I did throw that banquet a few weeks back...

Sunday, December 30, 2012

I haven't shared any pictures of that banquet I helped plan a few weeks back, so here are a few shots of the decor. I snapped these right after we finished setting everything up and before I rushed home to make myself presentable for the party. I didn't get any shots of the food, the people, or even the caramel apples we made to sell that night as a fundraiser because by the time I sat down at my table that day, you couldn't pry me off my seat. I was toast, and the night went by in the blink of an eye. I did thoroughly enjoy myself that night, however. We had a very lively table with lots of jokes and laughter--it was a perfect night away as a couple. The kids even slept over at grandma's, which meant no rushing back home for us.

I will say, however, it is so much more work to pull something like this off than someone who doesn't do this kind of thing might realize. I came to church with my car jam-packed with boxes full of decorations that I had been meticulously collecting for weeks before, not to mention simply getting rsvp's from everyone and figuring out the menu. It took forever just to iron out the fabric for the photo backdrop and set the tree up and decorate it. I couldn't have done it without you, Alla and Natasha, so thank you for all your help. I had gotten a small group of girls to commit to making caramel apples with me the night before, then two of them dropped out because of colds, so it was Alla and my lonesome making caramel apples for the first time ever as our kids played in the living room. Good thing everything came back down much faster that night than it went up!

Everything was gold and silver, with lots of white and glass to complement it, and plenty of candlelight. I painted gold dots on canning jars and used those as centerpieces with candles inside, then layered various baking cups and tied that around the jar, finishing it off with sequins in the middle.

I was 18 weeks by this point, and being 20 weeks now, I can definitely see the difference two weeks makes. And I know I will only grow faster and faster as the next 20 weeks go by! Get ready to be huge, Tanya!


We froze to see some lights

Well, we had a good Christmas, and now it's all behind us and the New Year is coming right up. Time is marching on like always, and soon enough it will be 2013 and we will be patiently waiting for warmer weather. We celebrated Christmas with my family on Christmas Eve (our tradition), which works so well for us. That way we have time for church and opening gifts with the other side of the family on Christmas day, and we get to celebrate my brother's birthday at the same time as our Christmas celebration. Poor guy was born on Christmas eve. We opened gifts at home on Christmas morning before church and then rushed off to our very first service in our brand-new church. It was a blessed day.

I have been hanging around at home, taking it easy and recharging after the rush that inevitably happens every year right before the big day. The kids are home from school for a week and two days, it's gotten insanely cold outside, and a lot of us have been battling a mild cold, so we've been cooped up inside spending time together.

We got out of the house on Friday (miracle of miracles) for a fun day out. We had a late lunch at Natalia's house with my other sister Julia and her husband Yuriy, who are in town from WA. We had salmon chowder, cucumber garlic sandwiches, salad, and pumpkin pie, and it was all delish (thanks, Natalia!). It was nice to be hosted by someone else; I always love when that happens. It feels sooo good to eat a meal you didn't have to cook! Anyone with me on that? Or am the only one here? :) Then we headed to Winter Garden Aglow to check out the botanical garden all decked out in lights.

It was such a cold day, and I knew the kids would have a hard time staying out there long enough to see everything we wanted to see, so the barrel fires they had set up every so often were a real lifesaver. We'd unthaw a bit in front of one and then head back out in the cold to explore some more.

Afterwards everyone came back to our house to soak in the hot tub (except me; I just ran around with water bottles and towels and such), which was a little insane since it was 21*F outside--big difference between the water and the air. Everyone came out steaming and red, like boiled crab, we got the kids in bed, and got to sit around and chat with Julia and Yuriy before they left for McCall the next day. They better take me next time they decide to come to town and get a cabin somewhere, that's all I gotta say about that.


And the baby is a...

Saturday, December 22, 2012

sweet little GIRL!

I kind of couldn't believe it, because I really thought this one was a boy. It's the first time I've been wrong, so my winning streak is sadly over, and we are about to become a very feminine family (if we weren't already).

B and I just looked at each other and smiled when we were told. I love being able to go in and find out together, and share that experience with each other. I have no idea how women in Ukraine even gave birth alone and stayed in the hospital for weeks and weeks without their husband by their side. The husbands couldn't even come inside to visit! I don't know how I would handle that, so good thing B is more than welcome anywhere he wants to show up!

Our little muffin has the biggest lips and was all over the place during the ultrasound! Her little arms were up by her head most of the time, like she was shaking her fists at us. I loved every minute of getting to preview this little being in action months before she will come out to meet the world, and it ended too soon.

Her little foot. Babies really are miracles that only a loving Creator could orchestrate. How complex and how wonderful the human body is at each stage of development!

I'll leave you with a shot of me today at 19 weeks. 21 more to go!


Random Friday thoughts

This week has been a busy one, with many up and downs along the way, but I am ending the week feeling optimistic and keeping the faith. I started today off really early in the morning before anyone was up. I was supposed to be baking cookies for teachers last night after I got the kids in bed, but the book I'm currently reading was calling my name so loudly that I couldn't ignore it (it may be because my body was exhausted and I just wanted to lay on the couch). I read until I fell asleep, so I got up early this morning and got to work baking those cookies for the kids' teachers. I was resolved not to spend money buying them anything, and I'm glad I made that decision. It was so therapeutic standing there in the stillness of morning working with my hands--rolling out dough, slicing it, rolling out rounds, filling them with meringue, over and over. I had iTunes on and some of the songs got me thinking about my life lately. I started crying a couple of times as I worked. It felt really weird to be baking and crying, but I think I worked through a lot of things in my mind today, and I'm grateful for that. I am trusting the Lord completely on an issue, and I am asking him to do a mighty work in my life, and believing I will receive it because I asked. This passage is giving me all kinds of hope right now:

"The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong...but time and chance happen to them all" (aka the race is to the one who endures). -Ecclesiastes 9:11

I just have to endure, and keep fighting through every setback and everything the devil throws my way. Who knows why we go through things. I often wish we didn't have to, and that things could be easier, less messy, less painful, less stressful. I let myself think that I'm getting more than my fair share of trials, that other people have it easier, and I feel like it's not fair. Sometimes only much later can you see how that trial was actually a good thing--whether it made you stronger or helped you lean on God more at a time when you were dangerously far from him, or whatever.

Some thoughts from this week:
  • The kids are officially on Christmas break now. They get a week and two days off this year. Whose bright idea was that?
  • I had my first doctor appointment last week and my ultrasound this week. The baby is growing right on schedule to the very day. I am also using a midwife this time around--I've never done that before, which also means I'm going to give birth at a different hospital (my first three were all born at the same one). I don't know if it really is that different, because it just feels like I'm seeing a doctor like I always have, but I like her.
  • I started this tradition with my kids where I went out and bought a boy or girl thing the day I found out the sex of the baby, and I'm sad I didn't get to do that this time around. I bought a couple blankets online the next day, so I guess that counts.
  • Olivia was telling jokes in the car this morning on the way to preschool, and this one cracked me up: "Why did the tree get cut down and made into a ferris wheel? So it could be a wooden ferris wheel and give people splinters."
  • I've been waiting patiently for Mini Boden's seasonal sale because they have so many cute things but, sadly, they are normally out of my price range. Their sales are the only times I shop there, and this time--let's just say I got overexcited. And hey, the kids need new clothes. Their closets are getting sadder and sadder, and I'm tired of trying to be creative with it.
  • A lot of my close friends/family know that B and I are trying to get out of debt. We've had a lot of financial stress in our lives in the last four years, and it was bad for our marriage, our family, everything. We felt like we were in bondage to people we didn't even care about personally, but they were the decision-makers in our lives because we owed them money. It took the joy right out of our days, and added a heck of a lot of stress to them instead. We went through Dave Ramsey's program and have been paying debts off ever since. It's been four long years, and we still have a long road ahead, but I'm so excited that we are five debts lighter at the end of 2012 than at the beginning. That feels good! And even though it sometimes doesn't feel like it, all those shoes and hot clothes I didn't buy was worth it.
  •  I am itching to start painting the kids' rooms but I'm also scared to smell paint, and want the baby to get a bit bigger before I do. It's also expensive to go from dark to light walls because you need so many layers, so I need to plan for it for sure.
  • I'm not done Christmas shopping yet, though mostly what's left is just a couple gift cards. Got to finish wrapping things tomorrow.
  • Mila and Olivia got their first professional haircuts this week, which was a highlight for them. I also gave two haircuts to family members (I'm the uncompensated family stylist), and I need to do a third before Christmas.
  • I cut my hair last week after who knows how long since my last one. Over a year for sure. It lays so nicely now--love.
  • We drove around with the kids one night this week looking at Christmas lights, and found a street near us where eight houses (four on one side, four on the other) are decked out in lights set to music. It is a sight to behold!
  • I'm seeing the Nutcracker ballet tomorrow, and I'm so excited.


Around the house: Christmas crafts edition

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Mila made Rudolph at school and we hung him on our door. He's so friendly with his heart eyes!
Painting jars with gold dots.
We made nativity sets one night with the kids as one of our advent activities. Isn't that angel the sweetest?
Another advent craft--egg carton owls. Mila's is on the left, Olivia's on the right. When they saw the owls online, Olivia said, "Those are yucky, and we're not making them." We got started, and they made them, but they used googly eyes instead of sequins. I think the eyes creeped them out. :)
The kids have been crafting away, painting, coloring, and cutting. It's a never-ending crafty mess in our dining room. Hey, we never eat there, at least we're using the room for something...


DIY star garland

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

I finished up the decor on my mantle last week when I got a star garland I had planned to make finished and hung. All the supplies had been lying there waiting for me to finish it for over a week (if not two)! You know how you kind of get used to something being there if it lays there long enough? That's kind of what happened to me--but good thing I snapped out of it! :)

I had some fun pink and white striped ornaments I bought on Etsy a year or two ago that I had only seven of, and knew they would be perfect for a fun garland. I am also loving stars and anything glittered right now, so I used an exacto knife to cut a bunch of stars out of a piece of thin cardboard I had, sprayed them down with Elmer's spray adhesive, and dusted with gold glitter. I hot glued them to a piece of twine across the whole width of the back of each star so they wouldn't flip and turn when hung, then tied the ornaments in between the stars. Easy peasy (okay, I say that now, but this project also took me longer than I thought it would).

Oh, and I hung the stockings with tape because I'm scared one of those weighted stocking holders will fall on someone's head, and they have sadly all since fallen down. Does anyone have another good idea for keeping them up on the mantle? I don't want to put nails in, though it seems that's my only solution.

Advent calendars

I made an advent calendar for the kids this year, and it was so much more work than I thought it would be. I was so busy gathering 24 little treasures and trinkets that December 1st came and went, and I finally got the whole thing done three or four days into the month. We started opening the boxes on December 1st, though I didn't have them all full yet and I didn't have the whole thing hung. Hopefully next year I'll know more what to expect and the sailing will be a little smoother, because this project took waaaay too long!

I had cardboard boxes I bought at the craft store last year, and bought a few more to make 24 of them. I got out a bunch of letter sticker sets and dated all the boxes, then cut different lengths of ribbon (yes, I have a lot of ribbon on hand), tied the boxes to those, and tied them all up on a long piece of ribbon across the windows in the living room.

I split the days up into activities, toys, and treats, and I only did 24 days, not 25, figuring they were getting plenty of presents on Christmas anyway. We have activities like driving around looking at Christmas lights or watching a Christmas movie while others are craft projects like this cute popsicle stick nativity set we just did. I'm excited about all the fun art projects I've included--I just have to make sure to make time in our schedule in the evenings to actually do them. I know some will get pushed back, but I'm okay with that. I tried to coordinate all the activities with my calendar so we don't have too much going on on one day. I made sure the last three days before Christmas were treats or gifts because I know I'll be busy with other things on those days.

The kids have been loving it so far. It's the highlight of their day when Ben gets home from school and they get to take a box down and see what's inside. I have a feeling I'll have to make one next year whether I want to or not!


Need some tags for all those gifts you're wrapping?

I found a few printable gift tags that I am loving right now, and thought I'd share the wealth with you! First up, my favorites, from Jenn of Ambrosia Creative. There is one more with stars on it that I just love included with these tags but not pictured here.

These next ones from Amy Moss of Eat Drink Chic are neat because they come in non-traditional colors and you fill in the rest of the phrase, "Peace love and..." Kind of fun.

And Amy does it again with these patterned tags, also in non-traditional colors.

Amy also has a free printable 2013 calendar that she designed. How cool is that? Just be careful, you might get hungry every time you look at it. This one could even be a fun gift for a friend or coworker as part of a gift basket of goodies.


Such a full weekend

*I have a candy apple picture on Instagram, but it looks like there are too many people downloading off of it at once and it's not working for me. I will add that photo later!

This weekend was a busy one for me, but it was a good one too. I spent all Friday doing last-minute shopping and prep for the banquet on Saturday, and made caramel apples with a friend for the event that evening. I'm so glad she came over and helped me with those, as well as all morning/afternoon on Saturday setting up for the event. It was my first time making caramel apples, and I opted for the easy route, or what I thought was the easy route, which was melting down caramels and dipping the apples in that. Now I actually think the caramels were too soft, causing all the caramel to eventually slide off the apple and pool at the bottom. Only when we tried holding the apple upside down and twirling it in our hands for a good three or four minutes after dipping it did we get the caramel to solidify on the apple. But imagine making thirty caramel apples that way--it would take all night. Next time I want to make my own caramel out of sugar and corn syrup and see if the consistency of that caramel works better.

On Saturday I woke up bright and early and was go, go, go all day, running on pure adrenaline. I loaded the car up from top to bottom with decorations and spent all day setting up at the church for the banquet. Less than two hours before the banquet, I rushed home to finish my cake, make a cabbage salad, pry the drippy caramel apples off the parchment paper and get them in baggies, and make myself presentable. Let's just say I couldn't pull off two days like that in a row. It turned out to be a really fun night, with lots of laughs at our table and a festive feeling in the air. I just couldn't believe when it was all over how much work went into that three-hour party. I don't think I'm taking that upon myself next year.

The kids slept over at their grandma and grandpa's house that night, and when we called in the morning to see how they were (we had sent Mila and Olivia there with pretty mild colds), we found out that Olivia was now running a fever. That meant no church for us, and we spent the day cleaning the house, playing board games, wrapping presents, and taking naps. I made it out of the house once to take some pictures of my parents for their Christmas card, but it was nice to stay inside where it's warm and cozy because the weather has turned bitterly cold. It's also been rainy, dark, and windy, and it just hurts every time I step outside.

All in all, it was a good weekend, and not one I will soon forget! I will share some pictures of the banquet decorations next. It was a lot of fun to come up with ideas and actually get to implement them, so I'm glad I got the oppotunity to do it.

Yesterday (Monday) I spent the day lazing around the house, which was the perfect antidote to the weekend. The girls and I made egg carton owls and I let them watch too much TV. I didn't cook a thing or clean a thing either (though the laundry will be daunting when I get to it). By evening all three of the kids were sick of each other, though, and the bickering was really getting to me. I had to get out of the house, so we headed to Mazzah Mediterranean for some gyros, hummus, and pita bread (craaaaving). It got me back in a happy mood real quick! Today I sent Mila off to school and only have one sickie left at home with me.


Love for Connecticut

For those who lost loved ones in the shooting in Connecticut this past Friday, especially those families that lost their little boy or girl--I don't know how they can go on and get through this Christmas season without their precious child. It's heartbreaking. I can imagine all the unopened gifts those families will have, all the memories they were counting on making with their children gone forever. How do you ever come back from losing a child? How do you find happiness again?

I didn't hear about the shooting until very late Friday night, when I took a break on the couch to check my Instagram feed. I kept seeing the #loveforct hashtag, figured out it stood for Connecticut, and realized after a while that I better turn the TV on. What I saw was devastating. I sat there all alone and just bawled and bawled, with my own kids safely in their beds, dreaming the night away. My mind instantly flashed to that morning to the time the shooting happened, how I would have been in the shower at the time if it had been my kids' school.

It shook me that I was so oblivious all day long, and just thought about how I had been laser-focused all day on getting ready for that Christmas banquet I was planning and completely ignored my kids. What if that had been their last day on earth? How I would have regretted not spending time with them! I know that I really shouldn't put a guilt trip on myself about it, but I was just so shocked by the day's events, so baffled by the incredible evil that took place there that day. Those parents took their kids to school and never dreamed they would never see them alive again.

Tonight I finally let myself see the faces of all the victims, and bawled as I read about each child and looked at each face. I pray God will help each one of those families get through this and heal their broken hearts. I am so thankful for my family and for the little one we will meet in five short months. He has really given me so much. I get to spend Christmas with my children and my husband in seven short days, and I get to love them, guide them, lead them by example, and show them love as long as I am able, and I will never take that for granted. I am blessed.

And tomorrow, we find out the sex of the baby! I am beyond excited.


Decorating some un-Christmas-y cookies

Monday, December 17, 2012

We baked and decorated some cookies one Saturday afternoon with the kids, which never fails to put me in that blissful Christmas mood. The only problem was, we don't own any Christmas cookie cutters...oops. I have plenty of other shapes, though, so we picked out what we wanted to use and went to town.

Natalia dropped off Noah to join us, which was an event in itself since he had been MIA with the chicken pox the last couple weeks, and was heading to the store with Adele. When I offered to watch Adele so Natalia could be a bit more productive in the store, she said yes! So we all got to hang out with Adele all on our own while we baked cookies (because we all know babies won't last long in your arms when their mom is around). When she got fussy, I was holding her and B had to take over the baking duties. It was actually perfect that way, because I got to see my husband being all domestic rolling out dough and such and see him engaging the kids and have some fun in the process. I just love that he's home on Saturdays all day looong...it's like a day that never ends because he's around for all of it. Every time I turn around, he's still there!

I don't use one of the traditional sugar cookie recipes that are out there because I just find those too sweet to stomach, especially topped with frosting and sprinkles. I use this Ukrainian cookie recipe, and they turn out sooo good:

1 cup sugar
2 sticks butter
2 eggs
4 tbs. sour cream
1tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vinegar
4 cups flour
1 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Combine sugar and butter in a large mixing bowl, then add eggs. Add sour cream and vanilla. Combine baking soda and vinegar in a spoon (or a tiny bowl) and add to mixture. It will fizz and bubble, so right when I add the baking soda to the vinegar, I stir it quickly with a second spoon to combine the two before the vinegar bubbles over and out of the spoon. Combine flour and salt and add to the sugar mixture.

Sprinkle your counter with a light coat of flour, dump your dough out onto it, coat your rolling pin in more flour, and roll out to your desired thickness. Cut your shapes out, place on a greased cookie sheet, and bake 12-14 minutes until golden.

Because I love homemade whipped cream so much, I made up a frosting recipe with it that I love and use on everything (cakes, cupcakes, cookies) and that doesn't consist mostly of butter (yuck). It's basically this:

1 8 oz. package cream cheese (at room temperature--to avoid chunks)
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup powdered sugar
dash of vanilla

Beat cream cheese until smooth and creamy. Add the whipping cream and beat until the mixer leaves swirls in the frosting and it's nice and thick (watch closely, because it is very easy to overbeat, and the whipping cream will get runny again). Add powdered sugar and vanilla and beat.

If I need more frosting, I use 1 1/3 cups whipping cream and 1 1/3 cups powdered sugar with the package of cream cheese. If I want it even less sweet, I keep the powdered sugar at 1 cup. It's good with or without the vanilla, but I like it better with it.

These aren't the prettiest cookies you've ever seen, but trust me, they are delicious! I couldn't keep my hands off of them, and Natalia reported the same problem with the cookies I sent her home with.

A couple shots with my phone. Good thing I got a group shot and got Mila in there too.