Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Christmas in Pictures

The drive back home.

Christmas Trees and Decorations

Setting up the train around the 'Disney' Christmas Tree.

Decorating sugar cookies.

Christmas Eve Candlelight Service

Our cats hate us...

Opening gifts.

The night ended with a lot of Wii much fun!

I hope that you and yours had a very Merry Christmas!!!

Lion Reunions

I was reading the OC Register and they had a list of memorable stories from 2008. This video is one of them and I thought that it was way too cute!

Here's another lion reunion... this is the story behind this brief newsclip:

This woman in the video found this lion injured int eh forest ready to die. She took the lion with her and nursed the lion back to health. When the lion was better, she made arrangements with a zoo to take him and give it a home.

This video was taken when the woman after some time went to go visit the lion to see how he was doing.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas Traditions

I've filled out these email questions before, but saw them again on this blog this morning and thought it would be fun to put it out there and see what others might have to say...

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? I've done both, but prefer wrapping paper because something is missing if you can't rip open a present

2. Real tree or Artificial? Probably artificial... you pay once and you have it for countless years and nowadays it's difficult to tell the difference between the two (with the exception of the pine smell). Plus my artificial one is pre-lit- wonderful!

3. When do you put up the tree? Typically within two weekends after Thanksgiving... mine went up this past Weds.

4. When do you take the tree down? Few days after New Years

5. Do you like eggnog? I'll have a couple of sips, but I'm not really into thick drinks. But, Eggnog Latte's from Peet's are my favorite!

6. Favorite gift received as a child? That's really hard...I have so many... probably Big Wheels and definitely when my parents bought a swingset for me.

7. Hardest person to buy for? Grandpa...always tells me not to buy him anything, but I can't do that :-)

9. Do you have a nativity scene? We have one in our home, but it's my sister's, so I guess, no, I don't have one.

10. Mail or email Christmas card? Mail...I prefer things being a little more personalized, but any Christmas wishes are appreciated

11.Worst Christmas gift you ever received? Never rec'd a bad gift. Unless you count those 'white elephant' games at Christmas parties, and in that case, I rec'd a CASSETTE tape of someone I've never heard of, playing songs I've never heard of on a piano

12. Favorite Christmas Movie? Can't chose just one..."It's a Wonderful Life","A Christmas Story", "Nat'l Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" and all of the old school clay-mation movies (Rudolph, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, etc.)

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? Beginning of November

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Yes, one time. I prefer not to because I'm always worried that I'll give it back to the person who gave it to me in the first place. I typically will donate them vs. re-gift.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Grandma's Sugar Cookies

16. Lights on the tree? Are you kidding me? Of course!

17. Favorite Christmas song? Can never pick just one... O Holy Night, All I Want for Christmas is You, I Wanna Hippopatamus for Christmas (I know- random, but it always puts a smile on my face)

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? Depends on where my family is each Christmas

19. Can you name all 9 of Santa's reindeer's? Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen & Rudolph... as long as you know the 'Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer' song, you're set

20. Angel on the tree top or a star? Angel

21. Open the presents Christmas eve or Christmas day? Both... it used to be that we'd go over to my Grandparents house and open all of their gifts to us on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning would be stockings, Santa's big gift and all of my parents presents

22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year? People caring more about a great deal than the person they are trampling over, in a rush, to get that great deal.

23. Favorite ornament theme or color? Santa, Reindeer, Snowman

24. Favorite for Christmas dinner? Prime rib, yorkshire pudding and all the fixin's

25. What do you want for Christmas this year? Not a whole heck of a lot- I don't need anything... I always like receiving books.

Your turn!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

And I thought my Christmas lights were cool...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Door of Faith Christmas Party

I’m going to try and capture the highlights from our trip to Door of Faith Orphanage and if I miss anything I’ll just add it in another blog.

The day started out EARLY. We’re talking alarm going off at 4:30am early, but we did it. We drug ourselves out of bed and met up with everyone at the church. There were a lot of people- it’s been amazing to see these trips grow in numbers and this is only our third trip. The first trip there were 11 of us, the second trip we had around 15-20 people and on this trip we had approximately 30 people sign up to volunteer their time. I have to say that I was surprised that so many people were willing to give up an entire day, so close to Christmas, to drive 2-3 hours down and back up from Mexico…but, surprising in a good way. We ended up taking 7 SUVs/Vans down to Mexico…and, we really needed that much room… people aside, we also had somewhere in the neighborhood of 250-300 gifts with us. It was Kristen, Alex, Lisa,
Suzanne, Farzad, Brandon, Greg and myself in one van and we had a good group. We made it down to the border without any issues or any traffic (yay!) and we stopped at a McDonald’s just outside the border (you could literally see the border walls right behind McDonald’s). We wanted to take a brief bathroom break and give everyone the opportunity to grab something to eat. This was also the location we were meeting up with a couple of other volunteers who lived in the San Diego area. One of those volunteers was Santa Claus. You think that I’m joking, but just wait until you see the picture…this guy looks like the real deal and, as you’ll soon find out, he really has that Santa Claus spirit about him as well.

This is the story...

We had arranged for one of the volunteers to play Santa and he was going to rent/buy a Santa suit and bring it down with him. Well, a few days before we were going to leave, he backed out of the trip. So, now we have no Santa or Santa suit. Other volunteers began asking around to see if anyone knew where we could borrow a suit. One of our volunteers, Annie, actually knew a gentleman who plays Santa during Christmastime, so she asked if he knew where we could borrow a suit. He said that he wasn’t sure because he owns his own suit, so he never rents one. He asked why she was looking for one and she explained what we were doing and where we were going and the next question he asked was, ‘do you have a Santa to put in the Santa suit?’ She told him that we did not. He then asked if we wanted to have him go down to Mexico with us and he would bring his suit and play Santa. Being that we are on a tight (really non-existent) budget, Annie asked how much it would cost. He said, ‘can you afford free?’ Isn’t that great? This is someone who normally gets paid $175 just to show up at a location and then also gets paid $100 per hour. He was with us for approximately 11 hours…for those of you mathematically challenged like me, that’s $1275 that he could have been earning…especially during the busiest time of year for his business.

It was hilarious to see him walk into McDonalds…he didn’t have the full suit on, just a red turtleneck, but all of the kids heads just turned around and they stared at him, mouths opened. This guy’s beard, white hair and everything else are completely real…he even has the Santa spectacles.

So, off we went into Mexico…no issues getting over the border or arriving at the orphanage. As you can see from the pictures, the orphanage was all decked out for the holidays.

Of course, we had to get our pictures with Santa before the kids mobbed

Then we began the process of unloading all of the presents and making sure that each one was accounted for and that each child had a gift. I have to say that I was really amazed by the amount of restraint the kids showed… they came over and were looking at the presents and trying to find their names, but I was expecting that, like most little kids, they would come up and grab a present and walk away, but they were all really good. Next we had some of the girls set up stations and they did
manicures and face painting.

Then there was the bounce house and potato sack races.

Even Santa got in on the action with the bounce house!

In the meantime, we had a few buys BBQ’ing lunch for all of the kids and us…hamburgers, hot dogs and chips.

As you can see it was a bit chilly… after lunch we used the BBQ as a ‘warming station’.

Next came the long awaited gifts. Santa sat down and as each child’s name was called, they went up, took a picture with Santa, took their gift and went off to open them up.

After gifts, we had two piñatas. Apparently, once the piñatas busted open and the candy fell to the ground, the kids piled on top of one another, in true football fashion, trying to get at the candy.

The last event of the day was the Christmas cookie decorating. Once again, I was surprised…I mean, I’ve seen how these kids love their candy, so I figured that they’d probably come in and just eat the candy and the cookie and, sure, there were a couple who did that, but for the most part, the kids really took their time frosting the cookies and then methodically laying the pieces of candy on the cookie. They were really creative and they were so proud of their cookies! I even saw a couple of kids walk out of the room with their cookies on a plate and they were taking them back to their rooms. Really cute.

Now, it was time to head back home. This is typically the only part of the trip that I don’t like. Not only because I have to leave the kids, but because I know that a long wait is ahead of us at the border. Remember how, earlier, I said that it was no problem crossing over the border from the U.S. to Mexico? The same cannot be said for the return trip back to the U.S. Once you approach the border, you are talking about a 2-3 hour wait to get up to the checkpoint and then you have to
just pray that yours isn’t one of the cars that they choose to do a secondary check on…cause if that’s the case, you’re talking about adding on another hour. (it happened to me in Canada but, knock on wood, it hasn’t happened in Mexico) We chose to use our wait time wisely by doing, what else but eating. There is definitely not a shortage of vendors along the streets near the border. They are selling verything
from 3 foot long statues of a crucified Jesus to ceramic frogs, to fruit and churros. I think that the only thing that they don’t sell in the carts is alcohol…and trust me, after 3 hours of waiting, I wish that they did serve it (being that I was not driving the vehicle of course). I could have gone for a bottle of beer at that point. But, like I said, we made the best of it. We bought some sort of seasoned corn on the cob which was, apparently, delicious and I, of course, went the sweet route and bought churros. Seriously some of the best churros I’ve ever had-
they beat Disneyland’s by a long shot… not to mention that they cost about a sixth of the cost of a Disneyland churro. :-)

Finally, we did make it over… but, not before some guy in a car next to us, peed into a bottle and then dumped it out his car window. Really. You can’t make this stuff up.

I definitely plan on going back and being there has given me even more incentive to relearn the Spanish language as most of the kids only speak Spanish and I’d really love to be able to talk to them. The party was great and the kids were beyond adorable and I’m so glad that I went!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Easy Way Out???

My plans always start out big, have a lot of attention to detail and
involve a lot of work. Then I realize that I only have 24 hours in a
day and if I actually want to take time to eat or sleep, then I need to
modify my plans. And, so the story goes with baking the sugar cookies
for the orphanage this weekend. I had planned on baking 10 dozen
cookies from scratch, but then I went to Costco and found this
wonderful purchase…

I seriously stood at the Krusteaz Sugar Cookie Mix display for 10
minutes going back and forth as to whether or not I should make the
purchase or if I should suck it up and go back to the original plan of
making them from scratch. At $5.67 a bag (which makes 15 dozen cookies), the cookie mix won out- there would have been no way I could have baked 10 dozen homemade cookies for under $6 and the time-savings was definitely a plus. So, I threw the
mix and the other ingredients into my KitchenAid Mixer (which is the

Then rolled out the dough, cut them into ornament shapes (although they
bare a slight resemblance to little pumpkins) put them on a cookie sheet
and slid them into the oven.

And, what good is a sugar cookie, if you don’t add more sugar to it???
I’m specifically referring to frosting and candy decorations. So, we’ve
stocked up on a bunch of those items and will be taking them down to
Mexico with us so the kids can decorate Christmas Cookies at the
Christmas Party.

I’m anticipating a HUGE mess, but I think that it will
be fun nonetheless.

Cookie decorating aside, as mentioned in a previous blog, we were able to get all 115 kids sponsored so that each one would have Christmas presents this year. Take a look at the stack of gifts I had going in the garage (and keep in mind that this stack of presents is only for 15 of the kids)

Here are some of them loaded up and ready to go in my car.

So, we are off to Door of Faith Orphanage tomorrow morning... bright and EARLY. Actually we are meeting up at 5:30am, so it's technically going to be DARK and EARLY. Please pray for no 'hiccups' in the last minute planning. Please also pray for safe travels on the roads and in Mexico, for safety (in general) in Mexico, for good weather, for all of the kids to have a great day and just for us to have an impact on the kids and for God's will to be done. Thank you all and I'll be posting soon with an update on the trip.