December 19, 2014

FIVE on FRIDAY: Christmas Things

With less than a week until Christmas now I'm trying to check off all the things we wanted to do this season off our list before we run out of time. We've gotten a lot done in the last week, here's what we've been up to...

ONE - We almost didn't get a picture with Santa this year. Long story short; it all went well and we got the smiling picture! We were thisclose to not getting one at all this year, because O had been telling us he did not want to meet Santa, and after his refusal to meet Mickey and Goofy in Disneyland, I thought he might be seriously. Luckily though, for all of, us he came around!

TWO - We decorated out gingerbread houses this year for the annual Sullivan family gingerbread house competition. O had SO much fun adding little bits of candy to the house. It was pretty much a one for him, one for the house kind of deal. He ate almost all the mini m&ms I put out for him to use!

Every year my MIL gives each family a gingerbread house and we all try to win her over with our designs to win "first prize" (although, everyone always wins!). In years past we've made fondant models of my MIL and her beloved lab, and this year we named our gingerbread house "Barbara's Sugar Shack".

THREE - Put together some simple, yet sweet hostess gifts for a couple Christmas parties we'll be attending in the next week. I used this recipe, added some mini red + green m&ms and a gift tag with the directions written on the back.

FOUR - I've been a cookie making crazy woman this week. Erinn has been showing off her beautiful cookies and pretty much convinced me I must give Alison's Cookie Party a try. I've always wanted to make gorgeous cookies, but I've never been able to nail down a great combo of recipes (for the dough and icing) or find any reliable or clear tips on icing the actual cookies. Cookie party is all those things and more! The picture above is my 2nd batch this week and it was a great improvement from the first -- and, I'm having so much fun doing it. I sent those beauties to work with Keith.

FIVE - Last night after dinner we took O to see the lights on Eucalytpus Street in San Carlos. It's becoming a tradition we all enjoy! O asked on the way back to the car after if there were any rides #hookedonDisneyland

This weekend will be a busy, but very fun one.... we've got a day with Granny tomorrow, 7 pans of cinnamon rolls waiting to be made, a date night planned, a Christmas party and a pedicure for this mom! Hope you all have a lovely weekend!

Oh Hey Friday with September Farm and The Farmer's Wife!
Friday Favorites with A Little Bit of EverythingMomfessionals, and Grace and Love.

December 18, 2014

Disneyland 2014

We spent all last week in Disneyland with our friends and I have finally gotten around to doing a little recap of our fun filled trip! 

Disneyland is such a magical, happy place! Growing up my family took many, many trips there together, so it reminds me of being young, carefree and of family. We took O to Disneyland for the first time when he was 20 months-old. It was a great trip and he liked a lot of the attractions, but I don't think he got it back then. This trip was totally different. He absolutely got what was going on around him and was really into all the rides and sights to see!

The drive down to Anaheim was pretty smooth. Having packed the car the day before, we just woke up around 5am, got ourselves showered and waited on waking O for a little bit. Murphy's Law would have it that he only "sleeps late" when we want him to wake up. After hitting up Starbucks for coffee and turkey-bacon breakfast sandwiches we were on the road by 6:20.

O did great in the car! He ate some snacks, played with his cars (and a $1 pack of 3 plastic airplanes from the gas station - great purchase) a bit and watched one episode of Kung Fu Panda on the iPad, but mostly he just looked out the window at the farmlands. He was an angel!

We made great time, only stopping twice to stretch our legs and use the bathroom and were meeting up with our friends and checking into our hotel by 1pm. We stayed at the Best Western Plus Anaheim Inn this time and it was great! It's clean, across the street from the park entrance and hosts a pretty fat continental breakfast -- only downside is that it is lacking in the magical-magic of the Disneyland Hotel.

After unpacking our cars and packing up some supplies, we headed into Disneyland! As you know O is not quite 3 yet, so this was a perfect time to take him again since kids are free under three. And also, he is at a great age to enjoy the magic.

O was excited to get into the park and go on "fun rides" (his words) with us and his friends S & L. Going with friends who have kids close in age was a great plan. O & his friend S, who is 4, kept each other entertained in line and had a ball riding together in the stroller, and we loved having our friends around to chat with too, of course. 

The crowds weren't too terrible during the day. We used a Disneyland crowd calendar to help us plan the trip around when it has been historically less crowded in years past. The park was extra crowded at night in the areas of the park where there was a special event or attraction happening (the parade, fireworks or Fantasmic), but overall most of the lines weren't around a 15 minute wait, with exception being 40 minutes for Peter Pan (first thing in the morning) and about 30 minutes for Toy Story Midway Mania.

As you can see, the kids were the ones calling the shots about what rides to go on next. They loved using the maps to discover new places to go. O's favorite ride was Pirates of the Caribbean, with Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters being a close second. There are so many cute toys and goodies to buy in Disneyland, but I think that one of O's most favorite ones was Stormtrooper drink holder that came with Keith's lunch on the first day.

The best part of the trip for me was just getting to enjoy O for 5+ days without any obligations or distractions. We loved watching him light up on the rides and smile just because he was so happy to be there. The days were exhausting and we were all beat each night by the time we returned home to our hotel, but there were very few unreasonable tantrums. I just enjoyed our little guy so much, and I know he enjoyed himself! I wish I could spend everyday with him there having fun!

During the 5 days we were in the park we hit up almost every ride and attraction that O would be allowed on, sometimes even twice! We watched the parade, ate at Goofy's Kitchen, saw the Disney Jr. show, fireworks, Fantasmic, World of Color, rode the train,... the list goes on and on. This is a great age for Disneyland, and I think it will only get better from here. 

Like I said, Toy Story Midway Mania was a pretty long line, but things like friends, fruit snacks, 1.25 adults per child and silly glasses + the promise of fun at the end, make the long wait bearable.

O has not been riding in the stroller for what seems like forEVER, but we went ahead and brought it to Disneyland just in case, and I am so glad we did. I don't know if it was all the crowds and walking, or seeing his friends riding together in theirs, but he was totally into it. We brought it in the second day and we used it the whole time. O would usually jump right into the seat after a ride and then call for his buddy S to jump on in front of him.

Our backs were supper happy to have the stroller too and I was so thrilled to have all our stuff packed away in it. And nap time, glorious nap time, was a breeze! He would fall asleep in the stroller and we'd take the opportunity to either head back to the hotel for a rest or go on rides for the big kids.

And OH, the food! Disneyland has some of the best park food ever. I'm a total sweets person, so thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to try it allll out. That little piece of heaven is a hand dipped chocolate covered ice cream bar -- a total dream. We mostly stayed in the park for meals since it was just the easiest and most time efficient option with kiddos. O ate his entire corn dog from Little Red Wagon on Main Street and we all enjoyed Big Thunder Ranch BBQ (kids under 3 eat free -- O loved the chicken).

I could never go to Disneyland and skip getting beignets from Jazz Kitchen in Downtown Disney -- perfection with a coffee!

A few highlights for O were...

Watching the Jedi Training Academy where little audience members are pulled on stage to practice their 'saber skills and battle Darth Vader or Darth Mal. The minimum age is supposed to be 4, so O couldn't participate, but he sure LOVED watching the other kids.

Have you noticed I have ZERO pictures here with Mickey, Goofy, Minnie, etc.? Well, that's because my son didn't want pictures with him. We tried, and he liked them last time, so I don't know what happened, but he was not into it. He was into taking pictures with superheroes and Pluto, though. Captain America, Thor and Pluto were the only happy, smiling pics we were able to get.

Oh, and the Native American statue. O saw him and requested a photo with him. Not sure why or what, but something about it must have struck him and he liked it.

Disneyland is so much fun at Christmas! O has asked to go back everyday since we've been home. I keep telling him we'll be back again soon, and that it no lie -- we love Disneyland!

December 16, 2014

We Wish You a Merry Christmas!

I'm so thrilled to be able to say that the first batch of our Christmas cards are in the mail! I was a little worried that I might not get them out in time this year, but I did, and now I can move on with the other fun Christmas related activities I want to complete.

We had photos taken by Sweet Poppy Studios early in November, and as soon as our pictures came in I knew which ones we would be using for our card.

We used Minted for our cards again this year (cards from year's past 2013, 2012, skipped 2011 because I was too pregnant, 2010) and I picked the Spirit of Christmas card because the design is classic and went well with the layout of our photo. I'm so happy with the way they turned out!

We went with a picture and little message on the back too that basically just says we're so thankful for another wonderful year together with family and friends and that O is enjoying school.

Minted offered free recipient addressed this year, but I was too lazy to compile all my addresses into their site when I was ordering --- totally regretted that move when it came time to hand write them!

We wish you all a very merry Christmas!

December 11, 2014

Get Your Kids Ready For The Pool With Swim Lessons

Hello there! We've decided to stay in Disneyland for another day, instead of driving through the huge storm that is set to hit the Bay Area today. Meanwhile, I have a great guest post for you today from Kate Gardner of An Apple Per Day about setting your child up for success and safety in the water!


I love the water, and want my kids to enjoy the pool like I do. I want our family to enjoy many happy hours in the water, either in the pool or at the beach on family vacations. I have made it a high priority to prepare them to safely enjoy the water, and that means swim lessons.

Early preparation. The water is a new medium for a toddler or baby, and kids react differently to it. Some are water babies just naturally, while others are more reticent. I introduced my kids to the water early, so that when they are the proper age for formal lessons, it won’t be a whole new experience. I’ve found that the bath can be a great place to make a positive connection to water. While I bathed my baby, I smiled and laughed, to reinforce water and fun. I gently splashed the water with my hand, and he quickly figured out how much fun splashing can be. My husband laughed when I walked out with suds in my hair, but it was worth it.

Here are some great resources with more information about swim lessons and young children:

Swim Lesson Plans
When Can My Baby Take Swimming Lessons?
Teach Your Child To Swim

The introduction to the pool. We are fortunate to have a community pool with Mommy and Me classes, so I took advantage of those. They say that by 6 months of age, a child can take these classes, and learn the basics of just being in the water. I held him the whole time, and we mostly learned about bobbing and more splashing. It was a real bonus to work with an instructor who had child development credentials, and could tailor the session to how far along the kids were. Of course, we put him in swim diapers and didn’t take a lesson right after he had eaten.

What if there are no classes nearby. I’ve heard of parents starting the pool introduction without Mommy and Me classes, and it went really well. It was great bonding time as well. Dad sat back from the pool in the shade, holding the baby. Mom went into the water and began laughing and splashing like she did in during bath time. Gradually Dad moved closer to the water, and the baby was captivated. When he reached out for Mom, Dad made the transition, and as she held her baby, she began gently bobbing. They also had another child who was much more reticent, and they were very patient, letting that child sit and watch for a long time before he showed an interest in getting closer to the pool. That was smart – if you let the child dictate the pace, it won’t turn into a frightening experience for them.

Regular lessons. It is said that when a child is around age 3 or 4, they are ready for formal lessons. By that age, they will have developed sufficiently to perform the actions required, and can listen and retain what is being presented. I was careful, and checked out the class I wanted to use, even asking for the teacher’s credentials. I planned all along to continue past beginner lessons, until my child was completely proficient in the water.

Lessons in the fall? I went against my original thinking that lessons are for the summer. When school is out, kids just want to go play. We signed up for lessons after they were back in school, and receptive to teaching. It worked out well, and by the next summer, they were ready to play with their friends at the pool.

I love playing in the water with my kids, and it makes me smile to think I have given them a skill that will come in handy for a whole lifetime.

Kaitlin Gardner started An Apple Per Day to explore her passion for a green living lifestyle, and healthy family living. She and her husband have just moved to rural Pennsylvania, where they enjoy exploring the countryside to discover interesting and out of the way places. She is also learning how to paint watercolors.

December 8, 2014

Cookie Day Family Tradition

We're still here in Disneyland living it up with Mickey and the gang!

I shared this post a couple weeks ago on Sunflower State of Mind, but I loved it so much that I want it to be part of my archives, so I'm sharing it with you today! 

My favorite part of the holidays are the memories, the making of news ones to be treasured, and recreating old family traditions. When I think about holidays when I was growing up I have warm memories of our cozy home, my loving parents, and all the things we enjoyed doing together...helping my mom in the kitchen to prepare for a family gathering, the way she would prepare our home for visitors, helping my dad hang the lights on the house and volunteering with him at the Lion's Club tree lot.

Since meeting Keith over ten years ago I've come to love and enjoy some if his family's traditions as well, including a Day After Thanksgiving visit to the tree farm to cut down trees and a pre-Christmas cookie baking day where we all gather at Keith's mom's house to bake dozens and dozens of cookies alllll day long. It's quite exhausting but even more fun!

I'm sure if asked, most everyone in my husband's family would say that the Spritz Cookies their grandma would make jars full of are everyone's very favorite. Although I never had the pleasure of meeting her, they've become a favorite cookie of mine too. They're simple to make, cute and delicious!

So, if you're looking for some tasty cookies to bake this Christmas please consider these!

This is the cookie press I use every year. Keith's mom gave it to me the first Christmas he and I were dating. I've heard of other people making savory crackers with the press as well, although I've never tried it myself.

I used the Wilton recipe for this batch and added green food coloring to some of it to make the Christmas tree cookies. Makes 7-8 dozen cookies.

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups butter softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon no-color almond extract

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.

2. In bowl, combine flour and baking powder. In large bowl, beat butter and sugar with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add egg, milk, vanilla and almond extract; mix well. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture; beat until combined. Do not chill. Fill cookie press with dough and with desired disks, press cookies onto ungreased cookie sheet.

3. Bake 10-12 minutes or until edges are light golden brown. Cool 2 minutes on cookie sheet on cooling rack. Remove from sheet; cool completely.

They fit well piled up into a mason jar, and with the addition of a cute tag and ribbon, they make a sweet little gift for someone dear to you.

What are your family's favorite Christmas cookies?
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