Passing down traditions: New Year’s Eve

imagesWhen I was a kid we had a really fun family New Year’s Eve tradition. First, we’d go to Blockbuster and pick out 3 or 4 VHS movies for our movie marathon (quite a splurge back in the day), and then we’d come home and set up our fondue pot…I always looked forward to it! *mental note: get a fondue pot* Our first course would be veggies in a tempura batter, next was meat (chicken, shrimp, steak), and we finished it off with chocolate fondue & fruit. Oh, and there would always be a crackling fire to set the ambiance. I was always the designated “fire tender,” not because I loved the mood, but because I’m pretty sure I was a pyromaniac. Haha.

Anyhow, our meal usually lasted the first whole movie. After that, we’d quickly clean up and then literally wrestle my parent’s queen sized mattress from their bedroom to the family room. It was quite an event. This was back in the day when you inflated air mattresses with a foot pump, so it was actually easier to move the whole bedroom mattress…we only did this on special occasions of course, like NYE.

Then we’d all cozy up on my parent’s mattress on our family room floor and continue our movie marathon until about 11:30 (we’d have it timed perfectly), and we’d watch the last 30 minutes of Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve & watch the ball drop. Then my mom would give us wooden spoons and pots & pans and we’d bang them outside (I’m sure our neighbors loved us), because that’s what she used to do when she was little. Then my sister & I would retire to our rooms, and our parents would stay up and sleep in the family room for the night.

It was such a fun tradition, and we’re carrying it on with McKenzie…although, we just go out for a nice dinner and bring out the air mattress. =) Ah, fond memories…did you have any fun family traditions for New Year’s Eve when you were a kid?

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He Graduated! Woo!

After 5 years working part-time at UPS, going to school with a  3/4-course load, and being an awesome husband and daddy, my hubbs graduated from UW-Madison! Now we just need a Rose Bowl win. ;) Here are some pics, as promised…2 weeks late. But I can’t believe he’s done with college, almost exactly 1 year after me. I’m so, so proud! In high school, he would not have been the kid graduating from a top-tier university. Funny what a good woman can do for ya. *pats self on back*

But now the Army is less than 3 months away. *eek!* Thankfully, we’re going to Cancun in less than 2 weeks now, which should be super-fun “alone time” before he leaves. ;) Can’t wait.

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What’s in a background?

My photography business has been (understandably) slower in the winter, so it’s wayyyy fun to get out and play around with McKenzie & my camera. I miss it! I posted these photos about making a wall-collage with the same pose for every season, which I think is a ridiculously fun idea. Funny thing is, I took the winter photo on the 2nd floor deck of our condo…who would’ve thought?

Surely if you are an experienced portrait photographer (or a photographer in general) you understand the importance of “framing,” but I’m just posting this to illustrate that backgrounds don’t have to be fancy! I only use natural light, meaning I don’t even have a studio. So be creative! Here’s an example:

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And since I’m missing my photography, here is another pretty winter one that I took on our snow day…this tree actually broke in half from the weight of the snow the night after I took this photo. IMG_0672 copy

Shopping’s all done. Phew!

IMAG0433 copyI posted a link awhile ago to the online children’s boutique, Mommy’s Little Sunshine. They’re always having giveaways, and I just got this “free” (plus shipping) headband in the mail. It was originally for McKenzie, but I commandeered it…I always wear ponytails, so I LOVE headbands in the winter. =)

In other news, I officially finished Christmas shopping! What a chore. But it’s always worth it to see the look on McKenzie’s face! That said, I’m relieved to be done (except for stocking stuffers). It looks sparse under our tree right now, but when Santa comes it’ll be packed under there.

We’re having Christmas morning at home for the first time ever…I’m pretty excited. Then during the day we’re going to my mother-in-law’s. Jon has to be back for work the AM of the 26th, so we’ll just leave the doggies at home.

On that note, Cali’s tail is taking nightmarishly long to heal. Goodness. I have to wrap it at least once a day still, and now we have a large syringe-cover taped to the tip so she doesn’t split it open.

Annnnnnnnnd LESS THAN 3 WEEKS until our Mexico vacation. =) I’m excited. As you can tell, I could definitely use a tan.

Annnnnnnnnd LESS THAN 3 MONTHS until Jon leaves for the Army. =/ I’m definitely nervous about that one. Since he’s graduated now, it’s getting more and more real. The hardest part is that we don’t really know what his job will be yet, or where we’ll be living. It’s just hard to picture the future, and that’s nerve racking.

Anyhow, Happy Holidays everyone. =)

Snow Day!

McKenzie’s school was cancelled today because of the blizzard “Draco.” We made sure to get out and play, and we definitely got some use out of her new snowsuit. I even wrapped Cali’s tail with a plastic bag so she could join us.

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We had fun sledding, making snow angels, and building our first snowman as a family! Logan (our Golden) LOVES the snow. By the end of our time outside, his coat had grown snowballs. IMG_0773

We put her brand new Disney Princess sled to use too, and we built a wicked-awesome snowman named Frosty. =) Overall it was a very fun day, complete with hot cocoa!

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In other news, Jon graduated on Sunday! I’m going through pics now, so I’ll have up some photos in a couple days. It was such a nice ceremony. We’re so proud of him!

a senseless act of violence & 3 small ways you can help

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I don’t know exactly what to say, but I feel like saying nothing would be a disservice to all the victims and families in Connecticut.

It’s in our nature to want to fix things or solve a problem, but I don’t think this tragedy should be used as an opportunity to proselytize or further an agenda. It should not be politicized. It should not be blamed on mental illness or gun control. Fingers should not be pointed. There is no understanding a tragedy of this magnitude. There is no reason. It is senseless. It is horrific. And it makes me sick.

Having a daughter in kindergarten, I can’t help but identify with the parents of the Sandy Hook children. I read this article today, and I started bawling like a baby. Every parent grieves for those parents. Those beautiful little children. No more bedtime stories. Christmas gifts that will never be opened. A gigantic hole in the heart of every family involved, and the country as a whole.

I found myself thinking that surely there is something I can do to help those affected by this horrible tragedy, however small. So I compiled this list of  three small ways YOU can help:

  1. Donate to the Victim’s Relief Fund or United Way of Western Connecticut. Proceeds will directly assist the victim’s families in the form of counseling for survivors, funeral expenses, and the establishment of a scholarship fund supporting the students of Sandy Hook Elementary.
  2. Write a card. You or your children can write a card and send it to the school: Sandy Hook Elementary School, 12 Dickenson Drive, Newtown, CT   06482. This is a way to help your children contribute as well, even young children. I also found this list of 10 Tips for Parents for helping your children deal with the tragedy.
  3. Sign this petition. I was sickened to learn that the Westboro Baptist Church plans on picketing vigils & funerals of the Sandy Hook Elementary victims, the same group that routinely pickets the funerals of US service members killed-in-action. Please take a moment and sign the petition to have them legally recognized as a Hate Group by the US Government. Share and pass it on.

Cuteness for Every Season

I’ve been planning a seasonal collage of McKenzie for our hallway, and I’ve got 3 out of 4 photos now! I took the winter one today since we have some fresh snow. I think it’s so fun! Maybe I’ll start doing 1 every month so I can make a calendar next year. Just thought I’d share…I can’t wait to order the 8×10’s so her adorableness can adorn our hallway. It will be super-easy to replace one every 3 or 4 months, nothing too crazy. =) Any ideas for spring? I was thinking something with Tulips maybe…? Or maybe in a puddle? I’m sorta drawing a blank…

McKenzieCollageOh. And FYI: Netflix currently has Pocahontas, The Aristocats, and Fox & the Hound! Some of my favorite kids movies (thanks for the tip Jesse)! I LOVE the songs in Pocahontas.

‘Tis the Season to be…Jolly?

Alrighty, I haven’t posted any “life updates” lately, so here’s what’s been going on with me:

  1. I’m super stoked that my tutorial “Elf on the Shelf” Mod in 6-easy Steps has gone viral on Pinterest. I had almost 1000 views here yesterday alone! That’s wayyy exciting for me. So I’ve been thinking of ways to keep that going. Suggestions welcome. ;)

    Add wire, velcro, and magnets to make your Elf more pose-able.

    Add wire, velcro, and magnets to make your Elf more pose-able.

  2. My amazing hubbs is graduating from UW-Madison next weekend! ((GO BADGERS, WOO!!)) We’re obviously excited. Then in March he will become active duty in the Army, and re-training will commence. Who knows where we’ll be in a year?! It’s both exciting, and somewhat stressful. It will be strange, since the Army is very different from the Marines in some ways, but I’m sure the lifestyle is similar overall. Details on this decision here, since I don’t really want to hear any more “How could you let him do that?!” questions.
  3. Since he will be active duty again, thought we could use some “alone time” before things get crazy, so I booked us a vacation to Cancun in January. We’re going to an adults-only all-inclusive for a whole week for some much-needed relaxation. I hope adult-only doesn’t translate to “swingers” because that would be really awkward. Haha. That said, I’m super excited! We’ve always stayed in the Riviera Maya, so I’ve never been to Cancun before. If anyone knows of fun stuff to do there, please share!cancun
  4. We decorated our tree! I have a particular affinity for real trees, specifically Frasier Firs. I think it’s because of the smell…it reminds me of my happy childhood Christmases, which makes sense because smell is the strongest sense linked to memory, so they say. We played Christmas music, and McKenzie had a blast helping us this year. She LOVES Christmastime, which is fun to see. IMG_7131
  5. We are having a family Christmas celebration here on the 15th, because my family will be in town for Jon’s graduation…which translates to: I have to clean the house and wrap all the gifts that are being mailed here. *sigh* I am mostly excited for the meal, which is going to be Beef Wellington (at the request of over 5 people). It’s amazing. If you are not a family of vegetarians, it is a must. Oh. My. Goodness. It’s a labor intensive recipe, but easy and delicious. And I don’t dare modify that recipe either…why mess with perfection?TU0602_Beef-Wellington_lg
  6. Cali’s tail has been a PAIN. IN. THE. ASS. Seriously. (If you are not up-to-date with story, click here for details.) The bandaging is practically impossible to keep on, due to her frantic tail-wagging whenever we come home. And then she gets nervous, because she thinks it will hurt and shakes for like 5 minutes. Poor girl. I’ve been trying to keep her cone-head off whenever we’re home, though. She gets her stitches out next Thursday (hopefully), but she has another appointment Monday for some more professional re-bandaging.
  7. I have been running 1 mile a day. This is HUGE for me. Granted, it takes me 10 or 11 minutes, but I run the whole way. Yay me! Gotta get in slightly better shape for this upcoming vacay. ;) I would love to get into running again. I LOVE running when I am into it, but it’s the “getting into it” that’s difficult. It’s so hard. [Insert whiny voice here.] But it’s worth it, right? *sigh*

So that’s pretty much what’s been going on with me. How is your December so far? Do you find the holidays stressful, magical, or a little bit of both?

DIY Christmas Tree Preservative

christmastreeThere is something to be said about real trees…they’re unbeatable if you ask me. First, there’s the search for the perfect tree. Then, the decorating. And the smell…there’s just no comparison!

Unfortunately, there’s always the vacuuming. Urgh. BUT with the help of a simple recipe I found for a DIY Tree Preservative, you can extend the life & health of your tree by several weeks! It’s pretty easy, and with 3 simple ingredients (that you probably already have in your home) you can have it ready in no time. Ultimately, it will be wayyy cheaper than buying the store-bought kind. And for me, anything that minimizes vacuuming is a must.

You’ll need:

  • 1 quart warm water
  • ½ cup light corn syrup (nutrients)
  • 1 teaspoon chlorine bleach (prevents fungal & bacterial growth)

Instructions:

  • Simply mix the 3 ingredients and top-off your tree daily! It has definitely helped our tree so far. I highly recommend it!

Also, a special thank you to anyone who has pinned my Elf on the Shelf Mod-Tutuorial! And please be sure to “like” Life So Lovely on Facebook to receive updates of new posts. =)

And then our dog ripped her tail off…well, just the tip.

Last night, our crazy, happy Yellow Lab (Cali) ripped the tip of her tail off. That might sound like a joke, but it was anything but funny. Oh. My. God. Blood was EVERYWHERE.

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Miss Cali Lou. Poor Girl.

So here’s what happened: We had just gotten home and I was rushing to snatch Eddie (our Elf on the Shelf) out of McKenzie’s room. Out of nowhere, Cali let out a yelp. I glanced at her, but she looked fine…she’s always had a high pain tolerance, but if she whines, you know it’s bad. I quickly stowed Eddie in a kitchen cabinet. Then Jon walked in the door behind me and said, “Why is there blood everywhere?!” And there was. Good God, it really was everywhere.

The offending closet door...

Offending closet door…

I quickly ran Cali down the the stairs and outside from our 2nd floor condo…when she was finally outside, I noticed her tail: WHERE THE HELL IS THE TIP OF YOUR TAIL, DOG?!?!?! There was blood pooling on the sidewalk. [Insert mini-meltdown here.] Now, I’m not “afraid” of blood, but between helping our poor injured doggie, and cleaning our entire blood-spattered house, I was suddenly extremely overwhelmed…

Jon came downstairs to comfort/bandage Cali, while I went upstairs to try and figure out what the heck happened. When I came back in the house, it literally looked like a scene out of Dexter…blood ALL OVER the couch, the recently professionally cleaned carpets [groan], and 5 feet up the walls.

I went into McKenzie’s room, where the initial “yelp” occurred, and looked around. Blood spatter was everywhere, but I couldn’t locate a specific spot where it originated. Then I saw the closet. Now, McKenzie has bi-fold closet doors with little horizontal vents in them. OH SH*T. I walked over and there was blood on the closet…AND THE TIP OF HER TAIL WAS STILL STUCK IN IT! *gag* It made me queasy, so I left it for Jon to deal with. I’m such a great wife. Haha.

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Yes, the tip of her tail is in a baggie. =(

I ran down and gave him gauze and bandages, then began the chore of cleaning the blood from the house. It literally took a TWO HOURS to clean everything. I had to whip out the Little Green Machine and scrub the carpets (a great investment if you have carpets in your house…and if you don’t know, COLD salt-water removes blood the best…from clothes, carpet, etc). Then I scrubbed the walls. I didn’t mean to be insensitive to poor Cali, but you have to be fast…once blood sets it’s practically impossible to get out.

Meanwhile, Jon wrapped her tail and put her in her cage, then carefully removed the tip of her tail from the closet door. Then he and McKenzie scrubbed the common hallways of our building and washed the blood off the sidewalk, while I finished cleaning the inside of the house.

After the cleaning was done, I called the local emergency vet. I was concerned because there was a little bone in the missing tip, and exposed nerve endings can be extremely painful. So Jon went to sleep (since he had to be to work at 2:30am), and I took her to the emergency vet.

After they examined her, they suggested either: 1) suture it closed and hope it doesn’t re-open, or 2) amputate another inch so there is enough skin to properly close the wound. EEK. We went with option 2, since I’d rather do it once, and do it right.

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Resting up after her partial-tail amputation.

A $500 vet bill and an overnight hospital stay later, Cali is now at home and resting in a painkiller-induced sleep…minus 2 inches of her tail. I can only guess that in her excitement upon our arrival home, she wagged her tail just right against the closet and it got stuck in the horizontal slat, then she pulled away and the tip stayed lodged in the closet. Poor girl. Send her your positive thoughts her way for a quick recovery!