Monday, February 6, 2012

December 2011

December got off to a great start. Aunt Janet had invited me to attend an Andrea Bocelli concert. We metroed in, perused an outdoor market right by the Verizon Center, purchased some Peruvian wares, and then settled in to listen to some beautiful music. Bocelli is a very engaging performer, though he spends little time talking to the audience since he is hesitant to speak in English. Some fantastic female vocalists on tour with him as well. I thoroughly enjoyed the evening (and the company). It was marvelous to sit, basking in the glorious music, undisturbed by pleas for lollipops or sippy cups. I love attending community cultural events with my 3 little ones, but it was marvelous to let my thoughts wander uninterrupted. I even came away with some much-needed inspiration regarding Girls Camp and other obligations of my current calling. During intermission, Janet and I talked about operas, speech therapy, etc. (John has long been able to communicate effectively with grunts and points. Janet suggested that acting confused about what he is wanting and encouraging him to try words instead would help him develop his speech. It's working beautifully. Success breeds success, and once he mastered his "mama" and "dada" he is off and running, trying new words daily). So grateful to have Aunt Janet in my life!

The ward Christmas party was next on the list of holiday events. The YW organization was in charge of decorating, so on a Friday morning my counselors and I gathered with our wee ones to transform the gym into something festive. Adam and his basketball friends had set up some tables for us the night before, and Brother Baldwin, one of my heroes, had come in early the next morning to set up all the chairs. The decorations were a success, as was the party! At last year's ward Christmas party, we were babysitting a friend's 5 children while they were out of town. My kids had the stomach flu, so Adam and I had divided in hopes of conquering. I took John and the 5 kids at our friend's house; Adam had Spencer, Emma, and the ramifications of their having the stomach flu at our house. Despite our best efforts at quarantining, germs were swapped and in the middle of the night after the Christmas party, red jello was making its reappearance. Two of our friends' kids had caught the stomach flu. I called for back-up, and Adam came immediately to my rescue with our two recently recovered kiddos in tow. Love that man!
This year's party was delightfully uneventful. Spencer and Emma loved talking to Santa. John didn't think it was such a good idea. Hence the binkie.

We did some Christmas baking together.

The Christmas cactus bloomed right on time to make the corner by the kitchen table quite festive.

I got to attend Spencer's class party. (Love that kid!)

Then, John and I were both able to attend Emma's class party. She made tons of darling crafts and got to spend a little more time with the big man. I was really proud of how patiently she waited her turn. One cute little note: when Emma saw Santa the first time, he remarked that her socks (red) were his favorite color. You can see she took that to heart. For her next Christmas party, she was all in red, right down to her shoes.

One of Emma's "teachers" (high schoolers) is her special pal. This teacher, Katie, got Emma a bunch of Hello Kitty gifts for Christmas. Emma was one happy gal that day.

I hosted the annual Christmas recital and was astounded with how full the room was this year! My cute violin students played so well. Spencer played the piano during the recital; I tried to upload a video, but that always seems to frustrate blogger. He was all business in his Norwegian sweater (his wardrobe choice when I asked him to put on something "nice," which just made me happy).
I also got to play some violin this Christmas season. The Mormon Orchestra of Washington, D.C. performed at the Festival of Lights. Adam is a trooper to bring all 3 kiddos while I saw away on stage with Valerie and Celeste (both on cello). Thankfully, Grandpa, Laura, and Aunt Katie were there to help. The Cummings clan was there in force too! I loved seeing all the returned college kids and Grandpa Bezzant in the audience. The report is that John was absolutely mesmerized by the concert, which you know this music-loving mama was happy to hear.

In the latter part of December, Adam and I decided we needed to spend some special time with each of our sweet kiddos.

We took Emma to see a local production of "The Nutcracker" ballet. A friend from church was playing the part of an angel in the production, and Emma got her autograph after the show. My lovie loves all things having to do with dance.

John got to come with us to Chick-fil-A. Adam was treating his Sunday school class (12 - 13 year olds) to lunch at Chick-fil-A, and John was happy to bask in the attention of the youth and consume a chocolate shake.

Adam is pretty much the best Sunday school teacher ever. I think these kids would agree.

Spencer got to come on an outing to the Udvar-Hazy Smithsonian Museum. For Christmas, we gave Gpa Bezzant some IMAX tickets and decided to go see our film on the 23rd, before the full craziness of Christmas was upon us. The film we chose ("Legends of Flight") was just okay, but the museum never fails to impress. Thanks, Melinda and Joel, for coming with us!

Adam and his PATH filters managed to snap some fantastic pictures.

One last picture...just too sweet not to include. My kids are so lucky in that when my siblings come home from college, each dedicates special time and attention to the nieces and nephews. Love and miss you all!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

November 2011

November was a big month for Johnny. He reached the 18 month mark, and what an adorable 18-month boy he is! It should be noted that he loves hats, especially ones he sneakers from someone else. (This one is Emma's Indian headdress from preschool).

This boy LOVES plah-doh. He also loves throwing plah-doh utensils, which sometimes means he doesn't get to play with the play-doh as long as he would wish. John has a little bit of rascal in him.

18 months also marks the start of nursery at church. The first week or so went okay. I stayed while he adjusted, having explained that I would be going to class and come back after Young Women's. He did great until he saw other parents come to pick their children up before Adam and I could make it back to the classroom. Ever since, it's no dice. He screams as soon as we leave. It doesn't help that nursery is right during what would normally be his nap time, but isn't that always the case? We'll figure it out eventually...

Since we are hanging out in nursery for now, it does mean we can snap cute photos of him playing with all his little buddies. Props go to Adam for being the family photographer this holiday season. He is a memory maker and documenter. Love that fella!

Another November memory came with the completion of the addition at my parents' house. They extended their dining/kitchen area so that it could accommodate their 11 children, spouses, grandchildren, and anyone else who might stop by at dinnertime. We spent some fun afternoons watching the ongoing construction, and Adam stayed late one night to help lay the new floor just in time for Thanksgiving.

For Thanksgiving, Adam and I decided to make a pie together. We used a recipe from my brother Dan, and Adam had the idea to sprinkle cinnamon sugar over the crust of this apple-caramel concoction. Never would have occurred to me, but it made the top crust absolutely GORGEOUS. I am generally not a crust lover when it comes to pie, but I had no trouble devouring this cinnamony deliciousness.

Oh me, oh my, would you look at that pie?!!!

We were too busy eating dinner at my parents' house and dessert at Adam's parents' to take any photos of our actual Thanksgiving. However, here is a candid shot of Lefse Day, a family tradition wherein we wrap all the Turkey Day leftovers into a potato tortilla of sorts in honor of our Norwegian heritage. Grammy and Papa hosted a crowd of 20-something in this initial extended family gathering in the kitchen. Three long tables fit easily, and no one had to climb under the table to get to his or her seat.

As must be expected at any post-Thanksgiving gathering (especially one involving the Younce family bakers), pie was to be found in abundance. Hard to pick a favorite, but I really loved the taste of Kari's cranberry pie and, of course, Adam's apple masterpiece.

Some of the pie makers: Kari, Mom, me, John, Celeste, and Janet
*Major props to Celeste who cooked a most magnificent Thanksgiving feast with the most delicious brussel sprouts I have ever tasted. Everything was seriously delectable.

I am putting this picture last, but truth be told we knew we would be so busy with celebrating Thanksgiving with various family members that we put the tree up before the festivities. Adam's cousin Michelle was on hand to hang out and help while we assembled the Christmas tree.

Baked Hot Chocolate

Looking for a decadent chocolate dessert to serve your honey on Valentines' Day? Do I have a treat for you!!

Adam sent me this recipe from the Wall Street Journal. We made it for dessert this evening, and it's a good thing our stomachs were on empty (thanks to Fast Sunday) because these are rich and filling. I'm putting this in the running for our next Polar Express party because it's as close to melted chocolate bars as I've ever tasted. It took several servings of whipped cream to even out the chocolately goodness, but none who consumed this deliciousness were found to complain about that minor detail.

Total Time: 40 Minutes

Serves: 4

9 ounces high-quality semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes

4 large eggs

1/4 cup granulated sugar

Lightly sweetened whipped cream, to taste (optional)

What To Do
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Arrange four 1-cup ovenproof coffee cups, mugs or 8-ounce ramekins in a baking or roasting pan.

2. Melt chocolate and butter together in a double boiler set over barely simmering water. Whisk occasionally until smooth. Remove from heat and set aside.

3. Stir eggs and sugar together in a mixing bowl, then set bowl over simmering water. Stir until warm to the touch.

4. Remove from heat. Beat egg mixture with an electric beater until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes. Gently fold egg mixture into chocolate mixture.

5. Spoon batter into cups. Add enough very hot water to baking pan to come halfway up sides of cups. Bake until the tops lose their glossy finish, 15-20 minutes. Carefully remove cups from pan.

6. Serve warm or at room temperature with a generous dollop of whipped cream, if desired. Puddings may be refrigerated for up to one day. To reheat, bring them to room temperature and then set in a 350-degree oven until warm, about 5 minutes.

Thanks to Spencer for modeling dessert. Look closely and you can see his scarred eyebrow from his latest round of stitches (3 and counting). He's going to look like a war hero when he emerges from the battlefield of childhood.