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Isla’s First Visit to the Oregon Coast Aquarium

I have been wanting to take Isla to the Oregon Coast Aquarium for a long time, and we finally made it happen! A Wednesday morning in early January proved to be the perfect time for a visit. Most people were back to work and school, so if felt like we had the aquarium to ourselves. Exploring the beautiful exhibits at our own leisurely pace was wonderful. Isla was completely captivated, and she peered into each tank with all the wide-eyed wonder and amazement that I had dreamed she would. She greeted the fish, blew them kisses, and confidently informed us that each animal was her friend. Watching these sweet little moments of excitement and discovery was absolutely magical!

Isla was especially eager to go visit one particular friend: the octopus. “Let’s go surprise the octopus,” she said excitedly. “He will be so happy we are here!” Where does she come up with this stuff?! When we finally did make our way to the Giant Pacific Octopus’ tank we found him tucked away in a crevice, with only a few tentacled arms and his underside showing. We could see his beak opening and closing, and Isla thought that was the coolest thing ever! She still talks about it and uses her hands to animate, “The octopus’ mouth went open and shut and open and shut.”

OCA0001OCA0002OCA0003OCA0005OCA0004OCA0006OCA0007OCA0008OCA0009OCA0010OCA0012OCA0013OCA0014OCA0015OCA0016OCA0017While initially hesitant, Isla did feel the anemones in the touch tank and reported that they felt “ticky”.

OCA0018OCA0019We finished our visit with a walk through the passages of the deep. Look at that awe…OCA0020OCA0021OCA0022Before heading back to the cottage we stopped off at Rogue for lunch. Yum! The light streaming in at our table was just too perfect to ignore, so I documented silly things, like Isla playing and Daddo trying to get one of her stubborn boogies… you’re welcome =).OCA0023OCA0024OCA0025OCA0026OCA0027OCA0028OCA0029OCA0030OCA0031We’re already looking forward to our next visit to the Oregon Coast Aquarium this spring!

New Years at the Cottage

We bid 2015 farewell and welcomed 2016 from our little slice of heaven along the Oregon Coast. The final sunset of the year was absolutely glorious! We bundled ourselves up, went down to the beach, and watched the sun paint the sky golden before dipping below the horizon. Walking along the sand, we reflected on all of the changes we had experienced throughout the year… leaving Shanghai, moving home to the states, changing careers, starting our own photography business. In just a short 6 months it seems we have built a whole new life!

NewYears0001NewYears0002NewYears0003NewYears0004NewYears0005NewYears0006NewYears0007We passed a family of deer on our way back to the cottage, so we stopped to blow them kisses. Obviously.

NewYears0008New Years Day blew in on some crazy strong winds… our beach walk only lasted about 5 minutes!NewYears0009NewYears0010NewYears0011NewYears0012Bella, ever hopeful =)NewYears0013All cozy in the cottage we entertained ourselves with drawing, reading and playing…NewYears0014NewYears0015NewYears0016NewYears0017NewYears0018NewYears0019and Isla played stylist to her very patient Daddo.NewYears0020NewYears0021NewYears0022NewYears0023The wind died down and the weather was more conducive to beach walking later in the week…NewYears0024NewYears0025NewYears0026Bella is 13 1/2 now, but she transforms into a playful pup the minute her paws touch the sand. Makes my heart so happy!NewYears0027This little cutie makes my heart pretty happy too!NewYears0028NewYears0029NewYears0030NewYears0031These days Isla has become quite the little mommy. She has an amazing imagination and just about anything can be her little baby. On the beach she found a crab claw and instantly started coddling and rocking it. She carried her baby crab claw around for the rest of our walk and proudly showed it to us. Repeatedly. “Isn’t my baby so cute?” she’d ask.NewYears0032NewYears0033NewYears0034NewYears0035She also found a broken clam shell to use for a bottle and fed her baby some milk.NewYears0036NewYears0037The winds carried in lots of sea foam onto the shore.  Isla thought it was great fun to through handfuls of sand into the foam and watch it dissolve.NewYears0038NewYears0039NewYears0040NewYears0041NewYears0042NewYears0043NewYears0045NewYears0046NewYears0047NewYears0048NewYears0049NewYears0050NewYears0051NewYears0052NewYears0053NewYears0054NewYears0055Jump! Jump!NewYears0056NewYears0057NewYears0058NewYears0059Isla and Daddo spent one morning drawing in the sand with sticks.NewYears0060NewYears0061Isla’s self portrait! She has just recently begun drawing legs and faces.NewYears0062NewYears0063NewYears0064NewYears0065NewYears0066NewYears0067NewYears0068During meals we spent time developing our pasta twirling skills. Isla is 1/8 Italian, after all ;). She really made a lot of progress…NewYears0069although sometimes she reverted back to the “shovel it in” method. That works too =).

Another highlight of our week at the coast was Isla’s first trip to the Oregon Coast Aquarium. We’ll share about that soon!

Sandy Price - January 29, 2016 - 2:37 am

Love her blue nail,polish! Pretty little girl!

Sandy Price - January 29, 2016 - 2:37 am

Love her blue nail,polish! Pretty little girl!

2016 Portrait a Week: 1 of 52

NewYears00311 of 52 “You see my yittle baby?”

A natural momma in the making, Isla has been finding all sorts of things to love and cradle as her “babies”- a water bottle, a crayon, a potato, a rock, and even a crab leg she found on the beach.

2015 Portrait a Week: The Back Half of the Year

As we rang in 2015 I decided to start a portrait a week project with Isla. I planned to choose one picture of our girl that best represented her life, growth, and development of each week. I did not place many parameters on the project, and I used both DSLR and iPhone photos… whichever captured an image that best portrayed our girl in her current stage.

While I had no problem keeping up with the photo-taking, our move home to the states in June did disrupt my selecting and sharing of these portraits on the blog. Oops! A few evenings with my calendar and photo archives provided me the opportunity to look back through the last 6 months of photos and select Isla’s weekly portraits.

I thought before beginning our 2016 Portrait a Week project, I would share the back half of 2015…

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A year of our sweet girl! Looking back through our adventures and her growth has filled my heart to overflowing! I am SO glad that I started this project. Now I’m off to finish laying out these photos in a lovely little album. Happy 2016 to you all!

The Elephant Calendar

The holidays with Isla have been absolutely magical! She is now at an age where she can really appreciate the wonder, the sparkle, the anticipation, and the joy surrounding this time of year. Watching our girl actively take part in our family traditions has been one of the greatest delights of parenthood thus far. There are few things more enchanting than experiencing Christmas through the eyes of a child.

Most of the time I wish our sweet girl would stop growing up so fast, but I must admit I have been eagerly waiting for Isla to be old enough to introduce an advent calendar to our family Christmas traditions. I’ve been thinking about this for the past two years (yes, really), so I knew I wanted us to have an activity advent, rather than the traditional advent calendar. Instead of opening a waxy piece of chocolate each day, Isla’s treat would be an activity we could share as a family.

Given that the holidays are busy already, I was careful to plan crafts and outings that were fairly simple and would not feel like a chore on top of the regular monthly festivities. I included activities we would already be doing anyway, like decorating cookies, looking at Christmas lights, and visiting Santa. Some projects required a little coordination with family and friends as well. We typed up the activities, printed and cut them out, and tucked them into the numbered drawers of a darling advent box my mom purchased years ago for her future grandchildren… I wonder where I inherited this dreamer/plan-ahead type personality from??? We thought up more activities than days in the month so that we could shuffle and substitute them to best fit our schedule.

I introduced the advent calendar to Isla at the beginning of the month and she was thrilled! Each day she excitedly asked to check her “elephant calendar” to see what fun little activity awaited her that day. The craziness of the holidays did interfere at times, so we did not remember our advent calendar every day, but we definitely laid the groundwork for a beloved family tradition.


elephantcalendar0001One of Isla’s first advent activities was opening a Christmas Craft Box. I filled a festive glittery box with darling holiday stamps, child-safe stamp pads, winter stickers, a box of blank stationary, and some tinsel.elephantcalendar0002After opening her craft box, Isla set to work stamping and decorating her stationary. We used her one card for her letter to Santa.elephantcalendar0003Isla promptly stuck the first sticker on her forehead. “You want a ‘ticker too?” She asked sweetly. When I politely declined, she insisted, “You need a ‘ticker on your head so you don’t get an ow-ie.” I couldn’t argue with that logic.elephantcalendar0004elephantcalendar0005Hard at work on her letter to Santa.

She told me exactly what she wanted it to say:

“Dear Santa,

Merry Christmas. I would like a present, please. I would like a kitchen. I will cook tomatoes, celery, brussel sprouts (“bussel pouts”), and beans. I would like a present, please.




One of our group advent treat activities was making gingerbread houses with Isla’s Nana Sandy and cousins. This is something Nana Sandy does with the girls each year already, so this treat took very little preparation on our part, other than coordinating the date with family.elephantcalendar0006The girls had a blast decorating their houses and Christmas trees! Isla was far more interested in eating the candy than decorating- especially once she saw the mini marshmallows- but we got her back on track eventually.elephantcalendar0007elephantcalendar0008The face she gave me after I told her she had to stop eating her marshmallows. Ha!elephantcalendar0009elephantcalendar0010elephantcalendar0011Didn’t they turn out so darling?!

Each Christmas we do a holiday footprint craft with Isla, so we tied this year’s craft (snowman footprints) into an advent activity. I forgot to take a photo of the finished product, but it was so cute!elephantcalendar0012elephantcalendar0013elephantcalendar0014elephantcalendar0015elephantcalendar0016elephantcalendar0017Isla had such a great time painting her feet that we decided to make a hand print snowflake as well. I dusted the wet paint with a little iridescent glitter and we love how it turned out!

One day we painted Isla’s nails. The holidays are a sparkly time, so we painted sparkly (or if you are Isla, “parkly”) nails. It was a simple advent activity that took just a few minutes and brought a big smile to our girl’s sweet face.elephantcalendar0018elephantcalendar0019elephantcalendar0020Isla looked forward to checking her “elephant calendar”. She’s all about doing things by herself these days, so she pulled out the tiny drawer and retrieved the note tucked inside by herself. Well, some days Teddy Bear helped…elephantcalendar0022Our Santa French Toasts were not nearly as beautiful as my Pinterest inspiration, but they added a happy holiday flair to our brunch with friends and the little girls loved them.elephantcalendar0023elephantcalendar0024An enthusiastic hug or sneaky choke-hold? Sometimes it’s hard to tell!

Cookie baking is a favorite holiday past time, so we set up a date to make cookies with friends as Isla’s daily advent activity. I made a batch of this delicious almond sugar cookie dough (we still have 3/4 of it in the freezer for future cookie decorating). The girls cut the trees, the adults helped with icing, and then the girls went to town decorating with sprinkles, chocolate chips and mini marshmallows…elephantcalendar0025elephantcalendar0026elephantcalendar0027elephantcalendar0028Isla snuck bites of cookie dough every time I wasn’t looking and thought she was so clever by hiding behind the counter as she nibbled away… little stinker.elephantcalendar0029elephantcalendar0030The girls spent as much time snacking on the sprinkles as decorating with them.elephantcalendar0031elephantcalendar0032elephantcalendar0033elephantcalendar0034elephantcalendar0035elephantcalendar0036We made Christmas pizzas one night… a nice little dinner/advent combo. We purchased two pizza dough bases from Papa Murphy’s and with some careful cutting and shaping I created a wreath (forgot to take a picture), a candy cane and a snowman. They were darling and delicious!elephantcalendar0037elephantcalendar0038Once again, Isla proved to be more interested in snacking than decorating. I think I detect a theme with this girl…elephantcalendar0039“Some cheese for the pizza and some cheese for me.”elephantcalendar0040Most of the olives went straight into Isla’s mouth as well!elephantcalendar0041elephantcalendar0042elephantcalendar0043This has been one of the rainiest Decembers in Oregon’s history, so getting outside to see the lights was a bit tricky. We finally had one clear evening, so we arranged dinner and a trip to Peacock Lane with friends and family.elephantcalendar0044elephantcalendar0045Our visit to Santa this year was a great success! Knowing that many toddlers are wary of the big man in red, we began talking with Isla about the trip weeks in advance. We read books about Santa. We told her she could sit on Santa’s lap if she wanted to, and that she did not need to feel scared. For days leading up to our visit she would tell everyone, “I will sit on Santa’s lap and I will not cry.” She practiced politely asking for a kitchen. By the time we braved the long mall line, she was ready. Without hesitation, though grinning bashfully, she climbed onto Santa’s lap. It was clear she felt a little awkward as she kept bringing her hands to her face every time she talked, but by the time her visit with Santa was over she was beaming. “I sat on Santa’s yap!” she exclaimed. “I did not cry. Santa held my hand!”elephantcalendar0046

I am so, so glad we decided to add the “elephant calendar” to our Christmas traditions. It was such a fun and simple way for our little family to celebrate together. I am already excited for next year!

I put together a list of our advent activity ideas to share with you all:

  • Christmas craft box
  • decorate gingerbread houses and trees
  • make a bird gingerbread house
  • decorate Christmas cards
  • write a letter to Santa
  • watch The Grinch Who Stole Christmas (original cartoon movie)
  • make snowman soup
  • play in the snow
  • take a winter walk and make a winter collection
  • paint sparkly nails
  • visit Santa
  • bake cookies
  • eat dinner by the Christmas tree
  • make holiday pizzas
  • sort and donate toys
  • open a new Christmas book
  • go to Zoo Lights
  • go and see the neighborhood lights
  • snowman the door (decorate Isla’s door to look like a snowman)
  • go and get peppermint hot chocolate
  • Christmas tree craft
  • snowman footprint craft
  • PJ day
  • prawns and champagne night (a family tradition)
  • Christmas Eve
  • Christmas Day
Sandy Marshall - January 1, 2016 - 5:34 pm

Love each and every moment shared! What wonderful memories…although I think my favorite is her reading the story of Jesus birth and The Night Before Christmas! <3

Orsolya Gyorgy - January 1, 2016 - 11:52 pm

This is such a great idea! What wonderful memories for you guys!