Thursday, December 27, 2012

Closing out 2012 and looking ahead to 2013

A belated Merry Christmas to all of you!

Christmas was the normal busy time of year it always is, full of work and family. I think I need to start planning December in July, because it always feels like I just squeak by each year. :) On Christmas Eve, I had forgotten to make cookies for Santa! Yikes! My daughter rushed into the kitchen with this revelation, just as I had gotten home from work and was beginning to make a quick dinner before we were due to go to my parents house for their annual small get together. Being the resourseful Mom that I am, I thought we could get by with popping a few Otis Spunkmeyer cookies dough balls into the oven and call it a day, but the look of dismay that Abby gave me at the suggestion stopped me halfway to the freezer. If you have ever seen the last Shrek film, when Puss is asking Donkey to lick him because he is too fat to reach you will have a sense of how big and sad my daughters eyes were at the thought that Santa wasn't going to get cookies with sprinkles on them. :) So out came my trusty Better Homes & Garden cookbook and the ingredients for Sugar Cutout cookies.

While all this was going on, my son started feeling ill with a headache and stomachache. In the end, it was 8:30 and we still hadn't made it to my parents. We finally just called it a night and decided to skip the party, try to get the kids to bed at a decent hour and meet up with my family at dinner the next day. The kids got their new Christmas Eve pjs on, checked Santas progress on NORAD, put the decorated cookies out for Santa, tossed some reindeer food on the ground for Rudolf and friends, and after a quick read of "The Polar Express" they were both tucked snug in their beds, with visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads. Hubby and I finished our wrapping, and the house was in bed and settled by 12:30am...much better than 2:30am like last year! :)

Christmas was filled with laughter, ripped paper and squeals of delight. I am terrible at remembering to take pictures on Christmas morning, how about you? I am just too tired and then caught up in helping the kids with their gifts, and the camera just ends up sitting on the table. Ah well. :) We headed to my parents in the afternoon and enjoyed a delicious dinner of roast goose (our traditional feast - my fav!), ham (added since I married and added new family to the dinner table since a goose doesn't feed more than 4 or 5 easily), kale (grunkohl in German), knudel (potato dumplings), corn, cheesy potatoes, and bread rolls. We were all stuffed! :) Later came dessert: apple pie, a turtle ice cream cake (dad had a craving for ice cream cake this year!), fresh strawberries with whipped cream, and stollen. I again was kicking myself, because I didn't get any pictures of the spread, but trust me, it was delicious! :)

We had a real snow fall last night - it;s beautiful! I chuckle because the first real snow fall of the year always puts people in a tizzy...which is funny, because it's Michigan, and of course it's going to snow! :) But everyone forgets how to drive in it, and the news is full of anticipation of the snow and then analyzing every detail of where it's snowing, how much it;s snowing, etc. Last night they were thrilled that the snow came with a WInter Storm Advisory sothere was much fuss over driving conditions and predicted snow emergencies in various towns, etc...all the more effective if told via a live feed by some poor weatherperson standing outside while the 20 mile per hour gusts toss their hair and swirls snow all around them. This morning, they were thrilled that they could report it was the biggest snow storm we've seen in the area in 22 months! (Nevermind the fact that only 10 of those months are really capable of producing snow). With all the hoopla you would think we had a blizzard of 20+"....but no, we had 3"-4". In January, this wouldn't even be news...but I guess it's been a little dull of the weather front lately. Now, I'm not saying that the roads weren't bad last night...they weren't great. My 15 minute drive home took 30, but that was because I decided I had no where I needed to go fast, so I just slowed down and drove carefully. This morning the roads were fine and it was a beautiful drive.

Now as we close out 2012, I'm looking ahead to 2013. Besides wanting/needing to work off some of the holiday weight (clothes have gotten a bit tight lately - yikes!) I really want to work on some of the house projects that have been waiting and are now to the point that they have to be done. One of the big projects is work on the front of my house. Here is a photo I took when we were looking at the house before we bought it, and it gives an idea of what I want to fix:

My goal is to remove the black metal railings and replace them with wooden posts and railings...something like this:

I also want to work on the scraggly plantings in the front and put in something a little nicer along the fenceline. Any suggestions? I'd like to work on a larger garden space in the side yard so we can grow more veggies and maybe add a few fruit bushes...currants, blackberries, blueberries maybe?

Did  you notice the brown building on the side of the house in the first photo? That's actually an addition to the house. I have no idea why they thought it should be sided in wood when the rest of the house has vinyl siding, but that's another project to tackle eventually. Maybe its the weather, or the fact that there are just a few days left in the year, but I am so ready to start some new projects around the house and do a little sprucing up! :)

On a side note, I have been working on some more knitting. I've been working through some of the yarn that my grandmother gave me a few months ago and the latest project is a baby sweater. I've never made a real piece of knit clothing before, and so far it actually looks like the early stages of a sweater. :)

Its knit from the top down so you are seeing the neckline, sleeves (which look like cap sleeves at the moment, but will be longer later), and the open front of the sweater. Jewel was very helpful last night, as she kept my legs warm while I was working. :) I love Ravelry - they have some great free patterns (this is called Helena)! Hopefully it will finish nicely and will become a warm gift for a friend who is having a baby soon. I actually have two friends who are having babies, so I hope to make a second sweater after this one...keeping those knitting needles busy! lol

I hope that all of you have had a wonderful holiday season thus far, that you were able to spend time with loved ones, and are looking forward to the start of the new year. Here's wishing you a joyous New Year and all the best blessings that you could possibly have!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Advent Calendar

I wanted to share the Advent Calendars that my children have this year. :)

My mother made them - aren't they cute? These are a bit of a tradition in  my family. She made these for my brother and I every year when we were growing up. We would wake up on December 1st and we would find the calendars hanging above our heads in our rooms. It was so exciting!

Now my kids get so excited when they arrive at our house, and even I do too. :) The pieces are made from foiled paper that my mother bought in Germany. She uses templates to outline the pieces and cuts & glues them by hand. They are then filled with a small piece of candy and hung on a strand of string decorated with 1.5" pieces of drinking straws and foil squares.

December 6th is Nikolaus in German traditions, and that day is marked with a small stocking. It's filled with extra goodies!

Nikolaus also stops by the children's rooms and drops off a little boot filled with treats. Here is the boot that appeared in Abby's room, by her mini tree on her dresser. :)

Do you celebrate the season with an Advent calendar? Do you have any fun twists or traditions with yours? A work colleague told me yesterday that her family has a traveling advent. Each year one member is chosen to make a calendar for another family member. The goodies have to fit a certain size & price range and they usually end up being very silly little gifts. Others I know have given books as the Advent gift each day, David's Tea has a tea sampler advent (I just found out about that - wow, I would love one of those!) and last year my kids were sent a Playmobil Advent calendar by their great-grandmother in Germany, each day being a little piece/character of a winter scene. I know Lego offers an Advent calendar also. So much fun!