Saturday, December 31, 2011

Santa Done Good

Well.  Guess what Santa brought Disco Mom this year?

 Despite hinting, I was still extremely surprised to get a new DSLR camera.  Ed did all his own research and got the Nikon D5100.  And I do NOT know how to use it.  I watched the DVD it came with and followed along for awhile, then just got lost in menus, meters, and options.  So for now I'm just playing around, getting to know it.  I think it will be a long, steep learning curve.  But it is so amazing.  Already SO much better than my old one.  Here are just a few shots I took this week.
Playing Wii

Poppy ran up close at the last second.  And it still focused!

Wide angle of Ed down the stairs.  My old one never would have gotten this much in!

Our tree, plus proof Ed changes diapers sometimes.

This one and the next blow me away the most.  INDOOR photo taken AT NIGHT in our living room with bad lighting.  The photo looks even better than the real thing!

Again, living room at night.  Hazel's guitar lesson.

Toaster in a dark kitchen.  The old one never could have handled it. 

At the mall play area.

Poppy and her friend Jayda.  Good candids are surprisingly hard to capture!

The girls playing with the new dollhouse.  Which, by the way, they totally love.  It's been a huge hit, and not at all trumped by the Wii.

I am loving the wide angle and great auto settings for now.  Next up, food for the VGP.  Can you believe it actually has a FOOD photography setting?  Amazing.  Now if the photos suck, I have no one, and nothing, to blame but myself.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Hung with Care, pt 4

 Here's our final installment of the Younce Christmas stockings.  I mentioned earlier that my parent's socks were hand-knit by my Mom's grandmother.  And that they are large and very stretchy and hard to fill!  

 Here is my oldest brother Jeffy's stocking.  He passed away before I was born so I'd actually never seen his stocking until my Mom brought it over with theirs for me to photograph.  It's so sweet, isn't it?  I love how the bell goes along the heel.

And on Christmas Eve I got pictures of my brother Dave's family's stockings.

Dave's childhood stocking had Rudolph on it.  My Mom made him this grown-up one later, and it's covered with Celtic knots and celestial bodies.  She also made Michelle's; Michelle is from Seattle so Mom gave it a Mount Ranier theme.  She also loves soccer, hence the button that dots her "i".  

 I believe these three were store-bought, with the names added later.  We were having so much fun I actually forgot to ask about them!

But this one I know about.  Their fourth child, Freya, was born just this month, on December 1.   I think we are all touched by this because she is (probably) the last cousin/grandchild in the Younce clan, and she shares a birthday with the first, Tona's son Thompson (see this post.)
Hazel holding Freya when she was about a week old.

My Mom created her stocking, a yellow and gold sock with appliqued nativity fabric.  And the best part is, Mom happened to make a trip recently to see Maren's and Tona's families before Christmas.  She took Freya's stocking with her and had each granddaughter (girl cousin) do a part, so they each contributed to it.  My girls also helped when she got back.  So that's a little special aspect of her stocking that represents how much we welcome her and love her.
So that's it!  Another generation of stockings.  Thanks, Grandma.  Love you.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Angels We Have Heard on High

Hazel's been taking guitar lessons for about two months.  It's her first music instruction of any kind besides the this-and-that they teach in public school.  She's learned notes on every string, several chords, basic music terms, and both standard and fret notation.  A few weeks before Christmas, her teacher asked her favorite Christmas song, and wrote out the chords for her.  We practiced sooo much!  Here, at our Christmas Eve family party at my brother's house, is the result of her hard work, her first recital.  Go ahead, sing along...(just follow my lead.)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

What's for Christmas? (pt 2)

Again, mostly for my own record-keeping.  Here's what everyone's getting in their stockings.

All girls:
Clementine in the toe / candy cane on top
Toothbrush & toothpaste
Zhu Zhu hamsters (I got a 3-pack, yay, more batteries!)
Matryoshka ornament with each girl's initial painted on the bottom (I'm kinda crazy for matryoshkas)
Dora sippy cup
Small notebooks for writing/drawing
Coloring book
Lots and lots and lots of fruit snacks

Sparkly pipe cleaners
Jewel stickers
Tic tacs (her favorite church snack)
Skittles (her favorite candy, newly discovered at Halloween)
Charlie & Lola vol. 11 DVD
Wig Out game

Pink guitar ornament (Hazel has been taking lessons for a few months)
Metallic ponytail holders (which I will be borrowing)

Thermos (for taking warm things for lunch; matches her water bottle)
Pretzel M&M's (new favorite candy)
"Principal-for-a-Day" gift certificate (a genius PTA fundraiser)
Charlie & Lola vol. 4 DVD
Paintbrush pens

Ed (always the hardest!):
Single-serving mixed nut packages
Slimfast (he drinks it for breakfast almost every morning - bonus, takes up lots of real estate!)
Gum (big Costco box of Trident)
Travel-size shave gel
Camp soap sheets
The Man from Snowy River soundtrack (we saw the movie on TV a few weeks ago and snuggled and reminisced about how good that movie is, both then and now.  And the music remains amazing.)

Friday, December 23, 2011

What's for Christmas? (pt 1)

This is more for my own record-keeping than anything else, but sometimes it's fun to see what other people are getting their kids for Christmas.  I hope this in no way comes off as bragging; that's not at all how it's intended.  In fact, Ed and I made a conscious effort to downsize Christmas this year.  

I've mentioned before the way our family approaches Santa.  We've always told the kids he is not real, just a fun story.  In this way we hope to separate his part in Christmas from the Savior's, who is in every way very real.  But just because Santa is pretend doesn't mean he isn't fun, so we still do "Santa" gifts and read books about him.  In fact, Ginger is finding her own way this year; she told me she decided he IS real.  (Digression: the other night Ed and I watched a fabulous documentary called Becoming Santa - totally loved it - catch it if you can.)

So.  This year we decided - and told the girls - "Santa" is bringing them each only three presents: 1) something to read, 2) something to wear, 3) something to play with.  You've heard of people doing something like this.  It appealed to me to keep the budget and present quantity in check, and, most importantly, equal.  They will get gifts from each other and relatives, but here is what they're getting from us.

Poppy (20 months)
Read: Grumpy Bird by Jeremy Tankard.  We got this from the library a few years ago and it's one of my favorites for the 2 to 3 age range.

Wear: I don't have a picture.  I got her a few cute things from the sale rack at Carter's.  She's the one kid around here who doesn't really need new clothes.

Play: OK, the "one thing" in each category is a loose guideline.  Poppy got two.  The purse, she picked out herself at Claire's.  Swung it over her shoulder and proclaimed, "MY backpack!"  So I bought it.  The doll may look like a "whatever" toy, but thought went into it - she wanted a baby doll she could take in the bath since all our others have cloth bodies.  Plus it's more her size.  

Ginger (4 1/2)
Read: Tag Reading System - Ginger saw a commercial for this and said she really wanted it.  I hesitated because I'd rather just have regular books and not more battery-operated STUFF around here.  But Ed said let's give it a try so we'll see.
 Wear: a purple flower velour dress, pink dotted "twirly" skirt, and some purple cords

Play: this random multi voice changer thing.  See, one night in early December I gave Ginger and Hazel a stack of well-chosen toy catalogs and told them to circle things they liked.  Then we went over them together, and I created Amazon wishlists for them from the things they circled.  Some made sense; others seemed random.  But it was a great insight into things they were interested in that I never would have guessed.  Of the things Ginger circled, this appealed to me by having no small parts, low injury risk, taking up little space, and hopefully requiring little adult supervision. 
Hazel (6 1/2)
Read: Hazel loves non-fiction, and we don't have a lot of it. At a friend's house, we once saw Explore and Learn books, which are full of age-appropriate facts, descriptions and stories about almost everything a 1st grader could be interested in!  Unfortunately, they are also hard to find.  Southwestern publisher still sells their books by door-to-door salespeople, usually college students in the summer.  LAME!  I found a few used sellers on ebay and the like, but I had to think about the $80+ price tag for the full set of six.  By sheer luck, however, a member on Paperback Swap was trading a full set, and I had enough credits, so voila!  A basically free full set of gorgeous color, thick-paged, great-condition, non-fiction books that I expect our family will get a ton of use out of for years.  Much better than waiting around for a door-to-door salesman to find us!

Wear: Out of the three, Hazel needs clothes the most.  Lots of growing, and no hand-me-downs. Right now she especially needs long-sleeved shirts, so we got her three shirts and a twirly skirt.  All my girls just love to twirl.  And I'm hoping it may inspire her to come around to tights.  (She hates they way they "itch" - very sensitive skin - anyone know of exceptionally soft tights out there?)

Play: a magic set - this fall, Hazel took an afterschool magic class.  I have to admit, I think it was a waste of money.  She came home with a few lame tricks and even more lame jokes.  And a lot of dumb stories about her teacher's life.  But I thought a little set of simple tricks would be just the thing for her budding interest in magic.'s kind of tradition to get one big present the kids can all share.  Last year it was an inflatable bouncer, which we still get out from time to time; it's a great boredom-buster.  This year we got the girls a new dollhouse - I love this chalet model by Plan Toys because you can rearrange the two wings and staircases in several configurations for a different house each time.  Also, with minimal walls, it's more accessible and less dark than more traditional houses. 
However.  Just last week the girls finally earned their Wii they have been working towards for 7 months (see this post.)   And they are pretty into it.  I'm afraid the dollhouse may be trumped.  But it's OK.  I can still play with it :)

Next post - stocking stuffers!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Hung with Care, pt 3

 Isn't this fun?  Here are my sister Tona's family's stockings.  I have to say, I feel especially blessed by this tradition and glad to be writing about it this year.  Because between my last stocking post and this one, my dear Grandma Younce, who started it all by making our own felt stockings in the 1970's, passed away peacefully on December 19.   Which makes it almost exactly 41 years since she made this: 
See, Tona's birthday is December 21 (happy birthday!).  Grandma went ahead and made a gender-neutral stocking, not knowing if the baby would be a boy or a girl.  As soon as she was born, Grandma added the pink and the name at the top, and sent it along for Christmas.  I love that it's a mobile, indicating just how young Tona was when she first received it.

It's a bit of a joke to us, that just as Tona is the smallest Younce, her stocking is also the smallest.  You maybe can't tell in the picture, but it's really quite tiny.  A single clementine takes up the whole toe!

The rest are descriptions in Tona's own words.

Don: This stocking was made by Carol Younce in 1989 for Don, who didn't have one of his own. His family didn’t have our same traditions, of course! It featured Don (with the sequins carefully matched to his actual eye color), skiing downhill into an unsuspecting Santa Claus. The trees are covered with batting snow, and there are jingles on the points of the red top. Front and back are medium-blue felt.

Thompson: Made in 1992 by Mom and myself, this stocking is dark blue front and back (actually darker than this picture suggests, almost navy blue). It features a Hoffman celestial fabric, adorned with extra beading and sequins. The name is gold cording, done by Mom.

Forrest: Made in 1994 of dark green felt front and back, this stocking features folk-art quilted pine trees (obviously a pun on his name) made by my Mom. The top has a plaid fabric, with jingles on the points. The name and hanger are both silk ribbon. Jingle on the toe. Lots of interesting sequins, including several sequin kangaroos.

Jacob: Peace/ Lion and lamb themed stocking rendered in red felt front and back. The lamb is made of shag fake fur and has sequined eyes. They are seated together under a palm tree with gold leaves. Name is written in narrow silk ribbon. Made in 1997 by Tona.

Halle: Made in 2000 by Tona, of dark green felt backing and white felt front. Sequined "ornaments" adorn a polar fleece and corduroy collage of pine boughs. Jingle and tassel toe. Name in burgundy cording.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Art Tuesday - Graham Cracker Houses

Gingerbread and/or graham cracker houses are a must-do holiday tradition for us.  We usually buy a gingerbread house kit somewhere and make it, but I think the little graham cracker ones are more fun.
Among other reasons, they're fun because it's a chance to buy fun, colorful candy you would never buy for any other reason.  For once, it's about looks, not taste.  Threw in a little fine motor work, having the kids cut Twizzlers to size as needed.
Ginger was dying with anticipation as we waited for our friends to arrive.  We happened to have some frosting left over from our Wilton gingerbread house kit, so I didn't have to make any for this activity, but if you want to make these, be aware you can't use regular canned or homemade buttercream frosting.  You need something with meringue powder/powdered egg whites to make it like glue.  You can get meringue powder at Michael's in the cake section, or powdered whites in the baking aisle at the grocery store.  When I make it from scratch, I use this recipe
I made the houses the day before so they would be nice and dry and sturdy for decorating.  A tip on making graham cracker triangles for the front & back of the roof - if you try to cut them out of the package, they will crack.  Lay crackers in a single layer, cover with a damp paper towel, and microwave for about 10 seconds.  This gets the crackers just a little soft.  Cut crackers diagonally with a serrated or very sharp knife to make triangles.  Allow to cool and dry out before using for houses. 
Since completing the project, the girls have been using their houses as additions to our Little People nativity set; the characters travel between the stable and the houses.  Which reminds me of Mortimer's Christmas Manger - you gotta read it if you love nativity sets and/or gingerbread houses. 

And strangely, some of the candy has been mysteriously disappearing from day to day.  I wonder where it's gone...
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