Category Archives: Life

A Look Back at 2011

Is it just me, or did 2011 fly by? It certainly was a busy year, thanks to some great opportunities to travel. Here’s a little look back at some of my year’s highlights.

We completed our biggest renovation project in three years…

Before & After: Bonus Room Renovation

bathroom before after

Which was promptly ruined…

This Old House

We explored our land in the winter and snapped some pictures of our wild tenants…

Special Winter Photography & Peek-A-Boo Deer

Jason and I visited the Milwaukee County Zoo for the first time in ages…

Warmth Draws Me Outside

I entered photos into a photo competition, a first for me. I didn’t win, but it was a start…

Photo Contest!!

Fern Spring

After making it into the Yosemite High Sierra Camps for the 2011 season, Jason and I made preparations for our trip…

Working with My Strenghts

Which were promptly decimated…

Back to the Vacation Drawing Board


We kicked off summer by camping in the backyard with our niece, Reagan…

Great American Backyard Campout 2011

Happy Campers

July brought our revamped trip to California, where we visited three national parks – Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon – instead of the originally planned one.

Complete California Vacation 2011 Series

Lembert Dome

And thanks to a family wedding in Washington, DC, we were able to add a fourth national park to our itinerary this year, bringing our total to 4 of 58 national parks visited…

DC Road Trip and Shenandoah National Park Series

Shenandoah National Park

2011 was a pretty good year. Can’t wait to see what 2012 brings!

Christmas Moments

I hope you enjoyed Christmas with your loved ones. Jason and I had a (mostly) nice holiday. Celebrating Christmas three times is always a bit much for me. As an only child with a very small immediate family, I grew up celebrating one time, Christmas Day itself, in my own home.

Christmas Eve eve was spent with Jason’s dad. Christmas Day was spent with Jason’s mom. Christmas Eve was our at-home celebration with my mom and grandma. We fixed a huge meal for just four people – maple-glazed ham, hash brown casserole, garlic mushrooms, scalloped carrots, watergate salad, and biscuits. To top it off, Jason made mint oreo truffles. We have a lot of yummy leftovers.

Whenever we host guests at our house, Thea and Bailey make themselves the center of attention. Christmas is no different.

Thea becomes overly affectionate towards guests, in this case my mom.

Bailey was just content to lounge.

Gift-wise, Jason and I did very well. The highlight of the gifts I received was snowshoes. I have been asking for snowshoes for a few years, because I really want to try the sport. Now, I have a pair of very pretty snowshoes in their own case with coordinating poles. All I need is some snow, which we are still without in Southern Wisconsin.

One of the gifts I gave to Jason was a set of chess pieces for the board he and his dad made years ago. It is a beautiful board that I have made the centerpiece on our dining room table, so it’s wonderful to have the pieces to make it a functioning game. Jason is teaching me to play. I’m not doing too badly, but I have yet to win.

It has been a nice and relaxing way to spend our evenings, making for the perfect end to a very hectic year.

Road Trip to DC: Adam & Ellie’s Wedding

Jason and I spent a lot of time on the road in the last week. My second cousin Adam got married in Washington, DC, so Jason and I were excited to travel out East for the event.

We debated back and forth on whether to fly or drive, and driving won out in the end. Not only was it cheaper for us, it also allowed for a side trip to Shenandoah National Park. It was also set up to be my longest road trip to date – 14 hours one way, 1,875ish miles total. Knowing me, it could have been bad…

But it was actually really fun! I enjoyed seeing new places and adding new states to my list of states visited – Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia.

We crammed a lot into our five-day trip. So first things first, the reason for the trip: Adam and Ellie’s wedding!

As I said before, Adam is my second cousin; our moms are first cousins. Honestly, Adam feels much more like a first cousin to me than most of my actual first cousins.

Both the ceremony and reception were held at the Newton White Mansion just outside of Washington, DC.

Newton White Mansion

Newton White Mansion

Newton White Mansion

It was such a beautiful setting. I couldn’t get over how perfect it was.

Interesting note: The ceremony was in the Quaker tradition. No officiant, but a friend who welcomed everyone and described the proceedings. No wedding party. No sermon. Just silence.

After the welcome and explanation of the “meeting,” we settled into silence. When ready, Adam and Ellie stood and made their vows to one another, and their vows were followed by another period of silence. At this time, guests could stand and share their own messages. Some told stories about the couple, one guest shared a poem, and others provided their advice for a happy marriage. Between messages, we sat in silent reflection. For Quakers, silence is as important as words. The period of silent worship was closed by a “community” vow – all of the family and friends being the bride and groom’s supporting community – the shaking of hands, and community signing of a wedding certificate.

It was simple, beautiful, and like nothing I have experienced before.

The clouds broke as we sat in silent worship. It could not have been more perfect.
Ray of Light

Adam & Ellie's Ceremony Site


We moved inside rather quickly after the ceremony – it was getting quite chilly – where we sampled some amazing food. I experienced several food firsts that evening: beets, served on crostini with cheese (maybe goat cheese); watermelon radishes, thinly sliced and topped with creme fraiche and caviar; brussel sprouts. I also enjoyed the signature cocktail for the evening, a mix of pear juice, lemon juice, lime juice, vodka, and a couple other things. Yummy! My entree was an amazingly delicious crab cake. And the cake – Seriously, it might have been the best wedding cake I have ever had, including my own  😯

Adam and Ellie’s first dance
First Dance

Tearing up the dance floor with Mark, Adam’s younger brother.
Dancing with Mark

Jason and I had a lovely time. I am so glad that we decided to make the trip from Wisconsin to share in such a special day.

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