A Flight to the North Pole

Last Friday, Wyatt was given an opportunity to “fly to the North Pole.” It was definitely an amazing experience, one that we will never forget. 

All week I had been telling him about how we were going to fly to the north pole and see Santa, so he was pretty excited when we arrived. And just like any other flight, we had to check in for our boarding pass. I loved that even the monitors said that we were checking in for the North Pole! And Wyatt looks cute and tiny sitting there waiting for his ticket. Lol. 

There was an orchestra playing, decorations everywhere, and Wyatt was grinning from ear to ear as we moved to the next phase of our day. We had to check in with the event, where they gave him a sweatshirt, and a name tag, which reminded me of Paddington Bear, that hung around his neck. There was more music being played here, with people in costumes greeting the kids and entertaining everyone until we moved to the security line. We did have to go through security, as we were getting on a real plane and would be in the terminal. This was the only part that gave me some anxiety – because Wyatt was in a wheelchair they moved him to the other side of the gate – without me! I was very nervous about my kiddo being left there without me, and I asked the TSA agent to please make sure he didn’t wheel away. Wyatt didn’t take off but he did try, that little monkey! 

Once we were through and I could breathe again, we were zoomed off by an elf to the terminal to wait for our plane. This area had clowns handing out balloons and playing games, and the flight crew was on hand to greet all the children. This, I think, was Wyatt’s favorite. He was in awe of the pilot and co-pilot. They gave him some little wings, which was pretty cool too. Finally, our plane arrived taxied up and we were ready to board our flight!

It is all very choreographed and efficient, so things are kept moving, partly because small children are not usually super patient. So I didn’t get as many photos as I wanted, but I did capture a few moments. Wyatt was also obsessed with the seat belt. I ended up keeping him on my lap, seat belted in. And then, we “took off”! The plane in reality taxied around for about an hour, and even gathered some serious speed to mimic take off. We had to leave the window shades down though, to maintain the illusion for the kids- which was a battle between me and my son, who kept wanting to open it. Lol. On our flight we were served lunch, and the elves sang carols. It was a great time, and Wyatt loved the music, and the actual plane itself. Once we landed, we were whisked away through the North Pole’s airport to “Santa’s castle”, or the hotel. Everything was decked out in Christmas decorations, cookies and candy and most importantly, coffee, lined the tables for us to snack on. Here they also had a show for the kids, of characters dressed up like superheroes who put on a mock battle, and Anna and Elsa were there singing all their songs. The kids were called up one by one to see the big man himself, and then – we went home! But not before we were given, literally, a sack of presents for the kiddo. 

The generosity of the donors and volunteers that put this day on was immeasurable. The time, the planning, the gifts, the people from the hotel to the Silverliners who organized it, to Delta Airlines who flew the plane – it was an absolutely perfect, amazing, one of a kind day.

Here is a link to a local news story about it! See if you can spot us!

My Grandma’s Coconut Tarts

Note: This is a repost from two years ago – it was originally published on my old blog, Quixotic Magpie. But as I recently made Empire Biscuits with my mom and sister-in-law, I thought I would give these tarts some love.

My family is divided into two camps: The Coconut Tart people, and the Empire Biscuit people. Don’t get me wrong, we will gladly eat either/or, but..we have a preference for one or the other. I love a good Empire Biscuit, but Coconut Tarts are my weakness. My grandma made them every Christmas and it was the dessert I looked forward to the most.

My grandmother is gone now, but my Uncle Art has taken up the mantle, and baked the tarts for the holidays. Yesterday I spent some much needed time in the kitchen, learning how to bake these tarts. I have decided to share my love for these with all of you! Just note – I am not a baker, nor am I a food blogger. Lol. My tarts look a little more rustic than professional – I have not managed pretty food yet, just yummy tasting! Because these turned out awesome in flavor, if I do say so myself.

Surprisingly, these are not a health food! 🙂 They are fattening and delicious!

Ingredients for the gooey coconut filling:

3/4 cup sugar
1 can Eagle Brand condensed milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 lb. butter melted
1 egg
3/4 cup coconut, firmly packed

For the pastry :
2 c. flour
2/3 c. butter flavored Crisco + 4 additional TB (my mom uses cold butter but I don’t know how much)
a pinch of salt
2/3 c. water

Preheat the oven to 425.

We made the filling first, but I don’t think it matters which you start with. It was easy! Basically, just combine all the above ingredients in a bowl, and whisk until everything is mixed really well. You want to make sure you really incorporate the sugar, it has a tendency to want to sit on the bottom.

Next we made the pastry- this was a little bit more complex but not too terribly difficult. I just really hate getting my hands dirty. Bleh. You start by adding all the ingredients together in a medium to large size bowl- we used a vintage Pyrex one which I am sure was not bought vintage like mine were. Then I cut it in the Crisco using a pastry cutter. Once this was all cut in well, my uncle showed me the next technique, of making the dough all crumbly. I am not sure of the technical terms, but we called it making it crumbly.

This technique involved running it between his hands, using the friction to combine it and make it all crumbled into little balls. Once the mixture was all crumbly, we could easily roll it all together into a ball.

Ta-da!

Once we had this nice round ball of dough, we split it into two balls. Next, we placed one of the halves onto a floured piece of wax paper to roll out. We also put another piece of wax paper over the top of the dough, so it was sandwiched between two floured sheets of wax paper. Then I commenced rolling. You want it nice and thin, but not too thin. Maybe 1/4 inch thick. 

 We had some little helping hands too. My cousin’s three year old daughter assisted me.
Once it is rolled out, you can cut circles to place into the muffin tray. I would say the one my uncle used was about 4″ across. He said this was not perfect but it worked for him. So maybe the size of a wide mouth water glass. 

Once you roll out all the dough and have cut the circles, you can start slowly placing them into the muffin tin. This part is the slowest, most laborious part in my opinion. 

Mine were a bit messy but looked like this when I was done. A bit of a trick – instead of using your fingers to press the dough down into the tins and onto the sides, once you have it set in loosely, you can use a small lump of dough as a little press instead of your fingers. 
Once you have everything ready to go, you are ready to fill! Give that filling a good whisking again to stir up any sugar that may have settled while you did all this stuff with the dough. When finished, add about 2 TB filling to each tart. This is entirely up to you, how much is added. I just wouldn’t suggest all the way to the top, because then they will overflow during cooking. Pop them into the oven for about 15 minutes (12-17, but we did 15) until the dough is a nice golden brown, and the filling has a nice golden color as well. My uncle then covers his with a dish towel for a few minutes to trap the heat a little longer without baking. 

Once they cool, enjoy! Perfect with a milky, sugary cup of tea. Yum!

And that is all there is to it! I hope I did an ok job explaining this – I didn’t realize how difficult it was to write down a recipe that is mostly conveyed by look and feel in our family. If you try to make them, let me know how it goes!

Our Must Watch Holiday Favorites

I think most of us will admit that watching a good holiday movie is one of the little indulgences in a season that can be chaotic as well, with all the running and shopping and wrapping and all the bits and bobs that we do in December. But curling up with a favorite feel-good movie with loved ones is an easy way to just let it all go for a while, and get sucked into some magical world where all ends well and brings a smile to your face. 

When we kick back with our hot chocolate or wine, depending on the day and mood, these are some of the movies we must watch every December. Some are traditions that began when we were just little, some have been added in over the years. Maybe some of them are on your list too!

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation: Our whole family can pretty much recite this movie word for word. It’s a comedic look at the holiday but also has its poignant moments too. I remember watching this with my dad one year when I was in high school, and he was laughing so hard at the “Squirrel!” scene he was silent laughing with tears rolling down his face, rolling on the floor. Like really ROFL! 

Love Actually: Ok, this is not just my favorite Christmas movie, it is my all time favorite movie. I can watch it anytime. It never fails to make me shed some tears, and I just really, actually, love it. (Quick – whose story is your favorite? It’s such a tough call, but personally, I love Hugh Grant’s)

0 R UMAX PL-II V1.5 [3]

Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas: I adore this movie. We just watched it with Wyatt the other night for the first time, and he did too. I was so happy that he liked it! 

The Muppet Christmas Carol: Another family favorite. I am a huge Muppet fan, have been since I was a little girl, and I love this version of a Christmas Carol. And Michael Caine is as always amazing. I am looking forward to watching this one with Wyatt too this year.

White Christmas: Oh, how I love this movie. I used to watch it every year with my mom and brother, and now Billy and I and Wyatt watch it. Wyatt actually loves musicals, he is a musical kid. And Bing’s voice – Christmas isn’t Christmas until you hear a carol crooned by him. 

A Charlie Brown Christmas: An oldie but goodie. 

A Claymation Christmas and A Garfield Christmas: I’m putting these on here together because we watch them together on the same night, back to back. Much to my husband’s chagrin, Wyatt also likes these movies. Lol. Billy is not a fan, especially of Claymation Christmas. It’s just such a part of my youth, watching these while drinking wassail with my brother and stepsisters, that I keep the tradition alive. And now Wyatt enjoys them, so a whole new tradition has begun!

So, there you have it! Our must watch Christmas movies. That doesn’t mean we don’t watch other ones – I watched Chrismas Prince on Netflix last year at least every other day for a while. And now, I am gearing up to watch the Wedding! (The Royal Wedding! Lol) I randomly watched The Christmas Bunny last year and loved it, although my heart broke a little bit a few times. And Carol Brady is in it! Well, not as Carol Brady, but as a curmudgeonly rabbit rescuer! I loved it and of course wanted a rabbit after watching. We didn’t get one, but I still wanted one. And one year I watched a movie called The March Sisters and loved that one too – and I have been looking for it to watch it again ever since. 

What about you? Any movies you must watch? 

Wolfenoote!

Happy Howly Wolfenoote!

Wolfenoote is a holiday that was imagined by a little boy across the world from me. A holiday he created to honor wolves and also people kind to dogs. It is a simple holiday really – eat roast meat, enjoy a cake made to look like a moon, and if you are a dog lover or kind to dogs, you can hide gifts in your house for loved ones to find. Our family thought this was a fabulous way to spend the day after Thanksgiving, and had a great time making this new holiday a new family tradition! 

We began our celebrations at the Detroit Zoo, where we went to visit the two wolves that live there, Wazi and Kaska. We took our time warming up in the log cabin that houses a photograph gallery that is meant to dispel myths of the danger of wolves and to educate people about this beautiful animal. We usually breeze through, but today really took our time looking around at the exhibit, as well as at Wazi and Kaska. They are both stunning, but Wazi is gorgeous with her white coat. The top photo I took of her in the summer, today they were both taking a nap near the front of the acreage, as the zoo has dedicated two acres to their habitat. 

Afterwards, my husband ate “roast meat” (an Arby’s roast beef sandwich lol) alone, as I am a vegetarian and Wyatt doesn’t like it, but the spirit was there for all of us. And later we opted to decorate sugar cookies with white frosting to make our moons, as cake was just a little too much today after the eating excesses of yesterday.

We also decided in lieu of gifts for ourselves, that we would “adopt” a wolf from the Wolf Conservation Center in New York. They dedicate themselves to educating people about wolves, “their relationship to the environment and the human role in protecting their future.” They are home to three packs of wolves – their Ambassador wolves, Mexican Gray Wolves, and Red Wolves. There are only 114 Mexican Gray wolves left in the wild, and zero Red Wolves. Yep, zero. They were declared extinct in the wild in 1980, and efforts have been made to get these wolves onto a road of recovery. 20 wolves reside at the Conservation Center. The story is a sad but interesting one, if you want to read about it on their site. 

My son is currently choosing between “adopting” Zephyr or Trumpet – although all are adorable and equally deserving. Once the decision has been made, I will have to update! Here they are if you want to read about them. **Update- Wyatt chose Zephyr, and gave his photo a kiss even. Lol.

Zephyr
I think this guy is a handsome one!

We had a great time with this holiday, and it was kind of fun to do something so different. And I really loved that this came from the mind of a 7 year old boy. 

Happy Wolfenoote! 

Snapshot Saturday

 

SaturdaySnapshot
My prayers go out to anyone suffering right now – I feel like every time I turn on the news, something is happening that breaks my heart.  Much of my last week was spent glued to the news too – there was a lot going on, and while I try my best to not get over inundated with current events for my own mental health, the past two weeks or so have demanded my attention. The timing of these events coincided coincidentally with a 30 Day Slow Down Childhood Challenge that I joined, and honestly, with the way I have been feeling, it was perfect timing. I needed something positive, and the challenge has forced me to do new things, and focus on my family and family time. And it is time very well spent.
For instance, last Wednesday I was having a rough day. Our challenge was to create a family moondala – something I had never heard of before but we were game. Billy and I are creative, and together make a good team, and it was fun to do a creative project with Wyatt. A moondala is a visual representation of what you hope to do in the next month, or lunar cycle. It can include drawings, bits of nature, whatever you want to represent these ideas. So, I poured myself into gathering the materials we might need, and then after dinner, we gathered around our table and started putting it all together. Billy and I really got involved in it, more than I thought we would! Definitely a case of the parents having more fun than the child. Lol. We had a lot of fun, and Wyatt did too, adding stickers and directing us on where he thought certain aspects would go. It was a hopeful, optimistic project, and it was just fun to sit as a family and make. I would think in families with older kids, etc everyone could make their own too.
moondala
I think we are going to try to do this every month!

A Wonderful Weekend

Sometimes everything just falls into place and things turn out perfectly.

This weekend was like that. The weather was gorgeous, sunny, with that bite in the air that lets you know that fall is here and summer has waved goodbye. I love the crispness, it feels so fresh and alive to me. So weather, en pointe. Add in some of my favorite people and a day of laughter and eating, and it was just the icing on the cake.

A few of my friends and I headed out western Michigan way, to Holland, MI. I don’t know much about this town, except that it does have a windmill and in the spring a tulip festival that looks amazing, full of bright colors and all things spring. There is a college there too, Hope College. And it also has a quaint little downtown, full of boutique stores and restaurants.

We had lunch at New Holland Brewery, a thing which excited a few of the husbands who were back home, who had made requests of their wives to bring them back some sort of special beer that is only made at that particular location. The food was ok, not anything terrible but nothing special either. I think here it is all about the booze. And even though time was just creeping up on noon, we had a celebratory drink to our girls day out. I ordered Full Circle, a kolsch beer. I only drink lagers if I drink beer, and it was a good one! K and J had pumpkin martinis, while C had Dragon’s Milk, which has a fantastic name right?

holland

After we ate, we poked around shopping, in and out of stores, each of us buying what caught our fancy. I ended up taking home with me a soft, warm pair of wool gloves knit in Peru from a Fair Trade store, a t-shirt for Billy, and a cute little Halloween book for Wyatt. I bought those gloves just in time – it is freezing here this week!

After a few hours, we were pretty shopped out and were ready to head to our next destination – dinner! By this time we had worked up an appetite with all that walking around so we were ready to hit the road. We had made reservations in a nearby town at Schuler’s Restaurant, based on J’s recommendation. She had been wanting to go there, and I am so glad that we did! When we got there, we got shown to our table, which was right in front of the fire. It was so cozy and warm, on such a chill night, and the decor was very old world charming.  I absolutely loved it in there. We settled in, ordered our drinks from the fall themed drinks menu, and enjoyed the cheese and crackers that were brought to us as we perused the dinner options.  I ended up ordering the Roasted Beet Salad with salmon, and it was amazing. Everyone’s food looked delicious actually, but for me, it was all about dessert. I ordered the Devil’s Delight, a brownie with vanilla ic cream. This sounds so blah, but so wasn’t. Chocolately and gooey,  warm and delicious with that cold ice cream to save it from being too rich. Yum!

Then Sunday, my hubs, son, and I went to the apple orchard. It was another fantastic weather day, the perfect kind for strolling around an orchard, eating apple doughnuts, and picking out pumpkins. The perfect Michigan fall day, really. The orchard we got to every year, Bennett’s Orchard, also makes hard cider and has a tasting room, so bonus! Lol. We took home a growler of Elderberry Cider, and plan on going back in a few weeks for a cinnamon version for the holidays. The owner told us to cook sweet potatoes in it for the holidays, which sounds like a fabulous idea! As were getting ready to leave, the parking lot was starting to fill up with yogis – they apparently host yoga sessions in the orchard on Sunday afternoons, which sounds like it would be a lot of fun!

Finally, later that evening we made a giant pot of chili for dinner, and watched It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown. It was a great end to a wonderful weekend.

What Wyatt’s Reading: August Wrap Up

What

Happy Read a Book Day!

It has been a long time since I posted one of these, and I figured today would be a great day to celebrate some of the books Wyatt and I have been reading. We read so many books over the summer! Wyatt loves to read, I have stashes of books for him all over the house for him to pull out and look through. He is so cute, he will riffle through the pages, point to pictures, and say, “Oooh mom, ooh!” My reader’s heart loves that he loves books. These are some of the top winners that we read together in August.

These were a few that we particularly loved last month. Wyatt went everywhere for a while carrying Eric Carle’s Do You Want to Be My Friend, and also really loved Big Bear, Small Mouse and The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear. I remember loving Eric Carle as a kid too, it is so neat to see that Wyatt really enjoys him as well. I loved Full Moon Lore and An Extraordinary Ordinary Moth, especially the latter. I think these will all have to be added to our permanent collection! Full Moon Lore just was so informative, and I loved the accompanying pictures, while Extraordinary Ordinary Moth was a wonderful story about finding beauty in the ordinary. I loved it to pieces. We bought Flowers Are Calling while we were on vacation, and that is another really cool book. The illustrations were beautiful, and it was full of interesting facts. I even learned a thing or two – like some flowers have caffeine and bees enjoy it! Being a coffee addict myself, I totally get it bees!

We have already kicked off September with quite a few reads, and in the past two days 9 of our holds have come in at the library, so we will be reading a whole lot more.

Any picture books on here that you have read, either with a child or as a child? What were some of your childhood favorites?