Saturday, December 31, 2011

Sweet Endings, Happy Beginnings

To end 2011 on a sweet note - one of my brothers, Davis, just got engaged to his lovely girlfriend, Danielle! To read the story and see the ring, check the blog post. Congratulations guys, this is great news to end the year on! Plans are undoubtedly already brewing for a very happy 2012 wedding!!
With Davis' wedding coming up that leaves...only 5 more weddings to go for my siblings (he's turning the tide, with 6 married and 5 not, we're heading downhill now!:-) I have a feeling I will be attending weddings all the way up until it's Kenna's turn, hah. Lucky thing that I *adore* weddings (who doesn't?!). We're so happy for you Davis & Dani - congrats and happy planning!!

Friday, December 30, 2011


Time off can not be underestimated! I am feeling so rejuvenated!! We are not really doing anything at all...Brian is still working, but his jobsite is close by the house, so he can pop in for a little bit and take his breaks, which is sooo nice (and rare!). With all this spare time I'm finding...the house is clean and organized for once...and has stayed that way for a whole week so far. Talk about RARE. (It is incredible, by the way, the speeds at which 5 small children can destroy a house. I literally can not keep ahead of them, try as I might!...But I CAN keep ahead of 3!!) I've stayed up too late...but slept in everyday. WOW. We've just been having family fun, and fun with friends's nice to get a break and recharge a little. It won't be but a few more days and we're back to crying babies, messes,  schedules and school. C'est la vie!
Brooks' Angry Birds game arrived. They all love it! Here's Grey, playing "a-gah buh-ds" while holding the "a-gah buh-d". Still in his pj's, cause that's how we roll

What happens when you leave your kids to eat their dinner while you go do your hair and makeup. Less eating, more playing. Thanks Kenna!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Crafty Christmas

Leave it to me to make Christmas a little bit homespun. Just because I feel like it keeps the holidays real and homey...and gives the kids something to do. And I like real creative things, cute things, handmade things, original things...THINGS! So I'll give you a few posts of things I did this year. You can stash them away in your mind for next year. This is something I saw on the Martha Stewart show, a la, The Letter 4. What a brilliant idea. I am in love! Let me 'splain this gorgeous, yet easy craft. Kid friendly too, if you don't mind glitter mess.

Cut citrus fruit in slices. I opted to only use limes, but any and all fruits would be delightful!
Pat juices off with paper towel, and bake in oven on a cookie sheet for 2 hours at 200 degrees, turning (and patting dry) about every 30 mins. This will dry them out. Once dried out, and cool, paint on some mod podge where ever you want glitter, and go to town!! Let dry, and tie with ribbon.
Can you tell which ones I've not glittered up yet?
Getting all the ribbons and messages tied on! The camera does not adequately capture the beauty and sparkle of these little ornaments. I will be making many more next year. I got to it late this time, and didn't finish with adequate time to give one to every one I wanted to. Spoiler alert for everyone next year, haha!!

"In debt, Amy? What do you mean?" and Meg looked sober. "Why, I owe at least a dozen pickled limes, and can't pay them, you know…"
"Tell me all about it. Are limes the fashion now?" and Meg tried to keep her countenance, Amy looked so grave and important. "Why, you see, the girls are always buying them, and unless you want to be thought mean, you must do it, too. It's nothing but limes now… If one girl likes another, she gives a lime; if she's mad at her, she eats one before her face, and don't offer even a suck. They treat by turns; and I've had ever so many, but haven't returned them: and I ought, for they are debts of honour…" Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
Merry Christmas Friends! I owe many debts of honour, of which I cannot pay. I love you all forever!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Love Grows

It's the 9th anniversary of our engagement. Time has both stood still, and flown. One thing is for sure, I love that man more than I did 9 years ago. And 9 years ago, I would have sworn to you that that was an impossibility. You can't imagine the way love grows until you experience it.
The footbridge in Central Park, NYC, where Brian got down on one knee in the snow and asked me to be his wife
Although this is a "real quote"...maybe someones quoting us. We had pretty much this identical conversation.
I dreamed of a wedding of elaborate elegance, a church filled with family and friends. I asked him what kind of wedding he wished for, he said one that would make me his wife - Author Unknown
He's also said that his only regret in the whole situation of falling in love, is that he didn't marry me sooner. Je t'aime.
When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible. - When Harry Met Sally
Engaged for 1 day! In Battery Park
I had this 8x8 made of special places to us. I have it printed, and will be framing it! Each place holds memories, like our first date, places we've lived, where our kids were born and stuff like that.
Check out my mom's site if you'd like something similar!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Eclectic #VI

Starting about 7 years ago or so, Meghan, harnessing the power of iTunes, has made us an Eclectic Christmas Music Collection each year. We are are on the VI edition. That's the 6th, for those not so good at the roman numerals:-) I think last year maybe she was lacking inspiration and didn't do one. But the break afforded her ample time to come up with 15 more songs we have not yet had on our Christmas CD's. We love all these CD's and play them every year, they truly have the very best of Christmas music, all in one place. So here is a small sampling of the music we listen to this year, only 6 of the 15:-) Thank you Megs! The Eclectic Christmas Music is a highlight of the season!!

Bring a Torch, Jeanette Isabella - Downhere

Remember Me - Joey & Rory

Christmas and Me are Through - Your Vegas (She included this one for Brian. He loves this song, depressing as it is:-)

Christmas Eve With You - Glee (it's Puck and Rachel)

The Earth Stood Still - Future of Forestry

Song for a Winter's Night - Sarah McLaughlin

Christmas Video Montage

Instead of 7 separate short videos, I combined them all into one, so it's longer (4mins), but not all of the same scene/thing. (The extra people you might see are our good friends, Tom & Chae, who opened gifts with us in the morning too:-)

So Very Merry

We had a wonderful Christmas! Here are a few pictures to share with all our out of town family! We spent the holiday at home, due to Brian and Lauren's work the rest of the Bolger side came to us! On Christmas eve we enjoyed lots of yummy food, watched A Christmas Story, read the Gift of the Magi, played games, stayed up until midnight, and opened our adult gifts from the adult gift exchange. We gave to, and got from, Ann & Mom.
Christmas morning we opened the last day of advent, and put baby Jesus on the manger. The kids got 1 piece per day to build the nativity over the course of the month
We opened gifts and had brunch starting at about 9:30-10:00. It was some YUMMY food...crumb cake, cinnamon rolls (best I've ever had!), quiche, tea cakes and curd...the list goes was amazingly good. The funniest part of the food was the rice porridge. Which was apparently delicious. I did not taste it, and all who know me, know of my absolute disdain of porridge. So I had to give Ann a hard time when she suggested eating this for breakfast on Christmas morning, using leftover rice. I guess really it's more rice pudding-ish (another *fave* of mine, ack), but I thought it was funny anyhow. All the porridge lovers liked it!

Here are some of our "prezzies", as Grey calls them...
He received gifts from Keaton (cousins exchange), G&G Kennedy, G&G Bolger, Mommy&Daddy, Noni, Ann, & Meghan!

He received gifts from G&G Kennedy, G&G Bolger, Mommy&Daddy, Noni, Ann, & Meghan!...his cousins exchange gift is still in the mail...from Vienna. He will die when he receives's his very own handheld angry birds game! He does not know he's missing a prezzie yet. He'll be thrilled!

She received gifts from Marshall (cousins exchange), G&G Kennedy, G&G Bolger, Mommy&Daddy, Noni, Ann, & Meghan

Chilling with "Meemaw. No no no no no no! Meemaw! No no no no no no" Grey thinks it is hilarious fun to NOT call Grandpa "Papa", but rather his Grandma word, "Meemaw"

It's a Charlie Brown Christmas...on Brian's brand new Blu-Ray player!!! Our regular/good DVD player broke early this year. We replaced it with the backup DVD I've had since before we were married. It basically was not cooperative technology with the new style of tvs and stuff, so all the movies sounded awful and were very dark (sometimes almost black). But we were living with it. Until I saw a steal of a Black Friday deal and HAD to snag him a new LG Blu-Ray/DVD player. It is truly amazing:-) The price was about 80% off too, so it was amazing all around!

The biggest family photo yet!! Including Ann's new husband, Jacob, and Lauren's boyfriend, Dale.
A wonderful me, from Brian. I LOVE it!!!!

Backstory: When I was getting married, my mom gave me her Kenwood was dying, and she got a new Bosch or something. We'll the Kenwood's still going! You cannot however, raise it beyond halfway way to level at the MAX. It grinds and whirls and makes atrocious sounds. But it goes fast enough to kneed pizza dough, which is all I use it for...I have a hand held mixer for everything else. Enter my wonderful mother in law who took pity on my mixing plight! (when she tried to use the machine when I wasn't home she got the scare of her life. I'm not kidding when I say do not raise above level one:-)! Guess what I happily threw in the garbage on Christmas Day?? RIP Kenmore, you've served 2 families very well, but your time is up! I now have a phenomenal KITCHENAID. Wahoooooooo!!!

Trying out a gift - Wii "attachments" to make the remote look like the actual sports equipment

Dale and Jake, a friendly rivalry going on! Dale sacrificially bought Jake a Cowboys backpack for school for his birthday (on the 26th) :-)
Another post with video coming soon!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Short Story

We read the Gift of the Magi together on Christmas eve this year: This is one of my favourite parts of this precious story about sacrificial giving. May we have hearts that strive to give out of our need, and not out of our abundance alone...
The Gift of the Magi - O. Henry, an excerpt. Click here for the whole story

Della finished her cry and attended to her cheeks with the powder rag. She stood by the window and looked out dully at a gray cat walking a gray fence in a gray backyard. Tomorrow would be Christmas Day, and she had only $1.87 with which to buy Jim a present. She had been saving every penny she could for months, with this result. Twenty dollars a week doesn't go far. Expenses had been greater than she had calculated. They always are. Only $1.87 to buy a present for Jim. Her Jim. Many a happy hour she had spent planning for something nice for him. Something fine and rare and sterling--something just a little bit near to being worthy of the honor of being owned by Jim.

There was a pier-glass between the windows of the room. Perhaps you have seen a pier-glass in an $8 flat. A very thin and very agile person may, by observing his reflection in a rapid sequence of longitudinal strips, obtain a fairly accurate conception of his looks. Della, being slender, had mastered the art.

Suddenly she whirled from the window and stood before the glass. her eyes were shining brilliantly, but her face had lost its color within twenty seconds. Rapidly she pulled down her hair and let it fall to its full length.

Now, there were two possessions of the James Dillingham Youngs in which they both took a mighty pride. One was Jim's gold watch that had been his father's and his grandfather's. The other was Della's hair. Had the queen of Sheba lived in the flat across the airshaft, Della would have let her hair hang out the window some day to dry just to depreciate Her Majesty's jewels and gifts. Had King Solomon been the janitor, with all his treasures piled up in the basement, Jim would have pulled out his watch every time he passed, just to see him pluck at his beard from envy...

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas & Food - Recipe

In getting ready for Christmas Dinner, I'm making our holiday jellied salad today - the best one you've ever had, I promise! I looked up the recipe in this book: My mom and Grandma worked on compiling all the best family recipes and food related stories right before Grandma passed away. It's full of old time family recipes, pictures, and funny stories!
My Mom, Beccy, is standing in the back beside my Grandpa
Reading and reminiscing through the book, as I dallied on getting to my cooking, I read that Grandpa Sylvanus Shantz (my Great-Grandfather - who passed away before I was born) hated carrots. REALLY?! See, ever since I was a kid, I have been unable to eat fruit cobbler. It literally makes me barf. Apparently, just like my Great Grandpa, who had the same problem, my Mom and Grandma would tell me. Now reading that he hated carrots too (as I do. Fresh is ok, cooked is OUT. I wonder if he was the same way?) strange is it the things that runs in our genes!! I think we would've got along just great at family functions, my Grandpa and me!

Anyway, here is a Shantz family favourite guaranteed not to make you barf. Delish!!!

Apple Dream Salad (family favourite for special occasions)

1 pkg lemon jello
Make jello. Chill until like "egg white" consistency.
Add and then let set:
1 unpeeled apple, cut in chunks
1 banana, sliced
1 can crushed pineapple, drained (reserve juice)
4T sugar
1 egg, beaten
1T flour
reserved pineapple juice
Cook until thick. Cool. Add prepared Dream Whip (1 pkg). Spread over jello. May be garnished with walnuts (optional).

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Aaaahhhh! - Video

Something I can pretty much tune out. Five kids, ages 5 & under. Riding happily in a van. Don't be fooled, happy can still drive you nuts! They have quite the knack for noisemaking! Sorry it's sideways, I just held my phone up behind me while driving, and had it upright...I guess it needed to be sideways for video. So many learning curves with a new phone! Anyway, the picture is really not the point as much as the sound!

Monday, December 19, 2011


They were jealous of Ardyn's hair do!
21 months, almost 12 months, & 23 months old!

Grey, Ardyn & Sonny
We're getting ready for used to be such a quick and easy thing. Now, because I don't want to be a loser mom, were baking kid messy stuff (dipping pretzel rods in chocolate today), making crafts, gifts, messes. Oi! Our first Christmas together consisted of wrapping about 5 gifts. Done. Those were the days!! BUT - on the flipside we are having lots of fun and I hope the kids will remember our fun holiday traditions forever!
Although easier, I do suppose it was slightly more boring:-)
Between giving and getting, we're starting to overflow the tree!
Also cleaning the house really well for the holidays too. Yay. However, it makes me realize we have too much stuff - like, it's sitting out, because I don't have a place for it!! Where to put it all, or throw it away?! When we moved from New York to Virginia, this was all we owned (plus couch, loveseat & bed). Those were the days!!! Its not hard to clean an empty house that's for sure:-)
Loving the crazy, can't wait for it to all be over and enjoy the holidays with family!!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Blast from the Past

February 1999: When there were only 10 of us!
An embarrassingly long time ago!
L-R, Bottom - Top: Darla, Brent, Lauryn, Jared, Davis, Logan, Kaden, Janessa, Jillaine, Lehman
Christmas '99, our last baby sister Maryn joined the family

Indian Boots

So, a friend of mine Teresa, found this "modest" clothing company. As a former small chested gal (and now quite the opposite), it is very hard to find cami's and so forth that give adequate coverage. I've tried these items and love them! As part of a promo/fashion show I was able to get a cami for $11, and this dress (normally $65) for $20! The neat thing about the clothes is that they are fully reversible with a "high" side and a "low" side. Not sure if everything they sell is reversible, but I think so...the cami and the dress I have certainly are! Anyway, it's called Molly's Clothing, and is made so that regular clothing items purchased at the store (which may be very low, or too short etc), can be nicely adapted.

Anyway, on to the funny part...{and for background, First Nations, is what Canada calls the "native indians", just in case you have no idea what we are talking about - and this was the first time the boots have been referred to in such a way!}

Brian and I were going out last we are getting ready...

Brian: Arrrrrre you going to wear your First Nations boots with that?
Darla: uh, yah, I mean, they are kinda the only thing I have that goes with it
Brian: Doooo we think it goes?
Darla: Well, we love First Nation-y things, so I guess so!
Brian: So you don't have anything more...smaller?

Ok, so someone was not a fan of my choice of footwear, but given ALL my other winter shoe options, {and my new found desire to defend First Nations apparel}, I felt it really was my best choice, so I wore them anyway:-)

At the insistence of my Mother, here are some pics of the get-up. Notice all the feathers and dream catchers on my boots? yah...I didn't either:-D Kenna snapped the pics, and no, she didn't cut my head off. I did that in the editing process, as I really didn't want to redo the hair and makeup - and didn't want to detract from the beauty of the boots with my just got out of bed look.
I'll give you that I likely need better footwear, but short of a shoe shopping trip - this is where its at!

Wearing the dress on the "low" side. It has a cap sleeve.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Praying - Video

Here's our Brooksie praying. I tried to videotape him on the sly, so he wouldn't see the camera and get embarrassed. I'm sure it's probably a little sacrilegious to do this, but writing out the words doesn't do it justice, for the expression in his voice and on his face:-) He's so sincere...and can be quite the long winded pray-er! I've posted some as the kids quotes on the side bar of the blog, another funny one was "thank you Lord for my excellent brain and making me so good at math". These ones were pretty short, and of course, cute as pie. He's such a tenderhearted little guy:-)
*Booka-Chooka is one of Grey's nicknames. And in the second prayer he is thanking God for stealing the power back from Satan, in case that is a little hard to understand.

Football - Video

We do this a lot around here. Playing catch! Brooks gets his skills from his super athletic mother, {wink wink}. Just joking, but since Daddy is often at work, the catch playing falls to mommy. Lucky for Brian (or maybe for Brooks and Grey!), I had a lot of brothers, so know how to throw a ball:-)


These things are making me smile...
Relaxing...snuggy boots, and a lit tree

Brooks, typing gibberish for a letter

Kenna reading to baby May - Sonny's little sister. We'll have her full time in January!

Not what I meant, when I told them to put on a new roll...

That's more like it!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Cupcake Icing - Recipes

Last night was the Ladies Christmas Party at Avalon Hills, and I was lucky to be in on some of the planning! I had a (hopefully) fun idea to have a cupcake "bar", where you decorate your own cupcake, a la Cake Boss, or DC Cupcakes...or something like that. Who doesn't love a cake...the size of a cup...with tons of icing...and a garnish? I figured everyone is probably like me, watching these shows on tv and drooling every week! It seemed to be quite the hit, so, at the unending request of the public here are the recipes I used for this event. Enjoy!
I had grand and yummy ideas of all the cake flavours I would like to make for the event, but taking into consideration my real world, and not the fantasy one in my head where I bake and craft all day...I had to think about my busy schedule, time constraints, and volume of production (100+ cupcakes needed), and decided to go the easy route. DUNCAN HINES baby. This is my very favourite brand, because of moist-ness, texture, and flavour. The secret to a cupakes is not to overbake them. I made Duncan Hines Devil's Food and D.H. French Vanilla as per the instructions on the box. I am very familiar with my oven, so I knew that 17 mins was the perfect amount of time to cook them without overdoing it. They were very very moist and yummy!

Since the cupcakes were pretty "plain" I had to make the icings fun and yummy to give it all some interest! The suggested combos were: Chocolate & Oreo, Vanilla & Cookies, Coffee & Chocolate, Peppermint, Lemon & Strawberry and Blackberry
A pre-made example of the cupcake combos! People could mix it up as they wished though:-)
VANILLA BUTTERCREAM - garnish with Mini Nilla Wafer (or big ones, cut in half)
1/2 C butter, softened to room temp
1 t vanilla extract
4 C icing sugar (confectioners sugar or powdered sugar, to the Americans who are currently scratching their heads:-)
3 T milk (I used whole milk)

Beat together. Makes enough to ice a small layer cake, or cover about 18 cupcakes.

CHOCOLATE BUTTERCREAM - garnish with Mini Oreos
1/2 C butter, softened to room temp
1 t vanilla extract
4 C icing sugar
3 T milk
2 squares unsweetened baking chocolate, melted

Beat together. Makes enough to ice a small layer cake, or cover about 18 cupcakes. This one can get a little thick, especially if not used right away. Can thin it down with a touch more milk.
Now I'm about to go all Rachael Ray on you, and give you un-precise recipes, using terms like "a splash" and "a zhuzh". I didn't really measure, I just did it, and it turned out...

COFFEE BUTTERCREAM - garnish with snack size Hershey bar square or a chocolate covered espresso bean
1/2 C butter, softened to room temp
4 C icing sugar
dissolve 1 t of instant coffee in 2 t of boiling water
about 2 1/2 T of milk (take away just a little b/c of the liquid coffee)
....I may or may not have added 1 t of vanilla too. I can't remember. Make it as above, and if you think it's missing something, add vanilla:-)

Beat together. Makes enough to ice a small layer cake, or cover about 18 cupcakes

LEMON BUTTERCREAM - garnish with fresh strawberry
1/2C butter, softened to room temp
1 t vanilla extract
4 C icing sugar
2 T lemon juice
zest from 1 lemon
Add enough milk to make it look "right", should be less than 1T.
Beat together. Makes enough to ice a small layer cake, or cover about 18 cupcakes.

PEPPERMINT BUTTERCREAM - garnish with a peppermint "round" or a tiny candy cane
1/2 C butter, softened to room temp
4 C icing sugar
3 T milk
1/2 t - 1 t of peppermint extract
crush peppermints or candy canes into very very small pieces

I added about 3/4t of peppermint, I think. You can always add more, but can't take it away, so start with 1/2t, then taste it and add more as needed. Beat together. Makes enough to ice a small layer cake, or cover about 18 cupcakes

BLACKBERRY BUTTERCREAM - garnish with fresh blackberry
1/2 C butter, softened to room temp
3+ C icing sugar
3 T milk
splash of lemon juice
1 or 2 spoonfuls of seedless blackberry preserves

Cut down a little on the icing sugar, as the blackberry preserves are also very sweet, you will need 3C, and maybe another 1/2 cup of icing sugar. Add preserves a little at a time, you can always add more, but can't get it back out! A small splash of lemon juice helps keep the sweetness in check from the sugar and the berries, and so cut back your milk accordingly (adding less than 3T, to coincide with the amount of lemon juice added)

To apply the icing in a fancy way, use icing tips!! (The large sized ones). I have Wiltons, 1M (x2), 2A, 2D, and Astor brand equivalents to 2A & 2D, which are slightly larger. Put these in the bottom of a disposable icing bag, snip the tip off, put all your icing in the bag, twist and hold the top of the bag while squeezing it midway down. It takes only a little practice and muscles to get it perfect every time!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Christmas Letter 2011

To read our Christmas Letter this year, click here
To see our Christmas Pictures this year, click here to see the video with music, and click here to see the stills

You will be able to see it really big, zoom in as you need to or print it out. I won't be sending a copy in the Christmas card this year, just referring everyone to the online version:-) 
We are surrounded by wonderful family (although physically far, they feel close:-) and have the best friends that anyone could ever ask for. Thank you all for being so good to us. We love you all, and wish everyone well this Christmas season!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


This post will be a little picture heavy, so I'll keep it light on words. Enjoy pictures from our photo shoot, 2011. It was hard to pick my faves out of 200 choices!

It takes two men to make one brother. Israel Zangwill

He must be so tall that when he is on his knees, he reaches all the way to heaven. His shoulders must be broad enough to bear the burden of a family. His lips must be strong enough to smile, firm enough to say no, and tender enough to kiss. He must be big enough to be gentle and great enough to be thoughtful. His arms must be strong enough to carry a child. Ruth Bell Graham

Let us make one point. That we meet each other with a smile, when it is difficult to smile. Smile at each other. Make time for each other in your family. Mother Teresa

It takes strong marriages to build strong families; It takes strong families to build strong people; It takes strong people to build a strong nation. Gary Ezzo

I, who have no sisters or brothers, look with some degree of innocent envy on those who may be said to be born to friends. James Boswell

Certain is it that there is no kind of affection so purely angelic as of a father to a daughter. In love to our wives there is desire; to our sons, ambition; but to our daughters there is something which there are no words to express. Joseph Addison

My father used to play with my brother and me in the yard. Mother would come out and say, "You're tearing up the grass". "We're not raising grass," Dad would reply. "We're raising boys". Harmon Killebrew