Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Omaha Area Outing

Originally we had planned to eat lunch at the Bohemian Cafe today.  Once we got there, however, we found out it is closed on Tuesdays.  Hm.  Plan B = Trini's in the Old Market.  The girls love eating in this indoor oasis, especially when the outdoor temperature is a chilly 0 degrees.
 After a delicious lunch, we headed over to the Union Pacific Railroad Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa (just across the river).  We visit this museum every now and then, taking in different displays each time.
 Today the girls were stuck in the mid-1800's, checking out train couplers and the Morse Code station, as well as mail and security on the railroads 150 years ago.  Definitely a good time had by all - indoors - on this fiercely frigid day.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Game Time

The girls and I had a lot of fun playing games in the "library" at Grandma Shirley's cottage this morning.  First, Julia and Evelyn set up a guessing game by hiding a bean bag under buckets.  This was after the three of them played keep-away with said bean bag.  These girls keep their great-grandma on her toes...
 We wound down our morning with a few rounds of UNO.  We aren't sure how this happens, but Julia wins most of the games.  Now Evelyn is keeping a close eye on her, just to make sure she isn't hiding any "Wild Draw 4" cards on her chair.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Nebraska Family Time

Our first stop of the morning was visiting the girls' Great-Grandma Shirley at her cottage.  All three were happy to see each other.
 It's funny how this works, but now the great-granddaughter is reading to the great-grandma.  Julia chose one of her favorite series to read - Mo Willems' "Piggie and Elephant" books.
 Let's not forget about the other side of the family - here's Julia, cuddling with her Uncle Matt.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Off We Go!

Thankfully today's trip from Massachusetts to Nebraska was uneventful.  Well, besides the fact that our flight left at 6:00 a.m. (Eastern time), making for a tired group of travelers.  But everything was on time, we made our connecting flight in Chicago without any problems, and we landed in Omaha in time to go out for lunch.  (PS - We LoVe the charging center at Chicago's Midway airport - with plenty of outlets for our gadgets and desk/counter space for Julia to color and draw.)

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas 2014

Yesterday we had our Christmas dinner (yes, on Christmas Eve).  We are traveling to Nebraska on the 26th, and we didn't want to leave too many leftovers behind, so we celebrated with a big dinner a day earlier than normal.  Here's a shot of me with the girls, in our festive gear.
 The girls were up, bright and early, to open their presents this morning.  All sorts of goodies awaited Julia and Evelyn, both fun and practical.  American Girl accessories/outfits, Legos, boots, dresses...all sorts of lovely gifts for our lovely ladies.
 One of Julia's favorites were these two outfits for her dolls - a Christmas dress for Emily and a wedding gown for Rebecca.
 We did get Rosie a real cat toy for Christmas, but you know how much cats love boxes.  Next year we won't get her anything.  We'll just let her play in our leftovers from unwrapping gifts.
 Evelyn's favorite gifts was a new ballet bag.  It has six inside pockets to stash all of her accessories, and it's big enough to hold her leotards, tights, shoes, etc.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Gingerbread Houses

Last year, I had heard about the gingerbread house kit from Trader Joe's.  However, I found out about it too late - by the time I made it to the store, they were sold out.  This year, I made sure I was at Trader Joe's shortly after Thanksgiving, and I was able to snag two kits for the girls.

Today was construction day.  There was more work involved on the front end to make the icing - I had to whip up some egg whites, add the boxes of powdered sugar that came with the kits and add a bit of lemon juice (to add stickiness, according to the directions) - but it was definitely worth it.  Not only did the icing act like glue, but it also tasted halfway decent, too.  (Icing bags were included!)
 As expected, Evelyn did everything on her own - she constructed and decorated her house without any help.
 Even though the house only consisted of four sections, Julia needed some help getting the sloped roof pieces to attach to the front and back of the house.
 Evelyn cruised along solo . . .
 . . . Julia asked me to help with the icing placement.  But she did all of the designing and decorating with candies.
 Ta da!  The finished products!  Even though it didn't seem like much candy was included with the kits, it really was just enough.  The kits also had little candy people and a dog, too.  From now on, I know where we will buy our gingerbread house kits - so easy, festive and fun!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

From Ballerina to Spectator

This afternoon, we headed down to Providence, Rhode Island to see Festival Ballet Providence's production of the Nutcracker ballet.  We saw their show last winter, which is where we got the idea for Evelyn to do her summer dance intensive this past summer.
 The Providence Performing Arts Center (built in 1928) is gorgeous, the choreography was spot-on  - we all enjoyed the show.  The girls liked comparing this production to the one they were in this year, comparing characters and costumes.  It's also fun for them to just sit back and enjoy the ballet.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Cookie Time!

It's Christmas cookie time in the Luster house!  On Sunday, we made Russian tea cakes - yummy eggless cookie balls that are rolled in powdered sugar (twice!) after they are baked.  These are a no-go for Julia, who doesn't like the chopped walnuts that add texture to the cookies.
Since there were no after-school activities for the girls on Tuesday, we cut out and baked sugar cookies.
 This year, I only needed to help with two things - rolling out the dough for Julia, and manning the oven.
 Evelyn was completely independent this year, rolling out her own dough . . .
 . . . and cutting out her own cookies.  I seriously didn't have to help her at "her station" once.
 This evening (another day with no after-school activities), we frosted and decorated the cookies that we baked a couple days ago.
 We had just begun decorating when Troy came home from work, so he jumped in on the fun.
 Julia got the hang of using sprinkles this year, and not once did she dump an avalanche of decorations on her cookies.  Strong work, little Sunshine!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Evelyn's Model Train . . . at Christmastime

As we have done ever since Evelyn got her model train in 2009, we set up the tracks around the Christmas tree.  This year, Evelyn has enjoyed taking still pictures and videos of her train.  I especially liked this shot - a perfect action shot of the train coming out of the tunnel.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Car Mix-Up

Considering how many other gray Honda Pilots are on the road, I'm surprised it took almost five years for this to happen.  But happen, it did.  Yesterday.  Troy thought another gray Pilot was ours, and the story he and Julia told had me in fits the rest of the day.

For this little tale, it's important to know that Pilot owners know where a "secret button" is to open the glass on the rear hatch door - it's a hidden button you push to release only the glass if you don't want the entire rear door opened.

Now for the story . . .

We four Lusters ran several errands yesterday morning, hopping from one store to another and from one parking lot to another.  My knee wasn't doing well, so I waited in the car whenever possible.  I didn't need to go into Bed, Bath & Beyond, so Troy went inside, taking a spunky little Julia with him.

They weren't gone long, but when Evelyn and I saw Julia and Troy walking toward the car, we knew something had happened.  Troy was shaking his head, and Julia had this big, Cheshire-cat grin on her face.

Troy had spotted a gray Honda Pilot near where he thought ours was parked.  Since his bag was small, he only wanted to open the glass section of the rear door.  As he approached the car, he began to question whether that's where our Pilot was really parked.  After Troy opened the glass hatch window, three things happened at once:

(1)  Being ever-observant, Julia noticed that the back of this Pilot had the wrong "decorations" (as she calls them); this one was all done up with a New England Patriots license plate and stickers. Julia hollered, over and over again, "Daddy!  This isn't the right car!  This isn't the right car!"

(2)  Troy saw a cargo liner (which we do not have) inside the Pilot, along with some other stuff that didn't look like ours.  He started to say, "What the heck is all this . . . ?"

(3)  A burly man sitting in the driver's seat turned around and gruffly bellowed, "Excuse me?!?"

Troy quickly said, "I have the wrong Pilot - I apologize!"  He then closed the glass portion and made a quick get-away, returning to the Pilot that really was ours.

I reminded him that's why I have the back of my car decorated the way I do - nobody else in Massachusetts has a Nebraska Husker tow-hitch cover, as well as a Dallas Cowboys star and a St. Louis Cardinals sticker.  Guaranteed.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Santa Visit 2014

We made our annual trek to Bass Pro Shops this morning to take in all of the beautiful decorations and to visit Santa.  The store is festively decorated, which makes for some great Christmas pictures.....

 Since we got to the store right when it opened at 9:00 (it helps that we live ten minutes from the store), we were able to see Santa right away.  The girls had just enough time to write letters to Santa before seeing him - Evelyn deposited her letter in one of the North Pole mailboxes, and Julia hand-delivered her letter.
 The girls love visiting Santa here - he is authentic, kind and every bit of Christmas that you could imagine.   Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Frozen at Recess

At Julia's recess time this morning, the windchill was 10 degrees (above zero).  No matter how you look at it, that's cold.  There was also a light dusting of snow on the ground, as it was flurrying all morning.  Snow lightly covered the playground equipment, too, including a dome-shaped rope climbing structure.  All of this is important for Julia's recess story . . .

Recess was almost over when Julia climbed as high as she could on the rope dome.  Then she found a horizontal rope on which to perch.  After sitting there for about a minute, the recess teachers called everyone to line up.  Julia tried to get up.  She couldn't.  The seat of her pants was literally frozen to the rope - what little snow had been on the rope melted just enough to stick/freeze to her pants.  

Julia called for help, and two teachers came over to see what the problem was.  Julia was about six feet off the ground, and neither teacher could help her get down.  Thankfully a taller parent (Julia adds it was a dad who is also a firefighter) came to Julia's rescue and pulled her free.  Quite the excitement for a cold day outside!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Christmas Kitty

This evening, Rosie let Evelyn tie a bow around her middle.  How tolerant is this little girl?

Nutcracker 2014

After months of preparations, Julia and Evelyn were ready for this weekend's Nutcracker performances.  This was Evelyn's fourth year performing (two seasons in Maryland, and now two seasons here in Massachusetts), and it was Julia's first time in this ballet.

What to do while waiting backstage?  Play games on someone's 
phone . . .
 . . . and write sweet "good luck" messages to each other.
Evelyn was a snow flurry in Act I.  This was a role she had wanted to do last year, and she was thrilled when she was chosen to be one of eight snow flurries this year.  
 The snow flurries are the youngest ballerinas in this production's Snow Scene, and she had a small part, but she did great.
 The next Luster girl on stage was Julia, with her role as a cherub (aka, an angel) - the cherubs open Act II and get to dance with the Sugar Plum Fairy (starring a professional ballerina from the Boston Ballet).  Doesn't she look the part?  Even though she was a goof at times during rehearsals, she did a fabulous job during the actual performance - no wiggling and she did her choreography perfectly.  Nice job, Sunshine!
 The last Luster girl to perform as Evelyn - she was a polychenelle in Act II.  She was a polychenelle four years ago, the first time she danced in the Nutcracker, so at first she wasn't looking forward to playing this role.  However, when all was said and done, Evelyn said this was her favorite dance so far - she loved being happy, smiley and energetic on stage.  Brava, girls!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Late Night

Stage make up while doing homework at 10:00 at night?  Yes, that's the life of my 5th-grade ballerina.  She truly had no time to do homework until after tonight's Nutcracker rehearsal.  Thankfully this is not the norm!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Nutcracker Production Week

'Tis the week before Nutcracker performances, and the girls are crazy-busy with rehearsals this week.  This picture just about sums up Julia's rehearsal repertoire . . . she needed quite a bit of guidance once the squirrely girl got up on stage.

Evelyn had several rehearsals, since she was cast in a couple of roles.  Here, she's practicing snow flurries . . .
 . . . and here she's practicing being a polychenelle.
 What else do the girls need during Nutcracker production week?  Make up.  And lots of it!