Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Traditions

We usually go to Santa'sTree Farm in Half Moon Bay to cut down our own tree, but this year we were in a hurry to get my parents to the airport after a wonderful Thanksgiving visit and we didn't see anything that we loved, so we had fun running around in the mud, then left treeless. We went to Home Depot the next day and found a great tree, already cut, for half the price. I am thinking we found a new tradition...go to the tree farm for the experience but plan on buying one pre-cut.
We go to the the Oakland Temple on Christmas Eve and see the beautiful lights. We watch the Nativity movie and walk around the visitor's center, then we head home for dinner. We usually have Cornish Game hens on Christmas Eve and just have left over on Christmas Day so I don't have to spend all day in the kitchen, making food the kids don't like and Dave doesn't want to clean up...but this year, since we were in the city and I wasn't home to cook, we had our New Year's Eve tradition of fondue early (so I guess I'll be cooking Cornish Game hens at Tahoe for New Year's Eve!) I did a three course fondue dinner (cheese, buillion, and chocolate). Yum!
I love having everyone open the presents from the kids on Christmas Eve so they don't get lost in the Santa shuffle the next morning. The kids are always so thoughtful. Then, we read The Christmas Miracle of Jonathon Toomey, one of the best Christmas stories ever, and we take turns reading from Luke 2 in the Bible, just to make sure we all remember the reason we celebrate Christmas. I tucked the kids in bed, then began a long night of thinking, "why didn't I do this earlier" and finally went to sleep at 3:00am. What a wonderful day.
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California Academy of Sciences

On the 24th, Dave went in to the office and I checked out of the hotel and got the kids some breakfast, then we all went to the California Academy of Sciences. Alaina and I went on her field trip there last year but no one else had been before. We had a great time and everyone loved the rainforest, aquarium, living roof, and planetarium. We ended up getting a family pass for the year so we can come back later and see the rest. Look at the spiderman frog and the colorful little bird. They are so cute!
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Thursday, December 24, 2009

San Francisco in December

Every year we go to San Francisco to experience Christmas in the city for a night.
We always go to Union Square and watch the ice skaters from the Macy's Holiday Lane. The kids pick out an ornament to add to their collection so when they go off to college, they'll have something to start with. We really look forward to roasted chestnuts but couldn't find any this year.
We stayed at the most incredibly decorated hotel in the world, the Hyatt Regency. It was fabulous!
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San Francisco in December, Part 2

We saw the Macy's windows, with the live puppies and kittens and I bought a $5 tin of delicious chocolates to support the SPCA. Well, it is Christmas, right? And we happen to love chocolates!

The kids love picking out their ornament at Macy's and I love to see more Christmas trees. They had beautiful displays this year.

Last year we discovered this treasure in the lobby of the Westin St. Francis hotel at Union Square and added it to our San Francisco Christmas tour. A 12-foot tall gingerbread house with 30 rooms, and made only of edible ingredients: 70 pounds gingerbread, 300 pounds of royal icing, 40 pounds molasses, 60 pounds flour, and 100 pounds of hard candies. Whew! This is totally worth a trip to the city to see.

Monday, December 21, 2009

2009 Bain Kids Gingerbread Houses

Somehow I got behind this year and made the gingerbread house pieces really late. Usually I make several really large ones that I bring to the sisters I visit teach, but all I had time for was one for each of the kids. They all built their own and they wanted to make them different. The sugar glue I usually make just wasn't working well this time, so we had to use a hot glue gun. What a great new tradition! It was so much easier! Andy's was more of a futuristic house. He and Ryan don't like frosting, so they just put their candies on top of the gingerbread and ate them. Alaina made a traditional house with beautiful traditional decorations. Becca decorated one side normal, then hot-glued a "no trespassing" sign on the other side. Notice how she hyphenated tresp-assing!
I never know what to expect from these four :)
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Friday, December 18, 2009

December in New York

Dave and I flew to New York for his office Christmas party and I had a whole day to visit Holiday Faires while he was at work. My Walnut Creek friend was there with her husband (who was also working) so we spent the day walking all over the city. We tried to go to a Rachael Ray taping, but they are finished until 2010, so we went to Grand Central Station and took the subway to Columbus Circle and I found some great gifts at the Market. The ball in the picture is made of pure chocolate...delicious!
I love Christmas trees!
We didn't make it to see the Macy's window display, but the Saks 5th Avenue windows were great. And of course we had to visit the shoe floor again!
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Monday, December 7, 2009

Thanksgiving Break in Monterey and Carmel

My parents came to visit for the Thanksgiving break and we took them to Monterey, Carmel, and Big Sur. Usually when they come Dave and I go out of town and they watch the kids or they aren't able to stay long enough to go anywhere, so this was a great mini vacation for all of us. This was Cabo's first vacation and Carmel is so dog friendly, we found a great restaurant that actually had a dog menu and he ate right by our table with several other dogs! He loved being the center of attention at the dog stores, too.

The kids were in heaven with Cabo there. It was his first beach experience and he wasn't sure if he was supposed eat the waves or not. He had a blast running on the sand with 54 other dogs...yes, the kids kept a count of all the dogs they saw!

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My mom took the dreaded Christmas photo this year. One of these made the cut...can you tell which one?
The guys all went to a Sharks game in San Jose and the girls were on our way home to start Thanksgiving food preparations when my van suddenly found the Gilroy Outlets! So, we spent a few hours there, then we all met at home and had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner outside. It was a beautiful day! I am so thankful that my parents could come and spend time with us.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Save Darfur Jewelry Sale

Andy is in the Save Darfur Club at LasLomas and made these jewelry sets for a fundraiser they are having this week.

Let me know if you are interested in any Christmas presents!!

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Saturday, December 5, 2009

Grandma and Grandpa Bain Came to Visit!

Dave's parents hadn't been to see us in a while so in October they hopped in their car and drove from Idaho to spend the weekend with us. We spent one day in San Francisco, where we met Dave for lunch at the Ferry Building and got to see his new office with a beautiful view of the Bay Bridge and the Piers. Then we spent all day Saturday going from game to game! They are great soccer fans :)

Bob had never been on BART before so we all decided it was about time he experience it!

Isn't Marcia beautiful? I love this picture of her. It is always so fun when they come to see us.

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Oatmeal Cinnamon Chip Cookies (did you ever think I'd post it?)

So sorry for the wait...I know at least two people out there are desperate for this recipe, which really is a great alternative to anything chocolate and which my children actually do eat. In fact, we sometimes call these breakfast cookies because of the oatmeal. Hey, whatever works!

Oatmeal Cinnamon Chip Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups oats
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 2/3 cups cinnamon chips (10oz bag)
3/4 cup raisins

Heat oven to 375 F. Beat butter and sugars until grainy, add eggs and vanilla; beat until fluffy. Combine flour and baking soda; add to the butter mixture and beat well. Stir in oats, cinnamon chips, and raisins. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes at 375 F. Let cool on cookie sheet one minute, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely before storing in airtight container at room temperature. Makes about 4 dozen, unless you eat alot of dough! This recipe is from Hershey's Kitchens.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Like a Good Neighbor

State Farm has really been incredible throughout this ordeal. We now have a project manager and a whole team of people who are fixing this mess in our backyard. Today we met with the pool company in Pleasanton who is going to redo the pool, fire pit, seatwall, and stairs. The adjuster came from LA and made a formal estimate of the damages. This was compared to the general contractors list and submitted to State Farm. A few days later I received a giant check in the mail! In the beginning I thought they had no where to go but down because Ken Bullock's response was so great. But their level of service has continued to be incredible! If you are looking for a great insurance company that actually likes to show you how they can be a good neighbor, look no further than State Farm!
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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Halloween 2009

This year, I was "that mom". The one who failed to plan and get everything ready ahead of time. The one who didn't take the kids to the pumpkin patch. The one who didn't even buy or carve pumpkins! The one who missed the elementary parade while making Monkey Bread and the last of 6 batches of cookies (because two kids had day of the dead celebrations in Spanish, Ryan's class needed cookies for their party, and the Save Darfur Club was having a bake sale). Yes, I was that mom who left the kids to fend for themselves after one afternoon of costume shopping with too many friends crammed in the van. And, guess what? My kids aren't scarred for life. They actually had the best (and easiest) costumes this year and they made them by themselves. After much drama, Alaina and 4 friends were teenage mutant ninja turtles. They cut their own turtle shells out of cardboard, painted them and strapped them on their backs with yarn. They wore plain green t-shirts (2 for $5 at Michael's) with karate belts and eye masks.
Ryan let his buddy be the quarterback and drew his own picture of a person running on the back of his shirt to be a running back (after we spent two hours ironing on the football lettering).
Becca cut out an 'm' that I drew for her and we hot glued it on a red shirt to make an m&m.
Andy made his own pacman costume. He'd been talking about it for weeks and I kind of thought it would go away. I was that mom. Thinking he'd change his mind and go as something that would actually fit in the van. He spent a few hours cutting and taping a dishwasher box and transformed it into an arcade game shape. He covered it with black construction paper and modge podge, then he cut out blinky, inky, pinky, and bashful, and a big pacman. He punched out circles to gobble up and glued everything together. Then he found a foam ball and colored it red to make the joystick and glued on the controls.
I wore my old cruella costume that I made 8 years ago and found in the Halloween box in the garage. I must say it was much cuter when Ryan, Becca, and Alaina were my dalmation puppies. This year I just looked like an old lady in a cape.
And Dave...well Dave deviated from the traditional hat costume and wore my brothers old hockey jersey. At least he's always a good sport.
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Monday, October 26, 2009

Blogger's Dinner Club: Dayna's Famous Lemon Chicken

A few years ago I came up with one thing that makes all of my kids happy and is good enough to make for friends. (Can you see the empty plate in the picture?!) I don't measure anything in it, so it's a "to taste" recipe. If you want more info, let me know and I'll give some estimates.


cut up chicken breasts (bite-sized pieces), flour, garlic salt, vegetable oil, lemon juice, chicken broth (or base and water), butter, cut up in small pieces.


Mix flour and garlic salt in plastic bag. Toss in cut up chicken, about 10 pieces at a time. Heat a little oil in non-stick skillet and cook chicken in a single layer, turning occasionally, until cooked through. Place chicken in paper towel lined bowl to drain off excess oil while you cook the rest. After all chicken is cooked, in same skillet heat chicken broth and lemon juice. Stir to loosen browned bits from pan. Whisk in butter, a little at a time, until the sauce is slightly thickened. Serve chicken over rice and pour sauce over all. (You have to put everything in separate bowls, of course, and let the kids determine how much sauce goes on how much chicken, which goes on how much rice. Otherwise, it just doesn't taste good!)

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Friday, October 23, 2009

Gem Faire Bonanza

On Wednesday I went to the Pleasanton Gem Faire with some friends. I had debated for a split second if I wanted to go, only because I am not so creative with beads and gems (better at just buying them already made) but it is a fun thing to do with my daughters. So, I decided to take Kim up on her offer to be our guide...she is the jewelry master! I picked them both up and we spent a few wonderful hours, just browsing through these sparkly beauties. There was a huge hall full of every kind of high- and low-end bead, gem, and finding (even rubies and opals, but alas, no sapphires). I would definitely recommend catching this comes to Pleasanton twice a year and rotates all year long. Unless you are most men. Then I would totally pass.

Jenny, Kim, and me
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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Blogger's Dinner Club: Mexican Chicken Lasagna

I am going to stop excusing my food photographty and styling. You'll just have to try it!
This is what we had for dinner last night. You can see which one the kids preferred! I forgot about this recipe and hadn't made it for several years, but we all loved it. For the kids' version, I put plain cooked chicken in a plain cooked lasagna noodle and rolled it up like the others. I baked a pan of these alongside the real lasagna rollups. I know, I must have the pickiest eaters on the planet.

Mexican Chicken Lasagna

16 oz lasagne noodles (not no-boil kind)
1 lb chicken breasts, cut up into bite-sized pieces
2 Tbsp oil
1/2 each red, green, yellow peppers, chopped
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 cups shredded cheese (Mexican blend), divided
1 egg 16 oz jar salsa

Cook lasagna; drain and lay flat on waxed paper to prevent sticking. Lightly brown chicken in hot oil. Add peppers and onion, cook until tender. Remove from heat and stir in 1 cup cheese, olives, and egg. Spoon 1/3 cup mixture onto each piece of lasagna; roll up like a jelly roll. Place rolls ups, seam side down in single layer in greased 13 x 9 baking dish. Pour salsa over the top and cover. Bake at 350 F for 25 minutes. Uncover and sprinkle with remaining 1 cup cheese. Bake 5 more minutes or until cheese melts. Serves 8.

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Dave n Buster's

Ryan wanted to go to Dave n Buster's for his 9th birthday party. But it's in Milpitas (a little over an hour away without traffic) so I told him he could have his entire class plus soccer team come for a party at our house, but if he really wanted it at the place he could only bring 4 friends because that is all I can fit in the van to drive there. You can see what he chose.
The kids all had a blast. A lady gave Blair and Cameron handfuls of tickets she had won. They were so excited. Ryan was obsessed with the quarter game.

Blair and Gavin both have amazing hand-eye coordination and each won the spin the wheel game by stopping the light at the 1,000 mark. The machine spewed out 1,000 tickets for each of them. We had dinner in the food court and I told the kids they could get whatever they wanted at any of the restaurants but 4 of the 5 went for the pizza.
I drove back to our house and the kids played pass the parcel, and had cake and ice cream. Ryan had asked for a scotcheroo cake, so I got off easy this year... This is the last celebration for the Bain Family Birthday Season and my baby is 9.

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