Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 - A Review, Part 2

(2015 - A Review, Part 1)

We spent the first few days of July eating and swimming in Williamsburg. The rest of the month, especially the weekends, was rather quiet -- we stayed home a lot and read a lot, too. On the weekdays, however, the kids were having a blast at their summer program.
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Summer fun continued into August. We explored two waterparks locally and had a magical (literally!) morning at Burke Lake Park. At the end of sizzling August, we went on our last summer hurrah -- California!! Best vacation ever!
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We came back from LA in September, just before school started for both kids (Anna entered PUBLIC SCHOOL and Will in a private 3's program). Then we went to my company's annual family event at Kings Dominion. The kids were thrilled with their Pikachu winnings and it was the beginning of a love affair with all things Pokémon.
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We got the house painted in October. The kids dressed up as Pikachu and Squirtle for Halloween!
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In November we replaced carpet for hardwood floors (best. decision. ever). Will turned 4, even though I specifically asked him to stop growing up :) We had Thanksgiving and put up the Christmas trees.
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Finally, December. I still can't believe that I actually WON a trip one of our favorite places...so we had a little unplanned getaway at the beginning of the month. Then the remaining of the month was filled with holiday-y stuff around town. Santa came to our house on Christmas, as usual.
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This brings us to present day - New Year's Eve 2016. The kids and Luke have been sick and I think I am starting to come down with something too. So tonight we will stay home, probably blow on some party horns and let the kids have a glow stick or two. Then after the kids go to bed, we will curl up and watch a movie and be asleep before midnight. Sounds like a perfect end to 2015! I wish everyone a very HAPPY NEW YEAR!! Cheers to 2016!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015 - A Review, Part 1

2015 is almost over, so that means a reflection is in order. 2015 has been a quieter year -- I didn't even break 100 blog posts! At this stage in our lives though, quiet is good, especially when it is still sprinkled with many good things.

January was a slow month. According to archives, we only had one outing and that was to the National Air and Space Museum. At home, I made chili for the first time (!) and lemon bars in honor of Luke's birthday. The kids were doing great; both loving school and getting along extremely well. The biggest news, though, was that we give away our dog, Pesto, to my dear friend. We felt sad about it, but loved (loving) our dog-free life!
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In February, due to a free two-night hotel stay that was expiring, we took our first family trip to Lancaster PA! Lancaster was great, but driving to Crayola Experience in horrid winter condition was not. Turkey Hill Experience did not impress us either :) Overall, we still had lots of good family fun and definitely want to go back to Dutch Country again. Locally, we finally checked out the National Museum of the American Indian in DC.
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Anna turned 5 in March, so we went to Great Wolf Lodge to celebrate our girl (part 1 and 2). We also attended two school events -- a parent program at Will's school and a music show at Anna's. This year I wrote many "catch up" posts that were basically life odds and ends updates. In March I wrote two of those posts that summed up our month pretty well. 
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Finally, April! We had a memorable Easter (they are still talking about how we planted jellybeans!) and went to Meadowlark Garden to see the blossoming cherry trees. I also recall a very fun outing with the grandparents to Frying Pan Farm Park. Around that time, I wrote about our current family schedule.
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This brings us to May. We celebrated the moms in our lives, watched Will pretending to be a bear, saw Anna tumbled and rumbled. Over the Memorial Day Weekend, we (Luke) paddled on the Tidal Basin and the kids rode a small roller coaster at a parking lot, haha.   
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Thanks to my parents and Luke's awesome performance at work, the hubs and I jetted off to the Big Island of Hawaii at the beginning of June. It was a week of total relaxation, no parenting responsibilities. Such bliss! Back home, Will finished up his last day of school and said goodbye to his in-home daycare provider. I attended Anna's sweet little graduation (brought happy tears to my eyes, man!), and both kids kicked off an amazing summer! At the end of June, we took what is becoming an annual summer vacation to Williamsburg :)
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Stayed tuned for Part 2....

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Christmas Morning 2015

I hope your Christmas was merry and bright. Did Santa deliver? He came to our house and made the kids very happy. Here is a little recap of our Christmas morning...

...but let's rewind to the night before Christmas first :)

On Christmas Eve, as I was scooping cookie dough onto the baking sheet (I ended up using the leftover oatmeal cookie dough from the freezer), Anna said she was going to leave a note for Santa. I was glad she remembered because I had totally forgot about it!
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A little hard to read for us boring adults, but she wrote:

Santa! Can I have a Bulbasaur please. Enjoy the cookies. By Anna!

Then this conversation took place.

Will: Anna, can you write for me please?
Anna: Will, you can write it yourself.
Will: But I don't know how to write.
Anna: .....
Me: Anna, you know Will can't write yet. Just help him, okay?

So then she added:

And my brother wants a superman please. By Will.
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^^Putting out cookies for Santa.^^

Just before I went to bed that night, I staged everything.
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Our Christmas morning started at 6 sharp. The kids ran to our room and begged to go downstairs. After I gave them the green light, they rushed to the kids' tree and were just SO HAPPY to see that Santa came to our house and left presents. Their pure happiness was so fun to watch (good thing I took a video)!! As for that forgotten Santa hat that I thought they would get a kick out of, their reaction was rather anticlimactic, haha.
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They had a great time just playing with their Santa toys :)

Then after breakfast, we all gathered in the living room to open the rest of the presents. Anna loves her Pokémon handbook...in fact, she got her nose stuck in the book for the rest of the morning. Will wasn't as excited about his green superhero cape, but I think he will warm up to it eventually. He loves the Nerf guns the most.
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After hearing all about the pot that she was making in art at school, it wasn't surprising to find it under the tree :) It's a cute little clay pot and oh so special -- I can see her little finger dents. Such a treasure. Will gave us a candle that apparently had no idea that he actually made it.
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For Luke's present, I just got him a bunch of nuts from Trader Joe's :)
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The next hour or two was spent playing our new board games. Life is such a looooong game, but then again, so is life itself, right? We didn't finish, but I just want to remember that Will got married first among all of us. LOL.
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So that was our Christmas morning! Pretty magical and sweet :) Since both sets of our parents are local, we made two stops to visit them on Christmas day. I remember that we hosted Christmas at our home the past two years, but this year, we didn't volunteer again. It's just much simpler this way.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

thursday morning (christmas eve) catch ups.

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^^I took this picture in attempt to replicate this one. It didn’t turn out exactly right.^^

/1/ So the countdown is almost finally done. Tonight we will finish wrapping up few last presents, put out cookies for Santa, get in Christmas pajamas (kids, not us -- although it will probably be too hot for flannel) and, maybe watch a holiday movie and read some holiday-themed books. After the kids go to bed, we will set up the house for Christmas morning. I have a few tricks up my sleeves this year :)

/2/ Speaking of holiday-themed books, we have been reading them daily this December. Over the years, we have read all the classic Christmas books, so I branched out and found new-to-us ones at the library. In all, I think we read over 20 books, but none that I want to remember/recommend. Maybe I should stick with the tried and true from now on. What's your all-time favorite Christmas story?

/3/ About the presents...I definitely didn't go overboard this year. In fact, all I got for the kids were books (superhero for Will, Pokémon for Anna) and their Santa gifts. But Luke, being the shopaholic of the family, got them a few more things...like a Kindle EACH. I didn't get my first tablet until I was in my 30s, and even then it was communal. How times have changed.
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/4/ An email popped up in my inbox at work yesterday with the subject "Free Poinsettias". I RUSHED to the lobby and managed to snatch up a pot!! They were literally gone in 10 seconds so I was glad I was in front of the computer when the email was sent. Now there is extra cheer in our house :)

/5/ Lastly, I just want to wish you all a peaceful and safe holiday season! Merry everything and happy always to you and yours. xoxo

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Monday, December 21, 2015

more holiday checklist time: national christmas tree and a holiday show

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^^Even though it was missing the lights, I thought the tree was very pretty in yellow!"

Yesterday we debated all morning on whether or not to make the drive into DC to see the National Christmas Tree. It was sunny, but cold....and we were just so warm and comfortable at home. But Luke knew it was on my list of holiday to-do (even though I was also feeling lazy myself), so after putting together our newest Lego set, he gave me the push that was much needed, "Let's go!" The kids were already dressed for the day, so it was only a matter of getting ourselves ready. Coats on, gloves on, hats on. We were out of the door in less than 15 minutes. A new record for us.
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Our visit was short and sweet. There was no traffic and we knew exactly where to park. I didn't ask the kids to stop and smile for the camera, no even once, so that was great for them and no annoyances on my part had they refused. Instead, though, we got this picture of just us, which we never have enough anymore.
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Back in 2013, when we visited, there was a Santa's Workshop and you could take pictures with Santa. Last year, the workshop was there, but Santa didn't make appearance because of a funding shortage (I read that somewhere). This year, no workshop at all!! Kind of sad that they are trimming down the festivities, but at least the little state and territory trees are still there.
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^^The state where we live!^^
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 ^^The kids like to be independent and walk in the back.^^

We also went to Frying Pan Farm Park this weekend. The FFX County Park Authority (where my mom works) is celebrating its 65th anniversary and there was a free holiday party & puppet show at the farm. I wasn't sure if it would be worth our time, but it was something to get us out of the house, especially since Anna started her winter break as of 2pm last Friday.
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^^Again, walking in the back.^^

The show didn't turn out half bad...the interactive holiday music program was definitely entertaining for the kids. For the locals, the show was by the Goodlife Theater and they perform at different venues in the area (often free!). Good for kids 5 and under, I think. Anna was on the older side, but she still liked it. She jumped up when they asked for volunteers and got to go on stage to shake the bells for Jingle Bells.
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So that was our last weekend before Christmas. Does it feel like almost-Christmas where you are? Are the presents wrapped? I am still working this week, all the way up until Christmas Eve. I wish I could be one of those who has time off over the holidays, but that never seems to be the case.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

the girbed ran

My little 5 year old wrote this in her kindergarten class.

Please allow me to translate.
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She rolled the dough // She put it in the oven
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The gingerbread ran // It ran outside
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The pig and the dog joined the group // It got to a river. He found a fox.

Haha, so insanely cute. One of my favorite things she brought home so far.

The spelling. Oh my, it’s so wrong, but so… confident, creative, and unaware. It makes me not want to correct her and not force her to spell like the rest of us boring adults. xoxo

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Mama's Test Kitchen: Best Oatmeal Cookies

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I made these oatmeal cookies with the kids last night. Yes, WITH the kids. They were both very eager to help and once I stopped caring so much about all the extra mess they were making, it turned out to be a very fun weeknight activity. And educational for Anna because she helped me read the recipe :)

Oatmeal cookies aren't your typical Christmas cookies, but these kind of drop cookies are about the best I can do when it comes to baking. The kids thought they were the best and scarfed down a couple when the cookies came out of the oven. MmmMmmm...they were gooooooood! Soft and chewy and just the right amount of sweetness. 

We baked half of the dough (24 cookies) last night and put the other half in the freezer. If I don't get a chance to make something new, we will use the leftover dough to make Santa some fresh oatmeal cookies on Christmas Eve.
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A review on Best Oatmeal Cookies:
Result: 4 out of 4 stars.
Will I make it again: Yes yes yes, but with chocolate chips next time?
Chef's Notes: The original recipe calls for 2 sticks of butter (1 cup), but I just used 1 and 1/2 and it tasted just fine. The less fat the better. I also skipped chopped pecans because I didn't have any. When I make it again next time, maybe I will use less flour and more oatmeal, to make it healthier.
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[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Monday, December 14, 2015

holiday checklist time: gingerbread house & santa

How was your weekend? Our was good. After being away last weekend, it was great to just chill at home. Saturday we did the usual stuff...ballet and piano for Anna... and Luke took Will to hit balls at the tennis court. I cooked an elaborate lunch. Hot pot for dinner. Basically spent the day bumming around :) But on Sunday, we did some holiday-y stuff.

First, we decorated a gingerbread house! We actually bought the kit last year, along with a gingerbread village kit. We built and decorated the village last year, but lost momentum after that so we never opened this house kit. I dug it up from the basement the other day and it made a good lazy Sunday morning activity.
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Luke constructed the house and I squeezed the icing, but after that, the kids took over. They went a little nuts with the decorations and I had to bust out the leftover Halloween candies, Skittles and Smarties, so we don't run out.
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^^Ta-da! Gingerbread House 2015.^^

Well, it wasn't a masterpiece, but the kids had fun and it was all their work. I also hardly nagged during the entire process, so that was a big win.

Then it was off to see Santa. This year, I found out that Santa makes appearance at the Freeman Store in the Town of Vienna for F-R-E-E...and it turned out to be a great experience. I hope this is an annual town event because I have decided that this is where we will see Santa from now on. We got there early and walked around the W&OD trail and saw the red caboose. Kind of weird to wear flip flops in the middle of December!
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So, the Santa event at the Freeman Store. I am almost hesitant to post about it because it was such a low-key, cozy experience that I don't want it to get too popular in the future. But then again, I am hovering around 5 readers, so I think I am safe :) Anyway, here is the full scoop. Santa was there for 2 hours, from 12-2pm. We arrived at 11:45am and was the 6th family in line. The kids ran around outside in the crazy warm weather and pretty soon it was time to meet Santa. Santa was upstairs and only two families were allowed up there at a time. It was organized and non-stressful. This Santa took time to talk to the kids, so that was really nice. The room was bright (excellent for pictures) and decorated with a pretty Christmas tree. Oh, and the kids got candy canes on the way out. LOVELOVELOVE.
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Santa: What would you like for Christmas?
Anna: A Bulbasaur.
Santa: That's a nice present. Anything else?
Anna: That's all...
Santa: Hmm...you don't want much.

Love Anna for her simple request and for wanting so little :)

Will said he wants a "Superman toy."
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Everyone likes a good "bad" Santa picture, but I really like my good "good" Santa picture. This is the first year that Will was actually willing to participate. I think what helped was that Santa visited his school last Friday for the Christmas party. After seeing his classmates climb onto Santa's lap, he must finally realized that Santa was okay. Either way, I was glad he had that preview because he did wonderful with the Santa at the Freeman Store. Looked a bit unsure, but I still got my picture so I am happy.
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The general store on the first floor was full of trinkets and Town of Vienna things. Lots of neat things to see and browse, but we left before the kids could break anything.
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^^We will return next year! Such a gem!!^^

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

"Tripbound Grand Giveaway Winner - It's You!", Part II

More on our recent weekend in Williamsburg, see Part I here.

Food for Thought
After a lackluster visit at the Yorktown Christmas Market, we went to a local restaurant, Food For Thought, for lunch. It turned out to be a very good decision. Excellent service, excellent atmosphere, and excellent food. The butcher paper on the table kept Anna and Will busy long enough for the food to arrive - such a wonderful idea. All restaurants should get on board with this! 
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^^Pot roast with mushroom rice and grilled zucchini for Luke, fried shrimp with mashed potatoes and skinny fries for me, pastas for the kids. All crazy delicious!^^
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^^Lots of tic-tac-toe while we wait.^^
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^^The walls were decorated with quotes that make you ponder :)^^

Food For Thought is pretty popular. We got there before the lunch rush (around 11:15am) and didn't have to wait, but when we left, there was a long line.

Colonial Williamsburg
We went back to the resort for a nap (yes, everyone napped) after lunch...and then it was time for the main event...Colonial Williamsburg! Up until now, we had only visited Colonial Williamsburg in the summertime, when it is hot and muggy, so I was looking forward to seeing it in a different season. Unfortunately, marveling at the subtle holiday decorations wasn't as fun for the kids as it was for me. "Look at that pretty wreath!" meant nothing to them. In fact, it was rather boring. AND on top of that, they were asked to smile for the camera on demand so I could get my family photo.
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^^One of the many gorgeous and festive wreaths!^^
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^^Love this historic district even though I am so bad at historical events.^^
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^^Just walking around and taking in the sight and smell of the holiday season.^^
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^^A cozy and cute ice rink was set up right on Duke of Gloucester.^^
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^^A nice moment in front of the Christmas tree in Merchant Square.^^
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^^The winning package include a $5 gift certificate to Wythe Candy & Gourmet Shop. The kids got chocolate-covered pretzels and Luke couldn't resist to some fudge.^^
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^^Gingerbread village at the Williamsburg Lodge.^^

After about an hour and half of walking (and telling the kids made-up stories about "the lost children of Williamsburg"), we finally settled back in the car and the kids declared that this was "the worst trip ever." Hmph, kids these days! Haha, at least I enjoyed myself. Colonial Williamsburg is indeed very pretty when all dressed up for Christmastime.

But that family photo I was determined to get?
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^^Will was not being cooperative.^^

[+/-] Extra Sugar!