Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year!

We celebrated with Auntie Carrie, Uncle Sam and Vera this year.  Alex didn't really want to try and 'stay up' till midnight, so we didn't even have to resort to our normal YouTube fireworks ruse.  The kids watched a Netflix New Year's countdown (lame....never doing that again), changed the calendar and went to bed.  After Justin fell asleep, we let Alex come back downstairs and hang out with the grown ups for a bit (and watch a little movie-- hey-- we're headed to Disney World in a few weeks, she needs to get up to speed :-) Adults may or may not have stayed up a bit later, watched some Harry Potter and celebrated with some bubbly.  To anyone hip and happening, this may sound like the saddest New Year's Eve ever.   You are incorrect.  Wait until you have kids--- It was fantastic!!!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Getting cold...

And now the temps are dropping even more!  The girls are at the back window, gearing themselves up for some outside playtime.  Nothing stops these two!
Alex has started taking Kolachi out to exercise on her own.  I'm still in my boots and jacket, waiting and watching through the back window in case I'm needed, but they're developing a great relationship, and I tend to get in the way if I'm out there, too.  Kolachi will always bring me the ball instead of Alex, no matter what!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Practice, Practice, Practice-

We brought Daddy out to the back field with us to do some pull training today.  I keep forgetting to read up on gee and haw training, so we're just working on "line out" and "hike" and "whoa!" for now.  It's going really well and EVERYONE enjoys themselves!
(she has a killer 'line out'!)

 We JUST got this little bit of snow.  It was totally muddy and gross out here two days ago-- let's hope for lots of powder and reasonable temps so the rest of the season is awesome!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Hey, Boo boo!

Our Christmas has REALLY just begun.  We like to subscribe to the 12 Days of Christmas philosophy, and celebrate all the way through Epiphany.  GranMama and GranPapa came up from Iowa to spend some time with us.  GranMama brought a very special treat-- a few episodes of her favorite childhood cartoon- Yogi Bear.  We went wild and crazy and let them indulge in some good-All-American cartoon time. The kids loved it!

The next day, Uncle Willy, Miss Toni (and their two dogs Tikva and Frodo), and Auntie Rorie and Chris all came for a sleepover!  We feasted, opened presents, played like CRAZY and had a wonderful time.....  except for Kolachi who had a hard time sharing her home with two other dogs.  We had a rotating canine system set up to let everyone spend some kennel-free time over those two days.  Sigh.... Now we know.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Dec 25: Merry Christmas!

...And what a celebration we had!  The kids got up BRIGHT and early to see what Santa left them--
Two ride-on ponies (and a third for baby Vera-- he was being very efficient in his delivery system, since he knew she would be over later in the day).
Dave likes to call this "The Christmas from the past" because the kids got a bunch of classic toys-- view master, a spirograph, a baking soda powered diving submarine, bugs encased in know....normal stuff!

Like wooden Christmas porridge spoons from Sweden--  We stuck an almond in the pot to see who would be lucky this year.  Somehow BOTH kids ended up with an almond in their bowls!  A Christmas miracle!
 The rest of the morning was spent riding the ponies in various forms and fashions--  building LEGO sets and leafing through what seems like HUNDREDS of new books for Alex!
 ...and then we hosted Vera and her family for a Christmas Day lunch.
 She was not too excited about the horse...yet....just wait a few years, V!
 Justin loves his "Cinnamon" because it is the same colors as the REAL Cinnamon at Farm School.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Dec 24: Christmas Eve Day

We spent the morning skiing as a family through ICEE-like snow.  The kids did so well that we ventured off of our little green run and they breezed down a few blues.  Now that she knows she can do it, Alex is raring to be adventurous and explore the 'mountain'!
After our exciting morning, we attended the children's service at Church, where we sang all the BEST carols and got to see a puppet play!  FINALLY, (according to both kids), it was time to go home and open the family presents.
Kolachi was the first one to receive her gift-- a new Lambchop toy!  She loved ripping open the wrapping paper--

 The kids each get three presents on Christmas Eve.  Something to wear (a short sleeve shirt and shorts for our upcoming FL trip), something to read (age-appropriate books) and something to do. 
Justin got this large wooden train.
 Alex got a view master and a bunch of slides to go with it.  We totally scored thrift-store wise this year!

 After presents, we turned off all the lights (except the Christmas tree), lit all our candles and enjoyed a 'traditional' Christmas lasagna.

 Then it was time to leave Santa's milk, cookies and veggies.  He got a bit of soymilk eggnog this year for a special treat!
 Since we have to worry about naughty German Shepherds stealing food left by the fireplace, Santa got a note directing him to the kitchen table-
 "Cookies and Eggnog at the table.  Love Alex and Justin"

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Dec 23: Letter from Julie

Julie the Elf (see this past post) has become a year-round penpal at our house.  Alex will randomly leave her notes, and she always seems to answer in a day or two.  She is also in charge of hand-delivering our Santa notes to the Big Guy himself. 
Today Julie left a very special present for the kids:
 Real reindeer pelt seat-covers from her Papa's reindeer farm! 
 So warm and cozy...and undeniably Scandinavian.... ;-)

Monday, December 22, 2014

Dec 22: Making and Decorating Cookies!

It's time for sugar cookies!  We're using our favorite Heritage Wheat flour to make our low-gluten cookies this year.  I'm excited because I bet they'll turn out really well (if the gingerbread cookies were any indication!)

I had a little help (miniscule, really) baking them.  My helpers showed up for the cookie painting party, though.  They always do!  We made some royal icing (with egg yolks this year!) and got to work dying the colors.  We used our all-natural India tree food coloring to avoid the artificial stuff  (although the black was from a 'normal' tube).  The colors are a bit muted-- no red red red, but I think they ended up gorgeous!
This is the best sifter ever.  

 Both kids were very deliberate and intense with their process this year.  Justin did some really nice trees and even went back to add Christmas lights on a second round.  Although.... he did forget to wait for the first layer to dry, so we ended up with some pretty cool tie-dyed looking trees.
Mittens are traditionally my favorite cookie to decorate because of all the space available for your design.  I reluctantly agreed to let my daughter 'have' one of 'my' mittens to decorate, and she blew me away with her rainbow stripes and white overlay dots.  Wow!  The apple doesn't fall too far from the stylistic tree, huh?
 After one and a half hours of painting, we inspect the final product (and eat the broken ones).  Nicely done, children.  Nicely done.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Dec 21: Justin's First Concert

Justin's Sunday School class performed at Church this morning.  It was his first performance and he did a great job.  He did not want to perform.  We basically dropped him off at Sunday school that morning and didn't tell him he was performing.  He would have been SO stubborn and resistant that it's best to just 'do things' with him sometimes, especially if he's already comfortable with the teachers and environment.  We knew that once his teachers had him, he would politely follow directions and perform well.  And he did and was SO proud of himself afterwards :-)
We are very proud of you, too, buddy!

Friday, December 19, 2014

On A One-Dog Open Sleigh....

This has been a disappointing start to the snow season.  As of three days ago, we had green grass again.  Luckily, we got a dusting, which was just enough to reduce friction for Kolachi's continuation of pull training (she was in recuperation from her spay/gastropexy for the past four weeks).  I should state that I have no idea what I'm doing-- I'm winging it when it comes to this whole subject.  Right now she's pulling Justin in a sled (because, let's be honest, isn't that every kids' dream dog?) while I run just behind her and remind her to 'leave it' and stay focused.  I'm working on using collar pressure to teach gee and haw, but i'm not convinced it's working.  Back to the internets for me...there has to be a good tutorial out there somewhere!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Dec 18: Delivering Cookies to the Neighbors

So-- I'm just going to jump right in here and start mid-month with our Advent activities.  To be honest, we haven't gotten all of them done this year-- it's hard trying to homeschool and run a home and do whatever else it is I DO all day long!  

 We've never made gingerbread cookies before, but Justin's lesson this week revolves around a variation of the Gingerbread Man story, so we were inspired.  I found this recipe from Taste of Home and it will be our GO TO gingerbread recipe!  The cookies are soft and flavorful and amazing :-)  Of course, much credit must go to our flour-- the Heritage Bolted Red Fife from Sunrise Flour Mills.  Wow!!! (and so far, so good on the gluten-intolerant being able to tolerate it!!)

Our Advent Activity today was to deliver some fresh-baked cookies to our neighbors.  We were able to make enough cookies to deliver to four houses and still have a few left over to freeze for our Christmas Eve.

We made the dough yesterday and refrigerated it overnight.  Today was time to roll, cut, bake and decorate.
 Justin was adamant about using his train cookie cutter, and it turned out really nicely!
I used this royal icing recipe (I used a real egg white and only made a half batch, which was absolutely perfect planning).  I've never made a proper royal before, and it was worth it!  It dried so nice and glossy!
After Justin got tired of decorating, I stepped in.  Our hearts, trains and boys turned out pretty cute!
 The best part was hand-delivering them :-)

Technical Difficulties and Delays

Apologies for the Technical Difficulties/Delays--
 So...right after I posted last time, our hard drive crashed.  As in blue-screen-of-death crash.... So.... I've been AWOL for some time on this blog.  Hopefully, once I recover my November photos I'll get those updated.  I'm going to start working on December now....only I'm planning on going BACKWARDS from today, so if you're looking for posts you missed, please keep scrolling back.

Wish me luck....

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

"And I will call him George..."

I'm behind on the Christmas Card ordering thing, too.....   so today, in order to 'fill a square' on the card design I picked, I needed a photo shoot with the cat and bunnies.
 Alex and Justin were happy to oblige me.  I wasn't quite sure how this was going to work-- I knew the two bunnies would try and bug each other if they were right next to one another, but I wasn't convinced that putting a cat in between them was the answer.
 Turns out it was.  Percy was only too happy to snuggle in and start grooming his bunnies.  He's always shown gentle and kind interest when we've been brushing the point of being removed from the hutch area because he kept getting in the way.  Today was his day to shine.
 "And I will kiss him and love him and squeeze him and hug him and I will name him George..."  - Percy
 Here you go buddy-- there's the spot...  and now on to your little friend.
 We were giggling so hard it was difficult to convince Percy to stop.  I mean, there's only so much Petromalt can work on.  This cat may have quite the hairball in the near future.  To the bunnies' credit, their resting heart rate didn't raise at all.  They are quite the cool and relaxed fellows.
"What in the blazes just happened to me?" - Basil

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Dec 16: Downtown to Macy's Display

Since I have a train enthusiast on my hands, one of our most beloved Advent activities is to park at the Mall of America and take the light rail to downtown Minneapolis.
 After our 45 min journey, we typically meet up with Daddy (who works downtown) for lunch and a stroll through Macy's Santaland.  The kids love going to the sky cafe and picking out their meals!
 Then it's time to tour the North Pole.  The display has been the same for a number of years now, and although I was resistant to the (non-changing) change, I've come to enjoy it through my childrens' eyes.  They look forward to seeing the familiar scenes, and even spotting some new nook or cranny filled with elves and animals that they had not yet noticed.
 We really like the reindeer barn scene-- probably because Julie the Elf (the elf that writes the kids notes throughout the year-- this is NOT an elf-on-the-shelf thing, just something we do) works in the real reindeer barn with her Papa.  We like to imagine that the little blonde elf girl trying to pull down the floating reindeer looks just like her.
 Afterwards it's nice to stop for a sweet treat.  Yep.  Even Alex got to "cheat" and have a normal sugar cookie!