{Trip Report} NYC Holiday Style

I’m sooo behind on my trip reports! Since December I’ve been to NYC, FL, and Lake Placid; plus, I have another trip in a week. I must get cracking! Okay, so here we go….. All last year I thought about going to NYC for a weekend. Originally, I hoped to go in June. But, plans fell through. As the year grew older, I realized that a holiday trip would be ideal. Christmas decorations make the city such a magical place, so in December I made the trek with some beautiful friends of mine. 

DAY 1: With Dunkin Donuts coffees and a full tank of diesel, Keri (my next door neighbor) and I set off for NYC in the morning in my trusty Jetta. The drive through NY, PA, and NJ was mostly boring, though we did cut through some mountains near the end of the four hour trek. We opted to stop once for some lunch and a bathroom break. I had no desire to drive into Manhattan or compete with the aggressive taxi drivers, so I valet parked at Seacacus Junction at exit 15x off the NJ highway. As we unloaded our bags, the valet raised an eyebrow, and questioned us: “and HOW long are you staying?!” Okay, so we may have packed a ton of shoes and wine, but this was a much needed girls trip! We definitely regretted our packing choices as we lugged those heavy bags around the train station, then on the NJ train to Penhttps://leighuf.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=1044&action=edit&message=10n Station, and THEN to the Metro, and THEN on the E train, and FINALLY the three blocks to our hotel. Both Keri and I had sore muscles the rest of the trip, but we had plenty of wine. And shoes.

Packing Must Haves

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Christmas Cards are DONE!

<sigh of relief> The Christmas cards have been mailed. I’m DONE signing my name, licking envelopes, and attaching address labels. I don’t know how many cards in total we did this year but it’s over 100. Over half of the cards are for family and friends and the others are for Budweiser people. If you don’t get a card, no hard feelings! I can’t even imagine sending a card out to everyone we know. I’d be licking envelopes for MONTHS! 🙂 This year I handmade cards for family and friends and sent out store-bought cards (with a picture of Xander) for work friends/associates. I had some ‘glue issues’ with the hand made ones, so I apologize if you were a recipient of the bad glue cards. Note: DON’T use clear glue pens with photos. At least not the Elmer glue variety. The handmade cards were built from Hobby Lobby products (creme cardstock cards, La Creme mats for the photos, and black & teal envelopes). The photo of Xander was taken with my lovely Canon Rebel (which I LOVE) and enhanced in Photoshop CS4. I added the lens correction filter to the photo to create the vignette. I created the wording for the inside of the card in Photoshop, too, using the following fonts: Outlaw, Mailrat Rubberstamp, Scriptina, Century Gothic, and Enchanted Prairie Dog. All available on dafont.com for free. Hope everyone has their cards done and in the mail too. I must admit I love receiving cards but hate the work that goes into sending my own. I might be sending E-cards next year!

Let there be peace on earth!

Nearly done glueing, stamping, and licking!

Christmas Activities with Toddlers

Nick spent the weekend away in Atlanta for the SEC Championship (Gators lost- don’t talk about it) so with the weather barely reaching above freezing, I needed ideas of things to do with Xander. He’s in the ‘not taking a nap phase’ and if he does nap, then he doesn’t fall asleep until 10pm. Sure, I had plenty of outings planned like visiting the local animal farm and a train depot… but he needed ACTIVITIES at home to keep his little hands occupied. I did some research on the laptop when his eyes were occupied (watching Little Bear on Nick Jr.) and discovered a great informative list on about.com. Click HERE to read it. We’re working our way through the list. See below.

Making Gingerbread men. The recipe on the website is low fat and yes, it TASTES low fat. Low fat=eating cardboard. The recipe is easy to make and roll but it isn’t very tasty.

Candy Cane Decorating. Xander loved hanging these on our Christmas Tree. My rule is that he’s only allowed to touch the candy canes (no ornaments). Unfortunately he broke more candy canes than he put on the tree. Thank goodness they are cheap!

Playing with green playdough. I love homemade playdough. It lasts longer than store-bought varieties and it’s moister and softer too. I didn’t have red food coloring so I only made green. Hint: add cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice to make brown, smelly playdough. My fool proof recipe is 2 cups Flour, 2 Cups warm water, 1 Cup table salt, 2 TBs vegetable oil, and 1 TB creme of tartar. Combine all ingredients in a pot and stir constantly over low heat. After nearly 15 minutes the dough will come away from the sides of the pot. When no longer sticky, take out and kneed. Add spices or food coloring at this time. And kneed until mixed. Store in a ziplock bag after use. It keeps forever! Beware, don’t allow pets to eat it! It induces immediate vomiting. Kali, our dog, has learned the hard way. Many times.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Here are some photos from our Saint Louis Christmas so far. Hope everyone is having an awesome day!! Gotta run and start the beef, roasted potatoes, and Yorkshire puds!

Xanders new tricycle

Xander's new tricycle

Xanders tool bench. Hes building something important!

Xander's tool bench. He's building something important!

his new Elmo table

his new Elmo table

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

Twas the Night Before Christmas…

Tomorrow is Christmas. Tonight we will finish assembling Xander’s gifts and will then wrap them. I will also bake my Mom’s famous cheesecake for our big Christmas meal tomorrow. Other than that, Nick and I plan to watch a movie and enjoy the fire in our wood burning fireplace. Xander is still too young to really understand Christmas but we expect that next year’s Christmas will be when we introduce Xander to the various holidays traditions– cookies for Santa etc.  Tomorrow we will be on Skype– our username is NickLeighXander. Give us a buzz to say Hi!

Here’s my favorite Christmas song: My Grown-Up Christmas List.

2 Days Until Christmas

Christmas is almost here! Nick’s now officially off work for the rest of the week. The Christmas cards are mailed, most presents are wrapped, and holiday baking has come to an end. This year, for the neighbors and mailman, I made pecan shortbread, fudge, and jam thumbprints. I’ve been making the fudge for 6 years in a row– it’s foolproof and yummy. So, here’s the recipe in case you want to give it a try!

Yummy Fudge

Ingredients:

Directions:

LINE 8-inch-square baking pan with foil.

COMBINE sugar, evaporated milk, butter and salt in medium, heavy-duty saucepan. Bring to a full rolling boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil, stirring constantly, for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

STIR in marshmallows, morsels, nuts and vanilla extract. Stir vigorously for 1 minute or until marshmallows are melted. Pour into prepared baking pan; refrigerate for 2 hours or until firm. Lift from pan; remove foil. Cut into 48 pieces.

FOR MILK CHOCOLATE FUDGE:
SUBSTITUTE
1 3/4 cups (11.5-oz. pkg.) NESTLE® TOLL HOUSE® Milk Chocolate Morsels for Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels.

FOR BUTTERSCOTCH FUDGE:
SUBSTITUTE
1 2/3 cups (11-oz. pkg.) NESTLE® TOLL HOUSE® Butterscotch Flavored Morsels for Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels.

FOR PEANUTTY CHOCOLATE FUDGE:
SUBSTITUTE
1 2/3 cups (11-oz. pkg.) NESTLE® TOLL HOUSE® Peanut Butter & Milk Chocolate Morsels for Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels and 1/2 cup chopped peanuts for pecans or walnuts.

3 days Until Christmas

Last week we took Xander to see Santa at our local mall. It didn’t go over well. Ever since a weird incident at a Largo, FL Whataburger fast food joint with a deranged homeless man, Xander has been afraid of unfamiliar men. Santa was no different. He refused to sit on Santa’s lap, and he refused to sit on Nick’s lap next to Santa. With the help of a book, Elmo, and a sneaky Santa (aka: Santa goes bye-bye then sneaks up behind Xander for the photo when Xander isn’t looking), we finally got a snapshot of Xander with Santa Claus for the scrapbook.

5 Days Until Christmas

After searching the newspaper for ‘things-to-do’, our little family of three headed to Belleville, Illinois to see the million-odd Christmas lights hung at a local Shrine. The light display was free (unlike some others in the Saint Louis area) but accepted donations at the end of the drive-through display (we donated all the cash we had in our wallets– a total of 3 dollars. hehe). They also had camel rides and a free petting zoo. We parked half way through the display and walked over to the petting zoo. The wind chill tonight was in in the 20s, so we had to bundle up. Xander loved seeing and feeding the various animals… yaks, sheep, a camel, goats etc. He just loves petting zoos! Here are some photos from the night.