Friday, December 30, 2011

Festive Food Fight

I try very hard to be a good girl during the holidays. No, not my character…my calories. I limit myself to only a couple pieces of shortbread a day. I try to squeeze in a run or Zumba. I make sure I eat a healthy breakfast. But sometimes, it just doesn’t matter how good my intentions are…somehow I always end up in a Festive Food Fight.

Christmas Eve was the beginning…dinner of Lobster Newburg and prime rib with chocolate fondue for dessert and then brunch on Christmas Day with our traditional sticky, gooey, caramelly, cinnamony Monkey Bread.  The day after Christmas we loaded the car and headed to Vancouver, British Columbia to visit with the Wells side of the family. Because it rained too hard for the annual ball hockey game, we stayed inside and ate lots of food while watching hockey on TV (guys) and going to the movies instead! The night we arrived it was a Ukrainian dinner with genuine baba-made pyrogies and halapchi, kielbasa, sauteed cabbage and good bread with butter. This is now a real treat for us since we have moved to Oregon where nobody even knows what a baba is, let alone a pyrogy! The next day my niece's Mexican husband made us an authentic Mexican meal, complete with fried flautas and tacos to die for with chunks of beef, not hamburger, slow-cooked refried beans, fresh pico de gallo, rice, and muy bien guacamole!! Then the next day we said goodbye to our family and headed over to our good friends' house for dinner...buttermilk-marinated oven-fried chicken cooked to crispy perfection, ooey-gooey smoked gouda mac and cheese, baked beans, cornbread and a garlicky caesar salad (our friend's specialty!). Dessert was Red Velvet Coca-Cola cake. Then we got into the car and drove the 5 hours home, crawling into bed at 2 a.m. Yesterday morning, I reluctantly stepped onto the scale to face the inevitable. I have gained 4 lbs since November! So I went to Zumba last night, but only for half the class because we had to go to our neighbor's house for dinner...two kinds of gourmet grilled homemade flatbread pizza, kabobs over rice and a raspberry-apple Bavarian torte. Sigh. So delicious, but oh, so BAD!!! So the next morning I had a small bowl of my own homemade healthy granola for breakfast, carrots, tuna, crackers and a V-8 for lunch, no dinner, and a bowl of popcorn in the evening. But that was only because tonight we are going to some friends' house for a New Year's Eve party and then having a big dinner with a group of around 20 at my house tomorrow for New Year's Day.

I never make New Year’s Resolutions, but I do resolve this:  To end the food fight, round 2011, and get in shape for round 2012!

The Week In Between

I love Christmas, as you all know by now, but I also love the week after Christmas.  All the pressure is off.  The food no longer has to be stored away for the big day but can be freely eaten (a little too freely, my scale tells me!).  The opened gifts are being enjoyed (loved my presents this year...even my stocking stuffers!!  Good job, Jeff and kids!).  The house can slip into something more comfortable.  The tree is still up and the music is still playing, but everything is a lot more mellow.  I don't do any bargain shopping or returns/exchanges at the malls but stay far, far away from the madding crowd.   I do have to work, but even that seems low key without the other regularly-scheduled events to squeeze my schedule. This is when our family pulls out the annual jigsaw puzzle (although sad to say I am the only one who enjoys it any more!).  This is when we stay up late just to visit with friends or watch a movie, and then sleep in the next morning.  This is when life hovers between holidays in a state of sweet suspension.  Sometimes it's just nice to kick back, put your feet up, sip a little more coffee and eggnog and just "be."

Thursday, December 22, 2011

It's a Wrap!

Mom's clean house, decorated so prettily!

Last night I wrapped presents at my mom's house.  This is our "new" tradition.  Since moving back to Oregon and being near my mom, we've had a chance to do things together that we couldn't do when I lived far away in Canada.  I pack up all the presents I've purchased, along with my bins of wrapping paper, ribbon, bows, gift bags and tissue paper, my box of scissors, tape, pens and labels and load everything into the car.  My minivan looks like Santa's sleigh!  Then we do this:  Mom makes dinner, I bring a movie.  We eat, watch a movie, and wrap, wrap, wrap the night away!

Mom's homemade spaghetti
This year, my niece Janelle joined us!

Halfway through, we have dessert!
Mom serves us Christmas baking
and our drinks in pretty glasses.

Almost done...and the house is a merry mess!
Gifts under the tree...except for Mom's and Janelle's, which I have to wrap this morning!
(The glowing lights at the bottom of the picture belong to the cat, not the tree!)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Company's Coming

There are two quotes I love, one is from the Bible and the other from Royal Doulton, maker of fine china:
Please, let us make a small upper room on the wall; and let us put a bed for him there, and a table and a chair and a lampstand; so it will be, whenever he comes to us, he can turn in there.” II Ki. 4:10

The art of hospitality is to make your company feel as comfortable as when they are home and as pampered as when they are out.

Christmas is a time when many of us have company, whether overnight family, a party for friends, or the whole clan for Christmas dinner.

I have company frequently...and I do mean frequently, like a lot...all the the least every week, usually more.


Two summers in a row (not last summer but the two preceding it), we found ourselves with a steady stream of company that left us exactly 3 and 4 days, respectively, without company for the months of July and August! I can easily and honestly say we have spent thousands of dollars feeding, housing, and entertaining guests...sometimes without even knowing I was hosting them until I got up in the morning to discover someone sleeping on my living room floor! We've hosted complete strangers, best friends, uh...not so good friends, friends of friends, family, students, foreigners...did I forget anyone? We've hosted meals, overnight stays, weekend stays, weeks-long stays, and even multiple months stays. We've had any number of guests, from 1 to, I think, 23! overnight...sprawled across the floor on couches, chairs, lawn cushions, futons, and air mattresses, spilling outside to a backyard tent!

We didn't used to live this way. In fact, when we lived in Canada the only overnight guests we had were my kids' friends for sleep-overs, my family from the States, an occasional friend, an occasional billet, one student from Mexico for 3 months, and a Bible college student for 8 months. Oh, I'd host baby showers, throw a party now and again, and have a big holiday dinner for family a couple times a year and think I was hospitable, but I knew nothing of what I know now!

When we moved from Canada to the U.S. 4-1/2 years ago, we left some pretty special people behind who we had known and loved for 20 years.  And not only did we leave our family and friends, but we just happened to move to a scenic location with an awesome summer climate...and an abundance of natural beauty found in ocean, mountains, forest and falls, fresh produce, attractions and activities, and a large city with great shopping and restaurants. So, whether people came to visit us or whether they came to stay free at our house while visiting Oregon, they never confessed. All I know is that people came...and came...and came, sometimes overlapping each other. I got pretty adept at stripping sheets, making up a guest basket, filling a water pitcher, and cleaning the bathroom in very short order---waving goodbye on the front porch to one set of visitors and then rushing back into the house to whip everything into shape by the time our next visitors arrived.

Because it's Christmas and you just may find yourself playing host this holiday, let me give you some of my best tips for putting together a guest room that reflects the values in the two quotes I shared.

  • A bed, a chair, a table and a lampstand - Practical items
  • As comfortable as home - Familiar items
  • As pampered as a hotel - Luxury items

Practical items - Think about the basics of what you need to stay the night someplace...a bed, of course, with clean bedding and towels; a place to sit, a place to write, a lamp to see by, a bathroom close by

Familiar items - Think about the items you use every day that aren't so much necessary as they are comfortable, just to make life a bit alarm clock, an extra blanket, a fan or a space heater (depending on the weather), a fresh bar of soap, bottled water, a mirror, hangers and space in the closet, an iron, a blow dryer

Luxury items - Think about the little extras that you love when you stay at a good hotel...sheets with a high thread count, a fluffy duvet, a great mattress, a choice of pillow (feather vs. synthetic / high loft vs. flat), flowers in a vase, lovely toiletries, a plush robe, yummy treats, Wi-Fi, matching towel sets, a cushy bath mat, a welcome note, a candle

When I prepare for company, I take into consideration how long they'll be staying (a week or just overnight?), how many times they've been here (first-time visitors get the royal treatment!), whether they've ever visited the area (out-of-country guests get a basket full of made-in-Oregon goodies), what family dynamic they are in (married couple, single, young parents, elderly), dietary restrictions (diabetic, gluten-free, dieting, etc.), and what time of year it is (hot/cold weather, holidays, special occasions).

So, let's get the guest room ready!

1. Clean it up! If you use one of your kids rooms or a storage room for a guest room, empty it out of personal effects and clean it thoroughly...vaccuum, dust, wash the window, change the sheets, empty the garbage, clear space in the closet, open the window wide and air it out. Scour the bathroom until it sparkles! Keep pets and kids out once you've cleaned everything.

2. Set it up. Bring in your good sheets and towels. I actually iron the pillowcases and the top third of the sheet so they are crisp and fresh-looking. I also keep a set of guest towels separate from my linen closet in a storage bin so they look new. (We have college students who stay at our house every weekend, and I can't tell you how many sets of towels have been ruined by the salicylic acid found in Proactive!)  Make up the bed in an attractive way, layered with coordinating bedding and pillows. Lay an extra blanket at the foot of the bed. Provide a fresh, new bar of soap and get rid of old bars and bottles from the shower.

3. Deck it out. Make a welcome basket. Fill it with travel-size toiletries, treats or snacks, water bottles, a welcome card. If I know my guests are shoppers, I will tuck in some coupons to local stores I think they'd like. Provide water bottles. Hang a freshly laundered plush robe in the closet or on the back of the door (most people don't pack them because they're so bulky). Invest in a luggage rack if you have guests fairly frequently.

Welcome your guests!

  • Offer them something to drink
  • Give them time to get settled, even rest, before doing the first activity
  • Feed them
  • Accept their offers to help but don't ask for it
  • Ask them plainly what they would like to do, when they would like to go to bed, what they would like to eat---don't make them guess or wonder, and don't let yourself guess or wonder
  • Give them instructions about your house (i.e., where the coffee is, how to work appliances and fixtures, how to get internet, what the schedule is, etc.)
  • Ask them if they have dietary or allergy issues, if you don't know them well
  • Let them set the pace (go to bed early, sleep in, go for a walk) and give them space

And here's my favorite piece of advice:

Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised. (II Pet.4:9-11)

Just in case you didn't know, sometimes you will have guests who are very annoying. To be perfectly honest, there have been times when I have counted down not just the days but the minutes until certain guests have packed up and gone home. Whenever I feel irritated by my company, I think of this verse. It's not about me. Who am I to grumble? When I serve others I serve God. When the job seems thankless and a whole lot of work without a whole lot of pleasure, I do it with the strength that God provides. It isn't a duty, it's a ministry! I always strive to "commit myself to my faithful Lord and continue to do good" (v. 19), because if I've done it for the least deserving, then, really, I've done it for Him!

And just so you don't get discouraged...hospitality is a lot more rewarding than it is rotten! My home has been blessed and enriched by so many wonderful people over the years. They have touched our lives and left an imprint in our hearts.

May my heart and home be always open!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

I'll Have a Blue Christmas...

Well, I haven't blogged in a week now...too busy is my excuse!  I wish I could blog like my friend Brandy.  She inserts gorgeous photos of her gorgeous kids and throws in a funky graphic along with a thought-provoking statement and, voila!, great blog.  But I'm not a photographer, I can never think up short and witty one-paragraph ditties, and my kids would flip out if I followed them around the house taking their picture!  So, I have to wait until I have time to sit down and churn out my long, wordy blogs.

This week was full, full, full of Christmas.  First was our church's ladies Christmas event.  This is probably my favorite event of the year.  Our theme was "Silent Night," an unintended oxymoron. (Get it? ..."Silent Night" ladies event.  Ha ha!)  Did you know I have synesthesia?  Letters have a color to me.  I see blue A's, red B's, yellow H's, purple J's, green T's and brown K's, to name a few.  When I was a little girl, I was mad that the letter K was brown, because it was my letter and I so wanted it to be pink!  Anyway, I say all that to say this:  Christmas to me is not red and green, it's red or blue.  When I think of the holiday, I see it either as red, which is merry, jolly, happy, bright, busy.  It's Jingle Bells, Holly Jolly Christmas, It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year and Joy to the World.  But I also see Christmas as blue, as in an inky sky with sparkling stars, calm, still, serene, snowy, hushed.  It's O, Holy Night, What Child is This?, O Little Town of Bethlehem and Silent Night.  This year I chose to decorate in purples and blues with frosty-white snow and sparkly ice.  Here are some pictures.  I actually loved the look!

See the little "melted snowman" cookies?

We had a quartet of two harps,
a flute and a violin--heavenly!

Then we had a crazy-busy Sunday:  Church, a funeral, a big ham dinner to celebrate "Christmas" with our Canadian college kids before they all went home for the holidays, and a birthday party.  From there I went into my regular work week but ended Monday with a wonderful trip into Portland to hear my daughter sing with her symphonic choir at The Grotto, which is the site of "Festival of Light."  We toured the beautifully lit grounds, listened to the concert with the gorgeous acoustics of the cathedral, and then went out for ice cream at Salt & Straw, a gourmet ice cream shop that makes old-fashioned homemade ice cream with a funky, upbeat twist on flavors.  I chose strawberry honey-balsamic vinegar.  One of my daughters chose eggnog with rum sauce, another tried Lumberjack Stack, which tasted of pancakes dripping with maple syrup and butter, Jeff went for a predictable chocolate with brownie chunks, and our friend tried the salted caramel.  Then there were the samples...ahhh, too many to list!  My teeth were just aching, aching eating all that cold ice cream.  Must get to the dentist! 

The next day was yet another Christmas concert and yesterday was my mom's birthday, so we went shopping in cute and quaint downtown McMinnville, had dinner at La Rambla, a Spanish tapas restaurant, and then ended with more ice cream at a very old-fashioned ice cream parlor. (I had baked a batch of shortbread that day--my very favorite Christmas cookie--so I actually skipped the ice cream because I think I had four cookies that day!)

In the midst of all these wonderful Christmas events was work (wouldn't it be luxurious to take the whole month of December off?), Christmas cards (I send out 145...too many, I think, but how do you cut back?), baking (besides the shortbread I made Norwegian nutmeg cookies and un-Christmasy banana bread) and shopping (I am very, very near being completely finished!).  Today I worked at the church and had a Christmas staff lunch and then went home for my regular afternoon/evening shift of work, and finally, for the evening I only had one commitment...Zumba, which I really needed after all the ice cream and shortbread I've been eating!!  Tomorrow I am preparing the house for company---guests from Seattle and my niece from Canada arriving this weekend.  But tonight I am going to relax by the fire next to my pretty tree, put on some Christmas music and finish the very last of my cards.  I love both the hustle and the hush of the holidays...I love a red and a blue Christmas!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Karyn Wells, The Activist

I'm one of the least politally-minded people, really, I am!  But today I was irritated and fed up to the point that I was spurred to do something brave and daring in public.

This morning---a very cold morning, below freezing and with a blanket of ice fog hovering in the air---I went outside to retrieve my morning paper and found it here:

Yes, in the gutter on the street.

So this irked me.  For 3 years our paper was delivered faithfully to our covered porch day after day.  But our neighborhood has a new delivery guy (or gal??) who refuses us this courtesy.  Every morning I have to search for my the driveway, in the yard, on the sidewalk, even in the street, like it was today.  Sometimes it is under the car and we have driven right over it or had to get down on our hands and knees to retrieve it.  And the biggest pet peeve is on rainy days (which is much of the winter here) when our paper is wet and soggy and virtually unreadable.  I've complained three times---once by email, once by phone and once in person when a rep came to our door.  They gave me a week's free delivery, but nothing changed.

So today, after fishing it out of the gutter, I'd had enough!  I stomped back into the house, stomped up the stairs, turned on my computer and made a couple dozen copies of this:

Remember when your morning paper was delivered to your covered porch? Do you find that for the last year you've had to search for your newspaper behind or under your car, in the street, in your yard, and often soaking wet? As a neighbrohood, let's all call or email The Oregonian to report our delivery problems and see if we can change this!

Contact information: 503-221-8240 or

Then I put on a coat and gloves and my fleece ear cuffs (yes, cuffs, not muffs) and headed out into the frosty morning, still not even totally light yet.

I jogged up and down every single street of my neighborhood, looking for newspapers.  I stuffed my little notice into each one and continued on my way.  Out of 22 newspapers only one was on the porch.  All the others were on the sidewalk, in the driveway or in the yard, and one was wedged beneath the tire of a vehicle.  Then I went back home and typed out my email complaint to The Oregonian.  This is the reply I received:

          We are unable to process your request at this time. Please visit us at or contact our Customer Service office at 503-221-8240  We do apologize for the inconvenience. Thank you.

So, I sent another complaint to another department.  Now I have to wait to see if all my efforts were worth it!  I feel like a little child who climbs to the top of the slide or who draws a scribbled picture and the adult says, "Wow, good job!"  I know what I did today was pretty benign and wouldn't make the news and certainly won't change the world.  But for Chicken Little me, I just climbed to the top of the slide...Wooo-hooo!  Look what I did!  And maybe, just maybe it'll change newspaper delivery in my neighborhood!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

"It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!"

So today's blog is interactive...I want you to get involved!  I love just about all the elements of Christmas---the decorations, the festive foods, the carols, classic Christmas movies, activities, traditions, pretty clothes, family games, luscious scents, shopping, wrapping, giving gifts, opening gifts, hanging lights (okay, I lied about that one!), making Christmas cards, receiving Christmas cards, church services, parties, and on and on and on!  And I also really enjoy hearing what others love to do, so answer back on how you celebrate the holiday... (I've made it easy for you to copy and paste by putting the list of questions only at the bottom of the page.)

Favorite Christmas cookie
How your tree is decorated this year
     gold, copper, purple and cream / fruit and floral
Going to church on Christmas morning?
     yes!  Looking forward to a fun, special one-hour service
Where are you spending the holiday?
     Newberg, then Vancouver, BC on Boxing Day
Are you hosting any event at your house?
     Christmas Eve dinner (before church) and Christmas Day brunch (after church)
Favorite Christmas carol
     Fast - "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" / Slow - "O, Holy Night"
Games your family plays every year
    Used to be Family Fued with the Wellses, now it is usually a new game and always a jigsaw puzzle
Shopping done, still working on it, not even begun?
     Almost done!
Sending out cards this year?
     Yes (Anna designed them this year!)  They are nowhere near ready! : (
Favorite Christmas beverage
     Starbucks Peppermint Mocha, half sweet/no whip (coffee with eggnog is a very close second!)
Christmas parties...casual (eg. "White Elephant") or elegant (eg. dress up, hors d'ouevres)?
     Elegant!  I love dressing up and eating gourmet food and I hate silly/stupid/useless gifts!
What's for Christmas dinner?
     Lobster Newburg and Prime Rib, haven't decided on dessert yet
Do you like gift exchanges?
     No, it always seems as thought I never get as good as I give!
Gift bags or wrapping paper and ribbon?
     Wrapped gifts with ribbon matching the color of my tree decor
Family Tradition
     New pajamas on Christmas Eve, stockings on the end of the beds on Christmas morning
Favorite scent
     Balsam fir
What's on your Christmas list?
     All-Clad nonstick frying pan, Hanae Mori perfume
Gift you're most excited to give this year 
    I can't say, because my mother may read my blog!  But she'll really like what I'm giving her!
Favorite Christmas movie
     Hmmm, probably "It's a Wonderful Life" but I still like the old kids' classics too!
Least favorite aspect of Christmas
     The uninvolvement of the rest of my family (maybe I'm not remembering correctly, but I'm pretty sure I was involved in every aspect of holiday prep when I was young...decorating, baking, cleaning... Correct me if I'm wrong, Mom!
Least favorite holiday chore
     Boxes in and out of storage!!!!!
Do you do an Advent Calendar?
     Yes...all my life when I was little, when my kids were little, and even now.  I love my online "Jackie Lawson Advent Calendar."  It's only $3 and it's so much fun and pretty too!
Describe (briefly!) the "perfect" holiday
     Celebrating in the huge, beautifully decorated log cabin at Jasper Park Lodge in the Rocky Mountains with enough room for both sides of my family!  Snow, mountains, sleigh rides, amazing food, "atmosphere," family, love.  It's only about $10,000, so maybe next year! : )

Merry Christmas!


Favorite Christmas cookie
How your tree is decorated this year
Going to church on Christmas morning?
Where are you spending the holiday?
Are you hosting any event at your house?
Favorite Christmas carol
Games your family plays every year
Shopping done, still working on it, not even begun?
Sending out cards this year?
Favorite Christmas beverage
Christmas parties...casual (eg. "White Elephant") or elegant (eg. dress up, hors d'ouevres)?
What's for Christmas dinner?
Do you like gift exchanges?
Gift bags or wrapping paper and ribbon?
Family Tradition
Favorite scent
What's on your Christmas list?
Gift you're most excited to give this year
Favorite Christmas movie
Least favorite aspect of Christmas
Least favorite holiday chore
Do you do an Advent Calendar?
Describe (briefly!) the "perfect" holiday

Monday, December 5, 2011

Deck the Halls...and living room and kitchen and bathroom and...

I'm done, I'm done, I'm done!  I love to decorate for Christmas, but I love even more when it is done and I can sit on the couch by the light of the tree and listen to Christmas music and sip a peppermint mocha while working on Christmas cards or wrapping presents (neither of which are done yet, so I can't get too excited!)

I had a hard time deciding on my color scheme and theme this year, but here it is...purple, cream and copper and gold/fruit and floral.  I like it!  Cranberry-red is still my all-time favorite Christmas color, but it's fun to switch it up.  I had to remove all the red from my living room because it clashed with the tree, but my mom is using red this year so we swapped accessories.  I have her coppery-terra cotta colored throw pillows and she has my ticking-stripe red ones!  And she lent me her purple grape clusters and I lent her my red Christmas tree skirt.  Fun, huh/eh?

I did scare my daughter when I was decorating.  I couldn't reach a branch on the top of the tree, and I was already as high as I could go on the ladder, so I stood with one foot on the rung and braced my other foot against the stones of the fireplace and l-e-a-n-e-d carefully towards the branch, grasped it and pulled it towards me, and heard my daughter gasp, "Mom!  Don't!"  She is scared to stand on a step-ladder, so I know this freaked her out!  But all is well.  No mishaps, thus no funny stories to tell!  So now I'm signing off to clean up my mess.....fa la la la la, la la la LA!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Annual Family Photo

We did it!  Another Family Christmas Picture snapped and developed and ready to be mailed with the cards for 2011.  And I must say, this was the easiest, breeziest family photo ever!  I don't know about you, but getting family pictures done can be daunting.  And I actually think it's more difficult now that the kids are older than when they were young. (Sorry, young moms, I know you think it's hard now, but JUST YOU WAIT!)
Justin 12, Anna 10, Tyler 8 and Kate 6

"Back in the day" when the kids were little, I had a 35-mm camera that was loaded with a roll of film.  It's hard to remember that now that we are in the digital-everything age, but I do remember taking pictures and hoping, hoping, hoping they turned out.  I remember when the film was ready eagerly picking up the developed pictures and looking at them in the car before I even left the parking lot:  Bad picture, bad picture, good picture, bad picture, good picture except for one with his eyes closed, bad picture except great of me, good picture except my thumb was in the corner, etc., etc.  Finally, it seemed I was left with one, maybe two pictures to choose from!

I've always gone out of my way to make my family pictures interesting and "Christmas-y."  Living next door to the Arctic, it was always very cold around Christmas picture-taking time and I loved the snow for a backdrop. But being bundled up like an eskimo with only your eyes showing doesn't do much in the way of, "Oh, look how much they've grown!" for those far-away family and friends who received my cards (unless they were refering to girth with all that down filling!).  I remember bundling up the kids underneath their clothes...long johns and extra socks...and then having them wear a Christmas sweater, cute hat, mittens and fashion boots.  Then we would stage a snow picture with a sled or skates or evergreen tree or Canada geese for props while I cajoled them, scolded them, cheered them, and even bribed them with gingersnaps in a bag I carried along (no joke!).  Their poor cheeks and noses would be bright red in those pictures, but oh, we captured the "feeling" of Christmas!  Then there was the "behind the scenes" knowledge of who had been crying from the cold, or crying because they slipped on ice, or crying because they were arguing with their sibling, or crying because they hated getting their picture taken...sometimes the red faces were from previously-shed tears and not so much the cold!  And if it wasn't hard enough to make four kids smile and look like they were having a ball in the snow, we added a Golden retriever to the mix!  One day, I know my kids will look back fondly on that yearly family photo, but for now it is the dreaded tradition!  Last year they all moaned and complained so much that I used a picture that someone had taken of us by a tree that turned out half-good (at least I thought so).  But they all complained bitterly about that much so that this year they all agreed to pose.  (That's a key for all you moms who don't know how to get your older kids to cooperate...just throw in one year of a bad shot of them!)  But our problem this year was schedules.  Two of my kids live on a college campus in Portland and all four of them are full-time students with jobs.  We absolutely could not match our schedules.  I was contemplating doing a collage of individual shots when on Saturdy my son called to say his shift at work got cancelled and we could do the family photos NOW.  We were scattered all over from Newberg to Portland, but I made some quick calls and we coordinated everyone at the Ace Hotel in Portland with only two time changes!  I was actually was a beautiful day and I was going downtown at Christmas to be with my kids, see the decorations, sip some great Stumptown coffee and soak up a little of the "It's Christmastime in the city" atmosphere.  Our picture for the year was Anna's idea:  The retro photo booth at the Ace Hotel---black and white photos, super-quick, doesn't matter what color of clothing you're wearing, and we didn't have to pose as a group.  I liked the idea!  So we all converged at the hotel, plugged in our $4 bucks, and with 3-second intervals went into the booth two-by-two.  Snap!  Switch!  Snap!  Switch! Snap!  Switch!

Then the little strip slid out of the slot and we all crowded close to see it.  Success!  We only had to re-do once because of a minor mistake with borders.  Ten minutes and $12 later we were done, and free to browse the city streets while sipping our coffee.
The big tree in Pioneer Square,
but no lights until dark.

Jeff even managed to catch the Ducks game on the big mobile TV set up in Pioneer Square, so he was pretty happy too!

All in all, it was a very productive photo shoot.  We all had fun, it was done and over quickly, Mom didn't make everyone coordinate their outfits and stand in the cold, and we got to enjoy a little Christmas!