Thursday, December 31, 2015

The week leading up to Christmas, and Christmas Day

Another year has come and gone, and tomorrow will be 2016! Tonight we're going to a friends' house to bring in the New Year. I'm going to bring these sugar-free Blondies to share. They are whole grain, vegan, sweetened with dates and so yummy. I've posted the recipe on my food blog, which you can find by clicking here, and I've included a gluten-free variation which is how the original recipe read. I've seriously made a batch of these 3 times in the last two weeks because our family likes them so much, and I'm trying to lessen the sugar intake around here which is high because of the holidays. 
I love having the kids home with me when they have breaks from school. The older kids have helped out several times with dinner preparations which makes the task a little more fun and interesting for me :). Here Elisabeth is helped shred the chicken to go into a soup...after doing it she said she's going to be a vegetarian like mom. Well, she was a vegetarian for about 2 days before she started eating some chicken again :). But I get it; it is gross taking meat off a bone and seeing blood and fat and bones. I'm vegetarian because I don't like the taste of meat, and I think the whole idea of it, of eating flesh, like Elisabeth, grosses me out a bit. I'm much rather get my protein and all the nutrition I need through plants, grains, nuts, legumes and seeds and I have for years. 

Charles on the other hand loves meat and loves holding a chicken leg in his hand and literally licking it clean. Here he is chopping up some veggies which will also go in our soup.
These were our neighbor gifts this year:
One night, like last year, we took the children out to look at Christmas lights. We always try and go to a house where the lights are dancing to music on a specific radio station. That was this house:
A couple of nights before Christmas we watched one of my personal favorite Christmas movies: Scrooge. I love this heart warming story. I love several of the songs, like "thank you very much".
Elisabeth and I made english toffee on Christmas Eve and gave some out to several friends. The first batch we burnt :(. So we had to start all over again. I probably should have just stopped there and thrown the burnt ones in the garbage because, you see, toffee is not good for you.

 But we made more and in the end it turned out just right. I ate too much of it though, and got sick on Christmas morning with lots of stomach pains. I think it was a combination of too much sugar and the high dairy content (4 1/2 stick of butter!) in this toffee which has always been hard on my stomach. Scott's stomach was hurting Christmas morning as well, but not as bad as mine, and it didn't bother him for too long. 

We decided not to do pajamas this year on Christmas Eve since most of the children have way too many that get passed down them so instead we let them open their sibling gifts: each child picked a name from a bowl that had one of their siblings names written on it, and they got a gift for that sibling.
New slippers for Jane from Elisabeth, new pajamas for Charles from Nora (he was the only one that really needed new pjs because he grows so fast and doesn't have anyone handing them down), new adult coloring book for Annabelle from Jane, a lunchbox for Elisabeth from Charles (her old one is all ripped), and crayons and a sketchpad for Nora from Annabelle.
Christmas Eve we had stombolli and salad for dinner again, which has become a tradition. It's basically just a braided pizza that you dip in sauce (usually you don't put sauce inside the braid).

After dinner we acted out the nativity, which is another Christmas Eve tradition.

This year the kids wanted to sleep together in the same room. I wasn't sure if that was a good idea, I was afraid they'd be up all night, but it actually was fine. We didn't have them go to bed until around 9 and then it was pretty quiet.
Scott and I had previously wrapped all the presents, so we just made up and set out the stockings,  we brought the BYU gift bags out to add to the other gifts under the tree, and we brought out the two unwrapped family gifts which were a pogo stick and a pull up bar. We told the kids not to get up before 6 (though usually Scott and I don't sleep well either and we end up getting up much earlier than that), but for the first time ever, the kids all slept in until 630am and Scott and I woke up a little before that and had time to read scriptures before they were up, so the time wasn't even an issue this year. We're normally early risers, with myself and Scott getting up between 5-530, so even though 6 may seem early, it's really not very early for us. It's actually sleeping in for us.

We had a very white Christmas. If you're going to be snowed in, Christmas is the perfect day because you don't have to go anywhere and you can just be cozied up in the house with your family.
Here are the family gifts:
We had our Easy Egg Chile Frittata (casserole) and cinnamon rolls for breakfast christmas morning. Well, I should say the children did, because Scott and I didn't eat much of anything with our rumbly tummies. I made two pans of cinnamon rolls a few weeks ago for our ward Christmas party and I froze 7 of those cinnamon rolls and saved the leftover icing in the fridge, so that I didn't even have to make them Christmas Eve, but instead, I just pulled the frozen rolls out of the freezer and let them thaw over night on the counter. I think I will do this again in the future, make a batch a week or two ahead of time and freeze them, that way I don't have to make them on Christmas Eve when I'm wanting to do other things.

Christmas Eve, Scott also got a couple of family gifts: the sheet music to the Forgotten Carols musical, and star shaped ornaments that each have a different name for the Savior on them.
For dinner we made tamales, which has become another Christmas tradition along with our traditional breakfast and Christmas Eve dinner. We like doing dishes from our heritage, both Italian and Mexican. 

Charles got another nerf gun this year, which means he has two now, so we had several nerf guns wars throughout the day.
The day after Christmas we were feeling much better and we took the kids sledding nearby.



We love sledding together (as long as the hills are too terribly steep and long) and doing things that are active. I'm grateful for the bodies the Lord has given us, and for the knowledge and understanding he's given us to help us keep our bodies healthy and strong. I know that sometimes accidents happen, and that sometimes you're in poor health and it's not your own doing, but for a good many of us, our daily choices in foods and activity will determine how we feel and how well our body can function. If we're unsure as to what's good and healthy, you can find answers through prayer and meditation and through the scriptures because the Lord knows all and wants to bless and help us. How grateful I am to know that we're never left alone, but that He's always there to lift and help and guide.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Finished the Book of Mormon, started the Old Testament and Gingerbread decorating

I finished reading the Book of Mormon last Sunday December 20! It took me about 4-5 months and I absolutely loved spending extra time searching, studying and pondering all the many scriptures about Jesus Christ and the gospel truths. Even though I've read it many times before, reading it through quickly helped increase my understanding. I started a new challenge the next day: read the Old Testament in 6 months. That means I need to read 6 pages a day and so far I've done it. I think it seems more doable now that I've built up my length of time to read and study scriptures and will usually go for about 45 minutes to an hour each morning, sometimes longer. I'm only in Genesis so far and have read about Adam, Noah, Abraham, Lot etc, but wow, there are some interesting and odd stories in there that I'm trying hard to 'liken' to our days...it takes more pondering and praying to do that :), but it's possible! I love the scriptures and the truths they teach; it helps so much in all areas of my life by teaching me to be more like our Savior who is loving, good and kind in every way.

This past week before Christmas, Scott made gingerbread man cookies one night and we all decorated one and brought the other to our friends house the following day, where we shared and decorated them, along with gingerbread houses.





It was so much fun; I think we'll have to make this a yearly tradition.



 I loved watching their creative side come out as they each decorated their own, individual houses.

 This is my good friend Elisa; we've been good friends for over 8 years now and I love her dearly. I think we enjoyed making and decorating houses just as much, or even more so, than the kids :).

 This was my 'gingerbread' house (actually graham cracker).

And me and the kids completed houses:

And just for my records, here is much of the kids art they've made over the month. I keep it all in one spot which is on the door of our pantry. I love all of it!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Dad Math Tutor, Room Mom for Christmas Party, Advent Calendar, BYU game with friends

Elisabeth has started bringing home some math problems that are challenging for me, so I usually have her wait for dad to get home so he can help her out. And I try and listen in so I can 'remember' how to work these problems as well :). I'm grateful to have a husband who can fill in where I am lacking. And who is amazing  in everything else. 
 Jane made this graham cracker gingerbread house at school just before she went off break. Most of the candy is gone now, but the house is still standing.
 I am the room mom for Annabelle's second grade class. We had our Christmas party on Friday last week, the 18th. I had a few other parents come in and each of us were in charge of a Christmas activity. We had four rotations: card making craft, christmas bingo, Christmas stories, and a book exchange (we read "twas the 'right' night before christmas' and they would pass their books whenever they heard the words 'right' and 'left'.). Each rotation was about 8 minutes and then we had time for eating.
 Later that day we watched our good friends, the Arkell's, youngest three kiddos while the older ones went to see, A Christmas Carol with Ben and Gina. We painted ornaments, ate and played and watched Ice Age.
 I found this on the floor of Charles' closet this week. It was his lunch from who knows when. Probably a couple of weeks ago because I don't remember making pancakes this week. But what we have here are moldy pancakes with white fuzz growing on the top.
Annabelle had a friend over Saturday and I took this picture as she was watching, waiting for her to arrive. 

 I got this advent calendar a year or two ago and we put it up at the beginning of the month and have been doing a Christmas activity each day. Many of the activities are things we would be doing anyway like, "attend christmas piano recital" or "go to ward Christmas party" or "go to orchestra concert" and "lights at temple square".
This week we, one of the sticks in our calendar said, "make christmas craft". Scott made up some dough and the kids used christmas cookie cutters to cut out shapes which we then baked. These are the ornaments we painted with the Arkells, and we sent some home with them. Can you see a few of them on this tree? Stocking, star, gingerbread man and a wreath.

 Charles had been doing a lot of drawing lately. He and Annabelle both seem to love it. This is a picture Charles drew this past week which I thought was pretty awesome.
 Saturday the 19th, in the afternoon we had our good friends the Wilcox Family over to watch the BYU v Utah game and eat some yummy foods :).
 We've been good friends with this family since we moved in 8 years ago and we have kids similar ages which is fun. Scott and Brian had a mutual friend....this friend's parents were over the mission in Raleigh when Scott was a youth, so Scott became friends with him and Brian even came out to visit this friend since they were best friends, and so Scott and Brian met then. Small world. :)