Monday, December 26, 2011

Holly Jolly Christmas

Christmas is the best time of the year. It just is. It's the time when you hug your loved ones close, slow down, and appreciate the small things. It's the time when we can appreciate that the birth of Jesus draws us all together and gives us something so special to be thankful for. We spent this Christmas away from our families, but we still made our warm and fuzzy holiday memories... our little family of three, going on four.
Claudia decorated her little pink tree, decking it out with ornaments we have given her each year, along with ornaments family and friends have sent her. This year we gave her a homemade Hungarian ornament, but her favorite ornament arrived last week by mail from Rachie & Ryan. It's a Chicago ornament and every night Claudia would touch it and whisper "Chicago!" We often reminded Claudia that Santa was watching her and that Jihermichael (Elf on Shelf) was sending reports back to Santa. She took none of this seriously. She has her moments, but my girl has been pretty good. We made cookies for Santa on Christmas eve. Claudia got a little out of control drizzelling red icing on the gingerbread men. Daddy commented that the cookies looked like they were covered in blood, and they kind of did, so we added some snowflake sprinkles. Good as new. Claudia stayed up a little late on Christmas eve. She didn't have too many questions about Santa, but when we hinted he might pass us over if she stayed up too late, she scooted off to bed. She loved wearing her little snow man pajamas from Aunt Debbie and Uncle Matthew. For some reason, Claudia had no motivation to go downstairs and open her toys on Christmas morning. She peeked down the stairs, saw her toys and slowly toodled herself down to investigate.
She was most excited about her light saber. Just so you know, she wasn't wearing any pajamas when she woke up and it took about fifteen minutes to coax her into this pair. CC's bike from Santa is pretty neat. The kids over here don't use training wheels, but they start out on balance bikes (no pedals). After they master their balance on these, then they get the real deal. I think they're catching on stateside too.
This is Claudia's baby. She firmly refuses to name the baby, but insists the child receive serious dental attention.
She didn't much care about any of the other toys, but did enjoy stomping on the wrapping paper and playing with a toy ladybug that game in her stocking. Being away from our families this year, it was a wonderful blessing to have several friends over here that were also spending the holidays in Budapest. We spent Christmas day over at our friends' house. Claudia was excited to play with her little buddies and eat some delicious food. When we got home, she spent more time taking care of no-name baby. I think she's getting geared up to be a big sister. Celebrating Christmas away from family has made us appreciate our families and miss them terribly. It was strange being away from my mom for Christmas and I missed her very, very much. But I appreciated this sweet moment where Daddy and CC inspected the tree and shared a hug.
Thanks to my new handy tripod, we were able to take a McLendon family photo when we got home Christmas evening!
You can also take pictures in the dark without getting things all blurry with that tripod. We loved our little tree and I'll be sad to take it down. The Hungarians (and apparently most Europeans) wait until Christmas eve to put up their trees and then they wait until mid to late January to take them down. Weird, huh?Claudia's Christmas artwork. She loves making her artwork and I love watching those little hands glueing, cutting, coloring and flinging glitter everywhere.
It's freezing here and we have nothing to show for it but a few measly little flakes and a bunch of ice. Not really a white Christmas, so much as it was a foggy and icy one. Claudia got the last laugh on this one. She took the "coal" out of her stocking in the morning, asked what it was and got defensive that she'd be getting this. She later dumped the coal out on the floor and began spreading it around the room. That's the last time she gets this mess.

Merry Christmas everyone!!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Weekend on Ice with Icing

It's nice and chilly in Budapest so we decided to go out and test the ice.
The lake in City Park is nice and iced over. With the Vajdahunyad Castle behind the lake, it makes for a picturesque place to skate. I watched and drank hot chocolate rink side. The next stop was Disney on Ice. The downside was that the show was all in Hungarian. Nevertheless, Claudia had a ball, especially watching the Sleeping Beauty part. Claudia loves Sleeping Beauty and even wore her Princess Aurora costume to the show. There was lots of laughing, lots of oohing and aaawing... and occasionally Claudia would scream out "Nem beszélnek magyarul!" (I don't speak Hungarian) and "In English! In English!"
So here's the icing part. Claudia had a cookie decorating party with her playgroup a few days ago. She had a lot of fun cutting the cookies, but mostly liked licking the icing off the final product.
Look at that focus!
Look at all that icing! Shortly after I took this picture she licked those cookies clean. Seems like something Daddy would do. Claudia loved it. After this little party, I'm thinking a cookie or cupcake decorating birthday party would be pretty awesome.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Budapest Christmas Market and More Christmas Stuff

This past weekend we went to the Budapest Christmas Market. They have Christmas markets all over Europe this time of year and we've been to some in Budapest and Vienna. I love the one in Budapest because most of the goods are handmade and the crowds are not too overwhelming.We got Bop all cozy in her stroller muff and set out looking for some good food and some crafty Christmas stuff.
I got some Christmas ornaments from this booth - some handsewn cardinal ornaments. Our tree is all red and gold and is covered in cardinals, my favorite bird. I need to take some better pictures of our little tree. What it lacks in size, it makes up for in sparkles!
They sell all sorts of yummy treats at the markets... like roasted chestnuts...
... and delicious hot chocolate. Russell was in the process of buying some hot apple cider, but then he got into a little tiff with the cider guy. Apparently Russell asked "apple cider?" to the guy and the guy replied, in English, "I'll give you some apple cider when you say 'May I please have an apple cider?'" We're accustomed to most people not speaking English, so we usually point, grunt and say "kérem" (please) to get the things we'd like. Russell was so taken aback by this guy that he stormed off with no apple cider. He may have also told the guy off before huffing away. The chimney cake guy was much nicer. Chimney cakes are a cinnamon bread that is hot and toasted over open flame. They are delish!Bop pretty much just licks all the cinnamon off. The main Budapest market is held at Vorosmarty Ter, so of course we rode the lions, Claudia's favorite thing to do in Budapest. And look who was also there! Sweet Emily in her Santa hat!Later that day we made snow globes, one with a dinosaur, one with a palm tree. The dinosaur came loose and is now floating at the top of the snow globe. This didn't seem to bother Claudia, so we'll just let him be. Other than that, we've just been baking and eating sweets. Claudia mostly licks the bowls and eats sprinkles straight from the jar. We haven't talked much about Santa (recall she ran from him at her one Santa sighting) and we just got around to making a list for Santa. This is what Claudia asked me to write. Apparently she wants (1) a blue bunny, (2) a light saber, and (3) a cape like Darth Vader wears. She has never seen star wars, but has seen a youtube video of the Star Wars song, the Imperial March. She now marches around the house singing the song. Now will come the fun part of finding out whether Santa's workshop in Budapest is stocked with these items! I guess it would have been smarter to quiz her about this a little earlier. =)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Little Feet, Little Hands, Little Baby

I had a doctor's appointment this week and got to see little man's sweet face.
It's his side profile and he's got his hands pulled up around his face. I can't tell for sure, but it looks like he has a decent set of eyelashes too. I think he looks like Russell. Just seven more weeks and he will be here! We are so thankful for this sweet baby and cannot wait to see his little face in person.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

St. Nicholas Day and Other Festivities

Today is St. Nicholas (or Szent Mikulás) day in Hungary. It's the day when Hungarian children wake up to find goodies (oranges, apples, peanuts, chocolates) left for them by Bishop Mikulás. The night before he comes, all children are supposed to polish up their finest boots and leave them on a window sill or doorstep for Mikulás. If you've been good, you receive the aforementioned goodies. If you've been naughty, you get golden twigs or a wooden spoon. Most kids get both as no one is really all good or all bad. Claudia woke up bright and early to see what Szent Mikulás left for her.
Jackpot!
Claudia: "What's thiiiis?" Me: "Your golden twig. Sometimes you can be a little naughty." She didn't dispute this.
She was pretty pleased to get her chocolate Szent Mikulás and chocolate boot.
Bop doesn't really have any fine boots, so she scrubbed her Lightening McQueen Crocs the night before. Besides, if you ask her, they are her very finest pair of shoes.
This week CC has been busy re-decorating the tree. She takes these painted ornaments I keep in a bowl (a favorite Christmas gift from my dear Avery) and she hangs them on the bottom of the tree. She then takes them off and then rehangs them onto the tree. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
They're not breakable and she loves to decorate, so this is a pretty fun activity.
Bop admiring her handiwork.
So on Saturday we went to our first Danish birthday party. Folks from Denmark do things a little different...
This is a traditional Danish birthday cake. It's in the shape of a man. After the birthday song is song, you slice the man's head off while all the children shriek with delight! Claudia and her pal Emilie (Dutch/American) quietly observed in confused anticipation. I guess you can take a Viking out of Denmark, but you can't take the Viking out of a Dane. The cake was delicious, by the way... similar to a king cake. Mmmmm....
Claudia ate the licorice hair off the decapitated Danish man-cake.
Claudia and the birthday girl, sweet Emily. Don't they look happy to have their picture taken?
We followed the party with more desserts at the Intercontinental, where we were hoping to get a glimpse of Santa.
We didn't get much Santa face time in (not even a picture!), which Claudia seemed fine with, but we did get to visit with some sweet friends. This is how it goes taking pictures these days... kids run crazy while you try to sit and smile. FYI, Claudia was dumping a chocolate sundae down her dress while this photo was taken.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Brazilian-German Baby Shower in Hungary

Last weekend, my sweet friends Maria (Brazil) and Sandra (Germany) threw a shower for me and my dear friend Tanya (Carsten's mommy). We were initially worried about having a baby here, because we're far from family, but having such kind friends has been a great comfort!
As the title suggests, the party had a Brazilian flair to it. Per Brazilian baby shower custom, Tanya and I had to guess the contents of each package. For each present we got wrong, we had to put on a piece of flair. Maria said in Brazil you can also wind up getting your belly decorated if you get enough wrong. Thankfully, for us and the guests, we were pretty good guessers. Claudia also got presents at the shower, but she went ahead claimed two gifts given to the little man: one stuffed pony and a "My First Passport" holder. She told us "He doesn't even have a passport." By the end of the game, Tanya and I closely resembled Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. Tanya got a little heart on her cheek for cheating and peeking into one of the presents before guessing.
Tanya and me, after we shed our get ups... one more month for Tanya and two for me. Getting close!
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