Easter Blossoms

It’s been four years since we’ve done Easter on our own.  I’m usually more laid-back about this holiday, unlike Christmas.  Perhaps because I want the observance to be more about personal spiritual reflection?


But we did go to the neighborhood egg hunt yesterday (sponsored by the Presbyterian church down the street).


Eleanor found one of the “golden eggs” that she exchanged for a special prize.  They gave her a whole bag of Easter-y swag, including a chocolate crucifix.  Now that’s sacrilicious!



After church today we cooked up some Gouda potatoes and headed off to Bellevue for Easter dinner with friends.  On the way we decided to stop at the Seattle temple and walk around the grounds, since Eleanor has been asking to do this.



The gardens include this little woodsy area with little pathways circling in and around the trees.  Benches, birdbaths and garden art are tucked here and there in corners.  It’s really quite lovely, and the most perfect place for children to play.

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One side of the temple grounds had a frothy row of blooming cherry trees.  Cue the impromptu portrait session in 3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . .

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Happy Halloween Times

This was the best picture I could manage, under the sugar-induced hyperactivity:

Katie’s an elephant, Wimmy’s a ninja, Jeffrey is Frodo Baggins, and Eleanor is Felicity from the American Girl books.

And her costume is a total wow:

Her aunt Kristen volunteered to make it for her, and it is rather spectacular.  I don’t know if Eleanor fully appreciates it, which is why I’m going to make sure she gets sewing lessons.

From the back:

Geez, beautiful.  Other seasonal events included the ward Trunk-Or-Treat (motto: “Because Walking Door to Door is Too Inefficient”).  I was able to get them to hold still for this one:

Carving pumpkins!  Shortly after which we realized we had no candles to put in the pumpkins, yay!

I also helped with Eleanor’s class party.  She did this pumpkin game with the classroom smartboard:

And her teacher was dressed like a Lego Captain America.  The man knows his audience.

William’s class walked through as part of a parade midway through the party.  I was happy to see him, and the feeling was mutual:

To cap it all off, I shall also present to you the creepiest thing I’ve seen all season:

What is it? A portrait Eleanor made of me.

Wha?? Why does she think I look like a cross between an alien and Morticia Addams?

The color I can explain away because she was using only Sharpies and highlighters to make it, but the widow’s peak?? THE CAT EYES? The weird little beauty mark by the lips?

Jibbly jibbly jibbly jibblly ew ew ew ewwwww.  All I need is for it to come to life and whisper “COME ON IN HEEEEERE” in a demon’s voice.  Jibbly jibbly jibbly.

New Year’s 2012: Revenge of the Sinus


Especially if, by “dragonnnn!!!” you mean “soul-crushing cold virus.”

By the evening of December 25, my head was so sore and stuffy that my teeth hurt whenever I blew my nose.  The week between Christmas and New Year’s is usually busy; I take the kids on trips to museums, parks, and the zoo.  Not so this year.  My body gave me a Time Out.  Napping was the priority.

It was a surprisingly good thing.  We all lounged around the house, feeling cozy, putting together puzzles, eating chocolates, and enjoying our Christmas gifts.

The kids were allowed to take over the dining room with Lego creations.  Ella spent the week in her princess dresses.

I even managed to summon the energy to use up the gingerbread cookie mix someone left on our porch.  (Yes, porch.  That’s the way we roll in these parts.)

Brian even cancelled a golf game with my dad on the 27th to stay home and help me get well.  Which turned out to be fortunate, as that was the same day one of our kitchen cabinets fell off the wall, breaking almost all of the dishes inside.  (Bright Side: all of the ’60s “rooster” casserole dishes were saved.  Dark Side: the beautiful ceramic Ben Behunin platter was destroyed.)  It was nice to not clean that up all by myself.

I was feeling somewhat normal by the time New Year’s Eve rolled around.  Our friends AnnaJune and Justin hosted a Cupcake War.  The “dragon” cupcakes (at the top of this post) made our entry.  Those are red velvet donuts on top of the cupcakes.  Yum.

Because I didn’t cook a fancy dinner on Christmas, I decided to do so on New Year’s Day.  I invited my parents and brother over, and we ate a roast with all the fixings.  (Lego dragons were used as centerpieces.)

There was even a ganache-covered cake with peppermint cream that was so delicious I didn’t even have a chance to photograph it until it looked like this:

That kind of face-stuffing glee is the greatest compliment a chef can get.  Happy New Year, my friends.  May your future be filled with all kinds of cake.


Christmas Day in the Morning

I said in my last post that not even the Cold Virus of Doom could stop my Christmas.  Well, that was foolish.  Brian and I woke up at 4:30 a.m. on Christmas morning with stuffy noses and headaches, and weren’t able to get back to sleep.  We didn’t bother trying to go to church, which was kind of disappointing (I missed hearing the choir!).

Which is why my smile is kind of strained in this picture:

Doesn’t matter though.  The kids’ smiles make up for it. Excepting Katie, of course, whose scowl is For The Ages.

Reading new books that Santa brought can also make up for it.

Not to mention gingerbread waffles.  This recipe is excellent; I’ll be sharing it in a future post.  Eleanor had been talking about our Christmas breakfast for weeks, asking over and over if we were going to have sausages.  Well, we did, and of course, Eleanor decided she didn’t want sausages after all.  Silly six year old.

We asked the children to put on clothes before opening presents.  Eleanor expressed her impatience via whiteboard:

Okay, okay, okay.  Presents it is.  William was so excited that he dropped to the floor and began doing push-ups.  Real, actual full-body push-ups!  Ten of them!

This was Katie’s first attempt at unwrapping, so she needed tutors.  I think she was rather successful, don’t you?

Taking a break with Daddy was a good idea, too.

In fact, is was so good that Kate decided to do a repeat at Grandpa’s house later that afternoon.

Aunt Caitlin received a t-shirt that we all love (good job, Michael & Natalie).

The evening was rounded out with games and vanilla snowballs. Annnnnd that’s when the head cold really caught up with me.  More to come in the thrilling holiday conclusion!

Christmas Eve Rave

The calendar was full.  Eleanor diligently glued a cotton ball on Santa’s beard for 25 days.

NOTHING could stop this holiday from being fabulous.  Not even my dreadful head cold/sinus infection.  Consider, if you will:

Spending the morning sorting Froot Loops by color, as part of a present for my brother, Erich.  You know a day that starts this way is gonna be great, right?

RIGHT!  Now bring on the pancakes!

Bring on the bell choir performance/carol sing-along!

(I’d like to spend a moment here to congratulate the person in charge of the concert for correctly referring to the ensemble as a “carillon,” as opposed to “hand bell ringing bell group,” which is how the lady at the retirement home referred to us.)

Bring on the meatball sandwich dinner at my house!  (Yeah, I really scaled back the cooking/baking this year.  Last year, I made a ham with roasted pear & cranberry chutney, and for dessert served four kinds of homemade cookies plus a grand trifle that took three days to prepare.  This year I dumped frozen meatballs in a Crock Pot and called myself done.)

Bring on the Grand Finding of the Pickle!  (My mom hid a cotton-stuffed pickle on my Christmas tree.  Brian found it and won a copy of the “Munchkin” game.)

AND NOW . . . bring on the RAVE PARTY!

Yeah.  My parents had purchased these little “finger lazers” for everyone as part of an object lesson about light, rainbows, and God’s promises.  So for about twenty minutes, my house looked like this:

I DARE YOU to prove your Christmas was more rockin’ than THIS.

Oh!  And Christmas Eve is the only evening I’ll light all the candles in the house.  So now I have little wax spots allll over my fireplace.  But it was purty.

After the light display, my parents gave presents to the children.  The boys received remote-control cars (Katie was very excited to see them driving around, and squealed) while Eleanor was given a big whiteboard and a box of dry-erase markers.  Eleanor latched onto the idea immediately:

Yes, thak you, Gramo.  Bring on Christmas!

Once Within a Lowly Stable

And on that day, Joseph did bring Mary forth on a donkey.

It was hard to get that donkey to go towards Bethlehem . . .

. . . even when Joseph tried to bribe it with treats.

Even when Joseph commanded the donkey to repent.

Eventually Joseph and Mary did come forth unto an inn, but Lo!  There was no vacancy!

The innkeeper suggested they go unto the stable.

So they did.

Mary was exceedingly brave to ride sidesaddle on a donkey for so long.

Joseph shooed the livestock away.

Meanwhile, there were shepherds in the same country, abiding in the fields and saying, “Hey look!  Real sheep!”

There were also babes in sheep’s clothing.

Who were cute despite being false sheep.

An angel of the Lord did come down, and said “Fear not!” but it was rather fearful anyway and the shepherds did quake.

Meanwhile, the babe was born in the stable, and Mary smiled despite how shivery cold it was.

Then the shepherds did sidle on over, and Lo! did everyone smile forth for the camera.

Merry Christmas, One and All!



Last Saturday my generous mother-in-law took me, Eleanor, and Jeffrey to see Ballet West’s production of The Nutcracker.  It was brilliant stuff.  Great dancing, and I was most impressed to see a full smoke ring come out of the cannon during the fight with the Mouse King.

Afterwards, there was a “Sugar Plum Fairy” where the kids got to go onstage to meet the performers (Eleanor was way to shy to say anything), have cookies, watch a magician, and — best of all for Jeff — ask the propsmaster all the questions he wanted.  Jeff’s enthusiasm must have charmed him, because he let Jeff hold the Nutcracker’s sword, and also try on the big Nutcracker head.

“What was your favorite part?” he asked Jeff.

“Oh, when the cannon went off!” Jeff replied.

Mr. Propsmaster smiled widely.  “Yeah, wasn’t that great!  The smoke ring went all the way across the stage!”

Playing “Nutcracker” is now one of the standard activities around here.  On Wednesday, the kids even put on costumes and asked if I would film them doing dances.  I was more than happy to oblige — and now you can enjoy it, too!  It’s five minutes of holiday cheer I’m sure you’ll enjoy.

Occupy Candy Land

Brian’s family loves making an elaborate gingerbread creation every year, especially something topical or impressive.  Past years have included a castle, the White House, and an aquarium.  This year, they decided to recreate the Occupy Wall Street protest in sugar, frosting, and cookie dough.


Let me take you on a tour.  Here’s the facade of the New York Stock Exchange:

And the statue of the bull on Wall Street.

Inside, the 1%-ers are sipping champagne, smoking cigars, and snacking on caviar and toast points.  (I made these guys and gave them all monocles.)  Note the stock ticker on the wall.

Meanwhile, there are hippies in a drum circle (I made the ones with dredlocks).

Protesters surrounded by riot police and being casually attacked with pepper spray:

Hipsters with nerd glasses and goatees attend a protest meeting. Major props go to my sister-in-law’s husband Jake, who hand-carved the glasses out of clove-flavored gumdrops.  Oh, can you find Candy Waldo in this scene?

Zuccotti Park is populated with Fruit Roll-Up tents, piles of sleeping bags,  and a gigantic stack of donated library books made from Andes Mints.

Finally, Jeffrey insisted that there be a ninja scaling the building, which Caitlin says sounds exactly like the kind of stunt the real occupiers would pull.  Jeff says his ninja is named “PG-13 Spy Man.”  I like that guy.

WE ARE THE 99%!  The delicious, delicious, 99%.

Cookie Day & Christmas Village

My kids have no school this week, and boredom isn’t an option.  Fortunately, there is a wonderful grandma in our life who is more than willing to let her grandkids trash her kitchen.

Jeffrey: expert cookie cutter

William: supreme dough roller

Eleanor: takes on any and all flour-sprinkling duties

June: absolute best at smiling for the camera

We made this many cookies.  Lo, the sugar rush was great in size.

To shake off the sweets, my mom and I took my kids to Ogden’s Christmas Village afterwards.  For those of you not in the know, this is a series of miniature cottages, decorated inside with holiday-themed dioramas.

Some of the cottages have little nooks especially designed for children to climb and explore.  Others have buttons to push for special effects (like an animatronic Santa waving his robot arm, etc.).  We were there early in the day, so my kids didn’t have to compete to see the special effects.

I loved this “Hansel and Gretel” house, although I’m not sure if my kids recognized the story.

My mom and I really liked this scene of snowmen at a lunch counter.  The snowman on the center stool foolishly ordered hot chili and, as you can see, has melted, much to the dismay of his friends.

The children’s favorite was a house showing a nutcracker workshop.  There were probably over a hundred nutcrackers on display in the little house — so fun for playing “I Spy.”  Thanks again, Mom, for a lovely winter day out!

And EVEN MORE Saints and Angels Sing

In my family, this is when Christmas really begins:

This is our ward Primary’s nativity pageant.  This year featured a very nervous Angel Gabriel:

A cow with sideways horns (my mom said, “Hey, there could have been a unicorn in the stable, right?”):

Three kings who couldn’t stop smirking:

Best of all, there was an adorable singing angel Eleanor:

A happy shepherd Jeffrey (he’s to the right of the kid with glasses):

And a sweet star William.

During the performance, poor William was stuck in the glare of the spotlight, so he looked like this:

Don’t nobody scowl like Wimmy.  But he was cheered up afterwards with one of these beautiful angel cookies:

Trust me, they tasted as good as they look.  They were made by a lady somewhere on the other side of town who bakes and sells custom sugar cookies out of her home.  SO IMPRESSIVE.  Brian and I bit the wings off first, to make them “ecclesiastically correct” angels.  Eleanor said she liked them because “they look just like me!”  You be the judge:

Best of all, all of the grandparents were there to watch.  Shoulder rides from grandpas are very important, especially if you’ve worked hard at memorizing the words to “The First Noel.”