Sunday, December 31, 2006

Back home

safe and sound. We got in early afternoon. The kids had wanted to try to make the drive in one day, "so that we can see the cats". But we vetoed that - it was dark and raining and I was tired. Plus we'd have gotten in so late that the kids would have been asleep and not seen the cats until today anyway.

The drive home was mostly uneventful - foggy both morning, actually all day today. We debated going to one of the farmer's markets on the way home. Then we hit a bit of traffic about an hour and a half from home and tuned in the traffic station - they said there were 2 big accidents - one right near the International Farmers Market and one on the final stretch of interstate going home. Well, that decided it. No going to the International Market, and yes going to the other market - we'd give the traffic some time to clear away. We got some nice cheeses and fruit. And the traffic had cleared nicely by the time we went through.

It is good to be home. We had a wonderful time on the trip - I've got various pictures to post over the next couple of days - but its nice to be in our own place and to see the cats. They were certainly glad to see us!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

popping in from VA

We're up here in VA visiting with D's family. Having a lot of fun, everyone is here. The kids (and D and Uncle D) are playing with their new Heroscape game that came from Uncle D and Aunt K (they get the most interesting games each year for the kids). Heroscape isn't quite my cup of tea, but the kids love it and D is willing to play with them. D says that the kids are able to play on their own, so maybe they will at home.

My arms (especially the left) are a bit sore from all the air hockey we've been playing. Aunt K got an air hockey table for Christmas 2 years ago when we were last here. I didn't get to play it then, but have been challenged to many games this time. The kids say I need to play left-handed (hence the sore left arm) against them to even things up a bit. I can still beat them both, but some games get quite close.

There were many other wonderful gifts, but the best part is being with family. I'll post more and some pictures from it all once we've gotten back home. But tomorrow we're off into DC to do a little sight-seeing.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Early Christmas

Since we're going to VA for Christmas, we decided to have a mini Christmas here early with my mom. That way there's less to lug up and back with us and we all get to see each other open presents.

We had a fish stew for dinner - its not quite the same as the bouillabaisse (sp?) that we tended to have at Christmas when I was a kid (my mom says that D's version is much easier to make) - but it certainly has the same idea and it says Christmas to me. Plus all of us, except M, enjoy it.

Here are the elves, raring to go get presents.

They insisted that they had to have the Santa hats in order to elf properly.

The living room in the aftermath. And this was only a fraction of the gifts that we will all receive. This was just gifts from our family to my mom and from her to all of us. We're taking our gifts within our family with us.

A is really enjoying the new jacket from my mom (while reading his new Garfield comic book). The jacket is very soft inside. M got one too.

The cats think the jackets are very comfy - Shadow tried to groom M's jacket.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Baking Time

Over the last few days, I've finally gotten a bunch of Christmas baking done. And some non-baked goodies too. My truffles are always a big hit - I got the recipe from my Jan list friend, Emily.

Easy Chocolate Truffles

1 1/2 pkgs. (12 oz.) Baker's Semi-Sweet Chocolate
1 pkg. (8oz) Philadelphia Brand Cream Cheese, softened
3 c. powdered sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
Ground nuts, unsweetened cocoa,or Flaked Coconut (toasted)

Melt chocolate in large microwavable bowl on high 2 to 3 minutes or
until almost melted, stirring after each minute. Stir until chocolate
is completely melted. Set aside.

Beat cream cheese until smooth. Gradually add sugar, beating until
well blended. Add melted chocolate and vanilla; mix well. Refrigerate
about 1 hour. Shape into 1-inch balls. Roll in nuts, cocoa, or
Store in refrigerator.
Makes about 5 dozen candies

I sent truffles in to the kids Challenge teachers this week. Both kids said that their teachers were appreciative.

Yesterday I baked 3 batches of biscotti:
orange cashew
ginger pecan
cinnamon walnut

I hadn't done the cinnamon walnut ones before, but I had a bag of cinnamon chips and thought they might work well. Yep, they're quite tasty. But, I still think the ginger ones are my favorites - lots of crystallized ginger throughout. It makes them a bit sticky to cut, but oh my, they are yummy.

Then I baked a pan of 7 layer bars. We're trying to hold off on sampling them - so we can take them to Aunt K's house next week. We might be able to resist, but only because we still have cookies left from the cookie exchange last weekend.

Friday, December 15, 2006

The kids go Christmas shopping

The kids finished their Christmas shopping today. A had made one previous purchase - a joint gift for D and I from Secret Santa at school. Then they shopped my stash (stuff I had picked up knowing it would be good for certain people - can't say anymore because some of them read this).

Next we made a list of everyone they needed a gift for, and off we went to D*llar Tree. We wandered around the store a bit, I pointed out a few things and redirected a bit - so sorry to tell you, but I dissuaded A from buying a ceramic angel for one of the uncles. I just didn't quite think it fit either of you. I'm not exactly sure what M bought - he wandered off, selected his merchandise and bought it - all without me. Tops we were in the store 30 minutes (at least 5 of that in line and another 5 me talking to A's other room mom, who was buying stuff for their party Tuesday). I wish I could do all my Christmas shopping in 30 minutes!

All that shopping must have tired M out. After dinner, we were all reading in the living room. Pounce came and joined M on his lap. Once M finished his book and D and I were busy reading, M drifted off into sleep.

Shadow was sleeping on my lap, all stretched out.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Bus Woes

Today was the second time in a week that the bus was late. Very annoying. This morning I was going about my business getting ready for a brunch when the phone rang. My friend asked if the kids had gotten the bus. I assume so, I replied, they're not back here. Just then I saw what looked like a bus coming down the next street over (I could see the bus's lights through the trees). Moments after we got off the phone, I saw the kids heading back up the street - I hollered at them that I saw the bus finally and they high-tailed it back down the street. They caught the bus on its second pass (it has to go past our street, to the cul-de-sac, and turn around). I forgot to ask M how full the bus was this morning or when they got to school.

I guess I need to call transportation and see what's going on. It can really throw a monkey-wrench in the morning to have an unplanned trip to school. At least the school is close now - next year middle school will be much more of a hike. Unfortunately, its also more likely to have late buses, since middle school is the last to start in the morning. Oh well, I'll deal with that next year...

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

House decorations

The mantel is actually more decorated than usual and this is the first time we've gotten the stockings up before...oh, say Christmas Eve perhaps. But theyr're going to have to come down next week so we can take them with us when we go to Aunt K's.

A does have a stocking that matches the rest of ours, but he decided he wanted the knitted/crocheted Santa one this year. It's fine by me. We only have about a dozen extra stockings around the house - extras that the kids got given in preschool, old stockings, etc.

Things are getting rather crazy around here, what with all the Christmas preparations. It doesn't help that I spent 4 hours at the school this morning (rather than the usual 2). That shot the idea of trying to get a little shopping done... Postings may be rather sparse for a bit.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Trimming the Tree

We broke with tradition this year and got a fake tree. Gasp. It's somehow not the same taking your tree out of a box.

But, since we're going to be gone over Christmas this year, it just didn't seem right to put up a real tree and then let it wither while we're gone. Plus, since we like to leave the tree up until Epiphany, we don't usually put it up until the weekend before Christmas (or after school is out) - that would have had us putting up the tree just a few days before leaving town. Nope - not happening. It will be way too busy then. So an artificial tree it is. I found one reasonably priced, pre-lit, so we'll try it out this year. It looked a little scraggly just out of the box.

But, as D said, its a bit like a Charlie Brown tree - it trimmed up quite nicely. Well, except that the angel looks like she got into the fruitcake and the rum balls...

My favorite ornament, Oh-Woh - not quite sure how to spell that - it was my ornament the year I was one - 21 months to be more precise. It is a reindeer, but evidently I thought it was a horse and was trying to say horse. It's a little worse for the wear of all the years, but it still has a place of pride on my tree.

A night in Olde Town

I saw in the paper that Olde Town was having some sort of event (to promote shopping I think) last night, so we arranged that the kids and I would pick up D after work and head over. Well, when we got over there just before six, the streets looked fairly deserted. But then we saw the horse and carriage go by. We backtracked their path to find the start of the carriage rides. Luckily there was no line. Especially nice since it was quite COLD last night - probably around freezing then, below 20 overnight. And there was a blanket in the carriage.

Even better, there were 2 blankets. A and I are sharing a blanket here while M and D share the other.

A wanted to pet the horse and say hi after our ride.

After the ride we looked in one shop, then decided to warm up with dinner at the Celtic Tavern. M wanted a cheeseburger but there wasn't one on the kids menu, so he got the full adult burger. He managed to eat the whole large burger. I was disappointed that they didn't have the Brunswick stew we'd had there before, but their vegetable beef soup was also very tasty and just what I wanted on a cold night. A enjoyed popcorn shrimp and D had fish and chips. All quite tasty and warming. Which was good, because then we went back outside and went for a (trackless) train ride, around the same loop the carriage took. Unfortunately no blankets on the train. When we got to the starting point for the train ride, there was a line, but then the train came and only a few people got on and the train started to pull away half-full. WAIT! We got the train to stop and we got on. It seems that the train and carriage ride lines had merged - everyone else was in line for the carriage ride.

We looked in one more shop, then headed over to the Arts Council for a play. The play was being put on by a group of late elementary to middle school age kids. We knew two of the kids in the play, a girl from M's class and the daughter of one of M's former teachers. It was really cute - an adaptation of A Christmas Carol. My favorite part was when Marley's ghost came out - with dreadlocks, dressed as Bob Marley. The kids didn't get it, but clearly the adults in the audience did. There were several other twists and a few comments for locals. It was nice and not too long. The kids weren't sure they would like it, but we all enjoyed it.

The best part was that all of it (well, except our dinner) was free. The carriage ride, the train ride and the play - all FREE. Supposedly Santa was there somewhere for pictures too, but we didn't see him. But it was a nice festive event.

Thursday, December 07, 2006


It was past time to bring out the nativity set (in previous years I have had to insist on waiting til after Thanksgiving to bring it out), so last night we cleared the end of the buffet and went down to bring up the nativity set. Well, while I was gathering the set, Shadow decided that he liked the spot and settled down for a nap! So, we decided we could wait while the kids showered/bathed. By then, Shadow had moved on to another spot.

First comes the towel - properly sand colored. Then the stable. Then its time to start unwrapping the figures.

Here M has almost finished unwrapping all the people and animals.

M and A arrange the figures, to their satisfaction.

They have some interesting ideas, as you can see. (Click on the photo for a larger image.) They have someone (the innkeeper?) standing on the roof of the stable and a scroll balanced on a wise man's head.

Today the innkeeper moved to hanging out the window at the back of the stable and all the wise men are balancing scrolls. Who knows what tomorrow will bring! It's never dull around our stable...

Monday, December 04, 2006

Gingerbread House

We tried a different sort of gingerbread house this year - an A frame type. It is a bit easier to "glue" together than the traditional rectangle. Having to reconstitute old icing didn't help matters, though. Periodically I had to squeeze out some icing that hadn't gotten mixed well and was too dry.

Here's M after we have gotten the basic frame together.

A is ready to attach a decoration.

The finished house: TA-DA!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

An Affair to Remember

It was supposed to be a catered dinner after church as part of their stewardship campaign. Well, it will be remembered all right, just not for the reasons the church wanted. The parish hall looked lovely, everyone was dressed up, including our kids (not quite so happily).

But there was NO FOOD. Nil. Nada. Zippo. The caterer didn't show. She was supposed to be there by 11am to serve at 12:00. When word went out that the food wasn't there yet, they asked people to wait a bit to see if she would show. Meanwhile, they decided to go ahead and have the children's choir (including M) practice - instead of waiting until after the dinner. Good thing, because the caterer still hadn't shown by 12:45 when choir practice was over and we left. We heard later that the caterer couldn't find the church - because she had forgotten which church she was supposed to be at. And she had no phone number to call. And she hadn't left a cell phone number with anyone at the church. And she hadn't called her own number to check for messages. Amazing. I can't imagine how she manages to run a business like this.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Tis the Season...of scheduling conflicts

As we get into Decemeber and the holiday season, it always seems to generate conflicts in schedules. Today's was a Christmas party for the ushers at church vs the Christmas parade that the Scouts always participate in. Party was from 4-7 and the parade started at 4:30. No way to make both. My mom offered to take the boys to the parade while D and I went to the party. And a good time was had by all, or so I'm told. M wasn't initially all that thrilled to ride in the parade, but hearing that my mom would collect candy for them helped matters. The kids came home with about half as much candy as they took to throw (still more candy than needed in the house, IMO).

I'll try to get pictures from my mom to post later.