Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Violet's First Christmas Gift

{Dear Violet}

Today someone gave you your very first Christmas gift. 
A stranger, no less, was the giver. 

I took you girls to Barnes & Noble so that you could toddle around while I sipped coffee, and the sweetest old lady named Jean started chatting with you.

She was impressed that you are walking so well at only 9 months old. {Aren't we all? You pretty much ran into my arms tonite when I was making dinner.} You smiled up at her and cuddled the Eeyore plush doll you'd grabbed from the shelf. It was $15. 

I had mulled over the thought of buying it for you, but decided that $15 on a stuffed animal wasn't really in our budget right now. But once Jean saw you smiling and cuddling the Eeyore, dragging it around the kids book section for a good 15 minutes, she then insisted on buying it for you. 

I tried to talk her out of it. 
Really, I did.
But Jean insisted, and so you got to take your new blue friend home with you. 

It makes me happy to think about people like Jean, who give without hesitation and even to stranger's children and grandchildren, as if you were one of her own and she had decided to spoil you today.

What a lovely start to our Christmas season, no?

You know what else is a great start to our Christmas season???
The killer grilled cheese sandwiches I made tonite for dinner. 
So unhealthy, two buttered pieces of white bread with gooey melted cheese in between. But who doesn't love a grilled cheese now and then?

You sure did. Nom nom nom...
Especially served alongside a bowl of Trader Joe's Tomato & Roasted Red Pepper Soup. Yum. 

If there's one thing you adore, Viv, it's food.
And your new Eeyore. 

Remember to give graciously and with abandon, 
like our friend Jean. 
I don't know how else to thank her other than to keep her in my prayers. 

Don't underestimate the joy that spreads from giving. 

{Love, Mommy}

Friday, November 25, 2011

Our Perfect Thanksgiving - 2011

Thanksgiving 2011 went off without a hitch for us, how was yours?
In fact, I'd say we had the *perfect* Norman Rockwell style Thanksgiving. What American family doesn't dream of that, right?

Since other family was out of town, it ended up just being my side of the family this year. So we invited them over to our little home, which I've already begun to decorate for Christmas {got a problem with that??}
 For Christmas, I always want to throw twinkly lights all over my house. I usually have to settle on just a few strings, however, or the mister starts to complain about our electric bill...
 I used to be a real-tree-only purist. These days, worrying about little ones, fires, and having to clean up too many pine needles--we just do the fake tree thing. We scored this one after last Christmas at Walmart for $20! We've been waiting all year, literally, to use it.
 I'm a total sucker for Christmas decor, I'd put it up in July if you all wouldn't judge me...
 When our pastor & his wife moved to England a couple months ago they gave us a lot of Christmas things to sell for them at our yard sale. But I couldn't let these cute little vintage figures go so I bought them myself...
 Eisley was super excited for her cousins to come play! She talked about it all morning...
 I decided to keep my great-grandmother's Johnson Brothers china stored this year and instead went for a kitschy look with the vintage Corelle dishes I've been thrifting all year. The patterns I collect match the vintage Pyrex I own, and when I see them in good condition at Goodwill I always buy them--they're only 49 cents a dish, can't beat that.
 Since we had to move out our fake fireplace for the Christmas tree, I moved my rag-tied lights garland over the window. I think I prefer it here.
Violet's 1st Thanksgiving. Eisley's 4th!
 With the house all ready & the food prepared, it was time to wait for family to show up...
 Eisley was so excited to see her grandmas & papa. Violet was a little freaked out...
 But she warmed up quickly.

Cocktail time! I have the BEST cocktail to share with you:
 Spiced Apple Cider Cocktail!
1/2 a gallon of apple cider
1/2 cup dark rum
1/2 cup cinnamon schnapps
1/2 lemon, squeezed

Combine all ingredients into pitcher and serve over ice with skewers speared through Granny Smith apple pieces. SO delicious!
 Here's the best part of having a professional brewer for a brother-in-law, he always brings plenty of beer to share. Noah brews at Oskar Blues Brewery. For Thanksliving he brought 3 growlers of his very own Pumpkin Old Chub {or, "Old Chumpkin" as we called it.} It was delicious!
Appetizer's table, a must. Left to right there was: baked brie, buffalo chicken dip & chips,  Port Wine cheese snowman, cream cheese & pepper jelly dip, bacon wrapped smokies {I have another name for these, but I can't say it here...ask me sometime}, monkey bread, and finally--yes, those are Little Debbie snacks :-)

I know, this is silly, but fun for the kids, cheap, and they make cute easy petite fours, right?
 This little guy is cute! Too cute, I think, no one wanted to eat him.
 Ayla also brought a plate of Play-Doh cookies to share. She said to her parents, "We can't show up without bringing something!"

Justin & I went crazy this year and instead of cooking a turkey, we decided on a sir loin roast instead. I know! But the Tuttles & us just didn't feel like a classic turkey dinner this year...

For fun this year we decided to try and re-create Norman Rockwell's famous Thanksgiving painting. So in-between appetizers/cocktails and dinner, we had a photoshoot. 
The picture turned out okay, but it wasn't perfect, so later that night I decided to Photoshop...
Now we can always remember REALLY having the perfect Thanksgiving.

And yes. I dressed the baby up as a turkey.
She was the most difficult, being the star and all...

She was happy when it was finally time to eat, however.
We had mom's mashed potatoes...
 Apple Velveeta Casserole {my sister brought this, before you judge it by the obscene amount of Velveeta in it, believe me when I say this dish is YUMMY!}
 Mom's famous corn casserole. Best ever! Justin requests this every year...
 A new recipe, balsamic roasted carrots & parsnips. It was good!
 Winter Fruit Salad with Lemon Poppyseed Dressing.
I didn't get a picture of the roast {darn!} but it was PERFECT and served with this, Whipped Horseradish Sauce:
It's a tight squeeze in our tiny dining room, but we all fit in and feasted.

 Good food. Good wine.
 Good time.
 After dinner, but before stuffing ourselves any further with dessert, we played a rousing game of Catch Phrase. That's a great game to get everyone laughing, for sure.
 Last but not least, and although no one was hungry or up for more food, we all had some dessert. I made a marble pumpkin cheesecake and pecan pie. Great recipes, they turned out amazing! With homemake whipped cream they were divine.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Dental Woes

So, this post is kind of embarrassing for me.

It involves HYGIENE.

But I'm posting it... this here is my life, you see.

All six billion {or so} people on earth are gifted and cursed with certain genetics, right? Being an Erickson, with our mix of Swedish/German/Scots-Irish heritage, I have enjoyed zit-free teen years, long eyelashes, and a pretty good level of fertility {"first try" babies abound in my family.}

But we all know, everyone has their genetic perks, their own unique combination of SCORE! genes. At the same time, we all have our "bad" genes.

For us Ericksons, the worst genetic offenders seem to be a prevalence to type 1 diabetes, weak joints, thin hair, and....


We have bad teeth in my family, most of us do, anyway. As my old dentist put it, we tend to have weak enamel and are prone to caries.

I am happy to report that TODAY I had a cleaning at the dentist's office. And I was cavity free for, like, the first time EVER!

Unfortunately, that's only because in the last few months I've had many, many appointments for restorative dental procedures.

I'm sad to say, it had been about X number of years since I've been to the dentist. I know, right!? X YEARS?! It was awful. You grow up and mom stops making your appointments for you {rightfully so, since you're a married adult now} and you just stop prioritizing dental appointments. It happens. The stupid thing is I'm not even scared of the dentist. My mother raised me to have an irrational fear of spiders, yes, but she also taught me not to fear medical procedures. And especially now, after having about 2 million shots of lidocane in the last couple months and enduring a good 20 some hours in the chair with the drill running, I say to dental shots and drills: BRING IT! I'm not scared of you!

My best friend recently went to her first appointment in the same X number of years... and she had ZERO decay. She's NEVER had a cavity. Not ONE.


Now, I have to beg you to believe me when I tell you--I haven't always taken stellar care of my teeth, but I've always brushed day & night. Always. I grew up with the benefit of being under my father's union insurance which covered everything but the gas money used to get to the dentist practically, and so my teeth were always tended to--regular dentist appointments, prompt fillings for any cavities, braces, proper wisdom teeth removal. Still, despite our best efforts we just lack quality when it comes to our chompers. {My sister, however, seems to be the only one who has dodged this genetic marker of doom to the dental chair.}

So how bad, you ask?
Let's just say, when I first learned what work I'd need done, I told Justin in tears. "Just call me Swiss-cheese-mouth!"
I went to the dentist for the first time in X years a few months ago, and I was finally driven there because of two broken teeth. Both breaks happened during my pregnancies {pregnancy is known to be a time when the pH balance in your mouth is off and women are more prone to decay--as if I didn't have it bad enough already...}

Finally, in fear of losing my teeth due to breaks and having them disinigrate, I headed to the dentist. Finally. We have insurance and everything {not that it covers much}, so why did I put if off so long??? Because I didn't want to face the music...

I'll just come out and say it...

X crowns
X root canals
3 trips to the endodotist
and X+ fillings later....

TODAY I have a decay-free, restored smile. I was lucky that I didn't lose any teeth.

Justin replied, "Just think, when you're all done with treatment we can call you Money Mouth!"

Wow. I know! That's a LOT of work. And I'll admit, when I first went for a consult and found out how bad it was and how much it would cost, I cried that day. But by the grace and goodness of God we were able to manage having my teeth "saved" {no pun intended.}

I have to say, I've been surprised at the way my confidence has improved with just a "little" dental work. A lot has changed in the X number of years I neglected dental appointments! They have digital x-rays now, who knew?! I also had all my metal fillings, all those dark silver spots on my molars replaced with nice white fillings {heheh, or crowns}. I can at least look at my teeth and pretend nothing ever  happened!

Today I went in just for a cleaning enjoying the first time in my life a cavity-less checkup. Like normal people get to do! In case you think I've just taken horrible care of my teeth, I have to tell you that the hygienist and my dentist have both said, "I can tell you take care of your teeth because there is very little plaque build up for X years without cleanings."

Here's the kicker: my husband went yesterday for a cleaning, now that we finally finished up my work, we braced ourselves for seeing what care he would need after also X years of no cleanings. And I love my husband, but I'm ratting him out: I have taken better care of my teeth than he has. His cleaning even took an hour longer than mine.

So what work does he need done, you ask?

Just a few fillings.

Ha! Must be nice...

{Actually, our bank account & I are VERY happy for him.}

I hope our kids get his teeth genes. He's a lucky man in my eyes.

So anyway, this month everyone has been sharing their daily thanks for certain things {as if we're just allowed to be thankful for ONE thing a day}, but today really has me thinking how thankful I am to have had this dental work done.

I found my new dentist through my in-laws, who recommended him, and he wins awards here in Colorado for being a great dentist. I recently saw the smile of the cashier at our grocery store, a young woman about my age with young children of her own. Her front teeth are decayed and blackened. I noticed this right after beginning my long list of treatments. I had been having a pity party for how bad my teeth were, but seeing this woman's blackened smile really smacked me in the face with a little bit of humility and gratefulness that I've been able to have my mouth fixed. Bitterness is always cured with a healthy dose of it-could-be-worse-so-count-your-blessings...

So I now carry mouthwash in a flask in my purse and floss at least twice daily.

Despite my genes working against me, I'm going overboard with the dental care now that I've been to the dark side and returned alive, so hopefully I'll still have a few teeth left when I'm 90...

...really praying my girls got their daddy's teeth...
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