a date

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I had the best afternoon in a LONG time yesterday when Wren and I had a very rare date, just the two of us. After church we had brunch at one of our favorite cafes in town. We got to have escargot (!) and Wren was incredible company: funny, open, interested, polite, charming, a great conversationalist. We wondered about snail hunters and their techniques, we whispered about how some people don’t have hair, we giggled while we played hide-and-seek with a tiny blue ball. I took my camera, but we were so immersed in our brunch together that I didn’t stop to snap any shots. I looked around and many of the other tables had families, but there were so many SCREENS. And I was just so grateful that we didn’t have screens to captivate us instead of each other.

After brunch we headed off to The Nutcracker. It was a beautiful performance and we were inspired and uplifted. And a bit wiggly and sleepy. Wiggly and sleepy, what a funny combination that seems to belong only to children. I do not get wiggly when tired, do you? I may have teared up a few times while snuggling Wren tight on my lap, so full of gratitude for her presence and our special time together.

When we left The Nutcracker we stumbled upon this misty sculpture garden, wet and a tad mucky with the remains of late autumn in northern Michigan. How could I have never seen this before?

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We played for a while and Wren got some wiggles out in the mud. When we left I asked Wren what her favorite part of The Nutcracker was. “Playing in the mud!” Aha. That’s my girl.

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dear santa

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As dictated by Wren today…

“Dear Santa,

I do want that water slide now. I’m at my house and I want you to come and give that water slide to me.

I want something else too, in addition to the water slide. I want some pink moose antlers because I’ve been such a good girl.

I want some pink wrapping paper and I want a small, blue blanket for Phoebe. And I want more pink wrapping paper just for Phoebe to rip.

I also want a pink rosemary plant for Phoebe to rip.

I want Mama to have another elephant book. Bring Papa some new duckies to play with in the bath with me. I want Papa to have a new lantern in his room. And I want Mama and Papa to have new socks like I got last year.

Love, Wren on Fifth Street in Traverse City (where there are NO monsters!)

Oh! Also I want a new sweatshirt that is pink and blue on both sides, well actually not on both sides but on each side.”

welcoming the waiting

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Welcome, Advent! We’ve been preparing our nest and hearts for this special period of waiting. Waiting is hard work for children and who am I kidding? Waiting is still hard at 35. It helps to have a special “Christmas is Coming” activity every day. Instead of getting too wrapped up in the rush, rush, rush, buy, buy, buy, owe, owe, owe, we’ve been trying to do things at toddler-speed with a bit of decorating here, a bit there. Some gingerbread cookie baking and some Christmas decoration making. Of course we’ve been doing a lot of Christmas story reading and listening. It is indeed a magical time and even more so through the wonder-full eyes of wee ones.

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Some new activities we’re looking forward to this Advent season include a special Wren-and-Mama-only (rare!) date to see The Nutcracker and Wren’s first part in a play: Mary in the church Christmas pageant. Whee!

Chris and the girls have been decking the halls together… Fa la la la la la la la la.

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May your Advent be filled with quiet, peace and time with friends and family. And perhaps even a few swigs of Sambuca while looking at the neighborhood Christmas lights. Ahem. Enjoy!

fudge rum balls

Thanks to Duncan Hines for sponsoring my writing. There’s no limit to the baking possibilities, so grab your favorite Duncan Hines mix and Comstock or Wilderness fruit fillings and Bake On! www.duncanhines.com.

 

 

I mostly bake from scratch, but when scratch is in short supply as it has been lately with the new little birdie in our nest, I occasionally reach for a mix for a baking base. Especially for something as delicious as fudge rum balls.

You’ve got to try this one, lovelies. It’s really a good one to add to your arsenal of holiday treats. Because really, can you go wrong with chocolate, nuts, sugar and alcohol? Um, no. Especially when you double the rum in this Duncan Hines recipe for fudge rum balls that uses a fudge cake mix as a base. 2 T just didn’t do the trick so I increased it to about 4T and the balls came together a lot better. And with a more well-rounded flavor.

The danger in these little treats is that they’re too easy to just pop in your mouth when you’re having a sip of coffee, but they’re also great with a glass of shiraz or zinfandel or heck, a drip of milk would be great with them too. Before you know it, you’ll have consumed several. And because they’ve got nuts, they’re almost like a health food, right?

Now it’s your turn. What’s your philosophy on using a mix? Do you ever use them or do you pride yourself on from-scratch-only baking? Do you like to fill out your holiday dessert tray with a few store-bought goodies too? Do you make cookies ahead of time and keep them in the freezer for when a last-minute visitor pops in over the holidays? And one more question, do you “save your calories” for a favorite holiday treat or go hog wild?

Confession: I’m not thinking about calories right now, but I’m looking forward to a sugar-free January. My butt needs it, ha! But for now? Well, pass me another rum ball. It’s Christmas!

Remember to check out Duncan Hines’ website www.duncanhines.com to find some great recipes for your holiday get-together! I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective.

the tree

For most of the past seven years of marriage, Chris and I have decorated our Norfolk Island pine tree with origami balloon-covered Christmas lights. Chris has been making origami balloon-covered lights for (at least) several decades. So yeah, it’s somewhat of a tradition. This is not one of those new, hipster, DIY projects. This is old school, baby! And now we’ve passed the tradition on to our little birdies. Wren has enjoyed “starting up Merry Christmas!!!” by replacing the balloons that get too smashed in the box and those that are necessitated by a growing tree and a new strand of lights.

Fun fact: apparently having a Norfolk Island pine tree as your Christmas tree is considered “green,” as seen in several magazines lately, but for us, it’s mostly just practical and cheap. Where would we even put a Christmas tree with such a huge tree already living in the house? A couple years when we decided to cut down a $10 Charlie Brown-esque Christmas tree outside of Empire, I swear Norfolk (as we call him) was depressed about it. What’s wrong with me, he wilted. Sniff, sniff. So here’s Norfolk, proud in all his Christmas splendour! Isn’t he handsome?

Christmas Countdown!

Happy December, lovelies! Although it’s just gray and wet outside (no snow yet!), it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in our nest. A certain toddler is VERY excited about all things Christmas and Chris and I are both getting into the spirit of it as well. It’s hard not to with Wren’s infectious enthusiasm for Santa, the reindeer, Christmas cookies, decorating the tree, candy canes, stockings and just “getting started with Merry Christmas!” Yesterday I was upstairs with Phoebe and Wren was downstairs doing who-knows-what when I heard her yelling up to me. I couldn’t understand her so I came to the top of the stairs and yelled for her to come closer and tell me what she was trying to say from across the house. She said, “I SAID, Mama, Merry Christmas!!!!!!”

The problem is that a toddler’s sense of time is so vague (yesternight, lasterday) and she thinks that Santa will come and bring presents–to good boys and girls–tomorrow. Whatever tomorrow means. So I thought it would help her to understand that we’ve got a little while to wait in a fun, visual way. I made a quick trip to the dollar store (thanks, China!) today and grabbed a bunch of these tiny stockings and strung them out while she was at school. We put little numbers in them and voila! A Christmas countdown calendar. I told her that if she took a good nap, Santa would come and leave a tiny present for her in the first stocking. It worked! Let’s just see how long this will work…

the list

For a while whenever I asked Wren what she wanted for Christmas, she would say, “Oh Mama, just a card.” It was like talking to my Grandma, but she was dressed in bright pink 2T fleece. Then “just a card” turned into “presents” and then last night the list turned more specific. I plan to update this list in the next few weeks to reflect any changes, which I’m sure will likely happen on (at least) a daily basis. Tune in for more Christmas fun as we, as Wren likes to say, “start up Merry Christmas!!!!”

11/28

yellow tape
purple yellow socks
peanut butter toys
a live animal toy
two little dog fish
little windows
a tiger
a fish puzzle

12/4

a pink ribbon for my hair

12/17

frozen pig