Polar Express Snow Monsters

After the last Polar Express in 2015, I had said we’d probably be done with the Polar Express, but somehow the holiday spirit got a hold of me, and I decided to keep the kids up late, feed them a bunch of sugar and trap them aboard a train with us again. This year we were joined by our friends and their sons Jonathan and Joshua.


Matching PJs were a little less traditional. While on a girls trip to Niagara Falls, we found these adorable Yeti pajamas which I called Yeti Spaghetti at home (like the game). The kids wore them the whole season and loved them!



I also couldn’t help it and bought Yeti slippers. Too much holiday spirit, ha!


And, yes, I did get matching pajamas again this year. At least, matching bottoms. Look! A rare photo of me with the kids all smiles!







Jameson got to sing in the mircophone, and performed admirably. Everyone did the pajama parade, consumed cookies, and were thrilled seeing Santa. It still might not be our last year…



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Our Big Camping Trip

Last summer, we went camping with family friends in Pennsylvania. We had a great time! Both kids slept great and had a blast being outside constantly (I think Jameson could live outdoors as long as he also had access to an ipad)

We had a little pontoon ride and enjoyed eating, drinking and exploring. Jameson had been suffering from an abscess as a result of an infection that started out as molluscum (kind of like warts), so he couldn’t go in the water but that ended up not being a big deal.





Picking and digging up slugs and bugs was the highlight of the morning after our first night in the wilderness.










I think the kids were at a great age, but our younger friends were a little more wild. I hope we get an opportunity to camp a couple times this year as well even if it’s just our little family!

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October Visit with Aunt Holly

In October, we had a fun visit with Aunt Holly! Since I hadn’t had enough of the fall color yet, we decided to take an overdue trip to Holden Arboretum and explore their new canopy walk.

Enjoy the photo dump of our fun explorations:









I also enjoyed the opportunity to use my new wide angle lens again!


Hiked up and down 220 steps all by herself (with hand holding for mom and dads peace of mind)




Jameson was a big fan of the little zip line!


I think we were there just before the peak leaves, but it was such fun to get outside and we had gorgeous weather!




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Frozen Third Birthday

I never really thought I’d get into a character-themed birthday party, but since Coraline has been obsessed with Frozen for well over a year now, it seemed like the only thing to do. It was actually simpler than I thought it would be: borrow a Frozen birthday banner and hanging spirals, blow up some balloons, get pink table cloths and themed plates and napkins. And last but not least, bake the cake and put some Frozen figurines on top.




Her hair style is what we call “tiny tails”. We have pig tails, marshmallow tails (which are tucked up underneath in big loops), and tiny tails which are wrapped around the rubber band with a little clip. When they fall out (which they always do), they make the most wonderful spiral curls.



I made a homemade chocolate and white cake. And I have to say, I finally gave in to the “secret” ingredient for chocolate cake: coffee. And I am sold. No coffee taste, but a rich and moist cake results. Even though I don’t like coffee, I loved this cake.

Last year, she just had a family birthday, so this year we did invite a few friends. We still kept it pretty low key. We don’t invite her class, yet. Though its a bit different for her already since she doesn’t have the “family friends” that are her age like Jameson did. All our friends had babies within a couple months of Jameson, but not so with Coraline. But his friends are her friends still and she had a wonderful time!





Coraline insisted on buying the party hats at the store, even though no one really wore them at the party, totally worth it.

She loved being surrounded by all the love and attention. She didn’t mind people helping her open gifts, and she was delighted with everything she received. Makes me want to be a three year old!




We got her a music mat from B. Toys that I really like. It folds up and it is fun for everyone! We also got her a Merida doll (from Brave), who has the cutest hair. And princess shirts, sparkly fake sand that makes a huge mess, and a wand. She was one lucky little girl.


She was thrilled when Lily arrived later after the party started. She adores Lily, who likes to play dolls with her and color and craft.


Of course, the after party was almost as fun as the actual event. Floating balloons are really very entertaining. Jameson started jumping off couches to get to his, which, poor parental judgement aside, was pretty fun to watch.




She wasn’t really sleeping here, “just pretending Mommy”

I think that her party lived up to her every expectation, because a three year olds expectations are super simple. Friends, food, cake, presents, balloons, and bonus for favorite TV characters. And lots of love.

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Happy 2016

It’s February, I know. Happy 2016 anyway!


We celebrated with our usual family friends, and spent the night there again this year. It was a blast! We’ve been over a couple times since, and Coraline keeps asking about sleeping over. It was a huge success to have her sleeping in a sleeping bag, albeit on a cot.

Instead of Christmas gifts, we exchanged books this year. Coraline was in love with her Daniel Tiger Nutcracker book, and it was perfect because she has started ballet at school, now that she is in a preschool room.





Jameson is still in to paper airplanes and tried showing Jonathan how to fold them.


Meanwhile, Coraline literally ate almost the entire evening.


We tried to get photos of the kids in front of the tree, but you can guess how this ended:





Lisa got a selfie stick so we did take some photos including us adults, and the boys tried it out too.






The kids rang in the New Year with noiseless party favors, and watched a countdown with the Care Bears. We don’t have the kids stay up til midnight with us yet. Someday soon I’m sure they’ll catch on.


The boys all slept in Jonathan’s room, while Coraline slept with Brian and I. I think she was a bit jealous because she insisted on coming back out of her room just to hear the bedtime story. She didn’t really understand why she couldn’t sleep in there but she was amiable enough since she was so tired, I’m sure. Meanwhile, the adults rang in the new year with a game of Cards Against Humanity. It was a good night!


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December Birthdays and Christmas Celebrations

Every year, we try to visit my side of the family before Christmas so we can celebrate both Christmas and December birthdays! Jameson, Aunt Holly, and Meemaw all have birthdays during December. Jameson had some gifts to open from his birthday when we arrived!



This giant box is a giant frisbee, he was very excited! It will be a fun spring.


One very cool gift we got from Aunt Holly and Uncle Tyler was the Disney Playmation. The Playmation game bridges the gap between super hero and real world experiences. You can put on Iron Man’s arm, and fight a host of good and bad guys through various missions. Jameson played it a lot while we visited, but hasn’t pulled it out much since: we have a lot of new toys to play with! But one thing great about this toy is that I think it will grow with him!


Another tradition is doing puzzles with Meemaw! Jameson loves to work on puzzles. We had a really challenging puzzle this year because I bought a custom one for Meemaw from a photo I took during our visit to Venice. The 1000 piece puzzle took us several days to complete. Meanwhile, the kids worked on bear and dog puzzles. Coraline was only so-so at “helping”, haha.


Uncle Tyler also visited this year, driving up with his pup Athena. We were able to all watch Holly graduate from college! Brian dropped me off at OSU on his way with the kids, and Meemaw, Uncle Tyler and I watched her get her diploma.


One warmer day that wasn’t rainy we were able to go to the playground. Jameson, Meemaw and Grampa played fetch with the dogs (and got super muddy), while Coraline and I played on the playground. She found a new little boy friend that made her laugh while we were there, and was a real trooper walking almost the entire way there and home. No strollers for us!



Then we celebrated Meemaw’s birthday (she opened her puzzle from us early so we could get started on it), and that evening, we also went to our local lights show, another annual tradition.





We celebrated Christmas officially the next day after all the birthday celebrations were complete! Kids opened gifts, and were delighted at all things. Ralphie the Elf even came down to join us at Meemaw and Grampa’s house before he had to fly home to the North Pole. Coraline got a huge set of Frozen figurines, and Jameson got a set of Star Wars ships. I love the photo of his lips making the “vroom” noises a starship makes.




We did go see the Star Wars movie with Jameson while we visited! Brian stayed home with Coraline while the rest of us went to see the movie. We had to encourage everyone to come, because we had a gift for dad that that would only make sense after seeing it. We got him the BB8 robot!

The remainder of the day, Jameson was excited to spend with Grampa playing with airplanes! Grampa made him one of light wood that they shot into the air with a rubber band. Airplanes with Grampa is one of the things Jameson really looks forward to!




Christmas Eve morning, I took the kids to a breakfast potluck at my old friend Tracy’s house. A group of friends and her family were all gathered there, and it was fun seeing everyone and their kiddos and dogs.

Brunch with old friends and new friends

We left for home and arrived home with the light of the full moon.


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Autumn in Hocking Hills

My friend Emma and I planned a little getaway at a nice midway point for the two of us in Hocking Hills. We decided on it a little late for the October (fall leaf) rush, so I spent hours pouring over sites looking for a cabin we could stay in.

I finally found this little gem, which seemed like the ONLY (and I mean that literally) cabin available in Hocking Hills that weekend. The place is in Fiddlestix Village, a little village of 5 or so cottages in Hocking Hills. It’s literally within minutes drive of Ash Cave and the price was super reasonable.


We stayed in the Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum, which had the shakers lined up in the windows. It was adorable! It got very cold during our stay but there were heaters, thankfully. There was a little kitchen sans stove but it did have a microwave and mini fridge, plus a charming updated bathroom, and the bedroom had two beds so we didn’t have to squish together like our college sleepovers. Cause we’re adults now, right?

Okay the only bad part was the wifi was in and out. Apparently wifi at ALL was impressive, because there’s nothing throughout most of Hocking Hills. I should’ve printed some maps, but we managed with Emma’s proper GPS unit. We met on Friday night though at Ravenswood Castle for dinner though and that was a trek through some nothingness. I arrived about 40 minutes before Emma, and started to get seriously worried when she arrived!

Well I got this urge to go out and try to get a sunrise picture the next day. We were too late for that, even as early as we were up, but we did get to Ash Cave before anyone else arrived. We had about a half hour or more all to ourselves. I wish these pictures could fully convey how big it is!





The whole idea of our stay was to take photos, and it was so refreshing to be able to stop and shoot whenever the moment struck and not feel obligated to keep moving or get to the next thing. We stopped on this little side road for this shot.


After Ash Cave, we went to Old Man’s Cave. By this point, everyone else was awake and visiting as well, so it was a little crowded but still worth the visit. We gave the flexible tripod I have and the remote shutter a good workout. I was impressed it worked this far away!









From Old Man’s Cave, there’s some hiking trails that you can take to Cedar Falls (and further if you want). We didn’t quite realize what we were in for when we started. Lots of boulders, and a lot longer of a trail than we expected. We passed a mom with a stroller though and decided that if she could do it, we certainly could. I’m sure she didn’t realize what she was in for either though. She didn’t look super pleased.


The way back from Cedar Falls was more pleasant since we selected the other hiking route and as it happens it was much easier! We passed Rose Lake, which was beautiful. I think our visit was just a week or two shy of peak color, but since there was frost while we were there, lots of leaves were falling. I think we really came at a perfect time.


We ate Saturday night at the Inn at Cedar Falls, which was great, though the drink we had left us sleepy. It was ice cold outside, but I insisted on staying out to try to capture a night sky. I did, albeit it slightly out of focus (you can’t tell with this small size). Maybe next time I’m in the middle of nowhere it will be less cold, it was hard to manage the controls!


Sunday we had a nice breakfast and went to Cantwell Cliffs before heading home. Cantwell was beautiful in a different way again than either Ash Cave or Old Man’s Cave. It felt more out-of-the-way, which was nice.




I tried to capture the falling leaves, but it was almost impossible. I should’ve switched to manual focus but I’m not sure I would’ve been much better. I did get this one leaf mid-flight.





It was a great trip, a nice and fairly inexpensive photographic escape. I felt bad leaving the family in the middle of fall fun but it was worth the trip!

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4th of July Friends + Mini Pies

We tried to get a family photo this 4th of July (I did), but everyone wanted to get their swimsuits on instead of smiling. So… it’s not terrible, minus my double chin.


We went over to JP & Lisa’s house for a cookout, and the kids had a blast. Coraline was a little bit shy/anxious/unhappy for a bit until she warmed up.


Jameson jumped right in, though.




The kids had a couple pools to splash in, swingset, little trampoline, and these cool air powered foam rockets. It was all fun and games until Coraline got hit in the face (okay it was still pretty funny without injury). Coraline’s little foot had no power and the rocket went up about two feet. Jameson’s soared, but he wasn’t great a paying attention to his environment and who was around him.


Jonathan’s new swingset was a hit!



The meal was a full array of meat, and dessert was ice cream and mini pies I made. Coraline is more of an ice cream girl, but everyone loved the mini pies. I brought over blueberry, strawberry apple is pictured below.

For the crust, I followed my grandma’s basic recipe. For blueberry filling, I followed this, and strawberry apple, this. Idea came from here!

Mini strawberry pies


When we got home, I expected to send the kids right up to bed, but the neighbors were out, so we stayed up for a bit playing with pop it’s and sparklers.





Coraline LOVED the pop its. She played with them long after the other kids moved on to other things. Both of them were a little uncertain about the sparklers though – once was enough. It was a great day with friends, and wonderful to really enjoy the hot weather after a long rainy spell in June.

I also really enjoyed getting my bakery on. I don’t feel like I have time usually (or inclination, since we’re busy with making it through daily life), but I enjoyed making the mini pies which we ate all through that holiday weekend!

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My Golden Birthday

For the big 3-0 this year, my husband actually planned a surprise party for me with a couple of my friends! I had been joking with him on and off for years (he’s 6 years older) that he needed to be planning my party! As it happens he didn’t quite start planning that far in advance. I did get the surprise party I didn’t expect particularly because just a couple months before I gave him a pass and told him he didn’t need to plan anything special since we were both going on separate vacations this year.


My mom and sister came up to visit and said they wanted to do a special girls day, so I already assumed I was done with surprises. They took me for pedicures (which I managed to guess at before leaving the house when I saw their shoes on the cooler day) but we also got massages and manicures! It was an awesome surprise, and when I wanted to go shopping afterward they had a hard time convincing me to leave.


We pulled into the driveway, and I really didn’t get it until I saw my friend Emma’s car with her out of state license plates. I was reeeeally slow on the uptake and thought all the cars I was seeing before that were for the neighbors’ house.


To make the surprise even MORE awesome (is that possible!?), Brian had ordered Chipotle catering. It was an awesome make-your-own-anything bar all along our counters in the kitchen. Good thing I hadn’t eaten much yet!


The theme for the party was, of course, gold because it was my golden birthday when your birthday coincides with the date of your birth. I turned 30 on the 30th of April.


The kids’ favorite part were the balloons, which entertainment lasted for days.




My co-workers threw a surprise for me too, with a completely decorated desk, balloons ready to fall from the ceiling (since I had said that all I ever wanted were balloons to come down on my head — like the winner of a game show), and sash, button and crown to wear. We went out to lunch, had champagne and SO MUCH DESSERT.

Best coworkers evarrrrr

It was such an awesome week to celebrate! I really feel grateful to have such wonderful friends and family to celebrate with. However, that milestone birthday is really going to be hard to beat!

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2015 Beginnings

For New Years, we visited our friends JP & Lisa, and decided to stay over along with our friends Rob & Christina too. Our last New Years that we stayed over was a couple years ago, and let’s just say we didn’t want to repeat it any time soon. Jameson was up early, we had little sleep, and we were dead on our feet the whole next day.

A couple years later, and it didn’t seem as bad. And it actually wasn’t! The kids did a ton of snacking. I think that’s all we did was snack. I had Coraline’s hair up in these cute little tails, which is challenging because it’s hard enough getting one in, let alone two.



P.S. Coraline totally growls better than the boys do.

We always exchange a little Christmas gift too with the kids. I think next year it might be less, but we set a $5 limit this year (2 kids each, and two families, so that’s $40 in kid gifts right there so $5 seemed to work at first til I tallied it up!)

Christina made a gift for the older boys this year, which were a huge hit. Super hero capes! Jameson got a batman one.




Coraline got a cute little farm animal little people tractor set and book, which is always a win.



I tried to get the kids to sit on the couch for a photo, but that was not really working. Lots of hyper giggles!



We even practiced counting down to the New Year, but that also ended in hilarities. Jonathan came around to give everyone their New Years kiss!



To settle the kids down, we put on Frozen. The boys got into it, singing “Let It Go”. We also went ahead and put on the Madagascar “New Years Eve party” episode to celebrate the New Year a little early. This worked out pretty well, with the kids in bed at a decent hour.

The boys all slept in Jonathan’s room in new sleeping bags. Coraline slept in the pack and play upstairs with us. We were shocked, but she actually was really excited to get to sleep in it. She was a much better sleeper than Jameson was a couple years ago.




The next morning, we had breakfast and felt (relatively) rested. We stayed up too late and drank and played games, so even with good sleepers we were a little tired. It wouldn’t be New Years otherwise though, would it!?


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