Zoo Bee Doo Bee Doo

I know I've mentioned over and over and over once or twice how much I love the Santa Barbara Zoo. It's close by - by California standards, anyway - in a beautiful setting, and just the right size for little kids to wander around without getting overwhelmed.
Yesterday, we packed up Leanne (Leia was visiting her "grandma on the mountain") and joined Bre, Garrett and Travis on a zoo trek.
The weather was gorgeous - lots of sunshine and temps in the high 60's - and by the time we got there in the early afternoon a lot of families were already heading out, so it wasn't as crowded as I'd expected on a holiday weekend.
First place we headed was to feed the giraffes - actually we ran, since feeding time was almost over, making it with about 5 minutes to spare.
Mr. T wasn't overly impressed with Betty Lou, hiding his face in mom's shoulder when she got too close, but Leanne and I thought Betty was awesome.
We rode the train,
watched a bit of Duncan the Dinosaur (he scared Leanne),
saw the gorillas,
watched an elephant get his teeth cleaned, but left as they were starting to wash his backside. Leanne termed it "yucky".
Great day and the kids had a wonderful time. Don't know about Travis, but Leanne was so well exercised tired, she slept all the way home. And grandma might have joined her . . . .


Testing 1, 2, 3 . . .

Best Hubby gave me a pocket-size wi-fi enabled, 16 mega-pixel digital camera for Christmas,
so today we took Leanne and headed for Gardens of the World to give it a test drive.

Leanne was happy to be outdoors and free to roam.

We let her choose our route,

which led us down a few dead-end paths, but we saw some things we might not have otherwise.

She loved the flowers,

chasing the squirrels,

trying to touch the water in all the fountains,

watching the koi,

but what thrilled her the most was figuring out that the ROCKS

played MUSIC!

Verdict on the Gardens? Gorgeous!

Verdict on the new camera? Learning curve is steeper than with the Canons I've owned. Photos taken outdoors are crisp and beautiful, especially after I took it off Auto and used the Scene controls. And being able to upload photos from the camera via wi-fi? Genius.

Photos taken indoors - like on Christmas day and while crafting - are dark and hard to focus. Could have been operator error; more experimentation will tell. The camera - a Nikon Colorpix S6500 - is intended for use on our trips, so outside pics are more important to me at this point than indoor shots. Going to be fun figuring this out.


Crafting With Glitter Paint

We didn't have much time for crafting today - too many errands to run (silly cats loudly objected to having no food) - so we went with something easy: wood ornaments and glitter paint. 
We started with snowflakes
and once they were saturated, 
moved on to letter "L" - one for "Leia"
and another for "Leanne" -
with a random "A" thrown in for good measure. (I think when Leia was shopping she intended to get all the letters for her name, but somehow the middle 2 were forgotten.)
Leanne has been my surprise of the week. I knew Leia would enjoy our crafting activities, 
but I thought Leanne, at 2 months shy of 3 years old, would quickly get bored. Boy, was I wrong.
She's outlasted Leia both days so far. And she concentrates sooooo hard on what she's doing and really works at doing a good job.
Leanne's "L" - the paint's so thick it may never dry.

You can see how much fun she's having just by looking at her.
Leia's handiwork
And grandma is thrilled that all three grand-girls have inherited the crafting gene!
Addy's ornament tree from our CO trip.


Scenes From A Christmas

Family, food, gifts, happiness. The perfect Christmas*.

*More perfect if Rachel, John and Addy had been here. . . .


Holiday Food

 All my Christmas baking and cooking is done - the last two items are in the oven and crockpot - and it's not even 9 pm! Thanks to Leia's help, I got several things out of the way early, which moved to Christmas Eve what I thought would be cooking Christmas day. Everything but the rice is ready to heat and serve tomorrow - no muss, no fuss, but still delicious.

Tomorrow's menu* includes: 
Ham and egg breakfast casserole (a new recipe - hope it's good!)
Deviled eggs
Teriyaki chicken (here - yummmmm!)
Balsamic roast beef (another new recipe; fingers crossed it's tasty!)
Maple-mustard chicken (a variation on this recipe)
Porcupines (meatballs mixed with rice; everybody in our family loves them)
Steamed Jasmine rice
Zucchini bread - my mother-in-law's delicious recipe
Chocolate chip cookies - recipe straight off the chips bag
Chocolate chip cake - another family favorite
Fudge - I messed this one up this year; normally my MIL's recipe if fool-proof.
And 2 pies from Marie Callender's, 'cause hubby loooooooves them. 

*Did you notice there are no tamales listed? Hubby and I ate our way through the entire batch already. Soooooooo goooooooood!


Cooking and Crafting

Leia spent Sunday night with us, so she and I got a head start on holiday baking.
Wearing great-grandma's apron while she cooks. 

I measured and Leia poured and stirred the ingredients for chocolate chip cookies and zucchini bread.
This was her first time peeling zucchini (she loved it but was kinda grossed out that a vegetable went into one of her favorite foods),
but she is a total pro at cracking eggs - so far, she's never gotten a piece of shell in the bowl - and she's getting better at spooning dough onto cookie sheets. 
Crazy good skills for a 5 year old.
Today we started on the food for Christmas dinner, making porcupines while Leanne napped.
Leia isn't a fan of getting her hands messy, but she makes an exception when it comes to mixing and rolling meatballs. And adding the sauce to the top is her job, thank you very much. 
I had planned a bunch of craft projects for Leia to do on winter break (thank you, Pinterest!!), not realizing that Leanne would be with us too. Most of them, fortunately, can be adapted to suit both girl's skill levels. Day 1 of Crafting With Grandma was making and decorating paper Christmas trees.
Leia had the most fun with the cutting.  
The gluing and decorating was ok, but ~yawn~ been there, done that, can we go back to cooking now?

Leanne, on the other hand, was all concentration. She loved using scissors, gleefully cutting slices all around her paper.
And gluing the puffs for her tree
required total
to the task
at hand.
 (And she obviously concentrates best with her tongue sticking out of her mouth.)
Enough pictures already, grandma!   
Both girls proudly took their masterpieces home tonight. Crafting, Day 1, was a success!