Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Night Before Christmas

'Twas the night before Christmas
and on Oakbriar Farm,
we had just come from Auntie's
and our hearts felt all warm.

Our bellies were full of roast beef and brie,
and our minds full of memories of the guys playing Wii.
Evie and GaGa had fun drawing pictures,
and Raja had fun tickling them with his whiskers.

But now we are home
and wishing for sleep,
and hoping that Evie does not make a peep.

Evie is nestled all snug in her bed,
but a wee tiny fever warms her forehead.
Dr. Hartman told us "'It will be gone in a day,"
but Mommy is worried and so she will pray:
that Evie will wake up so healthy and sound
and then run downstairs where the gifts will be found.

The baby doll bed is under the tree
and Evie will see it tomorrow with glee.
Gooey Butter Cake is out for Saint Nick.
We're sure he will gobble it up very quick.

Mommy and Daddy will be up for awhile
since the gifts for the morning are still in a pile.
Daddy will wrap till his fingers are aching
and Mommy will finish cleaning up from her baking.

Now my dear bloggy friends, I really must go.
Chris is waiting for me with mistletoe.
But I must say one thing before I turn out the light:
"Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Kringleville Bakery

A few weeks ago, Evie and I attended a cookie decorating event at Kringleville Bakery.

The decorating was fun! The bakery ladies gave us a plain cookie and tons of icing. I love decorating cookies, but hate the icing clean up, so this was perfect! Evie wanted a snowman, so together we piped a cute little blue snowman with a red hat. Because it hadn't snowed here yet, (and there was green icing readily available,) we piped a little grass underneath our snowman.

Then came the sprinkles! Evie smashed so many jimmies and sprinkles onto this cookie that you couldn't even tell there had ever been a snowman! In fact, both GaGa and Chris thought it was a Christmas tree when they saw it later! But Evie had fun and so did I.

Somehow I must have erased the pictures from my camera, but my friend Lisa just emailed me this photo. (That's her beautiful Hailey in the red shirt!) What a sweet memory of a sweet afternoon!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Photo Meme

In the past couple of days, Nell and Renee have both tagged me for photo memes. Since my brain is fried from last-minute shopping, this is the perfect meme for me!

The rules are simple:
-Open the 4th picture folder on your computer.
-Open the 4th picture in that folder and post it on your blog.
-Explain the picture. (Hopefully you can remember!)
-Tag 4 other bloggers to do the same.

Explanation: Several years ago, Chris and I took a dream trip to Italy. This photo was taken in Florence, right outside the Uffizi. We were waiting in line for the museum when I noticed an artist selling her work from a cart nearby. I remember I liked the colors she used - such pretty yellows and oranges. I bought several, intending to have them framed when we returned home. When we cleaned out the closet in the guest bedroom a few months ago, I found them! (I'll get around to the framing some day!)

I'm tagging eight people, since I was tagged twice (4 times 2 = 8!):
Sandy (She takes great pictures, so I'm excited to see her post!)
Momma (Where have you been?)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Twenty-Three Months

Sweet Evie,

Twenty-three months. The time passes so quickly! It's funny - sometimes when the day is gone and it's time for a bath and getting you down for bed, I think "I want more time with her!" But I'd be lying if I didn't admit that on some nights, I'm so grateful for the peace after you've gone to sleep.

As I write this, you are napping. You and I have recently been reading Christmas books before your nap. It started with just one or two books, but now we're up to four. And sometimes we read them more than once. I can't help it, though. It's fun to snuggle next to you while we read about snowmen and penguins and Santa. After we read today, we cuddled under the covers and you said "Happy Mommy!" I wonder if you were telling me you're happy, or if you were just commenting on the smile on my face...

You really love reading. We borrowed a book from the library called Katy Duck, and it's your favorite. Katy Duck is a ballerina who twirls and spins. You'll bring the book to me and say "Katy Duck! Tutu!" So we go in your room and put one of your tutus on. As I read you spin around in giant circles and yell "Quack, quack!"

You love playing dress-up. You like wearing your tutus, but you really come up with some odd attire combinations. I've seen you in a gaudy beaded necklace, sunglasses, a bucket hat, and a cat tail from an old Halloween costume. You've worn pjs, a tutu, and a furry winter vest from last year. Hats and necklaces accessorize anything. And anything can be a purse. If it has handles, you loop it over your arm and say "Bye bye."

You have your favorite "everyday" clothes, too. I bought you a shirt from the Gap a couple months ago that says Candy Girl. You also have a blue shirt with a penguin and peppermint candy that you call your "Blue Candy Girl Shirt." You ask to wear these shirts everyday. If I tell you they are both dirty, you demand "Wash!" GaGa came over this afternoon and we listened to Sugar Sugar by The Archies. You love it, just for the line "You are my candy, girl."

You are speaking so well, and SO MUCH! I really can't believe the progress you're making. Last weekend you said your first sentence, "Daddy loves garlic!" You're at the point where you can communicate just about anything you need. I still marvel over the words you pick up - water tower, appetizer, clementine. When Daddy and I were on our honeymoon at the Vidafel Resort, we bought this little turtle and named him Vidafel. You've recently discovered him and ask for him by name many times each day - "Vidafel! Hold Vidafel!" You only have to hear a word once and it's in your memory. The other day, Daddy was impatient because another car was trying to turn in front of us in traffic. From the back seat, your little voice piped "Go, Buddy!"

You become so excited over little things. It's so fun to see your reaction to the ordinary. You'll clap your hands and say "Yea! Black beans!" or "Yea! Christmas Lights!" or "Yea! Santa!" or "Yea! Snowman!" or even "Yea! Band-Aids!" The other day we were in Target and I decided to pick up milk while we were there. You screamed "Yea! Milk!" and clapped your hands loudly. I swear, people must have thought you haven't had milk in years.

Your favorite drink is strawberry milk. Sometimes, just to tease me, you ask for white milk. As I hand it to you, you'll get a naughty look and say "Pink milk!" You love pomegranate, oranges, pizza, popcorn, and edamame. The other day you asked to eat at McDonald's! You haven't been there more than ten times ever, but you are hooked already. It must be the fries.

You are such a good little girl. You already have a chore - when I empty the dishwasher, you put away the forks and spoons. When you're finished, you always beg for more utensils! And you are very polite. You always say "Please" and "Thank you." I often see people look impressed when you say "Thank you," and it makes me feel like I'm doing something right.

You love praying and we usually have to pray twice before each meal. You insist. You also notice Baby Jesus everywhere, so close to Christmas. He's in a little walnut shell on our Christmas tree, as you're fond of showing me. He's on a magnet on the fridge. He's in the nativity in your room and we saw Him in the Christmas drama at church. As you grow up, I hope you continue to remember He's with us always.

There's a line I heard in Sugar Sugar that resonated with me today, "I just can't believe the loveliness of loving you." It really is lovely to love you.

Love, Mommy

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Our Soundtrack

Finally, Evie's taste in music is improving! For so long, it was Almost Everything is Boinga all the time. Over and over and over. But this week, things have suddenly changed for the better.

I was at the computer the other day and noticed Nell's latest post in my blogroll. It was called Thank You Mr. Postman, and it made me think of the song Please Mr. Postman. Since they're the only ones I know, I kept singing the lyrics that go "Wait a minute, Mr. Postman! Please Mr. Postman, look and see. Is there a letter in your bag for me?" Evie loved it! And then, all on her own, she reached behind herself into a pretend "bag" and pulled out a pretend "letter." As she handed the letter to me, her face was radiant with a big, beautiful smile!

As you can gather from this post, I sing a lot. Mostly just what's stuck in my head, but also anything that's useful for getting Evie's attention. For instance, when I ask her to lay down so I can change her diaper, I sing a few lines from Lay Down Sally by Eric Clapton. The other day, out of the blue, Evie demanded "Lay down Sally!" I sang her the chorus several times, until I was just sick and tired of it! Folks, here's the magic of iTunes - for a mere dollar, Evie can hear it whenever she wants. And she wants to hear it constantly. We only bought it Sunday, and it's been played 65 times. Although her taste is improving, I've quickly learned even good music can get old. But watching her dance to this song is so much fun. She shakes her arms and twirls around, screeching with joy. My mom saw her, and said I used to boogie to this same song when I was a little tot. It must be in Evie's genes.

I must also mention the holiday music that's on the radio constantly this time of year. When we get in the car, Evie asks "Red nose?" She loves to hear Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, and Jingle Bells. I don't know what we'll do when the Christmas stations switch back to their regular formats!

I'm enjoying the new variety of music in our home. At least for the time being, we like the same songs. But I know it won't be too long until Chris introduces her to Metallica and I am yelling something like "Turn down that racket!" I'll just enjoy it for now.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - Santa Baby

P.S. - I know you're all only looking at my adorable daughter. But I have to tell you the color is messed up in these photos. No, sorry to disappoint, our wall is really not shocking blue...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Cookie Craft

Okay, months ago I claimed I had the best sugar cookie recipe ever. And I'm still sticking to my guns. I don't even like sugar cookies, but these are so sweet and flavorful that I make an exception.

The problem is that they spread just a little. Really, it's not bad, but I want those perfectly shaped sugar cookies. So when my mom gave me an early Christmas present, a book called Cookie Craft, I was interested. The authors, Valerie Peterson and Janice Fryer, claim to have designs and techniques for all your creative cookie occasions.

These women do not disappoint.

First, the book is beautiful. It begins with cookie inspirations - perfectly decorated sugar cookies for every season and occasion. They even give you ideas for "dressing up" plain cookie cutters like ovals and circles. I would have never thought to make a purse or candy-corn turkey from an oval cutter, or an Easter bonnet or Santa from a round cutter.

I thought the best part of the book was the recipe and techniques for creating the perfect blank cookie-canvas. I was skeptical, really. After all, I have the best recipe ever. But they sold me with their dough that does not have to be refrigerated for 24 hours before rolling and cutting. They sold me with their "cookie slats." They sold me with the "roll, chill, cut" method.

It was all true. These were the easiest sugar cookies I've ever made. However, taste is really important to me. And these cookies have it! While I don't think they are as good as my recipe, they are a very close second. But their beauty - the uniform cooking, the perfect edges, absolutely no spreading - makes them winners.

I have to admit that I completely wrecked their royal icing recipe for flooding the cookies. I think I over beat the egg whites. Whatever happened, I ended up with something that resembled marshmallow fluff. After berating myself, I used the piping icing and just put little polka dots all over the cookies and sprinkled them with sanding sugar. Cute as a button. (I know, I should have taken pictures. What kind of blogger am I?)

I'm not being paid to write this. (But I really, really wish I was!) The authors have never heard of me. I just think this is a great book, especially this time of year. If you're set on making the perfect Christmas cookies, check it out.

Oh, and thanks, Mom! I love it!

Lisa hosts Tempt My Tummy Tuesdays over at Blessed with Grace. Visit her for yummy Christmas recipes! This week she has a giveaway for a fabulous cookbook holder!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Siesta Ornament Exchange

This year, I participated in the Siesta Ornament Exchange. Was I surprised when Jeno, my Siesta Buddy, sent a giant package!

There was my beautiful ornament of the Holy Family, plus lots of extras - a cross for the wall, books, an Amy Grant CD, and even two gifts for Evie from Jeno's daughters. I have such a sweet, generous Siesta Buddy!

My ornament is so glittery and pretty! It's also sturdy, and I hung it on a low branch so Evie can touch it. It looks so beautiful with the lights on!

Merry Christmas and thanks, Siesta Buddy!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Easy & Classic Christmas Crafts

My mom recently reminded me of a few crafts I did as a young child, and we tried them out with Evie. First, GaGa came over and helped us make the candy cane reindeer (and Evie scarfed down a whole candy cane in about two minutes!) A few dabs of glue and a couple twists of a pipe cleaner, and you have yourself a reindeer ornament! When we were kids, we made these and hung them on our tree. On Christmas morning, we were allowed to take them off and eat the candy canes!

The tree was very simple. I just cut it out from construction paper, and glued on the star and garland. Then I gave Evie the cut out ornaments and glitter glue. She lovingly "hung" the ornaments on the tree!

What crafts do you do with your kids during the holiday season?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Ultimate Party Meatballs

This is a busy season of the year. We have pictures to take with Santa, shopping to complete, cards to mail to everyone we've ever known, gifts to wrap, and parties to attend. On top of all this, we often have to bring a dish to those parties.

This Sunday, I tried a new recipe. Actually, it was so easy that Chris made it while I was in the shower. Yes, girls, it really is that easy!

I wasn't sure how it would turn out. But let me give you some insight into the popularity of these tiny gems: Evie and her little friend Andrew (who is about sixteen months old) inhaled the meatballs. Chris and I tried to figure it out yesterday, and we figure they ate about five apiece! That's a lot for their toddler tummies!

The adults liked them, too. The meatballs were more savory than sweet, which surprised me, and they made a great addition to the buffet spread! Chris made them in the crock pot, so they even kept warm on the drive to the party.

Ultimate Party Meatballs
1 16-ounce can Ocean Spray® Jellied Cranberry Sauce
1 12-ounce bottle Heinz® Chili Sauce
1 2-pound bag frozen, pre-cooked, cocktail-size meatballs

Place meatballs in a slow cooker. Combine sauces and pour over meatballs. Cover and cook 4 hours on HIGH.

Alternatively, you can combine sauces in a large saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring until smooth. Add meatballs. Cover and cook for 15 minutes or until meatballs are heated through, stirring occasionally.

Makes 30 appetizer servings. Enjoy! You can find more easy party recipes and planning tips here.

Lisa hosts Tempt My Tummy Tuesdays over at Blessed with Grace. Visit her for more yummy recipes!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Charge It!

A few weeks ago, we were shopping and Chris allowed Evie to "swipe" the credit card. Of course she loved it.

Now, she make-believe swipes credit cards all the time. Really. ALL. THE. TIME.

Anything can be a credit card machine. For instance, she likes to ride around on her little red car. The toy started out as a walker for Evie, but the sides slide together and it becomes a ride-on car. There is a groove where the two sides come together, and the other day I noticed Evie swiping old Valentine's Day cards!

Then yesterday we were at lunch and she started using the wooden menu holder as a credit card machine. I gave her an old Kohl's coupon that's shaped just like a credit card and is on heavy card stock. She was in Swiping Heaven, and stayed occupied for quite awhile.

Don't you wonder what she's purchasing with all these credit cards? I hope she gets a job so she can pay the bills. I don't want her spending all her playtime pretending to avoid calls from debt collectors...

Sunday, December 7, 2008

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas!

I just spent the evening with 600 other women at church, preparing our hearts for the Christmas season. It was a night of phenomenal music, great conversation, Jesus, and cheesecake. Enough said.

I'm most certainly in the Christmas spirit. And so is our home. The lights are on outside, the tree is up, and the banister and mantle are decorated with evergreen and red ribbon.

Each night Evie and I walk down the driveway, hand in hand. Luckily, she hasn't yet caught on that Daddy stays behind in the garage. We get to the end of the driveway and turn to face our house. Evie yells "Christmas!" and out lights come on! Even though I know Chris is making it happen, it's still magic.

Yes, this really is the "most wonderful time of the year."

Saturday, December 6, 2008

She's "Snow" Beautiful!

Last Sunday, we awoke to a winter wonderland.

Really, it was perfect. The ground was just coated enough to look fresh and bright. Evie looked out the doors in the kitchen and said "Snow! Whoa! Snowman!" We promised to take her out right after breakfast.

Having a child makes all these "same old" experiences new again. Her excitement at the snow made me excited, too. So we hurried through breakfast and suited up. Long underwear, socks, pants, t-shirt, sweater, coat, hat, mittens, and finally SNOW BOOTS! Evie has been dying to wear her snow boots since GaGa bought them for her almost two months ago. And the day was finally here!

We didn't stay out long, but it was enough for Evie to work up the courage to walk in the snow and then to ride in a sled pulled by Daddy. She shrieked as she went down the small hill and cried "More! More!" Chris pulled her back and forth several times, until they had worn the snow away!

By the time we made it home from church later that morning, the snow had melted and disappeared. We've had a few more dustings since then. But I'm waiting for a big snow with the excitement of a child. Because I can't wait to see MY CHILD zip up those snow boots again and build her first snowman.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Liar, Liar! Pants on Fire!

I am lying to my daughter. And, no, I'm not talking about Santa.

If you've read this blog for any amount of time, you know Evie is teeny-tiny. You also know I worry and obsess about her weight gain. But I have discovered a great trick!

Evie is in love with The Backyardigans. So lately, we don't have macaroni and cheese - we have "Ho Daddy, Surf's Up Noodles." We don't have sausage and barley soup - we have "Yeti Soup." Instead of ham, we have "Vroom, Vroom Crusin' the Dunes Ham."

Tonight we had pork. Evie wouldn't touch it. What she really begged for was my Spring Mix salad with Red Wine Mist dressing. But when I said "Do you know what that is? It's Polka Palace Party Pork!" she dug right in. Immediately. In fact, she ate every single bite on her plate. She also had a hefty helping of Ho Daddy Noodles.

Why can't this work in reverse? Wouldn't it be great if I just renamed chocolate cake and then didn't want it anymore? "Big Belly Brown Bread? No thanks!" Wishful thinking...

How 'bout you? What little white lies do you tell your children?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Napa Cabbage Salad

This salad is GOOD! I like to make it in the summer for potlucks, but it works equally as well in cold weather when paired with Chinese take-out! Be sure to have extra copies of the recipe on hand when you serve this to company!

Napa Cabbage Salad
1 (3 oz) package chicken flavored Ramen Noodles
1/4 c butter
1/2 c sesame seeds, toasted
1/2 c blanched slivered almonds
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 large head napa cabbage, shredded
6 green onions
1/4 c vegetable oil
1/4 c rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp white sugar

Crush noodles well, place in a medium skillet and brown in butter. Add almonds and sesame seeds, stirring often to prevent burning. Add seasoning mix from noodles, remove from heat, and cool. Toss in a large bowl with cabbage and onions.

Prepare the dressing by whisking together the vegetable oil, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil and sugar. Pour over salad, toss and serve.


Lisa hosts Tempt My Tummy Tuesdays over at Blessed with Grace. Visit her for more yummy recipes!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Mother Letter Project

A few weeks ago I told you about a sweet, sweet man and the gift he's giving his wife for Christmas.

Well, I wrote a letter to share the wisdom I have learned since becoming a mother myself. What I've learned is no newsflash, but something I've realized as I journey down this path.

Dear Mother,

It's hard to write a letter to someone I don't know. I don't know your name or what you look like. I don't know your hobbies or dreams or the things that keep you from falling asleep at night. But I do know one of the very most important things about you - you are a mother.

I am a mother, too. My journey to become a mother was a long one, but my daughter is well worth the wait. She is all the best things about me, jammed into a very tiny package.

My husband and I tried for years to conceive a child. Month after month passed and the pregnancy test was always negative. We underwent many tests, spent thousands of dollars, and tried to mend our broken hearts. And we grew closer to our God, knowing He did not make a mistake in giving us this burden.

With the help of several nurses and three doctors, I was finally pregnant! Oh, it was a glorious time. I didn't hate my pregnant body the way some women do. I truly marveled at this miracle. It's still amazing to me that I grew my daughter right in my own womb.

No matter how our children come to us, it's a miracle to be a mother. It's also a crushing responsibility. I have "Perfect Mother Syndrome," although I believe I am recovering nicely now. There have been so many things in my life that I worked hard at, trying to be the best. I had the perfect career, the perfect marriage, the perfect little house, the perfect circle of friends. This mother thing is a whole new ballgame, though. Before my daughter was born I had already read all the books. I knew What to Expect the First Year and how to have the Happiest Baby on the Block. It makes me cringe a little to remember how naive I was!

You can't raise a child by the book though. My daughter cried for the first eight weeks of her life. I cried a lot, too. What had I gotten myself into? I talked to the doctor and swaddled and shushed. Against our pediatrician's advice, I finally committed the worst mommy sin of all and put her into bed with us. I held her all day long. I followed my instincts. And do you know what happened? She stopped crying.

So this is what I've learned - and have had to re-learn over and over again - I know better than anyone else how to take care of my child. No one knows her better than I. I should always follow my instincts.

Oh, and I've also learned I am a good mother. Maybe not perfect, but certainly good enough. That's what we need to tell one another. You are a good mother.

Congratulations on the wonderful person (or persons) you are raising. You are a good mother.

Evie's Mommy