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I love to laugh and love with my family, read, exercise, cook and sew, all the while giving thanks to God for his immeasureable love and faithfulness to me.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Christmas visit down South

My maternal side of the family got together over the holiday weekend to celebrate Christmas, so we got to take a little road trip. It is far enough away to make you glad when you arrive, but certainly do-able in a day. We convened at my Uncle's, who has an AMAZING house that sits high above the river. He is an expert at entertaining and loves to do it; this time was no different. In years past, there has been a holiday theme. One year it was bears. There are a few "life size" bears roaming around his house that always seem to come out at just the right time...the Noodle came across a few of them and was set the rest of the night. We are only able to get everyone together about once a year, so it is always a special time. This year, Uncle and Aunt C were able to make it. They haven't seen some of the family since their wedding in '04 and others even before that. I know it was meaningful for everyone.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas Day

While we woke up before the sun, it wasn't too early (at least for us). Thankfully the late night helped the Noodle sleep until 6 a.m. J went down to make sure everything was ready, turn on the tree (important) and start the coffee (VERY important) while we waited upstairs until we got the "green light". Even though she had a harder time this year waiting her turn, all in all, the Noodle was very patient. It was a thrill to see her get so excited, even about the little things. I'd definitely say that one of her favorite gifts was an E*mo stamp that I picked up out of the T*rget Dollar Spot for her stocking.

***I broke our old coffee pot a few months ago and picked up a "cheap and cheerful" one to tide us over. J is a TOTAL coffee nut and had specifically asked Mrs. Clause for an upgrade.

We of course saved her big present for last. J has been helping Santa for the past few weeks to make a kitchen for the Noodle. There has been quite a bit of sketching, cutting, sanding, painting, hammering and screwing going on down in the basement as of late. I believe as many power tools as possible were dragged out to ensure a quality product. I definitely think J, under Santa's guidance, did a FABULOUS job, don't you? The Noodle certainly agrees, because every spare minute has been spent in and around her kitchen.

Later on, we went out to Grandma and Grandpa's for Christmas lunch and repeated the present opening routine. Late afternoon had us making our last stop at Lolly and Papa's for more food and, you guessed it, more presents. By 8:30, the 3 of us were officially exhausted and ready for bed.

Christmas Eve

We had a festive Christmas Eve, starting out with tea at Lolly and Papa's house. Earlier in the week, Uncle and Aunt C had come over to make jiaozi (Chinese dumplings) so we had those, scones with jam, cheese and crackers, shrimp, deviled eggs, marinated Kalamata olives, chicken salad and tuna pate. What tea would be complete without, of course, Earl Gray and champagne to celebrate?! Delicious!!

J putting the finishing touches on the jiaozis.

After our tea, we headed out to get a seat for the 5:00 mass. The church is a huge, beautiful building but we still had to arrive about 45 minutes early in order to get a seat for all of us. It was a true Christmas service, all the way down to the incense and individual candles that were used.

Then it was back to Lolly and Papa's for English trifle, Christmas cookies and more bubbly. The Noodle wasn't so interested in having her picture taken so some major bribery had to happen in the form of Uncle and Auntie's cell phones. Thank goodness for technology.

Helping Papa.

Once we arrived home, we sprinkled the reindeer food outside and then set out the cookies and milk for Santa. After reading The Night Before Christmas and the Christmas Story, it was up to bed for one tired Noodle. As you can imagine, our night was just getting started....

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!!

A very merry, merry Christmas to you and all those you love!

***We'll be taking a break for a few days to visit with family. See you soon!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Advent Chain Day 24--Go Downtown and visit the Market

We have a wonderful, old Market in the city where we live. The hustle and bustle is always exciting, but especially so at Christmas. Growing up, we used to always go down here so that Papa could get the fixins' for Christmas dinner (and just who do you think we ran into this morning while we were down there?! Yep, Papa and Lollie.) While we only had a few things to pick up, it was still fun looking at all of the stalls, watching the people and eyeing up the goodies.

Still the best way to travel!

Wandering around the stalls.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Advent Chain Day 23--Make birthday cupcakes for Jesus

Today's activity was to make birthday cupcakes for Jesus. Wouldn't you know it, I ran out of muffin liners and so had to improvise...mini-loaf cakes. I'm sure Jesus won't mind. It has been that kind of baking season. I'll think I have enough flour, only to realize half-way through, that nope, I don't. Out to the store to get more...ditto for butter. We had to ration out eggs this morning so that I could finish everything up and almost had another "scare" with flour (Uncle S and Aunt C are coming over to make dumplings), but then decided to save the white and use the whole wheat for our Christmas morning Kugelhoff (coffeecake) so the scare was averted. The sad thing is, is that I make (and stick) to a grocery list when I go shopping. I even bought more than I thought I'd need. Guess I just underestimated!

Using up the last of the liners.

Red velvet cupcakes with white buttercream frosting.

There is still quite a bit of wrapping and last minute odds and ends left to do, but thankfully Auntie and Uncle are coming over early to play with the Noodle, thus freeing me to finish up. Thank you so much!!!!!!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Advent Chain Day 22-Watch a Christmas movie as a family

One of the gifts the Noodle got yesterday from Auntie and Uncle was a L*ttle P*ople's Christmas CD with a DVD included. At 26 minutes long, it is the PERFECT length. We all put on our jammies tonight and cued up the TV to watch the show. Very cozy.

***See how the Noodle's face is a bit shimmery? That is because her face gets so dry yet she REFUSES to wear lotion. For some reason though, she'll let herself be slathered in V*soline. Yuck, but at least it helps with the dry skin.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Birthday Girl and her party

Happy, happy birthday to my dear, sweet Noodle! What a fun way to celebrate--surrounded by family (too bad Papa was still in Asia--we miss you!!). Auntie C and Uncle S flew in late last night and so we went over to wake them up this morning. We of course had been up for hours (5:45 a.m. to be exact) and so were quite excited to see them when we arrived at 10. Too bad they were still in bed!! Never fear, the little, live alarm clock made sure they were up once we walked in (standing at the foot of the stairs calling "Uncle, get up! Auntie, wake up now!").

After lunch, everyone departed to take naps and get ready for the party. Lollie, Aunt C, Uncle S, Grandma and Grandpa arrived at 5:15 for some tasty Chinese food and rice (personally requested by the Chinese Noodle), Elmo cupcakes and of course presents.

As always on her birthday, I am reminded that for as much as it is a celebration, it is also a time of mourning, especially for her birthparents. We can never begin to imagine what it took for them to make the choices that they did, but we thank God that they made their plan and left her at the orphanage. He has kept her in the palm of His hand from the beginning and knew that we were all meant to be together. Tonight, on the longest night of the year, we say a prayer for the Noodle's Chinese mommy and daddy and ask that they feel peace, assurance that she is loved, safe and happy and freedom from any kind of guilt that they may harbor. We also give a prayer of thanksgiving and praise that she is part of our family and that God's plan is so beautiful.

Advent Chain Day 21--Make reindeer food

Following the recipe.
A sprinkle here and a dash there.
I hope the reindeer are hungry!

While everyone knows to leave Santa cookies and milk on Christmas Eve, you have to wonder about those poor reindeer! They've got a lot of work to do, pulling that sleigh with all those presents. We can't forget them now can we? We made some reindeer food and added some red and green sugar sprinkles, to make sure that they can find their way to our house this Christmas. Don't want to take any chances.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Advent Chain Day 20--Go to a Christmas concert

Friends of ours heard that a local church was putting on a Christmas concert showcasing various high school students (both vocal and instrumental) and that it was geared towards kids. Perfect, we thought. The concert was very nice, and just the right amount of time for kiddos (40 minutes), but there weren't that many young children there. Even though the Noodle and her little friend did well, you still feel like every laugh, comment, squeal, etc. is magnified 1,000 times. Eeek! Afterwards we ate at a local pizza place where it didn't matter how active or vocal they were. A glass of wine for the mommies and some Christmas ale for the daddies and all was right with the world again.

The musicians tuning up before the concert began. By the time it started, the church was pretty full.

Sweet little ones.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Advent Chain Day 19--Bake and decorate cut-out cookies

Yum...nothing like the smell (and taste) of sugar cut-out cookies. I can't remember decorating with the Noodle last year--J seems to think that we must have just bi-passed her "help" and did it after hours. This year she was all ready to spread, sprinkle, embellish and of course taste. Before we started, I found her eyeing, quite literally, the cookies. I can only imagine what was going through that little head. Ha ha!! Her preferred decorating style was the "dump"; as in I'll take the sprinkles and dump all of them onto one cookie. Not quite Martha Stewart, but definitely tasty! It was determined early on that the adults would man the frosting and she could do the sprinkles. Now, if we can only come down off of the sugar high!

This is the classic "dump" method of decorating.
The not so gentle reminder to sprinkle onto the cookies, not just the cookie sheet!

Hard at work.......