Tag Archives: Holidays

Lollipop Valentines

I saw an idea for homemade Valentines on Pinterest that I wanted to try for Warren’s classmates. I thought it was clever and pretty easy to pull off.

Take a picture of your kid holding out his arm, add some hearts and “Happy Valentin’s Day!” (I used my Creative Memories program for the layout and Picnik.com to add the bokeh hearts and hand-drawn shapes), print as 4×6 photos at Costco, make slits at the top and bottom of the fist, and insert lollipop of choice.

I made a few versions and had him choose. He decided this one would be for the boys:

And this one he’d give to the girls:

Pretty simple and pretty cute.

My only regret is that we couldn’t use Livesaver’s Swirled Pops for the treat. They don’t make them anymore. Such a shame because they were the best sucker at Valentine’s Day. My favorite was the Strawberry & Vanilla flavor. I guess Blow Pops will just have to suffice.

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What do you do for Valentines at your house? Do you make them from scratch or buy the ones that come in a pack at the grocery store?

The Flurry of Christmas Day

Christmas was a bit hectic this year since it fell on a Sunday. And though we had plenty of time to get ready for church since it didn’t start until 1PM, it meant we actually had to get out of our jammies and stick to a schedule. Then we had to come home and prepare Christmas dinner. But it was nice to celebrate the Savior’s birth on the Sabbath and partake of the Sacrament on this special day.

The day whizzed by but we did enjoy the excitement the kids felt seeing their “Santa” gifts and digging in to all the sweets, goodies, and food that make this holiday so joyous.

Stockings are always stuffed with one small toy, sugar cereal, goldfish crackers, “cuties” oranges, chocolate of some sort, and candy canes. Maddie had consumed most of the candies before breakfast even started. The rest of us paced ourselves, especially since we needed to save room for our healthful lunch of cinnamon and orange rolls.

Even though Maddie asked for “pink” as her sole Christmas present, we went outside the box and got her something we knew she’d love: Darth Vader. It’s really a gumball machine (don’t tell!) but she just enjoys pushing the button to hear his infamous breathing sound.

Of the many things Warren wished for this year, we decided on the art kit and “how to draw” books. He set to work right away and created some awesome drawings. He even got his requested emergency candles in his stocking.

All of that sugar consumption must have gone to her stomach because after awhile we found Maddie hiding behind the couch. She said her belly hurt. She just needed a breather. She came out some time later ready for more.

Getting ready for church is always stressful. It’s even worse when there is the distraction of new toys and candy. Somehow we made it out the door, and on time even.

We had so much food. Truly, we are blessed and have all that we need and then some. We ended the day with a roast beef dinner, complete with potatoes gratin, salad, and coconut cake.

Our Christmas was indeed Merry and Bright.

Viewing the Christmas Lights

We decided to take the kids for a drive around Santa Barbara to see some Christmas lights. There is even a website that gives you a whole route to take, complete with directions of where and when to turn. (Thanks for the tip, MK!) It’s the same path that the touring trolley cars take. It sounded like a great activity for the Christmas season.

There is only one word that can be used to describe our evening of Christmas light viewing: BUST!

And it wasn’t because there was anything wrong with the route or that the traffic was out of hand. No. It was because our children either a) fell asleep or b) complained the entire trip. Specifically, the three youngest nodded off before we even made it off the freeway exit and the oldest whined about every single thing.

Maybe we set the stage wrong, I don’t know. All I know is that from the moment we turned on to State Street and the start of the route, Warren began complaining.

“What is this we’re listening to?” he grumbled from the back, even as the brightly lit store displays and decorative stars over the street lamps gleamed outside the car window. The Christmas c.d. had just switched to a comedic story we enjoy hearing once a year, “Polly Anderson’s Christmas Party.” Perhaps he was expecting “Frosty the Snowman” and was greatly disappointed to hear a Canadian accent instead.

After the fourth time whining to know when it would be over, I turned around in irritation.

“Warren, we’re here to see the lights. Your sister and brothers are asleep. That means this is all for you now. If you’re not enjoying the drive and happy to see the lights then we’re going to go home,” I told him sternly. His half-hearted okay led me to believe that his bad attitude would reappear shortly.

Unfortunately, I was right. We continued on the path and made it to the second neighborhood of many participating houses when he piped in once again.

“I’m bored!” he announced in a surly, Grinchy tone.

I took one last terrible picture of a lighted house (photographing in low lighting from a moving vehicle has too many limitations, even with a good camera) and told Colin to turn that car around. We were going home.

As soon as we stated that we were done and heading back, he let out a wail. And then he kept wailing all the way home.

“I want to go back! Let’s go back! We didn’t see enough lights! Please! Please! Let’s see more lights! We have to see more lights!” he cried in outrage.

In our 20 minute drive home I went from supreme irritation to disappointment to sympathy. In the end, I just felt bad for him. Sometimes it’s hard to be a kid. You just don’t know what you want or how to express it and when you do get what you want sometimes it’s overwhelming to handle.

Too much excitement? Too much stimulation? Too much sugar throughout the day? I don’t know what happened with Warren, but I do know that he deeply regretted his choice of attitude. Maybe next time he’ll think before he complains. At least when it comes to Christmas lights.

And maybe next year, more of our children will actually be awake for this outing.

Yuletide Decor

I freely admit my obsession with holiday decorating. But I’d like to make a case for myself that this Christmas season I was tame. Only two things were purchased, so I’d call that pretty constrained. The rest are items previously made or bought, but seeing them each year brings me joy.

One purchase, in particular, I was especially thrilled about. Our friends, Mary Karlee and Ryan, hosted a Nativity party. They had read in the BYU Alumni magazine about an organization that purchases nativity sets from artists in disadvantaged countries around the world and sells them at cost. 100% of the proceeds go to the artists in an effort to help them generate income through their own craft. Mary Karlee and Ryan bought some to display in the hopes that it would inspire people to want to buy these beautiful pieces of art. I was thrilled to finally find a set that I would feel proud to display. Not that I don’t like the Little People version. It’s awesome and has its function and the kids love it. But I wanted something not plastic. Something a little more respectful of the scene.

I love our new set. The fact that it’s almost ambiguous plus the beautiful black wood make it so striking. It’s from Kenya, Africa. I love knowing that the artist who made this is able to prosper from his own creation.

The next purchased items were supposed to look like this, but I was lazy. Or really, I just ran out of time and realized that I didn’t have the paper punch to create the leaves anyway. So instead I just wrapped the styrofoam in pretty paper and called them trees. Colin thought that was a bit of a stretch. He referred to them as festive cones. Judge for yourself, but I liked how they turned out just fine.

We didn’t technically join in on the Elf on the Shelf fun, but we did already have an elf. It was my mom’s first Christmas decoration when she left for college. Needless to say, he was around before this new elf craze began. He’s retro. I believe his name is Charlie. That’s what I kept calling him, anyway.

Other items scattered around our home have a good amount of history too. Like these ornaments. The wooden one of the angel on the sled has adorned the little table top tree we put up in the kitchen since I went off to college. The popsicle stick and fabric nativity ornament was made at my mom’s Relief Society Christmas Party years ago. It seems in stark contrast to the Lucy “Psychiatry Booth” requiring 5 cents for use, received when I was about 16.

Our faux mantle over the non-functioning fire place holds the all-important Christmas stockings. I bought that picture ledge specifically for the purpose of hanging stockings and it does the trick. Our stockings are a hodge podge of decorations collected and made over the years. The blue snowman soccer player was originally started for Colin at one of the craft days his mom’s side of the family used to hold during Thanksgiving reunions at Ensign Ranch in Washington. By the time I got around to finishing it, Warren was in need of a stocking so he inherited the thing. No one told me that stockings have a uniform protocol for direction, so his is facing the wrong way. So far, he doesn’t seem to mind so much.

Window decorations that look pretty with light shining through.

The kids love this finger puppet nativity set, but Jake and Joe chewed on them a little too much for comfort considering the materials and paint are a tad suspect.

The hallway entry table hosts our gingerbread advent calendar plus some simple pieces like pine cones and subway art I printed for free off Pinterest.

Little elements of the Christmas season that make me smile when I look around the house.

 

Cookie Exchange

Invitation designed by Punchbowl

Christmas is a time to eat. And what better way to celebrate the season of endless goodies than by hosting a cookie exchange– my first ever.

For some sad reason I did not take one single picture of this wonderful event, but rest assured I had a good time.

It was quite the cookie feast! Each gal who attended brought 2 dozen freshly baked cookies that were absolutely delectable. Chocolate, chocolate mint, lemon, raspberry, caramel and chocolate… What a spread! We sampled some there and took some home for later. I compiled the recipes into one collection that you can see here, if you’re looking for some tasty cookie ideas.

To make sure we had more to eat than just sugar, I served veggies and hummus, mini quiches (from Costco), herbed goat cheese and crackers, wassail, hot chocolate (that turned into pudding because I forgot to turn the crockpot to low!), and the recipe find of the year: Cranberry-Jalapeno Cream Cheese Dip and crackers. Please trust me, you must try this. I know this post is about cookies, but no one should go without trying this dip!

I wanted to have something for the many young children that would accompany their mamas to this event, so I put a table outside with flat gingerbread cookie houses, like this one, that they could decorate with cream cheese frosting (made by my friend, Rebecca, at the last minute as I was scrounging to finish setting up before the party started) and tons of candies. I’m pretty sure that most of the kids just licked the frosting and candies off the cookie, but I think they walked away satisfied.

My goal was to spread Christmas cheer and gorge on eat as many tasty cookies as possible. Mission accomplished, as far as I’m concerned. I loved spending time with friends as we munched on all the fine food the party had to offer.

I think I’ve found a new Christmas tradition.

Christmas Hand Rolls

I’ll admit, this post is a little bit of a tease. Every year we make these special candies for Christmas. Some to give as gifts and some to eat. And every year people ask us for the recipe to which we always answer, “Sorry, it’s a family secret.”

I will tell you this: those are peanuts you see coating that dark chocolate, so if you have a nut allergy we won’t leave them on your doorstep. And the soft candy center has a light fruit flavor, sometimes lemon, sometimes raspberry, and maybe next year orange. But that’s all the hinting you’re going to get.

These treats come from Colin’s dad’s side of the family. “Hand Rolls” are kind of a misnomer, but the process required to make them is somewhat intense. Colin and I have been making them together for the last 4 years and it’s become something I look forward to every Christmas season. It’s really his baby, though. I’m just the eager assistant. Each year we perfect the system even more. This year I’d even call it streamlined.

To those of you who have received these goodies and have tried to crack the recipe, feel free to keep guessing. But we stick to our vow of candy secrecy. Our lips are sealed.

Choosing the Christmas Tree

It was getting dark by the time we made it to Lane Farms to pick out our Christmas tree. But that didn’t stop Warren and Maddie from hopping up on the old tractor. Or from visiting some of the animals in the stable. The farm owners went all out and had a manger with some hay as a reminder of the purpose of this season. It’s not just to buy evergreen trees, believe it or not.

We decided to err on the cheaper side this year and passed over some beautiful Noble Firs for the more cost effective Douglass Fir. The nice guy working the tree area picked up our selection and tied it to our car before we were even done saying goodbye to the pot belly pig.

Our tree decorations are fairly simple. White lights and many memorable ornaments we’ve been given over the years. But it always makes us smile to look at it. Especially at night when it’s all lit up. I love staring at the twinkling lights while I sip something warm and the Christmas music fills our home. Such a peaceful break from the hubbub of the season.

The Eggnog to Beat All Eggnogs

We came upon this treat completely by accident.

On our most recent overnight temple trip we realized we didn’t bring any milk. We made a quick pit stop at Bristol Farms grocery store on Westwood Boulevard and I walked in to buy a half gallon that was sure to be $6.

Glancing at the dairy shelf, I noticed eggnog (a Christmas weakness of ours) in a variety of brands. But the one that caught my eye was in a glass bottle. It just had to be good. I called Colin, who was sitting with the kids in the car, and asked if he agreed that it was worth the extra cash to try this new brand or if we should just stick to the Knudsens that we already liked just fine.

His sensibility almost won out. But when I got to the checkout and saw one more small refrigerator full of the pretty bottles, I couldn’t pass it by again. It must have been fate. Just to be sure, I asked the cashier what he thought of the Broguiere’s Dairy brand. He hadn’t personally tried it (not a nog drinker), but he said it always sold out every Christmas season. Just then another cashier chimed in and then another to emphatically tell me that this is the best eggnog around. Sold.

Fresh, creamy, and so, so rich, it’s hard to go back to what we once called good.

You have me Broguiere’s. You have me. I’m yours completely come December 1st. Or late November. But who’s counting? Coupled with Trader Joe’s Triple Ginger Snaps, you’re the finest of the season.

Who knew that poor planning could lead to such joy?

Visiting Old St. Nick

The big kids were excited to see Santa this year. We didn’t wait in line to chat with him at the Christmas Walk, so we made a date to visit him at the outdoor shopping mall, Paseo Nuevo. The setup is nice there because you don’t have to pay to see him and it’s generally not crowded.

Normally, we would stay for the Christmas Parade, but Colin and I wimped out thinking about how much effort it would take to contain Maddie and keep the babies from getting too cold. Instead we took them shopping for their Christmas outfits at Old Navy. Aren’t we fun parents?

But we did also treat them to dinner at Chipotle. We dined outside and watched all the people getting ready for the parade. It was almost as exciting.

Back to the Santa visit… When we arrived there was only one other family attempting to meet Santa. But the little girl, probably no older than two, that was sitting on Santa’s lap was not having it. At all. She was screaming and screaming. Maddie, who previously was bouncing off the walls to see him, shrank back with reservation.

Warren, seasoned Santa visitor and a boy with an agenda, stepped right up to Jolly Old Saint Nick. Really, this Santa was so very nice. He listened to Warren and gave him a candy cane for his efforts. Maddie hung back, still trying to determine if it was safe.

Meanwhile, we took Jake and Joey out of the stroller to have them take a picture with Santa, their first one ever. “Twins!” Santa exclaimed, in a tone that expressed both amusement and fright at the realization that they were coming his way.

“Do you mind if I put them both on you?” Colin asked with a smile. “Oh no, that’s ok, just fine,” he responded as he pleasantly motioned for them to come forward. What a Santa!

Colin placed Jake down on Santa’s right knee. I had the camera ready. As soon as he tried to release Joey so I could take the shot, he began screaming. He did not want to see Santa. Not one bit.

I wish with all my heart that you could see the look on this poor kid’s face. It is absolutely classic. You can kind of tell by his arched back and outstretched hands. But you’ll just have to take my word for it, he was not happy with our plan.

Despite Joey’s reaction, Maddie finally got the nerve to walk up to Santa. Warren stayed close by to make sure she was okay. She never did sit on his lap, or tell him what she wanted for Christmas, but she walked away with a candy cane and a smile. I’d call that a success.

Maybe Joey will think better of Santa next year when he’s able to eat candy canes.