Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve at our House

Wii, fire in the fireplace, Star Trek movie on the television (First Contact).

The rats are taking a nap -- hope they wake up in time for midnight!

The Past Week

In the past week we've:

Opened presents:

Sculpey rat and cat by Annabeth:

Matching totes for girl and doll designed and sewn by Thalia:

Had our traditional treasure hunt:

Usually the clues are rhymed couplets, but this year Rick did them all in haiku

one of which really struck the kids as funny

and if you read Percy Jackson books you'll know why and recognize the last line of this haiku. Plus you'll understand why the syllable count is actually perfect.

Got a Wii:

Ate a lot of omelettes (Rick got a nice omelette pan for Christmas, and spent the day perfecting his technique):

Built Lego(and if you're a Percy Jackson fan you also know why this building is a good one to have):

Visited Grandma and Grandpa:

Organized the basement (no pics, but the wrapping paper is so organized that you're going to need to submit a requisition if you want anything from that area because it is PERFECT right now, and you'd better not start rummaging around in it).

Had Aunt Vi and Uncle Chelsea over.

Played lots of Wii,Skittle Bowl and air hockey.

And read a lot. And watched lots of movies.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Eve Snapshots

Finishing up decorating the Christmas cookies.

These are The Flock from the Maximum Ride books.

Daddy reads the Christmas story while the kids act it out with the Fontanini nativity set.

The heavenly host have been taken off the Christmas tree and are waiting their cue to appear to the shepherds.

The audience is appreciative.

Then, once the story is done, light a candle and listen to music and sing.

Finally, time to open some gifts.

Gifts from aunts and uncles are opened on Christmas Eve.

Love the paint-by-number Aunt Donna sent, and can't wait to get started.

A few games of Racko.

Put out cookies and milk for Santa, carrots for reindeer.

And off to bed we go.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Butter Cookies

I think other people call these sugar cookies, but the recipe in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch years and years ago was "Favorite Butter Cookies". We mix them on Dec. 23rd, roll them out on Dec. 24th, leave a plateful for Santa, and eat the rest for breakfast on Christmas Day. Then swoon from all the sugar.

2.5 cups flour
1 c. granulated sugar
1 c. butter, softened
1 egg (we use a pasteurized liquid egg product like Eggbeaters so we can eat raw dough)
1 tsp. baking powder
2 tblsp orange juice
1 tblsp vanilla

Sift flour and baking powder together. Cream butter; add sugar. Add egg, orange juice and vanilla; mix in all the flour. Divide into 3 parts and refrigerate, covered, for 2-3 hours (we leave it overnight).

Roll our on a well-floured surface to 1/4 inch thickness.

We decided the texture of the new countertops made it easier to do this, by the way.

Cut with 3 inch cookie cutters.

Arrange on ungreased cookie sheets

and bake at 400F for somewhere around 8-12 minutes until slightly golden.

Frost with butter frosting:

4 c. confectioners sugar
1/2 cup softened butter
3-4 tblsp milk
2 tsp. vanilla

Add food coloring and sprinkles as desired.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Work in Progress Wednesday

Thalia has spent most of the day locked in her room. Interesting noises are coming from inside.

She did emerge briefly for our traditional Dec. 23rd Making of the Butter Cookie Dough.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Countdown Continues

Bookstore gift wrapping is the big money-maker for Thalia's Scout troop. And one more Annual Christmas Event can now be checked off as DONE.

As a matter of fact, the Fall Nut sales have always been considered a means to this end -- the troop needed to sell at least one can of nuts in order to be eligible to do other fundraisers like gift wrapping. And gift wrapping is pure profit for the troop -- Council doesn't get a cut, nor does a manufacturer. This year, of course, we had a bunch of kids who thought it would be fun to sell lots and lots of nuts ... aack! But that's all over now, and maybe next year they'll reconsider. It's all about the wrapping, folks.

ANYWAY, last night I learned that Thalia had been taught to wrap by a gift wrap professional, which is why she does the ends of the packages in that funky, complex origami. Where was I when this happened last year? Obviously not at the bookstore. Apparently the woman just came over, had them wrap her gifts, and gave them all instructions as they went along -- very, very cool (people can be so nice). This is the sort of moment that makes you realize that your kids are really growing up, interacting with other members of society just like regular people.

We also met a woman who said her troop raised money for 6 years so that they could take a Caribbean cruise their senior year. Wow. And another woman who said that she ended up with $20,000 in college scholarships based on her participation in Scouts. Double wow. We have the business card from the latter.

(By the way, you can't see her legs, but she has candy cane striped knee socks with white furry tops, and little elf boots.)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmastime Family Time

Sunday afternoon we went to the Fox with Grandma and Grandpa, Aunt Linda and Uncle Mark. Grandma and Grandpa live in Indiana, and this was the first time Grandma had been in the Fox since 1952!

She was really excited to see it again. We got there early so we could look around some. We went up to the 4th floor to see the Peacock Walk, which has pictures of various shows through the years; plus you can look out through the gridwork to the scene below:

There was also a big display that was a homage to Stan Kann. When Grandma was little she would go to see movies at the Fox, and her favorite part was when Stan Kann played the organ. She would wait until between shows so she could move to a seat closer to the front and better see him play; she wanted to play the organ at the Fox one day.

Eventually we all settled into our seats

to see the show.

Great show, by the way.

Then back to our house for supper, and to open gifts.

Lots of gifts.

Something for everyone, as a matter of fact. Including a really lovely box.

Such a fun, exciting day that we're considering skipping the actual day of Christmas, because, really, how could we possibly top this?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas Piano Recital

I've been trying to embed a couple of YouTube videos from the occasion, but so far it's not working. Each performed 2 numbers -- a Christmas carol and one other number. I was loading videos on YouTube for the grandparents to see (one set of grandparents saw it live). Maybe I'll eventually get them over here, too.

AnnaBeth played Minuet in G from notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach, and Carol of the Bells, arranged by E.L. Lancaster. Thalia played Sonatina Opus 36#1 by Lementi, and God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen, arranged by Cindy Berry.

So now all of the performances are done for the year. Tomorrow we'll go see White Christmas at The Fabulous Fox. And on Thursday friends took AnnaBeth to see The Nutcracker at The Touhill.

RIght now -- massive cleaning for a dinner party.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The scene out our window right now

"Don't mind us. We're just eating all the plants down to the ground out here."

The black wire cages are to protect various plants. Note that they've managed to rip some of those cages up. And they don't seem particularly alarmed that I'm taking pictures of them.

The Plumber Elves Worked Their Magic

Back when we moved into this house we had a home warranty covering all the major appliances. And the huge old water heater conked out while that warranty was in effect.

At first we thought it was sort of cool, since we hoped to get a slick, energy-efficient water heater. But, alas, home warranties don't work that way -- you have to get the EXACT SAME THING. So, we got another huge (75 gallon!) water heater. And it was a total circus, because the first plumbing company the home warranty people assigned to the job decided that they weren't going to do it (I forget the exact reasons) and the second company dropped the huge new water heater down the basement stairs and ruined it, meaning they had to get a new one which ended up taking a couple of days to ship in. (Although the guys claimed that it had been defective from the factory and totally not their fault.)

And the new one had a big dent in the side. And Rick's spider sense started tingling that the glass lining of the tank might have cracked, which would lead to eventual leakage and rusting and a leaky water heater. But we'd gone days and days without a water heater at that point, so we hope for the best. Although we decided that home warranties really suck, quite frankly, because you're totally stuck with whatever contractors and appliances they decide you deserve.

And it came to pass that 3 years later, while the new water heater was still under the water-heater-company-provided warranty, it DID start to leak.

So, remembering the total fiasco of 3 years ago, I started calling around to get it replaced with the exact same huge water heater model that I've grown to hate.

I called the plumbing company that we've called before when other plumbers have screwed up things around here (digression: my own spider sense starts to tingle when a contractor shows up festooned with Christian-fish jewelry and logos on their paperwork, and I should've sent the guy packing right then and there ... but I didn't and ended up with a huge mess. And let that be a lesson to you). And also called a plumbing supply place that another plumber (who was booked solid for the rest of the week) had tipped me off to as the place to call to find this particular model -- they turned out to have gobs of them in stock, knew all the plumbers I had talked to in the past couple of days, and were super-helpful. I have no clue why the guys who installed the previous heater 3 years ago didn't go there -- probably some bizarre twist in the home warranty said they couldn't.

And the plumbers wrangled that huge leaky water heater up out of the basement (although the helper expressed disbelief that it was actually going to make it up the stairs, which are narrow, although we never replaced the handrail from the last time the other guys changed the water heater 3 years ago, nor had we ever repaired the gouge they left in the wall) and popped the new one I had ordered from the plumbing supply company into place.

Et voila! A shiny new 75 gallon tank that has no apparent dents!

And there goes all of our Christmas money. Not nearly as cool as getting an embroidery machine, but just as expensive.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

More Fun and Games

Late this afternoon the kids went downstairs in search of curling ribbon to use on gifts. They came back up and reported water on the floor. Under the hot water heater.

"Maybe it's condensation," I said. Not that it was a very likely explanation, but it was better than immediately beginning the weeping/wailing/gnashing of teeth.

And, indeed, when I got downstairs, laid on the floor with a flashlight, and pondered the bottom of the water heater, it was pretty apparent that we've got a heap of trouble.

So I called Rick, who is currently in Mexico. Then called the water heater manufacturer (it's still under warranty) to find out about suggested plumbers. And started calling plumbers.

The second guy a called was an absolute gem. He's totally booked up for the week, but took the time to explain to me exactly how the warranty works and what plumbing supply companies carried that particular brand of heater so that when I talk to other plumbers I have more options.

Unfortunately, all the other plumbers were already gone for the day. So I turned off the water into the tank, turned off the gas (just in case), discussed with Rick how to drain the tank, decided I didn't care to fiddle with that tonight, took the kids to dance class, went Christmas shopping, came home, worked on the Super Surprise Sewing Project, called Aunt Linda and told her that maybe it would be just as well if they didn't come over for supper Friday since our water situation was hit-or-miss, etc. etc.

I"m pretty sure there was some other stuff I meant to do tonight towards getting ready for Christmas. But this is really distracting, to tell you the truth, so my mind is wandering all over the place.

Work in Progress Wednesday

We're way behind on what I thought we'd have done by now. However, we're getting the Christmas cards done. Stage one: make the cards.

We stopped by Michael's yesterday and discovered these stocking stickers on clearance. And a vision of possible Christmas cards started to dance in our heads.

We also got tiny little brads and some beading wire.

Some lucky recipients may have a cat enclosed in their cards.

Don't worry Ami, we won't send that one to you.