Thursday, December 20, 2012

The VanDusen's annual gingerbread house contest

One of our newer but favorite family traditions is a gingerbread house building/decorating contest. Last year the kids worked in teams while Daddy was at work. He got to be the judge when he came home. This year I took a different approach. I didn't want my husband to miss out on the fun and frankly voting between your own kids is torture! So this year, each child got to make their own and we put it out to my facebook friends to vote. This turned out to be way more fun than any of us expected!

The Rules: They each got the same amount of ingredients to use. They all could build a stand from whatever household items they could find. I have to note that the stand idea was River's. They could not write anything on them that would give away their identity. Most important they had to be good sportsmen. I have very competitive kids!
The Prizes: 1st place wins a drive in movie, dinner and candy. 2nd place wins a trip to Flip N out with choice of one sibling, 3rd place wins a breakfast buffet, and 4th place gets their choice of redbox movie, drink and candy.

The Ingredients:

And the contest begins!!

Yes my husband is making one too, however he is not eligible and you will see why later. 

Many of our facebook voters asked about the stories behind the houses so I will start with Aly. 

Starting out, all she knew was that she wanted to have an m&m roof. This was her first time ever making one on her own. She had quite a bit of frustration in the beginning as her house fell down six times! But she's a fighter so she hung in there and kept going with a few tips from me. She ended up with what I think is a very good first house! 
Her finished house:

Now Graisan took a very different approach. She had sketched out her entire plan several hours before the contest. I told you they were competitive. She envisioned a 3 story house with a 3 car garage. That is pretty much what she executed. The only difference was in her sketch, she had a ladder leading upstairs but she had to revamp and make steps instead. 
Her finished house:

River thought he would get an edge by building his stand. He constructed a platform with wood scraps from our garage and some contact paper. When it came to building his house though, he had no plan and decided to wing it. He was thinking about the pentagon but wanted to go bigger. So he made the octagon, the first octagonial gingerbread house in human history (or so he thinks). And then he thought of death and it came to him, the first octagonial cemetery, death to candy everywhere. He then proceeded to throw copious amounts of candy into the open realms. The closed rooms as you can see are for deities and respected elders. The candy that paid extra got their tombs covered with pretzel sticks but alas were not worthy of a fully enclosed resting place. DEATH TO CANDY EVERYWHERE!!! Note to readers: He wrote this blurb himself.
His finished house:

Alex saw that the other kids were busy making their stands, and decided that was too much work for him. He went into the garage and the first thing he saw was our broken printer and decided yep that will work. He had previously googled some ideas and the first one tried didn't work out so well. He then made some structural changes and made it bigger. Once his house was finished, he concentrated on the yard. Originally he wanted the bears to be robbers, but he didn't think that fit with the Christmas spirit. So then he made two of them a couple standing around the fire. That couple invited the other bear that originally had a date but was stood up and now remains the "awkward" third wheel bear kicking his massive workout ball around. Note to readers: He also helped me write this blurb. 
His finished house:

Yes I am aware I have strange children. Its one of the things I love most about them!

Will might have been more excited to make his then any of the kids. He being a professional, was not eligible for the contest. He spent 3 1/2 hours constructing his log cabin ginger bread house. Its pretty amazing! He detailed the roof with graham cracker tile shingles and then covered it up with snow but I took some photos before the snow. 

 After snow

With the houses all done, I uploaded the photos onto facebook and the voting began! This was just as much fun for the kids as the making of their houses. They sat by the computer watching the votes roll in. Graisan created a score board and kept a tally of all the votes as they came in. I really cant thank everyone that voted enough!!! You truly made this our best tradition yet!

OK drum roll please..................................And the winner is:

1st place: house #3 Graisan
We had a tie for 2nd and 3rd place: House #1 & #2 Alex & Aly
4th place goes to house #4 River

Alex and Aly have worked out who gets which prize and they are both happy with their choices :)

Thank you again for being a part of our tradition!!!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Saturday Sale-ing

This morning River and I got to do some saling. We got a later start because our bountiful basket pickup was at 9:15 but we still did good. We started out at Deer Springs park and headed West. Here is what we found:
A file cabinet, its old but in decent condition, oh and it was FREE.

The new book of knowledge set $5

random kids books....FREE

Sorry this is hard to see, its a science lab set with all sorts of cool things to do $5

A doctor play set with a "real" stethoscope $5. At first I was thinking that was too much but he gave me some good deals on a couple of other things so I popped. I am glad I did because the kids have been playing with it since we got home (even Graisan). 

My $2 pile...a globe (which I can never seem to pass up), rotating salad tray, crystal growing set, and a pottery wheel.

Toy or craft organizer $2, Im sure I don't really NEED this but at $2 I figured I would find a good use for it.

random containers a quarter a piece

shoe organizer, bucket of yarn, bag full of monster ball toys, and a scrapbook kit $1 each

Reusable tote bags a quarter each.....yes I am a bag hoarder but I really do use them.

50 cents each.....frisbees, wilton cake pans, several hot wheels, markers, scissors, pick up sticks, drink mixer.

More 50 cent things....a plastic desk (I have been wanting one of these for Reanna), pencils, candy molds, disposable banana split bowls, spice rack, potato slicer, several classical music cd's (for composer study), and a language arts game.

Book 15 cents

These were $2.50 total but I really wanted them. They are the flylady books that I have been wanting to read. Oh if anyone in my before five in a row group needs the corduroy book let me know, this one is an extra.

Last but not least, a lava lamp for Graisan. She has been wanting one for a long time and I found this for $3

The weather was lovely today and although we didnt have a ton of time, I am happy with our haul.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Tot Lot - Play with me

This week we "rowed" the book Play with me by Marie Hall Ets. It was perfect because we did alot of playing this week. We were super busy with activities outside our house but we still managed to work on some of our BFIAR stuff at home too. 

She actually loved this book and although simple, I thought it was cute. As soon as we got to the frog though, she became obsessed with doing the sign for frog and I had to keep re-focusing her. 

She is working on cutting squares for her lapbook.

They had so much fun last week with the sensory bin, I made one for this book too. I went to the dollar store and picked up what they had that went with the book. I bought floral moss and vanilla potpourri for the base. They liked it because it was a way different texture than the rice and beans I normally use, plus the vanilla smelled nice. Then I bought snakes, flowers, a grasshopper, turtles, frogs, and a bunny. 

They both played together nice for a while. Then they started flinging the moss at each other with forks. Oh well, it lasted for a little while :)

This face is just too cute not to share!

Because she seemed so into the frog, I bought this thing at the dollar store. It's a frog thing that lays eggs. She loved this! Here she is filling it up with water.

We checked it after a few hours and the frog had laid one egg. So cute how she was so excited.

Here it is after a day, with lots of eggs. 

One of our homeschool groups has a seasonal party to celebrate all the kids birthdays for that season. Reanna was one of the Fall birthdays so we went to celebrate. Well actually I hosted the party. :) She had the best time because her birthday was on September 13th, it was like she got to have another birthday! 

Here are the birthday kids waiting to be sung to.

Here she is playing with her friend Emma. Like I said the book was perfect for this week because she did alot of playing!

Every other week she takes a music & movement class at one of our favorite places in Vegas...Pinkpeas. Miss Anatasia is so much fun with them and this is her favorite class. One of the best things about it, at $5 a class it doesnt break my budget. If you live in Vegas, you should come!

How fun is this!

By Thursday night, the fun had caught up with her. She said she didn't feel good and had to miss her preschool co-op class on Friday. I dont feel bad though, because she did plenty this week! 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Saturday Sale-ing

Today was a great day of yard sales! Our neighborhood had a community yard sale and so did another community not far away. I love community yard sales because you can hit a ton in a short amount of time. The only thing that bums me out is when all of HOA's decide to do theirs on the same weekend. For those of you that live in Vegas, the Aliante sale is going to be next weekend. Ok on to our loot!

I bought this to be used as a hope chest for one of my girls. I plan to take the stuff off the front and either paint it or stain it. It was $8.00.

Ok below I got some pompoms .75, clear plastic canvas 1.50, silicone snowmen baking pan 1.00 2 egg trays .25, and a Strongs concordance $5. I was excited to get these items, but the lady that sold them and her story was amazing and one of the reasons I love yard sale-ing! Her name was Ruth. She and her husband were missionaries in Russia for 7 years. She had great stories about that time. Then they moved to Florida and ran an emergency shelter for foster kids where they met and adopted their two daughters. They moved here to Vegas and her husband started a Russian church here which is still going strong. But sadly a year ago her husband passed away and now she is moving out of state to get a fresh start. Anyways those of you that know me know I hate crying in front of people. It was seriously hard for me not to cry when hearing her story. I told her I would keep her family in prayer forever and if you readers will too that will be awesome! I just love how God is in all the details of my life, even my silly yard sale-ing hobby. :)

I got this for $2. I needed one to take drinks for basketball games, park days, co-ops, and what not.

2 lunch boxes, a Santa advent holds lollipops but Im going to put a fun activity in each one to complete everyday until Christmas (idea stolen from Becky Johnson), a purse for Graisan, 8 things of glass beads, a victorian fashion paper doll book, and a 1930's paper doll book all $1.00 each.

A halloween wig, and a quilt cutting mat .75 each. Yes that's right, the cutting mat was only .75 cents!

A box of animal magazines to use for preschool projects....FREE

3 twilight t-shirts, a hangover t-shirt, and a pair of shorts .50 each

Nicholas LOVES spiderman. I found this costume for $2. Score!

Hippy skirt for me .75

4 magnetized travel games, and cake decorating set .50 each

2 cookie pop pans, paints, hot wheels cars, craft needle, a wax letter sealer .25 each

Shirts for the girls .25 each

I feel so happy with what we found today and more importantly the people we met and the time I got to spend with River. I do not take for granted that in a couple of years he will be gone and no matter how much he annoys me at times I truly cherish the time we get to spend together!