A Simple, Home-made Halloween–2017

IMG_5884

Yesterday, we celebrated Halloween.  Now, I must confess, Halloween is both Rob and my least favorite holiday.  For many, many years, we hosted an alternative harvest party of some sort, took the kids to one at church, or just did our own thing that night.  One time, in 20 years, we took the kids, including the nieces and nephew, trick-or-treating and we were completely worn out by the end, so we did not do it again.  To be fair, we tried to take them to every relative that lived within an hour’s drive of each other–lots of places, really far apart, nursing homes included, etc.   We were driving for hours, unloading them, visiting, and off again.  They were little, and it was just plain a lot of work.  All the relatives did enjoy the costumes, especially the elderly relatives who were in homes.  So, we went back to our regular ways.

However, when we got Patsy 4 years ago, Halloween was one of her most favorite things–a rare, good memory of times with her birth mother, a special evening she much looked forward to, a MAJOR BIG DEAL to her.  So, we decided that we would try to let her have some fun on that day/night, in a way we could all enjoy.  We saw no reason to remove one of the few happy memories/traditions she had from her past, but we did want to change the focus a bit from scary, gory, and dark to light, happy and fun.  In other words, keep the fun part, get rid of the rest.  To be truthful, we still don’t like Halloween much, but we do like our daughter and her feelings more than we don’t like Halloween, if you get what I mean.

For the past few years, we have spent the evening with the cousins.

IMG_5889

This year, Patsy was a princess, using an old dress I made years ago for Ja’Ana.  Alissa dressed up in her pajamas.  She recently got a job at a daycare for 2-1/2 hours each afternoon, and they were having the toddlers and staff wear pajamas Tuesday.  Jake, is Darth Vader, in a pair of pajamas, a cape, a mask and a light saber.  Just don’t call him that!  His name is Jake, and he is still under there, in case I was wondering:)

IMG_5888

Last year, Uncle Rob started a tradition with Michaela.  She really, really wants to be involved with the whole trick-or-treat project, but after all, she is 20 now.  Kind of old.  So, she and Uncle got a bag of Reese’s peanut butter cups and drove around, following Jake and his helpers (anyone who would get out of the van and take him up to doors, from his sister Caitlyn, to Alissa, and of course, Patsy).  This year, he also had Heath bars, Snickers, assorted candy, and Starburst in the van for all of the, well, helpers?  This year, again, she scarfed down candy, this time with Lovana (who isn’t actually eating much candy right now, to be fair to her), Caitlyn, Alissa, Ja’Ana, J’s friend Angel, Patsy……. Yes, a party in the van, all for the sake of Jake and Michaela.  Of course, Jake and Michaela.  Anything for Jake and Michaela.  Lots of eager volunteers for this task:)

Earlier in the day, Michaela and I had cut out the pumpkin cookies, and baked them.  Jake was offered the opportunity of decorating them, but he was too excited for the party to start.  So, Caitlyn and I decorated them.  My sister made a taco bar, and we had everyone eat dinner before Uncle took off with them.  I stayed back at the house with my sister and brother-in-law,  handing out candy.  It was fun to see the kids in their costumes, and admire the pumpkins my niece had carved.

IMG_5885

The kids coming up to the door enjoyed them, too, and she received a lot of compliments on her carving, which I passed on to her when she got back.

IMG_5892

Patsy lit up her pumpkin as soon as we got home.  It’s about done for, already, but that’s ok.  Another Halloween is past, and now we are moving forward towards Thanksgiving, one of my absolute favorite holidays in the whole world.  I can’t wait.

Advertisements

Happy 4th of July

IMG_4823

I started the day with a red, white and blueberry muffin (gluten-free muffins made with blueberries and raspberries) and put on my blue denim skirt, red shirt, and red, white and blue sweater vest and necklace.  I then proceeded to have a wonderful 4th of July, doing things I liked and wanted to do–a perfect holiday.

IMG_4829

IMG_4842

We drove up to Portland to have breakfast with some of Lovana and Ja’Ana’s birth siblings/family members.  We went to a restaurant named the Gateway Breakfast House. I had never been there before, but I guess President Obama ate there when he visited Portland.  We waited quite a while, which was fine because it gave the kids a chance to visit.  It was a beautiful, sunny day–perfect for hanging around outside and taking pictures.  When we got in, it was quite small inside, and not fancy at all.  They had both breakfast and lunch items and, because we were with such a large group, I was able to see quite a few menu items.  The omelets and hamburgers were enormous!  We had a great time, both with the company we were with, and the chance to try a new restaurant.  We had the pleasure to sit near the little guy, and boy was he entertaining:)  And super cute:)

IMG_4853

Then, we drove home.  We are listening to an audio book named “Hattie Big Sky” and are enjoying it very much.  We got to hear a lot of it today, since we were in the car so long.  On the way home, we stopped at Home Depot and ordered a new vertical blind for the front window.  It’s been broken for some time now, and won’t shut all the way anymore.  We’ve been putting up with it, but the straw that broke the camel’s back was the other night when a salesman came up to the door when I was in my bathrobe, sitting on the couch, and PEERED into the crack left by the broken blind (about 6 inches) and then rang the doorbell.  I politely, but firmly told him to go away, and told Rob that we were getting a new blind ASAP!  It’s on order, but it will come soon, and Rob plans to install it.

 

When I got home, I indulged myself in some sewing, purely for fun.  I don’t get to sew much anymore, due to my busy schedule, but still love to sew.  So, I finished a sundress I had been working on for a while, for Patsy, and then made this little summer dress for a little friend.  I had worked on Patsy’s dress on our camping trip, but forgot to bring an iron, so had a little to finish up here at home.   I was able to use fabric I had on hand for both dresses, and lots of rick rack from my stash for the little one.   img_4867.jpg

During the evening, I went out and picked a few flowers and messed around in the garden for a little bit.  I will do a garden update soon, since it’s growing so well now.  Rob took Lovana back to her job.  It’s official now, Saturday is her last day.  As is is, the job lasted almost 6 weeks past when she thought it was going to, so she’s great with that.

Then, the neighborhood exploded into a loud and smoky display as we saw many, many fireworks exploding all around us.  I was surprised to see lots of the big, blooming, ariel (illegal) ones exploding in the sky all around us.  Beautiful. I just wasn’t expecting it in the city of Salem.  Clearly, there is no need to drive to any display when we’ve got all that from our back yard:)   Rob and Patsy did their little pile, and then Patsy sat on the deck and enjoyed the show for at least an hour.  Judging from all the bangs and pops still emitting from the neighborhood outside, I doubt I’ll be sleeping any time soon, but I had a great day.  I have another fun day to look forward to tomorrow, starting with a birthday breakfast with my mom, so I think it’s my lucky week:)  (Last night we had a bbq for my niece who is back from Ireland for only 1 week). Although I miss Jake since he’s on vacation with his mom and dad, I’ve welcomed the time to spend time with other family members this week.

 

 

 

Valentine’s Day and a Birthday

Yesterday, we did Home Economics. 2 cakes were made.  First, as a group, we mixed up a double batch of Gluten-free sour cream chocolate cake batter.  The girls cut out waxed paper to fit into the bottom of the pans and then sprayed them with non-stick spray.  The cake layers were baked.  They came out of the pans easily with the waxed paper liner.

After they were cooled, they frosted them with chocolate buttercream frosting and decorated them however they wanted with the supplies they could find in the garage.  They did great!

Ja’Ana’s cake was for her dad, for Valentine’s Day.

img_4042

Alissa’s cake was for her mom (the G is for Gail) for her birthday, which is the day after Valentine’s Day.

img_4047

I was amazed at how nice they looked!  Of course, we are all helping Rob eat his, and it tastes great!  We even got about 6 or 8 cupcakes as well from the leftover batter.  It made a lot.

We went down to the farm store and bought some flowers and some potting soil.  We used a pot I had, and the girls planted flowers in it as a birthday gift from all of us.  They chose the colors carefully and it turned out great.  They also got a flower for my aunt (their great aunt), and some chocolates for Grandma.  Last evening, Alissa babysat her siblings so her parents could go out for dinner for Valentine’s and got up super early to give her mom breakfast in bed for her birthday.

It was a gorgeous day, and I love how we spent it.

Busy Kids=Happy Kids-Christmas Break 2016–part 4

img_3856

The fun continues around here!  This week is focused on my immediate family, so on Tuesday, we took the 3 girls to the beach.  The weather was extremely rainy, cold, and raw, so we didn’t go play in the sand, although Lovana had expressed an interest in doing that since it’s been a while since she has done that.  Instead, we took them to the Outlet Mall, and let them shop to their heart’s content.

On Monday, my 2 older girls went to the mall with the older cousins–it was quite a trip with Rachel, Caitlyn, Lovana, Ja’Ana, Alissa and my oldest daughter, Abbie (who is a great sport and actually loved being asked to join with the other cousins–she loves the younger girls and loves shopping…)  It sounds like they had a blast, although no one bought a whole lot but, instead, had fun being together.  Since Caitlyn will be returning to college in a few days, and Rachel will be heading off for a 6-month adventure soon, I was happy they could spend the time together.  Rob and I took Patsy to the YMCA to swim and I cleaned up a little from the Christmas mess.  I’m still not done, but it was a good day.

img_3855

The girls had all received some money for Christmas.  One gift promised them a trip to the outlet mall in Lincoln City (on the Pacific Ocean).  I got some, too.  We walked around the small mall, hunting for bargains.  Last year, we found incredible deals, like jeans for Ja’Ana for $1.  There were no deals that good this year, but we did find some things we liked for a price we liked.  I found 2 things I liked, a sweater for spring in a lavender color, and a sweater vest in patriotic colors.  I think they will brighten up some other clothes I already own.  I’m being very careful to not buy just for the sake of getting a good deal, since space is at a premium here.  I will be doing some more shopping later, as many of my clothes are showing the wear and tear that comes with wearing them so often.

The big girls found things they liked, also, in their 2 days of shopping.  Patsy dug out some long-hoarded birthday money and added it to her Christmas money and had a spending spree in her one-day extravaganza.  She enjoyed getting to buy what she wanted at the mall (clothes and jewelry and headbands), and spending a large chunk of her gift card at McDonald’s for fries, soda and a McFlurry.  Hmmmm.  Well, it’s Christmas, right?

We also enjoyed going out to eat at Mo’s, a favorite restaurant of ours that is found up and down the coast here in Oregon.  Throughout the day, the rain poured, with a ferocity that always amazes us, even though it is typical for this season at the beach.  Thankfully, it came in showers, and we were able to dodge the worst of them.  After a drive back home in the pounding rain, we were thankful to tuck ourselves away in front of our fire and enjoy the evening watching tv in our cozy living room, drinking tea and munching snacks we had been given for Christmas.  It was a good family day, and  we all enjoyed it.

Busy Kids=Happy Kids-Christmas Break, 2016-Part 3

img_3826

The last 2 days have been busy, and full.  On Wednesday, Rob helped my niece, Rachel,  move home to her parents’ house.  She is leaving on a big adventure to Ireland in January and does not want to keep her apartment for the 6 months she will be gone.  He kept our girls occupied with that project and some errands, and I kept Jake occupied.  We hung around his house all day.  Since Jake’s big sister came home from college late, late at night Tuesday, all of the big girls were exhausted, since they had gone to get her from the airport.  Jake did not go.   So, he kept me busy.

I had him do his usual chores, eat his breakfast, get dressed, etc.  Then, we did crafts and played with trucks, Legos, read stories and played games.  (I will say that his rules are definitely his own, but since I don’t care if I win, it works for me better than it does for Patsy, for instance.   We use various cars and little trains for markers. We have to drive them along in a certain way that only he knows and the rules change every minute.  About 1/2 way through the game, he is done, but as long as he had fun….)

img_3812

I’ve been having him try the Perler bead projects.  I was so proud of him. This penguin is the first one that no one had to finish for him.  He got it all!

Today, we did chores, etc., and some more crafts.  I had no idea he liked crafts so well.

img_3814

This is definitely the time to buy kid crafts.  I have been able to pick up several kits for 50% off, or even 60% off.  I shopped at JoAnn’s and Michael’s.  I got a lot of bang for my buck.  He wanted me to sit beside him most of the time, all day, both days, but it was mostly for company.  He loved doing the crafts.

So, this afternoon, Rob came, with the van,  and we went to the library where they were having an activity where kids could go from table to table making Christmas gifts.

img_3821

He made crafts until he had visited each station, and even made some things twice.  Who knew?  He also enjoyed visiting with Santa, who stopped by.  We even got an Amelia Bedelia book, as he has begun to enjoy that character.

While he and Patsy made crafts, the big girls (all 4), wandered through the huge library, enjoying themselves.  It was good to spend time with Caitlyn as she isn’t home very often.

img_3815

We couldn’t resist a photo shoot in the remaining pile of snow in the library parking lot.  It’s the closest she got to the fun of the big snow, since she goes to school in southern California.  The only piles left are where people plowed or shoveled it into heaps during the storm.  It worked for her!

Once we did an errand for Alissa, bought a few more crafts for tomorrow, the library, and picked up some photos Rob had ordered from Fred Myers, several hours had passed.  The afternoon was awesome, and I have to admit that french fries were involved.  Tomorrow, I will spend another day with the kids, again focusing on Jake, and then I have next week off from such structured activities.  We will still see one another, but their mom and day and big sister are going to keep Jake happy and busy since they all have the week off,and I’ve got a few things planned for Rob and my girls to do a few of the days, plus at least 2 family dinners.  Fun all around!

 

 

Busy Kids=Happy Kids, Christmas Break 2016, Part 2

img_3800

Want to keep them busy and interested?  Sign them up for a squid dissection class!  That’s just what we did today.  We spent the day at OMSI (the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry).  My sister, Gail (Alissa’s mom) is the field trip guru.  She put together a day for all of our kids, plus some friends.  Some of the kids are homeschooled and some go to various schools, but they all had the day off because of Christmas break.

img_3794

We had no idea that our little friend would enjoy dissecting, but she had a blast and held her own!

img_3792

The boys had a great time, too (I promise–he just looks a little sober in this picture)

img_3801

After the kids finished their class, we had some time to wander around OMSI and eat our lunches.  I was so glad to have a knowledgable person in charge of the dissection, and that that is checked off the Biology list!  Then, we watched 2 movies, D-Day and Jerusalem, on the OMNI Max Screen.  After that, we wandered around the museum for a while, enjoying exhibits, then headed home.  It was a great day, and the movies fitted in so well with what we’ve been studying in history.  We are just finishing World War II, and the movie brought it to life.

img_3804

Happy kids = happy moms!  I was so glad to see some of my friends that I hadn’t seen for a while, spend time with family, and give the kids such a great learning experience.  It was a great day.

Busy Kids = Happy Kids: Christmas Break 2016, Part 1

img_3785

I am going to be spending a lot of time with the cousins this week.  I am planning on some super fun activities.

Yesterday, Michaela was telling us how much she wanted to decorate sugar cookies for Christmas.  So, last night, I made 2 batches of gluten-free dough.  I wanted to chill them all night.  Because I am so sensitive to wheat, I don’t even keep regular all-purpose flour in my house, so everyone will enjoy gluten-free cookies this year.

Lovana came to the rescue and went with me, bringing her expertise and creativity.  We made royal icing and buttercream.  She tinted the frosting several colors and we pulled sprinkles out of our cupboard and my sister’s cupboard.  We had tons!  She decided to bake the cookies first, then ice and decorate.  We often decorate first, then bake, but Michaela wanted to do it this way this time, so we did.

img_3786

They made lots of pretty cookies.  We froze some for Sunday.

img_3787

Here’s the recipe.  I got it from a little magazine I bought years ago at the check-out counter called “Gluten-Free Recipes.”  I tweaked it a bit.

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup softened butter

1 egg

2 cups Bob’s Red Mill One-to-One gluten-free flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon xanthum gum

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 Tablespoons milk, more if necessary

Cream butter and sugar.  Beat in egg.  Add salt, baking powder, xanthum gun, cinnamon, vanilla and flour.  Add milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, until desired consistancy is reached.  Add more if dough is too dry.  Chill for at least 15 minutes.  Roll, cut out, and bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until brown.  Makes about 2 dozen cookies, depending on size.

I was a bit baffled by the instructions about the milk.  I made 2 batches.  The first time, I put in the 2 tablespoons.  It was really stiff.  I put in a little extra the 2nd time.  It was almost too much.  Lovana rolled and cut out the cookies and she had trouble working with the 2nd batch.  On the other hand, the cookies themselves were much more tender with the softer consistency.  The first batch was super crisp, then second was softer.  Both had excellent flavor.  Everyone loved them, whether or not they needed to eat gluten-free.

The rest of the day was filled with kids playing with toys, lunch, tons of dishes and cleaning from the cookies and playing (I also had Jake do his regular chores such as “pick up 8 things”) and then we had a huge game of Apples to Apples with Lovana, Alissa, her friend Kim, Michaela and myself. Earlier,  Jake and I had played a version of Life which sort of resembled what the directions said, so he played other things during this game.  Ja’Ana and Patsy were off to the doctor and errands with Rob, who is off work for 2 weeks now. (He works at a school.)

img_3788

We took a few home for Patsy to do, since she didn’t want to be left out of the fun!  It was a great day, and we have a great one planned for tomorrow.