Tag Archives: Traditions

Is it too Late to Say “Happy New Year”?

Yes, I am three days late but I still can not miss the chance to wish you HAPPY NEW YEAR!  A BLESSED New Year full of promise and adventure. I am so hoping yours started a lot “healthier” than ours did, which brings me to the culprit behind the belated salutation – a nasty virus. For your own sake, I will say no more about it.

Despite that which I will not speak of (nasty virus), the Holiday season is still in full swing around here … siggghhhh. Yep, full swing. Long ago, crazy newlywed me thought it would be sweet to humor my adorable new husband and agree that the festivities (including decorations) shouldn’t end (or get put away) until after his early (but not nearly early enough) January birthday. I love Christmas. I love my house all done up for Christmas. I also love the fresh start of the New Year and am at this point I.T.C.H.I.N.G. to get the decorations down and the house put back in order (well as ‘in order’ as it ever is). Truth be told, with the uhum … nasty virus… it wouldn’t have all been put away by now anyway but I still find myself longing for that fresh clean slate. Silly, I know. My husband doesn’t ask for much so the Christmas lights twinkling into mid-January really isn’t that big of a deal.

So, how do the Brewers ring in the New Year? With food, of course. Even when we’re sick. We also celebrate at home in our PJs with our kids, a roaring fire, a good movie and a few fireworks (not the incendiary kind, the pop and leave steamers of colorful confetti paper all over the yard kind) wondering who will actually make it to midnight. Exciting? Maybe not, but it is my favorite kind of party and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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That is how I grew up and I have very happy memories of New Year’s Eve. I want the same for my kids. My dad was a ski-area manager so he worked late into New Year’s Eve and then was back up the mountain at the crack of dawn New Years Day. Needless to say, my parents didn’t party like rock stars, everything they did was family oriented. I think that is why I am the same way; that and the fact that I am over 40 with three young kids and could no longer party like a rock star even if I wanted to. Say what you will about keeping your mojo but I am good with my jammies and my slippers.

My mom always made the evening special for my sister and I. First of all, we got to have Dr. Pepper. For us, soda was a treat and a whole can of Dr. Pepper was a BIG deal! I actually drank a Dr. Pepper this year and it was heavenly! Partly because my throat hurt so badly it was the only thing that sounded good. Is it just me or is there something delightful about carbonation on a sore throat? She always put out fancy little finger foods and festive plates and napkins. Just to make it special. Just for us. My kids had a blast with the plastic champagne flutes that I bought just for them.

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Our feast this year consisted of pigs in a blanket, mini-quiche, cheese tarts and hot wings with homemade blue cheese dressing, sparkling cider and a little bit of good Cabernet (it was New Year’s Eve, I had a virus, I wasn’t dead).

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I had planned on making French Onion Soup from a recipe I found on one of my very favorite blogs, My French Heaven by Stephane Gabart, but I could only muster enough culinary gumption for heat and serve. I think the soup is on the menu for tonight, I am so excited to try it!

David helped me make the favorite of the night, pigs in a blanket which were created out of 7 hot dogs I had in the fridge and puff pastry from the spare freezer. You can do just about anything if you have puff pastry in the freezer.

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I told him seam side down (even showed him) but he’s eight and in the end, liked the crazy pastry puffs sticking out the side anyway.

We did fireworks at about 9pm as making it to midnight wasn’t looking good for any of us.

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Happy-New-Year-7He looks a little scruffy ruggedly handsome (he’s been sick) but it was such a cute picture that I had to put it in.

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If his feet aren’t bare, they are in flip-flops.

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I think they look like Charlie’s Angels in this picture, if Charlie’s Angels were under the age of 11 and two of them were boys.

So that was our New Year’s Rockin’ Eve!

Who made it to midnight? Nathan … and Gary and I, but only because Nathan did.

I am so excited for 2013 and have so much to look forward to and share here on this little blog that I have come to love writing so much. Thank you for encouraging and supporting me. Thank you for reading and liking my posts for sharing them on Facebook and Pinterest and for leaving your comments that are so important to me. I have made some wonderful connections since I started this new venture in October and I can’t wait to see where 2013 takes me.

A few things to watch for in the coming months …

More on the Hacienda, the fixer-upper that only I would be crazy enough to take on (well my husband and I – he is either crazy too or just really loves me). Next up, master bathroom remodel.

Many, many more recipes as I am finally going to put together the family cookbook that I have wanted to do for so long.

My love/hate (mostly love until I’ve been shredded by a Palo Verde branch) relationship with gardening in the desert and the creatures that inevitably visit us on the “Brewer Nature Preserve”.

Healthy food and fitness posts as I am going to try not to get any chubbier in the process of writing a cookbook and testing recipes.

Lots of memories and stories and of course, faith and family life including, but not limited to, all the birthday parties, holidays, celebrations, mischief, mishaps and mayhem you can stand. Inevitably, there will be some posts that will really only interest our grandmas but they are part of our story and our memories which is a big part, the biggest part, of what this is all about.

Thanks for joining us on the journey. As always, you are Welcome Company!

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Noodles’ Christmas 2012 Final Report

This is Noodles the Scout Elf reporting in from the North Pole where I am enjoying a little R & R after a very busy Christmas at the Brewer house. I had so much fun with my family this year and I miss them so much since my departure on Christmas Eve. There was so much to do, so much to explore and so many fun things to play with – I can hardly wait until next year! But for now, here is my final report for 2012 and a few highlights from some of my most memorable moments and favorite adventures.

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Advent is a wonderful tradition, I loved hearing the “Christmas Story” and getting to enjoy a piece of candy from behind the little red door each night. My kids like it too!

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Candy is by far my favorite elven food group!

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One of my favorite and most daring adventures was defending the castle and the princess from the fire-breathing dragon. Yes, you heard right the FIRE BREATHING DRAGON.

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There he is … The FIRE BREATHING DRAGON! And you thought I wasn’t serious. Later, I was even knighted by the queen (she’s the one there in the purple and yellow gown) for my bravery. So I guess that officially makes me “Sir Noodles”. Santa was so proud!

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I did a little decorating. Elves are known for their tree trimming skills.

Boy, I was having so much fun and then, on Friday, December 14th, something really terrible happened and a lot of little kids and their teachers died. And my heart was broken.

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And all I could think about was how much my kids mean to me and how I needed to let them know I love them and am watching out for them. My family prayed a lot for those families in Connecticut and I don’t know if they know it but I was praying too.

The next night was hard too. My family was gone for a Christmas Party and sleep overs. I missed them so much but did a little tidying up to keep myself busy. I tell you, that sweet “little one” must have re-arranged the “Merry Christmas” blocks a thousand times. Fixing-Blocks

But I put things back in order, and he left me a little piece of his cookie as he rushed by to play the Wii. Funny, after I fixed them, he never touched the blocks again. I sure do love him.

The next night, I was eager to make a new friend so I paid a visit to this really cool house I saw while I was busy defending the castle from the FIRE BREATHING DRAGON – remember that? I did tell you about the FIRE-BREATHING DRAGON, didn’t I?

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Anyway, about the really cool house, turns out there’s this girl who lives there, her name is Barbie. She said I could drive her car so we could go look at Christmas lights but the elevator in her house was broken so she couldn’t get down. Luckily, the “Rescue Heroes” were near by and were happy to give us a hand. And then we were off …

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to enjoy the Christmas lights and share a candy cane.

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And then I returned her home, safe and sound. She let me keep the car a little longer.

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Did you know Barbie’s Dream House has the best bath tub EVER! Barbie was kind enough to let me borrow it. We elves love to take marshmallow baths you know. You really should try it sometime, Marshmallow baths are the best!

The next night was Sara’s 11th Birthday.

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Elves LOVE birthdays, after all Christmas is Jesus’ Birthday and He is the reason we celebrate. I gave Sara a beautiful scarf that I brough back from the North Pole. She LOVED it and wore it out to her birthday dinner at the Cheesecake Factory that night. Here’s the best part, my family came home with leftover cheesecake (those pieces are huge) and one of them was Peppermint Bark – MY FAVORITE! How did they know?

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I told you a was going to take that helicopter for a spin. It was soooo much fun!! That chicken on top of the ledge in the kitchen was pretty interesting too, he has some good ideas on solar energy and clean fuel.

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I did a lot of visiting this Christmas and stopped by this quaint little village to chat with the very tiny but oh, so friendly people who live there. I still can’t figure out how Santa does the whole chimney thing though.

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One night, I watched my favorite move of ALL TIME! I love popcorn!

Oh, I can’t forget! Remember that FIRE-BREATHING DRAGON, I think I might have mentioned him …

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well, I trained him and am now a certified Dragon Rider. Here we are with our friend Griffin just hangin’ out on the chandelier.

Before I knew it, it was Christmas Eve and time for me to say goodbye.

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My kids aren’t perfect but they sure do try hard and are so funny and I love them so much. I want to be sure they remember me, a year is a long time after all, so I left each of them a little something special.

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Well, until next year, this is Noodles the Elf, or Sir Noodles the Dragon Rider – whichever you prefer, signing off!

May you have a blessed and wonderful 2013.

And Keep Believing!

“Simply Having A Wonderful Christmastime”

My blog has officially been neglected. I can’t believe it has been ten days since I last posted but as usual, Christmas has gotten away from me. My efforts at planning, preparation and time management were just not enough to accomplish all that I piled on my plate. This is not unusual. I am a work in progress. The good news is despite one visit from Monica (read about her here)  and a few sleepless nights, I truly had a wonderful and blessed Christmas. Now, after a couple of days to regroup and renew, which included a much-needed “Castle” marathon on TNT, I am back and am excited to share some of the highlights of our Christmas.

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For us, Christmas starts immediately after Thanksgiving when the trees, garland and lights go up. I love decking the halls and tend to over do it (shocking, I know) but it is always festive – not always finished, but festive none the less. Christmas-Decorating-3

The Christmas Tree(s). My husband likes colored lights and I like white lights so we compromised long ago and decided to do two trees. Is that truly a compromise? A fancy tree with white lights in the main living area and a fun and festive tree with colored lights in the family room. Truth be told, I love them both.

Decorating the family room tree or “kid tree” as we now call it, is a big family tradition complete with hot cocoa and Christmas songs on the radio. Just as my mom did when I was a kid, I put up the garland and the lights and then daddy and the kids hang the ornaments (and then I move the ornaments to more suitable locations after they go to bed) …

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Nathan has the honor of putting the star on top of the tree, with a little help from daddy of course.

Along with decorating, there is always a lot of baking to be done this time of year. A LOT! This year, I baked for friends, for charity, for parties and for family and neighbors. The good new is when you bake so many cookies, after a while, the last thing you want to do is eat one. I wish the same could be said of french fries.Cookies

We also enjoyed lots of celebrations and parties including a couple of birthday parties right smack in the middle of all the hustle and bustle – but that is for another post.

We enjoyed giving to others.

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You are never to young to experience the joy of giving.

And we remembered what had been lost …

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Two of the little boys killed in the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut were Tiger Cubs in the local Cub Scout Pack, one of the first responders was their den leader, one of the lost teachers had been a Venture Scout and three other scouts lost siblings that day. We remembered them at our Cub Scout Christmas Party by taking donations and cards and letters of sympathy and well-wishes.

As we remember what has been given …

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We also celebrated ongoing traditions and started new ones, like our first year with Noodles, the elf on the shelf.Bob-the-Elf-Rock-Climbing

This is Bob, the imposter elf, rock climbing on the fireplace. You can read about Noodles and Bob here.

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A gift from Noodles when he departed Christmas Eve. Watch for his final Christmas Post for 2012 as he will share the last of his antics and adventures while visiting with us.

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Dressed up and heading out for Christmas Eve services.

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Comfy and cozy in Christmas Eve pajamas and new slippers.

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Opening gifts Christmas Morning.

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Santa even left a little something for Gracie.

So much to be thankful for and so many things I want to remember about this Christmas.

Nathan’s first eggnog and the pure delight that washed over his face as he smelled and then tasted, exclaiming “mmmmm, it is sooooo good! Like bubble gum milk!”

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Funny guy.

The generous hearts of my kids as they showed immediate willingness when asked to give up Christmas gifts and instead spend the money to help others. How they were still filled with joy and understanding as we talked about that decision Christmas morning and remembered why there were only a few presents to be opened.

Christmas Eve services when it was announced that our church met our goal of digging 8 deep water wells and feeding ALL of the vulnerable children and orphans in one of the poorest and most ravaged regions of Malawi Africa. And when it was revealed that at last count we were actually tens of thousands of dollars over the goal, my son said “WOW! Now maybe some of those children can even have seconds!” He knows that to them, life is one cup of porridge each day and his heart was hoping some might get to have another. It truly is better to give than to receive.

The beautiful Christmas stockings my sister Dana made for my kids that were just like the ones our grandmother had made for us. Look for this story in a future post.

Nathan talking to my mom on the phone and asking her why she hadn’t come home for Christmas because he thinks her home is or at least should be with us.

My deconstructed Christmas Eve dinner because I just couldn’t do it ALL. Another future post.

The hugs and thanks of elderly neighbors for the gift of a simple plate of cookies and of being remembered. I need to remember to visit them more often.

There are also a few things I have learned this Christmas …

We gave up a lot and we didn’t miss any of it, kids included. We can give more.

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If you don’t open the damper on the fireplace, merry and bright become stinky and hazy.

No one notices or has less of a Merry Christmas because you were never able to finish the outside lighting and finally gave up and boxed it all back up and put it in the garage. Let it go.

When you have two little boys, two scooters are better than one – luckily, David was easily convinced that it would be a good idea to spend his Christmas money from grandparents on a scooter of his own.

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Yes, we ride scooters in flip-flops and Wellies.

Burgundy mushrooms are definitely worth getting up at 6am to start so they can simmer in butter and wine for nine hours. Pioneer Woman’s Burgundy Mushrooms.

The answer is five. Five years old is the age when you finally work up the courage to ask Santa for the scooter and monster truck you are hoping for instead of bursting into tears and burying your face in your mom or dad’s shoulder while clinging to them for dear life when he asks you what you want.

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At five years old, you are a big boy.

If I can’t get my family to eat brussels sprouts that are baked in a creamy cheesy gratin then I am NEVER going to get my family to eat brussels sprouts. Brussels Sprouts Gratin with Carmellized Shallots.

Hot cocoa is best with a little bit of fresh nutmeg grated over the whipped cream.

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I know this as well, next year I may or may not improve my time management skills. I will probably be exhausted again and over do it and despite my best efforts, Martha may try to take over and Monica might even show up a time or two. I also know that despite all of that, I will continue to seek the true meaning of the season and will be ever grateful for the Savior who came and died that I might have everlasting life. I am imperfect. He is not.

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Merry Christmas.

May you find peace and contentment in these last few days of the season. God Bless.

Noodles’ Weekly Elf on the Shelf Update

I can’t believe I met my family just a week ago, it seems like I’ve known them forever – I already love them so much! I have three kids; Sara, she’ll be 11 soon and I can hardly wait for her birthday party, David is 8 and is so clever and funny like me and Nathan is 5 and is so lovable and full of energy, hey, he’s like me too! And of course, mom and dad and Gracie the Dog too.

I have had great fun keeping them all guessing, getting into things and watching over them. On Monday night, after I reported to Santa at the North Pole, I flew back and went fishing for Swedish Fish in this cool pond right below the shelf I first landed on to introduce myself.

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Did you know that candy canes are not just one of the four food groups? They make great fishing poles too! And then you can eat them when you are done fishing, which is awesome.

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Boy did the kids think I was funny and clever when they found me the next morning. Funny though, the dog seemed a little confused and kept sniffing around the pond. Maybe she likes Swedish Fish too.

Noodles-ReminderThat first day, the kids had a little trouble being nice to each other and listening to their mom so I thought a little fun and friendly reminder of what Santa expects was in order. I even sat on a cool silver sled so that mom could move me easily in case anyone seemed eager to touch me.

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Night number three. I could not longer resist the cookies mom had been baking (after all, I am an elf and for us the four food groups are candy, candy canes, candy corn and syrup) and I was just sure she wouldn’t mind if I helped myself to just one. Boy am I so glad I did!

Noodles-Advent-ConspiracyI’ve heard my family talking a lot about something their church does at Christmas time. It is called Advent Conspiracy. The boys came home on Sunday with cups and the family has been putting coins and dollars into them to collect money to feed orphans and vulnerable children in Africa. I knew the kids would love it if I helped out. What I didn’t know is how good it would make me feel too. Now I understand why my family wants to celebrate what Christmas is really about and Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More, and Love All. I can’t wait to tell Santa all about it and about how generous the hearts of my kids are.Noodles-in-Spidey-MobileSince I arrived, I have been eyeballing all of the fast cars around here and finally, the need for speed got the best of me and I had to take one out for a spin. The Spidey Mobile was AWESOME!! I remember seeing a helicopter around here somewhere, but I was going so fast I can’t remember where. I’ll have to look for it because I’m definitely going to need to try that!Noodles-and-Baby-Jesus

My reports back to Santa have been mostly good. I’ve had to tell him of a little bit of bickering and fighting, back talk and messy rooms but I’ve also gotten to tell him of how much love my kids have and about their big hearts for Jesus. About how they pray and say they are sorry and try hard to do what is right. I love my kids and am so happy I get to be their elf.

Be sure to stop back by and see what crazy antics I come up with next week! I have heard rumors that I might be getting some “work done”, a little velcro to my hands, some wire in my arms and legs for increased flexibilty. I’ll be like a bionic elf or Wolverine. I like that, WOLVERINE, it has a nice ring to it.

Love,

Noodles, Elf on the Shelf

Introducing Noodle the Elf on the Shelf

This year, “Elf Management” has been added to my seasonal resume; along with Head Baker, Interior Decoration Supervisor, Exterior Decoration Assistant, Lighting Designer, Personal Shopper, Party Planner, Event Planning and Coordination, Stylist, Hostess,  Executive Chef, Head Wrapper, Card Designer, Christmas Letter Writer and Keeper of Traditions.

Elf Management means that yesterday, our family officially adopted an “Elf on the Shelf” and named him Noodle. In true Brewer fashion, the beginning of this tradition was anything but simple.

I knew it would be. That is why I haven’t attempted the Elf on the Shelf Tradition before now. The fact is that no one in the under ten crowd around here just goes with the flow, accepts anything without a thorough line of questioning or is likely to “buy into” the idea of a tiny plastic elf watching their behavior, coming to life at night and flying to the North Pole and reporting to Santa. They all believe in Santa (although David has begun relentlessly questioning Santa’s legitimacy) but that is because he is a part of their own imaginations and is not sitting on a shelf where he can be scrutinized and inspected for authenticity.

Initially, it was my overly analytical, slightly cynical, too smart for his own good eight year old that I was most concerned about. I was absolutely convinced there was no way he was going to buy into this and I tried my best to prepare for the barrage of questions I would get from him.

Why would Santa need an elf to watch us? Can’t he just check the naughty/nice list? How did he know before? We never had and elf before. Or maybe he isn’t actually real. Challenging head tilt, penetrating stare. Why does it look so fake? How can it just sit there all day? How can it see and hear us if it is frozen? Does it eat? Does it go to the bathroom? How can it know what I do at school or when I am not in same room or when I am outside or when I am beamed up into a space ship, kidnapped by aliens and transported to a distant planet where they make copies of my giant overly inquisitive brain to implant in their robot army? How? Why? How? Why? How? How? How?

Do you see why I ramble?

To make matters worse, I messed up from the get-go. I decided to buy the plush elf doll rather than the little plastic version. I thought it was cuter and a little less creepy than the plastic doll which, truth be told, is a little creepy. Also, I really didn’t want to spend $29.99 for the book and the elf. So, I opted for the plush one which as it turns out is actually just intended to be a toy the kids can play with since the cardinal “Elf on the Shelf” rule is NO TOUCHING your elf, making him off-limits for playing.

Bob-The-Imposter-for-blogBob, the soft and cuddly imposter Elf. Nathan now calls him Chippy.

I could have lived with this except for the simple fact that the plush one doesn’t look remotely like it could watch you all day and then come to life when you are asleep and the plastic one does (a little) – which is probably why it is creepy. My friend Eileen introduced Elf on the Shelf to her kids this year too and her 4-year-old daughter won’t go anywhere near it, won’t even enter the room it is in. Just a little creepy.

Trying to pull this off with the plush elf was just not going to happen. A.) my children would never buy it (see reasons stated above) and B.) I have a five-year-old who loves all things soft and cuddly, has severe impulse control issues and is incredibly resourceful, rendering this irresistible plush toy elf useless in my attempts to implement this Christmas charade tradition.

I tried it, here’s how it went.

I placed the plush elf on the middle shelf of my baker’s rack with the “Elf Story” DVD and a note that read, “Hi, I am your elf. Sent by Santa to watch over you. Please give me a name, but don’t touch me or I’ll lose my magic. Watch my movie to learn more about me.” Remember, I was too cheap to buy the book and I thought the “visual” might be more convincing. I was wrong. After the video, Nathan walked up to the shelf, poked the elf in the leg and said “Dat not real. Dat not like the moobie. Dat haff noooo magic.” And then David (the skeptical 8-year-old) screams “NAAAATHAN TOUCHED THE ELF. DON’T TOUCH THE ELF. YOU CAN’T TOUCH THE ELF. HIS MAGIC IS GONE!!!!” Nathan, sensing he is being accused of a terrible crime, shoves David to the ground and shouts back “IT NOT REAL, DAVID!” David, “YES IT IS, Nathan, you always mess everything up!!”

David is now asking me in a very worried voice, “will he have elf friends who can get him get to the hospital at the North Pole?” (this is what happened in the elf movie). To which Nathan yells from his room (where he is now sitting on his bed in time-out) “DAVID, IT NOT REAL! – I TOLL! YOU! DAT!” And then, suddenly, David looks at me with relief as a great realization washes over him“Wait, wait, we’re okay. The movie said that the elves don’t get their magic until they are named. We haven’t named ours yet so he didn’t have his magic yet when Nathan touched him so he had no magic to lose. So once we name him, he’ll have magic and it will be okay.  Nathan from his room, “DAVID. It not real.”

Ironically, it was Nathan who ended up naming our elf. In an attempt to convince him and get him onboard, I asked him what he wanted to name the elf and he said, “I no, no (I don’t know)? Maybeeeee NOODLES!” Perfect, we all loved it. Noodles it is. But he still wasn’t buying it which was evidenced when he touched Noodles on the leg right after having named him. Poof. Magic gone. David beside himself. Sara rolling her eyes, looking at us all like we are lunatics (in the way only a nearly “tween” can) and stating “I’m going to my room to watch Ant Farm (tween girl show).”

Wow. I have grossly misjudged this on so many levels.

What am I going to do now? In an effort at damage control and salvaging this “Happy Christmas Tradition” it became obvious that it would be necessary to introduce the “real thing”. After church, I left the kids with a friend and ran to Target to purchase the $29.99 elf/book combo bringing my grand total for this new adventure to, well, more than it needed to be. Incidentally, they only had girl elves left. I do have a daughter but she is almost eleven (more later on God’s sense of humor at giving me a  daughter with a birthday the week before Christmas) and more interested in Ant Farm, so I was looking for a boy elf. I bought the girl just in case and drove to two other places that had nothing but dust and a few pieces of lint where all the elves had been. Girl elf it is, the skirt is sold separately and I’ll paint over her ear-rings, they’ll never know.

To introduce the “real” elf without completely losing all credibility and hope of belief, I came up with this letter:

Dear Family,

I am your true elf and today I’m making my appearance. I heard there were children here who might not believe so I placed a stuffed elf to fill in for me. I wanted to sit hidden, quiet and neat to see what I would see, how an elf you would treat.

I’m a little sad to say that you were not very nice yesterday, to each other or my stand-in, I call him Bob. I hope that will change on this day, my first true day on the job.

Nathan, you touched the elf with your finger, even when your mom said if you do, I would have to linger. My magic would be gone and I would be stuck, an elf not believed in and so out of luck. Thankfully who you touched is a toy, a decoy placed by me to test the curiosity of a small boy. You were right, he’s not real but I surely am so please treat me carefully so I don’t get in a jam.

I hope you have learned to see that you need me and learned not to touch and not to be greedy. I’m here now for real to watch over you and report back to Santa all that is true.

I hope that I can tell him of Christmas Cheer and of all the other things that he so likes to hear. Things like …

Kind words and clean rooms, good attitudes and responsibility, finished homework and helping hearts, trying hard and being thankful and others coming first.

I don’t want to have to tell him about anything else ’cause telling Santa bad stuff, well that’s the worst!

I hope I can tell him how I see you pray; everyday for loved ones, each other and those who are hurting, for hope and for peace, for forgiveness and grace for everyone less fortunate all over the place.

I love the name Noodles, it is silly and fun and I like being here where there is always so much sun. I am so happy to be your true Christmas Elf and sit here watching upon this comfy shelf.

So remember don’t touch, be kind and BELIEVE because I am only here until Christmas Eve.

Love,

Noodles, your Elf on the Shelf

We discovered the new elf this morning and read her his note. And I held my breath.

Noodles-for-BlogThe real “Noodles” waiting to be discovered.

You should have seen the look on Nathan’s face when “Noodles” addressed his indiscretion directly. I almost felt bad, almost. Then when Noodles admitted that the first elf was not real, the tables turned and Nathan yelled out “SEE, I TOLL YOU – HE NOT REAL!” And then, miracle of miracles, when David approached the shelf (the top shelf this time) on the baker’s rack Nathan yells out “DAAAAAVID, DON’T TOUCH IIIIIT!” He bought it. He believes. And then David says, “I won’t, I know this one’s real he totally looks real, not like the other one.”

All this time, Sara is eyeballing me discretely, sensing my deception but thankfully not calling me on it. I didn’t even have to bribe her; because I would have.

I have no shame. I am a terrible person. But I have pulled it off. I have deceived my children for their own sake (at least two out of three) and I am victorious. The Elf on the Shelf tradition is established.

I have given Noodles permission to give a Sunday update here on my blog so you can see all of the mischief he gets into and if management is creative enough to keep the web of decit magic alive.

Nathan-&-Noodles-for-BlogWho me? Touch the elf? No way, I would never! Twice? You must be confusing me with someone else. (Soft ear-muffs for a boy who is sensitive to noises, in case you wondered if he was pretending to be Princess Leia).

By the way, I thought I would share that I was in Barnes and Nobel this morning and they had 462 Elves on the Shelves (or however you say the plural) and at least half of them were male. The boys were with me getting a treat after a doctor’s appointment and I found myself explaining why Barnes and Nobel had 462 of Santa’s special helpers in their store. Why are they all stacked up like that? Why doesn’t that one look like ours? Is it a boy? Is ours a … GIRL? How do you get them out of the box if you can’t touch them? Oh yeah, they don’t have their magic yet. Did ours come from the store or did it just show up? Did we have to pay for it or did Santa really send it to us? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?

Really, I do this to myself. I blame Lucy.

The Traditions of Thanksgiving Day

It is 5 a.m., Thanksgiving morning (actually, it is currently Friday afternoon – you didn’t really think I had time to write on Thanksgiving morning did you? – but I am sharing a memory so please bear with me) the house is peaceful and the joyful madness in the kitchen is about to begin. But first, a cup of coffee and a little breakfast and a moment to enjoy the quiet and the still of the early morning.

A perfect pear and the stuffing will never miss that little crust of bread. Sighhh, I wish I could have truffle butter every morning.

My quiet moment is just that, a moment. There is a lot to be done. This year I will be feeding six adults and eight kids. Not the 25 I fed last year but I love the smaller more intimate gatherings just as much. The people who are coming to spend Thanksgiving with us are special. People I love being with and am looking forward to making a meal for. Friends who have become family. Friends that we have created tradition with. As so many military families do. We started having Thanksgiving together more than 10 years ago, before any of us had children. Now, as I plan the table settings, I realize, we are officially outnumbered. My how we have grown together and how thankful I am for them.

I’ve finished my breakfast and licked any remnants of truffle butter off of the butter knife so, I guess it is time to get started. First on the agenda, stuffing. My favorite. I prep and put together many of my side dishes the day before but I always save the stuffing for Thanksgiving morning. Just one more tradition on a day of many.

I love the smells that fill the kitchen as I make the stuffing, smells from my childhood. Sausage sputtering away in a hot pan and onions and celery sauteing in a sinful amount of butter. I remember waking up to those smells in the morning as a kid and I want my kids to remember it too.

It isn’t even baked yet and it is irresistible. Just a little nibble for quality control. Ahhh, be still my heart. If you’d like to try it, you can find the recipe here, Sausage and Herb Stuffing.

Next, prepping the turkey and starting the stock.

A simmer pot of stock is a must for making gravy and warming up the turkey after it has been sliced and arranged on a serving platter. I throw the turkey neck and giblets into a pot with water, the celery ends, a few small onions and a few sprigs of fresh herbs (sage, thyme and rosemary). When I am ready to use it, I strain it and keep the broth warm on the stove top.

The turkey, the star of the show. I am a briner. Not everyone is. I say whatever works for you but I love how moist and flavorful my turkey comes out after 24 hours of bathing in a salty brine. There are a lot of brining recipes out there. I just buy a package of brining mix from World Market or Williams Sonoma and brine my turkey in a large stock pot in my extra fridge. You can put your turkey in a bringing bag and then brine in an iced cooler if you don’t have the fridge space. Works like a charm.

She isn’t much to look at yet, but she will be … or he, I’m not really sure, I didn’t check.

You can make yourself crazy reading all of the different ways to cook a turkey. Here’s what works for me; brining for 24 hours followed by a good rinse and pat dry, then a rub down with 2 sticks of butter combined with chopped fresh rosemary, thyme and sage (I gently lift the skin and rub it directly on the breast meat as well) and a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper. I tuck the wings under and fill the cavity with a quartered lemon, a quartered onion, and a few sprigs of thyme, rosemary and sage. I put a cup of stock, a cup of white wine and two chopped onions in the bottom of the roasting pan, insert a probe thermometer into the meaty part of the thigh and roast at 325 degrees until the thermometer reads 165 degrees (approximately 3 hours for a 14-16 pound turkey). I do cover the breast with foil if it is getting too brown and I baste 3 or 4 times, or once an hour-ish, during the cooking process. When the turkey comes out of the oven, I tent it with foil and let it rest while my side dishes bake and I make gravy from the pan drippings.

Now for setting the table(s). I hate to iron. I love to iron my table linens. My only explanation is that ironing table linens is easy, even relaxing, and I find it enjoyable because it has to do with food and eating. And I love anything that has to do with food and eating.

Last year, we had so many people for dinner that we had to bring our giant picnic table in from the back yard; which actually worked out great. Benches hold a lot of bottoms!

Thanksgiving 2011

This year, with fewer people, I could get a little more creative and decided to go tan and white with my dishes and linens. I love white dishes but enjoy using a different color salad plate to add some interest. An added bonus is that you can have variety without taking up the storage space that having multiple sets of dishes would. I am always on the lookout for beautiful and interesting salad plates.

A tradition I started a long time ago is to put an ornament at everyone’s place. For me, Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the Christmas season and I want my guests to leave with something for their tree and a remembrance of the day.

This year I found these adorable wooden woven hearts (at Target – where I find so, so many things) which came in white and a beachy whitewashed wood. Lovely.

Someday, my dream of having a 20 foot (or so) long dining room table will come true but for now, I serve all of the food buffet style, because there is just too much of it to put on the table. I do, however, put the salad and a bread basket and butter plate, cranberry sauce, cheese for the salad (this year it was a delicious applewood smoked bleu cheese) and a gravy boat at each end of the table (the gravy doesn’t go on until just before we eat – but I’m sure you already knew that).

For the kid’s table, I found an adorable paper table-cloth (at Target – are you sensing a theme here) with coloring activities, word searches, tic-tac-toe, etc. so the kids had something fun to do while getting settled for dinner.

My daughter is a leftie.

Each of the kids got an ornament too. This year, sweet fabric animals for the girls and colorful dinosaurs for the boys (Target).

The tables are ready.

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is on – gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “parade rest”, doesn’t it?

David has donned the coat from his pirate costume and a straw hat and proclaimed himself a pilgrim.

Our guests have arrived and the kid’s table is a hit.

The turkey is done (I told you she’d be pretty) …

and carved.

The sides are out of the oven. You can find my recipes for Sausage and Herb Stuffing, Sweet Potatoes and Zesty Carrots here. And the recipe for Aunt Peggy’s Corn Casserole here. Enjoy!

It looks like the only thing left is to sit down together, say grace and enjoy the good food and great company the Lord has blessed us with.

I am thankful for …

My Lord and Savior who continues to work in me, pushing me further than I could ever go without Him. A kind and gentle husband who loves me. My children who are such a gift. Family. Friends who have become family. Health and healing. Treasured and beautiful traditions. The home that God has given us, which is so perfectly suited for welcoming company. The sweet faces that are gathered around our table; happy and healthy and loved.

Does anyone have room for dessert?

I’ll give you one guess where I found these adorable cupcakes. You got it, Target – you are paying attention! The beautifully frosted sugar cookies came from A.J.’s – a lovely specialty grocery store that we have here in Arizona.

And the pumpkin pies came from a wonderful little Pie Shop just down the street called Piefection. I can bake. I love to bake. I am not super woman. And, as Ina Garten (who I am also very thankful for) says, “no one has more fun if you make dessert yourself.”  Yes, I know that you can buy gargantuan pumpkin pies at Costco for about $5.00 and I have done that. These pies cost a little more than that and are worth it for two reasons. First, they are handmade with the best ingredients and are delicious and second, I will always support a gal who is brave enough to do what she loves and start her own pie shop. If you are in the area and want a fabulous piece of pie, here is where you can find one:

Piefection, 6731 E. Brown Rd., Suite #104, Mesa AZ, 480-218-PIES(7437), http://www.piefectionaz.com

Did someone say dessert? What timing. We’re just glad Uncle Mark made it and that Thanksgiving dinner re-heats well. The life of an airline pilot, you work a lot of holidays.

Another wonderful Thanksgiving and so much to be thankful for.

This year, I am also thankful for the people who inspired me to write and to start my own blog. I absolutely love writing it and am so thankful to those who have taken the time to read it, like and comment on my posts and support me. I appreciate you so much. I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving in the company of those who mean the most to you.

Oh, I almost forgot, I am also thankful for truffle butter; very, very thankful.