santa’s village

I’ve had a difficult time getting into the Christmas thing this year. Not sure why, although I’m guessing a last-minute trip to North Carolina for a funeral and the stress of going back to work had something to do with it. In any case, I just wasn’t feeling the holiday cheer… I’m way behind on shopping, we’re not even putting up a tree until Christmas Eve, and I ordered Christmas cards but I kinda forgot where I put them. Oops.

santa's village

Last Saturday I woke up and decided I wanted to do something to change that. So in a rare moment of spontaneity, we booked a motel room, strapped the kids into the van and were off to New Hampshire to visit Santa’s Village for the weekend. We figured this would be one of Ellie’s birthday gifts since she’s just as excited about experiences as toys (and she already has way too many of the latter).

cozy and warmIt was cold, but only in New England do people still flock to an amusement park when it’s 25 degrees out. We spent most of the time bundled up in layers with the occasional pit stop into a restaurant to warm up. You don’t see Gwen in many of these pictures because she was tucked away in her stroller, wrapped in a snow suit and a couple blankets with a canopy cover to keep the wind out. In fact, she slept through the majority of the park, waking only to eat and smile and smugly prove to us just how easy-going a baby can be.

I was pleasantly surprised to find the park was especially friendly to little kids… there was more than enough stuff to do in the two days we were there. I was worried Ellie would get scared on the rides but she LOVED them–the train, the monorail, the spinning cups, everything. She liked visiting with the reindeer and decorating her own gingerbread lady (and then inhaling it, of course.) The light display after the sun went down was spectacular (I’d hate to see their electric bill) and Tim and I both enjoyed watching Ellie soak it all up with wide eyes.

hi (rein)deer!

riding the carousel    gingerbread lady

Ironically, the only thing we didn’t do was visit with Santa… the line was too long for a three-year-old’s attention span. But you know, I don’t think Ellie missed out–the whole “sit on an old man’s lap to get candy” thing probably seems pretty creepy to a kid who is finicky around strangers.

cupcake girl

We know it was a successful trip because by the end of the day, Ellie was an overstimulated grouch. She passed out in the car on the way home and didn’t wake up for two hours. Operation: Exhaust the Preschooler was a success!

daddy's better than any stroller

And wouldn’t you know, I found a bit of Christmas spirit along the way (and a pound of homemade fudge from the candy shop certainly didn’t hurt).


crockpot chicken stew with dumplings

CrockPot chicken stew

I’m a total CrockPot geek during the fall and winter. I try to make at least one meal per week in the ‘pot because it’s so easy and the ample leftovers make great lunches.

This is my favorite chicken stew with dumplings recipe–we’ve made it twice in the last month. It’s based on this recipe I found last year, and over time I’ve modified it to suit our family’s tastes. It’s really flexible… the measurements are not exact because I rarely measure anything, just toss it in and see what happens, but generally it requires about…

  • 3 chicken breasts, frozen or fresh
  • 2 11 oz cans cream of chicken, mixed with 1.5 c water (or you could substitute an equal amount of chicken stock, thickened with flour)
  • 4 large carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp crushed rosemary
  • 1 c sweet corn, frozen or canned
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 c peas, frozen or canned
  • Your favorite biscuit dough, enough for about 9-12 medium-sized biscuits should do (I like a lot of dumplings!)

Throw everything except the peas and biscuit dough into the CrockPot and stir. Cook on high for 3.5 hours or low for 7 hours or until the chicken is tender. Then shred the chicken with a fork and drop in the biscuit dough in rounded dollops. At the same time, stir in the peas (they’ll cook fast), and continue cooking half an hour on high or 1 hour on low or until the dough is cooked through.