Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas Eve and Day 2011

We were so excited to be able to have Aunt Cheryl and Uncle Mark spend Christmas with us this year. It'd been a while since we had seen them, so it was nice to have some time together. We also got to celebrate Cheryl finishing her masters from Kellog, at Northwestern.

This year, we decided to do our big meal on Christmas Eve, so there would be no major cooking on Christmas Day, just playing with new toys! 

Our Christmas table, with the arrangement from Great-Grandma Tobin

And some of Brant's handiwork as a decoration!
We had gotten to Skype to Japan on their Christmas Eve morning (I think it was?!) and watched the kids open their gifts.  We had two elusive boxes that hadn't arrived yet, so we didn't know if we'd get to share opening gifts with them.  But the next morning, the Post Office came through and delivered our boxes. Boxes from Okinawa are always a hit, as there is always something special and unique in them, from a knick-knack or a yummy snack. This year didn't disappoint! Thanks so much Japan crew, we loved it all!  But the Pocky game was the biggest hit!
Opening one of the gifts, cool Japanese cartoon character figurines and  dragon!

It was starting to get late, we'd already tracked Santa across Asia and Europe, and he was in the Sandwich Islands.  It was time to sprinkle reindeer food and put out cookies and milk for Santa.

Cute bag of reindeer food, I love the fact that Brant put his initials BHDO on  the antlers, instead of writing out his whole name!

Sprinkle on one side of the yard

A lot on the other, where we thought Santa had a better landing zone.

Brady took to Cheryl and Mark quite well, and we couldn't resist a little Santa fun, but he'd not have much to do with it!

A silly photo with Santa's milk and cookies, and an extra special  treat, a Santa chocolate from our local chocolate shop
Bedtime was accomplished without too much fuss and Brant actually slept until about 7:30 the next morning. An impatient wait for Grandma to come up to see Santa presents opened, and he was off and running. Do you remember the wait to get into the living room? I do, Dad had to have his coffee in hand, video camera running, Mom all ready, it seemed forever.  And here we repeat the same! But that sight of your child, glimpsing the gifts Santa left is priceless.  Of course, we all know the real reason for CHRISTmas!

The new sled, Santa said in his letter to Brant that it was the "elves' latest design"

An amphibious remote control. It even runs in the pool! well, we've not tried that yet, but will!

This could be described as the Lego Christmas!
Moving on to Mommy and Daddy gifts, Brant got a Phanatic Pillow Pet

And he'd hardly noticed the Wii, until he got to the games

This is the gift that had driven him nuts for a week.  He just couldn't figure out what it might be!

It was an expedition set!

The tent HAD to be set up, the lantern (with campfire setting) had to be readied and the  binocular tested

Of course, Marine camoflauge is always a hit!
Where did he go?

Whew, resting on his sled.  Opening presents is exhausting!
The rest of the day consisted of a delicious baked French Toast casserole, naps, building with Lincoln Logs and Legos. Oh, Legos!  Santa left 4 sets, and Cheryl and Mark brought two more.  In the course of 2 days, they were all finished.  That boy can build!

Brady liked his new toy from his stocking, he always snuggles his  toys in his chair.
I don't know about you all, but a day or so after Christmas is a massive kid's room reorganizing, trying to fit in new toys. We had so many Legos, Brant now has them all displayed on the top of his shelves.  And I THINK I have a Lego kit organization plan.  I THINK...(have you ever tried to dig through a tub of Legos to find one specific piece?)
Organizing his new Lego firestation
So, that is a wrap up of our Christmas!  Other highlights (for those who want to know) include a new camera for Grandma, Elon shirts for Cheryl and Mark, a new Nerf gun (courtesy of little B) for Daddy, and a new Kindle for me (boys totally surprised me!)

And I guess, in the next few days it'll be time to de-Christmas, as we head back to school and such. But what a great vacation we've had!  I'm sure we'll get into some more fun in the next few days, as Daddy is still off.  Merry Christmas to everyone, and a very Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Gingerbread cookies 2011

Christmas craft day being a great success, we planned on making cookies later in the day.  Of course, the best laid plans go awry, and we had another busy afternoon, with a playdate with pal Christopher and running some last minute errands. 

We finally got the dough mixed up that evening, and into the fridge, all ready for the cookie making operation the next day.   Cutters out, floured rolling pins, it was cookie time!

Cutting out the shapes

Still cutting, it was the never ending dough. We were going to  make sugar cookies as well,  but we had so many cookies already!

And now, the icing fun!  I cheated a bit this year and didn't make our icing, as it's usually  too runny to be any fun. Instead we used Betty Crocker's cookie icing, which wasn't that bad, and much more fun.

We had a lot of fun, cinnamon red hots on gingerbread, yummy!

Brant, the icing artist

We love his cookies, the one second from the left, bottom row, was made especially for Santa
All in all, 2011 cookie day was a delicious success!  There is nothing better than watching a child's creativity come out!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Craft Day

 It wasn't planned, but as usual, all of Mommy's crafty tendencies get repressed during the school year, breaking free during holiday breaks. And the other crafter in the family (well, cook, helper, builder, you name it, he's doing it) was all too ready to help with some holiday projects.

We decided that Brady needed a stocking, and looking high and low, couldn't find one that we all liked (or could afford for that matter, geez!).  We made one last stop at Target, hoping to find one there, after visiting pet stores around and even in the mountains.  There, Brant spotted a "stitch your own stocking" kit, and the best thing is it was geared towards his age! A little glitter glue to personalize it and we had a stocking for Brady!
Stitching in his jammies

Making sure his stitches went over/under, not looped.  (Those lacing cards are very beneficial, what man doesn't need to know how to stitch something up?)
The final step, decorating! Mommy traced Brady's name in pencil and Brant went over it with glue, but those little tubes were hard to squeeze!

 As the stocking was drying on the counter, it was time for the second project of the day.  I say day, but it was still before noon, but who cares what time it was that we still had jammies on, it's vacation, people!
Same trip to Target, Brant picked out the gingerbread house kit he wanted to make. It was pretty funny, Mommy and Brant choosing between the two kits, Mommy trying to tell Brant we needed THIS one because it came with the candy, Brant insisting the one he had did too.  Well, he was right...when I turned the box around to his side, there it was!! Can't get much by that boy these days!
Seriously, TA DA, it's standing!! This was the best kit, the icing in it was perfect!

Putting the lights on the roof. Brant was able to a surprising amount of the kit, and it was really fun (we did a village another year...look at it here
  Ok, for all of you who hesitate making a gingerbread house, Brant and I had a blast AND we raided his Halloween candy that was left (almost all of it) to make it our own...extra peppermints from the parade, Twizlers for shutters, it's creativity at it's best!

Daddy just said he was going to eat it when he got home from work! (notice the addition of coconut snow!)

Of course, sitting still that long requires a bit of wrestling with Doggie!
Cookies were to come later!

Grandma and Brant's first visit to Biltmore

It's amazing how we don't do things in our own state, always traveling around to do things on vacations out of state.  Grandma has lived in NC for over 20 years, yet had never visited Biltmore Estate.  Big B had been before we were married, with his parents, and we returned for our first anniversary for my first visit.  While thinking of things to do on the way back from Bryson City, a visit to Biltmore at Christmas popped into mind.  So Sunday morning, after gathering our stuff, we headed off to Asheville.

While loving the gorgeous house decorated for Christmas, and seeing some of the newly renovated rooms we'd not seen before, we decided a return visit in the spring or summer is in the works, as the gardens weren't at their peak, and there were just so many people it was hard to absorb the surroundings. But it was such fun to see Mom and Brant see the grandeur of the home for the first time.   When I just asked Brant what his favorite thing about Biltmore was, he replied, "everything!"  (he was impressed by the pool and the old fashioned bathing costume, which he said was a swimming dress!)

No photos were allowed inside (or it would have been one of those hundred + photo ops for me), so these we snapped after our tour.
Lion in front of the home

The boys, Brant squealing, because Daddy was teasing he was going to tip him off the railing.

On the lawn 

A little family you can see, it did get chillier

And with Grandma!

Brant at the fountain

And from the esplande in front of the home. The tree was brought in as a Christmas tree. The one in the great room wasn't much smaller!

Running up the hill to the statue of Diana, where Cornelia Vanderbilt's  swing set used to be. If you turned directly 180 around, you'd see the photo below.  Can't hear a child cry from there!

And the boys, Big B and Little B, love those guys!

So after our ride home, and dinner out, we headed home to start our vacation at home!