Photo Friday – Kids

I haven’t done too much interesting cooking in the last few days, so no food photos to share today.  I’ve been pretty occupied being a mama to two kids who are coming down off the sugar and present high of Christmas.  Some of the shenanigans from the week:

Children’s Musuem20111230-142321.jpg

‘Weaving’

Like last week’s gingerbread house photo, this is another good display of their personality differences.

20111230-142333.jpg

colors everywhere!

20111230-142339.jpg

diligently working on a pat-er-run

Playing with the American Girl-like doll.   ‘Alana’ has come everywhere with us this week.

Sorting through Disney pictures and this one is just too cute not to share:

20111230-142455.jpg

Back to food and normal posting soon!!

WIAW- Christmas Day Eats

Tap, tap.  Is this thing on?

I’ve been away from the blog for five days and it feels like longer.  Maybe because, oh, Christmas happened and all.  Today is the first day that is feeling like non-holiday life, that it until I turn around and see the Christmas Aftermath all over my house.  Plus, I turn post-Christmas days into a massive de-cluttering and de-toying mission, determined to not only make room for the new toys and gifts but to also net out with less stuff in the closet/toy box/shelves than there was on December 24th.  Anyone else do that?  So, in addition to the Christmas toys and decorations, there are bags of Goodwill donations to trip over.  Which means I should definitely walk away from the mess and start blogging, right?

With all that said, today is another What I Ate Wednesday post for the weekly WIAW blog party hosted by Jenn at Peas and Crayons.

For this week’s post, I’m showing our Christmas Day eats. For this Christmas season, we had all off our extended family Christmas celebrations before December 25th.  We started on Saturday the 17th and seemed to have some occasion every day that involved the kids opening a present up until yesterday the 27th.  Needless to say, today is going to be a present detox for them.  Guess who will be pouring herself a glass of wine the minute the husband gets home from work tonight?Back to the topic… can you tell I’ve been away from blogging for a bit?  So many words to say….Christmas Day was actually a very mellow day for us, since we had no big family gatherings to attend.  We intended to start the day with Santa gifts, but my little guy asked if he could eat something first.  He asked for a Christmas cookie and when I said no (Scrooge I am), said ‘okay, how ’bout oatmeal?’  Who can refuse a little guy some oatmeal.  So I started some oatmeal cooking before we headed into the living room to check out Santa’s donation to our toy room.  You know a kid is hungry when he asks for oatmeal BEFORE seeing what presents he got.  :)The kids played with their gifts and after a bit we came into the kitchen to eat breakfast.  Like last year, I made a carrot cake.  I justify eating cake for breakfast my telling myself that it’s not that different from carrot cake cupcakes which really are carrot muffins, and we all know muffins are completely healthy breakfasts.  Plus, there are carrots!  I use this recipe from Cooking Light which has been a favorite of ours for years.  It was actually my daughter’s first birthday cake.The boy got his oatmeal and all what right with the world.My daughter’s new doll joined her for breakfast.  Thankfully she’s a light eater, because I’m not really up for another mouth to feed.  I enjoyed the cake and oatmeal and finished off my first cup of tea.After some more toy playing, I settled into the couch for a few quiet moments to have another cup of tea and flip through this book that I got for Christmas:

20111227-145805.jpg

Loving the Little Years – Motherhood in the Trenches by Rachel Jankovic.

Like my Christmas PJ pants?

Only a couple of pages in, I came across this quote:

‘It is no abstract thing – the state of your heart is the state of your home.  You cannot harbor resentment secretly toward your children and expect their hearts to be submissive and tender.  You cannot be greedy with your time and expect them to share their toys.  And perhaps most importantly, you cannot resist your opportunities to be corrected by God and expect them to receive correction from you.’

*Thunk.*  That would be conviction kicking me in the shin.  I think this book is going to be an eye-opening, humbling and inspiring read.

Back to Christmas…

My in-laws came over around lunch time.  We had already had the full Christmas with them and the rest of my husband’s family the week before, but since we were both in town on Christmas Day, we thought it would be nice to share part of the day.  My mother-in-law brought some of the random food from her fridge and I brought out some of the random food from mine (we had been out-of-town the couple of days before Christmas Day) and I herby present the most random Christmas Day lunch ever:

20111227-145756.jpg

Veggie Tray, Asian Sesame Glazed Brussels Sprouts, Brown Rice, Triscuits, Olive Garden Breadsticks, Chili, Almonds, Avocados and Cheese.  All that is missing is a Partridge in a Pear Tree.

After some eating and visiting, my in-laws headed back home and the four of us headed to the movies.  It was the first time we’ve gone to the theater since July, so the kids were quite excited.  We saw Arthur Christmas and it was really cute.

I snuck in some kombucha (see the bottle in the lower right).

20111227-145748.jpg

And then, because I am a sucker on Christmas Day, I let the kids talk me into buying a $20 dollar bag of popcorn (or $7, which is still price gouging).

20111227-145737.jpg

After the movie we came back and ate leftovers for dinner.  Picture the above lunch photo, just reheated.

We had a really fantastic Christmas this year with all of our family and, as always, I am reminded how blessed I am to have such wonderful people in my life.

I hope you all had a fantastic holiday!

Photo Friday – Scenes of the Season

 

20111223-083234.jpg

 

This is my daughter’s rendition of our Elf (of Elf on the Shelf fame) leaving our house each night to report back to Santa.  I love that our house looks like a haunted castle.  What?  You don’t have turrets on your home?

20111223-083224.jpg

We finally assembled a gingerbread this house.  I tried to be all ‘real’ and bake it using real gingerbread.  Next year I’m going the easier route and using graham crackers.  Real is over-rated.

 

20111223-083248.jpg

Each child did one side of the roof.  I love how it shows their personality.

My girl likes symmetry, order, patterns and a set design:

20111223-083258.jpg

My boy?  He likes action, excess and lots of flair:

20111223-083307.jpg

The lights in our haunted castle neighborhood:

20111223-083341.jpg

JK – it’s Disney World.

I’m signing off for a few days.  Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas!  I wish you laughter, smiles, good food and time with those you love.  And maybe some Dark Chocolate Peppermint Bars…..

Santa Pancakes

I mentioned on Facebook a couple of weeks ago that my daughter asked if we could try to make Santa Face pancakes.  I think it was just an excuse to eat whipped cream for dinner, but I loved her excitement over all the foods we could use to create a face, so I went with it.

I made extra big pancakes (using this buttermilk pancake recipe from Cooking Light) and set out a big ol’ topping bar of sorts.

The Good (Healthy) Stuff

Clementines, Apples, Pomegranate, Granola, Bananas, Craisins, Raisins

The Not-So-Healthy Stuff

Redi-Whip, Dark Chocolate Chips, White Chocolate Chips

The Finished Faces:

Looks just like Santa, right?  

Like how she put white chocolate chips on just about every surface?

My girl ate all of her toppings and then cleaned off the rest of the Healthy Plate.  She ignored the pancake, probably because she was so full of whipped cream (or whoop cream as she calls it) and chocolate chips.  My boy actually ate pancake, along with his toppings.  I don’t normally serve a dinner so heavy on, well, whipped cream, but sometimes you gotta embrace the moment and make a memory.

My Disney World ABCs – part 1

This is my attempt to both recap our recent Disney World trip and offer my tips for anyone traveling to Disney with relatively young kids.

A- Akershus.  

Character Meals are a big thing at Disney World.  As in, if you want to do one, you best get reservations the minute you have the thought ‘hey, lets do a character meal.’  Reservations open up 180 days in advance (and I think 190 if you are staying on Disney property) and some of the really popular spots, like Cinderella’s Castle, fill up that day.  We weren’t on the Disney Meal Plan, so we choose to do only one meal.  I went with the Princess Storybook Dinner at Akershus in Norway in the World Showcase of Epcot.  I recapped most of our meal here.  It was a little spendy (like $40 for adults and $25 for kids), but it was fun and the kids loved getting to interact with each character.  Lunches are cheaper and sometimes easier to get reservations for, so that is another route to go.

B- Buzz Lightyear

See Buzz in the background?  

Buzz is one of my son’s very favorite characters.  He was beyond excited to meet him.  We found him both outside the Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Shootout in Magic Kingdom and in Hollywood Studios by Toy Story Mania.  In case you’re wondering how he signs the character autograph book with that big costume, he doesn’t.  He wisely uses a stamp.

C- Characters.  

Aside from the character meals, there are also characters throughout the parks all day and there are generally some decent lines to see each one.  Most kids have an autograph book (we bought ours in the park, as I wanted a Disney version with spots for pictures on the page across for the autograph) and interact with the character for a few minutes, take a picture and then get their book signed.  The autograph book has already become a prized possession of both kids and I think it’s a great little souvenir.

D-  Dinosaur Dig.

Our fourth and final day at WDW started in Animal Kingdom.  It is a beautiful park and we didn’t really do it justice.  All of us were wiped out by lunch time.  We found ourselves in the Dino Land section of the park and went into the Dinosaur Dig playground/’dig’ spot.  My kids were in heaven in what is basically a huge sandbox with fake dinosaur bones to be unearthed.  There are plenty of shovels and brushes and my daughter spent and hour and a half working on a section near the tusks.  The whole outer area of the dig sight was occupied by parents who were checking their phones, zoning out and enjoying having their kids occupied.  I had a few moments of thinking ‘we spent all this money and effort to come here today and they are playing in a sandbox?’ but I also enjoyed watching them run around and feel free to touch things and get down and play.  I think we all needed the decompression time.  Three cheers for the dino-dig.

E -Early arrival at the park.

We got there 15-30 minutes before opening each day.  I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t.  You can walk onto the popular attractions and get your fast passes early.  One of my favorite memories of the trip was walking down Main Street in Magic Kingdom (en route to FantasyLand) and watching my girl see the castle for the first time.  The moment felt almost private since there wasn’t crowds of peoples around, as there would be for the rest of the day.  We walked through the castle alone and the look on her face was one I will always remember.

F- Fast Pass. Use them!  We went at a relatively uncrowded time of year and still found the fast passes to be handy.  During busy times they would be key.  Each day we sent the husband off to get a fast pass at one of the popular rides as the rest of us walked towards a different popular ride.  He’d meet us there after getting the fast passes.  When we were there only one ride ran out of fast passes, Toy Story Mania in Hollywood Studios.  We had gotten our fastpasses at opening and by the time we made it back over to get second ones (around 11am), they were all distributed for the day.  If you don’t have a fast pass, you stand in the ‘stand-by line,’ which unfortunately for that ride, was 75 minutes for the whole day.  ps – that ride was one of our favorites.

G- Guests.

That’s what Disney calls you.  The employees are cast members.  I was generally impressed with the quality and number of the ‘cast members.’  They were quite pleasant and helpful.  During the rainstorm on our last night, we ducked into a gift shop and immediately a cast member got the kids involved in a game of Tic-Tac-Toe she had set up on the shop floor.

H- Honey I Shrunk the Kids playground (at Hollywood Studios).

 I played in this playground when I was a kid visiting WDW.  It was pretty incredible to see my girl on the same ant I once climbed on.  Hopefully they’ve cleaned it since then.

I – Incredibles!  

These were the characters my kid’s were most pumped to see.  We love this movie and the kids were adorably star-struck to see Mr and Mrs. Incredible and Frozone.  Unfortunately Dash, Violet and Jack Jack aren’t available.

J – Jungle Cruise.

Yes, the same ride that has been around for-ever.  And no, nothing much has changed since I rode first it 42 years ago (approx).  Much to my surprise, my kids LOVED this ride.  I think they enjoyed that the animals are clearly fake, as are the people.  All of the cheesy jokes the tour guide rattled off went over their head, but they were smiling the entire ride.  Who knew?

K – Kim Possible

This was probably the highlight of our day in Epcot, even more so than the princess dinner.  Upon entering the world showcase in Epcot, there are stations where you can register and get set up to do your ‘mission.’  It’s free.  You then pick up a real cell-phone that has been set-up for the game called your Kim-unicator (lingo from the show Kim Possible).  You  start a mission in one country and it takes about 30 minutes to complete.  It was crazy fun.  The technology is really impressive.  You get sent into a store or specific section in the country and, when standing in the specified spot, you press a button on your Kimmunicator.  After pressing, something actually happens, like a cuckoo clock coming opening up or a  picture lighting up.  The kids (and their parents) felt really powerful knowing that they made something happen.  We only did two missions, Germany and Mexico, as it was getting pretty crowded.  I’d love to go back on a less crowded day and do missions in each country.  As a side note, I saw groups of adults with no kids playing along, so you don’t have to be traveling with children to enjoy the game.  Also – I had read about this game before our trip, so I picked up a Kim Possible DVD at Half Price Books before our trip so my kids would know a little about the characters.

L – Lines App

I read all 1800 pages (approx) of the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World.  It was really informative, if a bit wordy.  They have a website (www.touringplans.com) and an app called Lines.  It was very helpful and worth the $10 year-long fee.  You get real time line-lengths, as well as Fast Pass return time information which was so very helpful as we went through the day.

M-Z to be continued, along with our top five favorite rides and shows.

Photo Friday

A little late, but the winner of last’s week Photo Friday giveaway is commenter #13, Ruth Ann. She is a very inspiring woman, mom, wife and runner. You should check out her blog. I’m lucky enough to know her in real life.

Ruth Ann – I’m sending you an email. If anyone else wants some Christmas artwork for the bargain price of free, send me your mailing address to thelivelykitchen{at}gmail{dot}com. I’d be happy to share the construction paper, glitter and marker joy. :)

Scenes from the airplane:

20111215-224008.jpg

to infinity and beyond!  and oh how little velcro sneakers make me smile.

20111215-224019.jpg

minnie mouse styling = 2 hours of straight entertainment on the flight.  Well worth the $14.95.

20111215-224112.jpg

2 hours of minnie mouse styling means this mama got to drink her tea while still hot!

Life back in San Antonio

20111215-224041.jpg

Remember how I mentioned that my little guy loves to peel and stick things?  We’ve moved onto decorating presents with reinforcement stickers.  Look for him on Pinterest soon 

20111215-224050.jpg

My girl had her first piano recital on Wednesday.  I don’t know who was more nervous between the two of us.  She did wonderful and I think my heart both broke with happiness and swelled with pride.  The look on her face before she started and when she finished, watching her place her little fingers so deliberately on each key, taking in how little she looked on the bench, knowing how hard she’s worked on her song were all little memories that were so sweet.  Somebody slow down time!

What I Ate Wednesday – Dining at Disneyworld

We spent last Wednesday – Monday on a family trip to Disney World in Orlando, Florida.  It was our first time to take the kids (age 6 & 3) and the trip was pretty wonderful.  I’m going to try to get a trip recap up soon.  For today’s What I Ate Wednesday, hosted by Jenn at Peas and Crayons, I am featuring my day of food at Epcot.

A Day of Dining at Disney World

Breakfast:

20111213-200136.jpg

steel cut oats + almond butter, green powder + water, oranges (not pictured)

We stayed in a condo (as opposed to on Disney property) and I loved being able to make our own breakfasts.  It was cheaper and allowed me to ensure that at least one of our meals a day was healthy and balanced.  And cheaper.  Did I mention cheaper?  Each morning I had a bowl of steel-cut oats topped with almond butter and some oranges.  On this day I also had a packet of green powder mixed with water.  It tastes like drinking concentrated grass, but I like to think it does good things for the body.

We headed to Epcot and spent the morning in the front half of the park.  There was the iconic ball (Spaceship Earth).

There was a shark.

There were rides.

We then headed to the back half of Epcot, the World Showcase.  I had a pretty good lunch at the counter service restaurant in Morocco.  Or, the Disney version of Morocco.

Lunch:

Salad, falafel, bread, lentils, olives, hummus, tabouleh and couscous with chickpeas.

In China we ran into Mulan

and I ran into a stand selling Mango Ginger-itas.  Very authentic, you know.

It was very gingery and I loved it.

Once we got to Japan I had a glass of iced green tea.

20111213-200150.jpg

We had a special (read $$$) dinner planned for the evening.  And by planned, I mean that I got online at 6am exactly 180 days in advance of our trip to book it.

We went to Norway for the Princess Storybook Dinner in the Akershus restaurant.  The kids were in heaven.  Please accept my apologies now for both the  lighting in pictures (it was pretty dark in there) and the barrage of Disney Princesses that are about to come.

We were greeted by Belle.

After being seated, we went to the cold buffet for some Norway-ish (Nordic?) appetizers.

I actually had two plates of food.  This was the first one:

The second was more salad, more beets and more asparagus.

Dinner was a mushroom pasta dish that was better than I expected.  It was a little heavy and rich, so I only ate half.

Then the princesses started coming.  As did the little girl squeals throughout the room.

I felt very under dressed and un-made up.  :)

We finished the dinner with a chocolate cake that I forget to photograph and then headed to watch the fireworks and light show.

It was a pretty fantastic day.

Christmas Q&A

I am still digging my way out of laundry, unpacking, grocery shopping, Christmas festivities preparing and general back to real-life stuff after our 6 day trip to Florida.  Bear with me while I get caught back up.  

In the meantime, I did this Christmas me-me a few years ago and thought it would be fun to re-visit.  

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Wrapping paper that I bought at 75% off at the previous year’s post Christmas sales.  I think gifts are so much more fun to open when they come out of a wrapped box.

2. Real tree or Artificial and how many? Growing up it was always artificial. When we lived in MN, we had a real tree every year and I loved every aspect except for the pine needle bonanza when you bring in and remove the tree.   Yet, we bought a nice pre-lit artificial tree at an after-Christmas sale a couple of years ago and I’m loving the convenience.

3. When do you put up the tree? Just after Thanksgiving.

4. When do you take the tree down? No later than New Years Day.

5. Do you like eggnog? NO. NO. NO. It is of the devil.  I’ve never been much of a milk drinker and sweet, thick milk is even worse than plain milk.  Ugh.

6. Favorite gift received as a child? Barbies

7. Hardest person to buy for? My mom and mother-in-law.

8. Easiest person to buy for? The kids. They are quite easy to please at this age.

9. Do you have a nativity scene? We have a Little People version (pictured in this post).

10. Mail or email Christmas cards? Mail. It is always a photo card.  I love getting the mail in December and getting actual mail.  We put all the cards on our coat closet door and it makes me smile each time I walk by and see the smiling faces of people I adore.

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? Probably some of the clothes my Grandma tried to pick out for in junior high. She tried.

12. Favorite Christmas Movie? Love Actually.  Just in cases.

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? Usually around the middle of November.  I try to be done by mid-December, so I can relax and avoid the retail frenzy in the last days before Christmas.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Yep. And I just might be doing it this year….

15. Favorite thing to eat during Christmas? Things with cinnamon or mint flavors, some are  highlighted in this post.

16. Lights on the tree? Um, yeah.  See the pre-lit tree answer above.

17. Favorite Christmas song? Joy to the World. My kid’s rendition of Away in a Manger is pretty high up there too.  I especially like hearing my little guy sing it, as he still can pronounce his L’s.  Therefore, the ‘yitt-el yord Jesus yays down his sweet head.’  And the ‘stars in the sky yook down where he yay.’  One song that I am getting a bit sick of is Rudolph, as my daughter has been practicing it multiple times a day since early November for her piano recital.  I’ll be glad to give ol’ Rudolph a break after the recital.

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? It changes yearly, but the last few years we’ve been able to be at our home on Christmas morning and I love that.

19. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer? Yes.  Ugh, Rudolph again….

20. Angel on the tree top, or star? Star.

21. Open presents on Christmas Eve or morning? Both. Santa comes Christmas morning, but I like family presents on Christmas Eve.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year? Crowds. And the materialistic focus.

23. Favorite ornament theme or color? I like ornaments that have meaning, whatever their color.  I have several red balls around my tree, hoping to bring a bit of harmony to a tree that has lots of handmade and children’s ornaments on it.  I figure I’ll have an elegant themed tree when the kids are older.  Now is the time for dyed macaroni ornaments and glitter messes and I kinda love it.  :)

24. Favorite for Christmas dinner? My Grandma’s macaroni and cheese and my mom’s infamous layer dips.

25. What do you want for Christmas this year? Hmmm.  Maybe an iPad.  And a trip to Minnesota.  Oh, and peace on earth.  Of course.

26. Most favorite Christmas Tradition? So many.  Singing the 12 days of Christmas with my extended family at my grandparent’s house.  Exchanging dollar store random gifts with my siblings and parents.  Making reindeer footprints in our entry way for the kids.  Eating monkey bread at my mom’s house.  Watching Love ACtually with my husband.  Hiding the Elf on the Shelf.  Looking at Christmas lights with the kids, all dressed in pajamas and drinking hot cocoa in the car.

I’d love to hear about your Christmas traditions and celebrations!  If you celebrate Christmas, please answer one of these questions in the comment section.

Big D*

We are just getting back

20111212-130403.jpg

from

20111212-130350.jpg(that would be Cinderella’s castle at Walt Disney World)

(and yes, everyone is in ponchos.  Disney magic happens, even in the pouring rain)

 

The trip was equal parts wonderful and exhausting.  However, please don’t utter the word ‘magic,’ ‘dreams’ or ‘believe’ in my presence today or make me stand in another line or I just might snap.

Be back soon with recaps!

 

And by Big D, I don’t mean Dallas or Divorce.  I mean Disney.  That magical place where you believe in your dreams and celebrate and make memories and follow your heart and be true to yourself and let the magic happen and all the other Disney-speak phrases that you hear over and over. To infinity and beyond!!

ps – in that picture of my girl at the airport, we are mixing all kinds of Disney metaphors.  She is in a Tinkerbell tracksuit, carrying a Minnie Mouse toy set and wearing a Buzz Litghtyear backpack.  Clearly I’m not the mom who keeps her kids away from commercial characters….