Both kids wrapped up the end of the school 'semester' with a holiday party. Norah's school is a full time center and so was only closed for a few days, whereas Lou's school was closed for THREE WEEKS. That's a long time. A very long time.
Norah's ballet class also had a special class where the parents could watch them dance to the Nutcracker music (interpret the word 'dance' there as loosely as possible).
(As an aside, see Norah's cute braids? Kiki was here for a few weeks and in that time Norah allowed her hair to be 'done' more times than she has in the history of her life. The child does not like anyone to touch her hair. Except apparently, Kiki.)
Among a million other things, a great thing about living in Texas is not traveling over the holidays. We are very lucky in that Kiki and the VZs have been willing and able to travel to us (thank you!) and at the age the kids are right now, I would much rather host company than be company about a million times over. We got particularly lucky this year because Grandpa Gene made his first visit to Austin! I was woefully remiss in taking pictures while he was here, and I think the only ones of him are on my sister's nice camera. Hopefully she will read this (hint, hint) and send them to me.
Grandpa Gene flew in late Friday night before Christmas and we spent Saturday at the Capitol. Despite its political leaning, the actual building that houses the Texas government is really quite impressive. It was nicely decorated for the holidays and there was even a quartet in the rotunda. Lou entertained the crowds with some dancing. We attempted to see the Bob Bullock museum, but that quickly turned into finding lunch in the cafeteria, which quickly turned into me taking the kids home before a total nuclear annihilation while BVZ and Grandpa Gene headed to the newly refurbished LBJ library (the one nice thing about always having to take two cars when we have an extra grown up is that I can make a quick get away when things get hairy).
Sunday there was football watching and bbq eating. We spent Christmas eve morning with the G side of the family, eating brunch and exchanging gifts. Because Trevor is awesome he gave both Lou and Reid a giant box of the cars/trucks/fire engines that he has outgrown. A GIANT box. I think we made it home with at least 20 cars, a dump truck that has now had its batteries removed, a fire engine that I cannot figure out how to take out its batteries, and a handful of trains.
I think it was an understatement that Lou was in love.
That afternoon, people came over to our house for chili and tamales. BVZ and Grandpa Gene put Lou to bed and I agreed that Norah and I would go to church (gasp!) with Kiki and Bubby. I am pleased to report that lightening did not in fact strike the building. Norah made jewelry boxes for all of the ladies in the family. A lot of glitter paint was involved.
When we got back Norah put out (gluten free) oatmeal and m&m cookies and almond milk. Plus, carrots on the front porch for the reindeer, of course.
The only thing Norah had asked for from Santa was a make-up kit. Did you know that most make-up has gluten? Yeah, me neither. Did you know that when you package a little kid's make-up kit as specifically gluten free you can charge $40 for it?? Yeah, me neither. She also got a box of crafts. Lou got a tee-ball stand and his favorite book of all times, Toot Toot Beep Beep.
We had a very nutritious breakfast of gluten free cinnamon rolls and bacon and watched Norah transform herself into Tammy Faye Baker.
The bulk of Christmas Day was spent at Bubby's house where there was a lot of food, a lot of presents, and a lot of fun. I am in no way kidding when I say the only picture I took that entire afternoon/evening was of the desserts. Sometimes I even disappoint myself.
It was great to have Grandpa Gene here. We had not gotten to see him since we left California (except for a quick breakfast when Norah and I went to see friends last year), and so it was a great chance to reconnect and let him get to know the kids. We hope he will be back sooner rather than later.
I took some time off the next week and we just hung out and did nothing in particular. New Year's Eve was at the T's house and the night of our annual cooking competition. This year was particularly challenging, because not only did you have to draw for your course and your secret ingredient, but everything had to be 1) gluten free, 2) dairy free, and 3) low sugar (poor Amy was recently diagnosed with gestational diabetes--or as I like to call it, the beetus).
I made French 75's to get us started. Our neighbors gave us a bottle of nice champagne as a gift and then I picked up 4 or 5 bottles of not that nice champagne I actually had to pay for. It made a big difference. I also didn't do the lemon garnish because people were drinking them faster than I could make them. Which is always good.
Steph and Andy had the first course and their secret ingredient was nutmeg. They did turnip 'fries' and baked meatballs. It was great. Every time I went to get something from the kitchen or check on the kids I would sneak another meatball. I thought I was being inconspicuous about it until Andy suggested that next time I passed through the kitchen I should try another meatball. Oops.
BVZ and I were next and our ingredient was pears. We did a beet and pear napoleon with a ginger vinaigrette. And by we, I mean, I. It was good and I was satisfied, although the beets we got were pretty small and not conducive to the fondant cutter I planned to use to make the circles. The napoleons were slightly lopsided and very misshapen, but they still looked nice and tasted light and fruity. I did eliminate all extra sugar from the recipe and replaced half of the orange juice with lemon juice in order to accommodate the beetus.
Kiki and Ryan were up next and their ingredient was vanilla. They did a steak with a shallot and bourbon reduction sauce (which is where the vanilla was). I thought it was delicious.*
Amy and Mark had dessert and their ingredient was curry. They did a pistachio and curry crisp, which they served over sliced banana and topped with chocolate. They intended to drizzle it was caramel but Mark burned it. Badly. I thought it was still really good with the chocolate, despite it being a little gloppy.
Everyone voted and the turnip and meatballs won. I think this was the first victory for either Steph or Andy and they get bragging rights for the rest of the year.
The plan had been for Lou to sleep in a pack-n-play and let Norah stay up with the big kids. Lou sleeps in a pack-n-play all of the time and it's never an issue. Except for the time when a party is going on and his mom just desperately wants to drink a freaking French 75. There was absolutely no way he was going to sleep (we tried multiple times), so I did what ever good mom would do and just let him stay up. They both were good until about 11:00 pm and then one started melting down, to be quickly followed by the other. We decided to pack it in rather than ruin everyone else's evening, so we schlepped them home and had a very anti-climactic start to the new year.
At least no one puked!