Saturday, December 31, 2011

Christmas in Tucker

The kids barely had time to play with their toys before we started packing up for the 2.5 hour drive to my Dad and Stepmom's house.

I know some might think it a bit crazy to drive yourself out of town at 37 weeks pregnant, but I wasn't worried. First of all, both Jaina and Jayce were born past 40 weeks gestation. Secondly, my labors were 24 hours with both of them. If I *did* happen to go into labor, I was just going to ask one of my relatives to drive me and the kids back home as soon as contractions started. All the worrying and planning was irrelevant, though :)

As soon as we got to town, Kim had a huge Christmas dinner spread for us. My brother Jeff and his girlfriend Pam came over a few minutes later. Unexpectedly, my brother Jason and his girlfriend Cristina made the nasty 10-12 hour drive from Southern Florida to be with us as well. My sister Jami lives in the area, so she was already at my parent's house.

I have to give the kids a lot of credit. Even though they had JUST eaten turkey, stuffing, greenbeans, mac and cheese, and bread at our house for lunch, they turned right back around and ate it again at my parent's house for dinner. No one complained or asked when they could open presents. It might have been a Christmas miracle :P

The next morning we all trekked over to my sister Jami's new-to-her house. Its adorable! The lighting was completely different in each room and I never did get my white balance settings right, so I took the easy way out and processed in black and white.

Breakfast was delicious! Thanks so much Jami! (And I'm sorry I spilled OJ all over your table!)

My stepmom is a potter by hobby and is lucky enough to have her own kiln. My kids had shaped some clay into bowls and cups and trays last time we were there. Now it was time to paint.

Pottery glaze is pretty awesome stuff! It goes on one color and when fired, turns another. Can you guess what color the burnt orangy/red color turns into when fired? I'll post pictures of their finished pottery tomorrow!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas Day 2011

When Brian and I tucked the kids into bed, we reminded them that they needed to stay in bed the next morning until at least 7 AM. No repeats of last year, thankyouverymuch. I'm happy to report that we did not get woken up until a few minutes after 7 this year :) This made for a well-rested mommy and daddy!

I was so afraid the kids would be very disappointed this year. Jaina's BIG gift from us was not something to play with but toy storage instead. And Jayce really wanted an Xbox 360, which is something my husband will NEVER spend his money on, nor let Santa's elves bring into our home. (Brian's a bit anti-microsoft. And honestly, with the way my Windows laptop has been crashing lately, yet my Linux desktop NEVER crashes, I kinda can't blame him).

But the kids were not disappointed.

Jaina received:
-The Zoo stuffed animal toy storage from us
-A remote control barbie convertible from Santa
-A Wappy Dog DSi toy and game from Santa
-A Boom Box/CD/MP3 player from Santa
-Spy Gear from Grandma Gray
-Littlest Pet shop stuff from Gray
-Ninjago Legos from Uncle Jason
-Hex bugs from Aunt Jami
-Pop up Tent from Grandma Kim
-Project Runway fashion kit from Uncle Jeff
-A purple jewelry box from Danielle and Thad

Jayce received:
-A wooden train table from us
-A razor scooter from Santa
-A real (non-electronic) tetris game from Santa
-A remote control helicopter from Santa
-Spy gear from Gray
-Spongebob Legos from Gray
-Ninjago Legos from Uncle Jason
-A box of free play Legos from Danielle and Thad
-An Angry Birds game (non-electronic) from Uncle Jeff
-Hex bugs from Aunt Jami
-Pop up tent from Grandma Kim

I think Jayce's favorite was the helicopter:

Its only been a few days and Jaina's already finished the entire Wappy Dog game. Her dog reached 10 years old, learned all its tricks, and acquired 32 items.

All in all, it was a great Christmas :) Brian received a Professional Liftaway Shark Steam Mop. And I got a Canon Speedlight EX 270 external flash for my camera!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas Eve and 37 weeks

We have a long standing tradition on Christmas Eve. We've been spending it together with Brian's best friend Thad's family for as long as I've known Brian. FT and Nancy, Thad's parents, are the closest thing Brian has to local family and it just seems natural to spend holidays with them.

They treat spoil our children like their own grandchildren.

Before we left to celebrate Christmas Eve, I let the kids open their new pajamas from Gymboree.  This the first year that they were not a surprise. The kids were actually with me when I was at the mall and picked them out themselves. I was disappointed that Jaina went with a non-Christmasy theme for hers, but she's really into the hot chocolate line that Gymboree carried a few months ago.

Then we were off!

Oh my goodness... someone actually bought my husband a chain saw!!! What was Nancy thinking????

Danielle and I took belly shots :)

She's 35 weeks:

I was about to turn 37 weeks the next day:

It has been awesome having a pregnancy buddy to share my complaints with!

It was a very merry Christmas eve!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Still alive and no baby yet :)

My internet friends are having a 6th sense about when I'll go into labor. Even some of my "in real life" friends are thinking that this baby will come in 2011. Who knows? I keep telling everyone not to get their hopes up! Jaina was 11 days past due and Jayce was 4. I'm a firm believer in letting babies come when they are ready!

Now that Christmas is over, I'd really be okay with a baby any time.

I was supposed to go see my midwife for my 37 week appointment (3 days late), but got a horrible case of stomach cramping this afternoon and ended up canceling. I feel as though a plague is upon my town. Every time I check Face Book, all I see is my friends saying, "Oh no... its strep" or "All three of my kids have RSV!" or "Stomach bug strikes again".

Even the little 14 month old I keep has not been to my house in two weeks. She had 8 whole days of throwing up and required IV fluids. Although she is feeling better now, we agreed that I would just start watching her again when my kids go back to school. You know, if I don't have a newborn by then :)

I'll be back soon with pictures... Christmas Eve at our friends' house, Christmas morning excitement, and our Staska Family Christmas in Tucker.

But for now, I'm going to go read a book and go to bed. Because you never know if I'll wake up to contractions one of these days :)

Saturday, December 24, 2011


We travel down to Columbia twice a year to visit EdVenture Children's museum. this year we were bummed because the Snow Land exhibit was closed :( But the kids really liked the new Wags and Whiskers vet exhibit :)

Getting our Bake On.

I'm a firm believer that if you can read, you can cook.

Please note that I said, "Cook" and not "bake".

Baking is a whole nother concept. There's science and methods involved. If you don't get one aspect right (for example, cutting up your butter or shorting into correctly sized pieces), your entire product fails.

I am a pretty decent cook when I feel like it :) I know how to use fresh ingredients and seasoning. I rarely over or under-cook something anymore. I know which sides go best with some main dishes.

Baking, on the other hand, is not my forte at all. I pretty much suck at it. It took me an entire year (of people showing me what to do) to learn how to bake a loaf of bread. And I STILL can't bake biscuits from scratch. I've watched my stepmom a million times, but my biscuits still turn out like hard discs. I tried my hand at pie crust a few months ago and Jaina tentatively ate some of it and said, "Um, this doesn't taste like anything." I had to convince her the next time I made cinnamon squares that I really did use the Pillsbury pre-made refrigerated dough and it was okay to eat this time.

So, I usually bake for the holiday. We have 8 wonderful neighbors in our 'hood that we like to give things to. Plus our dog groomer: we can't forget her!

This year I was going to make the following:
-cheese cake brownies
-gingerbread men
-two kinds of cupcakes
-peanut butter cookies
-chocolate chip cookies
-chocolate crinkles
-decorated sugar cookies

Then I realized two things.
A. When the hell was I going to have time to do all this? The chocolate crinkle dough alone takes 3 hours including prep and chill time.
B. The canisters I bought wouldn't hold more than a handful of items.

So I scrapped the brownies, the chocolate cupcakes, and the chocolate chip cookies. Oh, and the sugar cookies, too. I just added some frosting to the gingerbread trees (not men) and called it a day.

Last year, I used "whipped" peanut butter for my buckeyes. And what a puddly goopy mess they were! I learned the hard way that it really does matter what kind of peanut butter you use! They still tasted good, but looked so awful I couldn't give them away. This year, I loved how they turned out :) I forgot to take a picture, though.

Now, I've never made Chocolate Crinkles before. I remembered how my stepmom would make them each  year. I called her for the recipe (thinking it was some sort of Gunnels-family secret that's been passed down for generations) and she told me to look in my Betty Crocker Spiral cookbook. Oh, there they are. On page 122. With a picture and everything!

The first thing I noticed about my cookie dough is that it wasn't very dark. I can't remember what kind of chocolate the recipe called for, but I was trying to use up my ghiradelli baking squares so I just melted some of that to put in.

They should be a lot darker than those in the picture. They taste "okay", but really don't have the same chocolate flavor that I remember. That's what I get for not following the recipe to the letter!

We also baked Gingerbread men for us to eat and trees for our neighbors to receive.

I'm happy to report that all of our Gingerbread men made it from cookie sheet to table without any casualties. It is rare that I don't brake a few in transport.

Cookie decorating is always more fun with friends, so we invited Allie and Caleb over to join us. Why I didn't get a picture of Allie and Jayce together is beyond me!

We also decorated a Gingerbread house the other day when Jaina had her sleepover. I did NOT bake this. If I had, it would have been a disaster.

 So, despite being almost 37 weeks pregnant, I was determined to still keep our family baking and decorating traditions. All I can say is "Thank goodness this baby is easier to take care of on the inside!" I couldn't imagine doing this with a newborn! I have a feeling our January is going to entail lots of fast food, take out, lunchables, and cereal :)