Gingerbread houses

One of our Christmas Eve activities was gingerbread house decorating.  Granny had baked and assembled two gingerbread houses…all blank and anticipating the sweet decorations of my chillens.

12-24-11_ChristmasInTexas_022

Can you imagine their eyes when they saw the bowls of candy, candy, candy?

12-24-11_ChristmasInTexas_059

While Granny piped the icing, the kids gleefully stuck on the decorations.

12-24-11_ChristmasInTexas_055

Don’t mind if I do help myself to a taste of that yummy frosting!

12-24-11_LuAnnsCamera_115

Careful consideration of candy placement.

12-24-11_ChristmasInTexas_064

They made windows and doors.

12-24-11_ChristmasInTexas_067

A yummy candy cane door…

12-24-11_ChristmasInTexas_071

Andrew even made a skylight.

12-24-11_ChristmasInTexas_082

Happy activity!

12-24-11_ChristmasInTexas_097

He’s having fun!

12-24-11_ChristmasInTexas_101

Everyone’s having fun!

12-24-11_ChristmasInTexas_109

Sylvie enjoyed some candy snacks between decorating shifts.

12-24-11_ChristmasInTexas_119

12-24-11_ChristmasInTexas_112

What pretty houses they made.  In the next day, Sylvie’s house added a lot more candy.  She learned that she was allowed to eat the candy off, so she wanted to put a lot more candy on.  Smart cookie:)

12-24-11_ChristmasInTexas_145

Something tells me that we’ll be making gingerbread houses again.

12-24-11_ChristmasInTexas_155

Sweet, fun times.

12-24-11_ChristmasInTexas_163

Bryan got into the action and decorated a gingerbread cookie.

12-24-11_LuAnnsCamera_140

Which Sylvie wanted to eat!

12-24-11_ChristmasInTexas_184

Thanks for the fun idea, Granny!  Gingerbread houses were a hit!

12-24-11_ChristmasInTexas_197

In Texas for Christmas

On Friday, December 23, Bryan, the kids, and I flew down to Texas for a Christmas visit together.  The house was so beautiful, the food so tasty, and our time together so fun.  What glowing memories!

LuAnn played the piano at church on Christmas morning.  Here she’s doing a little lovely practicing for us.

12-23-11_LuAnnsCamera_108

It’s so much fun to walk into a beautifully decorated home.  So may pretty details to discover!  The kids remembered all their favorite games, costumes, and activities, and the moment we arrived, they set out to review them all:)

12-24-11_ChristmasInTexas_019

This, my friends, is the fudge bowl.  I love fudge.  Love, love, love.  Whythankyoui’llhaveanother.

12-24-11_ChristmasInTexas_030

I’d call this a full fridge.  Salivatingly full.

12-24-11_ChristmasInTexas_039

On Christmas Eve, we made a variety of finger foods for our meal.  Shrimp and veggies and fruit and cheese balls and Swedish meatballs and quesadillas, oh my!  It was a good way to celebrate Christmas Eve:)

12-24-11_LuAnnsCamera_154

Finishing up dinner in the kitchen together.

12-24-11_ChristmasInTexas_211

The spread…  ho ho ho!

12-24-11_ChristmasInTexas_221

Visiting Wichita

We took a driving trip to Wichita for Grandpa Harvey’s funeral.  It was one of the first long drives (12 hours) with our two kiddos.  They did great!

On the way down, we left around supper time and drove until late.  Then the next day we only had about 7 hours.  The way home we did in one long stretch, and remarkably, the kids were wonderful.

12-02-11_Altheas-iPhone_016

Of course, they didn’t often look up from the iPad/iPhones.  My bags of books and coloring books and toys went mostly unused, but so long as everyone’s happy, it’s alright with me!  I read a whole novel:)

12-04-11_Bryans-iPhone_052

We had a nice time staying at Grandma Jo’s house.  Grandma Jo (Mark’s mom) has moved to an assisted living home, and it was nice to bring her back to her old digs to hang out for an evening.  Sylvia liked the tutus and other props she found in Grandma’s closet.  She and Grandma share a flair for the dramatic.

12-03-11_LuAnnsCamera_097

Sylvie shows Grandma Jo her favorite app – Wash my Cat.

12-03-11_Wichita_016

There’s the lovely lady:)

12-03-11_Wichita_032

Enjoying some time together:)

12-03-11_Bryans-iPhone_051

Now Aunt Melanie gets a tutorial.

12-03-11_Wichita_034

Seems like there’s always lots of laughter when we’re together.

12-03-11_Wichita_036

12-03-11_Wichita_038

12-03-11_Wichita_040

While the reasons for our visit were sad, we really did have a wonderful time visiting with family.  We got to spend time with Bryan’s cousins and aunts and uncles, and I have lots of fond memories from our time together.

12-03-11_Wichita_057

Andrew and Sylvie were great travelers, and I’m looking forward to taking more driving trips in the future.

Getting our Christmas Tree

It’s a little funny to be writing this post after Christmas has come and gone, but better late than never!

We went to get our Christmas tree the weekend after Thanksgiving.  We’d thought about going to a tree farm to cut our tree this year, but Andrew wanted to go back to Jung’s (I think he was hoping for a post-tree visit to Culver’s).  These kids are rapid tree deciders.

11-27-11_ChristmasTree_003

We picked out a Douglas Fir again this year, and we named it Ferb after Andrew’s favorite cartoon, Phineas and Ferb.

11-27-11_ChristmasTree_011

Sylvie is happy about getting a Christmas tree!  She’s practicing her high knee skipping.

11-27-11_ChristmasTree_018

Melted my heart to turn around in the car to see Andrew and Sylvia’s fingers intertwined over the top of the tree.  Life is more fun with a sibling to share it with!

11-27-11_ChristmasTree_020

We got Ferb home, and while Bryan draped it in lights, I pulled out all the boxes of Christmas decorations and our Christmas plates.  Bye bye fall, hello Christmas!

11-27-11_ChristmasTree_030

She’s loving this, isn’t she. It melts my heart.

11-27-11_ChristmasTree_032

What a fun, decorated tree!

11-27-11_ChristmasTree_033

It’s pretty fun to be three years old at Christmas time!

11-27-11_ChristmasTree_036

Bryan put up the outside lights, and poof! our home was ready for Christmas.

11-27-11_Bryans-iPhone_047

11-27-11_ChristmasTree_043

My mom had bought a bunch of Bitty Baby/Bitty Twins outfits, and I pulled out a few for Sylvia.  So the twins (Linda and Rose Crystal) got Christmas sweater outfits and Evie got a polar bear snow suit.  Thanks, Mom!  Sylvie loves ’em.

11-27-11_ChristmasTree_054

November playtime at the Nature Center

While Joe was home, we took Andrew and Sylvia to the Aldo Leopold Nature Center.

First we did our obligatory jumping around the stump circle.

11-25-11_ALNC-with-Joe_006

Then our trail leaders were off and running.

11-25-11_ALNC-with-Joe_008

Love this pic of Andrew and Sylv with their Joe.

11-25-11_ALNC-with-Joe_013

11-25-11_ALNC-with-Joe_020

Here’s my favorite silly girl.

11-25-11_ALNC-with-Joe_033

When they’re around their uncles, Andrew and Sylv spend a great deal of time upside down or in the air.

11-25-11_ALNC-with-Joe_040

11-25-11_ALNC-with-Joe_049

 

11-25-11_ALNC-with-Joe_060

We played some fun games of freeze tag too.

11-25-11_ALNC-with-Joe_076

Joe, it was so much fun having you home for the week!  I really, really value the times we get to spend together. xoxo

Thanksgiving 2011

November was a super busy month for me photography-wise.  I’m a little surprised to look back to see how few pictures I took of my own kiddos that month.  The ebb and flow of life:)

We were home in Madison for Thanksgiving this year.  Joe was visiting us from Washington DC (I first typed that he was home from Washington DC…where is home?).  Maretta and Kyle came to town.  Heather & Michael were in town with Evelyn and their twin babes, Amalia and Alexander.  So great to have everyone together!

Here’s Terry and Amalia enjoying a little snuggle.

11-24-11_Thanksgiving_001

Kyle and Michael examine Terry’s periodic table.  They are such science nerds:)

11-24-11_Thanksgiving_007

Evelyn is adorable, don’t you think?!

11-24-11_Thanksgiving_014

Michael prepares Party Potatoes.

11-24-11_Thanksgiving_016

Bryan and Maretta look dapper and beautiful.

11-24-11_Thanksgiving_019

We had 16 people for our Thanksgiving meal this year.  We shared meal-creation duties and spread out Terry’s lovely home.

11-24-11_Thanksgiving_022

11-24-11_Thanksgiving_024

Our menu?

appetizer platter ~ Dad

turkey ~ Althea
ham ~ Althea
cornbread stuffing ~ Lisa
party potatoes ~ Michael
gravy ~ Althea
rolls ~ Althea
sweet potato casserole  ~ Lisa
pink salad ~ Kyle
steamed broccoli ~ Tom
cranberry red pear relish ~ Connie

pumpkin pies with whipped cream (2) ~ Althea
pecan pie ~ Althea
egg nog ~ Gary
wine ~ Jack

11-24-11_Thanksgiving_026

After our afternoon meal, we spent the rest of the day hanging out and enjoying being together.

11-24-11_Thanksgiving_089

In the evening, a game of poker broke out.

11-24-11_Thanksgiving_093

Some of Terry’s rock and Ukrainian Easter Egg collections.

11-24-11_Thanksgiving_121

Sylvie enjoying an afternoon of iPad time.

11-24-11_Thanksgiving_123

11-24-11_Thanksgiving_125

11-24-11_Thanksgiving_138

11-24-11_Thanksgiving_141

Where was Joe in these pictures?  Not evident.  In any case, he was there!

Girls in New York City

In early November, Bryan’s mom took me to New York City for a girl’s weekend.  No kids, no husbands, just us two girls hanging out for a weekend on the town.  It was so much fun!

11-05-11_iPhone_008

I had been to New York a few times when I was in high school, but my last visit there was close to (good heavens!) 20 years ago.  I loved walking around and feeling the energy of the city.

11-05-11_nyc_014

Our hotel was just off Times Square, and we walked around at night and during the day.  I was amazed by the flashy signs, the variety of shops, the height and complexity of the buildings.  Wow.

11-05-11_nyc_015

11-05-11_iPhone_010

We went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and I loved spending the day wandering around the galleries.  I must make a point of going to museums more often.

I was a bit surprised to see a painting of my sister…

11-05-11_iPhone_011

Such a beautiful museum!

11-05-11_nyc_016

After our museum wanderings and a reviving lunch at the museum cafe, we headed out to Central Park.  Such a beautiful place!  We hadn’t meandered far before we spontaneously ran into my friend Jennifer.  What are the chances!?  We had plans to meet for dinner the next night.  Jennifer recently moved to NYC from Lake Tahoe, California, and it was so fun to meet up and stroll through the park together.

11-05-11_nyc_041

11-05-11_nyc_039

My friend Noa Green is a photographer who does sessions in Central Park (click her to see some of her beautiful work).  Now that I’ve been there, I’m feeling a little jealous!!  What trees and light!

11-05-11_nyc_042

11-05-11_nyc_046

LuAnn and I went to a couple Broadway shows.  Our first was Wicked.  I know I’m a bit late to get on the band-wagon, but I LOVED it!  I immediately got the sound track and have been a bit, er, obsessed.  I loved musicals so much back in high school.  It’s been a long time, but the love remains.

11-05-11_iPhone_015

We spent quite a bit of time wandering around town.  The churches are oh-so-beautiful!

11-06-11_nyc_069

Sunday morning, we hung out at the base of the Queensborough Bridge and watched the first of the NYC Marathon runners come past.  It’s so inspiring!  And the crowd was so pushy!

11-06-11_iPhone_017

We wandered Macy’s and Bloomingdales and several toy stores.  We saw skaters at Rockefeller Center, ate lunch across from the Plaza, found cute delis and delicious sushi.  I even saw a rat in the subway.  What a New York experience!

Sunday afternoon, we got to see Jersey Boys.  What a show!  I loved the music and the theater of it all.

11-06-11_iPhone_019

Such a treat!  Thanks so much, Mom, for a really memorable, remarkable weekend.  xoxo

Halloween 2011

In January, I’m not too terribly interested in reminiscing about Halloween.  For me, January is a time for cleaning house, slimming down, and getting an handle on all those things that fell through the cracks during our busy Christmas season.

Well, my first order of business was to bring my blog posts up to date.  And that’s when I realized that I didn’t write a post about Halloween.  So there weren’t any pictures of Andrew and Sylvia in costume.  For heaven’s sakes, that just won’t stand.  So here at dotzourfamily.com, the standard mode of operating has shifted.  I used to walk around composing blog posts in my head.  Something would happen, and I would feel all twitchy until I wrote it down.  It was an “as it happens” kinda blog.  I also spent time writing blog posts that were less about what was happening and was more about what I was thinking.  Personally, I’m more interested in reading blogs that fall into the latter camp.

However, in the recent past, my blog posts provide framework to photos.  They’re written to record the passing of events in our lives and to share stories about our days with our far-flung family and friends.  But…perhaps because my mind and energy is so heavily invested in my photography business…my blogging is much less about keeping me sane by sharing rich stories and reflections.  I do like to write, so maybe one day the wheel will turn and I’ll go back to that mode of blogging.

In this current photo-oriented mode of blogging, I edit and upload pictures to Flickr as the events happen.  Then when I feel motivated and have a chunk of time, I write a post about each event.  The time is now.  From October 31 – January 1, lots has happened.  Many photos have been taken.  And they will now be shared on this blog.  Stay tuned day by day!

********

For our first post (note the new, larger photos!), you can see Sylvia-the-princess trick-or-treating at Donna’s on Halloween.

10-31-11_Halloween_007

10-31-11_Halloween_015

This little girl’s dress and viel were made by Granny.  So cute!

10-31-11_Halloween_034

10-31-11_Halloween_036

Aunt Melanie had helped us make our pumpkins.

10-31-11_Halloween_039

Here’s our trick-or-treating crew, Sylvia (pink princess), Rayna (witch), Alivia (scary bride), and Andrew (Darth Vader).

10-31-11_Halloween_052

It’s always fun to visit our neighbors on Halloween!  There’s Cindy.

10-31-11_Halloween_059

And here’s Jenny…

10-31-11_Halloween_063

Andrew and Alivia have the trick-or-treating etiquette down pat.

10-31-11_Halloween_065

Here’s our sweet neighbor Mary.

10-31-11_Halloween_079

This year for the first time, we ventured a bit beyond the confines of our dead-end street.  We went around the corner!  We have about nine neighbors that we see every year.  And Andrew, Alivia, Rayna, and Sylvia are the only kids who generally trick-or-treat on our street, so they get special treatment.  But this year, we trick-or treated from some unknown neighbors.  The kids are getting bigger!

Our tactic with Halloween candy is to let the kids eat as much of the stuff as they want on Halloween.  Post-trick-or-treating, there’s a bit of a gorge.  The kids combined all their candy and munched away on their favorites.
Then after they went to bed, I put about 80% of the candy in a bag for Bryan to take to work.  The remaining candy went into a bowl in a hidden, high spot.  The kids got to take a piece out after each meal (including breakfast!) for the next few days, and then, remarkably, it disappeared without a whisper.

Such cute kids!  It’s fun to have Halloween traditions that we all anticipate and enjoy together.

Home again!

Bryan and I are back home after ten great days in Texas.  I know I’ve had a good, long vacation when the idea of being back home again makes me feel oh-so happy.  Bowser and Spook are really, really glad to have us home again too.  Such affectionate kitties!

WordPress, the platform on which I write this blog, just did a nice new upgrade.  It made many things slicker and more streamlined, but to my dismay, it broke the plugin I use to pull my photos into blog posts from Flickr.  I’ve tried a couple other similar plugins, but those too are broken.  I’m hoping that all those lovely people who spend their time making plugins feel quickly motivated to solve this problem.  In the meantime, I’ve got to figure out how to share pics.  I can just upload them to Wordpess, but I’ve got this whole system with Flickr, and I try to make photo-stuff more automated rather than less!

OK, I just found a psuedo-solution, so I think I’ll spend a little bit of my very quiet Monday, January 2 snuggling with Bowser (who’s nestled on my lap in front of my laptop) updating my blog.

12-28-11_TexasVacation_095Happy 2012!