Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Family Photos - Winter 2012

My parents and us went up to Alpental Ski Lodge at Snoqualmie Pass on Christmas Eve to get some family pictures taken. It was the first time we've had new family photos taken in over a year and a half. 

Just to show how some of us have grown (and others have gotten smaller, eh hem ME), here's a comparison from Aug 2011 and Dec 2012. 

I think this next one is one of my favorites...

The old wooden skis were some that were left in the garage of a house that we rented last year and the owners didn't want them, so we got them. They were so cool and the perfect props for our photos.  And the wooden sled we borrowed from some friends - the boys LOVED it. We are now going to have to find one kind of like it.

And then here are some "outtakes"...

Above - we had to make sure the boys had plenty of time to run around (to keep warm) and also get wiggles out.  Otherwise we got pictures like this one:

We had warm chili, rolls, cookies and water.  Tried to heat up water for hot cocoa but couldn't get the lighter to work, and forgot matches. Whoops. 

At this point the boys were pretty much done...

It was a really fun day.  Even the part where we tried to drive up an icy hill and my dad's truck (with all of us in it) started sliding backwards at a pretty fast speed. Thank goodness for the "runaway truck ramp" we found. Whew.  We were all a bit worried for a bit.

It was a fun adventure for Christmas Eve, and just perfect.  Full of warm fuzzies and happy memories for sure :)  

Saturday, December 22, 2012

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas!


I don't know what is more exciting for me than to wake up and see this outside our bedroom window...

Yes, we've had a bit of snow this past week and it's been fun!  The boys have really enjoyed it.

Last winter, Preston wouldn't even touch the snow. But this year, he's gotten over his fear and look at him climbing up a hill to sled down it!  So proud of him!


I have been having fun doing the 12 days of Christmas for Will this year.  

He is pretty hard to shop for. In years past, it seems like I either couldn't think of what to get him, or whatever I did get him he returned or exchanged. I know sad right?  

But THIS year, I put some extra thought and research into this.  I started looking online for ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas. I found all sorts of blogs, websites, forums from people who had done it for their significant other.  So I found lots of great inspiration, and then tailored each day specifically for Will. 

Since today is only Day 8, I can't tell you what I've got planned from 8 - 12, but I CAN tell you what I've done for days 1-7 so far.

Day 1:  1 Dvd (a documentary on 4 guys who ran across British Columbia, 180 km)
Day 2:  2 Shoes (he needed new shoes)
Day 3:  3+ reasons why I love Will (a love letter)
Day 4:  A Date for FOUR (a family night to Snowflake Lane)
Day 5:  A gift certificate to Five Guys Burgers
Day 6:  A 6 pack of gourmet Root Beer
Day 7:  A De-Stresser Work Kit (complete with 7 items to distract him from his job LOL, including a football, candy, slinky, gum, etc.)

I'll let you know later what I did for days 8 - 12.


I've been trying to do something each day with the boys for Christmas time, whether it's baking cookies, going to see the trains, watching a Christmas movie, going to the store to pick out presents, wrapping presents, and more.

The boys and I at Snoqualmie Falls - a little cold and damp, but they enjoyed it. Ran all around.

Preston's gingerbread house that he made at Pre-School, though he preferred to show me the candy he ate from it. :)

Me and my striped sweater that I got for $9 at Rue21 that I'm slightly obsessed with. I think I've worn it for the past several days in a row.

There was a day last week where everything seemed to go wrong.  You know - a day where the kids go crazy, stuff spills, you burn your food, and more.  Taylor didn't nap that day which only added to the chaos and here he is on my bed - I sat him there to watch a Christmas movie.


On that same bad day, we had an incident with our fireplace.

That night, we got in the car to drive up the freeway to go pick up Will's car that he'd left (it broke down, needed a new alternator).  After spending like an hour trying to jump his car and finding it would only drive like 20 feet, we ended up calling a tow truck.

On the way home, our car was on empty and I was freaking out that we wouldn't make it home. I mean the stick was going down past E and fast.  I could only imagine us getting stranded on the freeway with one car out of gas, and our 2nd car dead waiting for a two.

Well, then we realized that neither one of us brought a wallet. So we had to drive all the way home to get our wallets so we could get gas in the car. Thankfully the car made it, but when we got home, as I walked up to the front door I hear this faint beeping sound.

Will hears it and says "Is that us, or the neighbors?"

I look in the window and see the inside of our house is completely covered in smoke. I'm freaking out and trying to get the door open as fast as possible and run inside while Will is behind me. I throw open the windows while Will runs to the fireplace and closes the door and then turns off the smoke detectors.  I go back outside and sit with the boys who are now crying in the car because a) we left them there in the dark, and b) they know something is wrong.

So, before we left earlier that evening, we'd tried to start a fire in our fireplace.  We couldn't really get it started because there was a down-draft coming down the chimney and blowing the smoke back out into our house instead of up and out.  We'd get it started, then it would blow out.  In the end, we had a smelly house with no fire.  So we said "forget it" and we left to go get Will's car.

Well, I guess we forgot to close the door on the fireplace stove tight and it had swung open, and the entire inside of our house got fumigated with smoke.  All that smoke that was supposed to be piping up the chimney was just pouring into our living room *cough cough*.  

It was awful.

Will got some fans going and opened all of the windows in the house, and then we left to go get some gas in the car. And yes we made sure that this time the door to the fireplace was closed completely.

We came back a half hour later, and walk in to a very smokey house still.  Well, not so much smokey, but SMELLY.  And the funny part about it all, is the fire in our fireplace had started by itself and there was a nice roaring fire perfectly burning just waiting for our return. Ha!

For the week following this incident, I had to de-smoke the house.

I had to remove all of the couch cushions, fabrics and wash them.  I put baking soda on the carpets and let it sit, then vacuumed them.  I went to the store and bought candles, air freshioners, glade plugins and more. One of the days, I took the boys to the outlet mall and we played around while I turned off the heat and opened every single window in our house with the fans going. It was like 30 degrees. Brrrr.

I started a pot of apple cidar and put loads of allspice and cinnamon into it and I've been simmering it for the past week on our stove top.

I also had to rewash all of the clean laundry that was sitting in the hallway up stairs, as well as all of the dirty laundry.  In one day I did over 10 loads of laundry. This pile on the bed was only half of it.... 

It's been over a week now, and the smell is finally unnoticeable   But for a while there, everywhere we went we would smell campfire smoke on us.  It was a little embarrassing.  Friends were telling me that we might have to make an insurance claim for smoke damage and have a company come in to oxygenate our house.  Thankfully it did not come to that though.


So this past Tuesday night I got to do something very special.

I got to perform one of my own songs, "Illumination", with a full live symphony orchestra.

For those unfamiliar with the world of music, this is kind of a rare thing.  The last time I performed with a full orchestra was in 2002 after winning a concerto competition.  Unless you are a regular concert performer who travels around performing with orchestras on a regular basis, this type of opportunity is usually only allotted to concerto concerts (as I mentioned).  One could pay an orchestra to perform with them, but it is quite expensive.

After I released my recent album, the mom of the girl who played the cello on my cd, told me that I should perform with her daughter's symphony.

I said "Yeeeeah, that would be so cool!"

Well next thing I know she's giving me the conductor's email and telling me to talk to him. So I email him, he's interested, we meet at Tully's for a meeting, talk out the details and BOOM I find myself invited to perform as the guest soloist with the symphony in December (this was in July when we talked).

Originally we had planned to perform three of my songs, but as it got closer to the concert date, we narrowed it down to one song for the concert because the program was getting overbooked with numbers.  

I was fine with that, because it was turning out to be a lot of work to prepare for.  I had to take all of my orchestrations and notate them for the full orchestra - which I hadn't done prior.  I had originally only written the song for piano, violins, celli, percussion, and french horns.  So now I was having to write extra parts for all of the other missing instruments such as violas, bass, clarinet, flute, oboe, english horn, trombone, tuba and  more.

I ended hiring a very gifted transcriptionist who helped me with the woodwinds and brass and by October 15th, I met my deadline and had all of the orchestra scores to the conductor so they could start rehearsing.

Towards the beginning of December, I was invited to come to the school for a run-through.  I actually did two in-class run-throughs with them, and then one dress rehearsal.

This particular orchestra is one of the top youth orchestras in Seattle. It's auditioned and highly competitive and sought after.  The girl who played the cello on my album is VERY very good, and to give you an idea of how good the orchestra is she is actually the 7th chair cellist.  (meaning there are 6 other cellists who are considered more skilled than her). Just to have that many cellos in a high school orchestra is unusual anyway.  But this orchestra was HUGE.  24 violins, 15 violas, 9 cellos, 8 basses and a full woodwinds, brass section. They are incredible.

I've had music colleagues email me to ask how in the world I got this opportunity. I simply answered "Because I asked." 

So here are some photos from the concert, which happened on the 18th, and then the video is at the end.  And I also have to say, this was one of those things on my bucket list that I always wanted to do. So I suppose you could say that this past Tuesday I got to do one of my life's dreams.

This is me with Kristen, my piano student, who happens to also be the sister of the girl who played cello on my cd.

Here is the video of my performance, though not flawless.  I did a few little goofs, but overall I think it went quite well.


People are always asking me, okay not people but girls/women are always asking me where I get my dresses.

I get most of my dresses from a website called promdressesol.com.  They have a TON of very cute modest dresses that do NOT look like bridesmaid dresses or what I like to refer to as the "Utah Prom Dress".

Occassionally I also find dresses on ideeli.com.

I rarely buy dresses in the store because a) I don't have time to shop at a department store with 2 boys, and b) I can rarely find modest dresses at department stores, with the exception of Nordstrom.

The dress that I wore for the symphony concert was beautiful - one of Will's favorite.  He told me "I picked a winner".  It was long, flowy, RED (which is what I wanted for the concert to show up amidst all of the black), and it had just a hint of "sexy" to it.

As a Mormon, I'm always striving to keep my modest standards and wear dresses that cover shoulders, etc. For this dress I had a friend of mine, who is a tailor, line the dress with nude fabric.

She lined from the bust up over the shoulders to the back, as well as added a slight cap sleeve on the top of the shoulders.  The stomach area of the dress was already lined with ivory-colored satin.

From a distance, you could not even tell that the dress was lined and it blended in completely flawlessly.

I've discovered nude lining to be a friend of mine for dresses that are "almost" modest but just need a little bit of fixing to cover some spots.

This was another dress from the same company, where I used a nude liner underneath the top bodice of the dress.

Anyway, I'm planning to write a post soon (on my music blog) where I share some of these other "secrets" that I've learned about the red carpet, hair, makeup, styling, etc.  Just all stuff that 5 years ago I had no clue about, but that has helped me a lot for events like these.  So I'll share that once I get it up.

We are excited for Christmas in a few days.  I'm excited for Will to not work. The poor guy has been married to his job a lot lately, and I'm looking forward to spending some time together as a family. :) I'm especially excited to see the boys open their gifts on Christmas morning ;)

We hope that you all have a very wonderful Christmas as well and please know that we love you and think about you.  Christmas Eve my parents are coming to our house and we are heading up into the mountains to take family pictures in the snow. Then we will open a few presents, have dinner, and then they are heading back to their house that evening (I guess they don't want to sleep on our floor - i don't blame them!) :)

Merry Christmas! - The Thomas's