Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas Family Get Togethers

We did our share of visiting family during Christmas.

Our first stop on Christmas Eve was at Grandma Nancy's house. We joined her, and Greg's sisters and their families for a ham and cheesy potato casserole dinner, a present exchange between the grandchildren, and then Grandma Nancy gave us all some very generous gifts.

Next we went to London's home to celebrate with my side of the family. London set a gorgeous table and we enjoyed a meal of many scrumptious appetizers (recipes from what I contributed are soon to follow). We had a gift exchange among the different families and then Pappy and Grandma Betty spoiled the kids even more.

Christmas morning was all ours. We opened a few gifts with the children (mostly warm clothes). The boys did get one big toy each, Palmer got an Elmo kitchen and Brody got a big blow-up ball that lights up and plays music. Palmer absolutely loves both of them and we are sure Brody soon will as well! I could not for the life of me get a picture of Palmer looking at the camera. He was completely absorbed with ripping wrapping paper and playing with his new treasures. Greg and I exchanged a small gift: he received a poker set, and I received a cookbook.

That afternoon we met at Andrea's house to visit with Greg's Dad and his girlfriend Mary who had driven to Salt Lake from Ely that morning. It was a special treat since we don't get to see them too often. Once again, we all exchanged gifts, and the kids were gifted even more.

Surely, there is no need to ever worry about giving my kids a good Christmas when there are generous grandparents involved who love to spoil them.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Good Movies & Bad Movies Turned Good

Greg and I love Redbox lately. We've been renting a movie a couple times a week, basically since it is a night's worth of entertainment for a dollar. There had seemed to be a dry spell over the summer of good movies that were not rated R, but that has surely not been the case this winter. We recommend the following: Angels and Demons, Star Trek, Julie and Julia, Up, and Four Christmases. The first three were especially great!

Greg and I decided to purchase a combined Christmas present with some of the money we received for Christmas (the rest will be taking a good chunk off our our medical bills; thank you again Secret Santas!). We bought a ClearPlay ($60 at Seagull Book, much better deal than ordering direct). Our friends own one, and we've been wanting one for about a year, ever since we watched a movie on theirs. We are totally loving it! You can pretty much custom filter your movie by specifying to what degree you will allow sex, nudity, profanity, violence, etc. We have already rented a couple movies we otherwise would not have viewed and very much enjoyed the cleaned up versions. Anyone up for a movie night at the Hess home?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Humbled, Deeply Touched and Rejoiceful

As many of you know, we've been having a rough time lately in regards to work situations and finances. I had spent Black Friday happily shopping, purchasing a few gifts with the assumption that Greg was receiving a new job (the recruiter had told us the company was planning to offer him a position) only to find out after weeks of waiting and checking in, that the offer never came. We were also met this month with our medical bills from Brody's birth. We had saved up the money for these expenses earlier on, but with Greg's lay off, having to replace my car, and me being out of work after the baby, the money was long gone. We soon realized we didn't have enough money to cover our living expenses, let alone buy gifts for Christmas. We were in survival mode, living on faith. Little did I know that such a circumstance would lead to the most spiritual and uplifting Christmas I have ever had.

I willingly admit that I am a proud person. I do not like to admit weakness, I have an incredibly hard time accepting help and will do just about anything to avoid asking for help. My will was broken over and over again this season as I had to relinquish my pride. For the first time in my life I truly understood what it felt like to have a broken heart and a contrite spirit. We knew we did not have enough coming in to provide, but somehow whenever the bills came due, family members, friends and ward members generously gifted the money we needed to get by.

A couple weeks before Christmas after our mortgage and utilities had been miraculously paid, we received a generous gift of cash from a Secret Santa and I was very excited to think we could use it to pay for the presents I had purchased. Two days later Greg's car died and needed a new battery and we had a home repair come up. The cost of both of these items was exactly the amount we had been given. Don't get me wrong, I was extremely thankful that we had the money to cover the unexpected cost, and I knew that Christmas should not about the gifts, but I could not help but be saddened and even a little bitter at not having money for Christmas yet again.

A few days later we went to Temple Square with Greg's side of the family to view the lights. As I listened to the nativity story and President Monson's message I was overwhelmed with gratitude for our Savior and for this wonderful time of year that we have to celebrate his birth and his life. I was humbled once again as I let the true reason for the season into my heart and let go of all the materialism to which I had so desperately been clinging.

I finally had the strength and resolution to return the Christmas gifts I had purchased, and amazingly enough, it didn't bother me in the least. Instead of dwelling on what we were missing, I enjoyed time with my family and friends, I prayed intently, and I pondered the fantastical gift our Heavenly Father provided for us all, the life of his most chosen son, The Redeemer sent to earth to save us all. With this new appreciation Christmas was better than ever before!

And then to top it all off, we were blessed even further. On Christmas Eve we received three more visits from Secret Santas. Each gift brought tears to our eyes and love in our hearts. Amazingly enough, a few of the gifts given to us were the exact ones I had returned. Surely, we are being watched over. We know there are many who are more deserving than we, who have greater needs during this time of year. How humbled we have been by these trials as of late. How thankful I am that these trials bring us closer to our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. How deeply touched we are by those who are mindful of our situation, who love us and who gave so generously, and for a Heavenly Father who works through his angels here on earth. He knows us, knows our needs, and despite our weaknesses and our greed, provides not only for those needs but also for some of our wants. And finally how rejoiceful I am that thousands of years ago, Jesus Christ was born, and that today we have the opportunity to celebrate his birth with those we love.

A very merry Christmas to all!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Sunday

My mother always had us wear matching outfits on Christmas Sunday, and I so hated it growing up. Now I find myself doing the same thing. Ha ha! We look a little rough and messy in these pictures since they were taken late at night (after church, naps, two meals and a fireside), but we do look happy and that's what Christmas is truly about!

Season's Greetings

This holiday season has been a busy one. Last week I sent out our Christmas cards. I made 24 of these babies and barely finished before the post office's delivery by Christmas deadline, but I did finally finish them.

And last Thursday I spent all afternoon in the kitchen once again. This time making 20 yummy miniature loaves of banana bread. Bananas have since lost all appeal to me, but the finished product sure looked cute!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

This the Season for Potlucks

I feel as if I have lived in the kitchen these last couple weeks. Every few days there is either a potluck or some other reason for me to make a snack or treat to share. Here are some of the yummies I've been whipping up.

Chile and Cheese Spirals

These were for a potluck held during a craft night at the church. You can serve them alongside salsa, or they are great by themselves.

1 cup shredded cheese
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 can diced green chile peppers, drained
1/4 cup sliced green onions
1 can diced black olives
4 (8 inch) flour tortillas

In medium bowl mix cheddar cheese, cream cheese, chiles, onion, and olives. Spread about a 1/2 cup of the mixture evenly on each tortilla. Roll up tortillas and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill in refrigerator for 1-4 hours. Before serving, cut off ends of rolls and discard. Cut rolls crosswise in 1 inch slices.

Chocolate Cookies with Mint Frosting

This is yet another variation of my tried and true cake mix cookies. I made 75 of these tasty treats for my Relief Society lesson. There were only 16 woman present... and they all went!

for cookies:
1 package chocolate cake mix
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup oil
1/4 cup water
1 egg

Mix all ingredients together. Spoon into balls on cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Let cool before frosting.

for frosting:
6 tablespoons butter
1 pound powdered sugar (about 4 3/4 cups)
1/2 cup milk or cream
1 1/2 teaspoon mint extract

Cream butter, gradually add half the sugar and blend well. Beat in cream and vanilla and gradually add the rest of the sugar. Add cream if needed. Frosting is best a little thick.

Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies

I made banana nut bread for our neighbor gifts this year, which meant we had tons of ripe bananas in the house. The perfect ingredient for these tasty cookies. They were my contribution for a cookie exchange this month with my paper craft swap group. I froze half the batch to bake later for Greg's priesthood lesson, and they came out as perfectly as they did when baked fresh.

1 well beaten egg
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup shortening
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cups flour
1 3/4 cups quick cooking rolled oats
2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream egg, sugar, shortening, vanilla and bananas until light and fluffy. Stir in baking soda, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon until blended. Add flour, followed by oats and chocolate chips. Bake on a lightly greased cookie sheet for about 10 minutes.

I've also recently made funfetti cake mix cookies (potluck at work), 20 small loaves of banana bread (neighbor gifts), and of course, lemon bars (holiday party). This week we have some family get togethers to which I am bringing treats, so I'm sure I'll be adding a few more recipes to the mix here.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Weathering the Weather

Palmer had his first experience playing in the snow this winter. He absolutely loved every second of it! He loves putting on his winter gear; he gets his coat and tells us, "Coat!" whenever he want to leave the house. He exclaims, "Whoa!" when looking outside and seeing it has snowed and cracks up heartily anytime we find ourselves outside while snow is falling. He loves a brisk cold wind; it brings an instant smile to his face. This kid was made for wintertime!

Brody is doing quite well with the chilly weather also. He is getting to be such a smiley boy, just like his brother. He also likes the feel of a cool crisp breeze. We bundle him up thoroughly before going out. He usually falls asleep in the carseat since he is so warm and cozy. The carseat cover that is pictured here has been such a life saver! It is easy to slip on and protects our sweet little baby from the harshness of the winter elements. I am so grateful for London and her hand-me-downs, which is how we received this cover and Palmer's snowsuit. It has made this winter much less frigid.

Temple Square at Christmas

Greg, Palmer and I (Brody stayed with my dad and Betty since it was too chilly out for a newborn) took Trax to Temple Square with Greg's side of the family last week. What a lovely experience it was! As I listened to the nativity story and President Monson's message afterward, I was reminded of the true reason why we celebrate this season. How grateful I am that Christ came into this world, brought with him the truth, lived a life we can all strive to emulate, atoned for our sins and then died for all of us on the cross. He is my savior and I feel great joy in celebrating his birth this Christmas.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Brody's Two Month Photo Shoot

We had Brody's pictures taken last weekend at JC Penney. He was much happier this time. The sweater outfit was a baby gift from the Jennes. It is my favorite outfit of his. And the little Christmas cocoon and hat he is in was made by the studio manager especially for him; isn't that so thoughtful of her? I was about 20 minutes late to our appointment and had forgotten the coupon. They squeezed us in and even tracked down a coupon for us to use. They really are so good to us!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Crazy Sundays

I know I have been slacking with the blog. I think I was a bit burnt out after NaBloPoMo and now I am just super busy working and getting ready for the holidays, as I'm sure everyone is.

I just wanted to write a quick little ditty about how crazy our Sundays have been. Greg is on a new shift at work that has him working Sundays. He really misses going to his church meetings and we really miss having him with us. I especially miss the help with the boys. Last Sunday Palmer wouldn't stay in nursery and Brody wouldn't take the bottle, so I had two upset crying boys to drag around with me. Many ward members were offering their help, and I still about had a nervous breakdown!

Thankfully, Greg has now worked out a compromise with his managers where he only works a half day on Sundays and gets off at 11:00 AM. This will be perfect with next years meeting schedule at 1:00, and it definitely is nicer to have him for part of church during the last few weeks of this year.

Yesterday was my first time teaching Relief Society and my first time having to do the programs for Sacrament Meeting (two new callings I've recently received). I was so proud of myself for getting myself, the boys, the master copy of the program, my prepared lesson and homemade cookies for the Relief Society (and during a blizzard I might add), to church fifteen minutes early in order to put out the programs. Seriously, it must be my greatest accomplishment to date. However, the library was closed when we arrived; I quickly found someone to let me in. With no librarian, I had to make the copies myself, which would have been no big deal if I didn't have a toddler with curious fingers right next to me. The little stinker turned the copy machine off three times while I was trying to make copies! So after my great feat of getting to church early and all ready to fulfill my callings, I still failed and got the programs out only minutes before sacrament meeting began. I don't know how other women do church with children alone. Power to them!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Two Months Old

Brody is two months old today. Time really does fly by. I really love this stage. He is still a cuddly little baby but he is also old enough to start interacting. He is such a sweetheart! He loves to be held and snuggled and we love to snuggle with him. Here is what is going on with Brody at two months of age.

Stats: 11.5 lbs (42nd percentile) and 24.5 in (94th percentile)

He has learned: to follow things with his eyes, to coo, to smile at people, and is almost sleeping through the night (at seven hours now)

He likes: cuddling and being held, being swaddled, his bouncer and especially the vibrator function on his bouncer, being rocked, baths, getting his diaper changed and nursing

He dislikes: taking the bottle, being alone, and the swing

Things he does/about him that makes us laugh: little scowls, going cross eyed when he really focuses on things, his chubby cheeks and round belly, big toots, little sighs and cute smiles