Thursday, December 19, 2013

Random Tidbits From A Housewife

I doubt you would be interested in being fully filled in on my life these days, but here are just a few random happenings and thoughts from my world.

My one and only daughter had her first ever dance recital this week.  That was an amazing event for us!  It was just a short, low-key production with a Christmas theme, but it made my heart explode nonetheless.

There was no photography or videography allowed at the actual show, so I took pictures of Nora before we left the house and then again when we got home.  My sister and niece brought Nora flowers, which was fantastic.

Nora's favorite thing about the evening was that she got to wear makeup.  I put a tiny bit of pink eye shadow on her and let her wear my pink lipgloss.  She was marvelous.  The day leading up to the recital was pretty much the longest day of Nora's life, and she kept telling me that she just couldn't wait any longer.

In addition to Nora's recital being one of the cutest things I've ever seen, it was also our last kid performance of the season.  Now we can move on to family gatherings and friends' parties.

* * *

I've been listening to a lot of Christmas music, as you know, and I have a few questions:
  • What exactly is Frosty teaching our kids about respecting the authority of police officers? ("He led them down the streets of town right to the traffic cop.  And they only paused a moment when they heard him holler 'Stop!'")
  • Who tells scary ghost stories at Christmas? ("There'll be scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmases long long ago.")
  • What on earth is a bobtail made to 40-40 speed (or 40 acid speed, as I recently heard on a different version)? ("Just get a bobtail made to 40-40 speed.  Hitch him to an open sleigh and crack you're in the lead.")
* * *

Yesterday morning during my kid-free time, I decided to treat myself to a warm delicious mocha from McDonald's.  I was in such a good mood that I wanted to pay for the car behind me.  I cheerily asked the McDonald's employee at the window what the total was for the car behind me.  It was a whole whopping $1.10.  So my good deed turned out to be a teeny tiny gesture.  Oh well.

I drove away happily knowing that I at least tried to do something nice.  I took a tentative sip of my mocha, smiled warmly, and then took another drink that completely scalded my entire tongue.  Happens every time.

* * *

On Monday during school, Nolan discovered that he could connect paperclips together to make a long chain.  He used his newly discovered technique to make a necklace for a classmate.  That night he wanted to show me what he could do, so I offered him my bin of colorful paperclips that I've been working on using since college.

He made a necklace for his teacher out of pink and blue paperclips because those are her two favorite colors.  He also made a bracelet for one of his friends.

Then next day when he came out of school, he was clutching a handful of yellow Post-It notes.  Each one was an order from a classmate for what type of jewelry they wanted and which colors they preferred.  Nolan skipped his after-school snack and got right to work filling his new jewelry orders.

Griffin got in on the jewelry-making as well.  He made a necklace for his teacher as well as a couple necklaces and bracelets for some classmates.  Each boy was thoughtful about what colors each recipient would like best.  They put each finished piece in a clear zip-top bag and labeled it with the recipient's name.  The whole thing was so stinking cute.  I even got a necklace, ring, and two bracelets.

They used up all of our paperclips and still brought home more orders.  So yesterday during my errand time, I went to Staples and bought more colorful paperclips.  I surprised them when they came home from school, and it may as well have been a Christmas present.  Now they are determined to completely accessorize all their classmates by the end of the week.

* * *

I finished the teacher gifts for the boys as well as for Nora's Wednesday morning TLC teacher gifts.  They're nothing spectacular this year.  In fact, I feel like none of my Christmas gifts are spectacular this year.

I made two big batches of a caramel-coated snack mix that includes Crispix cereal, pretzel sticks, pecans, and popcorn.  I bought cute tins from Walmart and filled them with the snack mix.  I also made the Mentos snowmen that I've made in years past (you can use an old idea for new teachers, right?).

The gifts themselves may not be anything new or amazing, but I did spend time writing a personal card to each teacher to tell them how much they all mean to our family.

* * *

I also went to the library yesterday during my adult time.  I've been wanting to read a book for pleasure lately, and I thought it would be best to enter the silent library without children.

I love the library.  All those books.  The solitude.  The idea that I'm completely surrounded by thoughts and words of brilliant minds.

I'm also intimidated by the library.  I don't know how it works.  I spotted an area of computers.  Surely that's where I would need to go to search for a book.  But the computers were numbered, which suggested that maybe you have to sign up to use a specific computer?  Most of the people on the computers were using them to browse the internet, not to look up books.  How do I look up a book?  I also didn't know what book I wanted.

A couple weeks ago, Jared made me watch the moving The Hunger Games.  I didn't sleep for two days after that.  The whole premise of the movie creeped me out to my very core.

However...I found out that the movie is based on a book.  And not just one book.  There are three books in the series.  So, maybe I could put my mind to rest if I read the other two books and completed the full story.

So I decided to look for the next book in the series.  But I still didn't know how to search for a book on the computers or how I was supposed to get permission to use a computer.  So I sat on a comfy chair, pulled out my phone, and Googled the author of The Hunger Games.

Collins, Suzanne.  I located the Fiction section in the library and found the "C" section in alphabetical order (C for Collins).  But the books weren't there.  Then I had an idea.  I vaguely remembered that the books were intended for tweens.  Which might be the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard since they're about people purposely killing each other for sport.  But that's a different rant.

So I located the Young Adult section of the library.  A...B...C!  Collins!  I found it!  I snagged the last copy of Catching Fire, the second book in the series.  Maybe I should be embarrassed that the only book I've read for pleasure in many, many months is from the Young Adult Section.  I don't care.  I sent Jared a text and picture to prove that I made it out of the library with a book.

I managed to read 234 pages of the book yesterday.  And yes, I still helped the boys with homework, made dinner for my family, and completed most of my regular chores.

I suppose that's enough of my ramblings for now.  I hope you're all having a great week!


Monday, December 16, 2013


Saturday morning we woke up to several inches of beautiful snow.  I was like an excited little kid looking out at our back deck and the trees behind our property.

I loved seeing the accumulation on our patio furniture.

Jared and the kids headed out to play in the snow for a bit before we had to hit the ground running into our busy day.  I managed to snap a few photos before I had to head out into the busyness.

I hated to pull Nolan away from the fun, but we had to head up to church for his Christmas program rehearsal and then he had a basketball game.

While we were at church, Jared and the other two kids kept playing in the snow.  Jared left me a giant message in the snow covering the tennis court behind our house:

He and the kids also made the cutest real-life version of Olaf, the snowman from the movie Frozen, in our front yard:

What a fun way to spend time with the kids and enjoy the winter season and pre-Christmas excitement!

This also reminds me of a favorite song that I forgot to share with you before (in this post about my favorite Christmas songs).  It's "Winter Snow" by Audrey Assad and Chris Tomlin:


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Pillows, Pies, and Gingerbread Houses

I have had a very productive day so far.  Just ask my aching back.

First, I made some pillow covers.  I was sick of not having cute decorative pillows in our living room, and I wanted to add a seasonal touch.  I'm gonna try to write a tutorial on how I made the pillow covers out of a cheap Christmas blanket, but I'll give you a sneak peek now:

Second, Nora and I worked on the filling for the Caramel Apple Pies in Jars that I'm making for Christmas gifts.  Don't worry, the recipients of the pies already know they'll be receiving them.  In fact, they requested them.  Plus one of them is Jared's grandma, and she doesn't own an answering machine, let alone a computer on which to read my blog.

This is the third year in a row that I've made pies in jars for Jared's dad and grandma for their Christmas gifts.  You can read my first post about it here.  I got the original idea from Our Best Bites.  I make half of the pies Chicken Pot Pie using this recipe from Our Best Bites.  I make the other half of the pies Caramel Apple Pie using this recipe from

Each year I've increased the number of pies I make because they seem to return all their empty jars to me earlier in the year.  This year I'm making the most yet.  I already made 24 jars of Chicken Pot Pie.

Now I'm working on 24 jars of Caramel Apple Pie.  Last night I made 4 batches of pie crust dough and stuck them in the fridge.  Then I peeled two bags of Granny Smith apples (that's a lot of apples!).  I used a vegetable peeler, started at the top of the apple, and peeled in a spiral until I ended at the bottom.  I put all of the peeled apples into a large container filled with cold water and lemon juice and let them hang out in the fridge overnight.  This is such a big job that I'm trying to break it up and work ahead as much as possible.

This morning I chopped all of the apples.  By hand.  Into little pieces.  TWENTY cups of chopped apples.  My hands are now misshapen claws.  Next year I need to look into getting one of those handy gadgets that peel, core, and spiral cut apples.  Then I'd just have to cut them into smaller pieces and call it done.

I added the lemon juice, sugar, cinnamon, and flour to the diced apples to complete the filling.

Later I'll roll out the pie crust and line the jars (which are washed and drying on my counter).  Then I'll fill them with layers of apple filling, taffy, and caramel bits.  Then I'll top them off with a circle of pie crust (with a cute little heart-shaped hole cut out to let steam out when they bake) and the jar lids and rings.  The finishing touch will be the cute labels.

After I cleaned up the apple mess and made Nora's lunch, I got to work on my third major tasks:  preparing gingerbread houses for some family fun tonight.

*Update:  I wrote this yesterday afternoon, but then Blogger malfunctioned and wouldn't let me publish it.  I ended up finishing all of the apple pies, so I now have 48 yummy jars in my freezer ready to be given at Christmas gatherings.  We also had tons of fun decorating our gingerbread houses.  It's such a fun tradition to do as a family.  Here's a look at our finished houses:


Nora (She got hot, took off her clothes, got cold, and wrapped up in a blanket.  I have no explanation for her hair.)

Jared and I decorated the last gingerbread house together.

And now we're off to play in the freshly fallen snow!


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Wednesday Morning Adventures

Most of you already know that Wednesday mornings are my kid-free time.  I usually use this time to run lots of errands, and today was no different.

I went to Walgreen's, Kmart, Hallmark, and Walmart.  I picked up Christmas gifts, some household items, and even a "New Home" ornament to put on our Christmas tree.

I enjoyed the seasonal songs in the stores and observed the other shoppers.  I grinned from ear to ear when I overheard two different sets of grandparents trying to navigate the toy aisles to buy gifts for their grandkids.  I listened happily to a woman tell me that she can't find any Barbie clothes that don't look like they belong to a stripper.  She previously bought Barbies for her granddaughters, and one had a tattoo under her clothes and the other turned out to be wearing thong underwear under her clothes.  Don't worry, though; she found great alternative gifts for her grandchildren at Bass Pro Shop.

I witnessed a game of Parking Lot Chicken when one grumpy old woman in a minivan refused to slow down and another grumpy old woman walking across the lot refused to wait.  There were no fatalities.  Just cranky looks exchange between them while I tried not to laugh.

I was surprised by kind store workers and thoughtful fellow shoppers ("I think you were in line ahead of me."  "No, you were here first.").

I got everything on my lists and headed home with my spoils. I parked in my garage and walked around to the passenger side to unload all my bags. 

Then I heard a strange noise.

It reminded me of when my kids stick their faces in the bath water and blow bubbles.

I tried to follow the sound.  It was down low.  Lower.  And then I realized what it was.

My rear passenger car tire was parked in a puddle created by melted snow from the car.  There was a hole in the tire, and the air rushing out of the hole was blowing bubbles in the puddle.

I didn't even have a second to panic about the tire and the fact that I had to pick up my daughter soon and then my boys in a few hours. 

All I kept thinking was how cool it is that God loves me and orchestrates the details of my day.  I didn't get stranded at Walmart (or any of the other stores I visited).  I didn't have to cut short my list of errands.  I got everything done that I needed to for the morning.  I made it all the way home.  AND THEN God parked my car with the tire hole positioned exactly in the puddle so it would make a noise and alert me to the problem.

I had time to call my friend Megan and ask her to pick up Nora when she went to pick up her own daughter.  I'm so grateful to have a friend like Megan who didn't even hesitate to help me even though she had her own schedule to keep today.  Yet another blessing in my morning.  Then I had time to call Jared.  His work schedule has been crazy the last couple of months, but he was able to adjust his meetings so he could come home in time to pick up the boys from school (since it's waaaay too cold to walk!). 

How amazing is all of that??  I know, pretty awesome.

Every day brings new adventures, and I'm so thankful that today's adventures reminded me that people can be unexpectedly kind and that God is in the details, no matter the circumstances.


Friday, December 6, 2013

Christmas Songs

I love Christmas songs.  Give me anything by Bing Crosby and/or Fred Astaire, and I'm a happy girl.

I grew up listening to Christmas songs by Amy Grant and the Jackson 5.  In junior high I became enamored with Mariah Carey's Christmas album.  Then came the Christmas CD by Boyz II Men.  That's right.  I rocked that.

I also love getting to sing carols in church.  Seriously, that moment in O Holy Night when everyone belts out "Faaaaall on your knees..." gets me every time.

These days I am almost always listening to either the Christmas station on Pandora or to my local Christian radio station, which plays all Christmas music starting the day after Thanksgiving.  I listen to the station, WCIC, on the app TuneIn Radio on my phone, but they also have their own WCIC app available for iPhone or Android.

I get to hear a lot more Christmas classics on Pandora, but I love hearing the Christian songs on WCIC. 

Now, I'll admit that I don't love every Christian artist's cover of classic Christmas songs.  Nor do I enjoy every original Christmas song that pops up on WCIC.  I won't name those songs here. :)

I have picked up a few favorites from Christian artists over the last few holiday seasons.  I wanted to share them here in case you haven't heard them.

"Welcome To Our World" by Chris Rice:

"Baby Boy" by For King and Country:

"Feliz Navidad" by Unspoken (a new favorite this year):

And two of my very favorites...

"Peace on Earth" by Casting Crowns:

"Jesus, Savior" by Chris August (The verses of this song are oddly written.  For example, they rhyme the word girl with the word carpenter.  But I just love the chorus so much!  "Our salvation has a name"...Amazing!):

So if you drive by me and see me singing and dancing in my car, you can bet that one of the above songs is most likely on my radio.

I hope you're getting in the Christmas spirit in your own way.  The music does it for me.  Believe it or not, some fellow holiday shoppers have added to my joy. 

Yesterday I had to run into the grocery store for two items for our dinner.  I was in a hurry, and all of the check-out lanes had lines.  I took a breath and got in line behind a cute older woman.  She glanced back and saw that I only had a couple of items, and she offered to let me go in front of her.  I gratefully accepted her offer.  After I moved up in front of her, there were two cute older men in front of me, and they were just finishing loading all of their many items onto the belt.  They also offered to let me go in front of them.  The worker hadn't started scanning their items, so I gratefully accepted their offer as well.  I was done checking out in less than 60 seconds.  I warmly thanked them all again, and the woman said, "Of course.  It's Christmas time!"

Today Nora and I went out in the painful cold to head to Walmart for a few Christmas gifts.  I got distracted looking at the holiday coffee cream flavors, and Nora and I ended up in a bit of a tickle fight right there in the dairy section.  I was just so happy to be out Christmas shopping and spending time with my girl, and we had fun together.  I became aware of a woman standing near us.  I turned to her and said to let me know if I was in her way, and she said she just stopped to enjoy my daughter's giggles.  We had a very pleasant exchange, and then we parted ways as she told us to have a very Merry Christmas.

It's been a crazy week.  A heavy week.  An emotional week.  Who knows if I'll even have time to tell you about half of it.  I'm so grateful to end this week on a high note, giggling with my daughter near the Walmart milks and exchanging pleasantries with strangers.  And rocking out to my favorite festive tunes.


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Griffin's 6th Birthday

My brown-eyed boy is now 6 years old.  Crazy.

We had all of our family over on Saturday to celebrate our Griffin.  This was the first birthday party in our new house!

We always choose a birthday party theme that reflects the child's interest at the time of his/her birthday.  Right now Griffin LOVES a video game called Super Mario 64, and he plays it on both Wii and Nintendo DS.  We've done a Mario theme for him before (Super Mario Galaxy, to be exact).  I didn't really have any new ideas for this party.  Plus I really wanted to give everyone the gift of being more relaxed for his party. :)  So we got the plates and napkins that he liked the best, added a few birthday decorations, and had a nice casual birthday party.

Griffin's #1 request for his party was a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting.  I figured there was no sense in making it more complicated than that.  I did have a little fun decorating the cake.

I baked a chocolate cake, flipped it out onto a white cutting board, frosted it with chocolate frosting (not caring too much about lines), and added some sprinkles.  I drew a 6 on a piece of cardstock and then cut it out.  I sprayed some non-stick spray on the back of the cardstock and then carefully laid it on the frosted cake (including the circle in the middle of the 6).  I filled in the 6 with sprinkles and then carefully removed the cardstock.  I did have to smooth out the frosting again after I removed the stencil.  Then I added some sprinkles around the edge of the cake as well. 

We had a few little Mario character toys and picked up a few more at a local party store.  I just set them up on the cutting board around the cake rather than on the cake so they wouldn't get frosting on them.  It would have washed off, but I didn't want to deal with the mess.  The bigger toys above the cake were actually filled with candies, which Griffin ate after we had cake.  I also bought candles that have stars on them because there are stars in the Mario game.

We set up two folding tables together as well as our kitchen table (moved out into the family room) and covered them with birthday table cloths from Deals.  I found a colorful "Happy Birthday" banner at Walmart.  We bought some folding chairs on Black Friday (the day before the party) so we'd have enough for everyone.

Some years I try not to have any Christmas decorations up for Griffin's party so it's focused on his birthday.  This year I wanted all of the sentimental decorations up to make our house more homey.

I forgot to take pictures of our plates and napkins, but I ordered them from Birthday Express.  Here are pictures of the supplies from the website:

Luigi dessert plates

Mario dinner plates

I love that we have both sides of our families gathered together for our kids' birthdays.  This Thanksgiving I was missing some family members more than ever, like my grandparents who have passed away and my family in Texas.  I was delighted that Jared's grandma was able to come to Griffin's birthday party.  We cherish every visit with her.

When it was time to sing to Griffin, I had him sit on a stool behind our kitchen peninsula so everyone in the kitchen could see him.  He said, "Mom, I'm not turning 9."  I explained that I wanted the cake facing me for pictures. :)

A friend of mine sent me a text before the party encouraging me to "look for the joy in Griffin's face."  I have to say that seemed to be the theme of Griffin's party.  His sweet little face was smiling through the whole thing!

He didn't want to read his cards out loud, but he sat and read every word silently.

Sunday was Griffin's actual birthday.  After church and lunch Griffin made his first batch of cookies in his new Easy Bake Oven (the cool black version for boys!).

Griffin was very focused while Nolan looked on and ate a sucker.

Later that night we stuck a candle in some leftover birthday ice cream and sang to Griffin, just our little family.

Griffin was holding Liam, our Elf on the Shelf, who always appears on Dec. 1 (Griffin's birthday).

Savoring our family singing "Happy Birthday"

Blowing out the candle!
My precious birthday boy
Happy Birthday Griffin!