Thursday, December 27, 2012

The ones I couldn't show you

I think by now most people who we sent cards to have received them so it's probably "safe" to show these pictures.  I like to try to do something cute/funny rather than just using a standard photo.

Here's 2010, using a quote from the movie Elf.

Buddy the Elf taught me that
"We elves have four major food groups:
candy, candy canes, candy corns, and syrup."

and here's 2011.

"Santa, my Christmas wish is for Daddy
to get more hair than me in 2012."
 By mid-November I was at a complete loss as to what our "theme" would be for our holiday cards. I was texting with a friend about her card idea and mentioned that I still didn't know what to do.  She suggested "toy soldier".  I mulled that around in my head, trying to figure out how I could make it work.  Toy Soldier morphed to Nutcracker which then somehow ended up with Hermey the Elf from Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer. I often kid that I must have grown up in a cave/ under a rock, because unlike most of the other people my age, watching Rudolph was never a holiday tradition in our house. Chris thought it was funny that this is what I came up with, even though I've only watched it a few times in more recent years.

In the end, coming up with the idea was the easiest part of the process, not that any of it was all that difficult.  The problem was that I was in the middle of making an advent calendar and December was fast approaching.  I knew I needed to get that finished up before I could tackle anything else.  Finally I finished that and I could turn my attention to sewing a Hermey costume.

My original thought had been to use the same pattern that I had used for Sir Topham Hatt, but then I realized that the neckline was all wrong.  So instead I found a different pattern to alter.  Having watched Miranda alter the other pattern I felt confident that I could handle this one.  (But she did help me by giving me a pattern to use for elf shoes.)  I still had a bit of a time crunch though and knew that this costume-making could drag on for a while.  I decided that rather than taking the photo at home we would have them done at the JC Penney portrait studio (where we go for all our other photos).  Fewer distractions, nice backdrops, perfect lighting, and I wouldn't have to worry about camera settings, etc.  So I booked an appointment. 

Booking the appointment was good because it gave me a concrete deadline.  I had 1 week to get the costume done.  It actually came together pretty well.  In the end I made the jacket a little short in the front, but given how long he had to wear it, I think I'm the only one who would care.  When I first booked the appointment, I had this backdrop in mind.

Then the night before we went in, I had Bennett put everything on just to get a final look at everything.  As he stood by our tree I thought how pretty that looked.
I knew Penney's had a tree backdrop so thought we might do some of the snowflakes and some with the tree.  (Turns out they have 2- this one, and this one.) But then when we got there and were checking in, we saw another backdrop that we thought would be even more perfect.  So here you go.  Here's our holiday card.

Happy Holidays
From your Misfit Friends
Rudolf and Hermey the Elf

We also had a coupon for a small portrait package, so we got this pose as well.

And we didn't buy this one since we were really wanting a picture of the whole costume, but I really do love it.

We did have pictures taken with the snowflake backdrop, but in the end, none of them were favorites.

As I mentioned in my last post, we thought it would be fun for Hermey to have his picture taken with Santa.  What's nice is that if you buy the "official" picture you can take your own pictures as well.  It's a good thing I did this, because when buying the official picture I was concentrating too much on selecting one where Bennett looked good that I ended up buying the one where Santa looks creepy.

Here's one of mine:

and here's the "official" photo.

And after all of that, I now have a pair of red tights to hand-down to someone, elf shoes that should probably go straight to the trash (they didn't turn out that well and the felt isn't holding up well), and a jacket and hat that will likely never be worn again (although who knows, maybe Bennett will develop an interest in dress-up clothes).

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas comes but thrice a year...

I always hate coming up with titles for blog posts.  But then all of a sudden I thought of the line from the song. "Christmas comes but once a year".  Only in our case, that's not correct.  Sunday we had the first of our Christmas gatherings.  Then there will be the actual celebrations on Christmas, and then we'll celebrate on Saturday when we're in Georgia.

Nana and Gradpa watched Bennett on Wednesday.  They tried doing a messy craft/activity with Bennett (playing with shaving cream and food coloring- smearing it all together) and apparently Bennett did NOT want to get messy.  This is very strange to us, because we haven't had any problems with messy stuff, as is evidenced in these pictures.

Painting a piece of paper to later be cut into a bow for a wreath.
Bennett painted wrapping paper.  Here he's painting his feet to make footprints.

The funny part was watching him try to stand without getting paint on the floor.
  Yesterday he helped us with some baking.  He loves dumping the premeasured cup/spoon into the bowls and then mixing.  Don't worry, this spatula wasn't used again after going into Bennett's mouth.  And it would appear that he's a fan of peanut butter!

Someone turned 27 months old.  Eek!  And once again I was late taking the picture.  All week I kept telling myself to remember the picture, and then yesterday I realized I'd missed it.

As I mentioned, we had our first Christmas Celebration yesterday.  We went to West Street to celebrate with Nana, Grandpa, Auntie Hanna, Uncle Andrew and Aunt Gentry.

Bennett helped Grandpa cut out some cookies.  I think he got bored after just a few of them.

When I was a kid I remember my dad always setting up his childhood train around the Christmas Tree.  I was hoping that I would be able to put it up around our tree, but no such luck.  Instead Grandpa set it up at his house.  Chris and I saw it and started playing and then Bennett came over to watch.  I think we'll have to save up and get our own train.

Then it was time for presents!  Uncle Andrew made a kilt for Bennett. We had known about this in advance (had to provide some measurements) so I had ordered a sporran and kilt hose.  I'll have to knit him a better pair of hose because this pair was way too big.  And unfortunately these pictures came out pretty horrible.

Uncle Andrew later pulled a gold dollar out of Bennett's ear.  Wow!  How'd he do that?  Bennett kept checking for more dollars, and also trying to put his dollar back in his ear.  We also showed him that he could put his dollar in his sporran, and he liked that.

Another great gift was this mixer.  Bennett LOVES his play kitchen (Chris and I have plans to upgrade it for him, but that hasn't happend.)  The mixer came with bags of "flour" and "brown sugar" which he mixed up and we decided he was making bread.  Most likely the kind of brown bread that comes in a can.  He also got a play toaster which was fun because when you pressed the lever it launched the bread out.  The adults loved that!  It also came with a little wooden knife and some butter that you could slice, which was fun for Bennett.

Now on to some decorations.  I've mentioned our Advent calendar.  Here's a picture. This year I just have put cards into each stocking talking about what we would be doing that day- baking cookies, reading a book, etc.  In other years I might decide to include a small trinket.  I'm undecided. I had originally seen a very similar advent calendar on Pottery Barn's website but I hadn't liked the price tag.  Well, after buying all of the materials and the time put into making it, I should have just bought it.  I am happy with how it turned out, so I guess it was worth it.  Even if it's huge!  :)

I also thought I would share pictures of our LEGO winter village.  This all started last year.  Chris got me one of the sets and then after Christmas I picked up another set while it was on clearance.  Then this year I scoured eBay to pick up an older discontinued set, and for Chris' birthday I gave him this year's set.  And Black Friday weekend LEGO was offering a deal where if you spent a certain amount of money you got a mini set for "free".  Although there were many sets we wanted that would meet this dollar value, we didn't really need any of them.  Instead we bought a few smaller sets, and a certain nephew is going to be getting a whole bunch of LEGOs this Christmas.  :)

What's neat about these sets is that they don't just come with one building.  They have a building and then various accessories- benches, sheds, vehicles, etc.  So although this is only 4 sets (plus a mini set) it looks like so much more.   Plus some things show up in multiple pictures, so it looks like a lot.
Overview- sorry it's so dark.
Post Office, ice rink, igloo, woodshed, tree stand, postal truck.
Snowplow, bakery, and the postal truck and post office again.
Toy shop, tree, gazebo, sleigh.
Part of the cottage, the gazebo, tree, and the horse pulling the wagon.

The cottage
Toy shop, tree, horses pulling the sleigh and the wagon.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Week in review

The report from skating is that Bennett *can* stand up on his own, but that he doesn't like to.  He has much more fun just sliding around on the ice, and then using his teacher to stand up.  He also can march, and if pushed, he can glide.  Woo hoo!  Way to go, Bennett!  And this was the first week that I was able to hand him off to a teacher without him clinging to me.  Looks like we're making progress and that he's having fun.  He also has been saying "ice" (pronounced I-sh, with a long I) but we're not sure if that is due to his enjoyment skating or his love of the ice dispenser on our fridge.

It seems that every year or so I decide to try to make latkes.  And every time, they are a failure.  I think more often than not, they are overcooked on the outside and raw on the inside.  I believe I've narrowed down the problems to not getting enough moisture out of the potatoes, not using a binder, and not having enough oil.  This year I remedied all of those problems and we had success!  And the bigger success was that Bennett ate them.  (Ok, he maybe ate half of one.)  They had them the next day at school as well and Bennett ate another half latke there as well.  So now he eats latkes and french fries.  Won't touch mashed potatoes and not really a fan of roasted either.
Last night we had tortellini for dinner.  He ate a couple of pieces and spit others out, so we're not really sure if he liked them or not.  But for the ones he didn't spit out, we're counting it as a win.

With the Christmas tree set up, we had to clear Bennett's train table out of the room.  One night this week I set up a bit of track going around the tree.  It's not the easiest to use being so close to the bookcase and the tree skirt makes the track a bit bumpy, but I think Bennett liked it.  But then after having been set up for about 5 days, last night Bennett decided to take it all apart and put the track away in the bin with all the other track pieces.  I guess he didn't think it belonged on the floor?

Friday night we made cinnamon ornaments.  I realized I am a major control freak.  In theory I'm ok with Bennett getting messy and doing things his way, but in practicality I hardly ever let him play with play-dough or paint or things like that.  And with this project I guess I kept thinking that he was doing it "wrong".  Maybe people would prefer to get ornaments of misshapen blobs rather than hearts, stars, or elephants?  Hey, I did let him exercise his creativity with the elephant and bunny cookie cutters, although I did veto the turkey.

Saturday after skating we went to Brunch with Santa at Mimi's.  She just called me to tell me that everyone is telling her how handsome Bennett is and that he's so smile-y and happy.  Which for the most part is true- until you have him take a picture with Santa.  I tried to put him on Santa's knee and he was not having that at all!

It was a cold but fun night when we went to Christmas by Candlelight.  We had originally planned to go on Sunday night but after looking at the weather forecast (mix of rain, snow, sleet, etc) we decided to change our tickets for Saturday night.  All of the buildings in the center of the village were open with a variety of entertainments: music, mulled cider, traditional fruitcake, dioramas, etc.  There also were carolers outside the bank, musical groups at the Center Meetinghouse, and various recitations, a magic show, and a Punch & Judy show.  So much to see and do that we couldn't see it all.  Plus the crowds in some of the buildings where music was taking place made it impossible to get inside.  And we didn't want to get stuck inside a building and then have Bennett wanting to get away, so we skipped a few things that might have been interesting.  Santa Claus was there (the line was way too long so didn't visit with him) as well as Father Christmas, who is pictured below.

We had yet another visit with Santa.  I've lost count of how many times Bennett has seen Santa.  But this weekend we taught Bennett that Santa says, "ho ho ho".  So now Bennett goes around saying , "Tanta- oh oh oh."  Anyway, the outfit that Bennett wore for our holiday cards was just screaming out to be worn in a photo with Santa.  We were going to do it last week when we were at the mall having the pictures taken for our cards, but Santa wasn't going to show up for another hour so we decided to skip it.  So I brought Bennett on Sunday.  We got in line about 15 minutes before Santa arrived.  We were maybe 3rd or 4th in line, which shouldn't have been too bad.  Except there were only 2 out of 5 other employees working there.  2 people had called in sick and 1 had been fired the day before.  Needless to say, the two remaining employees were a bit frazzled.  I commented that someone would have to mess up pretty bad to get fired this close to Christmas and was told that she had given away $100+ of photos for free since she couldn't figure out the (idiot proof) computer system.  For being so close to the start of the line it took me about 20 minutes to get through once they got started.  Definitely shouldn't have taken that long.  I feel bad for all of the people who were further back in line.

I hope to be able to share the photos once most people receive their cards.  Those were mailed out today, so hopefully I can share something later in the week.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

Lots of cute pictures this week, but not too many that I can share yet.  This week I made Bennett a costume to wear for our holiday card photo so there were a few fittings in the evening, and subsequent photos.  We took the photos on Sunday, so by this weekend we'll get the cards back and then they can quickly be signed and mailed.  Here are some pictures that I can share.

I made an advent calendar for Bennett (maybe next week I'll post a picture?) and each day there is a card with some sort of activity.  Some days it relates to what we were planning to do anyway (go to a party, take photos with Santa, etc) and other days it will be a craft, or on many occasions, it's a book to read.  Here's Daddy reading one of the new Christmas books

Thursday Bennett's school had a holiday party. Enrollment at his school is pretty low which works out well because he gets so much one-on-one attention.  They have had a number of new kids start recently though.  What was interesting though was that none of the new families came to the party.  But it was nice to see the kids and parents that we've known for a while now, and that are there every day.  I think there were only 4 families who came to the party (there were also a couple of older siblings) but it kept the whole thing to a manageable size and we were all able to talk.  And Bennett ate another new (to him) food at the party.  Spaghetti!  He also ate mango for the first time, but he hasn't found a fruit that he doesn't like, so that one doesn't surprise us very much.
Bennett decorating cookies (and eating M&Ms) at the holiday party.

On Saturday we set the tree up while Bennett was napping.  I think he was a little surprised to see a tree in the house when he came downstairs.  He helped us decorate and then Daddy picked him up to put the angel on the top.  Unfortunately as Chris leaned in, he got stabbed in the eye by the tree.

We also sat up this snowman that he received for his first Christmas.  He sings Jingle Bell Rock and dances.  Plus there's a little thing on the front of the package that he's holding that spins around and has LEDs that lights up and says Merry Christmas.  A little annoying to us, but Bennett just giggles like crazy.

Sunday afternoon we invited people over for gingerbread (graham cracker) house decorating.  To make things a bit easier I pre-made the houses the night before.  This is pretty helpful because the houses have a chance to completely set and are less likely to fall apart as you put candy on them.  I did end up making 3 houses too many since we weren't entirely  sure who would be able to make it and which adults would want to make their own houses.

Chris helped Bennett with his house, but I think Chris did most (if not all) of the work.  Bennett definitely enjoyed eating the candy though.  :)

Fun for all ages!
 And here are the finished houses.
Yes that's a TARDIS and a Dalek in the back.
We have a number of friends who are Dr. Who fans.
Licorice whip power line coming off one of the houses.

Is the Gingerbread Man a Shriner or just wearing a Santa hat?

My house, and Bennett's "wood shed".

I have to say, I love the way everyone uses the same materials in different ways. And also the way people think out of the box a bit to get materials to suit the need.  For instance, I used Golden Grahams as shingles on my house and Kristen broke them up to make stones for a pathway to lead to her house. Andes Mints got used as doors and shingles and also got cut up to make bricks for a chimney or a different style of shingle.

I do wonder though what people do with their finished gingerbread houses?  Do you just put them out to display and throw them away after a suitable amount of time?  Do you (or the kids) eat them?  It seems that it was a mix of the two options from those I asked.  Personally the idea of eating stale candy doesn't really appeal to me, and I have quite the sweet tooth. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Ice Ice Baby (Toddler)

The other excitement of the weekend was that Awesome Auntie Mel proved her awesomeness by coming to the rink and freezing for me on Saturday!  Daddy couldn't come to skating because he had a booth at a craft fair.  Mel lives pretty close to the rink so I asked if she would be able to come by to take photos of Bennett and then watch him after his lesson until I got off the ice.  She was game!  I love looking at these pictures and actually getting a bit of a sense of how Bennett's lessons are going.  And even though he spends a lot of time sitting on the ice (which isn't really shown in these pictures) he looks like he's having fun.

He must have realized that Mel was there watching and taking pictures, because the instructor (who knows I was off skating on the other side of the rink) even asked him at one point who he was showing off for.