LIVE LAUGH LOVE DANCE

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Evan's 5th Birthday & New Year's Eve

Happy 5th Birthday to my little guy Evan who is growing up to fast! Where have these five years gone? Today is a special day in more than one way. Not only is it Evan's birthday, but it's also mine and Greg's anniversary of when we got engaged. Ten years ago today is the day we got engaged. We were in Orlando for the Citrus Bowl to watch MSU play Florida. I remember it like it was yesterday and was a fantastic way to bring in the new year and new millennium! Who'd a thunk five years later on that same day we'd be celebrating another milestone in our life together with the birth of our first child! New Year's Eve will always be a great day for us to celebrate!

This morning Emmaline even remembered it was Evan's birthday when she woke up. I got her out of bed and asked her what today is and she replied, "Happy Birthday brother." We walked down the stairs together and when we got to the bottom she saw Evan on the couch and said, "Happy Birthday Evan!" Then she walked over to him and gave him a big hug and kiss. It was so so sweet!

We didn't do a whole lot today. We had to run a few errands in preparation for the birthday party this weekend and then Evan got to choose where we went for dinner tonight. He had the choice of going to breakfast, lunch, or dinner. First he said breakfast, but then changed his mind to going to dinner. He originally wanted Bennigan's, then changed it to Qdoba, and finally ended up deciding on Noodles & Company. It wasn't a big surprise since it is his favorite place and he loves himself some mac-n-cheese from there. Here's a few pictures from his birthday dinner!

Cutie patootie brother and sister!
One of Ev's presents... football shirt
Another present... what's in here?
Spike Jr.!

He gets the rest of his stuff on Saturday at his birthday party! We had a nice dinner even though it was just Noodles & Company. Now it's time to wait for the ball to drop and welcome in 2010! I'd like to wish everyone a very Happy New Year and may you encounter good and exciting things in 2010! Happy Birthday Evan! We all love you bunches!!!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

End Of The Year Happenings

Wow, I can't believe it's almost Thursday! That means three things this week... it's almost December 31st, the end of the year, and my little guys birthday! How is it that it's here already? Five years ago on this night I was in a hospital bed being induced waiting to give birth to my first child. I remember it like it was yesterday. It's been a crazy busy week as I expected and not slowing down anytime soon. Here's a little recap of the past couple days and what lies ahead. Monday brought about car shopping for Greg. His lease is up on his car in February and that means time to find something new. Not necessarily new, possibly used, but a different car nonetheless. He wasn't too successful in his quest for a new ride. Car shopping takes so much time and is such a pain. Ever since Monday he's been to three car dealers, and has been looking at cars online pretty much non-stop! The problem is he doesn't really know what he wants for one, and for two anything he kind of is interested in is more than we want to pay. We've got a little time and hopefully things will fall into place after the new year and we'll figure out what we're going to get.

The past couple days has also brought about still trying to unpack and organize new toys, as well as trying new clothes on the kids and seeing what needs to be exchanged/returned. We've done a few exchanges, but of course not everything is from the same store so that means multiple places to go. Hopefully over the next couple days we can finish the exchanges up and get that out of the way. However Saturday is birthday party day and MSU bowl game at night, so that means that day is gonna be shot. Speaking of birthday party, Evan has decided on a pirate party this year. I've been trying to plan a few things for that and get this house in shape before Saturday in between everything else.

Tonight brought about the first birthday celebration for Evan. We celebrated his birthday with Greg's mom tonight by going to dinner at Ukai (the Japanese steakhouse we all love). It was so good. Evan got to pick where he wanted to go to dinner and Ukai it was. The boy has some good taste for a five year old! He picked it all by himself. We all enjoyed dinner however Em wasn't too into the fire at the table this time. She had to hide her face in my arm. Then when the fire was done she was fine and she'd say, "All done, just steaming." It was too cute!

So that's our last couple days in a nutshell. Tomorrow is New Year's Eve and a very special birthday. I'm not sure what our plans are, but I do know that Evan's going to get to pick most of what we do!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Our Four Christmases

O.k., I'm back finally. It's been a whirlwind of a weekend, and I feel like I haven't stopped. It's not going to slow down anytime soon since now it's birthday time this week for my little guy. I'll be glad when it's Sunday!

We had four Christmases over the past few days. Our Christmases started on Christmas Eve and went through Saturday. On Christmas Eve we celebrated Christmas number one with Greg's mom. We started off the morning with homemade cinnamon rolls per Greg's request at her house and then opened presents. We all got really nice stuff, and guess what? I got my Flip Video Camera I've been wanting! I'm so excited to be able to video the kids now. Greg got a Blue Ray DVD player so we both have our "toys" to play with while the kids have their toys to play with! Later on we went to dinner at Bravo with Greg's mom and his aunt, uncle and cousins. Here's the kids all dressed up and ready to go to dinner!


Em loved getting dressed up! I once again had the braised Chianti ravioli I had the last time. So good! We had a nice dinner and then it was time to prepare for Santa!

Once the kids were in bed it was time to play Santa, and I'm beginning to think that is becoming a lot of work. As the kids get bigger, so do the presents. We got everything all set up, ate the cookies and drank the milk (well put some crumbs on the plate and put the cookies back in the container more like it. I wasn't feeling like eating cookies at 11:30pm.)

Christmas morning we celebrated Christmas number two. We ended up having to actually wake the kids up about 7am Christmas morning because we were going to be heading to my Dad's so we wanted to get going. When Evan got up he was sure that Santa came during the night. When I got Em up and told her it was Christmas she said, "Santa." I think she really knew what was going on because she was ready to get downstairs! Here's a video of the kids coming downstairs Christmas morning in their Christmas jammies! They were both really surprised with their stuff from Santa!

video

Evan got his drums and robot that he really wanted plus some. He went to town right away! The boy really does know how to carry a good beat! I was wondering why Santa brought such loud drums though. Haha! Em got her baby and stroller she asked for plus some! I was glad she liked the cradle too since you all know the cradle saga by now. This one will remain with her forever until she has kids and hopefully won't go missing! She saw her new cradle and got her new baby and said, "Baby go night night!" It was too cute. She knew exactly what to do!

After checking out the "goods" from Santa the kids had to make sure Santa ate the cookies and drank the milk. Here they are checking it out and they found that Santa wrote them a letter back!


The kids opened up stuff from their stockings that Santa filled and Em was so funny. She had to line everything up. You can see her line of stuff in the picture below, and yes in case you've been wondering... Santa did bring her some apples!


After doing Santa stuff with the kids, we had our Christmas as a family. Em was most definitely into the presents more this year than last. She needed no help opening stuff! Of course Evan is a pro by now opening stuff. We then headed to my Dad's for Christmas there. This would be Christmas number three. We had a nice Christmas lunch of Polish sausage, ham, fried potatoes, green bean casserole and yummy desserts. Both my kids love the Polish sausage which kind of surprises me! After lunch we opened presents, and I was surprised one of the things I opened was another item from my wish list! I got my new set of knives. I guess now I'm going to have to do some cooking! We had a nice Christmas with my Dad & Step-Mom and everyone got lots of nice stuff! Here's my little princess in her Christmas dress.


Here's a pic of the kids and their cousin Kaite on Christmas day!


On Saturday my Mom came down to my sister's and we had our fourth Christmas. My mom made chicken tetrazzini which is a tradition. I've been making it the past few years since we've had Christmas with my mom and sister at our house, but this year since we did it at my sister's house my mom made it. I will post the recipe soon for you because it's really good! We also had salad and pretzel jello. Mmmm so good! After our lunch it was time to open presents once again! The kids were even surprised with some presents that were sent from their great Aunt Deb and great Uncle Dick in Arizona! They got some neat stuff. Thanks Aunt Deb and Uncle Dick for thinking of them! They loved everything!

So after four Christmases, traveling, and now a house that is trashed with new things, I'm exhausted. We got home yesterday and tore down our tree right away to make some room in the living room for new toys. I still have my other decorations to take down and am hoping to do that today. It's going to take me all week probably to get this place reorganized before birthday party time!

I hope all of you had a wonderful Christmas as well! I've got lots of pictures to share from Christmas, but this post would be way too long. I'll probably post some more later or on Facebook. We also had a fun winter adventure Saturday evening that I want to share with you so that will come soon. A big thanks to all the parents/ grandparents for lovely Christmas dinners and all the great presents! Now who wants to come clean my house and organize all this stuff? :)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

My New Ride For A Couple Days

Yesterday I had to take my car in to get the steering checked. Something hasn't been working right with the power steering for awhile so I thought it was time to get it looked at. We got my car from Varsity Lincoln Mercury in Novi. Great place to get a car if you're in need. Anyway, since it's about an hour drive from here, the gal we work with always offers to give me a loaner car if my car needs to go in AND she'll meet me half way to swap cars. So nice of her. I could take it to the dealer in town, but then I'm without a car or I'd had to pay to rent a car. So with that said, yesterday I had to meet Denise (our salesperson) in Howell to swap cars. Greg's mom kept the kids the night before so that was nice I didn't have to lug the kids and switch car seats around. Denise gave me her car to drive for a couple days. Well really it's the dealer's car, but it's what she's driving right now. So my wheels for yesterday and today are below.


It's a very nice car- Lincoln MK S. Fully loaded and it's got so many bells and whistles the car can almost drive itself! You don't even need a key to start it. Push a button and voila... the car is started. There is a remote piece that you have to keep in the car for the button to be able to work, but no putting a key in the ignition! It also has a rear view camera so you can see when backing up, navigation system, etc. Very nice, but it's a little weird to get used to driving at first because I'm so used to sitting up high in my Mountaineer. We have to meet again tonight to switch back, but I'm thoroughly enjoying this nice ride while I have it.

Since I was already that way to switch cars, I made a quick trip to Home Goods in Brighton. It's only like 15 minutes from the outlet mall so I figured I might as well. I just love that store. I could spend hours in there just looking around! There is a lot of neat things in that store, but there are also some rather strange items that I often wonder, "Who would put this in their house?" One thing in particular that I came across was this bedroom furniture set.


The chair isn't bad. I actually like it. It wouldn't go with things in our house, but in the right place it would be nice. The mirrored dressers and the mirrored floor lamp on the other hand are a little bit different. O.k. a lot different. I don't know, some of you may like them, but they're just not my style. They look a little too gaudy for me. I mean really... does one really need that many mirrors on their dresser. What ever happened to a mirror above your dresser? Apparently that's out and mirrors on the whole thing is in. I guess that's why we're all different because while I didn't purchase this ensemble, someone else will probably come along and do so!

After Home Goods I made a quick run to a couple of stores at the Outlet Mall. I had to peek in the Coach store to see what was new. They were having an extra 20% off everything! Too bad Santa wasn't with me to shop. Needless to say I walked out without any purchase. I finished up a few last minute errands when I got back home. Yesterday was our neighbor friends the Marr's daughter Veronica's birthday so we'd like to wish her a very Happy Birthday!

As Christmas Eve is quickly approaching tomorrow and Christmas in only two days, you'll probably be hearing a little less from me for the rest of the week. In case I'm not back on until after the holidays I'd like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas! If you have little one's I hope you have a very special time with them. I know we're looking forward to seeing the kids get their stuff from Santa!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Weekend Of Holiday Movies & Fun

Wow, I can't believe the last weekend before Christmas has been here and gone! Crazy! Unfortunately our tree is drying out fast, and it's losing needles (lots of needles) daily! We're hoping it can hang in there for a few more days. I'm really considering taking it down Christmas day. It still looks pretty, but the needles are a pain to keep vacuuming up. Remember my new vacuum I got about a month ago? It's getting lots and lots of use lately with all these needles on the carpet!

We had a nice family weekend as we wrapped up some holiday things. Evan wanted to see Santa over at Eastwood Towne Center (the mall by us) and this was the last weekend to do it. So we headed over there Saturday afternoon. There were reindeer, horse and carriage rides, Santa, cookies and hot cocoa, and giveaways. It was snowing a little which was kind of nice for the scenery, but it was COLD! The kids checked out the reindeer and Em was all over them, but once again, nothing to do with Santa. So here we have another picture of Evan and Santa, but none of Em with Santa!


Evan once again told Santa he wanted drums and a robot, and since Em wouldn't get up in the sleigh he told Santa his sister wanted a baby doll. Check, check, and check! Looks like Santa got the right stuff this year... or did he? Tonight Evan decides he wants a telescope. Sorry, but Santa is done shopping! I think he only said that because he was looking at one of the ads in the paper and there was a picture of one!

The mall was handing out reusable lunch bags that had some goodies in them- coupons, jelly beans from the candy store at the mall, and some had gift cards. They did this last year too, every weekend from Thanksgiving until the week before Christmas. Except they handed out reusable shopping bags last year. We got a couple Pottery Barn $10 gift cards, a Guess $10 gift card, and $10 gift card to a local restaurant. This year they said some bags had gift cards, but I think they all did, at least the batch they handed out when we got ours because everyone was talking and they had the same gift cards. There were $20 Guess gift cards in each bag. We ended up with $60 of Guess gift cards, plus we still have the $10 one from last year. Of course gift cards to a place we never shop.

We didn't do the horse and carriage ride because it was too cold, but the kids enjoyed some hot cocoa and cookies. The rest of our weekend was spent staying warm inside watching some Christmas movies on t.v. We watched Home Alone, Home Alone 2, Elf, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, Shrek the Halls, Disney Prep & Landing, and Frosty. Not all in their entirety, but parts of some. I love the Christmas movies on t.v. this time of year!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Holiday Snowball Cookie Recipe

Here's the cookie recipe I promised you yesterday. They really are not hard to make at all!

Holiday Snowball Cookies

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups butter, softened (3 sticks) Make sure softened!
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 2/3 cups Nestles Toll House Swirled Holiday Morsels (10 oz. pkg)
1/2 cup finely chopped nuts (I use pecans)
Powdered sugar

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  1. Beat butter, sugar, vanilla, and salt in large mixing bowl until creamy.
  2. Gradually beat in flour.
  3. Stir in morsels and nuts.
  4. Shape into 1 1/4 inch balls. (I use a cookie dough scoop)
  5. Place on ungreased (or parchment paper) baking sheets.
  6. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until cookies are set and lightly browned.
  7. Remove from oven and sift powdered sugar over hot cookies.
  8. Cool on baking sheets for 10 minutes and then move to wire racks. Sprinkle with additional powdered sugar if desired.
Makes 40-45 snowballs.

I got this recipe from a Nestle Toll House recipe card and it says makes 4 1/2 dozen. It depends on the size of your scoop I guess because I've never gotten that many out of a batch. Probably if you just do spoonfuls you may, but I like the scoop because it makes cookie into a good shape. I have been making these cookies for years. They're always a hit! Enjoy!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Christmas Baking Continues...

Yesterday I wrapped some more presents and went to the store to get the missing ingredients I didn't have for my baking. Greg helped me out last night by doing step one of my peanut butter patty cookies so that was greatly appreciated. Today I went to town and got a lot of my baking done. First up was more pretzel buttons. Evan got in on the action today and helped me with those. He was such a hoot as we made them. The things he was saying cracked me up. I'll tell you some of them along the way. He was so excited to help so we started by peeling all the wrappers from the Hugs. That's probably the only bad part about making the pretzel buttons, but with Evan's help it went really fast. At first Evan says, "Unwrapping these is more fun than eating them." I was a little shocked by that, but about a minute later he says, "Mommy, touching this candy makes me want to eat them." I think this was his start to many lines to come in order to try to get some to eat. We unwrapped two bags of Hugs and as we neared the end there was a broken one. I gave the broken piece to Evan and he says, "These babies are soooo good." My response, "No Evan you're not having more." He was trying everything to eat the Hugs, believe me! Once we got the Hugs unwrapped Evan was a super big helper spreading the pretzels out and topping them with the Hugs. I put the M&M's on because that part kind of needs to be done fast. We ended up making about 160 pretzel buttons which makes a total of about 225 all together because I made about 65 the other day.

Next up was my peanut butter patties. About 10 years ago when I was doing a long term substitute teaching job in Grand Rapids, a teacher made these for the Christmas party and I was hooked. I've been making them ever since. They taste like the Girl Scout peanut butter patties, but after having them together I think these taste even better. They are so easy to make as well. Three ingredients once again... here's the recipe:

Peanut Butter Patties

Ingredients:
  • 1 package chocolate Candi-quick ( I think the Meijer brand tastes best)
  • Ritz crackers (about 60 if use a whole package of Candi-quick)
  • peanut butter
Directions:
  1. Peanut butter the bottom side of a Ritz cracker, top with a second Ritz cracker (so both bottom sides of crackers are touching the peanut butter and you basically have two Ritz crackers with peanut butter in the middle- ).
  2. Melt Candi-quick according to package directions.
  3. Dip cracker in Candi-quick so completely covered.
  4. Set on wax paper to harden.
Makes about 30 cookies.

You kind of have to work fast before the Candi-quick hardens. You may need to put tray of chocolate back in the microwave to soften as you're making this. I only do in 15 second intervals because after a couple times the chocolate can tend to get clumpy. Here's what they look like. I basically whip the chocolate on so they're not the prettiest cookie with smooth chocolate like the Girl Scout peanut butter patties, but they're soooo good!


The pretzels in the middle are Evan's own concoction. We had some pretzels left over from the "buttons" and a little chocolate from the cookies. He wanted to dip the pretzels and put teddy grahams in the middle. Pretty clever, huh? He had to make one for each of us! He also made a couple "buttons" with the Hug in the middle and a teddy graham on top instead of the M&M's.

I had to take a break from baking until this evening because I forgot the margarine had to soften for my "Holiday Snowball Cookies." I wasn't going to make these this year, but Greg requested them and I had a bag of the holiday morsels so I made them. I forgot that these too are pretty easy to make. A few more steps than the "pretzel buttons" and "peanut butter patties," but not too bad nonetheless. Here's what they look like:


I will post the recipe tomorrow for them. Because I'm tired and ready for bed soon. I was lucky to get the dough made for these because just as I finished mixing my hand mixer when on the fritz and pretty much burned up. Santa, I need a new hand mixer! So overall, I made 160 pretzel buttons, 31 peanut butter patties, and 43 holiday snowball cookies today. I don't think I'm done because I will probably make another batch of the peanut butter patties as they're being requested. I'm also still debating about making my Santa cookies. I usually make chocolate and white chocolate dipped pretzel rods, but since I discovered the pretzel buttons I think those are going to win over the pretzel rods from now on! Before I leave you, here's a picture of what the Candi-quick looks like if you're unfamiliar with Candi-quick and the holiday morsels for the snowball cookies. (Just a FYI- these can be hard to find sometimes so if you see them grab them. I usually see them at Meijer, but the closer to Christmas it gets they run out.)

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Christmas Baking Has Begun

Tonight we had our friend Brenda over for dinner. She used to work with Greg until she was one of the five who lost their job a month ago when they layoffs were announced. She's having back surgery on Wednesday and she's going to be laid up for a couple weeks from surgery. So I thought it would be nice to have her and her daughter over for dinner with everything that's been going on. I made lasagna for dinner, and I didn't really have anything for dessert so I thought I'd start my holiday baking! I decided to start off with something new I've never made before. When we were at the work Christmas party number one someone brought these pretzels with Hershey kisses and they were so good. I knew they'd be super simple to make so I whipped them together today. They take absolutely no time to make and believe me when I say they are so yummy! I think they're going to be a new tradition to make along with my other regular Holiday baking goods! Here's the recipe if you want to call it a recipe. Basically it's three items and about 10 minutes of your time. There's a few different names for them so I've included all below!

Chocolate Pretzel Buttons/ Pretzel Hugs/ Pretzel Kisses
Ingredients:
1 bag of small round pretzels
1 bag of Hershey Kisses or Hugs
1 bag plain M&M's

Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees
  2. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper
  3. Fill cookie sheet with as many pretzels as will fit
  4. Top each pretzel with a Hershey Kiss or Hug (the Hugs melt faster than the kisses)
  5. Place in oven for 2-5 minutes (I used Hugs so two minutes was plenty) and remove when Hug/Kiss begins to soften just enough to press M&M in the middle.
  6. Top each with a M&M. (I used holiday M&M's so they were green and red)
  7. Place in fridge for about 15 minutes until chocolate firms up.

Enjoy because they won't last long! I'm already planning on making more! Here's what they look like!


Hopefully by this weekend I'll have the rest of my baking done. I'm trying to narrow down what I'm going to make this year. I have a couple things I make every year and then some years alternate some of the cookies I make!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas Party #2 & A Holiday Playdate

Wow, here it is Sunday night... where did the weekend go? Friday night we had Greg's work Christmas party #2. It was at a different co-workers house. We had a really nice time and I tried out a new recipe to take that was a hit! I'm going to post the recipe below for you. I got it from my neighbor friend Jenn. I made a buffalo chicken dip. I don't like to make new recipes to take somewhere that I've never tried before. However, this one sounded really good and I trusted Jenn when she told me it was delicious. She was right, it was delish and many were asking for the recipe. It had a little kick to it, but if you like buffalo chicken wings you'll like this. Greg's mom kept the kids for us again so that was nice. They stayed the night so we had a totally kid free night.

Saturday Emmaline had a "holiday playdate." Only a couple of her friends were able to make it. Em, Chloe, and Lucia all had a fun time and it was nice to have a playdate again. It had been awhile. My friend Carla came without her son Duncan. She had told me Duncan would be napping at playdate time, but she still wanted to come hang with us. I'm glad she stopped by. It was nice to catch up with her, as well as with Wesley and Carmen. All three are pregnant and look fabulous! Oh how I miss being pregnant! It was a nice afternoon just the girls! Evan stayed for the afternoon at Greg's mom's and Greg had to work graduation all afternoon.

Today we got the Christmas card picture taken. I think we got a good shot. I have to go look through them all when I'm done here. The kids did a nice job cooperating for me, well for Greg since he ended up taking the picture. My camera wasn't cooperating so it was time to pull out the "good" camera. So while I wanted to have the Christmas cards all done by today, I'm still happy that we got the picture taken. Now I just have to get them printed and addressed... agenda for tomorrow and Tuesday! So that was our weekend in a nutshell! Enjoy the recipe below if you end up making it sometime!

Buffalo Chicken Dip

Set oven to 350
3 cups of shredded chicken
2 cups shredded cheese (Mexi-blend or Colby Jack work well)
1 cup chunky blue cheese dressing
3/4 cup hot wing sauce
1 block of cream cheese ( I use reduced fat)

Mix it all together and put in baking dish. Bake in oven for 30 minutes. Serve with tortilla chips!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Family Night At The Tree Farm

Last night we had a really fun family night. "Lansing Moms Like Me" hosted December's family night at Peacock Tree Road Farm in Laingsburg. Although the weather was calling for snow and it was super windy last night, we still decided to go. It wasn't snowing when we left, so we thought we'd go for a little while at least. The festivities started at 4pm and it was set up as an open house format so you could come whenever and leave whenever. Greg left work early and picked Evan up from school so we could head out while it was still light out. We all got bundled up and Evan was so excited to get to wear his new snow pants and new boots I got him earlier in the week. Here's the kids all bundled up ready to head to the tree farm!


On the way into the tree farm Evan had to stop and get his picture.

There were lots of festivities planned that we could partake in. There was a train ride into the woods to see Santa at his cabin in the "North Pole" and roast marshmallows and drink hot cocoa. The tree farm provided a free hotdog dinner for families. There were also carolers in an old school house you could listen to, kids could make a wreath swag, there were reindeer to see, as well as lots of things on the farm to see. While we waited for the train to go see Santa, we walked around. Here's one of the buildings on the farm. The spots are snow so by the time we got there the snow had started. It wasn't too bad though.


They had this really neat train that was lit with Christmas lights. The kids loved it! Here's my two little munchkins on board to go see Santa!

Here's Em enjoying the ride out to see Santa. We passed by the reindeer on the way and she really liked seeing them!

We arrived at the "North Pole" and here's Santa's cabin where he was waiting for all the kids.

Evan told Santa he wanted drums and a robot again. I thought for sure Em was going to sit on his lap because she was talking to him saying "hi." However when the time came she backed out. She finally ended up going up with me, but I had to hold her and she quietly whispered to Santa she wanted a baby doll. Dang, what happen to the apples. Haha! After they saw Santa in the cabin we roasted marshmallows and drank hot cocoa. It really hit the spot on a cold snowy night! Here's Greg and the kids roasting marshmallows.


The train came back to pick us up and we headed back to the old barn for our hotdog dinner. Here's Ev on the way back. He was having so much fun so far!

The old barn was filled with Christmas lights and decorations. The picture doesn't do it justice. It was really neat. The Polar Express movie was playing in the barn so the kids got to enjoy that while we ate.

After dinner we headed to the craft barn, and the kids took turns making the wreath swag. Evan really enjoyed it!

Then we called it an evening and headed home. Although it was a little cold it was a really fun winter night for all of us. It was a magical winter experience and the kids had a blast. The only bad part was we had to take a dirt road out there and back part of the way, and my car ended up full of mud. Of course it's too cold to wash right now so it will have to stay that way for a bit. Thanks to LMLM for planning such a great family event!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

200

Today is my 200th post. How can that be? Do I really have that much to say? I guess so because since I started blogging seven months ago in May, I've now reached 200! Thanks to all who follow along and read my daily ramblings. I still really enjoy my blogging, as much as I hope you enjoy reading! I apologize for the days that I go M.I.A. sometimes. Sometimes life just gets a little busy, and honestly sometimes I just don't have anything that's worthwhile to blog about. My friend Ann that got me started blogging, and has her own blog Life on Roosevelt Street (you should check it out sometime... she even has giveaways on her blog!) stated something yesterday that I often feel the exact same way. She said, "I love blogging, but sometimes it gets in the way of doing other things!" Ann, you don't know how often I say this. Sometimes I'm so busy with stuff that I get behind on my blogging. For example this past weekend. We had a jam packed weekend and with being gone most of the day Saturday, going to Winter Bowl, and trying to get the tree up and decorated it really left no time for blogging. Or if I did blog then the tree wasn't going to get done. So I have to try to balance it out. I'll be honest, sometimes you might check and there's not a post for a certain day, then you come back the next day and there's a post from the previous day. Well folks, sometimes I get a post started and then other things interrupt me so it doesn't get finished until really late that night or the next day. Or sometimes if I want to load pictures I've found my battery to be dead so I have to charge my camera before I can load them hence the delay in posts. So bear with me my dear readers... I'm still trying to balance all this out. I try my hardest to get my blogging done. I don't want to disappoint you because I know some of you read daily! I know when I check Ann's blog (daily) and there's nothing it's a little disappointing that I don't have anything to read because I do enjoy hearing her stories. However, I understand because we are both moms and wives, and sometimes other things just take priority! As I continue blogging until my next 100 posts, I hope to provide you with many entertaining entries and fun pictures, as well as some more delicious recipes.

For those of you who aren't "followers" yet (which means your picture is on the right hand side under "Followers," towards the bottom right... you can click there and add yourself as a follower. That way I know you're reading and keeping up with my ramblings.

Also for those of you who leave comments, once again thank you. I do enjoy them and look forward to reading them. Please continue to comment, it brightens my day! If you don't know how to leave a comment, here are some very simple instructions below that I've "borrowed" from Ann. Why take time to rewrite everything, right? Thanks Ann! :)

Instructions for How to Leave a Comment:
  • When you have finished reading one of my ramblings, you will see a link at the bottom of the post. It may say "0 comments" or "1 comment" or 2 comments, etc. Click on that.
  • It will take you to a new page. On the right hand side, there is a big box for you to type in your comment. When you are done typing up your thoughts, you have to go below the box and choose an identity. The easiest identity to choose is "Name/URL."
  • Once you select the "Name/URL" radio button, two boxes will pop up underneath. All you have to do is type in your first name in the "Name" box. You can leave the URL box empty.
  • Then you go to the orange "Publish Your Comment" box and click on it. You may be prompted to type some crazy word (this is to prevent spam on my blog) and then you are done.
Thanks again for reading The Shearwater Nest!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Christmas Cards

Before I get into my blog about Christmas cards, I'd like to wish my Mom a happy birthday today. Unfortunately she's getting a snow storm for her birthday courtesy of mother nature! I guess that's to be expected when you have a birthday in December. Despite the snow coming, hope you have a happy birthday Mom! In just a few more weeks it will be another birthday in the family when my little guy turns five!

Now onto my Christmas cards! I just realized today that I should probably get going on my cards. Christmas is only 17 days away, and it'll be here before I know it. I seem to be always waiting until the last minute to get my cards mailed, but I'm hoping they'll be in the mail by next week. Keep your fingers crossed I get on the ball this year! Haha! However if that's going to happen then that means I need to get the picture taken of the kids, get the cards printed, address the envelopes, and get them to the Post Office! Oh boy, I better get a move on it. That's lots of things I have to do yet!

Ever since we had Evan I switched from the traditional paper Christmas card and started sending photo Christmas cards. For those who don't see us often, I think it's a nice way to send a pic of the kids so everyone can see how much they've grown over the year, not to mention what cuties they are, right? I'm pondering an idea for our Christmas card this year. We'll have to see if it pans out. That depends on if the kids will cooperate enough for me to get the shot I'm thinking of. Keep your fingers crossed for me once again. If not, you may just be getting a shot of our Christmas tree or a plain old paper card. Not that there's anything wrong with the paper cards because I've gotten some really nice one's in the past. I'm just saying if the kids don't cooperate we're going to have to figure out a plan B.

One more thing before I leave you for the night. You know I'm a big fan of Ellen. Well she's started her 12 days of giveaways for the holidays. I highly recommend you check it out. She is giving away some fabulous stuff. Today was day four of the 12 days. Usually as the days build up the size of the prizes build too. Day 12 has had some very expensive items in the past. I would love to be in her audience for one of the 12 days of giveaways someday! How fun would that be? Until that day comes ( I can dream right?) I'll have to keep entering to win online! You still have time over the next week and a half to check it out! Enjoy!

Monday, December 7, 2009

O Christmas Tree

Well here it is finally folks... the post about our Christmas tree. Ever since we've been married for the last eight years, we've always gotten a real Christmas tree. We've gotten trees everywhere from Menards to tree farms to Habitat for Humanity as I mentioned in an earlier post. The first year we moved in this house we actually cut down our own Christmas tree. Last year we said we were going to get an artificial tree after Christmas for this year. We always have problems getting the tree in the stand and it tipping over. We ended up never finding one on sale good enough that we liked so that didn't happen. So once again this year we got another real tree. My sister so graciously let us borrow her stand to try. It's one of those swivels stands.

On Saturday we went to Habitat for Humanity and picked out our tree. It was only $20 and it supported a good cause so that's why we went back there. It's fun to go to the tree farms, but the trees are so dang expensive. All the trees there were wrapped up so you kind of have to make your decision based on the height and what type. We knew we wanted a 7.5 ft. tree and a Frasier Fur (that's what we always get because the needles are soft) so that knocked out a bunch of the trees. We still had a good selection to choose from. There were some really tall trees that Evan wanted, but they wouldn't fit in the house since our ceilings are only 9ft. and they were at least 11ft. tall trees. There was one that even looked like it was two trees together because it had two tops for two stars. We finally decided on one and loaded it up on Greg's car. Here's the tree arriving home.


We went to unwrap the tree and Greg let go and it somehow just stood up on it's own. Here it is.

We let the tree warm up all day while we were in GR and then brought it in the house Saturday night. I wanted to try the tree in a different spot this year so we moved the living room around got the tree in and in the stand with no problem. I was thinking, "this was too easy." After a few minutes we decided it was too big for the spot we had it so it needed to be moved. Out of the stand it came and moved furniture around again. This time, not so easy. We got the tree where we wanted it, but it kept leaning, and tipping over, and it was just being a pain! Greg really has no luck with trees and always seems to get in a fight with the tree. After an hour of messing with it, I was done and didn't feel like putting lights on or decorating.

So on Sunday after the winter bowl we came home and Greg helped me string the lights. That didn't go too bad, however there were more lights at the top then bottom. I had to try to move them around. I still think it needs more lights, but I didn't have anymore. It would've meant a trip to the store, and I just wanted it decorated and done. After the lights were done, Evan helped me put on some of the decorations. As I mentioned yesterday, I got our family ornament at the craft show. Every year I get an ornament personalized for our family. It's a tradition I started when we got engaged and have continued with it. Here's all our ornaments over the years.


The first one is kind of a combo year. We got engaged New Year's Eve 1999 in Florida and got this ornament at Disney so it's marked 2000. The next one is a fill in because once again we were at Disney in 2001 and had an ornament personalized, but unfortunately it was broke in my tub of ornaments last year. The next is two bears for 2002 with our names and the house is also for 2002. We got two ornaments that year because that was the year we bought our first house. Next is a space because 2003 is M.I.A right now and it's really bugging me what happened to it. The last one on the top row is from 2004. That was the year I was pregnant with Evan so I got and ornament with a pregnant girl and a guy to represent us. The gingerbread is from 2005 representing Greg, me, and our new little guy Evan. That was our first year to buy an ornament with three things on it. The next one with the reindeer in the canoe is from 2006. This ornament has a sad, but special memory because it's from our trip out west the year Greg's dad passed away and we had gone to spread his ashes. The next one is from 2007 and you can see the ornaments are getting bigger. Our little Emmaline arrived that year, so we had to add another one on the ornament. After that is 2008 with the four of us. It's a little hard to see since it's white on white, but it's each of us with snowballs. The last one of the car with the tree on top is for 2009. It's the one I got at the craft show. I chose this one because I'm thinking this WILL BE the last year we get a real tree so it symbolizes us getting our tree this year. (We're sick of dealing with the tree and tree stand so I'm keeping my fingers crossed I find an artificial tree on sale after Christmas.) So there you have it, all our family ornaments!

After I got the last ornament on the tree, wouldn't you know it... the tree starts to tip. Thank goodness I was standing right there to catch it. Needless to say Greg's fight with the tree wasn't over. I think it got to heavy with ornaments on the bottom since Evan put most of them there because he could only reach so high. After rearranging ornaments, we finally got the tree back up straight and the kids helped me finish off the decorating by putting the candy canes on. Here they are.


Finally my dear readers... here' s the whole finished product. It's really full around. Usually the trees we've gotten in the past don't have so much space from the bottom to the floor as this one. Looks like I need to get wrapping presents so it gets filled in.


Here's another picture that you can see the lights a little better. I'm pretty happy with it. I think it turned out nice for all the trouble we had with it! A little side note... here's my pretty red bows I was telling you about.


Here's one more picture of the tree and part of the living room decorated. You can see some more of the bows. I'd like to finish by wishing our friends Marie and Jim's son Connor a happy birthday.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Winter Bowl

Today was the East Lansing Winter Bowl. This is a family friendly event held downtown E.L. every December. There's everything from photos with Santa, feeding reindeer, and roasting marshmallows to a chili/soup cookoff, ice sculptures, and horse & carriage rides to name a few. It's a great way to bring families together and holiday cheer to downtown East Lansing. The Winter Bowl also brings the Holiday Arts and Crafts show to the MSU Union. This craft show is similar to the one in the spring that I attended with many of the same vendors, however everything is more holiday themed. This was our 4th year attending the Winter Bowl.

We started off the festivities with attending the Arts and Craft show. Well, I did at least. Greg wasn't interested so he took the kids to the bookstore while I walked around the craft show. There wasn't much I was looking for, but was hoping to find our annual family Christmas ornament. I did indeed find one, which I'll show you in my next post that will be all about our tree. I wasn't at the craft show too long and then we headed over to the Marriott where Santa and Mrs. Claus were. On the way into the hotel we passed by the ice sculptures that were being carved. This one was already done. How cool is that all you Spartan fans?


We got there a little early which ended up being a good thing because we were first in line for Santa. On the way into the hotel we spotted Santa and Em quickly jumped into Greg's arms saying, "no, no." While we waited for the photos to start with Santa, Mrs. Claus was in her chair already. Evan being the big brother he is, got Em to finally walk up and see Mrs. Claus as a little warm up to prepare for Santa. How sweet is this? He's telling Em it's o.k. to go up there.


She was up there for quite some time so I figured by the time Santa came back she would be just fine. While we're waiting for Santa and he wasn't to be found anywhere, I hear Mrs. Claus tell the "Elf" that she would call him on his cell however his cell was in her purse. Who would of thought almost 30 years ago when I was five that 30 years from then we'd be saying Santa has a cell phone. Boy have times changed! I wonder what we'll be saying 30 years from now when my kids take their kids to see Santa? When Santa finally arrived back at his chair, Em was having nothing to do with Santa this year. So it was just Evan visiting Santa this year. Here he is telling Santa what he wants for Christmas.


When he was done, I asked him what he asked Santa for. (Before we left the house he kept telling me he was asking for a race track and a robot. The track he mentioned one time before. Where the robot came from though I have no clue. That was new to me.) Evan said he asked Santa for a new set of drums and a race track.) Phew, I'm so glad he asked for drums because remember our Black Friday shopping... we bought the drums from Santa. I was getting a little worried there for a minute that he didn't want drums anymore.

The festivities continued after Santa. The Douglas J hair salon at the hotel has crafts set up for kids to paint ornaments. Ev and Em both painted their own. Here's Em painting her "Spartan Mitten."


And here's Evan painting his snowman!

We then headed over to the chili/soup tent which already had a fairly long line. It was a little chilly standing in line, but thankfully it moved quickly. We got into the tent and started our chili/soup tasting. There seemed to be less restaurants participating this year, but there was still a good amount of tasting to be done nonetheless! Here's all our samplings!


We both decided that the El Azteco chicken tortilla soup was our favorite for soup and the E.L. Fire Department was our favorite for chili. Here's the winning soup and chili!
The El Azteco chicken tortilla soup did win both judge's and people's choice award. The fire department came in 2nd for people's choice and 3rd for judges choice. Once again the Harrison Roadhouse white chicken chili won 1st place for both judge's and people's choice. That usually is our favorite, but it tasted a little different this year to us and the fire departments chili tasted like they tweaked it a little from last year so that's why it won our vote!

We finished off the Winter Bowl checking out the reindeer and then Greg took the kids on the horse and carriage ride. I was too cold and decided to go get the car while they waited in the long line. Here's Em and Ev with the reindeer.


Here's the horse and carriage ride they went on. Greg and Evan are towards the back and Em you can't see very well. I didn't snap the picture fast enough so all you can see is her hat. I also cut the horses off a little.

We had a fun time, but by the time we were done we were ready to go home and warm up! It was time to decorate the tree after we got home. I'll share all our tree stories in the next post. Stay tuned...

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Christmas Party

So I've gone M.I.A. the past couple days. It's been a little busy crazy around here. I've got my list of things to do again and trying to accomplish some of that. Not to mention that once again never ending task of laundry. I'm still waiting for those full baskets of clean clothes to learn how to put themselves away. Ugh! Last night we had Greg's work Christmas party. It was at one of the bosses house. We had a nice time. There was lots of good food and conversation. It's fun to hear all the "work stories" that I don't get to hear about all the time. We didn't stay too late because we had to pick the kids up from Greg's mom's. Plus we had a full day planned today so I didn't feel like being out all night. This Christmas party was for the 4th floor which is media communications where Greg works. We just found out this week that now there is another Christmas party next week. It's for all of University Relations, the 3rd floor (marketing) and the 4th floor, so it's a bigger party for both departments. So it looks like this next Friday we will be heading to another Christmas party.

Today we went to get our Christmas tree this morning. I'll tell you more about that later. Then we headed to Grand Rapids for the day to celebrate my mom's birthday. Her birthday isn't actually until Tuesday, but we celebrated a little early. My sister and Kaite were also there. We met for lunch at On The Border, a Mexican restaurant in Grandville. It's one of our favorite places to eat when we're in town there. Then we went back to my mom's for awhile. It was a nice afternoon despite the bad weather they had. We couldn't believe all the snow they got. The ground was covered with about 4 inches and then it snowed pretty much the whole time we were there. We've got nothing here and I'm hoping it stays that way, however I'm not holding my breath.

While we were at my mom's Greg got up in the attic for me. Remember back in May when my mom got on the ladder and fell and broke her wrist and ankle. She was trying to get up in the attic to look for a doll cradle that used to be mine. I figured since we don't get to GR often and since my sister was there, between her, Greg, and I we could get the attic cleaned out. Plus I wanted to get the cradle for Em if it was up there. Greg started cleaning things out and it was pretty much a bunch of empty boxes he found. There were a couple bags of my sister's and my stuffed animals from when we were kids... old Care Bears, etc. Then there was a box with an old toaster, a waffle maker, and silverware. Why in the world my mom ever saved that stuff is beyond me. Can we say garbage, garbage, and more garbage? The garbage man is going to love my mom this week with all the stuff we pulled down from the attic. Unfortunately the doll cradle was not up there, and my mom, sister, and I can not figure out for the life of us what ever happened to that. It's not something we would've put in a garage sale that's why my mom thought it was up there since it wasn't in the basement. So needless to say, unfortunately the eight weeks she was laid up with a broken wrist and ankle was for nothing. Ugh! And where is that dang cradle? It's going to bug me forever!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Christmas Decorating Has Begun

Today, I finally got it in gear, and went to the basement and lugged up the tubs of Christmas decor. I got a good portion of it done while Em was napping and before I had to pick up Evan from school. When it was time to go get Evan, I had to wake Em up. She was still pretty sleepy when I was carrying her down. The minute we got to the bottom of the stairs she had seen the Christmas decorations, her head popped right up! She said, "Oh, nice!" Then quickly hopped down and went around inspecting the decorations.

After we got back from getting Evan, we walked in the door and he too noticed the decorations right away. He said, "mommy, I see you have been doing some decorating while I was at school." He and Emmaline both had to go around the house and check the decorations out. Emmaline had to stop and sniff every Christmas candle that I put out. She would stand at the candle for the longest time and put her little nose right up to it and sniff, sniff, sniff. I don't know why I didn't snap a picture, but I should of because it was so cute! Evan was very excited and wanted to finish decorating. I had a few other things to do and get dinner ready so I told him we'd finish after dinner. I did let him and Em help me finish putting up the red bows I hang on the windows before I started dinner. They were both good helpers. I love how my red bows look on the windows, if I do say so myself. I think it really adds the finishing touch! I'll have to take a picture sometime to show you. Both he and Em were very anxious to get their hands on the Christmas decorations.

Greg had to go back into work after dinner, so I was able to finish putting the decorations out. We put on a little Christmas music and continued with the decorating. Both Evan and Em were very anxious to get their hands on the Christmas decorations. Both kids helped me do different parts. Emmaline ended up being more into it than Evan. A new Lightning McQueen cartoon was on t.v. so I think that's why Evan was done so fast decorating. To finish off the decorating, Em and I watched the Rockefeller Tree Lighting in NYC, as we put the finishing touches on. She loved listening to the performances by various singers, I think the Muppets were her favorite. When the tree was lit at the end she got mad when the show was over. Thank goodness I had DVR'd it so we could watch the tree lighting over a few times! I have a lot of small ornaments that I put in bowls for decoration, and Em was all about getting her hands on the ornaments while I was decorating. She was trying to copy everything I did. It was pretty cute! I was surprised that as much as she touched, moved, and dropped things that only one small ornament broke.

It's beginning to look a little festive in here now, but we still need to get a tree. That is on the agenda for this weekend. In the past we've gotten trees from different places. One year we even cut our own tree down. Last year we heard about Habitat for Humanity selling trees, so we got our tree there. All the proceeds from trees sold went directly to Habitat for Humanity. I think we're going to go there again this year for our tree. The price was reasonable and we got a good size tree. So hopefully by Sunday the tree will be up and everything will be done.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Fall Conferences

First of all, Happy December! Crazy, nuts, unbelievable, that it's December already. Did you notice my little Christmas countdown on the right hand side. That's my way of helping you with your Christmas shopping so you know how many days you have left to buy and wrap presents! I know, so thoughtful of me, right? This becomes a very busy month in our household. It's time to get the Christmas tree bought, the Christmas decor up, Christmas presents bought and wrapped, the holiday baking begins, then there's Christmas Eve, and Christmas, and then our little guy (he's not so little anymore, but he'll always be my little guy) celebrates a birthday this month too! This month is going to fly by, I just know it!

Now that it's December, it's nearing the end of the semester at Evan's school so that means school conference time. Today was our day for fall parent-teacher conferences with Evan's teacher, Ms. Schulze. I remember last year when we got a note sent home for our scheduled time for conferences, and it threw me for a loop. I was a little shocked that their were parent-teacher conferences in preschool. Sure enough though there is, and it's nice to find out how your kid is doing even if it's preschool. The conferences are held twice a school year, once in the fall semester and once in the spring semester.

I wasn't too worried about how the conference with Evan's teacher would go. Since I'm in the classroom from time to time, I have had the opportunity to talk with Ms. Schulze throughout the semester. My little guy got a great report! Since he had Ms. Schulze last year, she has really seen him grow over the year. A big change from his first year of preschool to this year. He's doing quite well in all areas and has really become quite the social bug amongst his classmates. Here are some of the strengths Evan has had in the classroom this year:
  • very cooperative
  • demonstrates strong friendship skills
  • positive attitude towards school
  • understands numbers, patterns, and classifying
  • good listening skills
  • enjoys drawing and painting
  • can recognize letters
Most of these are not a surprise to us, but it's nice to hear from his teacher. While I was at school today, I also finished up library cart for the semester. School is done next week until after the holidays so I get a break from doing the library cart. My mom came today to watch Em, thanks Mom, so I was able to get through library stuff faster today without having to chase Emme around. I even got ahead of the game and prepared some library stuff for the new semester since I was flying solo without Em. It felt good to be ahead of the game for a change. So all in all, it was a good day at school. We're proud of you Ev, keep up the good work!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

What To Do With Those Turkey Lefovers

We've all stuffed ourselves with turkey dinner on Thanksgiving, and by now you're probably thinking "what do I do with those leftovers?" The popular leftover meal of turkey, mashed potatoes, and gravy on top of some bread has probably been exhausted by now. I'm a little bummed that we don't have turkey leftovers since we went out to dinner on Thanksgiving. While those of you who stayed home and cooked are probably sick of turkey by now, we're wishing we had some to make some yummy dinners. I thought I'd offer up a recipe in case you're in need of something to use that turkey for. I've been making this recipe for a few years now. I usually make it with chicken, but the past couple years I have made it after Thanksgiving with the left over turkey. It's called "Easy Chicken and Biscuits," but you can easily switch up the chicken for turkey and call it "Easy Turkey and Biscuits." It's really simple to make and tastes yummy with either chicken or turkey!

Ingredients:
1 can cream of celery soup
1 can cream of potato soup
1 cup milk
1/4 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp pepper
4 cups cut-up vegetables ( I use a package of frozen veggies- broccoli, cauliflower, & carrot combo)
2 cups cooked cubed chicken (or turkey)
1 pkg refrigerated buttermilk biscuits (10 count)

Directions:
Mix soup, milk, thyme, pepper, vegetables, and chicken ( or turkey) in 3qt shallow baking dish.

Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 min.

Then cut each biscuit into quarters, take pan out and stir mixture. top with biscuits and bake an additional 15 min. or until biscuits are golden and veggies are tender.

Enjoy!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday Shopping

Well here's my scoop on our Black Friday shopping. I've been going Black Friday shopping for many years now. At least 15 years I'd say if not a few more! I always usually go with my mom, sister or by myself. If you remember from yesterday I said that Greg was going to go with me shopping. Well, he stuck to his word and he did go out to the stores with me. We left the house right around midnight and headed to Toys R Us. They had some drums on sale that we wanted to get for Evan for Christmas from "Santa." We got to the store to find a line of course. No surprise there. I dropped Greg off to get in line, and I went to park the car. By the time I found a parking spot and got back to the line to meet Greg he was almost up to the door. The guy working at Toys R Us stopped me as I approached Greg and said, "Miss you'll have to go to the end of the line." I questioned him because there were other people in front of me going to get in line with their family and he said nothing to them. They had done the same thing and dropped a family member off to get in line. He said, "Miss you'll have to go to the end of the line. I didn't see them, I saw you." Greg was ticked to say the least and I was not happy with my unfair treatment to start off my shopping. I was one person getting in line with my husband while the others were three or four people joining their group. I thought Greg was about to get out of line because he was so mad, but he didn't. I told him go on in and I'd find him at some point. The line moved quickly and I was in the door a couple minutes later. I saw Greg ahead and we were all packed in there like sardines. I really was tempted to turn around an go out because it was making me claustrophobic, but there really was no way out. After moving through the crowd I found the drums and right after spotted Greg again. We got the drums and there was so much chaos as to where the check out line was supposed to be that we were told to go in all different directions. We finally found the end of the check out line and it was wrapped all around the store. We stood in line for about 2 1/2 hours and were in the store for a total of about 3 hours before we finally got to check out. As we got to the checkout line we discovered that there were two lines going for the checkout. The people coming from the other checkout line were people we saw come into the store after us and were checking out at the same time as us. During the time we were in line apparently the employee directing the checkout line got overwhelmed and she up and quit her job. So instead of management taking over they just let people split the line and make their own new checkout line and those people got to check out much faster than us. Needless to say many of us weren't happy! All the employees were rude and the manager, who was not worthy of being called that, (come to find out he was the guy who stopped me on the way in and told me to go to the end of the line) was pretty much clueless about anything. It was the most disorganized Black Friday shopping I've ever seen. You would've thought that Toys R Us had never done Black Friday before. At least we got our drums, and I know Evan is going to be super excited when he sees what Santa brought him Christmas morning!

Our original plan was to go home after Toys R Us and sleep for a little bit before we headed back out for more shopping when Target opened at 5am. Since it was 3am when we got out of Toys R Us (later than we expected), we decided it wasn't worth going home. We headed over to the mall to see if we could get the free Lego Rockband for the Wii that they were giving away. We got there about ten after three and there was no line to get into the store so we walked in. I asked if they had any left and the gal told me no. I overhead someone saying they hardly had any to give away so I'm guessing they probably only had five to ten and it was just a ploy to get people in the store. By this time we were pretty tired since we were both up at 6:30am on Thanksgiving morning. We sat down on a bench for a little bit in the mall and thought we'd go to Younker's when they opened at 4am. After sitting there for about a half hour, the line for Younker's was quickly growing. We decided that the $7 camping lantern we thought about getting or the Christmas tree on sale I wanted to check out wasn't worth it, by the time it would take to find the stuff and stand in line to checkout.

We left the mall and decided we needed some caffeine so we headed over to Biggby for a coffee. We didn't know if they'd be open, but we thought we'd go see anyway. Sure enough they had opened at 3:30am. We got our drinks, parked it in the comfy chairs and chilled for about an hour. There was quite a steady flow of customers in and out. Some interesting people to say the least. This one girl walked in about 4am and she had on stilettos, metallic (very tight) leggings, and a very low cut shirt on. We were guessing she wasn't going out Black Friday shopping, but rather she was just finishing her night! The three guys working there were a little too chipper and loud for 4am, and the music playing was a little too loud as well. It was even too loud for an afternoon visit to Biggby let alone 4am!

Finally we headed over to Target about 4:45am and the line was wrapped around the building and the parking lot was packed. We decided we weren't standing in the line and would wait in the car until everyone went in. Well the line started moving at 5am and then about five minutes later it stopped and we decided enough was enough. Screw it because we weren't going to get what we wanted anyway. It was then we decided we would head home and go to bed. We got in bed about 5:40am, neither of us could make it 24 hours to stay awake. Well, we probably could of, but it wasn't worth it just to say we were up for 24hrs straight.

We woke up about 10:20am thanks to the garbage truck. About 11am we headed back out to Target to see if there was anything left. We got a couple things on our list which I was surprised were still there. We headed to Walmart later that afternoon (we had decided to skip Walmart too after Target at 5am because they were crazy busy too) and they still had lots of items that were 5-11am doorbusters that were still available at the doorbuster price at 2:30pm. So I was glad we didn't try to go at 5am.

We picked the kids up in the afternoon from Greg's mom's and of course Evan wanted to stay longer when we got there so since Em needed a nap we took her home to nap. I took a nap as well for about an hour and a half. Then Greg's mom took us to dinner so that was nice I didn't have to cook after a long and very tired day! We really appreciate her keeping the kids all night and most of today so we could do some shopping and get some rest! In all my years of Black Friday shopping, I'd have to say this had to be the busiest I've ever seen the stores. It was also the most unorganized year for all stores I'd say, not to mention the rudest employees I've ever encountered. My sister said it was the same way by her down in Indiana. It really wasn't a good year for it to be Greg's first Black Friday shopping experience. I'm guessing if I go next year I'll have to go by myself!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Today we had a nice relaxing Thanksgiving. This year we did something different for Thanksgiving. Instead of having Thanksgiving dinner at our house or going to family's house for dinner, we headed to Frankenmuth. It was kind of nice not to have to cook and clean up. The first thing you probably think of when you think of Frankenmuth is chicken dinner at Zehnder's and the huge Christmas store, Bronner's. Zehnder's had a Thanksgiving buffet with all their regular chicken dinner items, as well as turkey, prime rib, shrimp, and much more. We headed to Frankenmuth with Greg's mom and his Aunt Rose and Uncle Don to have our Thanksgiving dinner at Zehnder's. We decided to leave early so we wouldn't have to wait too long because we couldn't get reservations. By the time we got there shortly after noon, there was already a wait. It wasn't too long though only about 45 minutes. Soon after we sat down the Zehnder's Chicken came by our table. I got Evan's picture with him, but Em wanted absolutely nothing to do with the chicken. She kept saying, "no chicken!" Here's Evan and the chicken.


We enjoyed some great food and as always on Thanksgiving, ate way too much! One of the items on the buffet was simply called "squash with brown sugar." It was the best squash I've ever had, and I really must learn how to make it. It was much like sweet potatoes you make on Thanksgiving, super good. The kids even liked it! The only problem though when going out for Thanksgiving dinner is no left overs for the next couple of days. By the time we left the restaurant there was a huge crowd and the wait had to be at least two if not three hours. We were so glad we went early. We walked around Frankenmuth for a little bit and went into some of the shops before we headed back home. The kids had fun in one of the toy stores. Unfortunately we didn't get to go to Bronner's because they were closed. Bronner's is open 361 days of the year, and for some reason we all thought they were open on Thanksgiving. I really wanted to take the kids in there to see all the Christmas decorations. We'll have to go another time so they can see it. I remember going there often when I was a little kid with my mom, sister, grandma and grandpa. It had been a couple of years since we've been to Frankenmuth. Hopefully we'll get back that way sooner next time. Thanks to Greg's mom for buying us turkey dinner and to Greg's Uncle Don for driving us all to Frankenmuth.

After we got back home I needed to check out the Black Friday ads to see what store's I was going to head to. Greg came up with the idea to have the kids stay at his mom's, and he'd go shopping with me. Whoa! That was a shocker to me because folks.... Greg never goes shopping on Black Friday, EVER! Stay tuned.... tomorrow there's sure to be lots to blog about our Black Friday shopping!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Gift Giving

As we all know Christmas is right around the corner. Just a couple days away from Thanksgiving, and once that's over it's full swing into the holiday season. There's only 31 days left until Christmas! I've seemed to get a good jump start on getting things for the kids so I'm feeling good about that. I really want to be ahead of the game and not be wrapping presents a couple days before Christmas. Keep your fingers crossed for me! Greg and I don't really exchange Christmas presents. We haven't for a few years now. There's always things that come up during the year that we need to spend money on so we just bypass the gifts at Christmas. One year I surprised him with a couple small things that were from the kids, but as far as anything from me those days are over for right now. We've got children to support. Once we had kids it was more about them than us anyway. As a parent, I feel that Christmas gift giving should be more for your children/grandchildren.

Another reason especially this year we're not exchanging gifts is we're planning a trip out west. My cousin Matt in Arizona is getting married in June so we'll be heading out there for the wedding. Greg is going to be the photographer for the wedding and we feel very honored that they asked him. We'll be driving (yes with two kids, I know) so we're going to try to make it into our first big family trip and try to do some sightseeing along the way and back. So needless to say we're trying to save money for our trip.

While it would be nice to get Christmas presents from my hubby, since I do have a "wish list," I know I have a great trip to look forward to next summer. For those of you who do exchange gifts with your spouse, significant other, or whomever is on your gift buying list, here are some things from my "wish list" that you may think are good ideas for someone on your list if you're stumped on what to buy. Here's my top 10.

Item #1- new phones. Our phone isn't that old, but for some reason the caller id doesn't work on it anymore. I hate it! So usually I try to remember to bring the phone from our bedroom down so if someone calls I can see the caller id. That phone though is about seven years old and the battery dies quickly once it's off the charger, and the keys stick so you really can't use it to dial. So while it would be nice to have a couple new phones, we can put up with these a little bit longer.
Item #2- Flip video camcorder - If you click on that link it takes you to Flip camcorders listed on Target.com. There's a lot of different kinds, and I'm not a know it all on cameras of any kind, but Greg would know which one is a good one. Our much bigger video camcorder stopped working about two years ago so we don't have a video camera to take videos of the kids besides the one on my regular camera which isn't the greatest.
Item #3- new set of knives. We got a nice knife set when we got married. They're J.A. Henckels knives and are supposed to be good knives. They just don't seem to be living up to that though after eight years. A handle broke on one, we lost a steak knife somewhere along the way, and it really doesn't have what I call a good everyday cutting knife. I would really like this cutlery set. Martha Stewart 20 piece cutlery set. My dad has them and they seem like pretty nice knives. They're regularly $149.99 at Macy's, but right now they're on sale for $88.99 which is a pretty good price.
Item #4- Pink's newest album. Funhouse. While the first couple items are a little pricey, I also wouldn't mind the Pink CD. The kids and I both love some of her songs. Emmaline even knows when "Funhouse" comes on the radio it's Pink. She'll say Pink, Pink, Pink! It's so cute.
Item #5- A new camera. My camera isn't all that old, but it's slow at snapping the picture at times. I've missed some good shots because of it. I don't need a fancy camera. I have an Olympus point and shoot camera right now and I tend to stick to that brand since my memory cards are Olympus. So I recommend that brand for someone on your list in need of a camera.
Item #6- Gift Cards- Who doesn't love gift cards? Whether they're to a restaurant, stores, iTunes, or the movies, I think gift cards are a great gift. You can get what you want, when you want. Great item for that hard to buy shopper on your Christmas list.
Item #7- Sheets. We could use some new king size sheets for our bed. We only have two sets and the one set is pretty faded and not the best quality so some nice soft sheets would be nice.
Item #8- Cash. Who doesn't like cold hard cash. While it's similar to gift cards in you can buy what you want, with cash you're not limited to a certain store.

The last two items on my list are my dream items and probably aren't for anyone on your shopping list, but I thought they'd be fun to share. Hey I can dream right?
Item #9- A new couch. I'd love to have a new leather couch and put our old couch downstairs.
Item#10- Diamond earrings. What girl doesn't like a nice pair of diamond earrings. Enough said!

While some of my items are a little pricey, they're not as much as what Greg wants. He'd like a new mountain bike or bike parts to make his old bike lighter. Also a new camera for him would be nice. Since none of these items are in the budget right now, we'll just enjoy buying the smaller things for the kids and see the joy on their faces Christmas morning! Good luck with all your holiday shopping!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Two Parties In One

Yesterday the kids had a fun day! We had two birthday parties in one to go to. Evan and Em's friend Kyra (her birthday was Thursday remember) had her birthday party. It was also her brother Connor's birthday party too. Connor's birthday is December 7th, and my friend Marie decided last year she was going to try the combo birthday party since the kid's birthdays are so close together. She figured while they're so young and she can get away with it, since the kids don't know better, why not. I don't blame her. Birthday parties are a lot of work! By the time you plan, make food, bake, buy presents, and have a houseful of people, who wants to do it all over again two or three weeks later.

Marie kept the party simple this year and just invited family and us. We felt honored to get the invite since Evan and Em were the only kids invited. Marie and Jim are my kid's Godparents so they're like family to us! The party was at their house in Bellevue. It was nice for the kids to get the chance to play since we don't see them too often. Usually just at birthdays, school breaks sometimes, and a few times in the summer. It was also nice for us to catch up with Jim and Marie. I also got to catch up with Marie's parents whom I haven't seen in about 4 years so that was a nice surprise to see them there. Marie and I were roommates in college, and her parents were always so gracious to welcome me over to their house throughout our college years. The big surprise when we walked in was Kyra got her haircut. Maries' never cut her hair before and she got it chopped into a short bob. It's really cute. Kyra donated 11 inches of her hair to "Locks For Love." Isn't that awesome. Here's some pics from the birthday party.

Em was giving Kyra a bunch of hugs. I finally caught one of them!
Evan and Em helping Connor with the gift we brought.
Kyra opening the shirt from Ev and Em.
Birthday cake time! Of course the kids couldn't wait until cake time!

We all had a great time. Em was a great helper picking up all the wrapping paper. Em was exhausted and feel asleep right away on the way home. Thanks for inviting us Toburen family!