Tag Archives: Family

Sunday Souvenir – Christmas Traditions

Christmas at our house

I grew up in a small family. It was just myself, my dad and my brother. While my mom passed away when I was 5, we continued to get together with her family over the holidays. We had a tradition of holding Christmas either at our house, my grandparents house in Iowa or my aunt’s house in Colorado. I think we sort of rotated through locations, but I’d guess more were at my grandparents house than the others. Later on (when I was in my teens) we switched to renting condos in Florida and having a tropical Christmas. We had extended family in the area and got to share Christmas dinner.

Because we were Christmas nomads so often, we didn’t have a ton of traditions. I liked going to the Christmas Eve church service so I could sing carols and ask far too many questions about the logistics of the whole nativity story. I also had a stretch of years where I insisted on only eating Christmas dinner with my left hand (I’m right-handed), because I’m strange, I guess!

Christmas at my aunt's house. Hello, Barbie Dream House!

Stockings at my grandparents' house

One tradition I loved was stockings! They’d change based on whose house were were at (gift bags were used at the Florida condos) but they were always include an orange that would be added to Christmas breakfast. There were filled with candies and little wrapped gifts without to/from tags, that I suspect everyone contributed. I hang stockings for us every year, but they typically stay empty unless I put something in them. I plan to do some stocking stuffer shopping after all this reminiscing, but chances are mine will be empty come Christmas morning, heh.

Jax is still too young to understand the holiday, but I bet in the coming years we will start creating our own traditions.

I like my brother's sweater. No, really! I do!

Do you have any favorite traditions?

Family Portraits

Sorry for the silence!

Pre-Thanksgiving I was busy working and prepping for guests. I took the day off on Thanksgiving, then worked Friday and Sunday. Saturday Jax was sick with sneezes and a runny nose so I took care of him while I worked on our family portraits (more on that in a moment.) Of course because I was wiping a snotty toddler nose and getting sneezed on all night while I nursed him, I caught the cold too. So my Sunday of working was pretty bad, and today is 100x worse. I’m sooo sick! But, I’m a contractor and don’t get paid if I don’t work, so work I must! Luckily, thanks to all the nursing, Jax was all better after just 36 hours with a light cold.

the photo we chose for our wall

We’ve been owing our relatives family portraits for some time. We actually had none that included Jax and he is almost 2! $500 photographers just aren’t in our budget, and mall photo studios hold your pictures’ copyrights hostage, which I don’t like. So it was time for some DIY!

I’ve been reading an ebook about my camera for a little while now which is a big help. I spent a couple weeks searching Pinterest and Google for tips on poses, outfits, lighting and taking your own family portraits. I knew that I was going to have to get creative and do a lot of Photoshopping.

I planned to do 2 separate shoots: one of Jax and I and one of my husband and Jax. I included pictures of us adults on our own as well. The plan was to take them all in the same location then Photoshop us together into different combinations. I ended up having to take them on two different mornings, but the light was very close both days.

The results came out much better than I’d expected! The lighting in the playroom was perfect. The poses came together the best they could. Photographers recommend everyone we very close and in contact with each other, but that wasn’t really possible the way I was doing it. We still got some great pictures.

Some behind the scenes:

In order to make Jax smile, I set up our iPad just under the camera. During my photoshoot with him, I played a YouTube video of a laughing baby to get him to smile. During the second shoot, I put on his favorite show, Peppa Pig. When I was in the photos, I used a remote to trigger the shutter. I made sure to take the pictures at the same time each day and left the camera on the tripod in the same spot between shoots.


I set up a Photoshop file with a clean wall photo I’d taken during the shoot, then cut us out of all the best shots and worked on arraigning us together. I spent a lot of time making sure all the edges were clean and added shadows and highlights to make it all come together.

See above for my camera setup, a silly screenshot with two of me and an outtake.


The goal was a nice, large black & white photo for our living room wall, some photos to send off to relatives, and a picture for our holiday cards. Yesterday evening I got everything ordered from Shutterfly. I used a coupon code for 25 free 4×8″ photo cards from saving up baby wipe points to get our cards. I used the promo code SHIP30 for free shipping, so I just paid for the prints.

Merry Bright Greeting Holiday
Create custom Christmas cards this holiday at Shutterfly.
View the entire collection of cards.

What do you think of our DIY photos?

Sunday Souvenir – Childhood Thanksgivings

I grew up with just my dad and my brother who is 6 years my senior. My dad did his best to keep us healthy and fed, but his repertoire was limited. The fanciest he got was Easter when he’d cook this heart attack casserole from our recipe box that involved hard boiled eggs, spam and at least 10 types of dairy. He was best known for his meatballs (which were a big hit when he’d be the only dad at my girl scout potluck dinners) on spaghetti night. The rest of the week we rotated through classics such as Kraft Mac & Cheese, Hamburger Helper (gag), soft tacos and hamburger and rice. For a rocket scientist raising two kids on his own, he did a pretty kickass job.

Run for your lives!

So, Thanksgiving. Not his best meal… Hah. I don’t remember visiting relatives around that holiday, though we may have at some point. We all got together with my mom’s family for Christmas. Our Thanksgiving dinner involved a piece of “meat” I grew to dread. A turkey-like substance that probably had a hand in me becoming a vegetarian at age 16. What was so horrific? Turkey loaf, my friends. It was turkey loaf.

This man-made dish came in a tin like pound cake and was slimy with “gravy”. When you sliced off a hunk you could see a diagonal line separating where they mushed the “dark meat” and “light meat” into two halves. It held its shape perfectly, much like our canned cranberry goo. Turkey loaf was a thing of horror in my childhood. As we got older, I’m pretty sure it was a thing of ridicule as well, hehe.

Oh, Turkey Loaf… I love the family memories you are in, but I sure didn’t love you!

This year, as we have done for several years now, we are sharing a meal with our neighbors. They purchase a pre-prepared meal from the store that we just embellish. If they had this in the 80’s, our Thanksgivings could have been a whole lot tastier!

I don’t want to end on such an unappetizing thought as turkey loaf, so here is a photo of me in kindergarten. I rememeber that I was assigned to be a Native American in our little Thanksgiving assembly and I was super jealous of those who got to be pilgrims. It was only because I really hated wearing a paper grocery bag. But, I rocked that grocery bag – don’t you think?

Sunday Souvenir – Favorite Childhood TV Show

Did you have a favorite tv show when you were little? Mine was The Muppet Show. Especially Kermit the Frog! I think I liked him the most because he sounded like my dad. (My dad also did a great Cookie Monster voice from Sesame Street.) It was such a great show with lots of little skits and musical numbers featuring a famous guest star. I ended up with a lot of Miss Piggy gear as a kid because that is what was marketed towards girls. She kind of annoyed me, though. Hah.

Years later in college, my dad used to tape the episodes they were rerunning and he’d give me the VCR tape every Friday night when I’d visit him. I even made a little mix cassette tape of my favorite songs, though I have no idea where that is now.

The first photo is me watching at 11 months old. My dad looks so 70’s cool in the background! And, if that rocks still exists somewhere, I WANT IT! The photo to the left is my brother and I watching tv together. I was 16 months so he was almost 7. The photo below is from my 6th birthday, which was celebrated at a ranch we used to visit with family in Colorado. The decorations definitely look like the work of my Great Aunt Berta. I’m not sure if they were brought out from Iowa by my grandparents and added to a cake, or if the whole cake made the trip. My Aunt Susan might know.

I haven’t introduced Jax to The Muppet Show yet. His current favorite show is Peppa Pig, which we record for him. Apparently it’s a show that is big in England.

What was your favorite childhood show?

Wearing a Miss Piggy shirt at a sulphur spring

Sunday Souvenir – Photos in the Mail

I’ve had a lot of photos this month, but mostly because I don’t have much else of my mother’s. This week I got a big pack of photos in the mail from my aunt to split between my brother and I. Tonight I flipped through them and sent my brother a few over mms. I’m looking forward to looking at them all with him after vacation.

I don’t have a lot of photos from the time after my mom died (age 5) and when I first got a camera (middle school?) I don’t think my dad was big into taking pictures at the time. There are photos of me from this period and I was so excited to see them! I’m not sure that I’ve seen many (or any) photos of me missing teeth! I’ll share more when I take a closer look at what all she sent.

Most of the photos of my mom are with my brother, as he is 6 years older and my mom got cancer when I was a baby/toddler. Can I say how much I love, love, love the nursing shot of her? The photo of her and my brother in the snow is so sweet. That will be me and Jax this winter. And my dad and brother passed out together. Classic.

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Sunday Souvenir – Family Photos

When my aunt visited in April, she gave me copies of scanned family photos from my mom’s side. There are some really great ones I hadn’t seen.

This is my mom’s parents on their wedding day. How gorgeous is my grandma?? And grandpa looks so handsome. I’d never seen these before!

And they were even stylish in the 60’s and 70’s. Check out this photo. I love every single thing about it. I want that dress!

Here are a few more family photos. Some get-togethers and a holiday card. My mom is in the dark coat in the Christmas card, is the tallest one in the middle picture, and is on the far right in the last photo.


Have you discovered any old family photos decades after they were taken? These are such a treasure for me!

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Check out Ronalyn’s Sunday Souvenir at The Adventures of Esa & Zed

Sunday Souvenir – Girl Scouts

Somber news from dear family tonight, so forgive the lack of text.

I recently took photos of some of my mom’s vintage Girl Scout trinkets she had saved. I would love to see photos of her dressed for girl scouts, but I’m not sure any exist. This photo is one of my favorites of her as a girl.

Also included are a ’50s report card and class photo, and a really sweet letter to the Easter bunny.


This post is a part of a month-long series about my mom, who passed away from breast cancer when I was little. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

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Sunday Souvenir – Letters

A simple post, as my day has been busy and went downhill right at the end.

When looking through my mother’s things, I found this letter she wrote my grandma when she was 8. The flowers make me happy – especially the little red swirls. So fifties and girly and sweet!

In my grandma’s things, I came across this letter I sent them when I was 5. I believe my mom died in June of that year, just before my fifth birthday. So, I’m not sure whose handwriting this is. Not my lefty dad’s! They wrote with two styles of a’s. I don’t remember anything I wrote about, but I know once i was in elementary school, I had sitters before school then stayed at school in the “after school program” in the cafeteria until my dad got off of work.

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Sunday Souvenir – A Month for my Mother

October is breast cancer awareness month, so I am dedicating this month’s Sunday Souvenirs to my mother. She lost her battle with breast cancer when I was just five.

I wish I had wonderful memories of her to share and treasure, but I don’t. I don’t remember much about her at all. I have one memory of visiting her hospital room with a finger painting I made. I remember when my dad told us she had died. I was just too young.

Tonight I went through the beginning of my mother’s baby book. Her name was Donna Lynn – we share a middle name. I focused on her first birthday and some baby items since my baby boy is 1.5 now.

There is a beautiful baby necklace and bracelet set made of pinkish pearls. A silver and ivory teething ring. Silver bib fastener. I will be putting it all in a shadow box to hang on the wall when I find the right one.

I adore the photos of my mom from her first birthday. Her sweet face was in my mind as Jax ran to me to go get ready for bed once I’d finished taking pictures. For the first time, I realized how badly I wished my mom could have met Jax and seen the woman I’ve become. I’m crying a little as my sweet son snores on my shoulder.

I have so much to read in baby book about her first two years, but I have to wait until Jax isn’t near enough to rip the pages. when he is older, we can look through photos of his grandma together.

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Sunday Souvenir: A Favorite Photo

Just barely making it in time for Sunday Souvenir. The long weekend threw me off. So a simple post this time, of one of my favorite childhood photos. It is of my grandpa and I. How I loved to curl up on his lap and use his tummy as a pillow! I adored visiting them in Iowa. My grandpa will be 95 next month.

Do you have any photos from your childhood that give you the warm fuzzies every time you look at them?

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Learning to Take Better Photos

I’ve had my Canon Rebel xti for years, but I still don’t understand how everything works. I am finally taking the time to read a book about photography basics and how to use my specific camera. I really need to take a family portrait (Jax just keeps growing!) but hiring someone is not in the budget.

I’ve made it halfway through my book but haven’t gotten a chance to practice much. I snapped about 20 quick shots on semi-auto to test out my remote control shutter. There were a couple keepers, but the toddler was in maniac mode. I only got a couple minutes to practice setting my aperture to create a nice depth-of-field before Jax demanded my attention.

Have you taught yourself to use an SLR camera? What resources did you use? I need tips!

And, am I totally crazy to try to DIY our family photos? (It’s probably a good thing I am amazing in Photoshop, hah!) Because, really, unless a photographer can donate their services, the only family portraits we’ll have will be the ones I take.

Sunday Souvenir: My First Day of Ballet

This photo always makes me smile. This was my first day of ballet. I took it when I was 4 and loved it. The teacher was a sweet family friend. I used to love this one dance we did where we put on pretty tulle skirts and were little windup dolls with cardboard and tin foil cranks. When my mother passed away from breast cancer shortly before I turned 5, my ballet classes were forgotten.

When I was in middle school, I rediscovered my ballet teacher in the community center by my school. I happily took classes from her until I graduated high school.

Did anyone else have one of these neat ballet boxes? They were more often in pink and had a little compartment at the bottom for your ballet shoes. They actually have one on Amazon!


Check out Ronalyn’s Sunday Souvenir: The Adventures of Esa and Zed

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