I spent just about all day Saturday trying to get the exterior of the house spruced up and looking decent. Mowed the lawn, washed off the dirt and cobwebs, cleaned the back yard, edged the grass, pulled weeds, etc. It looked pretty nice for the five minutes before the wind blew more leaves off the neighbors tree all over the backyard. This tree loses leaves all year long, so it never stays cleaned up.
The wisteria's blooming landed just about perfectly on this weekend. It blooms before it leaves, which makes it look a bit weird, but you get to see more of the blossoms since they're not blocked by any other growth.
The Easter Bunny visited the house mid-morning while the girls were watching TV. Corinne had been planning for at least a week that we would all sit together and read Humbug Rabbit on Easter morning. So we did that and then the girls realized there were eggs outside and the game was afoot.
And a mere 15 minutes later the eggs had been collected.
Now I'm making a triple-batch of rolls to have with dinner. Jess was working on deviled eggs, but became annoyed that the guaranteed-to-work Instant Pot recipe for hard-boiled eggs failed to live up to its guarantee. And everyone has had too much candy already.
Leading into Christmas the epidemiological situation escalated continually. This was expected since a lot of travel happened for Thanksgiving despite warnings and public-health orders. We got this emergency alert notification on the 18th:
Jess went out for a final grocery trip on either the 21st or 22nd and then we hunkered down. The new lock-down orders cancelled social-bubble buddies so we didn't hang out with friends. They also closed pretty much any entertainment centers (including zoos) and reduced store-occupancy limits. However, I don't know if anyone was enforcing any of these requirements. And if they weren't then it was really only so much hot air.
On the day of final-outings, Jess made a trip to the pharmacy to pick up one of her medications and said that the outlet-mall parking lot (which she could see on her way) was packed. Which just boggles my mind. Maybe because it's an "open air" mall people thought that made it safe? I don't know, but unsurprisingly the situation continues to deteriorate.
But, on to happier things.
I suppose this is a bit of gallows humor given that our family has remained unaffected by Covid-19 (other than inconvenience), but we got these ornaments to commemorate the year that we won't likely ever forget.
Mom sent us this one:
And this cartoon sums things up for our family pretty well:
We wanted to try and really make things feel different than the 9 months we've spent cooped up at home so this year we put the Christmas tree in the family room and bought some garland to put up around the house and Jess made bows out of ribbon to put up. This really spread out the Christmas cheer which previously had been pretty isolated to the living room.
We bought artificial wreaths to put on the interior doors throughout the house. I bought a poinsettia, which I don't normally do. And we even got out Jess' "Christmas Mouse" night-light thing (see picture of fireplace below). We've never set that up before. It has two, small 10-watt incandescent bulbs in the base which then glow through translucent bits of plastic. But because the lights are in the base and quite weak only the bottom part would glow and it was still quite dim. I decided to upgrade it to the 21st century. I bought a length of cuttable LED lighting with a dimmer switch and replaced the incandescent bulbs with the LED strip wrapped all around the wreath. Now the whole things glows quite nicely, is dimmable, and probably uses 1/10th the electricity.
On the 23rd my siblings and parents played Trivial Pursuit via video conference while I worked on my bûche de Noël. On Christmas Eve I spent most of the day baking baguettes, rolls, and cinnamon rolls and Jess made another chocolate-cream pie and sweet-potato casserole. For dinner we had cheese fondue (with the baguettes, crackers, and fruits). I read The Polar Express and Heather read The Night Before Christmas. And the girls opened presents from each other: lightfuries for both of them!
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day involved long-lived, casual video conferences with many of my family members to try and help make people feel connected to what's happening when most of us weren't going to travel and congregate.
On Christmas morning the girls woke up at their usual 5 o'clock time. Since this is a normal time for them we felt it would be cruel to tell them to wait and let us sleep longer. So up we got--very, very tiredly.
Santa puts up streamers at the end of the hallway to remind the girls the need to wait before diving into new, exciting things they see. So they very excitedly peer into the room to evaluate the situation.
I've had a hammock in a box for at least 13 years. Never used because I never had anywhere to put it. Jess said she wanted a hammock stand for Christmas and that's just what she got (thanks Mom & Dad). So now we have a place to put the hammock, and now we just need a (real) place to put the hammock stand. For now it moves between the kitchen and the family room.
I found these customizable mugs at Uncommon Goods and designed a set for Jess. I think they're neat. Jess has a stack of books, I'm holding a camera, Heather is painting on an easel, and Corinne is wearing reindeer horns.
Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit uses a small R/C car to bring the racing action into our own home. You set up a course and then drive it using the Switch which produces an augmented reality race via a camera on the car. It's a clever set up.
It was a good day, if exhausting. And every day since then has been more playing.
We, of course, spent Thanksgiving at home with no visitors. I made rolls. I also tried making cream puffs, but I took them out of the oven too early and they collapsed. Jess made chocolate-cream pie, sweet-potato casserole, and green-bean casserole.
I apparently don't have any pictures, but imagine us spending most of the day cooking and then eating dinner with more food than we need. I also spent some time video-chatting with my family while preparing food.
The day before Thanksgiving we piled into the van with our social-bubble buddies and went on a dinosaur safari. This also involved eating fair-food like funnel cake, cotton candy, kettle corn, and hot pretzels.
That was back before the hospitals were overrun and before the lock-downs tightened. Those were the good days, when we could still have social-bubble buddies.
Jess wanted to go to the beach for her birthday. So we packed into the van with our social-bubble buddies and headed out to Half Moon Bay. We pre-ordered some sandwiches from Subway and ate lunch next to the ocean.
The girls had a blast playing in the water and people were generally pretty good about distancing and mask wearing. The parking lot was full, but it didn't feel really crowded. Maybe that's because it was foggy and you couldn't see very far down the length of the beach.
Corinne eventually got cold and fell asleep hunched over on the sand.
Then she decided that on me was the only acceptable place to rest.
Once we'd had our fill of the beach we went to get gelato. This was a tactical mistake. The gelato shop was up the road away from the route home. And the way back was bumper-to-bumper traffic of people trying to head home from the coast.
So a short gelato trip added over an hour of additional drive time to get home (which is only about 1 hour anyway). But we eventually got home at which point it was dinner time. We had to parallelize our remaining celebrations in order to get things done in time for the girls' bedtime. Jess got the girls bathed while I heated up some chicken strips for them to eat. Then Jess blew out candles (all 40 of them!) on the cake I made and opened presents. By that time our dinner order was ready so I went to pick that up while Jess got the girls in bed.
Jess decided that my birthday cake is so good that she should have it for her birthday too. So that's the cake I made--chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, complete with Kyle's special, vanilla-cream filling.
And that's 3 of 4 family birthdays this year celebrated under the ongoing stay-at-home order and it looks like Heather's will be the same.
On the 16th we went to look at lights around town with friends. It was even a bit chilly.
Christmas Eve at home with cheese fondue with fresh bread and hot chocolate. And a couple of terrible, low-light pictures of the girls opening gifts to each other. Heather received a fossil dig kit and Corinne received 2 Magna-Tile plates (she ran around the house screaming she was so excited).
We added an alicorn and a narwhal to our Christmas lights this year. The alicorn immediately required replacement supports as it would fall over in a slight breeze and its lights are already having issues. So it may have to be returned. But the girls _loved_ it.
And I upgraded our "fire" with some flame-effect lights mounted on a board at the back of the fireplace. Surprisingly convincing in peripheral vision.
I made another Bûche de Noël this year. Unlike last year I skipped all the hazelnut parts and went with a filling of dark-chocolate creme & chocolate-chips with dark-chocolate ganache frosting and chocolate chips for garnish. It was pretty good.