Saturday, July 2, 2011

Ah, the Holidays!

Before another holiday comes and goes, here's a look at how we've been spending our holidays/birthdays since Thanksgiving. Just fair warning, this is a lengthy post!


Angie and Hyrum came from Chicago to celebrate with us. Rather than doing the whole feast at my house again, we went to Cookie’s house and joined with the Petersons, Martins, and Gessels. It was a fine feast and fun sharing it with so many great people.

A few of my favorite parts of the Thanksgiving holiday:

-Driving with just Neal and Austin (who slept the whole time) to the Martin’s house (Sally rode with her auntie and unc). It was fun to talk to Neal without any interruptions. We talked about what we were thankful for. I really felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude for what I have in my life, including my children, my home, my education, Neal’s education, and our families.

-Making and eating pies. I love making pies, and I had fun making a new kind of pie—it was a free-form apple cranberry pie. I thought it was beautiful and was so proud of it, but I was certainly put in my place when my 10 year old nephew said to me, while pointing to my prized pie: “Hey Emily, I know which one is going to be everyone’s LEAST favorite! I mean…look at the form of it! And all those raisins!” I still get a good laugh when I think about it. The pie was delicious, by the way, and contained no raisins. I’ll be sure to make it again next year and save none for Dallas!

- Going to see the movie “Tangled” with Sally, Angie, and Hyrum. It was Sally’s first in a theater, and a very fun movie. I enjoyed having her snuggle up to me during the scary parts, and seeing her smile and laugh during the silly parts.


We did lots of fun things during the month of December, including ice skating (after an attempt at Crown Center failed due to an incredibly long line, we went to the Independence Events Center with Neal’s family), visiting the tree and train displays at Union Station, shopping at the Plaza (just me and Neal), getting a real Christmas tree, baking lots of stuff and delivering it, checking out some local Christmas lights, and reading lots of Christmas books.

We had a fun Christmas Eve party at our house with lots of our friends lacking family in the area to celebrate with. We had a dinner buffet and program. Every family was asked to either tell a story or perform a musical number. We had a good mix of both, including a reading of the Cajun Night Before Christmas and a violin solo of “O Holy Night”. Then the kids did the nativity play, which was very cute. I’m not sure how everyone felt about having a program (some perhaps thought it was a bit cheesy), but I personally loved it. I guess one benefit of hosting an event is getting to have things your way!

Christmas Day was so fun. I loved enjoying a low-key morning at home with my family and watching my kids open their presents.

A few of my favorite memories of the Christmas season:

-Reading “A Little House Christmas” (an anthology of all of the Christmas chapters from the Little House books) with Sally. I loved being reminded of a simpler time. I couldn’t hold back the tears when I read the chapter about the Christmas horses—a very sweet account of unselfishness and family love.

-Watching “It’s a wonderful Life” with Neal on Christmas Eve night, and crying together during the final scene.

-Rushing off to TJ Maxx at the Legends after calling and finding out that they had one more pair of the exact Marmot gloves that Neal wanted for Christmas, after failing to find them other places. And then seeing him open them up on Christmas morning.

-Learning that Neal had scoured the countryside (and the internet) to find the perfect black dress for my Christmas gift, which he eventually found. While I loved the dress, I even more loved the fact that Neal put so much time and effort into the gift.

-Receiving ANOHTER black dress from my mom. She couldn’t find one to buy me, so she decided to send me her own black dress, which she knew I would like, even though it was one that she herself really liked. I was very touched and felt very loved. Additionally, she sent me enough money to buy myself a black dress of my own choosing (if I didn’t feel like I already had enough black dresses, that is)!

New Year’s Eve/Day:

Neal and I went on a date during the day on New Year’s Eve. We were supposed to go to a movie, but missed the one we wanted and ended up playing arcade games instead. It was not what we expected, but we had a lot of fun. Later, Sally and Neal went to watch “Tangled” (since Neal was working the day after Thanksgiving and missed it) while I prepped our dinner and party food. The party included Neal’s parents, his sister Bonnie, and us. Small but fun. We had homemade pizza, spinach artichoke dip and veggies, and ice cream sundaes. After putting the kids to bed we played a fun word game called “Quiddler”. My new favorite game. The Petersons didn’t last until midnight. I barely lasted myself. After the party left, Neal and I attempted to watch a movie, but I couldn’t follow it and fell asleep.

I currently have no idea what we did on NYD. If I remember I’ll add to this.

Neal’s Birthday:

I tried to make the day very special for Neal, but I don’t know if it worked. Sally and I made cupcakes the day before for Neal to take to work, but it turned out that the department secretary had also brought treats (LOTS of treats), so the cupcakes were not hot items. And while I got him a gift, he didn’t love it—he liked it, but did not love it. Anyhow, Neal turned 31. I tried a new homemade pizza recipe and made a chocolate trifle, which was to die for in my own humble opinion (chocolate bundt cake cubes layered with homemade chocolate pudding and whipped cream). Austin thought so, too, when he grabbed a big handful when Neal got it too close to him. I think his first experience with dessert was a positive one. So I guess there was one bright shining spot in Neal’s day.

My Birthday:

Uneventful except that Neal got me an awesome gift—two North Face coats. He got an awesome price, too, which made me feel less guilty about the gift. One of the coats is a knee-length down parka with a fur-lined hood. I can’t wait to wear it next winter—it will keep me nice and warm. My friend Rosemary brought me some ice cream and a very cute FHE chart that she made for me. She is very thoughtful. Unfortunately Sally and Austin were in bad form. They were both incredibly grumpy after church and cried a good part of the day. The fact that I made cream of roasted carrot soup and spinach salad for dinner didn’t help their moods. I thought it was delicious, though. We ate chocolate Bundt cake leftover from Neal’s birthday that I kept in the freezer. It was just as good.

Valentine’s Day:

I had planned on making Indian food—butter chicken and naan, for dinner, but when Neal called me from work in the early afternoon and asked if I wanted him to bring home some dinner, I agreed and didn’t start on my meal. Things got busy at work for Neal, and he ended up not being able to pick up his takeout after all. Silly me decided to go ahead with my original dinner plan, much, much later than I should have. By the time dinner was actually ready, everyone was starving, the house was a complete mess, and I wasn’t feeling the love of the day (like I did earlier when two friends unexpectedly popped in with some Valentine treats). The meal was okay, but not awesome, so I felt a little down about that, and I also was feeling guilty for not making any Valentines for anyone like I have always done in the past—sugar cookies, truffles, homemade cards, etc. By the time the kids were in bed and the gargantuan mess I had made in the kitchen was cleaned up, the day got better. Neal gave me a gift that I’d had my eye on for a while—a dessert decorator (it does the job of a pastry bag, but is a tube with a plunger and different screw-on tips). He also surprised me with homemade Italian sodas. We watched our wedding slide show and looked over notes that we had written to each other when we were dating. It was a lot of fun and really got me laughing hard—something I don’t do as much as I used to. I’m not sure why that is.

Austin’s Birthday:

We invited some friends over for a low-key party for little Austin C. I had grand aspirations like I always do, but decided to keep things simple, especially because the party was planned kind of last-minute (my parents were supposed to be in town but ended up canceling their trip). Sometimes even really simple isn’t all that simple—I was in the kitchen a good portion of the day. I made a chocolate cake and yellow cupcakes, and had fun decorating them with my gift from the previous day. The chocolate cake was very tasty, but the cupcakes were just fair. Just FYI, I LOVE the America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, but if you have it, don’t bother making their recipe for simple yellow cupcakes. It isn’t that great. Anyhow, I digress. I found inspiration in Austin’s favorite blanket for decorating the cake and cupcakes. The blanket is brown with green, blue, and tan polka dots. He loves it like Linus from Charlie Brown loves his blanky. We had a great turn-out at the party, and it was a lot of fun having our friends and their children celebrate with us. Sally and Austin both love being around other kids. Austin loved his cupcake. He put a death grip on it, and didn’t let go until it was all gone, which wasn’t long. Austin is such a fun, sweet, and delightful little guy. It is amazing how fast his infancy flew by! I hope he felt loved on his birthday—we sure love him!


The day before Easter we attended an egg hunt followed by lunch at the Longmore’s house, and had a lot of fun. Sally knew the drill from the past two years of egg hunts in my backyard and collected more eggs than she knew what to do with, but Austin was content to fill his basket with leaves and dirt. I had fun socializing and not being the host (THANKS, Rosemary!). I really enjoyed Easter Sunday, as well. I taught the lesson in RS (I don’t remember why), and the lesson went well and I felt the Spirit. After church we enjoyed a quick family photo shoot and lunch with a little more style than usual. I brought out the white tablecloth and spring table runner, and we ate pb&js cut into flower shapes, leftover salad I had made for the party the day before, and fruit and yogurt parfaits garnished with fresh blackberries. I think Neal thought I was somewhat silly, but in my book, holidays should not feel like any other day, even when eating lunch after church.

My favorite part of the day was watching the Easter declaration video on and “The Lamb of God” video with Sally while Austin napped. I think that Sally understands a lot about the gospel at her young age, and I love being able to have experiences with her that allow us both to feel the Spirit and learn about the Savior. In the evening we went to Blue Springs and enjoyed dinner with Neal’s parents, two youngest brothers, and his sister Cookie and her family. Sally and Austin had a great time playing with their cousins. It was fun watching Sally and Allyson play in the hammock while playing HORSE with Dallas with the Nerf basketball set. Dallas is a lot of fun. After returning home, Neal and I watched part of “The Ten Commandments”, an Easter tradition from my childhood. It was the perfect way to end a great holiday.