Saturday, December 29, 2012

Family Traditions

One of our longest continuous family traditions is the family photo that we take on Christmas day (or whenever we celebrate Christmas together). I think I remember the first one we did was taken at my grandparent's house on Christmas Eve. It would have been in the early 90s. But it wasn't until ten years after that that it became an official tradition.

In the last few years the kids have gotten more involved in the process. They used to be satisfied with just pushing the camera button. Now they have progressed to coordinating the whole shot. Last year C was in charge. This year it was J's turn (she's the one with her hand on her hip.) Little J is excited that he is in charge for the 2013 photo. 

There was a lot of rearranging of people before we got to this arrangement. But everyone was still smiling by the end, so all is well.

Our newest tradition is the way we open gifts. Last year we started a fun guessing game. The first person gets a package, they guess what is in in and then pick the next person to receive a package. 

If you guess correctly what is inside the box, you get a point. 

I got one point for this one....because my sister had already opened the exact same thing. :) I'm not very good at the guessing game. Two years in a row I have failed to correctly guess the NCIS dvds that I received. And I knew I was getting them.
Little J was the official "hander outer." He made sure to keep everyone on track with announcing who the next gift opener was. Then he ran back to the tree to find them a package.

As soon as the girls opened their gift from gma and gpa, they were so excited about playing with them that they did not worry about helping with handing out the gifts. They left it all to Little J.

 My BIL did not guess correctly when he opened his roll of embroidered toilet paper. Yep, that's some fancy toilet paper.
My sis did get points for this frame. But she did not correctly guess the print that goes in it. She started crying when she read the print out load to us. You can check it out here:
My bro played along with the game better this year than last.

And check out this beautiful one of a kind wrapping paper created just for me. 

This year we ended the fun day with a game of Sorry. Little J learned that grandma takes her game playing very seriously. Her grandkids (or anyone else) does not get any special favors. Little J stuck out the many returns to Start and was the winner. 

Despite the fact that some of my family members gripe about our traditions, I think they really like them but they like giving me a hard time even better. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Merry Christmas

I don't have many visitors at my house. It makes it hard to get motivated to put up a lot of Christmas decorations. Especially this year, since I am still unpacking/moving boxes around my house. 

But I didn't want to be a bah humbug, so I did pull out some of my favorite decorations.

The garland is hung around my french doors. I ended up using it to hold my cards and photos. 

The wrapped packages were just a temporary decoration. 
My favorite tree. It belonged to my Grandma and Grandpa Hill. 

This is a new decoration. I bought it last year, but did not put it out at my bro's house. It is from A Holy Experience blog. 

This is my other favorite tree. This one holds some of my favorite ornaments. 
 A gift from my CFAs.
My dear friend and former co-worker, LLL, gave me this beautiful ornament. It was part of the M-P office ornament exchange tradition. I always loved getting LLL's ornament.
This was a thank you gift from a wonderful lady who was from Wyoming. When I started grade school, she was the school secretary. And she went to the same church as me and my family. And she lived "up the road" from us. I'll always have fond memories of Mrs. Cox.
One of my first years working in the 4-H world, the office secretary made these for each of us. Then in true 4-H fashion she taught all of us how to make them and we enjoyed a fun craft day at work.
This is another one of the office exchange ornaments. Most years, the ornament exchange was random. But sometimes, people found ornaments that were perfect for someone specific. For those times, the "draw" became a little strategic.
In 2001, my co-worker Mrs. R gave each of us one of these beautiful tear drop ornaments. If my memory serves me correctly (which if a rare occasion) this was the year following her very serious cancer treatment and recovery. I'm so thankful for many happy years working with her.
Another beautiful ornament from the office exchange. This was the only time I ever got one of B's ornaments. He (or his wife) always splurged and bought really fancy/special ones. It's a treasure - just like him.
This is a duplicate of one that I gave for one of the exchanges. I loved it so much I had to buy one for myself.
My dear friend T made this for me. And she taught me how to make them. I have a box full of supplies and have made many German Stars over the years. 
Joy was a gift from a former 4-Her. 
My volleyball ornament came from Goodwill. Not the prettiest ornament, but anything volleyball gets special attention at my house.
 I also bought this one for myself, simply due to the tulips. 
This is a new ornament from my new boss. He gave each of us a "mouse" ornament for Christmas. The real gift was the story that he told while handing them out. Each ornament related to the receiver. 
The naughty or nice list refers to the list of improvements I have been working on around the office. I think they have all been super nice. I'm not sure which ones he thinks have been naughty. Maybe my ideas just make him nervous and until he sees the finished results he considers them naughty/bad. But let me tell you, the office looks so nice - at least 200% better. 

I'm still working on editing the family photos from Christmas day. The traditional family photo didn't turn out so well. I'm trying to combine three different photos. As soon as I get it perfected, I'll post it and a recap of the day.

Everyone was in good moods, so it was a happy day! I hope yours was too.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

New Characters

I have two new characters to introduce to European Doorways. Even though they would be the first "R" and second "P" to be welcomed to this site, I have different nick names to give them.

Ferris and Cameron.

And if I ever referred to myself in third person, I would call myself Sloane for this particular story.

The story begins in a room packed full of kids, praise music is roaring, the bathroom line is growing and parents are picking up their kids early.

The request seemed benign enough - join Ferris and Cameron for a concert in Chicago. Leave at 3 get back at 12.

Then the plan grew. Dinner then the concert.

Then we just threw caution to the wind and forgot about our To Do Lists and decided to spend the whole day in the City.

The Ferrari was in the shop, so we drove the Accord instead.

The plan for the day was Chinatown. 

But considering we were on a road trip, none of us came with directions or certain expectations.

So we simply found a parking garage, and started walking.

 This was where our feet took us first.

That's Ferris on the right. He was the instigator for this adventure.
Cameron was camera happy. Directing and posing all day long. Maybe I should have named him John instead.
As we were snapping photos all over Millennium Park, it began to rain. So walking to Chinatown got pushed off till later in lieu of eating soon and staying dry. We enjoyed lunch at the Park Grill.

The last time I was at this piece of art, it had water flowing over the sides and a pool between each pillar. December weather changes things. 

While the park was relatively empty, State Street was not. We headed towards Marshall-Fields and the streets were jam packed. I would have loved to have seen the Christmas windows but I was not willing to fight the crowd.

So we just kept walking to the German Market.

And an even bigger crowd was welcoming us there. It was the most crowded market I have ever been in. 
Ferris was the only one brave enough to fight the crowd and buy something. 

Cameron and I just made our way to the edge of the crowd and took photos.

 Where to next? The Art Museum of course!

Back in the day, it was free. Now it costs to get in. And our adventure was not to be slowed down by taking tickets. So we kept moving.

But it would be slowed down by slow satellites and searching for directions. 

Who needs maps and GPS? "Follow me and I'll take you to a cool place."

And this is where the story gets complicated. We spent a good chunk of time exploring the ball rooms, art galleries and meeting rooms of this beautiful building. They were setting up for a wedding reception and the bridal party was in the museum getting photos taken. I don't know what I was thinking when I just stood and stared at them instead of taking their photo. It was a unique wedding gown and bridesmaids dresses outfits. The ladies sounded like they had an Eastern European accent. I am pretty sure I will never see anything like it again in my life.

This next series of photos is my favorite part of our day. 

"Let's ask this young guy to take a photo of all three of us.
OK, let's hold hands."

 "No wait. I want all three of us holding hands. Not just Ferris and I."

- cue hysterical laughter and tears

 "Come on Sloane. Pull it together and get in the picture."

 "Are you still taking photos? Wait until we are ready."

"Now stand on your toes."

On our way back to the car, we made one more stop back at the bean. Chicago at Christmas at night is so pretty.

 After a day long adventure full of new sights, laughter and lots of walking, we were ready to head to the concert.

Over the Rhine.

It was a great ending to a super adventure.

And the principal didn't even show up at our house.