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Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

So 2018 has come to the close and now it is 2019. Here is looking to good health and happiness and a wonderful 2019 for everyone.

We celebrated Christmas Eve by staying home alone together. Steve steamed his wonderful snow crab legs outside in the portable gas burner. That keeps the cooking smell outdoors instead of doing them on the stove top in the house.

After dinner, we curled up on the couch together and watched "It's a Wonderful Life".



Christmas morning came peacefully, and our presents to each other are basically things for the house. Steve wanted a better wider shower head with a detachable flexible hose for spraying down the walls, and himself, in the shower. He had it installed in minutes.

I wanted a better vent over the kitchen stove when I am cooking. The over the stove vent on the bottom surface of our microwave is really insufficient. Steve bought the new unit that actually has to be drilled and inserted through the wall. It's not done yet but it's on our list of projects, and has already been purchased in sitting in the garage waiting for installation.

Christmas Day morning Steve's dad Paul stopped in to visit for a while. We shared a cup of coffee and some stories and enjoyed showing him our decorations on the house. Of course his dog Millie was along and she got to visit and play with Finney and Binney.

About 11 a.m. we took off together and drove down to Belgium Wisconsin with Paul. We went to Steve sister's house where some of his siblings gathered for Christmas Day dinner. We had a nice time and it was a good visit before we headed on back home. Pops still had to drive the rest of the way by himself all the way up to Sister Bay in Door County. That's a long day for a guy who is 86 years old. Got to admire him for being able to drive, take care of himself, take care of his own house and yard, and his dog Millie too.

The rest of the week went by in a blur until Saturday. That is our special weekend with all of our kids and grandkids. We load up the car to the brim with everything we need to take along to head on up, over the river and through the woods to Oconto.
It's about 80 miles from here and we celebrate with all of our kids and grandkids at our oldest daughter Erin's house. We checked into the nearby hotel first and unloaded our things into our room.

Then we start collecting grandkids!

They all get to come and swim for a couple hours in the pool while the parents get the food and presents all ready back at the house. What fun!


We have done this hotel/swimming thing the last couple years at the hotel nearby. Erin has lots of room at her house but everybody else also stays over so nobody is really drinking and driving back to their homes far away. I am usually in pretty good shape, so I drive from her house the few blocks over to the hotel.

After all of the swimming was done, all the children opened up their first present from us in our hotel room.

They all got new jammies for Christmas. (as usual)

But they surprised Steve and I by giving US jammies too!!!



Yes, these are one piece jammies, complete with a drop flap back door behind!!!! How totally hilarious. I had to wear them or they would be sorely disappointed.



Even Grandpa put his on to try them out. But he did not want to wear them out of the hotel room in public and drive us over to the daughter's house while wearing them. Chicken!


His comes complete with a little rod attached to the hood. At the end of the rod is a little piece of mistletoe and a jingle bell. What a good sport! He even approved that I could put these pictures here on the blog and also on Facebook.



With the help of our younger daughter Heather, we got all of the kids into their jammies, bundled up their wet swimsuits and other clothes, and headed over to Erin and Waylen's house.

The kids all gathered around the dining room table to have a pizza party. We toasted in the New Year with our beverages. It's so much fun to see all seven of the grandchildren around the old dining room table that I used to own many years ago. 

We talked about what they got from Santa Claus, giggled over silly nonsense, and just had a fun time being together. I know we are making memories that will last a lifetime. I'm so glad that Erin opens up her house that we can all fit in and be together and make a huge mess.



I gathered all of the little kids into one corner to sit on the floor and opened up a big box. Inside I had gift bags for each one. The last few years I have painted little ceramic village houses for each one. They are going to collect enough to each have their own village someday because I bought a huge stash of unpainted houses a while back.


This year they also each got a little plastic bag with a piece of border fence and a little person or figurine to put in their own village as well. Along with each commercial building that they got this year, I wrote a memory of my own as a child while visiting that type of building or what that building was for. I printed their stories onto a stiff piece of cardstock. I laminated it so it will last and they can pack it away with their village each year. Now I have to catch up with their other village houses and write them for the previous years.


We took some turns reading some of the stories, but the kids were getting anxious to go open up their presents under the tree.



Daughter Heather was able to get all seven kids lined up, facing forward, and smiling! This one is a keeper. I will print this out to put on my coffee mug photo sleeve that I change every year.


(L to R: Chelsea, Claire, Allegra, Clayton, Mason, Jameson, and Whitney)


Our daughter Erin is in charge of the family stocking collection. She has added to the stocking collection every year that someone comes along. What a haul! With that many stockings it may pull the banister right off the staircase???



Speaking of stockings, this year I knit up matching socks for the entire family. That is13 pairs, all sized for each person's foot from Dan with his large size 14 foot all the way down to little two-year-old Claire!



Little Claire's fit her very well, but they do come up the leg like little knee socks. We put them on her and look at the silly goose. What better place to put her little toes than in the cup holders on the sectional couch!!!!



Both Claire and Whitney had on their matching flannel jammies. What cute little cousins. I got to spend some time reading stories to both of them. They hauled out book after book from the play room for Grandma to read. There's something special about cuddly little kids in their fuzzy jammies, crawling up onto your lap to get a story. Soon these two will be too big to sit on my lap, but I hope they will still love to hear stories.



After all of the present opening mess was cleared away, it was time to play some games at the dining table. We started out with some card games and all the little kids were running around playing with their toys in the background.

Dogs, kids, toys, noise, and a bunch of cards. What a lot of fun!!


And of course a few beverages are imbibed as well....



The kids get to stay up as late as they can manage to prop their eyelids open. 
Some don't make it.



About midnight, Steve and I slipped out the door with the dogs and headed back to the hotel. I think we should have just stayed at Erin's house after all. The hotel was very noisy, with people coming in as late as 2:30 banging and talking loudly in the hallway right outside of our door. The people above us were banging around and I swear somebody was flushing their toilet every 15 minutes all night long. The pipes came down the wall right next to the bed in our room and you could hear the swoosh and swirl each time they flushed.  The bed in our room was firm and uncomfortable, we are used to a soft memory foam mattress at home.

The dogs were uneasy, listening to all of the noises that they are not used to. Finney was on guard duty and giving low warning rumbles in his chest every time he heard strange noises. He only barked once, a single bark, and we shushed him down. Someone else had a dog a few doors down that barked quite a bit. So I don't think Finnegan's single bark bothered anyone.

By 6 a.m. people were up and about around us packing up going in and out the doors with suitcases. It was a Packer Game Day and this hotel, being only 38 miles north of the Packer stadium, was full to the hilt with game day attendees. So we got up as well and decided to pack our things and check out and head back over to Erin's house.


We have started a tradition where the kids get to help make breakfast. It's a breakfast casserole called a "breakfast bake". It's a great way to make breakfast for a large group of people that is done all at the same time.

Chelsea and Clayton were the grandkids who were helping this year. They are getting so tall they can stand right at the countertop to work on things. I recall the days when they were so little they had to stand up on step stools to reach the edge of the counter to help.




It was fun to see them use their baking skills that they have learned over the years. After washing their hands, they know they can help prepare the meal. And then have to wash their hands again when they are all done. Little Clayton even gave us a lecture on how we must wash our hands! So sometimes the things we teach them actually DO stick in their little brains....


We cover the pan with tin foil and bake it in the oven for about 25 minutes then uncover it for the last 10 or so.

This year there weren't as many left at the house who wanted breakfast so we only made one pan. Our son Dan and Heather and kids had to leave early. Son in law Jesse was heading down to Green Bay to attend the Packer game. Other years we have made three pans to be sure to have enough to go around.



Here is the recipe. But take note, we don't add the milk anymore. It seems to bake better without the milk and is less runny.




The breakfast bake was delicious and the biscuits puffed up beautifully and were flakey and crunchy on top. Steve made Bloody Marys for everyone with his super duper Bloody Mary mix from Hilde's deli and bakery in Chilton.


That Bloody Mary mix is a tad bit too spicy for me.

I brought along Tom n Jerry mix. It's a thick eggnog-like batter that is added to mugs of hot water with a sprinkle of cinnamon or nutmeg on top. For the adults, you add a shot of brandy or rum. Of course for the kids, it's non-alcoholic. They loved it so much they said it was like drinking a marshmallow!



Here is our YouTube video clip of our weekend. The first part has a lot of the swimming and the rest of it is fun at the house with all of the kids and playing cards, and it finishes up with little Claire walking our dogs to the door on leashes so we can go home:



We hung around till about noon, but my eyelids were having a hard time staying open. Since we didn't get much sleep the night before, we decided to load up the car and toddle on home again. Once we got home we unloaded the car and threw everything in the middle of the kitchen. Then we both headed up to bed and took a nice long nap!

(the Packers lost the game)

Not sure what the New Year will bring for us in the way of travels yet. We first have to get past the property taxes and income taxes with our meager budget. Then we can decide what we are going to do as far as traveling somewhere in the motorhome.

We wish everyone a wonderful, healthy, and prosperous New Year!


Monday, December 17, 2018

Cookie Day - My Most Favorite Day of the Year~

I was so excited for Saturday to come around. It is truly my most favorite day of the year! On Friday I got all prepared..... hauling out all of my baking supplies. I did up a triple batch of cut-out sugar Christmas cookies.



While I baked, I had a smile on my face as I opened up Mom's old red Betty Crocker cookbook for the recipe.  I recalled many childhood times of baking cookies and decorating with my own brothers and sister.  I rolled out hunks of dough, baked on my parchment lined cookie sheets (the BEST way to bake cookies!) I ended up with 18 dozen cookies and only one broken one. Steve took care of that one, even without any frosting on it.



Saturday morning, I was up early and "de-kidderized" the house. I remove all of my sharp scissors, needles and fiber tools and put them out of reach of the wee ones.  Most of the knickknacks are pretty kid-proof and I encourage them to look and explore.  I just don't want anyone to get hurt.

I think what I like best about this day is that I get all seven grandkids ALL TO MYSELF!  That sounds kinda selfish, I know. But I don't have to share them like at Xmas the competition of Christmas presents, or with other grandparents, or the ex's, or even their friends at their birthday parties.  I get all of their attention at my own home stomping grounds. It's a day for me to watch, interact, relate and enjoy each of them as they play together, help me, or just hang out.

I flustered and blustered around the house getting ready for this Big Day.  I prepared in advance by buying a whole bunch of funny shaped Christmas holiday mugs and lined them up on the buffet in the dining room...


Added to each mug is a little mini wire whisk. I have laughingly renamed these "The Best Little Invention in the World". I have a few in the house and the camper that I have used with the grandkids. They are just the right size for whisking up hot cocoa mix in a cup. This year, I ordered a batch of a dozen online so each grandkid could go home with one of their own with their mugs.


Of course, once the hot cocoa mix with marshmallows is all mixed up, you need a stir stick. What's better than a peppermint candy cane as a stir stick?



Everything was set by 9 a.m.  We told the dogs "The childrenz are coming, the childrenz are coming"  (kinda like the Paul Revere alert about the Red Coats).  The dogs were waiting at the window to watch for the big surprise.


Binney still gets a little shy when there are so many grandkids at once. She's better with only one or two kids at a time. When we first got her, she used to hide in the bedroom closet or a corner, but has gotten better over the years.  Finnegan was eager because he knows that when the grandkids come, that means spilled food on the floor. That's a delight for any dog, especially when it's multiplied times seven grandchildren coming at once!

AND HERE THEY COME!!!

They trooped on into the house and shed their winter jackets, hats, mittens and boots. It was time for this Grandmother to have some fun.

Here is the cast of characters:

These are the three boys. Left to right they are Jameson age 10, Mason age 6, and Clayton age 6. They all play together so well as cousins.  I love it that they play on the staircase in the sunshine and rainbows from the leaded glass windows.  They had matchbox cars, trucks and building blocks all over the place.



Next in the cast of characters are the two oldest girls: This is Chelsea and Allegra. Chelsea is 8, and Allegra just turned 9.  Chelsea will catch up to her early in January in age. They are best buddies and do sleepovers at each other's houses. I can always count on them to help out or get creative with craft projects and be my buddies.



Here are the two smallest ones, the littlest girls Claire and Whitney. Claire is 2 and Whitney is 3. They are learning to play together well and share (sometimes) and socialize.



As soon as little Claire got here, she made a beeline for the toy closet under the stairs. She knew right where the little Fisher-Price farm & silo were. She grabbed both in her tiny arms and waddled on over into the living room to plunk them down and start to play.


All of the grandchildren have played lovingly with this Fisher-Price farm over the years. It is from my own Grandma Kafehl. That would make her their great great grandmother. I know she's smiling down from Heaven to see her great-great-grandchildren all together, and playing with this toy that she's so lovingly kept all of those years. We played with it as kids in the 1960's. My kids played with it when we would visit in the 1980's.  When she passed away in 1996, I was the lucky one to inherit it and it is one of my prized possessions. Some things are more valuable than diamonds, emeralds, rubies and pearls. The look on that little face says it all!



Once everyone was here, we had a quick little breakfast of fruit and those little boxes of cereal. I always have those on hand for the grandkids, just like Grandma Kafehl had for us when we were kids.  We needed to fill their bellies with good stuff because once they started decorating I knew how many would be sneaking bits of frosting, snacking on the decorations, and even eating a cookie or two along the way.


NOW IT WAS TIME TO GET DOWN TO WORK....  
DECORATING THOSE COOKIES!!!

(we were so anxious to get started,
we forgot to put on our Xmas Aprons from last year!)


I had pre-made up tubs of colorful frosting and I was in charge of getting the frosting spread on each cookie. From there we passed them around the table on paper plates to be decorated by the waiting kids.  I had assorted sprinkles, sugars and chocolate chips to adorn as they pleased.


The mommies and Grandpa helped to decorate and also to take all the finished cookies back into the kitchen a tray full at a time to lay them out on the island and countertops to dry.

We had Christmas music playing on the stereo, and there was a lot of laughter and silliness going on. The kids especially loved hearing stories about their own parents when they were little. Sometimes it's the littlest things that can emit gales of laughter.



This is known as a "Party Cookie" by the kids. Erin invented the name last year. It's when they have so many decorations on their little paper plate, they just take a frosted cookie and flip it over upside down to absorb the leftovers.



This little lady definitely got into the cookie decorating, especially the blue frosting. Can't you tell? Her mommy had to remove the shirt before it got ruined by all of the blue food coloring.  I was told she "ate a Smurf"  Ack!



Here is a You Tube video clip we made
from a few of the segments taken during the morning,
along with a photo montage at the end of all the pics.



Once all of the cookies were decorated and everything was cleaned up, the mommies took a break in the living room by the tree. This is our daughter Erin on the left (with goofy Claire on her lap) and our daughter Heather on the right. Our daughter-in-law Heather had to work for the day so Erin brought those kids along to take part with all of the others.



Grandpa had cleaned up the kitchen for me and put away everything that was not needed, and he washed up all of the breakfast dishes as well. It was time for him to take a little break too.



I chased the kids around the house and got some activities going. The two littlest girls adore playing "Tea Party" so we set up the small white table and brought out Grandma's tea set. The older kids were involved in a very active game of hide-and-seek, as well as some kind of ghost hunting where they were taking photo images with a camera of the supposed spirits that they were doing paranormal research on.  It was fun to listen to them make up scenarios, and work with their imaginations to create some fun topics to play together.  I love the inventiveness and talent they have to share, make up and create.



Now it was getting close to lunchtime, so I enlisted the help of all of the munchkin kids to cooperate in preparing our lunch. We took 3 packs of hot dogs and cut each of them into thirds. Then we took a big pack of raw spaghetti noodles and put the kids to work.  They stuck about 8, sometimes 9, sometimes 10, sometimes 6, who knows how many, noodles lengthwise through the raw hot dogs. I had a big pot of water boiling in the kitchen to submerge them into. (the process is on the You Tube video clip that I posted above)



Once the noodles were cooked up, 
the bundles were carefully removed from the hot pot. 
then cut each of the 1/3 hot dogs into half.

 From just one hot dog, 
you can get six little octopuses!!!
We made 72 little octopus? octopii?

Wow, talk about lunchtime fun!
They could eat them with their fingers,
dip them into ketchup,
and play with their food.

Imagine that, Grandma's house has NO rules about playing with their food?? 


The silliness and laughter continues, 
even with something as simple as a grandchildren lunch party.



We added trays of fresh vegetables and dip along with an ample supply of pickles and olives to go along with our meal. These kids absolutely love olives and pickles, including the oldest granddaughter Allegra craves black olives.  Also the oldest grandson Jameson enjoys sweet gherkins. Have to have a bunch on hand when they come.  He even brought the rest of the jar home with him as a special treat.   I remember my Grandma Kafehl who always had spaghettios in the large cans on hand for when we came over, and always sent us home with boxes of our most favorite breakfast cereals.

It warms my heart to see all of the grandkids around my dining room table. When I bought this table 6 years ago I had no idea there would be this many sweet little grandchildren gathered around it. These are the things that I live for.

Also around the diningroom are plate rails that encircle the room. Instead of plates I have many photo frames of all the different photos of the grandkids throughout the years. They really like seeing their images and how they change. I tell them when they are not here, Grandpa and I sit here and gaze upon all of their faces and remember them and love them and miss them so much.



Once the lunch was done, 
again Grandpa took care of the kitchen cleanup
and all of the dishes.

I appreciate that so I can spend more time with the grandkids.

Then this grandma headed up our yearly tradition 
of writing letters to Santa Claus!

We also took out the Christmas mugs and little world's best little invention and packets of hot cocoa with marshmallows. What a wonderful thing to sip on their cocoa while they work on their Christmas letters to Santa.



I love seeing how much the children change every year in their abilities to write and spell and use larger and larger words in their letters. It was so cute to see them help each other and give each other ideas of things to ask from Santa. I even wrote a letter myself telling Santa that I've been a good grandma I think and that all I want for Christmas is "Good Grandkids" ! (I think I already got that wish)  The kids take turns reading their letters also in the YouTube clip I posted above.


I took about a zillion pictures and Steve took a probably a zillion more. These are two of my favorites. Daughter Erin is helping her son Clayton (a first grader) while he uses some really huge words like "electric", and littlest granddaughter Claire is giving Finnegan a wonderful hug in the rays of afternoon sunshine.




Before the kids are ready to head out, I tried, and failed, to get all seven of them to sit around the tree and face forward. It really doesn't work. I don't know how my friend Sarah does it at her photography studio. Maybe someday that will work. I don't know. So finally, since none of them were having it, I told them all to pick their noses! That got their attention. But there was still a couple grumps in the group. Yep, a typical family photo of my grandchildren.


I can't wait to see them all again at our Family Christmas Celebration together in two weeks!!!

MERRY CHRISTMAS !!!!