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New Year Traditions from around the world


Welcome the New Year with traditions from around the world. This New Year, my neighbor's might find me circling my house with my suitcase. Happy New Year! xx

Cuba: circle your house with a suitcase at midnight to bring travel opportunities for the year.

Brazil: wear white to ward off evil spirits and jump seven ocean waves for each day of the week.

Chili: drop a gold ring in your champagne glass for a prosperous year. Also, eat a spoonful of lentils at midnight.

France: enjoy a family dinner with foie gras and champagne and a galette des rois.

Italy: wear red underwear for good luck and enjoy a special family meal.

Austria: eat suckling pig, marzipan and maybe enjoy a Strauss concert.

Scotland: people sing the Scottish song, 'Auld Lang Syne' at midnight. It's played around the world, but it started here with Robert Burns.

England: The first footing...the first person to enter a house on January 1st should be a male with dark hair bringing coal, bread or salt.

Spain: eat twelve grapes...one with each ring of the bell when the clock strikes midnight.

Ireland: a single woman might put mistletoe under her pillow before she goes to sleep on New Year's Eve to dream of her future love.

Philippines: wear polka dots and eat oranges to ensure a prosperous year.

Columbia: sweep your house to get rid of the bad energy.

Denmark: stand on top of a chair and leap off at midnight.

Russia: write down a wish on a piece of paper, burn the paper and put the ashes in flute and drink your wish.

America: eat black eyed peas for good luck and ham and cabbage for prosperity.

Wishing you the happiest 2014!
Skaal! Prost! Na Zdorovje! Saude! Salud! A Votre Sante, Slainte! Cin Cin! Mabuhay! Cheers!

Happy Birthday Little Sister!!


Happy Birthday Paige!!

ma petite soeur, music maker in the city of Angels, expert taxi hailer

My sister is full of energy. I don't think she sleeps! She stayed over for Christmas and would have been game for staying up until the kids came downstairs in the early morning if I would have been up for it. 

Paige said to me yesterday, "I am liking my thirties more and more!" Amen sista! I'm five-and-a-half-years older than my sister so those words are music to my ears...she's growing up! I think one of Paige's charming qualities is that she will forever be a kid at heart (she's a lot like our Dad). 

When I think of Paige, I'm reminded of the Cheers show...everybody knows her name and they're always glad she came!

Many happy returns little sister! I'm glad you came for Christmas. I love you! xx

Read more about my beautiful sister here

Celebrating the Holidays at Walt Disney World


Anytime is a magical time to visit Walt Disney World, but from early November through a little after the New Year, is the most magical time of all. 

Cinderella's castle is breathtaking when it transforms into a wintry ice castle at night. Each Christmas tree you see is more beautiful than the one before. Our favorite Christmas experience was the time spent at Epcot. It was so much fun to learn about Christmas traditions from each country that we strolled through.

Disney World has such a dreamy effect on people...it truly is one of the happiest places for the whole family. One of the most memorable times was riding the carousel with my children (here). Visiting during the holidays was extra special...the enchanting fireworks, parades, candle-lit ceremonies and every detail of the festive decorations is dressed to the nines. 

Walt Disney World is HUGE! Of course, we didn't do it all but we came away with some magical memories. This time of year is a wonderful time to visit. Have you been before? If so, what's on your "tops" list? Here's our family TOP FIVE of activities, rides and restaurants that we enjoyed. 

Activities:
Bibbity Bobbity Boutique (Downtown Disney & Magic Kingdom) If you have a little girl who loves princesses, this is a dream come true. A Fairy Godmother-in-training will magically transform your daughter into the princess of her choice. 
Meeting Santa at his Chalet (Downtown Disney) Santa seemed so at home in Disney World...I think he vacations here. 
Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party (Magic Kingdom) Fireworks, Mickey AND Santa!!
IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth (Epcot) "Let there be Peace on Earth" finale narrated by Walter Cronkite gave me goosebumps...beautiful! You can get a fantastic view from anywhere that you stand. 
Jedi Training Academy (Disney's Hollywood Studios) A 20 minute training where junior jedi knights learn to use the force.

Rides:
Soarin' (Epcot) Soarin' through California was just how I imagine hang-gliding would be. We loved this ride so much we rode it twice. The bonus was, while you wait in line there are interactive games to play on huge digital projection screens.
It's a Small World (Magic Kingdom) The singing children from around the globe made me smile when I was a child and it was my daughter's favorite ride. This classic 60's ride was made in support of UNICEF and has remained popular. 
The Seas with Nemo & Friends (Epcot) We loved riding a "clamobile” searching for Nemo through the vivid coral reefs. 
Space Mountain (Magic Kingdom) This was my son's favorite ride. A rocket that launches you deep into the pitch black depths of outer space. 
Haunted Mansion (Magic Kingdom) Riding a doom buggy was exciting, especially when we caught a glimpse of ghosts hitching a ride. This supernatural journey was through an 18th century estate full of 999 ghosts. 

Restaurants:
Akershus (Epcot) My little girl was beyond excited when Snow White, Cinderella, Belle, Aurora and Ariel visited our dining table. Ariel asked her to lead the Princess Procession...I thought she might faint! The Norwegian dinner was delicious. We enjoyed Norwegian smoked salmon and Scandinavian meatballs (kjottkaker) almost as much as the Princesses.
Coral Reef (Epcot) The panoramic windows gave us an incredible view of sharks, turtles and fish. It was like eating in the ocean. 
Biergarten (Epcot) My husband's favorite meal of the trip was here! The food was fabulous and so was the entertainment. My son was asked to light the Christmas tree after they danced to several oompah songs...Silent Night and the history behind it. 
Cinderella's Royal Table (Magic Kingdom) The stained-glass windows that overlook Fantasyland give a spectacular view (make your reservations early). 
Earl of Sandwich (Downtown Disney) The best sandwiches and a nice lunch break that's easy and relaxed.






Dancing to the oompah beat of a the German band at the Biergarten. Our favorite meal of the trip.

My daughter getting a princess hair-style. She chose the "Holiday Minnie." 

One of the most memorable times was riding the carousel with my children (here).




How cool are these jelly fish? A view from our "clamobile" searching for Nemo.


Joyeux Noel from France in Epcot!

After waiting a loooong time, someone was truly excited to finally be next for the Peter Pan ride. 

The Disney app was very helpful and we were very grateful we made dinner reservations early. Wishing you lots of Disney magic! xx 

I would rather entertain and hope that people learned something than educate people and hope they were entertained. ~Walt Disney


TRÈS ASHLEY GIFT GUIDE 2013

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas! Our tree is up, decorations are out and we've had three glorious snow days off from work/school (have I mentioned I'm a teacher)!? My two young children have loved being home to decorate, bake and play. I've enjoyed the time to catch up and SHOP! Wishing you extra snow days to get your list completed before Christmas! 



Gifts for the Kids

Pirate Ship Rattles: Maileg toys are some of my favorites for my children. They can have endless hours of imaginative play.I can see both, my son and daughter playing together with this mermaid and pirate crew. $88.

Polaroid Instant Camera: Think instagram for kids. $69.99

The Happy Trunk: A monthly subscription to Happy Trunk will give a child a themed (science and art) activity box. Great for rainy days and snow days. starts at $58.95

Pogo Stick: Go old school with a Flybar. $41.97

Fanny at Chez Panisse: A Child's Restaurant Adventures with 46 Recipes: Open up the magical world of cooking to children with this charming book that shares how easy it is to make good food with basic ingredients. $17.09


Star Wars Folded Flyers: My son loves Star Wars AND paper airplanes. You can make 30 paper starfighters. $16.97

Discovery Space Center: This rocket will launch them into the galaxy of fun! $129.99


Gifts for Everyone

Travel America Calendar: Rifle Paper Co. makes the most charming stationary AND calendars. This one covers America. $26.

The Bakus Trivet: This would be a trivet of memories...holding up to 36 cork memories. $48.

Rust Designs Personalized Dinnerware: This is the perfect present! How special to eat off a personalized plate! The Birch designs are my favorite. starting at $55.

Photo Puzzle: Hours of fun for everyone! $24.99  

Panettone: It's an Italian Christmas tradition and it's a delicious crowd pleaser. $39.95

Cocktail glasses: This is the best time of year to say "cheers!" starting at $59.95



Gifts for Mom, Sister, Best Friend...

Ugg slippers: the only thing she'll want to wear on her feet. $90.

Magic Carpet Yoga Mat: aesthetically enhance her yoga practice with a hand-painted yoga mat. $98.

Flannel Pajamas: My husband joked that he's going to get me a pajama gram this year. It's actually a brilliant idea. I like these from Garnet Hill. $58.

Embroidered iphone case: Because you call her all the time! $38.


Gifts for Dad, Brother, Best Friend...

Scratch Map: Most people enjoy looking at maps. This one celebrates where you've been and inspires you to scratch off more places. $29.95

Gramophone Music Station: An old-fashioned docking station that just might make him want to play Fats Waller.

Biere Glasses: To help him better enjoy his favorite beer. These gold-plated dishwasher safe tumblers are perfect for game day. starts at $12. 

Cornhole Bag Toss Game: My brother had one of these when we went to visit him and the whole family loved playing.

I hope this helps you to finish your list. It was fun to create and find presents for every person and budget. Check gift guides from 20122011 and 2010 if you need more inspiration. Happy Shopping!!



LakeCities Ballet Theatre's Nutcracker

THE HOLIDAYS begin with the Stahlbaums' annual Christmas party...children hungry for presents, too much champagne and a kooky uncle who makes enchanted toys.

The whimsical world of E.T.A. Hoffman's The Nutcracker helps to take us on the journey with Clara Stahlbaum, a bubbly little girl whose parents are having a party on Christmas Eve.

For the evening of the sold out performance, the audience is joined together by the power of Tchaikovsky’s score, taking us back to 1892 in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Kelly Lannin brings LakeCities Ballet Theatre to an outstanding professional level that is quite impressive for this little town of Lewisville, Texas. Lannin is a natural storyteller, taking the audience in scene by scene. This is LBT's 30th anniversary.

The Lewisville Lake Symphony lead by Adron Ming, brought The Nutcracker to life with LIVE MUSIC! There was even a harmonic section of the snow scene sung by a choir...goose bumps!

Herr Drosselmeier has once again shown up with his puppetry and magic tricks. Children in the audience sat still in their seats to see what was in the magical box…his wind-up Ballerina Doll, Ali Honchell, who danced sharp and snappy like a deconstructed ballerina.

A nutcracker doll is given to Clara by Drosselmeier, her mysterious uncle (played by the effervescent Kenn Wells). The luminous young Clara (Carley Denton) looked girlish and giddy as she ran and leapt with delight.

My son laughed and laughed at Clara's brother, Fritz (Nathan Bowen) galloping up and down with excitement...I think he could relate (wanting to play with his big sister's toy, and then accidently breaking it)!

The clock chimes and it's time for the guests to go, As soon as the house is quite in the Stahlbaum house, the mice creep out looking for cheese (more laughter).

During the battle scene, The Mouse King (Robert Stewart) gave a hilarious performance of his death, wanting to make sure he perished on the sofa (again my son cracked up).

The audience takes a journey through the snow guided by angels (one of them is my own). It's an "angel secret" how the angels appear to be floating across the stage...truly magical, truly angelic.

Amanda Evans sparkled as the Snow Queen. As the music developed, so did her dancing. 

Clara arrives in "The Kingdom of Sweets" and we see the Russian Baba flying high, Chinese Tea dance delicate and dainty, Spanish Chocolate battement big but it was Arabian Coffee that took my breath away. The Arabian duet was one of many standout performances. Faith Jones showed her amazing balance and crazy extensions. Shannon Beacham supported her with power and intensity.

The excitement built when Julie Kent, Principal Dancer with American Ballet Theater and Sascha Radetsky, Soloist with ABT graced the stage for their pas de deux.

All eyes were fixed on the beautiful Julie Kent who executed her variations with a sweetness and warmth. Kent has a gift to take a role and become that person. Julie Kent WAS the Sugar Plum Fairy. I am sad to know that after fifteen years, this was her final performance as Sugar Plum Fairy with LakeCities Ballet Theatre.https://mail.google.com/mail/images/cleardot.gif

I had the privilege of being backstage with Julie Kent as a “room mom” for the angels and I loved seeing her look at the little girls with affection. I’m sure she’s a wonderful mother to her two young children.

The Nutcracker is often the first ballet people see and introduces children to the dance world. For the dancers, it's a path through one role after another marking the passage of time in a dancers' life. Backstage, I heard the dancers talking, "I remember when I was an angel."

It's ritual-like but the repetition year after year doesn't tire...it becomes more beautiful, and that is the power of the Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker.

It's really one of the happiest times in the year. Families and friends come together to watch The Nutcracker. It's especially special if they’ve come to watch a certain dancer. I had my two favorite dancers performing on the same stage, Julie Kent and my daughter.

Julie Kent said in an interview, "We all can be excellent in what we do. Art in particular helps to distill because the pursuit is really pure and noble."

Returning to familiar places where our happy memories were born and live on is always a journey that warms the heart. Families tend to recreate the journeys that have been taken together, to recapture the pure joy that lives in the moments we love to remember. Returning to The Nutcracker with family and friends was a new memory maker. Our newest angel inspired us to recall and appreciate the past as we await the future.

Above Photos: Nancy Loch Photography

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Pumpkin Brulee Cheescake from FoodNetwork.com

The angels start to sing when people get together over Thanksgiving pie...at least I imagine them singing "hallelujah." Especially when this season's pies are the homiest, and most satisfying, somewhat like that rush of good feeling that comes from being warmed by a crackling fire on a cold day. There's always room for dessert.


This past week, my children and I had a pie baking marathon with my mom and best friend. FoodNetwork.com has the most delectable dessert recipes for Thanksgiving. We gave several FoodNetwork.com pies a try but the one everyone loved the best was the Pumpkin Brulee Cheesecake.
My husband's favorite dessert is cheesecake. When I told him that his daughter helped make a Pumpkin Brulee Cheesecake, he sounded as excited as a little boy. Thanksgiving pies do that to us...make us feel like kids hovering over the dessert table just waiting for a slice.
My daughter's smile says it all. She was just dying to stick her finger into the warm, gooey pie. My favorite pies are the smooth and creamy ones that you add whip cream too. The Pumpkin Brulee Cheesecake was just that...heavenly "hallelujah" good. 


We had a blast making our marathon FoodNetwork.com pies! It's beginning to feel a lot like Thanksgiving. See our pie making in action here.
Wishing you a fun in the kitchen baking with your family...maybe you'll say "hallelujah" to a FoodNetwork.com pie too!  
Happy Thanksgiving! xx


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Veterans Day: A Day to Remember


This Eisenhower photo with Snoopy ran in 1998. Read what Charles Schulz says about this particular D-Day strip:

"Of all my D-Day cartoons, this Sunday page created the most interest from readers, who remarked that it was often the only reference to that momentous day of June 6, 1944, in their newspapers. Most gratifyingly, I heard from those in the picture and still with us, family members, and friends of the men talking with General Eisenhower."

The photograph itself was taken just before these men of the 101st Airborne Division parachuted into Normandy. 

My great uncle, John Edward Shaughnessy, is the man at the far right in this famous picture. His children and the rest of our family are very proud to know that his service to our country was memorialized in such an iconic image that gave hope and pride to so many Americans at home. 



Amelia Earhart: 5 Things You Might Not Know

Best known for being the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Amelia Earhart (1897-1937) is America's most famous female pilot. Born in Atchison, Kansas on July 24th to Edwin (a lawyer) and Amy Earhart (daughter of a wealthy judge). 

Amelia was eleven-years old in 1908 when she saw her first airplane. She wrote that..."It was a thing of rusty wire and wood...not at all interesting." Later in 1921, Amelia had her first flying lesson. She said, "As soon as I left the ground, I knew I myself had to fly."

Before she was lost, Amelia wrote to her husband, "I am quite aware of the hazards...I want to do it. Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failures must be but a challenge to others." 

There have been many theories about Amelia's disappearance...that she was on a secret mission for the United States government to spy on Pacific islands held by the Japanese, that she was held a prisoner of the Japanese until after WWII and brought back in secret to the United States, that Amelia and her navigator, Fred Noonan, lived as a cast-aways on Nikumaroro islandNo one knows for sure...The search for Amelia and Fred will continue in 2014.

1. Amelia's mother was the first woman to climb to the top of 14,110 foot high Pike's Peak in Colorado.

2. Ameila became a nurse's aide in Toronto, Ontario, Canada when she visited her sister, Muriel who was in school there. Some of the men she cared for were pilots. 

3. In 1926, she was a social worker at Denison House in Boston. She taught English to immigrant children. 

4. She bought her first airplane, the Canary, for her birthday. She paid for lessons and the yellow airplane with money she earned working for the Los Angeles telephone company and with money given and loaned to her by her mother and sister Muriel. 

5. She helped to start a woman's pilot club called the Ninety-Nines. It was called the Ninety-Nines because it had ninety-nine founding members. 

Amelia continues to inspire young girls to dream...including my daughter who chose Amelia Earhart for her "Famous American" report. Amelia said, "To enjoy doing something, to concentrate all your energy on it--that is not only the surest guarantee of its success. It is also being true to yourself." 

After all, if we truly want to inspire our youth to have success, isn't that one of the best messages we can give?

My daughter dressed up as Amelia Earhart

Not so tricky treats from FoodNetwork.com

My little goblins gobbled up Halloween treats from FoodNetwork.com so fast it was spooky! Little helping hands in the kitchen make the meal taste that much better...especially when the Halloween menu consists of ghostinis, hot dog mummies and vampire blood tomato soup.   

At our house, we try to celebrate Halloween the whole month of October. The best parts are when the kids can participate and love what they're making. You can't go wrong with tomato soup, but when it becomes vampire tomato soup, it just has more of a bite!
These ghostinis couldn't have been easier for my daughter to make. Plus, cookie cutters make everything taste better.

My little boy loved this spooky version of one of his favorite snacks, pigs in a blanket. When I told him he was making hot dog mummies he was ready to wrap up the dogs and couldn't wait to eat them.
The spirit of Halloween can be felt in our tummies. These FoodNetwork.com recipes for kids helped to set the mood and brought many smiles with each bite.  

 The Halloween season is alive with color and some not so tricky treats to be enjoyed by the whole family. 


Wishing you a very happy Halloween full of good things to eat. Find more ideas from FoodNetwork.com in their Halloween Section.   

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