2014 Countdown to Christmas Finale - the Auction!

This year we decided to hunt clues only once a week but still managed to miss last week because of Finals. Rather than make up the missing week I promised the kids an "epic" finale to the Christmas Clues on Christmas Eve.

Today was the day!

I knew I wanted to end with a Survivor-style auction with a decadant amount of sweet treats. (We would, of course, impose consumption limits on the treats) I headed up to Kroger to buy 8 auction items. My thought was to start with something simple, like a single donut with red and green sprinkles and then work up to the final item which would be a mystery box filled with a mixture of every type of M&M's. I bought regular, peanut, mini, mega, pretzel, peanut butter and dark. They didn't have the mint ones and I skipped the almond because the kids don't like them.

I shut myself up in my office and sat on the floor mixing M&M's in a giant plastic bag. The rest of the items were still in shopping bags next to me. Suddenly the doorbell rang - a delivery that we had to sign for. The dogs, as is their custom, were barking and scratching at the front door, waiting for me to open it so they could either bolt out the door or lick the deliveryman. Rather than attempt to wrangle them I got the bright idea to just shove them in my office and close the door.


I know.

When I finished with the deliveryman I realized my mistake. I opened the door to find two happy dogs attempting to open a big bag of M&M's and a Nutella snack pack. The waxed paper was all that remained of the donut. 

"SH*T! SH*T! SH*T!" I yelled, in true Christmas spirit.

Luckily it was really only the donut that was lost. The M&M's and Nutella survived the attack.

I got everything arranged and hidden and then called the kids to start the hunt.


KARL: "Check the back of lime pie (key), What's the word for little g? The second word (pick up the pace) Is soft & fluffy and has a case"

EMMA: I think it must be your yogurt, Karl.

It's really MY yogurt, by the way. I love Key Lime Pie yogurt but once Karl discovered it he keeps eating all my yogurt. So much so that the Key Lime Pie yogurt is now referred to as "Karl's yogurt". Sheesh!

They went to the fridge and checked all the yogurt containers.

EMMA: I don't see anything on the bottom of these yogurts.

ME: The clue doesn't say to check the bottom.

EMMA: OK, so the back, but what's on the back?

KARL: I suppose the "little g" means grams. But grams of what?

EMMA: Oh! Karl, I think it means that the clue is something of Gram's! We have to figure out the second part. OK, so what's soft and fluffy and has a case? My instruments have cases but they aren't soft and fluffy!


Now you may be wondering "Why is Emma not figuring out that easy clue?" and to answer, I have to stop and tell a little story that happened Sunday, while John and Karl were picking up his mother ("Gram") to come stay with us for Christmas and Emma and I were cleaning the house.

EMMA: Mom, toss me the sheets from the dryer for the guest room bed.

We toss laundry up to the balcony. For more about this charming ritual you can read Clue 15 from the 2011 Countdown to Christmas hunt.

I tossed her the sheets and she went to make the bed and then returned to the balcony.

EMMA: Mom, there's only one pillow cover.

I looked around and saw that I had dropped one by the laundry room door.

ME: I found it. I'll toss it up. You know they're called pillowcases, right?

EMMA: What?

ME: You called it a "pillow cover" but they have a real name - they're called pillowcases.

EMMA: (shrugs) OK, whatever they're called.

It's amazing how you can discover something new about your teenagers, like appalling lapses in vocabulary.

Back to the hunt -

EMMA: Karl, can you think of anything soft and fluffy that has a case?

KARL: A pillow?

(Atta boy!)

EMMA: Oh! It's Gram's pillow! Come on!


EMMA: "Glittery orbs with twinkling lights, Mom tried something new, So much silver, So much white, Wait . . . is that one blue?" Karl, it's the Christmas tree.

The ran down the stairs.

KARL: How do you know it's the tree?

EMMA: Because Mom only put silver and white ornaments on this year. There must be a blue one somewhere on the tree.


EMMA: Got it! It's back here and it's a Tardis! WOW! This is a cool ornament - where'd it come from?

KARL: Stay focused.

EMMA: Right.

Both the kids are Dr. Who fans so I thought this would be a great new ornament for us. I had the clue attached to the bottom.


KARL: "My first word is a room in Clue, But which one? That's the goal, Perhaps if you knew the second word? OK . . . it's el arbol." What's that?

EMMA: Come on, Karl - you're taking Spanish right now!

KARL: You already took two years!

EMMA: I guess this is a job for Google Translate.

KARL: The word is tree? That's not a room.

EMMA: Oh wait - I think that's just the second word. Hmmm.... Oh! Hall Tree!

KARL: But "Hall" isn't a room in Clue.

EMMA: Yes it is!


The hall tree was sufficiently piled with stuff to make the hunt take a while. Finally they opened the big drawer and found two tins inside. They opened their tins to discover Monopoly money and another clue.


KARL: Meet me in the Breakfast Room, Bring your money, wits and wile, The first inaugural Christmas Eve . . . AUCTION! (Survivor style!)

He shouted the word "Auction" by the way. He's a very literal reader.


John took on the role of Jeff Probst, the host of the show Survivor, and used the wrapped box top (it had no bottom) to hide the items up for Auction. Just like on Survivor the kids were warned that the auction would end without warning. 

They were surprisingly polite about things, making deals and not bidding each other up. I expect that they may be more ruthless next year, now that they know the quality of goods available. Karl ended up with the box of mixed M&M's but Emma got the giant cupcake, so they were pleased with the split.


Everyone agreed it was a fun way to end the Countdown.

John was talking to his mother afterward.

JOHN: Did you hear the catastrophe that almost happened with the dogs? When Karen yelled?

GRAM: Oh, you mean the SH*T! SH*T! SH*T!? Yeah, I heard that.

Ah, Christmas!

Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

2014 Countdown to Christmas Week 2 - Chocolates of the World

My apologies for not getting this up last night. We hunted the clues late because Emma had a hair appointment with Tina to get her hair rePixied. (What? It's a word.)

I was at the salon earlier this week getting my hair deGrayed, (What? It's a word.) and Tina and I were talking about Christmas decorations. I am woefully behind getting my tree and decorations up and have only managed to do most, but not all, of a new white/silver mantle decor. I also ordered three gorgeous poinsettias from Emma's band.

Tina is unable to have real poinsettias at home because she has cats. She also mentioned that she hadn't done much to decorate the salon for Christmas. Armed with those two pieces of information, I felt that the perfect Christmas gift for Tina would be either a fake poinsettia plant for home OR a piece of decor for the salon.

I chose to make a little hybrid of those two ideas - using fake silver poinsettias, frosted twigs of white glittered berries and silver balls to decorate a styrofoam tree.


I really haven't made very many trees over the years, so I was a little unsure if it would come together, but in the end I liked it how it turned out, although it did create a huge mess and I burned through about 5 hot glue sticks getting everything on there. 



Here's where Tina chose to put the tree in the salon. Looks great there!


Once we got home I quickly hid the clues and the loot, but the light was gone and the photos aren't great. (You'll just have to use your imagination while I bring the scene to life with my words) Heh.


KARL: "First word: 'It was the best of blank. Not down, but blank' With pantomimes!" Huh?

EMMA: I think it must have something to do with that game we were playing the other night.

KARL: It was the best of what? Friends?

ME: Dad is an acceptable reference.


JOHN: It's from A Tale of Two Cities "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times"

EMMA: OK, so that first blank is "times". Not down, but "up".

KARL: Time's up!


The game was sitting on the sofa table, along with Emma's library books, one of the pretty poinsettias, Karl's $5 Explosion Box gift (exchange is today) and some rolled up white paper that I was using as a backdrop for photographing some CHA samples.

Did I mention that the light was fading fast? No time for tidying.

They found the next clue inside the box. This one went so fast that I didn't even get a chance to photograph them reading it.

EMMA: (opening the clue) Oh there's a photo in here. "Are you observant? I couldn't say - " OH! It's that picture in the breakfast room.

She dropped the clue and went straight to the picture. 

ME: Hey! That was too fast. Find it again!

She reenacted, ever so naturally, finding the clue atop this little art piece of New Orleans that was given to me by my Barriere Construction coworkers when we moved from New Orleans to Colorado fourteen years ago. I've always loved this little framed piece of New Orleans, but I wasn't sure if the kids ever really noticed it.

Apparently at least Emma has.

JOHN: What just happened?


KARL: I'll tell you what happened. We hadn't even finished READING the clue and Emma ran right over here to this picture and found it.

JOHN: Well what was the second line of the clue?

KARL: "Are you observant about stuff you see each day?" or something like that.

ME: But rhyming, of course.

KARL: (shrug)




EMMA: "The candy's close, so be astute. You load this, but it doesn't shoot." Hmmm. That's interesting. What's something that you load but doesn't shoot?

KARL: (thinking) The washing machine? The dishwasher?

EMMA: (impressed) Wow! I bet you're right. You check the dishwasher and I'll check the washing machine.

Now it probably should have clued them both in which one was right, since I followed Karl into the kitchen.


The candy is under that colander, but he didn't see it. He closed up the dishwasher.

EMMA: (returning from laundry room) Wasn't in the washing machine. How about the dishwasher?

KARL: Nope.

Uh oh. This presented a problem. 

ME: Well a second set of eyes is always good. How about you switch and Karl checks the washing machine and Emma checks the dishwasher?

EMMA: (puzzled) Uh, OK.

Again, I feel that since I stayed put in the kitchen they should have known which place was right, but I don't think they did. Karl went off to the laundry room.


Emma was a much more thorough sleuth. She found the candy.

I had purchased various chocolates from around the world - chocolate twigs, sardines, umbrellas and Kinder Santas.


JOHN: Wait - THOSE were in the dishwasher? How did Karl miss that?

EMMA: I know, right?

KARL: (with dignity) They were hidden under a colander.

We are planning an all-out blitz of decorating on Saturday, so next week's hunt should have more festive backdrops. (Plus new potential hiding spots! Whoot!)

See you next week!

2014 Countdown to Christmas Week 1 - Candy Sleighs

In case you missed yesterday's post, I explained that my twins *thought* they outgrew this tradition of the Christmas Clues. They voted not to continue and I had to bribe them to do once-a-week clues for sweets this year.

Today was the start and then we'll do the next 3 Wednesdays ending on Christmas Eve.

For the inaugural day I conconcted candy sleighs and then realized that I will have to come up with bigger hiding spots this year. Luckily I'm chaining the clues, though, so mostly I'll be hiding little wax-sealed envelopes.

For all of their nonchalance about the tradition Emma pounced on the clue as soon as she walked in the door. 

EMMA: Hey Karl! Let's do the clue!

KARL: Are you reading it?

EMMA: Yeah, but you can read tomorrow's clue.

ME: Ahem? Don't you mean next Wednesday's clue?

EMMA: Oh yeah, right.


EMMA: "Measuring, cutting, sanding - such fuss! It takes stringers and struts, but mostly a ______!" OK, this definitely has something to do with my bridge project.

KARL: Is that missing word supposed to rhyme with "fuss"?

EMMA: Not necessarily.

ME: Hey! Don't my clues always rhyme?

KARL: I wouldn't say they're perfect rhymes, but they do have a lyrical quality to them.

LYRICAL QUALITY?! Chocolate-covered-brussel-sprouts for you next week, kid!

I should have reminded him of last year's rhyme of the word eucalyptus!

My clues always rhyme. 

But I digress . . . 2014_1_Clue1Find

KARL: I guess it has to be somewhere around this bridge -

EMMA: Yaughergh! (or something like that) Be careful!!!!!

Emma's Physics group slaved over those trusses all day on Sunday. The books were on top to keep them from warping while the glue was drying. They plan to complete construction tomorrow.

After carefully extracting the clue from under a book it was Karl's turn to read.


KARL: "My first is a dozen, then seven times three, next three, then a quarter, what can it be?" OK, so the numbers are 12, 21, 3 and 0.25.

ME: Point Two Five?

KARL: Yeah, a quarter. If you're being accurate.

They puzzled over this one for quite some time. Emma asked if they could have a secondary hint.

ME: It's a cipher.

They debated what that meant for a while and then Karl had an epiphany.

KARL: Maybe it's an alphabet cipher, Emma. These could be letters of the alphabet.

EMMA: OK, let's check. A-B-C-D-E-F-G-H-I-J-K-L - the first one would be L. 

She counted up on her fingers.

EMMA: Second letter U.

KARL: The third one would be C. What's the 25th letter of the alphabet?

EMMA: X. Could it be Lunch?

KARL: Lucx - does it mean Luck?

ME: Are you joking? How many letters are in the alphabet?

KARL: 26.

EMMA: Oh! The 25th letter would be Y, Karl. It's LUCY!


By the way, while they were puzzling over this clue I had heard Lucy go through the dog door and run around outside for a while. When she came in the clue was no longer on her collar so I had to go search the yard. Emma had followed me out and asked what I was doing.

ME: Never you mind.

I managed to get the clue back onto her collar before the clue was solved. After they figured out the clue Emma said "Oh, NOW I know why you were outside looking for Lucy!"


Karl, the most staunch of the "anti-Christmas Clues gang" certainly changed his tune, huh? He read the third clue.

KARL: "The move from Colorado was long; a two-day drive. We brought lots and lots of items and these are still alive."

I thought this clue might take them a while. I figured they would think it was the dogs, although we only brought one dog from Colorado (Lucy) and acquired one in Texas (Katie). So I was shocked when only a couple of seconds passed.

EMMA: I suppose it must be those plants in the dining room.


To quote The Princess Bride: "Mostly dead is slightly alive" 

It is true that these plants have seen more glorious days of long tendrils (coinciding, I believe, with regular water) but they hold on despite my black thumb.




The Oboes section in Emma's band had tee-shirts made. They say "Reed it and weep" with a dolphin with a double-reed as a nose. 

You know, band puns.

See you next week!


Sweet Christmas Evergreen Pivot Card & Christmas Clues Update

Well it's December 2nd and I'm sure a lot of you are wondering if we will be doing our annual Christmas Clues Countdown to Christmas tradition this year.

I started this tradition back in Colorado where the kids solve a rhyming clue each day from December 1st through Christmas to find prizes. When they were younger it was Dollar Store trinkets. In Texas we changed to money - at least half of the money has to go to charity and I will match the amount on Christmas day. Emma usually donates all of her money. Karl pretty much sticks with half. 

The kids are now 16 and Juniors in High School. It's a busy time for them with school and finals and we haven't made it to the end of the clues the last couple of years. On Thanksgiving we discussed whether the tradition would continue and the kids voted . . . 


What?! Hazzuh? Did they mispronounce "We love this tradition, darling mother!"?

I asked whether it would be OK to just reduce the number of clues and Karl was sticking firmly to "no" but I swayed Emma with a plan to hunt clues only once a week, with 3-5 chained clues, and they'd be hunting for sweets. (Emma has a serious sweet tooth!)

The answer turned to:

YES! (for Emma)


I guess. (for Karl)


We settled on the 4 Wednesdays in December, hunting after school, so the clues will start tomorrow. At some point I'll figure out how to introduce some origami-folded charity money into the hunt.

In honor of our change to hunting for sugary sweets and snacks, I made this card featuring the Evergreen Pivot Card decorated like frosted cookies:


I am working on a new video, by the way, for how to make seamless backing cards for the Pivot Card dies. Expect that to go up by the end of the week.

For this card I used green cardstock as the Evergreen Pivot Card base and then cut the pivot card again into silver foil. I trimmed out just the pivoting trees section from the foil and attached it to the green one to look like a cookie sheet underneath the cookies.


Modeling paste made excellent frosting. I tinted my four colors using acrylic paint and used a popsicle stick as a frosting spreader. For the little lines and dots I put the modeling paste into a plastic baggie, snipped a hole in the corner and squeezed it out, decorator style.

Decorating cookies is not a special skill of mine. These fake cookies look pretty much the same as real ones when I'm in charge of the frosting. Notice the splotchy uneven blobs on tree #2 - I thought about fixing them, but then thought - nope! These look like "real" cookies in how imperfect they are.


I found a small little wooden spatula in my stash. I have no idea where it came from, but it worked perfectly on the card.


I knew I wanted the title to be "Have a Sweet Christmas" but I didn't have any stamps with that greeting so I made the greeting on the computer, printed it onto white cardstock and then die cut with a label from the Fancy Accordion set. The Holly Border die was cut from the same "cookie colored" cardstock and then the holly leaves "frosted" to match the cookies.



This side view will show how I layered a couple die cuts together to make them thicker and more cookie-like. I added Double-Sided Adhesive behind the cardstock before die cutting the decorator trees, making them easy to attach to each other and to the cookie sheet.

Want to make your own cookie card? You can find these products at your local independent craft stores or by following these shopping links.

See you tomorrow for the start of the Christmas Countdown!

2013 Countdown to Christmas - Day 19-20!




EMMA: "Christmas is giving, Christmas is truth, Christmas is sharing (except for the juice)" (grins) MOM!

She immediately went toward the kitchen.

KARL: (following) the juice?

EMMA: Oh, yeah. You probably haven't seen my post-it notes yet.

(she opened the refrigerator)


Two things about this photo. 

  1. She took a full apple juice out of the pantry and added it next to the 2/3 full one to claim them both. Tis the season.
  2. Her handwriting is, indeed, this atrocious when she's writing fast. 

Seriously, though, on the handwriting. At the end of last year we got a notice that she had failed her Texas standardized test in writing and had to retake it over the summer. The scores were attached and she had received a ZERO in an entire section.

US: Emma, this is really surprising. You're a great writer. Did you finish the test?

EMMA: Yes, I finished it.

ME: Was it legible? Do you think they couldn't read it?

EMMA: Well . . . they did say that you could lose points if they couldn't read it. And I wrote really small to fit it in.

US: sigh.

She has two methods of writing - big, fast and sloppy, or neat and "grab your magnifying glass" small.

On the day of the district-wide retest, I picked her up after.

ME: How was the test? Were there a lot of kids there?

EMMA: A ton.

ME: Anyone you knew?

EMMA: Yeah, a kid I know from band was there. He said "What are YOU doing here?" when he saw me. 

ME: Well it is a little surprising. Why did he fail the test?

EMMA: He said he was hung over.

ME: (shocked) Uh. . .not . . . cool. Moving on . . . did you write legibly?

EMMA: Yes.

When her retest scores came she scored a 98 or something like that. A vast improvement.

OK, back to the clues. As you can see, I taped Clue #20 to the apple juice. As they were removing it, Emma was reinforcing her claim to the juice.

EMMA: See these notes, Karl? Hands off! The apple juice is mine.

KARL: You bought it?

EMMA: No, but I claimed it.

KARL: You can't "claim" it. It's not land. You didn't conquer it. (in a mocking tone) "Oh, I am ON this land mass. Therefore I CLAIM this land mass. I OWN this land mass!"

EMMA: (grinning) Hey, you usually drink it all. It was worth a try! What's the clue say? 





OK, this was a bit of a gimme. Two engineers decorating and you're going to find little areas of matching items, like a sofa table with all the snowman decorations grouped together.

They went straight to it.



KARL: The money is in this box, Emma. Geez, Mom. A box? You hid the money in a box? 

ME: I was pressed for time.

EMMA: (examining the origami dollars) These are cute!

ME: They're rats.



We had to leave right after the clue hunts to get to appointments for the kids. In the car -

KARL: Dad, you have Siri on your phone, right?

JOHN: Yes, why?

KARL: Ask Siri "What does the fox say?"

JOHN: (presses Siri button) What does the fox say?

SIRI: We will never know. It's an ancient mystery.

Everyone laughs.

KARL: So that was worth update 7.0.2 or whatever.

JOHN: Ha! Exactly!

We entertained ourselves by asking Siri other questions, like "Why did the chicken cross the road?" and "Who stole the cookie from the cookie jar?"

Good times!

2013 Countdown to Christmas - Day 18!

We all survived Finals Week! Whoot! It was time to get caught up on clues.



Now my original plan for the butterflies was to hide them in the toaster. We have a four-slot toaster and I had a rhyme in my mind like "I have two dials so you can choose, crispy 5's or mushy 2's" 

But I never got around to getting the clue typed, printed, set in an envelope and sealed with wax, so each day I've been fishing the butterflies out of the toaster before the kids come down for breakfast, just in case they choose waffles. That would be a disaster because they would most likely ignite the dollars in the process, since they wouldn't think to check the toaster for money first.

This morning Emma came around the corner just as I was fishing them out of the toaster, for a third day, and although I'm not sure she saw me, I decided to change the clue anyway.

I figured they would look cool flying among the twigs in this orange vase by the front door.






KARL: I folded dollar butterflies, and hid them in plain view. You'll have to be observant, because ORANGE is your only clue.

EMMA: Do you think she means AN orange or just something orange?

KARL: Probably something orange.

They wandered through the living room looking for orange items. Notice in this photo below Katie sleeping on the couch. Lucy was trained not to be on the furniture, but when we got Katie, she had a mind of her own. Her persistence paid off and we finally gave up keeping them off the couch, but when I bought the bird chair, I said NO DOGS. No people either, as it turns out, because there is always a set of coasters or a box of Kleenex on the chair to keep the dogs off. *sigh*


As I followed the kids into the room I saw Lucy on the arm of the bird chair.

ME: Hey! Lucy! Get off that chair!!!

KARL: I don't think they care about your "Precious" Mom. 

Clearly not.

"Precious"!? Sheesh.

Maybe if they were more observant they would have noticed that the chair is orange. But they didn't. Eventually they found the dollars in the twigs.

EMMA: What are they?

ME: Butterflies.

KARL: They look more like moths.

ME: You try it.

KARL: Touche.


We also hunted Clues #19 and #20 today, and that write-up will be later. Both kids have appointments.


2013 Countdown to Christmas - Days 16-17!

So much for my promise to keep up with the clues daily, huh?

Hunting clues with teenagers during Final Exams is certainly tricky, but one good thing about doing two days at once is that I could combine the dollars from both days into one glorious origami wreath!


I had them start with Clue #16:

2013_16_clue 2013_16_read


EMMA: Wow! Look at this fancy paper, Karl. It's so shiny!

After reading the clue:

KARL: I think it must be referring to wrapping Christmas presents.

EMMA: Why do you say that?

KARL: Because that's when you call for a finger, you know, to help you tie the bow.

EMMA: But what does that have to do with singing?

KARL: (reads the clue again) I think she's probably just saying that you'll want to sing. Like Christmas Spirit or whatever.

Yeah, or whatever.

EMMA: (doubtful) I guess. Let's check the wrapping paper in Mom & Dad's room.



Emma spied the clue taped to the top of one of the paper rolls.

EMMA: Karl, it's another clue.

KARL: (looking at both clues) Yeah, see, she did December 16th and then this is December 17th.

EMMA: We missed a day?

KARL: Yeah.

Observant, my children.



KARL: "Access is needed for various 'business', Especially soon after dining, A drill and a saw plus some screws and Voila! No more scratching and whining." It's the dog door. Come on.

EMMA: (impressed) Wow! How did you get that so fast?

KARL: Because I helped them. Plus, they had all those tools out - the drill and the saw and stuff.

Technically he is correct. He helped us hang the door at the end. We were probably up to the task without him, but I mentioned to John that a benefit to feeding half a ton of food to a teenage boy every day was that he was strapping enough to help us lift heavy stuff. You know, fringe benefits!

Karl was momentarily puzzled when he didn't see the cash. He even reached through the door to feel around between the flaps even though they are transparent and it was clear that the money was not in there.


KARL: Huh. I don't see it. Check the part that slides in to lock it.

They checked that piece and didn't find it. Finally he thought to open the door and check the other side, where I had taped the wreath.


EMMA: (examining the wreath) Check that out! What fancy folding.

KARL: (unimpressed) Well she's pretty much a professional by now.

Yes, son, all it takes is 17 days of folding dollars and you become a professional origamist. Don't tell Japan. Heh.




By the way, it was Ugly Sweater day at school, so Emma wore the one from our 2011 Christmas card. Karl tried his sweater on but it was wool and he had no interest in scratching all day, so he abstained.

As for the dog door, since installing it on Sunday both dogs have figured it out. We had one in our house in Colorado for Lucy and she must have remembered the concept. She had no trouble from the get-go. Katie, however, took a little coaxing to get through the door. Luckily Katie is extremely food-motivated. Yesterday morning she came through the door on Lucy's back because she couldn't wait her turn. Not when breakfast was on the other side!



A week until Christmas! Lots left to do! Fa-la-la-la-later!

2013 Countdown to Christmas - Days 10-15!

It's 10 days until Christmas. 


Last week was just crazy. The kids had activities and homework and appointments and sleepovers. The dogs had a vet appointment. I had a class to prepare (my final class for Sizzix) and a preview video to shoot for some of the new dies for Elizabeth Craft Designs (sneak peeks coming soon) and photo cards to send (no letters or personal notes, sorry guys) and baking for two school holiday parties. 

Whew! It was a brutal week. The two things that did not happen were daily clues and housework.

Today was the day to get caught up. Well, caught up on clues anyway. The housework . . . still too busy!

ME: Hey kids, let's get caught up on the clues. Oh, you're still in your PJs? Showers first then. I picked out some clothes for you that will look nice in the photos. The outfits are on your beds.

EMMA: (rolling eyes) We don't need you to pick out our clothes!

ME: I know, but humor me, it's for the blog.

It wasn't for the blog. 

More on that later.

Once they came down, wet hair and all, it was time to start the hunt. Clue #10 was hidden five days ago, I might add.

ME: Start with Clue #10. Hey - neither of you accidentally found the money, right? It's been hidden for five days.


Of course they didn't. Don't even know why I asked that.



EMMA: Do you think it could be a laundry basket?

KARL: But they don't have lids.

EMMA: The one in our bathroom does! Come on!

They took off toward the stairs.

KARL: But what about the "gravity" part?

EMMA: Because we drop our clothes on the floor instead of putting them in the hamper!

ME: Well aren't you smart, Sherlock!

EMMA: I'm not a psychopath. I'm a high functioning sociopath. Do your research.

ME: Huh?

EMMA: It's a quote from Sherlock.

By then they had made it to their bathroom, where they trampled across the carpeting of dirty clothes on the floor and over to the hamper, where the dollars had been sitting right on top and undetected for five days.



ME: Step out here and close the door. That's a decent backdrop. It's going to be challenging to take photos today with the house being messy like it is.

KARL: That's what Photoshop is for.

ME: Yeah, but I don't think I can Photoshop a mound of laundry!

KARL: (superiorly) It's called the Clone tool.

ME: Yes, yes, you're very smart. Smile!


Looks like the hearts held up pretty well for being in that hamper almost a week!


We headed downstairs for the next clue. I was looking at the photo on my camera. Emma has always been my challenging kid for photos. She has a hard time smiling naturally on cue.

ME: Looks like Emma is actually smiling!

KARL: If you want to make her smile for photos there's a device you can get that's an electro shock for facial muscles. It'll make you smile for 5 minutes straight!

EMMA: Rude.

Karl took Clue #11 out of the box.

EMMA: Karl, give it to me - it's my turn to read it.

I knew they loved these clues!



KARL: What's a looking glass?

EMMA: It's a mirror. It says it has space behind it.

KARL: Do you think she means literal space or outer space?

EMMA: Probably literal space.

KARL: OK, let's be systematic and check every mirror in the house. (opens the door to our room) Mom has a mirror in her closet but she wouldn't want to take a photo in there.

ME: (running to close the door) Gasp! Never! It's not there!!!!

Remember the episode of Friends where Monica has a closet that's untidy? One word . . . amateur!

They tried a couple of other mirrors and then went into the powder room.


KARL: Emma, it's not the money - it's another clue!

EMMA: What does it say?


KARL: "I'm big and loud and purple, You'll find me with any luck, Although I am not broken, People say I suck." It's the vacuum cleaner.

We have two vacuum cleaners - one for the downstairs and one for the upstairs. I had actually put the clue on the upstairs one, but they spotted the downstairs vacuum where I had left it out in the foyer (did I mention the deplorable condition of my house?) Even worse, the other day I was wearing my ugly pink bathrobe because I was cold, and I had taken it off and draped it over the vacuum in the foyer! 

KARL: (pulling bathrobe off the vacuum) Oh THAT'S why this robe was there, to hide the money!

No, Son. The bathrobe was there because the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.


They were examining the wrong vacuum cleaner, and my Photoshop skills were not up to the challenge of erasing the damage the dogs did to the front door when they scratch at it barking at dogs walking by outside. And I also couldn't Photoshop in the door to my office being closed, so there's a little dose of reality, those of you who watch my videos! Heh heh heh.

I reminded them of the second vacuum and they went upstairs to the guest room closet and found Clue #13.


ME: Wait! Read it here in the guest room - I can take a photo in here!


EMMA: Well if it's a shelf used only by Mom it's got to be in her office.

KARL: I think she has a Brother printer.

Oh wow! I DO have a Brother printer. That kid is smart! And observant about technology. (But only about technology)

He also happened to be wrong about the hiding place.


They stood staring at the wall of shelves for a while and then finally spotted it.



EMMA: "We pick it out, we write the year, With a Sharpie (this can be tricky) This year we ended up with two, One's an owl and one's named Mickey." Karl, it's the ornaments.

She was right. We get one family ornament a year that documents something we did that year. Emma and I picked out the Mickey ornament at Disneyworld when we were there for her band trip at Spring Break. But then John pointed out that he and Karl didn't go on the trip so we should get a second ornament. We picked out an owl when we were shopping as a family on Small Business Saturday a few weeks ago.


They found the final clue behind the Mickey ornament and turned to read it.



KARL: "Searching high and searching low, It's fun . . . you shouldn't knock it. But if you want to find the cash, Reach deep into your pockets!" 

He just stood there puzzled.

EMMA: What pockets? Of the jeans we have on?! How-

KARL: (sudden realization) Emma, she picked out our outfits!

Emma started checking her pockets.


 EMMA: NO WAY! Karl, check your tiny little pocket.

Karl dove into his pocket and pulled out the money.


EMMA: (looking at the origami bills) What are they?

ME: They started as houses, but I had to fold them extra to make them fit in the pockets.



KARL: (unfolding them all) Oh I see - they're fives because it was multiple clues.



As they went to put their money in the envelopes I asked Emma if she was impressed.

ME: That was pretty funny, huh? You guys were going all over the house looking for the money and it was in your pockets the whole time!

EMMA: (grinning) Good job, Mom. (she clapped)

ME: Hey, that looked like sarcastic clapping!

EMMA: No, THIS is sarcastic clapping. 

She demonstrated a much slower clap.

ME: Ah. 

Well in any case, I was super impressed with myself for pulling that off. When Emma came down after her shower her hands were in her pockets! Good thing I chose to use those tiny little jeans pockets that nobody uses unless they need to hide some money.

I will try to stay on track next week with daily clues. 

See you tomorrow for Clue #16!

2013 Countdown to Christmas - Day 9!


Not wanting a repeat of the day before's grump-fest, I felt that I should casually drop some hints on our way to school.

ME: Dad ordered some special harnesses for the dogs and the tracking number says they were delivered yesterday, but they weren't. Poor guy. He hasn't had the best of luck with ordering online recently. Remember the rice cooker?

EMMA: Yeah, what happened with that?

ME: UPS was supposed to deliver it, but they gave it over to USPS instead and then when he tracked it it showed delivered but it wasn't. Finally it showed up in the mailbox, but not before Dad texted me while I was in North Carolina, all concerned that it was showing delivered when it wasn't.

KARL: I've heard that sometimes the employees will scan a barcode on a package but not hit the "next" button before scanning again. It will end up with 150 tracking numbers being associated with one package and the other 149 having no data. I don't think they pay those workers very much. They don't seem well-trained if they can make errors like that. This one time-

Sorry kid, but the ride wasn't that long!

ME: Right. So anyway, good thing that rice cooker showed up, huh? I mean, it really does cook good rice. Have a great day. Karl, I'll pick you up by the bench for your appointent. Don't forget.

KARL: I'll probably forget.

ME: Exactly. Which is why I am telling you, right now, to commit that bench to memory - look at it. Feel it. BE the bench!

He just grinned and got out of the van.

OK the clue seed had been planted. I figured by the time school was over they would have forgotten our little conversation, but maybe it would subconsciously steer them in the right direction.

(With apologies for the lousy photos - wrong camera settings)



KARL: We used to use the microwave, but it was inconsistent, "There's got to be a better way!" said Dad. (he was insistent).

EMMA: It's the rice cooker, definitely. But do you think it's the new one or the old one?

They headed toward the kitchen, where Emma suggested that Karl check the new rice cooker while she checked the microwave rice cooker.



KARL: Found them! (hands two origami dollars to Emma)

EMMA: What are they?

KARL: I have no idea. (he was holding them like boats)

ME: They're cardinals.

EMMA: Cardinals? Like the Catholic official?

ME: No. Cardinals like the bird.



EMMA: (doubtful) If you say so.

Everyone's an origami critic!



Karl appointment (he remembered to wait at the bench!) was for the orthodontist. They get reward points for various things, one of which is wearing their "got braces?" tee shirt to the appointments. Emma is wearing a shirt from her favorite show, Supernatural. 

She was actually repeating her outfit from Sunday afternoon, when we had our photo shoot for the Christmas card. The Burnistons love TV!



Clue #10 will be posted tonight.

2013 Countdown to Christmas - Day 8!


We had spent some time yesterday putting up the Christmas decorations and trimming the tree:


As we were decorating I mentioned to Emma that she should be committing the ornaments to memory, since I sometimes wrote clues around them. (Hint #1)

Now I've been a crafter since my first popsicle stick napkin holder, and through the years I've gone through different phases, including a brief love affair with plastic canvas:


When I saw this ornament in the box I knew it would be a perfect clue. I got both kids' attention.

ME: Hey, check this out, Karl and Emma. I made this years ago from plastic canvas and yarn. The flag goes up and down and the door opens!

KARL: (politely) Oh . . . uh . . . cool.

This was Hint #2.

This morning I had to figure out some origami that would fold small enough to fit in the mailbox. I ended up making these tiny canoes:


Now when I pick hiding spots and write clues I usually envision how they might solve it. In my head, this clue's hunt would go something like this:

EMMA: Would you like to read it, dear brother?

KARL: After you, sweet sister!

EMMA: "Gloom of night won't stay the courier"? Hmmm, what a curious phrase. Let's see what Google says.

After discovering that these words were from the US Postal Creed, and then with the additional hints about the little green flag and red/white color scheme, they would immediately recall my heartwarming story about crafting a plastic canvas mailbox ornament.

Next, they would join hands, skip to the tree, and find the money.

KARL: What are these exquisite origami figurines? Why, they are miniature canoes! How charming!

EMMA: You have outdone yourself, mother dearest.

And then we would all spontaneously burst into song. Hark the herald angels sing . . . 

Oh yes, this was going to be fabulous!

Here's what really happened:


EMMA: Karl, eww. Your breath smells like Cheerios!

KARL: (snatching clue) Let me see that. "I have a flag, it's small and green, Red and white are also seen, Worry not if you're a worrier, Gloom of night won't stay the courier" 

EMMA: Well I have no idea.

KARL: "Gloom of night won't stay the courier" - that means it's something that's visible during the day.

EMMA: Everything is visible during the day.

Karl glared at her.

JOHN: Emma, that's not very helpful.

Emma grunted.

Uh oh. This was not going well. 

I suggested that they use Google or their dad for research.

KARL: (crossly) Dad won't know it.

JOHN: (with dignity) I might.


They decided to look up "small green flag" and "red and white". 

Huh. Didn't see that coming.

JOHN: Let's see - a courier is someone who delivers things. What would they deliver it to.

EMMA: A mailbox?

KARL: Are we supposed to walk down to the mailbox? I'm in my pajamas.

ME: No, I don't want to chase you down there with a camera.

I was floored that they did not remember a conversation from 12 hours prior. They actually wandered around the house looking for mailboxes.

For reals!

JOHN: You know, Mom gave you a hint during our family activity yesterday.

EMMA: What family activity? Oh, decorating the tree?

They walked toward the tree.

KARL: (frustrated) There are a lot of ornaments on the tree and most of them are red and white.

JOHN: But they don't all have a small green flag on them.

FINALLY they figured it out. Karl opened the mailbox ornament and started pulling out the canoes.


EMMA: What's in there, Karl?

KARL: Something that's been folded a lot. 

EMMA: What are they?

ME: They're canoes.

KARL: (crossly) They look more like kayaks.

ME: Man! You are a grump! Can you just pose for a nice photo and we'll call it a day?



Needless to say, there was no spontaneous caroling.

See you tomorrow for Clue #9.