Mustache Tatts

I guess we are a little late for Movember
but Mel sent us these mustache tattoos that go on your finger.
So. Fun.


Lots of Gifts!

How thankful I am!
To be able to give gifts to our children.
To be spoiled with gifts from our loving families.

Christmas morning was filled with squeals of delight.

Dylan wanted to wear everything immediately.
"i put it own"
At one point he had on about 5 shirts plus his super and bathing suit.
(the bathing suit was not even new but he just had to wear it)

We were thrilled to receive some hadmade gifts from

After all the presents were opened.  Abby gave us a fashion show.
My sisters and I used to do this, too, Christmas morning, seeing if everything fit
and trying to decide what to wear to Mimi's house.

The rest of the day was pretty chill.
Abby and Joe were engrossed in their new games while Trek and Dylan ran around crazy.

All in all, a wonderful day.

Thanks to the fam for all the goodies. 
Sorry we couldn't be with you in person but you were with us in our hearts!


Christmas Eve Tradition

Our Christmas Eve tradition is comprised of celebrating the arrival of Jesus
at our church's Christmas Eve service and going out for...

This tradition evolved our first year in Cali.  Trek was born a week before Christmas so we knew we wouldn't be traveling back to Alabama to spend it with our families.  What to do.
The church service was beautiful.  It ended with candlelight being passed from person to person while singing Silent Night (just like back home).  But while we would have eaten a big dinner with some family members in Alabama after church, now we were looking for a restaurant that was open on Christmas Eve, preferably not McDonalds.  We ended up at Chikara's and a tradition was born.

 Christmas Eve 2007

Christmas Eve 2011


Sunny with a Chance of Ice

December has been beautiful!
Lots of sunshine and no snow.  A win win for me.
The temps have really been dipping at night though. 
The other day down in camp we discovered this little ice pond.

The kids find it fascinating to break the ice.  I like to look at it.
So, I made them let me take pictures before they started harvesting ice.

Where we live there is at least a 10 degree difference between the shade and the sun.  This was a new phenomenon for me--a girl from Alabama.  Where I grew up there wasn't any place to escape the heat in summer, or late fall, or that one time we had an eighty degree Christmas.  The humidity just soaks up that heat and shares it with all the spots, shady or otherwise.
The temp difference happens in the winter, too.  There are spots on the mountain that stay in the shade all the time and so the ice or snow has a hard time melting.  Some neighbors down the road take advantage of this in order to create some amazing ice sculptures.

The sculptures are always changing and I never know what I will see when I go down the hill.
It's difficult to pullover on this winding mountain road of ours but Jono was with me this time so I attempted to get some pics.  I probably look pretty strange to people driving by (but then my sisters would probably say I look pretty strange most any time).

Me, I'll still search out the sunny spots first but this was a gorgeous piece of shade.
I hope you are enjoying the weather where you are.


Holiday Truck of Forbestown

All dressed up for the holidays!

You can see the pumpkins in the background left over from Halloween.

And Batman needs green lips?  Really?  I didn't know.

Merry Christmas Eve Eve!


Good Things Come in Cold Packages

We've got steaks!

My dad sent us an edible Christmas present.  Love it!  Don't even have to worry about Christmas dinner now, just have to fire up the grill!  You would think that would be exciting enough but it was a double present because the steaks arrived on DRY ICE!

Joe is my scientist in training and he wanted to lead us in some dry ice experiments.  We quickly googled it to see what we could do with the supplies we had at the house.  We knew that you can pour water over dry ice to make some thick, Halloween-worthy smoke, but here are a couple other tricks we tried out.


#1  Mysterious Vibrating Quarter
Take a quarter and hold it vertically against the ice.  When it has melted down just far enough to stand alone you let it go.  The quarter starts vibrating like it is coming to life!  It only lasts as long as it takes for the quarter to freeze.  You can warm the quarter back up and try this trick again and again.

#2  Bubbling Gurgling Smoke on the Water
Add some dish soap and food coloring to a bowl of water.  Pour over the dry ice.  You might have to blow the smoke out of the way to see the bubbling, gurgling action going on.

It worked best with the ice completely submerged.
And when you pop the bubbles, smoke comes out!
This was completely entertaining.  I--I mean, the kids--loved it. 
Who needs cable?!

Thanks, Dad!


We're going on a Tree Hunt

What a beautiful day!
We're not scared.
(because we have tools and we can pick up large sticks)

We're going on a tree hunt.
Everybody found a different one they liked the best (of course).
There was the tall one with the poof on top like a palm tree in a cedar tree's body.
There was the short fat one.
There was the teeny tiny one.
And there was a rather large normal looking one.

No one could come to an agreement,
so we had to draw straws/sticks.

The large normal looking tree won.
Everybody takes a turn with the saw.

Then we take it home and annihilate it with decorations!
We have the big colored lights this year.  Love it!

No full tree shots yet.  But I'm sure it will work it's way into some other Christmas photos.


Pictures with Santa

The kids have now had their picture taken with Santa twice.
The first time was at Yuba Feather's Holiday Kick-off with a very youthful Santa.

The second time was this past weekend at the Nevada City United Methodist Church during Victorian Christmas with a very authentic-looking Santa.

Trek and Dylan had no qualms about sitting with a strange man that has long hair and beard (take note CB).  This was probably due to the fact that they knew that was who was handing out the candy canes.  Abby was completely mortified. 

Joe was trying to ignore the fellow completely.  Since Joe wouldn't tell Santa what he wanted for Christmas, Jono said the thing he would most like was a hug.  Bless his heart (Joe's or Santa's?)--that Santa gave Joe the biggest bear hug!
Pretty hilarious.  Joe may never go see a Santa again.

Side note:  Santa's elves also made it to Victorian Christmas.

I had a friend ask me why I make my kids take pictures with Santa if we don't "play Santa" at our house.  I had to think about it a little.  We tell our kids the story of St. Nicholas and we still fill up their stockings on Christmas Eve.  We just don't go into elaborate tales of a man far away who is watching everything they do and will come bringing gifts mysteriously in the night.  Our pastor, Maury Robertson, had some words that fit my feelings just perfectly...

"Santa is not real. But Santa is an echo of something that is. Santa arrives from a distant country, filled with love for all the world. He comes bringing justice. (Have you managed to stay off the naughty list?) He brings gifts from a workshop of infinite resources. These gifts are not generic. Santa has a list with our name on it. We whisper the secret desire of our heart and he prepares a gift to match. The veil between presents and Presence is very thin.
In the Christmas movies, belief in Santa transforms sinners into saints."
That's what I want my kids to believe.
That's what I want to, need to, put my faith in.
That sinners can be transformed into saints.
And it's not a fat man in a jolly red suit that is going to do that.
He's just an echo of the real thing--
who loved us enough to enter this messed up world that long ago Christmas Eve
so that sinners like me (and you) could be transformed.
May you experience the joy of transformation this Christmas season!

{You can find more of Maury's writings at http://www.rivervalleyyc.org/blog/}


The 12 Days of Christmas

The twelve days of Christmas make me think of several different things...
 A few years ago when Abby and Joe were smaller we painted an ornament for each day and talked about the real meaning behind the symbols.  For instance, the two turtledoves represents the two parts of the bible, Old and New Testament.  You can read the complete list here.

It also brings to mind a very awkward moment with Jonathan's family during the dating years.   They are a very musical family and the first Christmas I spent with them I discovered that one of their Christmas traditions is gathering around the piano to sing Christmas carols. 
How lovely is that?! 
Bring the family together through song and good cheer. 
I love it! 
But when it came time to sing the 12 Days of Christmas they started handing out days to different people.  I was given something very early on like Day 3 maybe.  They explained to me that when it came to the line for day 3 I would sing it.  By. my. self.  I sing great in the car or in the shower or in a big group of people where you really can't hear my voice. 
But on that night I was singin' solo with the Gardners, "threeee frendh hens" about seventeen times (or however many times you sing the third day). 
Of course, they all laughed at me, none louder that Jonathan.  
I think it was my initiation into their family (which I am so grateful to be a part of!) 
And I was glad that I could bring them a little extra Christmas joy that year. 

This year, Jonathan is writing a poem for each of the twelve days.
This link will take you to day five.  Just go older or newer post to see the other days.



There are walnut groves a-plenty around these parts.
And they are gorgeous.  Rows and rows meticulously planted at even spaces.
And they are delicious.
But I have to say, I am still partial to the pecan.
That's Pee-can.
Pee with a long 'e' and can like a can of beans.

Jonathan's grandmother has a couple trees in her backyard.  So, while we were visiting we put the kids to work--I mean--we all went out back and gathered pecans together!  Seriously, we all were out there.  It was a beautiful day and it is a little addictive.  Finding them, eating them, trying to beat the squirrels to them.  Did you know that if you throw a football up into the tree accurately enough you can knock down more pecans?
That is some entertainment right there!
Not only do you get to watch athletic prowess in action, you get to watch everyone dodge the pecans as they come pelting down from the sky!
Despite the kids eating most of the ones they picked up
(if you look in the pictures, their cheeks are all full)
we were able to make it back home with a bag full of those sweet treats that remind us of Alabama. 
Thanks, Maw Maw.
 Here are a few recipes that I might try out with my coveted stash.

And since we are on the subject of sweet treats,
let us not forget the
pumpkin roll.


Christmas Playlist {She & Him}

Zooey Deschenel and M Ward form the group She & Him.  Their new Christmas album, A Very She & Him Christmas, is tops on my Christmas playlist this year so far.

A Very She & Him Christmas

What are you listening to this holiday season?


Tuscaloosa After the Storm

We visited Tuscaloosa while we were back in Alabama.
We have so many memories there.
I grew up on Alabama football (even though I eventually defected to LSU).  Jonathan's mother's side of the family is from Tuscaloosa so he has memories of holidays with his grandmother and aunt and cousins there.  He also spent four educational(?) years there at "the U-nuh-vuh-suh-tee" during which three of those years we were dating so I spent a fair amount of time there as well.
While we were in town to spend some good turkey-eating time with Jono's family, we also wanted to see what was still there and what wasn't from the April tornado.
Remember the April tornado?
The one a mile wide and stayed on the ground for over 100 miles?
This is a bit of what we saw.

This block had been cleaned up but it is a whole block of just driveways.

Other sections looked as if clean-up hadn't even been attempted.

This is the church in Alberta City that my mother-in-law grew up in.
Got married in.

 There are whole neighborhoods of houses that still have these markings on the windows.
After the storm they were going from house to house searching for people.
It a disturbing reminder of the storm's warpath.

I was struck by how much rebuilding there is still left to do.
The city just has holes in it.
It has been months since Tuscaloosa was struck by the tornado and you most likely won't be hearing about it on the news anymore.  But these people still need help.

Project Blessings is a local Tuscaloosa organization helping low-income and underprivileged homeowners repair their homes--those that desperately need home repair, but do not currently have the means to make them happen.  You can help them with a donation by clicking here or if you are more local find out about volunteering here.
(metal still wrapped around a tree branch)


Naughty or Nice?

Don't tell a soul.
It's my letter to Santa

Up at the North Pole.
He thinks I've been good;
That's not quite the truth.
But I'm asking for lots,
Do you think that's uncouth?
I'm better than Tommy;
He sat on his brother.
Much better than Alice,
She barked at her mother.
Suzy doesn't deserve much;
She broke line at school.
Mason did much worse;
He said spitting's cool.
So compared to that tax collector
I think I've done swell.
Just don't compare me to Jesus,
Cause I'll deserve. . . .well, you know.

Find more of Jono's poetry at his blog, My Used Ink.  Look in the December 2010 archives for more Christmas poems!


Alabama the Beautiful

We just got back from our annual trip to Alabama.
We saw so many people. 
And we laughed and laughed.
Just look at all these beautiful faces!

Cousins taught us new things.

There are so many reasons we love Alabama.

But California has captured our heart as well.
New friends have become our west coast family.

It is hard having your heart in two places,
but I am grateful that we have been blessed so abundantly!

It was great to see you, Alabama.
Thanks for welcoming us back, California.