December?

Whoops.

I think I accidentally fast forwarded to December.

Allow me to explain: it’s the first snow of the season up here in Gray Duck country. End of explanation. It all spiraled from there.

Last night, in anticipation of the snow (and just the general transition to frigid temperatures), we (I) decided it was time to move the porch furniture inside for the season. That involved shifting a lot of furniture throughout the whole house. But I was determined to get it done because once everything was in its winter position, I could set up the newest addition to our Christmas decorations out on the porch: a giant (fake, obviously) Christmas tree!

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(Our last surviving pumpkin is sitting proudly next to the tree!)

This morning I woke up to snow flurries. The ground was still green, but the snow continued to pick up. It just started to taper now about 6 hours later. We now have a few inches of snow piled up on our deck!

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I wasn’t expecting to be so excited about it! Usually the first snow of the season is kind of depressing. Here we go again. But not this time! This time I was listening to Christmas music while getting ready, thinking about Christmas movies, Christmas cookies, Christmas cards, end of the year calendars, presents for the kidlets. And then I remembered it’s not even Halloween yet.

I don’t even care! I just went for a walk through the gorgeousness, again listening to Christmas music (what up, Mr. Bublé?!), and actually teared up at how incredible it all was.

My parents have been telling me that they’ve noticed something changing in me lately. They’ve seen how thankful I am for everything and how much I appreciate my life. That really struck me today. It’s been a perfect day so far, but it hasn’t been out of the ordinary at all. We usually have the kids on Fridays, but we got today off so I’ve been taking advantage of the free day.

I’ve been able to find something to be grateful for in every situation. And when I’m in that place, I feel it. Deeply.

Isn’t that what I said December (and Christmas) was all about?

But, wait. It’s still October! Happy Halloween, Happy Thanksgiving, and then Merry Christmas!

Screw it!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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Snow Day

It snowed today. And I was not smiling about it…until my plans were canceled and I didn’t have to go anywhere. Then it was beautiful!  It didn’t amount to much, but the ground and trees are white. It should–should–be gone by Sunday so we can have our annual Easter bonfire. But this is Minnesota, so you never know.

Meanwhile, inside, JuJu was decorating for Easter, loving on her puppy, and eating a balanced meal of cake and pudding (she actually did have an extremely well balanced meal before earning her cake and pudding).

Poor Cocoa. He’s such a good puppy.

I guess it turned out to be a pretty good day! The snow won’t last and my sixty-degree days will be back before you know it!

Once again, I learned not to judge a day by its morning.

Wee Bit of Snow

We got a little bit of snow last week.

Just a little bit, though.

No, but seriously, it was the biggest storm of the season…and we only got about 5 inches. Which, growing up in a state where we could get a foot of snow overnight and still have to go to school, is really not a lot. The roads were a little more slick than usual and people momentarily forgot how to drive, but everything worked out. And now we have this beautiful new snow cover! (Our yard was starting to look green again!)

Cocoa was SO happy! I was working when the snow started and luckily, was able to leave early. When I got home, this guy ran to the door and begged to be let out! I went out with him to get some pictures and he was like a kid on the last day of school. He was free! He refused to come inside.

We also got this little one out in the snow! She was okay with walking on the driveway, but was very, very concerned about walking in the snow. We lured her out there with the promise of seeing her LLAMAS (she always screams that word). She even got to pet our friendliest llama, Millie. But then we tried to get her to play in the snow with us and that wasn’t as successful. My mom and I both wanted to sled down some of the snow piles, so we did it by ourselves, hoping she would think it looked fun. Well, she didn’t. But, I took her down with me anyways! She enjoyed Cocoa kissing her when we got to the bottom, but did not enjoy the rest of the process! (Two days later she wanted to sled down the snow piles!)

We checked out the snow sculptures at the Winter Carnival last weekend and Juliana’s highlight, and therefore our highlight, was running into this massive Great Dane! She expects every dog to be as friendly and cuddly as Cocoa, so she walked right up to it with an open mouth and outstretched arms, ready for a hug and a kiss. Luckily, this dog was very friendly. The owner even let J sit on the dog! Those were the biggest smiles of the day.

Living in Minnesota, we learn to live with, and thrive in, the snow. J definitely brought out my inner child and, even though she may not love it right now, has reminded me how much I love it! It’s fun to have these storms every now and then! But, I’m good with an early spring, too!

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So Many Stories

I have so many pictures and so many stories that I’d like to share with you all, but it’s hard to know where to begin. After looking through all the pictures, I’ve decided to start with the non-Juliana version and I’ll follow up later this week with the Juliana version, since she pretty much consumes my thoughts. That girl gives me enough pictures and stories to fill up way more than just one post!

So here’s what I’ve been up to for the past two months, excluding Juliana.


It was my mom’s birthday.

 

We surprised her at work with an orchid and her favorite lunch: root beer and a tomato sandwich. We also surprised her with flowers and sappy cards when she got home! What a lucky lady!

It was my brother’s birthday.

I added a new feature wall in my bathroom.

We picked grapes. (Many, many, many, many more pails than just this)

We made grape juice. (Many, many more batches than just this)

 

My poppies bloomed.

  

My Begonia bloomed.

 

We cleaned out the pantry.

The leaves turned.

 

I picked lots of Hydrangeas.

There were pears on our tree.

 

But the birds got them first.

I made cookies.

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Apples fell.

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We made many apple pies, dehydrated apples and apple roses.

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Tomatillos fell.

We made lots of salsa verde.

I carved a pumpkin.

And then I carved a bigger pumpkin.

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And then I carved a baby pumpkin.

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Charlie was…Charlie. (That’s Cocoa’s collar)

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And Cocoa continued to be the sweetest.


I’ll follow up later this week with all of the (abbreviated) Juliana stories from the past 2 months!

Twenty One

Yesterday was my birthday. I so wanted to be writing about how my twenty first birthday was the best yet. There were so many reasons for it to be. But, of the birthdays I can remember, it ranks near the bottom. I’m not a big fan of alcohol, so going out to a bar was never even a consideration for me. All I wanted was a day with my niece followed by a family dinner and some champagne. And that is what I got. But nothing went above and beyond that in any way. I went to bed feeling disappointed and hoping that this wasn’t foreshadowing the year ahead.

So, I’ve decided to write a shortened version of the post I wanted to write anyways. But now it isn’t about looking good; it’s about reminding myself of my many blessings. In the grand scheme of things, an off birthday doesn’t matter that much. But being grateful for all of my blessings is one of the most, if not the most, important things I can do in my life.

So, here goes. Instead of writing about twenty one of the things I am most grateful for, here are a few of the things that had me counting my blessings this week.


Since J learned how to play the rope game, one of Cocoa’s ropes has been rapidly unraveling. I got him a new rope for MY birthday. That’s how much I love him! He was so excited and it has become his new favorite!

This weirdo was on a roll the other night. My dad told him he was wonderful and all of a sudden he was begging for corn (and eating some) and following us out to the pool. He kept a safe distance, but he even walked back in with us after the swim. When I settled in on the couch, he snuggled up next to me and started purring. He is by far my favorite cat.

That same night, we had a spectacular sunset! I’m a sucker for a good sunset!

She was feeling a little under the weather yesterday, but her puppy made her smile within the first three minutes of her arrival at grandma’s house! Nothing can melt me faster than that smile.

This guy is so good at conversing with animals and babies. It takes me back to the days when I called him “daddy” and makes me so excited for the days when J can finally understand and laugh at her grandpa. (Although she already laughs at him several times a day)

This. Cake. It may be the best decision I made yesterday. Mmmmm. Extra moist vanilla cake with raspberry filling and whipped cream. We also made some homemade vanilla ice cream to go with it. It was simply divine.

One week old. Hard to believe that we’ll be celebrating her first birthday in less than two months!

I think the best few minutes of my week happened yesterday morning when J fell asleep on me. There’s something so special about a baby falling asleep in your arms. As I looked down at her, I couldn’t believe how big she’s gotten! Most of our interaction during her first few months consisted of her sleeping on me. But, she’s almost one. Time flies.


Even though the first day of my twenty first year wasn’t what I’d hoped it would be, I am encouraged by the fact that there were still moments of complete joy sprinkled in. No matter what this next year holds, I’m looking forward to more of those moments.

The Best Minutes

No photos today.

We had a biggish family party yesterday. Including my immediate family, 59 of the many many *insert mom’s maiden name here* relatives enjoyed a fun (and hot) and relaxing (and hot) afternoon at our house. The zip line was loved by kids and adults alike. I was feeling extra prideful because I made a good amount of the food we served. I didn’t have time during the preparation process to photograph it and I completely forgot to get a picture of all of my creations lined up on the buffet table. I made lots and lots of pulled pork, macaroni salad, lemon bars, sangria punch and helped with german potato salad and ooey gooey peanut butter bars! Mmmm, so good!

But, as has been the case for the better part of the past nine months, the best part of the day was watching my niece experience so many new things.

She shared her water table with some of the other little kids and even got to go swimming in our pool with her daddy for the first time!

But the best part of my day (and life) was the bouncy house.

We rented a bouncy house, as we do each year, and I was so excited to see her jump for the first time. She’s loved to jump ever since she realized she could do it herself. I had a feeling she would go crazy for the bouncy house, but there was always this tiny part of me that knew that there was a chance that we would get her in there and she would just bawl.

My mom laid down and bounced her on her stomach a few times and, oh my gosh, I’ve never seen that little girl happier. Then it was my turn to bounce her. I let her stand on my stomach while my mom jumped around us. J would always find someone to look at before squealing with delight and doing her cute little baby giggle. Most of the time, that lucky recipient was me.

Now, I’m not a fan of big parties. I don’t like being the center of attention and normally, when the adults enter the bouncy house or there’s squealing coming from it, everyone looks.

I didn’t even care.

At that moment, my world consisted of that giggly little girl above me, my mom behind me, my brother and sister-in-law on one side of me and my dad on the other. But mostly, the giggly little girl. I swear I could have cried. I felt this overwhelming gratitude sweep through me.

I feel so blessed to be able to love someone this deeply and be able to express that love so freely.

Those minutes in the bouncy house, looking up at that sweet baby girl and her radiant smile and hearing that little baby giggle, were the best minutes of my life.

Bring on the Rain!

In honor of our first “big” thunderstorm last night and of my “last” week of college (graduation is Saturday, but I’m still taking a few summer classes), I’m throwing it back to a piece I wrote for a class last semester. After writing this, I got really excited about starting my blog and was convinced this would be my first post. Unfortunately, I started my blog four months later…so it wasn’t really relevant anymore. But today, it definitely is.


It rained this weekend. In fact, it poured this weekend. The wannabe professional photographer in me was thrilled!

See, the thing about rainstorms just before twilight is that they leave behind the most spectacular sunsets. Those sunsets call to me. I start to get antsy waiting for the rain to let up so I can run outside and take hundreds of pictures.

There are always a few stages I go through during rainstorms:

  1. Oh, look. It’s raining. I know it’s supposed to rain, but it sure doesn’t look like it. Then all of a sudden, it is.
  2. Wow, it’s raining hard. One second it’s raining and the next it’s raining.
  3. Is rain supposed to be horizontal? The telltale sign that this isn’t just a rain shower. This is a rainstorm.
  4. I didn’t think it could rain leaves. When the driveway starts to look more like the jungle floor than a driveway, I know this is a powerful storm.
  5. Is that hail? The deck starts to turn white, but it’s too early for snow, and much louder.
  6. The sky looks brighter over there! Get ready! When the sky starts getting brighter, it’s time to slip on my navy blue rain boots and bright orange raincoat. This is also the time to get the camera out, figure out which lens is appropriate and, of course, make sure the memory card can handle the hundreds of pictures coming its way.
  7. Get set! Standing at the door looking like a freak, with my hand resting on the handle, I’m all ready to go.
  8. Go! The rain has slowed, the road is steaming and the sky is still dark from the rain, but the sun is shining on the tips of the trees, gradually making its way down the trunks.

Then the question is, where to start? There are so many spectacular sights and I know they won’t last long. I make my way around the yard and down the driveway, making sure to snap at least two pictures of every subject, knowing there’s a good chance of some being blurry. I can’t resist taking some puppy pictures while the camera is out.

I’m fully aware of how silly I must look while I’m shooting pictures. I’m a big fan of squatting and getting all kinds of weird angles just to see what I can come up with. Sometimes it feels more like I’m playing a game of Twister than taking pictures. Isn’t that how the pros do it?

Thirty minutes later, I’m back inside going through nearly 300 pictures on my computer. I’m disappointed to see that about 40 percent have to be deleted, but a few of the remaining pictures make me question why I’m not pursuing photography instead.

If you’ve never taken a walk after a rainstorm so close to dusk, I highly recommend it. It’s magical. If you’re up for it, grab the camera and pretend you’re a pro.

Bring on the rain!


Here are some of my favorite pictures I took that night.

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