The Beav is Open

Beaver Mountain is open, Chris has his new skis and the season passes are hooked to our ski coats.  We're ready for another season of skiing.

With Brielle only having learned to ski last year, we were surprised at how quickly she got her ski feet under her again.  You'll see what I mean in this video.  I almost couldn't keep up with her, she was going to fast.

(My favorite part is when she puts her arms up in the air and gives a big "Whoo-Hoo!")
Today. Was. Fun. 

Our Christmas Card

Chris and I feel truly blessed this year.  Our family is happy and healthy, Chris's business has continued to grow and be successful and I feel lucky to have such a wonderful job.  We've had the opportunity to travel this year and moved into a beautiful home that couldn't be more perfect for our family.  Izzy, Dandy & Cocoa still bring us loads of entertainment and a lot of fun and laughs. 

Spiritually -- our family has grown leaps and bounds.

Christmas was perfect.  December started off a little rough for me and I wondered if I was truly going to enjoy this Holiday season. Lacking in Holiday Spirit, I set out to find it with activities and experiences my family would love.  Once I set my mind to it, Holiday Spirit came naturally and our family had by far, the most wonderful ending to 2011.

Chris was able to get what he's wanted for years and years... his own skis.  Brielle, who wanted her own iPad got the next best thing... an iPod Touch, along with the usual outfit, book and Wii game.  And for me, the loves of my life gave me a new ski coat and tickets to 7 ReAL Salt Lake games (which, to those who are surprised, is actually perfect -- it means more fun times with my family).

Besides our own family, we were able to give Christmas to "Heather," a girl whose family has been affected by cancer this year.  

We sincerely hope that our family and friends had as memorable and wonderful a Christmas as we had.  We pray that the new year will continue to bring blessings and happiness to each and every one of you!


Doughnut Day 2011

Christmas time means Doughnut Day at the Potter house.  This is a tradition that goes back as far as I can remember, and continues each and every year.  I'm not sure why my mother still plans it... it results in the most ridiculous mess and the consumption of many, many, many, MANY calories.  We all love it, so this year won't be the last.

Doughnut Day also gives Brielle a chance to spend loads of time with cousins that she doesn't get to see everyday.

As you can see from all the kids faces, decorating doughnuts is serious business.  Especially when you get to choose from chocolate, vanilla, orange or maple glaze and a large selection of toppings, such as sprinkles, nuts, coconut and.... wait for it.... Bacon.

Yes, the maple glazed doughnuts with Bacon was a huge hit this year.  There were barely enough left to put on plates for neighbors and friends.  Ask my BF Carrie.  The moment we left her house, she was texting me asking why her family only received one.  Next year, Carrie.  Next year.

In lieu of the dreaded gift exchange, my family does something much more fun and much, much more memorable.  BINGO.  Yes, who knew that a game played frequently at the old folks home could be such a hit, but it is. 

We all buy one gift for each member of our family (a few more if we are feeling generous).  The gifts get wrapped and get placed in a large pile in the center of my mom's dining room table.  We all know how to play BINGO, so I won't explain the rules, but the first to get BINGO selects a gift.  The next to get BINGO selects a gift and so on.  Then we play for blackout.  Gifts may be stolen a few times to make the game interesting.  You can tell from the above picture that Brielle clearly does not want her prize taken.

Traditions are a big part in bringing the Christmas Spirit into my life.  They make me happy at time when life is nothing short of crazy, and it brings me joy to see Brielle enjoying the same traditions that I grew up with as a child.


North Pole Express

We are well on track to making this the most memorable Christmas ever (and finding my Christmas Spirit).  Especially since this is the first year Chris and I have tried to make Christmas more memorable through experiences and activities.

Today's activity was courtesy of Chris's parents, who gathered up the entire fam for a ride on the Polar... I mean the North Pole Express in Heber, Utah.  Funny though.  They said we were going to visit Santa at the North Pole, but I swear the train was headed South towards Provo.  Oh well, the kids didn't notice.

The "elves" on the train made this trip as close to the story as possible, passing out Hot Cocoa & Cookies, singing Christmas songs and just letting the kids play and have fun.

Santa came through each train car and passed out the first gift of Christmas... bells from his sleigh, of course.


Along the way, we passed this beautiful barn.  I told Chris he had to reconstruct ours to look exactly the same.  No, this has nothing to do with the train ride, but I loved it.

Thanks G & G Merkley for a fun and memorable Christmas activity.


I was unsure how the early morning orchestra lessons (twice per week) were going to go... in addition to her private lessons... in addition to after school practicing.  Flashbacks of piano lessons had me worried.  Very worried.

But it seems this but has a knack for the violin, and seems to really enjoy it.

Her very first Christmas Orchestra Concert (first concert in generally) took place last week.  And not only did she remind us every day, 10 times per day, for the last 10 days, she let everyone else know about it too.  Friends were invited, family, etc.  She was excited.

Let's play "Can you spot the cute and talented Brielle?"

Did you find her?

By the way... is it too late to ask Santa for a SLR Digital Camera?  My camera clearly sucks.

Now THAT's Christmas Spirit

Anonymous Donors Pay Srangers' Layaway Accounts
By Margery A. Beck | Associated Press | December 16, 2011
The young father stood in line at the Kmart layaway counter, wearing dirty clothes and worn-out boots. With him were three small children.  He asked to pay something on his bill because he knew he wouldn't be able to afford it all before Christmas. Then a mysterious woman stepped up to the counter.

"She told him, `No, I'm paying for it,'" recalled Edna Deppe, assistant manager at the store in Indianapolis. "He just stood there and looked at her and then looked at me and asked if it was a joke. I told him it wasn't, and that she was going to pay for him. And he just busted out in tears."
 Trust me... you should read the Full Article.

I have a sudden urdge to visit a Kmart layaway counter.


Pickleville Playhouse

The Pickleville Playhouse is quite a treasure to us local Cache Valley/Bear Lake folks.  Once Chris and I caught on, the yearly Christmas play became a family tradition and something we don't miss this time of year.

And it was stop #2 on my search to obtain some Holiday spirit (which was difficult yesterday, because "Santa" showed up at Cafe Rio while I was at lunch and annoyed the H out of me).

This play always has great music, a rap or two, a wonderful holiday story and they typically throw in a fart joke and make fun of Twilight.  Perfect for kids and adults.  This years story, which included some of last years music and  dancing, did not disappoint and reminded everyone about the magic of Christmas and the spirit of giving and hope.   It made for a perfect night out with the family.

Also included in this tradition are the Peppermint Chocolate Chip Shakes from Chick-Fil-A afterward.  If you haven't participated in either... you're Christmas is completely incomplete.


Festival of Trees

This project really started December off right.

My little sis lost a baby 8 years ago this December.  It's hard to believe it's really been that long...

I'm sure in her mind, every December, while people are busy making preparations for Christmas, she's thinking of little Bridger.  Since this year, Bridger would have been baptized, my mom came up with a special way to remember him, and remind Leslie that we remember, too.

Two trees were purchased and decorated in a cowboy theme.  The first was donated to the Festival of Trees fundraiser for Primary Children's Medical Center, decorated by Rachel, my mom and myself, and the other was given to my sister as a gift, to keep in her home. 

Ride away, ride away, Bridger shall ride.
And he'll have a six-shootertied to one side.
And he'll have a lasso tied to the other,
and Bridger shall ride,to see his Grandmother.
 Bridger Layne Smith, December 13, 2003

We gathered together every person who was there the night we lost Bridger (except Chris, who was home sick, poor guy).  Leslie's family loved it, and I personally could not think of a better way to start off this holiday season.


Lack of Holiday Spirit

I'm going to be completely honest.  Because that's what I do here on my blog.  I sometimes say things that others may not like, and what you're about to read is no exception.  But, just to remind you... it is my blog.

I would say for the last 3 years or so, I have not be able to get into the "holiday spirit."  I used to completely deck out my house with Christmas Decor, the tree went up before Thanksgiving, Christmas music would constantly play throughout my house and I couldn't wait to start baking up a storm.  And buying gifts.  I'd even host a party or two.

Not anymore.

I can't seem to pin it on one particular thing, but lots of little things that seem to drive me crazy about Christmas.  The fact that Thanksgiving has now become "Black Thursday" as if Black Friday wasn't bad enough.  Watching all the crazies on the news trampling people in the stores to get their hands on whatever has replaced ZhuZhu Pets as this years "it" toy.  It's madness.

Store ads are piling up at my house.  I hear a lot of "I want this, I want that."  And don't even get me started on Gift Exchanges.  I swear, they are only a way of getting a gift from someone that normally wouldn't be giving you gift anyway.  As if a gift exchange is going to make or break your Christmas.  It definitely won't mine.

I guess you can say that everywhere I look, it seems that I see greed, not giving.  Sales & parties, not Christ & his birth.  And I'm not completely exempt from it myself, trust me.  I've already purchased what my husband will be giving me for Christmas.  I guess I just feel that it's become so hard to remember what Christmas is truly about without making a ridiculously hard effort to ensure that you do.  Does that make sense?

Chris and I have thought about ways to ensure we don't forget what Christmas is all about.  It doesn't include 37 gifts under the tree, spoiling eachother with things that we don't need.  We've been blessed this year, beyond measure.

So, I had an idea.  Christmas at our house would be simple this year.  But remembering Christmas will about making memories with my family and giving to those who truly need it.  I can already feel my holiday spirit returning just thinking about the wonderful things we are going to do this month!

So... watch for it.  Our family's Holiday memories will be posted right here on my blog.  This is going to be the best Christmas the Merkley family has had in a really, really, long time.