Sunday, November 28, 2010

Muffin Tin Advent Calendar

To my dismay and despite our best efforts to bring our camera to Thanksgiving dinner, we took not one single photograph of the festivities. Allow me, therefore, to paint a mental picture. Food, wine, food, laughter, food, conversation, desserts, you get the idea. We have enjoyed a lovely and fairly relaxing 4 day break from the usual hectic pace of life. Today we plan to get our Christmas tree, which will officially launch the Holloways into the holiday season although we have been there unofficially for a couple of weeks.

Although my knitting proclivities might fool you, I am not a "crafty" person per se. That is, I don't particularly care for projects that involve glue and glitter and such. However, in searching for an advent wreath, I discovered this fairly simple calendar concept on Etsy and decided it was too simple not to make. Yesterday, Addison and I wandered around south Jersey in search of magnets for the backs of the foam cutouts. Armed with glitter glue (the less messy version of glue and glitter) and stickers we created our very own muffin tin advent calendar. If you're interested in making your own, do a quick Google search. There are plenty of instructional videos on YouTube.

I have yet to fill the little cups, but the boys seemed pretty eager for the counting to commence, attempting to stake claim to entire days. I quickly informed them that each child would receive a treat from behind its foam door.

And I guess next time I need to let the glue dry completely before putting it on my cookbook easel. A few ran down.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

And the Winner Is...

The winner of my CSN $35 gift certificate giveaway is Jaime T! Congratulations!

We are all getting into the holiday spirit in the Holloway house. For us Thanksgiving is the official kick-off of the Christmas season although unofficially we've been listening to Christmas music for weeks.

Addison informed me Saturday, "Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because I love to eat!" Right back at ya, kiddo! Last year we celebrated Thanksgiving by visiting Dunnottar Castle in Stonehaven during our trip back to Aberdeen and then had our Thanksgiving meal on Saturday with other university families since no one had Thursday off from work. It makes my throat catch a little to think that it has now been a full year since we've been back. I concoct scenarios all the time of becoming fabulously wealthy and buying a lovely granite home on the West End where Trey and I become full-time ex-pats and pop over to the continent for our summer holidays. Hey, a girl can dream, right?

Back to reality. Thanksgiving means a long weekend and probably lots of little projects around the house like retouching paint and shampooing the rugs. We'll be eating Thanksgiving dinner at my parents' house with all my siblings and other extended relatives. The boys are excited to help me make a coconut custard pie to add to the feast and a buttermilk pie to hoard at home. Trey has recently introduced this southern specialty into our sweets repertoire, and this northern lass has to admit that it's pretty darn good. The amazing foods I've been introduced to as a result of marrying a southerner have been an unexpected and delectable bonus. Grits, barbeque, fried okra, red velvet cake, buttermilk pie. And if you ask nicely, I might just post my mother-in-law's buttermilk pie recipe *wink, wink*

Wishing you all a relaxing, and rich Thanksgiving with the ones you love!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Christmas Gnome

This weekend is your last opportunity to enter my gift certificate giveaway. Click here to participate.

The first time I saw this hat pattern I just knew I had to make one for Genevie. She has that sparkle in her eye that belies her inner gnome.

About 5 rows from the end, I ran out of the red wool. Not wanting to give up on what was shaping up to be a really cute hat, I decided to break out some cream colored yarn. It ended up creating a really great stripe from nape to crown that highlights the adorable peak of this hat.

Finished product was way better than I ever could have imagined.

Don't you think?


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Charlotte's Web

Let me remind you that the CSN contest to win a $35 gift certificate to any of their online shops is still running. Click here to participate.

One of the unexpected joys of parenting has been rediscovering favorite books from my own childhood. A friend inspired me to start reading chapter books to the boys. Although Davis may be a trifle young, I believe it will bring him along in a skill that is a lifelong asset, reading for pleasure. I have to confess that this move has also partly been attributable to my weariness with picture books. While we have a rather extensive collection (would expect anything less from a twice over PhD household), even so I was beginning to feel the need to move on from Dr. Seuss and the Bearenstain Bears to something with a little more heft.

I was unsure what sort of book to begin with. What is appropriate for a five year old? And so I began Googling "chapter books appropriate for Kindergarteners" and stumbled upon the beloved classic Charlotte's Web. I ordered it from Amazon a few days ago and it arrived today.

This evening Davis, Addison, and I cracked the binding, all three of us lying on our stomachs on their bedroom floor and read the first two chapters. And I must confess that I was in no way disappointed by their reaction. The crowning moments was when I turned one of the early pages to the illustration of the doting Fern feeding her sweet baby Wilbur his bottle and Addison and Davis both cooed, "Awww."

Monday, November 15, 2010

Angel Tree

Sunday morning I'm rushing,no surprise.
Wrapping gifts to drop at church.
Legs splayed on the bedroom floor,
tape, scissors, paper,
a wrestling figure and DVD
for a boy with a name
that sounds like a knight of the round table;
his father is in prison
or his mother
or both.
And suddenly I stop mid snip;
I can't breathe because
in my hands I hold
a six year old's entire Christmas.

Did you know that 70% of children with an incarcerated parent will themselves one day be incarcerated? Help share the love of Christ with those at risk. To learn more about Angel Tree, a ministry of Prison Fellowship, click here.

"And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,you did it to me.'" Matthew 24.40

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Just in Time for Christmas

Just in time for the Christmas, I have something very special planned. No, it's not another handmade giveaway. More on that in a bit. Rather, CSN, the veritable one-stop-shopping extravaganza for everything from drop leaf tables to the flatware and table cloths you adorn them with is giving away a $35 gift certificate good at ANY of their online stores to the winner of my contest. All you have to do is the following:

1. Leave a comment on this blog entry (if you are reading this on Facebook, you must leave a comment on my actual blog -- I will not be counting Facebook comments) telling me what you want most for Christmas. Dream a little. It doesn't have to be attainable, affordable, or even material (like peace and quiet). Just share.

2. If you want to be entered more than one time in the drawing, link back to this post via Facebook, Twitter, or your own blog. Each link will give you an additional entry. That means between your comment, Facebook, Twitter, and your own blog, you can be entered up to FOUR times in the contest. I've made it extremely easy to do the Facebook and Twitter linking, with little widgets for each at the top of this entry. In order to let me know about the links, either include the information in your original comment or leave additional comments on the blog.

Back to the handmade prize. You may remember that back in April I ran a contest in honor of my 1000th post. I am ashamed to report that I have only now just completed the prize for Jen who correctly guessed the true identity of the mysterious photo of Love Park in Philadelphia. She has been patiently waiting for months for the mittens she selected, and I am pleased to report that I finished them at last this past week and blocked them this evening. They're not perfect -- forgive the flaws, Jen -- but they turned out awfully cute, and they are incredibly warm. Lucky for you, CSN will get you your prize much more timely. You might even have it in time for Cyber Monday. Good luck!


Bikes

video

It's been a long time since I've posted a video, and although this is nothing earth-shattering, it is a little snippet of the symphony that is their collective play. Yesterday was a beautiful and unusually mild autumn day, and the children enjoyed running off a lot of energy in our backyard. They do countless laps on the space of paved driveway leading up to our garage and take turns pushing each other around on various big wheels, buggies, and baby riding toys. As I worked in our kitchen which overlooks the backyard, I loved the role of parental voyeur, observing the children in the course of their natural play without them knowing they were being watched. Even though they do not always get along, in general they are quite a merry and well-contented bunch, especially outside.






Friday, November 5, 2010

Baked Haddock

In honor of Guy Fawkes Night (enjoy my original post from our first experience with the celebration back in '06) or Bonfire Night, I am doing a first on this blog -- posting a recipe. A couple of months ago I discovered that our Aldi carries frozen bags of haddock filets $3.99/lb. Can't beat that price. We were first introduced to haddock in Aberdeen with its multifarious chippers on nearly every corner wafting the fragrant and intoxicating smell of frying fish and chips, and fell quickly and permanently in love with the delicious fish. I have not had it since living there, and in an effort to avoid the less healthy, more messy deep-frying option, I went in search of a baked haddock recipe. Voila! Allrecipes.com to the rescue, another great discovery from our time in Aberdeen. And so my Guy Fawkes gift to all of you is this scrumptious, incredibly easy, and more nutritious version of fried haddock. Trust me. All three of my kids devour it, especially the wee girl.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 cup bread crumbs (my tip: or use Italian seasoned breadcrumbs and omit the thyme)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (my tip: if you use freshly grated, it makes a marvelous crust)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground dried thyme
  • 4 haddock fillets (my tip: there's really enough coating here for up to 2 lbs. of fish)
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted (my tip: don't omit as it helps make the coating deliciously crisp)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees F (260 degrees C).
  2. In a small bowl, combine the milk and salt. In a separate bowl, mix together the bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, and thyme. Dip the haddock fillets in the milk, then press into the crumb mixture to coat. Place haddock fillets in a glass baking dish, and drizzle with melted butter.
  3. Bake on the top rack of the preheated oven until the fish flakes easily, about 15 minutes.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Everyone's a Winner

I have never been a big fan of the philosophy "everyone's a winner". I always thought I knew who came up with that idea. Losers.

That is until Friday.

Trey and I were both unable to attend Addison's Kindergarten Halloween parade Friday afternoon, and the ensuing tears sufficiently guilted me into taking Addison and Davis to Kiddie Bingo at his school that night for my penance.

What is Kiddie Bingo? I'm glad you asked. It's bingo for kids. Door price is a dollar store toy. Grab a bingo card, a couple of crayons, shed your coats, sprawl out on the white linoleum of the gymnasium floor and listen to a middle school girl authoritatively calling out "B10" and other such scintillating combinations from a handheld mike.

It went a little like this...
Girl with mike: O63
Davis and Addison: (in unison, frantically searching card) Where is it? Where is it?
Me: We don't have that one.
(dejected glares and slumped shoulders)
Girl with mike: I22
Davis and Addison: (in unison) Where is it? Where is it?
Me: We don't have that one.
(more dejected glares and slumped shoulders)
You get the idea. Occasionally, we would find one. Scratch that. Occasionally, I would find one because what I quickly discovered is that Kiddie Bingo is beyond the cognitive grasp of a 5 and 3 year old. By the end of each round, having lost yet again, Addison would say with tears in his eyes, "Why do they keep tricking us?" I fought hard not laugh.

How do you explain games of chance to children who don't understand the difference between skill and luck in the first place? Why was I here again? Oh yeah, the whole Halloween parade thing.

And then I heard the principal say the most beautiful words I've ever heard, "Everyone who hasn't won a prize, may go pick one out from the back tables!"

And now I know who invented "everyone's a winner"...a mom with two young sons losing at games of chance.

Won't You Be My Neighbor

One of the sad peculiarities of living in modern-day northeast America is the virtual lack of anything resembling neighborliness. We know our next door neighbor to the left fairly well, but have only met our elderly neighbor to the right once. We know the folks two doors down. They are a lovely couple, and one of the families at the end of the street has a little girl in Addison's Kindergarten class (a bit of crush, actually). Beyond that, we've met very few of the people on our street. In fact, although we are outside our house a good bit, we rarely see anyone on our streets. Maybe it's because we have lovely front porch swings and spend many evenings out there, but it seems that most people just keep to themselves wearing a quick path between car and front door.

It occurred to me that Halloween is one of the few times in this part of the country where calling on your neighbors is both expected and welcomed.

And we were eager to hit the streets with our two knights and one Renaissance princess tagging along to make our neighborly acquaintance.

Well, honestly, folks. Would you expect anything else from a house with a 16th century historian?

The boys look pleased, but Genevie appears less than amused. She was actually just fine. Not a big fan of the camera.

Davis attempting to protect his face from potential attack.

The day was lovely, cool but not chilling, sunny with a gentle breeze. We went trick or treating late afternoon to fit it in before our church's Reformation Day Hymn Festival. We are equal opportunity celebrants.

Knights at the ready.

Group hug not happening.


I finally coaxed a smile out of Evie by playing peek-a-boo behind the porch swing.

There she is!

Notice the flag? A Brit perhaps? They didn't answer the door so we didn't find out.

And as we proceeded along the street, we discovered house after house with friendly, lovely occupants. If only it could be that way all year and not just on Halloween.


Some of the neighborhood art, carved completely by hand.