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December 2011 Archives

First O-Flash Tests

December 27, 2011

One of my Christmas gifts this year is an O-Flash adapter that turns a flash on my camera into a ring flash, which is pretty fun. I played with it a little bit tonight with a few test subjects.

almost 173.365 ring flash-4

almost 173.365 ring flash-5

almost 173.365 ring flash-6

almost 173.365 ring flash-7

almost 173.365 ring flash-3

almost 173.365 ring flash-2

Boxing Day Hot Cocoa

December 26, 2011

We spent the Christmas weekend in Homer with my parents and it was lovely.

Christmas morning in Homer

We had a mostly uneventful drive back home from Homer today despite the mounds of snowing done over the weekend and a Department of Transportation warning that the driving would be DIFFICULT and we should BE PREPARED FOR WINTER DRIVING as though it could be any other way in December in Alaska.

The only difficulty we experienced was Mitzi getting into some of the Christmas chocolate while we were stopped in Soldotna for a bite of lunch. It thankfully wasn't much chocolate so she didn't get sick at all.

We celebrated our return home with pizza pickets, a few loads of laundry, and hot cocoa from scratch.

172.365 Sweet like chocolate

Heat 1c milk and 1c heavy cream in a saucepan with a few cinnamon sticks.
Add a 1/2 c semisweet chocolate chips and stir until melted.
Sip with your sweetie on the couch.

Advent Day 19

December 20, 2011

Build a Lego nativity scene.
Done and done.

Lego Nativity

A Brown Sugar and Butter Of A Weekend

December 18, 2011

Any recipe that starts with 4 cups of butter and 4 cups of  brown sugar is a winner in my book.

Into the Holiday Spirit

December 16, 2011

It's not really Christmas until I subject the dogs to wearing silly hats in front of the Christmas tree. It's such an important part of Christmas that it even made it into the advent calendar.

holiday dogs-1

We've been meaning to give the dogs baths for weeks because they are awfully smelly. And tonight was their lucky night. Clean dogs make for clean photos.

Olive's Holiday Spirit

Olive is so used to these photoshoots that she couldn't even be bothered to sit up through the whole thing. In fact she didn't want to leave when it was Mitzi's turn.


Mitzi, however, was very excited at being allowed on the furniture, even though she couldn't fit her whole body on the ottoman. Oh and being the center of attention was really nice too.

holiday dogs-4

I didn't even have to bribe her with any treats like I used to do with Olive. Even while I was shooting Olive's portrait Mitzi lied right on the floor between Olive and me. She's so calm and loyal, basically the complete opposite of Olive.

holiday dogs-5

She did really great sitting for photos although she didn't care for her hat. She will learn.

Mitzi's Christmas Cheer

Wreath in the Making

December 14, 2011

Growing up my family hunted wild Christmas trees in the woods like the real Alaskans we are, and every time I pay Lowes $40 for the privilege of warm fingers and toes and not walking through the woods for hours trying to determine how the top of that 300-foot spruce would look in the corner our living room and OMG who forgot to grab the chainsaw from the truck, a little piece of my soul dies.

I used to have a fake Christmas tree when I lived in Fairbanks and was pretty broke - the tree was a gift from a friend, well used and smelling of cigarette smoke - so on the other hand at least the trees I buy from Lowes smell like real tree with real sap that get all over my fingers and real needles that the dogs like to eat.


Once we get the tree home we always trim the bottom of it and remove some of the lower limbs to even things up and insure the tree sits straight(ish) in the stand. I hate to let these wonderful boughs go to waste, so this year I turned them into a wreath for our front door.

1. Start with a bunch of random boughs cut from your pretty and fragrant (purchased or free-range) Christmas tree.

photo 1.JPG

2. Look around your garage furtively for an appropriate tool like pruning shears and fail. Grab a large set of bolt cutters instead and trim the boughs into smaller, manageable and pretty sections.

photo 2.JPG

3. Toss the ugly parts aside and stack the smaller sections up nice and neat on the floor of your garage. Make sure you're wearing your husband's zippered hoodie while doing this because you don't want needles poking into your small and feminine sweaters. Roll up the sleeves of the hoodie so it fits you better.

photo 3.JPG

4. Pull out the rest of your tools: an 18" wreath frame that you couldn't find at the craft store and almost pitched a hissy fit that you'd have to make do with a stupid puny 12" wreath frame until your 6'2" husband arrived to fend off any and all hissy fits and noticed they were all on the very top of the aisle instead of hanging where they were supposed to be; a spool of floral wire; and a small pair of pliers.

photo 4.JPG

5. Lay the boughs out on the wreath frame one at a time and wire them down, using the pliers to insure the wire is tight.

photo 1.JPG

6. Move around the frame, overlaying each new bough over the others and wiring each down until the entire frame is covered. Pick up the frame and check for any drooping spots - then wire those suckers down too. Fill in any thin spots. You're aiming for a nice roundish yet natural shape that's pretty secure.

photo 2.JPG

7. Once you're happy with the shape and density, lay out some decorations. I selected some "scented" pine cones (supposedly cinnamon, but they hardly smelled like anything other than pine cone) and some fake red poinsettia flowers. Wrap some wire around them and secure those suckers down.

photo 3.JPG

8. Display the wreath to your family and dogs. Son: "Nice." Husband: "Hey that's way nicer than I expected!" Dogs: *attempt to eat the fake flowers* Hang that sucker on the door as a notice to the whole neighborhood that you have the Christmas spirit, dammit.

photo 4.JPG

9. Forget to unroll your husband's zippered hoodie sleeves, resulting in a comical moment the next time he tries to put it on and doesn't know whether to blame the son, you or the shitty Twitter app.

Monday After the Blizzard

December 12, 2011

I really should have stayed home this morning. When my alarm went off and I saw the school district's twitter feed announcing school was closed, I wanted to stay home. My bed and husband and dog were all warm and snuggly and it must have caused some sort of time-space rift because although I made it to work, I'm only 90% prepared for the things I wanted to do today.

  • I showered and did my hair and makeup just fine, but didn't finish my mascara because I had left it by the front door. Then I left without grabbing it. I'm hoping that the glasses I'm wearing will be distraction enough for no one to notice.
  • On my way out the door I grabbed my workout clothes intending to hit the gym after work. Usually when I do this I forget to grab socks and debate all day whether I should workout without socks anyway even though that's kind of gross. But this morning I forgot my sports bra and that's not even a debate.
  • I brought my camera to work because last night's blizzard left a whole lot of wet and heavy snow weighing down all of the trees and it's really beautiful outside and I haven't taken my camera for a lunchtime walk in ages. But the battery in my camera is mostly dead and the second battery in my bag is also dead and I don't have a charger. And I don't have a hat or gloves or a scarf because it's 35 degrees and who needs winter gear when it's so warm? but I forgot about the wind and the wet snow. Plus the amount of wet snow on the sidewalks means I should have brought my boots instead of relying on my sneakers for that kind of walking.
  • I also forgot to grab the milk that I bought for work (I usually eat cereal at my desk around 9.30), so my breakfast options are now: 1. eat dry cereal, 2. walk the two blocks in lots of slushy snow in the wind to Kaladi Brothers where I can get a hot and yummy mocha and muffin for approximately 5 million calories, 3. badger a coworker into going out for donuts. I'm banking on option 3 at the moment.

But I'm here, even if only 90%.


December 1, 2011

A week or so ago I decided now that our family was more solidly in the Family side of the continuum and less in the Living In Sin side, what with a house and two dogs and a son and a marriage and all, that we should start some Traditions with a Capital T.

Me: Hey what do you think about doing an advent this year?
Steve: What, with chocolates?
Me: No more like fun things for us to do together as a family.
Steve: ...
Me: But not as stuffy and boring as that sounds.

And so I made a list. Of fun things to do together as a family that aren't boring AT ALL.

And then I got out the ruler and the glue stick and the paper and pulled out my best impression of my mother and went all crafty on this advent's ass.

The plan was to hang a paper chain in the house and clip little numbered envelopes on it, and inside the envelopes would be the day's activity. I printed a couple of alternate activities in case we couldn't do one for whatever reason (weather, crisis, laziness, this-is-dumbness).

Have you ever made your own envelopes? I find them super fun but then I'm the kind of person who finds math and rulers pretty darn fun. Here's what I did.

First I created a template (see: math and rulers, above) and traced it out onto my colored paper.


Then I cut along the lines and used a ruler (again with the ruler! it's ridiculous!) to press the flaps in along a straight line.


With all of the flaps creased in, I glued those suckers down.



And then I repeated the process 29 more times until my hands were cramping and I cursed at the ruler and wondered if glue stick these days tastes as good as it used to.


I printed out all of the activities (and the alternates) and slipped them into each of the envelopes, numbering them as I went.

Advent in the making

Tonight we all sat around the dining table and strung together a paper chain for the advent and Donovan clipped the envelopes on.


Donovan: That wasn't as boring as I thought it would be!

147.365 All of our days are numbered

Advent day 1: Make a paper chain and clip the envelopes to it.

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Hi, I'm Valette

I'm a photographer based out of Anchorage, Alaska. I've recently become a wife, a stepmother, and a homeowner. Life is pretty awesome. You can email me anytime. Learn more...

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