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Friday, December 24, 2010

2010 in Pictures

As the year is coming to a close, I decided to put together a little video/slideshow with the most memorable moments of 2010. This is my first attempt at creating something like this, so I know it’s rough around the edges.

Hope you all had a terrific 2010 and wish you an even better 2011!

Happy Holidays from the Swiders!

The Swider Family 2010 in Pictures

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Little Girl Gourmets

Our friends Carrie and Jason Show are having their third baby today. While they are at the hospital, we are watching their darling girls, Maia and Mackenna. Her cuteness (Nia) has been waiting for a sleepover opportunity for quite a while now, so she was ecstatic. While we were waiting on news from the hospital, we decided to make a mini cake. I got Nia a Girl Gourmet Cake Bakery set for her birthday and she had been itching to try it out. Tonight was the night!

 

I had a little dilemma. The set was intended for 8+ year olds and the girls are only 3, 5 and 7. Of course, all three girls are way advanced but I had to make a few adjustments in terms of parental involvement and supervision as well the complexity of the design, without robbing the little gourmets of their fun. The set uses actual cake mix that the kids “bake” in the microwave and then decorate with fondant and frosting. Our design was a little simpler than those on the package but everyone enjoyed making the cake and especially eating it. The cake you end up with is really tiny - we are talking a couple of bites for each girl but it was their cake and to them that was a huge deal!

Here’s what it looked like:

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If you think cake making is easy, think again. Look closer at our littlest baker, Maia, who was so drained by the experience that she fell asleep a couple of times during the process. Once on the couch during the 30 seconds it took for the cake to bake in the microwave and a second time on the floor while I was prepping the fondant. She did perk up again in the end though and participated actively in decorating the cake with icing and the best part, eating it – YUM!!!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

First Snow

We got snow in Northern Virginia today and Her Cuteness is in heaven. This is only the second time our Florida born child has EVER seen snow. We were in Chicago for Christmas last year and it snowed but it was  just a little more than a dusting.  Then last January we watched the news reports about the big snow storm here in D.C. a.k.a. “snowmageddon” and she so wanted to be here to play in the snow. As soon as we moved to the D. C. area, Nia asked me to promise her that we’ll have enough snow this winter to make a snowman, a snow fort and  snow angels.

And today her wish came true! The snow beautiful and powdery and the kids had a blast playing in it.

If we are lucky, we may get a white Christmas – how awesome would that be!

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Monday, December 13, 2010

My 2010 According to Facebook

There’s this Facebook app called My Year in Status that creates a collage of your most interesting status updates. Mine is below. It should have started with “My awesome husband got a job with the Foreign Service/State Department.” For some reason it didn’t but other than that it does a decent job of summarizing my 2010. 

To create your own, just type My Year in Status into the search window of Facebook. You can customize the colors and pick which statuses you want included (there is limit). Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Christmas Tree is Up

IMG_9032Well, it’s actually been up for a week now but I am just now getting around to posting about it.

There’s something almost magical about putting up the tree each year and decorating it – it just really lifts my spirits and makes the holiday season real.

I love our tree. We got it a couple of years ago from a Thanksgiving sale, where you have to get up and be at the store at zero o’clock in order to get the deal. This is the only time I remember ever doing that but it was worth it to us. We had been talking about getting a normal-size tree for years but we were forever renovating our older home and had literally nowhere to put it, so when we were finally able to get a bigger tree, we were truly overjoyed.

And yes, our tree is fake but we happen to be the kind of people that feel fake trees are better for the environment than killing a tree each year and discarding it after the holidays are over. I know that Christmas trees are grown specifically to grace people’s homes around the holidays but I always feel so sad seeing all the dead Christmas trees after the holidays. I also know that fake trees are made mostly of plastics/fossil fuels, which is not very green but they are very reusable and to us that’s the lesser of the two evils. Ours is an LED tree, so at least it’s energy efficient.

We are also finding out that a fake Christmas tree makes sense for those in the Foreign Service because if you are posted to a country that doesn’t celebrate Christmas, you may be unable to find a Christmas tree (real or fake). It may not seem important but when you are far away from home in a different culture, something like a Christmas tree can really brighten the holiday season, especially if you have kids. Our tree will allow us to bring Christmas with us to New Delhi and wherever we end up after that and we are glad about that.

So, our tree is up and we are enjoying it and the magic of the Holiday Season. Here’s hoping you have a magical Holiday Season too!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Most Fun Baby Shower Ever!

My sweet husband and his A-100 buddies Jason and Charlie put together a baby shower for Carrie, Sharon and I today. Our boys had never been to a baby shower but I have to say that this was the most fun baby shower I have ever been to. Boys apparently go about it differently. We had it in the party area of Carrie and Jason’s apartment building and had plenty of space, including a movie room, where the kids got to watch a movie, while we played games next door. The boys had decorated the place with a lot of pink and blue balloons (Carrie and Sharon are expecting girls on Jan. 1 and 5 respectively and I am expecting a boy on March 15). The food was delicious salads and pizza from the Mad Fox, Falls Church. But the best part was the games. I didn’t think our boys would want to do games and if they did, I would have thought they’d do things like drinking beer from baby bottles but I was pleasantly surprised.

Because we had three mommies-to-be, we had three teams. Each mommy-to-be was a captain of a team and competed against the other two teams. In the first game, we were handed a large Ziploc bag full of diapers and each of us had to guess how many diapers were in it. The second game involved five different types of candy bars, each melted in a diaper. Each team had to correctly identify what type of candy bar was in each diaper using smell, sight and taste.  In the third game the mommies-to-be had their feet diapered and then covered in chocolate syrup – messy! Then one member of each team had to clean up the mess with wipes and change the diapers. They had to do that wearing a blindfold, while another team member provided the blindfolded person with the necessary wipes and directions.

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The fourth game we played was pin the baby on the mommy’s belly. In the fifth game we had to design the strongest diaper for each mom-to-be in 5 minutes using legal office paper and tape. The strength of each diaper was then tested by filling them with candy bars. In the sixth game we had to pass a pacifier from one team member to the other and back using candy canes in our mouths (no hands). In the seventh and last game each of us had to feed another team member a jar of baby food using their weaker hand in the least amount of time. We got a little messy in this one too (see video below). 

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Messy Baby Shower Game

Each game was scored and the scores tallied. My team ended up second. Well, technically since the other two teams tied for first, we were really last but we didn’t care because we all had a blast and that’s all that matters. It was awesome to get together with good friends, celebrate our babies, eat great food and play silly games.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Thanksgiving Train Trip to Chicago

We spent Thanksgiving in Chicago this year. We are no fans of holiday travel because it tends to be unpleasant but we realized that this may be our last chance to visit Paul’s parents before we go to India, so our decision was made. We are not going to India until May of 2012, I know, but pretty soon, I will be too, ahem, huge pregnant, to travel, then the baby will come and be too young to travel and by the time the baby’s old enough to travel, Paul will be in training again, which means he can’t take any vacation and it may not happen.

To mix things up a bit, we decided to take the train. We had never done it but thought it would be interesting and it was. It was also less expensive. But it was long. It took 17 hours each way. Most of it was during the night but still, 17 hours is a long time. It had its plusses though - we didn’t have to endure huge lines, scanners, pat downs or any of the other unpleasantness you generally encounter when flying these days. We had roomy seats that reclined and had leg rests, so we could sleep overnight. It wasn’t like sleeping in your bed but it was way better than trying to sleep on an airplane. We got to get up and walk around, when we needed to stretch and could go to the observation car or the dining car, when we got bored at our seats. The train was a double-decker and our seats were on top both ways, which was fun too. So all in all, the train part wasn’t bad. Nia even made some friends and managed to lose another tooth right before we got on the train coming back. She was a little nervous that the Tooth Fairy may not be able to find us because the train was moving all night but amazing little creature that she is, the Tooth Fairy came through with flying colors and left Nia a buck in her train pillow case! How about that?!!!

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Once we made it to Chicago, we spent time with Paul’s folks but also visited the Art Institute. We had wanted to go see it forever but it somehow ended up slipping off our plans every time we were in Chicago. This time, we set aside a day for it and just went. Unlike most museums in DC, the Chicago Art Institute is not free but it’s full of amazing art and it was a pure delight. Paul and I would have liked to stay longer but it’s big and you really can’t see everything in one day, especially with a 7-year old, so we were happy with the several hours we got.

The museum’s collection is really incredible and here’s a collage of my faves. No flash photography is allowed, of course, so my pictures aren’t great but this gives you an idea of how awesome it is, if you’ve never been there…2010-11-28

On to Thanksgiving Dinner. It was a relatively small affair this year – just Paul’s parents, Paul’s brother Chris and his family and us. Breaking with tradition, we did not cook the Thanksgiving feast this year. We were staying at Paul’s sister’s house (she was out of town for Thanksgiving with her family) and we didn’t want to go crazy in someone else’s house, so we ordered a turkey and ham dinner at a grocery store. The dinner was delicious but what we didn’t realize was that it was cold, so we had to (re)heat everything and that delayed things a bit. Everything was very tasty and we still managed to eat until we were blue in the face and enjoy each other’s company.  So overall, it was another wonderful family Thanksgiving and we were grateful for all the blessings, large and small, we are lucky to have.

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