Friday, December 30, 2011

December Wine Club

Finally getting to the December Wine Club selections! This month was all reds, a blend, a merlot and a pinot noir. I opened the Renwood Barbera 2008 the other night. Very nice, smooth and kind of fruity. Due mentioned it would be perfect for book club which I agree with as I think it would be popular with almost anyone. I enjoyed it in my new stemless wine glasses I got from Pier 1, with a Christmas gift card from my Dad.

The Merlot (which I haven't opened yet) is Italian, Barone Fini, and from Sue: "Flavors of rich, ripe cherries & plums ... balanced wine with a long velvety finish ..." Looking forward to trying this one as it's been awhile since I've had a Merlot.

The third wine is a Babich Pinot Noir, a New Zealand winery, and from the Marlborough vinyard. Sue recommends this one with roasted duck, which I have never tried to even make before. However, I do have a receipe for roasted duck in my new Alton Brown cookbook, so perhaps this is a good reason to try both! The website mentions that the wine could sit for upto 5 years, so this one may sit in my "cellar" for a while. One of the main reasons I wanted to join the wine club is to build up my cellar. This also will give me time to build up my confidence to try to make duck!

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2011 In Review

1. What did you do in 2011 that you've never done before? Maggie started Kindergarten!
2. Did you keep your New Year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year? I did not make any resolutions last year. This year, I would like to make Sundays social media free – basically, no playing on my Droid on Sundays. I’m also planning to get some walks/stairs in at least once a week at work. I’ll be sure to do a resolution update!
3. Did anyone close to you give birth? We had some births in our church family and extended family this year.
4. Did anyone close to you die? We unexpectedly lost Otis in May.
5. What places did you visit? We went to Minneapolis for cousin Zac & Katie’s wedding where Maggie was the flower girl (with stops in Wilmot, Redfield & Watertown along the way). We went to Deer Lodge, MT to visit Great-Grandma Lucille. And of course, our annual trip to Luccock, which no summer would be complete without.
6. What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011? A family vacation, that doesn’t involve visiting family, but does involve leaving Montana.
7. What dates from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory and why? June 5, 2011, when Jessie was baptized.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? Giving up satellite/cable TV
9. What was your biggest failure? Honestly, I don’t think I had any large failures. 2011 was a year with some ups and downs for us as a family. I am still enjoying my career. I was able to do some Bible studies and grow closer to some friends here in Billings. Our summer was rough with Rocky working Saturdays, but now that he’s been home and is almost done with his doctorate, I think it has been a worthwhile change.
10. Did you suffer any illness or injury? 2011 was another year of health in our family.
11. What was the best thing you bought? A membership to a wine club at Simply Wine!
12. Whose behavior merited celebration? Jessie, as she has spent the last year turning from a baby into a toddler. Curious about everything. Maggie, as she has become a big kid. She’s in Kindergarten, loving most of it.
13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? No one’s. We have 2 good kids, 2 good dogs, and I have a wonderful husband.
14. Where did most of your money go? Where it always goes: taxes, the house, and daycare.
15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? Getting a puppy!
16. What song will remind you of 2011? Billy Joel’s You May Be Right (but it was worth it to get a puppy!)
17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a. happier or sadder? Compared to last year, about the same. 2011 was a pretty good year.
b. thinner or fatter? Thinner! So much so, I lost my wedding rings!
c. richer or poorer? Technically, poorer. Rocky quit his job in early September. While the Lord has provided for us in the last 4 months as he has searched for other employment & taught part-time, I can’t lie and say it wasn’t stressful or a challenge in these new roles.
18. What do you wish you'd done more of? Dancing! Jessie and Maggie are definitely getting us up and dancing more, even if it’s just during the movie credits!
19. What do you wish you'd done less of? Watching TV. But I am a TV/movie person. I do love to have the TV on, even for background noise. I am happy that we have done more playing and wrestling as a family, now that Jessie is big enough to hold her own!
20. How did you spend Christmas in 2011? As a family. It was a wonderful Christmas! We also visited the North Pole!
21. Did you fall in love in 2011? Every year, I think I do fall in love again with my husband (aww)
22. What was your favorite TV program? We still like “Community”, “Big Bang Theory”, “Modern Family”
23. What did you do for your birthday? Went out to eat with my family. It was a quiet birthday. May have to plan a party for next year’s milestone.
24. What was the best book you read? I don’t think I read a book for me this year, but I always enjoy reading to my girls. I think the best is when Maggie reads to me.
25. What did you want and get? Some special time with my girl friends. Family time in our backyard.
26. What did you want and not get? A new bra! (though that’s my fault for not just going out and getting one!)
27. What was your favorite film? Rocky & I went to the final Harry Potter movie. We went to see “Captain America” at the drive in, and discovered Jessie was not ready for a full length movie! Rocky & I took Maggie to see The Muppets over Christmas break and I think we all enjoyed it.
28. Did you make some new friends? We had several new families join our church and our Sunday School/small group.
29. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? A satisfying career for my husband. It was a challenging summer and it’s been difficult to watch him struggle in a position that didn’t really challenge him for the past few years. I am praying the Lord will bring him the right career move soon.
30. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011? Casual, comfortable.
31. What kept you sane? Wine.
32. What celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? My Jessie :)
33. What political issue stirred you the most? Healthcare Reform. On this issue, I am, apparently, a socialist.
34. Who do you miss? My babies – they aren’t babies anymore!
35. What valuable life lesson did you learn? Mostly just this reminder: Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.”

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Isaiah 9:6, Luke 2:13-14

For unto us a child is born, a son is given.  And the government will be upon his shoulder. And his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Almighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.

Suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, “Glory to God! Glory to God in the Highest. and on earth, peace, goodwill toward men.”

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It is sometime hard to remember the true meaning of Christmas in the midst of the hustle and bustle of shopping for presents, filling stockings & the space under the tree.  It’s one of the reasons I feel the need to go to Christmas Eve services.  At our church, it is a wonderful service of the story of Jesus’ birth from scripture and the old wonderful carols straight from the Hymnal.  Songs my heart can sing without a second thought.

Even so, I love the hustle and bustle of Christmas even more now with the girls.  I love Maggie’s utter true belief in Santa – this morning, she was awake before any of us, yet waited in bed, just in case Santa was still in the house.  Her excitement at seeing all the presents under the tree (even though they were there last night). And her pure joy at each and every gift.  Never once did she say “I didn’t get …” Jessie enjoyed “ah-pen” presents and playing with her new toys – a baby doll, a dinosaur and a new refrigerator toy.  Grandma Alana brought lots and lots of gifts, which made Christmas morning last ALL morning.  We even took a breakfast break.

And now, it’s a quiet Christmas afternoon watching Christmas movies, with the windows open. [It’s 60 degrees and NO snow. I’m still dreaming of a white Christmas, though maybe when Grandpa Mike & Grandma Bonnie come.]

Glory to God in the highest and Goodwill towards Men.

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree

Exactly 1 month ago, we put up the Christmas tree.  We went with fake this year, and I’m glad we did.  It was easier to put up and much less of a mess!  It was “fun” trying to keep Jessie away from it, and one of her presents had to be put away until Christmas morning (and we almost forgot about it!)2011-11-25 2011-11-25 001 002 2011-11-25 2011-11-25 001 004 2011-11-25 2011-11-25 001 008 2011-11-25 2011-11-25 001 009

The tree this morning, before anyone else woke up.

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A pre-lit tree with a remote that Jessie could operate was a wonderful purchase and I’m happy I finally relented to get a fake tree.  It looks great, even if most of the ornaments are above toddler height.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Baking Christmas Cookies

A little late in baking cookies this year, but with Grandma driving out on the 23rd we had some time to fill on Christmas Eve and what better way to spend time on Christmas Eve than baking?

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

The North Pole Adventure!

Last weekend, we took the girls on a North Pole Adventure train ride to meet Santa.  It was kind of like “The Polar Express” train ride to the “North Pole.”  The Charlie Russell Chew Choo is a summer time dinner train that the Lewistown Chamber of Commerce utilizes in December to allow kids (and adults) to meet Santa.  We all had a blast!  Maggie was so excited, but got nervous once Santa got on the train, so no family photo with him.  Jessie got very very excited to see Santa once he came out of his house and headed to the train, saying “It-ta! It-ta!” and pointing at Santa.  At one point, she even asked him for shoes (again!)

Our friends the Jenkins came along and we all had a lot of fun, enjoying the start of the Christmas week together in Lewistown.Jessie Maggie_train train01 train06Train03   Train04

It was a beautiful drive to Lewistown as well, though it would have been better with a little bit of snow (it was nice to wait in line for the train in no snow!)


Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Bestest Bug Christmas Pageant EVER!

Maggie’s school Christmas show was this past Thursday, December 15.  She was so 2011-12-15_17-57-52_793excited as she got to be a Lightening Bug, dressed all in yellow (fun to try to find in December!) and got to carry a flashlight. The show was at the high school’s auditorium and she got to be backstage with her friend Ainslie before the show.  Rocky & I took turns entertaining, or trying to entertain, Jessie while we waited for the show to start.  Next year, we’re getting a babysitter for Jessie!

It was an adorable little program and very well done.  All of the kids were different kinds of bugs and ,if I followed the story correctly, the lightening bugs saved the day by  getting the Christmas tree to light after the Termites ate it.

It turned into a long evening and right after the Kindergartens big number, I think Maggie was done.  A big kid took her spot on the riser and she had to be in the front.  The show was at 6:30, and we only had a snack, not supper, before.  After, Maggie told us that she was kind of nervous and that’s why she was upset.  We told her it was okay to be nervous before a show and that Dad gets nervous sometimes before he has to teach a class.

We went to Applebee’s after and Maggie just barely made it through supper without falling asleep!

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Saturday, December 10, 2011

18 Months Old

Jessie is still a little peanut! 22 lbs 2 oz and 33 inches long, she's right along the 25th percentile. But even as a little peanut she is all over the place! She doesn't really walk, but runs EVERYWHERE. She loves to climbs over and on EVERYTHING, including poor Wiconi.

Her vocabulary is really growing. She can identify and say nose, eyes & toes, but also knows ears and hair. She has started her transition into the Toddler Room at daycare and loves it. The drop offs are a lot easier as she likes starting in the toddler room and loves Ms Cheryl & Ms Monica.

The Christmas Tree is a very curious sight to her and most ornaments have been moved up out if her reach.

Jessie loves her big sister and loves to copy whatever Sissy does. She typically calls her Sissy but can also say Maggie. She still loves to give hugs and kisses. It's about the only time she stands still!
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Sunday, December 4, 2011

ZooMontana Fantasy of Lights

Last night, we visited the Zoo to see their annual Fantasy of Lights. You drive through the backside of the zoo to view the displays. My favorite was the tigers. Maggie really wanted to see the Rudolph display which was not part of the drive, but inside the zoo.

After completing the loop, we went inside for hot chocolate, crafts & Santa!! Maggie wasn't sure about visiting with him again, but did sit on his lap so we could get a picture with Jessie. Which ended up including me (we'll get a copy of it on Monday). Later while Maggie was enjoying her hot chocolate Jessie decided to check him out again. She had to show him her shoes and I was able to get a quick photo!

Maggie enjoyed the crafts, but was very excited when we FINALLY went outside so she could see the Rudolph display. One red light led her to him.

It was a nice way to spend a Saturday evening and a kick off to the Holiday Season. This may become an annual event for us.
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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Counting My Blessings

Last year, several of my Facebook friends took the opportunity during the month of November to do “30 Days of Thanks.”   I jumped in on it last year and this.  And this year I thought it would be a good idea to compile my list here, as a reminder of these past 30 days.  It’s amazing, taking time each day, to publicly state what I am thankful for.  Some days were harder than others, and sometimes I didn’t get it down until the following day.  Today, I am thankful that I did this.  It has helped me remember to think about what is really important in life.  And so here are the rest of the 30 days of thanks:

I am thankful for our dogs, who love us unconditionally, are always so excited to see us, and take everything the girls throw at them in stride. They add so much joy to our lives! 
I am thankful for "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and reminders of the true meaning of Christmas.
I am thankful for the start of the Advent Season. I can now play Christmas music at work without getting strange looks.
I am thankful for family time; a nice day hanging around the house and some time at the zoo and candy store.
I am thankful for Christmas movies! After getting the tree up, we are now watching Elf and next is Christmas Vacation!
I am thankful for Thanksgiving! A wonderful holiday meant to be spend with family & friends. The turkey is in the oven. The potatoes & sweet potato biscuits are ready (will reheat while the turkey rests). Nothing to do right now, but check the sales and wait! Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
I am thankful for all those who were in my life for only a season. While I miss having you as a larger part of my life, I am glad you were there when you were.
I am thankful for short work weeks! Today is the Thursday of my work week!
I am thankful for both my parents and my parents-in-law!!
I am thankful for my church family!
am thankful for Jessie and her adventurous nature!
I'm thankful for Maggie and her love of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
Today, I have been wondering what I should be thankful for. I am so blessed that to narrow it down to a single status today is difficult. Therefore, today, I am thankful for wine. And the wonderful 2008 Kennedy Shah Red Wine I am currently enjoying while waiting for the spaghetti to cook.
I am thankful to live in this technological age. Love having access to family and friends from all over!!
I am thankful for my family, snuggled on the couch watching Phineas & Ferb ending our evening together.‎
I am thankful for good friends who are also Vikings fan so we could watch the game. Even if they lost it was still a good time! Thanks Kreigers!
I am thankful for plenty of food to eat and the ability to make many different foods for my family & friends. Which reminds me I need to start the ribs for MNF!
I am thankful for the magic of Santa Claus! And thank you to Vincent Arts for a wonderful experience with the jolly old elf himself!‎30 days of thanks: thank you to all the men & women of the armed forces, current & veteran. You make me proud to be an American
I am thankful for good health. I'm very thankful that the pediatrician doesn't always remember my girls' names!
I am thankful for a morning routine with time built in I can use to sleep in, drive-thrus and large McCafes.
Today, election day, I am thankful to the women and men who came before me who felt it was important for ALL Americans to have the right to vote.
I am thankful for a fulfilling career that allows me to support my family and is currently allowing my husband to find a fulfilling career of his own.
I was thankful for a husband who is a fabulous Dad!
Hauling out the big guns to ask for prayers to St. Anthony as I search for my wedding rings again tonight (looking for them since Wed morning). 95% sure they are in the house, but slight chance I lost them the night before (darn weight loss). However, today, I am thankful once again for my husband who reminded me that the rings can be replaced, but our marriage cannot. #30daysofthanksgiving
I am thankful for wonderful Godly girlfriends with whom to enjoy lunch and an after work beer. 
I am thankful for my husband who keeps the house clean, food in the house and clean socks on the drawers!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Pinotage, The Den

Another selection from the wine club, though I can't remember if it's from October or November and now I cannot find my notes. Next month's selection will be available this weekend and I'm going to,hopefully remember to, blog about the 3 right away.

This is a new grape variety for me. It's a South African grape developed in the early 20th century. The Den is from Painted Wolf [I LOVE the label and wouldn't mind it as a print on my wall], and I'd like to try other varieties from Painted Wolf. The pinotage has a little spice to it and a bit of a berry flavor, slightly dry. I had it after dinner with some chocolate which was a great pairing!

I'm enjoying branching out into some reds. Getting away from the sweet & light whites has been great fun and a bit of an adjustment. Especially as the weather cools. We'll see if this trend continues in the spring!
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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Psalm 105:1/ Philippians 4:6

Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness. Let the whole world know what he has done!

Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.


Another blessed thanksgiving! I made our usual feast, apple cider-brined turkey (recipe here), mashed taters & gravy, sweet potato chips and biscuits. Our friends the Osterlunds came over to feast with us. Kristy brought a pumpkin cheesecake to round out our meal. We watched football and enjoyed the beautiful day.thanksgiving02 Jessie played well with their son, Eli, who is 8 months younger than Jessie. Even the dogs enjoyed the leftovers; they were even too full to lick the gravy boat!!

I had meant to take pictures of the meal, but got caught up in the preparation and forgot. Perhaps I’ll recreate the meal at Christmas.

I do enjoy Thanksgiving. A wonderful day set aside to remind us to be thankful for all we have been given. A day set aside to spend with family and friends, however we see fit. A day set aside to stuff ourselves with comfort foods, sit around & watch football and just Be. Thank you, Lord, for such a wonderful, blessed day!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

All I Want for Christmas

Maggie emailed Santa today with her Christmas list:

Hi Santa,
I hope your reindeer are doing fine.  I was making a Christmas list, and I looked in a Target Christmas magazine and I copied the words that were in it and and I drew it on a piece of paper.  And I wrote this:
I want a Dinosaur Train interactive friend
and an Hello Kitty dream house
and a Fiijai friend.
I can't have everything on my list, but I hope you do your best. I've been good.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Something's Lost

About two and a half weeks ago, I lost my wedding & engagement rings. I realized they were gone on a Wednesday morning. I don't really remember putting them on but I do remember thinking about them. I realized they were gone after I got in the car to leave. I did a quick look for them, leaving Jessie in the car. I then decided I didn't care if I was late for work and searched the bedroom, kitchen and living room for about 30 minutes. At that point I knew I needed to get to work and called off the search, temporarily.

The drive to work was interesting, thoughts going my head. What if I couldn't find them? Would we get replacements? Do I even want replacements? Those rings were specially blessed at our wedding. Can you call replacements "wedding" rings? Why are they called wedding rings and not marriage rings? Why had I put off finding a jeweler to resize them? They have been loose for some time but now that I'm about 15 pounds lighter than I was before I got pregnant with Jessie and it's a lot colder they seemed to be even looser.

Over the past 2 weeks, I've done some concentrated searches including cleaning out my closet, Jessie's closet, the dresser, the food closet, my car, under the bed, even getting Rocky to move the fridge and stove. So if nothing else at least several areas got a good level 10 cleaning.

It's weird. I still check for them and sometimes stop and wonder for a second, forgetting I do not have them on. I have also heard of many more lost rings since mine have gone missing.

The rings are insured and can be replaced. I keep reminding myself that rings are not important. The rings are not my marriage. And I love that my husband is the voice of reason in this situation.
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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Red Red Wine

Last week, we had our friend Diane over for dinner as she was a hunting widow.  I had decided to try to make Beef Bourguignon.  A few years ago, I read “Julie & Julia,” [wasn’t a fan of the writer as I thought she came off as pretentious] and later saw the movie [which I did like more, but probably because Meryl Streep was such an awesome Julia Child!].  After reading the book, I kind of wanted to try to make beef bourguignon to see if it really WAS as difficult as Julie made it out to be.  After all, it seemed like it was just a beef stew and anyone with a crockpot should be able to turn out a decent beef stew.  However, at that time, I didn’t take the time to look for a recipe, or actually TRY it and put it out of my mind.

A few weeks ago, I ran across a crockpot version of Julia’s recipe and decided I wanted to try it again.  I got the ingredients for the crockpot version, but soon changed my mind and found a longer version in an online search at Simply Recipes.  I’m proud to say I stuck fairly close to the recipe, though I did not use even half as many pearl onions as the recipe calls for as I know my family (and myself) and we are not fans of pearl onions.  The recipe was a LOT of work, but very very worth the work.  I do think that when I make it again, I’ll utilize the crockpot to cook the beef, especially if it becomes regular fair.  I had a lot of pots & pans going.  Fortunately, I also have a wonderful husband who cleaned up


And now the wine!  I had purchased a bottle of Cupcake Red Velvet, which would have been lovely, but Diane did bring a couple of bottles, and, well, Diane has excellent taste in wine, so I handed her the bottle opened to make the choice.  She chose the A Cote “Next Door” Red Blend.  I’m really starting to like blends, especially in reds.  It seems like a blend offers the option to drink earlier, full bodied and not as much “breathing” required.  Blends are great gateway wines into more reds.   It was smooth and went very very very well with the beef. 

Modeled after some of my favorite blends from the south of France, the components of this wine are 42% Syrah, 42% Pinot Noir, 8% Grenache, and 8% Mourvedre. Not often blended, the red fruit of Pinot Noir is right at home when balanced with the spice and structure of cool climate Syrah. The Grenache, brings a textured, rich fruit component and adds mid-palate weight, while the Mourvedre completes this blend in a seamless experience from the bouquet through the intricately layered finish!

We were good and only had 1 bottle that night.  The La Crema would have to wait for another.  Which was just a few nights later for me!  Diane brought Pinot Noir and later told me this is one of her favorites.  I complete agree with her.  Pinots have long been my favorite red.  I’m not a fan of dry reds.  While I like drinking wine with a meal, for a wine to stand out to me, I have to enjoy it on it’s own.  As such, Pinots, in my experience, aren’t as dry as say a Cabernet – which I’m learning to enjoy after it’s been given time to breathe – which is why they have been my favorite.  I loved that the bottle was clear so I could enjoy the burgundy color even before pouring my first glass.

I know this was just one evening of wine of many with Diane and I look forward to many many more.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

17 Months of Jessica Fae

I've been trying to get some video of Jessie dancing as it seems to be her favorite thing to do! She loves all music and will even start dancing to ring-around-the-rosie: spinning and spinning and spinning until she falls down.

We have officially entered the tantrum stage. Not getting her way leads to Jessica getting into a downward facing dog pose and screaming as loud as she can. We are holding fast, just as we did with Maggie and hoping it will pass quickly.

Jessie's 8th tooth made its appearance this past month. She has more "words": hi, bye, puh-pee, bah-bee (which sometimes means her blanket), mama, dah-dee, sis-tah, mo-me (monkey pacifier). I haven't tried adding more signs lately so may have to pull out my book to see if there are some she might use. Eat, more, please, milk, up & Dad are the ones she uses most.

The end of this month she starts her transition to the toddler room at daycare. I'm looking forward to this move as I think she's gotten bored in the pre-toddler room and I'm not sure they are good about challenging the mobile babies.

Jessie has turned into a very curious baby who definitely keeps me on my toes! She loves to push the limits and is always looking for the line to cross.
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Thursday, November 3, 2011

October Wine Club

I've been a bit of a slacker on my wine club update. November wine club is waiting for me and I, well Rocky, just opened one of the bottles yesterday. He picked out the Anselmi, an Italian yellow, er, white. It's actually a beautiful golden color and I think it would be a nice deck wine, enjoyed on a early fall evening outside. Unfortunately it's a little too cold to be outside.

Sue, from Simply Wine, called it "citrus, nutty and a bit toasty." I like it.
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Sunday, October 30, 2011

After Pumpkin Carving

One Halloween tradition Rocky & I have continued since we got married is carving 2011-10-29_09-31-46_372 pumpkins.  The first year, we bought the kits and found a couple of stencils we thought we could handle and I think we did a pretty good job.  When Maggie came along, well, that first year, we did skip carving because she was still tiny and we were pretty tired.  She did get into it the following year and now that we have a garden, she has looked forward to our pumpkin carving the past 2 years.  This year, our garden produced 3 fairly small pumpkins and Maggie went to the pumpkin patch with her Kindergarten class, so we have 4 small-ish sized pumpkins.  2 that Maggie decided could be carved and the other 2 would be decorated by Maggie.  She took the job very seriously, but I think she came up with some nice pumpkins:

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And after:

 2011 pumpkins2

2011 pumpkins