Thursday, December 30, 2010

Holiday Wrap-Up

Yes, I know the date is wrong - that is how long it has taken me to finish this post!

There were a whole bunch of things I planned on blogging about during the holiday season, but I just didn't get around to all of them. So here are some pictures and brief descriptions.

I spearheaded a Primary nativity for our ward Christmas party. I tried to keep it as simple as possible and to include as many kids as possible. Our Primary is pretty big and tons of kids came, so it was definitely good that my mom has been saving up nativity costumes for years.

After the craziness of getting all the kids dressed and organized, we were about to make our way to the stage when a four year old shepherd let out a fountain of vomit, splashing my shoe, but luckily none of the other kids. Oh, that poor little guy. The show must go on, right? After the hustle and bustle, I could barely think straight and neglected to get any decent pictures. See Colin the wiseman with his cousins Santi and Evan? I didn't even manage to get my kids completely dressed in their costumes. Poor Colin and Gabe, without even headgear.

When the lunar eclipse coincided with winter solstice, I told Chad would should set the alarm for 2:30 am, get up, make some wishes, and have some hot cocoa. He basically replied that I was crazy. I happened to wake up at the right time, by myself, so I jetted outside. It was too cloudy to see the moon, but the sky was a lovely (if eery) color. Chad woke up too, but stayed in bed, so he missed the sleep and the eclipse. HAHA.

Colin and Gabe had their piano recital. I didn't bother to try and figure out the video function on my camera beforehand, so the videos I have of them playing are bad. Gabe played Up On The Housetop, and Colin played Jolly Old Saint Nicholas. Oliver screamed during a lovely young woman's turn and had to be taken outside. 2 out of 3 making me proud isn't bad.

I was obsessed with peppermint this season. Edy's Peppermint Ice Cream is the just the best thing ever. That's "Dreyer's" for you West Coast peeps. I'm also quite fond of the peppermint oreos, which are packaged as Candy Cane Oreos at Walmart and Peppermint Oreos at Target. Or maybe the other way around. Weird. Anyway, I made this chocolate cake, topped it with ganache, and then topped that with crushed candy canes. It was really good, especially chilled. I got the recipe years ago from the author of 101 Things to Do with a Cake Mix, Stephanie Ashcraft. I used to visit-teach her. I watched her kids once while she was working on finishing this book.

There, done. Now I can move onto 2011.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Holiday Lights at The Garden

For the fourth year in a row, we went to see the Holiday lights at the Daniel Stowe Botantical Garden last week. We waited until a night that wasn't extremely cold, and unfortunately, so did everyone else. It was by far the most crowded I have ever seen the garden.

We went with my mom and nephews Santi, Evan, and Liam. Bobby and Sabina were celebrating their anniversary, so we had their boys for the night. In case you are thinking, " How nice of them," let me tell you that they took our kids for FOUR days in October, during which time Oliver woke up a billion times every night and Bobby threw out his back. So yeah, we pretty much owe them for life!

The garden was beautiful, but it was definitely too crazy being there, in the dark, with all six boys and so many strangers around. I think the boys had a good time though.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Day

I really didn't take many pictures on Christmas because I am kinda over pictures where people are looking down while unwrapping presents. They just never really turn out, you know? Here are a few that I did take that represent our day.

The majority of us slept horribly the night before. At about 10:00 I found Colin walking around, very confused and sleepy, upstairs. When I immediately got on his case about being out of his room, he said,"But it is 10 o'clock!!" He thought it was 10 am. I walked him back to his room and put some jingle bells on his doorknob so that I would hear if he wandered out again. He did it once again and I was very restless all night because I was worried about him ruining his surprises. At about 2:00 I woke up to the sound of the TV on high volume downstairs. Chad had fallen asleep down there, and I banged on our bedroom floor several times to get his attention (it is a very sophisticated system we have) but the TV continued to blare through the house. I went downstairs to find Chad completely zonked out on the couch. He figures he must have fallen asleep and then when the dishwasher turned on in the middle of the night, he woke up briefly, realized he couldn't hear the TV, turned it way up, and then fell right back asleep. At this point we also faced a Santa toy fiasco (recounted on facebook) that kept us up for another hour or so. Point is....not nearly enough sleep.

So when I saw boy's bathroom light on at 5:45 am I figured it was Colin again, but lo and behold, it was our faithful sleeper, Gabe, up for probably the first time in his life before Colin. By 6, everyone was in our room trying to rouse a sleepy Oliver. When Ollie realized it was time to see what Santa brought, he forced himself to wake up pretty quickly.

Here they are, waiting on the stairs while Chad went downstairs to see if Santa came.

They were all pretty thrilled with their gifts. Well, Ollie barely noticed his Santa gifts - he was more interested in being being reunited with his scooter from the night before, and then after we opened gifts from each other, he just wanted shots of "sour spray" -his gift from Colin. One of Gabe's favorite gifts was a crossword book that Santa left in his stocking, and after he got Lego Harry Potter for the Wii from Chad and I, we got about twenty hugs and "thank you's." Colin was tickled that because one of his toys didn't work(the toy fiasco), Santa gave him ten dollars to spend at It was a very fun morning, with lots of good surprises for everyone in the family.

By ten o'clock we were wiped out, so we went upstairs for naps. Oliver and I slept 'til 12:30, when we woke up, quickly showered and all ran over to my parent's house for an early Christmas dinner. I had my boys wear their matchy-matchy shirts that Chad's Grandma Norma sent them. Wasn't that sweet of her?

My dad made a huge dinner, with turkey and ham and all the delicious sides. It was so good to just sit around for hours and hours with the family, talking and letting the kids play. No one was in a hurry to be anywhere and my mom and dad took care of all the festivities. Thanks Mom and Dad!

We did a nativity with the kids (which I will someday post pictures of), and then wrapped up in the evening because snow was on its way. It was such a relaxing day and the snow falling after the kids were snuggled in their beds was the perfect end to it.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve

Had my parents and brother Bryce over for pizza.

New pajamas

Everyone opened one present each - Ollie and Gabe got these new scooters from Grandma and Grandpa Coleman. Thanks Bill and Judy! The boys LOVE them. Colin loves his air hockey too - I just haven't taken a picture of it yet.

Merry Christmas Eve!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Keepin' It Real Wednesday

The Nielsons' "children's tree"

The Colemans' "children's tree"

Monday, December 20, 2010

'Tis the Season Polls, Week 4

First, the results of last week's poll:
Do you like eggnog?
No: 10
Still haven't tried it:2

I am finding out that I am not as normal as I thought I was :o) Oh, and thank you all for letting know you have tried it recently. I will sleep more soundly at night.

This week's poll won't be featured up in the corner there because it's not a voting poll - more of a little questionnaire.

When I was growing up, we saved all the Christmas goodies that our friends and family gave us through the month of December. On Christmas Eve, we brought them all out for a big Christmas pig-out. This was definitely the only time all year when I had summer sausage (which I loved), and one our favorite parts was the box of See's candies that our next door neighbor always gave us. We also took a drive around the town to see the Christmas lights - highlights (for you Blythonians) were always Earl Street and "Where's Waldo" in RBA. Some years we would also take treats to the widows that my dad "home-taught" and we would sing them some Christmas carols. More than once, my dad was called away at some point in the night to help a church member who was traveling through for the holidays and had car problems. We all got to open one present and then it was bedtime. I often got a new book for my present, so I would spend the night reading until my eyes drooped. We weren't allowed to get up until 6 am, and we always ended up congregating in one of the kids' rooms shortly before then so we could go wake my parents up together. I have a lot of wonderful Christmas Eve memories from growing up.

This is what we do now: We always get pizza and have it delivered so we can give the pizza man a fat tip. Then the kids open up a new pair of pajamas from Mom and Dad, and then one more present of their choice. After we get PJ's on, we load up in the van to drive around and look at lights. When we come home, we put out some cookies and milk (or eggnog) for Santa, and carrots for his reindeer. After that, we read a picture book about Jesus' birth, and then it is lights out for the little ones. We always put the baby gate up at the top of the stairs so no one can sneak down before 6 am.

So, dear readers, please do share - what are your Christmas Eve traditions?

Monday, December 13, 2010

'Tis the Season Polls, Week 3

The official results of last week's
'Tis the Season Poll:
Does Santa Wrap Your Presents?

Yes - 13 votes
No-7 votes
Santa who? - 1 vote

I have a feeling that most of the no votes came from my family members.

Now onto this week's poll:

Do you like eggnog?

The poll is open for voting in the top right corner. Please discuss below. Poll will close around noon on Friday.

And dear friends, being the egg nog fan that I am, and having three children who have guzzled the stuff since the first moment it touched their lips - I would like to know this:

If you don't like eggnog, when was the last time you actually tried it?

'Cause I kind of have this thing about adults who don't like foods that they haven't tried since they were, like, five.

Original eggnog poll can be found here.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Cooking with Colin

Colin was complaining about the after-school boredoms the other day while I was cleaning the kitchen, so I had a brilliant idea. I asked him if he wanted to make taco soup for dinner. He quickly said "yes" and, following my instructions, cooked the whole meal by himself. He did a great job! I am going to have to have him help me out more in the future.

In case you don't know this easy-enough-for-a-7-year-old taco soup recipe (that is sooo satisfying on a cold and lazy day), here it is:

Taco Soup

1 pound ground beef or turkey (we often use turkey)
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can kidney beans
1 can corn
1 small can tomato sauce
1 package taco seasoning

Brown the meat in a big pot. Drain. Add all other ingredients, plus a can or two of water. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a low simmer. Simmer for however long you desire.

You could also add the browned meat and other ingredients to a crock pot and cook on low if you want.

Serve taco soup garnished with tortilla chips, cheese, sour cream, diced onions, or whatever your heart desires. Or, if you are like Chad, garnish your chips with taco soup ;o)

Monday, December 6, 2010

'Tis the Season Polls, Week 2

First, the official results of last week's poll: Which do you prefer - artificial or real Christmas trees?

Real - 7 votes
Artificial - 10 votes
Neither - 1 vote (*cough cough Roy*)

I was pretty surprised by these results! In my heart of heart I vote for real....but my practical side votes with artificial. I think someday I will return to real trees, but for now, for the same reasons I don't have a pet, it's all fake for me.

So, onto this week's poll:

Does Santa wrap your presents?

He did not wrap my presents growing up, he did wrap Chad's. We have carried on my tradition. How about you? Are Santa's gifts in your house wrapped?

Vote in the poll in the right corner up there before noon on Friday!

Original poll found here.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

What I will remember about tonight

Date Night with Dew: Cajun Queen

A couple of months ago, Living Social had a deal where you could spend $20 to get a gift certificate for $40 at Cajun Queen. I have wanted to try this restaurant since we first moved to Charlotte almost six years ago, so I jumped on it. We dropped the kids off with my parents last evening and tried it out.

Cajun Queen's atmosphere is just awesome. Couldn't get better in my opinion. It is a converted old house, and they have a excellent jazz band playing upstairs. We chose to sit up there, and I loved hearing it. Chad and I rarely go out at night, so I was soaking it all up.

Of course I scoured the menu before we went and looked at reviews. A lot of people said to try the fried green tomatoes, so we ordered that as our appetizer.
This dish was tasty, but not anything I would ever rave about. Really, it sounds harsh, but I was not impressed and neither was Chad. It was just dull, which you don't expect from your first bite of Cajun food.

Chad ordered the Diane with chicken. It was delicious - swimming with buttery, garlic-y mushrooms, fresh parsley, and tender chicken . It had a little bit of a kick that never got overwhelming.

I had the Etouffe with crawfish. It had a spicy, rich brown sauce and plentiful crawfish. It was spicy in a peppery way that crept up on you. It wasn't spicy like chilies can be, where you have to take a drink of milk after one bite and you start sweating. It built. I have a medium tolerance for heat, and after awhile I needed to stop and eat some bread to get my taste back. Then the next bite would be heavenly. I really enjoyed it.

Here's where my biggest complaint of the evening comes in. I knew, from looking at the menu, that each entree comes with your choice of jumbo or a side salad. Our waitress didn't mention this when she was taking our orders, and I didn't remember until I heard another couple ask about it. I thought maybe she would bring it up when she brought our appetizer. Nope. At that point we no longer had the menu's in front of us and I thought that maybe we had ordered something that didn't qualify for it. It was too awkward to bring it up after we already had our food, so I didn't. When I checked the menu this morning, yes, we were definitely supposed to get it. It really bothers me that the waitress didn't bring it up. Are you supposed to have to ask to get it? I think that is bad customer service. Maybe it sounds petty - but I would have loved to try their gumbo.

We had decided beforehand to go all out, so we even got dessert. For dessert we asked the waitress which was better, the bread pudding or the key lime pie (which people rave about online). She mentioned that they made their own bread pudding, and it had an amazing caramel sauce on top, so we got that.
Um, that's the amazing caramel sauce? We couldn't even taste it. The bread pudding was yummy though, and I thought it was nice and balanced - not overly sweet.

We had a very enjoyable evening. Will be go back again? Doubtful. We just never spend that much on dinner- even with our coupon, it was expensive. It was really nice to try though, and at least we were full at the end of the evening! I even had some leftovers for the boys to try. Ollie and Colin liked it (with lots of water) - Gabe did not.

As a side note, my kids had the time of their lives at Granny and Grandpa's. Thanks Mom and Dad (and Bryce!)