Sunday, December 12, 2010

snow day

I have some more advent activities to share, but my mind is a bit sluggish tonight so I'll have to work on that post tomorrow. In the meantime, here are a few photos of the "snow" day we had back in November.

They canceled school due to fears of icy roads - the snow was only a few inches deep, but the temperature was below freezing for a while. Poor Chris had to walk all the way to work because the bus never came. It will become his "when I was your age, I walked four miles in the snow!" story he can tell the kids when we're old and cantankerous and lamenting the end of the good old days.

The kids had fun using baby spoons to scrape the snow off the car, then had a snow tea party on the back deck while I stayed warm and toasty with my cup of coffee and watched them from the back door. It was a perfect day, and a much appreciated break!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Advent activities days 3-5

Advent DAY 3: make bead necklaces
 One of Maryn's best friends from school came over to play and we made some necklaces and decorated cookies. I love watching the kids form their own friendships at school (the one between Maryn and her friend E is so sweet!) but I hope no matter how many friends they have, the relationship they share as sisters will always come first.
 My Aunt once gave my mom a jewelery box with the saying "A sister is a special friend." I loved that idea, and am having so much fun watching these two and the way they love each other!

I just can't get enough of that dimple!

DAY 4: Put up Christmas lights

This is our second Christmas at our house and our first time putting up lights. I think I would have preferred white icicles, but the kids love color so we went with the big bold ones! I ran out of lights about 3 feet from the end of our house, and while the perfectionist in me cringes at the last unlit stretch I don't think I care enough to climb a ladder again. They're "good enough!"

DAY 5: Pick out our Christmas tree
We went to the same family-run tree farm as last year and found a perfect tree. Last year we had to put the camera on a timer and take a picture ourselves, but this year my mom joined us and took a great family photo for us. Thanks, mom!

Along with our daily Advent activity, we also read part of the Christmas story (or another related verse) from the Bible. Tonight it was Luke chapter two which describes Mary and Joseph's journey to Bethlehem and Jesus' birth in the stable. Maryn asked the question "did Jesus save the world when he was a baby?" To which I responded "God sent him to save the world, but he had to grow up first." Maryn thought about it a bit and said "yeah, he was probably one or two at least." By that logic, Maryn is well past her prime at the ripe old age of five!

I hope you had a good, family fun filled weekend as well! Now to think up some more ideas for this week's Advent activities...

Friday, December 3, 2010

Advent days 1 & 2

Here's a picture of our Advent calendar:

They're the same paper cups from last year, but hung on a ribbon with mini clothespins instead of hanging from a tree branch (which kept falling over, or dropping the cups on the floor). The ribbon is over the chalkboard so I have to lift the kids up to pull out the paper with the day's activity. Having it placed out of reach also keeps them from taking out all the papers and shuffling them up!
Day 1 - Paper countdown chain
We used the same pack of Christmas scrapbook paper (bought at Target last year) to make our paper chain. Does anyone have a good idea of something to do with the paper strips once they've been pulled off the chain? So far the girls are using them as bracelets.

Day 2 - hot chocolate
In adorable little santa mugs - $.50 each from the Goodwill. We'll get lots of use out of these tiny mugs this month!

Christmasy cranberry muffins

I made these muffins with my girlies yesterday to celebrate the first day of advent. They are the perfect morning muffin - not too sweet, slightly spicy, with a nutty crunch and a bit of a tart bite (not to mention lovely color) from the fresh cranberries. The recipe is originally from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. I cut the recipe in half, used slightly less sugar, omitted the figs (although I bet they'd be great, we didn't have any on hand), substituted pecans for hazelnuts and added a bit of orange zest. I'll post the modified recipe here. Enjoy!

Christmas Cranberry Muffins (adapted from Ina's cranberry harvest muffins)

1 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2/3 cup milk
1 large egg
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter melted and cooled
3/4 cup chopped fresh cranberries
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line 9 muffin cups with paper liners, or use non-stick spray. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and ginger in a large bowl. Mix wet ingredients (egg, milk and melted butter) in another bowl. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir to combine. Stir in the sugars, then fold the cranberries and nuts into the batter. Fill muffin cups to the top with batter and bake for about 20 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.

They're also delicious as an afternoon snack with a cup of tea!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

* thankful *

Happy (belated) Thanksgiving to all those out there in blog-land. We're so thankful to the friends and family who check in here - the fact that you even care enough to want to know what we're up to means so much. I hope you all had wonderful Thanksgiving weekends filled with yummy food and time with family and friends.

We had a lovely Thanksgiving dinner with my parents and some of their friends. It was a really perfect and relaxed day. And the food was pretty amazing. Just look at the size of the turkey:

I wish I had the foresight to take a picture of the table to document all the work that went into the wonderful food, but my stomach got the better of me and I forgot all about the camera. Luckily my mom had hers and our friends took some fun pictures of the family:

I absolutely LOVE holiday weekends because they mean we get extra family time. We used Friday to reward the kids for filling out their star chart (a make-shift behavior chart where the kids earned stars for good behavior).  Chuck-E-Cheese was surprisingly uncrowded and Chris and I had as much fun as the kids. We were all pretty sad to have dad go back to work on Monday but it helped knowing we made the most of the days he had off.

Here is a picture of our "mantel" decorated for Thanksgiving. We don't really have much in the way of decorations, but the kids bring home lots of fun crafts from school and the end result is pretty festive:

And now the Christmas season is here again. Thanksgiving things are put away, Christmas decor is making its way around the house, and the Advent calendar is making its second appearance tomorrow. Hopefully I'll do a better job of documenting things this year. Tomorrow's activity is a paper count-down chain - the kids have been begging for one since we saw it decorating a table of books at Powell's. They'll be so excited to make their own! I just love the simple pleasures of Christmas!

Friday, November 19, 2010


A silly Lucy face:

And her newest trick "I see two mommies":

Maryn's hair is finally long enough for french braids (though my patience for creating said braids is still a little short):
Happy Friday!

Friday, November 5, 2010

baby love

Our dear, dear friends were blessed with a newborn baby boy last week and I was fortunate enough to spend a couple of hours with them taking pictures of their precious family. Here are a few photos of sweet baby Eli at three days old.




Isn't he such a cutie?? It's so fun getting to play "aunt" to this little guy, and he is definitely already like a cousin to my kiddos. They just love touching his soft skin and rubbing is fuzzy little head. And Jess looks pretty fabulous for having a three day old, especially considering baby E was a nice 9 lbs, 13 oz at birth. You're my hero, Jess!





We have prayed so much for you, little one, and can't wait to see the wonderful things God has in store for you!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


I'm not the biggest fan of Halloween, but it sure is fun to see all the littles dressed up! I hope your holiday was safe and fun and that the sugar highs were short lived :)

I thought I'd do a little rundown of the kids costumes through the years:




 Awww...they grow up so fast!

Friday, October 29, 2010

10 on Tuesday

Welcome to the catch-up installment of 10 on Tuesday (or possibly Thursday, which is when this will finally be ready to post), in which I share some things we've been cooking and baking lately and just otherwise catch-up on life.

1. We had some friends and my parents over for dinner Saturday to carve pumpkins and eat yummy short-ribs (I've never tried a Smitten Kitchen recipe that wasn't wonderful!). It was Jess' due date, and that little dude has yet to make his appearance. She still somehow found the energy and lightness of foot to dance with the "princesses." If you listen closely you can hear Lucy singing the song from Beauty and the Beast (and the guys in the background watching football).

2. It's rainy and cold this week so I'm making my Dad's beef stew. So homey and comforting!

3. If you're counting, that's two meals made with beef in 4 days - which is more than we've eaten in 6 months. Something about the chill in the air makes me crave slow cooked meat. Strange.

4. Due in large part to my friend Lisa (whose blog you absolutely should make a regular read as it includes awesome, healthy recipes and great advice for keeping a tidy, organized home and raising children who love God) I've gone through several cans of pumpkin making pumpkin waffles, pumpkin scones (recipe coming soon), pumpkin muffin/doughnuts, and mini pumpkin cupcakes (with cream cheese frosting, of course!). I've given lots away, but not before eating at least 5 pounds worth myself (at least that's what my scale tells me).
Mini muffins dipped in cinnamon-sugar from Lisa's recipe

5. Although probably imprudent due to our tiny house and budget, we recently bought a piano. Our sweet neighbor was going to put it on craigslist but happily sold it to us instead - plus the move was super easy as we just had to get it across the street. The girls have loved banging out tunes and Chris and I are looking forward to learning a few, too. Can anyone say Christmas carols?? Here's a picture of the kiddos with a Disney storybook as sheet music. I'm loving their creative songwriting :)

6. I'd love to learn how to play this song. It's always been one of my favorite hymns and Sufjan's arrangement of it is so ethereal and soul-stirring. It makes me cry every time.

7. Chris and I can't wait for date night this week because we finally get to see Sufjan live!

8. We're gearing up for a family fundraiser in January and hope to raise lots of money for Preemptive Love, an amazing organization that provides heart surgeries to kids in the Kurdish region of Iraq. Read more about their recent work here, and join us by praying in advance for the families whose lives will be changed by receiving these surgeries.

9. Here's another random picture of the kids from a couple of months ago. They love to help clean the house, especially anything they can spray and wipe down. They also like to sing the Cinderella song while they work - does that make me the evil stepmother?

10. You've probably noticed that my kids are dressed in a costume in just about all of these pictures. The minute we step in the door the fancy dresses come out and aren't put away until bedtime (and sometimes not even then). I'm loving this stage of life with them - their imaginations are boundless! I'm working on stretching my own imaginative muscles and find it sad that it is such hard work. I hope they keep their sense of wonder and fun forever!

What are some things you've been enjoying/thinking about/cooking/doing this week?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Falling for Fall

I'm sorry for the bad pun. But really, I'm head over heels for Fall. My girls prefer to say "autumn" as it's more regal and it does seem to evoke the majestic tapestry of turning leaves in waning light that surrounds us this time of year. However, I still like plain old Fall - a somewhat plain but homey word that conjures the coziness of staying in under homemade quilts drinking spiced cider by candlelight. We celebrated the first picture-perfect day of Fall with a trip to the apple orchard. It's strange looking at pictures of blue skies taken just a day ago while hearing rain drops on the roof today. But the dreary weather is the perfect backdrop to a day spent inside making applesauce!

Maryn wore a bright flowery dress yesterday and had to borrow my sweater to keep from attracting bees. I left my purse in the car while we picked and just put my keys in the sweater. Well, as we got ready to leave I realized my keys were no longer in the pocket of the sweater. We had walked ALL OVER the orchard and I had no idea where the keys could be. After praying for help, we retraced some of our steps and found the keys in less than five minutes. A little miracle!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Better Together

I've been LOVING the adorable videos that Rubyellen of Cakies has been posting of her sweet family and decided it was high time we did something with our videos, too! We recently bought a little Flip camera off craigslist and the kids have been playing with it non-stop. I love that we have their little voices and mannerisms captured for posterity (and for future embarrassment when they hit high school).

Here's a recap of our month so far - it's been a fun one!

September from jessica ballanti on Vimeo.

What has been your favorite part of September so far?

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Hike

This one deserved a post of its own! On our last full day at Wallowa Lake my mom and I decided to take the kids on a hike. Our friends told us about an easy 1-mile round trip hike up to a bridge and back that was quite doable for little legs and short attention spans. So off we went!

Here are the kids at the trail-head: ready to go!

And here we are at the bridge:
Only that seemed just a little too easy. That couldn't have been half a mile, could it? They must have been talking about ANOTHER bridge. So we kept going.
The picture above of my mom carrying Lucy pretty much epitomized the rest of our hike. Right after we crossed the bridge we stopped for a little snack - and Lucy wound up wiping sunscreen in her eyes. The poor baby was miserable and weepy, yet I pushed us to go on anyway - we'd made it this far, right? How much could we have left to go?
Only another mile and a half! Not bad for two adults, but the kiddos would have been fine stopping at the bridge. Towards the end, we reached this amazing view:

And a few steps later we were at the waterfall. Poor Lucy is still rubbing her itchy watery eyes and Maryn looks drugged and tired:

We turned around to go back and as I had assured Maryn on our way up: going down is always 10x easier. Until you take a tumble and scrape your hand in sight of the car at the trailhead (poor Maryn!)

Only one thing could console us - Ice Cream! Everything's better with a little sugary treat:

And that is the story of how we survived our 3+ mile hike. Now anytime the girls complain about a long walk or bike ride, I remind them that if they could finish that hike, they can do anything! They are very proud of themselves for having made it, but request that we keep it to shorter hikes from now on. I think my mom agrees :)