Friday, December 31, 2010

December 2010 Round Up

Click mosaic to biggify. Created using Big Huge Labs Mosaic Maker.

What books and/or magazines did I read this month?
Ha-ha! I had actually already typed "I'm wondering if I should take this question off, since the answer is always the same," but I managed to squeak one in with about 4 hours to spare before Dick Clark counted down to the ball drop. What book did I start and finish in a day? Serenity: The Shepherd's Tale, a Dark Horse graphic novel. I know, a bit of a cheat, especially since it was actually DH's book, but I was genuinely curious about it. I'm a little bit disappointed in it, to be honest. To me, it doesn't really fit with what they established in the Firefly episode "Safe."

What movies and/or tv shows did I watch this month?
* TV Time: The Sing Off was back! DH and I are both huge a cappella fans, and I am amazed that it did well enough last year to come back. I disagree with the winner (not that they weren't great, but I thought the second place group should have won), but it was great to watch. I am so glad the rest of the country is discovering how great vocal only music can be! The Closer has also started back, which is always fun. Looks like 2011 will be the end of the line for that show, though.
* New Films: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I (quite good, need to rewatch Half-Blood Prince and reread book, though), Tron: Legacy (the epitome of "visually stunning but ultimately pointless sequel"; anyone remember that TCM commercial? nonetheless, we did enjoy it; so so pretty!), The King's Speech (so very well cast with excellent performances all around), Spy Game ("old school" spy thriller, quite well done, but I think Sneakers is better), 2012 (classic disaster movie in every sense, including not being able to apply any logic to it whatsoever)
* Old Favorites: How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Ratatouille, Casanova, Romancing the Stone, The Sixth Sense, October Sky, The Karate Kid Part II, Chances Are, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas, The Muppet Christmas Carol, The Nutcracker (1977 Baryshnikov), Mickey's Christmas Carol, Treasure Planet, Ice Age 3, Up, Toy Story 3, Lady and the Tramp, Serenity

What special days did I celebrate and how?
Spent Christmas with my family! Was supposed to spend New Year's Eve with my mom's family, but I was too sick. My grandmother had to have part of a lung removed, so any upper respiratory bug is very bad for her, thus I stayed home. DH and Luke went, though.

What gifts did I give and/or receive?
I think you got most of the rundown of Christmas gifts on this post, so I won't repeat myself. We bought dinner for everyone while at Callaway Gardens as an anniversary gift to my parents. Other gifts were sent to out of town family. I hear the rocket play set we sent our niece is one of her most favorite Christmas gifts. Yay!

What illnesses or health concerns did I have?
The ringworm on Luke's face is taking a long time to go away, much longer than I anticipated. It would help if we actually put the cream on 2-3 times a day like we're supposed to, I'm sure. And as I mentioned, I started coming down with a cold on Christmas Eve, and by New Year's Eve, I was too sick to visit with my mom's family.

What fun things did I do with my friends and/or family?
The Callaway Gardens Fantasy in Lights with my parents was great fun, of course. And holiday cooking, especially when my brother is here, is always great (he didn't even try to burn the house down this year).

What new foods, recipes or restaurants did I try this month?
Pork and Mushroom Ragu, which I am counting as both a new recipe and a new food, since I helped to prepare it before I ate it for the first time. It's a lot of work, and not exactly cheap ingredients, but it is yummy.

What special or unusual purchases did I make?
Stuff for a new kitten was definitely both special and unusual. At least the kitten was free! LOL

What were this month's disappointments or frustrations?
Luke had a terrible cold near the beginning of the month, but he seems to have recovered without an ear infection (so far). Being very sick (thought it does not seem to be the same thing Luke had) on my one day off just for me (the Monday after Christmas) was not very fun. I think the most frustrating thing about it is that the same thing happened last year! I would really rather *not* make it an annual tradition to cough and sniffle through the Christmas blockbuster (last year was Avatar, this year was Tron).

What were my accomplishments this month?

101 Things in 1001 Days update: 39. See the Christmas lights at Stone Mountain, Lake Lanier, or Callaway Gardens. Done, as I mentioned above.

I'm also getting closer on item number 25 (make 3 new temari, each a new pattern). Finished one in November and one in December, so only one left.

Work was a little bit bonkers. I tried to pull off a Christmas miracle, and I came really close, but it didn't *quite* happen. I have hopes of it being done the first week of January, though, which would be 2 weeks sooner than we thought, so that would be nice. Not much else there.

On the home front, we got the cats integrated, which actually went much better and more easily than we expected. My entire family and I actually got all of the Christmas presents wrapped *before* December 24! We finished late in the evening on December 23. Didn't quite know what to do with ourselves without a frantic wrapping party on Christmas Eve after the child went to bed.

What were Luke's accomplishments this month?

Luke lost his second tooth. I'm not sure it was really ready to come out, but with the adult tooth already starting to come in, I don't think we need to worry about alignment issues. He has started having some behavior issues, both at home and at school, which we are not very happy about, though I am also not sure how to correct them. That is a big project for us in 2011, how to nip the attitude problem in the bud as much as possible.

Anything else noteworthy to record?
I saw Ted Turner at Ted's Montana Grill (he being the "Ted" of the restaurant's name). The hostess said that he likes to personally check in on all of his restaurant locations and comes in a few times a year. It was slightly surreal.

Monthly Round Up courtesy of Katie the Scrapbook Lady.

Currently feeling: ready for the new year

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Fontina cheese is our newest family obsession. I completely blame my brother! His new recipe for the family this year was a squash recipe that involves heavy cream, mozzarella, parmesan, and fontina. Knowing that this family is full of cheese lovers, he bought double the amount of fontina required for the recipe so that we could all sample it. OMG, yummy yummy yummy!!

We immediately started thinking of what else we could make with it. Let's try a grilled cheese sandwich! Believe it or not, it didn't really work. For me, the flavor of the cheese has to be sharp enough to cut through the bread and butter, and the fontina was too mellow for that, but it melts beautifully. Wait, melts.... Mac & Cheese! So we whipped up a batch of Annette's macaroni and cheese using half sharp cheddar and half fontina. It was a near-religious experience, just so incredibly delicious. I may never make mac and cheese any other way, it was that amazing. I can't wait to find something else to do with it! Suggestions?

Currently feeling: cheesy

Monday, December 27, 2010

TKO: Second Tooth Lost

Luke officially announced his second loose tooth on December 11 (the other middle one on the bottom). It hadn't been getting very loose in the couple of weeks that it was around, but the adult tooth was starting to come in behind it. The last one got really loose and then hung around forever. I thought this one was still pretty firmly entrenched, so I was rather surprised when I picked him up today and he excitedly announced that his tooth came out. "Wyle hit my mouth and it came out, and there was lots of blood." No doubt, since I'm pretty sure it wasn't ready yet! Can't have been too bad, though, since there was no blood on his clothes. They had it all wrapped up in a cup with his name on it when we got there, ready for the tooth fairy. I see another $5 in his future.

Currently feeling: $5 poorer

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Considering a Giveaway

I love my little cube timer so much (see previous post), I'm considering doing a giveaway for one to start the new year. (No affiliation, just a happy user!) What would you all think about that? I've been considering several giveaways for next year, but this one just seemed obvious. I know it's not necessarily stitching related, but is that okay? Thoughts? Opinions?

[NOTE: this is not the actual giveaway, I'm just considering doing one at this point]

Currently feeling: considering

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Our First White Christmas

I truly hope your Christmas was excellent. Mine most definitely was. Time with family and lots (and lots!) of good food, what more could a girl ask for? Well, yes, and gifts, of course. I always feel really strange running down my list of gifts, which is why I don't generally do it. We don't really do birthday gifts or anniversary gifts or anything like that (for the adults), so we really go all out for Christmas. Which explains why our pile of gifts (which is actually missing a few that we had opened the night before) looks like this:

Um, yeah, we really need a bigger tree! That one is only about 4 feet (1.2 meters) high. It also doesn't include the gifts from Santa (mostly for Luke):

Luke did really well, of course. A huge Kingdom Castle LEGO set, a couple of Star Wars LEGO sets and coordinating Brickmaster books, a pair of LEGO Hero Factory robots, an Iron Man helmet and repulsor set, a Galactic Heroes AT-AT (that is bigger than Star!), a Super Hero Squad jet, several sets of Galactic Heroes and Super Hero Squad figures, a couple of Wii games, a great Star Wars Scanimation book, some ornaments, Season 2 of Clone Wars on DVD, some Pokemon cards, and several other things I am sure I am forgetting.

DH got a pretty awesome gift as well. My parents were really scrambling to come up with something for him for Christmas, as was I. I finally tossed out the only idea I'd had, and we split up the cost between us: a Playstation Move. We already had a PS3, so it was really just the camera and the controller(s). He's been fascinated with it since he saw it, and he visits it regularly at Best Buy. For the past few weeks, he's been showing me demos on how it works and how cool it is/will be once they develop games that can make full use of its capabilities. I knew he'd love one, but since I *thought* we were all doing a small Christmas this year (Jacob and I seem to be the only ones who got that memo), I felt it was out of my budget, but between us, we could get it. He was genuinely surprised, which is very hard to do with DH, and I know he loves it. Thank you so much, Mom and Dad!

That's not to say that I didn't get some really great gifts, too. I'll hit some of the highlights: several Blu-ray movie upgrades from my husband, the 25th Anniversary box set for Goonies and a lovely pair of redwood earrings from my brother, and a beautiful hand crocheted scarf from my mother (made by one of her coworkers).

Most of the rest of the items qualified under what I am calling "The Year of the Kitchen." I present my "small Christmas" gifts:

That would be a KitchenAid Stand Mixer from my husband (in silver, no less!), and a *very* nice set of Henckels knives from my parents (I think Mom was just tired of using my crappy knives when she visits, since she has Wusthofs at home). There were also oil sprayers, a small measuring plunger, a cookbook, a swanky new oil/candy thermometer, nylon covered tongs (to replace my super-cheap all metal ones that can't be used on my nonstick pan, much to my brother's frustration). Oh, and a Pampered Chef large rectangle baking stone from my sister-in-law (even though the adults don't do Christmas gifts for each other on my husband's side; not quite sure how we're going to retaliate for that one, but we will at some point). I'm sure I'm missing a few things, but those were the major items.

As awesome as the stand mixer and knives and baking stone are (and they truly are awesome!), the little gadget I have already gotten the most use out of is this one:

It bills itself as "the world's simplest timer." With the cube set so that the zero is on top, the timer is off. To set the time (5 minutes, 15 minutes, 30 minutes, 60 minutes), turn the cube so that the appropriate number of minutes is on top. A single beep will sound and a little red light will flash to indicate that it is working. There is also a digital countdown timer on the bottom (that you can see once you flip a number to the top) so you know how long you have left. When the timer goes off, flip the cube so that the zero is back on top, and the beeping stops. The timer is ready to use again. I've used it nearly every single day since I got it. Love love love!!

And speaking of love, everyone was absolutely in love with Star. Here she is trying to figure out if she can fit behind this gift (I think it is a Wii game or a Blu-ray movie). Almost, but not quite.

Hey, Uncle Jacob, whatcha eating?

And my absolute favorite photo from all of Christmas, Luke showing Star his new game.

Cleo insists she can be a cute and adorable lap kitty, too. (Yeah, not quite the same there, honey, but we love you anyway.)

We also had the best time watching Luke arrange (and rearrange) his gifts. I guess it is no surprise that the child of two engineers had several incarnations of his "gift fort." The original pile:

Morphed into this. First the front:

Then the side closest to the camera:

And finally enclosing the back wall with the LEGO Castle. Too funny!

They had been promising snow all day. Our first white Christmas ever! No, really, I don't think it has ever snowed and stuck on Christmas day before in my life, no matter where I lived. By mid-afternoon, the snow was finally starting to come down pretty well. My parents and brother moved their cars up to the front of the driveway, since the middle can get a bit slick, though we weren't expecting it to stick much to the roads. By morning, the roads were still clear, but the house looked like this:

Perfect! Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good night!

Currently feeling: well gifted

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Callaway Gardens

We spent December 22-23 at Callaway Gardens. For their wedding anniversary last year, my parents attended Callaway's annual Fantasy in Lights. They enjoyed it so much, they insisted we take Luke. We asked them to come with us, and then we discovered that a two bedroom cabin was about the same price as two hotel rooms at the Lodge. That would give us a small kitchen, in case Luke didn't eat much for dinner at the restaurant, and a living room to sit and chat in after Luke went to bed (oh, the irony, seeing as we were all in bed by 9:30!). We enjoyed an elegant dinner at the Lodge around 5:30, then headed out for our trolley ticket time window, which was 7-8 PM. Needless to say, on a moving bouncy trolley in the dark, it is difficult to get good photos. These were also taken through the plexiglass wind screen at the front of our cart, which adds to the distortion. Still, it gives you an idea of what they had.

The Nutcracker was probably 8-ish feet tall, and the wreath was large enough for us to quite literally drive through. Everyone's favorite part, though, was too difficult to photograph well. Mom calls it the Enchanted Forest; Luke calls it the light jungle. :-) You'll just have to see it for yourself.

Luke was very impressed and enjoyed it immensely, until we got to the back half where there were no lights to see. At that point, he realized that it was dark and late and cold, and he got terribly grumpy. There is a little village where the trolleys pick up and drop off, and we had promised him a snack. He asked for M&Ms, which were clearly listed on the menu, but they were out of them. He did settle for a Twix instead. DH and Nana got hot chocolate, and I was perfectly happy with my funnel cake, though the wind did make it a bit messy, blowing all of the powdered sugar around. We had Luke tucked into bed around 9, and as I mentioned previously, we were in bed by 9:30.

Thursday morning, we had an excellent breakfast buffet back at the Lodge, followed by a trip to the Butterfly Center. Please sit back and enjoy the pictures! I think we had four different cameras going. When you first enter, they had all sorts of cocoons up in the glass cabinets. Several butterflies were either just hatched or in the process of hatching, and as you can see, there were plenty of others waiting. Luke was absolutely fascinated!

After that, we entered the glass doors to a world of wonder. It was warm in there, bordering on hot, and lusciously humid (the dryness is my least favorite thing about winter). Butterflies were everywhere!

Wait, why would they put a butterfly drawing covering the words on this sign?

They wouldn't! It was a real butterfly sitting right in the center.

I like the photo below for scale. Those are just regular plain old orange slices, about 3 inches (8cm) in diameter. The wings on that butterfly were about the size of my hand!

I'm glad I didn't delete this picture when I took it. Someone walked by and spooked them, so they flew off. I was upset at first, but I think I'm the only one of us who got an "in flight" photo that day.

They had beautiful plants in the butterfly habitat, including some unusual flowers I had never seen. No idea what they are, but they sure are pretty!

Okay, so I snuck a couple more butterflies in there! There were also a couple of water features, including a large waterfall, koi pond, and these two fountains, photographed by my parents:

I *love* this picture I took of my parents! And while not the clearest photo of Luke, I still love this one my dad took of him.

And of course, there's always the artistic debate. Do you go for color and composition (and very nice depth of field)?

Or do you want to see the butterfly close up?

I feel like the eye doctor: which is better, 1 or 2?

I guess it depends on what you are after. Oh, and this brown butterfly with lots of "eyes" on the wings (which is different from the ones with a single large eye in the photo with the oranges)? It looks like this with its wings open. Who knew?!

Even Luke took a few pictures. None of his really turned out (he wouldn't wait for it to focus, or would move the camera at the last minute), but he still had fun doing it. Mom got a good shot of the butterfly he was trying to photograph in this picture.

And these two butterflies stayed still for quite a while. We all took a crack at photographing them, but I think Dad's shots turned out the best. These two shots also do a good job of capturing the texture of the bodies and wings, which is so very hard to photograph. You really just have to see them in person to truly appreciate them.

It was a most excellent overnight trip, and we all really enjoyed it.

Currently feeling: beautiful