Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas Morning

As I'm sure you can imagine, I took LOTS of pictures Christmas morning. But I don't want to bore you, so I've narrowed them down to my favorites. The boys all got glasses in their stockings that turn little lights into Christmas shapes, like snowflakes and snowmen.

Dallin wanted just 2 things for Christmas - a drum set and a display case for his slinkies. I didn't want such a big, loud thing in my small house; but Santa got it for him, so what could I do? He loves it and plays it all the time. We had to move it into his bedroom halfway through opening presents so we could hear each other.

The boys wanted electric scooters last year, but we told them no because we thought they were too expensive. They were SO surprised and excited to get them this year, since they'd given up hope. Santa must have found a really good deal on them. They like to zip all around the neighborhood, and they keep telling us how much they love them.

Brennan had been telling us for about 6 months that he wanted a robot for Christmas. This is a really cool one. It's programable - it can walk, dance and shoot little discs out of its mouth. Plus there's lots of lights and fun sounds. Everyone has enjoyed playing with it, except Levi. He's afraid of it.

This is the gift that took the most amount of time and thought. It took me forever to search the internet, but I couldn't find anything the right size and price. Finally I found this on ebay for only $5! It was used and kind of an ugly yellow pine with green felt on the inside, but it was just the right size. So I took it apart, sanded it down, bought a new back, painted it and put it back together. This kept me up until midnight a couple of nights before Christmas, but I was really happy with how it turned out. And Dallin LOVES it. He told me it was exactly what he had in mind. Shwew!!

He also got a bunch of new purple slinkies.

I had fun taking pictures with my new lens, so that made it a fun Christmas for me! See how blurred the background is? And how clear Brennan's face is? Even his ear and bathrobe are blurred. That's the shallow depth-of-field.

Levi slept in and actually woke up happy (he's usually quite cranky in the morning).

All the candy in his stocking may have had something to do with that.

Spencer has loved his Perplexus (he finished it last night) and Tyler was excited to get a tuner for his violin.

Can you believe I actually had time for a shower, contacts and make-up? I even made Cinnamon French Toast Bake before everyone woke up. That's because I was up with pregnancy insomnia at 5:00. It took me 2 days to get caught up on sleep.

At first Levi didn't like the drums. "Too loud!" But then he figured out how fun they were.

I think this is the third umbrella Brennan has gotten as a gift. They don't last long, but he loves them.

Levi loves his guitar, and Brennan loves it too. So many of their gifts are interchangeable. It's like they get twice as many presents.

One of the main things Tyler wanted was the game Loopz.

The boys gave me a set of 3 new living room lamps, which I really wanted. It was one of the biggest presents under the tree, and I had no idea what it was.

The main thing Spencer asked for was the game Risk. He wanted it ever since he played it with his cousins at the beach house a couple summers ago.

Yay! New wii games.

I gave Dave a new drill, and he's already used it to make the brake block for our new zip line! That was his big project on Monday, and the boys all love it SO MUCH. I'll post pictures of that as soon as I get some good ones. All the ones I've taken are too blurry.

It's fun to get those old classic games we both had in our families growing up and watch our children enjoy them too.

It turns out my new lens isn't as good at outside pictures with lots of light. Next I want a good zoom lens for outdoor action shots.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Cute Makayla

My sister Maryruth and her family came from Idaho to spend Christmas with my parents. I had so much fun taking pictures of her cute baby Makayla with my new prime lens Dave gave me for Christmas.

Adorable Christmas dress and hat!!

I love the lens's narrow depth-of-field and ability to handle low-light conditions. It's a 50mm 1.8D prime lens, which means it has a fixed focal length (i.e. no zoom). It's great for portraits and other up-close pictures. It was the first present I opened Christmas morning so I could use it right away. I'll post those pictures next.

We finally got a smile! She was so fascinated by the ornaments that it was hard to pull her attention away from the tree.

But her mommy was being so funny next to me that she just started cracking up. We love this cute baby!!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Holiday Baking

When I went to my 30 week appointment last week, my doctor told me I weighed 7 lbs less than I did at the same point of my last pregnancy. That was a pleasant surprise, since I have really enjoyed my holiday baking this year. People always ask me if I have strange cravings when I'm pregnant, and I don't think I do. I just like to eat sweets even more than usual.

I did a lot of the baking when the boys were in school, such as the truffles (4 batches this year - 2 almond, 1 mint and 1 raspberry). But they like to help cut out sugar cookies and make fudge, so I did those when they were home.

The marshmallow cream is everyone's favorite part of making fudge. What a mess! I was just happy I didn't have to do that part.

Brennan and Dallin, meticulously weighing out the chocolate chips.

Unfortunately I was having so much fun taking pictures of them breaking up the chocolate bars and such that I didn't notice the sugar and evaporated milk boiling over on the stove. It still turned out tasting delicious, but it was a little softer than usual. I also burned 2 pans of sugar cookies and unknowingly baked with slightly rancid oil, so that my 3C bread and molasses cookies weren't as good as usual. I guess I'm not quite on my game when I'm 7 months pregnant. But we had a lot of fun caroling and handing out plates of cookies to 14 families in 3 nights. Actually we didn't sing to our neighbors the 3rd night because I was pooped, so we just sent the boys out to drop them off.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Spencer's Debut

Last Saturday was Spencer's first piano recital. He's been playing for 5 1/2 years, but I've just been teaching him myself. He got to the point where he was getting better than me, and last year I realized he needed a new teacher. So when we were at Tyler's violin recital in June, we talked to several parents who highly recommended their piano teacher to us.

He played two songs and did a great job. We all really enjoyed the recital. The boys especially liked the hot apple cider and cookies afterwards.

We have been very happy with his teacher. His name is Torsten Juul-Borre, and he's a professional concert pianist from Denmark. The downside is that he's pretty expensive, but we figure it's okay because we avoided paying for lessons for 5 years. He has just the perfect style of teaching for Spencer. He is interesting, funny, and very strict about minute details (which has always been Spencer's weakness), and we've already seen a huge improvement after just 4 months. Spencer loves his lessons, loves to practice, and still can't pass by a piano without stopping to play.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Gingerbread houses

We made our gingerbread houses a couple weekends ago, but I just barely finished putting them together last night. You see the icing wasn't as stiff as it was last year (I went by memory, which is pretty spotty these days), so it was strong enough for the candy and the walls, but the roofs kept falling. I looked up the recipe I used last year that worked so well and discovered that I was supposed to beat it for 7-10 minutes. That's what I forgot, and once I did that, it worked GREAT.

We made them on a Saturday afternoon, after Dave, Spencer and Dallin got back from a campout (Tyler couldn't go because he was sick) and before we went out on a date. Tyler felt totally better that day, and we had fun buying all the candy together while Brennan was at his primary class party.

The great thing about gingerbread houses is that they always turn out great, no matter who makes them. Candy is colorful and beautiful, and you almost can't mess it up.

Some poeple take longer than others and have to be hurried along.

We had several lessons on how to use the icing bag correctly so that it doesn't all squirt out the back. Dallin is demonstrating excellent technique here.

Our favorite candies this year were the old-fashioned ones from Michael's. Spencer has recently discovered that most candy is too sweet and artificial-tasting, but those ones were not. He must be growing up!

I was only going to make 4 houses, but I had extra gingerbread and decided to make an extra house just in case. It's a good thing I did, because Levi was rather insistant about making his own. He immediately broke a wall and starting eating it, but we "glued" it back together and taught him to put the candy on it instead.

He was the first one done! He was rather proud of himself, and he's always pointing at it and saying, "My house!"

I had so much extra dough that I even cut out tons of gingerbread men, Christmas trees and snowmen to embellish the houses and eat. I did something different this year - I cut out the shapes before I baked them, which was much easier and worked out great.

Now our mantle looks finished and beautiful. It looked rather odd with all the roof-less houses on it.