Tuesday, December 31, 2013

It's Christmastime in the City

What with all the years we've been living in DC and all the times my parents have visited, it's pretty surprising that they've never made it downtown to see the White House Christmas tree.  This year, we checked that off the bucket list.  It's always such a pretty sight!

And with that, folks, 2013 is a wrap.  It's been a rough one for me personally, and I can't say I've ever been happier for a year to end.  Here's hoping 2014 brings good health and plenty of time to relax.  Our New Year's plans are sure to start us off on the right foot.   Have a safe and happy holiday!

Christmas 2013

We spent the holiday in town again this year, and were again invited for Christmas Eve dinner at Benjamin's and Chloe's grandparents' house.  The boys got a thrill out of using fine china and drinking "wine" (sparkling cider).

All the usual traditions were carried out: milk and cookies for Santa (despite all the homemade baked goods to choose from, JT insisted Santa wanted chocolate chip and so one had to be purchased....), saying good bye to our Elf on the Shelf, Johnny Duddle, who was last seen commandeering a pirate ship, and a reading of The Night Before Christmas at bedtime.

And then commenced the last minute frenzy of wrapping and assembling that took until almost 2am.  Admittedly, I really didn't have my act together this year, but who would have known that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Shell Raiser car had 37(!) stickers to attach?  Loving the color scheme of the ribbons and paper this year!

Christmas always starts bright and early with this one. 

Santa brought everything that Joseph hoped for, including lots and lots (and lots) of Lego sets:  Lego Star Wars, Lego Hero Factory, Lego Ninjago, Lego Chima......that's a lot of sharp little pieces to step on in the dark ;)  But there were also games, action figures, movies, and sports clothes.

It's always important to connect with family, so we made sure to call the grandparents and cousins who live so far away.  What a gift to see Mimi and Poppy smiling at us from Louisiana!  Gotta love Face Time for the holidays.

Jango Bells! Jango Bells!

Jango all the way!  Oh what fun it is to get a Star Wars treat each day!

Joseph has absolutely loved the countdown to Christmas with an advent calendar these last few years.  Given his obsession with everything Lego and his growing interest in Star Wars, this set was a perfect choice for him.  The days generally alternated between a minifigure and a small ship to build, and by the end we had quite a nice little collection, including an exclusive holiday figure of the bounty hunter Jango Fett, along with his well known clone son, Boba Fett

You can only imagine how over the moon Joseph was when Aunt Missy gave him not one but TWO light sabers for Christmas!  It's been nonstop Jedi training ever since!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Night Before ICE!-Mas

There are so many fun things to do around the holidays, and we always try to carve out some time to see the ICE! display most years, which is part of the Christmas on the Potomac festivities at the Gaylord National hotel.  This year we came upon a great deal: a room for one night, priority entrance to ICE! included, a free picture, and $100 in credit for food and/or merchandise.  Sold!  We got together with friends and booked 3 adjoining rooms, and even upgraded to an atrium view so the kids could watch the hourly light show, dancing fountains, and indoor snowfall.

This year's theme was the classic Christmas story "The Night Before Christmas," sculpted from over 2 million pounds of ice over the course of  a month by a group of ice artisans from China.

The biggest attraction by far were the ice slides, including a new 2 story tall slide.  Despite the sub-zero temps, the kids could have stayed there for hours.  I'm still a little wary of slides myself....  At the end there was also a new attraction featuring all the sights of Christmas in New York.

Our free pictures!
In the 2nd one the boys were pretending to be freezing cold.

Take a look back at the shows from 2011 and 2010.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Snowman Stacks

It's been that time of the year when, as always, I am All. About. the Cookies!  I bake like a maniac in every spare moment for weeks and give lots of cookie boxes out as presents.  Brent's coworkers have come to expect them after all these years and can't wait to get their hands on them at their office holiday party.  This year I somehow managed to get a head start on things and had several batches of my world famous chewy ginger cookies and Mexican hot chocolate cookies baked and frozen well in advance.

And then life happened.  Too many commitments, too many travel plans, too much to do at my "real job," too many days off from school, and far too much illness than we've ever experienced before (strep, fevers, & pneumonia - all for Joseph - and then the stomach bug for everyone!), and all I could do was watch the time slip away.  This is not necessarily anything new.  It happens every year to some degree.  My mantra is "plan big and whittle down."  But this year it was off the hook.  I was in the weeds for weeks.  And weeks.  (Or to use the term my friend Joce and I coined a few years ago, I was "knee deep in fondant.")

I managed to power through dozens of red velvet cake pops and a batch of mini pumpkin loaves.  I was forced to scrap the rugelach and the peppermint meringues.  (Every year, the poor peppermint meringues get the axe.  I have yet to ever make them!)  All the while, the sugar cookie dough I made just chilled in the fridge.

I like to do something new and different with my sugar cookies every year, but I hadn't even come up with a plan yet.  I knew I had to bang them out quickly, and this was the easiest thing I could think of.  Three different size round cookies, only 1 color of icing, and some edible food markers.   A fraction of the work, minimal decorating......and yet....I LOVE them.  I can't believe I am even remotely acknowledging that sometimes simpler is better ;)

Stack them up any way you like.
It's OK to play with your food!

In terms of real snow, this was about all we've had so far this year.  One dusting, and one sloppy, slushy mess.  Joseph was sick both times and barely got to play in it at all.

But don't feel badly for him.  He loves his cool new boots, and in no time at all we'll be off snow tubing and skiing to his heart's content.