Chris and Yukiko offered to host this year! Unfortunately Erika was not feeling well with a fever, but she did recover enough to come down for cheese and hung around with her cousins. Which in retrospect meant that it gave the germs the opportunity to get passed around...
It was the first day of holidays, but Michael still had french playgroup so I dragged Amelia along as well. I gave Matthew the choice of whether to come or not and at first he thought he'd be too old but in the end he decided to go. Elizabeth was happy to have the chance to a quiet house.
We were practically the only people there, so it was very quiet. Matthew built some very elaborate wooden castles which got knocked down by the babies. He was a bit put out but the staff all commented on how mature his response was ("shrug") so he decided to go with it instead of being cranky.
After we came back, we played in the snow with the neighbours for a while and then headed out to Cosmic Adventures!
The kids had playing on Cosmic Adventures on their fall bucket list but we figured better late than never!
Kicked the kids outside so they would stop tracking sugar from the parts of the house we didn’t clean yet into the parts we had...
This year's edition of gingerbread featured seventy-nine people! In our house, mostly all at once. Brendan was starting to wonder what the current building code says about occupancy capacities... So, yeah - not an introvert friendly event!
I didn't manage to prebake any cookies this year but luckily my friends didn't mind too much. This did mean that I spent pretty much the entire time in the kitchen and so didn't get to chat with those who didn't come hang in the kitchen but it was still pretty fun. My own kids even managed to figure out their own structures with some help, mostly from babysitters Alida and Emma. Our amazing neighbours also stepped in to help by brining over an extra oven rack and stand mixer.
It was so busy that apparently Janice took over a room upstairs and ran an impromptu painting session with all the cousins and I had no idea.
Michael thought gingerbread was marvelous. Every time we turned around he had another mouthful of candy and so. many. people. to play with him!
Amelia was ALSO very excited about sugar. I reminded her that she needed to go easy on the candy but I don't know how effective this was...
Matthew completely shut down and was curled up in a corner holding his ear and generally giving off "I'm very unwell" vibes. I was super concerned and then pretty much everyone left and he completely perked up and was fine and finished building his house. Apparently he couldn't cope with so many people.
Elizabeth loved everything but then was a bit annoyed because I didn't have dough ready on time for her friends to finish their building before having to leave early.
There were some neat creations this year including a Telsa cyber truck, an imperial star destroyer, a death star and a palm tree. Michael made cookies but didn't decorate them as he was too busy eating the candy. Amelia made a gummy bear playground (her own idea). Matthew made a pokeball and Elizabeth made a karate dojo.
In the end it was still loads of fun but we do need to think about practical limits for next year.
Elizabeth got nailed in the face at karate and suffered what's probably her first real karate injury - we made a big deal out of it teasing her and she was NOT amused. Apparently the kid she was fighting has a pair of broken gloves which was the source of the injury.
We continue with our somewhat sporadic attempts to teach our children how to cook. Matthew still enjoys cooking very much, especially if he can use one of his cooking magazines as inspiration. I don't often have the energy to encourage him though.
While I've done most of the cooking instruction with a little help from the kids cook real food online cooking course, Brendan occasionally chips in with his own tips (eg. fast ways to melt cheese, how to prevent an omelette from overflowing in the oven if there is too much filling to fit in the pastry - most of which can be summed up as "creative use of power tools in the kitchen")
Occasionally the children have made things entirely on their own. I was highly amused the one day that they tried to make cupcakes but accidentally used the recipe for buttercream icing (and also didn't realize that there is a difference between granulated and icing sugars!). Luckily I stopped them before they put their buttery sugar concoction into the oven!
Anyway, I'm not home Monday evenings as I take the middle kids to piano lessons and that has given Elizabeth the opportunity to make dinner for the family regularly.
There have been some mishaps - think pouring water into the instant pot without the liner or burning the rice after forgetting the water - but she has produced many delicious meals week after week and even the mistakes have been edible!
She says she likes making desserts best - her favourite is brownies WITH M&Ms and sprinkles on top. Her favourite main course is Instant Pot chicken taco bowls because they are tasty and she likes the name of the dish.
Brendan hovers in the background to try and prevent disaster but mostly she works on her own based on instructions that I leave her. She then tends to text me as she works through each step. It's been interesting to see what I think ought to be obvious and how her interpretation sometimes differs! I included one particularly memorable and hilarious exchange that is also completely typical of Elizabeth's learning to cook. The only downside is that by the time she's a university student I probably won't be getting such amusing texts anymore.