Wednesday, December 23, 2009


The to-do list has at this point been whittled down to the done and the can't-possibly-do list. Guess which one is bigger...

There are still cookies to bake, and presents to finish, etc. And I will be in a knitting backlog through February, if I keep to my current timetable. Sorry to everyone who is getting a wrapped ball of yarn still on the needles this year.

However, the major project today was accomplished! This morning's advent calendar activity was "make a gingerbread house with Nana" and Nana got here just in time. Nothing says 'Christmas' like treating the second degree burns inflicted by the boiling strands of dangling caramel syrup that hold this house together. Welcome to town, Mom! Sorry about the burns!

Once we had some structural integrity, the girls took over and really went to town. They had a blast and ended up very very sticky, which was okay, because my mom's puppy Pete is here too, and he was happy to lick them clean.

Overall it was a very successful project, and it's a pretty great looking house, if I do say so myself. In the absence of actual finished gifts for my loved ones this Christmas, maybe I can just carry the house around with me and show everyone. See?! Isn't it great?! C'mere Mom! Show them your arm scars!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

feel free to call me Master...

I graduated!

There's Jane helping me celebrate. She and Wren are both actually surprisingly great at playing the bugle.

My dad and his girlfriend Shawn made the long drive up from Beaumont and it was really wonderful to have them there. They took us out to lunch after, where I forgot (like I always do) that about 80% of the time I really do not like fish. Oh well. Thanks for lunch dad!

Chase was a champion of patience and kindness, keeping the girls entertained for the long ceremony right in the middle of naptime. They ran off some craziness on the pretty campus before getting back in the car. We went from Denton to Beaumont, to do early Christmas there, and we had a really great time.

In related news, I am also a master at keeping Jane from jumping out of the canoe and into the swamp, even though she wants to be in that water SO SO BAD. I told her it was full of alligators but she didn't listen.

Friday, December 18, 2009

School's Out

And we have been pretty busy here. We're packing for our trip to Denton this weekend for my graduation (HURRAY!) but that means that we have to have Christmas more or less locked up by the time we leave (at 5AM in Saturday morning).

So there has been a lot of this:

Fueled by a lot of this:

I've been having occasional (okay, frequent) freakouts about not having enough time to tackle all of our slow-life-simplified-handmade-oh-my-god-if-I-have-to-go-to-the-craft-store-one-more-time-I'm-going-to-ram-someone Christmas. Last night, after I had thrown a roll of butcher paper across the room and stomped to the kitchen to make a gin and tonic (THANK YOU TIM) Chase pitched in (If you're my Aunt Franny, stop reading now):

If you don't stop reading, Merry Christmas! It's Chloe! The warbling basenji. I took a sneaky photo of her on our last visit to Beaumont, and Chase did everything else:

There he is proudly displaying his masterpiece. Actually that expression is more like "My God I am so tired. When are you going to stop taking pictures and let me go to sleep?" Merry Christmas Hon! Only one more week of living with a crazy person to go!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Notes on the Girls

I wanted to make a few notes on things the girls are doing now, that I will possibly forget. So this is long and it's really more for me and my crappy memory than anything else.

On the way to our car, from our front door, we have to walk over a little storm drain type thing in the pavement. Wren has called this the "star pross" since we first moved in, and there's actually a pretty involved mythology around how you deal with it.

You can walk around it, if you're very deliberate about it. You can jump it, (preferred method) or if you step on it, either accidentally or on purpose, you must "bear walk" (hands and feet on the ground, butt in the air). You have to go really fast though, because touching the Star Pross unleashes the lions (or tigers, or in yesterday's case the "bat tiger"), and they will "get ya" if you don't get to the edge of the parking lot before they do.

Keep in mind that these are Star Pross lions, totally different from the cheetah who lives down another row of condos next to the pool. The only way to survive that pathway is to run full out as fast as you can (or if you happen to be on a tricyle, pedal really fast). This has caused more falls for Wren and Jane than I want to remember, but happily neither has yet been devoured or even seriously mauled by the cheetah.

Janey is "Jane Puppy" for at least 30% of the time currently. This involves talking in a super high pitched voice, lots of high pitched barking, and, depending on how filthy the ground is in any given place, walking on her hands and knees like a dog. Obviously the more filthy = the higher the likelihood of hands on the ground.

Right now Janey likes to enter any room by declaring herself "Here comes Super Jane!" Or if she's been jumping, "Here comes Jumping Jane!" Or if she's been running, "Here comes Running Jane!" You get the idea.

One nice thing about having a big sister is they'll usually tell you the truth about important things, and you can trust them. Jane tends to take Wren's word for it when she says things like "Monsters aren't real Jane, it's okay." It's nice to have someone to "reason" with Jane. Wren can talk her into doing all kinds of things that I can't. Like finding her shoes, putting her clothes in the laundry basket, etc.

However the reverse is true too. No one can bother you like a sister.

Wren really likes to be quiet in the car. I mean REALLY likes to be quiet. She will ask us to turn down the music, and to stop talking. Anytime we're in the car for more than 5 minutes close to the end of the day, Wren decides to fall asleep. Unfortunately for Wren, the car is some kind of talking machine for Jane, and she seriously cannot go more than 20 seconds without yelling/shouting/expostulating if she's in the car (or honestly really ever).

Wren has yet to figure out that asking/pleading/demanding for Jane to stop yelling in her face only makes the situation worse. Usually, if we're in the car for more than 30 minutes, Wren has degenerated into a weeping puddle, alternately begging and screaming for Jane to stop talking, while Jane continues to babble happily, echoing Wren in tone and content between returning to her own observations: "That's a big puppy Daddy! Daddy! DADDY THAT'S A BIG PUPPY DADDY DADDY DADDY THAT'S A BIG PUPPY" This continues until Chase says "Yes Jane. That's a big puppy." And then she'll see the next billboard.

After a car trip I sometimes wonder that if it's okay to market leashes to parents, perhaps it would be okay to market muzzles to them too. I mean Jane likes being a dog more than anything, right?

The adorable world of mispronunciations at the moment:

Jane says:
candy cans for candy canes
tummy cake for stomach ache

Also she is inconsistent in her use of "s". She has it down when she tells us to look on the "other side" of her drawing, but not when she draws a "NAKE" (snake).

Wren says:

And my favorite, I will be so sad when this finally disappears, and I know it's on its way out - shirtles- shoulders. Shirtle rhymes with turtle. I love it.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Baking Days

I've sort of been waiting to post until I found the charger for the camera, but it's been a while now, and I've been taking all the pictures of note with Chase's phone anyway, so we're just going to have a round up of blurry/poorly lit pictures commemorating recent goings on in our family.

So mostly we've been baking. Wren somehow managed to unwrap a whole bag of peanut butter cups without eating a single one.

Chase crushed 100 candy canes on the kitchen floor with a mallet, and despite his best efforts, there was a very sticky spot on the floor when he was done. Ramona has been working constantly to fix this problem, though. We're a real team over here, folks. Everyone pitches in.

Here are the finished peanut butter cookies. I don't have any pictures of the finished peppermint chipsters, because we ate them too fast. That recipe is so insanely good, but it's a once-a-year deal for a reason. The process of making them involves a greased glass bottomed cup, a tray of ice water, a food processor on a setting that makes the lights flicker, and, as previously mentioned, a bag of peppermints and a mallet. So... once a year. Except this year my mom and sister are coming for Christmas, and they will need chipsters too.

So I should probably save the rest of those crushed peppermints.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

first layer cake

I love Smitten Kitchen, and I've made a lot of her everyday recipes, but her special occasion recipes really can't be beat. She has a whole page on tackling and assembling layer cakes that is an awesome resource, if you are interested. So when Chase asked for the sort of birthday cake that you'd expect a man who always specifies gray yarn for his hats to choose, (plain yellow, with chocolate icing, like from the box) I was ready.

First I sent him a few links, just to be sure he was totally sold on yellow cake, and then I got to work.

I used the "best birthday cake" recipe, and although mine didn't look like hers (possibly because the bottom layer fell out of the fridge sideways) it was still pretty great. Icing covers a multitude of sins. (For those of you who ate it and are having second thoughts, it landed folded in half, with parchment paper on one side and shattered plate on the other. And no one ate any plate shards, as far as I know).

Anyway, it was fun and I feel more confident about layer cakes in the future. Although I might want to buy another cake pan. Having just one cake pan is kind of hassle when making layer cake, it turns out.

Happy birthday hon! Hurray for a fourth decade! Maybe next year we can try the stout cake?

And I will expect that cappuccino fudge cake for my 30th, so you and the girls should probably start prepping. Wren will be 6 by then, right? That's old enough to read a recipe.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


So I finally did it. After years of looking at all the lovely and beautiful advent calendars out there, I closed the computer and started making one.

The trick, it turns out, was not leaving the house. (I wish that was the trick for more of life- I would have be shutting it down). I just committed to making it with stuff I had, and that made it possible.

Instead of the perfect handmade heirloom for generations of my family, constructed from perfectly chosen high quality materials, I just jumped into the bag of scrap felt and got to work. The backing is some heavy canvas, from a pair of old curtains. Some of the pockets have candy, some have little tiny toys from a very secret trip to Terra Toys, and some have scraps of paper with all the traditional activities- Christmas movie before bed, go look at lights in our pajamas, make a gingerbread house with Nana (thanks mom, by the way).

And then yesterday, the card said...

Christmas tree! We were planning to drive out to Elgin to get a tree, but waited too long to get started and ended up staying local. Wren's comment: "I'm pretty sure this is the best Christmas tree EVER!"
Jane's comment: "I love my alien robot shirt! I love my alien robot shirt!"

Maybe she'll get more into the spirit of the season when she realizes how much eating is involved.