'Muff'in Dome

A Visit to Santa ~ 2014

The town we live in has some great Christmas celebrations, increasing the holiday cheer around these parts. A family favorite is the Country Christmas where local craftsmen and women come to sell their wares and the carolers and music-makers come out by the dozens. Two of our favorite things to support! Also, Santa makes an annual visit and it’s a lot cheaper {free!} and quicker than the mall Santa. {Two excellent points in my book.}

We showed up downtown early to snag a spot in the local brewery/restaurant for dinner. Despite our early arrival of 4 o’clock, there was a 45 minute wait. Fortunately, they have a new system where you give them your phone number and they text you when your table is ready. Genius, I’m telling you. So we leisurely strolled through shops and snagged an adorable pilot-snowman-flying-an- airplane for Evey’s Christmas ornament, as she’s in love with the snowmen this year. Lights up like a Christmas tree when she spots one.

snug as a bug

Steve’s parents came just in the nick of time as our table opened for dinner. We got settled in to enjoy a brew and brat {well, I did} when Lucie literally broke down. This kid is one of the happiest, jolliest people I know but she just lost it in the din that filled that space. I have to admit, I thought it was rather noisy myself, but, as an adult, it is a little easier to cope with. Steve and I took turns eating and holding her outside, but she was nearly inconsolable, poor thing.

Which leads me to the next stop of the evening. Even THAT jolly, old man didn’t help her. In fact, I’m pretty sure he made it worse.

santa visit

Evey was hamming it up for camera. {At least she didn’t react like last year.}

hamming it up with santa

Presenting~ the whole family and Santa. Lucie still wasn’t having any of it and, I think, Evey was bored at this point. At least mama and daddy are enjoying themselves. {Although, I’m about to lose my phone.}

family and santa

And that’s a wrap! {Note: Evey’s little poodle that quickly turned into a weiner dog in about 5.6 seconds flat.}

ready to go

{A big thanks to my mother-in-law for the photos, that just wouldn’t have happened without her.} :)

Toddler-Friendly Gingerbread House Alternative : Christmas Tree Cones

We enjoyed some quiet time this morning constructing cone Christmas trees. This is a fabulous way to do holiday frosting and sprinkles with toddlers. Because unless you have a gingerbread house that is as sturdy as bricks, I can see it becoming very frustrating for little hands. Those things make me frustrated, for heaven sakes.

cone tree decor

detail cone tree

I won’t include a tutorial on these because that would be silly. I will, however, suggest that you place a small amount of sprinkles in a separate container from what they came in if you don’t want the entire thing on the tree {or floor}. A small muffin tin worked perfectly for this.

muffin tin use!

cone trees

I don’t think she enjoyed herself one bit. ;)

cheesey!

Ever since her daddy told her that choo-choo was inside her birthday hat, anything that is conical has the potential for becoming a train tunnel. This was no exception.

choo choo cone

She’s telling me there’s a ‘choo-choo!’ here. :)

choo choo

Finished it off with a little gingerbread star that she happily decorated and munched on for her morning snack.

cookie decorating

gingerbread star

Christkindlmarkt & German holiday traditions

Germany has bequeathed many Christmas traditions to Americans.

Christmas tree & L

Fir trees were first used as decoration in Germany during the Middle Ages when they would bring the only living greenery into their cold homes during the winter months to brighten things up a bit. The first Christmas tree was set up in the 15th century by bakers in a German town square with little breads and fruit for the children to be eaten on New Year’s Day.

advent calendar

Source

Advent calendars were first made by German Lutherans in the 19th century. Originally, they simply marked with a chalk line on the wall. Eventually, they began using paper calendars with little windows to open, and then large boxes with smaller boxes that had little treats nestled inside became part of the anticipation of Christmas Day.

first santa claus

Source

The image we have now of Santa Claus was illustrated by a German cartoonist by the name of Thomas Nast. {Before his image was rather frightening to young children!} The jolly round man was featured in Harper’s Weekly, giving us the modern image of Santa Claus. Although it is typically the Christkind {Christ Child} who brings the gifts, he also visits little children on Christmas Eve. {Martin Luther changed this tradition in the 16th century so that Christ would be honored with having brought gifts rather than St. Nicholas.}

stille nacht

 Source

The hymn Silent Night was composed by a German man, Franz Gruber (actually an ancestor of mine!). It is one we all love to sing come Christmastime.

nutcrackers

 Source

And the hand-carved, wooden nutcrackers {nussnackers} that come in various shapes and sizes started in Germany. Not originally Christmas themed, they were often found in toy shops with carved toys and puzzles and given as gifts. It is not exactly known when they took on a seasonal significance but Tchaikosvky’s Nutcracker certainly had an influence. They gained in popularity in the U.S. after World War II when GIs brought them back to the States.

Zimsterne 4

And, of course, the cookies! Gingerbread, pfeffernusse, zimsterne….yum!!

 

Christmas market in Heidelberg

Come late November, Germany is dotted with Christkindlmarkts. These are quaint markets filled with artisanal shops found in town squares. You can find there a variety of glass-blown, wooden, and cloth ornaments, Christmas pyramids that spin by the heat of candles, and other delightful handmade trinkets. Scents of spiced wine and apple cider permeate the air surrounding it, as well as baked goods, such as gingerbread and stollen, all for sale at the markets.

Also, very long sausages.

huge sausage

I was privileged to attend one while I was studying abroad in Rome. It is one of my fondest memories from my semester abroad.

Heidelberg

Heidelberg castle

inside the warming hut

It was SOOOOO cold there. They had these warming huts you could jump in for a few minutes to get the feeling back in your fingers.

studying in Germany

And I’m so glad I chose to go rather than stay in Rome and study for Finals!! Okay, we did a little of that too in our little German gable. ;)

 

Turn Verein

The near-to-us city of Sacramento has a replica Christkindlmarkt that they hold every year at the home of the German club, the Turn Verein. We went there this past weekend to enjoy a taste of our German heritage.

They had stalls set up with many of the things you would find at a market in Germany, including baked goods, smoked sausages, gingerbread cakes, handmade nutcrackers and other Christmas gifts. It made me a bit nostalgic for the time I spent in Germany.

visit with St. NickEvelyn was fascinated by St. Nicholas. {She did a little better with him than she did with Santa last year.}

selfies

We enjoyed some of those long Nuremberger sausages for lunch while Gram and Evey worked on their selfie shots.

ceiling fan

And Daddy and Lucie checked out the cool ceiling fans.

model train

model train2

The biggest hit was the model trains they had set up in one room. They were erected by the Sacramento chapter of European Train Enthusiasts.

model train3

model train4

Evey made a stop before we left to draw a few holiday pictures with Gram and Pumpkin in the children’s room.

sticking stickers

look at what I made!

Frohe Weihnachten!

Holiday Baking with Little Hands

Come the holidays, I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. I love to cook and bake but holiday treats are especially fun for me. If you have little ones, you know how difficult it can be to find time for regular household duties, let alone anything extra. It can feel quite daunting trying to watch them and get things done. But don’t let the lack of free time deter you from whipping up some fantastic holiday goodies in the kitchen — get those little ones involved!

mixing spoon fun

Evelyn has been working in the kitchen with me since she could sit up, so probably around 6 months. Now, I often have both girls in the kitchen with me as I spin my culinary magic. It is necessary to work with their abilities. Obviously, you won’t have an 18 month old cutting up carrots, but there is almost always something they can do to be involved. And if there isn’t, hand them some bowls and measuring cups, and let them pretend! {If you’re brave, you could always add in a cup of rice or flour to play with.}

stacking cups

Something like this? ;)

I have two sets of melamine mis en place/measuring bowls in which Evelyn measures out ingredients or simply plays with, attempting to figure out the correct order to in which to nest them. {Learning tool!!!}

DSC_0022

When I am baking cookies, muffins, pancakes {anything you measure out ingredients into a single bowl and mix up}, I measure out the ingredients into the cups or spoons, while Evelyn pours them into the bowl. When she was younger, I would assist her by guiding her hand over to the bowl and pouring with her {otherwise we probably would have ended up with it all over the counter, floor or herself}. As she’s become more adept and careful, I let her pour alone after putting it into the measuring device. Eventually, I’ll teach her how to put it into the cup or spoon herself. It’s all done in steps. As I see her mastering one skill, we move to the next.

stirring

She uses a big wooden spoon or whisk to stir up after each addition. This has to be taught too or it will likely be flung all over the kitchen. We go over the rules : the spoon stays in the bowl, we make our turns carefully, no putting the spoon into our mouths. As with measuring, I go in steps with her. First, guiding her hand as she made the turns when she was very little. She’s now at the point where she can do it alone and stay in the bowl, but I still remind her to do it gently and slowly. {And we definitely send some ingredients flying sometimes accidentally! But even I do that. ;)} Sometimes it helps to take it a few turns yourself first so that flour and such has some time to settle into the wet. Otherwise, it can be like turning on the mixer after adding flour! {You mean you didn’t want to cover the cupboard in “snow” for the holidays??} We take turns {“Mama’s turn” — five stirs — “Evey’s turn” — five stirs} so that it actually gets mixed well.

cookie dough

When making cookies, Evey likes to scoop up spoonfuls for the cookie sheet. Tablespoons work well for this. Or if you have a cookie scoop, all the better. Roll out cookies or pie crusts are also a huge hit. She adores “rolling out” the dough with the rolling pin. I have a French rolling pin {the one that tapers at the end without handles}. These are the best for all hands, young and old. You can hold it at any point to apply the pressure you need. And littles are able to grasp it further into the middle as the length is rather a far stretch with short arms. At this point, she rarely makes a dent in the rolling out process {although plenty of dents} but she likes to help. Again, we just take turns. :) If making cookies, I place the cutters on the spot we will cut and she presses it down. Right now, it is difficult for her to aim the cutter well without marring the dough in other places. But we’ll get there. Little steps, always.

rolling dough

Snickerdoodles are a family favorite around here. After making up your sugar cookie dough, they, then, need to be shaped into a ball and rolled in a sugar and cinnamon mixture — a perfect task for small hands. Also, these candy cane cookies required some shaping — rolling into snake-like formation and then twisted together by holding the two bases and spinning. Maybe difficult for a toddler but test it out — sometimes you’ll be surprised at what they are capable of!

pie making

apple crumble

Apple pies are Evelyn’s favorite right now. She likes to watch me peel and slice the apples while sampling the fruit. As I mentioned, she helps me roll out the dough. In addition to adding and stirring the apples and spices, she is able to help place the fruit into the prepared pie crust. If we are doing a crumble topping, she likes to pinch bits of it onto the top of the apples.

E cooking

The stool she is standing on in this photo is the Bekvam step stool from Ikea. It is a fantastic piece of equipment for working with toddlers in the kitchen. It places her at a perfect height for working at the counter. I’ve also heard these learning towers are great with little ones at the counter. {They were just a little out of our price range.}

Another important thing is to establish a safe zone away from the oven. At the edge of our kitchen is a carpeted area. Evelyn is required to be standing on the carpet when the oven door opens. She’s so good about it now that if I even mention the oven, she’ll go running over to it to get out of the way.

 

I will not pretend that this makes things more efficient. It doesn’t. It slows you down. But at the very least you won’t have to attempt to keep an eye on them in the other room while you’re trying to get things done in the kitchen. Sometimes, it might even be enjoyable. My daughter finds such great delight in pouring cupfuls of ingredients into the mixing bowl, I find it hard to deny her the pleasure and it brightens my day to see her so excited. Sweet memories are made of this…..

Wait for the Lord : Blessed is She

kayleigh in prayer

“Some days I wanted to let Him go, to lose faith in His promises. But He kept me tethered by a glimmer of hope; He did not let me go.

I waited for Him.

I waited for His healing. I longed for His embrace.

He did not disappoint.”

 

to read more go here

Christ on the Cross

I recently joined a group of talented women who bring you the devotions of Blessed is She. A wonderful ministry dedicated to filling women’s lives with His Word, each day on the site we bring you the daily readings of the Mass along with a short meditation based on them (or you can have it sent directly to your email). It literally takes five minutes of your day. I have the hardest time fitting in times for prayer throughout the day, but this definitely helps keep me on the right path.

It is a wonderful way to join in the Liturgical Year and take some time out in conversation with God each day. I love it as I can pull it up on my phone while nursing my baby to sleep or sit with a cup of tea and journal while I meditate on His Word.

In order to build one another up and support each other in the Faith, we just began regional Facebook groups. It is a great way to meet other women in your area who are striving to live out God’s mission in their daily lives. We’re hoping that this will allow some to meet up in person in order to build friendships face-to-face.

 

What are you waiting for? Join us.

Moments {Vol. 5}

I was a bit MIA this past week with all the holiday festivities….here’s a bit of what was happening.

mommy-daughter date
Evey and I snuck away for a mimi-daughter date last weekend. It’s very important to me that she doesn’t feel neglected despite all the attention that I must give Lucie these days. She loves going out for little treats at “the mermaid” {Starbucks}. Fills my heart up too. <3

royal selfie

Lucie got some special mommy time this past week too {thanks to my awesome brothers and wonderful MIL!}. We went down to San Francisco to see the Houghton Hall exhibit at the Legion of Honor. There were beautiful artifacts on display from an English manor house à la Downton Abbey. We snapped a photo in this gorgeous mirror in honor of all the lords and ladies who had viewed themselves within it.

do you want to build a snowman

Evelyn has been rather obsessed with snowmen lately. I think I mentioned that she was heartbroken after reading The Snowman and finding that he melted at the end. We’re doing our darndest to fix this childhood trauma. Steve’s latest attempt was to build her this snowman out of paper towels, tape and a popsicle stick. She’s been bringing it to bed ever since. :)

grilling the turkey 1

grilling the turkey 2

Turkey Day was wonderful in every way. We had a quiet evening at home. Steve cooked the bird on the grill which fantastically  left the oven free for me to cook the other additions.  We had a wonderful array of foods we feasted on…and will be for the next week or so. ;)

listening to carolers

The evening after Thanksgiving we went up to Grass Valley for the opening night of the Cornish Christmas festival. We feasted on Cornish pasties and hot chocolate (with whipped cream, of course!). Evey enjoyed the carolers and is still talking about them.

Lucie goosie

Lucie, our outgoing, little extrovert, refused to be fed as she preferred to engage with the passerby.

whipped cream in the mouth

And speaking of hot chocolate and whipped cream, we enjoyed some again {not complaining} this weekend as we watched our newest Christmas film. One of our Christmas traditions is watching a new (to us) Christmas movie while wearing our new Christmas pajamas. Hot chocolate while viewing just heightened the experience. It will have to be added on in the future.

new kitchen!

Christmas came a wee bit early for Evey this year. A friend of mine was selling this kitchen set for a song as her daughter has outgrown it, and we jumped on it! This girl loves to bake so hopefully this will fulfill some of her need to be in the kitchen when it is difficult for me to involve her in what I’m doing.

sleep striking

And this one. She used to be such a good sleeper but has now thrown me for a loop. Ever since she began to discover the world around her, no longer is she interested in sleeping at night. We have regular conversation (loud squuuuuealing!) every morning sometime starting between 2 and 4, and she usually goes back to sleep once everyone else begins to get up. Needless to say, I’m a bit blurry-eyed and fuzzy brained-right now. Tips for ending this madness??

Around the Web ~ 11.23.14

leaves falling

Just a few links this week as we’re busy getting ready for the upcoming holiday….

{Thanksgiving Edition}

I love these detailed instructions for how to *really* get ready for Thanksgiving. If the impending holiday is making you anxious {and wanting to rip your hair out} then you should really turn here for a few moments and take a look.

I don’t know about you but it is important to me to raise my children with a sense of gratitude for the gifts they are given {material and otherwise}. MaryRuth has put together a wonderful list of 6 tips for how to raise thankful children. Taking note.

Sweet treat ideas for your Thanksgiving table. Or one of these ten Apple Treat recipes.

Shauna Niequist has some spot-on tips for hosting a Thanksgiving dinner. She mentions keeping your candles non-scented during the feast. Nothing worse than mixing scented candles and food smells. Just. don’t. do. it.

If you’re interested in what we’ll be feasting on, head over to the food blog for a Thanksgiving edition of Weekly Eats.

 

Annnnnd that’s wrap. Enjoy your week! {Especially your Thanksgiving feast!}

End of a Season and Beginning a New ~ {7QT}

running

One) Revelling in what seems to be the first and last bits of Fall we’ll see here in Northern Cali this year. It went straight from warm to cold. I keep raking up those leaves but they keep coming down. I went to New Hampshire once in November and we’ve got nothing on their autumn, but I like to think we have something going for us with a few golden and amber trees.

photo 3(11)

fall backyard

Two) And related…I’m eking out the last of the apple season here. I made a quick trip with my friend, Meghan, and her son earlier in the week up to Apple Hill to enjoy the final fruits of the season. We snacked on apple donuts and I brought home my favorite — a caramel apple. (Still need to find two minutes to eat it.) I have about half a 40 lbs. box still waiting in the garage to be turned into apple butter. Better get on that before they are (non-edible) apple mush.

picnic

Apple Hill

Apple Hill 2

Three) Pondering and planning our Advent this year. I want to be more intentional about it this year as I feel it has slipped by the past few years. {A post about our plans coming next week!} To start with, I got myself an Advent journal filled with Scripture to meditate upon while spending some time in conversation with Jesus. It is produced by Blessed is She — a lovely community of women I’ve recently joined as a writer who bring the daily readings and a devotion to your inbox daily. It has been incredibly spiritually-nourishing for my soul. I highly recommend getting your hands on a copy of this journal to help keep you focused on The Reason for the season. {Only 51 copies left as of this writing and Advent begins next Sunday!} All proceeds go towards keeping the site up and running and getting those emails out to you. Writers produce out of the goodness of their own hearts! :)

BIS journal

Four) I think we might have an engineer on our hands. Within hours of receiving lego duplos for her birthday, Evelyn had brought me a giraffe she had made out of them. And it looks like a giraffe. No assistance or suggestions to her. She’s been loading up the train with all the cargo and driving it around the living room  Have I mentioned she’s only two? ;)

giraffe

duplo train

Five) We’ve been checking out winter/Christmas books at the library over the past few weeks to get a good collection here to read before they all disappear. {If you wait until the beginning of December, they are already picked over.} We picked up The Snowman, a wonderful wordless story about a little boy’s adventure with a snowman. Spoiler alert: The snowman melts at the end. Evelyn is just devastated about this. I’m pretty sure she’s been having nightmares about it. She didn’t seem as disturbed about the pumpkins that rotted — perhaps because the book resolved it with them coming back the life the following year by planting its seeds. I’ve got to figure out a way to show her that the snowman can come back to life with a new snow because right now it’s pretty much ruining her life.

snowman book

Six) Meal planning and execution has been really on track lately thanks to Nell. She’s been hosting a weekly link up on Saturdays where we post our plans for the week along with links {if they are available} so we can benefit from each other’s recipes. Mix it up a bit, ya know? Well, we’ve enjoyed some new recipes and having a set plan for the week. It is nice when I look over the plans for the day and know what I’ll be doing for dinner. I can plan the afternoon accordingly for what I will need to do to prep. {Or get things going early.} Tomorrow’s will feature people’s plans for Thanksgiving. Check it out for some great ideas if you are in a rut or need to get those creative juices flowing!

weekly eats

Seven) Praying for All Souls this November. The girls and I picked up my mom the other day and we met my grandmother at the cemetery to remember and pray my grandfather who died 27 years ago this month. My grandfather was an obstetrician so he’s buried nearby all the babies. I wish my Evey could have known him. He loved trains. One of his favorite things was keeping his model train set. I still have memories of it although I was only 3 when he passed away. Evey assisted my mom with placing the flowers at his gravesite. {And then attempted to place leaves in all the other graves’ flower holders. She didn’t want them to miss out. ;)}

great grandpa's grave

with great grandma AM

 

Linking up with Kelly for Seven Quick Takes Friday.

Choo Choo! : 5 Tips for Cross Country Train Travel with Your Baby {Guest Post}

Please welcome my dear friend, Meghan, today as she gives us some excellent pointers on traveling by train across country with her infant son! {Such a cute, little guy!!} Welcome, Meg! :)
baby train travel
Traveling across country for a friend’s wedding this past summer was a journey my husband and I will not forget. I agreed to be my high school friend’s bridesmaid last fall, knowing I would have a six month old along with us for the ride.  In my husband’s frugal and adventurous spirit, we booked a train to get from Sacramento to Nebraska — a grand total of 40 hours!  Granted the train’s top speed is 79 miles per hour and often it goes much slower.  So after spending 80 hours on a train in one weeks time here are some tips for your next ride by train or plane with a little one.

baby train station

 

5 Tips for Traveling Across Country with Your Baby:

  1. Keep the routine (as best you can!)  Think about how your child usually spends their days- their nap times, quiet times, active times, meal times.  We found that keeping our son’s usual routine in mind helped us and him!
  2. Bring layers. Trains (and planes) love to keep the air cold.  We did not regret bringing our son’s winter clothes with us (and a warm hat too!).
  3. Bring your own blankets. They always over charge for their paper thin blankets.  We were thankful for our son’s blankets because they also kept us warm!
  4. Bring the baby carrier.  Whatever says “home” to your child is definitely an essential! While we didn’t use it that much on the train, it was invaluable during our trip because our son slept in it so well.  While we were busy with wedding festivities, the Ergo was our best friend.
  5. Bring something new! Babies love novelty…so bring something new for them to play with and explore.
Hope this helps you to have happy travels with your little one!

Museum Exploration with Young Children

painting details

Visiting museums with young ones can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. With a little planning and prepping, the visit can go well and you might actually enjoy yourself too!

legion of honor painting

A couple weeks ago, we accompanied Steve on the train down to Sacramento for the day, so that we could visit the Crocker Art Museum downtown. {Stay tuned tomorrow for a special guest post from a friend of mine on how to travel by train with young children!}

on train with daddy

with mommy on train

I had done my research and discovered that they do a special, hands-on toddler art class called Artful Tot {and others different days for older kids} on the first Tuesday of every month. Evelyn is beginning to enjoy the crafting process so I signed us up to go.

out the window

We arrived about an hour early in order to explore the artwork before class started. We meandered through the galleries taking time to stop at a few favorites along the way and discuss what we were seeing. Evelyn talked to me about what colors she predominately saw in certain paintings and what objects were depicted in statues.

look!

so many colors

She even took a few moments while I stopped to nurse Lucie to discuss with Pooh Bear the finer points of art viewing. ;)

Pooh museum tour

The toddler art class was fantastic! They had five different projects going at once which the kids could switch between at their own speed. Evelyn’s favorites were rolling and stamping playdough with various stamps and painting with a large dot brush.

dot art

stamping playdough

spilling the beans

We also encountered glue for the first time, and she was confused as to why it didn’t work like stickers after it dried {i.e. you couldn’t replace it once you removed it}.

gluing

We stopped in the courtyard for a snack after class before making the trek to Steve’s workplace to meet him for lunch. All in all, I believe we spent about two hours at the museum, a sufficient amount of time to explore much but not get overwhelmed.

 

baby and art

To recap, some quick tips to help you enjoy a museum visit with your young children:

  • Spend some time beforehand doing research on what to expect when you’re there. Grab a map at the front to figure out where bathroom and rest stops can occur. Tickets are often free or deeply discounted for young children.
  • Take advantage of children’s programs at the museum. This includes literature. They had a great pamphlet at the Crocker that explained how to enjoy the artwork with children as young as Lucie’s age!
  • Bring snacks and take frequent breaks so children (and you!) don’t overtire. Make sure to do it in an area designated for food, though, if you’ll be eating and/or drinking. {They frown upon that in the galleries.}
  • Discuss what you are seeing with your child. Engage them in the works. Don’t do this with every one or you will burn out quickly, but stop when they show some interest or point out something in one that you know will be of interest to them.
  • Bring a stroller, if they are allowed {check because sometimes they’re not} or a baby carrier or wrap. You can’t back carry with little ones for fear they might damage paintings inadvertently, but you can do front carrys. I swapped the girls back and forth between a stroller and Ergo. {I explored the Getty Museum with Evey when she was about two months old for half a day, carrying her in the Ergo, and it went splendidly.}
  • But most of all…ENJOY! :)

painting

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