Friday, December 30, 2011

The Nutcracker Experience

Amanda Lily and I have been attending the Nutcracker ballet since she was 6 months old. Looking back on it, I think....I must have been crazy to take an infant to the ballet at such a young age. What was I thinking? I guess I just wanted Steven to have a little "culture" in his life, and he was still young enough to not balk at the idea of going to the ballet. Needless to say, for the past several years it's just been us girls who go. It kind of morphed from there into a tradition with our friends Heather and Mia, who have joined us at the ballet for the past 3 years in a row. We had always attended the "Family Series", which is just a shortened version that is held at 10 am on Saturday for the younger set. She had always sat literally on the edge of her seat, with her mouth hung open, until, last year. When it was over, Amanda Lily said to me "Mom, this is just intermission, right? They've left out several acts!" As we gathered our things I explained to her that we have always come to the condensed version, but promised next year we would attend "the real deal."

I bought our tickets the day they went on sale.(6 months in advance) It was one of those stalking Ticketmaster moments. Our seats were front and center. The best seats we've ever had at the ballet. Heather and Mia were excited to come as well. Heather and I decided to make a weekend of it, so we planned a girls get away with a Nutcracker theme. We stayed at the lush Bohemian hotel in downtown Orlando. It was so exciting getting ready in our fancy clothes, then heading off to the evening ballet. I asked my favorite cookie designer to make cookies for the girls to have at bedtime at the hotel. She made each of them a Nutcracker, Ballerina, and Mouse. The cookies were adorable. We also ordered matching beautiful red plaid nightgowns for the girls to wear to bed. It was such a magical Christmas memory. I hope the girls never forget. I know I sure won't.

After it was all said and done, Amanda Lily told me she wants to be "Clara" in the Nutcracker. She said she's going to work hard, and when she's 10 years old, that's what she's going to do. I told her to go for it. And folks, stayed tuned, or at least check back in a few years,  because I wouldn't be one to bet against her when she's put her mind to something.

                                      Opening Christmas presents
Bohemian lobby Christmas Trees
                                Bohemian roof top swimming pool
                      Bohemian ridiculously FAB roof top space
Sweet Plaid Nightgowns

                                               Yummy Cookies
Happy Girls!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Classroom Christmas

Amanda Lily's class had a fun Christmas idea. For the three weeks up until Christmas break, each child had a secret Santa. Week 1 you brought in a home made Christmas ornament for your SS. Week 2 it was a letter telling your SS what you admire most about them. Then, week 3 was a home made treat. The idea was to keep it to yourself, and the big SS reveal was on the Friday before break. Each child was given 3 tries to guess who they thought their SS was. Amanda Lily was the last person to guess, so by then she had figured out that her SS was Shea. Amanda Lily had Fallon, and she didn't guess it was her, so Amanda Lily was happy that she had kept the secret.

                                    Amanda Lily and her SS Shea
I made this easy, healthy snack I saw in Family fun magazine. It's supposed to look like a Christmas Tree. Buy one bunch of parsley, 3 kinds of cheese cubes, and one pint cherry tomatoes. Arrange the parsley in the shape of a Christmas tree, then layer the cheeses and tomatoes. Quick, easy, and festive snack the kids will eat!

Steven's class decided to have an ice cream bar as their Christmas celebration. After all, it has been in the 80's around here. I love the way Mrs Roberts runs her classroom. It's a democracy. The kids come up with the ideas/themes, and organize the whole shebang. One of them suggested that everyone bring in their favorite board game to play.(Steven brought Battleship) When I walked into the classroom and saw the mass chaos, I thought "Mrs Roberts is da bomb!" What's even funnier? It took me a minute to find her because she was playing a game with the kids, and blended in perfectly. Check out this photo.

Mrs Roberts also let the kids make their own music bands, and use their laptops to go onto Itunes  and make up beats and songs. They wrote their own lyrics, and each group performed. Steven, Bailey, and Max called themselves SMFAO. You know, instead of LMFAO. Steven told me they changed the L to an S because he was the lead singer and the other boys were the "guest stars" Good thing these boys don't know what the other letters stand for. Or do they? Hmmm.  Anyhow, Mrs Roberts told me she would upload all the kids original songs to disks for them to bring home. I really like the way Steven's turned out. It sounds along the lines of Coldplay. Here they are getting ready for their performance.

See you next year school!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Amanda Lily's Christmas Present


We decided to turn our "formal" dining room into a music room for our family to enjoy. We have a full sized Dining room table in our kitchen, and never used the one in the formal space. George and I were thinking along these lines for a while, since Amanda Lily has been progressing in her piano. She's been playing on a small keyboard for the past year and a half, and I felt she was ready for the jump to the real deal.
I asked her instructor to be on look out for anyone who was interested in selling a black baby grand, and to my surprise, she offered hers! The sentimental value in the fact that this is the piano Amanda Lily has learned on from the start, coupled with the fact that it is flat black, and just the right size made it seem like destiny. I knew I didn't want some Liberachi looking piano all blinged out. I wanted something with character, but also a good sound. This piano was built in the 1960's and is a Baldwin. We are thrilled.
I started transforming the room back over the summer. I knew this was going to be a long project, and as a matter of a fact, I'm not done with the room yet. I've been taking my time painting the walls, adding wainscoting, finding the perfect rug and chandelier. I even asked Santa to bring me a specific piece of artwork for the room. Also, I have my eye on a specific couch (settee) for my upcoming birthday. Once it's in place, the room will be complete. I'll then post pictures of the before and after. I just wanted to post this video clip I got of Amanda Lily coming home from school and playing it for the first time.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Shrek the Halls ICE!

This year, instead of going to Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, we decided to take the kids to Shrek the Halls ICE and Cirque D Solei's Lanouba. Ice was first on our to do list. We had a very nice dinner at Gaylord Palms, then went into a literal freezer to check out all the carvings at ICE. This years theme was "Shrek the Halls" The kids loved it. It was really cool (I crack me up) how they carved and colored huge blocks of ice. My favorite part was the Nativity scene at the end. The kids LOVED the slides. George and I even took a whirl down the slides a couple of times, and they thought that was hilarious. We needed a bit of chill being that it's an unusually warm (85 degrees) winter here.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Eve

This Christmas Eve was spent at our church's candlelight service, followed by dinner at our home. My parents, brother, and friend Heather joined us. I sang in the ensemble again this year, and organized our church's childrens choir. The kids did great! I was so proud of them all. They sang Away in a Manger and Silent Night. I got a little chocked up while their sweet voices sang Silent Night, and the adults passed around the light, lighting everyone's candles. It was a simple act, but resonated with me in the fact that it was indeed the night we celebrate Christ's birth. Thank you God for your unspeakable gift.

                                        Hot Cocoa at the kids table

Me and one of my favorite people on earth......Heather. I was so happy that she could join us. Our friendship means so much to me during the year. It was so nice to have her at Christmas. This was another great memory we will share.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas 2011

Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas and Blessed New Year!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Cookie Bake/Peanut Butter Toffee Bars Recipe


This year's Christmas cookie bake was scaled down a bit. We only had first cousins in attendance. To be honest, it was the first year I didn't feel like a crazy person. I love having friends and extended family in my home, but there are times when I really enjoy just having a few. Get ready for photo overload......

I found this recipe in my Family Fun magazine. These cookies are YUMMY!

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup quick oats
1/4 tsp salt
3 cups chocolate chips
1 cup toffee baking pieces (I used a toffee bar broken into bits)

1.Heat the oven to 350. Line a 9 x 13 inch pan with foil so that the ends extend a little over the edges. 
2.In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter, peanut butter, sugar, and egg yolk on medium high speed until the mix is smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes, scraping down the bowl if necessary. Add the flour, oats, and salt and beat the mixture on low until the ingredients are just blended, about 30 seconds.
3. Press the mixture evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake the crust until it is golden brown, 15 to 20 mins. Be careful not to over bake.
4. Remove the pan from the oven and scatter the chocolate chips evenly over the crust. Return the pan to the oven for 1 minute. Remove the pan again and, using a small offset spatula, spread the chocolate evenly over the crust. Sprinkle the toffee pieces over the chocolate, gently pressing them into place.
5. Set the pan on a wire rack to cool until the chocolate has set, about 2 hours. Using the edges of the foil, lift the dessert from the pan, then cut it into squares.
For maximum yum, store them in the refrigerator.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Football Awards Ceremony

Even though our football season is LONG over, the league just held the awards ceremony. Steven was so excited to go on stage and get his first football trophy. It was a much earned trophy! He and some of his team mates went to the restaurant afterwards to present Coach George with his plaque. (It is now proudly on display at the restaurant) One of the kids on the team even wrote George a thank you card, and get this...put a $10 bill in it. I can imagine it was from his allowance, and is a lot coming from a kid. George teared up when he opened the card and the money fell out because he knew that boy probably saved up in order to express his gratitude to him.
Needless to say, with all the time commitment it took of our family, George will be coaching again next year. He thoroughly enjoyed those boys, and the bonds he made with them. We are hoping to get the majority of them back on our team again, and to hear them tell it, we will. They all talked of how they can't wait to play 8 months!!!!! Congratulations to both the Kountanis boys for all of your hard work, and new bling to add to the trophy case. GO BULLDOGS!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Trish's Gingerbread Party

My close friend Trish has a Mom only gingerbread house decorating party every Christmas season. It is the one event I flat refuse to miss, as I enjoy myself so much. A few ladies gather at her house for a lite dinner and cocktails, then the decorating begins. The food, fun, and friendship all add up to a wonderful evening.
It is also super fun that a couple of days later, Trish's daughter Grace invites Amanda Lily over and they make gingerbread houses of their own out of the abundance of left over candies. Mine and Amanda Lily's gingerbread houses each perch on our table until after Christmas. However, they have a few pieces missing by now.........

Here are our houses side by side. Keep in mind that she wasn't there when I made mine, and I wasn't there when she made hers. Check out how similar the placement of candies are!