Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas Desserts

I was pressed into service once again for two desserts and one side dish for Christmas Eve and Christmas day dinners. Usually around this time of year I have visions of very fancy desserts, often involving lots of cream cheese, heavy whipping cream, and chocolate of some sort. But this year was different. I have been simplifying a lot during the Christmas season this year, meaning a few less presents for the kids, a lot less late night shopping trips, and not spending hours at looking for the most amazing and time consuming dessert recipe.

So here I present the two desserts we had this year, the Boston Cream Pie was for Christmas Eve and the Ice Cream Cake was for Christmas day.

You can find the recipe for this Boston Cream Pie here. It was a really great way to end Christmas Eve dinner.

This is my award winning (fourth place) recipe for Cookie Ice Cream Cake. Instead of vanilla and chocolate ice cream I used chocolate and peppermint. It tasted great and got lots of compliments.

I hope your Christmas desserts were delicious, too.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

May Qualify Him For Uncle Of The Year

I have a brother-in-law who has many talents. He is a twice nominated Jeff actor (fifth down on the list) can do magic tricks, ride a unicycle and juggle, and he can knit, to name just a few of his many skills.

In past years we have been on the receiving end of his knitting flair. One Christmas my son received a hat, my middle daughter got a matching hat and scarf (now being utilized by my youngest daughter, who wasn't around yet at this particular Christmas), my husband (brother of the brother-in-law being presently discussed) got a scarf (and maybe a hat, not sure) and I received a beautiful scarf as well. All of these items were hand knit with love by my brother-in-law, Kevin.

Now, fast forward about four or five years. My youngest daughter requested a baby Elmo for Christmas. I wasn't sure what she meant, as I hadn't seen any in stores. Neither did Kevin. However, creative to a fault Kevin decided he would not allow my baby to go without her heart's desire, a baby Elmo.

The man knitted a diaper and baby bonnet for an Elmo he bought and gave it to Zoe. It is unbelievably cute, and obviously very unique. Zoe loves it, and so do I.

Take a look for yourself. If this doesn't qualify Kevin for Uncle of the Year, I don't know what does.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Tradition

When my first child was born back in 1999, My husband and I decided it would be neat to get him a new ornament each year to hang on the Christmas tree. When he was little, we picked out the ornament for him. As he's gotten older and two sisters have come along, we've continued this tradition with each child. Now, however, the children pick out their own ornaments each year. We take a trip to some store and everyone chooses something they like. Then on the way home we look at Christmas lights in different neighborhoods.

The plan is that when each kid is old enough and moves out on their own, they'll have their own set of ornaments to hang on their Christmas tree. Seems like a good idea, doesn't it?

Yeah, it did to us, too. But I can't help thinking that when my daughters are 17 they are going to ask us why we ever let them pick out the ornaments they did. And when my son gets engaged or married, his fiancee or wife is going to ask us how we could stand so many Star Wars/ Superhero/ train ornaments on one tree. I'm always hopeful when one of my kids pick up a pretty little nativity ornament or a traditional glass bulb. Then reality sinks in when their eyes spy a bright, glittery, enormous blue star, or a white glass cat with feathery tail, a BIG pink glass girl carrying a basket of flowers, or an ornament with R2-D2 and a jawa. I can't say no when I see that big smile look up at me with their special ornament in hand, and we come home and add one more "fancy" ornament to our tree.

It's a fun tradition, but our tree will never be the same again.

Here is our newest addition (can you guess which darling picked this one out?):

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The 12 Days Of Christmas As You've Never Heard It Before

I was going to blog about some of my favorite Christmas songs, some of the all time greats that make my list of best Christmas tunes of all time. But, instead I found this, one of only two versions of The Twelve Days of Christmas that I enjoy. (The other version being the John Denver/ Muppet ode.)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Visit With Santa

Today during speech class Zoe got to see Santa in the library of the Early Child Learning Center where she attends. I didn't know they were going to see Santa, but apparently Zoe was very excited about it. When I picked her up she held up two mini candy-canes and loudly exclaimed, "I saw Santa in the library and I told him I wanted a new monkey and he gave me these!"

I was excited for her. She was genuinely thrilled with her little meeting. She continued to tell me, "I never saw Santa before, but now I did."

I think it's great. Except for one thing. "Santa" has already finished all of the toy shopping for this year and there is no monkey among the loot. In fact, this is the first I have heard of a "new monkey" this whole season. I don't know if "Santa" is going to have to go back into his "toyshop" or not. I guess we'll see Christmas morning.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas Cookies

This weekend was a Christmas cookie weekend. The kids and I made our annual sugar cookie cut-outs, which are always a big hit. Emma, Zoe and I cut out all the cookies with our cookie cutters while their big brother played in the snow with the neighbor boy. Their were angels, snowmen, crosses, reindeer, stockings, Santa Clauses, holly, wreaths, and probably a few other shapes as well.

We used Pillsbury sugar cookie dough sheets (two packs) to make our many cookies. They worked really nicely (although I can't find a picture to post of the packaging.) What was really nice was that it came with two dough sheets ready to be cut right from the refrigerator. After we used the sheets as they came, I took all the scraps and re-rolled them so we got lots of cookies. The packages also come with red and green frosting packs, which made for a nice variety of colors when decorating since I bought vanilla (white frosting,) too. The only problem I have with the dough sheets is that they are hard to find. None of my local grocery stores carry them except Meijer. all the other stores carry the ones with the shape picture inside it. Those are not nearly as fun as making your own shapes and decorating them yourselves, in my opinion.

But I digress. Once Ian was back indoors and all the cookies had cooled we began he frosting and decorating tasks. I frosted each cookie and passed them onto my decorators who were stocked with colored sugars, mini M&M's, cinnamon imperials (or as Zoe likes to call them, "hot reds"), and a large variety of sprinkles. The decorators took their job seriously and made sure that not one cookie came out without some form of sugar adornment.

The final results were not only creative and beautiful, but delicious as well. (We are currently rationing the sugar cookies in an effort to get them to last until Christmas.)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

My Little Craft Princess

I have a five year old daughter. She has two passions in life, princesses and artsy craftsy stuff. If it can be cut, glued, glittered, or colored, Emma is all over it.

Here are some pictures of her hard at work doing what she does best, creating masterpieces out of the junk materials I pull out of my craft boxes.

She is working on a paper plate angel because I cut way too many for the kindergarten craft.

Adding more sparkle. A young girl can never have enough sequins and sparkles.

A little break to hug the cat.

And back to work!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

With Visions of Sugarplums . . .

Here is my youngest asleep on the family room floor this afternoon. I know it's a bit early for Christmas dreaming, but what else could make my baby have such an angelic face while sleeping?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

They Really Know How to Celebrate Christmas in Europe

Received this link from a friend and enjoyed it. Turn up the volume to make sure you don't miss anything. Germany is definitely my favorite, though Switzerland was a close second.

Christmas Craft with Kindergartners

I went into Emma's kindergarten class this afternoon to teach art. The parochial school where Ian and Emma attend does not have an art teacher on staff, so the teacher is responsible for weekly art. I volunteered to teach art once a month to the kindergartners to give Emma's teacher a break and to let myself play "teacher" for a little bit each month.

Today's project was paper plate angels. I asked them if they knew of any angels that were involved in Jesus' birth. They told me about the angel Gabriel as well as the angel who told the shepherds about Jesus' birth. (They're a smart bunch!) I told them that we would make our own angels today out of paper plates. I showed them one I had made and they were all very eager to get started.

I pre-cut all the plates because kindergartners and scissors do not usually result in precise cutting, which this project required. I passed out the plates and after writing their names on them, they got started coloring and drawing. More than one boy asked if he could make a mean face on the angel. I told them, "No, this is a Christmas angel, he or she needs to look happy." However, when the same boys asked if they could make their angel bald or with spiky hair, I told them, "Sure, it's your angel."

It's amazing the difference between kids in a class. Some kids were done drawing after about two minutes, ready to move on to the next step, while others were still coloring when it was time to do the last step.

Now, if you've never been in a class of 22 kindergartners doing an art project, you might be amazed at the noise level. Kids all over the room asking me if I liked their angel, comparing what they are doing with the kid next to them, or even across the room from them. It is controlled chaos. But, it's fun.

What really made it difficult for me today was that there were three distinct steps that I had to help with, as well as having Zoe, my three year old daughter with me. Usually she just colors or eats a snack, but today she wanted to make the angel and therefore wanted a little bit more of my attention than usual. Couple that with the taping and passing out of yarn to 22 five and six year olds makes for a slightly stressful situation. At one point, while I was taping each child's yarn onto the underside of their angel, Zoe came over with her angel and wanted me to do the same. I told her she would have to wait a little bit. She looked distressed, but didn't say anything and just held onto my leg. That's when the sweetest thing happened. Lucas, a little boy in Emma's class, told me he could wait until after Zoe had her angel taped. I'm often amazed at the sweetness of little kids. It always humbles me and makes me happy that I'm taking the time to do this every month.

After the angels were done, several of the kids helped me pick up the extra sequins that they had been gluing onto their angels to make it pretty. Another neat thing about this help is that two of the helpers were little boys who are known to be troublemakers. It made me really happy to see their generous spirit come out. It also reminded me that no matter how difficult and little self control some kids have, they still are sweet little kids who want to do the right thing and like being recognized for their good behavior. It's amazing how much a pat on the back can encourage more good behavior.

After I cleaned the tables so the students could have their snack, Zoe and I left amid a chorus of "Thank you, Mrs. McKillip" and "Goodbye, Mrs. McKillip." It was fun. I can't wait to make paper plate snowmen in January.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Weekend Christmas Fun

The girls and I decided to make a gingerbread Christmas tree this weekend using a Wilton Cookie Cutter Kit and Betty Crocker gingerbread cookie mix.

The gingerbread cookie mix worked awesome, although I didn't have quite enough to make two of every size cookie, so I only made one of the two largest size stars. The girls helped me cut the cookies out and mix the frosting after the cookies were cooled. We made royal frosting and I applied it to all the cookies and stacked them one by one. After that Emma and Zoe added mini M&M's for ornaments and I added the yellow star and white snow frosting details.

The tree ended up a little lopsided, but we had so much fun making it that I think we might make this a yearly tradition. We are going to eat it for dessert tonight after dinner, and I know everyone is looking forward to that.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Christmas Classics

One of the perks of being a parent is being around your children as they sing Christmas songs over and over again. My five year old daughter is always singing one song or another. Lately they are mostly songs from her upcoming Christmas concert that they are practicing for on a daily basis in school. But she also shares with me her versions of Jingle Bells, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and my personal favorite, Deck the Halls.

The real perk, of course, is not in hearing their little voices all the time, but in the way they mangle the lines of songs. Emma's most recent rendition of Deck the Halls went something like this:
"Tis' the season to be jolly.
Fa La La La La La La La La.
Santa Claus is out of Holly.
Fa La La La La La La La La."

I told her it was really "Deck the halls with boughs of holly," but she wouldn't believe me! She told me she heard it, and it said, "Santa Claus is out of holly."

I may sing it that way for the rest of the season this year.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Snowy Day Fun

The first big snow of the season fell last night and by morning the yard was under about six inches of snow. After my kids oohed and aahed at the pretty snow, they hatched their plans for playing in the snow. My oldest was not happy that school was still in session. He stuck out his chin and defiantly told me he was going to play in the snow after school. Take that mom!

So, at around 3:00PM, Zoe and I ventured down to the basement to pull out our snow pants. I was a little worried as I pulled two pairs if snow pants and one snowsuit out of the bin they were being stored in. Ian's pair was a size 10/12. Perfect I thought. But Emma's pair (an old black set from Ian) was a 5. She currently wears a 6. Zoe's snowsuit was a size 4T. She is in 4's and 5's. I figured we could make do for today and buy new ones if need be. But, at 3:15 when Emma and Ian got home from school and tried on their snow pants, everything fit. After some snacks and a change out of their school clothes we all suited up for some fun in the snow.

It was pretty chilly outside, but of course the three of them didn't notice it at all. They just knew they were free to dig, roll around in, and throw snow any way they could. Ian brought one of his Bionicles out and played with the neighbor boys while the girls looked for ice blocks in the snow to make a big pile with.

Emma got cold first and came in for a nice hot mug of cocoa. I enticed Zoe in with the promise of hot chocolate as well, and Ian finally came in when his hands couldn't stand the cold anymore. All in all, a successful first play in the snow day.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Yum! Doughnuts!

We received the Williams-Sonoma catalog (along with a dizzying array of other catalogs) in the mail yesterday. So, after the kiddos went to bed I discarded the several catalogs I was uninterested in into the recycling bin, but sat down to take a look at the Williams-Sonoma catalog. There is always a great selection of yummy foods, fun gadgets and amazing things to use in the kitchen. I came to the fun holiday baking and kids section where I happened upon what may be the most perfect gift for my family: The Mini Doughnut Maker.

The description says, "Making seven little [cake] doughnuts is as easy as pouring batter into the wells of the machine and closing the lid."

And they are then griddle baked and not fried in oil. Oh my goodness, could it really be true? I'd love to find out.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Oh Yeah!

Ohio State is officially ranked number one! It is amazing to see them go to the BCS Championship bowl on January 7. We will all be wearing our Buckeye Scarlet rooting for the Best Damn Team in the Land! (By the way, what's with the official BCS page having a picture of an LSU player there? They're number two!)

After the devastating loss to the Illini, I was just pleased that the Buck's crushed Michigan and were headed to the Rose Bowl. Now there's even more at stake and I guess I'll have to ask my sister how to make those peanut butter buckeyes she makes so well.

On a side note, I'm really genuinely pleased to see 13th ranked Illinois make the Rose Bowl. They deserve to go and I hope they beat the tar out of USC.

Friday, November 30, 2007

A Matter Of Taste?

For at least the second time this year, The Chicago Tribune has decided that a "Get Fuzzy "comic strip drawn by Darby Conley does not meet their "Standards of Taste" and have replaced it with an older strip of the same comic. As soon as I read this I immediately want to go get online and see the offending strip. As a regular reader of "Get Fuzzy", I'm both interested and a little outraged that the Trib would censor it.

So, here it is:

Not that bad in my opinion. Adults would get it, and most kids probably wouldn't. Also, it's not as if we aren't assaulted with worse four letter words on a daily basis on TV and other media outlets.

Although I have to admit I'm a little surprised at myself. I'm often decrying the ever coarsening of our culture, the fact that I can't turn on the TV without worrying that my kids will hear some obscene language, yet here I am feeling like "Get Fuzzy" shouldn't have been censored. I'm opposed to censorship. I feel people should let their feelings be known with their purses, because as we know in a consumer economy, if people don't buy it, producers and sellers of goods will change what they sell to entice those buyers back. It's good economic sense.

And while we're on the topic of the Tribune's comic strip choices, I'd like to throw my two cents in about the recent comic strip changes. The editors chose to get rid of "The Humble Stumble" and "Dog Eat Doug" to put in two new strips. While I'm all for new comic artists getting a chance in a large syndicated market, the editors got rid of two fun and entertaining strips but kept such crap as "Raising Hector," "Broom Hilda," "Shoe," and don't even get me started on "Cathy." Raising Hector is a poorly drawn strip with boring and to be quite honest puerile humor. The other three are just also ran strips that recycle the same tired jokes over and over again. "The Humble Stumble" offered a perspective not often shown in strips, a single dad raising a teen aged daughter. They also show how much they love each other without being overly sappy and with a lot of the trappings of a teen/ parent relationship. "Dog Eat Doug" was cute and fun, though not as good as "The Humble Stumble." I would be impressed if the Trib brought back HS and got rid of some old worn out strip, but I'm not holding my breath.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Guilty Pleasure

I love reality TV. Not the crappy "I Love New York" or "Big Brother" or shows like those. But the bulk of my TV watching has turned into reality show series. My absolute favorite is "Project Runway" on Bravo, but I also enjoy "Top Chef," "Ace of Cakes" (OK - almost anything on the Food Network), "American Idol," "Extreme Home Makeover," "Amazing Race," "Survivor," "Real World/ Road Rules Challenges," and my newest show, "Kid Nation."

I don't know what to say. I love "Kid Nation." Of all the reality shows I listed, maybe three warrant me not missing them. Most are ones I'll tune into if I can. But each week I come back to KN and find myself enjoying the kids triumphs and feeling sad when they cry over missing their parents. I love seeing the kids get the gold star and then having the opportunity to call their parents and tell them they just won a star worth $20,000. I enjoyed seeing them get somewhat grubby looking after a few weeks in Bonanza City. I love seeing them give each other another chance after someone has done something wrong or mean. I can't help but pull for them to win the reward for the town even after one team inevitably comes in last place and has to be the laborers, but still rejoices in the reward the whole town will get. I just plain like the show.

I don't know why I feel guilty. I mean, there is a lot of crap on TV today, yet I feel like I have to hide my devotion to reality shows. I think it is because everywhere I look, there are people saying how bad reality TV is and how it has taken away our creativity. Yet, I have a hard time finding a family friendly sitcom (or drama, for that matter) that I can sit down with my kids and feel safe to watch without worrying about coarse language, rude and sarcastic tones, and overt sexual innuendo. At least if I turn on "Dancing With The Stars" the worst my kids will be subjected to is skimpy dresses.

And I also read all the reviews of KN, including all of the controversy surrounding whether these kids were "abused" or not. The only one I found intelligent was the one about editing of a reality series in which certain people are made to look like a certain part, the villain or hero for example. It said that these kids may not understand how the editing of a series can change the way people see them, and that some of the kids may regret participating if they are portrayed in a less than positive light. I have also read the numerous reviews by people who simply find the show boring.

All of these things make me feel guilty for liking this show. But I do like it. And I'll keep watching it until the end.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

It's Not A Given

While I love the fact that the Buckeyes will be going to the Rose Bowl if the current standings in the BCS hold up, I love the possibility that they could be going to the National Championship even more if just one of the top two teams lose this Saturday.

I don't like the chances of 4-7 Pittsburgh beating West Virginia, though as we've seen this year anything is possible. However, at 7:00 PM, #1 Missouri takes on #9 Oklahoma. Either team could certainly win, and with a conference championship at stake they both want it bad. And if Oklahoma comes up with the win, my beloved Bucks would have to move up to #2, making them the other half of the two teams in the National Championship game.

Now, if I can only find a TV at the McKillip Christmas party for periodical updates I could have a great time this Saturday.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A Girly Holiday Smorgasbord

I was firing up the DVD player this morning so my 3 year old could watch a show. As I was looking for the chosen DVD in the carousel, I realized that the DVD selections reflected the two youngest viewers in the household, a 5 year old female and a 3 1/2 year old female.

Here, in no particular order, is the five disc selections currenty cued up in our DVD player.

  • 1. Strawberry Shortcake - Berry Merry Christmas
  • 2. My Little Pony - A Very Minty Christmas
  • 3. Disney Princess - A Christmas of Enchantment
  • 4. Walt Disney's Classic Cartoon Favorites - Classic Holiday Stories
  • 5. Music from the TV Christmas Classics - A CD that the kids have been dancing to

We still have A Dora Christmas DVD and a Nick Jr. Christmas DVD, too. It's going to be a girly Christmas season this year!

Monday, November 26, 2007

I Wasn't Cold Last Night, But . . .

Yesterday at around lunch time Ian mentioned that he was cold. Brendan said he was cold, too. Now, I'm always cold, so for me to say something like that wouldn't have been surprising. But for my son and husband to say they were cold at essentially the same time was nothing short of amazing.

We ate our lunch, however and didn't give it much more thought until an hour later. Brendan was walking by the thermostat in the hallway and looked at it. It read 66 degrees F. Strange since we have it set at 68. So I came over to look at it and pressed "Run Program" figuring that would fix the problem. No dice. I decide to go down into the basement to look at the furnace. This of course was futile as I know absolutely nothing about how a furnace should run. I go back upstairs and tell Brendan the furnace is buzzing, but it doesn't sound too weird. He says, "Okay," and keeps checking the strands of Christmas lights for burnt out bulbs. I decide to try something new and I push the thermostat up to 70 degrees. I listen carefully and hear the familiar click of the thermostat, but no furnace running. I now go and report this to my Christmas light stringing husband and he finally decides to go down to the basement to look at the furnace. Through his dutiful inspection we discover that there is no flame coming on to heat the air that is to be blown through the house. Uh Oh.

Brendan calls the furnace guy (on a Sunday) and this is what I hear of Brendan's end of the conversation: "Well, we'll take a Monday appointment then. Between 8:00 and 10:00 AM, fine." Click. Uh Oh.

He informs me that an emergency appointment will cost us an extra $40 over a Monday appointment. So we inform the kids that if they get cold to put on an extra layer and sit under a blanket (preferably the brand new ones I got for them at Menard's the day after Thanksgiving for $1.85 each!)

So last night I wasn't cold sleeping. However, I did put two extra blankets on my bed and sleep in long johns under my winter pajamas. I also wore socks to bed. This morning the current temperature is 57 degrees F in the house as I wait for the furnace guy to come. I am still wearing long johns under my clothes and I also have my winter coat on (never took it off after taking my kids to school). I hope he gets here soon.

Update:The furnace guy was here and we have heat again!!!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Friday, November 16, 2007

Overheard At My Kitchen Table

"Mommy, it's hard making sunglasses with leafs. It's hard work. You don't use glue, you use tape."

It just made me smile.

Why Autumn Is Called Fall

I woke up this morning to a very cold and fairly gray looking morning. I went downstairs to make lunches for my two school aged kids and looked out the sliding glass doors to our backyard. We have two maples that have lovely yellow leaves that as of yesterday hadn't fallen off. Last night changed that. On the ground all around the trunk was a carpet of yellow leaves around both trees.

I then got back to my morning chores of pouring cereal into bowls, doling out vitamins, making sure morning snacks were packed into backpacks. After everyone was dressed, teeth brushed and coats put on and zipped up, we headed out the door to go to school. My kids school is in an older neighborhood with many beautiful and mature trees. Everywhere I looked I could see leaves fluttering calmly to the ground. Today must have been the days the leaves were supposed to fall, because they were falling all around me. It was really stunning to witness. What made it even more spectacular was that there was no wind blowing, so I knew these leaves were falling because it was time to fall, not because of some blustery weather.

I pointed out to Zoe some yards where I could not see one inch of grass, only yellow and brown leaves everywhere. She seemed fascinated and started to look at all the trees and yards with me. We watched as leaves floated to the ground at every corner. She told me it looked like it was "raining leaves." It was an apt description.

I just felt so blessed to have witnessed this beauty of nature. I was truly awed by God's amazing creation and so thankful to have gotten to witness it this morning.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Man I Love

Today is my husband's birthday. I've been around celebrating them with him since his 19th birthday. We've celebrated a lot of them together and I hope he knows how much I love him.

Happy Birthday, Brendan!

In recognition of this momentous day, I'm going to share with you all one of Brendan's favorite crock pot recipes (he doesn't like many of them, so this one is special!) It is also incidentally what we will be having for dinner tonight when we celebrate.

Sausage & Pepper Sandwiches

5 uncooked Italian sausages
1 medium green pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium sweet red pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 large onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 can (8 oz.) tomato sauce
1/8 tsp. pepper
5 hoagie or sausage buns

In a large skillet, brown sausage links on all sides over medium heat. (I find spraying the pan with cooking spray ahead of time useful to help the sausages not stick.) Place sausages in crock pot. Put in peppers and onion. Pour tomato sauce over mixture in crock pot. Stir in to mixture slightly. Sprinkle pepper over mixture. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or until sausage is no longer pink. Serve on buns.
Yield: 5 servings

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Halloween Round Up

Wow, the last part of October has been a whirlwind of activities and illnesses. Fortunately many of the colds/ flu bugs flying around our house seem to be on the way out.

A few weekends ago we decided to go to the same pumpkin farm we went to last year because we liked how it was simply a farm where you walked into the field and picked out your pumpkins. Brendan and I have been increasingly irritated with the "kidification" of all activities on earth. While there is a time and a place for slides and video games (like at Chucky Cheese), we are getting tired of shelling out extra money so our kids can go on a carny ride at the apple or pumpkin farm. It's not just the money, though. It's also the message that the activity (apple picking, pumpkin picking, etc.)in and of itself is not enough fun, there must be some kind of external goodies and rides that make the experience unforgettable. The thing is, my kids love the activity without the extras, but of course if we go somewhere with those extras, we are the ones saying "no." (And it is getting harder and harder to find places without these extraneous activities.)

Anyhow, as we approach the farm, we see a sign that reads "Farm moved 4 miles east down road." So, we decide to drive down the road four miles, assuming there will be signs showing us the new location of our pumpkin farm. No dice. At about the 5 1/2 mile mark, we decide to turn around
when I see a small wooden pumpkin sign up ahead on the side of the road. I tell Brendan to go see what it says. When we get close enough to read it, it says Pumpkins - 8 miles down Grove Road. It is not the pumpkin farm we had originally come to go to, but at this point we had few options so we decide to drive the eight miles down the road. Along the way there were several more homemade pumpkin signs and after six or seven minutes of driving we see the most amazing pumpkin farm ever. No rides, no caramel apples, just pumpkins everywhere you looked! Turns out we stumbled upon Heap's Giant Pumpkin Farm, where all they sell is pumpkins. They boasted of 30 varieties of pumpkin and truly, there were pumpkins I had never seen before, along with giant pumpkins that looked like a lot of fun. After checking out the many different pumpkins and the kids giving them the once over, we decided on two nice large orange ones and the girls got two "baby" pumpkins to take home. It was tons of fun, and not one ride in sight. Definitely a farm we will be visiting in the future.

On Tuesday night we carved the pumpkins, one with a traditional scary face, the other with our Martha Stewart drill method. The kids loved helping drill the holes all over the pumpkin and every person in the family drilled a few holes. It made for a fun and different pumpkin from the average jack o'lantern.

Wednesday was all about the candy and the costumes. Ian decided on an army guy, and wore his Grandpa's old army shirt and some olive green pants to round out the costume. Zoe was an absolutely adorable Scooby Doo. And then there was Emma. All October she talked about how she was going to be Princess Aurora or Cinderella for Halloween. We had both dresses in our dress up stock, so either choice would be easy. Then on Tuesday night she decided she wanted to be a fairy for school and wore a white angel outfit with purple wings. When she came home after school, Ian, Emma and Zoe went to the basement to retrieve their pumpkins for collecting candy. Emma found a witch's hat and asked if she could be a witch for trick-or-treating. It just so happens Emma has a black hand-me-down dress that I just put in her closet two or three days ago. We put a purple shirt underneath, some black tights, and the hat on top of her head completed the outfit. She was the cutest witch in Aurora.

At about 4:45, all the neighbor kids started ringing our bell and the natives were getting restless. Brendan got home at about 5:00 and the four of them took off for about an hour of candy gathering while I stayed home to pass out the goods to the other costumed kids. After a quick meal of mac and cheese, Ian and Emma headed out again for about 30 minutes to some other houses and came back with even more goodies. Grandpa made a Halloween appearance as Albert Einstein and passed out even more chocolatey goodness before everyone changed into jammies and got ready for bed. It was a fun night.