Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve Dinner

IMG_3659 I don’t know about you, but Christmas Eve dinner can be a little bit tricky. Trying to attend a Christmas Eve service, and still have dinner ready to go on the table when everyone returns home. Tricky, unless you have an awesome recipe from your mom! =)

My mom handed down the simplest, but most delicious chicken recipe. And the best part is it sits in the oven for about 1 hour 15 minutes, the perfect time to throw in the oven as you walk out the door to service. But, it’s still decadently moist! Of course, I didn’t get pictures of the gorgeous meal, because I was doing good to get dinner on the table for 7 adults and one toddler while being 7 months pregnant!

Cranberry Chicken

6 chicken breasts

1 (16 oz.) can jellied cranberry sauce

1 cup French dressing


Place chicken in glass baking dish.

Stir cranberry sauce and French dressing together, pour over chicken. Cover baking dish and refrigerate 8 hours. (it’s still tasty even if you skip the 8 hour part)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake about 1 hour and 15 minutes.


To round out the meal, I serve croissants, spinach salad, green beans (stir-fry style with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper), and something yummy for dessert! This year I just bought a pumpkin pie from Costco, served with coffee of course!

Finally, we ended the night by putting on our matching PJ’s. My mom sort of started a tradition of getting Cooper a new pair of PJ’s for Christmas Eve. And we sort of lucked out and found matching ones for all 3 of us. Here we are! FYI…Cooper loves sock monkeys! IMG_3674 Two more fun pictures I couldn’t resist sharing…


Grammy and Cooper’s matching slippies! =)


Thursday, December 23, 2010

At the Car Wash…

IMG_3655 I’m not ashamed to admit that I needed an outright professional car wash and vacuum prior to letting my parents ride in the car with us on the way to the Christmas Eve service at church. =) Not that they would have cared, but it was a good excuse to pay extra to enjoy a nice, clean car. I checked out a few different car washes in the area online, and this appeared to be the only one in the area that had other people vacuum your car out FOR you (which is extra important due to my current pregger state). It wasn’t super cheap, but every now and again, it is definitely worth the cost!! The inside smelled fantastic (you get 2 free air fresheners if you have an SUV) and there were no goldfish crumbs or raisins in sight! One full day of heaven, am I right? ;)

So, the fun find at the car wash….well….this:IMG_3656 Yup, they have a water gun to spray the cars as they come through the car wash. They also have picnic tables where you can sit and watch the cars go through the wash. A little toddler’s dream! So, we now will occasionally make a date of it. We’ll pack a picnic lunch and go to get the car washed. Oh the little things in life!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Annual Gingerbread House Party

While I can’t take credit for this gem of a party, I can give props to my friend Nicole for knowing how to organize! She “began” this tradition last year (I’m hoping it continues!) and I was looking forward to it this year since Cooper is slowly getting to an age where he will enjoy it for himself. Here he was last year…mommy attempted to decorate while holding little Cooper in her lap. =)Gingerbread House Now, before I show you an even more enjoyable party pic from this year, let me explain some tips to hosting a successful gingerbread decorating party…

Tip #1: Cover the tables! Note that the tables have throw away plastic table cloths on them.

Tip #2: Provide a stable structure! There are 2 key elements to this part. One, provide a cardboard base for the house. We had cake rounds, but really, any sturdy cardboard surface will do. But it does need to be sturdy. I attended another one where we had paper plates. Yeah….didn’t cut it! The second element – pre-assemble the houses themselves! Bless Nicole’s foresight! She had the graham cracker houses assembled and dried, ready to decorate. No more tears or frustration while trying to hold the structure together while the icing stiffens, AND you have an antsy little decorator ready to slap on some candy.

Tip #3: Get your icing under control! Have plenty of icing on hand, and be sure it is at the correct consistency. If it’s too thick, it’s difficult to work with, if it’s too thin, the candy won’t stick. Nicole’s got a fantastic blend! Just add water or more powdered sugar to get it just right. Also, have it in a form that’s easy for the kids to work with. We had little sandwich bags with the frosting in them already. Just cut a corner and you’re ready to decorate!

Tip #4: Provide plenty of candy! And utilize your guests to do so! Each guest brought candy to share. Usually the host provides some gingerbread men to help adorn the houses. What’s a gingerbread house without a gingerbread man, right? Here’s a list of other fun candies to suggest:

  • Peppermints
  • Mini candy canes
  • Gum drops
  • Marshmallows (for those cute little snowmen!)
  • Mini chocolate chips
  • Mini M&M’s (they stick better than the regular size)
  • Red hots/Hot tamales
  • Hershey kisses
  • Nilla wafers
  • Cotton candy (smoke for a chimney perhaps?)
  • Ice cream cones (to create Christmas trees)
  • Pretzels
  • Peach rings

Tip #5: Provide other snacks too! Little kiddos (and adults like myself without self control for that matter) on sugar highs do not make for a fun party. Having other healthy or varying snacks available MAY cut down on such a vast sugar intake. MAY I say…but it’s worth having around to help!

One final tip for attending with your child? Just let them eat candy!! I mean, obviously watch the amount, because they will make themselves sick, but let them partake more than normal. Can you blame their desire? Check out this series of pictures with my son’s temptation…

Picture #1: Say Cheese!


Picture #2: Beginning to eye the candy…


Picture #3: “Please mom, let me just have ONE more??”IMG_3651  Thanks Nicole for hosting a great party! What a success! Here are some remaining kids hanging out while we cleaned up…IMG_3653

Friday, December 17, 2010

Train Tables!

IMG_3682 Oh toddler boys and their love for trains! Isn’t it funny how they just become obsessed with certain toys/genres? My son is absolutely in love with Thomas! Many mornings I will open his door to greet him and the first words out of his mouth will be, “Play trains with me?”

Anyhow, we were super lucky to inherit daddy’s old Brio train table, wooden trains and all. However, the only disappointing thing about this was that the Thomas trains would not fit through the tunnels or under the overhead tracks, creating toddler trauma! So, for Christmas, we decided to use all the old pieces of track, but design a new track that did fit the Thomas trains. The in-laws had very graciously purchased us some train table legs (otherwise, we would’ve crafted our own for much cheaper, but are blessed with fun Thomas table legs, which Cooper loves!).

After totaling up how many pieces of each type of track we had, I visited our local Hobby Town* to figure out a new track layout. (For example, I wrote down 15-small curved track, 10-4” straight track, etc.) The gal working there referred me to 3 different websites that helped tremendously! Squirrel Tracks, Wooden Tracks, and Wooden Railway Adventures.  They have sample layouts with an itemized list of all the track pieces needed to create it. While I didn’t stick exactly with one of their layouts, it gave me the basic idea to get me going. We started putting it together Dec. 17th. We couldn’t start too early, because Cooper plays with it all the time. Here’s what we started with after purchasing a new sheet of plywood and prying the track from the original wood sheet:IMG_3640From here, I traced the track design so we could paint the plywood. My adorable husband did the painting and shellacking, because he didn’t want his pregnant wife around the fumes. The shellacking I COMPLETELY agree with! Pee-yew! At first he mocked me for being such a perfectionist, but I explained, if we’re gonna do something, we might as well do it right!

He did, check it out:IMG_3684 While this was cheaper than purchasing an entire set, train tracks and accessories are not cheap! We purchased the railroad crossing, the tunnel (which was worth every penny, Cooper is in love with it!), extra track pieces, and a new Thomas train (shown wrapped from Santa). It’s definitely a hit. So, my little “life lesson” from this? DIY people! Do It Yourself. So much cheaper and customizable (yes, it’s a real word, I checked). Also, we kept the leftover track pieces that Cooper uses to design his own layout on the carpet. The only thing we’re still deciding is whether or not to glue down the track layout above. We haven’t yet, and it’s still in tact. We’ll see when little Allie gets old enough to want to play. By then, Cooper may be over trains, though. IMG_3702*Hobby Town – By the way, this is a great place to visit now and again! Our local store has a train table and play area set up in the middle of the store. It’s a great place to go if your child is in need of a little distraction to help you get through the day. He loves it!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

So long, Diaper Bag!

IMG_3633 It’s been awhile since I have used my son’s diaper bag, and while I will be needing a new one come March, I’m pretty sure this one has served is purpose and is more than ready to retire. I didn’t think terribly long and hard about the purchase of a diaper bag, just knew I needed one. Thankfully, I found a good fit for me! I like to have lots of pockets and places to tuck different items, and this particular bag came with a changing pad (which I WILL be keeping), stroller attachments (also will keep) and a pacifier pod. I ended up keeping the following in my diaper bag almost all the time:
  • Diapers/Wipes (Duh!)
  • Burp cloths (my son went through many!)
  • Change of clothes (for the occasional blow-out or really bad spit up)
  • Pacifiers (again, multiples for when they fell to the floor)
  • Scented bags (for those poopy diaps that may need to sit in the car until you find a trash can)
  • Bottles (hence the milk stains along the sides of the bags, yum!)
  • 1-2 cherished toys and/or books (see below)
  • Snacks (Gerber puffs were always a favorite)
  • Dining Mat
  • Bibs
I'm going to be starting a group of posts called "Tricks of the Trade", this will be post #1! Hey, being an organized mommy with the right items on hand is definitely a trick of the trade, am I right?

Here are some specific items that we cherished. Now, they’re tucked away awaiting the arrival of baby Allison. How bizarre to think they will come in handy again so soon!
Baby Einstein Take Along Tunes:
Baby Einstein Take Along Tunes - Kids II  - Babies
Lamaze Freddie the Firefly:

Bright Starts Sunshine Carrier Toy Bar:

Jittery Jungle Pals:

Summer Infant Tiny Diner:

Monday, December 13, 2010

Nativity Ring & Run

Here are pdf images of the 12 poems/stories to accompany the nativity pieces to be delivered for the Nativity Ring & Run Tradition, posted on my blog here. Pdf was the easiest way I could figure to share them with you. Hope it works! Sorry it’s sooo long. Here goes, hope you enjoy the tradition as much as we did!:

Day #1: Mary

Mary - Day 1

Day #2: Joseph

Joseph - Day 2

 Day #3: Angel

Angel - Day 3

Day #4: Donkey

Donkey - Day 4

Day #5: Stable

Stable - Day 5

Stable - Day 5 Cont.

Day #6: Camel

Camel - Day 6 Camel - Day 6 Cont. Camel - Day 6 Cont. 2 Camel - Day 6 Cont. 3 Camel - Day 6 Cont. 4

 Day #7: Lamb

Lamb - Day 7

Day #8: Shepherd

Shepherd - Day 8

Day #9: Wiseman 1

Wiseman 1 - Day 9

Day #10: Wiseman 2

Wiseman 2 - Day 10

 Day #11: Wiseman 3

Wiseman 3 - Day 11

Day #12: Baby Jesus

Baby Jesus - Day 12

Extra: Cow

CowCow 2Cow 3

12 Days of Christmas

My son is just getting old enough where I started contemplating family traditions this year for Christmas. I wanted something fun, but also something that tied in with what my husband and I believe Christmas is all about – the birth of Christ. I came across this fun idea at

Nativity Ring and Run

1. Purchase a 12-piece nativity (preferably one where Baby Jesus is separate – if you can’t find a 12 piece, get something close to that)

2. Choose a family/neighbor that you will anonymously deliver each piece to for the 12 nights before Christmas.

I was wavering on whether Cooper would understand this and/or enjoy doing it when I came across this adorable little nativity set at my local grocery store for only $7.99! I know it’s not the cutest in the world, but it’s also small, which is great for the people receiving it:IMG_3851I purchased 2 so I already have one ready to go for next year.  I found another blog that had the idea of attaching fun poems/stories to go with each nativity piece. So, I created my own. Some are a little lengthy, but they are so fun and really bring the story to life! Check them out here on another post on my blog.

I read the stories/poems with Cooper each night before we delivered the piece. He looked forward to it more than I would’ve imagined! Each night he was excited to try and sneak over to our neighbors. I let him choose between two neighbors across the street, knowing with such an early bedtime, we weren’t going to realistically travel far each night. NOTE: Sneaking with a 2 year old – NOT the easiest. I think we made it maybe 3 nights before we were unofficially discovered. Then, maybe on the 5th or 6th night, the 2nd grade girl opened the door as we were crossing the street! We hadn’t even made it to the door yet. I think their dog helped give us away. =) It was just as fun, though, as they anticipated our delivery each night. Another fun outcome of this tradition? Our neighbors are going to use the same nativity to pass on the tradition to someone else next year. They even kept all the poems/stories to deliver with them.

One final note…our nativity set only had 11 pieces, and the tradition called for 12 nights. So, we still delivered the story, but instead of a nativity piece, we delivered a plate of cookies. Who wouldn’t love that? ;)

I know Cooper will look forward to this tradition next year, now the trick will be to keep it a secret from the mysterious house! Here’s Cooper with the tiny package, ready to deliver to our neighbors:


Happy Traditions!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Christmas Sweater Christmas Party


I almost don’t even need to provide any words with this picture…and yet…I do! We attended a “Christmas sweater” party, much to my husband’s chagrin. I must say, I was quite proud of our finds! Let me break it down for you:

Ryan’s tie – mega sale at Kohl’s! AND…as much as he’d hate to admit it, he actually wears holiday ties to work. This particular one even sings. Cooper loved that!

Ryan’s sweater – this is where the “crafty” part comes in. They don’t so much make men’s holiday sweaters, so I bought a decent red sweater (which he may be able to wear again), and a super cheap, cute snowman placemat. I cut the placement into squares and used embroidery floss to sew them to the sweater. After the party, snip the floss and you’ve got a plain red sweater ready for wear! Glee!

My vest – good ‘ol Good Will!

My necklaces – hooray for retired kindergarten teachers! My neighbor’s mom had one of those adorable hand-painted reindeer and Santa wooden necklaces from her teaching days. And for an added touch? A blinky light up Christmas light necklace….ahhhh yeeeahhh..

Did we rock it or not?!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Polar Express

Remember the 5 W’s for old school book reports? Here they are for our amazing trip to the Polar Express…Red Eye Removal Who? The Polar Express is for young kids, but also adults who love the magic of Christmas.

When? Tonight’s fun (Dec. 10th) all began back in September!! Yes, my friends, that’s how early you need to begin thinking about this fun outing.  The “easiest” way to get tickets for when you’d like to attend is to either become a member of the RR Museum, or find a friend who is already a member! Each member can purchase up to 10 tickets. Even WITH a membership early log-on code, it still took my friend and I about an hour to purchase tickets on the same day, same time, same car. We decided to splurge and go First Class. We had heard that it was worth the extra dough. While I have nothing to compare it to, First Class AND the event itself was simply amazing!!

Where? The Polar Express train ride is hosted by the California State Railroad Museum in downtown Sacramento.

Why? Because it is simply magical for any child, especially mine, who is head over heels in love with trains!

What? My friend had the fun idea to print out copies of the Polar Express tickets, found here, and have them mailed by Santa to her kids. Since my son isn’t quite old enough to understand that concept, we printed out a ticket and told him we found it in his copy of the Polar Express. We gave it to him in the car on the way. I printed it out ridiculously large…just for fun. Here he is squealing with excitement:IMG_3566 And here he is staring at the ticket for the remainder of the 40 minute drive:IMG_3567 Everyone is encouraged to come wearing your pj’s. With first class, we were able to enter the train first, and sat in a semi-private car. Upon entering, our personal “chefs” came to inform us of the evenings festivities. They also said that there were at our beck and call…which proved true! They brought hot cocoa, served in commemorative mugs that we would get to keep, along with a choice of cookies! Along with this, they offered bottled cold water to help cool down the hot chocolate for the kiddos. Fabulous!! AND…the hot chocolate was still in the to go cups inside the mugs so that the kids could drink relatively spill free. =)

Next up, the conductor came around to punch the tickets as well as sign our personal copies of the Polar Express. Here’s Cooper holding up his ticket to be punched (and you can see the mug in my hand):IMG_3582 Then, the “chefs” came tap dancing through holding trays of cookies. All the while, the music from the movie The Polar Express, is playing in the background. After a brief stop at the “North Pole” (aka a stage along the river), we actually got to watch the engine back up and reattach to the back of the train. Sounds simple, but to a little boy who loves trains, it was amazing! The engineers stood out back with us, explaining the entire process. Here we are on the rear deck, watching the train magic!IMG_3593 Santa came through the train handing out silver bells to all who believe, and finally, the “hobo” came through attempting to listen to the bells…claiming he heard no ringing at all.IMG_3594 It was definitely helpful having watched the movie beforehand. Thankfully, we have an unusual 2 year old who LOVES movies and will happily sit through a full length feature.

The entire train ride is about an hour. We ended our evening with some dinner at Joe’s Crab Shack. It was simply amazing. I’m pretty sure all 3 of us were on Cloud9 on the walk back to the car. =)