Dec 142016
 
people waiting for the start of a parade

Gathering for the start of the downtown Fredericksburg Christmas Parade

At the moment, I am a bit frazzled by the Christmas season. I find myself in awe that every year we voluntarily agree to take on all these extra duties. Added to the regular mix of taking care of and educating four children, I am now a full-time shipping and receiving clerk, with a living room full of boxes. I also double as a personal shopper and bookkeeper, managing the purchasing and budgeting for all of our gifts. As if all this isn’t enough, as we put up the tree last weekend to my children’s great delight, I found myself questioning the sanity of this practice. If it wasn’t Christmas, who in their right mind would move the furniture to put a huge tree in the house!

But I promise I am not the grinch of the season. We have been having lots of fun as well and I wanted to briefly share a few of these moments.

We kicked off our Christmas celebrations by attending the Christmas parade in downtown Fredericksburg. This is the first time I have actually made it out to the parade. I was duly warned that since the parade started around 5:00 p.m. it would turn very cold. So, in my infinite wisdom, I brought chairs and a huge blanket with us. We had two additional children coming with us. My husband was out of town on business so this was a solo project.

We had to park quite far away and I shepherded the transit of six children, two portable chairs, four heavy folding chairs and a large blanket over several blocks. This was a frantic process which required numerous stops to rest.

We finally reached a good spot on the parade route and set up camp. There were enormous crowds and the only spot available to place our chairs was adjacent to a bike rack. We jammed two chairs in the bike rack space and three more chairs squeezed so closely behind it is amazing we were able to sit. The bike rack ended up being a strategic crowd control measure. It gave us guaranteed space on one side. We loaned our extra chair to another family. As soon as the parade started, people jammed in to stand right behind our chairs and we were pretty much cemented in for the duration.

pick-up truck decorated in lights

The parade kicked off with lots of pick-up trucks, lights and baton twirling.

people dressed in inflatable ornament costumes, their legs exposed

The best costume…..some leggy ornaments.

marching band with lighted instruments

One of many marching bands. All of the bands were excellent and had great LED lights wrapped around their instruments.

gymnasts in a Christmas parade performing handstands

We got a taste for some of the city’s talent, including many gymnasts and dancers. These gymnasts were doing handstands throughout the parade route! (Also, notice the dogs in the foreground. They got lots of attention from the parade participants.)

horses in a Christmas parade

Equestrians representing a local horse club. “Ditch your car. Ride a horse!” one cried out.

float in a Christmas parade

There weren’t too many elaborate floats. Most were pick-up trucks or commercial rigs with a few lights or towing a small bed of children. This was one of the more detailed floats.

toddler pointing to Christmas parade in excitement

My son was a HUGE fan of the parade.

About halfway through the parade, the older children said, “We’re cold. Can we go now?” Unfortunately, with our enormous load of children and chairs and the huge crowds, there was no way for us to leave. “Snuggle under the blanket! It will be over soon!” My toddler son, however, was positively thrilled by the parade and was the most enthusiastic observer, waving to all the participants.

My phone battery died before the parade ended so I didn’t get a shot of the finale with Santa on a giant sleigh float. Once the parade ended, however, the next adventure for us began.

After we waited for the crowds to die down a bit, we paused to reconsider our carrying strategy to get all the gear back to the car. Amazingly, one of my children brought a jump rope with them to the parade so we used that to tie the four folding chairs together. I was the designated lifter of said chairs and the one problem with this strategy was that four chairs are super heavy!

We waddled down the street a block at a time, pausing to rest frequently. With the phone out of battery, we had to rely on our memory of where the car was. We got fairly close to the car but were missing the cross street we walked down. We tried asking various strangers if we were headed the right direction. No one seemed to know downtown Fredericksburg at all.

Since it seemed like it could be a while until we found the car, I ditched the chairs at a corner, making note of the cross street to pick them up later. I picked up the toddler to improve our traveling pace.

Finally, a mom with a stroller pointed us in a direction and we headed that way. Unfortunately, this took us in a completely wrong direction and we ended up somewhere near the University of Mary Washington. We ran into numerous college students and asked them for directions but they were worse than the parade strangers having almost no idea of even well-known attractions in the city. If it was anything outside of a one block radius of the campus, they had no idea.

Eventually, we wandered down a street and found the Sugar Shack Donuts. We all remembered driving past this on the way in. We tried to ask some police officers at the donut shop to point us the right direction but they were busy questioning or arresting some college students so we decided to try to remember our way back to the car.

Fortunately, my landmark memory kicked in and we got on the right track. As we got within 3 blocks of the car, the mom who had pointed me in the wrong direction came driving up, “I’m so sorry!” she cried. She offered to give us a ride the remaining 3 blocks to our car but we just thanked her and hoofed it.

It was funny to see the children, who were complaining about being cold and so tired they were going to fall down, start RUNNING to the car once they saw it. They were so thrilled. We all felt the rush of evading danger, as though we were survivors of some life-threatening emergency.

map of how lost we got finding the car

Map of our own “parade” route trying to find the car. Orange = the path we were supposed to take. Blue = the convoluted path we took back to the car

We all loaded into the warmth of the car and plugged in the cell phone to charge and navigate back to the chairs. They were still there waiting for us.

After all this exercise, the children heartily devoured two large pizzas and a grand time was had by all.

I’m not sure I will attempt this parade again but it was fun to do once. If you ever go to a night parade in December, a few organizing tips:

1) bring chairs (but not folding chairs)
2) bring a blanket for the wind chill
3) drop your stuff at a convenient safe place close to your parade spot and pick it up on the way
4) charge your cell phone fully beforehand!

 Posted by on December 14, 2016 General Tagged with: , ,
Nov 242016
 

Anne and kids at Thanksgiving table

Long time no see, Ruly readers!

This year has generally come down to a choice between blogging about organizing and actually doing my organizing. I have been working on a lot of great projects but have been terrible about keeping you updated.

While I wish my return to blogging could be with a wonderful, insightful post, after a long day of cooking and cleaning, this is about all I am up for at the moment!

As a quick note, this Thanksgiving, we tried a few new things:

  • We flavored the turkey with cinnamon, pepper and salt per these instructions. It was delicious but not that much different in flavor from our typical turkey.
  • We tried substituting mashed cauliflower for mashed potatoes again. I left out the garlic and they came out much better but are still not quite like the real thing.
  • My table was set with one of my grandmother’s pottery dishes and my other grandmother’s glassware and silver. This was a wonderful way to remember them and feel a bit of home. If you are ever in the sad position of taking a memento from a grandmother’s estate, a piece of serving ware is fairly easy to store and brings back a lot of good memories.
  • My daughters were a tremendous help to me! They are getting quite talented at decorating for the holidays and they set the table themselves! They also each made a pie. One chose the classic Nestle Toll House cookie pie (which was delicious but next time we might cut down the amount of butter in it). The other chose Creamy Pumpkin Pie, which is super simple to make and a kid pleaser.

Hope you had an incredible day and thank you for sticking with me through all the twists and turns that organizing journeys take!

Thanksgiving 2016!

Thanksgiving 2016!

 Posted by on November 24, 2016 General Tagged with: , ,
Feb 292016
 

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February was the month I felt my legs being swept out from underneath me over and over again. Just as I thought I had regained my footing, something else came along to counteract my best intentions.

When I last left you, we were in the eye of Snowstorm Jonas which dumped about 14 inches of snow at our house. My daughter tried skiing in the front yard. Fortunately, we didn’t lose power but we spent an awful lot of time shoveling our long driveway. A friend who lives at the top of a hill hosted a snow playdate at her house complete with hot chocolate, s’mores and a snow cave! After this, my kids insisted that we buy sleds so we are prepared for any sledding opportunities that may come our way.

Digging out took almost two days!

Digging out took almost two days!

"Skiing" our front yard.

“Skiing” our front yard.

Just as we recovered from this, my husband left on a week-long business trip to the west coast which took away an important source of help as well as a lack of sleep from trying to stay in touch via midnight phone calls due to the time change.

Just as he came home, we received the very sad news that our dear “Grammy” was unwell and then passed away. It was back out to the west coast for my husband, along with our daughter, while we toughed it out here. I set to work finally taking down our Christmas decorations (while I felt bad about being this far behind, I know of at least one other busy person who still had a tree up and I was still receiving Christmas cards in the mail from a few people. For some of us, Christmas is a long season.) My kids and I camped out in our sunroom to ease the hurt feelings of those who wanted to travel with big sister. We celebrated Valentine’s Day and did one of my favorite photo shoots of the year.

One night in January, I was cleaning up our Christmas boxes, cut some hearts out of one, covered a table in packing material and set out paints.

One night in January, I was cleaning up our Christmas boxes, cut some hearts out of one, covered a table in packing material and set out paints.

The next day, I found this!  The kids were hard at work painting.  My son liked to mix all the colors together to make "mud" valentines.

The next day, I found this! The kids were hard at work painting. My son liked to mix all the colors together to make “mud” valentines.

My daughter, displaying supreme organizational skills created this valentine's box with one section for cards, another door for candy and a flap on the back to open to get it all out!  I was impressed.

My daughter, displaying supreme organizational skills created this valentine’s box with one section for cards, another door for candy and a flap on the back to open to get it all out! I was impressed.

I loved the plea on my other daughter's box "Please give candy."  And another "mud" creation from my son.

I loved the plea on my other daughter’s box “Please give candy.” And another “mud” creation from my son.

We hung up all the creations on our mantel and I just loved looking at it.

We hung up all the creations on our mantel and I just loved looking at it.

Since we were in mourning for Grammy, I found black outfits for all of us to wear.  They ended up working out great for our photo shoot and symbolized both great heartache and great love.

Since we were in mourning for Grammy, I found black outfits for all of us to wear. They ended up working out great for our photo shoot and symbolized both great heartache and great love.

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The next day, we received another 5 inches of snow in a surprise storm! My children were so excited to use their sleds. Our driveway does not have that much of a slope to it but I served as the “horse” pulling them down the driveway over and over. By the end, we had a pretty good ice track set up. Fortunately, there was no shoveling to be done as the next day it all melted away.

Add another 5 inches to our snow totals.

Add another 5 inches to our snow totals.

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There is not a single picture of the baby enjoying snow.  He cries every time we put him down.

There is not a single picture of the baby enjoying snow. He cries every time we put him down.

Not even the sled was enticing!

Not even the sled was enticing!

My husband and daughter arrived safely home . . . . but then all the children came down with the flu! It passed irritatingly from one child to the next in the most drawn out fashion. I got tired of cleaning up vomit in the middle of the night. Fortunately, I avoided most of the illness, having already been hit hard with the flu last fall. I ended up with a small chest cough and made sure to rest as much as possible so I didn’t end up with pneumonia again. It seemed to work but it did nothing for my productivity.

And then to top it all off, at the end of the month, we had a tornado alert! We hid out in the basement for an hour or so. The wind and rain were not so bad for us but our neighbors to the south were not so lucky.

From snow to tornadoes!

From snow to tornadoes!

In the midst of all this February turmoil, however, Grammy’s death gave me pause to think about life in general and I realized that while it is wonderful to be organized and maximize your time and do great things, in the end all that is really asked of us is that we wake up every morning, breathe in, breathe out and just exist. That is enough. That is valuable. We do service to those around us just by being here. Anything else we do is a bonus. We would do well to remember that about ourselves and about others as well.

So, that was February. I was going to end this essay by saying that things are now on the right track for March as the weather is so balmy and spring-like and the increased sunshine does wonders for my energy level. After taking my minivan in for an expensive servicing, I cleaned it out and detailed it this weekend (a hateful task as only a minivan owner can sympathize). It was wonderful to sit in my “new” car today. . . . until I turned on the AC to hear a terrible noise. So tomorrow, we are back in recovery mode.

March is supposedly “in like a lion and out like a lamb.” So far, the lion part is right.

How was your February?

 Posted by on February 29, 2016 General Tagged with: , , , , ,
Nov 292015
 
Celebrating his first Thanksgiving in the kitchen!

Celebrating his first Thanksgiving in the kitchen!

What a grand weekend it has been!

There has been so much to worry about in the news lately with the Paris shootings and the escalating situation in Syria. While consciously, I know that I am in little danger, you can’t be exposed to news like this and not internalize it in some way. A few days after the Paris shootings, I woke up one morning from a dream in which gunmen were chasing me and I was trying to find my children and escape.

Thanksgiving weekend was a welcome respite. I needed that time to reconnect with family, reaffirm that everyone was safe and free my mind to focus on fun things like eating and shopping.

Thanksgiving came by all too quickly for us. I was ill with the flu and pneumonia the first part of November and lost about half the month in recovery. My wonderful sister came to the rescue and invited to host Thanksgiving at her house. I told her I wanted to contribute something to the feast.

“Bring whatever you like but ZERO pressure!”

For our family, Thanksgiving has become a cooking holiday. We don’t live near much family so we end up cooking a lot of the meal ourselves. It has become one of our new traditions to try out new recipes and the kids have taken to becoming dessert chefs for the meal. I asked my girls what they wanted to prepare and we settled on pumpkin pie and chocolate-something.

My need for safety and reassurance permeated my cooking as well. I decided that I should learn to make an apple pie. I don’t think I have ever made one before. There is nothing more American than apple pie and I wanted a reminder of tradition and all the things that make the U.S. a great country.

The day before Thanksgiving was pie day. While I was originally going to work with each girl individually to make her recipe, my eldest son announced that he was going to be cooking too. So, we shifted to brother-sister teams. Each brother-sister pair made a pie and then I, along with my chef-in-training son made the apple pie. Fortunately, all came out delicious!

Pumpkin pie can be a controversial flavor but my daughter and I love it!

Pumpkin pie can be a controversial flavor but my daughter and I love it!

First up, team pumpkin pie!

First up, team pumpkin pie!

The finished pie ready for baking!

The finished pie ready for baking!

I used some of the leftover pumpkin puree to make a version of Gwyneth's sweet potato pie smoothie.

I used some of the leftover pumpkin puree to make a version of Gwyneth’s sweet potato pie smoothie.

My son also liked the smoothie.

My son also liked the smoothie.

Next up, team chocolate chip!

Next up, team chocolate chip!

All the children loved working with the stand mixer.

All the children loved working with the stand mixer.

Pie ready for baking!

Pie ready for baking!

My son's enthusiasm for cooking was so fun to see.  He thought rolling pie crust was awesome!

My son’s enthusiasm for cooking was so fun to see. He thought rolling pie crust was awesome!

My homemade pie crust.  Not that difficult to make and tastes like a butter cookie when baked!

My homemade pie crust. Not that difficult to make and tastes like a butter cookie when baked!

Lattice-topped apple pie...a classic.

Lattice-topped apple pie…a classic.

The finished pies and salad.  I learned a trick from my sister-in-law that pomegranate seeds on your Thanksgiving table add instant elegance.

The finished pies and salad. I learned a trick from my sister-in-law that pomegranate seeds on your Thanksgiving table add instant elegance.

We loaded up into the car and drove to my sister’s house. She prepared a huge feast of numerous delectable dishes as well as a gorgeous 20-pound turkey! We ate to grand sufficiency and had a wonderful time.

Our gorgeous and delicious feast!

Our gorgeous and delicious feast!

Yum!

Yum!

Below are links to the recipes we tried this year. All were supremely delicious!

Have any Thanksgiving memories or recipes to share? Please comment!

 Posted by on November 29, 2015 General Tagged with: , , ,