Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas recap

It was an oddish (is that even a word?) Christmas this year. An impending weather system completely wreaked havoc on our plans.

We drove up to my parents on Wednesday night, during sleet/freezing rain. Not the smartest move on our part, but slowly and carefully we made the normally 90-minute trip in three hours.

Thursday was Christmas Eve day. I had plans of finishing some sewing, wrapping presents, maybe baking something, watching some Christmas movies and playing games with my family before having our traditional soup supper and heading to Christmas Eve service.

Instead, I slept in as long as the kids would let me, lounged around in my pajamas, watched whatever show was on Disney or IPTV that the kids wanted, ate, ate some more, took a nap, ate some snacks and then finally took a shower. Church was canceled due to the weather, so we ate our soup and rice pudding and the kids got to open their Christmas jammies.

Somewhere in there, our darling kidlet turned into a hungry baby bird.





It didn't matter that she had her own bowl of delicious homemade potato soup, she wanted what was in our bowl, so she would sit, mouth wide open, making "ungh ungh" noises until someone gave her a spoonful. Silly girl!

Opening Christmas jammies after our baths:





What cuties!

The kiddos even let me sleep in on Christmas day. There was no church again due to the weather (seriously, without church, Christmas just feels weird) so the kids didn't get up until after 8 to open presents. And we actually had to remind the kiddo to look under the tree. I think this is probably the last year we'll have to do that, though.

A noisy backhoe!


And a Little People car


The kiddo decided the week before Christmas he actually wanted a Transformer. So Santa had to make an emergency run to Target to get one. Up until then he'd claimed he wanted a noisy backhoe, which had been ordered and procured the weeks before.



But I think he was happy with both.

The kidlet got a baby doll with stroller, high chair and crib.


Even the hub got in on the present-opening action.


After all the big presents, there were still stockings to open.


Which contained fun things like new socks, a shirt and a matchbox car.


Oh dear. I fear for the girls hearts in his high school class. I fear for my heart! My little boy, don't grow up, please. I don't know if I can take it!

After we had breakfast and played a bit, it was time to head up the road to my aunt/uncle's house for another soup dinner. And it's a good thing they literally live just up the road about 1/4 mile, because by this time, the temperature had dropped from 36 to 19 degrees and the rain turned into big, fat flakes of snow accompanied by very gusty winds.

Playing with our new James train


Goodness, the kidlet loves her baby.


Trying on Great Aunt Ruth's silly springy Santa hat


All this Christmasing sure wears a girl out.


We were delayed a day in getting to the ILs due to the weather, but we finally made it there on Saturday for round two of Christmas with the hub's family.

Always a fan of new clothes (with Grandpa)


He didn't have the heart to tell her she was reading upside down...


It's always hard to get back to "real life" after the whirl of Christmas. But we're trying!

i heart faces - outtakes



The theme on iheartfaces this week is Hilarious Outtakes.

When you're trying to photograph two very active and goofy children, you get lots of hilarious outtakes.

But this is one of my recent favorites.



The kidlet has realized what it means when I get the camera out now, and is starting to ham it up. She also wants to get in reeeeally close to the lens when I take photos. This is one of those times. I had a nice photo all set up and then the kidlet decided to change it to an extreme close-up.

I edited out the eye goobers and boogery nose to spare you (the healing brush tool is one of my favorites when used sparingly!) so you get the full effect of her scrunchy eyes and wide-open mouth. Girlfriend has almost all her teeth already! She also thinks it's hilarious to chomp on mommy's finger. Yeouch!

Check out all the other great photos over on iheartfaces. I know it's not nice to laugh at others, but you just can't help it when you see some of these photos!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

iheartfaces - Christmas Traditions

It's another week off for the awesome ladies at iheartfaces. I like these off weeks, the themes are always fun, you get to post as many pictures as you want, and you always learn so much about other iheartfaces readers.

The theme this week is Christmas Traditions. I love this theme. I love Christmas. And I love traditions!

It's been interesting to try and combine our family's traditions and forge our own for our new family over the last six years. But here are a few of my favorites:


- Listening to Christmas Music starting the day after Thanksgiving

(okay, so technically this is a screen shot and not a photo)

- Buying a real Christmas tree and decorating it one of the first weekends in December

We have kind of an odd spot for it in our living room - next to the fireplace, tucked in a corner in front of a window, It's a skinny spot, which requires a skinny tree, but we also have 10' ceilings, so we like to have a tall tree, too. We've been able to find these Frasier Firs at one of the local tree farms, and they fit perfectly (and smell divine!)

- Baking Christmas goodies to share with family, friends and coworkers



This year, the kiddo decided he wanted to help, which lasted all of about 5 minutes before he got distracted by something else. Oh well, we had fun, even if more powdered sugar ended up on the floor, the dog and the kidlet than the cookies. Mmmmm...... cookies

- Christmas Jammies!



Growing up, we used to get new jammies almost every Christmas Eve, and would wear them to bed that night. Sometimes my mom buys the jammies for the kids, but usually we do. These are last year's jammies. This year the kiddo has cute doggies wearing reindeer antlers and the kidlet has owls in stocking hats.

- Taking a family photo and designing Christmas cards

Every year we get at least one family photo in front of the Christmas tree. This year we took the photo a little early, when we celebrated Christmas with my family a week ago. I then work my Photoshop magic and design a card that I have printed. It's been fun to try and come up with new ideas every year.

- Enjoying some contemporary Christmas movies

I know it's not a cinematic masterpiece, but the more I watch Elf, the more I enjoy it. And how can you not love Love Actually? *sigh*

One tradition that I absolutely LOVE and, sadly, don't have a photo for is
- Making rice pudding on Christmas Eve
This is a tradition that my family started 12 years ago, when we had a [Swedish] Finnish foreign exchange student live with us. (Hej Emilia! God jul รถnskar din familj! Puss och kram!) We have soup for supper before the Christmas Eve service and make rice pudding that we eat with cinnamon and sugar. Emilia taught us that you should put a hazelnut in the pot before you serve the pudding and whomever ends up with the nut will have good luck for the next year. Then, after we've opened all our presents (Santa came to our house during church for some reason) we'll sit around and have another bowl or two while we check out all our cool stuff. That is definitely one tradition I would love to continue for a long, long time.

I can't wait to keep adding traditions as our family gets older and expands. Stop on over to iheartfaces and check out some of the other traditions people have.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Serena's Cookie Exchange

I just discovered The Farm Chicks a few weeks ago. I'm a creature of habit in my blog reading. If I don't have it bookmarked, I'll just forget to read it. Lame, I know. But I stumbled upon this one from another blog I discovered while commenting on yet another blog (did you follow that?)

They're right up my alley!

Right now she's having a virtual cookie exchange, how fun! With all the time off I had this week due to sick kids, I was able to make our traditional Christmas treats: peanut clusters, almond bark cookies, gingerbread men, almond poppyseed bread and cut-out sugar cookies.

The cut-out sugar cookies are what I'm sharing in the cookie exchange. I know, everyone has their own recipe for these, but I love the one we use.

Sugar Cookies
- 1/2 c butter (3/4 c better)
- 1 c sugar
- 1 t baking soda
- pinch salt
- 1 egg
- 1 t vanilla
- 1 t cream of tartar
- 4 T hot milk
- 1 scant t nutmeg
- 3 c flour

Cream butter and sugar. Add well-beaten egg, vanilla and the soda dissolved in the hot milk. Sift cream of tartar, salt, nutmeg and flour. Add to wet mixture. Mix well. Roll to 1/4" thickness. Cut with cookie cutters. Bake at 375 for 7-8 minutes.

My notes: we use powdered sugar when we roll and cut these cookies. You can never go wrong with more sugar! On the back of the recipe card, my grandma wrote: "I got this recipe from a friend - her grandmother's recipe and her family was Swedish. Always used this recipe."


I've never seen another sugar cookie recipe that uses nutmeg, I think that's what makes this so different (and tasty!).

I had some help with these cookies. First, my gorgeous new KitchenAid mixer:




How could I have ever doubted this lovely machine? It easily cut the prep time for these cookies in half. I'm still getting used to using the mixer, but I already love it.

The kids also wanted to assist:

The kiddo helped roll out the dough


And cut out the cookies (he loved the train cookie cutter)


The kidlet didn't want to be left out of the fun.


Though, really, I think she just liked the powdered sugar!


Testing out the final product.


Yum!


The kidlet agreed. I think she ate more cookies than the kiddo did!

I still need to frost and decorate them, and will take pictures and post of the final product. I have it on good authority from Santa himself that these are his favorite! ;)
--------
Finally! Pictures of the frosted, decorated cookies:




Just your average buttercream frosting, but instead of vanilla flavoring, I use almond extract.

Friday, December 18, 2009

iheartfaces - Constructive Feedback Friday


Instead of the usual fix-it Friday, today is Constructive Feedback Friday on iheartfaces. Amateurs (like me!) can post a photo and get tips/edits/feedback from pros on how to make the photo better - either through composing the photo prior to taking the pic or doing some post-processing editing work.

I took this photo of the kiddo when we were at the farm for Thanksgiving. We're riding in the pickup to go see the combine working out in the field. That's my dad behind him. The photo was taken around 3:30 in the afternoon, and the sun is already starting to set by that time. No flash, playing with different camera settings.


Here's my straight out of camera shot and here's a link to the full-rez photo.

Deets:
- Taken with a Canon Rebel XTi
- 1/160 shutter speed
- shutter priority
- f/3.5
- ISO 200
- 28mm

And then a quick edit job (just levels/curves) to lighten it a little:

I use Photoshop CS4 on a Mac for all my photography stuff.

Things I love about the photo: the catchlights in the kiddo's eyes (I can never seem to get those!), his goofy sort-of smile (so him!).

Things I don't like: the overall darkness (especially the shadows on the left side), the blue sky on the top right corner (distracting?).

Any comments, suggestions, edits are much, much, much appreciated! I'm always trying to learn how to take (and edit) better photos.

Check out all the other CFF entries on iheartfaces.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Desickber

It never fails. It seems someone is *always* sick in December. Always.

We went through a horrible bout of stomach flu a few years ago. That is the one and only time the kiddo has been hospitalized, thankfully, due to dehydration.

Every year since then we've had at least 2-3 days where the kiddo or kidlet has been home from daycare due to some sort of illness.

This year, the kiddo ended up getting sick on the way home from my sister's after my family's Christmas on Sunday. He was in the truck with the hub, so at least I didn't have to deal with it (sorry hub). Then the kidlet was sent home early on Monday due to fever.

Whatever the kiddo had hasn't completely gone away as he had his first big "accident" since being potty trained. Poor kid. He probably didn't even know it happened and thought he was just tooting. One sheet change, bath and new jammies later, he was back asleep like a baby.

One thing is for sure, being a parent sure makes you immune to the effects of bodily fluids on your person or furniture.

But these little redheads, I think I'd put up with anything from them.

I took this shot last weekend, anticipating using it in our Christmas card, but I changed my mind and used one of the entire family instead.

Being home with both kids today may prove interesting, though... If I can get the kidlet to nap soon, I told the kiddo he could help with making Christmas cookies. That will be an experience!

Friday, December 11, 2009

i heart faces - fix it Friday



Every Friday on iheartfaces, the gals offer up a SOOC shot to edit to your little heart's desire. I always want to try this out, and always seem to forget until sometime on Sunday!

But I was slow (and procrastinating) at work today, so I decided to play around with it a bit.

The original:


And my edit:



I used an action called Platino V1 I'd found for free online. After I ran the action, I adjusted the platino layer to 55% and the b/w mixer layer to 60%. Then I used a mask on the blur layer to highlight certain areas of the photo - the detail on the horse, the cowboy's face, the dirt. Then I cropped it slightly to showcase the cowboy and the steer.

I love the gritty, faded effect of the action. I think it turned out pretty cool, and it's a cool photo to start with. So much about photography is subjective, though, and you may have another idea of what would look cool.

Check out the other fix-its on iheartfaces.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

SNOW!

Having lived in the Midwest my entire life, there are two things you can count on: at least one good storm during the winter and everyone to go a little crazy when that first storm hits.

They started the predictions on Saturday/Sunday - that there was a big cell heading straight towards us with the potential to drop 8-10" of snow and winds that would increase until it was blizzard conditions.

Yes! Blizzard!

We've learned to take weather predictions with a grain of salt because, well, weather is rather unpredictable. Meteorologists can only do so much with their models and radars and whatnot. Sometimes Mother Nature follows suit and sometimes she just laughs at you.

This time she followed suit. By noon on Tuesday, the snow had picked up and by mid-afternoon, there were times where it was coming down pretty good. Daycare had decided to close after lunch yesterday and remained so today, along with all the local schools and the hubs and my work. So we had a lovely snow day today!



The plow going down our side street. Yes, that's a car buried under almost a foot of snow!



The branches on the trees are all weighted (weighed?) down.



Almost 5pm and it's still going strong!


One of the drawbacks of living in an older home - the windows aren't particularly efficient. This is the window on the landing of our stairs. There probably shouldn't be frost on the *inside* of the window, huh?

One good thing about having a snow day, the house is now completely decorated for Christmas. I put the finishing touches on the tree last night.

I've been trying to play more with the manual settings on my camera (with not always the greatest success) but I thought I'd try and capture some with just using the Christmas lights for lighting.


Willowtree Nativity set that is on our piano.


Two of probably nearly 30 Santas on our mantel. I have a lot of Santas.


Another Santa. This one is probably a tad dark, but not enhanced in any way.

They're okay. It's hard to hold the camera steady to get some of the low-light shots.

The only way I'll get better is practice, though.