Wednesday, December 30, 2009

What Makes Me Happy

Deborah passed an award on to me today (thank you!) and I thought it would make a great way to wrap up the past year. The rules are simple:

10 things that made me happy in the past year....

1) My husband
2) Unsolicited snuggles from my kids
3) a cool start to the summer
4) the best babysitters (aka Grandparents)
5) working towards fulfilling my goal of getting Alphabitty Moments published
6) my new friendship with Kristina
7) being able to provide for my family through photography and blog book design
8) having my photographs used in the new park brochures & next year's annual pass
9) watching Sam's preschool class sing during performances
10) participating with Julia at her school

I'm not going to list 10 bloggers, but instead invite you all to write a '10 things that makes you happy' post of your own - if you do, leave me a comment so I can come read your list OK? One of my goals in 2010 is to be better about leaving comments. I've left more comments in the past week than I did in the past 6 months so I'm on the right track. Anyway....have a safe and happy New Year's and thanks for taking the time to visit us here in BearCountry!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Dog Gone It!

"I've had enough!"

Would you buy my book?

hypothetically speaking of course. One of my goals during my vacation this month was to send out a few query letters to agents in hopes that I can find a publisher for Alphabitty Moments. It wouldn't be the same version that won this contest, but a more generic version that would apply to a wider audience. If you were in the market for a book that highlights the little things of childhood would you prefer to buy a book that already had photographs for each letter of the alphabet or would you rather stick your own photographs into a ready made album similar to this tribute album from Hallmark?

I'd love your feedback!

Go tell it on a mountain...

a snow mountain that is. We have six of these right outside our front door. These pictures were taken on the 26th before another 2 inches of snow fell. If you are turning green with envy let me remind you of this post and share the fact that in order to make these big snow mountains, plows and a Bobcat have to scrape all the snow from the park roads and our driveways at all hours of the day in order to build these big piles.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas 2009 was the year

that we had a very very white Christmas

that we rescheduled our normal Christmas Eve gathering because of snow

that we got stuck in my inlaw's driveway on Christmas Day

that Sam got run over by a sled

that Mommy got kicked all night by Sam when they slept on the couch

that Julia had a major meltdown at two Christmas gatherings

that Sam helped Grandma get 2000 point in one turn during a game of Fill or Bust

that we came home after three days at Grandma and Grandpas to find huge snow mountains in the park

that 27 members of my mom's family gathered for Christmas

that we walked on the creek (beautiful, but I'm not a fan of walking on ice where I can HEAR the water moving underneath me)

that Sam hugged the box of his new aircraft carrier until we said he could open it

that PapaBear said, "go take a nap, I'll unload the van."

that of the snowball makers

that the weather forecast was wrong about when we'd get snow.

of the snow jump.

that Julia went around and hugged each member of our family while we in the middle of our traditional time of singing carols by the tree

that my Christmas post didn't include a single picture

Now it's your turn to finish the sentence, "Christmas 2009 was the year...."

Sunday, December 27, 2009

On the....





Were you counting? If not, that was 5 goes. One for each day we celebrated Christmas in the past 5 days. As you can imagine we are all tired and worn out so I'll leave the Christmas wrap up post for another day, but I had to share these images from sledding at my Inlaw's house this afternoon. They have a great hill and I've had fun playing with the manual settings on my camera to capture these blown out action shots. Fun times were had by all, except maybe the little guy who hit his face in the snow after his blue sled hit the jump and planted him right in the crustiest part of the snowbank.

Friday, December 25, 2009

25 Days of Christmas Ornaments - Day 25

Twenty-five days of memories! Oh how I will love looking back on these pages in my blog book some day! Thanks for joining me on this adventure! It sure has been fun!

There wasn't a whole lot of rhyme or reason to which ornaments I chose to write about and I had no idea which one I would use for the grand finale...until I saw the picture of this one. It is so simple, yet so detailed.

Kinda like that night long ago.... A simple couple came to Bethlehem to be registered and yet all the details were set in place by God.

Today is Christmas and for most of us that means a day spent opening gifts and enjoying the company of family. I pray that we will always remember the words on the sign my friend Karen gave me for Christmas last year:

Christmas Blessings from Bear Country!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

25 Days of Christmas Ornaments - Day 24

I haven't shared very many ornaments from my childhood this year and before any more of them fall apart after 30+ years of use, I'm going need to do something about that, starting today. This angel is from my second Christmas. I would have been 1 month away from turning two. It just so happens to be made of felt. Ironic since I have a slight obsession with felt ornaments. :)

I also happen to collect angels, or at least I used to when I until I went to college and realized that I wouldn't have any place to display them after I moved out of my parent's home. I love how peaceful she looks and that the flowers she is holding are still intact. I also love that the year is written in my mom's handwriting.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

25 Days of Christmas Ornaments- Day 23

We bought this ornament in the Spring of 2006. I was 3 months pregnant with Julia and we were on vacation out West. We had cancelled our vacation because I was too sick to travel, but three days we were originally scheduled to leave, I suddenly started feeling better and we rebooked our tickets to Las Vegas. Our ultimate destination was a little town called Independence, California where our friends work for the National Park Service, but we spent a night in Las Vegas on the way back home. We had 12 hours to kill our last day since we took the red eye home so Sam would sleep. (He was 18 months old at the time).

There is plenty to see and do in Las Vegas for 12 hours so we kept ourselves plenty busy. I was so glad to be feeling human again and Sam loved all the sights and sounds of the city. Our only souvenirs came from the M&M store. I'm guessing I'm probably not the only one who can say that. It's impossible to leave there without something. We got Sam a T-shirt and we picked out this ornament for our tree. Now that Sam is 5, we have allowed him to start watching the StarWars movies so he's claimed this ornament for his tree.
Despite what the picture of his tree shows, it now resides at the very top of the tree, right next to the star on his "waiting chain".

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

25 Days of Christmas Ornaments - Day 22

Twenty-two days of blogging in a row! What was I thinking?!?! Sorry you had to wait so long today for the MckLinky, we've been going nonstop all day. Apparently we are expecting a couple feet of snow to fall between the 23 and the 25th and we've adjusted our travel plans accordingly. Nothing major, but enough that we had to get everything ready today. That made for a busy busy day of packing, washing, baking, sewing, wrapping, coloring, and running errands. We squeezed in some time outside by skipping naps (Note to self: DO NOT TAKE A 3 YEAR OLD THAT HASN'T NAPPED SLEDDING.) Julia was beat by the time we came inside and had an hour long meltdown. You know the kind where you move the crib to the middle of the room so she doesn't pull stuff off the walls? That kind.

Speaking of snow....this is one of the most ornate ornaments on my tree. I received it in an ornament exchange during college. The snowflake was my sorority's symbol. It stood for individuality and the diversity of our group was well known around campus. Most sorority gatherings involved some sort of alochol and I was determined that for the Christmas party my senior year, that we could in fact, enjoy a fun and meaningful night without jungle juice, Boones, or Screwdrivers. I suggested an ornament exchange instead. I know, I'm a dork. But you know what? It was lovely! Our house, known as The Blue House, hosted since all 80 of us fit in the living room. When I see this ornament on my tree I recall the fun (and crazy!) years of college, especially the times spent with my 'sisters'.

Thanks to everyone who participated in Ornament Carnival this year! If you didn't get a chance to but think you might want to next year I suggest taking pictures of your ornaments before you pack them away - it'll make posting much easier for next year! I know, more than half of my pictures were taken last year the afternoon I took down my tree.

Have a Very Merry Christmas! (I'll be posting the remaining 25 Days of Christmas posts by schuduling them to post every morning - see you all after the 25th!)

Monday, December 21, 2009

25 Days of Christmas Ornaments - Day 21

One of the unexpected parts of this carnival is the habit I've gotten into of writing a little bit about what's going on at our house as part of this post. Most of it isn't all that exciting, but the whole point of blogging for 25 straight days was to record memories for my kids. Being able to share a slice of life each day is doing just that AND we're sharing ornaments. Double bonus!
I really wanted to share pictures from our time outside yesterday but between my camera battery dying and my computer being completely full, I wasn't able to get the pictures onto my computer. Instead, I will share this ornament that I got for Sam in December of 2006. I remember buying it at Target and thinking it was a good representation for my two year olds first winter of being able to go down a small hill by himself. The only wooden sled we have is my childhood toboggan, but I doubt anyone makes a plastic sled ornament. Anyone ever seen one?

PapaBear and SisterBear are waiting for me upstairs - we've got a block tower building date and I can hear that construction has already started. Have a blessed day!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

25 Days of Christmas - Day 20

There are 15 other things I should be doing instead of blogging, but isn't that how every day is? We've been SO busy the past few days that I found myself falling asleep sitting up on the couch this morning. Oh how I would love to crawl under the covers and take a long winter's nap, but we have a Christmas program today and a family gathering afterwards. Yesterday we went to Santa's workshop and then to another Christmas party. How is it that if you put your kids to bed 4 hours after their bedtime they only sleep 22 minutes past their normal wake time? At least they are asleep now and it's not even noon!

We woke to a fresh blanket of snow so we went out to shovel and go sledding. I'm all for getting kids outside often and making sure they get lots of fresh air, but I'm not afraid to admit that today was the first time we played in the snow this winter. All it takes is one bad experience at the beginning of the season and then they don't want to go out ever again. It was too cold for the past two weeks to guarantee a good experience so we waited. Today was the day! They loved helping Daddy shovel and if I hadn't' gotten cold, I think they would still be out there sledding!

Now I'm sitting by the fire, looking at my tree, trying to stay awake long enough to shower, pick up the house, and pack up jammies and play clothes for the rest of the day's activities.

One of the ornaments I can see is this one. My mother-in-law gave this to us in 2006 for Julia's first Christmas. Our family was complete with our son and daughter. To me, this ornament represents the love of family, the answer to our prayers, and the dreams of all of the Christmas to come as this family of four.

Friday, December 18, 2009

25 Days of Christmas Ornaments - Sam's reindeer

When I saw this metal reindeer, it reminded me of cookie cutouts and 2007 was such a fun and messy year of cookie decorating that I thought this was the perfect ornament for Sammy.

Sorry to keep this so short today, but I'm going on very little sleep and have two activities to attend today. Thank goodness we gathered everything together yesterday or I'd be scrambling right now! Have a blessed weekend and I'll 'talk' to you all tomorrow sometime.

Oh, and if this happens to be your first time in BearCountry, go ahead and check out the links under my header for more info on how you can still participate in the 25 Days of Christmas Ornaments (or at least start taking pictures of your ornaments for next year!).

25 Days of Christmas Ornaments - Day 18

Tonight the kids and I painted an ornament that I picked up at JoAnn fabrics. I really like the idea of having a photo ornament each year, but they can be pricey and heavy. While at JoAnn's I found a wooden star that we painted with metalic paint and embellished with gold glitter glue. It was easy, it was quick, and it will remind us of Christmas 2009. Not too bad for 99 cents! I originally went to the fabric store to purchase holiday fabric and I'm so glad I did! It's 60% off right now and there probably won't be much left by the time Christmas has come and gone. My plan is to sew gift bags in time for next year's gifts. I bought up to 1 yard of 6 different fabrics for only $1.99 a yard. The ribbon will be the most expensive part of the project, but the bags will pay for themselves in the long run. I do think about how we will miss out on the fun mess and chaos of a bunch of wrapping paper but Santa can wrap gifts if he wants and there's always the 25 days of Christmas books to unwrap.

Two years ago we painted some wooden ornaments in keeping with our homemade gifts from the kids tradition. I wrote a Sam quote on the back of the one he made for his sister because I thought it was so sweet. It says, "because we are friends too".

How do you handle sibling gifts in your family?

And while I'm thinking of it, here's the link to the fudge recipe I mentioned the other day. Now that it's cooled I can report that it is Y.U.M.M.Y!!!!!!!! 4 pounds of fudge that I will quickly dispense of before it adds 4 pounds to my hips. Some to the maintenance guys, some to MckMama's party tonight, some as Christmas gifts, and some for a Christmas party on Saturday. That should leave just enough for me to enjoy for breakfast tomorrow. How does the butter, cream, and sugar recipe compare to the ones with marshmallows or marshmallow creme? It reminds me more of the fudge you buy at the gift shops. The kind that holds it shape, but then the smooth velvety goodness melts in your mouth instantly. Mmmmmmm..... (If you decide to make it, go ahead and use the biggest pan you have - I thought it was way too thick for a 9x13 pan so I used my bigger lasagna pan and even that is a pretty thick piece of fudge in my opinion.)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

25 Days of Christmas Ornaments - Day 17

Christmas Eve is only one week away! Are you ready? I am. Or at least I think I am, until I remember that I still have 5 gifts to sew and some others to wrap. I'm still waiting for that one day where I don't have to watch the clock, I don't have to get out of my PJ's and we can lounge It's been a busy couple of weeks, but for the most part I haven't had to say no to anything. I feel blessed that we have so many friends and family to see and have been slowing plastering the side of one of our cupboards with Christmas cards. We sent ours out on Monday morning so I can check that off my list finally.

One thing I left off my list entirely this year is homemade gift tags. I made them last year, but I didn't have the time or energy for them this year. (If you want to read about how to make homemade photo gift tags click here.)

On to the 17th ornament now....this is a leather moose we bought on our honeymoon. Can't remember if we saw a moose on the drive to the Gunflint Lodge or not, but we have seen them up in the NorthWoods before. After breaking the first ornament we picked out before we even had a chance to bring it home, we opted for the rugged moose with the red scarf. He looks right at home on our giant wild Balsam. This is suppose to be the first ornament we put on the tree, signifying the beginning of our lives together, but I always forget to put it on top of the bin. Do you have a certain ornament that has to be put on first?

25 Days of Christmas Ornaments - Day 16

I'm finally getting into the swing of this vacation thing. My mind is still running a mile a minute but I've been able to slow down in the evenings and PapaBear and I even enjoyed a day/night away by ourselves on Monday and Tuesday. We managed to find the CUTEST wooden dinosaur ornaments for the kids and I can't wait to see them hung on our tree. I don't know about you, but I definetely have enough ornaments to do another 25 days of Christmas ornaments for next year (and probably the year after that!) But first, the ornament for today:

This one is from Sam's first Christmas. He was baptized the first week in December for a couple of reasons. First being, he had to be small enough to fit in the 100 year old baptism gown that my grandma's dad was baptized in (as well as my grandma, my mom, and I). Secondly, our church looks so pretty all decorated for Christmas.

This ornament symbolizes the day we vowed before God to teach Samuel (though his name was spelled Smuel in the bulliten that day) about our Savior and to commit to setting a Godly example for him.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

25 Days of Christmas Ornaments - Day 15

"Come here! Come here! Come look at our Christmas tree! See this? This is my cookie J!"

Julia insists that every one of our visitors comes goes into the library to see our tree this year. First she points out the Moravian candle and then as she rounds the side of the tree she points to this ornament - her J Cookie.

It's the ornament I picked out for her last year because it was the first year she was old enough to help decorate cookies. She was two after all - and in our book that means she's old enough to paint frosting and scatter sprinkles everywhere. Cookie decorating is a tradition in PapaBear's family that has been going on for longer than I've been alive. How cool is that?

What ornament do you want to share today?

Monday, December 14, 2009

25 Days of Christmas Ornaments - Day 14

I love this ornament, despite what it reminds me of. It's kinda hard to tell what it is, but it's an ice auger being drilled into an ice cube with a sad face. I don't like ice fishing so it's rather appropriate. Why don't I like ice fishing you ask? This is why. In defense of ice ice fisherman everywhere, I know that for the most part, people don't take stupid risks, but in my humble opinion, if something that goes wrong it goes very wrong, then it's not for me.

Fish don't taste that good anyway. (but don't tell my Grizzly Gramps I said that!

Click here if you want to read about all the other ornaments from the first 13 days of my ornament carnival.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

25 Days of Christmas Ornaments - Day 13

Today's ornament has a story and is a perfect example of why I wanted to record the stories behind our ornaments.
I remember watching Home Alone 2 in high school and hearing Mr. E.F. Duncan, Owner Duncan's Toy Chest tell Kevin to take two turtle doves. "I'll tell you what you do: you keep one, and you give the other one to a very special person. You see, Turtle Doves are a symbol of friendship and love. And as long as each of you has your Turtle Dove, you'll be friends forever.

I bought a pair of turtle doves that year and gave one to my friend Becky. Now every year I put my white turtle dove on the tree, I think of her and the years and years of memories we share.

Fast forward a decade and I bought a second pair of turtle doves. On one of them I replaced the string with an orange ribbon before placing it in the box to give to my friend Jennifer. I have been blessed in my life to be surrounded by great friends and these two ornaments symbolize that.

Speaking of friends, I've had several requests to see pictures from the night I had a group of friends over to decorate gingerbread houses.

I didn't take as many pictures as I would have liked because of how busy I was constructing a house for my kids to decorate and getting dinner on the table, but I won't soon forget how much fun it was to have a house full of friends, their kids, and a whole lotta candy!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas in BearCountry

When I contacted Tricia back in October about a redesign of my blog I also purchased a blue 'paper' so I could update my blog for the winter. I've been so busy that I'm just now getting around to uploading the changes, but that's OK. The beauty of this latest design is that it will work for the LONG COLD winter months here in BearCountry and not just for Christmas. Tricia makes her 'papers' from scratch so if you can dream it up, chances are she can make it a reality - she sure did for me!

It just so happens that Tricia is doing a give-away and you are not going to want to miss it! She is a very talented artist....very talented. Don't take my word for it. I can show you the proof:
See these two images? This is what I gave her to work with when I asked if there was a chance she could make it look like "4 the love of family" was carved into the bark.

Pretty impressive huh?

Not only did she make this from those two pictures, she also transformed BearCountry into a winter wonderland. Isn't she A.M.A.Z.I.N.G!?!!?! So head on over and enter yourself in the drawing and see what Tricia can do for your blog AND home!

Friday, December 11, 2009

25 Days of Christmas Ornaments - Day 12

Today's the last day of homemade ornament week and surprise surprise, it's another felt one. This one is Julia's and was super easy to make with things I had on hand. Alyssa was going to make yesterday's ornament out of paper and I'm pretty sure you can do the same with this one too.

I hope you were inspired by all the great ornaments that were shared this week. I'm sorry that MckLinky was being so annoying - Brent is working on the issue so hopefully next week will go smoother. Feel free to link up any and all of your homemade ornament posts from this week in today's MckLinky if you missed out or was the next day before you could get your link added.

There won't be a theme for next week, just keep doing what you've been doing - sharing the stories and memories associated with or ornaments!

25 Days of Christmas Ornaments - Day 11

Good morning! We're almost half way through our 25 Days of Ornaments already! Hard to believe isn't it? I have most gifts wrapped and under the tree. Others I haven't even bought. My Christmas cards are in the envelopes and addressed, (Thanks PapaBear!) but I haven't proof read and printed our letter yet. One thing at a time right?

Today I'm sharing an ornament that I made in Sunday School forever ago. These might be a little trickier to make these days since so many people send out photo cards instead of the traditional Christmas cards, but if you have some old cards, you can have some fun with toothpicks a little glue, and a pair of scissors. I must have thought this little bunny would feel nice and cozy in this little house I built for him 20 years ago....

Thursday, December 10, 2009

25 Days of Christmas Ornaments - Day 10

It's 9pm and I'm just now sitting down with my computer. That never happens. Ever. Today was one of those days I dreamed about as I was working until 2am day after day after day in November. My mom and grandma came to stay with the kids so I could get out by myself. They have been doing that for weeks but usually I would have to spend that free time working on blog books.

Not today.

Today I delivered some print orders and then met up with a blog book client to deliver her book. Erin was at the mall with her friends and family and the funny thing is that I recognized them and knew them by name. I guess when you read someone's blog from beginning to end six times, it's bound to happen.

After that I did some serious cell phone research. Thanks to those of you who offered your input via twitter! I really appreciate it since chosing a new phone is a big decision this time around.


Because we are trying to decide if we should upgrade to a plan that includes the internet. Right now I send 2-3 text messages a month and don't see that number going any higher. Being able to access email, blogger, and twitter on the go? That I can see myself using a lot. So here's the question: Does having mobile internet save you time or take more time away from what you 'should' be doing? Sure it would be convenient to be able to look things up online through my phone, but is it worth $30 a month? How will being even more available to clients and prospective clients mean more income?

What I really want to know is if I can read emails as they come in, will I be able to get right to work when it's 'work time' rather than spending 30 minutes replying to emails? Bottom line: spend 1 or 2 minutes here or there responding to emails or spend 30-40 minutes every time I sit down to the computer? I've heard how addicting smart phones can be and I don't want that to become an issue for me. How do you make it work for your family?

I'm the first to admit I'm also considering a smart phone so I can be better about blogging. There are SOOOOO many things that I didn't blog about in the last year because I didn't have the time. That makes me so sad that I didn't record the memories of a visit from our Denver family, the first day of school for both kids, a really great field trip, and the every day stuff that I don't want to forget. Is it worth $30 a month to be able to stay more up to date in my journaling? Like I said, a big decision! But I've taken enough of your came here for an ornament carnival and that's what you'll get even if it's only 2 hours until Day 11!
Homemade ornament #5 is another felt one. I made this reindeer in 2005 out of Sam's footprint and handprint. I traced them onto card stock to make a pattern and then cut out the felt before glueing the pieces together. Thank you to Grandma Rena for letting me borrow this one for the week so I could share it with everyone!

Beginner Knit Hat Pattern

I've been asked so many times if there is a pattern for the hats I make,  but I was too busy filling Christmas orders...