Thursday, December 22, 2011

December

It's a busy time of year with all of the parties and family gatherings and it's all too much for Ashton!
I think being tired and eating too much is pretty accurate of how I feel through much of December. Ashton fell asleep eating a roll on the way home from Sunday dinner.

Matt is a trooper, he helped me make/dip 6 batches of Almond Toffee along with Peanut Butter Balls and Caramel Popcorn. Rather than spreading chocolate on top of the toffee I like to dip the pieces in chocolate and then crushed up almonds. If you've ever had toffee from Garden Gate Candy this is how they do their toffee and I love it. It's more work but I think it's worth it; after 6 batches I don't think Matt thought it was worth it.

Almond Toffee

1 lb. butter (4 sticks)
2 c. sugar
1/3 c. + 1 T. water
Almonds 
(approx. 1 c. coarsely chopped for pan and 2-3 c.ground for coating)

Add everything to a saucepan and cook on high heat stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until it reaches 310 degrees. Spread coarsely chopped almonds on a silpat (on a sheet pan) and pour the toffee over the almonds. After it cools, break up the toffee and dip into chocolate and then finely ground up almonds and let set.

Last week we had our Scherzinger Christmas Party and since we were planning on playing Christmas Minute To Win It games on Christmas with the Jorgensen's we brought the games along to play at this party. I think the videos I have of people trying to get rudolph's red nose to stick to their nose was the best part. The games were really fun to play and even more fun to watch.

video 

On Sunday Kaleb's primary class for sharing time put on a shadow puppet play of the nativity. Kaleb was a narrator and also held the angel and star. The kids sent out invitations to come and watch and since I teach the 12-13 yr. old's for Sunday School my whole class came to watch and my dad and sister came to. His teachers did a great job putting it together and it was a great way of teaching about Christ's birth. It was one of the highlights for this month for me.
 Picture stolen from this blog, thanks Angie!

Christmas Eve dinner is at our house and I'm going to try to brine the turkey first. I've never done it before but I hear that it should stay more moist that way so we'll see. The boys are beyond excited at this point with only 3 DAYS LEFT before Christmas. Anytime Kaleb is mean to Ashton, Ashton reminds him he's on the naughty list and he's getting a big rock from Santa but of course Ashton is always on the nice list (in his mind anyways). With only 3 days left I better get busy, anyone want to come and wrap for me?



Tuesday, December 13, 2011

No More Long Locks...

November was a busy month with another session of swimming lesson. Kaleb loves being able swim around with his goggles on. Ashton does really well in the water and is working on his coordination with the different swimming strokes.

The biggest thing to note is that Ashton has a short haircut now! I was making rolls on Thanksgiving Day and Matt was trimming Ashton's hair which I usually do. I went to check on things and the bangs were too short and the sides were also to short to do a shaggy, longer haircut like he had so I had no choice but to cut it. This picture was right after we finished cutting his hair. Everyone can't believe how different he looks but he looks more like Kaleb did at that age. I miss the longer hair but he does look like a stud when his hair is spiked.
The Saturday after Thanksgiving we put up the Christmas decorations. The boys were so excited. They have their own tree in the basement that they put their ornaments that they collect on. They even built a train track to go around the tree downstairs. This is the tree in the living room. We have a skinnier tree and I have so many ornaments not all of them fit on the tree. The boys put most of the ornaments on the tree and surprisingly I only had to move a couple of them. Ashton thought the metal reindeer had to be with a friend but 2 to a branch was a little too heavy.
 Whenever we go on a trip for our souvenir we try to find an ornament to match our tree. This white gold leaf is from Yellowstone.
We've collected a couple from Disneyland too. It's fun because every time we put up the tree we remember where each ornament came from and the trip's we've taken.
Over the last couple of years we've been collecting the Jim Shore figurines of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer but this year we added to the collection with some of the Disney figurines.

Matt bought  me this nativity set a couple of years ago and the stable was made by someone in our ward. I love the rustic wood stable.
Matt put the lights up on Veteran's Day (we didn't turn them on) since he was off and it was still warm outside. The "trees" are tomato cages I picked up at Home Depot and wrapped lights around. Another Pinterest idea I had to try and I'm glad I did.

We had our ward Christmas party last Saturday and the festivities keep going with family parties and lots of baking to get done. I'm just glad we had our Christmas shopping done before December started, one less thing to worry about!



Monday, December 12, 2011

Cruise

 After uploading these pictures once they disappeared so I was finally able to get around to uploading them again.

We went on a 7 night Mexican Riviera Cruise with my sister and parents the last week in October and it was a blast. They told us about how cheap the prices were and so we decided to go to. We booked it in February and only paid $275/person plus taxes/fees We stopped in Victorville, CA (about an hour outside of LA) the day before and had a horrible experience with our hotel booking but it's a long story. The next day we drove to Anaheim and stopped at downtown Disney to see the Halloween decorations, do some pin trading and pick up some souvenirs. My parents and sister have been to Disneyland during the holiday's but we haven't so even though we didn't go inside it was still fun to walk around.

 After walking around and shopping we drove another 30 minutes to the port at Long Beach. After getting on the boat they had a buffet lunch and then our rooms were ready by the time we were done eating. Since we had 4 people to our room we had the bunk beds pulled down. I've never been on a cruise but my family has and they said the room was spacious compared to older ships. This side looks cramped but it actually wasn't bad and had tons of storage. Plus, we didn't spend much time in our room other than to sleep.
Unfortunately Ashton was a couple inches short of being able to go on the big water slide but the boys both loved the splash pad area.

 We enjoyed watching them from up above on the top deck in the sun. It was perfect weather.
 This is as we were pulling into Cabo San Lucas.
 This is Lands End where the famous arch is. This is the side called divorce beach because it's where 2 oceans meet so the current and waves are really strong. In fact, if you look at the wave in the left side of the picture my parents were standing right next to the edge of the rock on the far left and that's where the picture farther down where they were knocked over was taken.
 Luckily we had done alot of research about what to pay for the boat rides out to Lover's Beach and around the arch so although they start at $25/person we paid $25 for all 7 of us and they took us on a tour, to lover's beach for a couple hours, over to the other calmer beach, and then back to the dock area. It's all about bargaining. Unfortunately the shopping wasn't as easy to bargain with, they were pretty stuck on their prices and they didn't care if you walked away.

Here we are just leaving the dock to go out to see the arch.
 Most of the boats had a window on the bottom. The boats are small and the waves were rocking the boat so much that I couldn't get a better picture than this. I'm amazed I was able to get any in focus pictures while on the boat since we were moving so much but I got a couple good shots.
 The water was a deep blue and the rocks were amazing. Cabo is a desert area so it's not green or tropical like other parts of Mexico.

 You can see our boat in the distance.
 This is divorce beach. The waves were huge and the current pulled you in if you were more than knee deep. There was one life guard and he told Kaleb not to get in the water on this side because it's so strong.

 The wave you see behind us is the place where I pointed out in the picture earlier. One wave would barely come to your ankles and the next would just about knock you over.


 As you can see this wave was pretty calm and barely came to their ankles.
 The next wave knocked my mom over and she ended up being pushed up against the rocks to the left out of the picture. Luckily she wasn't pulled back in because 2 guys standing by watching grabbed her. After that we were done standing to close to the waves. My mom had quite a few cuts all over her from the rocks.
The boys enjoyed playing in the sand.


Then we headed over to Lover's beach where the dropped us off to wait for our boat to come pick us up.
 It looks calm from the picture but getting on and off the boat was another experience. The guy in the left holding all the bags with a couple helpers would help you in and out of the boats. As much as we hated tipping them every time we had to get in or out of our boat you had to or you couldn't get in and out with the waves. I didn't take any other pictures but we went across the bay to the other side and swam in the water and did some snorkeling until it was time to get back to the boat. Kaleb loved snorkeling and he even saw a puffer fish. Matt, unfortunately, cut his foot on a sharp rock and spent awhile on the beach trying to stop the bleeding. Luckily after seeing the doctor on the boat he didn't need stitches and he was able to get some supplies to wrap it up.
 Originally the 3 stops on the cruise were Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta but cruise lines haven't been going to Mazatlan almost this whole year due to security issues so instead we spent 2 days at Cabo San Lucas. But because you can't stay within so many miles of the port without abiding by their tax/gambling laws we had to sail out and back in the next day. This was the sunset in Cabo the first day.

 The second day in Cabo we did all of our shopping. The boys picked out a couple of toys and each bought a shirt. I bought enough vanilla to last me for quite awhile and we enjoyed an easy day.

 The next day we stopped in Puerto Vallarta which was completely different than Cabo. It was green and very populated and developed. Also, you pull right up to the shore unlike Cabo where you had to take a small tender boat to shore so it made it easier to come and go.

 The water wasn't exactly clean enough for snorkeling so we enjoyed sight seeing. After doing research we learned it was cheaper to take the local bus to old town rather than a taxi. The taxi's wanted $5/person to $20/person to take you there and we took the bus ride for about $.70/person. Now I feel like I can relate to the contestants on The Amazing Race when they say they're going to die in the taxi rides in other countries. They drive CRAZY! I actually felt safer in a tall bus than I would have in a taxi though. Riding the local transportation was actually really fun though and I'm glad we did it.
 There are statues and other structures along the beach by old town.
 Luckily right after getting off the bus there was a tourist office where they speak English and help give you maps and directions without charging anything. Funny thing, the couple in the left side of the picture are from Canada and they got on and off the bus when we did and followed us in the tourist office. It was then we learned they were LDS members and they said they didn't know where to go so they followed us because we looked like we knew where we were going.
 This was a really old church with an all girl school attached to it.
 This is looking through a window in the church.



 This looks small from the picture but it was actually huge and it was really high up in the tree.


 We had to check out the local Wal-Mart which had a Sam's Club next door. They are spoiled with covered parking stalls. Unfortunately things weren't any cheaper than back home and toys were actually almost double the price. We did buy a couple of candy bars and although the Snicker's was the same as the U.S. the Reece's Peanut Butter Cups were really gross and had a totally different taste to them.
 The boat itself, the Carnival Splendor, was really fun. It had movies on a big outdoor screen, miniature golf, comedy, shows, ping-pong, swimming, kids activities and much more. You never were bored. Ashton didn't like going to the kid area and I think it's because he was in a different age group than Kaleb so they weren't together. So being on a boat with people you don't know didn't mesh well with him. So every night Kaleb would go play at the kid camp and Ashton would go to the show's with us and fall asleep. Unfortunately this has led to Ashton having separation issues at home now with preschool and now primary but it's slowly improving. And the food, there was never a shortage of food. I guess that's one of the best parts of a cruise. We didn't get too adventurous with the weird foods but we did try frog legs (just like a small chicken leg). The chocolate melting cake we all fell in love with by the end of the cruise and we ordered it all the time.

 This was the sunset in Puerto Vallarta as we played miniature golf.
 The boys loved the towel animals and mints left every night. We really enjoyed the cruise and would go on one again and yes, even with kids. Although one without would be more relaxing. It was nice being away from any internet service and phone service where people weren't staring at their phones all the time. That was alot of pictures but that's only a small portion of the ones I took and I didn't even take out my camera as much as I should have because we were having too much fun!