Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Making the Most of Winter Break

The day after a wonderful Christmas we suddenly found ourselves in Salt Lake City. It was one of those spontaneous times when you start planning that perfect day in the city: temple square, shopping, dinner, ice skating and a movie! A last minute deal on a hotel sealed the deal. I announce to the family that we've had a change of plans, everyone get packed. And they did. 

We just had to see Temple Square. What kind of host parents would we be if we did not take our exchange student to the state's top Christmas attraction at this time of year?
We made it, albeit on the coldest day of the year so far, 30 F. 

 Joining us were my sister and her kids, visiting from CA and AZ.  

 This is where Brandon and I were married 17 years ago

Everyone in the city was dining out. We couldn't get into a restaurant anywhere. Finally we settled on Chuck-a-rama with only a 40 minute wait. It was all worth it for the hot scones and amazing selection of specialty drinks. 

Then it was off to the hotel to thaw out and sleep. We stayed at the Red Lion which was clean, classy, and modern but inviting.  The beds were especially luxurious. 

They gave us a free upgrade to a room on the 9th floor  and we awoke to a lovely view of the city. 

After our free hot breakfast at the hotel diner it was off to do some shopping at the Gateway. Every year Brandon's parents give us the gift of book shopping and dinner.  Each of the kids found a book and they have been found in cozy spots around the house reading ever since, a heartwarming sight for a mother. 

The day was just beginning.  We went ice skating amidst the skyscrapers of the city at the Gallivan Center. It was crowded and cold! But the excitement of speeding around the rink soon warmed us all up. Even Cannon got the hang of it. 

The smell of San Francisco Sourdough pizza across the street drew us in like a magnet. We shared "Nob Hill." A nice fellow diner gave us an extra coupon for a free extra pizza he had to help us feed our "large group." It was very kind of him and we used it gratefully. 

Last on our city-to-do list was a movie. We warmed up and relaxed with kettle corn and watched "Guardians of the Galaxy." The kids thought it was hilarious. 

Just before heading home we visited my sisters family one last time for some treats and games. 
Our little Ninja Angels had one last hurrah. 

What a fun trip!  We have woken up to fresh snow both nights. The kids have been making the most of it while I have stayed in doors nursing a miserable cold/cough/sinus infection.  Here's to finishing Christmas break with a lot of reading and movies.  Happy New Year in 2015. 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Feliz Navidad

Before and ...


We woke up to a white Christmas! Never before have I begged for snow like this year.

In the spirit of Copenhagen, everyone got bikes.

This guy was delighted with his lego sets. He spent the next 100 hours putting them together, with some help from Mom and big sister Brynn.  Granted there were some tears and frustration, probably because in his concentration he forgot to eat all day. The rest of us enjoyed caramel sticky buns for breakfast and leftover Christmas Eve fare.

In addition to Santa's givings, Sofie had her own pile of  Danish presents from friends and relatives. 
We thought it fitting to gift her Richfield-opoly which our city council created and was selling in honor of our 150th year. 

Adrie kept busy with her Lego cruiseship, also receiving help from big sister.  Everyone got warm fuzzy blankets this year, each a different color. 

If anyone had bicycle withdrawals, it was Sofie. She was glad to be back on wheels since arriving here 4 months ago. She and Kate went on a very long and adventurous bikeride on Christmas day. I only know it was adventurous because of the huge mud splatters they came home with. 

If Cannon had his Legos, Dad had this to put together. Brynn and Kate got this basketball thingy. 8 hours later we were having tons of fun. Our basement is now complete. We should have parties every weekend.

Dad got running shoes and a book. I got the biggest suitcase the North Pole could make. My most favorite present this year came as a complete surprise. A couple days before Christmas a package arrived par avion. It was from our friends from England that I met on my cruise this summer. Inside was this adorable Nativity that came in a box from a city in Germany. They had remembered that I loved Nativities and collected them. I am still in awe of their thoughtfulness!!!

We also suprised the kids with one more gift. In the music room, in a big box, was a new outdoor trampoline (to replace the one that blew away last summer.) This one will be staked down! Surprises are the best. 

The Night Before Christmas

It was a most unusual Christmas Eve with these majestic rolling clouds and no snow!
We mixed some old traditions with some new.
New, being that Dad took the kids golfing! That will most likely be the first and last time we get to do that. The kids had some crazy videos of them dragging behind the golf cart. It's all fun and games until you have to scrub out grass stains!

Our other new activity was making a gingerbread FROM SCRATCH. This is one of Sofie's traditions that she does back at home with her grandma. While the others were golfing,  I made the dough and  royal icing and she measured, cut out, and baked the pieces, complete with a doghouse. After it cooled, we "glued" the structure together with icing. Once all the hard work was done, the kids came home and decorated it.  They made one side Danish and the other American. 

Finally it was time for the traditional festivities. We had our candlelight dinner with ham, au-gratin potatoes, peas, and orange rolls. Everyone shared around the table a most memorable gift they had received. All the girls seemed to love the year they got the dollhouse. 
Dad narrated the nativity from Luke 2 and everyone took their roles (very seriously, of course.) 
We read chorus style, because some of us have various parts memorized, the "Night Before Christmas." 

FINALLY, it was time to open a present! The kids drew names and gave to each other, earning money for half the gift and we matched the other half. In addition to buying a gift for their chosen sibling they were also to be extra kind and helpful to that person.  That part mostly just stayed in the "good idea phase" because no one was able to concretely describe something extra nice that their gift-giver did.  Ah well, Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas Crunch Time

Christmas preparations were in full swing this week.
To start it off, guess who showed up at our door?  SANTA
He told the kids to be sure to hug their mom and dad each day and say, "I love you." Thank you Santa.

A lot of other visitors came to our door--mostly the kids friends delivering presents. Sofie made danish apple cakes for some of our friends and we wrapped them with a little Danish flag.

Adrie was sick for a whole week with fever, cold, sore throat, c

Elf on the Shelf was a little more creative and adventurous, before his departure on Christmas Eve.

Sofie's grandma from Sweden sent homemade cookies. For her they were the smell of Christmas.

The first graders made gingerbread houses with gobs of frosting and candy

Christmas book lunch with my favorite book ladies. We've been getting together for 8 years?? I have read so many life-changing books with this group. We should have a name. This month we read, "Life of our Lord" by Charles Dickens. For the first time, we had a gift book exchange. Everyone  brought a wrapped book that they had read and loved. We each wrote a message of why we chose the book in the front cover and then we passed them around with a "left/right" game.  What a variety of books were shared from   The Day the Crayons Quit to War and Peace.  It was really hard for me to pick a book for this group. But in the end I gave Total Money Makeover because that's one I think everyone could benefit from. 

It's almost Christmas and we are ready!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

25 Ways to Celebrate Christmas

1. Write letters to Santa

2. Deliver letters to Santa
This kid was AMAZED to learn that his letters disappeared through a tube, and landed straight on Santa's lap at the North Pole. "Magic is REAL." He told everyone at the post office.

3. Sit on Santa's Lap at the Family Party

4. Go to a Christmas Concert
Adrie and Brynn played their violins in the student orchestra, along with me and my cello students. The community symphony then performed its first ever Christmas concert with a numbers from small groups like our string quartet. 

5. Await in wonder to see what the Elf on the Shelf will do next. 

6. Provide musical entertainment for the Rotary Club and other parties around town. 

7. Get a package from Denmark and send one too!
I was deeelighted to find some offerings from Hotel Chocolate. Sofie's parents are so sweet. They sent Sophie a box of little presents so she could open one thing a day. We also got some ornaments, designed by Sofie's aunt, and endorsed by the Danish crown. 

To-die-for and too bad they are only available in Denmark and the U.K.

8. Decorate a Danish tree with the ornaments that just arrived. God Jul is Merry Christmas in Danish. I still haven't been able to pronounce it to Sofie's satisfaction.

9. Swedish pancakes for breakfast....or as Sofie told me, "hey these are Danish pancakes." She is finding out that we give the Swedes too much credit. This was just in time for Scandinavian "Santa Lucia." Sofie showed us pictures of her at age 11 dressed in white for the Santa Lucia procession with a wreath of pines and candles on her head. 

10. Attend Adrie's dance recital at Christmas Tree Lane. Walk around after and look at all the pretty trees contributed by the community. 

11. Go back to Christmas Tree Lane for a second night of fun and perform instrumental classics on the stage. 

12.  Sit on Santa's lap again, this time at the ward party.
Cannon let me know this one, not the last one, was the REAL Santa. 

13. Make and decorate cookies

The Grinch photo-bombed our Santa cookies. 

14. Freeze your buns off at the Main street light parade
These are a couple of Sofie's friends, also exchange students

15. Throw an exchange student party for 14 students from 9 different countries.
Each student brought 2-3 wrapped gifts for a Danish gift game. 

16.  Participate in Handel's Messiah.
The whole family came to watch all 1 1/2 hours. This is my 13 year playing in it and it gets better every time. This performance was taped for local TV.  Local TV!!
17. Celebrate new dresses with Sunday selfies

18. Make marshmallow flake wreaths, and gingerbread cookies (and bars), English toffee (twice because the first batch didn't work, caramel (also twice, because the first batch didn't work) , mint sandwich cookies, spiced egg nog cookies, and santa cookies. A new batch for each new day. My kids love having my sister the cookie lady in town.

19. Have a sisters week in the city. We did all our favorite things: Iceberg malts, went to the movies, shopping downtown at the mall, Costco and samples, games, Thai food.

We rented a chick flick and played Rummikub. This is my first documented win. 

Thai vegetable spring rolls with peanut sauce. We moms just love it when we can eat somewhere that is not dictated by picky kids between the ages of 6 and 13.  Fun was short-lived. It was time to get home for number 20.
20. Adrie's school Christmas program. They really spiced things up this year with some hot Latin renditions. 


Ain't hard to please the care center folks. 

22. A cheeseball and authentic Mexican hot chocolate. 

 More selfies.
 This one says, "Hey it's December and I'm wearing short sleeves." Where is the snow????

23. Revisit the Christmas to-do list.

24. Mail out Christmas cards

25. Gingerbread men!
In between all that was some sickness, a family party, gift-shopping, and today's Sunday Christmas program that Brandon and I were in charge of. As always, it turned out better than we could have hoped thanks to our wonderful ward choir, pianists, soloists, children's group, speakers, and of course the Reason for the Season. Merry Christmas.