Here are some of my favorite pictures from our Christmas at home, including our annual family photo shoot (we were very tired so we didn’t take as many pictures as we usually do)!
Here are some of my favorite pictures from our Christmas at home, including our annual family photo shoot (we were very tired so we didn’t take as many pictures as we usually do)!
December went by in a blur, partly because I think we stayed so busy!
Ben won the daddy of the year award when he played in the rain with Mikayla this month. She had so much fun getting messy with her daddy.
I spent the first week or two prepping for camp and helping out with it while Ben finished up last minute reports and end of the year work stuff. Max even made his debut as baby Jesus during the camp play. He was not so thrilled about this and cried through the whole thing! After the staff Christmas party we hit the road for a week of fun and relaxation in Nelspruit.
Decorating sugar cookies at camp. Both students and staff had a blast with this!!
Simo and Simo hanging out at the Christmas party
Max as baby Jesus
Jabu and Max
Max hanging out with Bravo
Max hanging around while we decorated the Christmas tree.
Max "placing an ornament on the tree".
Hanging with Katie and Max at the Christmas party.
We spent a few days just the four of us hanging out in Nelspruit eating junk food, shopping and not cooking! We actually went to the grocery our first day and spent over $100 bucks on junk food and candy. Totally spoiling ourselves. Then Katie joined us and we continued the trend. We ate at some really fancy and yummy restaurants like Orange and Saffron. You can read an article about both of them here. We were also able to start and finish all of our Christmas shopping (nothing like a little last minute shopping)! And of course we took a couple trips to Kruger National Park to "see the animals". I am hoping to post some of those pictures soon. Mikayla and Ben even hit up a water park that is in Nelspruit one afternoon while Katie and I shopped. She had so much fun and that was all she could talk about that evening. Ben said she was really brave and went down the big slides all by herself. That kid never ceases to amaze me!
Sibling bath time fun!
Don’t you wish you were this flexible?
Max wasn’t sure what to think about the rhinos at Kruger.
Family photo time!
Max’s first dip in the pool. He was not a big fan, but to be fair the water was freezing!
Mikayla loves jumping in the pool!
On the 22nd we headed back to our house to start prepping for our Christmas festivities. I spent the 23rd making the annual batch of cinnamon rolls and even made a gluten free batch for Katie. I also cleaned the house because over the next few days we would have a houseful! Ben had some friends come in that evening, Chris and Kara, and they stayed through the 26th. There were also a few other random visitors hanging around the mission that joined us over the next few days.
On the 24th we had a pig roast to celebrate Christmas Eve. It was a hot day, not sure I will ever get used to it being hot over Christmas. We had a lovely time and invited pretty much anyone who was still around the mission for the Christmas season. I think we had between 15-20 folks over for lunch/dinner that day. Plus I think of all the pig roasts we have had, this was the best cooked pig. It was so tasty!!
The next morning was Christmas, so of course Mikayla woke up extra early ready to start the fun. We had our annual family photo shoot and then opened up packages. Mikayla was so much fun this year. She was so excited and appreciative of each and every gift. She would exclaim things like, "this is brilliant" or "marvelous" each time she opened something new. We spent the rest of the morning playing with gifts and then hosted a big breakfast for Joe, Katie, Chris and Kara. It was a fun and relaxing day. We also managed to play a little Settler’s of Catan that evening.
Mikayla talking to Lylah on her brand new Doc McStuffins cell phone. She thinks she is big time now!!
And that pretty much wraps up our December and our 2013! January and February will be busy months of traveling (we head to the US in just two weeks)!
In case you hadn’t noticed it has been awhile since I have done a "This Week’s Happenings". There are several reasons for this, but I won’t go into them for now. What I will do though is give a quick rundown on what we have been up to for the last two months.
We celebrated the Feast of Mother Cabrini.
Joe all decked out in traditional gear for the feast day with Mikayla.
The kids marching in for the mass in celebration of Mother Cabrini.
Mikayla and I got to go see the Queen Mother.
We also took some pictures of the whole Cabrini staff.
I hosted lots of baking classes with some of the high school students. We made anything from pancakes to cookies to cakes to pizza. It was a lot of fun getting to know the kids better and sharing with them my love for baking. I think they enjoyed eating everything the most! They also enjoyed taking lots of pictures of themselves!
Played with sidewalk chalk a lot and enjoyed eating fresh mangos from our yard. She is becoming quite the little artist!
We hosted Thanksgiving for 20+ of our staff members. People were coming and going all afternoon and evening. It was fun, but I will say I slept really well that evening!
We had each of our guest complete a leaf for our Thankful tree. It was quite full when everyone left!
During school time Mikayla wrote a really cool story in her journal. See if you can figure out what it was about! She has also been doing some great artwork in her journal.
We let Mikayla decorate our Christmas tree. She was really into Christmas this year and enjoyed every aspect of it. She is actually still celebrating. Today (December 30) she wrote a letter to Santa!
We did lots of fun family activities as part of our Christmas countdown. Including making salt dough ornaments, gingerbread cookies, and crafts!
Making salt dough ornaments.
I baked over 500 cookies and popped popcorn for 150 as part of the hostel Christmas party.
We turned an old nightstand into a doll house for Mikayla’s Christmas gift. I am pretty sure she loves it!
We packed up the car (including our tree this year) and headed to Nelspruit, South Africa for a week long vacation and the Christmas holiday. We ate a lot and relaxed even more!
We made cinnamon rolls…can’t have Christmas without them!
We took our traditional Christmas jammies pictures with cocoa!
We headed to Kruger Park with the Sister Barbara and Sister Diane for a little game drive. We saw a lot including elephants, zebras, giraffe, leopard, hyenas, monkeys, a really cool chameleon and lots of others. It was rainy and muddy, but we still had fun. Mikayla even got to use her adventure pack her grandparents got her for Christmas!
We Skyped and chatted with a lot of family and friends.
We went to the doctor and found out I was pregnant! Baby Kickert #2 is due July 4th!
We rang in the new year with our friends Peter and Callista and their daughter Aviva. I hope to get back to doing our weekly updates soon.
I spent 2.5 days in town this week for an all staff training on Child Protection. Ben stayed back on the mission to watch Mikayla and hold down the fort at Cabrini. I got a lot of raised eyebrows when I said that Ben was watching Mikayla while I was at the meeting. Swazi men are not typically seen as the "caretakers" of the children so for Ben to watch Mikayla for almost three days without me being around was strange for them. He did a great job keeping up with our almost three year old! They played games, had school, washed the car and just hung out.
Handprint Tree Ben and Mikayla made while I was gone.
Most of the meat of the meetings were things that I already knew, but new information for a lot of our staff. It was nice to hear their perspective on things and I even learned a lot about the Swazi culture. For example, when the Gogos (grandmothers) were kids they actually lived in their Gogos huts instead of their mothers so they wouldn’t see things. Want to hear an interesting fact – Only 20% of the children of Swaziland still have both parents? No wonder we have such a problem with child abuse and have so many OVC (orphan and vulnerable children). Another thing that raised my eyebrows was that the school systems still practice corporal punishment!
In other news, mangos and lychees ripened enough to call them into season this week. In case you aren’t familiar, lychees are small fleshy fruit with a tough skin that peels off and a pit in the middle. They taste kind of like a green grape without the skin. Ben and Mikayla are big fans but they aren’t my favorite. But I am very excited about the mangos. I can’t wait to try some of the mango recipes people have sent me soon. Did you know you could get a mango burn? It is similar to the rash you get with poison ivy. Ben and Mikayla had the pleasure of experiencing this first hand. It comes from the sap.
We had some unseasonably cool nights this week so we spent a lot of time hanging out on the porch. Mikayla loved blowing bubbles and running around. Ben even had a couple of braais while I was away.
She is a redneck at heart! Blowing bubbles barefoot in underwear, a t-shirt and headlamp!
On Saturday we had some family time by making homemade gingerbread cookies. I found the recipe here. They turned out delicious, even if we didn’t have any holiday themed cookie cutters. We decided to not spend lots of time frosting them (they were that good), but make some cream cheese frosting to dip them in! This was my first attempt at gingerbread cookies. I usually make sugar cookies this time of year (and we still might), but I really enjoyed the change of making gingerbread instead. Mikayla of course had a blast rolling out the dough and using the cookie cutters to make designs. Have I ever mentioned how much I love my little family? I missed them so much this week, even if I was only away for 2.5 days.
Doesn’t he look handsome in his jewelry?
Working hard with daddy!
This kid loves playing with dough! She took it very seriously and would not let us help her at all.
Ben cut this Christmas tree out of the dough by hand. He was really proud of it and Mikayla enjoyed eating it!
We spent a lot of Sunday in imaginative play. Mikayla began by dragging out some of her stuffed animals and had a tea party. We then made her a car out of a large box and she drove her "family" around all over the place. Her imagination never ceases to amaze me! And it is amazing how a few pieces of "trash" can stem an hour or so of play.
Necklace dance – She spent a good bit of time dancing around with some necklaces on Saturday night. It was hilarious because she was so serious about it.
Family tea party
Pretend car made from old box
I love the idea of giving homemade gifts to Mikayla. Last year we made her a kitchen set (that my nieces and nephews now enjoy). This year I had the idea to make her a teddy bear dress up doll with different outfits, but when I started to make it I just wasn’t "feeling it". Then I ran across a picture of a felt Mr. Potato Head here. I didn’t wanted to recreate this exact model (mostly because I don’t have felt or a sewing machine), but I did want to come up with something similar. Here is what I came up with:
I just cut out a basic potato shape out of brown felt and then "accessorized". I even made some male items to make a Mr. Potato Head instead of a Mrs. I was very pleased with how it turned out and think that Mikayla will love it. I am also excited about how easily this will travel with us and keep her entertained on long trips!
Last year we didn’t do much with the advent season because Mikayla wasn’t quite ready yet. This year though, I knew I at least wanted to introduce her to the season. So, we set out to make a toddler friendly advent wreath. by toddler friendly, I mean one that doesn’t have real flames. Mikayla does pretty good around flames and candles, considering we use them often due to all our power outages, but we still wanted to be better safe than sorry! This wreath took maybe ten minutes to put together and looks pretty good if I do say so myself!
To make you will need:
We started by wrapping the toilet paper tubes in construction paper (one pink and three purple). I think we will use a real candle in the center for the white candle, but if not I can wrap a paper towel tube in white like the others so it will be a little taller. Next trace your toddlers hand several times on green paper. I actually traced three times and then folded paper so I was cutting multiple hands out at a time. I think we ended up using 12 hands. After cutting a hole in the center of the paper plate (if using fake candle in the center you may want to leave this as is so you can glue on top), glue cut out hands around edge of plate, overlapping if you choose. The plate was looking kind of bare in the middle so we took our scraps of green, tore up and glued in the middle. The next step is to glue the candles in the center of the plate. Finally, make four flames out of orange paper to glue on the candles as you discuss their meaning.
Easy, toddler friendly and it looks nice (if I do say so myself)! Now we just need to work on a toddler friendly discussion of the meaning for advent. Any suggestions?
The bulk of the past week was spent on prepping for two big events – Our Thanksgiving feast we had on Saturday and then the Hostel’s Christmas party on Sunday. Ben was also gone Monday-Thursday to a meeting in town so Mikayla and I held down the fort here in St. Phillips! While in town he picked up some hard to find items including a Christmas tree and grill!!
On Tuesday Mikayla, Sharon (the childcare director) and I began some preparation for the hostel Christmas party. We took out our new car for a spin and headed to Big Bend (a town about thirty minutes down the road) to pick up some supplies. While driving I noticed that the car kept pulling in one direction and turns out we had a slow leak in one of our tires and it was almost flat by the time we got home. Thankfully some of the guys on the mission helped us out.
A couple of weeks ago I volunteered to make cookies for the kids as part of their gifts. At two cookies per kid, plus some for the staff I was looking at making almost 400 cookies!! On Wednesday I baked 200+ chocolate chip cookies and then on Thursday I baked 200+ snicker doodles. Mikayla was a big helper and cooked along side of me most of the time.
Have I mentioned what an imagination Mikayla has? She can take almost anything and turn it into a fun game. This week I tied a string to an egg carton and she called it a turtle and took it everywhere with her. She made it go for walks with us and talked to it just like we talk to her.
On Saturday we had some folks over for a Thanksgiving celebration (more about that coming soon), so Friday and Saturday were spent cooking, cleaning, prepping and eating a lot!
Sunday we headed to the hostel to celebrate Christmas with the kids. They celebrate early because their school term is over next week and they will all head home to their homesteads for several weeks. The kids put on a very nice play featuring the birth of Jesus and did some traditional dancing and singing.
Shepherds with their sheep from the Christmas play
Some cows and donkeys hanging out in the manger
The Christmas cast singing Silent Night
Auntie Jane on the left bringing in some of the older girls to do some traditional dancing.
Remember this guy? Simo has grown so much!
The choir plus some of the staff singing/dancing at the end.
Found this guy just hanging out on the laundry this week, must be time for it to rain again!
Picture taken using the Light Scoop given to us from my sister-in-law, Sarah!
I am stealing this idea from my friend Dave. I loved his post so much and thought it gave a good account for the year 2009. What better way to ring in the new year than with a list of fun memories and pictures from the past. Without further ado:
January – 100th day of school…Call me crazy, but I think this is one of my favorite days of school, right behind KY Derby week and Dr. Seuss week! The kids all dress up like they are 100 and we do activities all day that revolve around the number 100. It is crazy fun.
February – My birthday, what else!! I also did a fun art project for the nursery with an old student, T-, who is kind of like an adopted son for us.
March – 10 years of bliss (combined dating and married) with my wonderful husband! He surprised me with 10 gerbera daisies (my favorite), throughout the day and even a surprise lunch. He also put together a photo album, with a picture for each year we have been together. There was also a sweet visit from Catherine mixed in there. We had fun just hanging out, driving around forever trying to find a place to get a pedicure, and then painting pottery. It was a great last hurrah before Mikayla was born!
April – The birth of my dear sweet Mikayla…enough said!
May – Ben graduated from seminary…Hallelujah! Three years of no social life, lonely nights on the couch (me) and endless hours of studying (him) were officially over. I don’t know who was more excited, me or him?
June – Lots of mini road trips and first meetings for Mikayla. We traveled to Somerset where she met her great grandparents and adopted grandma (Cindy Kerr). Then on to Mayfield, Kentucky to meet Mignon, another great grandmother. Finally, a trip to Kentucky Lake to meet the extended Kickert clan (great Aunts and Uncles and second cousins). It was an exhausting month, but a lot of fun! She also met T- and his brother, M- (see February for more information on these two)!
July – I finished up my “internship” at the Kelly Autism Program which meant I finished my Rank I (no more school for me)…Can I get another Hallelujah? Sorry no pictures of this for the month, but here is one of Mikayla! This is her classic pouty face!
August – Adventures in Baking and back to school. I spent a lot of time in August cooking. Homemade pizza, salsa, okra stew, stuffed jalapenos, and a first attempt at sushi just to name a few. It was hard to leave Mikayla at the beginning of August and head back to school but we managed. Ben did such a good job of taking care of her, even if he did try to cook her!
September – September was a slow month for me. I worked and when I wasn’t working I was spending time with my family. I guess you could say the most exciting thing about the month was developing my love for BabyLegs. Hey, I told you it was a slow month!
October – Smokey Mountain fun with the Altmaiers and celebrating my five year wedding anniversary with Ben. I have said it before, and I will say it again, these are some of the best friends a girl could ask for. We have known them for so long and it never fails, with each visit, we just pick right up where we left off. There is no awkwardness at all. We could go weeks without communicating and then jump right back in when we do. They are our go to couple when having a marital dispute and more like family than friends! Seriously, it doesn’t get much better! This is perhaps one of my favorite months of the past year. Fall + Great Friends + Five years of wedded bliss = A great month!
November – Another slow month, not much to report besides Thanksgiving. We had a great time visiting with both sides of the family and ate until we could eat no more.
December – My favorite thing about December was starting new traditions with my little family. We decorated the tree, opened stockings, drank hot cocoa, took pictures, ate some Chinese, and enjoyed some wine. It was a great way to end the year. Oh and those yummy cinnamon rolls!
I hope that 2010 brings as much fun, excitement and joy as 2009 did! Happy New Years everyone.
Since we have been married, we have never had the opportunity to have Christmas on Christmas day at our house, just the two of us. However, with this being Mikayla’s first Christmas I knew I wanted to make that special and do whatever I could to make sure we began some traditions as a family of three (Shiloh was not around sadly). On Christmas afternoon we headed back to BG for the evening to have our family Christmas. It was perfect! We began some simple traditions that I hope we uphold in the years to come.
The first was something that I stole from some college friends. We all got in our pajamas, made some hot chocolate (except for Mikayla, maybe next year), set up the camera timer and took some fun shots in front of the Christmas tree. Here are just a few. I will try and upload more to facebook later.
This is what Ben originally had on before I made him change…I thought he over-dressed his PJ’s a little!
After that we opened up “gifts”. As long as I can remember Ben and I have not exchanged gifts. Instead we help purchase gifts for a family that can’t afford them. Instead, we just put together stockings for each other (mostly consisting of candy). Mikayla got one “big” gift from us and then a stocking as well. In case you are curious the “big” gift was a play yard for the house.
Next, we bundled up in our winter attire (it was really cold here on Christmas) and headed out to a local Chinese restaurant for dinner in our pajamas. It was so much fun and of course everyone who was there (and it was a packed house) cooed and awed over Mikayla!
Finally, we returned home and put Mikayla to bed (after three days in Somerset and three Christmases she was pooped, plus she needed to recuperate for the three Christmases ahead of her). After she was down for the night, Ben and I snuggled on the couch, glasses of wine in hand and watched a Christmas movie. Although I wasn’t a fan of the movie, it was still nice to snuggle with Ben and have some down time in the midst of the crazy holiday season.
It was simple, relaxed and perfect! I couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend Christmas with my tiny family. Well…maybe if Shiloh had been around!
Every year since I can remember my grandma would make homemade cinnamon rolls for Christmas. These aren’t your average cinnamon rolls, they are combination of sticky buns and cinnamon goodness. In short, they are amazing! So amazing that each year she would hide a few pans so they wouldn’t get eaten in one fail swoop. No kidding, my family can demolish some rolls! I could almost eat a whole pan in one sitting they are so delicous.
Well, as my gramdmother got older she enlisted help each year to make them, they are a day long process afterall (that is if you are making enough for the entire family). My sister and I helped out for a few years and then last year my grandmother decided she couldn’t do it anymore. My grandparents live in Florida for part of the year and with traveling and everything she wasn’t going to have the time or energy. I got the bright idea that I would take over the tradition. And last year that is what I did. With the help of my dear friend Luella, I made cinnamon rolls (five times actually) and gave them out to each family member and neighbor. They were a hit! This year, I was working solo so I only made three batches. (We opted for cranberry bars for the neighbors!) It officially feels like Christmas now that the smell of cinnamon rolls fills my house! There is nothing like the taste of one fresh from the oven! Now I just have to figure out how we are going to squeeze our luggage and gear for a week, a baby, a dog, two adults and nine pans of cinnamon rolls in the Saturn. Any suggestions?
Here is a play by play of how they are made. Enjoy!
Step One: Prepare the dough.
To do this mix 2 cups of lukewarm water wit 1/2 cup of sugar and 2 tsp salt. Add two cakes compressed yeast (I used packaged) and stir until yeast is dissolved. This is one of the most crucial steps in the process. Next add 2 eggs, 1/2 cup of soft margarine and continue mix. Gradually add in flour until dough can be formed into a large ball. You will end up adding around 7-7 1/2 cups of flour. Place the ball of dough in a well greased bowl and grease top of dough ball. Cover and set aside in a warm place until dough has risen double in size.
Step Two: Punch down dough (when it has doubled in size), this is my favorite step.
After you punch the dough, divide into small pieces. Work dough on a well floured board (I used my kitchen table). Roll out dough until about 1/2 inch in thickness
Step Three: Prepare the pans (in my family this is the most important part of the roll)
Melt margarine to lightly cover bottom of pan. Sprinkle with brown sugar and pecans (be generous, this is the yummiest part). My grandma would sometimes add raisins, but seeing as how I don’t like this part I omitted them. My family likes sticky buns, so to make them sticky drizzle white karo syrup over the pans after they have been prepared but before placing in the rolls. Again, don’t be stingy, this makes them yummy! Your pans are now ready for the rolls, please proceed to step four.
Step Four: Prepare the rolls
Once dough is rolled out, cover with melted margarine and sprinkle with a cinnamon and sugar mixture. Side note – Last Christmas my grandmother passed down to me her antique cinnamon/sugar shaker. This made the cinnamon/sugar process a breeze! Ok, back to the rolls. Once dough is covered in butter, cinnamon and sugar, roll up dough pinwheel style. Slice about 1/2 to 3/4 inches thick and place in prepared pans. Make sure to leave space between all rolls to allow them to rise. Cover, place in a warm place and all to rise until double in thickness.
Step Five: Bake at 375 degrees for 20-30 minutes.
Step Six: Grab a fork and dive in! They are best straight from the oven, but also very good warmed up. To reheat, add some butter to the tops of the rolls and place in microwave until heated through. Grab a large glass of milk and enjoy!
I ended up making a triple batch this year and between making the rolls and juggling a baby it took around seven hours. Now, that might seem like a long time but it is so worth it in the end. If you enlist the help of a friend you can cut your time significantly! Happy baking!