May 2018

May 2018

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Ready for 2014

After working out and dealing with some EOY tax stuff, I decided to tackle my craft room this afternoon. My craft table is hidden under holiday odds and ends and IKEA items. In order to clear it, I need to clean, purge, and reorganize my closet and shelves. I doubt this project will get done this year! LOL

But I really want a cleared table by tomorrow afternoon because I've decided to use a physical planner in 2014. I'm a visual hands-on person and feel the digital planners I've been using for several years won't work for this year's intentions. In 2014, I want to keep closer track of spending, set timeframes for creative projects, and schedule more physical activity. And the planner needs to be in the craft room because I spend more time there these days than in the home office.

I'm looking forward to the new year in a way I've never felt before. I suspect it's because 2014 will be the first year in many I won't have to manage mom's finances and health care. Also, in 2014 we will submit our final tax return for the business because I closed the books March 30, 2013. Plus the next home improvement project may not happen in 2014, but, if it does, it should only take a few days.

Yes, I have a good feeling about 2014. I just pray my instincts are correct!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Fun Weekend

We took a quick trip to Chicago over the weekend. We left Saturday morning and drove straight to the Museum of Science and Industry. It's just over six hours from St. Louis if you include a lunch break.

I mainly wanted to see MSI's exhibit of Christmas trees from around the world. But the special exhibit, Treasures of Walt Disney Archives, I chose, that was included with our general admission, turned out to be much more fun.

The 45-Foot Grand Tree.
I'm assuming this year's Grand Tree had a Disney theme
because of the special Disney exhibit.
A small sampling of the 50+ trees on exhibit.
There were photo opportunities at every turn!
See the Mickey ears behind the trees?
This prop was used in the filming
of Sleeping Beauty, my favorite
childhood fairytale and film.
The real Zorro costume!
I was a big fan of the TV show.
This castle created with Lego bricks
is a work in progress.
Tom Hanks wore this tuxedo in the
current film, Saving Mr. Banks.
This is the prop used at the beginning
of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,
my daughter's favorite fairytale.
The carpet bag from Mary Poppins!
Part of the Treasures of Walt Disney Archives exhibit
was the opportunity to participate in the Disney
Animation Academy. I'm quite proud of my Minnie.

After our afternoon at the museum, we met my sister and her family for dinner. She has four adult children and they were all able to join us. It was a great visit.

On Sunday we shopped IKEA before heading home. I'd heard so much about IKEA from friends, relatives, and YouTube crafters that I was eager to experience it for myself. I was not disappointed and am definitely an IKEA fan now. It'll be so nice to have one closer, in St. Louis, in 2015.

It was definitely an enjoyable weekend – fun activities and a nice little getaway.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Powerful Number

This morning I had to see the doctor due to ear pain. I didn't know if it was wax or an infection left from the virus I had a couple weeks ago. Turns out it was wax buildup, which I was told is normal after a virus. It took nearly 20 minutes to flush out all the wax, but I immediately felt better.

As always happens before seeing the doctor, the nurse made me weigh in, took my temperature, and checked my blood pressure. No temperature and my blood pressure was 122/80. And, shockingly, I had dropped four pounds.

Before getting on the scale, I told the nurse I didn't want to know how much I weighed unless it was down from my last visit. I just hate how powerful that number is. So many times in my life, I've felt good and thought I looked good until I got on the scale. Then, after finding I had gained weight, even if just a pound or two, I would get depressed, frustrated, and then angry.

In fact, because I'm so tired of how that number effects my mood, I've stopped weighing myself at home. Instead, I'm continually making small healthy adjustments to my diet and working out more with a goal of staying an active grandma for as long as possible.

If weight loss happens in the process, well, that would be nice. But the number on the scale is no longer going to be as powerful as it's been in the past.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Breaking Down Christmas

Even though the Christmas decorations have only been up three weeks, I'm itching to box it all up. So, since the job falls completely on me, I decided to start dismantling while I had some time and was in the mood. I put the stockings and their holders away, and packed up most of what was in the dining room. I'll try to hold off on the rest until New Year's Day, but I'm eager to get it done.

This is the first year I've felt this way. I think it's because, for most of this year, so much of my house was a mess due to the kitchen remodel. I had just gotten things back to normal when it was time to decorate for Halloween, then Thanksgiving, and then Christmas.

I do some decorating for Valentine's Day mostly because it's my oldest grandson's birthday. But it's nothing like what happens for the fall holidays and Christmas. Don't get me wrong. I enjoy decorating for holidays. It's just that, this year, I need my tidy home back!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

December Daily – Day 25

Wednesday, December 25

Merry Christmas!

After seeing what Santa brought the grandsons, we went to 11:00 A.M. mass. After mass, it was time for lunch at McCormick & Schmick's Seafood and Steaks, a cost and calorie splurge.

We started with Blue Crab Dip served with pita chips. For the main course, hubby had swordfish and I had tilapia. Then it was time for dessert. Hubby and I usually share dessert when eating out, but today we each got our own because they all sounded amazing. Hubby got the Upside Down Candied Walnut Apple Pie. I got the decadent Chocolate Bag and ended up taking two-thirds of it home.

Cashew Crusted Tilapia
with Jamaican Rum Butter and
Sweet Potato Couscous
Upside Down Candied Walnut Apple Pie
served with Cinnamon Ice Cream
Chocolate Bag filled with White Mousse and Fresh Berries
We ended the day watching movies using our Roku. It was a true holiday, a day filled with indulgences.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

December Daily – Day 24

Tuesday, December 24

All the planning, buying, and preparing, and it's over in an afternoon. Actually we did scale way back this year and it all worked out fine. We also spent much less than other years and everyone seemed happy.

So, beginning this year, we have a new, much less stressful, holiday standard. And that's one of the best presents I've ever received!

Monday, December 23, 2013

December Daily – Day 23

Monday, December 23

Our gift exchange happens on Christmas Eve after lunch. So today I've been cleaning and. . .

. . .setting the table. . .
. . .and filling the stockings. . .

. . .and placing gifts under the tree. . .
. . .and on the hearth.

Every year our guests find a favor under the Santa hat on their plate. This year everyone's getting a Mrs. Prindables caramel-and-chocolate-covered apple. They're bigger than favors of past years, so the Santa hat is sitting askew on top.

The blue boxes on the hearth are art cases for the grandsons. Each case is filled with markers, colored pencils, crayons, a ruler, a tape runner, a pad of construction paper, and a ream of copy paper. They will stay at our house under the bed in the boys's room. Now each boy will be well equipped for creative play when they visit.

A December Daily typically ends with Christmas Day, so that's my plan with my blog version. I have to say it's been an enlightening exercise. I truly had no idea before that every day from December 1-25 includes some sort of holiday activity.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

December Daily – Day 22

Sunday, December 22

I just finished making Ina Garten's Chicken Pot Pie to be served for lunch on Christmas Eve. The first time I made Ina's pot pie I followed the recipe exactly. The next year Panera Bread added a Chicken Stew to their fall menu that tasted a lot like the filling of Ina's pie. And that's when I decided to simplify my Christmas Eve menu and serve "Chicken Pot Pie Sans Crust." Except this year it's "Turkey Pot Pie Sans Crust."

Chicken or turkey, it's a tasty make-ahead one-dish meal. Just add rolls!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

December Daily – Day 21

Saturday, December 21

Today my daughter and I took my youngest grandson to see The Nutcracker at the Touhill Performing Arts Center. Three-year-old Jonah has been taking dance for six months, and enjoys listening to music, singing, and watching dance shows. Since I'm all for cultivating the boys's healthy interests, I decided we should expose Jonah to a live production.

In preparation, I bought The Story of the Nutcracker Ballet, suitable for children three to seven, and have been reading it to Jonah for the past two weeks. To my delight, after reading the book just once, Jonah began requesting it before every nap time. And, with each reading, he asked more questions and pointed out different details in the illustrations.

Our outing started with lunch at La Bonne Bouchee where we were surprised to see Santa. I picked the restaurant but had no idea they had hired a Santa to hang out all weekend. And he was a realistic-looking Santa who was extremely good with children. Lunch was a delight!

Next we drove to Touhill while Jonah fought sleeping in the car for a short nap. Unfortunately, he didn't sleep well last night, spending too much time talking with his stuffed animals, which is becoming a real problem. Things weren't looking good.

Nevertheless, we did make it through the first half without too much trouble. Jonah had a lot of questions, but at least we then knew he was watching and interested. It was after intermission when Jonah completely feel apart and we ended up leaving half way through the second half.

Sitting through an entire ballet was probably too much to ask of a three-year-old, but I'm glad we tried. I do think it was an experience Jonah will remember.

Friday, December 20, 2013

December Daily – Day 20

Friday, December 20

The holiday break for students in our school district began today. But it was a Work Day for the teachers, so my daughter worked and my oldest grandson spent the day with me. Later Elliott and I decided to keep the fun going with a sleepover.

Most of the day we spent at the mall, shopping before and after seeing Frozen, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The animation was beautiful; the characters were likable; and the music was pleasant. To me Frozen was reminiscent of my childhood animated films such as Cinderella, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty. I wish the snowman had been less goofy looking, but overall I was surprisingly entertained.

I rarely go to the mall and tried not to look too hard, but the sales were fantastic. As my grandson pointed out, however, "if you spend too much then a sale isn't that great." Such a wise seven-year-old!

So I ended up shopping at only four stores, making each stop a quick one. First I hit Archiver's Scrapbooking Store where Elliott picked out paper for his Cub Scout album. I was surprised to find everything was 30% off, including clearance items. I could have gone nuts! But, except for the Cub Scout items, I limited my purchases to clearance items that were already discounted 25% and escaped spending less than $30.

Next we ran into Christopher and Banks where I had hoped to purchase a Nutcracker scarf I saw last fall. But all their holiday scarfs were long gone. Instead, they were already selling their Valentine's Day scarf. I've never paid full price at C and B until today, but decided to grab the heart scarf since I have no plans of returning to the mall any time soon. Elliott's birthday is on Valentine's Day, so I felt it was a good splurge and he was happy I bought it. Later I decided I'm going to wear it during the holidays, too, since it's red and white.

We then ran into New York & Company after I spotted a red blouse from the doorway. I thought it would be great for Christmas and Valentine's day, and would look great with my new scarf. Regularly $39.95, I paid $15!

Our final stop was Bath & Body Works where I replenished my stock of Gentle Foaming Hand Soap. Of course, it was also on sale. Normally $5.50, I got six for $20. It's the only hand soap I use with the grandsons. They just make way too much mess with liquid soap.

By the time we left the mall around 2:30 P.M., the crowds were gathering. And, again, I was grateful for online shopping!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

December Daily – Day 19

Thursday, December 19

This morning I made reservations for Christmas lunch at McCormick and Schmick's Seafood and Steaks. In the recent past, on Christmas Day, hubby and I would visit the grandsons to see what Santa brought, go to 11:00 A.M. mass, and end the day with a movie. But this year I decided I didn't want movie theatre popcorn for my main Christmas meal, and thought the special occasion was a good opportunity to try a nicer new restaurant. The majority of McCormick and Schmick's online reviews are excellent, so I'm hoping for the best.

Today was my last Jonah Day until January 2. So, for the next couple of weeks, I should have more "me" time. My plan is to workout more, prepare for tax season, and do a lot of crafting. Again, I'm hoping for the best!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

December Daily – Day 18

Wednesday, December 18

I wasn't sure I would make cookies this year, but decided they would be as good as any dessert after our Christmas Eve lunch. So, this morning, I made the dough for Salty Chocolate Chunk Cookies and Cranberry Noels. I froze the dough for the Cranberry Noels to bake off Monday. The Salty Chocolate Chunk Cookies I'll bake this afternoon and then freeze.

Cranberry Noels are my favorite homemade cookie. I only make them once a year because they are way too tempting. And, unfortunately, the grandsons won't eat them because of the pecans, leaving all the calories to the adults.

But since I don't put nuts in the Salty Chocolate Chunk Cookies, the boys will devour them. I don't blame them. Awhile back, I tested several chocolate chip cookie recipes and Bon Appetit's was the clear winner. That little bit of salt that hits your tongue just before the gooey chocolate chip cookie is the magic.

Yep, these cookies will do nicely for Christmas Eve dessert!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

December Daily – Day 17

Tuesday, December 17

Jonah picked out tags for himself
and his brother to hang on their
bedroom doors. I then added their
names on the back.
While Jonah was watching a Thomas the Tank Engine Christmas show this morning, I assembled tags. I had been hoarding Mickey Mouse coasters for close to ten years, following a trip to Disney World. My daughter's family is Disney crazy, so when I uncovered the coasters recently I decided to cut circle mats for them, using my Cricut. Now Emily can use the coasters for gift tags, ornaments, or (Jonah's idea) door hangers.

These woodland trees turned
out cuter than expected.
Next Jonah and I decorated woodland trees I made by gluing snow-cone cups to toilet paper rolls. I punched circles from my holiday paper scraps and ran them through my 2" Xyron. To get the circles to stick 100% to the waxed cones, we should have used a stronger adhesive. When working with Jonah, however, I always want the project to be simple with little-to-no mess. Besides, because some of the circles have areas sticking up, I think the trees look more whimsical.
Even without seeing the mice,
these trees are cute and festive.

You'll notice there is a mouse hiding under two of the trees. While I had my Cricut out yesterday, I played a little. When I made them, I had no idea how I would use the mice. But they ended up fitting nicely under the trees and look adorable!

Monday, December 16, 2013

December Daily – Day 16

Monday, December 16

Short post today. This morning, I finally got back to the gym after a two week absence. This afternoon, I prepped for projects to do with Jonah tomorrow and finished the Lego holiday village. Pictures to come!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

December Daily – Day 15

Sunday, December 15

Today we went to the Museum of Transportation so the boys could tell Santa what they want for Christmas. It's sad to think this might be the last year Elliott believes in Santa. He'll be eight next year and in third grade.

But while this might have been Elliott's last year, it was Jonah's first year to really get excited about talking with Santa. However, he did demand to know if that was the actual person who was coming to his house. I suspect Jonah is already suspicious about one Santa being in so many places at one time.

My little Elliott is so big.
This is the first year we got a picture of Jonah smiling with Santa.

After our visit with Santa, and a tour of the Museum of Transportation's holiday train displays, we went to my daughter's house to decorate the gingerbread cookies I made yesterday. Jonah thought the idea was to decorate a cookie and then immediately eat it!

After eating his big gingerbread man, Jonah decorated the tree
and quickly consumed it too!
Elliott transforming a gingerbread man into a ninja.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

December Daily – Day 14

Saturday, December 14

This is what we woke up to this morning – absolutely magical!

Again, this type of precipitation and the below freezing temperatures are not normal for Missouri this early in the season, and no guarantee of a white Christmas. In fact, if the extended forecast doesn't change, all this snow and ice will be long gone before the 25th.

This afternoon I glued the trees Jonah made to ribbon for hanging, and made gingerbread cookies. I used a Trader Joe's box mix for the cookies as I have the last several years. It never fails and makes the job super simple with little mess.

Friday, December 13, 2013

December Daily – Day 13

Friday, December 13

I was going to make, bake, and freeze gingerbread cookies today for decorating with the grandsons next week, but decided to clean floors instead. Not nearly as much fun, but had to be done.

Lego Holiday Bakery
Nevertheless, I still did some holiday prep today. I've been working on my Lego Holiday Bakery. It's the 2011 holiday set, but I never had time to put it together during the holidays until now. I also have the Lego Winter Village Post Office and Lego Winter Village Toy Shop I put together a few years ago. I got hooked after helping Elliott with sets when he first got interested in Lego.

Lego Winter Village Toy Shop
There's a little nook just outside our kitchen we've set up as a library. You might remember the long bookcase I showed you a few posts back with my Jim Shore nativity scene. For years, the only other pieces of furniture in the nook were a club chair and ottoman. We donated those pieces before the kitchen remodel. So this is the first holiday there's a small game table and two chairs in the nook. (I purchased the table and chairs decades ago from an antique store.) Turns out the game table is the perfect spot to display my Lego village.

Lego Winter Village Post Office
I'll share pictures when it's finished. But it's been a wonderful project to share with the boys. We're all having a lot of fun finding just the right spot for each piece. And a new holiday tradition is born!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

December Daily – Day 12

Thursday, December 12

Today was a Jonah Day, so we did more Christmas art projects. First Jonah filled glass ornaments with beads and then I added ribbon. Next Jonah stuck circles I punched out of paper scraps onto green paper plates forming trees.

Our other holiday activity today was Elliott's music concert this evening. I was delighted to find it wasn't typical holiday music. In fact only two of the five songs were remotely holiday related with a winter and snow theme. And all of the songs were delivered in a fun jive fashion. "Hats off" to the music teacher!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

December Daily – Day 11

Wednesday, December 11

I finally felt well enough today to run a number of errands. After a week of mainly staying home, it was weird to be out and about on my own for several hours.

The day started with a trip to the dentist. I rescheduled the replacement of two right-side fillings. I'm definitely not well enough for that torture. But I couldn't put off having the left-side fillings I had replaced a month ago chiseled down. My bite had been off since the procedure and I'm so glad it's finally fixed.

After the thankfully short dentist visit, I played Santa, dropping off toys at the police station for Toys for Tots and mailing gifts to my son and daughter-in-law. Unfortunately Uncle Dan and Aunt Zuae can't come home for Christmas this year. When they moved to New York City from South Korea, we had hoped to see them more often. But whether in NYC or across the world, the lack of time and money still prevails.

Next I hit Jo-Ann's for some Christmas gift boxes and inspiration for more Jonah projects. It seemed as if everything was on sale or clearance, which was awesome. Especially since today was Senior Day when anyone 60 or older got an additional 20% off their entire purchase.

From Jo-Ann's, I went to the grocery store to get a couple of ingredients for the butternut squash and pear soup I plan to make this afternoon. I was pleasantly surprised to also find most of the cookie decorating items at nearly half off. Every year I make gingerbread men, houses, and trees for the grandsons to decorate and had been putting off getting the icing and embellishments because of the cost. This is one time I'm glad I waited.

And since Michael's is next door to the grocery store, I ran in hoping to find a couple of items to complement what I had bought at Jo-Ann's for tomorrow's crafting session with Jonah. Most of Michael's holiday items were 70% off, so I got what I needed and spent less than $3.00.

So today was filled with a lot of holiday activity. . .nothing pressing just fun.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

December Daily – December 10

Tuesday, December 10

Today is a Jonah Day, so I had the opportunity to test a couple of the Christmas craft projects I had planned. Jonah did the snow-cone tree and beaded pipe-cleaner ornaments without any problems. He's a natural crafter and loves doing "projects."

I obviously need to come up with many more ideas. I guess it's a good thing I still have plenty of crafting stash as well as high-speed internet access!

Monday, December 9, 2013

December Daily – December 9

Monday, December 9

Sara always loves the
way I package her gifts :)
Today I delivered my first Christmas gift. After canceling twice (once for the foyer remodel and again last week due to illness), I finally got my bi-monthly facial today. I felt a little bad since my nose is raw, but Sara was very understanding and even applied some reparative lotion.

I'm feeling better, but I think this virus is going to linger a while longer. At least I did finally feel like cooking dinner tonight. Last week was mostly hubby picking something up on the way home.

However, my taste buds are shot. Very little tastes good. So, for dinner, I decided to up the spice quotient. I roasted vegetables with olive oil, oregano, and grated parmesan then tossed them with a little penne, Italian sausage, and spinach. I went back for seconds, so I guess it was just the jolt I needed!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

December Daily – Day 8

Sunday, December 8

For the last two years, hubby and I have enjoyed The Lafayette Square Holiday Parlor Tour. I was so looking forward to the tour, again, this year but, sadly, we had to pass. I'm still too sick and the weather is still too frigid. Apparently we had really lucked out the last couple of years with sun and above-freezing temperatures.

But, although I'm still moving at slow speed, we did manage some holiday cheer today. This afternoon we brought up the deer that sit in our sunroom all winter. It's nice to see their lights at night while we sit in our family room instead of looking into a big black space.

This picture gives you a view of most of our backyard. Our backyard together with the neighbor's equals nearly a half acre. It's an unusual amount of land for our area, which consists mainly of typical subdivision lots.

In the summer, all the dead brush you see fills in nicely with new growth and we can't see the yards and homes behind us. I'm not an outdoors person, but I do enjoy my privacy. Finding this home 30+ years ago was a true blessing.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

December Daily – Day 7

Saturday, December 7

The sun's out, but the high temperature for the day is predicted to be only in the mid twenties. That's cold for the St. Louis area, especially this early in the season. The snow we got Thursday night and, off and on, throughout the day yesterday is still here and more is expected tomorrow.

The frigid weather together with not feeling well is making me grateful I started preparing for Christmas months ago. I had 98% of the gifts purchased and wrapped before Thanksgiving. And the bulk of the Christmas cards were in the mail December 1. And, except for the new mercury glass trees I added to the mantel yesterday, all the decorating was done by December 2.

All that's really left to do is cook and serve Christmas Eve lunch.  Anything else is "icing on the cake." In other words, it's stuff that doesn't really need to happen, so there's no pressure. It's all just fun stuff.

An example is coming up with craft projects to do with the grandsons, especially Jonah since we're together all day on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Today I gathered all the supplies for this Trinity ornament. I already had the pipe cleaners and ribbon, so the only purchase was the bag of Christmas beads I got at Michael's with my 25% off coupon. Jonah loves to string beads, so I know he'll enjoy this project. Thanks, again, YouTube!

Friday, December 6, 2013

December Daily – Day 6

Friday, December 6

First let me wish you a "Happy St. Nicholas Day." When I was a kid, my sister, brother, and I would set out our shoes the night of December 5 in the hope St. Nick would fill them with oranges and nuts. My husband wasn't familiar with the tradition, but was all for continuing it with our children. I honestly don't remember what St. Nick left for our son and daughter, but doubt it was fruit and nuts. It was probably chocolate and maybe a small toy.

And now my daughter is continuing the tradition with her boys even though it was new to her husband as well. Her boys don't get fruit, nuts, or candy. Instead, each boy gets something off their Christmas list. And the tradition continues and grows.

Because both of my parents are mainly German, I always assumed our celebration of St. Nicholas Day was a German tradition. But when my husband and I visited Amsterdam, we learned St. Nicholas was dutch. In fact, most major cities in Amsterdam have a St. Nicholas church.

Then today I did a quick search and found St. Nicholas originated in France. So why we celebrated St. Nicholas's feast day as a kid is a mystery. I suspect someone started the tradition many generations ago and future generations just followed suit without question.

For what it's worth, there's more information about St. Nicholas day on Wikipedia.

Today was also our school district's first snow day of the season. I woke at 6:00 A.M. to learn there was no school and, therefore, no need for me to get Elliott on the school bus. Since I'm still sick, that was great news. I turned off the alarm clock and didn't get out of bed until 10:00 A.M.!

I spent the rest of the day watching Project Runway and Scandal, and making Christmas cards. I also unboxed the only new holiday decor item I purchased this year, a set of three mercury glass trees for the mantel. They're just what I had in mind. And I got them as an "As Is" item from QVC, saving $15 dollars. Yay!

So more holiday decor pictures today, including some vignettes I forgot to include a few days ago.

I display my trinket boxes on the dining room hutch
along with a cookie jar. The trinket boxes and cookie
jar change with the seasons.
By far, I have more trinket boxes for Christmas
than any other season.  
I took this picture with my back to the hutch. It took
years, but I finally love how the chandelier looks
for Christmas. I've been using this same look for
several years now.
This is the first year I split the stockings for a full view
of the electric fireplace. This setup also keeps the stockings
from blocking the fireplace's fan. But this setup also leaves
a big hole in the middle of the mantel, which is why I bought
the mercury trees.
The mercury trees include a light that can be set on a timer.
But since we have spotlights on the mantel, we won't
be using that feature.