May 2018

May 2018

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year!

Yesterday my daughter and I enjoyed a girls-only day. First we had lunch at the Ritz-Carlton and then we did some shopping. I indulged in a few deeply discounted items, but mostly found it easy to take a pass. I much prefer the simplified de-cluttered home I've worked hard to achieve this year.

And now another year is coming to an end. Hard to believe. But don't we always say that? Time marches on and the best we can do is make the most of it within our means. And that's my one-and-only resolution for 2015, and possibly for the rest of my life.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Weekend Recap

Christmas is over, but we've yet to slow down.

Friday, December 26

In the morning, we took breakfast to my daughter's where my son is staying and my dad was coming for a visit. The night before. I prepared a breakfast casserole that cook overnight in the crockpot. Hubby and I woke to amazing smells!

After breakfast, I went to the gym and after lunch tried to take a nap. No such luck, but I did chill in front of the television for a couple of hours.

For dinner, I took the holiday meal for six I picked up from Lucky's Market on December 23 to my daughter's where hubby joined us after work. We had ham, chorizo sausage dressing, sweet potato soufflĂ©, green beans, and cranberry sauce. For just $59.99, it was a yummy meal with minimal mess.

Saturday, December 27

Saturday started with a 10:00 A.M. viewing of Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb. It was a good choice for our group, appealing to the boys as well as papa and me.

After the movie, hubby and I ate lunch in the mall's food court before shopping at Dillard's for hubby's new winter jacket. I'm so happy we found something to replace his 30+-year-old leather jacket with huge shoulders. Now hubby no longer looks like an old man living in the past.

Before leaving the mall, our group met at The Cheesecake Factory for a treat. Unfortunately, the music was so loud we couldn't really talk. Why do restaurant's do that? The waitress could barely hear our orders!

Hubby and I ended the day with a Holiday Party at the home of one of his co-workers. It was nice to meet some of the people hubby works with, but I hate situations where food is plentiful and easy to grab. In no time, a person can mindlessly consume 100s of calories. Oh well, the holiday's will be over soon.

Sunday, December 28

Sadly, my Sunday started seeing my neighbor's body being placed in a funeral vehicle while I made my coffee. Jean was diagnosed with lung cancer on December 20. Hospice and family took care of her until the end. She was 82.

After my son and hubby finished skeet shooting, I served them leftover chicken stew for lunch. The three of us then watched Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, which none of us had seen before. As is typical, I feel the the first movie in the series is the best.

We ended our weekend with an adults-only outing to the Anheuser-Busch Annual St. Louis Brewery Holiday Lights Display. After a buffet dinner, we walked the complex, taking in the lights while the men sampled beers.

With the weekend over, hubby's back to work. And I'm heading to the gym after first putting the ham bone from Friday's dinner to good use. It'll be ham and bean soup for today's dinner. Yum!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

December Daily – December 25

Happy Christmas!

After mass with our daughter and grandsons this morning, hubby and I went to the movies and saw Into the Woods. I'm sure I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn't been so tired. It's an entertaining film with a lot of well known actors, a fair amount of humor, and a good soundtrack. However, I did think the ending was odd. 

Elliott absolutely loves Uncle Dan!
Later in the evening, my son arrived from Long Island City, NY. Daniel will be home an entire week. We have a few activities planned, but mostly we're all looking forward to just hanging out. Yay!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

December Daily – December 24

And it's done. Lunch went well and all the gifts were appreciated. But grandma's electric Harry Potter train was the big hit. In the prayer before lunch, Elliott thanked God for giving papa the "courage" to get the train out of storage. And Jonah absolutely loved playing conductor. I have to say adding the train to the festivities was a "stroke of genius" on my part.

I only have a few pictures because I was super busy the entire time, but I hope you enjoy them.

The boys changed into their PJs
before they went home.
A quiet moment before everyone arrived.
See the train? The favors this year were
Mrs. Prindable's caramel apples.
Here's the butter tree from
GFS Marketplace.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

December Daily – December 23

I've reached the point I'm tired of cleaning. If it's not done now, oh well. Truthfully, no one will notice but me, so it's all good.

This morning I made the Pot Pie Stew (what I've decided to call it) and don't know why I ever gave any thought or effort to changing our Christmas Eve menu. Since I roast the chicken and make the chicken stock weeks ahead and freeze it, when I actually make the stew it goes quickly and there's minimal clean-up. I had some for lunch and it's as delicious as I remember. I wish I could share it with all of you.

With the move, it looked as if the grandsons wouldn't get to see Santa this year. Then last week I got an email from a local restaurant, The Corner Pub and Grill, about Santa dropping by during dinner time on December 23. So tonight we had dinner out, saw Santa, and got free s'mores!

Now it's the night before Christmas Eve and the house is clean, the gifts are wrapped, the stockings are stuffed, the stew is done, the boys talked to Santa, and the weather prediction for tomorrow includes periods of snow. Bring on the fun!

Monday, December 22, 2014

December Daily – December 22

Hallelujah! I'm finally completely finished gift wrapping. I also pulled all the stocking stuffers out of their hiding places and stuffed the stockings today. Now I can concentrate on cooking and cleaning, and plan to get a lot of that done tomorrow.

Just two more days until Christmas at Grandma's, which is especially good for Elliott who's completely stressed out. Through therapy, we now understand Elliott functions much better when he knows exactly what to expect. He does not do well with surprises and waiting. Poor kid. Hopefully therapy will help him handle the holidays better in the future.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

December Daily – December 21

After mass and lunch with the family today, I cleaned the home office; wrapped more presents; cooked chicken breasts; ironed napkins; and decorated gingerbread men. It's amazing how much I can get done when I'm not watching the boys!

The grandsons will be decorating most of the gingerbread cookies I made with Uncle Dan after Christmas. But today I decorated gingerbread men as a surprise for Christmas Eve. I found the cutter on Amazon and think these little guys are simply adorable. They're going to look so cute hanging from cups or mugs at our Christmas Eve lunch.

As Elliott reminded me this morning, Christmas Eve is just three days away. Yikes!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

December Daily – December 20

After a great facial this morning, hubby and I went out to lunch and then shopped at Kohl's. I had a 30% off coupon and was hoping hubby would find a new winter coat. Instead I was the one who found a waterproof casual winter coat at a great price. It's the perfect addition to my coat wardrobe because all my other warm coats are wool and not great when it's raining or snowing.

When we got back home, I made gingerbread cookies while hubby checked that my Harry Potter electric train still works. The boys will decorate the cookies with Uncle Dan probably the day after Christmas. And I plan to use the train on some straight track as my Christmas Eve lunch centerpiece. Then after we open presents and clear the table, hubby will set up all the track and the train in motion will delight our train-lovin' little boy.

Elliott was compulsive about trains for several years before getting hooked on Lego bricks and video games. Now it's Jonah's turn. In our family, toy trains have truly stood the test of time.

All in all, it was a productive day. And, as expected, I'm feeling much less stressed.

Friday, December 19, 2014

December Daily – December 19

I managed to wrap a few presents before gym class this morning. And, after class and lunch, I did the last, hopefully, of my holiday grocery shopping. So I got a lot done today, but there's still so much more to do even though I've made great strides in simplifying the holidays.

What always trips me up are all those things that can only be done a few days or hours before the main event, such as grocery shopping, cooking, and cleaning. I always manage to succeed, but it's never without some anxiety.

And this year I refuse to sacrifice my workouts for more holiday prep time. I'm glad I pulled myself away from gift wrapping this morning. And I'm looking forward to Monday's strength class.

Tomorrow morning I'm getting a facial, but then there's the rest of the day to tackle more holiday prep. And I'll have hubby's help all weekend. I'm certain by Monday I'll be feeling much less anxious.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

December Daily – December 18

This happened. . .

It actually snowed all day. Unfortunately, however, the ground was so warm most of it melted already. It's too bad because it was probably our last chance for a white Christmas.

I had planned to do more holiday grocery shopping today. But no way was I going to juggle groceries and a pre-schooler in snow and freezing temperatures. Instead Jonah made a huge train track in the family room, which thankfully amused him for hours and gave me time to do laundry and make gingerbread cookie dough.

I also started this Santa cross-stitch project. . .

It won't be finished before Christmas, but there's something nice about working on a Christmas piece during the holiday season. It just wouldn't be as much fun to stitch it in the middle of July. Although it is a patriotic Santa :)

And now I'm feeling a sense of freedom. Tomorrow's the last day of school for 2014 and I just need to get Elliott on the bus in the morning because my daughter's picking him up after school. So after the bus comes in the morning, Grandma Daycare is on holiday break until January 5. Happy holidays to me!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

December Daily – December 17

Today was full of holiday activity. First I spent the morning finally making cards for my grand nephew, two grand nieces, and the daughter of my grandsons's godfather. Each card included a gingerbread house I found online. After printing the houses on card stock, I cut them out, scored along the fold lines, and added double-sided tape to the tabs. They should be easy to "build" and hopefully a nice surprise.

All the girls got this design.

This one I made for Henry.
The girls got pink accented houses.
And Henry got a more traditional style.

Next I met a friend at Macaroni Grill for a holiday lunch. Last week I signed up for Macaroni Grill emails and received a $5 coupon. After applying that coupon to my $10 three-course lunch special, my bill was just $7.41 with tax and tip!

My day ended with Jonah's Holiday Pageant. His class sang three songs and I found it interesting Jonah was the only child in perpetual motion. Apparently it is possible and normal for a four-year-old to be still sometimes. It's no wonder Jonah seems such a handful. Click here to see for yourself.

I now need to get serious about shopping for the rest of my holiday groceries. Thank goodness I'm finished with present buying and card mailing!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

December Daily – December 16

I don't know why, because I got plenty of sleep last night, but I woke up tired today. For me, an unexplained tiredness usually means a virus is lurking. I pray that's not the case this time for a number of reasons, but especially because there's cooking and cleaning to do before Christmas Eve.

To make matters worse, when Jonah arrived this morning it was clear he also was tired. Jonah loves to stay up late and sleep in, and he never takes naps at home and rarely sleeps at grandma's anymore. The only time Jonah catches up on sleep is at school where he still takes good naps.

Accessing the situation, I decided Jonah and I needed to get out of the house or he was going to drive me to exhaustion. A sleep-deprived Jonah is a hyper Jonah!

So off we went and I actually ended up getting a lot done. First stop was the new neighborhood food store, GFS Marketplace. I was lured in by the Christmas tree-shaped butter spot-lighted in their ad. It will look so cute on my holiday table and cost me nothing after coupons.

For the most part, however, GFS offers bulk items, such as huge boxes of Chez-Its and large cuts of meat. But I did get Christmas Eve dessert, a box of 10 frozen apples with cinnamon and butter wrapped in pastry. I'll bake them for 50-60 minutes while we open presents and our house will smell amazing.

After lunch at Burger King, Jonah and I hit Trader Joe's. I love Trader Joe's. It's a small store packed with treasures. I especially like their international items offered at reasonable prices.

My goal today was to purchase their frozen Parisian carrots for the chicken stew I'm making for Christmas Eve lunch. (Yes, I'll be making Ina Garten's recipe again this year.) Parisian carrots are round and the size of large grapes. They're perfect for stews. 

I also got the Trader Joe's candied pecans and a package of frozen savory puff-pastry bites. I plan to serve a variety of finger foods Christmas Eve evening.

Yes, today's outing was very successful, especially since it wore Jonah out. He's now been sleeping two hours! It's a holiday miracle!

Monday, December 15, 2014

December Daily – December 15

Yesterday the grandsons had their annual professional photos taken. They all turned out great, which is unusual when dealing with two rambunctious boys.

I was eager to get my copies because I wanted to update my photo wreath. I started the wreath with Elliott's first Christmas in 2006. As the years past, I got a little melancholy when I looked at the wreath each year and saw how quickly Elliott was growing. Then Jonah arrived for Christmas 2010 and, along with a little melancholy, I began having fun comparing Jonah to his brother. For example, this year, comparing Jonah's fifth Christmas to Elliott's fifth Christmas, it appears Jonah's going to have a much rounder face than his brother's. Even though Elliott had the cutest round face as a baby and toddler as you can see in his 10-month photo to the left of the bow.

It's a fun project and one I look forward to bringing out each year.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

December Daily – December 14

Today hubby and I did the Lafayette Square 2014 House and Parlor Tour. The weather was perfect, sunny with high temperatures in the low 60s. This year there were 12 homes open for touring and we did 11.

Lafayette Square is a unique area of St. Louis with a lot of history. This is the type of Victorian architecture one can expect to see:

I'm always impressed by the time and energy each homeowner gives to make their home feel like Christmas. Here are my favorite displays from this year's tour:

This tree of books was in the house built
by H.E. Bixby, the steamboat pilot who
taught Samual Clemens (Mark Twain)
all about "the mysteries of the river." There
were nautical touches throughout the entire
house. Notice the Life on the Mississippi book
at the top of the tree as well as the tiny
sailor ornaments. 
This clever teapot and teacups wreath
was also in the Bixby house.
I forget which house had this beautiful gingerbread
display. The owner hired a professional pastry chef
to reproduce several Lafayette Square home fronts.
That much gingerbread gave the kitchen
a wonderful smell!

What a fun day!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

December Daily – December 13

I went to Dollar Tree today for pencil cases and ended up spending $18 – LOL!

When we travel, I'm always on the lookout for cool pencils for the grandsons. They're typically cheap and make great stocking stuffers. This year Elliott and Jonah are getting four pencils each, so I decided a pencil case would be a good idea. I found these cool two-pocket cases and thought the front pocket was perfect for a $1 calculator.

It was hubby's first trip to Dollar Tree and probably not his last. He bought socks, one-use paint brushes, and a stylus. I also bought other stock stuffers, an eyeglass tool kit, pipe cleaners, and gum brushes.

I've shopped Dollar Tree several times this year after watching Dollar Tree haul videos on YouTube. After today, I suspect I'll be going more often in 2015.

Friday, December 12, 2014

December Daily – December 12

Here are some craft projects Jonah and I did late yesterday after I blogged:

Having Jonah fill these balls from my stash with Lego
pieces gave me a much needed break!
Thank you Pinterest for this great project!

First I cut a triangle out of an 8.5"x11" piece of card stock.
Next I folded a paper plate and used double-sided tape to keep
the halves together. After Jonah fringed the plate, I attached
it to the triangle with more double-sided tape. Then I punched
circles for the eyes, nose, and pom-pom and ran them through
my Xyron so Jonah could easily stick them on Santa. 
Today my daughter picked up all the gifts for the boys she had delivered to our house. Elliott has CCL (Center for Creative Learning) on Fridays and doesn't get to my house until 4:30 P.M. while my daughter can be here by 4:00 P.M. That gave her thirty minutes to complete her mission. Mission accomplished!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

December Daily – December 11

Jonah testing the air
mattress for Uncle Dan.
My son is coming home for the holidays and we're all excited, especially the grandsons. Daniel lives in Long Island City, NY, and hasn't been home in two years. In their lifetimes, the boys have only seen Uncle Dan maybe ten times, less for four-year-old Jonah. And, this visit, Uncle Dan is staying at their house.

There's plenty of room but not much furniture. So today Jonah and I pulled out our air mattress to make sure it still works and to re-wash all the bedding. As you can see, it works fine!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

December Daily – December 10

I forced myself to do some cleaning, but most of today was spent either in my hobby room or at the gym. I made several holiday cards, using some of my smaller cross-stitch projects. And I played around with making small snow globes out of tiny jam jars. Why? Why not!

On the way to the gym, I mailed the cards I made and my sister's birthday gift. My poor sister has a birthday just five days before Christmas, December 20. I honestly don't remember ever seriously celebrating Nancy's birthday. My mom hated holidays, especially Christmas. She also wasn't very organized. I feel certain mom had little time or energy to celebrate a birthday while trying to get through the biggest holiday of the year.

As previously mentioned, I'm trying to log miles on the indoor track as training for our January theme-park trip. I always just walk. Six years ago I learned the joint of my big toe on my right foot is riddled with arthritis and no longer bends. Determined to avoid surgery, I've taught myself to walk without bending that joint, but running has been out of the question for a long time now.

Today, however, I was the only one on the track for awhile and decided to see if I could run flat-footed. I did one complete lap and it was so much fun. I'll see how my toe feels later, but so far so good. Way cool!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

December Daily – December 9

As planned, Jonah and I did several holiday craft projects today. This one is my favorite:

I printed a free printable from the internet that Jonah colored. We then wrapped his artwork around a toilet paper tube, using double-sided tape. Voila – a nutcracker!

Later in the day, I gave Jonah some trains. The battery-operated ones cost $2 at Walgreens; the wind-up train cost $1 at Dollar Tree. The plan is for the battery-operated ones to go around the boy's dresser-top trees in their rooms. Here's a short video.

With three new trains, Jonah was in heaven. Best "Grandma Day" ever!

Monday, December 8, 2014

December Daily – December 8

Before and after my gym class today, I played in my hobby room, something I haven't done in many months. It was so much fun!

I took my time going through my big box of Christmas paper-crafting supplies and ended up with a large pile of papers for Jonah's preschool. I'm ready to finally part with a lot of papers I've had for many years, and know the school will put them to good use.

I also made a holiday card and some gift card holders. But, best of all, I now have several Christmas craft projects ready for Jonah's little hands. Tomorrow should be a good "grandma day."

Sunday, December 7, 2014

December Daily – December 7

Click here for part of the performance by Jonah's religion class at the Bless the Infant Jesus ceremony. Jonah's on the far left.

Jonah did very well, especially considering how nervous he was when he first heard about the performance. These are the moments that make the holidays extra special for grandparents.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

December Daily – Day 6

Happy Saint Nicholas Day!

This morning I took St. Nick gifts to the grandsons before starting my theme-park training. In preparation for my trip to Universal Orlando with my daughter and oldest grandson in 46 days, I plan to walk the indoor track several times a week in addition to my regular gym classes.

After my workout and a shower, I had lunch with my daughter and we did a little shopping at Target. Primarily we needed newborn outfits for tomorrow's "Bless the Infant Jesus" ceremony at church. Jonah's religion class will sing several songs; the priest will bless baby Jesus statues people bring in from home nativity scenes; and Nurses for Newborns will accept clothing donations. After the ceremony, we will drive through the Live Nativity presented by the parish's teen group.

It's definitely feeling a lot like Christmas!

My daughter's family celebrated Saint Nicholas Day
with a trip to Ted Drewes Frozen Custard stand,
and a walk through the attached tree lot.

Friday, December 5, 2014

December Daily – Day 5

Hallelujah! I finally tidied up my hobby room today, including wiping away months of dust. It feels fantastic!

In the process, I also pulled items out of my gift box for Toys for Tots. This year I'm donating art supplies and books. I'm finally giving up on coloring books, which I loved as a child. But the boys never liked them, preferring instead to simply draw. And I have more sets of crayons, colored pencils, and markers than the boys will ever use. I just can't pass up art supplies at deep discounts. I mean, how can I not buy a box of colored pencils for just $0.22?

Now I'm set to start making holiday cards. If not this weekend, then Monday. Yahoo!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

December Daily – Day 4

Our family always celebrates Christmas on December 24. After our first grandson was born, we moved the meal from dinner to lunch to accommodate earlier bed times. We open gifts after we eat.

For the past several years I've served Ina Garten's Chicken Pot Pie. I like that I can make it the day before serving and it's a one-pot meal. But I'm getting a bit bored with it and suspect some other family members are too.

Coming up with a new menu, however, is extremely challenging given my daughter's restrictions and son-in-law's preferences. Neither one of them like pork, although they don't seem to have a problem with bacon and both ate my pork sausage dressing. They just won't eat ham, pork roast, or pulled pork. And Emily can't eat tomatoes and won't eat beans, so baked ziti, chili, and pizza are out too. Poultry's safe, but I don't want to have turkey because I just did that for Thanksgiving. Plus I prefer Christmas Eve lunch to be more casual with easier cleanup.

So this morning I pulled some cookbooks off the shelf and found a couple of possibilities. I now need to start testing, which is why Jonah and I hit the local grocery store this morning. Tonight we're having roasted chicken with lemon and rosemary. It's actually a cornish hen recipe, but I already had a small chicken thawed. Yes, I realize cornish hen doesn't sound casual. But, if I go that route, I'll only make two sides, one of which will be an easy crockpot recipe.

Next to the grocery store is a Michael's, so you know where Jonah and I went first. We had fun picking out today's holiday projects and everything was at least 40% off. It's a good thing my daughter's new house is nearly 4000 square feet, because Jonah loves projects!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

December Daily – Day 3

I don't watch Jonah on Wednesdays, so today I was able to wrap more presents. I especially wanted to wrap the boys' St. Nick's Day gifts.

Growing up my family always celebrated the feast day of St. Nicholas by setting our shoes outside our bedroom doors before going to sleep on December 5. When my brother, sister, and I woke up on the feast day, we would find our shoes filled with fruit and nuts, which were special treats when I was a child.

I continued the tradition with my children into their adulthood, substituting fruit and nuts with candy, small toys, or Christmas decorations. So, of course, now my grandsons are benefiting from the tradition.

This year the boys are getting holiday cross-stitched pieces. Elliott saw me stitching the bear and said he wanted it because it looked like his Duffy bear. And because Jonah wants everything Elliott has, I think he'll like his Santa with a cream-colored bear, especially since Jonah's favorite "lovey" is a cream bear.

I also mailed our holiday cards today. I finished them November 25 and had planned to mail them on December 1, but today was my first day out since the ice storm on Monday.

For years, I've been using Snapfish to send out photo cards, so distant friends and relatives can see how hubby and I, and the boys, are aging. For those who aren't active on Facebook, I attach a short update letter to the back.

I had hoped to also clean my hobby room today, so I can start working on cards for special little boys and girls in my life.  But I ran out of time. Now I'm hoping to get that job done Friday. Nevertheless it was still a productive, and fun, day.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

December Daily – Day 2

Jonah and I were busy elves today. First Jonah colored a wooden gingerbread house with people and trees while I assembled gift tags.

I found the perfectly-sized wooden snowflake ornaments at Target for my paper-punch cross-stitch images. I just glued the images to the fronts and made paper to-from tags for the backs.

Next, after I attached tags to presents I had already wrapped, Jonah decided to make a present for his big brother. Because Jonah likes to color and cut, I found a Lego mini-figure image online for him to turn into a puzzle. After coloring the image I printed on card stock, Jonah cut it into pieces following guidelines I drew on the back. He had so much fun he decided to make two!

I took pictures of each image with my Instax Mini 8 camera and affixed them to envelopes that held the pieces. We then put the envelopes in a box, which we wrapped, and Jonah filled out the to-from tag.

I'm very proud of Jonah for being so thoughtful and completing such a big project. Now I need to come up with an idea for something Elliott can make and give Jonah. I love the idea of this becoming a Christmas tradition.

Monday, December 1, 2014

December Daily – Day 1

Today we woke to extreme cold and ice. It was so bad many schools cancelled classes, including ours. So today was Snow Day #1 for the 2014-15 school year.

My daughter was especially thrilled because it gave her another day to settle into their new home. And the time to put up their tree.

The move last week kept all of us crazy busy. Hubby and son-in-law made minor repairs to the old house, and moved two truckloads of stuff everyday throughout the holiday weekend. And I was involved with organizing and decorating.

On Saturday, I kidnapped my daughter to go shopping for decor/storage items for Jonah's room. When we returned we immediately tackled the mess while Jonah was at a birthday party. It was well worth all the work. When Jonah saw his room, he literally jumped for joy!

I usually put up our Christmas decorations during the weekend after Thanksgiving, but this year I was too busy to get it all done. So I was happy for the Snow Day, too. Here are pictures of what's different from last year.

The pieces on the kitchen etagere are different
from last year. The owls are multiplying!
The corner of my kitchen counter
is also different this year.
This is the first Christmas for my display case.
Behind the glass doors are my four
Lego Holiday Village sets.
The tree's the same as last year, but I'm
including this shot because, on the left,
you can see the reindeer I set up every year
in the sunroom.

Happy holidays!