Friday, November 29, 2013

Happy Turkey Day!!

I hope everybody had a great Thanksgiving Day!  We had a wonderful time with my mom and sister who got into town on Wednesday and with our friends, the Fischlis, from around the corner.  I saw a couple of fruit turkeys on Pinterest and showed them to my sister who made her own spin on it.
Christine made the turkey but we wanted to make sure to have LOTS of leftovers so I picked up a small one at the store and Paul pretty much took care of the bird while I spent Thanksgiving morning baking pies and rolls. 

The Fischlis came over around 2:00 and oh baby, did we feast.  Christine has mad turkey roasting skills - it was fantastic. 

I am pretty simple and straightforward about Thanksgiving dinner and don't really like messing around with tradition.  And I always make sure to save room for pie.  Like, LOTS of pie.  My dinner plate:

I made Razzleberry and Apple pie, my mom made a banana cream (Paul's favorite), and Christine made a pumpkin.  I absolutely believe in having a slice of every flavor of pie available. 

We set up a kids' table, which went okay, except Clara kept getting down early and I realized I'm sort of terrible about enforcing an "everyone stays at the table until we are all done eating" rule. 

After all the food and cleanup the kids and dads watched "Tangled" while my mom, sister, Christine and I played Scattergories and Ticket to Ride.  It was a wonderful Thanksgiving Day.
And it has been a great November, overall.  This little video isn't from Thanksgiving, but you can see the Gratitude Tree that we did for Family Home Evening early on in the month in it.  Clara has loved adding leaves to it.  Her friend Blake was visiting for the morning while his mom and baby brother were at a doctor's appointment and Blake wasn't super enthusiastic about the lunch I prepared (carrot and red pepper sticks with ham & cheese sandwiches).  Clara was being very encouraging about eating.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Garland Christmas Advent Calendar with Activity & Scripture List

I am so excited about how this Christmas Advent Calendar project turned out.  I have casually looked at advent calendars for a couple of years but now that Clara is old enough to really get excited about stuff I knew that this year I really wanted to come up with something special to start this tradition.  I didn't intend to blog about this or do a tutorial, but since I really liked how it turned out and it honestly wasn't hard at all (I know it looks super crafty but it is all just straight line cuts and stickers - I make up for lack of crafting skill by using cute paper and embellishments) I decided to go ahead and write up my measurements and describe the method I used.  Also, I realized that a garland approach was WAY better for me since I don't have the wall or surface space for an advent calendar with little drawers.  Plus, this approach will store really well for next year because it is so easy to just stack the envelopes with their cards and put them in a plastic baggy with the twine and clothespins after Christmas is over.
Oh, and as a quick disclaimer, we haven't pulled out Christmas decorations yet or anything.  I am only posting this now since there is still a week left in November just in case anybody else is looking for an advent tutorial and finds this one helpful.

I came up with a list of activities to do each day, although the order is flexible.  I started by working in things that were already scheduled like the Ward Christmas party and the day we had tickets for the Nutcracker (some homeschooling friends of mine told me about a weekday daytime 10:30 a.m. showing by the San Jose ballet that is put on for school kids at a majorly discounted price (like kids are free and adult tickets are half-price) and I figured I would just try it with Clara and see how it goes - if we have to leave at intermission, no biggie), then went from there. 
  1. Decorate the Christmas tree (1 Nephi 10:4)
  2. Write letter to Santa (Matthew 1:23)
  3. Make homemade Christmas ornaments (1 Nephi 11:18)
  4. Make homemade toffee and fudge for friends (Luke 1:31)
  5. Act out the nativity (Matthew 1:18-19)
  6. Attend the Nutcracker (Matthew 1:20-21)
  7. Visit the temple to see the lights (Helaman 14:4)
  8. Visit a live nativity (Luke 2:13)
  9. Watch the First Presidency Christmas Devotional (Luke 2:4-5)
  10. Do a Christmas craft (Luke 2:6-7)
  11. Go to Christmas in the Park in downtown San Jose (3 Nephi 1:19)
  12. Have a Christmas dance party (Helaman 14:5)
  13. Perform a random act of kindness for a stranger (Luke 2:8-9)
  14. Go to a Christmas party (Luke 2:10-11)
  15. Make gingerbread houses (Luke 2:12)
  16. Take neighbor presents around (Luke 2:13-14)
  17. Watch a Christmas movie (Luke 2:15)
  18. Get hot chocolate and drive by Christmas light displays (Luke 2:16-17)
  19. Go shopping together for presents (this is a daddy/daughter date card) (Luke 2:18-19)
  20. Wrap presents (Luke 2:20)
  21. Play in the snow (Matthew 2:1-2)
  22. Write down favorite memories of Christmases past (Matthew 2:10-11)
  23. Bake Christmas cookies (Isaiah 9:6)
  24. Play Christmas carols on the handbells (Luke 2:40)
  25. Enjoy Christmas Day with family (Luke 2:52)
I searched Pinterest for inspiration, of course, but ultimately decided to sort of do my own thing because I didn't absolutely love any one tutorial or list of activities that I found.  Also, so many tutorials that I liked were created for people with fancy die-cutters like the Sillhouette Cameo (I'm thinking maybe this should be on my Christmas wish list). 
Anyway, I ended up doing a library card pocket out of large scrapbooking paper scraps that I mostly had on hand.  I always buy 12x12 paper but I make an 8x8 Christmas scrapbook (that I pull out each year for the holiday as part of our décor so we can reminisce about Christmases past), which means I end up with extra 4x12 strips.  But if you are starting from scratch (i.e., you are going out to buy paper specifically for this project), here is what you would need:
6-7 12x12 sheets of heavy scrapbooking paper, various prints - for envelopes (you can get 24 envelopes from 6 sheets, and some people only want their advent calendars to go to Christmas Eve, but if you want 25 envelopes you will need that 7th sheet of paper)
3 12x12 sheets of heavy scrapbooking paper, solids - for notecards
3 12x12 sheets of white paper
Assorted stickers, chipboard accents, other decorative elements
5 yards twine
6 2/3 yard ribbon
24 or 25 small clothespins
Cut 25 strips of decorative scrapbooking paper to 4x8".  Fold each strip almost in half leaving a lip of about 1 1/4" at the top, then crease to form the bottom of the envelope.  The back side of the envelope will now measure a little more than 4 1/2" and the front side of the envelope will measure a little less than 3 1/2".  (I acknowledge right now that hand shots, especially of my hands, are super ugly.  Sorry.)

Open each strip back up and cut 1/4" up each 4 1/2" back side of the envelope to the fold.  Tear or cut off the 1/4" strips from the back side of the envelope, then fold paper back together on the original fold. 

Carefully fold the 1/4" tab sides that are now sticking out from the front of the envelope over to the back to form the completed pocket.  Secure the tabs with glue to complete the envelope pocket.  I used Scotch Scrapbooker's Glue and pressed the tabs down hard for a bit so the glue could form a really strong bond.  This was the most tedious part of the project for me.

After the pockets are completed, you can decorate them using stickers, die cut shapes, chipboard accents, jewels, ribbon, etc.  Arrange the envelopes in the order you want them and number them 1 through 24 or 25 (depending on whether you want Christmas Day included in your calendar).  Again, I mostly just grabbed numbers that I had in my scrapbook stash and didn't go for uniformity here.  I even used an image of two nutcrackers for the number "11".
To make the notecards that go in each pocket, cut 24 or 25 rectangles out of scrapbooking paper with the dimensions 3x4 1/4".  Since each of my envelopes were different, I tried to introduce some uniformity here by choosing three different papers (solid red, checkered red, and light green).  Then cut 24 or 25 rectangles out of plain white paper with the dimensions 3 7/8x2 5/8".  Affix the white rectangles onto the larger colored rectangles using scrapbooking squares or glue.  Punch a hole in the top of each card using a hole puncher.  Cut 24 or 25 strips of 3/8" ribbon in 9 1/2" lengths.  Thread both ends of the ribbon through the hole in the front of the card, then back through the loop created by the ribbon and pull taut to create a tab to make it easier to pull each notecard from its envelope. 
Write a scripture and/or activity on each card, the hang each envelope with its card on a 5 yard length of twine using decorative paperclips (I found some cute ones in the scrapbooking section at Joann's and used a 50% off coupon).    

From start to finish I would say this project took me the better part of an afternoon but it was the cutting and gluing that took the biggest amount of time and I spent a lot of time on the internet looking at an inspiration board I made on Pinterest and setting Clara up with projects of her own or taking breaks to play with her or read books periodically.

I would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to know of other ideas for activities/traditions that other people do, have done, or want to do for the month of December.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Yosemite 2013

We were so bummed that our annual October Yosemite trip got cancelled thanks to the government shut-down that Paul booked us a room at the Yosemite Lodge for a long weekend trip in November.  We missed having family there with us this year (no cousins, aunts, uncles, grandma Nash, siblings, nephews, or parents like other years) but we still had a good time with just the three of us.
We left around 9:00 on Thursday morning and got there around lunchtime.  Clara took her nap in the car on the drive so she was ready to go.  We spent that first afternoon riding bikes around the valley floor and hanging out at the Ahwahnee (the incredibly beautiful 1927 gem of a resort/hotel that we will never be able to afford to stay at) and throwing rocks into the river (Clara's favorite activity).  Clara was super confused about why there weren't any swings at this "park" because we called it "Yosemite National Park" enough for her to think that it was a playground that we were going to.  She begged to go find the swings all afternoon long.

That  night we ate dinner at the Cafeteria (yuck, so gross) and had a little family movie night watching "Cheaper by the Dozen 2" until 9:00 when we had lights out so that Clara could fall asleep.  Our room just had two beds and Clara didn't buy into the idea that she could go to sleep while we were hanging out with minimal lights on next to her so we were all in bed by 9 each night (which is way late for Clara and earlier than normal for us, but whatevs.  It was honestly kind of fun.) 

The next morning we got up bright and early and rode the shuttle bus to Happy Isles to do the hike to the top of Vernal Falls.  It was cold so we were pretty bundled up, at least at first.

This is one of the first times we have really tried to get Clara to do some of the hiking on her own.  She did okay for about the first 1/4 mile, even going uphill.  It was slow going, but because there were lots of signs to read with pictures of animals along the way she kept moving forward rather than wandering off and getting distracted.


Plus we kept stopping at every interesting rock formation or bend in the path to take photos with her because she is so dang irresistible in her little knit hat.

We also stopped to observe the not-so-wild wildlife like this squirrel that gobbled down an acorn right in front of us.  It was SO darling watching him eat and Clara (and okay, I) were puddles of mush at the cuteness.

When he finished eating, the squirrel stuffed the leftovers (about half the remaining acorn) into his cheek then stood straight up and looked at us.

Once we hit a particularly steep part of the trail, though, Clara was through with hiking and started whining to be held.  We kept her going a little further but finally had to put her in the hiking backpack and I carried her up to the bridge below Vernal Falls where we stopped for snacks.

After refueling with applesauce pouches and Sunchips, Clara was ready to try hiking on her own again. 

But she was back in the pack by the time we started up the Mist Trail, which was completely dry this time of year.

Last year it was not really a big deal carrying her on my back but holy cow I was dying this year with our not quite 30 pound Miss in the carrier.  Those stairs are brutal enough as it is and it felt like they would never end, but we finally made it to the top of Vernal Falls where we stopped for lunch.  You might notice that Clara is wearing weird white leggings in some of these pictures.  I didn't realize her pants were way too short and while it was okay while she was hiking, they rode up practically to her knees in the carrier and her poor calves were freezing so Paul sacrificed his socks to keep her warm.  Such a good dad.

Clara was SO done with hiking on the way down, but that was mostly because she was ready for her nap.  She kept saying "go home! go home!". 

Clara hiked some of the downhill too, although I will admit that we bribed her with fruit snacks to do most of that and finally she just got too tired but didn't want to be back in the backpack so I carried her in my arms the last quarter mile back to the bus stop.  But mostly she was happy, and really, for this being her first major hike and it eating well into her naptime, she did a great job.

This is my new favorite picture of Clara and Paul.

Or maybe this one. 

Or this one.  I can't decide.

While Clara was napping, I stayed in the room and read while Paul went out to take photos.  Here are a couple that I just love.

After naptime, we went for a nice family walk and took some photos trying to get one for our Christmas card.  I have been doing quite a few photo shoots lately (so fun!) for other families so it was fun picking clothes and a location and poses for our own little photo shoot.  I just used the tripod and the self-timer function and kept running back and forth.  I really love the photo we ended up with for our card but won't post it here yet.  These are our two runner-ups.

Afterwards, since we were all fancy and cleaned up anyway, we ate dinner at the Mountain Room, which is a nice restaurant at the lodge.  Paul and I split a ribeye steak and salad and Clara had the kids grilled chicken (which she hardly touched because she filled up on bread and the brussel sprouts that came with her meal), then we had razzleberry cobbler and ice cream for dessert. 
Saturday morning we drove up to Glacier Point, which is one of my favorite spots in the entire world.  I mean, look at the view!  Clara wasn't scared in this photo - she was just annoyed that Paul was holding on to her and that we made her pose instead of just letting her climb on rocks like she wanted so this is sort of her half-smile/half-grimace look.

Oh my goodness, Half Dome is just amazing, isn't it?  If you haven't seen it in person, you really need to make plans to visit Yosemite.  It is just awe inspiring and so amazing to realize that this valley filled with waterfalls and sheer granite faces like this was created by an ancient glacier.

I wanted to hike the Panorama Trail, which is my favorite hike in Yosemite, but we knew starting out that Clara wasn't in the hiking-est mood, even though she is all smiles in the picture at the trailhead. 

Things started out fine for about the first 2 minutes.

And then a tantrum happened.  Like, a full-scale throwing herself on her back, kicking her legs, and crying tantrum.  These don't happen all that often with Clara and we have never documented one so I'm posting pictures to keep it real.

Seriously, you would have thought her world was ending and that I was the worst mom in the world.  This lasted maybe five minutes while Paul and I encouraged each other not to give in to terrorist demands.

Sure enough, when the worst was over I helped her up, we chatted about using our words, I wiped her face, and then she was happy again.  Here's the proof (and notice the trailhead sign in the background to the right of Clara's head - that's how far into the hike we were, sheesh):

Still though, Clara clearly wasn't in the mood for a major hike and it was almost her naptime (I knew she had reasons for her tantrum) so we only did two switchbacks, stopped for our picnic lunch, then headed back to the valley floor for a bike ride, where we ended up seeing quite a lot of deer. 

We rode the bus over to Curry Village for pizza for dinner on Saturday night and Clara almost fell asleep sitting on my lap on the way back to the Lodge.
On our last day, we decided to splurge and do breakfast at the Ahwahnee since we have never done that before.  The restaurant there is absolutely incredible with huge rustic ceilings and wooden beams and stone pillars everywhere.  Paul ordered the raisin brioche French toast (it was SO yummy) and I had the eggs, sausage, hash browns, and bran muffins so that I could share with Clara (since she eats eggs better than anything when it comes to breakfast food).  The only thing that was disappointing was the sausage, which was sort of yuck.  Clara loved the bran muffin with raisins though and I wish I could eat hash browns every day of my life.  Clara was given a little Yosemite Ranger Rubber Ducky by the maître d' to add to her rubber ducky collection at home.

On the drive home Paul and I discussed how lucky we are to be able to do these kinds of trips as a family and when Clara woke up she told us that she didn't want to go home, that she wanted to "go back to Yosemite!".  Maybe we will do a day trip in the spring when the waterfalls are running high.