Random Christmas Snapshots

I was going to do several blog posts highlighting our various Christmas activities, but as usual, time got the better of me. Since one of my New Year's resolutions is to be a better blogger (on both my personal and photography blogs), I figure better late than never, right? So if you feel like reading a novel, grab some cookies and hot chocolate (unless your New Year's resolution is to start a diet, in which case, I guess you can grab some carrot sticks) and sit back and read for a bit. Otherwise, there will be a bunch of pictures, so feel free to scroll at will. ;)

We had an amazingly blessed Christmas this year - so much more than I ever could have hoped. Even though I missed our extended family desperately, I felt like they were here with us this year in so many ways.  And while it was difficult to not have any grandparents or cousins around to share in the Holiday traditions, it also forced us to enjoy our own little family and create some new traditions for ourselves.

Due to a number of various factors, we spent a lot of time at home this December. I debated putting up the tree, because I was worried that a certain busy little toddler would spend her days removing the ornaments. I was right – Sparky was entranced by the lights for about 1 millisecond before she noticed the various baubles adorning the tree. She spent the next 3 weeks removing every ornament she could reach and hiding them in various cubby holes around the house. The closer we got to Christmas, the higher the ornaments were being placed on the tree to prevent her from removing them yet again. This caused the tree to look very imbalanced both in color (I like my ornaments placed just so to ensure that there aren’t too many ornaments of one color in any given place) and ornament placement. However, I was glad that we put the tree up – it just wouldn’t have felt like Christmas without it.

I didn’t manage to get a full-length shot of the tree that I liked this year. We put it in front of the window, but it’s such a wide window that there are two sets of blinds as window coverings, and I couldn’t get a shot without the funny blinds and the bookcase in the background. Here are a couple of “detail” shots, though.  Next year, if finances permit, I’d LOVE to get a white tree – I think my candy-colored ornaments would really POP against a white backdrop.

Ornaments01

Ornament01

It was so much fun to have a mantle this year. It was a great place to display the nativity sets that my mother-in-law has given me over the years. We also used the mantle to display the Christmas cards we received in the mail (The Princess LOVED going to the mailbox each day in the hopes that we had received another card). Next year, I’d like to get some more of the sparkly, candy-colored snowflake ornaments like the ones on my tree and make a garland to decorate the mantle – I’m thinking I want to go all Winter Wonderland next year. 

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I did a lot of baking this year – both with a good friend (we delivered plates of goodies to some friends – something that I’ve always enjoyed doing with my mom and was glad to be able to do again this year) – and with The Princess. I’m still learning how to relinquish control and my need for perfection when I bake with The Princess. I’m still a work in progress, but I think I’m getting better. I’m trying to tell myself that she’ll never learn how to measure/stir/pour/etc correctly unless I actually give her a chance to do rather than just observe.

This year, we baked homemade gingerbread to make gingerbread houses. I learned that I don’t like the smell of molasses (somehow, I’d always thought it would smell sweeter – it reminded me of Mr. Yoshida’s sauce – which is fine for cooking savory food, but not what I was expecting when I was baking something sweet). But when the gingerbread came out of the oven, the house smelled heavenly. I think I’m going to bake gingerbread every year.

The whole point of making gingerbread rather than buying a kit was to save money. We had plenty of leftover Halloween candy (as well as candy from Easter and last Christmas), but for some reason, I felt like I just HAD to buy egg white powder to make the royal icing. I’m not sure why, because none of us like royal icing, and it’s not like we would actually consume it so regular egg whites would have been fine – but for some reason, I felt obligated to follow Alton Brown’s instructions to the letter. I found egg white powder at WalMart, and when I glanced at the shelf, I saw a price tag of roughly $1.50. However, when I finally made it through the checkout line (I picked the line with the checker who felt the need to discuss her Christmas vacation drama in every minute detail with the colleague she was checking out before me), I realized that the egg white powder was quite a bit more expensive than that (somewhere around $6.00). At this point, Sasquatch was still in the car with the kids because I’d promised I’d only be in the store for “ten minutes,” so I didn’t bother going back and checking the price. When you consider the fact that we didn’t make our gingerbread houses until Christmas Eve, and most stores had their kits on mega sale at that point, I didn’t really save any money on the gingerbread house in the end.  Although I did bake enough gingerbread for two houses, so I guess I still saved a bit of money. And I now have enough egg white powder to pipe sugar cookies for every major holiday in 2010 (I LOVE decorating sugar cookies with royal icing – I just don’t like to eat them).

The reason for making two gingerbread houses was my aforementioned need for perfection in certain things (this perfection obsession is the reason I gave up scrapbooking before The Princess was even old enough to sit up on her own). I knew that The Princess would want to be very involved in the decorating process, and I’m not very good at sharing. So I made one house for her, and one for me. I think next year, I’ll make the pattern about half the size of the houses we made this year, and hopefully I’ll be able to get Sasquatch and Sparky in on the decorating action. Just maybe not on Christmas Eve. :)

Here’s the gingerbread house that The Princess decorated. I especially love the landscaping she created with green and white Nerds.Gingerbread01

 Gingerbread02

Here’s my house. I’m kind of giddy over the little Christmas lights and the royal icing icicles.

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I think this is enough of a novel for one blog post – I’ll talk about Christmas day separately so that I don’t bore everyone to tears.

In the meantime, I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas. And I truly hope that 2010 is a year of peace, joy, love, and prosperity for every amazing person who has touched my life in some way this past year.

Jen M  – (January 1, 2010 at 3:00 PM)  

I love your pictures! How do you make ordinary things look extraordinary! I really need new family portraits done, but can't talk myself into taking down the ones you took. They are so beautiful, but I do have one more child now so..... when are you coming to UTAH?

Shayner and Ern  – (January 2, 2010 at 7:16 AM)  

Wow, these pictures are freaking AWESOME. I agree with Jen. You can make ordinary things look so etraordinary. It's amazing. We really missed you guys this year. Next year will be a year spent together as a family. That is a promise. I can't wait for the next blog. I truly enjoy reading your blog. It feels like your not so far away.

esianoyam3  – (January 2, 2010 at 10:09 AM)  

Thanks, guys. Sometimes it's fun to take the camera out and photograph something that stays still. I'm working on remembering how to see creatively - it used to come so naturally, and now I have to work at it. :)

Jen, I'm really REALLY hoping to make it home sometime this summer - probably late July or early August. I'd LOVE to photograph your family while I'm there - maybe do some sort of "urban expedition" downtown (you can get really creative on the clothing for an urban session). If you'd like, I can give you more details once I know for sure if we're going to be able to make it out there this summer. I'd like to be able to do lots of sessions while I'm there, so if you know anyone else who needs a photographer, let me know. :)

Erin, I'm really hoping this year brings great things for both of our families - it would be awesome to be able to spend the holidays together.

Sarah and Devin  – (January 2, 2010 at 6:15 PM)  

i love these images Shallyse! And your gingerbread houses are AWESOME! I'm so glad you guys had a good Christmas : )

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