Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Gift of Love

I get a warm feeling every time I think of this story, so I thought I'd share it. One year when my dad was struggling with employment and I was making more than I needed, I splurged on Christmas for my folks.

First I picked up a coupon organizer like this one:

Then when I went home for Christmas I went around their town and picked up gift cards for them from places I knew they liked or thought they'd have fun trying. I sorted the gift cards into the different sections of the coupon book. For example:

Produce: Chili's and Appleby's
Meat: Outback
Dairy: Dairy Queen
Beverages: Starbucks
Seafood: The Gangplank
Sports: Wingers
Entertainment: movie tickets

My folks loved the present. They have always enjoyed date nights, and during the following year they were able to use their coupon book of gift cards to go out and spend quality time together doing what they loved, even though times were especially tight.

A year and a few months later, my father passed away very suddenly. I wrote a tribute to him here.

A few months ago Mom thanked me again for the present, which by then I'd mostly forgotten about. But she told me it meant so much to her now, because she'd been able to go out on all of those fun date nights with Dad during that last year he was alive. She said they are memories she will treasure forever.

I love you Mom and Dad.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Making Christmas treats with young children

Olivia LOVED making "Muddy Buddies."
They're chocolate and peanut butter covered Chex cereal coated with powdered sugar.

Liv's favorite parts?
Stirring the chocolate and Chex together.
Tossing them in powdered sugar.
No cooking waiting.
Calling them "Lil Buddies."

The real Lil Buddy!
What does his shirt say?

Don't tell his sister!!

Another favorite treat is making Christmas cookies with Dad.
The best parts? Using the (ancient) cookie shooter.
Touching every cookie as it came out.

A Potential new favorite: Ice cream cone Christmas trees.

We haven't tried these yet, but you just get some sugar ice cream cones and flip them upside down. Then let the kids frost them with green frosting and decorate with little candies. I don't know how this could fail to be a hit.

Click here for the Muddy Buddies recipe.
Click here to head back to "Works for me Wednesday" for more great ideas.

Christmas tree

I took the kids to get our tree on Saturday. Sadly, the camera was lost that morning, so I can't show you the muddy shoes and runny noses.

Bummer, huh?

I'm so in love with our tree! On the farm she was such a petite and dainty little lady surrounded by big, spectacular giants.

In our house she's the perfect size, with soft needles and a citrusy pine perfume.

Isn't she a little princess?

"But where is your tree topper?"
you might be asking.

Oh there it is,




I should probably trim that a bit.


Click here to see a close-up section of my tree on flickr, where I labeled some of my most very favorite ornaments of all time.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

WFMW: O Tannenbaum

I've decided we're getting a real tree! A couple of farms nearby have fresh trees and I'm going to take the kids to get one this week. I'm so excited for how much they're going to love it.

Even though we're going to have a real tree, I'm still going to use this Christmas scent that I discovered last year. If you have a fake tree and want the fresh Christmas tree smell, you have to get Tree:

"Tree is the perfect blend of fresh douglas fir, sweet musk, warm vanilla, crisp winter air and enchanting Christmas magic."

(I didn't realize Christmas magic smelled like anything, but if it does, it smells like Tree. Tree works for me. And for my sister.)

I mentioned this scent in a post from last December. It's one of my favorite posts so I'm putting a slightly shorter version of it below:

I've been thinking a lot about what makes Christmas at home magical for me. My family has always had a lot of traditions and I want the same thing for my kids. We trimmed the tree tonight and I had to laugh at what will eventually become the new Christmas traditions for our children.

First, instead of going to the woods, or even to a Christmas tree lot to pick out a tree, Mike made the trek into the storage room in our basement and hauled up the giant box that holds our fake Christmas tree. It comes out of the box looking more like a green rectangle than a tree, so we spent a good half hour pulling the branches apart and trying to make it look "real." This is a painful process because those wires are really jabby!

While we trimmed the tree I wanted Christmas music, so I set up my laptop and played youtube Christmas slide shows set to Nat King Cole, Andy Williams and Karen Carpenter songs. My daughter decorated the bottom half of the tree with kid ornaments and I did the top with nice ones, and maybe I will re-do it while she's sleeping tonight. My mom always did, and Mike says his mom did too.

After we finished the tree we washed our hands. Not because of sticky pine sap. Mainly because of the lead warnings on the tree and on the lights. Seriously, can't we make anything without lead in it?

Finally, I plugged in a pine scented air freshener to get that Christmas tree smell in the air. It is good and actually does smell like a tree! After decorating the Christmas tree I wanted us to sit down to a nice dinner of comfort food, so Mike warmed up a can of soup for him and Olivia to share.

What wonderful traditions our children will have to look back on and try to recreate with their own kids, haha. The best part is that Olivia really DID have a great time. I think maybe Christmas can be magic regardless of whether the soup's from a can and the tree smell is an air freshener. Maybe the magic is about family doing Christmas things together.

What are your family's holiday traditions?

And for more great ideas, go here for Works For Me Wednesday!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The Men in my Life

My two favorite guys!

(This wasn't posed, I swear. If I was posing this I would have made sure the baby's eyes weren't half open. Both my kids do that with their eyes while they sleep.)

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Thanksgiving Top 20/Bottom 10

It would take me weeks to cover our whole Thanksgiving extravaganza, so I’ve got a Top 20/Bottom 10 list for you instead. These are in no particular order:

TOP 20
Spending Thanksgiving with family
Pioneer Woman’s Lasagna
Mom’s shrimp dip
Pilgrim hats for dinner

The relationship between my mom and her grandkids
Black Friday in a small town
Free doughnuts
Home-made pumpkin pie

Christmas shopping mostly done
Thoughtful helping around the house
Paper plates and plastic cups

Puerto Rico board game
Turkey dinner left-overs
Xander learning to clap and crawl
Matching cousin dresses

Nothing really bad happened, and we were all safe (see bottom 10)
Playing in crunchy piles of leaves
Tired children sleeping in
Spending Thanksgiving with family (deserves to be said twice)

Missing family that wasn’t with us
Undercooked turkey
FIRE in oven during dinner and a broken heat element

Emergency brake repair on Black Friday
Olivia’s infected sty
Having to force-feed medicine to kids
Getting thrown up on
Needing new brakes, a new oven and a new computer all at once
Overtired child wetting the guest bed