Monday, December 31, 2012

A Very Lego Holiday

Having an Advent calendar was such a huge hit with Joseph last year that we knew we had to have one again this year.  We stuck with the Lego City version which was based on a firefighter theme this time around.  Joseph got into the habit of racing down the stairs each morning to first find Johnny Duddle (our Elf on the Shelf) and then tearing open the day's Lego calendar flap.

No shock then, that this Christmas was the year of the Lego.  They came from every family member far and wide and from Santa himself.  

In part, I was relieved, thinking JT was never going to get over those darned trains.  Now the train table has officially been cleared in order to begin construction of the Lego City police station and bank (which will come in handy when playing out the cops and robbers theme that has dominated recent play).

Also represented in their fair share this year were Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Transformers, Rescue Bots and Bey Blades, making us feel simultaneously nostalgic for toys of our youth and hopelessly out of touch with current trends in toys.

Have yourself a Lego little Christmas!

Christmas Eve & Christmas Day

We all were surely very spoiled this Christmas, in many ways.  We were unable to travel anywhere this year due to our work schedules, but we were thrilled and grateful to be taken in by our closest friends and their families, having been invited to spend Christmas Eve with the Deubert's and Christmas Day with the Estabrook's.  It was the next best thing to being with our own families!

After a wonderful evening at Benjamin's grandparents' house, we got things ready at home for a visit from old St. Nick.  Milk & cookies were left by the fireplace along with carrots for the reindeer.  Joe Joe astutely noted that there were only 4 baby carrots but there are 8 reindeer (not counting Rudolph) pulling Santa's sleigh.  We explained that the reindeer were eating carrots at just about every house they visited, so they were really probably very happy to share and each have a tiny nibble.

We said good night and good bye to our Elf, Johnny Duddle, who chose to spend his last day with us nestled in one of our very favorite Christmas trees ever.  It may look small in the picture, but it is by far the largest and fullest we've ever had.

Upon awakening Christmas morning Joseph wanted to immediately run downstairs to see what Santa had brought for him.  He thinks he does remember hearing some hoof steps on the roof, but he's not entirely sure because he was asleep.  We tried to get him to wait for us to make some coffee, but he had already emptied out half of his stocking before we made it down the stairs.  He managed to tear through that stack of presents pretty quickly and was only mildly concerned that the soccer ball hadn't been wrapped in the first place.

In the afternoon we were eager to head over to Jack's house for dinner, even more excited at the prospect of picking up Mimi at the airport on the way!  B even wore the cardigan and one of the bow ties I bought for him.

Missy always knows how to entertain in style.  The highlight of the night, especially for the kids, was the igniting of the plum pudding - and a special one at that, brought straight from London by Jack's grandfather, honoring the Queen's Jubilee.

Our sincerest thanks to 2 special families for making our holidays merry and bright!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Busy Baker

Around this time of year my oven virtually never cools down, and I lose track of how much butter, flour, sugar, and eggs I blow through.  I wouldn't have it any other way!  Homemade cookies have a way of making people very happy :)

I don't have much experience with gingerbread, but between our cookie decorating party and Joseph's preschool party I made more gingerbread cookies than I knew what to do with.

Cake pops are always a crowd pleaser, and the big batch I made served double duty: as treats for my office party (along with a giant tray of The Barefoot Contessa's "Outrageous Brownies") and as one of the many treats in Brent's office party cookie boxes.

Ditto the double duty on these Oreo snowman cookie pops I discovered on Pinterest:  treats for Joseph's preschool party and another addition to Brent's office cookie boxes.  They were cute enough on their own but all the more ridiculously adorable wrapped up with a tiny felt scarf!  They were a massive hit all around and could not have been simpler.

Sugar cookies!  I love making and decorating sugar cookies!  No fondant covering this year, instead sticking with the traditional royal icing.  Keeping it limited to one design made it easier to mass produce.

My chewy ginger cookies have developed a cult following all their own, and I would be in big trouble if I ever tried to skip a year without them.  Mexican hot chocolate cookies, cherry walnut rugelach, and pumpkin bread also made the short list again this year.  

12 individual boxes full of a variety of treats all ready to go for Brent's office party!  Such a shame he miscounted and really needed 13.  Never fear, there are always extra cookies around here, as I make plenty to also share with friends, neighbors, teachers, and anyone else who just needs a little something sweet.  

And lucky me, I just may have gotten a few more baking cookbooks for Christmas!  Maybe I should start a "cookie of the month club" in the new year.  Now there's a resolution worth keeping!

Capital Christmas Club

Wow, what an insanely busy holiday season!  The last month has flown by and I feel like I've spent every waking minute baking, shopping, wrapping, decorating, visiting, entertaining, and remembering at the very last minute every day to move an Elf before a certain 5 year old noticed something was awry.  Other than a minor bout with suspected food poisoning right after Christmas, it's been a fun and festive couple of weeks!  There's lots to catch up on.

We tried harder than ever this year to hit some of our classic city highlights.  We even considered renting a limo for an evening with a group of friends for a private tour of all the downtown DC holiday happenings, but sadly the timing just never worked out.  Last weekend we managed to take Joseph to see our National Christmas Tree along with Ethan's family, passing by the White House on the way.

Afterwards we walked over to the historic Willard Hotel, known for its gorgeous decorations, nightly carolers, and delicious hot cocoa.

We managed to squeeze in just a quick visit to the US Botanic Gardens.  The lines were so long that we never actually made it in to see the annual Garden Railway train display, but we were still able to enjoy the decorations (including the famous display of Washington monuments and landmark buildings made entirely of plants and natural materials) in the main Garden Court and explore the gardens themselves.  Just steps from the Botanic Gardens is the actual Capitol Building itself.  I love the juxtaposition of the 2 images!

We were thrilled to be included again in the annual Zarr-Rock Christmas carol Sing-along, and somewhere in the middle of all of this we even found time to actually decorate our big, beautiful tree.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Wishing You Joy

from our handsome boy!

I could not have been more thrilled when I snapped this gorgeous picture of Joseph in our backyard on Thanksgiving day to use in our annual holiday card, which by now is hopefully signed, sealed and delivered across the country.   Pear Tree Greetings seems to be my go-to site for cards and stationary these days (and who can complain about a 40% off Cyber Monday deal?!).  It's a vertical fold over card, which is hard to tell the way they preview it.  It's also hard to appreciate the true colors, which came out much, much darker than I had anticipated - but really, does anyone notice anything besides his beautiful blue eyes?

The happiest of holidays to you and yours!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Dear Santa:

Instead of mailing you a letter this year I decided it would be far more efficient to wait until I saw you in person to show you what I want for Christmas.  I have been cutting out every picture of every toy I have ever seen in every store catalog and magazine for the past month or so and I taped them all into this notebook for you so you would know exactly what to bring me.  

Thank you!