walking in a winter wonderland

This was our first Christmas since moving to Austin and you’d think we’d have our family come to us since the weather is nicer, but noooooo. We decided to go big for the holidays and visit ALL of our family. That meant 4 Christmases. Yeah, I suppose I can’t complain about that.

I also can’t complain about the snag-free flights and the mild weather we had in both our destinations—Flagstaff and Chicago. We got lucky.

When we decided to spend Christmas in Flagstaff, AZ, I immediately pictured driving through a blizzard to get from Phoenix (where it’s warm) to Flagstaff (in the mountains.) But the weather cooperated and was actually 50 degrees on Christmas day!

A dumping of snow a week or two earlier made for a beautifully idyllic Christmas setting in the mountains amongst the juniper trees.

Christmas 2011

Spending Christmas in Flagstaff with my dad and his wife, my sister and her husband and my brother was so wonderful. We enjoyed a wine tasting, a crackling fire in my dad’s retro wood stove (which is actually a new gas stove made to look old), and a wonderful stroll on Christmas day followed by drinks on the deck (did I mention it was 50 degrees?)

Christmas 2011

Christmas 2011

Christmas 2011

Christmas 2011

Christmas 2011

Christmas 2011

Christmas 2011

Christmas 2011

Christmas 2011

Christmas 2011

After Flagstaff, Drew and I flew straight to Chicago for the rest of our Christmases. We celebrated with Drew’s dad and siblings in Chicago with dinner and breakfast. We were also celebrating Kari (Drew’s sister) and Brett’s last night in Chicago. That week, they were moving to Boulder, CO!

Then we all headed out to visit with Drew’s mom where we played a little Wii and I did my annual photo-stalking of the kitty cats.

Christmas 2011

Christmas 2011

Christmas 2011

Christmas 2011

Christmas 2011

I got a new lens for my camera for Christmas – the Lensbaby Muse. I was playing around with it to practice and it seems I still need a lot more practice – but it was fun seeing some of the effects!

Christmas 2011

Christmas 2011

Christmas 2011

Our last stop was to visit with my mom and some of our friends and their husbands and babies. Our friends Jill and Sean just had their baby boy Flynn in early December. Cuuute!

Christmas 2011

Christmas 2011

Stefanie and Adam are expecting their first in March!

Christmas 2011

And Sara and Brady brought their 4-month-old Jameson. He’s getting so big!

Christmas 2011

Christmas 2011

Ummm…I think my friends are trying to tell me something. 🙂

Christmas 2011

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everywhere you look, you only see red

I’d been waiting rather impatiently for June 10th to get here. I didn’t think it would. But somehow it did. That was the night of my last final of grad school. I rushed through it so I could get home to start packing for my trip to Arizona. And I squeezed in a quick celebratory drink. I strategically planned to fly out early the next morning, partly to celebrate my dad’s birthday, and partly to celebrate graduation. While DePaul grads were preparing for a long, boring commencement, I was on top of a mountain – literally! A better way to celebrate in my opinion!

We landed in Phoenix, meeting my sister and her boyfriend Branden who flew in from NY. My dad picked us up and we stopped at Badass BBQ Steakhouse for lunch. It was pretty badass. We headed up through Sedona and stopped at a few sights to take pictures. Then on to my dad’s house in Flagstaff.

The next morning we walked around the south rim of the Grand Canyon. It was bigger than I imagined.

Other stops of the trip included Walnut Canyon, Mt. Agassiz (Snowbowl), lava tubes, and Schultz Tank. The Flagstaff landscape was so diverse – there is no shortage of places to visit that are unlike anything you’ve ever seen (at least out here in the midwest.)

We also visited my dad’s work. Normally, that would be a pretty boring place to take guests, but my dad has a cool job. He’s working on a giant telescope for the Discovery Channel through the Lowell Observatory. We went up to the Lowell Campus at dusk and waited for it to get dark to go in one of their old giant telescopes to look a some star clusters. Then they brought out a smaller telescope to show us Saturn. Looking at stars through telescopes isn’t new to me, as it’s been a hobby of my dad’s for years. He built a telescope when we were kids that we would drag out to our patio in the summertime. Needless to say, my dad’s pretty happy out there and it’s cool to hear about the progress they are making.

See more pictures of my trip here