Wednesday, December 25

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all from the little Gunnell family!!!!

I'm about to start another game of Bananagrams with the family so, to make a long story short, we've spent the last two and a half days in Orlando, Florida where we met up with my brothers and parents who drove down from New Hampshire. We have a gorgeous hotel with the sweetest pool we've ever been to and have spent the last two days at SeaWorld getting some sun and riding the roller coasters. We'll be staying with cousins the next week, and have many other things planned (I'll tell you about them later). 

But for now, I'm going to enjoy the time I have with my family and wanted to share that I know Christ lives. I am very grateful for His birth and for His atonement. He is my Savior and I am trying to be more like Him every day. Do not forget that He is the reason for this holiday!

Merry Christmas again, and enjoy a few family pictures from last month. Gotta go! ;)

Have a happy, joyful Christ-centered Christmas and 2014!
I hope everyone has a magical Christmas!

Saturday, December 21

Gourmet Spicy Sausage Penne

*Things have been changed since I started making this a couple years ago. I now slice up a colored bell pepper to add some extra texture and flavor. I add it after the onion, garlic, sausage have been added. I also cook the penne in the same pan as the other ingredients which increases the flavor though it takes a little longer for the penne to get tender. I no longer melt the cheese on top in the oven (I skip that part). I also put foil down across the baking dish to save cleanup later (HUGE lifesaver if you hand wash your dishes)...scrubbing dried/melted cheese off a dish is not my favorite!*
I realized I haven't shared recipes in a while and thought I had better do so before the end of the year! This is seriously one of our family's favorite recipes ever since I first tried it this past spring at a baby shower. It was made by my friend and visiting teaching companion, Sara, and I knew I just had to get the recipe from her after because it was so amazing that I had like five helpings. I've made it twice when I've made meals for friends in the ward, and both times they loved it and wanted the recipe. Our brother and sister-in-law loved it too. Basically, I've never met anyone who hasn't liked it yet. And my favorite thing about it--it tastes even better the second day!

The recipe has a few random ingredients that I don't buy on a regular basis, so it's more of a once a month thing (though we had it three days ago and I'm making it again tonight, so...yeah it's that good). Anyway here it is for everyone to try!

penne pasta (follow serving sizes on the bag...I usually use the whole thing because it's so amazing)
olive oil (for frying the sausage in)
1 lb. smoked turkey sausage (sliced)
1 chopped white or yellow onion
2 minced garlic cloves
About 2 cups chicken broth
1 10oz. can Mild Ro-Tel tomatoes with green chiles
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup shredded Monterray Jack cheese
sliced scallions
salt and pepper
red pepper flakes


Start with a large frying pan (the biggest you have, probably). You'll be adding a lot of ingredients so the bigger (and deeper) the better. Pour some olive oil in the pan and add the sausage slices, chopped onion, and minced garlic until they have nice brown edges.
Then there are two ways to do the next part. You can either add the dry penne to the frying pan to be cooked with the other ingredients, or you can boil it separately, then mix everything later. Before I got a big frying pan, I used to cook the penne separately, but now that I have a larger one and have cooked it with the penne mixed in with the other ingredients, I HIGHLY recommend that method! I love the flavors that get into the penne. It takes a little longer to cook (the penne is supposed to take 11 minutes but it's been closer to 20 to get to the softness I like) but it is worth it!
So I add the chicken broth, Ro-tel tomatoes (undrained), and heavy whipping cream to the pan and bring it to a boil. I then turn the heat down and let it simmer for five-ten minutes. (If you choose to add the penne to the pan, I would simmer for at least fifteen). I add some salt and pepper, (sometimes chili powder) and red pepper flakes for more spice.
Then, I pour my penne mixture into a baking dish and spread it out evenly. I add the shredded cheese on top, then (note: I no longer do this oven step) I stick the dish in the oven (at 350 degrees) and let it bake until the cheese on top is melted. Usually the mixture is still hot enough that the cheese melts on the top without any assistance.
Once the cheese is melted, I take it out and mix it up again, then sprinkle the chopped scallions on top to serve.

Serve with a baguette slice and a drink--especially if you made it extra spicy!
Tell me if you try this recipe and how it goes for you:)
Also let me know if you make any alterations so I can try them myself. 
I hope you like it! (I'm pretty certain you will!)

Tenley's 4 Month Updates

Thanks for the encouragement I received yesterday! No, I didn't complete everything for that class in the last 24 hours, but I did manage to complete two full lessons which was a small miracle. I'm hoping to finish the last three lessons tomorrow and perhaps begin my essay on Sunday. Monday I intend to call BYU and ask about taking the final on the 3rd when Dalin and I get back from Christmas break! So that's progress, right??

Anyhow, I just love Tenley. How I got such a happy, chill, pretty baby is beyond me. I'm pretty sure she takes after her daddy, especially in personality. She's so calm and I just am SO grateful for her joyful spirit! Updates on her life:

  • She is four months old as of the 12th! (I've lost track of how many weeks) Man, time has flown by. Whenever I look at her, I am still just amazed that: A) she came out of me, B) she's mine, and C) that she is getting rapidly closer to being half a year old! What the heck! Wasn't she just a newborn a week ago??
  • She is just so perfectly happy almost all the time. She has her moments, but what girls don't? 
  • We got Tenley's 4 month immunizations done today and she literally fussed for maybe five seconds. The two nurses were like, "Woah, she did really well!" I, on the other hand, was a nervous wreck until they were over. Mothers. Now she has three little bandaids on her thighs which I am not looking forward to removing. Although come to think of it, she didn't even notice when I peeled them off last time. And she was asleep. 
  • She can get off her bouncer if I don't strap her in and if I let her cry for a few minutes. She just twists her tiny body until she's almost all the way on the floor. She's done it like three times, so I've finally decided I'd better strap her in from now on. 
  • We went to a luncheon for a boy from Dalin's work today and sat with a few of his co-workers. While there, I nursed Tenley at the table under my cover and a co-worker's wife said, "Are you nursing her with no hands right now?" I looked down to see what she meant. I had a butter knife in one hand and a roll in the other. "I guess I am," I said. She was really impressed, which was funny but I just told her that I am always trying to get things done while feeding her and that that was pretty normal. She thought that was cool. I never really thought about it, but Tenley is a trooper. I was just balancing her on my crossed legs. Yet she never acted like she was uncomfortable. 
  • She's back to going to bed easily. Last week we had a rough patch, but I'm pretty sure it was because I let her try mashed banana when she turned four months old. Since then, I've only given her graham cracker crumbs on two separate occasions, and a tiny, tiny bit of white rice from my dinner last night. She has been handling solids really well. If they weren't so messy (and didn't make changing diapers even less fun) then I'd probably give them to her more regularly. But probably for the next couple of months I'll just continue to give her samples. 
  • She thinks I'm hilarious. I love that. It makes me feel so good. Especially when it's only the two of us, she just laughs and smiles at everything I say to her. She loves my silly faces and it is the best thing in the world when I look at her and see that she's been smiling at me even without my noticing. Gahh! Motherhood is so awesome!!!!!
  • She adores her dad. When she's mad at her mama, daddy can always calm her down. The two of them just love napping and rocking together. And it cracks me up every time I look over at the two of them rocking and Tenley is just staring at Dalin's laptop screen with one eyebrow raised as if she's processing what she's seeing. They have such a sweet relationship. I'm so glad she knows and loves her dad!
  • She loves showering. I haven't given her a bath since she was probably one month old because I've found showering to be so much easier. We both appreciate the skin to skin contact and Tenley always has a big smile on her face when I lift her above my head into the stream of water. I've been teaching her that counting to three means we're putting our faces in the water. I say, "Okay Tenley, one, two, THREE!" and duck her under. She has never had a problem with it! I'm hoping that helps when we start swim lessons.
  • She definitely loves reading. I can tell because she'll be fussing and I'll get a book and she'll look right at it and listen while I read. She looks at the things I point out on the pages, especially in our Spanish First Words book. I am still not speaking as regularly as I'd like, but I definitely throw Spanglish sentences together on a regular basis so at least she'll have some exposure. 
  • I sign the alphabet to her (ASL) every time we say it--English or Spanish. She watches my hands so I'm hoping it's making an impact. I also sign "more," "hungry," and "I love you" (especially the latter) to her all the time. I'm almost certain she understands the sign for "I love you" because I've started to sign it without saying it occasionally and she gives me the biggest smile when she sees it. I also put her tiny fingers in the position for it so she can get a feel for it and once I saw her little hand signing "I love you" as she waved! I'm sure it was a fluke, but I freaked out because it was just so awesome, even if it was only a mistake. Soon enough she'll be able to do it for real. 
That's all I can think of for now. But she's doing really well and I just love her so much. I'm filled with joy when I look at her. Having her around me all the time is like having a snuggly little best friend I can hold and kiss and cuddle and talk to always. She makes us so crazy happy! If I had known how great she would be, I would have wanted to have her sooner!

Here are some photos of her for your enjoyment: 
One of those rare bad days, I mentioned
And happy again.

We love our sweet fourth-month old girl and are so glad she's ours forever! 

Friday, December 20

Encouragement Needed

I need some motivation.

I'm on the final stretch of one (sadly, just one) of my three Independent Study classes: Evil English 291. Who told me that English was fun again??? Oh, I did. Gah.

Right now, I'm seriously reconsidering my major. I hear that happens a lot to people my age. I guess I still love English. But I just want to read and write about the things that interest me. I apologize to those who like the stuff, but British literature and poetry from the Middle Ages? Blahhhh. So boring to me.

Side note: I like English because I like reading, writing, and editing. That means I like creative writing. I like fun books. I want to be an editor so I can stay home with my kids and read books like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games all day. There are very few poets (particularly before the 19th century) that have truly impressed me or piqued my interest. I prefer stories. Fairytales. Historic and realistic fiction. With complex plots. That get your emotions involved. Not that abhorrent Beowulf stuff...

I already have an Associate's of Science in English degree (whatever that means exactly) from BYU-Idaho. Do I really need a Bachelor's degree from BYU? I'm more than halfway done, so it would basically have been a waste of all that tuition if I didn't finish now. But it's hard. I already have a blog that I love writing on. I have a tiny source of income writing short articles for a website. I write a lot.

So I have to remind myself why I'm doing this. I have to tell myself it's going to be worth it. I have to imagine how proud I will feel when I am finished; when I can say, "Uh, yes, I have a Bachelor's in English (no big deal...)." One thing that is driving me to finish is my desire to be the first in my family to graduate (not that it's a competition, but come on, it's first). On my side, I will likely be the very first grandchild and the only one in my immediate family. Maybe it's hard now that Grandpa French has passed away this year. He was my number one reason for wanting to graduate. But it's stupid to think that just because he isn't present in person that he isn't here in spirit rooting me on.

I've got to finish. I've reached a point where getting A's is no longer as big a priority as it always has been for me. If I can get away with doing mediocre work and still get B's, that's cool with me. I'm not saying I won't try (though it sure is starting to sound that way I realize...), but I am saying that getting grades less than an A is not the end of the world. I'm pretty sure like .00001% of people in existence actually care about me getting A's. When I am 63, I'm not going to be thinking, "Dash it all, I got a stupid B+ in that one English class." If I am thinking that for some reason, then my life will have to have gotten pretty lame.

So--anyway--I am telling myself right now that I can do it. I can finish.

Oh, and I technically have until January 4th to finish my three I.S. classes (which is not going to happen no matter what) but I think it's a reasonable goal to finish one of them. I have five assignments, an essay, and the final left for English 291. If Tenley was really, really happy and easy tomorrow, I probably could finish.

But as long as I get half of those things done before our Christmas trip (we leave Monday!) and the rest done after we get back on the 2nd of January, I might just get lucky. But we'll see.

Well, wish me luck! If you're feeling generous, please send a quick prayer my way! I just need to finish!!!!!!!

Have you felt discouraged about your major before? How did you cope?
Anyone else studying English (and not completely loving it)?
Do you think I realistically can finish this class before the 4th??

Wednesday, December 18

Making Marriage

Marriage is awesome. If you aren't married yet, get excited. Like all things in life, it has its challenging moments, but they make the good ones even sweeter. And if you give at least 100% to your spouse, you'll always find that you get more out of it.

When you get married to your best friend, you look forward to being able to talk about anything and everything with your spouse at any given time. You want to teach each other and laugh together. You want to grow together. In some cases (particularly if you get married young like a lot of members of the LDS church), you grow up together. And if you want to stay best friends for a long, long time, you had better get really good at talking and listening to, serving, and thanking one another.

Talk. People always say that communication is most important in a relationship. While it is important that spouses can talk to one another, I don't think it's the most important thing. Still, most women do not  typically struggle with communicating to their husbands--that is, unless they're angry. For some reason, most women shut themselves up when they're angry. It's a pride thing. Women just want men to be able to read their minds or discern what they're thinking without help. It's unfair, but I've done it, too. It's something we need to get past. If we can look past our personal pride and just share what is bothering us, it can really help our husband's be able to work to change that thing. But they can't do it alone. We need to communicate our feelings better so our husband's aren't left in the dark. On any normal day, most women love to share their feelings about every subject under the sun. They love talking about every trivial detail that most men have never even thought about. They love analyzing other women and their habits and behavior. It's just something women do. Some men don't know how to handle that very well. That is where listening comes in.

Listen. This unfortunately seems to be a dying skill. People can hear just fine, but very few people are naturally good at listening. I think it's because of the electronic plague that everyone is infected with (I'm not hating on technology--but as I've mentioned in a previous post, I do think it's very addicting and should be moderated). Everyone (including me) is always so busy texting, gaming, blogging, typing, tweeting, etc. that they've lost the valuable ability to concentrate. That said, women want to be heard. So do husbands. Listen to your spouse. Ask them about their day, their troubles, their complaints, their victories, and then don't tune out their response. Learn to be a better listener. While listening to your spouse's response, think of a follow-up question to ask. Part of becoming a good listener is being able to respond. Sometimes this means stopping your current activity and giving your full attention. Women, if you're anything like me, you struggle with listening at times because you're so caught up with your own busy life and problems. There is a time to share the details of your day, but not when your husband is trying to share his.

Service. Seriously, if you serve your husband/wife, that will go a longggg way. I can tell you right now that even though I'm the one in our marriage staying home with our new baby and therefore technically in charge of taking care of our home (which is a job I love, but some wives do not) it means TONS when my husband takes three minutes and helps me with the dishes. Or when he takes two seconds and smooths out the bed. Or when he takes fifteen minutes and cleans the bathroom. It may not sound romantic, but that is one of the hottest thing a husband can do for his wife. This service goes beyond actual chores. Clean up after yourself. Pick up your socks. Offer to make dinner. Just serve her. Wives, you are always serving your husbands, and they often do notice whether they say something or not. They may not always express their gratitude, but they do see your service. Despite all that you do, it is important to sometimes go the extra mile. Leave a note on his pillow or the bathroom mirror reminding him how much he means to you. Buy his favorite candy or dessert and surprise him with it when he gets home. Do something random, like line up some balloons with a message written across them. Just make the effort to do something extra once in a while.

Express gratitude. I am thankful for a husband who is really good at this. Maybe I've not appreciated this quality in him as much as I should have until we began doing our Gratitude Journals. But since we've made this a daily habit, I've also picked up more on the gratitude he expresses for me in our family prayers at night. He shares that he is thankful for me taking care of Tenley and thankful that I clean the apartment, and sometimes he even thanks me for the small things, like making the bed and doing the laundry (which, admittedly is never a small thing in our house since I procrastinate doing it for way too long). He probably doesn't realize how much I appreciate his gratitude for those often mundane things I am responsible for. We need to show our spouses gratitude more often so they see that we do in fact recognize their many sacrifices and acts of love. Write a thank-you note every once in a while. Express sincere thankfulness in person. Say "I love you" more. All of these things, require virtually almost no effort but mean a great deal to the recipient.

Doing little things goes a long way. Love your spouse. Learn their love language and act on it. Be your best self and it will help them to do the same.

How do you love your spouse?
What ways do you make your marriage great?

Saturday, December 14

Ten Pet Peeves

As part of my 30 Things My Kids Should Know About Me series, I'm supposed to share ten of my pet peeves. Some come to mind immediately but it will take some work to think of ten. So here I go:

1. Things that stick to/ catch on my fingernails. I hate fabrics that do this. It doesn't bother him when his finger or toenails aren't cut perfectly rounded so they don't catch on things. I can't stand it though!

2. Dry Skin. I have never used so much lotion in my entire life as I have in the last three years since I've lived out west. Hate on humidity all you want, but I love what it does to my hair (it gives it a wave and some curl which is infinitely better than boring and flat) and I definitely prefer my skin moist and smooth. I would rather feel moist than be drying up like a prune.

3. Drama. Ugh, I can't stand it. Not even the word. I don't think I ever wished for sisters growing up because I just can't tolerate catty girl drama. There was enough drama just between my girl friends, which is probably why I had far more male friends than female. I always wanted to have just one daughter so I wouldn't have to endure the drama girls seem to love creating. (Now that I have one already, I would love more girls, but I can assure you that I will not allow drama in our house.)

4. Money. Why do we even need this stuff? I just hate it because I feel like way too much time is spent getting it just so it can be used, very often for pointless STUFF. I hate stressing about it and I hate how hard it is to feel secure unless you have it. To me, the primary benefit of having a lot of money would be that I could feel financially secure and as though we weren't going to lose everything just because we don't have enough paper. Money is paper. And far too many people think that it is the purpose of this life.

5. People that don't like the east. I'm an east coast girl through and through and when people complain about the east it takes all my self control not to get worked up. I don't know if I would feel the same if I were born elsewhere, but all I know is I think about New Hampshire every single day, missing the babbling brooks and rivers, still ponds, numerous blue lakes, and soft-sanded ocean beaches. I miss the color green, the tree-covered mountains, and clean air. I miss the dark, starry nights and rainy days and colorful falls. I didn't mean to get all poetic, but I'm kind of in love with the world over there and don't believe that anywhere else really compares.

6. Mean People. Why can't everyone just be kind to other people? I can't stand it when people feel the need to be mean to others for no reason. If someone is fat or unattractive why do we have to talk about it? We don't know their circumstances. Maybe it isn't their fault and they're a really great person. I just want people to be nice to others. 

7. Winter. Snow is pretty the first time it falls. And on Christmas. But (sorry to my skier brother, Donovan) I hate it. I hate being cold. January is my least favorite of all the months. Because Christmas is over and all we're left with is cold, gray, dirty snow, wind, and ice. Maybe I wouldn't mind it so much if winter was just one month long and temperatures never dropped below 32 degrees. But it isn't, and unfortunately Global Warming isn't real (if it were, then I want to know why it has been 1 degree outside the last two weeks...) so I'll just have to do as I always do and hibernate for three months and hope spring comes early.

8. People who are anti-Mormon. I mean, really, have you even met any Mormons? This is a fake statistic, but seriously 99 out of 100 Mormons are really nice! Maybe even annoyingly so. If you want to say something bad about my church, that just makes anyone who actually knows a Mormon think you must be really stupid. Mormons in general are happy, friendly, and glad to serve others. We stick to our beliefs. We dress modestly to show respect for our bodies and for God. We don't drink alcohol, coffee, or most teas because, frankly, they're bad for you. We don't do drugs, we don't swear, we don't view pornography, and we don't practice polygamy. We do believe in a modern day prophet named Thomas S. Monson who is probably one of the nicest men on this earth. Most importantly, we believe in Jesus Christ (and are therefore Christians) and try to be like Him. There's a saying that I've heard a few times that goes, "The Church is perfect, the people aren't." I definitely know that to be the case. If one member of the church offends you, you can't claim the whole church is bad. That would be pointless. Truly, we are just like everyone else, just doing our best in this life so we can be with our families forever. That is our primary goal.

9. When people leave a handful of cereal or snacks in a box, or just an ounce of juice and don't finish it or throw it away. Someone told me this is a western thing because everyone wants to be nice and not take the last bit for themselves. I think it's probably an all-America thing for the most part, but if there are two Oreos left, for heaven's sake, just TAKE THEM! No one wants to have that small a serving of that delicious cookie anyway! And same with drinks--you think anyone wants that last sip of backwash for themselves? No one will call you selfish if you finish something you were already eating. Seriously. Just finish things or throw them away.

10. The toilet paper goes OVER the roll not under. Why is this even a question?? Why would anyone even want it the other way? Thankfully, this was only a problem living at home or visiting the occasional friend's house because Dalin and I agree it goes over the roll, and more often than not, we don't take the time to put it on the roller anyway.

What are your pet peeves?
Do you have any of the same ones as me?

Friday, December 13

Dating With a Baby

First off, it's possible. Not always easy or as perfect as you might have hoped, but possible.

Getting a babysitter is always an option and a perfectly good one. But not everyone can afford one or has a community of babysitters at their fingertips (like you kind of do while living at Wymount). And, if you're like me, you might have a hard time leaving your child with someone who isn't family or at least close to you.

So that leads you to find other options.

Dalin and I were blessed with a super easy baby. None of the babies I ever watched as a youth were as easy as my own baby, though it's safe to assume they behaved better for their moms. But anyway, so far we've been really fortunate. Whenever I tell people that Tenley's easy, we always feel the need to mention that it probably means we have some hard teenage years in store for us, or that our next child (or one down the line) is going to be a bigger challenge. Hopefully not. But it seems like whenever we make plans to go out, Tenley has a "bad" day. Either she's more fussy or needy than normal, or maybe she just wants us to keep our attention focused solely on her. Whatever the case, it's frustrating, but somehow we still manage to make time for us!

It all comes down to strategic planning. With Dalin's work and class schedule, we usually know when we have spare time. Usually it means during the daytime during the week or Friday nights. We also know that the weekends are the busiest times at public places, particularly in a college town. So for us, the best thing is to plan activities on our free weekdays.

We go out to eat for dinner on days that Dalin works in the morning, and see movies in the daytime when Dalin has the day off, or his schedule permits it.

I was almost reluctant to share this secret because I'm scared that suddenly everyone will head to the movies now, but we have found that matinee showings of a movie, right around 1pm, usually are dead. Maybe it depends on the theater or time of year, but this has worked for us.

A few weeks after Thor came out, we decided to go see it at the Riverwoods Theater on a Tuesday around 1pm. We planned out everything, feeding Tenley just beforehand and bringing her carseat in with us in case she stayed asleep. We did not want to bother other viewers and had agreed that I would take Tenley out right away if she began to fuss. We were only about five minutes early and when we entered the theater we were completely alone. Just the three of us. We sat in the front section on the walkway in case Tenley needed to be taken out. We started to get excited, thinking we were going to be all alone in the theater. We would have been, if two couples hadn't come in halfway during the previews. But they sat away from us and it worked out perfectly. Because it was dark and no one was around, I was able to nurse Tenley right when she started to fuss without more than a jacket for cover. When she wasn't nursing, she was watching the movie or bouncing on my lap. Toward the end of the film, I went out to change her but, because the theater was basically dead, I just crouched outside the doors where I had light and changed her on a little mat on the floor so I could hurry back to the movie. (I feel like I'm always changing her in weird places, but it always works out and I've never gotten caught ;)

We were so amazed at how well she behaved and were happy when we recognized that we could still have some freedom and fun as a couple and include our baby girl!

Maybe we just got lucky, but if so, we were even more fortunate the second time we tried this. Catching Fire came out in the U.S. on November 22nd and we were both anxious to see it. Knowing that it was sure to be popular, we waited a few weeks before giving it a try. This past Wednesday, December 11th, (less than 20 days after it came out) we decided to give it a shot at the 1:30pm showing at the Riverwoods theater. This time again, it was amazingly dead. And this time, we were even more fortunate to be the only ones in the theater for the whole movie! No one else came in, so we decided to sit where we wanted and did not have to worry if she began to fuss (which she did a few times). Plus, I could nurse her without worry and, if I really had wanted to, I could have walked her up and down the hall.

So it is possible! And you have a nice dark theater in which you can discreetly feed your baby! I imagine having a bottle-fed baby would be even easier if you made one up right before going in for the movie.

Anyhow, I just wanted to show you that you CAN still have a life with a baby. Sometimes it's harder and you have to make sacrifices or do a little extra planning, but you can do it! And if all else fails, find a babysitter!

Do you go out with your spouse AND children?
What have you found works?
Would you ever try going to the movies with your baby like we have? If no, why not?

P.S. I'll add photos later. Gotta go grocery shopping!

Monday, December 9

Play Dates

Tenley and I both had a play date today! Mine was with my friend, Rachel. Tenley's was with Rachel's son, Henry. We had grilled cheese and tomato soup and salad. It was delicious. But as always, the best part of the play date was getting to sit with another mom and just talk about our lives. Talking is seriously the best therapy. Anyway, we had a lot of fun as you can see from the photos below. Fun fact, Tenley and Henry are exactly two months apart (on the day). Both of their dads are also two months apart!
It's just an awesome coincidence that they're matching :)
Comparing feet
So funny!
Big difference in the size of their hands!


Henry was much more interested in Tenley than she was in him
Tenley's expression...
Precious, much? Whoever gave her this outfit, it's the cutest! Thank you!
I hope everyone had a great Monday!
What did you do today? 

Sunday, December 8

Christmas Parties & Games

Dalin and I had an awesome and busy weekend. On Friday, we went to a Christmas party at the apartment of some good friends of ours, Hillary and Andrew. (Hillary is the one working with me on our new blog, The Mommy Tales). There were four other couples there, tons of delicious desserts, and several fun games, which I will share with you to use at your own Christmas gatherings!

Alphabet Race
Very simple, challenging game. List A-Z on a piece of paper and in an allotted time (we did like three to five minutes), list something Christmas-related for each letter. After the time is up, the game is kind of like Boggle, in that everyone reads the words on their list, and crosses them off if someone else has it. Whoever has the most unique words (which no one else has written) wins.

Bea Arthur (3 Parts Charades)
At least, that's what we call it. Basically, it's a charades game with three parts. Everyone starts by writing down three names (or, in the case of this party, Christmas-related things) on scraps of paper, which they fold once and stick in a bowl. Once all the names (or things) are in, the group is divided into two teams. One person from the first team goes first. Round one, each person has one minute to describe as many people/words in the bowl as possible before time runs out. In round one, players can say anything but any words contained on the paper. The round lasts until the names run out. Round two*, the same names are put back in the bowl, and players still have a minute to get as many names as possible, only this time, players can only use one single word to convey the name so they must choose wisely. They can repeat the word over and over, but they can only use one. Play until the names run out. Round three, the same rules apply. Names go back in the bowl, players have one minute each to get as many as possible. But this time, no words can be used, only acting. It's a very fun game that can be played anywhere as long as you have some paper, a bowl, and a group.

*Variation of the game: switch rounds two and three. That's how we played at this party!

Pictionary Telephone
This is a fun game which only requires some paper, pens, and a group (and your individual imagination, but that becomes clear). Every player is given a piece of paper and a pen with which they write a single sentence at the top of the page. The sentence can be random, silly, serious, whatever. In our case, it had to be holiday-themed in some way. Players should be instructed not to take up much space, as the rest of the page will be used. After the sentence is written, the page is passed on to the person sitting next to them. That person, reading the sentence, must draw a picture just below conveying its meaning. The picture, like the sentence, should be small and not take up much of the page. Once the drawing is completed, the person should fold the top of the paper so it completely covers the sentence at the top. With only the drawing visible, the page is passed to the next person, who, seeing the picture, must invent a sentence for it. Once their turn is over, they must fold the page over the drawing, so only their sentence can be seen. Essentially, the game will go: sentence, picture, sentence, picture, etc. (folding over the last piece each time) until the pages have been passed through the circle and reached the original writer. At that point, everyone can unfold the page completely and takes turns sharing the sentence transformations. The results are genuine, silly, and outrageous. No specific time is allotted for writing a sentence or drawing, but it could be for an added challenge. This game is a lot of fun in a group!

One-Handed Gift Wrapping
This challenge was just hilarious to watch. Each couple in the room, took a turn going against their spouse. Using one hand (and any other body part), couples had to wrap a box so no sides of it were exposed as fast as possible. Wrapping paper, a box, scissors, and tape were provided. It was so hilarious to see each couple with their own strategies. Some presents ended up wrapped fairly neatly, while others (most) were complete chaos. It was very fun as you can see below!
Watching another couple go
Stephanie holding Tenley for Dalin and me
First we had to unwrap them after the previous couple
It was a lot of pressure
Look at the determination in our faces...especially Dalin's
So hard to do nothing with your other hand!
Crappyyyy cutting job
Dalin won :P Barely. ;)
So the Dobbin's Christmas party on Friday night was a blast, and the treats were amazing. Then on Saturday morning, I went (late) to the baby shower of a friend in the ward. She's having a little girl and I know she's going to be the best mom! We ate delicious yogurt parfaits with granola and fresh fruit (my favorite!) and had fun telling her all about the fun in store for her (topics ranging from labor, to birth, to post-partum details, to breastfeeding, and so on). It is always fun to compare stories with other moms and I know I had a wonderful time with the lovely ladies who were there.

Then, Saturday evening was the ward Christmas party! The party was hosted in the Wilkenson Center Ballroom on BYU campus and was even better than last year. The decorations were so beautiful and the tables looked amazing (especially with the most delectable-looking desserts on them!). We were encouraged to dress up, so everyone looked really good and so Christmasy. And I can't even describe how delicious dinner was (though I'm about to try). After lemonade, rolls, and salad, we were served chicken cordon bleu (freaking good) with mashed potatoes (amazing), and buttery green beans (loved them). It seriously was so good that it was hard not to lick my plate clean. But I definitely ate everything on it. I had already eaten my dessert before the food showed up, but that was delicious too. It was some kind of raspberry cake with frosting, fresh raspberries, and a layer of white chocolate which was my favorite part.

After eating and enjoying the company of those at our table, each couple with children received a little present, which contained a board book version of one of my favorite children's books! ("You Are Special," which I had read for the first time when the mom of a high school friend sent it to us for Tenley!) After that, we did a White Elephant gift exchange. Dalin and I forgot our gifts, so we had hurried to the bookstore and grabbed some bright-colored socks and Christmas candy which we had wrapped for free upstairs. There were so many families at the party, that we had to do the gift exchange by table. We got a "Best of Bill Cosby Shows" DVD (which I was excited about) and a loaf of Organic Wheat Bread with a hilarious back-story shared on it. After the gift exchange, the holiday music was switched for dance music and everyone got up to dance! Dalin and I slow-danced, holding Tenley at the same time (you should have seen all the couples dancing with their babies), then we headed home in the snow. Check out pictures from the ward Christmas party below!

The tables looked gorgeous. The photo doesn't really capture it.
Check out those AMAZING desserts all around!
The little Gunnell family :)
My babies ;)
Holding the sweetheart
I love our darling girl!
Enjoying the party
Some silly guys from our ward, during the dance competition
It was such a fun weekend! If only Dalin didn't have to work tomorrow for his Sunday of the month, then it would be perfect. But overall, we had an awesome, party-filled weekend which I enjoyed every second of.

What is the best White Elephant gift you've ever given or received? (We gave an Obama Chia Pet one year amongst a conservative group, which was pretty funny)
Have you been to any Christmas parties yet this year (or hosted one yourself)? 
Are you planning on attending any parties? 
What is your favorite dessert? (Mine is anything with fruit, preferably fresh)