Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Blessing

We went to church on Christmas Eve for the children's service. Annalee was among the children who gathered at the alter, heard the story of Jesus and brought their stuffed animal pals to gather 'round the manger.

Here was the blessing during the service:

May Christ, the Son of God, be manifest in you, that your lives may be a light to the world; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be among you, and remain with you always.

Merry Christmas, friends.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Elves, a Horse and a Stick

We first asked Annalee what she wanted for Christmas back in early November. "A horse on a stick."

Whaaat? Oh, yes, I remember now. In August, on our way to northern Wisconsin, we stopped at a restaurant in the Dells that had a gift shop (of course it did). Annalee found a horse on a stick (you know, the kind you used to run around the yard playing like you were riding a horse?) and thought it was the coolest thing. We no sooner walked out of the restaurant and that horse was gone from my mind. But, obviously, that wasn't the case for Annalee.

A few days after we first asked her about gift ideas, we asked her again what she might like for Christmas. "A horse on a stick." 'Didn't you hear me the first time, mom?' was probably what she was thinking.

I cringed, as I did each time she would say this. I could just feel the walls getting banged into, the paint chipping, the drywall cracking. The walls that were freshly painted in September.

Weeks went by. Same question, same answer. Then, last week, Annalee came home from kindergarten with this:

Having trouble reading it? It says, 'Dear Santa, All I want for Christmas is a Horse on a Stick.' There it was in black and white. There was no getting around this special request. You see, this note is for Santa. It needs to get set out with his milk and cookies on Christmas Eve.

So, I asked Annalee, "What if Santa doesn't bring a horse on a stick?"

Duh, mom. "Don't worry. The elves can make anything." Ahh, the mind of a five-year-old. So sweet, so innocent, so trusting.

And, me? Maybe I should ask Santa to bring some sheets of foam for the walls. 'Cause I know he's bringing that horse on a stick.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

By Six (Not Sure Why)

Laura sent this my way, and I thought it was interesting enough to post here. I just can't figure out why the subject was 'By Six.'

Six names you go by:
1. Jackie
2. Mommy
3. Jacqueline (pronounced Jack-wa-lyn). Paula, you're the only one who uses this, and I love you for it.
4. Jack (mildly offensive when used by people who hardly know me)
5. Sweetie
6. Auntie Jackie

Three things you are wearing right now:
1. Bunny slippers
2. Cayman Aggressor sweatshirt
3. Wedding band

Three things you want very badly at the moment:
1. For this movie to be over (Into the Wild - it's good, but it's gone on a little too long)
2. For the kitchen to be more clean than it is
3. To know that our referral from China will come sooner (like spring - or now) rather than later (July? August? 2010?)

Three people who will fill this out:
1. Mary Ann?
2. Denise?
3. Anyone?

Two things you did last night:
1. Made a birthday card for Denise
2. Watched Moonstruck (for the hundredth time, and I still love it like crazy!)

Two things you ate today:
1. Eggs
2. Chocolate

Two people you last talked to on the phone:
1. Mom
2. Ron

Two things you are going to do tonight:
1. Go to bed after the movie's over
2. Floss and brush my teeth

Your two favorite beverages:
1. Water
2. Pina colada (on the beach in Puerto Vallarta)

So, for those who are inclined, copy the above and paste it into your own e-mail and send it to a whole bunch of people, including me. Have fun!! and BE HONEST. Enjoy!

Color Inspiration #35

Wow. I can't believe I've missed five of Kristina Werner's color inspirations! The last one I did was #30. Time flies, especially when you have in-laws visiting.

Here's Kristina's challenge this week:

I knew before she even posted her color choices what kind of card I wanted to make, so that seemed to make the process go a little easier than it has for past challenges. Here's my card:

It's a birthday card for a very sweet, funny friend of mine. I'm hoping she doesn't read this before tomorrow. Otherwise, that might ruin the fun and surprise of opening the envelope!

The big excitement was that I figured out a feature that my little ol' HP pocket camera has on it. Only took two years to notice. And, just when I was convinced we needed a new one - a new one that would focus close up without having to use digital zoom! Well, turns out that my little silver buddy has micro and super micro photo options! So, I was able to take some close-up pics that actually worked and were in focus. I was too excited! Ron didn't know about the feature, either. So, then, I didn't feel like I was the total camera idiot. (Especially since I'm the one with the photography minor!)

The only thing with these pictures that I posted is that I don't have good color-correction software right now. So, the blue doesn't look like the Baja Breeze in the inspiration challenge, but it really is. Really.

Did I mention that I'm so loving the satin ribbon? So, so pretty. Don't you think? The ribbon is from the discontinued Theater ribbon set. Oh, and for those who are wondering, I used the stamp from SU's Touch of Nature and the rub-on from Chit Chat. I really should have bought at least two packs of Chit Chat when it was on sale!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Blokus Champ

I was rockin' last night at Blokus! If you don't know about Blokus, it's a strategy game of trying to get all 17 of your pieces on the board. You're defending territory and marking territory all at the same time. Very cool. Very fun.

So, we got out the game and taught Ron's dad and his lady friend (they were visiting from North Carolina for 10 days). The first game and even a little into the second game, we helped them out and showed them how to play better with their pieces. The third game, though, each player was on his own.

I'm excited to report that I was the three-time champion last night. Not only that, but I won one round with ZERO points, meaning I placed ALL MY PIECES on the board (lowest point total wins)! That was unheard of in our family. Until now. I really impressed Ron, which isn't always easy. The other two games I won with eight points and three points. Pretty cool, huh?

Monday, December 8, 2008

A Gigantic Ladybug

Is this an amazing looking cake? I made it! I couldn't believe it. Made me jump up and down and clap my hands with excitement (just like when I hung my new curtain panels recently in my living room - by myself!). Truly, though, this is the most fabulous looking cake I've ever made. Notice that I said 'most fabulous looking.'

I couldn't take the pictures without Annalee getting in on the act. Thankfully, she had a friend over on Saturday. Otherwise, I'm sure she would have been in my face trying to do the decorating herself.

So, just how did I come to make such a stunning cake, if I do say so myself? Charlotte and Wyatt, my twin niece and nephew, turned three last weekend. My sister, Gerri, had their birthday party on Saturday. Gerri was going to be stuck making two fancy cakes after showing both kids a cake magazine. Instead of them choosing one cake, they each picked a different one they wanted. So, being a good aunt (or good sister, I'm not sure which), I volunteered to make Charlotte's ladybug cake. I think at the time that Wyatt wanted a firetruck. And, that was way out of my league. Heck, I wasn't even sure the ladybug was close to my league as far as decorated cakes were concerned.

There's a first time for everything - and this was my first time doing anything more than smearing icing on two cake layers and maybe sprinkling them with coconut (coconut layer cake is my favorite (as long as it's gluten-free)). I googled ladybug cakes and found a picture that seemed manageable, though mine wouldn't look like it came out of a bakery like that one. Then Gerri supplied me with special red dye that didn't have flavor, black dye and a magazine that had the picture Charlotte saw and loved. I was feeling a little intimidated by then.

Given that I'm gluten-free AND I was going to be making one of the desserts, I figured I'd make one that I could enjoy. So, I headed over to Fruitful Yield and bought a Namaste yellow cake mix along with Cherrybrook (I think) white frosting. Why Namaste? Well, I've made their brownies before - and they were fabulous (I doctored them up a little, but they would have been fabulous without the doctoring). But, I can tell you, I wouldn't buy their cake mix again.

When we cut it open, it was dense...and brown. Ish. It was brownish, like a spice cake. So, Gerri asked me what I made, and I told her - a yellow cake (as Charlotte requested). But, this really was no yellow cake. Then, came the real test - the taste test. It failed. Miserably. Well, other eaters were not so critical. But, I was. I've eaten plenty of gluten-free cakes and desserts, and this one bombed. It bombed so bad in my mind, that the next day I told Gerri that she shouldn't feel bad about throwing out the leftovers - about half a cake. She laughed, almost nervously. I kind of think she already had thrown it out.

While Charlotte stuck with the ladybug idea (as if she had a choice after I volunteered to bake it), Wyatt decided he wanted a speedracer Mach 5 car, or something like that, instead of the firetruck. My amazing sister the baker came up with this car. Chocolate cake, chocolate filling. It was very well done - and loved by Wyatt. That's the most important thing, right?

Here are Annalee (far right), Wyatt and Charlotte (the birthday hats) and their friend (in the middle) checking out their cakes.

So, if anybody needs a ladybug cake, I'm your go-to gal. Maybe Annalee will want one for her sixth birthday. But, given her fixation with dinosaurs, I think I'll be decorating something on a bigger scale than ladybugs.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Luscious Yarns!

As soon as I turn off the computer, I'm going back to my most luscious yarns and work on my scarf.

I still can't believe it took me until last week to start working on this - I bought the yarn in early October when I finished my wrap. (While I get lots of compliments on the wrap, I think it looked better in my head. Why does that happen?)

So, with the wrap done, I went to the store in search of two yarns, pretty much like these, to make a duplicate of a scarf I designed and knit several years ago. Then, once I got these home, I had second thoughts about what I wanted to make. It got me to thinking that it's easier to pick a pattern and buy yarns to match. This knitting off the cuff can be difficult - at least for me. It's as if I just don't want to commit to the project. What if I could have knit something different? What if what I knit doesn't show off the yarn to the best it could? What if this...what if that? Too much doubt.

So, I finally bit the bullet. I'm knitting with the two yarns together (even that was a tough decision - knit them together or knit a couple rows with one and then the other...). I designed the scarf with two seed stitches on each edge with 9 stitches in the middle. It will be a checkerboard - 3 rows by 3 stitches of stockinette, 3x3 of reverse stockinette and 3x3 of stockinette. Then the reverse for three rows. I started with a ruffle - cast on 52 stitches, knit 2 together for two rows dropping the stitch count to 13. I'm contemplating putting a slit into the other end so that the scarf can just tuck through itself. It'll be a short one, to just wrap around my neck.

I love the colors - bright pistacchio and all those colors in the ribbon yarn. Stay tuned - I'll post some pics when it's done. For now, my luscious yarns are calling me.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Three-fer for April

My step-sister-in-law's birthday was last week. So, I made her a card. When I look at it, it makes me smile. It looks happy. Cheerful. I love those SU! rub-ons!

So, in anticipation of giving it to April, I asked Annalee to sign her name. I also gave her the option of decorating every side of it except the cover (it just bums me out too much when she assaults my card designs).

This is what she designed for her aunt:

Quite the little artist, eh?

Monday, December 1, 2008

School's Out for Snow (Well, Really It Was the Power)

When I drove through the U-shaped driveway to drop Annalee off at school this morning, I noticed that it seemed a little quiet. Traffic was light and I didn't see any kids around. But, with our three inches of snow, I didn't give it a second thought. Then, one of the aides came to the car (as they usually do to help the kids unload and get into the school), and she told us that there was no school today. Seems a power outage knocked out a boiler. So, even though the power had returned about an hour earlier, the school had no heat.

Annalee's first thought was that we were headed home to make a snowman. My first thought was, wow, I had a lot to do today that wasn't going to get done. So, we compromised. Annalee was a great sport. We hit the post office (woo, hoo - all my Christmas cards have been mailed - and it's only December 1!) and two grocery stores. I only had to ask Leelee a couple times to put her lips together so that I could think for a little bit while shopping.

Then, it was on to home for lunch and snow play. But, of course, to be able to go out in the snow, you have to work on getting all the clothing on so you can stay warm. Wool socks, snowpants, boots, scarf, hat, jacket, mittens. At one point, Annalee looked like a stuffed sausage. I tried hard to avoid her looking like the little brother in A Christmas Story. Finally, it was time to step out into the pristine whiteness.

I think I love playing out in the snow as much as my little girl. I couldn't help but remember the first day we had snow after we returned home with Annalee from China. Snow was totally foreign to her (as was so much at that time), but she just laughed and laughed. We walked around the yard and down the road and back that day. It was so sunny. The air was cold but with all our layers on, we were warm. What I remember most that day was feeling like this was just one of the many things I had waited to do as a mom. I was in my element. I was so excited to share the joy of the world with her, and snow was just the beginning.

Seems like that was just last year. Now, four years later, she still laughs and laughs in the snow. Her eyes light up with joy; her cheeks glow rosy. But, now, instead of looking to me to lead the way and guide her, she's telling me what we're going to do: "Fall down and make a snow angel, mommy!...Get up and run. Chase me!...I'm going to get you with a snowball!" (I got her first - oops!)

So, today we had our first snow angels of the season, and our first snowball fight. And, I learned that Leelee learned how to position herself, step and throw in gym class. How about that? She nailed the mailbox more times than I did. How sad for me - being a former softball pitcher and all. Guess I've got some practicing to do.

But, that'll have to wait 'til spring. For now, we'll just enjoy the snow.