Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas Gathering

My mother comes from a big extended family and they all get together at Christmas time. Last night was the annual event. My uncle and aunt hosted and over 60 cousins and kids showed up.
Rachel loves this gathering for the social opportunities that it brings. There were around 20 kids there and she wanted to play with each and every one. She wanted to skip dinner to play, so she and her dad had words!
Katherine, on the other hand, loves this gathering for the food. Everyone brings snacks and Kate tried them all. My great grandparents and their six children left Holland for North America 100 years ago. Once they were in America, they gave up all of their Dutch customs except one. Oleykoek. This is an apple and raisin studded fritter, fried in oil and tossed in powdered sugar, that is made only at Christmas. It is messy and unhealthy and tastes heavenly! My Chinese children are more than happy to honor their Dutch roots if it involves sugared doughnuts!

Katherine was trying to figure out who all of the people milling around were. She knew my aunts and uncles and my cousins and their children, but who were the rest. It was only when I explained that the little boy across the room was Granny's cousins' cousin's grandson that I noticed just how "extended" my family is!
Santa has been coming to this Christmas gathering since before I was born. This year he brought Mrs. Santa, too! She read the kids a story and made little comments about Santa's yearly weight gain from eating too many cookies. She suggested that the kids set out carrots for Santa this year! Santa just smiled and handed out presents.
Like my girls, I always look forward to this gathering. I love the food and the fellowship and the tradition. And I love the big, loud, confusing wonder of family.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Christmas Preparations

It's starting to look like Christmas around our house, although I have precious few pictures to prove it!

The girls started their Good Deeds tradition on the first of December. They love this so much! And their deeds keep them so busy that I don't hear "I want" much at all. They've been making peppermint ornaments (easy and great fun!)...
writing letters...
making cards...
and making other crafts, as well as baking multiple batches of cookies and helping me do chores around the house.

One of Katherine's Good Deeds was to buy food for the food bank. I gave her a $10 budget and took her shopping. This is her rather impressive selection!
Tonight we went to a Light Parade downtown. There were all sorts of cars, trucks, fire engines, horses, people, and at least one dog lit up with Christmas lights. Fun!
The next week will bring a caroling party, school Christmas parties, the church Christmas pageant, and a family holiday gathering. Maybe I'll even take pictures.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

We spent the day with 35 members of my family and enough food to feed three times that many. We admired the food and chatted and ate and laughed and had dessert and looked at pictures of past Thanksgivings and went back for seconds. It was a typical Thanksgiving for my clan!
My Aunt Sharon brought an assortment of veggies and had the kids create this fabulous turkey!
My mom brought cupcakes and a candy kit.... the kids could decorate some lovely cupcake turkeys.
Rachel thought that was quite fun!
Our dinner is a decidedly casual affair, due to a general lack of family formality, the large numbers of children, and the fact that there are not enough chairs for everyone to sit at once. We have all the traditional foods, though - turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, "funeral potatoes", two kinds of sweet potatoes, homemade rolls, stuffing, gravy, cranberry gel, cranberry salad, green bean casserole with fried onions on top. And dessert. Lots of dessert. Katherine and I made the world's ugliest apple pie to share - it tasted fine!
There is always a lot of chatting and laughter and telling of stories. There is also always lots of posing for pictures, so that there will be more photos in the album to look at next year. Here was this year's kid group shot - 5 of these are first graders!
I am thankful to live near so much family. Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Rainbow Rachel

Today is Rachel's 7th birthday. She has been talking about this non-stop for the past two weeks and has spent the last two days in full level excitement mode. Turning 7 is a BIG deal!

Rae decided she wanted a "rainbow party" and Katherine wanted to be a part of the baking and decorating. We made rainbow cupcakes with white cake and a lot of food coloring - not hard, but it did use every bowl in the kitchen!
The finished cupcakes were so bright and cheery.
Yesterday, Rachel invited some of her friends over to Granny and Poppy's house for the long-awaited Rainbow Party. Katherine hung a streamer rainbow from a doorway.

The girls arrived, full of giggles and lots of energy. They painted rainbows...
and made Kool-aid playdough in rainbow colors...
and ate their rainbow cupcakes with a side of Skittles.

At our house, there are not gifts at friend parties. Instead, the girls choose a charity or good cause and ask for donations. Rae wanted to help babies in China, so she collected money for a baby in a Love Without Boundaries healing home. Her friends gave her money for her collection box, but they also brought her hair clips and necklaces and other little gifts. Rachel was so pleased.
The weather was nice, so the girls went outside to play.
Rachel thought the whole event was fabulous!
Today, after Sunday school and church and Christmas pageant practice and all the rest of the ususal Sunday schedule, the family got together to celebrate Miss Rae turning 7. That meant that Kate and I had to get out the bowls and food coloring and cake batter again.
This is the only cake I know that is beautiful before you bake it!
Rachel insisted that opening presents needed to be first thing on the party agenda.
She had no specific wants for gifts, so she was happy with everything she received - books, princess legos, doll clothes. She was particularly intrigued with some little birds that sing and can record and say short phrases.
Then it was time to blow out 7 candles...
...and eat that beautiful cake!

7 is looking mighty sweet for this girl. I sure do love my Rainbow Rachel.


Saturday, November 8, 2014

Fall Beauty

It has been late in coming, but fall is finally here!
The unusually warm weather had in October seriously confused some of my plants.
Yup. That's a hydrangea blosson. My bush usually blooms in late May and early June. This year I am enjoying the flowers again in November!
I have had fun taking photos of all the little beauties of fall.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Aquarium Life

I have always loved aquariums. Maybe it's because Kansas is a looong way from the ocean. Maybe it's because it's a lot easier to actually see marine animals there than in an actual ocean (safer, too). But I think mostly it's because there are so many strange creaturesat aquariums and well, I like weird animals.
Tropical fish and corals are just so beautiful!
Starfish are so much more interesting seen from underneath.
Lionfish - elaborately frilled and venomous.
I think a lot of ocean creatures look like something Dr. Seuss would have drawn.
Sea cucumbers are just...strange.
It's Nemo and his dad!
I have no idea what this unfortunate looking critter is, but he does have some fabulous eyes!

The jellyfish were incredibly beautiful.
And now for my favorite marine animal, the moray eel!
I am aware that no one else is a fan of eels. In fact, most people are repulsed by them.
I know that they are covered in slime and are an ugly shade of bile green. I know they have needle-like teeth and a second set of jaws (all the better to drag their prey into their gullets). I know they shock fish (and people) with their own personal electrical current and eat poisonous critters, which then makes them poisonous. I know they lack fins and scales and have a weird hole in their sides instead of gills. I know that pretty much everything about them is creepy.
But I love them anyway. They're kind of disgusting and completely fascinating - an irresistible combination. I liked this eel so much I had my picture taken with him. Cheese!

I love birthdays!

the ladybug cake

The Ladybug Sisters


Jie Jie and Mei Mei

Park Pictures

Park Pictures
Peeking through the windows

Park Pictures

Park Pictures
Katherine and her toothless smile

Park Pictures

Park Pictures
The little one leads the way