Best Christmas Ever

We have five traditions surrounding Christmas. One is that the kids line up by age before coming into the room with the Christmas tree. This year Ani had to stand two steps above Cameron to be taller than him. (The others are watching Holiday in Handcuffs, Santa presents are not wrapped and they get nothing from Jamie and me, they get a book, a cross stitched ornament, and something else, and we always have pickles and olives with our holiday meals.)
Best Christmas Ever

Santa brought great presents for the kids. He also brought stuff for Lola (two toys, two bags of her favorite treats, and two cans of special meals), Filli and Kree (three bags of yogurt drops), and Hera and Demeter (wooden chewies, dried corn on the cob, and these crispy treats they love).
Best Christmas Ever

As I was setting out the gifts Christmas Eve night, Lola stole one of her toys. It’s got lots of ropes and ropes are her favorite. She was a bit miffed when I took it back from her. She got the idea that she wasn’t allowed to play with it and amazingly left it alone all night. When the kids went to their piles, she went to grab that toy. I laughed and told everyone to look at Lola. She must have thought I meant she couldn’t touch it because she ran away from it. She was so happy when we gave it to her.
Best Christmas Ever

I finished the kids’ ornaments on Christmas Eve. I always insist I will get them done early and I always don’t. This is the latest I’ve finished them, though.
Best Christmas Ever

Ani got a breadmaker and The Fever Code by James Dashner. She immediately sat down to read it and was quite surprised to discover it is signed by the author. We ordered it from Amazon and had no idea it was signed so that was a nice surprise.
Best Christmas Ever

Cameron got a Man Bag and an Audible book. He apparently really likes bags since last year he got a taekwondo bag for Christmas. He promptly put his new book on his phone. He’ll probably finish listening to it within a few days. He’s a voracious listener.
Best Christmas Ever

Fritz got a chess set and a book of Mysterious Benedict Society puzzles. He’s been playing the Fritz and Chesster games so now he can try out his Chess skills in real life.
Best Christmas Ever

Adrian got a science experiment kit and one of the worst case scenario for kids books. He hugged his science kit and then immediately sat down across the chess set from Fritz to play a game of Chess. They spent about 45 minutes playing right then and played another couple games later on (and did one of the science experiments from his kit).
Best Christmas Ever

I got some awesome gifts, too. Jamie gave me a Kindle Oasis. (I gave him part of a computer – the rest of his computer came from my parents and his mom.) My Kindle Keyboard served me well for almost 6 years, but it was time to upgrade. It wasn’t holding a charge very well anymore and the off/on slider button was sticking and becoming stubborn about turning the thing on. It was also just generally slowing down. I am amazed at the difference. It’s obviously so much smaller and lighter, but the font is also crisper and it responds so much faster. I love it. My parents gave me money and I chose to get an Instant Pot. I love that thing possibly more than my new Kindle and that’s saying something. It arrived about a week ago and I have used it at least once a day. Christmas dinner included three things cooked in it (ribs, potato salad, and corn on the cob). I also got purple slippers with the money from my parents. They won’t arrive until Friday. My mother-in-law also sent money and I chose to get a purse. The one I’ve been using is big and was wearing out. This one is small and fits my phone and new Kindle perfectly.
Best Christmas Ever

And then there was the gift that has made me laugh the most. It came from Cameron. He gave me Christmas in a Nutshell. It is a little baby Jesus inside a half walnut shell. It’s awesome. My son really gets me.
Best Christmas Ever

In addition to gifts and an amazing dinner, Christmas included apple cinnamon oatmeal for breakfast (made in the Instant Pot, of course), a bit of reading, and a PokeWalk with most of the family. Seriously the best Christmas ever.
Best Christmas Ever

Oil Lamp Ornaments

A month or so ago my friend asked me if I’d like to join in a Jesse Tree ornament exchange. I thought that sounded like fun. I chose Samuel and made ornaments with an oil lamp on them.

Oil Lamp Ornaments

I got plain white 1/4″ foam sheets for the background. I traced around a jar with a mouth about 2 1/2″ in diameter to make the circles.

Oil Lamp Ornaments

I made 36 circles. I needed to send in 29 for the exchange. I shipped 30 in case one got messed up. I pulled out the 6 worst after all 36 were put together.

Oil Lamp Ornaments

I used an X-Acto knife to cut the circles out of the foam.

Oil Lamp Ornaments

Most of them turned out quite nice.

Oil Lamp Ornaments

I freehand drew an oil lamp shape on paper. I cut that out and used it to trace onto glittery black self-adhesive foam. Then I cut out the oil lamp shapes. It took forever, but at least I had The Crown on Netflix to entertain me.

Oil Lamp Ornaments

I peeled off the paper back and stuck the lamp shapes to the circles. It’s pretty amazing how strong the adhesive on the foam is.

Oil Lamp Ornaments

I made a pattern for the main part of the flame, but just randomly did the smaller part of the flame. I cut the main part out of glittery yellow self-adhesive foam and the smaller part out of glittery red self-adhesive foam. I attached the red part to the yellow to make the flames. I was a little concerned the glitter would make it so they wouldn’t stick very well, but I needn’t have worried. That adhesive is crazy strong.

Oil Lamp Ornaments

I attached the flames to the circles so they look like they are coming out of the oil lamp.

Oil Lamp Ornaments

I poked holes at the tops of the circles and pushed glittery white cord through them, tied knots to make the cord into hangers for the ornaments, shifted the cord around so the knots went inside the holes, and, after 4 1/2 hours, I had an awesome set of oil lamp ornaments to send in for the Jesse Tree exchange.

Oil Lamp Ornaments

I can’t wait to get my complete set of 29 different ornaments back. I’m looking forward to seeing what other people used to make theirs. I am sure they will all be just adorable!

Tinker and Doodle Crate

A few weeks ago we decided to give Tinker Crate for the boys and Doodle Crate for Ani a try. They gotten one crate so far and are eagerly awaiting the arrival of the second this week.

The first Tinker Crate had the boys play with making 3-D images. They put together a viewer that has spots for nearly identical sets of cards facing mirrors. They look through it and see the pictures merged together in 3-D.
Tinker and Doodle Crate

It also came with a round mirror that sits on paper with a picture on it. The picture is reflected in the mirror and appears to be 3-D. The crate also included dot to dot pages and special blank pages with instructions on how to make their own reflectable images.
Tinker and Doodle Crate

A nice little booklet was included in the crate with the instructions and explanations. If this crate is any indication, we’ll be having many months of fun with our Tinker Crates!
Tinker and Doodle Crate

Ani’s first Doodle Crate directed her to make little embossed paper lanterns and then string them together to create a pretty, fun light for her room. The embossing and holepunching tools it came with were of excellent quality. The instructions were easy to understand.
Tinker and Doodle Crate

The result was beautiful (actually, she’s not quite done yet – she still can make and add a few more lanterns). She can’t wait to get started on this month’s project (a personalized desktop corkboard).
Tinker and Doodle Crate

Minecraft Taekwondo Party

A couple weeks ago the little guys had a combined birthday party at taekwondo. They decided they wanted it to be Minecraft themed.

Minecraft Taekwondo Party

The cakes were a lot of work. We started on Thursday evening by making marshmallow fondant. We had never used any sort of fondant before so it was a bit of an adventure. It was pretty amazing how the melted marshmallow combined with the confectioner’s sugar and Crisco to make an amazing, rollable, cuttable dough.

Minecraft Taekwondo Party

We spent all day Friday making cakes. Sixteen 8×8 one-inch tall square ones to be exact. We colored them various shades of green, brown, red, and gray. Eventually we were ready to put them together. Considering we didn’t start until something like 8pm, it should be no surprise that the two cakes weren’t done until 1:30am. The cakes were so huge (about 17 pounds each) that we couldn’t fit both of them in the refrigerator at the same time. Cameron suggested calling a friend to use their refrigerator, but I didn’t think any of my friends would be too thrilled with a call asking for refrigerator space after 11 at night. Jamie fashioned an ice box out of a plastic storage container, ice, and a blanket. Thankfully that worked very well and both cakes stayed just how they were assembled until they were cut and eaten the next day.

Minecraft Taekwondo Party

We had three tables at the party. The first table was the majority of the food. The back row is Yellow Wool (foil wrapped chocolates), Bread (Lay’s potato chips), Fish (Swedish fish), Slime Balls (grapes), and Coal (blueberries). The front row is Carrots (Cheetos), Golden Apples (grapes coated in yellow Jell-O powder), Sticks (pretzel sticks), Red Apples (grapes coated in red Jell-O powder), Snowballs (mini marshmallows), and Redstone (strawberries).

Minecraft Taekwondo Party

The third table held Creeper Juice (green dyed Sprite) and Lava (red Jell-O) and Water (blue Jell-O). We made the Jell-O in little cups with spoons stuck in them.

Minecraft Taekwondo Party

The middle table held the amazing (and delicious) cakes. The grass block was Adrian’s and the redstone block was Fritz’s.

Minecraft Taekwondo Party

Our regular taekwondo instructor was out of town that weekend so Ani ran the party. It was the first party she’d ever run by herself, but it went great. The kids (and a few adults) had tons of fun. The birthday kid at taekwondo parties gets to wear a black belt for the day. Fritz and Adrian got to wear extra special belts. Fritz wore Cameron’s and Adrian wore Ani’s.

Minecraft Taekwondo Party

The boys, with Ani and Cameron’s help, got to make the first cut of their cakes with swords. We had brought a knife to cut for serving, but it turned out the swords worked better for all the cutting.

The inside of the cakes was totally awesome. The grass block one was just full layers while the redstone block one was four triangles per layer (two shades of gray and two shades of red).

The boys were so very happy with their party so we’ll call it a definite success!

Sopapillas!

I love sopapillas. Unfortunately, it’s pretty hard to make gluten free things that are just like their gluteny counterparts. After several tries that weren’t bad, but weren’t right, either, I am finally getting the hang of sopapillas.

I use Gluten Free on a Shoestring’s recipe.

I make the dough and then Cameron does the rolling and cutting. We usually get around 30 or 32 per batch.
Sopapillas!

I have found that I have to put four in the boiling oil pretty much all at once. Otherwise some of them won’t puff up. I have no idea why this is.
Sopapillas!

Once they’ve been in the oil about 30 or 45 seconds, they are floating and nice and puffy. I poke them with a big spoon and they flip over so the other side can get brown, too.
Sopapillas!

I drain them on paper towels and they come out nice and brown and puffy and delicious.
Sopapillas!

We eat them dipped in warm honey.
Sopapillas!

Perfect! And the best part is they don’t taste gluten free. They just taste good.
Sopapillas!

Laundry Detergent, Again

This week I had to make laundry detergent again. It’s pretty labor intensive, but once it’s done I don’t need to do it again for 15 or 16 months so it’s not so bad.

I last made detergent in March 2014. The first load using that batch was washed on March 23. We recorded every load of laundry for the last 16 months just so we could see how many loads that batch would wash. The answer? 260.

Laundry Detergent, Again

The ingredients for the batch last year cost $20.20. That means each load cost us 7.75 cents. That’s about half the price per load for cheap stuff at the grocery store (and this stuff works better!).

Laundry Detergent, Again

This time around I decided to put the Purex Crystals in again. They are totally necessary, but our clothes weren’t quite as soft. The scent doesn’t linger in the clothes after they are dried, but the softness does.

4 lb 12 oz box of Borax – $3.97 (59 cents more than last year)
3 lb 7 oz box of Super Washing Soda – $3.97 (73 cents more than last year)
3 lb container of Oxiclean – $6.98 (54 cents less than last year)
4 lb box of Baking Soda – $2.12 (6 cents less than last year)
4 bars Fels Naptha – $3.88 (97 cents each – same price as last year)
3 18 oz containers of Purex Crystals – $8.91 ($2.97 each)
Total Cost: $29.83 ($9.63 more than last year; 72 cents more if you don’t count the Purex Crystals since I didn’t use them in last year’s batch)

The addition of the Purex Crystals means we’ll get 40ish more loads out of it, so about 300 loads total. That means the cost per load with the Crystals will be about 10 cents. I’m not keeping track this time, though. The estimate will have to be good enough.

For the laundry detergent recipe, go here. To see pictures of me making the detergent step by step, go here (I whirred the soap in the Ninja longer this time so it was completely powdered with no bigger pieces at all; I put the ingredients into the buckets 1/3 at a time to make it easier to mix thoroughly; I discovered using a potato masher works fabulously to mix everything and also makes it easy to break up any lumps that have formed in the borax in the box).