Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year's Eve

Every New Year's Eve we have snack and game night.  Whoever wins the game gets to write their name in the box lid next to the year.  Now that we have accumulated so many games, the kids and I want to sqeeze in as many as possible.  DH however couldn't stand the idea of playing games all day and all night.  The kids and I think it's fun. 

Our first game was chosen by dd.  Surprisingly, she chose "Hail to the Chief."  I thought she'd choose one of her favorites, one of our many geography games.  I bought this game for ds a few years ago, knowing he had a goal to one day be president, to restore traditional values to our country.  At one point, a question about Teddy Roosevelt came up.  DH ran and got his book on TR to reference some information.  Now dh is not into books.  This book is a tome!  My brother, who is a history buff, found out dh was a fan of TR.  So 8 years ago, he bought this book for him.  We all laughed when we saw it, because dh just doesn't enjoy reading books.  But this book he truely enjoys.  He simply has not had time to devour it.   But he has faithfully plunkered through and is nearing the end.  There might be a few hundred pages left!  LOL  

The object of this game is to answer questions about presidents, while accumulating enough delegate votes to be the party candidate.  After that we can go through the states, accumulating necessary electoral votes to win the race.  Once we have enough votes, it is a race to the White House.  The first one who has enough votes and moves across the board and uses the exact number of dots on the dice to land in the White House is the President.  Second place is VP.  DS usually wins this game.  This year we have new winners!  DH became President and I became VP!  What a team!

The winner picks the next game.  So dh picked Wheel of Fortune.  I forgot to take a picture of this game...which I won, while playing Vanna White and turning letters.

I knew this might be the only winning game for I picked my favorite, Scrabble.  DH detests this game...and he won!  Not only that, I played all the large words, yet he won with small words using rare letters on double letter and triple word spaces.  We like to play to the end anyway, trying to use up our letters.  Only 2 were left, "j" and "g".  Can you find a space for them?

Then we played Colonial Williamsburg.  I bought this when we visited a few years ago and it's a favorite with the kids.  The game brings back lots of fond memories and reviews lots of great history.  Again, dh won this game.

By now, it was time for dinner.  We usually have more of our Christmas snacks.  

Cheese, meat and crackers...and shrimp...

Cheese sticks...tamales...


While eating, dh had to watch a movie.  We pulled out a favorite, "Bachelor Mother".  This was made in the 40's I think, starring Ginger Rogers and David Niven.  She is a single lady who works in David Niven's department store, selling miniature Donald Ducks.  She loses her job.  A guy on the floor talks her into joining him in a dance contest (it's fun to watch her dance even without Fred Astaire) While walking down the street, she sees a lady leaving a baby on the steps of the foundling home.  She rushes over and picks up the baby and takes him in...but the foundling home people think she is the mother. They go to her boss, David Niven, to discuss how to help this poor unwed mother.  Niven gives her back her job and gives her a pay raise.  Niven, meanwhile, is a bachelor, out every night with a different gal, home late...and his father is desperately trying to settle him down.  In the end, the baby ends up with a wonderful mother and father...and it is funny to watch the baby's expressions while watching Rogers and Niven banter back and forth.  

After that, we played Life.  This is not my favorite game, because there is no logic. 

By now it is 10pm and we are all getting sleepy.  But we let the kids stay up...the fireworks are going off outside so sleep is impossible.  Might as well stay up and play games.  To help us stay awake, dh chose Jenga. 

I know there is a physics lesson built into this game...I'm just not up to speed on the subject.  But this tower is built with layers of rectangular blocks, 3 to each level lying perpendicular to each other.  You try to push out one and put it on top.  Hmmmm, this is hard to describe...maybe I can show you.

Here is ds pulling out one which he needs to place on top...

Here's another one getting pushed out...

Taking out another one...oh did I mention this thing gets wobbly!  The loser is the one who makes it topple!

Here I am trying to be ever so careful...

You have to imagine this thing getting can blow any minute now...

Uh's looking a lot like the Leaning Tower of Pisa...

Uh oh...that's the end of that tower.  We played 4 rounds, so each of us could start.  The difference in our technique was interesting.  DH and dd are very global; ds and I are sequential.  DD and I are very careful, usually going for the middle of the 3 pieces in the layer, to keep the foundation sturdy.  The guys are more gutsy and prefer to go after the outside pieces, making the tower more precariously prone to fall.  The kids and dh can be completely reckless.  Yes, even dd.  There are times she just goes for it and doesn't try to be careful...but it usually holds together.  I, however, am ever so gentle and careful.  So who won...I did!  I was the only one who never let it fall.

So I picked the final game, my new favorite.  Tonight dh won the game.  

By then it was time for the New Year.  I usually buy blowers and pop confetti between Christmas and New Years but forgot about it this time. 

Happy New Year Everyone!

Silent Night

Despite illnesses throughout the family, we mustered ourselves together for a photo shoot.  

Some changed into more comfortable clothes, while I got the snacks/dinner ready.  While tamales were steaming, mozarella cheesesticks were baking, and shrimp was thawing, dh put a fire in the fireplace.


Then dd read our devotion with the Advent Candle.  She and ds had been sharing a lot of the reading this week, which was new.  I was trying to save my voice, with the cold.  Even though we have done this advent candle book for years, the children noticed things for the first time.  Like, there were extra readings, depending on how late in the week Christmas falls. They had never thought of that before.

Guess who showed up for the reading?

Slipper kitty adores laps and books to climb over and edges of books to rub her chin on.

There's just nothing like trying to read while the book is bumping up and down and while getting a furry tail in your face.

Of course kitty acts offended and wanders off...but can't bear the temptation...

Guess who's back?  It never fails.  This is what I put up with all the time!  Maybe she'll be more content if she gets a big hug and her picture taken!

Now she is just too irresistable and ds has to grab her away from dd!

After resuming our reading, we discussed on how people reacted to Jesus' first coming...and how they perceive His second coming today.  This is always interesting, talking about the reading and applying past events to the present culture.  We've discovered that things haven't changed much really!  Then it was time for the snacks.  Since dd was the only healthy person in the room, she got to blow out the candle on the fruitcake, after singing Happy Birthday to Jesus.  (That picture came out blurry.)  You can see the lit candle in the back left corner.

We settled down to eat while watching "It's a Wonderful Life."  We all love this movie.  We are big Jimmy Stewart fans and the story line is wonderful.  By the way, if any of you wonder what my brother is like, he could pass for Jimmy Stewart in a look a like contest!  He can even impersonate him....grunts and all!  =)  Of course, now that I'm settled, kitty is ready to invade my lap with her furry presence.  However I have food I am trying to eat.  It was so funny, I'd just put her down on the floor and ds and I would wave our hands to under the tree, and under the tree she would go.  She kept popping out every few minutes to see if my lap was free yet, then she'd go back under the tree when we pointed to it! 

Finally, I was done eating and my lap was ready. Of course she's not content until I stretch out and lay the blanket on top of my lap. 

Now isn't this cozy?  DD likes to lay against me too...


Monday, December 17, 2007

Gingerbread Cookie Factory

It is that time of year again…for the annual gingerbread cookie factory. I made up the gingerbread dough a week ago, while heating left-overs before we headed for the Nutcracker Ballet. To my chagrin, I realized I didn’t have enough molasses! I made up the difference with honey.

Then I realized I had nowhere to roll it out! We got new laminate countertops last year, that look like black granite. To our surprise, the countertops we special ordered were textured! I couldn’t believe it! I was frustrated by that for some time, until I heard a designer on hgtv say those are desired for laminate countertops, because they give the appearance of real stone.  Well, I was glad to hear something good about that!  Nevertheless, we got a black granite laminate that was smooth, different series that looked more real, for our new master bathroom.  Sadly, that is so smooth, it shows all the water spots and wipe downs.  I now agree that textured laminate is great, at least the black granite.  They rarely look dirty!  But they are a pain when kneading/rolling out dough.

I had a difficult time rolling out the gingerbread dough last year.  I think I used parchment paper, but I was frustrated because it kept moving and wrinkling.  I used to have a really nice marble pastry board that I got from Lillian Vernon years ago. I still have the rolling pin. But a few years ago the pastry board broke. I was heartbroken. The advantage of using a stone like marble is that it’s easy to clean and the cold surface allows less flour to be used to prevent sticking. Over the year I researched my options and found only one place where I could find a good quality pastry board, William Sonoma. I could either get a large wooden one or another marble one. Both were about the same price. I decided to bide my time and wait for a good deal. Well, here it was time for a pastry board and no board. So Friday afternoon we got school work done early, so we headed to a large shopping mall about 30 miles north of us. It was cold, drizzly and crowded! Where in the world did all these people come from? Didn’t they belong at work or school? I thought I’d be avoiding the rush, going before school let out. Anyway, we got to William Sonoma and they had one wooden board left. I decided on that, because it wouldn’t break!

Here it is! It fits perfectly on the countertop...

...and has special measurement markings on the other side

Saturday we rolled out the dough...

...and cut out the cookies and baked them. Actually, the children were now old enough to do most of this themselves. They did a pretty good job of cleaning up.

This year I hit upon a design clean up solution! Vinyl tablecloths!

Why didn’t I think of those before?

We used an autumn vinyl tablecloth when carving the pumpkin.

The children love these so now we are all happy campers. =)

We ran to the store but couldn’t find any meringue powder at two stores. I wasn’t about to stress and at the second store I gave in…I bought those icings in a can. Turned out to be a good thing. DD had an awful time figuring out how to operate the can. The OT they had as toddlers/preschoolers would have loved it! This was a glorious opportunity to work on fine motor skills! DD got the hang of it! 

and decorated...

and decorated...

and decorated....

and decorated...(the white snowflake with blue middle with white middle has my name in white)

 Then they thoroughly cleaned the kitchen without my even asking them to do that! =)

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Sleeping Beauty Ballet, in 1940 and Today

Last summer London’s Royal Ballet was in town to perform "Sleeping Beauty". I wanted to take 12yodd and asked the guys if they wanted to come. Yes, but then I had to count the pennies. I didn’t think I could make this happen, so God did something really neat! The military got free tickets! Woo hoo! I warned 10yo ds that the witch could be scary…and she was! But he was cool with that and we all loved the intricate scene changes, the stunning choreography and the gorgeous costumes! The program explained that the scenery and choreography date back to the 1940’s, using the work of the famed Oliver Messel. Included in the link is a video of the stage design, music, dance, and costume of the production. We were quite impressed with the level of technique back then!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Secret Sister 2007 from Maryland

I found a package from my Secret Sister on my doorstep tonight! I opened it and read her sweet, sweet words in the card.   Then I pulled out a chocolate ball, like an orange.  Do you know those candies?  I can't show a picture of that because my children have already eaten part of it! =) 

Then I slowly opened a square box and unwrapped and unwrapped and unwrapped and unwrapped this...


Doesn't this fit my blog well? (Note 7-25-11: my original blog used to have a green background with my teacup collection featured in my garden. That html template, that I agonized over, disappeared into hyperspace when the blog company, not blogspot, moved my blog to a different blog platform.  Now it is impossible for me to recreate it there, but I could here, not that I have time.  There are other blog issues, hence my moving my original blog over here, slowly but surely.  The other blog company is trying to remain solvent, so I have doubts to my blog remaining over there.)
DH said I should incorporate a picture of it into my blog design, so I will be working on that! =)  She had said in my note that she had been a secret reader of my blog.  =)  This is equisite and could have easily made my blog of my favorite things the other day!!!!  I also love mosaics out of china on top of items like this.  I love, love, love this!!!!  

Then I opened a flat box, she had said it was to thank us for our years in the Air Force.  I was flabbergasted as I unwrapped the box.  It is the 2007 White House Ornament! 

We have talked about starting a collection of these for sometime. We love to watch The White House Christmas every year on hgtv, where they always show the latest ornament.  In fact, the kids were recently asking when this year's show will be on....Sun night!  My son, who wants to be president gets caught up in the decorating of the White House and tells how he would decorate.  I always tell him that his wife will do the decorating and he will be running the country.  Then he tells us that if his plans come true, we're all invited to "his house".  lol 

This ornament commemorates the first presidential White House wedding. In fact, this is the only wedding in the White House of a president...Grover Cleveland!  His bride's dress and veil had orange blossoms...which is the silver filigree part of the ornament frame...and my children had orange candy!  What a connection!  My dd, who thinks fruit is the best food in the world and loves strawberries, always asks me what my favorite fruit is.  I enjoy many fruits, but I have a way of always choosing orange flavor!  I can't imagine what real orange blossoms are like!  I could have posted a picture of this in my favorite things as well!  I'm looking forward to reading this booklet more thoroughly!  =)

Thank you SS for praying for me and blessing me with these sweet gifts!  The neat thing is that now I know who she is, I can pray for her!  =)


Monday, December 10, 2007

The Nutcracker Ballet-Then and Now

This past weekend was filled with the sights and sounds of Christmas! It had been several years since we had taken the children to see the Nutcracker Ballet. I have a movie version that we watch every year and I play the music all the time, so they are familiar with the main story line. About four years ago we took the children to a Fort Worth Ballet version that I absolutely adored…incredible scenery, wonderful choreography…it was enchanting! However, my son was terrified by the mice. He never wanted to go to see this story again! The only good memory he came away with was the guy who introduced the ballet, our local weatherman Bill Taylor!

This Christmas I saw that Russia’s Moscow Classical Ballet was arriving in town to perform the Nutcracker! We scraped money together to see this and we went Sat night. We had about an hour before the performance began so the children spent their time looking at the beautiful architecture through the binoculars…their idea! They kept telling me about the wonderful things they were seeing.The auditorium was built in the early 1900’s and I was telling them that many buildings in this time were built in this grand style.

While waiting, I also made everyone read their programs! Before we went, ds started asking questions about the ballet and I happened to mention that although the Nutcracker sticks to the main story line, there are different interpretations. He didn’t understand and asked for details, so I explained what I have learned over the years. Well, after glancing through the program, I saw that this version would be far different from any I had ever seen. So I made everyone read the programs so they wouldn’t get too confused! We all agreed this was going to be different!

This version opened with a snow scene. Herr Drosselymeyer is played by a young man with graying hair and eye patch, yet he can dance and leap quite high in stunning style! He presents Masha (Clara) and Fritz with toys…which are actually people (ballet dancers). During the party the parents act out the mice story. Masha is a young lady who dreams and sees the battle with the mice, her Nutcracker Prince falls in love with her, she becomes the Snow Queen Fairy and Sugar Plum Fairy, therefore dancing 2 gorgeous Pas de Duex with the Prince. At the end, she wakes up Christmas morning, when Herr Drosselmeyer brings his nephew to her (who looks a lot like that Nutcracker Prince); they embrace and the curtains close. Sigh.

At the end, my dd and I agreed we had enjoyed it more than the guys, though with mixed emotions. We all agreed the choreography and scenery wasn’t as complicated as what we had seen in "Sleeping Beauty." We probably enjoyed it because it was beautiful…but it was also a romance! Sigh…. It ended exactly the way I would have wanted it to! However, DS was bored with the mice scene! Dh was just plain bored, and he likes going to these kinds of things. We talked about all the various versions we had read and seen before and wondered which one was most like the first one?

I figured there had to be an explanation to all this. When we got home, I noticed the front cover of the program…"The Original Nutcracker". I did a little research on line and got excited! This is the original Moscow version of the Russian story written by the famed Russian composer performed by the Moscow Classical Ballet!!! None of this was mentioned in the program, which is a shame. Ds is more impressed, but he still thinks it was boring. Well, dd and I loved it anyway! Next time I’m going to do some research before we go, hoping that will make a difference for the guys. I know I would have enjoyed it even more had I known. I would have imagined myself in 1919 Moscow watching this! Sigh….

This tells you a little of the Moscow version

This is the link for the Moscow Classical Ballet

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Raindrops on a Turtle's Head

While playing ball in the backyard today, my son found a turtle that had crept under our gate!  My daughter ran in to tell me and I couldn't believe it! 

He was such a shy fellow.  DH began to think he must be dehydrated so he started dripping water from the garden hose on him.  This turtle reminded me of BJ Thomas' song, "Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head."

"Raindrops keep fallin' on my head
And just like the guy whose feet are too big for his bed
Nothin' seems to fit
Those raindrops are fallin' on my head, they keep fallin'"

"So I just did me some talkin' to the sun
And I said I didn't like the way he got things done
Sleepin' on the job
Those raindrops are fallin' on my head, they keep fallin'"

"But there's one thing I know
The blues they send to meet me won't defeat me
It won't be long till happiness steps up to greet me"

"Raindrops keep fallin' on my head
But that doesn't mean my eyes will soon be turnin' red
Cryin's not for me
'Cause I'm never gonna stop the rain by complainin'
Because I'm free
Nothin's worryin' me"

"It won't be long till happiness steps up to greet me

Raindrops keep fallin' on my head
But that doesn't mean my eyes will soon be turnin' red
Cryin's not for me
'Cause I'm never gonna stop the rain by complainin'
Because I'm free
Nothin's worryin' me"

We were prepared to take him to the pond in the neighborhood behind us.  Then dh decided he must have come from our next door neighbor, who has a pond in the back yard.  Sure enough, the neighbors thought it was theirs, so he was returned.  In our hearts though, we felt sad about this.  The turtle had lots of scratches on his back.  DS figured that came from the dog next door.  There isn't much care of things next door, and ds thought the turtle would escape to the peacefulness of our back yard.  I was almost prepared to start digging a pond for him in our back yard.  I wonder if he'll be back?