Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Eve 2010...

New Year's Eve is a time for having that last bit of 2010 fun, and we did!

Tonight was a completely impromptu evening... so impromptu, that I did not have a camera with me, except my camera phone. Therefore, please excuse the super crappy photos. And thank you!

Juan (hubs) and I took the munchkin out to Outback (thank you, Jolene & Abe for the giftcard!) and had a late lunch... It was totally yummy! I'd show ya pics, but I was too busy enjoying the food... NOM NOM NOM...

Then, we went to AMC Theaters and saw Tangled. (You know... we had to use up those passes that expire today!) Funny, funny movie! It was a riot, and I'd love to see it again, and buy it... when it comes out on DVD.
The elves show the way to the Mission Inn (Riverside, CA)

Then, trying to catch up on Christmas lights, we re-visited the Woods Streets (in Riverside) and went by the Mission Inn. Thinking it really wouldn't be open... boy oh boy! Were we wrong. They even still had carriage rides going (even though they jacked-up the prices!).

We got to see all the lights of the Mission Inn, and take our time strolling around and throughout. A much more relaxed atmosphere... such a pleasant time. Crowds did not push and pull us through, and it was bliss.

Shocked from the COLD!
Thanking Daddy for the most BESTEST surprise!
The weather was still cold (apparently, the same temperature as New York City!), so we bundled up on the carriage ride. Munchkin girl was so surprised to have this last day of 2010 in a Cinderella Carriage!

(not possessed... don't worry...)
And Santa, was snuggled in an oversized chair, outside the Antique Store... resting his weary body after a long, hard Christmas (the economy is killin' everyone, people!).

Santa, resting his weary feet... in a Massive Chair

And we walked around the shops, though most of them were closed, I couldn't resist this pic... I just love the idea of Baby New Year, and this shop did him such justice. How adorable, no?

And with that... Have a Happy, Safe, and Wonderful New Year, as we say goodbye to 2010 and tuck it in... And hope for a good year to come in 2011.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

She'll Build Her OWN Float!

Southern California is going through some cold, tough weather. If you've read or follow my blog (HELLO! to my 18 Followers, and THANK YOU!), you know most of us can't handle "inclement" weather. Yeah... we can't handle the C.O.L.D., either. At least... I can't.

I've lived in cold climates before. I've endured the snow. Getting up to shovel snow at 6:30 am is NOT my choice of a lifestyle. uh... yeah. I've endured the cold. Shorts and flip-flops are not options. uh... no. And so... I moved back to my beloved Southern California lifestyle, where I can go visit these climates, if I want to, and when I want to. And that works for me.

But waking up to 30F weather, is a little chilly. I'm not sure how low it got last night, or how low it's getting tonight, but when my 5-year-old is asking if we're going to the "Parade" this year (2011 Rose Parade) and camping out... my answer is a firm, "NO!" You see, if you want good seats, you need to camp out. And that begins tomorrow morning at the crack of Dawn. It is COLD! And, you can't layout tents at all. Sleeping bags, mattresses and the warm stuff (including fire pits) can't break out until later in the day/evening. Heck, you can't even "move" into a real spot until around noon. And so.... you sit there and freeze.

Don't get me wrong. It was a wonderful experience, and it's a lot of fun. But... this year, with a congested cough and these freezing temperatures? Uh, NOT gonna happen!

Call me a wimp... I don't care. I am going to sleep as late as I want to, in my nice warm bed, and watch from the comfort of my warm home. And if I miss it... first of all... it plays all flippin' day! And if I miss that, HECK! I already set the TiVo to record it (and TWO different channels!).

Anywho... back to the 5yo... She is in good spirits! And so... with a lot of my collection of Christmas popcorn tins, and some of the everyday ones (they make excellent inexpensive storage, ya know!), She put together 10!. She covered them with decorative blankets, added pillows, and then!

She placed her Barbies and Disney Princesses and Horses and Little toys on TOP of the float, so they can wave, "HI!" to all the people.

Her stables and animals needed to be included, too. And she has the Nutcracker Army standing guard.

At one point, she had all of the Princesses' arms (well... once each) up, waving the Princess Wave. And she hides behind the float (her secret hiding place, because YOU know! the people that control the floats hide, too!)

(See Rapunzel up there, in her TALL tower?) Awesome... just awesome... and creative, too! That's my girl!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New Year's Resolutions? NOT!

Nope, I say! NOT for me! This year, I will not set myself up for failure like so many other years before. Less than a month (sometimes more, sometimes less...) into it, most of us just can't do it any more. Most times, it's from burnout. We/I may have overly done it. We/I may have gone way too gung-ho. We/I may have gone cold turkey (uh... no! I'm never giving up Coke, The Real Thing again!) We/I may just simply not have been ready to do it.


No matter the resolution made, we/I have not been one that keeps it. It is not in my daily regime, or even in my life for that matter. I cannot remember a time when I kept it up for more than a month... well... I take that back. There was ONE time, that I kept it up for 47 days.

I exercised, doing Jillian Michael's 30-day Shred. And I loved it. Until, that is... my body decided to get sick and I pulled a muscle on top of it. And then... I did what I always do. I make excuses. I'm good at that. I can give/find an excuse for anything and everything. And I know it.

What does a resolution do, anyway? A resolution sets oneself up for failure. Seriously. Who the heck has carried out a resolution without being forced to (for medical or financial reasons, or maybe even being incarcerated)? Yeah, I thought so. And so... it just makes me/us feel crappy and bad and the self esteem drops to an all-time low. I won't do it again. I won't set myself up for disaster with an ending pity party. I can't and I won't.

My time is NOW. I am going to stand up to myself, for myself. Self... get a grip. You can do anything you set your mind to... when YOU are ready. When the circumstances are right. When... (do you remember I'm a professional procrastinator?) YOU feel like it. Don't feel bad. It's ok. It really is. You see all your friends out there...? Go ahead and laugh now... and say, "I told you so." Because we all know, it is futile, and it won't last long. Self... I will NOT make a resolution this New Year's.

I simply am setting goals for myself. NOT resolutions. I figure this way... I have a much longer time to achieve it or get closer to it, and even if I semi-reach it, I have accomplished something so much more than with a failed resolution.


What are my goals? Yeah... that's another post. But basically, I aim to be a little bit better in everything I do. Just a little. Not a lot. And I aim to try to straighten out my life. And I've already begun that journey to that goal. So... my little bit is already accomplished. Now other things need to get into place. And this is why I don't believe in resolutions any more. BECAUSE... no matter how hard you try... there's always someone or something out there to help you fail... that wants you to fail, or just not succeed.

And so... with every little inch, pound, step, etc. I am getting to goals of "little bits". And I have reached those goals.

Here's to a better year in 2011. May you all reach your goals, and get there just a little bit at a time.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The After-Christmas Cookie Affair

Today... was a good day. I did those things that I put off yesterday. And it was good.

I had Rey bake sugar cookies from a Krusteaz bag...

The "Un-Dipped" Truffle Balls
And I made cookies, too! These cookies (Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles) just sounded divine, and I couldn't do without them! And so... they ended up in my cookie lineup. (Please note: I did not use Wilton Candy Melts, but instead melted Nestle Toll House Morsels in a double-boiler, dipped chilled dough balls, then drizzled melted white chocolate [Nestle] and refrigerated.) Yum-O and a total keeper!

The Cookie Dough Truffle Bowl...
Another note about those Cookie Dough Truffles - If you haven't checked out the link for the recipe, because you are afraid... Don't be! They may taste like raw cookie dough (inside), but they have NO EGGS included and are absolutely safe (and super duper easy, too!). This is definitely a recipe to put in your repertoire for holidays in the future! It was SO good... see the bowl? Licked clean!

And I also made one of my faves... Butter Spritz. Classic Recipe. Something similar can be found HERE. I did a simple poinsettia-style flower and sprinkled with red colored sugar before baking. Simple, because... you know... I procrastinated and was running out of time AND forgot that I had to allow time for the dough to chill... oops!

And so... I had the older girls help set up tables, chairs, food ware, and crafts. Overall, I think it was a success. It was a little unorderly, but the kids appeared to be having fun.

They decorated cookies with homemade butter cream (made with real butter) icing and sprinkles, made a snowman craft, put Nativity stickers on paper and ate pizza (YES! I made that!) and salad... And then they played Just Dance Kids on the Wii and fought over the remote. (Note to self: You seriously need to purchase another Wii remote, so there is more than just ONE!)

The "Blue" Cookie

The "Perfect" Cookie

The Overly Sprinkled Cookie

Thank you ladies for a big success!

Us ladies chatted and ignored the screaming meemies in the other room. We swapped cookies... And it was good.

So, as I sit down and snuggle with my coffee (and cookies, too!) before I go to bed, I think to myself... "Yes... I think we might do it again next year, only not so "after" Christmas... Because it was good..."

Monday, December 27, 2010

Getting Ready for the New Year... and Cookies, too!

So... last week, a couple of friends... uh... well... I know them all, but none of them know each other. It's a funtastrophy. We'll see. Anyway, a couple of my friends were supposed to come over and have a mini-cookie exchange thingy. It didn't happen (insert "The weather started getting rough..." music from Gilligan's Island here). The wind and the rain were killin' us! Floods were happening everywhere. And then there was "the week before Christmas" rush. I don't think any of us were truly ready.

And so... it's gonna happen tomorrow. Tuesday. Three days after Christmas. And one person has already let me know they're flaking. They told me tonight.


Oh well...

I still have to make cookies. And I will. Tomorrow.

I still have to go to the store to get baking soda (so my cookies aren't flat like the chocolate chip ones we left for Santa, because my baking soda died). And I will. Tomorrow.

You see, because today... I'm cleaning up the craft room from the Christmas/holiday mess and straightening it out and lounging around and catching up on all those Lifetime and Hallmark Channel and ABC Family's 25 Days of Christmas and Lifetime Movie Network's Christmas and Happy Holiday Cheery-type movies that I TiVo'd during the past couple of weeks but haven't had the chance to watch and that might get recorded over because there's no more room on my DVR. (grabbing chest and catching breath because... well, HECK! that was a long-winded statement!)

And today... I don't feel much like going out. Because... I'm tired of the crowds and the grabbing and the traffic and the angry post-holiday people. And I just want to sit on my ass and chill or veg in the craft room and do my own thing.

Is that too much to ask?

Because well... my husband thinks it is...

And so... I'm cleaning up and getting ready to be the most organized non-procrastinator-that-ever-lived for the New Year. Do we think I can do it?

I will...


Xanny - being just as lazy as I'd like to be... livin' the life!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Boxing Day? December 26 - What Do You Do?

In early England, December 26th was labeled "Boxing Day", in order to give the "help" time with their families, since they usually worked on the holiday. I used to think "Boxing Day" was the day they put Christmas in a box... But, I have never done any of that stuff. Personally, I believe it should be named "Shopping Day".

Traditionally, I take all of my gift cards and money (if I get any of those) and go "After Christmas" shopping. I hit the stores and get the best deals on can, getting ahead for next year.

Stocking Stuffers are a must on this day. At 50-75% off, I save a ton of money, especially since I stuff 6 stockings! I get all kinds of loot. However, I do not purchase candy. We have extreme heat temperatures in the summer months, so candy... regardless of the form, can melt or mis-shape itself. 

I also purchase Christmas and holiday/winter-type shirts. Great buys! And even more wonderful gifts for others.

Decorations? Heck ya! I don't ever purchase those things at full price! But those just go with the decorations, and I weed out stuff I no longer like, is broken beyond repair, or never ever use...

I run home, catalog and separate my purchases (I keep a journal - $.50 in the Michael's Dollar bins, at a discount, too!). I list the items purchased, the location where it is stashed and who it could possibly be for or a blank for no designation. Stocking Stuffers go in a double bag and are placed in a box, along with other Christmas/holiday gifts and marked "GIFTS". This box (or boxes) go up in the rafters, with the Christmas decorations, ready for next year.

The journal stays in a hidden spot throughout the year. I add to it when I find deals. The journal also serves for "inventory" for non-Christmas related gifts I purchase throughout the year.

I have found that keeping a journal (rather than a spread sheet on Excel or other program) is portable and keeps my budget low. I do not duplicate gifts and can keep all the kids as equal as possible. I added the "where located" column a couple of years ago, because, well... I'm really good at forgetting where I stashed stuff and had lost LOTS of things, only to find them a year or two later. Oh what fun!

This year, because of a total brain fart on my part, I will be adding my crafting items that I buy specifically for making specific gifts on the list, as well. This will keep me more on time, and not searching for that thing that I got to make so-and-so such. (I'm good at that, too!)

Every year is a development of my system. I am trying every year to be more organized and get ahead of the game. This year is the year I hope to perfect it.

And so... on this day... What did you do?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas! Whatcha Doin'?

Hello all! First let me say the obvious... Merry Christmas!!!

Secondly... Whatcha Doin'? I'm taking a break from my chores to keep up with my challenge (the challenge where I post each and every day for the month of December). I got up and did my SD (Santa Duty). I cleaned up a lot from last night (the night where we had our Mexican Christmas of tamales, rice, beans and family). I prepped for today's White Christmas (the one where we do all things traditional white way... breakfast, family, more food, presents, family, family, family). Heck! I've even walked the dog!

I've been going, going, going since 6am. And my kids (NONE of them!) are still not up. That's right. The most exciting day of the year, and they're sleeping in! Ugh... I want to go WAKE THEM UP! But ah, nah... I'll finish what I have to do (I'm making a list and checking it twice so I don't forget anything, because I'm really good at that).

Currently, I have bread dough going. Already finished the dough and other prep for cinnamon rolls. Have put together a dough mix for when I get to my mom's. And I have everything and anything put together for our trip out the door.

But these kids have GOT to wake up soon! Because, ya know... Santa came here, too! And we have presents to unwrap here, before we go to my mom's. Because I have to fill up my computer's hard drive and make sure I have pictures that I can back up another way (YES! I'm still on that rant!!!)

But most of all, these kids have to wake up so I can go take a shower. Get on with it! Open the presents! I want to be done with it all so I can take a shower! Not really... Yeah... I feel totally icky after tamale clean-up (greasy goo all over my arms... ICK!), but I just need to NOT be IN the shower when they wake up. Because I don't want to miss anything.

So, I'll just randomly show you these pics with pretty views in Southern California... you know the almost only place you can see palm trees and snow in one place without PhotoShop-ping them...

Again... whatcha doin'? Because I know all of your kids are normal and woke up at the butt-crack of Dawn to tear through their gifts... So... I ask you... Where the hell are my kids?

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Santa Curse? - Is it REALLY, or Just a Lesson Learned?

On Monday morning (YES! This past Monday!), my life shattered and fell into multiple pieces... Pieces that I don't know if they can be restored or not.

What happened? My external hard drive crashed. I know this might not be a big deal for some of you... But it totally is/was for me. You see... my WHOLE life was on that drive. Every document that I've written and/or wanted to save, scanned (instead of copied!) items to keep on record, a 1000-page cookbook that I've been copying/pasting recipes to (AND making changes with notations), my kids' school papers, my school (college) papers, and pictures. Did you catch that last one? I said "PICTURES!!!"

That is over 8 years' worth of digital photographs, since I got my first digital camera! That is half of my older girls' lives and my 5-year-old's whole life. Sure... I have some printed, but that is nothing in comparison as to what was stored there.

What? Didn't I have them on CD? Uh... no.  Didn't I have them on my original hard drive and use my external as my back-up? Uh... no, again. Look, there are so many questions you could ask me... but in the end, the answer is going to be the same. Yes! I was S-T-U-P-I-D, stupid. Yes! I now know all of these things that I coulda/shoulda/didn't do. Can it be restored? That we shall see.

Currently, our most recent computer dude checked it out and said that he couldn't do it, that it wasn't a simple fix like a cable or something, that we would have to be referred to someone else, and it could cost a lot of money, that it depended how important it was to me. REALLY? How important is this to me? It was my whole frickin' LIFE!

And so... we're going to get a couple of estimates and hope/pray someone (anyone) can fix it/restore it for us long enough to make (SEVERAL) backups.

But in the end, we need to ask ourselves... Is this the Santa Curse?

"Huh?" you ask. Yep. I said it. The Santa Curse. Last year, hubs (who wasn't too experienced with ANY camera, let alone digital), got a new Canon PowerShot. We had just taken Santa photos and I had him take sneaky set-up photos (you know... the kind where they're all candid and fun and stuff), because, well... those are the kind that I really like.  Cute pics they were, too. We got home, and before he had me download the pics... he decided to see what "format the card" meant. Yep... you guessed it. New Santa pics wiped out. Needless to say, he learned his lesson.

Enter this past Sunday (the day before the doomed Monday when I lost all my pics). I downloaded this year's candid Santa set-up photos (click on this to see that story and the final pic story here) on Sunday.

Did you catch that? Last year I didn't get to even download the candid pics, and they were gone. This year, I got to download them, and do nothing with them, because... Enter "Monday". and Woosh! while trying to upload pics onto a photo site (you know... to print them for a Christmas present or two...), all of a sudden, the stupid computer/site doesn't recognize or even register the external hard drive. Uh, oh!

Panic set in... and I tried to do everything/anything I could think of to recognize it. And I mean everything. I even cried, and that didn't work. Didn't work. Nothing worked. And like I said before, the current computer dude can do nothing. So, we'll wait.

Patience is hard for me. And I have to breathe in slowly and deeply. But, I cried. I still tear up. And this is why I wonder if it's a curse... The Santa Curse... or just Fate. Fate telling me that I need to shut the hell up and quit procrastinating and taking things for granted, because... well, ya know! I do that.

*Note to the above: There are no pictures to describe how the hell I feel... words cannot describe them. My lesson learned: Always have back-up to any method of photo and/or document storage you use. That is all.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

One of My Favorite Ornaments - A Snowman

One of my favorite projects from my early days of crafting on my own...

I love snowmen and snowflakes. The first one is the only type of man that you can totally create to your liking and won't talk back (don't ya'll just l.o.v.e. that!). The second? The only type of flake that I like (besides corn of course!). 

Years and years ago... (over 18 years ago), I got a wonderful idea for an ornament. It was based on these top hats I saw in the Bridal section of a craft store (I believe the store was in Reno, Nevada). It was an a-ha moment for me, but I made a couple with fervor, after finding all of the supplies I needed, both from the craft store and my local grocery store.

What you see here is a Sugar Ice Cream Cone. It has been basted approximately 10 times with Modge Podge (and is still sturdy and good after all these years!). It gets really soft when you first apply, just don't add pressure, and all will be good. Also... let it dry thoroughly between each coat to build up a good tough hardness.

A larger styrofoam ball was whittled down do fit in the cone, then another smaller one glued on top. I then covered both balls, and made a "drip" effect with SnoEffects (glittered) down the edges of the cone. (btw... the SnoEffects still hasn't discolored, either!)

I quickly stuck in a small portion of an orange pipe cleaner and black beads (eyes, mouth and buttons) and snatched off a little glittered twigs for the arms. I glued the top hat and let it all dry... and still... to this day, he sits in my branches of my Christmas tree every year. I love him. He will always be with me. (Ok, so maybe there are a couple of things I'd do different with my current knowledge and experience, but hey! Don't judge... I still love my man, and he won't melt away!)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Cards (That Haven't Gone Out Yet!)

I think my New Year's resolution is to create a new profession. Heck! I'm already so good at it, why not take it in as a title. "What is it?" you ask? A Professional Procrastinator! Yep... that's me!

I've had this "idea" for my cards for quite a while. I did bits and pieces in little spurts of time, but basically, this whole season (heck! this WHOLE frickin' year!), I kinda kept losing my mojo-my creative juices (please, no ugly comments here). That's a bummer. And a set-back.

But... because we canceled our mini-cookie exchange and postponed it until AFTER Christmas (see? more procrastination practices!), I was able to create more cards. (Only 2 had been done previous to this!)

So... this is what I came up with. *Note, you may be receiving a different version, but basically, their the same idea... lol! Enjoy!
The finished card. Inside reads: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (embossed in metallic blue)

My "first" card... had real machine stitching around the blue background. Uh, no... didn't like it. the paper came up through the holes and "bled" through, not making it clean enough, so I ended up faux stitching/doodling with my white Gellyroll pen.

My second and third cards (made exactly the same as each other) didn't have this raised/cut/glittered snowflake. They had a stamped and embossed snowflake... and then I realized I had so many cards left to do... and not enough white embossing powder.

The stamped image behind the snowflake is "Special Delivery" and embossed in clear. (Dunno what happened, but the 2nd & 3rd cards ended up clear, while the remaining cards were kinda milky white. Huh? Clear ink + Clear embossing powder = Milky White? That's a new one to me... go figure.)
Here you can see the embossed stamped image under and the layers of the snowflake.

I ended up using my most absolute favorite glitter. (Needs to get me some more of this stuff!) It's ultra-fine and gorgeous. I cut our 2 snowflakes (Cricut Cartridge: Christmas Solutions) on white cardstock, ran them through my Xyron, stuck down the first one, flipped over the second and glitter-galored it (like I said... LOVE, love, love that glitter!), then pop-dotted it on top of the first one. Love the effect!
Just a different angle... (see how GREEN my tree still is-and it's REAL!)

Then of course, as I love b-l-u-e SO much (my fave color, ya know?) I had to add a beautiful shimmery organdy ribbon to it. I love it! It's so... um... ME!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Oh... The weather outside is frightful...

(sing-a-long now...)

But the fire is so delightful... and since we've no place to go... Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!

Um... NO!

Here, in Southern California, it has been raining for a week (or more). "We" are not used to such rain. If we truly wanted this type of weather, we'd live in... let's say Oregon or Washington? Um, yeah... Not going to happen. But, it kind of feels like that right now. So ya know...The "S" Word (SNOW) wouldn't even close to work for us.

Seriously, it hasn't let up for a couple of days. (My prissy poodle-mix [much as I L-O-V-E, love her] won't go outside for her walks and has to literally be picked up and put on the grass for her to take a... [you know what].) And our streets are flooding. Our county (and surrounding counties) have been declared disaster areas.

That's ok for people who are used to this. They know how to adapt, but SoCali people? uh, no... They don't know how to drive in this stuff. There are accidents everywhere, which makes that a disaster in itself.

Now insert the wind. Trees are being torn out by their roots with the top-heaviness of the their rain-trodden limbs. (See? They're not used to it either!) And much of our housing (good ol' track homes) are cheaply made, so we don't have double panes. (This means we hear the wind whistling ALL. NIGHT. LONG.)

I so long for days like this!
Can you tell I'm "just" a tad crabby? uh, yeah... add in the kids are all on vacation, starting to fight/argue... and we're ALL going crazily insane cooped up in the house, cuz you know... I am still working on Christmas stuff... such a procrastinator...

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Santa Experience - 2010

I know... I already posted about this... but... I didn't tell post about everything! lol!

My hubs got a new camera last year. Pretty nice, not what I would have wanted, but a major step for him. Until recently, I haven't really liked his ideas OR the pics he's taken (he tends to not get different angles and liked things posed ["Smile for the camera!"] style, which I totally don't).

On Friday, though... he amazed me. I believe these are some of the best he's gotten! He went up to the second level of the mall and took photos of our little ensemble... They are precious.

Marissa, insisting to Santa that she'd "REALLY been a good girl". Uh... huh...

On another note... he was stopped by security and had to put away the camera. NOT because he was taking pics of the Santa & Co. BECAUSE, he "could be taking pictures of the mall set-up, casing the place..." One never knows who or what might be a terrorist, I guess. And so... we're ALL under suspicion. What the heck is this world coming to? (and NO, they don't tell you to put away your phone... guess that kind of picture is A-ok. whatev...)
They had a little fun after... (quality is NOT good from a phone)

I would post more pics, but unfortunately, as I tried to upload them this morning, my external hard drive crashed (oops!), and so... I had to salvage these pics from Facebook. I guess it's good for something else... lol! 

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Here Comes Santa Claus, Here Comes Santa Claus...

... right down Santa Claus Lane... (Sing along now!)

I know ya'll know this song! Whelpers... all my kids do, even the older step-kids. It happens once a year. I actually get all of the kids (all 5 of them) together, no matter what the heck their schedules entail or where they might be. I get them all for just a little bit, depending on how long the line at the "Mall Santa" is...

This year, it was NO LINE! I couldn't believe it! AND... it was cute, simple and thank goodness they'd changed the decor! I haven't used my local mall in many years. Years ago, I had the kids' pics taken there, and the Santa suit was red (duh!), the candy-cane poles were mostly red (had a super thin white stripe in them), the chair that Santa sat in was red, and the backdrop was... you guessed it! RED!!!! So... you could barely see Mr. Claus in all of that redness. He looked like a ghostly apparition in the Sea of Red. And let's not forget that most "Christmas" frames have LOTS and LOTS of red in them, too. It was just too overwhelming and I swore I'd never go back.

But... as you may or may not have noticed, it is/was/has been raining here. So, since my step-kids were coming from Los Angeles, and my hubs had to drive them back (yes... they ARE adults - don't ask. It's a long story) in the rain and my steps had "other" things to do and had time constraints on them, "we" decided to go local and I prayed for a Christmas miracle.

First off, I looked and looked all over the frickin' Internet Universe for pics of the set-ups or samples of the Santa Photos at each mall in the surrounding cities. Did you know that while malls may post "information" (very limited, I might add) and possibly hours and NOT prices, they DO NOT have any pics of cute little kids sitting on the Jolly Old Elf? Nada. Nothing. Zilch! So... you/I am just going to have to trust that they have it coordinated better and that maybe some interior designer/set coordinator finally found their calling and fixed our local mall's set-up.  ZOMG! Are you serious? I have to have this super duper anxiety attack happen for what may/may not possibly be OK? Maybe I should take a pill NOW!

And so... we went. Got out of cars (in the RAIN!) and hustled the kids inside. The only ones in line were already getting their pics taken. Woohoo! AND! the set was a mixture of vibrant colors, surrounding Santa in his workshop. Super duper S-C-O-R-E!

The girl elf looked at us and said, "All of them are in the picture?" My reply? "Of course! They're ALL my kids! And they'll be doing this until the little one is 18!"  We took pics and ran out of there. Whoops! We were so quick, I forgot to wait for my pics to be printed, and so I went back... Eek! They had them all in a bag, waiting for me. Sometimes I'm such a dork!

Aren't they CUTE? And hey! so... the border's a little red (I picked a gold-ish frame this year!)
Oh! You're wondering about the adults taking the Santa pic? Yeah... um... I only ask for one picture the entire year. This is the least they can do. It's the closest thing I get to a "family" picture... and this year was the first time EVER that all of them (every single one of them) is actually looking at the right camera AND smiling.  Merry Christmas to me!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

It Rained On My Parade (Newport Beach Boat Parade)

For the past couple of years (we've been making it a tradition), we've gone to Newport Beach the last weekend before Christmas for the Newport Beach Boat Parade. We set up food, bring chairs and warm clothes and LOTS of coffee and hot chocolate.

And then we wait. And we wait. Until... we hear music and see the boats turning the corner of the harbor (Newport Beach Harbor) and head out way.

The lights are dazzling and the atmosphere festive, as the dancing lights reflected on the water entrance us. People shout from their boats and some people sing. Once it starts, it lasts for about 40 minutes to an hour, and we are transfixed the entire time. Check out this post from 2008!

But that won't be happening this year... In Southern California this year, nature decided to rain on us. Don't get me wrong, I love the rain and know we need it. But. We really don't want to be out in the cold, the dark, the beach, with little or no boats to watch (not to mention the expense of the gas to get there - $40 or more), as it rains, pours, and floods the beach in puddles (think kids and dogs and a wet, wet, soaking ride home for more than an hour!).


And so... we didn't go. Either last night or tonight. And I get it. But, I'm a little disappointed and a little depressed. This only happens once a year, and when it's gone, we look forward to it again. *sniff* And so... maybe next year... just maybe, nature will be kind to us once again, so that we may enjoy the brilliance of the season again.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Josh's Journey, Sharing His Road to A New Life Through Weightloss

My family has a history of obesity. As much as I'd like to deny it, I am "obese", at least by medical standards. It's really hard to talk about, and it's even harder to do something about. I would just rather consider myself "fat" and move on and do nothing about it, as I'm really not that motivated to do so.

Sure, my clothes get tight now and then, and I prefer to wear sweats, but hey! It's comfortable. And I've had no health problems yet. According to my insurance (Kaiser Permanente), in order to get "help" (other than a nutritionist), I would need to gain 75-100 pounds to qualify for the lap-band and even more to qualify for gastric by-pass.  I realize some people think these are extreme measures, but when you have almost no control, you NEED this to reign you back in.

Enough about me. Today's post is about my brother. Josh. He has suffered through weight issues his whole life. And now, he is doing something about it. It's not because he can't diet. He can. He has tried. As it turns out, he had other health issues that were unknown to him (or anybody else for that matter), and now this is what the doctor ordered.

The Monday after Thanksgiving, Josh went through gastric by-pass surgery. He has had to give up some favorite foods, but when your goal is to live, rather than die, it doesn't seem such a sacrifice, does it? Anyway, I'm not the one who should be telling this story. It is his to tell, and he does...

The following video is his fourth. But he tells it honestly; he has nothing to hide.

If you would like to follow his journey, please check out his other videos and subscribe to his YouTube channel. Comment on his videos, as well. We all know.. the more support, the better the result. And Josh, like most of us, needs all the support he can get. I'm there for him, too! This, more than anything, would be the ultimate Christmas gift to my brother. I know we can all join in and wish him... Merry Christmas and a Wonderful New Year (and a Wonderful New Life)!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Winter-y Bags - A JW Story

The Incriminating Stockings
I help a lot in the Kindergarten class... Yeah, my 5yo is a kindergartener, so why wouldn't I? So... yesterday was their holiday party, no "holiday" in particular, buy yeah... you all get the meaning, right? Christmas! Shhh! Don't say that too loud! We don't want to get in trouble for mixing Church and State/School/Government... whatever... but, there are those kids whose parents practice other religions. You know... like "JW" (Jehovah's Witness). And our class has two kids whose parents do...

And so... in all of the hustle and bustle of putting together the party, getting all the stuff together, stocking stockings, wrapping presents, etc., I kind of didn't even think about it. I know... very ignorant of me, but hey! I'm not perfect.

Paper stockings were made for the class (by some AWESOME parents - not me) and stuffed with lots of wondrous things, candy canes included.  The teacher's gifts to the children were wrapped in beautiful foil ornament paper. Um... yeah.

My Non-Holiday Solution
My solution? I quickly downloaded a picture of a snowman (with Christmas trees and stars and holly) in PhotoShop and ps-ed all of the symbolic stuff O.U.T.! (even the holly! because, well... if I look for the symbolism in almost everything, then I know someone else might, too!) Then I filled in the coloring, re-drew some lines, and came up with the above.

Still have to re-wrap the gifts, but ya know? I think this'll do... what d'ya think?

What it all comes down to is... I believe in the country I live in. I believe in the freedom of religion. I also believe that kids should be allowed to be kids and live as children, experiencing the "fun" of childhood. It only happens once. So... if I need to change a little bit the prep that I do to accommodate them and allow them to be allowed by their parents to enjoy the "other" things that other kids get to... I will. Enjoy all of the season and winter-y goodness.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Amazingly Glittered Pinecones

So... I've been going cheap frugal this holiday season. The bucks, run out, and I'm having to rely on Mother Nature to provide for me... and she's been providing me gift items, as well... and as I've been walking our most precious puppy-poo,

I've been collecting "perfect" pinecones... because I saw these at Bed, Bath & Beyond (but of course, they don't have it on their website!!!) for $5.99 and thought, "Hey! I can make that for almost FREE!" (Actually, at BB&B, they are in a little box and tied with a bow, containing a couple of different glittered colors, but are not THAT big of a deal (at least not $6 worth!).

Pinecones are pretty much free, and Nature's dropped them anyway, so instead of someone throwing them away, I decided to grab them up! I cleaned and dusted them off making sure there's no little bugs in them, sprayed one with 3M spray adhesive glue, while rotating it around (make sure you do this in a WELL ventilated area, as I ended up a little "high" [uh... duh!] and use a soda case or some other "box" casing to keep it all in one area). Then I QUICK! sprinkled fine glitter on it, while rotating it around. Pretty! and then I repeated the process until I was done.

(My fingers were so encased with REALLY GREAT adhesive and glitter, that I decided NOT to touch my camera and just show you the finished product.)

So, me... the frugal and recycling person that I am... took out my stash of tomato tubes (from Walmart, 3 tomatoes in each pack) that I've been stashing for a while. And put them to use! The tubes fit 3 pinecones each. I'll Cricut cut myself a little label, and tie up with a bow... Voila! Instant gift that is beautious and super simple. Who could want more? You want more? Seriously? Well then... they're easy enough... go ahead and make some! Super cheap and frugal and re-using, re-cycling, and nature's glamor getting glitzed up! Woohoo! (ok... maybe I'm still a little "high"... next time, I'll open a window! and even after scrubbing and scrubbing... I still have a little adhesive and LOTS of glitter on my left hand... BEWARE and wear gloves!) And have yourself a Glittery and Frugal Christmas!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Easy Casserole for a Busy Night - Cottage Pie

It's been hot here during the day and chilly in the nighttime, lately. Dinner was needing to be made, and I was craving some down-home comfort food. And, since it is that busiest season, I don't have much "real" time to cook, so taking a break from sewing, stamping, wrapping, crafting and cutting, I tiptoed into my kitchen to see what I could find.

I had some leftovers sitting in my fridge... a little bit of corn (off the cob), mashed potatoes, a bit of onion, cheese... I almost always have mixed veggies and ground beef (in 1-lb baggies) in the freezer.  Today was no different. So I decided to make one of our faves... Cottage Pie, known to some as Shepherd's Pie, only when it's made with ground beef, it is really the Cottage Pie.  It's simple, easy and filling... oh! And you know me... CHEAP to make! So... thought I'd share it with you (you can use chopped cooked chicken or turkey in place of the ground beef to stretch your leftovers!!!). Here goes:

Cottage Pie

  • 1 to 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
  • one onion, chopped
  • 2 cups mixed vegetables (use a variety)
  • Seasoned salt (I use Lawry's... it can do no wrong)
  • Ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup beef broth (or chicken if using another meat)
  • 1 t. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2-3 cups leftover mashed potatoes (thicker is better than runny)
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Heat the oven to 400 F. Crumble the ground beef in a saute pan with chopped onions. Add seasoned salt and ground pepper to taste (I use approximately 1/2 t. salt and 1/4 t. pepper). Brown until onions are translucent and beef is no longer pink. Drain well (I blot with paper towels, as well). Mix in the veggies (make sure they're drained, too!). Add the broth and Worcestershire sauce, and mix well. Spread evenly into a 13x9" pan (no need to grease). Spread the mashed and seasoned potatoes onto meat mixture, spreading evenly. You can use a spoon to make little peaks for added prettiness and texture... Sprinkle cheese over potatoes. Pop it in the oven and bake for 30-30 minutes until the meat mixture is bubbling and the potatoes begin to brown. Simply beautiful! Serve with salad and rolls and Voila! Easy-peasy...  Sure wish I'd taken a picture!!!

*Note: 1) If you don't have beef broth or chicken broth, crumble 1/2 bouillon cube into boiling water and mix well. 2) Potatoes spread easier when warmed or at room temperature. 

I just hate going to the store for one or two items to complete a recipe, and this one allows me to use up what I have, without it tasting like last night's meal. (To be honest, we had cheese enchiladas, beans and rice last night! lol! And the leftover beans will be chili tomorrow... with cornbread, of course!) 

Monday, December 13, 2010

Lights, Lights, Everywhere!

I just love lights, even when it's not the holiday season. They fascinate me. They mesmerize me. They enchant me. AND that's without music!

Add music to the mix, and I am yours! Ahhh... Oooohhh... Wooowww...

I've longed for one of those music synchronizing thingies, and maybe my wish will come true one day. The first year I spotted them in Lowe's (3 years ago), they were a little over $300. Way too much for my budget! But now... the prices have come down a lot, and this year, I saw them at $83... Still too big for my budget AND SOLD OUT! If they keep coming down... I just may have to get one!

Here are some of my fave youtube videos of holiday music light houses (I opted NOT to include the ones with the TransSiberian Orchestra, as those seem to be the most common. I love ALL holiday music, not just the classics...

First up... Jingle Bell Rock! Woohoo! (It's a little blurry, but you get the picture...)
Next up... The Twelve Days of Christmas. This house is (of course) professionally done, but OH! so awesome! Enjoy!

My house isn't this awesome (and doesn't "do" music), but maybe... just maybe... I'll share some pics with you... another day!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Pumpkin (Poo) Galore!

Ok, I know this is post Halloween and Thanksgiving, but these are really going to get used THIS season... I love sweet things made with pumpkin! I promise this week, I'll post something craftily Christmas and/or holiday-themed... moving on...

Pumpkins stay good for a long time, as long as they're not carved... And so... when the Kindergarten class had the local Pumpkin Patch come to our playground (with a petting zoo!) for "Fall" (I call it HALLOWEEN!), the kids each got a sugar pumpkin. I let the 5yo decorate it, but... no cutting... (lol!)

And after Halloween, I washed, cleaned, cut up and cooked and pureed it for future use.
Marissa's scooping out the innards...

freshly cut, small and sweet

CLEAN pumpkin!
I washed the outside free of all ink and glue and other goo. (Woohoo!)  Then I slice it in half and scooped out ALL of the pulp. Ooey-gooey!

fit for a Crock Pot!
Then, the pumpkin was cut, thick tough shell and all... into smaller pieces, fit for the crock pot.  I had a total of 4 small pumpkins, so there was A LOT.
(yes, I used TWO crocks!)

I did NOT cook it in the oven. First of all... been there, done that, have the scent (BAD bad smell that permeates the house for weeks) imprinted in my brain and nostrils from well over 20 years ago. (I was 15... you do the math!) Second of all, I don't like to watch it. And you really have to watch it in the oven, or else it will burn (and smell even worse). So, I crock-potted it.  Simple, easy. It took about 6 hours, as each crock was p-a-c-k-e-d! (Just cook until fork-tender.) And well, the smell is minimal. I can live with that.

Take the pumpkin out of the crocks (there will be liquid at the bottom... just get rid of it) and allow the cooked pumpkin to cool (you don't want the pumpkin to re-absorb the liquid, it could get mushy that way...). I let it cool to room temp (only because the first batch I chilled in the fridge and it was too difficult to scoop afterwards... kinda like rock hard ice cream...). And scooped it... into the food processor.

I processed it (with a blade) at high speed until it was smooth. Occasionally, I had to take out bits of shell pieces (luckily, these don't appear to puree) and scrape down the sides of the fp bowl. It will be thick and luscious. 

I put in in freezer storage containers in 2 cup amounts, ready, willing and waiting for various sweeteners, spices and combiners to be added to make my holiday confections. (Be sure to put the date on it, so it won't be "too" old or outdated.)

We made a homemade pumpkin pie out of one of the containers. (So Stacy dumped a whole bunch of cinnamon in there... life goes on...) We DID NOT make the crust. I bought a beautiful frozen crust (WinCo had Marie Calendar's pie crusts - 2/$1.88), how could it go wrong? Um... super tough, hard and flavorless - don't buy it!

And then... there were lots of extra pumpkins after Thanksgiving from the Kindergarten classes... and who do you think they gave them to? You guessed it! Me! And so... I will be crock-potting them next week, after the kids are on break, so I can use and/or freeze more pumpkin. Gotta love F-R-E-E... free!