Friday, January 29, 2016

Mamas with Cameras 365 Project: Week 4

What  were the Olsons up to this past week? Well, here's a little sneak peek! Week 4 of my Mamas with Cameras 365 photo project. I hope you enjoy!

Even when fast asleep, Conor still holds on tightly to Spot 1 and Spot 2

Uncle Troy and Annika having a little snuggle

Do you ever feel like you're being watched??

She dressed as a mail carrier and delivered handmade notes in
origami envelopes to each of us
(aka: creative stalling tactic)

Conor sharing a little breakfast with Spot 1 and Spot 2.
He's having pancakes. They're having Savannah grass.

My current knitting project: More wool socks!

King Street Station clock tower reflected in a puddle

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

January 2016 Daring Bakers' Challenge: Cake Design

I'm pretty sure that this month's Daring Bakers' challenge was created with me in mind. We were challenged to decorate a cake or cupcakes with fondant or gum paste. When I read the challenge brief, I'm pretty sure I smiled from ear to ear and did a little happy dance. Talk about something being right up your alley!! I was so excited about the challenge that I had a hard time falling asleep that night because cake ideas and visions were zooming around in my brain. 

Eventually, after considering many designs (including a beach scene, a person soaking in a bubble-filled bathtub, a Lego-theme, and a baking theme), I opted to try a book cake: A William Shakespeare anthology, to be exact. (Yes, I really am THAT big of a literature geek!)

Once again, my artistic director (aka Eric) was a huge help and gets a lot of credit for how this cake turned out. His engineer skills were incredibly beneficial when it came to figuring out how to approach the cake (linear thinking at its best!!) and when it was time to rough out the templates for cutting the cake and bookmark.

My two favorite Shakespearean plays are "Taming of the Shrew" and "Much Ado About Nothing", so we showcased both plays by having the finale of "Shrew" on the left-hand page and he beginning of "Much Ado" on the right page.

This cake makes me smile so very much. It represents my love of literature and how some of my loved ones had a hand in creating it. Can't beat that!!!

Eric putting his knife and sculpting skills to work

Conor helping me smooth the fondant


A book you can REALLY sink your teeth into

Much Ado About Nothing page

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Mamas with Cameras 365 Project: Week 3

Another week of 2016 has zoomed past and is officially in the history books. It has been a wet, wet, wet week here in Seattle, so plenty of opportunities for weather-related photos. I've actually had to challenge myself NOT to do too many weather photos because drops and splashes are so easy to come by right now.

Conor looking at baby photos while snuggling with my childhood Snoopy doll

Rainbow over Seattle

Proof that the boy sleeps, even though he says, "Sleeping is boring, so I don't do it."

Mission Impossible Yarn Maze

Annika peering through Mama's new photography toy

Waiting room hug-turned-wrestling-match

Our neighbor's house reflected in a raindrop

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Mamas with Cameras 365 Photo Challenge: Week 2

Well, another week of my Mamas with Cameras 2016 photo challenge is complete and I'm really excited about some of my shots! It has been another fun week behind the lens, but also somewhat challenging week due to the vast amount of darkness we seem to have this time of year. Fortunately, we had some breaks in the weather, which gave me a few opportunities to shoot outside without fearing that the camera will get drenched.

In order to keep the kids from getting burned out on being photographed, I am continually looking for new subjects and ways to challenge myself. They're still my favorites to shoot, but I try to limit how much I shoot them to make sure I'm remembering to interact with them and not just capture what they're doing. Oh, that double-edged sword of being a mama with a camera!

Without further ado... week 2's photo gallery:

8/365: Blue Friday Cutie Pies

9/365: Sunrise through the fog

10/365: Annika practicing her whip kick 

11/365: Serene lighting for dinner

12/365: Apple wood pizza oven at Serious Pie

13/365: Trees reflected in a puddle

14/365: Macro water drop suspended from a pine needle


Thursday, January 7, 2016

Mamas with Cameras 365 Challenge: Week 1

I know, I know ... I don't have nearly enough to do, right? SO, it makes perfect sense for me to take on a 365 (actually 366 because of this being a leap year) photography project. I did a 365 project about a year and a half ago and really enjoyed learning about myself as a photographer and what things inspired me.

A number of us in the Mamas with Cameras photography group have decided to band together and do a 365 photo project together. The great thing is each mama can make her own rules ... we're beholden to no one except ourselves.

I have two rules for this challenge. Rule #1: Have fun! Rule #2: Write a weekly blog post that shows the week's photos.

So, without further ado, here are my shots from Week 1.

1/365: Conor at Carkeek Beach

2/365: Annika's celebratory bowling dance

3/365: Conor is never so focused as he is when he's playing with Legos

4/365: Quilting action shot

5/365: A boy and his dog, a dog and his boy

6/365: The sentry (Carkeek Park)

7/365: Putting leftover wine to good use in my light tent

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Wrapping up 2015

Before we get too far into 2016, I figured I'd better sum up how 2015 wrapped up for us.

December started of rather wet in our neck of the woods... and when I mean wet, I mean ongoing downpours that were so forceful at time that we had rain leaking into the house. Not pretty, but we were grateful to realize it was Mother Nature causing the problem and not the dishwasher leaking (which was our original theory). Even with the deluge of rain, we Olsons braved the weather and went out into the elements (aka Home Depot's outside tree area), got soaked to the bone, and found what we've all deemed to be our favorite Christmas tree ever. It was perfectly sized for our house the ideal tree shape. Annika gets credit for finding it ... way to go, cute girl! After letting the tree dry under our carport for a day or so, we brought it in (still damp, but no longer with rivers of water running off of it) and got to decorating it and the rest of the house for Christmas.

Conor decorating the tree

Annika hanging ornaments

Eric helping Conor find the perfect spot for an ornament

Annika putting the finishing touches on the tree
In early December, we also hosted another one of our "we're the only ones who don't speak Spanish" dinner parties and had such a fun time! Eric has two co-workers who live in Mexico, but come up to Seattle a few times per year for some company face time; we've known them for years and consider them some of our dear friends. In addition to "our Mexicans", we had our friends who are originally from Venezuela here to join in the fun. We've had this group together for dinner a few times now, and it never fails to be a fun event for all involved... and has sparked a bit of a friendship between "our Mexicans" and "our Venezuelans". I love it when ripple effects of friendship happen! The kids love it when this group gets together because because their friend (Annika's former pre-school friend and one of her dearest friends) attends with her parents AND the kids get to stay up late. Bonus for them!

About mid-December, the kids' school had its annual Christmas concert, which (I'm impressed to say) is a very well-organized and paced event (1.25 hr total). The entire school performs... each grade sings a song and the two bands also play a couple of numbers. Our kids' classes did a lovely job and it was such fun to see the students in their Sunday best for the performance.

All dressed up and somewhere to go

It is important to practice one's bow and/or curtsy before a big event
Leading up to Christmas, our home was a whirlwind of baking and preparing.... yes, I was in my element!! We decorated cookies galore and made sure to continue with our annual tradition of decorating a gingerbread house together.

Perfecting the broken arm decorating technique.

Yes, sticking his tongue out does help!

Mr. Engineer on icing patrol

Mo candy, mo better
 
Even Mama got in on the candy action

I tried a new technique for adding snow to the trees ... it's needs some work, but not too shabby for a first try

Coooooookies

Some of the BIG non-holiday news to come out of December is Annika got her cast off. Woo hoo!!! It was such a big deal, that all four of us went to the appointment and to the celebratory lunch after. The x-rays showed that one of her bones wasn't completely healed yet, but it wasn't bad enough for the ortho group to put her in another cast (WHEW!); instead, they put her in a brace that she was told to wear for the next 4 weeks, but could remove it to bathe and sleep. She was also given the green light to return to many of her normal activities ... jump roping, swimming, bike riding, etc. The only things she can't do are play contact sports (ummm.... yeah, not a problem!), climb (especially on the playground equipment), go tubing in the mountains (we are itching to get up to the snow, but are working on being patient), and anything else that could jar her arm. That said, she's greatly enjoying her freedom and being able to bathe without a Hefty bag covering her arm.

Ready for the cast to come off

Conor was happy to don some ear protection once his eyes locked onto the saw

Tickly saw

Freedom!!!

The brace model


When our niece Abby, who had a 24-hour layover in Seattle, asked if we could make some fancy cookies while she was in town, Auntie was all too happy to oblige. It was such a treat to have Abby here with us! She lives too far away for our liking, so little visits like this one mean a lot to us! In addition to a cookie decorating session, we chatted about almost every topic under the sun, Abby played with Annika and Conor, and all of us had lunch with my brother and his family on the shore of Lake Union. Can't beat that!! The only downfall to the 24 hours was the INSANE holiday traffic at the airport the night Abby arrived.

Abby, the cookie decorating apprentice

So proud of her tree and flowers

Fun to decorate the cookies, more fun to eat them!
Cookies for Abby to take home

Silly cousin time

Christmas was such a treat for us! We were surrounded by so many loved ones and good times. My mom came up on Christmas Eve in time to go to mass with the kids and me. It was standing room only... and we stood, but were grateful to be there and among so many like-minded souls. The kids were real troopers and didn't complain about their seating arrangements (aka the floor) or the fact it was incredibly hot in the church. After mass, we returned home to have our traditional Christmas Eve dinner: breakfast! This year, we had baked French toast casserole... yum!! After reading "Twas the Night Before Christmas" and leaving out treats for Santa, we went to bed knowing the next day would start bright and early ... actually, dark and early.

Eric's folks arrived around 6:15 AM so they could participate in the chaos that is children on Christmas morning. Around 7:30, Conor couldn't stand waiting to open presents any longer, so Eric went downstairs to wake up Annika, who promptly asked if she could sleep a little longer. Her plan of getting some extra sleep failed once she realized it was Christmas morning and there were presents waiting for her. Unfortunately, soon after opening presents, my mom opted to go home because she wasn't feeling well. (We keep telling ourselves it wasn't really because our presents were terrible!)
Annika and her Frozen gloves

Bestemor and Bestefar showing how well they know our boy well

Mermaid puppet from the Frisches

Dragon puppet from the Frisches

Rock 'Em, Sock 'Em Robots.... DUDE!!!!!!

Annika and her new Elsa doll


video
Eric working on mastering how to pilot his new drone
My brother and his family arrived a little after noon, bringing more holiday cheer and chaos. (Hey, is it really a holiday without a fair amount of chaos?? I say NO!) The kids got a renewed sense of energy when big cousin Ian arrived... they wanted to play and show him all of their new things. He was a wonderful sport and showed lots of enthusiasm for all of the toys and fodder that they paraded in front of him.

As the afternoon progressed, two more of our friends arrived to share Christmas dinner with us. It was such a large group that we wound up setting up two card tables in addition to our kitchen table ... it was (in my opinion) an ideal holiday dinner... lots of stories, laughter, and smiling faces. We were all sure that it was close to 10 PM because of how tired we felt, and were rather floored to look at the clock and see it wasn't even 7 yet. (We're so old!)


Nicole modeling her AMAZING elf outfit

Staci and her very happy pizzelle (until it fell on the floor, that is)
The day after Christmas, the Olson Four trekked across Lake Washington to watch the UW Huskies play in the Heart of Dallas Bowl with my brother and his family. My brother borrowed his friend's turkey fryer ... as if we needed that much incentive to come over for a visit!! The turkey was delish and the Huskies won the game ... what more could we have asked for??

Eric and Annika snuggled up watching the UW game

To wrap up our holiday season, a few days after Christmas we ventured out into the cold to walk through the Wild Lights exhibit at Woodland Park Zoo. We've been going to the display for a few years now and have made it a bit of a tradition to go with Eric's best friend (aka Uncle Dave) and his little girl (Anne). The six of us had dinner at a little restaurant in Ballard (where Eric and Dave go to trivia night every other week, in fact) and then made our way to the zoo. In 2014, we learned the hard way not to go to the exhibit on a weekend, so this year we really course corrected and went on a week night after Christmas ... the crowds were much more manageable. We were able to enjoy the lights much more than the year before when we were more focused on keeping track of the kids who insisted on darting here and there.

Hello, Woodland Park Zoo@

Anne (6), Annika (8), and Conor (5)

Anne taking it all in

Anne and Conor watching the fish "jump" into the drain

Pablo the Peacock

Annika and the Komodo Dragon

Conor checking out the lights

Annika


Happy Wild Lights visitors!

For New Year's Eve, the kids and I journeyed to our friends' house to celebrate. Gratefully, the Minnichs adopted our "Nova Scotia New Years" party idea, so the party started (and ended) early ... perfect for young kiddos!! The grownups mostly sat around talking about schools, politics, and current world events. The kids played and played and played ... they even treated us to a few impromptu concerts using the Minnich kids' karaoke machine. It was a hoot! Unfortunately, Eric missed out on the fun because he wasn't feeling well thanks to a bug that's been going around... one that I succumbed to a day or two later.

Thank you to everyone who helped make our holidays so special. We are grateful to have you as part of our lives!!