Friday, December 31, 2010

wild kingdom.

This morning, while I was at the pediatrician's office with S, M set out onto the castle grounds to clear up some trees and branches that had fallen. When he pulled a chunk of fallen tree, it disintegrated in his hand, revealing what was a completely hollow fallen tree trunk. And there sat an owl. It just stared at him, looked around, and crawled back into the relative safety and darkness of the hollow tree. So, that sucker is staying right where it fell, and we are desperately hoping that its inhabitant will stay there. M has talked about it almost nonstop since we got home, and there is a look of utter awe on his face when he tries to explain how beautiful the owl was. He said it was pretty small, so we're wondering if it's a baby owl...or maybe it has babies in the tree. We don't know, but we love having it in the backyard. I, of course, want to see it but am smart enough to leave it alone. It's probably been scared enough.

He also found what appears to be a small network of mole tunnels in the back yard, which actually surprised me. I didn't expect us to have moles since we have such huge trees and what I'd expect to be a pretty extensive network of tree roots. I was under the impression that tree roots acted as a deterrent to burrowing animals. Oh, well. I guess not.

So, we've got the bunny who lives out front on the tennis court. The owl in the fallen tree. The moles under ground. The neurotic dog in the house. Eight hundred fifty seven thousand of the fattest squirrels ever up in the trees plus their chipmunk cousins. Loads of various bird species hanging out in the trees and the tangly branches of our edge habitat. One neighborhood dog that likes to do his early morning business in our yard. And multiple neighborhood cats that I want the squirrels to breakfast upon. It's practically a zoo around here. That's just the way I like it.

Other than those darn cats.

Also, the garbage can just got fixed, so I think the discovery of the owl plus the fixing of an issue makes this an awesome day at Casa de Ouiser.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

a low, agitated growl.

Right now, when I think about our house, I emit a constant growl. As in, "ergggggh, really, something else??"

So, here's the deal. The chimney problem is being fixed. Actually, the chimney is fixed. Now it's time to tear into the plaster and the drywall and make sure there's not mold growing anywhere because of all the moisture that seeped in. It's not been a huge deal, but it's already become an expensive deal that could become way more expensive, and for-crying-out-loud-it-was-just-Christmas-and-I'm-not-made-of-money.

Here are the other things that have popped up.
  • The super awesome drawer that houses our garbage can and recycle bin will not stay closed. The dog is constantly in the garbage, and that's not endearing him to me. At all. I've already made a call, and this will be fixed promptly and for free, but it's annoying.
  • The window over my kitchen sink has issues. It seems like there is some sort of air or vapor or something trapped between the two panes of glass, so the window always looks dirty or foggy. Another call has been made, and it's another free fix, but it's still a window that will have to be replaced during the winter. Ugh.
  • The very lovely floors upstairs are falling apart. The previous owners had some hideous putrid green carpet covering the lovely knotty pine floors up there. We had them refinished. Unfortunately, there was a lot of spacing between the boards, which the floor guy filled with an apparently unheard of amount of filler. Now, because the air is dry and cold, the boards are shrinking and the filler is cracking and coming out in big chunks. It's awful to look at, and I'm pretty sure that finished floor filler is not something I want my son to eat when he starts crawling around and putting stuff into his mouth. Based on the way our floors are built, the floor guy told our contractor this would probably happen, but he didn't tell us. There is apparently nothing we can do because if we fill the cracks, when the lovely southern humidity comes back in April, the floor boards will swell and push the filler out anyway. So, we're either going to have to rip out the existing hardwoods and put in new ones or cover the floors with carpet. I am not happy.
  • The shower floor is not properly sloped. I've already had the shower guy out once to jack up the corners of the shower pan, but it didn't work. There is always a puddle in one corner of the shower. Always. I refuse to live with this for the rest of my life, so they're going to have to disassemble the beautiful marble shower and do it all over again. They'll have to do it for free because it was their fault, but it'll mean days without a shower in the house. I've not called them back out yet.
  • The dog is causing a lot of wear-and-tear on my cork floors. Again, mama ain't happy 'bout it.
  • We need about a dozen truckloads of dirt in the backyard to ensure that we don't end up with water damage along the back of the house. Again.
  • We need a tree surgeon before the seemingly dying tree that's as tall as a skyscraper squashes us all like bugs.
There's other minor stuff, but it doesn't really matter. In fact, the big stuff doesn't really matter. It is what it is, and we'll fix it. It means that I'll have to live a little longer with bare windows. It means that I can't get the new guest room finished as soon as I'd like. It means that I can't start designing and building the perfect new patio that we're going to create with a fireplace and all the works (oh, the patio where I want to drink coffee every morning while lounging idly and reading Michael Pollan or Bill Bryson or Jane Austen or anything). But that's life. And I really am cool with that.

Also, here's the thing.

Despite all the problems...all the cracking floors and bubbling walls and waterlogged showers, I love this house. This is our home. None of these problems has ever made me wish that we hadn't bought this house and left the old one. None of them has ever made it seem like a very, very expensive and stressful mistake. Instead, I look around me. I look out the windows. I look anywhere and I know that this house was built right here on this piece of land just for us. We are supposed to be here. We are supposed to raise our kids here. We are supposed to have grandkids visit us here. Right here. Despite the problems. And that makes it all extra okay.

very merry.

The Ouisers had a wonderful Christmas. S was insanely thrilled about everything.

Christmas Eve was a low key day of making and decorating Christmas cookies. Then we went to Mellie's for my mom-family Christmas. We came home and read Twas the Night Before Christmas. We put S to bed, and we watched Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed get their awesome on in It's a Wonderful Life.

Christmas morning, we banned the family from joining us for the opening of presents, and it was a very wise (though bold) move. It meant that M and I were able to really watch S open gifts. We got to see her little face light up. We got full-on thank you hugs for all of our gifts to her. She excitedly helped us open our gifts. There was no stress at all. M and I were happily in the floor, coffee and cameras in hand. We even called Mellie's house, where we were supposed to officially breakfast, and said we'd be late because S was having fun and we weren't going to make her stop playing for breakfast casserole. It was great. Also, this almost-four-years-old Christmas was pretty magical. S was in love with everything about the holidays, and frankly, I wanted to share that with her as a family. It won't be the same next year (or ever again) because she'll have a little brother. So, just this once, all of the excitement was hers, and it was amazing. There will be more excitement when there are two kiddos, I know, but this one was about just the three of us, and I do believe I'll treasure it forever and ever and ever.
There is an inexplicable love for this Pillow Pet.
This was the gift S chose for M. Do not call it an ornament. It is a Good Luck Charm, and she made him hang it on the doorknob to his office when we went there yesterday.

Mr. Ouiser loves Peyton Manning so much that he's branded me.

Eventually we did make it to Mellie's. Then we made it to Mr. P's to give him the stocking that Santa left him at our house. Then we played a bit at home. Then we headed to Columbia for Christmas with my dad-family. There were presents. There was soup. There was a very tired Little Ouiser. Then there were board games and bed.

It was a great Christmas.
Since then, we've mostly chilled out, though we've managed to run loads of errands together and M and S had a campout in the family room floor. Christmas really is pretty awesome, especially when you're blessed enough to get to spend two weeks together as a family.

Now, though, the house must be dealt with, and that's a whole different post...but I wanted to get to the good stuff before I started to complain. You know, since it's Christmas and all.

*Completely unrelated. In the six-plus years that we've been married, I don't believe we've ever broken any of our dishes. The technical exception is one cereal bowl that we somehow chipped the edge of. It's not bad, and I've never gotten rid of it despite it's imperfection. Now I'm glad. I just realized that it serves a very important purpose. I've been enjoying a bowl of black bean soup while I wrote this post, and the little divot in the edge of the bowl provides a perfect resting place for the handle of the spoon. I've never noticed it before, but I have now, and I have a new favorite bowl. You're welcome for the information.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

run for your life.

Christmas is almost here. I should only be posting happy things about our Advent-ures and Christmas cookies and holiday magic. But I am so not going to do that. I'm too afraid. Way too afraid. I am living in fear of Nicole Kidman's insane forearm-length toe.
Really. It looks like her big toe is trying to attack the paparazzi taking the picture. Doesn't it?

In case you don't know, I don't like feet. Seriously. Keep your feet inside your shoes at all times. If you're riding on an airplane, cover your toes. I don't care how cute your little tootsies are. I don't care how recent and expensive your pedicure. I don't want to be in close proximity to any feet except my daughter's...and my son's soon enough. I assure you I will outgrow thinking that their feet are cute, too. Anyway, I want Nicole Kidman to have toe reduction surgery. They can do that, right.

Happy Holidays. I hope Nicole Kidman gets socks. Aaaaaghhhh!!!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

how things went down.

The verdict is in. We're having a boy. Mr. Ouiser and I are thrilled. When we came home, my cousin Abbe was curled up on the couch watching a movie with S. And we were all excited and said, "S, we're going to have a baby brother!"

S immediately curled into the fetal position, buried her head into a cushion, and started bawling.

When we got her to calm down enough that she could speak, she just said, "but that's not what I wanted it to be. I wished for a girl."

She's happier now because we explained that she'd be the only princess in the house...the new baby will be a prince. That seemed to calm her down.

So that's the news from Dickson. Later, peeps.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


This morning, S went out to play with her cousins before they headed back to Indiana. The three kiddos were cute all bundled up picking up rocks and whatnot. After they left, I had about twenty minutes worth of stuff to do before we left for her to spend with day with Mellie, so I sat her in front of the TV and went about my business. One item of business was laundry. As I came back up the basement stairs, I noticed something odd about M's voice as he talked to S. I couldn't tell if she was in trouble...or hurt...or had been possessed.

When I walked into the room, M was kneeling in front of her, with a disgusted and panicked look on his face. Here's what went down...

M: "S, do you want me to take your coat off of you?"
S: "Yes, but can you get a bowl for my rocks?"
M: "Sure. Why don't you give me the rocks, and I'll put them into a bowl."

At this point, she digs into her pockets, and starts dropping things into his outreached hands. And then he realized that while there are some rocks involved with the process, what she's mostly pulling out of her pockets are dog terds.

Her coat has now been washed. And I think M boiled his own hands because he was so creeped out...but really the dog is on such major antibiotics right now that his poop is probably like vitamins. Anyway, I hope your day was as hysterical as mine.

Friday, December 17, 2010

the one where i chill myself out.

Despite the best intentions (you know that whole road to Hell thing, right?), things are a little stressful around here. Oddly, it's nothing holiday related that is stressing me out. It's just life. I think this may be one of those moments where I have an epiphany about adulthood. Like, maybe part of being an adult is learning to deal with the stressful life moments in the midst of chaos (the holidays being an example of chaos.) We've got some chimney issues, but it's nothing that can't be handled, and though I'm not stressed in the least, Mr. Ouiser is very stressed about it. He just needs a vacation. (I really believe...and this is directed at you because I know you're reading it, M, that if this situation had come up while he was away from work next week, he'd be taking it in stride.) The man's just got too much on his plate. Anyway, it's causing some stress. It just is.

So, somehow, suddenly, things seem to be snowballing around here. Which is ridiculous because I can't even really think about other reasons to be stressed. It's just one of those things- once you're stressed, you're stressed. Now I'm in a mood, and I've decided that the best way to get out of this funk (besides copious amounts of peppermint creamer with a side of Jack Johnson) is to sit down and remember the things in my life that I love and appreciate. Here goes.
  • M, stress-wad that he is. He makes me laugh everyday, and that is a wonderful quality in a husband. Also, he makes me feel safe.
  • S, who I want to beat often, but she always rallies. She is very funny, very precocious, very sweet, very pretty, and she surprises me constantly. For the record, I have never beaten her.
  • My friends. I don't think I'd have made it through this week without HS and SB.
  • The chimney sweep that was here yesterday. He was a genuinely nice person, and even though he gave us the verdict that stressed M out, I was happy that he was here. I feel like giving him a present (Actually S already did. She gave him the leftovers from Baja Burrito that were going to be my snack. I almost cried.)
  • The guy who's coming to try to fix our garage door today. He was funny on the phone yesterday. Also, the prospect of parking in my garage and not navigating winter weather with a three-year-old is enticing.
  • My Adam Egenolf coffee mug. I love it so.
  • The family wall of pictures that I finally hung yesterday.
    A terrible picture of the family wall, but you get the idea.
S, helping hang the family wall. She's holding the pencil. Obviously, her help was invaluable.
  • Newly sharpened pencils with good erasers and micro point vision pens by uni-ball (I just laughed because I typed uni-ball, which reminds me that I'm appreciative of my sixth grade sense of humour. I also love the extraneous Brit-like use of the letter "u.")
  • Fruit Loops. I let S get them this week because it's-Christmas-for-crying-out-loud! She has eaten more than half the box in two days. I ate a bowl this morning, and it was like childhood in a bowl. And now I'm all doped up on sugar.
Of course I'm thankful for lots more than that. But those are all things that I can actually see (or things I can see reminders of) from where I'm sitting, and life can't be that bad if I can be grateful for that much stuff in my immediate area, right?

Here's a list of things that I just need to accept.
  • There will always be a pile of laundry to be done and a mostly full dishwasher.
  • There will always be something that should live in the attic or basement that is inexplicably living in my bedroom.
  • I will always hate making the bed, but I will always hate seeing an unmade bed more.
  • My daughter will eventually wipe her own bottom.
  • The suede ties on S's slippers will never stay tied, and she will always be upset by this.
  • Our local newspaper will always be terrible.
  • I will always miss the Rick Reilly column at the back of Sports Illustrated.
  • I will never, ever like Sarah Palin or anyone on FoxNews. Under any circumstances.
So thanks for the free therapy. I need to prepare for our daily Advent-ure and my day in general...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

whoa. two posts. one day.

It's just that kind of day. Here's the updates:
  • I ordered some snow stuff for S, so once this snow melts, there will be no more snow here until she has grown exactly enough that the stuff we bought won't fit. It's Murphy's Law. I'm sure you've heard of it.
  • The Peppermint Bark. Oh, Good Lord. Make this. Eat this. Love this. When Molly mentions that the ugly, trimmed off edges are yours to nibble, I think she may have meant that you should set them aside and nibble on them over a lengthy period of time...or at least take longer than four minutes to eat them all. I've got a tummy ache and a sugar-overload headache. It was totally worth it, though. Totally. I will say that this didn't end up being a S-friendly activity. I thought she'd really love crushing the peppermints, but she hated it, and I quickly grew insanely nervous that she'd crush her fingers. She sprinkled the candy onto the two layers that needed sprinkling, but there was a lot of waiting on her part...and three-year-olds aren't big on waiting. Luckily, she was happy to play on her own and continually pick out Christmas music while I made candy. It all worked out rather nicely.
  • A Clean Sweep. While I was making candy, S noticed that there were lots of little bits of crushed peppermint that had fallen to the floor (more like EXPLODED onto the floor as I crushed the candy...minor difference). She dutifully went and got her toy broom and told me not to worry about the floor because she'd sweep it all clean for me. She was occupied, so I didn't really pay attention until she told me that I could look because the floor was beautiful and clean. When I looked down, the floor was spotless. You're impressed, right? It even took a minute for the light bulb to go off in my head. This is a three-year-old without a dustpan. What happened to all the peppermint? Turns out, once you get the detritus out of the immediate kitchen area, you can just sweep as violently as you can to disperse it all over the house. I'm finding tiny shards of peppermint candy all over.
  • Next year, I'm buying this. And, Toddler Tamer, I didn't find out about this until after our email exchange on the subject of crushing peppermints.
  • Now I'm making Ham and Bean Soup, and I'm not sure if this is an exclusively southern thing, but it sure tastes and smells southern. Translation: it's got pork in it and it's delicious. If anyone needs a recipe, let me know. It's easy breezy to make, and it costs about three dollars to make a huge pot of it. It's a win-win.
Toodles, peeps.


2010 has been the year of snow. I don't remember a year of my life growing up when the calendar was bookended by snow quite like this one. It's killing me. Dickson County got as much snow or more than any other county in Tennessee, and the last count I saw was 6 inches. (Disclaimer: all my northeastern-living friends can make fun of me, I don't care.) I realize this isn't a lot of snow, but comparatively it is. We close schools around here for way less than that. Six inches is a blizzard and requires Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs -like quantities of bread and milk to be purchased by all families. Luckily, we are always able to get milk and bread because we buy organic milk and eat good bread...and even a blizzard can't get most southern papas to approve the expense of organic milk and anything other than white bread.

Now let's be clear: I don't like snow. I don't like cold and wet. I like humidity and heat. That's just how I roll. I have spent my entire life avoiding snow. I don't really remember ever wanting to play in it. When my brother would get all bundled up to go sledding or build snowmen or have massive snowball fights, I'd sit under a blanket and probably read or catch up on homework (because I've always been a dork.) When high school friends went on ski trips, I think I probably laughed out loud at the concept. So it's ridiculous to me that my daughter thinks that snow is the best stuff ever. Because her love of the most awful substance in the world that is legal (yes, I'm still talking about snow), we are going to have to invest in some actual snow gear. Last winter, when we were under-prepared, it was toward the end of winter, so we didn't feel bad about not purchasing snow pants or snow boots or anything else. We just bundled her up in layers and sent her out. She'd get cold and cry, then we'd come in, strip down, put on dry clothes, and that was that.

No more.

I thought I had until after Christmas this year to purchase snow stuff. It almost never snows here before Christmas. Snow comes (if it comes at all) in January and February. This snow blindsided me. Luckily, on snow day #1 (Sunday), I bundled her up, and as it was still snowing, she didn't have that much fun (also, she was only with me, and I'm not that fun frankly). We were outside for about half an hour. We achieved frozen lips and eyelashes full of snowflakes and we were done. Yesterday was a different story. We went to some friends' house where there were lots of kids and sleds. The sun was out, but there was lots of snow to play in. And play she did. She ate facefuls of snow, and snot literally froze to her face. She zipped down the hill with her friends. Mostly, she'd do this bobsled-style...meaning that one of the older kids would want to sled alone, and she'd give them a push then dive on behind them. It was pretty funny as long as you weren't the older kid. After what seemed like an hour, the mamas ventured inside and left the dads that were there to look after the kiddos. They stayed outside for what seemed like another hour. When S came in, I had to strip her down because, let's not forget, nothing that she was wearing was waterproof except her RAINBOOTS. She was so cold that her entire body was the color of a fire engine. I almost couldn't stand to touch her skin because it was so cold and looked so painful. She was just mad because she had to come inside. I do not understand this type of behavior. At all.

Anyway, that's what's been happening around here. Sunday's surprise for M was his favorite cookies: his mother's chocolate mint cookies, which are really excellent. They were well received. Yesterday, Elmer the Elf delivered the new pajamas I made her. Today, we're going to decorate Mr. P's tree when M gets home from work. (I know you all needed an Advent-ure update.) Also, to keep us inside today (because no one can realistically expect me to brave this snow THREE DAYS IN A ROW), we're going to make peppermint bark. We also got a package that contained egregious amounts of green packing peanuts, which we're going to string like popcorn because she's been asking to string popcorn, but no way that's happening as our dog would destroy the project almost instantaneoulsy. As a last resort, we can repaint her fingernails. I've seriously got this day planned out...with no plans for snow.

Now, I must get to it. We've got lots to do. Here's some pictures.
New pajamas and new slippers.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


I felt too guilty to let S forget about the centerpiece, but I remembered that I could control how involved she was in the process. During her rest time, I went outside and cut magnolia, holly, and some sort of evergreen branches. Then she just told me what to put where. She also ran around waving two branches of holly, pretending to be a flying Christmas tree. Despite the huge centerpiece-in-the-punchbowl on the dining room table, she's more proud of the one branch of holly tree that she put into a vase on her own, and that's just fine with me. I feel better knowing that I didn't flake out on her, and she had a great time. Friday was "Spend the night with T and Grandma" night from the Advent Calendar, which gave M and I a chance to go on our annual Christmas date and a chance for me to fix M's flat tire (correction: pay someone to fix M's flat tire) and to drop my car off for service. We had an early dinner, grabbed some coffee, and came home. It was awesome. Yesterday's activity was to go see Tangled, which was really good. M had to miss it, though. He's been working all weekend, trying to get caught up from being sick and being out of town for meetings. Today, we're making a surprise for him. I don't know what she's more excited about: the surprise for Daddy or the fact that it's snowing. She's pretty stoked about both.

So our Advent advent-ures are moving right along, and it's mind-boggling to realize how fast it's going. I'm super glad we're doing it. It gives me/us a chance to do something together, and a chance to at least recognize the season. It has always seemed to get away from me in the past. Not this year, peeps. This year, I am in the moment. Well, as in the moment as one can be who has meticulously mapped out her plans. You get the point, though.

Now, S and I have a project to work on. Enjoy your Sunday, peeps.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

i hope she forgets.

Today is the first day that I hope S forgets what Elmer the Elf said we could do today. Today, we're supposed to make a Christmas centerpiece...which means scavenging outside for materials. Um, it's cold. I even swapped yesterday's Gingerbread House activity with today's because it's supposed to be something like five degrees warmer. Honestly, five degrees is not making a lick of difference. It's too cold outside, and I really don't want to traipse all over the place cutting branches of holly and magnolia and picking up sticks. I really, really don't. I want to make a cup of tea and curl up under a blanket and sleep. Alas, it will not happen. Know why? Because even if she forgets about it today, which could happen...she'll remember it tonight before bed or tomorrow just before we have to go out, and she will FREAK OUT that we forgot to do it. There would be tears and probably bribery with tootsie rolls. So it's probably just easier to get it over with. Unfortunately, I seem to have misplaced my Christmas spirit somewhere last night. I think I coughed it up or something. I think I'll go try to find it now.

Oh, unrelated...S's first dentist appointment was this morning. If you have a small child that hasn't been to the dentist yet, I highly recommend finding a pediatric dentist. She had been to the dentist with us before, and even though the hygienists ate her up and the dentist told her jokes and gave her stickers, she wouldn't even consider letting any of them near her mouth. Today, however, there were toys and brightly colored walls and cartoons, and she thought it was actually fun. So check it out if you've got a little one with dental needs.

Now, I'm off to brew some tea and turn this humbug day into a fun day. Or at least a day that's not quite so humbug*.

*S heard the term humbug yesterday and she'd like to know what kind of bug it a spider or a mosquito? And if you leave it alone, will it leave you alone like most bugs??

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

nice house.

This is what happens when you let your three-year-old completely decide what to do with the gingerbread house. I think she only stopped because she probably has a tummy ache from licking all the frosting. I know I do. Of course, she still had the ability to eat three of the tootsie rolls that didn't become trees. We won't be winning any awards for this gingerbread house, but she and I both had so much fun...and the results are colorful. Just like S. I love it.
Also, I realized after the fact that the picture from yesterday's post is the first that I've shared that shows the inside of the new house. So now you know a little about what the kitchen looks like. You're welcome. I know you were waiting.

Aside from all that...months ago we decided to try to get S to talk about what she was thankful for before meals. They sing a prayer at school before lunch, but I've never really been one for reciting prayers even if watching my child sing a prayer is crazy adorable. Somehow it becomes auto-pilot, and I think the point of the exercise is easily forgotten. (The point, of course, being to recognize that you're grateful for your food. Or anything else.) So the "What were you thankful for today?" thing began. Now we each have to tell something we were thankful for before we eat dinner. When we started, S would come up with something unusual, but that was cool. Then the stock answer at every meal became, "You and Daddy." Don't get me wrong, I'll take it...and I'm thankful for her and M everyday, so I get it, but I was worried that she was missing the point and had already zoned out. And I desperately want my child to understand and appreciate how fortunate we are. Because we are so, so fortunate. Anyway, a few days ago, I think she started to get it. Suddenly, there's a list of friends that she might mention. Or yesterday it was birds and butterflies and squirrels. Another day it was all the pretty trees and plants. So she's at least not giving me a stock answer. Maybe it's starting to work.

I just thought I'd share that because I'm feeling really, really blessed these days. Even though the heat is turned down to make us a little greener and I have to stay all bundled up, I have a warm house and more than enough to eat. I'm one of the lucky people on the planet who can afford to eat fresh produce and dairy all year. I am healthy. My daughter is healthy. My husband is amazing. I have a jar of fruit slices cheering up my kitchen. I was able to make a gingerbread house with my child today. I could go on and on and on. But I won't.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

salty and sweet.

I can safely say that the salt dough ornaments were a rousing success. S loved it, and having mixed, rolled, cut, and baked the ornaments ahead of time was probably a wise move. If she had helped, she would've been upset that the shapes got distorted when they were peeled off the counter (which The Artful Parent had warned me about, but I threw caution to the wind). However, when presented with colorful pots of paint, three shakers of glitter, a bowl of "diamonds", a jar of paintbrushes, and a handful of ready-to-paint ornaments, the kid was in heaven. The result was half an hour of bliss. She wanted to surprise me with every ornament, so I had to look the other way while she painted and glittered and bedazzled. Then I would ooh and ahh over each creation, and I don't know of many activities that have ever made her happier. Seriously, you should do this if you have kids...or if you have nieces or nephews and want to be the cool aunt/uncle. Or if your friends' kids are coming over and you need something to occupy their time. And the clean-up wasn't even bad. I'm telling you, total holiday success.

I will give you this heads-up. I had done a little research on salt dough before I prepared ours yesterday because when I made it two years ago I was flummoxed by the consistency and annoyance of the process, so I'm going to share how I made this batch because it was really simple and non-stressful, and that's what we're all about around here, right? I mixed one cup of iodized table salt (48 cents at the Dollar General!!) with two cups of all purpose flour and one cup of warm tap water. I threw that stuff in the Kitchen Aid until it was mixed, then I put on the dough hook and let the mixer knead the dough for a solid ten minutes. The dough was very, very smooth and pliable, and I remembered it being grainy and difficult to work the last time, so I think the extensive mechanical kneading was a great success. Then I rolled that goop out, cut the shapes, poked some holes for ribbons, and baked the ornaments at 300 degrees for just under two hours. I started checking them at one hour, and kept them in the oven until the middles weren't squishy anymore. The only thing I'll do differently in the future is the step The Artful Parent mentioned. Next time around, I'll roll the dough directly onto parchment paper (or my handy silicone faux parchment paper) before I cut the shapes. The edges really do get a bit wonky when you have to peel the shapes off your countertop. Not that it matters because the ornaments were painted by a three-year-old...they were destined to look a little wonky anyway. We painted the ornaments with acrylic paint and added glitter and little fake jewels. Now they're drying...and once some ribbons are added, those suckers will find homes on Christmas trees throughout the family.

*The recipe makes enough for more than a half dozen ornaments. We're giving some baked and unpainted ornaments to a friend to paint, and I threw away the scraps instead of re-rolling/re-cutting. You could safely get about a half dozen ornaments out of the recipe amounts I referenced.

Now, the sweet thing I mentioned in the post title. It's really a small thing. When the fruit slices were all cut up for the gumdrop cookies yesterday, there were a couple of handfuls leftover. As M loves them, I threw them into a mason jar to keep for him. Now there's a mason jar of brightly colored fruit slices sitting on the kitchen shelf. For some reason, I am unable to look at their colorful sugariness and not smile. That jar is making me so happy. I might be a little unbalanced.

Monday, December 06, 2010


So the perfection didn't really last yesterday. Somewhere around the time the chicken and rice went into the oven, I got a wicked headache/backache combo. And you know how that physically feeling bad can just ruin your whole mood. After dinner, we were on the couch and my head completely filled with congestion and that was all she wrote. M graciously sent me to bed about 645, and I stayed there until this morning (minus the preggo potty breaks). I'm amazingly well today, which may have something to do with M being out of town for the week and my not having the option to be sick. I prefer to think I'm actually well, though. I was well enough to go to the gym this morning, so that's something, right? Anyway, tough night. We're righting this train now, though. Let the holiday cheer commence.

This afternoon, S and I will be making Mr. P's favorite cookies: the infamous gumdrop cookies. This is one of those tasks that you do only because you truly love someone. Making these cookies is a chore. I worry that involving a three-year-old will make it worse, but then I remembered that I don't know if the process could get worse. Seriously, have you ever cut fruit slices (because we've never successfully found gumdrops and fruit slices are the closest substitute) into tiny little pieces? It is not fun. They stick to everything. The knife. The cutting board. Me. I've tried greasing the knife. I've tried using flour. I've tried using the Cuisinart. Nothing works. You just have to stick it out and cut those little twerps by hand. Luckily, M's dad is always really happy to have those cookies. Because I'd scrap those from my repertoire in a heartbeat. Wow. What happened to that holiday cheer I mentioned?

I'm also going to make salt dough this afternoon. Tomorrow's advent activity is to make salt dough ornaments, which we did a couple of years ago. From our previous experience and some quick internet research, I've discovered that the mixing/rolling/cutting/baking is probably too tedious for S, so I'm going to do that ahead of time. That way, she can just paint and glitter to her little heart's content tomorrow. I think that'll make the activity more enjoyable for both of us. And the whole point of this calendar of advent activities is to allow us to ENJOY things together.

Beyond that, we're just trying to stay warm. It's in the 20s here, people. The 20s. That doesn't even compute for me. I had to get out gloves and hats this morning. What is the world coming to??

Until next time...

Sunday, December 05, 2010

4th and 21.

I started this post yesterday. It was supposed to be adorably titled as it would be about the Advent Calendar...but sound like football. Ah, football.

Today's Advent activity (technically, yesterday's) was supposed to be "Buy our Christmas Tree," but it looked a little rainy. So, it got changed to "Help Mellie decorate her Christmas Tree," which gave M and I an opportunity to go purchase ours and bring it into the house as a surprise. And quite a surprise it was. When S came home, she literally hopped up and down and spun in circles for a solid two minutes, giggling with excitement. Then we could swear we saw little Christmas tears of joy. It was fabulous. The day ended up being pretty great. We ate biscuits and drank coffee/chocolate milk as a family. S helped Mellie. S puked (not fabulous, but not a big deal). S got crazy excited about having a tree in our house. M and I put lights on the tree during S's rest time. We listened to lots of Christmas music. We gobbled up some pizza while we listened to more Christmas music. We watched a movie as a family. We read more Christmas books. We tucked S into bed. M and I watched Love Actually by the light of the Christmas tree. It was an awesome day.

Today Elmer the Elf dictated that we should decorate our tree, and decorate we did. Before we decorated, though, S helped me make chocolate chip muffins. While they baked, M read the paper with coffee in hand and S took a marker to this week's Toys R Us circular. After muffins, M brought all the Christmas boxes down from the attic and decorating commenced. There are a LOT of ornaments on the bottom two feet of the tree thanks to a certain three-year-old. She was very particular about not wanting the ornaments to be lonely. ("Mommy, this snow-woman needs to be next to this snowman so they can be friends!" or "Mommy, this guitar ornament needs to be next to this nutcracker ornament so the nutcracker will have an instrument to play!") Once the tree was all finished, we busted out the nutcrackers and the very extensive Irish Nativity set. S is pretty jazzed about all the Christmas around the house. She's even gotten into helping pick out which music we listen to, which is cool as long as you want to listen to one of the two Disney Christmas CDs.

The other big deal around here is her apparent continued adoration of snow globes. Last Christmas, the one thing she really begged for was a Snow White Snow Globe, which stays out in her room all year. But she notices other snow globes everywhere we go. She came home from Mellie's yesterday with a little one, and when we unpacked two that were put away this morning she was crazy thrilled. I worry that she'll grow up to be "Crazy Snow Globe Lady" instead of "Crazy Cat Lady" and much like her father is "Crazy Nutcracker Guy." There are worse things...

Now I'm going to see what my family is up to and prepare to make my grandma's chicken and rice casserole for dinner. Delish!

Friday, December 03, 2010

a mostly non-holiday post.

I'll go ahead and get the holiday stuff out of the way. Day two of the Advent calendar was a success. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer was watched. Unfortunately, Mr. Ouiser is really sick, so he fell asleep in the middle of it. It's okay, though. I think he mostly just likes that Burl Ives is the snowman, and he gets his Burl Ives fix through listening to Christmas music nonstop. Today's activity had to be altered. Because M is so ill, and S is a little ill, we might have to skip Christmas in Downtown Dickson this year. I really don't want to share our germs, and I don't want to pick up any new ones while our immune systems are already depleted. So, today we'll be painting nails red and green. Of course I reserve the right to head downtown anyway if S seems to be recovered because, frankly, I want to go. I love Christmas in Downtown Dickson. It's really, truly like walking through It's A Wonderful Life...with newer clothes.

Now, here's our dilemma, which you'll just have to imagine because I'm too lazy to take a picture. Our new house is pretty big. Huge compared to our old house. Our family room, which includes our kitchen, pantry, and some extra space that is breakfast nookish, is a BIG room. However, the space that's breakfast nookish is tiny and blocks the path into the ballroom and the path into the library (sounds like we live on a Clue gameboard, doesn't it?). When we replaced the light fixture in that space, we weren't really thinking about where it was. We just put a new one where the old one had been. But we now realize that it's placement is problematic. When you walk in the door, there is a vast amount of open space. Vast. Then there's the kitchen table smooshed into a tiny space that you can't comfortably walk around. We can't move the light fixture too much because there's a header across the ceiling in one area of the room and there's a partial wall on the other side. Like I said, problematic. What's crazy about it is that looking at designs for small spaces seems and feels absurd because the space is quite large. It's just laid out badly, which I understand is a result of that room being added on at some point. Oh, well. I'm just throwing this out there. If I'm too lazy to take pictures, I can't really expect help, can I?

I was just worried that maybe you wanted me to talk about something other than Advent activities. I know you all feel more complete now. Don't you? This post is ridiculous. Have a great weekend, peeps.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

2 down.

I really wanted to take a picture of S opening the first little drawer of her Advent calendar yesterday, but I left the camera at my parents' house on Thanksgiving...and I forgot that I own two cameras. And a phone that takes pictures. I can only be expected to remember so many things.

Either way, the first two days have been very successful. S was insanely thrilled to get a treat both mornings, and when I read the little paper to her yesterday that said, "decorate your Christmas tree," she actually squealed. I take that as a good sign. Then last night, after going out to satiate my craving for a cheeseburger, we decorated her tree and then spent a solid hour reading Christmas books. It was a wonderful first night of December. I wouldn't trade it.

Moving on...we haven't really started decorating yet, as Elmer the Elf (he's the one putting treats into the calendar according to S) won't be telling us to get a tree until Saturday. However, I felt a desperate need to put a big red bow on the lightpost on the edge of the courtyard Monday and then I desperately needed to cut some holly yesterday. So, there's a bow outside, and holly in the bathroom and on the kitchen table. I can't put anything on the dining room table yet as that will be an activity for S.

When all is said and done, we've achieved two days of December without my wanting to put my head in an oven, and I think that's farther than my mother ever got. Cheers!!