My 3 Monsters: December 2009

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My Favorite Project. EVER!

Every so often I get the urge to redecorate my home.  Often these urges concur with the removal of seasonal decorations.  There is almost nothing like the potential of a fresh, empty canvas of a living room.  So today I set out to create a piece of art for over my fireplace.  Armed with some inspiration, a basic knowledge of internet investigation and a lotta' luck, I happened upon the Flickr photostream of Leo Reynolds.  He has posted thousands of photos of typography and signage (and other interesting things) and he is kind enough to let us, the general public, use them with a very few restrictions.  I spent hours going through everything finding just the right letters and numbers in just the right colors, downloading them in just the size I wanted (1024 x 1024 pixels), and stitching them together in Gimp.  Here's the great part -- you can order a 20 x 30 inch poster print online for between $10 and $20.  Mine was $9 plus tax at Costco, ready in 3 hours.  I can't wait to get a frame and put it up.  Thank you, Mr. Reynolds.  Thank you very much.

(Technically, this is a collage, but it does not negate the promise I made yesterday.  Because I said so.)

EDITED TO ADD:  I ended up Mod-Podging this poster to a 24x36 and framing it in a substantial black frame.  {You can see it HERE.} I LOVE IT!!.  Everyone who comes in my house comments on it.  It's definitely a conversation piece. I'm sharing this at the Weekend Wrap Up --  Enjoy, my crafty friends!
Join  us Saturdays at for the weekend wrap up party!


Doin' Something Right

You know your cooking skills have taken a sudden turn for the better when, twice in one week, your youngest, most finicky eater turns to you at dinner and says, "Mmmmm.  Mom, you've got to give me this recipe."

His response to my startled, albeit amused expression says it all.  "What?!  I want to make it for my boo when I'm a dad."

Parents of blond-haired, docile, slightly unsophisticated daughters, the line for a piece of this kid starts right here.


Christmas Was All a Blur!

OK, OK.  This will be the last collage for a while, I promise.  We've just taken so many pictures this week, I didn't know how else to show them.  On Christmas Eve we made sure to hang our "magic" Santa key on the door knob.  That's how he gets into our home, you see.  While we are lucky enough to have a chimney here in Arizona where chimneys are really unnecessary, ours is blocked by a big red couch so that we can put up our Christmas tree.  This has always worried our children.  How will Santa get in?!  The key seems to be doing the trick.  We also baked our Linzer Schnitten, wrote letters to Santa, and carefully laid out our stockings.  Try as I might, I just never get good Christmas morning pictures.  The kids are always in constant motion, as the blurry photos attest.  They're good, good memories anyway.  I can't tell you how many times over the past two days I have heard my kids say, "This is The.  Best.  Christmas.  EVER!!!!!"  I don't know what made the difference this year.  Don't tell the kids, but they actually got fewer gifts than in years past.  Cheesy as it may sound, I think the greatest gift we gave our kids this year was the gift of time and undivided attention.  And that made all the difference.  We hope you all enjoyed a blissful holiday, too.


On the Road Again

The sun has set on Day 3 and we had a blast at the Arizona Science Center. But first we had a quick "brunch" at Cinnabon because D had to use the free coupon that came in the Mall Cop dvd he opened Sunday.  (You didn't hear this from me, but the Caramel Pecanbon is pretty tasty.)  We rode the Light Rail again, which the kids are old pros at by now.  At the Science Center Sis and Ri rode the Sky Bike which is a bicycle that balances on a tightrope stretched across an open space between second floor balconies.  *Scary!*  D was too short so he got to climb the rock wall instead.  They all laid on a bed of nails and "battled" each other to see who could move a ball with their mind the best.  And I, for three days running, avoided being in front of the camera.  Sweet!  Aside from a panicked moment when D got stuck in the elevator all by himself, we have had a few of the best days I can ever remember spending as a family.  Unity and kindness and blessed peace. 

With this adventured-filled week behind us, tomorrow we bake.  And stare longingly at the beautiful packages that have found their way under our tree.  Preferably in our pajamas for as long as possible.  And not before 8:30 in the morning.  Please children.  Please.


Pinch me! I Must Be Dreaming.

Two days of family fun with no I Hate You's or Shut Up's?!  This must be one of the finest ideas I have ever conceived.  The Natural History Museum was lovely today.  Not too crowded, fun as ever.  It was rainy and cold so a late lunch at Thai Rama on the way home was just the thing we needed.  Sweet Sticky Rice and Coconut Ice Cream never gets old.  Only two more days . . .

Observe & Report

Day 1 of Operation:Occupy Children 'til Christmas was a huge success!  So fun, in fact, that we're going out again today.  To the Dinosaur Museum it is (unless we can swing by the library and get a Science Center pass -- fingers crossed!).  And, yeah, I just noticed that I spelled museUm wrong in that photo collage.  Blast!


Pass the Culture, Please.

Brent has taken this entire week off from work.  *It makes me giddy just typing those words.*  We spent all last week deep cleaning the house, finishing our shopping, and doing every possible "job" we could think of so that we could take the next five days and completely devote them to making family memories.  On the list of possibilities:  dinner at our favorite Thai restaurant, ice skating (thanks to Grandma & Grandpa Great's Christmas money!) and attending fun museums.  Our local library has these wonderful things called "Culture Passes" available for check out which allow four people to attend various museums around the valley for free. It's pretty competitive to get the good ones -- namely the zoo, the science center, and the dinosaur museum.  I was able to get one for the Children's Museum today. My kids are off-the-wall excited about riding the Light Rail  train downtown to the museum.  I'm sticking a batch of my Sweet & Spicy Chili in the crock pot before we head out so we can come home to a delicious, warm dinner.  Here's hoping it's as idyllic as I'm imagining it to be . . .

(And that we can get a pass to one of the really good museums Tuesday or Wednesday.  Wish us luck!)


Late for Church -- the HORROR!

Now, understand as I say this that we usually leave our house by 11:10 for the 11:30 meeting.  And it takes us all of five minutes to drive there.  (Shut up.  Promptness is just our "thing".)  So, you'll understandably take it with a grain of salt when I tell you that we didn't leave our house this lovely morning until 11:22 which put an inordinate amount of stress on my co-parental unit.  But I couldn't help it!  B left for his ward council meeting this morning and the kids and I settled in on the couch laughing and talking, fashioning a fancy up-do in Sis's hair and reading Christmas books from our annually-enlarging collection.  I had one eye on the clock.  9:45.  10:15.  Then 10:30.  Only Sis, who was excited about putting on her new Christmas frock, had bathed and readied for the day.  I knew we were going to be in trouble, but I couldn't bring myself to break up the "moment".  We made it to the meeting on time (by everyone's standards but ours) and even got to sit in the pews in the chapel, not the overflow.  Who cares that I was wearing a day-old hairdo, Riley had a bit of bed head, and D ended up with brown shoes, navy socks, black (too-short) pants, a burgundy and navy striped  polo and no belt?  What will matter in the long run is the "moment" we shared together.  (Please remind me that's true because I'm horrified anew at the thought of what we must have looked like today.)


Hershey's, You've Done it Again!

Oh, what rapture fills my bosom when I break into a bag of these babies this time of year.  Hershey's Candy Cane Kisses:

White Chocolate. Mint. Crunchy Sprinkles. Delish!

The only thing better than eating them straight, which is pretty delightful, is to melt a bag of them and pour them over a bag of microwave popcorn.  Pop Secret Homestyle, if you're wondering.  Stir that concoction up gently and spread out on wax paper until the candy hardens up again.  It elevates two simple, yet beloved, snacks to the level of the divine. We make batches upon batches of this stuff to share with teachers and friends for the holidays.  And, for the record, I never met anybody who didn't give it rave reviews.  Enjoy!


Is That Really Snow I See?!

OK, not in real life anyway.  I don't really miss the snow all winter long.  Not really.  Except for in these last few days before Christmas.  Don't get me wrong, I'm more than grateful to not have to worry about slippery streets when I'm running errands like a mad woman throughout December.  And I'm just thrilled to death that a hoodie is all my littlies need when they scamper to the bus stop in the morning.  That I don't have to keep track of boots and gloves and scarves and hats is a real blessing.  But I have to say, I like the idea of a snowy day every once in a while.  So I added some snow to my blog.  Fun, huh?  Can you even really see it?  (Curse this light background I made!)  You can "Let it Snow" too by visiting this site.  Merry Christmas!


I've Sprung a Leak . . . IN MY EYE!

Do you ever have those moments of complete and utter humiliation?  Those moments when you know what you're doing is wrong on so many levels but you are powerless to stop it?  Those moments when your child's endocrinologist asks you if you have any questions and you melt into a pool of tears right there in the exam room?  For no apparent reason?  No?  Just me?  Alright then. 

I was a mess yesterday.  And here's the thing of it -- I don't know why.  I can't explain the involuntary waterworks at the doctor's office.  Or why I seem to have sprung a leak in my tear ducts right now as I type this post.  Sure, Riley's a1C (a quarterly blood test  that shows an average of how well his blood sugar is being controlled) was up to 10.1, the highest it's ever been.  Which is bad.  Really bad. But the doctor was kind.  I think in that moment, when the doctor asked me if I had any questions, it hit me for the first time that this isn't going to go away and I'm a mom, not a diabetes care nurse for heaven's sake.  I didn't ask for this and I don't want to be responsible for my child's future health in this way and yes, for the love of all that is good and holy, I have questions.  I just don't know the right ones to ask . . . or if I can even verbalize all the question marks that constantly float in my head.  And yeah, it has, in fact, taken three and a half years for that all to sink in. 

Our doctor is so fantastic.  He just calmly told me that he has every expectation that Ri will grow up as healthily and normally as my other children.  He also counseled me that worry is a useless emotion.  It doesn't solve any problems or make anything better for any of us, and that instead of worrying I should try to be pro-active.  Worry is passive, but action is power.  It's good advice for so many areas of my life right now.  And it makes me think that maybe I'm not the first mom who has lost it in his office like that.


Holy Christmas Spirit, Batman!

I've been feeling uncharacteristically "jolly" all weekend.  Not that I'm ordinarily a Grinch this time of year, I just don't ooze holiday merriment like some folks.  (I'm picturing that scene from The Santa Clause 2 where what's-her-name from SNL sings a stirring rendition of "Man, It Feels Like Christmas" on her blind date with that one guy.  If you've seen it you know what I'm talking about.)  Maybe it has something to do with the cool temperatures and the rain lately.  That's a real treat around these parts.  Perhaps it was due to spending the better part of my Saturday getting lights up on our house for the first time in three years.  OK, let's be honest . . . We spent the longer part of my Saturday doing that.  The better part of my Saturday was when we wandered around the Mesa Mormon Temple grounds sipping cups of Coconut Tres Leches Hot Chocolate (Thanks, Kristen!) while oohing and aahing over the lights and the choral music.  Truly lovely.

It may be due to the fact that, after 13 years, my dear husband and I have finally hammered out the "Official B & Amy G Christmas Tradition Treaty of 2009".  See, we both come from fantastic families with rich histories of seasonal celebrations.  Neither of us really wanted to relinquish the opportunity to share our fond childhood memories with our progeny.  Not that we fought about it.  Ever.  We have just kind of walked on eggshells this time of year, neither of us wanting to offend by taking control,  really doing nothing consistently enough for our children to get those butterflies of anticipation in their stomach about doing this or that just like the year before.  Henceforth there will be complete unity in the revelry at our home.  I gave up my crackers and cheese dinner on Christmas Eve to make room for a Gregson family roast, potatoes and yorkshire pudding feast, but I refuse to serve juice mixed with Sprite.  We'll have Shirley Temples instead.  I'm keeping my home-made cinnamon rolls for breakfast and moving the crackers and cheese/ finger foods to Christmas day.  I will have juice on hand, and I promise to turn a blind eye to whatever happens with the left-over ginger ale from the Shirley Temples.  We will make Linzer Schnitten and Swedish Creme Wafers (oh, how I love those cookies even though I don't make them quite right . . . yet.) but I refuse to even try to dip chocolates like Brent's mom.  I'll make my cinnamon rolls in the shape of a wreath, but I refuse to make them for everyone we know just like my mom did.  Brent will make his ice cream cake for Christmas Eve, but I HAVE to have my Christmas pie the next day.  That was a deal breaker for me. We even made up a few of our own on the fly, like filling our advent calendar with fun family activities and a few surprises ($5 bills and the opportunity to open a gift early) instead of candy.  That one is going over quite well so far.

It could be any of those things.  Probably it's the fact that in four short days the kids will be out of school, B done with work for a week and I can enter full-on "vacay at home" mode.  *sigh*


Get it?????  Brown paper packages tied up with string . . . a few of my favorite things????  I know, I'm teetering on the brink of the deep end over here.  I just thought I'd try to get a better picture of my gift wrap this year for posterity's sake.  Not that I succeeded.  I thought I'd also share a little freebie I've come across.  I'm giving tons of gift cards this year because, really, if we're being honest, precious few people (myself included) are really good gift-givers who intuitively know exactly how to thrill every person on their Christmas list. And because, if we're still being honest, a gift card is cheap to ship.   But it has saddened me to not have a fantastic way to wrap those tiny little babies . . . UNTIL NOW!  See that cute little box on the left up there?  I used this pattern and made a bunch of those fun boxes all by my big-girl self.  It's kind of like a big matchbox -- the little center compartment slides out of the sleeve to reveal the big (little) gift.  They were the perfect size for my vintage labels.  Notice how I put the stickers on top of the string to deter my little peekers (ahem, Brent) and the stickers under the string for the folks I thought I could trust.  Oh, the holidays are good times!


We Aim to Please

Cynthia, you asked for photos of a few of my home-made ornaments, so it's photos you'll get.  'Tis the season, right?  I'm assuming you also wanted some how-to's, though they're all pretty easy.

For the Baby Sock Snowman you'll need baby socks (preferably clean ones, but you decide), rubber bands (I use the little tiny clear elastics for little girls hair), rice, ribbon (to create a hanger) and scraps of fabric (for the scarf and patches).  Carefully fill the bottom portion of the sock with rice and wrap an elastic around several times to secure.  Add a little more rice to sock to create a little bit smaller section and secure with an elastic.  Add even more rice to create an even smaller section and secure that with an elastic, too.  Fold the top of the sock down to form the hat. At this point I like to use a few dabs of hot glue between each section and around the hat to keep everything in place.  Cut a piece of ribbon 3 or 4 inches long, put ends together to form a loop and secure both ends down inside the top of the hat with some hot glue.  Doctor him up however you like with your fabric scraps. I also use a Sharpie to make the eyes, nose and buttons and finish them off with rosy cheeks made using a Q-tip dipped in the powdered blush from my make-up bag.

For the Cinnamon Gingerbread Men you'll need 1 cup of applesauce and 1 cup of ground cinnamon.  That's it.  Just mix those two ingredients and they will form a nice dough that you can roll out and cut with a cookie cutter.  Place your cut images on cookie sheets to dry. (Don't forget to poke holes at the top of each one for the hanger -- I've done that before and it stinks.  Big time!)  At this point you can either set them aside for several days  to air dry or you can bake them at 200* for an hour or so.  It just depends on how soon you need them.  I've had the best results from air-drying, but I do live in the desert.  (Psst . . . it's really dry here.) These ornaments will smell fantastic for years.  I hang them with grosgrain ribbon and store them in a zip-loc freezer bag.

For the felt Snowflakes you will need white felt, scissors, and a whole lotta' patience.  I cut several different designs out of paper first and traced them onto the felt because I'm just too OCD to be OK with not knowing how they were going to look finished.  I hang them from my tree with clothespins because that's the style I do.  You could use fishing line or white ribbon if you wanted.

That last picture is just a peek at how I wrapped my presents this year.  Brown kraft paper, jute twine, and vintage Christmas-themed advertising labels.  Very retro and simple.  Just my speed.  (Yes, every year I wrap my presents with a theme.  I did mention my OCD in the previous paragraph, didn't I?)

Merry Christmas one and all! 



Thanks all for commenting on my last post.  I tweaked a few things and it seems as though I have solved many of the issues folks were experiencing.  This week has gotten a little bit crazy around here, as weeks in December tend to do.  Friday night was our big Christmas party at church, for which Brent was primarily responsible.  He and his committee did a fantastic job with their Polar Express theme.  The food was to-die-for delicious (smoked pork loin that was so juicy and tender it was like meat-candy -- crazy good),  the turn-out was overwhelming (to say the least), and good times were had by all.  While technically not an activities committee member, I jumped in to add a little feminine touch -- finessing the set-up and decor just a smidge.  It was a fantastic evening.  But I was busy.  And tired.  So I didn't blog.

Yesterday we spent the whole day setting up our Christmas tree and decorating at home.  It's always a fun little stroll down memory lane as we open each set of ornaments . . . the star that I bought for our first married Christmas, the angels I made out of scraps of muslin when we were in college and too poor to buy decorations,  the snowmen made out of my kids old baby socks which signified we were done doing "the baby thing" around here, the 100 felt snowflakes (20 different designs) I cut by hand that one year I was just crazy enough to think it might be fun, the cinnamon gingerbread men I made over in our little rental house on Folley Street that STILL smell delicious . . .  And don't even get me (or my kids) started on their personal ornaments.  We could reminisce all day about those.  In fact we did.  And it was lovely. So I didn't blog.

Tonight I'm wrapping gifts (if I can find any cotton-pickin' scotch tape in this stinkin' house) and after that I plan to relax.  And enjoy the season.  And blog.


Humor Me

I know, I know.  This may sound crazy, or crazy desperate, but I've heard from several people that they are not able to make comments on my blog.  That makes Miss Amy very sad to hear since, among it's many purposes, this blog here is supposed to help me stay in touch with my friends.  I'm wondering if in my tinkering I have done something, or if it's a Blogger issue, or if it's a friends issue.  No offense, friends.  Sooooooo, humor me here.  Today, if you can, please leave a comment.  If I know you, if I don't.  If you intended to come or happened here on accident.  If all you want to say is that I stink . . . whatever.  Just say something - anything.  If you can. If you don't comment I'll assume that you can't (or that you no longer want to be my friend -sniff, sniff - or maybe both) . . . and I have ways of knowing (generally) who has come by.  Not a thinly veiled threat, just a statement of fact. Love ya!

(Understanding, of course, that to make a comment you click on the little words below here -- yeah, right there under my name -- where it says 0 (or however many) friends said:  .  Got it?  Again, no offense.  Just to be clear . . . OK.  Thanks.)

. . . sigh . . .

This is what it's all about, right? Nothing tugs at my heart strings quite like walking out of my bedroom and happening upon this lovely scene.  Everyone I love very most in the whole world snuggled in close proximity, united in a common interest, laughing and enjoying one another's company.  It's like Norman Rockwell for a new millennium -- the family gathered around the iPod Touch.  This is one of those moments you live for as a mother. (Which is why I tip-toed back in the room and grabbed my camera instead of risking upsetting the delicate balance of tempers in the corner of that couch by joining in.)

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