Xmas Holiday Spectacular 2010 - A Photo Series

Part One: Xmas at Grandma & Grandpa's House

My one and only beloved son, Andrew and I.
Look, a guitar went with us-are you surprised?

My nephew Tyler and his gf

Close-up of the tag I made for their gift - looks JUST like them, right?? I'm considering art school.
My mom and dad! "Somebody" refused to wear the hat. Guess he didn't want to mess up his hair!

Our favorite family friend, Carol. We have the greatest laughs together, I just adore her!!
Note the homemade tag and how it totally resembles her?? Hellooooo art school!

Part Two: Xmas at Our House
Photo courtesy of Natalie. Thanks Nat! It only took her three shots to get a good one. With my automatic-focusing camera.
For some reason, I loved this soft, indoor boomerang as a gift for Andrew, but didn't fully consider that he would be throwing it indoors at MY house. We haven't mastered it yet, so for now, it's just a soft, flat baseball that has a mean curve on it.

For his first Xmas as an 18 year old, I gave him The Key to Success. You're welcome!!

Andrew gave me the gift of time...and is now taking over the laundry chore! YAY for no laundry chore for me. He also committed to volunteering 24 hours in 2011! YAY for good deeds!!! LOVE this gift - it's a gift that keeps on giving!
(please disregard my mismatched pajamas and lack of makeup)

Dessert didn't come first, but I had to share first - we made a holiday pavlova, which is basically a meringue (aka all sugar) but DELICIOUS. I totally fudged the recipe multiple times and we didn't have kiwi or fresh strawberries, but it was tasty. So tasty that I didn't get a photo of it before we had already dug in. This looks a mess-but it didn't taste it, I assure you.
Our turkey master-carver John. Look at how enthused he is to do this job!!! Thanks John!
My folks got me this awesome food server/warmer thing so we did not have to worry about our multiple mashed potatoes getting cold! It's always so traumatizing trying to get everything done at the same time and serve it up warm, so this really helps! Thanks Mom and Dad!
The kids table! How cute are they?? Note the full plates? Two of the girls only ate biscuits. Whatever. Their loss. (to be fair, the young one also ate pretzels that she pulled out of the chex mix)

(featuring Andrew, Natalie, Tara, John, Cassidy, Abbey, Dean, Sophie, Phil, Kaylen, Whiskers and Ginger)
I fully intended to have a group photo for Xmas dinner at our house, but failed to get one...I would sketch one out, but I just don't have time to draw seven adults, three kids and two frightened cats right now. Maybe that will be my first sketching project in art school!


That was our holidays - they were great and we love everyone. Tra la la la la.


Hope you all had a great time with great people and are looking forward to a great 2011!!

Adventures in Volunteering - Holiday Gift Store Project

As expected, this month was beyond-busy for me, with work, home and volunteering.

I love it though. My volunteer events really make the holiday season the most fun. I have a variety of projects that are seasonal and I always meet new and wonderful people. A lot of people get in the giving-back mood around the holidays and it's my intention to try to rope them in and show them how awesome volunteering is and pass on the volunteer-bug so that they will come back to another event.

One of my favorite projects is the Holiday Gift Store Helpers. Community Partners for Affordable Housing is a local nonprofit which runs various programs at a handful of low-income apartment complexes, things like an after-school kids club, literacy classes, ESL programs, etc. Love that type of stuff.

For Xmas, parents can sign up to receive a gift for each child in their household. But the gifts aren't just handed out randomly - way better than that: twodifferent apartment complexes actually set up a "store" in their community room and the parents can come in and select a gift-for free, of course. I really love this method as I feel it gives the parents more involvement in the gift-giving, rather than just passing them a random gift that may or may not be one that the child (or the parent) will want.

So for this project, we had 6 volunteers to help with different age ranges. The volunteers would help the parent make sure they were at the right age range section and help them select a toy. We had a LOT of donated gifts and we stash away some of the items and replenish the supply on the table, which helps ensure that the very best gifts aren't taken right from the start. It's very well organized and the process to distribute 100 gifts goes REALLY quickly.
CPAH representative explaining the hygiene kit giveaways-which occur monthly for different age ranges.
The project started with us sorting the toys into the different ranges and then manning the tables:




This year I brought in gift-wrappers, in the form of my son Andrew and his choir buddy, Logan. They were awesome and treated us to a few songs towards the end.
Props to the kids for their wrapping - we didn't have any spare tables (or room) so they had to work out of the mini-kitchen. Andrew wrapped gifts on the stove and Logan had this thin half-counter space. I won't say they did the best wrapping jobs, but given the space-issues and the need to go really fast-they did great!

The actual project was only 90 minutes long from start to finish, and I wish it could have been longer, it was great fun helping the parents pick things out. They were very appreciative and you just felt like you were part of something wonderful. I wish we had this same project every month!

And on that note, I think I might look into setting up a monthly birthday club, where we celebrate the kids who have birthdays in each month. We could make a cake, or find a nice bakery to donate one, and have games and door prizes and maybe a small donated gift for each birthday child. Who doesn't love a birthday party?? I think I could easily find 4-6 volunteers to help out each month and if I find a bakery to commit to giving one cake a month, the project is half-complete already! I'll keep you posted.

Walkin Through The City - Peacock Lane

Welcome sign at the entryway.

Every city has a neighborhood who goes all out with the Xmas Lights. Tonight, we explored a neighborhood that goes above and beyond. It's famous here in Portland: Peacock Lane.


It's not just that every house on this street goes above and beyond....except this one house:
Why even bother with the two strings of blue lights??

The thing about Peacock Lane is that the entire city seems involved in this. They have police cars that sit and block off turn lanes on the main road and help direct traffic so that the streets coming in and out of the Lane are very well directed. There is a Walgreens just next to the Lane and they have a parking security guy who attacks you as you park and insists that you confirm that you are indeed a Walgreens shopper and not a xmas light-looker. It seems pretty well-orchestrated between multiple entities. There's a guy with a horse-drawn carriage and a guy selling hot cider, but other than those two-there is nobody making money on this thing!! Crazy that in this day and age, people are doing things just for FUN and getting nothing out of it.

Group Photo!!!
Me and my Baby Boy!

Love the big bulb decorations!

Artsy lights!!!!


Want to explore some other cities? Check out our lovely host: Unknown Mami.

Unknown Mami

Advice For My New Houseguest?

I was awoken this morning by the sound of some pitter-patter of some cute little feet.
Her feet:

She looks so vicious!!
Ginger is typically a gentle giant, hissing a lot, but never attacking anyone. She lumbers around the house, but quick to skitter away with any noise. She's scared to death of strangers and the doorbell will leave her rushing under the bed.
But today....this morning at 5:35am, Ginger found her courage.
.
Apparently she just needed to be motivated.

I awoke to her little feet frantically rushing across the room, obviously chasing something.
And for someone who doesn't chase things for a living, she was doing spectacular by the sounds of it.

I turned the light on and sweet Ginger was staring intently at the stack of books next to my bed, which was slightly askew. The new John Grisham book (a really great read!!) was now harboring a fugitive. And as Ginger attempted to move John's book out of the way, I caught a glimpse of a tail. Not a tail that belongs to any of my creatures. Some kind of MOUSE was taking shelter in MY house!!!

So I did what any smart person would do.
I turned the light off.
And waited for Ginger to take care of this issue.

And cringed. A lot.
And waited some more.

And then...nothing. So I turned the light back on to see what Ginger has done.
And found Ginger - staring at the wall. Not the bottom of the wall. The top. As if our mouse had some kind of wall-scaling ability.
sigh...she tries, folks. She is pretty, she has that going for her...

She eventually started hunting again around the laundry basket and that's when I decided I should just give her some peace, so I left the room. There was no way I was getting involved. I just wanted to let her get it, or let it go away.

BUT - I do realize that I need to do something. Sooooo.....what do I do at this point?
All advice will be considered.

Secret Santa Surprises!!

Once upon a time, there was a sweet young thang named Georgie from Decisionally Challenged.
Georgie has lots of xmas spirit and so she started a Secret Santa Soiree.
This is my second year taking part and it's great fun waiting for your gift to come and seeing what a stranger has sent you.

So thank you to Georgie for being a super host!!

And this year, the rules are such that we are to share what we've splurged on for our secret pal....and so...here's what I'm sending off to my special someone:

The theme is: Pamper Yourself:
Aromatherapy candles....to relax (or whatever aromatherapy is meant to do).


Chocolate makes everything better. Dark chocolate-it's healthy!

Yummy scented lotion and shower gel - cause you can't be relaxed if you smell bad!


Manicure set - zebra stripes are fun!
 
Sparkly case !!!

A notebook in which to write your insightful thoughts.!
 Have a Merry Christmas!! Your presents will be in the mail tomorrow. :)

I've Been A-Missin, But I'm A-Back!

Dear sweet baby buddha, we are busy.
I have been away, you probably noticed, but I have only 4 posts for the month of December.
First I saturate your inbox with my NaBloPoMo, and then I just disappear and leave you all wondering, what just happened?
Where did Hurricane Kaylen go??

I've been BUSY. Doing what, Kaylen, you ask? Oh, you know, this and that....Here's a short list:
  • I've been making holiday ornaments for low-income seniors on two different days with great groups of 25 volunteers (more on that later).
  • Had some really great laughs during a perfectly wonderful games night with friends.
  • Taking pictures of downtown Portland from my car:
  • Watching my son on ESPN3 at the state high school championships (his music group sang the national anthem!):
  • Dodging mother nature and going to find our xmas tree between torrential downpours.
  • Driving across town to second-hand knitting stores on a hunt for cheap crochet hooks (fail).
  • Wearing a santa hat everywhere I go.
  • I went to a dinner at a local restaurant where Andrew's singing group treated the group of parents in attendance to a nice 20 minute private concert:
  • Making holiday tags for the family that features their photos (feel free to steal this genius idea):
  • I went to the high school play, where Andrew performed a song that he wrote-hello, talented much?? Take a listen here and be amazed.

He composed that song!! Amazing, right?? The words aren't his but the music is (I think some guy named Bill Shakespeare wrote the words). He's the best, right?? Feel free to tell me how great you think he is in the comments section. I never tire of hearing it.

And I am BACK!!! I'm hoping to get back to posting at least three times a week and I have only probably left 10 comments total all month on other blogs (I usually leave about 20 a week!). So if you haven't seen me stopping by, it's not personal.

Community with Joel McHale - Stop Motion At It's Finest!

Remember all of the claymation Christmas specials when you were younger?  Here's a brand new one for the teen-adult age group!

We were given the opportunity to preview the new episode of Community, which is a show we've grown to love. I really love Joel McHale, from "The Soup," and who doesn't love Chevy Chase. Yes-CHEVY CHASE is in this tv show!!


About the show: "Community," a smart comedy series about a band of misfits who attend Greendale Community College. At the center of the group is Jeff Winger (Joel McHale, "The Soup"), a fast-talking lawyer whose degree has been revoked. With some help from his fellow classmates, Winger forms a study group that eventually learns more about themselves than their course work.

Did I mention Chevy Chase is in this show??
In this special stop motion animation episode, the meaning of Christmas is lost and Abed's intense fixation on Christmas concerns the group.

 I really loved the stop motion show. It's not something I would want to watch a lot of, but this just feels christmas-y, like the old Rudolf cartoon. I think you don't have to know the characters to enjoy the show, but knowing their personalities probably helped a little. But really, seeing Chevy Chase as a claymation teddy bear was worth watching regardless.
Chevy Chase as a teddy bear!



The new episode:
When Abed (Danny Pudi) wakes up in stop-motion animation, he takes it as a sign that he and the group must re-discover the meaning of Christmas. Meanwhile, Jeff (Joel McHale) and Britta (Gillian Jacobs) become growingly concerned about Abed's mental health and enlist the help of Professor Duncan (John Oliver). The group undergoes hypnosis to explore Abed's winter wonderland and soon unravel the truth behind Abed’s madness. Chevy Chase, Yvette Nicole Brown, Donald Glover, and Ken Jeong also star.

Check out the show on Thursday! It's on NBC at 8pm on the west coast. It's a good show, it's full of holiday spirit and it's a unique episode!


And We're Back....

After two more hours on the phone tonight with a fairly nice lady in the Philippines, I'm happy to report that my new and maybe-wonderful printer is now communicating with my home computer.

Two hours.

Add that to the four hours I had already spent.

It was some kind of issue with my router not recognizing my printer, or something about an IP address, or something about the stars not aligned correctly...I really don't know. It's fixed now though and this printer better never have any problems ever. The rest of my life.

And for my pain and trouble, my nice new friend in the Philippines offered me her special employee discount off printer ink, which she isn't supposed to offer to anyone, but she just felt so bad for all my trouble. But I could only use this kind offer of hers if I buy the extra-large size and only if I buy them immediately while I'm on the phone with her. Unfortunately, I wasn't willing to pay the $90.00 she was requesting for this great offer, even after she did a break down of what my savings was going to be per page and how she "knows that I like to print a lot" and this is a better deal for my future costs of ink....but I just had to decline. We aren't that close of friends that I feel comfortable making use of her employee discount.

We'll resume with our regular fun and fancy-free blogging tomorrow.

Sunday Night Trauma, aka I Hate You New HP Printer

I had high hopes of a really great post tonight, however, I spent the last THREE hours working on trying to get my new and wonderful wireless printer set up.  During my frustration though, I browsed about the CSN stores and I am ordering a wonderful new bench from them this week for my front entryway-something I have wanted since the day we moved in here. I believe CSN when they say they care for me. Because they prove it-by having the largest selection possible, great customer support and fast shipping. So visit CSNstores.com - you will find anything you need in life. Like these extra tall bar stools.
This printer issue though...ugh...not good. I just can't tolerate the time I am wasting on it!!
This is after I spent an hour this morning.

And two hours last week.

And I just spent 90 minutes chatting online with HP web support with some very nice lady who walked me through a variety of set-up steps that I have done at least 3 times on my own, and finally she asked me to reset the entire world: router, printer, computer, fridge, washer/dryer, dishwasher, neighbors garage door code...and assured me that this would clear it up and my printer would then be ready for action.

However, she lied.

And so I got back on HP web support chat and had some woman who is probably great in real-life and a very nice person....but sucks at customer support and really sucks at chatting online (there was a minimum 2 minute delay between my question/reply and hers). She did not help me at all. I supposedly was transferred in the chat world to her supervisor who assured me that HP cares about me and is very sorry for my frustration. I'm not entirely certain I believe that, though it is nice to hear the words that someone cares about you....

Can I even express how frustrating this has been?? No, I cannot put it into words. There are no human language words for this feeling. Do I really have time to waste on this?? NO, I really don't. It's almost Presents Day, and then it will be my birthday, and then it will be Spring Break, and then it will be May and then Andrew will be graduating soon after and then leaving me forever. And so this HP printer just took away some of the precious time I have left living with Andrew. And I hate them for that. Eff you, HP.

And maybe it's not the fault of HP, but my last 3 printers have been Canon - and every one of them was ready for action after a very short, pain-free amount of setup time. And I loved them all. And I really miss them right now.

And because of my frustration and desire to throw this printer into burning pit of flames, I am unable to post about my really great weekend and all the fun I had with my son, and my friends, and my sons friends. And the yummy new food I made this weekend. And the visit to downtown. And Andrew's college interview. And ANY bit of happiness. Because I am in printer hell right now.


And if you stick around my blog long enough, you'll see a nice giveaway from CSN in the near future.

Recipe of the Week- Broccoli Cauliflower Casserole

Ohdeargod, doesn't this look amazing??

broccoli cauliflower casseroleThis is the infamous broccoli cauliflower dish we had at thanksgiving. Did I mention we LOVED it?? Those of us who were having fun and enjoying our family night together, aka Team Kitchen, realized how amazing this was right from the start and we contemplated whether we should share it at all...but it didn't matter in the end because "the others" didn't want any, which was fine by us, but we were sad for them. Just for a second though, because, again, that meant we didn't have to share.

To be fair, my dad at least tasted it and when we asked him if he liked it, his response was: "I ate it, didn't I?" If you know my dad, you can imagine him saying this. I have known him my entire life and I still don't know if this comment means he likes something. It comes across as negative...but I'm just not sure...he didn't take more, which was fine because Team Kitchen was contemplating whether the pan was too hot for us to lick it clean.

Anyway, BEST dish ever. I am not a huge cauliflower fan and Andrew is sick of broccoli, but we both loved this so much we made it the next night after our Thanksgiving dinner. Try it - you'll love it. If you didn't, then you made it wrong.

It took a bit of effort, it's not nearly as easy as steaming veggies, but it's great reheated (we don't think steamed veggies are) and it's different and wonderful so it was worth the time and multiple dirty dishes invested.

Broccoli Cauliflower Casserole

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup plain unseasoned dry bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons McCormick® Italian Seasoning, divided or 1 1/2 teaspoons McCormick® Perfect Pinch® Salt Free Italian Seasoning, divided
    **note: we have no idea what this is and neither did anyone at the store. We used an italian seasoning mix that was meant for salads, it worked. The 2nd time I used italian seasonings like in a spice jar - I think that was not as good. Either works though.
  • 1 package (16 ounces) frozen broccoli florets, thawed
  • 1 package (16 ounces) frozen cauliflower florets, thawed
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped (1 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon McCormick® Garlic Salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon McCormick® Black Pepper, Coarse Ground
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 4 ounces (1/2 package) cream cheese, cut-up

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Mix bread crumbs, 2 tablespoons of the Parmesan cheese, 2 tablespoons melted butter and 1/2 teaspoon of the Italian seasoning in small bowl. Set aside. Cut up any large broccoli florets or cauliflower into bite-size pieces.
  2. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in large skillet on medium heat. Add onion; cook and stir about 5 minutes or until tender. Stir in flour, remaining 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, garlic salt and pepper. Add milk; cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Add cream cheese and remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese; cook and stir until cream cheese is melted. Add vegetables; toss gently to coat. Spoon into 2-quart baking dish. Sprinkle top evenly with crumb mixture.
  3. Bake 40 minutes or until heated through and top is lightly browned.


Nutrition information per serving
Calories: 179
Fat: 11 g
Carbohydrates: 13 g
Cholesterol: 31 mg
Sodium: 432 mg
Fiber: 3 g
Protein: 7 g

Recipe originally found here.

National Adoption Month Ends with a Book Giveaway

I'm a wee bit late on this....but I want to say a big Happy National Adoption month to my adopted friends and to the friends I know who have adopted.

I received this book on adoption to review:
Adopted Ed by Darren Maddern

This was a great little story about Ed, who learns he was adopted. His parents are honest and open about it and you can't help but love big-blue-eyed Ed as he works through his feelings about it. He does meet up with some school bullies and he smartly deals with them in a way that works quite well!
This is a really cute story with great illustrations. It's a new author, one who was adopted himself and he writes this from the heart. Yay for new authors and yay for stories with a purpose!

The only thing Andrew and I thought was a bit much was the picture of a  baby Ed in the womb....however, we are prude Americans and that might just be how we are, that doesn't make it right or wrong. And the bully scene in the book might be a little strong of a topic for really young kids, but life is full of bullies, right? This age is geared towards 9-12 year olds so they might be old enough to deal with the bully scene just fine regardless. I think this book would be interesting to kids, not just those who have been adopted but for all kids-as it introduces the idea that being adopted doesn't make you different or weird.

I think this is a great story and if you are interested in owning this book, let me know in the comments and I'll pick a random comment on Dec 15th and mail you the book. I think you'll like it!


I received this book (and a real note from the author) via the One2One Network.

Scenes from My World

I am unspired to write anything.
So here are the last three pics on my camera, with a short story on each:

This was a gorgeous day last week! I filled our yard bin with leaves from the yard, but only one of five sections of leaves mind you, which means I would need five weeks still to remove the leaves from my yard before winter. Ha-wish me luck. I suspect mother nature has a different plan. As I was working in the yard, Andrew and his friend came by and they very happily (too happily) agreed to climb up on the roof and sweep the leaves and needles off. We only have one outdoor broom though so Andrew's friend grabbed a large tree branch and made great work of it. 100 points for being creative! (for the record, I do have gutter covers and they work GREAT and I just have to brush things off the tops sometimes, WAY less stress and mess than reaching in and digging out the nastiness!)


This is Andrew and my niece, Alyssa, on Black Friday after a very busy morning not sleeping. We all just hit a wall about 10:30am. It's weird how big these guys are. Just the other day, they were super cute and we could just push them around in a stroller and dress them up like we wanted and do their hair. And now they are just these teenage creatures who have a mind of their own. Time just flew right by! People always say that when you have a baby and you think to yourself, "yeah, yeah, I've heard that already, blahblah," but then you just wait a few years and you learn that holycow, a whole year just went by?? Where did my baby go???

This is Whiskers - adorable right?? He loves to snuggle up on this blanket. I'd like to take a moment to point out that the big blue lump at the bottom of the pic is not my stomach, but rather the blanket is folded over onto itself, which acts as a wrist rest for my hands when using the laptop on the couch. And please disregard the pile of junk on the ottoman.  The blue blanket is of note here...it's a heated electric blanket and we keep it on the couch where we typically watch tv together. It's wonderful - you turn it on and you sit back and suddenly you are in this cocoon of warmth, however, what's not wonderful is that it makes you want to go to sleep...note Whiskers, who was not tired when he jumped up here. The blue heated blanket casts some kind of spell over you and you suddenly have this urge to close your eyes. I have learned to never turn the blanket on when I'm working from home. Or if I want to do anything at all the rest of the night. And....I have had it on for the last hour and now I must go to bed....

Celebrating the Hostile Takeover of the Native Americans Land

We visited my parents house up north on Thanksgiving for a big family dinner on Friday evening. It went a little something like this:

FUN in the kitchen (HOURS in the kitchen)

Andrew and I dancing for the camera. Still cameras don't quite capture this as much as video might.

My niece, Alyssa, helping with the best broccoli dish ever.
OMG the best broccoli dish EVER. Recipe to follow later this week.

Yumminess. I only had two of these-yay for self control! (I don't have a good reputation for self control where oreos are concerned!)

Extreme Yumminess!!! Blackberry brandy slush - LOVE this.

Team Kitchen (minus our honorary member Alyssa who wouldn't come back to the kitchen once she was bored of it). We had a great time and made a great dinner!!

Team Kitchen gets to eat first!

One of the best Thanksgiving meals I have had as a non-turkey eater.
Our day was shopping (4am!), napping, cooking, playing Spoons (my newest favorite game), cooking cooking cooking, eating and cleaning and then more games. And then Andrew and I settled into my little radiator-leaking CRV and drove 3 hours home, arriving at our destination about 11:30pm. Long day!!

How was your Thanksgiving? I hope it was as fun as ours!

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