Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Morning 2013

Oliver's getting older, and so he had some specific requests for Santa this year. He wanted Minnie Mouse, Mickey Mouse, Thomas the Train, an umbrella, and M&Ms. He must have made it on the good list because Santa delivered! 

Santa must have known that Joanna likes to build things because she got Lincoln Logs!

Christmas morning was a big success.

Oliver was very happy to open his Minnie Mouse cash register! Santa got that for free at JC Penney last year when they did their button promotion.

Joanna decided to organize her Lincoln Logs.

The kids are so cute. What a fun morning! I think Jo was a little overwhelmed by it all. She had a ton of fun but spent most of the afternoon in tears.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

...and to all, a goodnight!

The kids got to open their present from Aunt Julie (in town from Omaha) on Christmas Eve. Matching jammies! Jack pot!

Before bed, we set out milk & cookies for Santa, and we also left a carrot for Rudolph.

Oliver decorated the cookies himself, and he signed his own name!

Friday, December 20, 2013

A Gingerbread Cityscape

Weeks ago, I found a cute Christmas idea in Better Homes & Gardens. It was a tutorial to make a gingerbread cityscape in a jar. I tore out the page to use later, and I asked Andrew for a glass jar for my birthday. When Aminta and I got together to bake Christmas cookies (as we do every year), we got to work on our cities.

We didn't end up following the tutorial. I used the gingerbread recipe from that served me so well for our gingerbread house. Then, Aminta and I cut out the buildings freehand. We cut out houses, churches, skyscrapers, capitol buildings... even a Taj Mahal! We used a wooden skewer to carve in the details. After the cookies were baked and cooled slightly, we rubbed powdered sugar in the carvings. Once they were completely cool, I poured sugar into my jar and stuck the cookies in to create a cityscape. Ta da!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Santa's North Pole Adventure at the Georgetown Loop Railroad

Andrew and I took the kids up to Georgetown to meet my friends for a train ride with Santa Claus! Oliver went on their Pumpkin Fest train this year with Grandma Judy and last year with us and Grandma Colleen. This was his first time doing the Santa's North Pole Adventure. Tickets were pricey, but they included a nice, long visit with Santa (complete with photo op), a jingle bell ornament for the kids, hot cocoa, a cookie, and a candy cane. We had a great time, but Oliver decided the train didn't go fast enough. 

There were many light displays along the loop. I guess they run a nighttime Holiday Lights train and have all of the decorations lit up. That would be fun to do one year!

Oliver adores Baby Grace.

Family photo!

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire.

This past weekend was also the Georgetown Christmas Market. After the train ride, we went to town to enjoy the market. Georgetown is such a cute mountain town. It's a charming place for the Christmas season.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Easy, Personalized Ornmanet

I wanted to find a nice ornament for the kids' great-grandma, but nothing I found seemed right. There were a couple of cute ornaments I found, but they were outrageously expensive! I finally decided to try to recreate one on my own. That way, I could personalize it, too. As it turns out, Sharpies are expensive. A large pack of multi-colored Sharpies was $13! I'm sure I'll get lots of use out of them, though, and I can make more ornaments in future years.

I looked up images of holiday clip art online, and then I drew the images on an ornament.

On the other side, I wrote all of her great-grandkids' names. I tied a bow and a gift tag to finish it off. It came out really cute, I thought!

Fun at White Fence Farm

Years ago, when I lived in Chicago, our family would occasionally go to a restaurant called White Fence Farm. It's a family-style restaurant that serves classic Southern & American foods like hush-puppies and fried chicken. Imagine our surprise when we moved here and discovered there is a different White Fence Farm restaurant in the Denver area. Shortly after we moved here, we surprised my grandma with a trip out to White Fence Farm. I haven't been back since.

...until last week. We met with friends for dinner. I'd forgotten how kid-friendly it is! They have a petting zoo and a giant slide. There is a little market attached, too, and there was live music playing. Santa is there on some weekend days close to Christmas, but he wasn't there when we visited.

The kids and our friends all got a chicken dinner. Andrew and I selected the vegetarian option, which is unlimited sides and a baked potato. Normally, side dishes aren't all that exciting, but White Fence Farm has a really good bean salad. With the hush puppies, coleslaw, and baked potato, I felt quite satiated. We don't take the kids out to eat very often, so they don't have much experience sitting at a restaurant, waiting for food. At home, they don't have to sit down until food is on the table. Because everything is family-style, the food came out almost immediately. It made dining out really easy. The kids were good and earned a wooden nickel, which they got to cash in at a treasure chest. The treasure chest is filled with blue & pink sealed envelopes, which contain prizes. Oliver got a monkey stamp, which he was thrilled about, and Joanna got these hilarious disguise glasses.

She heard us talking about Oliver's monkey stamp, and she got it in her head that her mask was a monkey mask. She wouldn't take it off and kept making monkey noises to people. "Ooh ooh! Ahh ahh!" People were fawning all over her because she was so cute & funny.

Here are the kids hanging out with the Thomas Jefferson statue. Joanna liked the shoes.

Oliver surprised me by loving the slide. It is really big and fast. There's even a height requirement for it! We also went out and fed the animals. The animals were all inside their barn until they heard the crank of the food machine. They came running! The goats were surprisingly friendly, but the cow was a big bully when it came to the food.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Work Christmas Party

My dad's work had a Christmas party for the employees to bring their families. It was an event mostly for kids, and it included face-painting, crafts, and a visit with Santa. They provided a really nice dinner (and dessert buffet). It was a really good time, especially for Oliver!

Oliver surprised us by wanting to get his face painted. Jo refused.

And then Oliver decorated some antlers to wear.

My Jingle Bell Jingle

In case anyone missed it, I submitted a jingle to KOSI 101's Colorado Lottery contest. The winning jingle gets $5,000! I discovered that each person can vote for an entry 50 times. My in-laws actually discovered that (thanks, Paul & Colleen!). I'm in the top 5! It takes about a minute to register and another minute to cast 50 votes. So, if any of my readers have a couple minutes to spare today, please check out some of the videos and consider casting some votes for me.

Here's the link to my entry. You can see all of the rest by clicking the "Gallery" tab at the top.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Is my jingle worth $5,000?

I am excited, anxious, nervous, and even a little embarrassed. Last week, I submitted a jingle (that's right; I sang on camera) to a radio contest. Today, voting is open! You can vote for entries here.

KOSI 101 is a station in Denver that is known for starting its Christmas music in November. I almost exclusively listen to talk radio year round, but that changes close to Thanksgiving when I turn the dial to KOSI. Well, they announced a contest a couple weeks ago. Listeners could submit a jingle to their favorite Christmas tune about Colorado Lottery scratch tickets. One winner will get $5,000!

I am not one to shy away from a contest. Do you remember the cake decorating contest I entered a couple years ago? I didn't win, but I worked hard and had a lot of fun. I think there ended up being under 30 entries for that contest, and, of those, like 4 of them were mine! Sure, sometimes you don't win, but you definitely won't win if you don't enter. Take this contest. There are 63 entries! Do you know what that means? Each of us who had the courage to enter this contest have a 1 in 63 chance of winning $5,000. Really, when do you ever see odds like that for a prize like that?!

You can check all of the entries out here. If you like my entry, I encourage (beg?) you to take a minute to vote for it! The order of the video submissions is random, but you can spot me in the green shirt, wearing a star on my head. People can vote as many times as they want, so don't be shy!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Our Gingerbread House

Oliver and I made a gingerbread house together! Well, I did most of the house. He decorated Christmas trees for it all by himself, though!

A few years ago, I tried to make a gingerbread house, but it didn't go very well. I wasn't expecting much this time, but I was pleasantly surprised. I used the children's gingerbread house recipe from I needed to add more flour than the recipe called for, but it otherwise worked out perfectly. All of the pieces I cut out kept their shape and didn't need to be trimmed. The frosting from that recipe held like glue! The house ended up being really easy. I used a template from Martha Stewart's website, which is also where I got the idea of using cinnamon sticks as a bundle of logs.

I wanted to add "stained glass" windows to our gingerbread house. Apparently, there are two ways to do it, one is before you bake your cookie pieces, and one method can be done after baking. To make stained glass windows before baking, you first put your cookie pieces on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Break some Lifesaver candies, and put the broken pieces where the windows are cut out. As the cookies bake, the candy melts. When you pull them out of the oven, the hot candy should cool and solidify to form the "glass." I would have done that method if I'd read about it before I baked my cookie pieces. So, I did the window method for after baking. I used a Pyrex liquid measuring cup (since it can take high heat), and I melted some yellow and orange Lifesavers together in the microwave. It actually didn't take that long to melt them. I think I zapped them in 15-second intervals, and it took just 2 or 3 cycles to melt the candy. Be careful if you do this method because melted candy is very hot and sticky. Once mine was melted, I poured it into the window holes of my pieces, on top of parchment paper. Once it cooled, it looked like stained glass. I piped frosting for shingles on the roof as well as for trim on the windows and doors.

I gave Oliver some ice cream cones to decorate like Christmas trees. He squeezed and spread green frosting on the "trees," and then he shook some sprinkles on top. He had a ton of fun with the first one! He was bored with the project by the second tree. Oh, well!

I pieced the gingerbread house together as Oliver decorated the trees. The frosting held like glue! I did the four walls first and let them dry completely before putting the roof on. I placed some flickering LED candles inside the house before putting the roof on, too, so it is lit up from inside!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Tree Lighting Ceremony in Littleton

I might not have succeeded at convincing my family to go to Sports Authority at 6am on Black Friday for a free gift card, but I did successfully convince them to go to the tree lighting ceremony in Littleton! Santa rides down Main Street, and, as he passes the trees, they all light up. It ends with him helping a kid light the large evergreen tree next to the Melting Pot.

Here are some photos of our evening.