And then they…

the things we do to live a better life.

Archive for the category “Tis the season”

Easter Photos

It’s so much fun having a daughter who is old enough to understand Easter this year.  She is starting to get the whole Jesus thing, but she totally got the Easter Bunny.

We had a great day at church, and egg hunting, and eating with friends and family.

I was fun to start a new tradition of making the girls’ Easter dresses.  These got to serve double duty as dresses for Harriet’s Baptism.

And Then They - Easter TraditionsAnd Then They - Easter Chair and BasketsAnd Then They - PeepsAnd Then They - Walking to Rory's With PapaAnd Then They - RoryAnd Then They - EggAnd Then They - RunningAnd Then They - Going for a DriveAnd Then They - Harriet was there too

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Novruz 2014, Toddler Style

And Then They - 01 NovruzHappy Novruz, everyone!  It’s spring!  I love spring so much.  The flowers, sunshine, the green.  It’s my second favorite time of year, but every year at this time, it’s my favorite time of year.

And Then They - 02 DyeingThis year we had our playgroup over for a Novruz celebration.  We started by dyeing eggs, which was a wonderfully frantic (and surprisingly mess-free) dash.  We had nine two-year-olds, and various aged babies along for the ride. 

Jesse explained the meaning of Novruz – the toddlers listened very attentively – all the earth, wind, fire, water, rebirth, newness.  Then, we went outside to jump over the fire!

And Then They - 04 Hattie And Then They - 05 AlmaI love this ritual of leaving all our troubles, and worries, and problems in the fire.  I’m always one for a fresh, clean start – especially when spring is springing.

It was an amazingly beautiful day, so we all went to the backyard to play with all of Alma’s bikes, and her slide.  It was perfect.  I love how our kids are old enough to pretty much just play.  We don’t have to hover and help like we did last year at this time.  It gives us grown-ups time to chat and catch up. 

And Then They - 06 PlayingWe are so blessed to be a part of this great group of families.  We all (pretty much) met through the Birth Center, where most of us had our first babies.  After getting to know each other at the weekly Baby Clinics, the idea was born to have a monthly playgroup.  Not only do we all have two-year-olds, but most of us are on the second round these days, too.  It’s wonderful.

After playing for a while, we had to play the egg game.  I think Alma’s friend Beatrix won this year.

And Then They - 07 Egg GameWe were also really lucky to have our authentic Azerbaijani friend, Elvin up for the celebration.  It’s fun having him so close this year (he’s studying in Long Beach, California).  He’s a great dost, and both our girls truly love him.  So do we.

And Then They - Azeri

Happy Novruz!

 

And Then They - 03 Samani and Eggs

Spring is Coming

Spring is on its way.  The extra hour of daylight has been a beautiful thing in our house.  We are spending time in the backyard.  The flower trees in town are amazing.  I love this time of year.

And Then The - 01 Outside And Then They - 02 Chicken And Then They - 03 Hattie Outside And Then They - 04 H and E And Then They - 05  Tending the Garden

Our Azerbaijani friend, Elvin, came up so celebrate Novruz with us.  Look for posts about our toddler Novruz party later this week!

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And Then They - Happy BirthdayToday I turn 33.  The flowers are starting to poke through the dark dirt.  The sky is brightening.  My early mornings aren’t feeling so early, now that the sun is joining us for more of our days.

Thirty-three is going to be an exciting, life changing year.  I have plans and ideas.  Hopes and dreams.  This is my year, with my family standing with me, cheering me on.

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Christmas in Azerbaijan

ImageI have to say that the Christmas we spent in Azerbaijan is one of my most memorable Christmases.  I’m sure that’s because most of my Christmases are more of the same, and this one was wildly different.  But I think there’s something more than just that.  Jesse and I had been married only two years, and the whole Peace Corps experience was great for helping us figure out how to navigate the world as a twosome (instead of solo, or with the direct help of our families… we were pretty much just us).

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Here’s how our holiday season went down.  Since Azerbaijan is a former Soviet Republic, they have a pretty big Russian influence.  Azerbaijan is a Muslim country, but in December, a bunch of ‘Christmas’ decorations, and Santas started showing up.  To Azeris, these were New Year’s decorations, and Santa was Shaxta Baba and Qar Qiz.  Shaxta Baba means grandfather frost and Qar Qiz is snow girl.  Because of this leftover holiday influence, we were able to buy a metallic tree at the bazaar, and my sister, Jen, sent us some ornaments.  These are still some of my favorite ornaments.

ImageOn Christmas Eve, we went to the capital to meet up with some other volunteer friends.  If you haven’t been in the Peace Corps, you might not understand how the other volunteers truly do become family.  It is the sort of shared experience that brings people together quickly and (I think) permanently.

We ate dinner at a Mexican restaurant with a Filipino band singing classic rock hits in Santa costumes.  A far cry from our typical Christmas Eve feast.

After dinner, we wandered all around Baku singing Christmas carols at the top of our lungs.  Normally, we would try to blend in and not call attention to ourselves.  This night, we needed to assert our otherness.  I didn’t feel at home, so I didn’t want to act like I felt at home.

ImageWe found an English language church service (although the priest pronounced manger as mang-er, rhymes with banger) and we took up a whole pew.  It was then that I felt my first real pang of homesickness.  I remember a family with two young children sat in front of us.

The next morning was Christmas.  Since we were poor volunteers, we packed seven of us in our hotel room with one full size bed.  When everyone woke up I had put Pop Keks and mandarins in everyone’s shoes.

We weren’t at home, with our families.  But we sort of were.

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Eggnog Pancakes

eggnog pancakesHere’s a really good recipe for you to try!  It feeds one toddler and one mommy.  Maybe more if your toddler doesn’t eat spoonfuls of the flour mixture.  You can double it if you have another parent or toddler who will be eating with you.

Here are the directions (more detailed directions and ingredients can be found at the end of the post):

Mix ingredients.  These are pancakes, so it doesn’t really take a lot a skills.

stirrinPour batter onto a hot griddle.

cookinFlip pancakes.

flippedRealize this would be easier (and safer) if you put the baby down in her bouncy seat.  Put baby in her bouncy seat (that doesn’t look super safe on the table, but know if your heart that it is).

Baby in SeatFinish cooking and eat.

PancakesMake sure baby falls asleep while you and your toddler enjoy your pancakes.

SleepingDone!

Now here’s how you really do it…helpin

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 3/4 cup eggnog (I used light eggnog, but I suppose you could use regular)
  • 1 egg
  • 1Tbs oil

Directions:

  1. Get a toddler.  You can skip this step if you want.
  2. Mix dry ingredients together.
  3. Try to stop your toddler from eating spoonfuls of flour and baking soda and salt.  Gross.  You can also skip this step, especially if you skipped step one.
  4. Mix wet ingredients.
  5. Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir well.
  6. Cook pancakes on hot griddle until bubbles form and pop.
  7. Flip and finish cooking.
  8. Eat.  We ate them plain, but I bet they would be good with your favorite pancake toppings.  Especially whipped cream and a little nutmeg.

Enjoy!

 

Christmas Tree Hunting

It is becoming a tradition to go cut down our own Christmas tree.  I like this for a few reasons.  First, it’s fun to get out in the middle of a muddy field, look for the perfect tree, and find it.  Second, I love that Jesse can show off his man-skills by cutting down the tree.  Third, we like trees that are little more sparse so there’s room to hang the ornaments, and it’s often hard to find these at Christmas tree lots.

Last year we with with my dad and step-mom and had quite an adventure (including our trailer un-hitching from the tractor and the tractor driver not noticing).  This year we went with my mom and step-dad and had a less eventful, but just-as-fun time.

This year we went to the bargain field (which is actually the same field we found our full-price tree in last year, just way more picked over this year (obviously)) and found my favorite tree we’ve ever had.IMG_8008a

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Snowy December Day

We don’t usually get amazing amounts of snow here in the Willamette Valley, but this week the weathermen were predicting snow.  We have learned never to trust weather forecasts (unless the forecast says rain), so we were all skeptical.  When I woke up on Friday, I was amazed to see that it had snowed a couple inches, and that it was still snowing!

It ended up snowing all day long, which is even more unusual.  If we get snow it’s usually gone by the afternoon.  I remember one day in high school where they cancelled school, and the roads were completely dry by 10am.  I watched movies at a friend’s house that day, and it was amazing.   Anyhow, this time, not only did the snow stick around, but it just kept falling.

It was really beautiful, and I only had to venture out in it once.  Jesse had to work (and actually came and got Harriet and me for our outing), but got to come home a little early.  It was fun to get to play in the snow as a whole family.  Alma’s friend, Rory, and his family met us on the street for some sledding.

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Harriet's Angel

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We got out Jesse’s old sled and he pulled the two old kids around in it for a long time.  Alma and Rory loved it.

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Christmas Traditions (for the future)

Making Christmas More About Giving than Getting - andthenthey.wordpress.com

I have been thinking a lot this year about how to make traditions for my daughters.  I know that it is very important that they grow up with special traditions – especially at Christmas time.  We already have some fun traditions, like going and cutting down our Christmas tree, doing Advent calendars, eating dinner by the light of the Advent wreath, going to the Festival of Trees, looking at Christmas lights… there are so many ways to build traditions.

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One thing I want to do is create traditions that are focused on giving to others.  Most of these won’t work until they are older, so I thought it would be good to put them in writing so I won’t forget about them!

Here are a few things we’re going to do:

1. Christmas Stockings:  I want this to be more concretely connected to Saint Nicholas.  Instead of filling my daughters’ stockings with little toys and candy, I will fill it with gifts for others.  Some ideas I have are putting in a roll of quarters – they can keep half, and give away the other half.  They can leave them on a playground and watch as other kids find the small treasures, they can leave them in the offering plate at church, give them to homeless people, whatever they want as long as they are giving them away.  Another idea is to put a gift for their sister in their stocking that they will give when they notice their sister doing something nice or generous.  The other idea I have is to buy a small ($10 or so) gift card to our grocery store that they can give to another shopper on our next shopping trip.  I’m sure I’ll get more ideas over the years, but that’s a start.

2.  I want to do something for the homeless on the day of the Feast of Stephen.  What better way to unwind from the craziness of Christmas than by helping out those who are less fortunate the following day?  I’m sure this will change as the kids get older, but it will always revolve around helping homeless people.

3.  We are going to do the Something you want, Something you need, Something you wear, & Something you read gift giving idea.  I love this to stave off some of the hyper-commercialism around Christmas.

4. Kindness Elves.  The idea of Elf on the Shelf never really felt right to me.  I don’t like the idea of having an elf come into our home and be a bad example for my kids.  This idea of kindness elves feels right to me.  They come and give ideas of how to be nice and helpful.  They compliment my kids on being nice and helpful!  What a lovely idea for Christmas time!

Novruz Preparations – Part 1

It’s that time of year again.  Actually, it’s a little after that time of year, but hey, we were busy!  It’s Novruz!!  Novruz is my second favorite holiday of the year (Christmas is just slightly better).   Jesse and I first learned about and celebrated Novruz while we were in the Peace Corps in Azerbaijan.  It celebrates the new year that begins on the first day of spring.  You can read more about it here.  Alma and I spent about an hour today working on our first preparations for our 3rd annual Novruz party.

Alma helping me make chocolate syrup, Novruz eggs and empty the dishwasher.

To keep up with my goal of using my time in the kitchen wisely, while the eggs were cooking, I also made a batch of chocolate syrup and worked on cleaning up some of our dishes.

Women in Azerbaijan work very hard to provide an amazing feast for their families.  These feasts might happen on each Tuesday before the equinox and an ever bigger feast on the equinox.  Like I said, Azerbaijani women work very hard.  I started my prep by hard boiling 10 eggs and dying them.  Not too hard for the first round of prep.

I love that eggs are part of this Islamic celebration.  It really reminds me how truly connected and similar Islam is to Christianity.  If only everyone could see it that way.  Like Easter eggs, Novruz are dyed various colors.

While Easter eggs are hidden and found, Novruz eggs are part of a different game.  Each person picks an egg, then people go around the table trying to break each others’ eggs by tapping them together.  The person who has the unbroken egg in the end is the winner!

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