Saturday, December 31, 2011

December 2011

December started with a visit from Granny. She finished her training to open her Kumon center then flew to see us on her way back to CA from her training. The kids were so glad to get a whole week of Granny time. She made everyone’s tummy happy with her famous chili and lots and lots of treats. Then she was off to CA for only one day before her big move to Kauai. She’s staying with Uncle Pete and Tia Val until her home right below them is ready for her. Then she’ll be below Pete and Val and across the street from Grandma Jean. Jeremy and Julie are just around the corner too. Now we have to figure out how to get enough mullah to visit them all.

Then it was time for my quick turn around trip to California to be on Ellen’s 12 Days of Christmas TV taping. Don Jenkins picked me up and promptly delivered me to his wife Amber. Tracy came over and then we had a nice night in, just us three girls, to celebrate both of their birthdays and being together again. We had Thai food (my first time, yum), had Amber’s homemade sangria (double yum), lovely conversation, and watched a movie Amber had been looking forward to, The Help. Those girls have a big piece of my heart. Then I made my way to Jenny & Dan’s home. They graciously hosted me and Laurie again. I spent Monday shopping and hanging out with Laurie and Kat. We spoiled ourselves all day and ended up at The Melting Pot, our favorite fondue restaurant, to celebrate Kat’s birthday. I’m glad that Dan and Jenny were able to join us for the dinner. It was heavenly and perfected by the treasured company. I love that I got to see all my college girls again! And I’m glad that I got some really good quality time in even though it was such a quick trip.

Tuesday was the big Ellen day. The four of us girls who went to the taping before Becky’s wedding all made our way back again. Laurie had to fly in from Washington D.C., Kelly from Northern CA, and me from Texas. Becky was the only local. We were so anxious to know what day of the 12 days we were. Typically the prizes get better the closer to the end of the 12 days you get. Sometimes Day 12 wins all the prizes from the previous 11 days. We were pretty sure we were day 10, 11, or 12. There happened to be a double taping the day of our show, so we were able to find out that we were going to be day 10. We saw the prizes from the audience before us and were so glad that we weren’t in that taping. It was all a fashion theme; a designer bag, designer sunglasses, etc. We finally made it into the studio and were having fun. Ellen called a man on stage from the back to propose to his girlfriend. She was two rows ahead of us in the audience and so surprised to see her boyfriend. Everyone was so excited and in such suspense. He walked over to her, got down on one knee, and gave a touching proposal. She buried her face in her hands and denied him. The audience was shocked! But I knew all along…it was a fake. Ellen’s sneaky way of introducing the prize portion of the show usually starts with a fake emotional joke that pulls on your heartstrings and then shocks you. I was on to it, but most of the audience around me wasn’t. It was entertaining to watch their faces through the whole thing. Then the prizes were rolled out and the audience went nuts jumping and screaming! It was so fun and exhilarating! What were we going to get!?! We got so much! I feel so blessed! We each got a $250 Tivoli speaker, which I love because I can plug my phone in and stream Pandora music while I’m cooking. This speaker puts out such a high quality sound. We got a $600 Dyson vacuum. I’m trying to sell it in CA, but no luck so far. We’re down to asking $400 and still no bites. We got a $100 Target gift card, which helped us finish buying the kids Christmas gifts. We got a $500 Breville espresso machine. I always wanted to get Jon a fancy espresso machine, but it is such an impractical splurge that we never would have gotten one. We got a few delicious espressos and lattes out of it, but it worked inconsistently, so the company is going to do an exchange with me and give me a new one. We got a $300 World Market gift card and I’ve already spent most of mine. I got a gorgeous lamp, a shower curtain, 2 couch pillows, a cast iron griddle, a paella pan, and other odds and ends for the kitchen. We got a $500 Hilton gift card that I was able to sell for $360 on Craigslist. And the best is the Calphalon pots and pans set. My non-stick frying pans had just died right before I left on my trip and I wasn’t sure what I was going to cook in when I got back home. And voila! I now how a beautiful bronze set of oven proof and hard anodized pots and pans!

We had a lovely holiday season. I got a phone call from my parents saying that Mom’s doctor said she’d be fine to travel for the holidays. I was so happy. I didn’t think Mom would be able to travel until January at least. Mom finished up all her radiation treatments, YAY!!!! Then they drove out here for Christmas. They got to stay with us for about 2 weeks. Aaron and Andrew also joined us for Christmas. We maxed out our little house, but in a cozy Christmassy sort of way. I really enjoyed my first Christmas living in Texas and I’m so thankful for all the family we got to spend time with.

The kids had a way more merry Christmas than we anticipated. There was an avalanche of presents under the tree for them. My parents got Jon set up with all the equipment to brew his own beer. He and Aaron already did their first run at brewing a stout beer. It’s fermenting now in a big container on the floor in my bedroom, covered with a jacket for darkness. Jon’s excited to taste the final product.

With the money we got from selling the Hilton gift card Ellen gave me, I bought a Kitchenaid stand mixer. I love it! I can’t believe I’ve gone all these years without such a useful tool. It made prepping the Christmas meal so much easier. It shredded all the chicken for my flautas in under a minute. That saved me so much work! And it whipped up the meringue and whipped cream for my pavlova (our new Christmas dessert tradition) in no time. Aaron brought a super yummy buttered pecan quick bread that we enjoyed Christmas morning along with our traditional sausage balls. Yum! The Kitchenaid made mixing both a breeze. I love it!!! Did I mention that already? I especially appreciated the reprieve from hand mixing/shredding all that because I was fighting off a cold and didn’t have any extra energy to spare. I’m still waiting on a pasta roller attachment I ordered to arrive in the mail and then homemade raviolis are next on the agenda. I got impatient waiting and tried rolling the pasta dough out by hand, but it turned out way too thick and not so good.

There were a couple bonfires enjoyed by all the neighbors out here. I was too sick and missed the first one, but was happy I was well enough for the New Years Eve bonfire party hosted by Beth & Jay Erickson at the Hamiter’s home. We had a fun night with family and friends! We shouted and cheered and choruses of Auld Lang Syne broke out to ring in the New Year. Only a couple people actually knew the words and everyone else just hummed with exuberance. Ben came up to me after the New Year’s countdown, shouting, kissing, and merriment. It took him by surprise and he was a little troubled for a few moments. He wondered why everyone did that. It was cute.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! We love you all!!!!