Friday, November 30, 2012

Progress

We've started making a more concerted effort to get Conor out of diapers/Pull-Ups. He's all gung ho about the idea until he needs to stop what he's doing (which is about every 10 minutes) when we tell him it is time to try going potty.

He got a bit annoyed with our constant harassment, so we changed our tactics from bribing him with M&Ms only when he was successful in the bathroom to also just for trying. Don't think we're going soft... we're offering tiered bribery: 1 M&M for trying, 2 M&Ms for peeing in the potty; as many M&Ms as he wants for poopin' in the potty.

This morning as we were getting ready to leave, I was doing something in the laundry room and Conor was playing in the adjacent bathroom. He closed the door and I could hear him clicking the light on and off. I called out, "Conor, whatcha doin'?" A cute little voice from the other side of the door responded, "Nothing. I'm busy." "Busy doing what?" "Nothing. I'm just busy. (click click click)" A few second later, he opened the door and announced, "I have a poopy pants. I went poop in the potty!!!" I then had to explain the difference between using the potty and just being in the correct room.

Even though we weren't quite "there", I'm still excited he's getting closer to grasping the big picture. It reaffirms the fact that one day, one sweet day, we'll be a diaper-free home. Ahhh... dare to dream!


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

November Daring Bakers Challenge Revealed

Honestly, the November Daring Bakers Challenge couldn't have been more timely or more up my alley if it tried. We were challenged to make cookies. Oh darn! ;)

The holidays are all about baked good (in my humble opinion) and getting the opportunity to try out a new cookie recipe was fantastic. I wound up making piped shortbread cookies and brownie bundles (a recipe I found online).

I used the baked goods as bribery to get people to participate in a food drive I coordinated at work. Our office is comprised of 3 floors and I pitted the various floors against each other ... all for the good of Northwest Harvest. The floor that filled its donation box first won homemade goodies and the 5th floor of our office won.

I was concerned that the piped shortbread cookies wouldn't quite be enough for everyone, so that's where the brownie bundles came into play. The double win to the brownie bundles is they also used up some of our leftover Halloween candies. Unfortunately, I didn't save the URL for the brownie recipe... seems to be a one-time experiment with that exact recipe. (Yes, I am too lazy to go back through our browser history to find it.) To add even more flair to the treats, I dipped half of the piped shortbread cookies in melted chocolate. Note: If you make the shortbread cookies, they are REALLY fragile and dipping them does result in several broken cookies.

The treats were a hit... how do I know? They were completely gone before 10 AM.



Piped Shortbread Cookies
(recipe courtesy of Peta Eats)

Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time:8-10 minutes

Ingredients
1 cup (240 ml) (225 gm) (8 oz) softened butter
1¼ cups (175 gm) (6 oz) all-purpose (plain) flour
½ cup (65 gm) (2- 2/3 oz) confectioners' sugar
¼ cup (45 gm) (1½ oz) cornflour
2 teaspoons (10 ml) vanilla essence
Nuts, chocolate chips, maraschino cherries

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to moderate 300°F/ 150°C/gas mark 2
2. Combine butter, flours, vanilla and confectioner's sugar in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle beater. Mix on low speed until combined and then change to the whisk beater.
3. Beat for 10 minutes.
4. Pipe into rings.
5. Decorate with maraschino cherry pieces to look like little wreaths or leave plain.
6. Bake in preheated moderate oven for 15 to 18 minutes, or until bottoms are lightly browned.
7. Cool completely and drizzle with melted chocolate or icing (frosting) if you want to.

Holiday season is the time for sharing and Peta of Peta Eats is sharing a dozen cookies, some classics and some of her own, from all over the world with us.

Christmas Goodies

My sister sent a box of goodies for our kids a few weeks ago, but I was under strict orders to keep it under wraps until after Thanksgiving. Now that the turkey is in the rear view mirror (or mostly... we're still looking at leftovers), the kids were able to dive into the massive goodies from Auntie Zuzanne.

We are now swimming in a plethora of Christmas stickers, Santa hats, Christmas crafts, Christmas shirts, and candy canes. The kids are in Heaven.... ok, almost in Heaven: Conor quickly discovered that he doesn't like candy canes. Annika surprised us be gnawing on hers most of the evening... this is the same kid who says toothpaste is too "spicy." Just when you think you know your kids, they throw you another curve ball!

Thank you, Suzanne, for thinking of our little ones and sending them some holiday fun. They LOVED it! :)

"What'd we get????"

Conor Claus

Annika Claus

Eric sporting the reindeer and tree headbands ... he's so eclectic

Annika and her Christmas couture

Working on her foam gingerbread man
(notice the continued presence of her candy cane)

Conor decorating his foam tree while sporting his post-Santa hat hair

Ta da!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thanksgiving 2013

This year, we spent Thanksgiving on Whidbey Island with Eric's parents and had an absolutely marvelous holiday. My mom came up the afternoon before so we could get an early start Thursday morning... the goal being to avoid spending any more of the day sitting in a ferry line than was truly necessary. Fortunately, we made it on the ferry we hoped to take... win for the Olson family!

Most of the day was spent catching up, playing games (namely bingo, greed, and mah jong), and watching the kids run around like the little balls of energy that they are.... oh, and preparing an amazing Thanksgiving dinner.

During the course of the day, Eric and his parents started going through a box of family mementos, including old photos, my father-in-law's grade school report cards (anyone know what an "R" on a report card means??), and pictures from various generations. A few of Eric's baby/childhood pictures were discovered, as was the undeniable fact that Conor is basically a carbon copy of Eric. Eric's mom keeps telling me how much Conor looks like Eric, but I didn't really see it until I looked at the pictures from Eric's childhood. And now all I can say is "WOW, but does Conor ever look like Eric as a kid!"

Eric's dad took time to do a project with each of our kids. He took them to his workshop and helped them build boats using scraps of wood. The kids LOVED doing this with him and now have new favorite bath toys. Eric's mom also had a project for the kids: writing the name tags for each person's place setting. My mom also had shortbread cookie dough, so she and the kids could make some sweets. I adore the fact that our family members want to take time with our kids; they are providing opportunities for our kids to create lasting memories of our loved ones. Not only memories of the things they did, but also the realization that people who loved them wanted to spend time with them and make them feel special.

Our dinner was beyond delicious! We ate an amazingly juicy turkey, mashed potatoes, bread, asparagus, and salad. Yum wouldn't begin to describe the meal. The best part, though, was sharing it with some of our very favorite people!

For a safe, peaceful, fun, family-filled Thanksgiving, we are truly thankful.


Annika, Bestemor, and Conor making place cards for our Thanksgiving table
Jack and Charlene

Annika riding the antique rocking horse

Eric and Karen looking at old family items

Jack getting a chuckle out of his childhood report cards

Mmmm... deviled eggs

"I would be proud to partake of your pecan pie!"
(Pop quiz: Name that movie!)

We had a very fun mah jong marathon... and I'm not
just saying that because I mah jongged twice!

The eternal debate: are olives more fun to play with or eat?

Conor discovered the sheer fun that is olives on your fingers

Eric coming in for the olive swiping, but left empty mouthed after
Conor popped his pinky into his mouth at the last second

Olive Eyes Annika, olive you!
(haha! get it? I'm so punny!)

My mom turned into the human jungle gym at one point during the day
Just don't ask me why Annika is without pants... I have no clue

Nana and Annika playing bingo

What Thanksgiving is complete without a circus act or two?

Jack checking on the turkey

Did I mention the juggling?
Later on, he worked in a variety of citrus fruits for a colorful flair to his act

A bastin' we will go! A bastin' we will go!
High-ho the derrio. A bastin' we will go.

My mother-in-law makes the world's best gravy. I kid you not! Pure liquid Heaven.

Eric and his dad flipping the bird from the roasting rack to the carving board.
This was no small task! Success!!
(I'd like it noted that they were going to try lifting and flipping the bird; I was the
one who suggested putting the carving board on top of the rack and then flipping the whole thing.
They'd be lost without me. ;)

Our beautiful table
Note Annika's adorable handwriting on the place card

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Twinkle Lights

On Monday, I attended the monthly Mamas with Cameras meeting. Knowing the speaker's topic was holiday photography, I was like a kid on Christmas (no pun intended) waiting for the meeting and walked away with so much great information! The speaker (Lindsay Kennedy) was wonderful and provided amazing tips for getting keeper holiday photos.

Most months, we're given a photography assignment and this month's assignment was to take "twinkle lights" photos. Instead of digging through our stored Christmas decorations, I picked up a string of white lights at Target and promptly stuck my family members in a dark room. Unfortunately, I bought lights that twinkle (instead of offering steady light), which created a less-than-ideal setup, but not bad for a first try. They twinkle lights were out (depending upon where they were during the on/off process), which left me with a few dark bulbs in some photos. The twinkling also (I think) created a few instances of lens flare, which I definitely don't want in the photos.

I definitely plan on trying again... but with the kids on a more reflective surface—probably our wood floors or our granite counters (although that might not offer enough room)—instead of the tile floor in our bathroom.

Conor had a great time playing with the lights, which made that portion of our 5-minute photo session incredibly easy! He liked watching the lights make his fingers glow and noticing how some of the bulbs (much to my chagrin) blinked on and off. I'm sure the fact that I willingly provided a string of lights was pretty exciting for him, too!

Camera Settings
Aperture: f/1.8
Shutter speed: 1/160
ISO: 1600
Lens: 50 mm prime




Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Memory I'll Cherish Forever

If anyone has ever met our children, they quickly understand that Annika and Conor are upbeat kids with lots of energy. They play well together (for the most part) and really do look out for the other. Every so often, all of their penned up energy is spent and they sit quietly together. This was one of those times.

On Sunday morning, I didn't hear the kids ... at all.... I mean, not a peep... which caused me to immediately investigate what in the world they were up to. What I found was our two cherubs happily snuggled up together on the couch watching a video on Eric's phone. Priceless.

It is the moments like this one that I burn into my memory and heart, so I can carry them with me... always. One day, they'll be grown and living in their own homes and living busy lives; that's when I'll find myself missing them, hoping they're well, and thinking back to when they were my little babies, wearing footed jammies, and happy to sit together watching a show without a care in the world.


Monday, November 19, 2012

11 years and counting

On Saturday, Eric and I celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary. It stuns me to think how much time has flown by since we said "I do" and how much our lives have changed over the past 11 years. I never anticipated finding so many new ways to fall in love with Eric, but seem to discover a new way just about every day.

To celebrate our day, we had eggs benedict for breakfast (oh yeah, baby!). It might not sound like much, but that is my absolute favorite breakfast and such a decadent dish. We even pulled out a bottle of champagne and made mimosas (with cranberry juice ... we didn't have any O.J.) To make breakfast even more special, I served the mimosas in the toasting flutes we used at our wedding reception. The kids wanted fancy glasses, too, so we let them use some apéritif glasses we had in the cupboard. We were quite the group of fine diners, let me tell you!

After breakfast, we bundled up and took a walk to the nearest Starbucks and enjoyed some beverages; shockingly, the kids said they were hungry, so split a chocolate doughnut as an extra treat. On the way home, we stopped by one of the kids' favorite playgrounds. Because it was a cold, rainy day, we had the entire place to ourselves. The kids had a great time burning off some excess doughnut-induced energy!

Conor enjoying his mid-morning refreshment

If her mouth wasn't full of doughnut, Annika would have said "YUM!"
 
video
 
video

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Conorisms

A couple of nights ago during dinner, Conor burped. To remind him of his manners, I said, "Say excuse me, Conor." He replied, "Excuse me, me." Eric and I were shaking with laughter. Conor didn't know why his words were so funny, but sure liked having an audience!

This morning, Conor asked Eric for a "yodote" (yogurt). Trying to help with Conor's pronunciation skills, Eric said, "Conor, can you say g-g-g?" Conor replied, "d-d-d." Eric then said, "Conor, can you say c-c-c?" Conor said, "t-t-t." Eric said, "No, c-c-c." Conor replied, "c-c-c." Eric (very excited) said, "Yes! Now can you say c-c-Conor?" Conor very innocently replied "c-c-me!"

The boy never fails to amuse!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Disney on Ice Adventure

If you ask Annika what she wants to be when she grown up, she'll tell you "an ice skater ballerina." When I saw a billboard for the Disney on Ice show, I knew she needed to go. To quote one of my favorite movies (Real Genius), it was a moral imperative. (I also invited my mom to go just for added fun.)

To keep the anticipation from being too much for Annika, I didn't tell her about the show when I got the tickets, opting to wait until the day of the performance to spring it on her. This morning, I surprised Annika with the announcement that we were going to the Disney on Ice show today. She was thrilled ... and then asked for me to unpause her TV show. ::sigh::

We left in PLENTY of time to get to the arena a good 20 minutes before the show was supposed to begin. I didn't take the gridlock we'd experience the last 0.4 mile of the journey into consideration when deciding when to leave the house. Eventually, I pulled what I'm guessing was an illegal UI-turn, freed us from the parking log of a street, circumvented the traffic, and parked. We then stood in a ridiculously long line to get in the arena and got into our seats about 2 minutes after the show began.

All of that was beyond worth it to see the look of pure wonder and elation on Annika's face throughout the entire show. Saying she loved the performance would completely underestimate her response to the experience. She sat on the edge of her seat with her eyes the size of saucers the entire time. She even waved at the performers as they skated by waving. Beyond adorable!

The show focused on telling the stories of three princesses: Tiana, Cinderella, and Rapunzel. The athleticism of the ice skaters was incredible. I think most of the adults in the audience were just as enthralled as the little kids because of having an appreciation for the skaters' abilities (not to mention core strength!). The costumes were just as wonderful as the skating. I found it interesting that the skaters lip synced to the various movies' voice actors; the familiarity of the voices definitely helped with character consistency.

I highly recommend this show if you have a Disney fan!Annika is already asking to go back to the rink so we can watch the show again. :)

Tiana and Charlotte in the opening "Princess and the Frog" number

Tiana and the waiters in the "I'm Almost There" number

Tiana as a frog with Louis the crocodile

Princess Tiana and Prince Naveen

The show wouldn't have been complete with Minnie and Mickey

Cinderella and the evil stepmother and stepsisters

Cinderella's mouse friend

Cinderella in her carriage on the way to the ball

Cinderella and Prince Charming

Flynn Rider stealing the crown in the Rapunzel opening number

Flynn and Rapunzel performing one of many impressive aerial stunts

Rapunzel and Maximus the horse
(I think the horse costume was one of best of the show)

Rapunzel and Flynn in their finale
(talk about incredible strength!)

Mickey and Minnie during the show's finale
Finale fireworks