New Year's Eve

We have started a new tradition of getting up early and 4 wheeling out into Tonto National Forrest to watch the last sunrise of the year.  When we were looking at going to California the kids had a fit at the idea that we would not be home on New Year's Eve.  We are creating monsters. :)
I feel so lucky that my teenagers want to get up on New Year's Eve to watch the sunrise with us, so I was more than happy to give in and make sure we were home for this tradition.
It was especially chilly this year.  The warm cinnamon rolls and hot chocolate were perfect to warm up our insides.
The sleeping bags were good for our outsides!
It was a gorgeous sunrise and a beautiful way to send off 2018.  They were going Sicko Mode out of 2018. :) 
Waking up with the sun and staying up to the last minute of 2018 makes for a very long day!  But by the evening we were ready to ring 2019.  Hailey and Karlie had parties to go to but they both came home to ring in the New Year.  I think they might love us.
It wouldn't be New Year's without the Edwards.  This was one of our more mellow New Year's Eves, but it always good to drink wine and chat into the wee hours with dear friends.
Max and I always start the year off with a kiss.  Nobody I would rather celebrate life with than this guy.  Hoping 2019 is full of love, laughter, adventure, and celebrations!

Christmas Time Cali Visit

We typically don't travel during the holidays but we decided to mix it up a bit this year and headed out to California!
We landed in Oakland and headed straight to the neighborhood Max spent late elementary and early middle school years.  Nothing brings back his childhood memories like Gordo's Taqueria.  We LOVE their burritos!  Hank can take down an entire "super" burrito by himself.
 After fueling up we headed over to the Cal Berkely campus.  It was fun to walk around and take in all the beatiful sights.  The energy of college campuses are always buzzing with possibilities and hope.
More amazing than any of the buildings was the diverse and abundance of plant life.  Next to a redwood tree was a bird of paradise and lavender! Only in California. :)
We had a nice afternoon exploring around the campus and just hanging out.
We couldn't wait to see Aunt Anna!  I was shocked how much these two look alike!
We spend most of our "vacations" running at mach 10 from one thing to the next.  I think I had slipped into my post Christmas blues because I took two, yes TWO naps while we were visiting!  It was so wonderful to have great hosts and no major agenda.  I felt so rested after our trip.  I think we all needed a little relaxation time because no-one really wanted to do anything but hangout and snuggle.
George and Cheese never wanted for a lap or arms to hold them.
 Karlie is dying to get a little dog and hanging out with George and Cheese only made it worse.
 Nana and Pops' backyard is like the Garden of Eden.  They have wild orchids, calla lillies, fruit trees, a fig tree, and koi pond just to name a few.  These tree ripened oranges eventually made their way into wonderful mimosas.  It is easy to see why so many people love California.  I might even be able to grow some tomatoes there. :)
One short excursion included a visit to Pops' metal shop where he tinkers in his retirement.  Max got to tray his hand with welding again after 25 years.  Turns out it is a lot like riding a bike...  Hank was impressed how a 1/2" round bar of steel could be easily bent with the appropriate tools.  He also was amazed to see the metal melt while Max was welding.
The grill masters.  It was the biggest treat to not be in charge of the menu!  I felt like a queen with dinners like Pealle, lamb chops, and brawts.
Hank was also in the resting mode, he crashed out before we started our poker game.  Hailey and Karlie ended up the big winners, but we all won because Pops and Nanna staked us all!
One afternoon was arts and crafts with candle decorations.  It was such a fun craft that everybody made something beautiful, even the ones at the shallow end of the art gene pool.
We had a great dinner with Max's cousin, Alex, and his family, but somehow did not end up with a photo!
On our final day we went to Rodeo Beach and took a hike up the cliffs.
It was great to be by the ocean again.  I miss that the most about California.  There is so much power and beauty in it.
It refreshes your soul to be near it.
My crew is getting so big!  My girls are turning into ladies that are almost as big as I am and my baby is too big to sit on my lap.  
 It was a refreshing and lovely visit to California over the break.
Until next time!

Christmas Murder Mystery Dinner Party

What is better than Halloween?  Christmas of course.  But what if you had Halloween and Christmas together!?
This year for our Christmas party with friends we decided to host a murder mystery dinner party.
Those snowflakes became a winter wonderland in the kitchen.
The key to a fun party is always prickly pear margaritas!  Well, a shot of Patron to get everyone into character too. :)
Our friends were such good sports getting dressed up and playing along.  We ordered Murder At The Manor from Amazon.  It has everything you need to host the party.  We sent each guest their character description.
 We had Dee Minor, the famous concert violinist, and Professor Peacock.
 Then there was the Blanche Batter the cook and Reverend Will Beedone.
Sierra Tango the only police constable in the village and Inspector Denaux.
General Custard the ex-Army General turned security specialist, and Misty Visions the wild, gypsy fortune-teller.
Lord Heathcliff's young, beautiful wife Em Fatal, and his chauffeur, Ford Escort.
Max and I fit right into our roles as Doctor Fumbles and Mrs. Withering, the silent but deadly housekeeper. :)
 What makes hanging out with these friends so much fun is our kids are friends too.
So when we have a party, they do too!
The kids played an escape the room game.  But they finished it in 5 minutes.
And Fortnite...
The murder mystery game is fun because the host gets to play along too.  Everyone drew a number and if you had an X on yours you were the murder.
 The character playbill told you how to answer questions if you were innocent or guilty.
Each time you play, it can be a different guest.
 We all had Em Fatal down as the murderer.  However, low and behold it was my very own doctor!
It was a hilariously fun night.  I had prizes for the best actor, which was tickets to the theater.  Em Fatal won.  She had us all convinced she did it.  
General Custard and Misty Visions took home best costume award which was a Santa suit.  Ford Escort stole it because he wanted Em Fatal to tell him what she wanted for Christmas.
 Best detective went to none other than Inspector Denaux who disguised himself as Jewish rabbi with a French accent.
My stomach was sore the next morning from laughing so hard.  I imagine there might have been some sore heads the next day too with this jug of prickly pair margaritas nearly gone.

December Delights

Christmas is my favorite time of year.  I think I have a unique strain of seasonal affect disorder.  I could be a case study for Christmas affect disorder.  I run manic for 30 days, suffer a quick bout of post Christmas blues and then am back and running at normal pace.
All the excitement, magic and festivities align with my personality.  I thrive off having things to plan and do.  To kick off the month Max had two work parties in one day.  The first was for his department at Top Golf and then for the physician wide party at the Musical Instrument Museum that night.
Party all day that's the Katie way!
 Then there is Holly, who I love to hate.  Why is it she must make messes?  Can't she just move from shelf to shelf nice and neatly?
Oh no, she has to TP the house!
Apparently green milk and spilled cereal is not enough.
The kids were wondering why Holly was being so good this year.
They spoke too soon and her wild side came out in a last minute burst of naughty behavior.  But the kids were disappointed that she didn't sharpie our faces this year.  However, I was not.
 On National Gingerbread House Day we made gingerbread houses.
 You know they can sometimes be difficult to get the icing to set.  Hank's house kept collapsing.
We just kept adding more and more icing hoping it would stick.
 After three flops we finally managed to get it to stand up.
Just don't look at the back or ask us to build any houses.
 I was able to chaperone Hank's class to the Halle Heart Museum.
 He still wanted to sit with me.  Can I seriously hit the pause button?
 It was a fun and informative field trip.  I went on the trip with Kaitlin when she was in fifth grade too.  Following girls around and boys around are a completely different trip!
 It was most likely the last field trip I will go on.  Talk about a heart breaker...
 My mom came into town and we hosted a Christmas dinner with my Uncle Larry, Aunt Anne, and Grandpa.
 It is such a blessing to have family visit and to be able to puzzle with my grandpa!
 Hank practiced for few weeks for the Nativity play at church one Sunday.  Ironically he was one of the wise men. :)  This is his last year in the elementary Sunday school, so we were front and center for his final performance.  He did a Fortnite dance at the end!
 My two high schoolers were pretty stressed out with finals.  Karlie had three classes that were make or break finals.  With finals being 20% of your grade, none of them were ones they could blow off.  Hailey and I stated a tradition of running out for some stress eating during the half days of studying.  Karlie had her inaugural stress break at Canes.
 I had never been to Canes but it is teenager favorite around here.  I have to say I am not jumping on the bandwagon.  While their chicken is great, having only offerings of fried sides is a little much.  But I loved the Chuck Norris poster they had displayed.
Taken from Here.
I wish more companies and Americans lived by Chuck's code, especially: "I will continually work at developing love, happiness, and loyalty in my family and acknowledge that no other success can compensate for failure in the home."  America needs to get back to the family unit.  If we are broken at home, we are shattered in the world.
 Hailey was so busy with work and studying she actually didn't have time this round to stress eat, so she waited for a Cinnabon celebration after finals were over!  I am so proud of these two.  With their honors weighted classes they both raked in 4.0 GPAs!
 It wouldn't be Christmas around our house without all types of Christmas inspired foods.  One of the favorites is Christmas pancakes.
On Christmas Day we feasted on crab, artichokes, and pasta.    We were so excited to find a whole crab at Costco.  We found one in 2014 and loved doing it again.  The make dinner so festive.
Hailey and her riding friend, Mrs. Rose, always bring good cheer and candy canes to the neighbors for Christmas.  Mrs. Rose has a new horse that pulls a buggy, which was a fun addition!
I love this tradition they have created for our neighborhood.  Having a horse in a Santa hat bring a candy cane to your front door has to make you smile and have good cheer.  Hailey and Mrs. Rose spent the morning spreading JOY. :)
 We are down to 2, well I guess 3 that still want to sleep under the Christmas tree.
One morning they got the Alaska ornament for our Family 50 tree.  I can't believe we only have one more to go!
In the final weekend before Christmas we tried to get in all our Christmas movies.
 It wouldn't be Christmas without The Polar Express or Rudolph.
We might have been burning the midnight oil to finish up our Christmas cookies, but we had some beautiful ones ready for Santa!
 We spent the month working a little here and a little there on our Christmas puzzle too.  Everyone was home to put in the final piece!
On the winter solstice we made enchanted snowflakes.  My girlfriend looked at all the snowflakes hung in the kitchen and wondered how I got the kids to do it.  I told her they wanted to do it and even invited a friend over to do it with us.  She shook her head and said, "I guess you have just trained them."  That struck me as odd.  
I always figured kids like doing crafts.  But I realized she was right.  We have trained them to want to do stuff with us rather it be snowflakes or gingerbread houses.  It is a strange feeling when you recognize something you think is normal is abnormal.  I suppose in reality most teenagers don't want to make paper snowflakes with their parents, or most parents don't want to make snowflakes with their teenagers!  LOL :)
Looking back I wonder if our entire December is abnormal.  All along I have been thinking we are just doing what every other family does and now my kids are going to look at their childhood and need therapy for all the snowflakes they had to make. :)  Hopefully they will see we are like snowflakes, no two alike, and delight in the crazy December that their Christmas manic mom danced with them through each year.