Friday, October 29, 2010

Happy day to me from Shutterfly!

In early October, I received word that I was selected to host a Shutterfly party, which meant that I got supplies to host a party for friends with balloons, candy, sample holiday cards, and promo codes for free photo books and cards. A few years back, I was skeptical about the quality of Shutterfly's services, but I have since become a believer. We have received a number of books from them, and compared to other companies, like blurb, the books have really turned out well and they make it really easy to do.

I spent some time looking through Shutterfly's website today at their 2010 holiday card collection, and I must say that I was surprised at the variety of the designs. They have lots of different types of designs from contemporary to traditional. While I'm partial to sending cards that are reminders of Christ's birth, sometimes I have a mini silent battle inside my head with the cool, trendy card designs that just show the fun nature of the winter.

Their cards are reasonably priced (starting at 30 cents a card on sale through Nov 3) and incorporate the ability to add an additional photo and write a message on the folded cards. If you add personalized [holiday] return labels, you'll have the best looking cards around.

Here are some of my faves:

In the past, I've tried to find cards that are more than just a card... I want something that will give to a charity or organization I believe in. I was thrilled to see that Heifer International is one of the companies you can opt to give to if you select on of those card designs. Have you heard of Heifer? They give animals to people in poor countries to help them build their infrastructure. We've given to them in the past, and fully support them as an organization. Alternatively, you could support the American Lung Association and LIVESTRONG. If that's something you believe in, you should check those out, too.


I'm excited to do the final selections and attempt to get a good photo of us as a family. It will be Lauren's first Christmas!

Full Disclosure: Shutterfly is giving us 50 free photo cards in exchange for a blog post 
about their holiday cards; HOWEVER, I stand by everything I wrote.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Ve're Going Back in Time Ven Tings Run Slower

A few weeks back, we did what everyone with kids do who live anywhere near a rural area: we went to pick our own pumpkins and attempt to get the picture-perfect photo of our daughter with pumpkins. The place we went to is just a couple of miles from our old condo, and is an "apple orchard vit da Norvegian exposure..., an old fashioned orchard featuring selv plukk (U-Pick) apples, raspberries and pumpkins for lots of old fashion rural farm fun." It's exactly what you'd think of when you picture a pumpkin patch, complete with Radio Flyer wagons for just about everyone; a Eplebutikken (a little store with already picked apples, apple butter, and cider); pumpkins, and fresh cider; a 150 year old barn; a model T; horse drawn hayrides; corn maze; and loads of people on a Saturday afternoon.  The day we went was in the 80s, which is exceptionally hot, especially given we had our first snowfall by the end of last October.

We parked our car at the end of the row and walked down the dusty parking lot to the entrance. We found a wagon and made our way out to the middle of the pumpkin patch where most of the pumpkins were still connected to the vine. 

Did I say it was a hot day? Yeah, we were sweaty, and we all got a little bit tan-- including LE, which is the mark of a bad parent. Strike one.

Finding the perfect pumpkin was not at easy as it sounds.
Getting the perfect photo of LE with the pumpkins was not as easy as it sounds, either.

She didn't hate it as much as it looks... she is just a serious baby when she's thinking about something, and you'd probably be thinking hard too if your parents plopped you down on some strange, bumpy orange things that you'd never seen before.

The trip wasn't at sweet as we had hoped, but when I went back this past week on a bright, cool fall weekday when the farm only had 3 other visitors, it was just right. Driving home made me appreciate, once again, how much I love living near the conveniences of a city and the beauty of the country. There's not a day that goes by that I am not in awe of God's creation.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Ahhh, autumn!

Today is one of those days when you wake up, feel the crisp air blowing in through the open windows, and smile at the sun shining through the screen door onto our sleeping cat. It's a beautiful autumn day today. Makes me want to get some fresh from the farm cider, sit on our front porch, and just be still.

{And eat too many pumpkin bars. I don't know if we just didn't have them at our house growing up or if it's not a southern thing, but since I moved to Madison, I've fallen in love with pumpkin bars. I can't resist them, which is a bad, bad thing.}

Sure there are many days when I miss the warmth and tan lines that the southern sun brings, but it's days like today that I truly appreciate seasons. Last weekend, John, LE, and I stopped at the arboretum on our way home from church. The trees are not yet at their peak, but the reds, oranges, and yellows are starting to creep in. It smells so clean there, and the row after row of trees shelters it from street noise. Given that the arboretum is one of John's favorite places in Madison, we certainly don't go there often enough.

(Be sure to scroll past the photos)

LE's sixth month has been full of energy and constant joy. I love going out with her because everyone-- toddlers to senior citizens, extroverts to introverts-- love smiling at, touching, squeezing, and laughing with our little happy baby. She loves attention, and it truly is so fun to watch her make other people's days.

On the home front, LE has been pulling herself along the floor to get to where she wants to go. She sits up to play with her toys, but she can't get herself to the sitting position yet. She giggles and laughs until she squeals. It's so much fun.

Now that LE is getting up on all fours and is super close to crawling, we needed to get our house in order. The tables are bare, sound system down banned to the basement, decorations relocated to on top of our kitchen cabinets, and furniture rearranged. It's true that the next few years will look different around here, and we'll have to pay much greater attention to the items we drop (e.g. bobby pins, pencils) and the dirt that we track in. Did you know that babies lick the floor? LE does, at least. Strange.

John took a couple of videos this morning when LE woke up. In the first one, she was army crawling towards the kangaroo that GrandBob (my dad) brought her from Australia. The second one was her just playing on the carpet in our room. {pardon the dirty carpet}

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

We're off to Dallas

The girls from my SMU small group that are still in Dallas... plus the new additions!
Top: Meg, Ashleigh (preggers); Bottom: Randi, baby McKinley, Ashley, me, baby LE
The weekend after our trip up to Door County, we packed up and flew down to Dallas for our friend's wedding. My good friend, Ashley, let us stay with her and her husband in their chalet in the Park Cities. They have a really lovely home, and we couldn't have asked for better hospitality.

Even though it was a quick trip, and we would have liked to have done more and seen more people, I did manage to get in some girl time with my old SMU small group girls (at least the ones that are still in Dallas). It was sweet to have LE meet baby McKinley, though LE clearly did not like her. We had a quick, girlie luncheon on Ashley's back porch before John, LE, and I headed off to the airport.

Ted and Kimberly's wedding was a lot of fun, especially since one of my small group friends, Meg, was there, too. John was a groomsman in the wedding, which meant that I got some good one on one time with Meg while John was off doing groomsman things.

Even though Dallas is a little too uppity for me, I truly enjoy visiting. It represents my college years, the great fellowship shared, and memories that I fondly remember. It's always a trip I look forward to, and I wish I could afford to go back more.

Randi and her baby McKinley
LE really loves McKinley, can't you tell?

We tried again a little bit later. No luck. Look at her pointing. 

LE at her first trip to SMU

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Saturday & Sunday in Door County

I left out this photo from Friday night. LE was tuckered out and rested
in Grunkle John's arms while Graunty Kay finished making dinner.

Well, despite our hopes, Saturday turned out to be a gloomy day. It rained all morning, as forecasted, but then it continued to rain on throughout the afternoon and evening as well, which was not forecasted. This was no real surprise to me, of course, since this was my third trip up to Door County and this was the third trip that it was rainy and cold. At least this time it wasn't super cold like in the past.

Watching the chipmunk stuff his cheeks
(or, if you ask Grunkle John, it was the ground squirrel)
The five of us (Graunty Kay, Grunkle John, John, LE, and me) went to breakfast at the Sandpiper in Bailey's Harbor. They have pancakes as large as a platter. John and I split one of their meals, which included two eggs over medium, two outrageously large pancakes, hashbrowns, and bacon. I can't believe any one human being could eat that on his own. 

Naturally, we did what anyone would do in a food coma on a rainy day: napped. Admittedly, our nap was the shortest because LE wasn't in the mood to sleep. John, LE, and I headed out to Fish Creek to visit Julie,  John's second cousin twice removed (or whatever she is; I can't get it right and John corrects me every time). Julie runs a kitchen gadget shop there, and it's always impossible to leave there without realizing your "need" for a new gadget. It was good to see her and to have LE meet another relative.

We drove to Wilson's Restaurant & Ice Cream Parlor in Ephraim. Wilson's has been around in one way or another since 1906, and remains a cute place to stop for lunch with soda-fountain whimsy with juke boxes on every table (albeit they were all out of order this time around). John and I shared a reuben and a scoop of chocolate peanut butter ice cream.  Even though the one scoop was more than enough for the two of us, we somehow managed to finish it. We wouldn't want to waste, right? Apparently, we don't want a waist, either. (That was bad, I know.)
This photo would have been cooler if the new cars weren't there.
We spent the rest of the day lounging at The Little One, working on Kay's obnoxiously unfulfilling puzzle, reading, and doing a lot of sitting before getting ready to leave the cabin once more for the night to get an early dinner at Coyote Roadhouse on Kangaroo Lake. We finished the night off with vanilla ice cream and a freshly made cherry pie with cherries from Door County (a.k.a. the key to my heart).

On Sunday morning, we had a lazy morning recovering from the busy weekend. We were really tired despite the fact that we didn't do much. I know that I was tired because LE wasn't sleeping very well there, and now that I think about it, I guess John was tired because he was still recovering from working nights the week before.

Sunday turned out to be a gorgeous day! John, LE, and I drove out to where the Reis' tend to vacation-- White Fish Bay on the Lake Michigan side of the peninsula. That's where LE got her first experience of the beach. John took her for a long walk down the beach while I read in solitude. The beach only had a handful of people there since it was the weekend after Labor Day and school just started back.

LE was thrilled to be there. Can't you see the excitement in her face?

Toes in the sand. Ahhhhh. 
We drove up the east side to the Yum Yum Tree, a candy store that has a bathtub filled with taffy.
We stop there every time we go up to Door County. 

Then we cut across the peninsula to Sister Bay to stop to take pictures (but not eat) at Al Johnson's,
a restaurant that's famous for its goats on the roof.
Across the street is the marina, which is beautiful. I think Sister Bay is my favorite place in Door County.
We took one family photo at the cabin before heading out.
LE helped us pack up the last bag in the trunk.
It was a great, relaxing trip. Thanks for letting us stay with you, John and Kay!