Gingerbread Houses

I’ve been trolling pinterest for more holiday ideas for the kids.

Because I like to torture myself.

I like to come up with elaborate, labor intensive ways to create enchanted childhood memories for those whining, screaming, argumentative, unappreciative little monsters.

This is why I started the Hanukkah Bears, eight nights of my own Jewish version of Elf on a Shelf. It’s why the Tooth Fairy doesn’t just leave money but a scavenger hunt to find the money. It’s why I painstakingly keep a blog, a monthly picture depot on facebook (see above pull down ‘monthly photos’ menu) and a monthly video on youtube (see above ‘monthly videos’).

I’m sure they will remember me as an annoying, paparazzi crazed Jolly Hockey Sticks but I can’t help it.

And it is also how I found myself, after seeing the price tag on 4 gingerbread kits for the kids, committing to a three day complicated and detailed baking and construction project.

Luckily I stumbled upon a shortcut on pinterest. No baking required.

Instead of baking my own house, I used graham crackers!

It was so easy. I have to share it with you all so you too can become an annoying, paparazzi crazed Jolly Hockey Sticks just like me.

Start by taking some old cardboard from all those Amazon boxes you normally throw away and covering them in tin foil.dsc_0125

Then, cut two graham crackers with triangle tops like this…dsc_0126

If they crack don’t worry. You can glue them together with icing and no one will even know the difference.dsc_0127

You’ll need 6 pieces total for the house.dsc_0131

Then just glue the pieces together with icing. You can use store bought stuff or find a recipe for Royal Icing, which I did. It was like cement!dsc_0133 dsc_0135

I also put some on the tin foil to glue the house down for easy decorating.dsc_0137

Finally toppings. Lots of toppings!dsc_0138

I even managed to find chocolate Maccabees and Hanukkah shaped cookies.

Then step back and let genius ensue.

Sometimes genius is very neat…dsc_0143 dsc_0144

And sometimes it likes to lick the work of art.dsc_0142

But no matter what the process, the outcome is all the same, another special memory in the bag. May my little monsters’ cups runneth over…dsc_0147

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Family Games

The kids are just starting to get to the age where we can play family games.

Okay, Jack is the right age for it and I’m trying get the others excited about it, with mixed results.

I’ve been trolling pinterest and we have been trying a few of the holiday games.

sarahwrapcandyFirst we tried the sarah wrap candy ball.

Basically, you wrap candy in a ball of plastic. One person unwraps as fast as they can while the next person rolls a dice (we chose 6 as the magic number). When you get the magic number, the next person gets the ball and passes the dice on.

I thought it went well, everyone got lots of candy, but Aaron tired quickly and some people never managed to get a 6 so I just moved the ball along myself.dsc_0057

Last week we also had a visit from our cousins the Baumgartens. They thoughtfully brought the Left Center Right game as well as treats for us to play with.

I liked the game a lot for it’s simplicity as well as how many twists it took. Mari was the first one out of treats and in the end she won the whole game.dsc_0060

The twins had a lot of trouble losing (Sam was on the verge of tears) but Mari shared all her winnings with them all so it was all good in the end.

When we went to Timber Ridge I brought two games for us to do on Thanksgiving. The M & M straw game and Jingle Butt.

The M & M straw game is simply a bunch of peanut m&m’s on a plate and everyone has a straw and has to suck them up and into their own bowl. I thought this would be good because everyone wins something. dsc_0082

Unfortunately the twins and Ben couldn’t suck anything up so Ben got real upset. Finally I filled their bowls up manually.

The Jingle Butt game is just hollowed out tissue paper boxes with jingle bells inside. First person to shake them out wins.


The Jingle Butt game was a bunch of laughs but again when Ben lost he took it hard. Adam had to challenge him and let him win to snap him out of it. Then later he said it was the funnest night ever.

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Thanksgiving 2016 at Timber Ridge Lodge

Thanksgiving at the waterpark is becoming a tradition for us Calisoffs.

Thanksgiving dinner at our usual table in Smokey's Restaurant.

Thanksgiving dinner at our usual table in Smokey’s Restaurant.

Me pretending to Aaron

Me pretending to Aaron

Thankful not to slave away in the kitchen cooking all this food!

Thankful not to slave away in the kitchen cooking all this food!

This year we headed up to the Timber Ridge Lodge in Lake Geneva, WI on Wednesday and returned Saturday.

Jack's high score in Skeeball.

Jack’s high score in Skeeball at the arcade.

Luckily the kids have not outgrown the waterpark, and in fact this year we realized Jack can run around with any of the kids fairly unsupervised (you can still see glimpses of them and there is only one door in and out). This relieves Adam and I greatly, after Jack runs off with one, we can focus on one kid each.

Ben was still too scared to try the big green slide this year, but the other kids, including the twins, went down it with glee. I think I heard, “Again! Do it again!” a million times from Aaron.

Jack and Sam exiting the green slide.

Jack and Sam exiting the green slide.

Ben mostly enjoyed the basketball, smaller white slide, the rope climb, and the hot tub. dsc_0079

Occasionally, they all enjoyed something together.dsc_0099dsc_0124

We also spent some time walking around the sister hotel, the Grand Geneva. This was originally the Playboy Club Hotel, and there are still traces of the history on display.

See the playboy costumes in the display case?

See the playboy costumes in the display case?

To get there, you take a trolley. At night you can see all the Christmas lights on display.dsc_0116

Usually we combine it with a special dessert treat of gelato in the lobby.dsc_0121

Hope everyone reading had a happy thanksgiving and has many things to be grateful for!

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A couple of months ago I did a parenting bootcamp on facebook through a high school acquaintance, Kelly Hutcheson.

She is a huge follower of Dr. Shefali’s Conscious Parent, and runs free monthly parenting boot camps to help other parents.

There is a big emphasis on stopping yelling.

I found it very helpful. It doesn’t matter how many books or classes I take on parenting, I find having constant reminders of how to do it better works for me. And giving it to me in small daily doses helps me digest it better.

One of the tips she gave was to start a ‘random act of kindness’ board. I’ll admit I didn’t manage to get it done during the parenting boot camp month. Eventually it made it on the wall and we are reaping the benefits of it every day.dsc_0052

I put any act I find kind on there, big or small. It is usually acts that the kids do, but when someone from outside of our family does it, I put it in there as well so the kids get a larger view of the world and how to interact in it.

Twins cleaning trash up in the park.

Twins cleaning trash up in the park.

It has been a a great, positive influence in our lives so I’m sharing the tip with all you readers in case you want to do the same!

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The Fireplace

Saturday we discovered our heat wasn’t working which meant a cold few days before we could get the problem fixed.

One of the things we did to keep warm was to light the fireplace.dsc_0044

The kids were in shock. We have a fireplace?

Yes, kids. We have two.

We told them we were going to roast s’mores after dinner and afterwards one of them went to put on their shoes to roast marshmallows.

“Our fireplace is inside”, we informed them.

Another revelation.

In a weird Owen Meany moment, Aaron very kindly donated all the sticks that he has been collecting all year for our fire.

Note to self: Jumbo marshmallows are too big to make good s'mores.

Note to self: Jumbo marshmallows are too big to make good s’mores.

The kids loved the fire, and even turned off all the lights when they were done roasting s’mores and laid down quietly, wrapped in their blankets, mesmerized by the flames for a amazing few moments.

The next day Aaron tried to open the fireplace to retrieve the sticks.

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Ben’s Friend

Did I tell you Ben has his first friend?img_5211

I know. I thought it would never happen either.

But as it turns out, the saying is true. There is someone for everybody.img_5487

And these two seems to truly like hanging out with each other.

Because for years I thought it would never happen for Ben, watching this friendship develop is the sweetest thing I have witnessed in a long time.

May it last forever!

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Halloween 2016

Hope everyone had as much fun as we did on Halloween!

We started the morning at Jack’s school checking out the Halloween parade.


Jack as ‘Snake Eyes’


Spectators – another Snake Eyes and the Hulk

Then I spent the afternoon cooking and cleaning so we could have some of Jack and Ben’s friends over to trick or treat.

Our neighborhood rocks for trick or treating, we got about 5 full size candy bars on one block alone. Unfortunately everyone knows about it and it’s packed with kids every year. I spent the entire time in a state of panic that I’d lost my kids. Luckily some houses also hand out adult wine treats as well.dsc_1133 dsc_1144

This year it was so warm we decorated our back deck for the kids to play on. Not sure if they used it at all, all know it that they seemed to be running around in a large circle, between the 2 floors of our house.

Checking out the newly decorated deck last night.

Checking out the newly decorated deck last night.

Ben’s new trick this year was to lay on the ground then sit up and roar when people passed him. He scared quite a few kids and even a few adults.img_1639

Judging by the sleep in the morning and the size of the candy bag, I think it was another successful halloween.

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Trick or Treating on Armitage ’16

The Halloween fun has started already!dsc_1050-1

I loved the costumes today because I didn’t even have to ask them to smile for the camera!

This afternoon we took a walk around Armitage Street for a little early trick or treating.


Ben chose the costume he wore last year and he got just as many positive comments as he did before.

It’s was nice for him to be the center of positive attention for once, even if it meant we had to cover him from head to toe to get it.dsc_1060

Otherwise we had not one, but two Snake Eyes. After Jack picked it, Sam wanted one too.

And that leaves Aaron the Hulk.

We came home, pigged out on candy, and after that dress rehearsal are ready for the real thing tomorrow!

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#Fly the W

In case any of you readers are not living in Chicago right now, let me explain what is going on here.

The Cubs just made it to the world series.

Lucky to see the team earlier this season with our friends Darla and Jeff.

Lucky to see the team earlier this season with our friends Darla and Jeff.

I know it’s a big feat for any team, but our team it’s a miracle.

The last time the Cubs got this far was 1945.

And the last time they actually won a world series was 1908.

Since there are only 30 teams in baseball, statistically speaking they have defied the odds greatly.

So you can see why Chicagoans are so excited about this possible win. Everywhere you turn you can see Cubs spirit. Either with the Cubs logo or the slogan “Fly the W” (W for the win). img_5402 flythew1

UBS Building

UBS Building

Navy Pier Ferris Wheel

Navy Pier Ferris Wheel

Art Institute Lion

Art Institute Lion

Some companies are going crazy about it. American Airlines is all in.

American Airlines Crew

American Airlines Crew

Flights from Chicago to LA

Flights from Chicago to LA last week.

And check out Giordano’s stuffed pizzas right now.


And it doesn’t stop here! People all over the world are celebrating.

Some say the reason the cubs have not won in so long is because the curse of the goat.

Wikipedia says the story goes like this, “The Curse of the Billy Goat is the name of a sports-related curse that was supposedly placed on the Chicago Cubs baseball franchise in 1945 by Billy Goat Tavern owner Billy Sianis. Because the odor of his pet goat, Murphy, was bothering other fans, Sianis was asked to leave Wrigley Field, the Cubs’ park, during game four of the 1945 World Series.[1][2] Outraged, Sianis allegedly declared “Them Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more,” which has been interpreted to mean that either the Cubs would never win another National League Pennant or else that they would never again win a World Series.”

Bill Murray at Wrigley -"I ain't afraid of no goat"

Bill Murray at Wrigley -“I ain’t afraid of no goat”

Others think we are winning because of Theo Epstein, who helped the Red Sox make it to the world series in 2004, breaking their own ‘Curse of the Bambino”.

Either way, it is a very exciting time for Chicago.

Go Cubs Go!

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Fall at the Botanical Gardens

Yesterday we went for a fall frolic at the Chicago Botanical Gardens.

Our idea for the day was to see the leaves changing.dsc_0970 dsc_0982

And to check out our usual haunts like the sensory garden, where you can touch and feel the plants. dsc_0978

To observe the wonders of nature.dsc_0981

Fish spotting

Fish spotting

The kids idea for the day was to wrestle.dsc_0993 dsc_1044 dsc_1015

And run. Always running.dsc_0988

Luckily It was a gorgeous day to do all the ideas we had.

Hope everyone is enjoying the wonderful fall weather as much as we are!

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