I have been meaning to post a few pics from Easter. We had a nice celebration and spent a quiet day with just our immediate family. I was recalling how last year for Easter dinner we ordered pizza - ha! Ami was a week or two old and I was still recovering from a c-section and feeling pretty wiped out.
This year, for Easter dinner - pizza again! We had recently been busy and feeling wiped out for various reasons. We weren't traveling to see family since we had just seen everyone for Ami's 1st birthday, so after church and naps for all of us, we headed over to California Pizza Kitchen at Fairfax corner. The weather was perfect and there were tons of people enjoying the day. Then we headed back to Reston Town Center for some frozen yogurt where even more people were out and about.
this is what happens when you try to get more than two children to all take a picture together
grandma provided cute matching Easter dresses for all the pretty little girls
The girls wanted to have a few friends over for a sleepover so we partied Valentine's style. A few simple ideas and it turned out to be a great evening!
I set the table with valentine's napkins, dark red goblets, and these frames that I found at Michaels craft store for $1. I painted the frames white and added construction paper with the girls' names in the picture slot for name cards at the table.
I made pizza with heart-shaped pepperoni for dinner. I used a fondant cutter on the pepperoni.
After dinner, all the girls got to decorate their frame with felt flowers (I also found these at Michaels - they were peel and stick!) and a pink paint pen. I'll be making copies of pictures I took of the girls together for each of them to put in their frames.
Next was dessert - ice cream cone cupcakes with heart sprinkles and a red skittles candy for the cherry on top. If you've never made these before, they are simple. Fill cake cones 1/2 full with your cake batter and bake, frost when cool and - voila! Just stand the cones in a muffin tin for ease. The great thing about these is no messy wrapper - just good eating!
Following dessert, we retired to sleeping bags in the living room for a movie (Kit Kittredge) and some reading before bed. What a fabulous group of girls - tons of fun and the biggest topic of the sleepover? what chapter books they were reading and if they could borrow - smart girls, too!
Pancakes and play in the morning wrapped it all up nicely. I love that having a few friends spend the night is like the biggest deal ever at this age!
I've been in a crafty mood lately, but with little time. So, I've resorted to quick and simple. Stitching has such a relaxing effect on me that I've picked up needles again - knitting needles, sewing needles - anything to draw a thread hypnotically.
In trying to pull together a few decorations for the girls, I cut some felt hearts, doubled them, and quickly blanket-stitched them with some yarn. This simple stitch is one of the very first ones I'll teach to the girls - it is really not complicated and they can make a ton of really cute things from basic felt and yarn. Maybe by Christmas next year, Hope will be well on her way to making some lovely homemade ornaments.
I know that peppermint bark is a favorite treat at this time of year - and one that is easy to make and give. I'm all about sharing and receiving homemade goodies and I've got some good tips to make your peppermint bark desired by all your friends and family. And if you have any great bark recipes that you'd like to share, I'd love to hear about them!
I am terrible at sending out Christmas cards. I really want to every year - but it just never seems to get done. Granted, twice I had just given birth - last year I was quite pregnant with two little ones keeping me busy, and there have been other various reasons. I've even meant to send New Year's cards or even Easter cards to make up for the missed opportunity at Christmas and failed at that too. There are some things I'm just not gifted in. I haven't given up though.
If you are a Christmas card sender - you may find you have a list to manage. If you aren't organized, it may be difficult to keep track of people to whom you want to send a card. You may find yourself trying to keep tabs on who you have received a card from - wasn't there someone who sent you a card last year that you'd like to send one out to this year? Or perhaps, your list has become overwhelming and you'd like to weed it out a bit.
Here is one thing you might try. Buy a notebook to designate as your Christmas card list. Copy essential addresses into the front - the people you know you will send a card to year after year regardless. Then date the top of a page with this year. As you receive cards in the mail - cut off the address portion of the envelope and tape it onto that page. Store this book with your Christmas items. Next year, you'll know exactly who sent you a card the previous year and you will have their address. You will also be sure to have new addresses for anyone who has changed residences. The next year when you use your list to send out cards, record all the people you send them to by placing a mark next to the address clip and writing in new recipients. Each year you will know who received a card from you the previous year and you will have a ready list for the present year. You can make a section in the back of the book for a list of names or addresses for people you would prefer to send greetings to via email instead of snail mail.
Here's the catch-you-up on a few of our family happenings:
First, Matt's sister and her husband (who has been his best friend since middle school) and their son, West, came for a good visit. It was fun to have the little cousins together!
Then on Friday, we ignored the black Friday sales and headed over to the town center to watch the annual parade for the first time - which we ditched early due to being so cold and the RIDICULOUS gaps between parade features which left us waiting and watching nothing in the cold for too long especially for little kids.
So, we headed west instead to Snicker's Gap farm to cut down our Christmas tree. The weather, though cold, was a far cry from the crazyness of last year and we all had a good time and scored a bea-u-ti-ful tree! I love the picture of our family together with Boompa filming next to us!
Hope and Maddie put in special requests to dress in costume as a fairy and a butterfly this year. I'm not a huge fan of spending a ton of money on Halloween, so I figured I could whip together some wings from some materials I already had on hand. I thought they came out pretty well considering I didn't have any patterns, although I wish I had used stronger wire to support them. It is difficult to tell how glittery they are in the pictures - they were outlined with glow-in-the-dark glitter and the fairy wings have swirls and the butterfly wings have white sections that are made from this glitter as well. Plus the sparkly trim and sequins they were a big hit for some pretty girly girls! The girls just picked some pretty dresses that they already had - and away they flew!
I decided to do a craft with the girls to make something decorative for our table for Easter. So, I looked through the materials we had and came up with a project to make paper mache eggs. We just used balloons, white glue, and water to make the egg shape. Then we cut strips of colorful tissue paper and after the eggs were dry we used brushes to "paint" the tissue onto the eggs using the same glue/water mix. When they dried again, I popped and pulled out the balloons, punched a hole in the bottom and pulled some ribbon through knotting it underneath. We chose a branch from our yard and filled a vase with paper grass to create our centerpiece. The eggs aren't perfectly egg shaped, but the color is great and it was a lot of fun to make.
Today the girls and I are going to make a pie for our most special guy.
This may be overkill, but it's for my family and friends who don't live close by. So while the rest of you may not be quite that into my family...we had a lot of fun this year, photos are fun - and so here are a whole lot of fun photos of us having fun!
I just wanted to post an invitation to you all in case you haven't solidified any plans for Christmas Eve as of yet. We're throwing a party at PotBelly restaurant in the Reston Town Center at 5 pm. It will be a casual affair with some activities for the kids, maybe some caroling, and the food is on us! It will be an easy way to save yourself from a mess in the kitchen and to gather some Christmas cheer. The town center is gorgeous right now with all it's lights and so festive with ice- skating and the like, that it's the perfect location! Bring anyone you like and come say hi, grab some munchies, stay for as little or as long as you like and have a great time!
Although most of you who intend to, probably have already chosen and decorated a Christmas tree, I found this article interesting. We've always been a "real" tree family...not necessarily because of greener implications, but honestly just because I like the smell and the idea of having something "living." When we are finished with it, we recycle ours to a pile in the woods along with other neighbors, as a natural habitat providing winter shelter for the local wildlife, which I like too. However, we've also known people with allergies to evergreen trees, so for them artificial is a must. What is your preference? And would it make any difference in your decision if you thought one option was "greener" than the other?
The Monday after Thanksgiving, our family was determined to travel westward to the foot of the mountains to a great little place called Snicker's Gap Farm to cut down a Christmas tree ourselves. We arrived, welcomed by piney aroma and gorgeous views, and didn't waste any time gathering a saw and heading straight up the side of the mountain directly to the Douglas Fir's up in the very back.
We were having a conversation with friends last night about Christmas stockings. Each family seems to have their own way of doing this. One of our friends recalled that they opened the stockings first and that all the really great things were in there, it was the jackpot! Another friend recalled that the stockings were always filled with cheap dime-store stuff and the good stuff was under the tree. Growing up, my husband and I both had knit stockings, either made by someone or bought - but unlike the quilted ones our daughters have, they stretched to a greedy capacity, especially with an orange in the toe. His family opened them first, while mine saved them for last. My stocking always had candy inside of it and even our family dog had a stocking with little toys and treats that I fondly remember opening and showing her.
If you are tired of the same peppermint bark each year, or just looking to mix things up a bit - here is a recipe I threw together a few years ago (I think it can hardly be called a recipe, and I'm probably not the first to do this) that always gets gobbled up. It's really easy and the kids will love to help crush up the Oreos, plus it makes great gifts!
I love to find the most festive places in town at Christmas - ours of course is the Reston Town Center. We've driven through at night a couple of times already just to see the lights - which are new and more numerous than ever this year! Today we decided to go for a few minutes to see the annual gingerbread village display in the Hyatt's lobby and watch the ice skaters and the horse-drawn carriage. It was very cold...but very festive with tiny snowflakes floating down from the sky. I never get tired of the decorations and looking at the displays in the store windows.
Back when I used to teach chorus/music, I created little festive activities for my students on the fun free-day following our holiday concerts. This is one that somehow has stuck around in my Christmas stuff for years. The title of each Christmas carol is rewritten in a descriptive method - Can you identify the true title of each carol. Feel free to copy it and use it for whatever - it has been a good conversation point and activity for gatherings over the years. First, I'll give you the chance to figure them out by yourself...but don't worry, I'll post the answers this week!
Thanksgiving this year was wonderful - the best part was being surrounded by so many people we love and enjoy. And there just is something about sharing a meal with other people....
Anyway, the downside was that as soon as we arrived at my parents home, Maddie exhibited a fever and vomited a few times. She had a cough too, so my dad got out his stethoscope and gave her a good listen. Turns out she probably has a little patchy viral pneumonia which should get better in a couple days, though we are watching her closely.
She was feeling better the next day, so we continued on and I think our whole family has really enjoyed the celebration this year. I'll post pictures when I can.
On top of it all though, I've had a splitting headache for four days. I've never had a headache last for longer than a couple of hours, ever! I've never had a migraine. And I have to say it really stinks. Between Maddie and myself, I've declared today a rest day. But I'm honestly SUPER THANKFUL for good immune systems - it's not often that we're sick around here and that, my friends, is a true blessing.
"The blessings we are used to, become so much the habit of our lives that we are apt to take them for granted and to fail to be stirred by them to any positive emotion of thankfulness. There are those who,ever mindful of the unequal measure in which privilege, opportunity and all material goods are distributed in this world, are always consciously grateful for the ordinary, every-day comforts; for food and shelter and decent surroundings and a peaceful life. But most of us, differently constructed, are prone to consider that all we are used to have is ours by a natural right, and that on the whole it is rather a hardship that we cannot contrive to have an ever-increasing share of sugar-plums allotted to us. We that are of that disposition must try at Thanksgiving to come to a fuller appreciation of our more recondite blessings, as well as of those which we accept as matters of course." E.C. Martin
"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow." Melody Beattie
My family will have it's fill of Thanksgiving foods this year starting today! This evening my small group
from church is coming over to share a Thanksgiving dinner together. Then tomorrow we are traveling 3 hrs. to my parents home to have Thanksgiving with them. Thursday morning we'll travel another hour and a half to Matt's sister's house to have celebrate with his family. Now that's a lot of turkey! I'm feeling grateful for all the food that will abound (we've got some top notch chefs in this family), but mostly for all the friends and family we'll be surrounded by this year.
When we return, we'll be traveling to the mountains to cut down our own Christmas tree - another fun family outing I'll be sure to post about!
Hope you all have a fantastic Thanksgiving - and thanks to you for visiting this blog and for all of your friendships!
If you've never tried this holiday craft idea with your kids (or even by yourself), you'll find that it is super easy, comes out looking really nice , and requires little ingredients. Plus, you'll get the aromatic benefit of cinnamon! Here's a helpful hint too: instead of buying an expensive jar of cinnamon at the grocery store - Dollar Tree stores carry large bottles for a buck this time of year. My girls had a lot of fun with this.
Here's what you need:
1 C store-bought applesauce
1 C cinnamon
1 tbls of white glue (this is optional)
Here's what to do:
Mix all the ingredients together to make a soft dough. If the dough is too sticky or moist, add more cinnamon. Roll the dough to 1/4 in. thickness (any less and the ornaments will be too fragile). Use cookie cutters to cut shapes. Use a straw or a toothpick to make a hole in the tops for hanging with ribbon. Let them air dry for 4 or 5 days, turning once a day. (you can also put them in a 200 degree oven for a little while to dry them, but it isn't the best method).
Continuing my November Thankful Thursdays,
Today I am thankful to God for:
I love a good Christmas book that is worthy of the whole family, so I'm excited to give this one away!
Cole Family Christmas is a piece of oral history. The very special family Christmas story from her childhood was related by Hazel Cole Kendle to her granddaughter-in-law and co-author, Jennifer Liu Bryan.
Today I thank God for:
Clean water - showers, a dishwasher and laundry machines, toilets, a refrigerator with ice, plenty to drink, extra to cook and clean and play with.
Health - healthy children, husband, and self; access to health care and products; food and clean water and sanitary living conditions.
The option to be a stay at home mom
Always, the people I share my everyday life with and who share theirs with me; Matt, Hope, and Maddie
and the new baby girl
Hope stumped me with her discernment about the Easter Bunny last year - I tell you, she's not easily fooled.
Hope: "Mommy, does Santa really have a sleigh that flies in the sky?"
Me: "Yes, Santa does."
Hope: "But does it really fly?"
Me: "Um hm."
Hope: "But how does it stay up there?"
Hope: "But mommy, there's no such thing as magic. I don't think that Santa's sleigh can really fly that way. He must have to get there a different way."
The holidays have arrived at Reston Town Center, which is busy being decorated in preparation for the parade and tree lighting on November 28th. The ice-skating rink is up and running and things are beginning to look pretty merry.
One new feature - Santa is coming this year! Hooray for not standing in line at the mall! You can pick up a schedule at Cradle n' Crayon or several other stores at the town center. Our family is also going to take advantage of a horse drawn carriage ride on Hope's birthday this year - kids 5 and under ride free!
I love it when the town center is all lit up and holiday cheery - can't wait to stroll around some more with the family and perhaps a peppermint mocha.
Okay...so it's not Thursday. I'm a day late, but no less grateful. In honor of Thanksgiving Day, I'm
spending some time pondering all the things I have to be grateful for and practicing giving thanks.
I'd like to add that I find being thankful a little meaningless without actually directing that gratitude towards someone. I do believe in God and so I am going to direct my own thanks towards Him.
Today I thank God for:
- I was listening to a story on NPR the other day about day laborers in our area not being able to find work and giving up their daily meals sans maybe one candy bar so that they can send everything they are making to family back in their home country. They won't go home, their families wouldn't let them anyway, the economy there is just as bad and even if they only work various jobs for a total of two weeks per month in the States, they are earning like ten times what they would at a regular job back home.
I am so grateful for being an American, for having an amazing home full of conveniences to live in, together with my family, and for the food we have and my husband's job.
I am grateful for the words of Paul (in the Bible) " I have learned the secret to being content in plenty and in want" and also "Godliness with contentment is great gain." Americans seem to be about the most discontent people in the world, and yet we are the richest. I think that giving thanks breeds contentment, maybe that was Paul's great secret - today I feel like the wealthiest person on the planet in so many ways!
Matt took the girls trick-or-treating just down our little street, which is funny because not only was it Hope's second time ever, but Matt's. Maddie joined them this year and the girls did great - confidently approaching the doors all by themselves and coming home happy as ever. I folded laundry and gave away candy to the only 5 people who came to our door :) Needless to say, we have a lot left over and I'm going to need to pawn it off on someone or throw it away soon since I have very little restraint when it comes to my sweet tooth! Instead of spending money, the girls chose costumes from their dress-up trunk - a princess and a cat - they were totally satisfied.
If you plan on taking the kids trick-or-treating this year, here's a tip for keeping their intake of sugar and all those artificial colors and ingredients to a limit. It's easy - have them take a smaller bag. Too often kids eyes greedily light up at the game of how big a hoard of tooth-rotting candy they can glean from their generous neighbors. Then as parents we end up throwing away candy, trying to limit the kids consumption over a long period of time, or eating it ourselves. There is no reason why a child needs to fill a giant pillowcase full of candy or more than one receptacle...even those plastic pumpkins hold way more than a reasonable amount of candy. Why not use this as an opportunity to teach kids self-restraint and gratefulness? Try a smaller bag and stop trick-or-treating when it is full. Teach your kids that there is such a thing as enough and that they can be content and appreciative. This is a small application of a lesson that will go a long way in life.
There is this little Halloween tradition that occurs in our neighborhood each year...it's called "Boo". Basically, someone starts it by anonymously leaving treats at two people's doorsteps plus taping a little picture or piece of paper to the door which says "Boo!" Within the package of treats is this little poem:
Of course I've seen these before, but I ran into them again at the grocery store recently. I have to say that I think that battery-operated LED candles are a fantastic idea, especially at times like Halloween. I have a specific memory of the smell of a candle burning inside a freshly carved pumpkin...but when there are lots of children around, safety is the best policy. Little tea-lights can be placed in paper bags to line a walk-way at any festive occasion or used wherever a real flame might be a temptation or a hazard for little ones. You can get them in pretty much any size (even pillars) or color and they aren't very expensive.
...compliments of Michael's Craft Store, where I entered tonight and met with pumpkins, skulls and black
feathery wreaths and shopped to the sounds of cackles, moans, and groans from little moving table-top scenes.
That's right, it's only been one week since July 4th...but if you've got a hankering for black cauldrons and crunchy fall leaves, then Michael's is all ready for you!
Fall is absolutely my favorite season, but this is downright ridiculous. Just be prepared for Christmas sales to push out the back-to-school sales. Ugh.
Yesterday was the best 4th of July I can remember. We got brave in the morning and headed into D.C. with family via the metro. The first time the kids had a chance to ride, and they loved it! Hope was so giddy! We watched the parade down Constitution Ave. in our nation's Capital for some authentic festivity and hit the Smithsonian Air and Space and Natural History museums. Then, we left the city (yes, that's right - no fireworks downtown for us, and a good idea since it rained anyway) and headed home for some fun at our friends' home with a couple of other families. We had a yummy cook-out, a little kiddie parade with decorated wagons and face paint, lots of glow sticks, sparklers, smoke bombs, and screamers and then we topped off the night at the top of the hill with an spectacularly illegal display of sky-high real fireworks compliments of a neighbor. The kids had a blast, and so did we.
I wasn't expecting much for this Memorial Day weekend, but it turned out to be really fun. Sunday night we invited some good friends and their kids over for a cook-out and had a blast. Monday, we finally broke down and gave into the pleading by our girls to go to the pool. It was FREEZING, as expected, but they loved it! I'm so looking forward to being at the pool a lot this summer. And then we were invited to the house of some other friends for BBQ ribs and other great summer holiday foods. For starting out with no plans, the weekend ended up filled with friends and fun!
With a touch of creativity, plastic Easter eggs can become great inspiration and starter material for fun crafts with your kids. Here are just a few ideas:
Now that Easter is over, you may be wondering what to do with all the left-over plastic eggs! I just can't bear to throw them away - it seems sad and bad for the environment. Last year, I stowed them away for re-use this year...but thanks to grandma, we ended up with twice as many. Here are some things you can do with your kids to put those colorful plastic eggs to use and keep the fun going.....
I just tried some of these sugar-free peeps. I couldn't resist - how can you not wonder how a sugar-coated marshmallow can be made sugar-freeI Isn't "sugar-free" like the antithesis of peeps? There are just three in a package, one for me and each of my girls - so I figured we'd give it a whirl - curiosity got the better of me. Actually, made with splenda, the peeps were really pretty good. They aren't the same as the real thing at all, in my opinion, however. They are a little less sickeningly sweet (a good thing) and very vanilla-y. The coating is not the crystally-crunchy sugar that characterizes the original peeps, but overall I'd say they are a worthy substitution. My daughter Hope who loves marshmallows but despises peeps gave them her stamp of approval. So, if you're looking to reduce the amount of sugar in your Easter baskets this year, but can't part with your traditional peep candy...I definitely think these are worth a try.
While Hope is fully willing to believe in Santa Claus, she's apparently a little too astute for a bunny who
delivers colorful eggs and candy. Here is the simple straightforward conversation we had recently - out of the blue, Hope asks:
"mom, is there really no Easter Bunny, right?"
me: "well, yes, not really"
Hope: "then who puts the stuff in my Easter basket?"
me: "well, who knows what kind of stuff you like?"
Hope: "you and daddy."
Hope: contently "okay then."
So much for childhood fables, my girl is a realist.
Easter is one of my favorite holidays! I hope that all of your celebrations are special and memorable. If you don't have plans yet or are looking for somewhere to celebrate, you are invited to join me at 10 am for a fantastic and unique church service in the theater at Reston Town Center. I guarantee you won't be bored and you'll spend the hour surrounded by the friendliest people you've ever met!
In honor of the holiday that touts green as it's theme color and in honor of the country that can easily claim to be literally the most brilliantly green place in the world (I can testify - amazingly beautiful!), I thought I'd post links to my favorite "green" sites to help us all "go green" and arm our attitudes with green thinking for the sake of our planet and the generations which follow us. Enjoy!
When I was in college I had the opportunity to travel to Ireland to work with some youth and children. It was the easiest thing in the world to fall in love with that land and it's people. I remember the names of some of the teenagers I met: Marten, Sean, Fergal, Ronan, Nile, Friar, Ryan, and Sheena, Rosemarie, Fiona, and Rosheen. I myself bear an Irish name - Patricia, after my grandmother who was so named for being born on St. Patrick's Day. If you are currently considering baby names, you might find it interesting that Irish names have gained popularity in the States - among all the top names for 2007 you can find Aidan/Aiden/Aden in the first spot followed also by Connor, Logan, Liam, Ryan, Keegan, Sean, Riley and Finn for boys and Kaitlyn, Brianna, Keira/Ciara, and Riley popular for girls. For a considerable list of Irish names, check here courtesy of BabyNames.com.
While I was in Tree Top Kids recently, I spied a cute item in the Easter section - it looked exactly like those chocolate easter bunnies you see from Russell Stover and other companies....except inside the box was a cute milk or white-chocolate plush bunny. I somehow remembered that it was made by Ganz and searched all over the internet to try to find it again and didn't have much luck. I did also happen to find this cute chocolate bunny from Lilly Bean. So, if you aren't so keen on stuffing your little one's basket full of sugary, caffeine containing, messy melty treats - then perhaps you'll fall in love with these alternatives too.