2013 in Review

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

I was planning on writing a big beautiful post about how our 2013 went.  It was going to be an awesome recap of all the stuff we plan with big ambitious hearts, then find ourselves looking at each other in panic while in the midst of mayhem, and then somehow come flopping, tumbling out of with surprised, grateful-that-its-over-and-we-got-the-pictures-to-prove-it smiles on our faces.

That's almost the exact progression of every.single.thing we do during the year.

and we always do too many things in the year.

But then I finally read this awesome post sent to me by my dear friend Jamie a few weeks ago (hi, Jamie- I know you meant for me to read this pre-Christmas, but somehow I read it only just today and somehow that was perfect timing.  so, as always, thank you.) called:  To the Mamas of Littles During the Holidays and realized, ya know what?  forget it. 

it's New Years eve and these kids are still all hyped up on sugar cookies and my husband is off from work today and its blustery cold outside, and um, no.  I WILL be doing LESS today.

so instead to recap our year - know this:

2013 was all of these things here at Team Studer:

it brought new things (like this, this, and this)
we took trips (this, this, and this)
we stayed home

or in other words - it was blessed.

thank you for being here with me through it all.  

If you need permission (which you NEVER do), please feel free to also do LESS today too.

happiest new year to each of you.

What goes into a Christmas Card?

Monday, December 23, 2013

There are so many things I love about the holidays, and one of them that I am straight up crazy about is receiving holiday cards.  We tape them all up in our kitchen so that each time I enter I pass the faces and signatures of people we love both far and near.

We are big fans of the photo holiday card and we've been sending them out since 2006 (the year we got engaged).  I have all of our old cards saved in a giant scrapbook I have of B&I full of random quotes and funny stories and our anniversary year-in-reviews for our kids someday to look back on how cheesy and adorable we are (HAH).

If you're interested, take a peek at some of our Christmas cards from yesteryear:

2007 when I went from living in Brooklyn, NY to living with Brandon in Punxsutawney, PA

 2009 when we traveled to Hawaii for vacation to visit our cousins Adam&Lea.
2010 - our first baby's first Christmas.  eek, those sweet baby cheeks and big shining eyes.  gah.
2011 - such a big year for us; Thailand, new house, new baby on the way, yeesh- I'm tired just thinking about it!
 2012- two kids; lots of naughty, blissful crazy.
Looking back through the years of Christmas cards is such a rush of emotion.  How much our family has visibly changed when you look back on the few snapshots we decided to use to capture a whole year in our lives.

Keep in mind, Mummas out there, that although Holiday cards generally look beautiful and flawless, they are only the highlight reel of usually a ridiculously large amount of mayhem that it took to get those few seconds in time.

And this is no exception for us at the Studer Zoo- this is what it looked like for a solid 15 minutes at our house (thank you, Aunt Uch, for your help in attempting to keep children and dogs occupied) when I went for the 'ole holiday photo shoot challenge.

2013 Christmas Card outtakes

And then, a midst the whining and antsy-pantsy, and the crazy, there was this solitary moment:
Merry Holidays and Happy New Year to all of you.
I am so grateful you make some time in your day to share with me and my words.
Honestly, it is a great privilege of mine.

Sending out peace on Earth to you (if only for a moment) this holiday season.


our big secret project OR that time we started a publishing company

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


What's that thing the late, great, Mandela said?

Well, that about sums up our experience over the last few months as we built our own publishing company:  The Hunting Daddies

Let's start at the start, eh?

If you're a regular reader around here, it's no big secret that we are a hunting family.  I've written about how hunting and fishing .dictate a great deal of our lives with avid outdoorsmen surrounding me at every turn:  husband, Dad, dad-in-law, best friends, cousins, and the guy in line behind me in the check-out line at Gander Mountain last night.  We live in midwestern PA and as James Carville explained about Pennsylvania, "Philadelphia in the east, Pittsburgh in the west, and Alabama in the middle,"  we're located firmly in the 'Alabama' part.

So it really should have come as no surprise when Greyson came right out one day and asked me if I would take him, 'in the woods to sit in a tree stand to use the grunt call.'  He was barely three.  I just laughed at first and shook my head, "oh boy, here we go again - another redneck."  And then my teacher-brain started thinking about how impressive it was that he used the correct vocabulary words in the right context.  Shortly after, I got to googling- I wanted a book that was similar to our other board books that included vocabulary words with the corresponding picture for specific content.  We have one for basketball, football, and musical instruments.  Up until this point, Grey was picking up vocab based off of what he heard our family and friends say.  And I wanted a tool to have on hand that when Brandon said he needs to fix a 'fletching', we would have a picture of one handy instead of googling it.  Alas, I could not find a board book that fit my needs.

Our best friend Jon was living us during the week this summer, so he and Brandon just kept doing what they normally do; taking the kids with them to set up the trail cams, and going for walks in the woods, and teaching the kids to make turkey calls...all the while the wish for a vocabulary books kept rattling in the back of our minds.

Until, finally one night at dinner, I was all like, "Let's just make a book ourselves?"

And so then we did.

Well, it wasn't that easy, but basically that's what went down.  We wanted something that didn't exist so we took the very big, mostly scary, completely unfamiliar steps of making it happen.  

After the initial, 'Wait, are we being serious about this?' conversations, we got started on making it happen.  We all organized the vocabulary words we wanted for our first book, Jon drew the pictures, I learned Photoshop on the fly, we discovered we needed to become our own publishing company (as confirmed by this woman's post), we applied to be a small business, we spent lots of our own money, Linds and I excitedly called each other basically just to squeal, we set up a website, Lindsay navigated the world of online accounting and state taxes, we started social media profiles, we held our breath,  we waited, and waited and waited for our federal EIN, we held web-meetings, created a logo, ordered business cards, jumped through legal hoops, we messed up, we tried again, we googled, we drank beers, we laughed, and above all we learned.

And then after all that (and surely more of that to come), we arrived where we are today.  Somewhere in the middle of astonished and terrified.  The idea began as a way to get educational materials to our own kids about the stuff we already spend the day talking about (hunting, fishing, and other outdoor activities), and now after nearly 6 months into this adventure- we've found it's morphed into this awesome thing all of it's own.  

Through social media, we've been so lucky to meet other families that are just like ours (#huntingfamilyfriday).  Regular hunters and fishers who spend their weekends and evenings in the woods or at the creek with their family and friends.  That's what it's always been about for us - sure our husbands love tagging a monster buck or catching a legend-worthy steelhead - but those moments are few and far between, it's more about the memories that are made while spending time with your family away from distractions. 

So, here we are today, at the next big canyon of unknown.  Our first board books have made their way half-way across the globe and we are ready to start selling.  We are busily working on our next book and already discussing ideas for future avenues that at the start of this - we never would have dreamed of.  It's exciting and I'm so happy to get to finally share the news with all of you!

Soooo, that's what we've been up to for the past few months - hah!  So glad that cat's outta the bag, friends.  

If you'd like to check out our book for sale (will be shipped no earlier than Thursday 12/19), please find My First Bowhunting Book here:  http://www.thehuntingdaddies.squarespace.com/products/myfirstbowhuntingbook

If you want to learn more about The Hunting Daddies, check us out:

Thank you so much for your patience over the last few months, I know my posts have been inconsistent so thank you for hanging around as we figure this all out.  I have no plans to leave our family blog, so stay tuned for regular updates and occasional posts on our adventures in publishing with The Hunting Daddies.


moral of this post:  Dream BIG, jump, figure it out on the way down.

Monday Rumination List

Monday, December 16, 2013


I'm reading Same Kind of Different As Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore and I'm absolutely loving it.  Beautiful writing and great story.  A recommendation from me!

We are doing lots of holiday reading over here with the kids including The Snowy DayChristmas in the MangerRabbit's Gift, and If You Take a Mouse to the Movies.

And this article in response to the 'Affluenza' absurdity from the teen case in Texas.

This love letter written to Pittsburgh which is sweet and gets right to the point of why we love living in western PA.  

This hilarious list of a 10-month's sample letter to Santa.  Oh my, so spot on.

And this inspirational story about Leo; a homeless man, who was offered from a stranger learn code or receive $100.  He picked to learn code and has since created an app for sale for $0.99 in the app store.  amazing.

And this image hit a chord in my heart.


Speaking of techology/math/science, which I am notorious for announcing 'is not my thing,' - this video is reminding me that I need to hold myself accountable for learning something that is uncomfortable for me.

As does this video that explains how if we want to change the way the future looks - we need to be involved in the technology.  but seriously.

This video from the Mimi Foundation in which they gave cancer patients a chance at a moment of carefreeness.

Unilever Project Sunlight put out this beautiful video entitled, "Why bring a child into this world."  watch it.

And surely by now, you've all already seen this awesome WestJet video.  If you need a holiday boost of happy, watch this on repeat.

Obviously not going to leave this watching list without mentioning Soul Pancake since they are generally my daily dose of happy.  Check out this video of grown-ups making friends in a ball pit.


We have made this Brown sugar & Garlic shredded chicken multiple times before and just made it again this past week.

And these breakfast enchiladas are delicious and filling.  We make them on days that Brandon is off of work and we can usually last until dinner (with some mid-day) snacks.  We loaded them up with sausage and lunchmeat ham this past week.

I also whipped together some chicken & noddle chowder - which Brandon loved having while finishing up the last few days of rifle hunting season.  We left it in the slow-cooker overnight, so the following afternoon, it was all super yummy and mooshy - if that's your sort of thing (it is ours!)

New Happenings

CHECK BACK HERE TOMORROW for the big reveal of our 'secret project' that I've been mentioning over the last few months.  Holy Moley, exciting and scary!!  eeeeeek!

Personally Loving

getting to spend time with my two best friends in NC the first week of December for Karpy's baby shower.  It was a seven and a half hour drive down to NC, but I talked the.whole.time (hahaha, sorry Kate) and somehow, it wasn't even a bad drive.  I guess two mommas in a car without kids is sort of like a vacation in itself.  Karpy is a beautiful momma already and we loved spending the weekend all together.  Can't wait for that baby boy to arrive <3 nbsp="" p="">


literally, Brandon's first win as a coach came last Friday night at a home game.  So far, they are 1-2 for the season.  The kids have attended all three games so far and their getting a little better and better about sitting still for the whole thing.  We'll see, I got an offer for a babysitter (hi, Taush!) that I might be taking up very soon to get a game in peace :)

Marco has been consistently getting into daily mischief without any issues.  My little monthly calendar has been such a huge help in keeping us on target.  We have had to switch a few days around because of lack of supplies or whatnot, but every morning, Marco has had a new surprise for us without fail.  I'm counting that as a big 'ole win.

Working Towards

finding time to write.  the holidays and our secret project and brandon's coaching have seemed to swallow whole all of my time.  I certainly could do better about carving out time to write.  besides getting to a blog post or two a week, I have done ANY other writing (for my novel).  ugh.  new years resolution?

12 months of kindness 2014 - starting to think about what worked this year for us and what we could try for next year.  I'll be writing more about this after the holiday!  i hope you'll join in with making a family commitment to 12 acts of kindness over the year!

What are some things on your mind these days?

Mini Family Vacation: ERie, PA

Friday, December 13, 2013

We took a little family vacation to ERie, PA in late October.  When we first were married, we lived in ERie in a little townhouse, just B, Me, and Lola kitty.  On particularly difficult days now, Brandon and I will look across the room to each other and say, 'Remember Cabernet?' (our townhouse street name).  By that we mean, remember when we had unlimited amount of hours to spend together doing carefree activities like playing scrabble and watching movies?  HAH.

It was nice to go back to our starting point if even only for a few days on our mini-vacation.  We arrived and got the kids suited up nice and warm and headed over to the ERie ZooBoo! night event at the zoo.  We wore abbreviated versions of our TMNT costumes and walked around collecting candy at various trick-or-treating points and checked out all the animals.  The zoo was decked out for Halloween and the kids really loved it.

 After our fun but chilly evening at the Zoo, we headed back to the hotel and it was further proven that our kids seriously love hotels.  We jumped on the beds, opened every drawer possible, and hit the indoor pool - much to the children's supreme delight.

The only problem with hotels is that both kids prefer to sleep in their own beds, so when bedtime rolls around everyone gets antsy pantsy and tossy turny.  But we made it through the night because the kids knew that Splash Lagoon was waiting for them on the horizon.

We grabbed a quick breakfast (Bob Evans, how I love thee) and played some mini games to keep our children occupied in public places.

jelly container memory

who's eye is who?

We then headed over to Splash Lagoon and watched our children lose.their.freaking.minds.  Seriously.  It was their best day ever of their whole lives thus far.

The great thing about Splash Lagoon is that it has lots of different areas that suit lots of different ages.  We hung out in the kiddie pool area for hours without any complaints of boredom or loss of interest.  The kids rode those mini water slides like enthusiastic little fish.  It was awesome.

 After awhile, Booboo built up his confidence and announced that he wanted to try the "Big Red Slide" (aka Maui Wowie) and so he and I went up to the top while Brandon and Gem stayed at the exit to see him off.  He was one of the youngest riders and I kept a look of encouraging excitement on my face, but know Mummas, that I was having a mini panic attack inside.  He sat his little butt in that slide when it was his turn next and a flash of worry stabbed my mind, 'if he flips over face down and somehow can't turn back around, will he get to the bottom of the slide before he drowns?!"  Seriously, awful awful thought.  He gave me one last ear-to-ear grin and off he went.  All the way to the bottom with that smile and proceeded to ride it approximately 589 times throughout the rest of the day.

After the Maui Wowie success, Grey had enough courage to attempt a tube slide with B and I.  We then had to ride the Big Kahuna 589 times in a row - but it was fine as Gemmi had certifiably passed out at this point from sheer water-fun exhaustion.

We spent the rest of the day eating snacks, giggling in the wave pool, and hanging out in the mini hot tubs sprinkled throughout.  It was such a great, great family day.  And somehow the end of October was the perfect time to go as there really weren't many people visiting yet.  We've been to Splash Lagoon in high tourist season where the lines are sort of long and it's a little cramped.  But we had a perfect day and we're hoping to be able to go back and visit one day this winter (maybe in the longest month of the year, March) when cabin fever is at it's peak.

After the kids were sufficiently wiped out, we headed over to our cousin's house to catch the Steeler game and grab some dinner (hi, Fortes!) and then it was back to the hotel to crash.  On Monday morning, B got up to do some steelhead fishing and a little hunting with Baby Kev (he's a grown man, but we still call him a baby because he's my younger cousin...by like 3 years, but whatever, hah).  The kids and I got lucky to spend time with one of our favorite family friends - Jessica, Samantha, and Kate (hi, JP!).

hahha, Greyson.

the best kid group shot we could manage - hiiiilarious.
Jess is one of my oldest friends and so it's nice to be together and chat endlessly about whatever weird thing pops into our brains.  There's this comfort level that comes with knowing each other so long that I really am so grateful for.  Plus, being with JP always inspires me in some way because she's awesomely creative and intentional - so double bonus for me.  We had lunch, played all early afternoon, and the kids were tuckered out just in time to make the three hour trip back home.

It was a great mini vacation and the kids were such a nice age to be able to do all the things we did.  Bud and I wondered at Splash Lagoon how long it would last that the kids wanted us to be with them the whole time - how long until they just want to hang back away from us, or play together or with friends without us?  It was a perfect little dose of family fun to recharge our batteries before the winter.

Winter Driving Advisory from a Mom

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

An Open Letter to Social Media updaters who complain about slow drivers in winter weather conditions:

It's winter and 'tis the season to read posts that you publicly shame cautious winter drivers.  I get it.  It's what is socially acceptable to do now - immediately run to social media to see how many high fives we can harness by poking fun at someone that caused a blip of annoyance in our day.  I guess I get it.

But I also know that you may very well be making fun of me.  I might have been that cautious driver who's tail you rode for 15 minutes because what you don't realize in your moment of driving impatience is that I have two little humans in my backseat.  One that is crabby because she needs a nap and another who has asked incessantly if he can have a snack and watch Bubble Guppies when we get home.  And by incessantly, I mean 36 times in a row.  We've been listening to this same Johnny Cash song on repeat for the last 25 minutes because it's the only thing that keeps my daughter from whining.  Honestly, just like you, I really just want to get home too.

But I also have a deep worry in my heart, because no matter how distracting or annoying my two kids are in this moment, I also know that sort of the biggest point of being a Mom is try to keep my little humans safe.  So if that means driving overly cautious when there is snow and possible ice on the road, then I sincerely apologize for the moment of road rage I have sparked in you today.

However, please know that as you blow by me at your first chance of passing; speeding by with confidence and a proud sense of invincibility, I send out a small wish to the universe to keep you safe until you arrive at your destination.  'Please let them get there, at least for their mother's sake.'  Because you see, I can't watch you zoom by without imagining that my own children will be just like you someday.  And as your cellphone buzzes with a text from your own mother asking, "Did you get there yet?  Please text when you do," know too, that I am hoping for the same.

Perhaps the next time you come up behind a cautious driver in inclement weather, you will imagine it is me with my two cranky kids that I love more than my own self.  And in place of frustration or annoyance, you can send out a small wish for that nervous driver and their precious cargo to safely arrive home instead.

a Mum and her two little gremlins.