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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas and Blue Hill

Well, another Christmas is in the books!  After a Christmas sing-a-long at the kids school on the morning of the 21st and packing all afternoon, we loaded up the car and headed out at 6:00 pm.

We made it to Alexandria, VA a little after  midnight and were on the road again by 6:00 am.  We arrived at Dan's home in Massachusetts around 3:30 pm.  In the 9 years since we have been making the trip by car, it was probably the easiest yet.  And we even had an extra passenger!

Dan's 92-year-old father has been living with us since Thanksgiving so he made the trip with us and that went smoothly as well!  I am hoping that we can do it in reverse just as easily at the end of this week.

On the 23rd, I hastily wrapped all the presents while Dan took the kids out for a hike.  It is always a huge relief when that chore is done!  It isn't until that point in our Christmas journey that I can relax.

We went to Christmas Eve Mass and then spent all day on Christmas unwrapping presents, cooking, eating and visiting with family.

Yesterday we went with Uncle Bob and Aunt Cathy to Blue Hill in Milton, MA.  Blue Hill is a very large hill (it took us about 30 minutes to hike to the top).  At the top of the hill is an observation tower.  From the tower there is a gogeous, sweeping view of the city of Boston. 

At the base of the hill was a museum (which was closed) and several outdoor cages whiched housed some deer, turkey vulchers, snowy owls, and a very playful otter.  The otter put on quite a show for us! If you are ever in the area, it is well worth the hike to see the view and the animals!

View of Boston from Blue Hill (picture courtesey of

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Works For Me Wednesday - Coupon Codes

I just saved $45 in a matter of seconds!  How?  With a coupon code.

I buy lots of items online - in fact, all of my Christmas shopping was done online.  Every single bit of it.

And a great way to save money when shopping online is by using coupon codes.  All you have to do is Google the name of the store you are shopping at and the word "coupon code". 

For example, we need to renew our McAfee Antivirus Software.  As I was set to check out, my total was $89.99 but I noticed a box for a coupon code.  So I googled "McAfee Coupon Code".  Right away, I was directed to one of many coupon code websites and discovered that there was a code available for 50% off any purchase at McAfee. 

I copied the coupon code, pasted it in the correct spot on the check out page, hit "Apply Coupon Code" and voila!  My total was reduced to $45!
It took me under a minute to do it and I saved $45!

Every time I shop online, I search for coupon codes.  And it's easy to remember to do because every time you get to the check out page, usually right near the total price there will be a spot to insert a coupon code.  I use that as my reminder to Google for the coupon code.  As my kids would say, "Easy peasy, lemon squeezy!"

And saving $45 in under a minute "Works For Me"!

For me Works For Me Wednesday tips, head on over to Kristen's place!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Reindeer Nose Treats Recipe

I am helping out with Sarah's party today and have to bring in a sweet treat.  Another mom is in charge of the major sweet for the party (I am assuming cupcakes or cookies) so I thought I would make these.

I love the combination of sweet and salty and I really love that they are so simple that even I can do it without messing them up!

Reindeer Nose Treats


  • 1 bag small, waffle-shaped pretzels

  • 1 bag Hershey's Kisses or Hugs

  • 1 bag red and green M&M candies

  • Directions:
    Preheat your oven to 170 degrees.
    Put a piece of wax paper on a cookie sheet.
    Place pretzels on the wax paper.
    Unwrap Hershey's Kisses.
    Place one Hershey's Kiss on top of each pretzel.
    Bake for 4-6 minutes depending on your oven.  (It took 6 minutes in mine.)
    Remove from oven and press one M&M into the top of the Hershey's Kiss.
    Allow to cool completely.  (I stuck mine in the fridge to speed this step up.)

    (Please note - if you can find the round pretzels, use those.  The finished product will look more like a reindeer's nose.  However, either shape will taste just as good!)

    Ready for the oven!

     Topped with M&Ms!
    Aren't they pretty?

    Monday, December 19, 2011

    Recap in pictures.

    Sarah and Dan made gingerbread dough on Saturday afternoon - just after I placed all of the completed Christmas cards in the mailbox.  It is so good to be in the home stretch.  Now that the shopping is done and the cards are mailed, I feel like I can really relax and enjoy things!

    Well, there is the minor task of packing, the two day drive to Massachusetts and wrapping every single item I bought when I get there.  But other than that, things are done!

    Here are a couple of pictures of Sarah and Dan making the dough.  Peter helped them roll out the dough and cut out the cookies on Saturday evening but I was at an Ugly Christmas Sweater party and wasn't able to get any pictures of that fun.

    Here is a picture of Sarah doing a cartwheel.  I'm very proud of her.  She had to teach herself because unfortunately, I never learned how to do one.

    We went to Tanglewood to see the light display on Sunday night. We typically go on Friday night but it was raining so we decided to do it last night. Big mistake.

    I guess everyone decided to go last night because we waited in line ONE HOUR AND THIRTY MINUTES just to make it inside the park gates.

    The kids were great though. They played, laughed and joked around in the car together and had a grand old time. Dan and I were the ones that had to keep our attitudes and our impatience in check.

    We saw all the displays and stopped for hot cocoa and marshmallow roasting and even though we did not get home until 10:30 (on a school night!, yikes!) we still had a good time.

    And now it's off to bake something for a class Christmas party and start the pre-trip laundry and cleaning. 

    Christmas is coming, y'all!  Whether we are ready or not!

    Friday, December 16, 2011

    7 Quick Takes

    1.  Big, happy, relieved, siiiiiiiiigh.....  That's the sound I made last night when I purchased the final Christmas gift on my list.  Now I am just keeping my fingers crossed that everything arrives just as I ordered and in time for Christmas.

    2.  Next up - Christmas cards!  They arrived yesterday so now I have no excuse.  Dan thinks the picture is horrible.  Well, when you are standing in front of your kids screaming "Hold hands and smile." and "Pretend you like one another!" and "You better not make me cry again like that one year!" the smiles do tend to look forced.

    3.  This weekend we are planning on our annual visit to see the lights at Tanglewood.  I hear they have some new displays this year and they've changed all their existing bulbs to LED bulbs which means they should be even brighter.

    4.  Also on our agenda this weekend is baking.  Dan loves gingerbread cookies and the kids love to help him.  This works out well since I can not roll out a cookie to save my life.

    5.  It's been really warm here the last couple of days - highs in the mid 60s.  It's hard to get in the Christmas spirit when you're sweating and have to turn the air conditioner on in the car.  I even said to Jennifer, "I wish it would get cold."  I could not believe I was saying that because I do not like cold weather.  But y'all, I have a really cute pair of boots that I would love to wear and I refuse to wear them when it's 65 degrees outside.

    6. We had to replace 3 of the 4 ignition coils on our car last December because our car started jumping and shaking whenever you hit about 45 mph.  When the car started doing the same thing earlier this week, I knew that the 4th one must be bad. It's in the shop right now and I don't even mind.  I am so thankful that the problem started this week instead of next week when we are on the road to Massachusetts.

    7.  The kids were being naughty yesterday so Sparkle, our Elf, did not move this morning.  He remained perched in the fruit bowl where he had been all day yesterday.  He may not have moved (indicating bad behavior on the kid's part if you aren't familiar with the whole Elf on the Shelf hoopla) but he did write the kids a note. Hopefully the will "be nice" today.

    For more Quick Takes visit Jennifer at Conversion Diary where I'm sure her kids where I'm sure her kids are nice all the time!

    Thursday, December 15, 2011

    I have become the person I mock.

    I love to check my statcounter and see what type of weird things people are googling to get to my blog. Usually it is something ordinary like "how to do sock bun curls" or "chili recipe" or " chelsea clinton". 

    But occasionally people will arrive at my blog by googling very specific questions such as "Why does Megan's pee stink?" and "Why doesn't my daughter love me?" These are both actual searches that have led people to my blog and not just once or twice but multiple times.

    I always scoff at these Google requests because even though Google has a wealth of information, Google is not familiar with Megan and he certainly doesn't know why some random little girl doesn't love her mother. 

    But this afternoon I have become the person I mock.

    In a desperate attempt to purchase the very last gift on my list, I googled "What should I get Uncle Ronnie for Christmas?" 

    Oh, yes I did. 

    But alas, Google has failed me.  It directed me to some forums where other desperate people were asking random strangers what they should get their uncle/grandfather/dad/mom/sister for Christmas as well.

    It also let me know  if I was searching for a person named Ronnie Christmas then has found him! 

    So I shamefully backed away from Google no wiser than before I started and began my search in earnest again. 

    I came up with a couple of ideas that I need to run by my husband first so I don't make the same mistake I made 11 Christmases ago when I purchased Uncle Ronnie a set of battery operated heated socks.  (What?  He lives in Massachusetts.  It gets cold there! I thought it was a great gift but apparently I was the only one.)

    Hmmmm...perhaps he could use the battery operated gloves....

    Tuesday, December 13, 2011

    The Sculpture Garden Ice Skating Rink - Washington, DC

    When we were visiting Dan's sister on Thanksgiving weekend, we went ice skating at an open air rink in Washington, DC. 

    This was the kids first time skating and they did great!  I was so proud of them.

    Peter was very determined to do it on his own once he got a quick lesson from Aunt Cathy.  Sarah liked staying close to the rail in case she needed to grab on.

    I stayed on the sidelines and took pictures. And what horrible pictures they were.  Most of them contained random stranger's heads as they whizzed by or other people's bottoms zooming past my children.

    I wanted to cut off the music, grab the microphone and tell everyone to exit the rink so that I could get some decent pictures of my children ice skating for the first time.

    But alas, security wouldn't allow that so here is a random sampling of what I was left with:

    It was a great afternoon and the kids, though tired, were proud of trying something new and already asking when they could ice skate again!

    Monday, December 12, 2011

    Pink Panthers.

    Sarah had her first basketball game of the season on Saturday.  This is her third year playing but the first year that she gets to be on an all girl team.

    She still doesn't really understand the difference between offense and defense or what exactly she should be doing when she's on the court, but I have high hopes for her this season.  Her coaches are really great this year and since she is on a team with all girls her chances of actually getting to touch a ball during the game have increased dramatically. (Little boys are ball hogs and do not like to pass to little girls even when their coach is yelling at them to pass it.  At least that has been our experience.)

    Here is a picture of her before the game.

    Who loves herself and thinks she should be a model?
    Sarah's team, the Pink Panthers, got creamed on Saturday.  The final score was 29 to 9.  The other girls were giants.  Sarah is a fairly good sized 2nd grader and these girls were towering over her.  (The teams are made of 2nd and 3rd graders so the other team could have been all 3rd graders but even so, they were taller than Peter who is a tall 3rd grader.)

    But enough excuses.  The other team was just plain better.  But that's okay because the way I see it, there's only one way to go from here!

    And on a positive note, a teammate did pass Sarah the ball and she actually took a shot.  It did not go in but it hit the rim.  I was so excited you would have thought she nailed a three-pointer. 

    I'm looking forward to the next game, which thanks to a bye next week and the holidays, isn't until January.  Hopefully by then I will be able to figure out how to take decent action shots!

    Do you see my normal sized 2nd grader surrounded by all of those giants? Ringers!

    Saturday, December 10, 2011

    Sparkle finally gets his mischief on!

    When Peter was in first grade, he learned about the Elf on the Shelf from his teacher.  They had one that visited the classroom to keep an eye on the kids and report back to Santa.  Apparently the elf moved around every night when the kids were gone and no one was allowed to touch him or he would loose his magic.

    We were over visiting my grandmother that December and the kids noticed that she had an elf out as part of her Christmas decorations.  The elf was old - she had it for years and years she said.  (She had it before the whole Elf on the Shelf became a huge industry thanks to a book and kids that love Christmas magic!) Her elf started as a Chrsitmas tree ornament but because it was pretty large, she kept in sitting out on a little shelf at Christmas.

    Anyway, when the kids saw it at her house they went crazy! She being the good great-grandmother that she is, told them that they could have it.  And so, her elf was named Sparkle and taken to our house.

    Sparkle, being an older elf, moves around at night to keep an eye on the kids but doesn't get into mischief like all the other elves our there apparently do.  Thanks to the internet and friends, Peter and Sarah have learned that other elves get into trouble at night and some bring gifts.  I told that kids that due to our elf's age, he probably didn't feel like getting into much mischief.

    But yesterday right before bed, Sarah pleaded with Sparkle to please do something mischievous while we were all sleeping.  And look what we woke up to:

    Sparkles toilet papered the mantle while hanging out of a stocking!

    Look at the mischievous sparkle in Sparkle's eyes!
    When I asked Sarah who got to clean up the mess, she replied, "You do!"  I think I'm going to ask Sparkle to do it!

    Friday, December 9, 2011

    7 Quick Takes

    1.  Still trying to get all of my Christmas shopping done.  I've never been a fan of Christmas shopping.  I think it's because I get very overwhelmed at the thought of buying all those gifts at once.  The sheer volume of the task just takes away the joy.  And every year I declare that "Next year will be different!  Next year I will start shopping in October and be done by Thanksgiving!"  And every year, I never do it.  But, y'all - "Next year will be different!  Next year I will start shopping in October and be done by Thanksgiving!"

    2.  Aunt Cathy sent the kids a Jacquie Lawson Advent Calendar again this year.  The kids love it!  And I must admit, so do I.  It's an online Advent calendar with beautiful artwork and beautiful scenes that move and are interactive.  This years calendar is London at Christmas and we are having so much fun with it!  Thanks Aunt Cathy!

    3.  Sarah's first basketball game of the season is tomorrow.  She is less than thrilled.  She was so excited about playing basketball again this year, but didn't get on her friend Lily's team and now doesn't seem interested in it at all.   Reminds me of the time she took gymnastics for two months and then became completed uninterested when her friend got moved up to the next level and she didn't because she had just started. So Sarah decided she wanted to quit.  She has just recently taught herself how to do a cart wheel and is almost able to do an unassisted handstand.  Guess who wants to take gymnastics again now that she can do these things? maybe she really doesn't like basketball because she isn't as good as the other girls on her team.

    4. It was 31 degrees when I went for my run this morning but I stayed warm and toasty thanks to my new running gloves and cap.  The cap even has a hole in the back so my pony tail can hang out.

    5. As the kids were leaving for school this morning, I heard Sarah say to Dan, "Is it ugly shirt day at your work today?"  We are still trying to teach Sarah not to say every thing that pops into her head - especially the hurtful things.  Clearly, we have a long way to go.

    6.  And speaking of Sarah and Dan, here's a picture she drew for him.  He's been working late this week and she hasn't gotten to see him very much.  He's also had customers visiting so he has had to wear a suit and tie to work every day which is unusal for him.  She drew this picture of the two of them:

    7.  Peter has faithfully been watering his seeds for his science fair project and faithfully recording what he has been doing, how much water he has been giving each pot, any observations, etc.  And nothing.  We have tried two different types of seeds and nothing.  21 days of watering and recording and we've got nothing.   I guess we won't be submitting a project this year. Or we could do a project board on the fact that we got nothing!  Wonder if that would win any awards?

    For more award-winning Quick Takes, visit Jennifer at Conversion Diary.

    Thursday, December 8, 2011

    Hot Chocolate Cookies

    The kids helped me bake cookies today as part of a project for school.  The cookies will be sent to a local Hospice House for the patients and their families.

    I wanted to try something different than a regular chocolate chip cookie. Although in my opinion, you can't go wrong with a regular chocolate chip cookie.  I was just afraid the Hospice House might get lots of regular chocolate chip cookies and the recipients might appreciate something with a little twist!

    I found a recipe for Hot Chocolate Cookies on Recipe Shoebox.  Check out her blog - there are so many great recipes on it for the holidays.  She even made homemade marshmallows!

    These cookies were easy to make which was nice since I had two little helpers.  They weren't messy to make and they came together pretty quickly - which was nice since I had two little helpers!

    Best of all - they were delicious.  (And why wouldn't they be?  They are made with three kinds of chocolate chips, hot chocolate mix and marshmallows!)

     Here's the recipe:

    Hot Chocolate Cookies

    From the Recipe Shoebox

    The ingredients:
    1 cup softened butter
    1 cup sugar
    ⅔ cup brown sugar
    2 large eggs
    1 tsp. vanilla
    3-¼ cups all-purpose flour
    4 packets hot chocolate mix
    1 tsp. salt
    1-¼ tsp. baking soda
    1 cup  white chocolate chips
    1 cup milk chocolate chips (I only had semi-sweet chips in the house, so I just added another cup in place of the milk chocolate chips)
    1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
    1 cup mini marshmallows

    Cream butter and sugars until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla until combined. In a separate bowl, combine flour, hot chocolate mix, salt and baking soda. Add to wet ingredients until well combined. NOTE:  Mixture will be thick.  Fold in chips.

     Scoop dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

    Bake at 350 degrees for about 7 minutes, remove pan from oven, then working quickly press 3-4 mini marshmallows into the top of each cookie...pressing them down into the partially baked dough so the cookie will flatten slightly and the marshmallows will not fall out.  Replace cookies in oven and bake an additional 2-3 minutes, or until edges and marshmallows are light golden brown.  Let cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan. 


    Monday, December 5, 2011

    You would think at 7 and 9 they could cooperate.

    I tried on two separate occassions to take the kid's picture for our Christmas card. 

    I thought got a couple of decent shots from the first attempt until I looked at them on the computer and realized that Peter had a big smear of pizza sauce on his chin.  Lovely.

    After the second attempt, in which Peter's brow was furrowed so deeply and the "smile" on his face so pained looking he looked as if he should be holding up a copy of today's newspaper and reading a speech written for him by his captors, and in which Sarah's grin made her look like an evil elf about to embark on some sort of devilish Christmas prank, this was the best I could do:

    Sunday, December 4, 2011

    I have a lock so why don't I use it?

    I was just stepping into the shower as Sarah barged into the bathroom.

    She paused briefly and said, "Don't worry, I won't laugh."

    "Laugh at what?" I asked a little perturbed because I knew what she meant.

    "Oh, um, never mind."

    Guess I'll remember to lock the bathroom door next time!

    Saturday, December 3, 2011

    Candle Tea

    One of the nice things about living where we do, is that we are near Old Salem.

    Salem was founded in 1766 by the Moravians – a Protestant group of people that began in what is now known as the Czech Republic. The Moravians were missionaries who established an earlier settlement in Bethlehem, PA before beginning "Wachovia" in the North Carolina back-country in 1753. In the Wachovia Tract of nearly 100,000 acres, Salem was the central administrative, spiritual, craft, and professional town surrounded by five outlying congregations.

    Old Salem is made up of many of the original structures and is manned by volunteers who give tours in Colonial garb.  It's a very cool place to visit if you are ever around the Winston-Salem area.

    Every Christmas, Home Moravian Church sponsors the Candle Tea.  The Candle Tea is held in the Single Brother's House.  You get to see how early Moravians would have made the beeswax candles that are still used in Moravian Christmas Eve services and you get to see the Moravian putz which is a replica of early Salem and the Nativity putz and you get to munch on some delicious Moravian cookies.

    I got to attend the Candle Tea with Sarah's Brownie troop on Saturday morning.  Here are a few pictures that I took:

    The Brownies and Daisies waiting to go in.  Don't you love it when 12 moms line up to take pictures and no one is looking at the same camera at the same time?  I don't!

    The lady in pink is telling us how the Moravians made beeswax candles in the mid-1700s.

    Pouring hot wax into the molds.

    This lady is trimming the candles.

    This young man was doing quality control and cutting the bottom off the candles so that they are all 6 1/2 inches long.

    A try of complete candles and a Moravian Advent wreath.

    Pretty wreath hanging in the window.

    Lily and Sarah waiting on their cookies!

    In the kitchen of the Single Brother's House hearing about how the Moravians used to cook their food.

    Dried chili's hanging in the kitchen.  (Love the light on this one!)

    Part of the very large putz depicting early Salem.

    Another section of the putz.

    Thursday, December 1, 2011

    It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas and taste a lot like Old San Juan.

    We put up the Christmas tree on Thanksgiving night.  We turned on the all music channel on TV and were amazed that the entire time we were putting up the tree we didn't hear one repeat song - unlike on the radio where it seems they only have 20 Christmas songs.

    And I made a batch of guacomole because nothing says "Deck The Halls" like a big bowl of guac and chips.

    The kids did a great job putting on the ornaments - they actually spread them out instead of putting them all in the same spot. What a difference two years makes. Further proof that my babies are growing up.