentic as you can get here in Utah. We hope the market becomes and annual tradition. We will definitely go back. My only recommendation is that they get a few more vendors to offer German or Austrian Christmas toys and decorations. I only saw one Christmas pyramid. I also didn't see any of those large decorated gingerbread hearts with sayings on them for sale. If I had a bakery, that's what I'd sell in my booth.

They also had entertainment. This guy sang and played the accordion and cow bells—a little on the corny side, but a lot of fun to watch.

I need more cowbell! I got a fever, and the only cure is more cowbell!
We tried some of the pretzels, which were very reminiscent of those we bought in Salzburg.

We found a booth run by Vosen's Bakery (They should do the gingerbread hearts!). Once I spotted it, I knew I had to buy it. They had authentic looking Mohnkuchen (poppy seed cake). This is one of my favorite German pastries.

Though not native to any German-speaking country, the reindeer were a nice touch.

This was the place for a great Christkindlmarkt.

Throughout the day, Chloe kept giving Tomas hugs. I think the idea of her being away 18 months for her mission is hitting her.

Here we are keeping warm.

Since we were in Salt Lake, we decided to stop by another craft fair and a British import shop. We ended the outing with dinner at Crown Burger. We arrived at the perfect time. Just after we placed our order, 300 Church youth and their leaders came into the restaurant after seeing the Christmas lights at Temple Square just down the street.

December 03, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

I brought my camera to Idaho with plans to take tons of photographs to document a wonderful holiday with family.

Well, all I can say is...

...epic fail.

We had a great time, ate way more than we should have, and Chloe opened her mission call. But, all I've got to show for it are these few photos.

Of course, we went to the Idaho Festival of Lights Parade. It's always fun being there with the cousins, but the festival is in poor shape. If we were to live in Preston, Katie and I would volunteer and help give it a boost. (And no Oma, don't get your hopes up that we'll be moving anytime soon.)

Liam, Tomas and I went to Pop 'N Pins for our annual bowl-a-thon. You might remember this place which was made famous in "Napoleon Dynamite." Here Tomas and Liam are summoning their eagle powers.

Their eagle powers must have worked. Both boys did really well. Liam almost did too well. One game, I only beat him by three points. That's too close. I'm going to have to do some major practicing before next year
Well, there you have it. Not much, I know. But when I think about it, I didn't really do much more than lie around, eat and sleep. No one wants to see pictures of that anyway.

Sweet Home Alabama!

Here's the timeline:

  • Oct. 28—Chloe decides for sure she wants to leave on her mission as soon as she can. She calls to get an appointment with the bishop for the following Tuesday. The bishop is very busy, but it helps to be friends with the executive secretary.
  • Oct. 30—Chloe meets with the bishop, has a great interview, and gets the process going.
  • Oct. 31—During the day, Chloe is able to set up appointments with the dentist and doctor for check ups. Later that evening, Chloe fills out the online application while trick-or-treaters come to the door.
  • Nov. 2—Chloe sees the dentist and the doctor. She still needs to have her wisdom teeth out, and the oral surgeon is able to squeeze her in the next Friday.
  • Nov. 9—Chloe gets her wisdom teeth out. I have the honor and privilege of being with her when she comes our of the anesthesia.*
  • Nov. 11—Chloe is able to get an appointment with both the bishop and the stake president. Chloe's papers are officially submitted. 
  • Nov. 21—Chloe's call arrives . We drive up to Idaho so Chloe can open it at Opa and Oma's.
Here is a video Chloe created to remember the event. As of today, it already has nearly 3,000 views!

Birmingham, Alabama—Spanish speaking! Wow, who woulda thunk?** Certainly not me. I was kind of hoping for Germany, Austria or England. That way, Katie and I could pick her up from her mission when she's done and do a little sightseeing. However, missions aren't about sightseeing, and almost immediately after Chloe read her letter, I had a strong confirmation Alabama was where Heavenly Father wants and needs her to be. We are all very excited for her. Chloe's going to make the most outstanding missionary, and Alabama will never be the same. Another blessing is that her mission president is Richard Holzapfel. He's an amazing religion professor at BYU, and I've had the opportunity to interact with him a couple of times. I've always been extremely impressed.

Chloe will enter the MTC on Feb. 6.  That seems really soon to me. I know quite of few young men and women who received their calls before Chloe and will leave later. I just think Heavenly Father has something for her to do and needs her soon. Now, Chloe needs to hunker down and focus on finishing out the school semester well. She might also need to fend off the boys.

It's interesting how now that Chloe is going to Alabama, I notice Alabama all over the news. Did you know Alabama will be playing Notre Dame in football for the national championship? I didn't until now. I just may end up watching the game this year and root for the Crimson Tide.

Liam once told me if you ever hear "Sweet Home Alabama" on the radio, you don't need to change the station because at that moment in time, there isn't a better song on the radio. I think for the next year and half, he right. We will sure miss our Chloe but are so very proud of her.
*Click here to read about Chloe coming out of anesthesia. Tee-hee-hee.
**Maddie Mc actually "thunk" Alabama. As a reward, I'm going to make the Mc family an amazing cobbler. I've heard that is the big dessert down there.