Cherishing Christmas Memories with Family

We made our annual trip to Baton Rouge for Christmas to spend time with both families.  It is a blessing that Stuart and I have families in the same town so we only have to travel to one place and not trade off which year we go to which family.  It makes it easier for the kids to see both sets of grandparents a couple of times a year.  It's a long drive though that takes a full day on the road.  We are always delighted to cross the Mississippi River bridge though because that is the landmark that lets us know that we have finally arrived.  I'm pretty sure I take a picture from the bridge every time we go to Baton Rouge.

It was nice to spend a lot of one-on-one time with mom.  

And of course Uncle Steve!

Before we left Texas, we bought a tiny little Christmas tree and a few ornaments so we could have a tree set up in the hotel room for Christmas morning.  Even though we are away from home, we still like to have Christmas morning just for our family.  Stuart and I usually have a gift to exchange with each other and we give the children their gifts from us.  And Santa always leaves a few unwrapped gifts under the tree as well.  Yes, he even finds us in the hotel.

Then we head over to my brother's house for Christmas lunch and a gift exchange.  Steve and Nicholas played guitar together while we waited for my parents to arrive.  I love watching these two on guitar!

You can just see Stuart shaking his head as Rachel opened a slime making kit!  

But she did get some new figure skates as well.  She still loves hockey and figure skating.  I hope that she will soon choose a favorite to pursue 100% because buying gear for both sports gets expensive!

Nicholas was excited about several upgrades he got for his drone.  I was most excited for the laptop he got because he will use that a lot for school.

I don't get pictures of my family nearly enough so I'm excited to have this picture of us all together on Christmas day.

After lunch we eventually waddle our full bellies out the door and head over the Stuart's family where the kids get to spend time with their cousin Jessica.  Jessica pulled out her ukulele for Rachel and taught her a few tips.

Then there were more presents to open!  Lots of excitement!

After dinner, we all gathered in the living room to play the Saran Wrap Ball party game.  It's easy to prepare and surprisingly fun.  I bought trinket toys, playing cards, candy, lottery scratch off tickets, etc plus a roll of Saran Wrap.  I started wrapping each thing up in the Saran Wrap, one at a time.  You start with just one thing then wrap Saran Wrap all around it.  Then you add one more item to the ball and wrap it all up while making sure it is all stuck together in the Saran Wrap.   Just keep going and watch the ball grow!

To play the game:  The youngest player goes first and starts unwrapping the ball.  They get to keep anything that falls out.  In the mean time, the person to the left of them starts rolling a pair of dice as quickly as they can.  As soon as they roll doubles, the ball gets passed to them and they can start unwrapping.  To make an easy version, wrap everything without ever tearing the Saran Wrap so it is one long strip.  This makes it easier for the players to just shake it and unroll it all.  To make it more challenging and make the game take longer (which I did), tear the Saran Wrap every now and then and start a new strip.  Players now have to spend a little extra time finding the beginning of the Saran Wrap.  It seems like a silly idea but you watch the video below and see how much fun we had.  

The kids had fun on their day trip to New Orleans to go to the Insectarium!  They found a giant earthworm!

This is a picture of Rachel sticking her hand into a blind box to see what she feels inside.  I love how Nicholas looks like he is going to jump up and protect her if she gets scared but look at the excitement on her face!

A tour of the Insectarium can leave a kid hungry so they stopped by for a bite at the Bug Buffet!  Salsa with mealworms, anyone?

How about a Chocolate Chirp cookie made with crickets?  Yes, both of my kids ate bugs!

And they posed as beetles as they learned about their hard exoskeletons.

The Insectarium has a wonderful room where the butterflies will just fly over and land on you.  There are beautiful exhibits of moths and butterflies but also plenty of creepy crawly exhibits that aren't so beautiful.  There are also some non-insect exhibits like this tarantula!

The kids also spent some time together at the roller rink.  It is one of the usual activities we do when we come to town.

Look at this picture.  I love these three!

More good food and fun times with family....

This cute couple is tying the knot in a matter of months.  I'm so excited that I'm going to have a sister!

Of course, the trip wouldn't be complete without a few games of One Night Ultimate Werewolf.  It is a bit hard to explain but essentially you have to try to guess who at the table has the werewolf card and lying is encouraged.  It is a sneaky fun game and some people have figured out how to hide their "tells" by simply covering their entire face!
We had a wonderful visit in Baton Rouge and made some sweet memories with our families whom we love and miss so much.

Christmas Traditions: Gingerbread Houses

We have a few Christmas traditions in our home.  One of them is decorating gingerbread houses.  I usually buy the pre-made houses and some extra candies to go on them.  Sometimes the kids have decorated their houses at their grandparents' house in Louisiana.  This year they decorated them with friends.  I think this is their favorite way to hold the tradition.

I bought houses that were not only pre-made but also pre-assembled.  Easiest thing ever!  Just take off the cellophane wrapper and start decorating.  Several other kids had pre-made pieces but they were supposed to assemble them with icing.  Well, if you've ever done that then you know it is time consuming and tries your patience.  And then it all collapses in a mound of disappointment.  But my friends are so creative.  They took the kids' pieces and stuck them together with hot glue.  Not as edible as the traditional way but much more efficient!  You go, girls!

And these days, you don't have to just buy a gingerbread house.  No.  Now they have gingerbread barns, movie-themed gingerbread houses, gingerbread, Christmas trees, and even gingerbread trains!

They also had graham crackers and other cookies and candies in case friends wanted to just make their own crazy creations.

Nicholas assessed his house and the candy options and then decided on the best way to proceed.  He often takes his time with decorating gingerbread houses.  Last year, he enjoyed some crazy decorating for his house to make it look like a monster!

But this year he said he wasn't going to make a monster or anything crazy.  He just wanted to decorate it like a house.

While the boys were outside decorating their houses, the girls were inside decorating theirs.  

Gingerbread house decorating is serious business for these girls!

After decorating, everyone enjoyed pizza and fellowship with friends.

Finally, the kids had fun with an ornament exchange.  Everyone brings a wrapped Christmas ornament and they play a white elephant game to see which one each child gets to keep.

Nicholas ended up with a silly dog with a bow.  

Rachel was even less excited than Nicholas because her ornament was Superman.  And no, Nicholas did not want to trade with her.  He is a Batman fan all the way so he didn't want anything to do with Superman.  Silly kids!

What are some Christmas traditions in your family?

Painting with a Twist {Mom's Night Out}

Moms need time to refresh and renew.  My dear group of friends understand that so we try to schedule Mom's Night Out about once a month.  I dream of painting like Bob Ross so I always love it when we go on painting outings.  

For December we went to Painting with a Twist to paint a cute Christmas truck. Painting with a Twist is a cool place to spend a few hours with friends.  We had a private party so our group chose the picture we wanted to paint and scheduled the day and time that worked best for us.  You can bring your own snacks and drinks (yes, wine is fine!).  The instructor is at the front of the room and he walks you through step-by-step as he teaches you how to paint the selected picture.

It was so much fun painting with all of my sweet friends!  We talked as we painted and may have even cut up a little, perhaps encouraged by the wine.

And we all went home with a cute Christmas painting to hang on the wall.

This was my second class at Painting with a Twist and I just love it.  It is perfect for a Mom's Night Out or even a birthday party.