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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Rein-deer in the Blend-eer?

I'm sure you've heard of the Elf on the Shelf
We have never done that tradition at our house, but thought this year it would be fun to do, starting tomorrow when we also start our Advent calendar.

Of course, I decided this while sitting at Swimming tonight and had no idea where to buy an Elf on the Shelf at 7:15 p.m.

So instead we bought a Reindeer.
Doesn't he have mischievous eyes?
He's perfect for watching the boys and reporting back to Santa for us.

Brennan would love it if I took him back.  He doesn't need anyone watching him or creating havoc in our house.  Or reporting back to Santa for goodness sake!

Over dinner (Pizza Hut take-out because I spent quality dinner-making-time on this idea) we had a hilarious time trying to name him.

The "Elf on the Shelf" is just perfect.

David is having a ball with this.  He came up with several good ones.
Gotta settle on one though.

What do you think?

The Doe by the Do'
The Doe on the Flo'
The Reindeer on the Chandelier
The Fawn on the Lawn
Comet (his name) on the Carpet
The Deer on the Stair

Of course the boys love:
The Reindeer in the Blendeer
Comet in the Vomit

No idea what this cute guy will be named just yet, but I'm looking forward to seeing what mischief he gets into tonight!

Teacher Gifts and Pinecone Flowers

I've had lots of visitors to the blog from Google and Bing the last few weeks. 
The searches are many times related to making pinecone flowers and teacher's Christmas gifts. 
So, I thought I'd share those links here, in case you're looking1

Teacher Gifts:
I made these last year and am making more this year.  Signature antibacterial gel containers.  I make them for new moms too.  Everyone loved them.  Link here.

I made these a couple of times in the spring as well.  Chalkboard paint.  I see a number of the teachers are using them for pencil holders now.  Link is here.
I made wrapping paper and monogrammed coaster sets one year.
I get tons of searches for these.

And I made this last year but am thinking about making them for the boys' teachers this year.
Everyone gets a kick out of this math-inspired Christmas craft.

Pinecone Flowers:
And finally, how to make pinecone flowers.  We turned ours into a wreath, and 3 years hanging, it's still looking good.

November Comes to a Close

A couple of weeks ago on facebook a friend posted this:
"Every time a Christmas tree is lit before Thanksgiving, an elf kills a baby reindeer. True story."
I got a chuckle from it because I know it's aggravating to see all the Christmas displays and decorations up way too early.
As I mentioned last year, the fact that Thanksgiving and Christmas sort of run together these days doesn't bother me in the least.
To me The Holidays start on November 1st and run through January 1st.
It's a time of family celebration, being thankful, giving back, parades, travel, relaxing, decorating, cooking, and parties.
We don't start decorating until the day after Thanksgiving for Christmas, but I'm in full swing now, hoping to finish up our Christmas cards today!

I am happy to have completed almost all my November goals, including a couple of house projects I'll share with you soon.

And finally, November 30th is always about my Mawmaw.
Today would have been my grandmother's 100th birthday and I miss being able to call her to wish her a Happy Birthday.
She loved birthdays and would have been tickled to reach 100.
She passed away in June and we know she's in a better place now.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Lighting the Advent Candle

Our church celebrates the Advent Season by asking a different family to light the Advent candle(s) each Sunday during Advent.

Yesterday our family was asked to light the candle at the beginning of the service.
In addition, one member of the family is asked to serve as Lay Liturgist throughout the service.
Thomas stepped up and served and we were very proud of him!

Thomas practiced his many speaking parts before church and sat at the front of the church between our two pastors for the entire service.

Stealthy iPhone photo

Here we are after the service.
Everyone had wonderful things to say about Thomas.
Sometimes it's hard to hear the kids when they speak sometimes, but he did a fantastic job! 

After church we took the boys to Red Lobster.
They love that iPhone (so do I!)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Fall Scavenger Hunt

Thanksgiving morning I woke up thinking about how to keep 8 kids occupied for the afternoon with only one Wii in the house  :)

The kids coming for Thanksgiving all get along really well, but I wanted to make sure there was something for them to do together other than just watching a movie.

So, I divised a Scavenger Hunt with David's suggestions and shared it with the parents when everyone arrived.  We all thought it sounded like a fun idea, so we sprung it on the kids after lunch.  They were game (phew) so we sent them off!

I did a lot of googling Thursday morning for good scavenger hunt ideas. 
I found some decent lists, but ended up creating one myself.

We split the 8 kids into two teams and had the 2 oldest kids as Team Leaders.
Team Turkeys and Team Pilgrims.
They drew names from a Pilgrim hat to determine the rest of their teams.

We armed the teams with a camera, their list, a pencil, their cell phones, and a Wal-Mart bag and sent them on their way for 45 minutes. 

We had some rules - teams had to stick together since they were going to be off in the neighborhood without adult supervision, and they couldn't go anywhere near the busy road at the entrance to our neighborhood.

Shockingly the teams were done in 45 minutes and had found all! the items!
(The only item they couldn't find in nature was an acorn, so they drew it on the driveway in chalk and took a photo - smart kids!)

The adults were still sitting at the dining table when they returned to show us their findings and photos.
We rewarded both teams with sweets to share.
It worked out even better than I imagined!

It was safe, fun, and gave the kids something to do together on Thanksgiving.

Double click the photo below to print out the Scavenger Hunt list.

My boys are hoping this becomes a new holiday tradition.
Since we get together at Easter with the same crew, I'm already thinking ahead :)

Thanksgiving 2011

We had a wonderful, wonderful Thanksgiving with friends.
It's one of my favorite times of year.

For 7 years we've gotten together with two other families and had a delicious meal and fun afternoon together.
This year we asked another family to join us - friends from England who had never experienced a "proper" American Thanksgiving.  Not sure how proper ours was, but we had a blast!

Here are a few photos.

My 2 favorite pilgrims.

The adults' table.

The kids - they're really all getting way too old and TALL! 
Stop growing!

Tom enjoying a proper Thanksgiving.

After dinner the adults hung out in the living room enjoying our new t.v.!!! (which I'll share in another post).
David learned how to play Angry Birds and Tom was happy to play with him.

iPads provided an evening of entertainment for everyone!

Sadly, Thomas got beamed in the eye (see it on the left?) with a tennis ball while the kids were playing outside. 
While he was holding a racket.  And he plays tennis. 
The beamer felt awful but Thomas recovered nicely. 
David was hoping for a nice shiner Friday morning, but no such luck.

Oh my gosh it was fantastic!

Appetizers:  White Rotel Dip and Texas caviar

Thanksgiving Dinner:  turkey, gravy, cornbread dressing, stuffing, green bean casserole, potato casserole, sweet potato casserole, homemade rolls, cranberry sauce, and jellied cranberry sauce.

Scott and Candy brought the turkey.  It was delicious!

Lots of drinks set up for the day.
We also enjoyed the remainder of the Port that I served at the Pride and Prejudice Party earlier in the week. Great after dinner treat.

And the desserts were amazing.
I plan to share many of the recipes from Thanksgiving on my cooking blog soon.

Leslee's Praline Pumpkin Cake.
It was sooo moist!

Chocolate Haysticks and English biscuits

Rissa and Sarah's delicious Pumpkin Mousse

And the piece de resistance - English Trife.
Sooooooooo good.

It was a wonderful day with friends!
I hope you had a fantastic Thanksgiving as well!

Fun Thanksgiving Candles

We hosted 16 for Thanksgiving and had a wonderful day!
Since we don't live near family, we always have Thanksgiving with friends who are also far from home.

For the Adult and Kids tables, Thomas and I made some fun candles using food while Dad and Brennan were at swimming.  These could be used any time of course but were great for Thanksgiving.

I shared this one the other day when I hosted the Litwits for our Pride and Prejudice discussion.
This candle can be made ahead of time and lasts for days.

I had extra cranberries after making Cranberry Orange Scones, which I shared on the food blog,
so Thomas and I made this candle, using a chocolate candle.  It smelled great!

I saw this next candle in Good Housekeeping in October and snipped it to try for Thanksgiving.

Take a bunch of asparagus and trim the ends off so the spears are all the same size, at the height you want for your candle holder.

Take the rubber band that comes with the asparagus and wrap it around the candle holder, tucking asparagus spears in all the way around.

Top with a ribbon and you're ready to go.

Everyone loved this candle.
It can be made a day ahead of time and lasts a couple of days.

Tip:  lay the asparagus out flat to line up the lengths before trimming the ends. 
(I trimmed them to what I thought were even lengths while they were still in the round bunch.  Didn't work.)  That's OK though.

Another Tip:  depending on the width of your candle holder, you may need more than 1 bunch of asparagus.  We made do with 1 bunch.

Final Tip:  wash the asparagus well because your 9 year old asparagus lover may help himself to the decoration.

The final set of candles we made are some I used to make years ago.
Take produce and core out a tea light-size hole.

Apples are great for Thanksgiving.
I've also done 3 along the length of a zucchini.
And in a small pumpkin.

The kids love them.

I bought this corer through Lilian Vernon years ago.

The original directions I followed strongly suggested using the metal holder tea lights for this type of candle.  I was happy that I had two leftover.

This candle needs to be made on the day of.

Fun Thanksgiving candles that the kids helped make!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Pride and Prejudice Party

Last night I had the Litwits over for Book Club night.
This month we read "Pride and Prejudice".

In our club we choose a month to host and then we choose the book for our month.
I chose "P & P" because I sadly had never read it and wanted to, but kept putting it off.
I know the movies so well, it was a travesty not to know the original material!
Thankfully the Litwits were up to the challenge.

Several weeks ago (when I wasn't in the middle of Thanksgiving preparations, school play practice, and meeting up with visiting friends), I was bitten by the Austen bug and decided to do "authentic" food for the P & P party.

Research was difficult. 
Jane Austen herself was not a "foodie" so she didn't write much about food in her novels. 
But I did come up with 3 recipes that were typical foods of her time (late 1700s/early 1800s).  I'll be sharing those recipes on my food blog this weekend - http://www.yallcomeeat.com/.

And then I added other foods that she mentions in her books.
Olives (from Sense and Sensibility) were a real treat and hard to come by for most people.
Strawberries (from Emma) were a delicacy in the spring if you were lucky enough to have beds.
And mixed nuts were often served with sandwiches and sweets during High Tea.

For drinks I went with tea and Port.
I knew virtually nothing about Port, so was happy David was with me at the store when we chose one.  I really liked it.  And a little goes a long way.

Scones, tarts, and cucumber sandwiches.
With olives, strawberries, nuts and Port.
Tea in the kitchen.

I didn't have proper Port glasses so went with the smallest version of what I did have.

We chose the British Warre's Tawny Port.

I was pleased the recipes I was following turned out.
It's always slightly nerve wracking to make un-tried recipes with no back-up plan the day of an event.

We went with the unpitted olives, just as they would have back in Jane's time :)

We had a fantastic discussion and watched two pivotal scenes from both the P & P Mini-Series (Colin Firth!) and the more recent movie with Matthew McFadyen and Keira Knightley (which David watched and liked - amazing). 

It was really great to finally read this well-written and highly entertaining novel and discuss it with entertaining friends!
Thomas and Brennan were in their classes' plays today.
This was their final performance in the auditorium of another local elementary school.
There were a lot of friends and family members in attendance today.

We were so proud of the boys for doing such a great job. 
In addition to learning their lines, the classes were responsible for designing and building all the sets, designing the costumes and making many of them, for lighting, sound, and making the programs!

This is one of the many times that I wish we lived closer to family so their loved ones could have seen them in their shows. 
David and I attended them today and were so proud.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Brennan's 4th grade class did the hour-long play. 
They had some great props and sets that you won't see in Brennan's simpler scenes below.
He played Grandpa George (in the back with the white hair).

Charlie got the Golden Ticket!  Hurrah!

This was Brennan's first real play and we knew it would be a challenge for him, but he did a fantastic job.  He tells me he really liked it but is glad it'll be a year before they have to do another one!

Congratulations 4th graders!

Peter Pan
Thomas is a veteran stage actor and had a blast with his 6th grade class's Peter Pan play.
In addition to playing Smee (Captain Hook's terrible cook and right-hand-guy), he was responsible for set design.  They did a fantastic job!

At the Darling's

Smee feeding the Narrators his terrible soup

Captain Hook ordering Smee to capture Princess Tiger Lily

The Pirates in Neverland

 The teachers did a great job helping the kids pull these plays together.
As a parent volunteer, I can tell you I'm beat!