Thursday, January 29, 2015

We Went to the Farm.

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Happy Kansas Day! Was this a really big holiday in your house growing up? Only ours? Hmmm...well, happy birthday Kansas! The 7th graders at our school are learning about Kansas history now, and their first year teacher is having a blast. It's fun to jump in and see them explore our state's rich history.
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Last weekend my grandpa had a birthday, and Mom, Kip and I made the trip to Jewell County to celebrate his birthday (photos to come) and enjoy the farm. We didn't all make it together at Christmastime, so it was also a belated Christmas celebration. While Kip and I stayed in town with my aunt and uncle, we made sure to spend some time on the family farm. It's still in Kansas but four miles from the Nebraska state line.

Kip is always up for a walk around the farm, but whereas my mom, sister and I would happily walk the white rock gravel road, Kip prefers to walk through pastures and see the land up close. We climbed a couple of fences and walked north from the house. Just ahead past this old gate, we stopped to take a phone call from Kip's dad to confirm that my car needed a new radiator. As we paused for the update, six deer bolted from a draw to the east and crossed in front of us. They were certainly spooked and moving very quickly.
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After a while we wandered down to see the cattle right behind the office. While they were skittish at first, they gradually crept back over to us. They wondered if we were going to feed them, I think.
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We held perfectly still watching them. It was pretty quiet during the stand-off, just the wind and a few noises from the cattle. Warm for January, we turned soon and walked back up the hill to the house. We found some cold Coors Lights and the K-State basketball game, a perfect start to a Saturday.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Our Living Room in 2014.

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Here's a really dramatic before picture for you of what our living room looked like as we were moving in together. Wedding presents littered around the room, new napkins and towels that need to be folded and tucked in a closet that needed to be cleaned out and organized, and lots.of.taxidermy.

There was a point sometime last summer where Kip's parents were coming to town, and he decided to just put up all the taxidermy in one room so that it would be off the floors, and he could clean. Many of these friends have found a new perch around our home, and I think they are less overwhelming one at a time. The skulls and turkey fans had to go though. I think I'll save the formal introductions for when you get to see the animals in their new spots.

We've worked hard on the house. Kip has painted for days (that wood paneling is a beast), and I've cleaned, sorted, purged, unpacked and made food to fill the freezer for busy weeknights. He nicely told me that my cutting in skills were "sub par," and Abbey agreed that even though she taught me well, I'm a more proficient roller. I think I'm even better at cooking and baking. The living room and kitchen have a new color, so does my office, and Kip's moved on to the ceilings with a happy heart. Just kidding. No one likes painting ceilings.

The house is a slow work in progress which doesn't bother me when I'm busy with work, meetings, and holding other people's babies. On the other hand, over Christmas break when we were home together for 17 days, the slow progress of the house made me absolutely crazy and a pain to live with. So much still to do!

But most days I tell Kip, I love our house. The layout fits us well, and it feels like both of us live there with my stuff moved in and my framed art on the walls alongside the animals. We have started eating more dinners on our new table, and we watch TV and lots of college basketball on the new couch. It's a pretty good life, and January is definitely treating us well.

Monday, January 19, 2015

An iPhone Look at Our Honeymoon.

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A few times we took photos on the iPhone instead of pulling out one of our big cameras. Here are a few of the gems I want to make sure get saved forever too! On Saturday night we had dinner reservations at Le Vallauris, the fanciest restaurant in Palm Springs. The girls surprised me at my bachelorette sleepover with a gift certificate for dinner there. It's a French restaurant in an old home and most of the diners sat on a large patio in the center of the house. Literally almost every waiter we spoke with was a French import, or they were good at faking a French accent. It was delicious and a really special splurge that my friends picked out. We would have never done it for ourselves, and so I savored each bite of the four course meal. And I had a good excuse to wear my rehearsal dinner dress again. It was dark when we left, so we could snag a selfie and a picture with the stars hanging on the palm trees downtown in Palm Springs.
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Here's a picture in Shields with the date shake which was delicious, but almost too sweet for both of us! And we like our sweets (see also: our wedding with donuts, cookies and cake). And I loved this pair of palm trees that grew out of the courtyard in our hotel.
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Our trip to In-N-Out Burger might have been Kip's favorite meal of the whole trip. He hasn't eaten a lot of fast food since I moved into the house, so maybe that added to the awesomeness for him. We waited about thirty minutes for our burgers and fries so they definitely tasted hot and fresh. It was so crowded!
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Several mornings we walked or stopped for coffee at Koffi, a local coffee shop, on our way to our daily adventure. Two medium black coffees, no room for cream. The sun would come up on the mountains as we walked. I love the palm trees, though Kip thinks they are pretty pointless as a tree. No shade! Not very sturdy! When I was a little girl and went to California for the first time, I asked, "Mama, what are those funny trees?" Pretty accurate.
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Our last morning we ate breakfast at the very hip Ace Hotel & Swim Club down the street. They took an old motel and a Denny's and made it cool. Seriously, all the bloggers go there. We had a fantastic breakfast by the pool, and I doubled down on Stumptown Coffee and a fresh grapefruit cocktail. It was another perfect day in Palm Springs.
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But it was also the day we were heading home. It was the first time Kip could remember getting on and off the plane outside and walking across the tarmac. We connected to and from through Phoenix, with easy flights and no delays.
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The only instagram of the whole trip was a collection of our Instax photos and the best photo strip ever from the Ace Hotel. Have you ever framed one of those? I think I would like to keep it somewhere safe forever. Those crazy kids look like they are in love.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Palm Spring Aerial Tramway.

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We bought tickets for the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway on our last full day on the honeymoon. They aren't cheap at almost $24 each, but they were totally worth it. The tram is packed for the ten minute ride up. 
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The elevation change on the tram is dramatic. In about ten minutes, we climbed about 5000 feet. At the top there was snow and a whole lot of sunshine. Our last day was one of the prettiest days for sure. We walked down a really big hill to hike the Desert View Trail that winds through a very pretty forest with only four species of trees. We saw people sledding and trying to enjoy the little snow that was high above the desert. It was fun to visit with this family with two little girls who were seeing snow for the first time!
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Again, our packing proved to provide challenges for hiking around. The silk shirt I'm wearing underneath my coat needed a trip to the cleaners, and Kip was warm pretty quickly while we were walking around. It was crazy to hike while there was lots of snow on the ground and be so warm as the temperatures neared 50 degrees.
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The nature trail leads to five scenic overlooks that provide outstanding views of the desert. We thought the first one was amazing, and they just got better each time.
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This view on the left is the road we traveled up into Joshua Tree the day before. There are so many windmills everywhere!
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Right before we took this photo, we caught up with another couple who was hiking the trail. They were resting on some rocks overlooking the valley, and Kip climbed up to see from a higher vantage point while I paused at the bottom. As I was looking out over the valley I heard the husband begin to read to his wife, and Kip climbed back down to find me crying as I listened. He was reading Psalm 103, and it was quite possibly the most perfect passage for that view and that day. Here are some of the most perfect parts of Psalm 103.

Verse 1: Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Verse 8: The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.
Verse 11-12: For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. 
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When we hiked back up to the lodge at the top, the bar was opening up for the day and we enjoyed a beer at the top of the mountain before we rode the tram back down the steep cliffs. It was fascinating to learn a little bit about how the tram was built into the mountainside. They had to use helicopters to help install some of the big towers that carry the tram up.
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The rest of the day was warm, almost hot really. We drove a ways so Kip could try In-N-Out Burger for the first time, and we spent the rest of the warm day at the pool. Eventually we found dinner at a restaurant uptown in Palm Springs and enjoyed another round of patio dining.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Joshua Tree National Park.

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You will probably remember that I purchased Kip a print of National Parks for our wedding. We planned to go to our first National Park together on our honeymoon, and we both loved our day in Joshua Tree National Park.
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Kip told me when we were planning the trip that I should know the Joshua tree is not like a big tree. I had a pretty good idea that we were headed to desert and not Redwoods thanks to the constant stream of Joshua Tree features on wedding blogs. Apparently everyone wants to drive to the desert to take photos or get married. For me, no thanks.
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We planned our visit around a tour of the Keys Ranch. About 100 years ago, a crazy rancher got the idea of setting up a homestead in the middle of the desert. He managed to convince someone to marry him, and we spent a couple hours learning about how they made a life among the boulders and Joshua trees.
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I found the tour on the website and thought it would involve more hiking and exploring. It really was a lot of listening and very little walking according to the Fitbit. Our guide was an extremely knowledgeable park ranger who kept the stories engaging as we walked. I may be the history teacher in our relationship, but this is really right up Kip's alley. He said he could have listened for another hour easily.
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Mr. Keys who ran the ranch was extremely resourceful and went to great lengths to keep everything humming along on the ranch. We learned about mining, farm, irrigation, and a gunfight in the wild west. I loved this collection of broken dishes from all over the ranch. Any of the dishes made with lead turned purple with sun exposure!
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The park ranger described this as their mansion. I think Mrs. Keys might have gotten tricked, but they seemed to have a pretty happy life in the middle of nowhere. I mean, it really is the middle of NOWHERE.
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The Joshua trees scream Dr. Seuss to me. To be really tall, they must be really old. I thought this view of the valley with thousands of trees was fantastic. It was kind of hazy, but you can see how the Joshua trees stretch all the way to the next mountain group. Joshua Tree gets less than four inches of rain each year, and the park rangers are concerned there are very few baby Joshua trees growing with limited rainfall in the last couple years.
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After our tour, Kip and I went to the Hidden Valley picnic area for the nature trail. It's a one mile loop with great views of Joshua Trees, huge boulders and little mountains. We read all the nature trail signs along the way.
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We met lots of families along the way, and it was easy to see why. Huge boulders along the way invite people of all ages to climb up on top. Kip and I couldn't resist either. It was all very safe unlike the adventurous folks free climbing. They made me really nervous.
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There's no food available for sale within the park, but we planned ahead and brought a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter, plus some fruit, chips and lots of water. True story: we tried to bring the peanut butter home in our carry-on and had to throw it away. It was chunky, practically just a jar of nuts. That's a fun fact you should take with you the next time you travel to Palm Springs: TSA will keep your peanut butter.
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Joshua Tree is a huge park, and we spent most of the afternoon meandering through the park. The roads are well done, and we really enjoyed watching the views change as we went through the park. The northern part of the park was far more crowded with visitors. As we drove, the Mohave dessert melts into the Colorado dessert. The Joshua trees are gone, replaced with desolate valleys.
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We stopped to see the Cholla cactus garden. Kip told me that these are also called teddy bear cactus because they look fluffy and cuddly, but they also can attach on to anything quickly. I was actually fairly terrified of getting too close to these monsters. They have an ombre color and also made me think of Dr. Seuss!
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Our plan was to leave the park on the south side instead of the entrance we came into the park. The further we drove, the fewer people we saw. We walked the Cottonwood Springs nature trail and learned a little bit about the Native Americans who lived there and made a life from the desert.
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I was thankful to climb back in our car and be out of the wind, dumping the gravel out of my shoes. We listened to our book, I ate some more of that gummy candy from Idllywild, and drove out of the desert. It's beautiful in a way that makes you thankful for all the types of terrain but also grateful for green grass in the front yard.
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It was definitely warm but still winter so the sun starts to disappear into the haze in the early afternoon. Our wandering through the park took us a long way from Palm Springs but gave us an excuse to stop for a date shake on the way home.
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First national park, check! We loved exploring and observing all the changes that happen within the park, and I would really recommend Joshua Tree. It's really unique and gorgeous. My friend Jennie recommended following the U.S. Department of the Interior on instagram recently, and Kip and I are constantly seeing other places we would like to visit!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The San Jacinto Mountains and the San Bernardino National Forest.

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One of the things we didn't do correctly on our honeymoon was pack well! We ended up walking, hiking and exploring every day we were there and each packed exactly one KSU t-shirt. Thankfully it wasn't that strenuous of hiking and we were able to make-do.

Our first big adventure was on the Saturday of our trip with a drive up into the San Jacinto mountains. I thought the switchbacks might make me puke, so I was thankful for all the scenic overlooks that we could find. This first shot shows the view back into the dessert valley with little snippets of green. So many golf courses!
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Our hotel had a fabulous book about hikes, and I found a leisurely hike about an hour and a half from our hotel on the Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail in the San Bernardino National Forest. We bought a parking pass and got a trail update (light snow, not too slick), and we found the trail entrance up in the mountains above Palm Springs.
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We were prepared with water and some snacks, but we didn't really need anything as we walked out and back on the easy trail. For almost two hours, Kip and I walked through forests and clearings with fabulous views. The trail was very close to the much more challenging Pacific Crest Trail, made famous by Cheryl Strayed's book Wild. We can all agree that I wasn't cut out for the Pacific Crest Trail, and Ernie Maxwell's trail was much more my speed.
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You've probably learned by now that Kip is an arborist and loves all the things about all the trees. We stopped and looked at lots of species as we walked, and I took lots of detailed shots for him. I knew that probably the photos would mostly be used in discussion with his father, the retired forestry professor. Once the student, Kip was thrilled to quiz his dad and teacher about the trees we saw on our honeymoon.
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For every lesson Kip tried to teach me about pine trees, I tried to teach him some valuable camera skills. He's actually getting an eye for the manual adjustments needed and his focus and framing skills have improved dramatically. I would not say the same for my tree identification skills...I really do listen. I just don't get to use my skills everyday so they get rusty.
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It was about 50 degrees up in the mountains which proved warm enough for walking. The sky was overcast and the clouds sat heavy on the mountains far away from us.
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We met a few people along the way, couples and families with kids, but I used a really big boulder to take the picture of the two of us on a timer. We also worked hard on perfecting the timer camera picture this trip, mostly using large boulders as our tripods. While we didn't pack the right clothes for exploring, we did throw in Kip's work boots and used my backpack every day. It was easy to have the backpack since we normally carried my camera with an extra lens, the instax camera Rachel gave us for our wedding, and water bottles. Including my camera phone, we often switched between three different cameras. Totally normal.
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There were some beautiful views and lovely shaded paths. Kip would have walked further, but we had fancy dinner reservations later that night in Palm Springs that demanded a schedule for the day. Kip wanted to be sure we ate lunch at a reasonable time so we would also be hungry for dinner!
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We ate lunch at the Lumber Mill Bar & Grill in Idyllwild. The half pound burgers and cold pale ale hit the spot, and afterwards we walked around Idyllwild for a while. It was a quaint little mountain town just like the ones I love to explore in Colorado. We found the BEST candy store with all my favorite varieties in one tiny spot. I had an impossible time deciding and happily snacked on the candy we purchased for the rest of the trip. I'm a sucker for all the gummy sour candy, and Kip will happily leave me to it. Our trip back to Palm Springs was uneventful and with thankfully fewer switchbacks. We listened to Food: A Love Story as the scenery changed back from mountains to desert.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A Honeymoon to Palm Springs.

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I picked the pretty random honeymoon destination of Palm Springs, California early in our engagement. I kept seeing so many different bloggers and scrapbookers go visit for little weekend getaways, and the more I researched, the more I thought it seemed like a good fit for us. Kip didn't really care, and I got started planning.

Some people pick an all inclusive resort where it's easy to sit on the beach and enjoy the different restaurants within that resort. I've never had that experience (we were kind of a choose your own adventure family growing up), but based on how our honeymoon went, I think we might be a choose your own adventure kind of couple too. If you ask Kip about Palm Springs, he'll respond really positively that it was really great. He almost sounds a little surprised when he answers, and I think we both were delighted with all that we got to do. And we loved exploring and being adventurers together!
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We also did the whole trip "offline." I didn't instagram anything, post on facebook, or tweet. It felt really really nice to not be looking at my phone for likes and comments. We did use my phone to help us look up food recommendations that I had emailed myself or to find new ones on Yelp. Kip and I took off from Kansas City on a cold Friday morning at 5:50 am, arriving in Palm Springs just in time for brunch at Cheeky's. We waited an extra 10 minutes for the patio, ordered a "bacon flight" and our trip was immediately off to a perfect start. This photo of bacon is literally the only food picture I took the entire trip. We did eat almost ALL of our meals outside thanks to gorgeous patios, warm temperatures and heaters.
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Our fantastic hotel, La Maison Hotel, had free wifi, and we used that and a book about hiking to plan out our adventures each day. We also loved hanging out by the pool, drinking a complimentary beer in the afternoons, and finally the last day it was sunny and 80 so we hung out in the pool. With only ten lovely guest rooms, we got to know the owners a little bit and really relaxed because it was so quiet. We were definitely a lot younger than the other guests at the hotel, but we didn't really mind. We also like to eat breakfast early in the morning! It was a pretty reasonable price, and we saved because we weren't paying resort fees or for parking.

The weather was cooler when we arrived with highs in the mid and upper 60s, but the last two days of our trip it was easily 80 degrees. We drove up into the mountains one day and took the tram another, and we were able to hike comfortably at about 5000 feet with snow on the ground and no hats and gloves.
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We needed a nap after our early departure time, so our first day was very low key before we went to dinner at Matchbox. One of my favorite DC area restaurants has ONE location clear on the other side of the country, and we would have eaten there twice if they were open on Mondays. We planned our trip around good coffee in the morning, adventure and relaxing during the day, and good food and beer in the evening. It was perfect. But I could use some more of that bacon this morning. Especially our favorite, the jalapeno bacon.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Favorite Wedding Party Photos.

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One last wedding post for you with some of my favorite photos of the wedding party. We discussed back-up plans in case the weather was true to November. We were prepared for cold, dreary weather and no sunshine. Snow even. And then the sky smiled, and we had 65 degree temperatures and sun. A little bit of breeze but nothing that couldn't be managed.
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The bridesmaids asked if I wanted them to wear their new wraps in photos, but I was so excited about the temperatures that I told them not to worry about it at all! They look so pretty in their black dresses that they chose themselves. I seriously didn't care at all and wanted something that they liked and felt comfortably in!
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We picked the tuxes out earlier in the summer without too much thought about how they would all look together. Because we didn't need any color for the guys, it was pretty easy to just pick at random. We did pick a fairly slim fit suit, which felt slim even for Kip. 
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There are lots and lots of beautiful photos to chose from, and I haven't approached the tough choices for our walls at home yet.
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I think Erica May asked me to look down and not smile in a couple of photos for some more serious bridal portraits. It was actually physically impossible. I'm smiling just looking at the photos again today!
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My "something old" from my aunt Kathi was this beautiful costume jewelry pin that she brought with her on the plane from Delaware. I wore it again on Christmas eve.
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We took photos in front of the church and across the street at the Kansas City Star building.
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And all the bridesmaids wore gold shoes. I love this photo of all of our shoes, the layers of my dress and one bouquet. The gold shoes were Lauren's idea, and a perfect touch!
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And there was love and magical light.
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This guy. Do you see the smile lines by his eyes? What a happy dude.
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The veil made it through all the portraits outside, and then Rachel removed it for traveling in the limo and stopping at the Christmas tree stand.
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From the beginning, I really wanted to take portraits with Kip in the Christmas tree stand at 67th and Nall at my friend Kate's church. Marrying an arborist so close to Christmastime, it seemed like the perfect place for some portraits. It wasn't that crowded when we arrived - just a few families there picking out a tree. The Boy Scouts and their parents were happy to let us walk around and take some photos, and many of the little kids stopped to watch us.
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It smelled amazing surrounded by all the trees. This is one of my absolute favorite photos from our time there, and I put it on the back of our new year's card.
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We wanted to take a few portraits with biodegradable gold confetti. We worked really hard to get the flash just right and throw the confetti ourselves at the right angle so it would fall behind us. It was actually hilarious trying to get it just right which is why we are laughing so hard in the photos. So very happy.