Saturday, December 27, 2008

Monday, December 22, 2008

Ready for Christmas

We're all set for the holidays - we have a countdown going and everything.  We didn't do an advent calendar, but ever since my dad and sister's gifts arrived the kids have been asking how long until Christmas.  Taisim has even decided which dress she wants to wear (she happens to be wearing it now - didn't want to wait until Christmas Day to put it on, so we will probably end up with a new choice by Thursday).

Last week I hosted a small holiday gathering with some friends from a homeschool group that we're in.  It was really nice - I got to use a lot of my holiday serving dishes, and I really enjoy the company of all of the women that came.  Yuta took the kids out for a bit so I could host and chat without interruption for a few hours, and I really appreciate his doing that.  Our lasts guests were here until after midnight, so I think they enjoyed chatting too.

I think our Christmas will be nice and calm.  On Christmas Eve we're going to my in-laws' house, and one of my SIL's will be there.  My other sister-in-law and her husband will get to Ohio sometime on Christmas Day, and we're hoping that everyone will come here for Christmas dinner.  I'm planning to carry on the Christmas lasagna tradition that my mom started many years ago.  I've also baked two batches of my Nonna's zucchini bread - gave a couple loaves as gifts, served one at the party last week, and have another two loaves for Christmas and New Year's.

I've got Wednesday & Thursday off work.  I don't really know if I've also got Friday off or not.  I'm guessing yes ... we don't really have any plans, so it won't be awful if I need to log in for a bit, but I like the idea of having a long five-day weekend.  By a stroke of luck Yuta has Wednesday and Friday off too, so he'll we don't have to work around either of our work schedules this holiday.  Yippee!  He does work on Saturday, but just for a few hours.  And as I'm typing this I just remembered my big plan for Friday - shopping for Christmas decorations.  We got such great deals when we shopped for Halloween decorations on Nov 1, that I want to try my luck again and look for a couple of very specific things on Friday.  I think I'm going to try Old Time Pottery first, and then maybe Michael's or Target.  I'll need to look at the opening hours and make a plan!

Safe travels to all of our friends and family that are traveling this week.  And to our family in Florida - we miss you and are thinking of you.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The update I would have given in our holiday card

We mailed our holiday cards last week, and I included the URL for this blog, hoping that folks that we may have lost touch with can see what's going on in our lives. I've heard from a couple folks that they've got our cards, so I figured I'd do a brief update on all of us, and what's happened in our lives over the past year.

It's been a full year, with lots of changes, though some of them seem like so long ago. In late January we moved into a new house and put our town home on the market. Our new house is in the same sub-division as our town home, so we ended up moving just a couple of blocks away. We like the neighborhood, and we like our location. Our new house has a bigger yard (though it's still not huge), and a full basement. The basement is unfinished, which has been great for lots of rough housing and running around and bike riding, especially during the cold months.

Yuta also changed jobs in the fall, and he now works for the Apple Store. He seems to really love it - I've heard him say that it's not like work at all since he loves the company and products, and most of the people that come into the store are already excited about Mac products. The minimum number of hours per week required for a part-time employee means that he works one more shift per week than he used to, but they've been accommodating to our preferences, and it seems to be working out well.

We traveled a bit this year too - went to Florida in May to see my family, then to Chicago in July to celebrate my Nonna's 90th birthday, and finally to NY in September for Yuli's wedding. In addition to welcoming Keith to the extended family, we added two members to our household: Cooper the cat and Hyper the hamster. Cooper is the perfect cat for our family - he fits in perfectly, and I think we really lucked out with him. Hyper is great too. Unfortunately Cooper likes him a bit too much, so we have to be careful to keep Cooper away from Hyper's cage.

I don't know how to summarize the past year of the kids' lives - the best I can do is maybe tell a bit about their interests right now. Yuta is home with them during the day, and my schedule is flexible enough that I get to visit on and off throughout the day.

Taipan turned five in November, and he's very much into first-person games on the xbox, and we often pretend to be various characters from the games, and at bedtime he asks me to tell stories based on those characters. He's also very physical - loves jumping, loves wrestling, loves getting tackled & thrown onto the bed or foof chair. Loves giving and getting hugs too :-) He has been enjoying the snow and cold weather - he can outlast almost all of us with snow play. He tends to flit from one thing to another more than he used to. If I bring out games or puzzles or blocks or the marble run he will be very intense about it for a short period of time, and then move on to the next thing.

Taisim has changed a lot over the past year - she is very tall, and it's easy to forget that she's only two. She loves princesses and dress up and making cookies out of play-doh. She has also recently started caring for her "babies", and the babies could be balloons or legos or a heating pad. Folks tend to classify her as a girly-girl, which I agree with - she loves pink and purple things, and prefers dresses. However, she's not prissy - she will rough house and get into the thick of things right along with Taipan

We all love doing puzzles together, and they really like Peep. Another favorite thing we do is play a chasing game - they love it best when it's the whole family running and chasing. It always ends in a big pile up, and then starts over again. The kids really enjoy each other - I heard Taipan tell Taisim recently that she is his "best sister", and Taisim returned the compliment and said that he was her "best brother".

As for me, well, I work from a home office still, and am thankful for that flexibility. I continue to think, re-think and sometimes overthink lots of things - I've learned a lot this year about how I want to approach life, and my priorities, and it has brought clarity around a lot of things. Much too much to write about here. And just because my thoughts are clearer, it doesn't mean my words would be.

That's it in a (big) nutshell. We are loving life in Ohio, though miss our family and friends in Florida. I can only hope that 2009 is as great for us as 2008 has been.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Lights & library

These are some fun pics that I just downloaded from my phone.

On Wednesdays Yuta and the kids typically go visit Yuta's parents, and if Yuta has to work on Wednesday evenings I'll usually pick the kids up.  On our way home last Wednesday we were looking at the lights in the Stronsgivlle common, and saw their cool tunnel.  I asked the kids if they wanted to go walk through it and they said "yes!".  So we parked and got out with the agreement that we would stay as long as we were all comfortable, and as soon as anyone one of us got too cold then we'd get back in the van.

It was in the 30s, and we all had coats, but not our warmest ones, so we kept moved quickly to stay warm.  We ran through the tunnel of lights a couple of times, and walked around and looked at other lights.  We were the only ones there, which was pretty cool.  We probably would have stayed longer if it hadn't been so windy.  The jacket Taisim was wearing doesn't have pockets, and we didn't have her mittens with us, so her hands were getting chilly.

The commons area is right by the library, so we decided to go there too, and were pleasantly surprised by a quintet performing holiday music - a harp, a bass, a flute and two dolcimers (both of which were handmade by one of the performers).  After the performance they invited folks to come up and look at and experiment with their instruments.  It was a nice surprise.  The kids were hesitant to look at the instruments at first (mainly because of the crowd of people looking at them), but once the bulk of the audience drifted away we checked out the harp and a xylophone. 

Saturday, December 6, 2008


Mom and I considered going to the Rainforest last weekend, but ended up not going.  I had the idea in my head though as a good cold-weather place to go, and today was certainly cold, so I took the kids for a couple hours this afternoon.

It was not very crowded at all, and almost all of the animals were active and visible, which was nice.  Our Rainforest is pretty cool - there's a huge waterfall right when you walk in, and then some trees and plants with misters that startled all of us!  There are also a ton of vines, and that's something the kids have seen quite a bit on video, but never in person, so that was cool.  

The orangutans were especially fun today - there was a huge male that was sitting on the ground leaning on the glass nibbling on a branch.  He was bigger than Taipan and Taisim.  There were also some other monkeys that spent some time right in front of us.  That was upstairs, along with a sloth, some black & white squirrels, tamarins, lots of turtles.  On the first floor were lots of reptiles, and we breezed through that section, and went back to do the upstairs section two more times.

I've got some photos from my phone that I'll upload later (I mistakenly left the camera home today).

Ornaments, cookies, tree

I'm finally around to posting the rest of our ornament making.

Kids painting, and ornaments after paint:

They asked me more than once if the cookies were ready to be eaten, referring to the ornaments.  After the second or third time they mentioned eating them, I decided to make cookies too, so while the paint was drying on the ornaments we made some sugar cookies.  Since it was spur of the moment, I didn't have anything on hand to decorate them with, so we used the icing we had in our cabinets:

Here's our plateful of cookies - I've got about half of them in the freezer, and ended up freezing some dough too.  I tried a new recipe, and it was great, and made quite a few cookies.

Back to the ornaments - I used a sparkle glaze, and the finished product is really nice.  Kind of iridescent.  I don't think the pictures do them justice:

Finally, after much patience, they are finally dry and ready to put on the tree:

And here's our tree - the 3rd one we put up this year, with the 3rd set of multi-colored lights we bought.  We left off most of our breakable ornaments, as Cooper is having a good time climbing the tree and batting ornaments around.  We can't get our star to stay on top.  We got a new star this year, and it's too heavy for the top of the tree, even when we bend the top branch over to make it more sturdy.  We may try to rig something up, or just leave it star-less this year.

I love it, and surprisingly I don't miss my old favorite ornaments as much as I thought I would.  We've got a good number of ornaments we've made the past three Christmases, and those hold new precious memories for me.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Friday & Saturday of Thanksgiving Weekend

On Friday we cooked a Thanksgiving dinner here, and invited another family over to spend the afternoon & evening with us.  One of my sisters-in-law stopped by for a couple of hours too.

 Mom woke up early and made stuffing and got the turkey in the oven (thanks again, Mom!), and I made sweet potato casserole and bread.  I took a poll, and no one was interested in any green veggies, so we skipped those.

We ate around 2 so that Yuta could eat before he had to leave for work.  The kids were in and out of the house a number of times to go play in the snow.  We all bundled up to maybe try a walk around 5:30, but that quickly turned into chasing and running around the yard, and we didn't get a walk in, but it was fun.

Here are Taipan and Taisim eating snow - it's the first time either of them have tried it I think.  They both thought it was delicious:

This the outside of our house - all of the decorations that Yuta put up on Thursday.  We still need to plug in one strand of icicle lights (we were one extension cord short).  You can also see our Christmas tree through the window:

After coming back in, having some pie and cookies (provided by our friends), we fired up Rock Band 2.  My mom seemed pretty adamant that she wasn't interested in playing, but once she saw that Bon Jovi was on the list, she couldn't resist joining in:

By Friday evening both mom and I were feeling like we needed some down time, even though we had been at home a lot on Thursday & Friday.... it seemed like we didn't stop moving for very long on either of those days, so we decided to skip the zoo or science center on Saturday.  Instead we stayed home most of the day, and thought we'd go see a holiday light display and try to make Christmas ornaments if we had time.

I got around to starting the dough for the ornaments right around 4pm, then realized that they would need to bake for 2-2.5 hours, and also that I couldn't find my cookie cutters, so we decided to wait until after we saw the lighting display to do the ornaments.  On our way there we made a quick stop at target.

The lighting display we went to was at Blossom Music Center in Cuyhoga Falls, about 20 mins southeast of us.  It's about two miles, and it took us 15-20 minutes to drive through, and it was really beautiful - my mom and I both love Christmas lights, so I'm glad we got the chance to take her.  I don't have many pictures because I was taking video.  Taipan's favorite lighting displays were a volcano and some animated candy canes.  Taisim really liked a castle display.

This is the final sign we saw on our way out:

When we got home we got to work on the ornaments.  We did salt dough ornaments, and for the first time I added food coloring to the dough.  The look really nice - we didn't have time to paint them on Saturday before my mom left, but here they are after they came out of the oven:

My next post later in the week will include shots of the finished ornaments, and our tree.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008

Our Thanksgiving got off to an early start - we were all up by 8am, which is very unusual for my family, especially on a weekend or holiday!  Thanksgiving dinner was at my in-laws' at 6:30/7pm, so we had just about the entire day to hang out with Mom.

Taipan showed Grammy the ropes on Halo 3 for a bit - she caught on fairly quickly, and Taipan had a great time playing with her.  After gaming for a bit and eating breakfast, we decided to decorate two Christmas cookie jars that mom brought for the kids.  Here they are decorating:

And here are the finished products:

Around noontime Yuta went outside to start hanging up outdoor Christmas lights, so we decided to bundle up and go out for a while too.  I didn't ask my mom how long it had been since her last snowball fight, but I'm willing to bet it was at least 25 years ago.  She was a good sport with helping the kids make snowballs and being a target.

Yuta spent the majority of the afternoon hanging lights, and putting up our outdoor decorations, while Mom and I stayed warm and cozy inside.  Yuta said he wasn't cold though, so I guess the constant movement kept him warm.

My mom brought two great hidden picutre books for the kids too.  They're kind of like I Spy books, but we all seem to like them better.  I don't remember the names of them, but one is Halloween themed and one is Christmas themed, and there quite a few silly things on each page, and mom, Taipan and Taisim enjoyed pointing out the silly things (e.g. houses with faces, or a man wearing ten hats) as much as they liked looking for the hidden items.  On Thursday afternoon they spent over an hour piled into the recliner and looking at the books:

We left our house around 5:00 to head out to the Christmas tree sale at Michaels, and then to my in-laws' for dinner.  Both kids fell asleep before we got to Michaels, so mom and I went it, bought a tree, some extra lights and a few other things before heading to dinner.

The kids were a bit groggy when we got to dinner, and were not feeling very social.  I went upstairs and played with them while the rest of the family started dinner.  Fortunately my mom felt comfortable enough to sit with the family without me - I trusted that Yuta would help her out of any social awkwardness if it arose :-)  We eventually made our way downstairs, but opted out of sitting at the formal dining table, and instead ate in the kitchen where it was a bit more quiet and less intimidating.  After getting some food, they had a great time playing with auties and uncle.  It was around 10 p.m. by the time we left and headed home.

Once home I was eager to see our new tree, so we put it up.  The tree has pre-lit white lights, which I love, but Taipan prefers multi-colored lights, so since the tree had only white lights I bought multi-colored lights to add to it.  The ones I bought at Michael's didn't work (not enough), and they didn't twinkle, so I bought some at CVS on Friday morning, and those didn't work (none of the green ones lit up, and even though the box showed six colors, the strands only had blue, green and red), so on Saturday we went to Target and I got the lights that we needed!

Grammy's Visit - Wednesday, 11/26/2008

My mom's flight landed around 1:30 on Wednesday, and Taisim and I went to pick her up.  It didn't seem very crowded at all, and her flight went without incident.

When we came home and kicked off her visit with a birthday celebration.  The kids put candles on her cake, and Taipan suggested we sing Happy Birthday (a first for him, as he usually requests that Happy Birthday not be sung, or that we take him out of earshot while people are singing):

My sister-in-law and her husband stopped by that afternoon as well, and we all went to Chuck E Cheese for dinner (without Yuta, as he had to work at 6).  There as a birthday party there, so Chuck E came out for the party, but we missed him.  I think he would have come back out, but Taipan and Taisim didn't bring it up, so I didn't request it.  It was more crowded than I expected it to be, so we didn't stay as long as we normally do.

Also on Wednesday our new Christmas tree came.  We ordered a fiber optic one online, after having no luck finding one locally.  It was a huge disappointment.  It didn't look anything like the picture, and was not at all worth what we paid for it.  So we boxed it up, and it will be shipped back this week.  Luckily we saw that a sale was going on Thanksgiving evening at Michael's - all trees were 50% off, so I've got a lovely new tree now, for half the price of the one I bought online.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Getting ready for the weekend

Edited on 11/30/08 to add a few pics of the cake and our birthday sign for Grammy.

My mom's coming to spend Thanksgiving with us. She's flying in from Florida in about ten hours, and I hope she's been missing snow, because we've got plenty of it. I think we got about six inches today.

Tomorrow is also her birthday (tomorrow being Wednesday - it's very early Wed a.m. now, but I haven't been to bed yet, so it's still Tuesday for me). Taipan and Taisim are very excited to help her celebrate her birthday. We baked a cake, which they decorated tonight, and we also made a sign, which Yuta and Taipan hung in our entry way. Taipan also suggested decorating with streamers and balloons; if time allows we may add that too. I'll post pics of the cake and and sign over the next few days.

After we welcome Grammy here tomorrow and have cake we'll most likely head to Chuck E. Cheese - Taipan is hoping that Chuck E. will come out if we tell them it's my mom's birthday.

Our plan for the holiday is to have dinner on Thursday evening with Yuta's family - his sisters and brother-in-law are coming into town. My mom and I also want to cook a turkey dinner, kind of in honor of my Nonna who passed away in August, so we've invited another family over and will cook on Friday.

I'm not sure what we'll do on Saturday. I think that my Mom wants to take the kids somewhere, so we might go to the science center or the Rainforest at the zoo. We'll play it by ear. Then she goes home on Sunday - I'm sure the weekend will fly by.

And in case you're wondering why I'm up at 3 a.m. .... Taisim fell asleep around 8:45 tonight, only to wake up around 11:30 fully rested and ready to play, so she and I have been hanging out. I'm supposed to work tomorrow, so I'm going to try to get a little bit of work done before we head to bed. She just yawned, so hopefully we'll be asleep soon.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Snow Day!

Over the weekend we had a small amount of snow, and not much stuck to the ground.  We woke up Monday morning to a bit more snow, and then again yesterday we had more snow.  The kids were so excited to go out and play.  Our friends gave Taipan a snowball maker for his birthday and ever since Thursday they had been waiting for enough accumulation to use it.

Yesterday Yuta and the kids went out to throw snowballs, and make snow angels, footprints and snow ducks (those of you who watch Peep might be familiar with snow ducks ... Quack makes them in one of the episodes).  When they were in the front yard I could see them from my office window and also hear Taipan saying, "This is going to be the biggest snow duck ever ever ever ever!