Monday, December 30, 2013

40 Questions

For the 9th time, I present to you my...

1. What did you do in 2013 that you’d never done before?
Became a Pampered Chef Consultant! I've always thought about doing it, but upon moving back home, I decided to go for it. And I love it! I also started attending a Lutheran church... never saw that one coming.

2. Did you keep your New Years’ resolutions and will you make more for next year?
I'd say I did a pretty good job last year! My resolution was "to live simply, unmaterialistically,and give myself a break from taking on too many responsibilities." For the most part, I think I succeeded. I don't feel nearly as attached to 'stuff' any more, and most of the attachment I do feel towards it is practical rather than materialistic. I've also managed to not get involved in lots of things. In fact, I can say that I'm doing great at doing nothing, maybe to a fault!

This year my resolution is to rigorously save money, to get a little more exercise, eat a little healthier and lose about 15 pounds. That second half is likely to be a failure, but I'm going to try. Don't you just love the optimism? Also, I'm going to have lots of sex. All of these are a part of my 2014 Theme "Satisfaction" - being satisfied with what I have and where I'm at. Changing what I can but being satisfied with what I can't. And sex, well, that's just satisfying.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
My sister-in-law Katie gave birth to a gorgeous wee daughter, my niece, Erum. And I have two more nieces/nephews due in the upcoming year!

4. Did anyone close to you die?
My grandmother, my Mamaw, died early this year.

5. What countries did you visit?
We didn't *visit* any new countries, but we started the year living in Scotland and ended the year living in the USA. As for new places visited, though, we travelled to Seattle, WA for the first time.

6. What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013?
Last year I answered: "A simplified, uncluttered wardrobe, house and life." Boy, did I get that, and then some.

I don't know about lacking it in 2013, but by the end of 2014 I'd like to have a plan.  A life plan. A rough guide, more like, since my plans never go according to plan.  I'd like to know where we are going to finally settle. I'm a settler; I need to be in a place and stay there, make roots, and become a part of the place.  I'm not a part of this place right now, but I want to figure this out in this next year.

7. What date from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory?
18th of June. The day we moved from Scotland back to America. A happy, sad date.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
I guess immigrating my husband and three children to the USA was a pretty big achievement. There are who knows how many people out there who are dying to do the same thing we did. It was a big undertaking too.

9. What was your biggest failure?
I don't think I moved back to America in the most graceful way. I was pretty babyish about it. Nothing went the way we planned it. Saying that, I'm still trying to buck up and take it like an adult, but even now I still can't help feeling like ending up back in my home town was kind of a fail. I know, I KNOW, I'm being childish. Everything happens for a reason and all that. I'm very thankful in a lot of ways that we ended up here instead of Fayetteville. I get to be around my family and some old friends which is hugely awesome. I'm so thankful for that. But I'm a human and allowed to have petty human emotions about it, and I don't like being back in this particular area.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
No injuries or illness with me (besides feeling rather depressed in these months post-move), but back in April, Lolly got her finger jammed in a door and severed it almost right off. It was gross. The tip of her finger hung on by a flap of skin. I never blogged about it, because my dear, dear friend who was watching her at her house at the time was so distraught over it. I never once blamed her at all for it. Accidents happen, especially with kids. It was a scary experience though. She had to go under general anaesthesia at the children's hospital to have it surgically reattached.

Lolly at A&E

11. What was the best thing you bought?
We had to buy so many new things this year, most of them pretty mundane, but I'd say Scott's car and our fantastic king size mattress are two of them. Scott would probably say his new computer was tops.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
I can hardly believe I'm saying it, but this year Lolly deserves a mention. She's always been a real 'handful' (to put it ultra-mildly), and she still is, but she's changed a lot this year. She's more considerate of other people, more willing to help out, more eager to please. She's still maddeningly defiant, stubborn and uncontrollable, but I think she's grown a lot in the past six months. She sometimes really does care about other people.

13. What regrets do you have about the past year?
Sometimes, if I'm honest, I regret moving. I only feel that way in an emotional sense, though.  Practically speaking, I know without a doubt we made the right decision.  There are so many better opportunities for us out here. But my wee heart is still so attached to Scotland, that sometimes I just wish we'd never left. That's got to be normal right? In general, however, I have no regrets. I don't really do 'regrets'.  The past is the past, and it influences who we become.  I really don't tend to regret things I've done or not done; I just extend and grow out from them, like a tree branches.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Into moving to America. No single doubt about it.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
I got really excited about sending Fifi to a charter school in Northwest Arkansas and went to crazy lengths to get her into it. (All to turn around and have to turn down our space because we didn't move there.) I got really excited about Fifi playing the part of Gretl in The Sound of Music in the Greenock Beacon Arts Centre. She was amazing, so incredibly good. And most recently, I got reallly, really, really excited about visiting a couple of our oldest friends, Jonathan and Sarah, in Seattle!

16. What song/album will always remind you of 2013?
There was one song on one of the Glee soundtracks that reminds me of a very emotional moment back in Scotland preparing for the move. I had the afternoon free of children, and I was in the kids' room clearing out. It was very hard for me to make the kids get rid of so many toys. It felt really cruel. Anyway, so I was feeling very emotional about moving, and leaving so many people and things I'd grown to love and that had formed me into the woman I'd become. This song, 'As If We Never Said Goodbye' from Sunset Boulevard, came on, and though for the most part it had nothing to do with my situation, this line caused me to burst into tears.
I've spent so many mornings
Just trying to resist you.
I'm trembling now,
You can't know how I've missed you!

Missed the fairy tale adventure
In this ever spinning playground,
We were young together.

It described how I resisted moving to the US for so long, how much I missed my family and friends back in the US, and how much I'd soon miss my family and friends in the UK.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
happier or sadder? I've been both ridiculously happy and overwhelmingly sad.
thinner or fatter? Still kinda overweight, but a lot more okay with my shape and size. Acceptance, satisfaction.
richer or poorer? A little richer, I guess, but not feeling like it matters any more. :)

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Last year's answer: Exercise.
This year's answer: Exercise.

I also wish I'd just spent a little more time with family and friends in Scotland, though I know that's silly. I spent as much quality time with everyone as I could amidst the whirlwind of immigration. But I still wish I could just have another couple of days with people.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
I don't know. Complaining, probably.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
We went to a Christmas Eve candlelight service at church on Christmas Eve.  We spent Christmas morning with my mom and step-dad and my brothers and their families. We spent Christmas evening at my aunt's house with the whole extended family. It was the first time in heaven knows how long that all of the cousins were back together again. It was awesome seeing everyone again and meeting my cousin in Dallas's son. Then the following Saturday we had Christmas with my dad and step-mom and again my brothers' families.

21. Who did you spend the most time on the phone with?
This year, I spent the most time on the phone with my in-laws, Andy and Marion. I love them so, so much. (And they are both coming out to America in three weeks!!!)

22. What's your best memory from 2013?
This year is so entirely split in two that I'll need to answer in two parts.

My greatest Scotland memories of 2013 are:
-Seeing Fifi in The Sound of Music.
-Camping in Heather's mum's camper with Heather, Paula and Elaine at Millport and getting to go on a boat ride.
-Staying in Sheila's holiday home in Kingussie with Scott, and visiting all the local sites, like the Wildlife Centre and the CairnGorm Mountains in the snow.
-Staying in Kingussie again with close friends, to say goodbye in style and with wine.
-My last strawberry daiquiri with Maria at Flava. (Okay, who's cutting onions here?)
-The last night in our old flat, with all the furniture gone and suitcases packed, with Andy and Marion, eating pakora and Kate and Faisal and Adam showing up with Irn Bru. One last hurrah. (What's with the fricking onions?!!)

My greatest American memories are:
-Visiting Jonathan and Sarah in Seattle, of course.
-Our first of many Thanksgivings and Christmases with my Arkansas family

23. How have you seen yourself grow as a person this year?
I don't know if it's considered growing... I can tell you how I've changed.

I've let go of ties. I've let go of things that have held me in place. In a lot of ways, I'm floating right now, trying to find a place to land and take root. Right now, I have no roots, I have no foundation. I'm discovering who I am and what I believe in the very depths of myself. Some of it isn't what I'd like to see, but I'm aiming for acceptance. I've never been a pretender, not with myself or with anyone else, but now I feel I'm going even deeper and I'm trying to decipher even more what is under there, in areas that have always been undercover. I'm so glad that I've had all this down time since moving here, because it's given me time to reacquaint myself with me.

That's pretty lame, Lori.

24. What was your favourite TV programme(s)?
I've been watching some random shows on Netflix like Heroes, The League and Arrow. Out of boredom, mostly. I'm still keeping up with Glee and HIMYM, and I finished Dexter.

26. What was the best book(s) you read?
I read the whole Harry Potter series and I read Silence by Shusako Endo. That was probably one of the most life-changing books I've ever read. In a sad, good way. I can't believe I never wrote a review on that. I must remedy that.

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Though I sound totally pretentious saying this, because I've only listened to a few songs on one album, Scott is getting me onto Band of Horses. It all started with this song....

I also liked this song and need to listen to the album more. Thank you, Scott, for your musical tastes.

And finally, this band, and this song.

28. What did you want and get?
A cat.

29. What did you want and not get?
A car. (My own car.)

30. What were your favourite films of this year?
I'm sure we saw some films, but I can't really think of anything that stood out. Took the kids to see Frozen, and we all liked that. But grown-up films? Don't know.

Netflix, however, has allowed me to watch all kids of old films that I've never seen before.

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I had a low key birthday. It was my 31st, and I went out to dinner with my Friday morning TinyTalk mums/friends. It was a lot of fun. They were (are) an amazing group of women. All very strong, smart, genuinely kind and loving, genuinely good. And all married. Sorry, fellas. (I miss you all.)

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
I don't know how to answer this question this year. This year has been what it's been. It's been a crazy clash of happy and sad.  When I think about it, I really couldn't say there was more we could've done. We made it through, in tact. I'm satisfied with that.

If I had to answer something, though, I'd say the year would have been more satisfying with all my old clothes! (Very unsatisfying year in the wardrobe department. I miss all of you, my beautiful jumpers!)

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2013?
It started out as usual, I like to dress a little quirky and cute. It's now kind of become a t-shirt and jeans thing for me, since I had to give away all my clothes to move. I've been given lots of clothes from people here, and I'm so incredibly thankful for all of it. I'd be somewhat naked without it. It'll be nice when I can actually look in my closet and see my style though. I miss my style.

34. What kept you sane?
Having a husband and three children I truly enjoy being around. Having my mom around has been great too, and my mother-in-law visiting from Scotland regularly has been a huge one. She and Andy are two of my best friends, and I've been a little lost without their constant presence.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
I actually would have had an answer for this one this year. I would've said Pink. She's actually way more awesome than I realized. Like as a person. I only know her popular songs, so I can't really comment on her tunes. But this question got changed last year so...

35b. Which holiday or special occasion meant the most to you?
Scott's 30th birthday was the most exciting, special occasion for me (us) this year. It was for his 30th that we went to Seattle. I had a big 30th birthday bash for mine, but Scott's not a party-person. This was the perfect way to bring in his third decade. With awesome friends in an awesome city.

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
Last year's answer: "American gun control, health care and same-sex marriage. I'll keep mum about my opinions on each though! This is not a political blog. :)"

This year's answer: Health care and same-sex marriage. And this year I'll say loud and clear, PEOPLE SHOULD GET HEALTH CARE AND BE ALLOWED TO MARRY WHO THEY WANT. In a nutshell. I could discuss further, and maybe I will soon enough. But for now...

37. Who did you miss?
I missed (miss) my Scottish family and friends. All of them. Too many to name. And now I miss Jonathan and Sarah (but they'll be visiting us in Arkansas soon!).

38. Who was the best new person (people) you met?
The best new people I've met have been Lolly's soccer team moms. They are all really cool, nice people, and I need to make an effort in the new year to get to know them better.

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013.
At the end of the day, the best you can be is just honest.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year?
Early I mentioned some lyrics from the song, 'As If We Never Said Goodbye'. Later in the song come the lyrics:

I don't want to be alone,
That's all in the past.
This world's waited long enough,
I've come home at last!

And this time will be bigger
And brighter than we knew it.
So watch me fly
We all know I can do it!

As I listened in tears to that song over and over again that afternoon, I told myself that this song, despite all the parts that didn't apply, would be the song that summed up my whole year. I'd kind of forgotten about it until now, but I'm glad I've been reminded. This time WILL be bigger and brighter than we knew it. So watch me fly, we all know I can do it!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

"Clever Men--GAH": A 2005 Unpublished Post

Back in 2005, when we had only been married a few months, I wrote this post but never published it. I've never been able to delete it though because it makes me giggle. Especially now, all these years later, because I still think it's for the most part pretty true. At the end I mention Scott will kill me for posting it. I still maintain that. But I'm tired of seeing it in my Draft folder, and I know I'll never delete it, so it must be time to Publish. Sorry, Scott, for the husband worship below.

Scott & Lori, December 2005

I think my husband is a genius. Like a genuine way-up-in-the-clouds IQ type genius. I can't decide if this is fascinating or frustrating.

I got an inkling of Scott's intelligence when we were dating. His uncanny ability to know absolutely everything gave me a clue. But now that I actually live with him and have realised that there is hardly any use in arguing with him at all makes me almost certain.

This is incredibly frustrating news.

How is it that Scott can out of the blue tell me about mating patterns connected with the urine of ladybugs? And how come he was trying to explain how Newtonian physics is actually only partially right according to Quantum physics when he's never even actually studied Quantum physics? Apparently only like one person in 10,000 understands Quantum physics... I can't even spell it while Scott is trying to explain it to me in bed last night.

I tried to retaliate by talking about photons in photosynthesis, but Scott corrected me.

I just didn't argue.

I read an article yesterday about "alpha females" being less likely to marry. Apparently for every 16 points a woman's IQ goes up, her likelihood to marry goes down 40%. However it works just the other way around for men. Which must explain how Scott got married when he was only 20.

Let me point out here that it's not just that Scott is an encyclopaedia of interesting facts. It's that Scott could read an encyclopaedia of interesting facts and he'd have it memorized. Scott doesn't know things because he learned them, he knows things because they simply are.

He's gonna kill me for posting this.

Friday, December 27, 2013

50 Shades of Féria®

I'm kinda known for my changing hair colors. I started dying my hair when I was sixteen. I was in West Side Story in high school, and I didn't have much of a part, I was Riff's girlfriend Velma. But I used it as a chance to convince my mom to let me dye my hair red. Well, strawberry-blonde. My hair was darkish blonde back then. That was pretty much the last time I saw my natural color (besides a stint where I dyed my hair back to its natural color, according to the roots, but it didn't last long).

My hair has been red, burgundy, purple, black, black and blue, black and fuchsia, blonde, ash blonde, platinum blonde, platinum blonde and pink, brown, dark brown, orange... I think that about covers it. Last year, I managed to stick with shades of blonde for a whole year, by far the longest I'd stuck with one color family. This year, I've been various shades of red all year, except a two weeker when I tried to go purple and it went nearly black. I bleached it back out and went back to red almost immediately.

I'm done with red now, and after much consideration and very little listening to other opinions (including but not limited to Scott's), I've decided to go back to blonde, this time with the intention of trying to get back to roughly the color of my roots. At this point, my natural color is probably a light brown, dark blonde with saddening spurts of gray. I'm thinking blonde or dark blonde with highlights, something along those lines. For how long? Who knows. But for now, that's the idea.

So tonight I bleached my red hair blonde. Only, it didn't come out blonde. It came out an odd sort of orangey-pink. Interesting.

I've been doing this a long time; I'm no fool. I knew it was likely to go orange. I knew I'd likely need to give it another bleach in a day or so. (Hairdresser friends, you may cringe now.) That's how I got it so blonde last year.

Unfortunately, I'll have to look like an off-duty clown until then.

The fact that I dye my hair is kind of completely against everything else I believe in. I'm totally against all the chemicals in our everyday beauty products. If I could afford it I'd wear only natural make-up and salt deodorant, all natural shampoos and conditioners, fluoride- and SLS-free toothpaste, and I'd eat only free-range, non-GMO, organic, non-processed foods. (Okay, the non-processed part maybe isn't entirely true. There are too many delicious junk foods out there that I'd have a hard time giving up. I'd want to give them up though. That counts?) I use reusable silicone feminine hygiene products, I don't take artificial birth control, I rarely use pharmaceuticals... But... I dye my hair. All the time. The chemicals I massage into my scalp are horrifying.

Maybe my thinking is, if I avoid chemicals and toxins in everything else, I can get away with the toxins I'm polluting myself with in hair dye.

With that said, I am looking forward to being a blonde again. :) Welcome 2014!

A Brief History of Hair:

Raver days. Sometimes those pink streaks were blue.

Looking at this one, I wish I'd decided to go black again now...

Maybe I should grow it back out?

The closest I can reckon my natural color is. Ooh, maybe I'll just go back to this.

This is what I'm going for now.

At the start of 2013. The shade was called Mango.

A couple of weeks ago. Ooh, I really like that shade of red.

This topic of 'hair dye' brought to you by a long overdue November request from Joy. There is still a long list I'm working my way through because I promised I'd write about each one.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Saying Goodbye to Banoffee Pie

I guess traditionally (if the Elf on the Shelf has even been around long enough to have a 'traditionally'), the elf's last day is supposed to be the 24th, but our card from Santa said that Banofee requested he be allowed to stay one extra day to say goodbye to the kids. (Santa always leaves us a card saying thanks for the cookies and whatnot.) So today was our last Elf on the Shelf day for the next eleven months. Santa also said in his card that they would be allowed to hug him goodbye without taking away his magic. The kids were relieved to finally get to touch their elf but sad to let him go. They were actually kind of emotional about it.

Banoffee left in style though. (Idea taken from here.) He packed up all the things he accumulated from his time here: his superhero cape, his oven glove, whisk and apron, his, his paper chains, his playing cards and red dry erase marker, and his new white undies. He even packed the toilet, but the girls are very concerned about this, and I might need to unpack it for him. Also, they are not sure they want him taking Jaguar's truck all the way back to the North Pole either.

We had a great time with our elf this year. I'm delighted we've started this tradition. There are a lot of EOTS nay-sayers out there, but I don't have to listen to them. This Christmas season was filled with magic thanks to Banoffee, and he really brightened my spirits too. I was feeling very bah-humbug about Christmas until Banoffee came along. I may not be able to always put in as much hard work into making Banoffee's stay each December quite so entertaining, but for this year, I needed it. Thanks, Banoffee, for bringing this family some Christmas cheer.

The night before last, I actually forgot to do something with Banoffee for the second time. I came home from my high school Christmas sort-of-reunion thing exhausted and crashed out on the bed. I never thought twice about the elf. Scott covered for me the next morning, saying that since it was Christmas Eve, maybe he had something really special planned for later on. When Scott took the girls out for ice cream so the Pyjama Fairy could come in, I also took care of some elf business. Banoffee got into the fridge and left a message for the children:

It originally said 'Merry Xmas' but Scott saw it and was like, 'No! Eggsmas!' so I turned the eggs over and rewrote on them.

We didn't say a word about it. A few hours later, Fifi realized Banoffee was missing. They searched everywhere for him. Scott used some 'helpful suggestions' that led them to opening the fridge and finding his message. They thought he was hysterical.

Our Advent Activity for Christmas Eve was go to the Candlelight Service at church and then set out food for Santa and his sleigh team.

I've never seen the girls go to bed so fast and so willingly. They couldn't wait to get to sleep so that Santa could come and leave them lots of presents.

And he sure did.

I also wanted to suffocate myself under my pillow when Fifi carried Jaguar into our bedroom at 4.30am to wake us up to open presents. We sent her back to her room only for her to return seven minutes later asking if it was time now. We sent her back to her room only for her to return thirteen minutes later asking if it was time now, this time bringing Lolly with her. We knew we'd been defeated so at just approximately 5am, I put on the kettle and we opened presents. The kids, as anyone can imagine, had the best, best, bestest time EVAR.

We later had chocolate gravy breakfast at my mom's and opened presents there, and then later had Christmas dinner at my aunt's house where we had more food and presents. It was a wonderful and utterly exhausting Christmas day.

As my mom pointed out, it's now only 364 days until Christmas!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve Traditions - The Pyjama Fairy

When we were kids, I'm pretty sure our Christmas Eve traditions were pretty fluid. I remember doing some things some years and other things other years. It sound like, from talking to other people, this is pretty normal. No one really knows what to do on Christmas Eve!

Most years we went to a Candlelight Christmas Eve service at church. These were my favourite. All the lights in a big sanctuary turned off, one candle lighting the next candle 'til the room glowed a heavenly orange. Singing 'Silent Night' and 'Oh Come All Ye Faithful', in what sounded to me like a beautiful choir's voice. Nothing made us feel more Christmasy!

We'd then go home after church and some years we'd be allowed to open all the gifts in our stockings, other year's we'd get to choose one gift to open. We never did the Santa thing so the gifts would have been under the tree for what felt like a millennia, just waiting to be opened. The stockings would have been hanging from the fireplace fat with surprises, just taunting us with their secrets. Each gift by this point had already been shaken, held up to the light, and possibly even had a bit of tape pulled away in hopes of revealing some clue as to its contents. Opening one gift on Christmas Eve made for a very difficult choice... which of those gifts was alluding us the most? We certainly didn't want to open the wrong one and get a pair of socks for Christmas Eve.

As we got older, Christmas Eve night became Chocolate Gravy night. For dinner, we'd make biscuits, bacon, scrambled eggs, sausages and my Mamaw Mitchell's famous chocolate gravy. Chocolate gravy is basically a hot, thick homemade pudding poured over buttery biscuits. A little would ooze over onto the bacon. It was amazing. Chocolate gravy seemed to be a Christmas and Thanksgiving delight only, like pumpkin pie and stuffing, and we looked forward to it every year.

A few years later I started my own family, and we started making some traditions of our own. We continued going to Candlelight carol services, and then for the past few years, I started going to midnight mass with my dear friend Maria. That was one of my favourite traditions. It felt wonderful waiting until 11.30pm and then wrapping up warm in a coat, hat, scarf and gloves and walking down the road to St Mary's Cathedral in the unusually still and quiet Greenock night, lit only by street lights, sometimes crunching through white glittery snow, to meet Maria and enjoy a solemn hour to myself with my friend, in a big beautiful church. Of all the Christmasy things about Scotland I miss, this is the one I miss the most. In fact, we'd be going out in about an hour if I were still there. That's a little sad for me.

For a couple of years we tried the stockings thing. Since we only do Santa half-heartedly, sometimes the stockings are full before Santa comes, sometimes Santa fills them. One year we did the open-one-present thing, but living on a budget turned me off that one. It made the next day's presents look a little sparse. Plus, despite our Santa half-heartedism, the kids are pretty sure it IS Santa who brings the gifts (even though the tags say 'From Mum & Dad'), so it's a bit confusing to them, the whole presents-before-he-arrives thing.

Homemade pyjamas
Then one year I heard a radio program with callers sharing their own Christmas traditions. One woman said that each Christmas Eve, they received new pyjamas* and washed all the bed linens for Christmas. Thus the Pyjama Fairy was born in my mind.

Last year's Princess Pyjama Fairy jammies

Over the years, the Pyjama Fairy has developed a back story and a modus operandi that has become firmly traditionalized. (Not a word, don't care.) Each Christmas Eve, at some point when the kids aren't around, the Pyjama Fairy steals into the house and makes all the beds. When she's feeling up to it (and has enough time) she changes and washes all the linens too. If she's feeling particularly flush that year, she buys new linens. Then she lays out a fresh new pair of pyjamas on each bed. When she has time, she makes them by hand. When she's busy, she just buys them.

All of this disorganization fits perfectly with her personality. See, the Pyjama Fairy is a fallen tooth fairy. She used to work as a tooth fairy, but she wasn't very good at it. She was always making mistakes: forgetting to leave money, forgetting to bring back the tooth, losing teeth along the way, losing money along the way, missing houses entirely. Eventually she was fired and banished from tooth fairy land. But she missed all the children she once visited. Despite being a terrible tooth fairy, she was actually a very good seamstress. She began sewing pyjamas to make a living. At first she just retailed to other tooth fairies, but one Christmas she had an idea. She could make pyjamas for all those kids she used to visit. She spent the whole of the next year designing huge set of pyjamas for the children on her old watch, and on Christmas Eve she delivered them, often making their beds for them because they were usually such a mess. (She was surprisingly fastidious for a scatterbrained fairy.) Word got out about her pyjama deliveries and parents all over began requesting her services. Before she knew it, she had a huge business to run. She had to stop making all the pyjamas and started buying them in wholesale. But for those first few special children, she still sometimes takes the time to lovingly hand sew a custom set of jammies.

Pyjama Fairy forgot Mummy last year.

Today is Christmas Eve, time for all these fun traditions again. Scott took the kids out for an ice cream so the Pyjama Fairy could do her work. She washed all the linens and made all the beds.  She even left a little gift for cousin Ava (she couldn't find Ava's house).  Later on tonight we will be going to the Candlelight Carol Service at church at 7pm with my mom and step-dad. Chocolate gravy turned into a Christmas morning tradition at some point while I was living in Scotland, so we'll be gathering tomorrow, me and my brothers' families, for breakfast tomorrow.

Jaguar's TMNT jammies

Cousin Ava's jammies with a note.
Stole the spelling/letter errors idea from my step-sis Christy's elf.

Lolly & Fifi's jammies:
Strawberry Shortcake and La La Loopsy

She didn't forget Mum this year.
SuperGirl and Homer Simpson

*Up until today I have always spelled 'pyjamas' as 'pajamas'. I'm a little beside myself that I've been spelling it wrong my whole life. Plus, the actual spelling looks too much like 'pygmy'.

Monday, December 23, 2013

If I Call It a 'Tutorial' It Sounds Way More Bloggy

Ahem. A Christmas Cracker Tutorial

Don't you just want to Pin it? (No really, I think you can Pin it, there might be an option at the bottom.)

Today's Advent Activity was making Christmas crackers. For those on the monarchical side of the pond, you know exactly what these are. For the rest of you, this might be new.

Christmas crackers are an integral part of the Christmas festivities. Every family meal, office party, restaurant dinner or any other Christmas get-together involves them. They even give out Christmas crackers to the homeless at outreach services. It's, like, not Christmas without a cracker.

Since they are hard to find in the States, our elves asked us to make them ourselves. We decided to make enough for Christmas breakfast with my family on Christmas morning, so we have been collecting toilet rolls for weeks.

To make an authentic Christmas cracker, you need the following:

- Empty toilet rolls
- Some kind of wrapping paper
- Some kind of ribbon or tie
- Trinkets
- Jokes
- Paper crowns
- Cracker snaps

However, since I am never very organized and all my plans are poorly thought out, I never got around to ordering my cracker snaps this year. Note to self: Order them in January for next year.

We also didn't make paper crowns. Last year when we made these in Scotland, we made crowns out of tissue paper and tape. I don't think that requires much explanation... just make a crown however you want. Just make it adjustable and/or able to fit an adult or child's head.

Okay, so here's the 'tutorial'. That word makes me sound like such a ponce. But it's the blingo. (Blog+Lingo = That has TOTALLY gotta become a word.)

First cut out sheets of wrapping paper large enough to cover the toilet roll sideways and leave plenty of extra on the ends for pulling on. Then cover the toilet roll with glue from a glue stick.

Roll the gluey toilet roll up in wrapping paper. Seal the end with more glue so the wrapping paper doesn't peel away.

Pretty. :) (By the way, I didn't mean to get actual glittery wrapping paper. In its cellophane I thought it was just glittery looking. But no, it was actual glitter, everywhere. But it came out looking really nice.)

Tie up one end with some kind of ribbon. I used silver raffia. It was just right for pulling the ends tight without breaking. If you are using cracker snaps, run them through the middle of the toilet roll and make sure to tie it up on each end. These tied ends are the ends two people will pull so the snap needs to be caught in the tie so they, you know, snap.

Fifi hand wrote some jokes herself.

Stuff the cracker with the necessary items. We inserted jokes, a chocolate sweetie and a mini tree ornament into each. We were going to use little Christmas stocking filler things like mini keychains, pencil erasers, etc, but the Christmas party section was already cleared out today when I went to buy them. As was the majority of the whole Christmas section. Which is why I got the wrapping paper I did, come to think of it. I didn't realize waiting until the last minute around here was a bad idea. But it is. Note to self: Get all your Christmas supplies in October next year.

Once everything is inside, tie up the end, again, remembering to catch the snap if you are using them.

Then on Christmas day, or at your work's night out, or wherever you are going to be opening your crackers, place one cracker at each place setting. Everyone will turn to someone else to pull their crackers apart. Whoever ends up with the cracker part and not just an end gets to keep what's inside. Don't forget to put on your crown and read your joke. (The cornier, the better!)

Merry Christmas!

(Oh yeah, and speaking of toilet roll, it seemed Banoffee got in on the toilet roll action himself last night. He made himself a little swing hanging from the pulleys on the ceiling fan.  Of course this morning Lolly knocked him off by trying to swing him really fast and really high.)

Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Christmas Lights Story

Quote of the night: "I can't wait for this to be over so we can go get smoothies."

That's the gr-attitude we got for sitting in 45 minutes of traffic to go see some Christmas lights with which to delight our children. Thanks, Fifi.

Everyone told us that Sherwood Forest was a great place to go see lights, so we headed out to drive the 30 minutes into Sherwood. All was going fine until we pulled onto the street leading to the light display... and came to a stand still. The forest, according to GPS was only 1 mile away, but the traffic was back to back the whole way. Literally, we pulled onto the road at 6.19, and we pulled into the forest at 6.55. Then we entered the actual light display at 7.10. And we were back out of the display at 7.30.

That's the kids all getting a little stir crazy in the back seat.

I kept them entertained (and probably the people in the car behind me) while we waited with a laser pointer. That was Scott's clever idea.

But as we drove through the lights, we decided it was kind of worth it. It was fun. Not entirely sure it was wait-in-traffic-for-the-better-part-of-an-hour fun, but fun nonetheless. Fifi, after her exasperated remarks on waiting in the queue ended up exclaiming that this was the best thing that ever happened to her, so that was something.

Because it was Sherwood Forest, of course.

My favourite one. It was animated with the finger buttons moving and swirleys coming out the bell.

Because in America it's a sin to not pay tribute to the flag at every single holiday. This one had animated fireworks.

A fun little display. Reindeer practice.

Santa worshipping baby Jesus. Oh my giddy aunt, there is just too much to say about this one. I'll just leave it with 'LOL'.

Santa waving bye-bye. Thanks for waiting in the queue for half your night! Fifi, you can finally go get those smoothies you've been waiting for!