Saturday, December 31, 2011

Christmas Show and Tell

I made a few gifts for Christmas this year, which really cut into my blogging time, and now it's time for show and tell!

Amelia, Isaac, Daddy, Alex and Sam ~ Christmas 2011

All of the kids got these cozy fleece blankets. Amelia helped me make the boys' as her gift to them. I chose to sew the two layers of fleece together and not tie the fringe in knots since the boys would be sleeping with them. It doesn't feel good to roll over on those knots!

Jeff continued his tradition of wanting nothing, which makes him hard to buy for. So, I made him a date book. It's not a calendar date book, but rather a book of 12 suggested dates for us to go on, one for each month. I included some gift certificates or a little cash where the decision was up to him, so most of the dates are at least partly prepaid.

I made this from cardstock, used a hole punch, and tied the whole thing together with ribbon.

Inside, each pocket is made from two pieces of cardstock, embellished with stickers or clip art.

I wrote a note to go with each one, giving details on the date. This one is for a round of golf, but I wanted Jeff to be able to choose the course. The note also explains that this date includes lunch and a beer at the clubhouse or the location of his choice.

The date book was fun to make, and both of us are looking forward to using it!

I failed to take pictures of this project, but I made two photo booklets out of cardstock. I folded the cardstock and attached photos of the kids each holding a letter to spell out the word "LOVE." (It's on our Christmas card, too, but those are just going in the mail, so I won't share that photo here, yet!) I framed a set of those pictures as a gift, too.

I always enjoy making a few things, and it is always time well spent. Even if it is spent at midnight on Christmas morning!

© Trippin' Mama 2011

Friday, December 30, 2011

Happy Birthday

Today was my birthday. I am now the same age my mother was when she had my twin sister and I. When she called she said, "Just think, you could be having twins right now."

I said, "And I'd be having a heart attack at the same time." I think I've done my duty on the multiples front, thank you very much.

Since it was my big day I got to sleep in until 8. I got to eat a hot meal without getting up once. And I was absolved from all "wiping" duty.

That alone made it a great day.

But on top of that, I got a plate of hugs and kisses pancakes for breakfast:

How cute are these? Amelia helped Daddy make them.

Later I got flowers and we had ice cream cake. I'm sure in a few years one of those cakes won't last 15 minutes around here, but I had to share this one with the neighbors!

Jeff and I celebrated with a nice meal out last night, so I really got to celebrate twice.

I finished the day with a phone call to my twin sister and a relatively peaceful bedtime for the kids.

All day there were happy birthday calls, cards and Facebook messages from friends and family.

All in all it was a pretty nice way to usher in a new decade of life.

© Trippin' Mama 2011

Thursday, December 29, 2011

House Headaches

My advice to you at 11:26 on December 29 is this: Never, ever have anything in your house fixed. Ever.

That is all.

Thank you.

© Trippin' Mama 2011

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Favorites

Christmas with a five-year-old and three three-year-olds was LOUD!
It was magical and fun and crazy, but mostly, loud.

Really, really loud.

All day.

With no nap. (Unless you count the one I took when I laid down on the living room floor for a minute and fell asleep. Santa's elves need their rest the day after Christmas, you know.)

These are the kids' favorite things about Christmas 2011:

I hope your day was as wonderful as ours!
© Trippin' Mama 2011

Whew! Santa's Magic Is Hard Work

The magic of Christmas certainly is a lot of work! It's all done now, thank heavens.

The kids went to bed with a minimum of over-excitedness about tomorrow. Although Isaac did tell Daddy he didn't want to snuggle, "Because I'm falling asleep so Santa can come."

As soon as the kids were snug in their beds, this Santa laid down on the couch for a power nap. Ahhh! Gave me the boost I needed to finish making one last gift.

Then Santa came, stuffed stockings, ate cookies, and left presents.

Now for a semi-random sidebar. (Since it is after midnight, I think I'm allowed. It can be your gift to me.) Tonight I realized that one of the ways I know I'm turning into my mother is that I was surprised to find the occasional new gift bow in my box. Most of my bows have no sticky back on them because they've been re-used, probably more than once. Don't worry, I'm not planning to save the wrapping paper tomorrow!

We had our festive meal tonight, which means I can relax on the big day. The beef tenderloin and burgundy mushrooms were amazing. The Milky Way cake which we made for Jesus' birthday didn't quite live up to the hype, but it was still good.

My fellow Clausian has wandered off to bed, and so I go, too. I wish you all a very merry Christmas. Count your blessings today, and don't forget the greatest blessing of all: The birth of the Christ child, who came to save us all.

© Trippin' Mama 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

Homemade Gifts Are The Best Gifts

Homemade gifts really are the best gifts.

But they eat up all the blogging time. Mine AND someone else's, the way things are going around here.

I can't spill the beans on the best gift right now, but the teachers and the bus driver got hot chocolate truffles (recipe to come) and people in Jeff's office got some gorgeous goodie boxes.

Clockwise from top left: Crockpot candies, peppermint meringues, spritz cookies, and gingerbread carmels.

The kids are each getting an easy-to-make-but-still-takes-time fleece blanket. Amelia has helped with the boys' blankets, so that's her gift to them. She helped pick out her fabric, so it won't really be a surprise...except that it is actually done and under the tree.

I'll post pics of all the projects later.

For now, it's off to bed to rest up for the big rush tomorrow!

© Trippin' Mama 2011

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sweet Christmas Fun

Sunday we decorated our graham cracker "gingerbread" houses with friends.

The results? SWEET!

We all had a blast, the kids ate entirely too much candy, and the final creations were real works of art, some of which weighed a good five pounds. (I'm looking at you, Taylor!)

Check out the pics of all the fun we had:

This is a great activity with the kiddos. I wasn't sure the boys were ready to be turned loose with a bag full of icing, but they managed pretty well.

I made the graham cracker houses in advance using royal icing. My tip is to build the house right on the underside of your paper plate. It's easier to keep things square and together.

Give them a couple hours to dry, and turn the kids loose.

Have fun!
© Trippin' Mama 2011

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Merry Almost Christmas!

See, Santa, we HAVE been nice!

Sam, Santa, Isaac, Amelia and Alex ~ Christmas 2011

This is the first year that Sam hasn't screamed in terror. And actually sitting on Santa's lap, as opposed to trying to claw your way out of your mother's arms while she stands next to him is REALLY big progress.

Fortunately no one asked for anything that surprised mom and dad, except Alex, who has upgraded his request for a stuffed turtle to a request for a live one. That's not going to happen.

(If a live turtle comes to our door because I wrote this, I'll hunt the giver down and we'll have something else stuffed--and mounted--in this house.)

One week and counting!

© Trippin' Mama 2011

Friday, December 16, 2011

From My Kitchen: Peppermint Meringues

If you're looking for an alternative to all the chocolate and nuts that dot the holiday baking landscape, (not that I have anything against nuts and chocolate!) check out these peppermint meringues. They will add a little variety to  the goodie platter. These are light and crisp, but melt in your mouth. The recipe came from

These are fast to make, but slow to bake. It takes two and a half hours at 200 degrees. But a great treat for minimal effort.

Here's the recipe:

Peppermint Meringues

3 large egg whites, room temperature
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/8 teaspoon peppermint extract
12 drops red food coloring

Preheat oven to 200°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites and salt on medium-high speed until white and foamy, about one addition. Beat until firm peaks form, about two minutes longer. Add powdered sugar and peppermint extract; beat to blend, about one minute.
Dot coloring over surface of meringue; do not stir (the coloring will form red and white swirls when piped). Spoon meringue into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2" tip. Or, if you're like me, you'll spoon it into a plastic freezer bag, then cut off one corner. Twist top and pipe one-inch rounds onto prepared sheet, about one inch apart.
Bake meringues until dry, about two and a half hours. Let cool completely, about one hour (meringues will crisp as they cool).
Meringues will keep about two days. Store in an airtight container at room temperature between sheets of parchment paper or waxed paper.
© Trippin' Mama 2011

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Christmas Countdown Begins

We're 10 days away from Christmas, so there will be no more goofing off around here. (I'm looking at you, Gus!)

There are presents to be wrapped, cookies to bake (cutouts with the kids -- it's a two person job), graham cracker gingerbread houses to be made (a fun activity with friends for this weekend), and a few Christmas presents to finish making. Yes, making. Because I am nothing if not a glutton for punishment. And cheap.

I still have to get my Christmas cards sent, despite the fact that I had them in hand before Thanksgiving. I told you I still wouldn't get them out early! It's just not who I am.

Amelia's kindergarten Christmas program was tonight, and the Little Gingerbread Boy was pretty amusing. One of Amelia's classmates was sick, so she filled in as a snowflake in the chorus. She looked a little overwhelmed during the play, but was beaming from ear to ear when it was over.

Off to do the work of a thousand elves...

© Trippin' Mama 2011

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Wordful Wednesday: When Good Parents Go Bad

This year I caved and bought an Elf on the Shelf. It is equal parts fun and a royal pain.

We parked Gus, our elf, on the mantel the first day and the kids knew that if he was truly magic they would find him in a different place.

Amelia shot out of bed at 6:20 a.m. the next morning and checked the mantel. "He's magic! He's magic!"
Of course, like most Christmas magic, this requires mom and dad to remember that they have to do something. Something in addition to the million other things that have to be done day-to-day and especially this time of year.

We've had Gus a week and things have already gone a bit south. One night I had to get up after I went to bed to move him.

And one morning I had to hustle down the hallway ahead of the kids, grab the elf and hastily shove him into a new spot.

He's done nothing creative so far, despite the gazillions of fun Elf ideas on Pinterest and elsewhere online. (Frankly, I don't want to set the bar too high.)

But tonight, Gus got really out of hand. I walked into the kitchen after the kids were asleep and found this, courtesy of Dad:

There's really nothing else to say, is there?

P.S.: The kids did NOT find Gus in this position the next morning. It was solely for my benefit and Dad's amusement.
Play along with Wordful Wednesday over at Seven Clown Circus.

© Trippin' Mama 2011

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Lesson of the Donkey

Every year a church near our house does a nativity production, complete with live animals.

We walked over to see the camels in their pen outside, and when we got there the pen was empty, so we peeked inside the church.

We found all the animals lined up for a final rehearsal, and we sat down in the nearly empty church to watch.

The music was beautiful, the angels danced magnificently, the shepherds all entered on cue, and the child portraying Baby Jesus didn't cry once. But the donkey was a different story.

The donkey refused to walk down the aisle.

His handler coaxed. He pulled. He prodded. He pushed.

He got nowhere.

We chuckled, but it made me think.

How many of us are like that donkey? How many of us are too weighed down by material things and too overburdened to want to take part in the miracle of this season? How many of us must be prodded to celebrate the wondrous birth of Jesus?

I have had my moments this season when I've found I'm trying to carry too much, to do too much. And I know that it keeps me from celebrating the glory.

If there's so much weighing on you that you can't enjoy the season, let go. Put down some of your burdens so you can revel in the true meaning of Christmas and go forth with joy.

"For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord."
    ~ Luke 2:11 (KJV)
© Trippin' Mama 2011

Sunday, December 11, 2011

From My Kitchen: Gingerbread Carmels

I meant to blog this on Friday, but Jeff and I had an actual date that night. So there just wasn't time to post in between getting gussied up and trying to make the sitter's job easy enough that she'll come back again.

I made these for the first time last week, and they instantly went on my "must make" list of Christmas goodies. They are delicious.

I went looking for a recipe when my sister Judy said she'd bought some gingerbread carmels somewhere and loved them. I found the recipe at A Crafty Lass. She's apparently tinkered with Martha Stewart's recipe, which I haven't tasted, but Crafty Lass's results are yum, yum, yummy! I thank her for bringing these into my life.

Here's the recipe:

Gingerbread Carmels
Makes about 12 dozen

2 pints heavy cream
2 cups light corn syrup
4 cups granulated sugar
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces
½ cup unsulfured molasses
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cloves
Coat a 12x17 rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. Line it with parchment paper leaving a 2-inch overhang on the short sides of the sheet. Lightly spray the parchment with cooking spray.
In a large pot (LARGE! This stuff expands.) over high heat, add the heavy cream, corn syrup, sugar, butter, and molasses, stirring constantly until the sugar is dissolved. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-high, stirring frequently, allowing it to reach a temperature of 248 degrees on a candy thermometer. This took about 25 minutes. Be sure to stay close once you've reach about 230 degrees. It goes fast from there.
Meanwhile, stir together the salt and spices in a small bowl. As soon as the caramel reaches 248 degrees, take it off the heat and stir in the spices and vanilla carefully as it might spatter a bit. Stir the caramel continuously for 30 seconds to incorporate the spices into it, making sure there aren't any pockets of spice hiding. Pour the caramel onto the prepared baking sheet. (Crafty Lass says she scrapes the pan although Martha says not to. I did NOT scrape the pan, because I really, really didn't want these to sugar. They came out perfect.)
Allow the caramel to set for 24 hours without moving it.
Place a large cutting board over the baking sheet and flip it over. Peel the parchment off of the caramel and discard. With a large sharp knife, cut the caramel into 1-inch wide strips and then cut each strip into bite-sized pieces. Cut wax paper into approximately 3x3 squares and wrap each caramel in it. The caramels will keep for at least a month.

Let me just say, these carmels won't keep for a month in my house! And when I made them I failed to read all the way to the end of the recipe. So that part where it says not to move the pan for 24 hours? Well, my carmels would have been full of little finger holes if I hadn't moved them. They still turned out fine.

I'm nearing the end of my Christmas baking frenzy, and I'll have another recipe or two to share from my goodie making soon. In the meantime, grab your candy thermometer and make these. They aren't difficult, and they are absolutely worth the time.


© Trippin' Mama 2011

Thursday, December 8, 2011

It's All In How You Look At It

Tonight was one of those nights. I ran to the pharmacy for 20 minutes, and the boys were all in full-on meltdown when I got home.
They didn't want Daddy. They ALL wanted Mommy. Which was frustrating for Jeff and challenging for me, too.

Sometimes it's frustrating not to have enough arms to go around.

Eventually everyone started to calm down and I wound up snuggling in bed with Isaac and Alex while Jeff and Amelia settled Sam down.

As I lay there I thought about how hard it is when they all want to be on mom's lap or held in my arms ALONE. I get so frustrated when I want to help everyone, but none of them want to share me.

Then the Isaac and Alex drifted off, their heads on my shoulders. I heard Amelia and Jeff laughing softly with Sam in the next room, and it hit me.

As upset as I may be that I don't have enough arms or lap to go around, I am far more grateful that my arms and my lap are overflowing.

Sometimes it's all in how you look at it.

© Trippin' Mama 2011

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Wrapped Around His Finger

Isaac has developed a habit of coming into Mommy and Daddy's bed in the wee hours of the morning. It started when he was sick with a high fever just before Thanksgiving, and he kept waking up feeling miserable.

Usually this happens when he gets sick, but it tapers off pretty quickly. Not this time. And now he's even doing the boomerang: coming back a second time after I have returned him to his bed once.

So today I asked Isaac why he keeps coming to Mommy's bed at night. He looked me right in the eye, smiled and said, "I just want to snuggle you Mommy."

My heart melted, of course, but I tried to stay strong.

"I like to snuggle you, too, buddy, but we can snuggle before bedtime and in the morning. What's waking you up?"

"There's a monster under my bed," Isaac said.

"There are no monsters in my house," I told him.

Then he said, "There IS a monster. But it's okay. He's nice. He tells me to go see my mommy."

What am I supposed to do with that?

© Trippin' Mama 2011

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

About That Pocket

Last night I was moving clothes from the washer to the dryer when I came across something that jingled.

It was a pair of little boy underwear.

I shook them a couple times, and it was clear that someone was storing change in the "pocket."

I fished around in there and found seven cents.

Must be someone's lucky underwear!

© Trippin' Mama 2011

Monday, December 5, 2011

We Now Return To Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

Daddy arrived home this weekend. He was jetlagged, but glad to be home. Of course, he wasn't half as glad to be home as I was to have him here!

We spent a pretty quiet Sunday as a family, and then it was life as usual today. That included the typical mayhem.

Sam, Isaac and Alex were playing in their room. It was cold and rainy, and they really, really wanted to jump on the beds, which is a no-no. But since we couldn't go out I decided to indulge them a bit, and put a mattress on the floor for them to jump on.

I told them they could only jump on the mattress on the floor, and I left the room. (I know, I know. What was I thinking!?)

A short while later I heard suspicious noises from the bedroom. I came down the hallway to find all three boys standing on top of the dresser, poised to jump onto the mattress on the floor.

"Absolutely NOT!" I yelled. "Get down right now!"

And they all jumped.

That wasn't what I had in mind.

So I had to add another rule to the long list around here: "No standing on the dresser. Ever. For any reason."

© Trippin' Mama 2011

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Daddy's In 'Pain and Mommy's Tired

It has been a long week. Apparently the moon was in a weird phase or something was rising in the house of Mercury or whatever yesterday because according to the griping on Facebook, everyone's kids had a challenging day. It certainly was true here.

I was so tired by the time everyone was in bed that I couldn't even open the wine, and it was a screw cap!

But tomorrow is Friday, and Friday not only brings a visit from Aunt Judy, but it marks the end of a week of doing this whole parenting gig as a solo act. 

As Alex keeps telling people, "Daddy's in 'pain."

Don't worry, no injuries here. Daddy's actually in SPAIN.

Jeff's been gone all week, and wow do we miss him! The first night Amelia cried at bedtime. The second night Sam cried that he "needed a grownup." When I pointed out that I was a grownup he replied with tears, "I need two grownups!" Oh, so sad!

Yesterday both Alex and Isaac struggled. "When's Daddy coming home?" "Why is he in 'pain?"

And me? I've struggled every day. Jeff is really in the trenches with me around here, helping with cleanup, baths, pajamas, teeth brushing, bedtime and everything that goes into running the house. That's VERY evident when he's not here and I have to face an hour of cleanup and chores after I get everyone to bed.

Hence, my exhaustion.

My hat is off to everyone who does this on their own day in and day out, and my appreciation of the sacrifices military families make has gone up tenfold in the last five days. We would all be a mess if Daddy wasn't coming home for months.

We are grateful Daddy will be home soon, and we're ALL counting down the hours until he gets here!

© Trippin' Mama 2011