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We got a good start to the year by building the LEGO Boutique Hotel we got for Christmas. We took turns building it and when we were done, Debbie was hooked on modulars - the term for LEGO buildings that can be attached to additional modulars to create little cities. Each level can be easily removed to see and play with the interiors. Taken 1/4/23.
Debbie continued her weekly online challenge builds. This week's challenge was to build a home for a collectible minifigure, so here's Pizza Dude in his apartment.
If the pandemic taught us anything, it's how to hang out with Jill and Jared virtually. A little, a laptop, a tripod, a couple phones, and some beers turns a weekend evening at home into a party. Taken 1/7/23.
Tom was excited to start building his LEGO Atari set, ...
... and had it finished by the next day. Taken 1/8/23.
Audrey and Dean invited us over for New Year's Eve Take Two, so we could get around to the foods and activities we planned but didn't do two weeks earlier. Much food was eaten and much fun was had. Taken 1/13/23.
The next day, our home was invaded by grandkids.
They tried on their new matching swimshorts and shirts before having some fun in the swim spa.
The next morning, we had breakfast and LEGO time in the basement before ...
... taking the kids back home in time to celebrate Bennett's birthday.
Happy birthday, Bennett! Taken 1/15/23.
Debbie was busy each week in January with more LEGO challenge theme builds. She built a micro city, ...
... then a nursery rhyme scene (she chose Little Jack Horner), ...
... an animal (how about that cool flamingo?), ...
... and a small scene using the color scheme and personality of one of LEGO's new line of Friends characters. This is Olly's room. According to his official LEGO bio, he likes to sew.
We spent several weeks in January and February on a road trip around Texas, visiting national parks, looking for Mather plaques, and visiting SpaceX's Starbase in Boca Chica. Read all about the trip here.
Our trusty Septimus hit 120,000 miles the day we returned home from Texas. Taken 2/14/23.
Debbie made LEGO valentines for our grandkids so Jill took a picture of them for us.
It's always fun to come back to a pile of packages after a long vacation, sepcially since most of them probably contain LEGO bricks. Taken 2/16/23.
Another LEGO challenge; another creation: build a habitat for a collectible minifig. In this case, the Programmer from Series 19. Taken 2/17/23.
Jill and Jared came by Kelly and John in tow. After dinner, we had chocolate birthday cake and built some LEGO models, ...
... then celebrated Jill's birthday with custom cocktails after the kids went to bed. Here is some spooky green Polyjuice Potion.
We played a few rounds of Open Relationships, a hilarious game based on Venn diagrams. Taken 2/17/23.
The next morning, Kelly and John played with their LEGO houses in their LEGO pajamas with Gram Gram, ...
... and then played in the swim spa when Grandpa woke up.
Grandpa sure does love his girl. Taken 2/18/23.
Our favorite kids work on their LEGO house creations every time they come to visit, and here they are. This is Liam's Rock 'n' Roll Restaurant, ...
... Peach's Castle created by Bennett, ...
... John's house, ...
... and Kelly's house. Taken 2/20/23.
We finally made it to the new location of Saraga International Grocery in Castleton. Whoa. That's an impressive seafood counter!
So many interesting foods we haven't seen before.
We might have gotten overly excited but we needed every one of these groceries. All of them! Taken 2/20/23.
Speaking of Saraga, Jess and Tyler brought a few fun things from Saraga when we hosted a little gathering, including this piñata filled with Mexican candy ...
... and a selection of interesting tropical fruits to sample. Taken 2/25/23.
One of our security cameras caught this beautiful fox strolling through our backyard. Taken 3/11/23.
Melodifestivalen! Taken 3/11/23.
Happy birthday, John! While celebrating with family, ...
... Debbie noticed that Jill's new LEGO orchid set had just the piece she needed to complete her dinosaur habitat. Taken 3/12/23.
There's the completed habitat on right side of the third row, along with 38 other single-color habitats Debbie built. Taken 3/14/23.
We had a fun lasagna dinner with Jill, Jared, and cousin Karl, who was in town on business. Taken 3/14/23.
Here's our sweet Claire after a drastic haircut. Her hair grows so quickly so it will be down her back again in no time. Taken 3/17/23.
Happy St. Patrick's Day!
Time to wear some green and have a drink or two! Taken 3/17/23.
Debbie was invited to display her LEGO habitats a Brickworld Indy 2023 and her friends and family came out to support her. On the first day, Kris and Erin stopped by, ...
... as well John and Kelly with their dad and his date. Taken 3/18/23.
The next morning, Debbie was happily surprised to be presented with an award, ...
... the IndyLUG Greatest Spectacle Award, given by the IndyLUG membership to their favorite display of the show. Taken 3/19/23.

More visitors stopped by Debbie's booth, including this woman who knew Debbie's work from their mutual Facebook LEGO group and sought her out "to fangirl a little."

Audrey and Dean stopped by and we were so surprised that we forgot to take a photo of them, but we got several pictures of ...
... Jill and Jared. Taken 3/19/23.
We also didn't get a picture of our next-door neighbors who were surprised to discover that Debbie was exhibiting, but here's Debbie's former colleague, Jenni, with her family. Taken 3/18/23.
We joined Audrey and Dean at Beef & Boards for a performance of "Footloose" with seating in a private box. Taken 3/25/23.
Debbie built her second modular LEGO set, but this time, she purchased the instructions and built it using bricks in her own inventory, so a few of the pieces were changed here and there. Taken 3/25/23.
Here's our annual photo of our grandkids in the spring garden. Not much was blooming yet but that didn't stop us from taking advantage of the opportunity when the kids came to visit.
They got to play with Gram Gram's Brickworld display, ...
... enjoy a dip in the pool, ...
... and have dinner when Mom and Dad arrive to take them home. Taken 3/30/23.
The next night, we picked up some international foods from Saraga and headed back to Jill and Jared's to cook it up for dinner.
After Jill pulled the Cards Against Humanity expansion card pack from the jar of Clam-O-Naise we brought them, ...
... we had a great time playing and hanging out.
But wait! A big storm was headed our way!
It was very cool to watch the storm as massive lightning strikes lit up the night sky. Taken 3/30/23.
We took off early the next morning, stopping to get a photo of the LEGO flower sets we had put together the night before for use in Jill and Jared's wedding in May.
We had to get home to get ready to host a fun evening with great friends.
Jess and Tyler set up a fun Easter egg hunt for us. Taken 4/1/23.
Household tip: Use old business cards to serve ant poison. Taken 4/3/23.
Jess and Tyler came over to watch the Carmel Marathon with us. We enjoyed mimosas and cinnamon rolls, and we clapped for the runners, ...
... especially Kris. We followed Erin's progress online and caught a glimpse of Chris M. as he ran by too. Taken 4/8/23.
Debbie made a new LEGO Easter display ...
... and built some LEGO eggs to match the yellow one she bought years ago. Taken 4/9/23.
Baker Tom tackled his first pretzel knots. They were as amazing as they looked. Taken 4/10/23.
Oooh, pretty garden.
Later that day, we enjoyed our first patio beers of the season on a sunny afternoon. Taken 4/11/23.
We took an overnight trip to Chicago to do some sightseeing, including a stop at Frank Lloyd Wright's Unity Chapel, ...
... a LEGO Store, ...
... a cemetery where Debbie's great-grandparents are, ...
... and Mather High School where we found a Mather plaque. Read all about the trip here. Taken 4/13/23.
We attended Derek's 50th birthday party, ...
... and watched his band perform for the guests. Taken 4/15/23.
The next morning, Debbie started sorting the many boxes of family photos that Dean asked her to sort and scan for him.
It was a project that would end up consuming most of her time for the next six weeks.
There was so much sorting to do - by era, by size, by year, by notes on the back. Taken 4/16/23.
Doug surprised Debbie with a picture of his D20 socks, one of many D20-themed gifts Debbie has sent him every year for Christmas. Taken 4/16/23.
It was no surprise to SpaceX fans that the first Starship test launch happened on April 20. Elon does love his drug references. Taken 4/20/23.
Here's Debbie's first modular of her own design. It features an ice cream shop and McDonald's on the first level, a two-story apartment above them, and a rooftop patio and garden. She's pretty happy with how it turned out. 4/20/23.
It's soccer season! Gram Gram brought some LEGO sets for the grandkids to play with while the other grandkids were out on the soccer field.
We also brought our trusty Kubies which made everything warmer ...
... especially when the wind got blowing.
Here are our little soccer players! Taken 4/22/23.
On our way home from soccer, we discovered that a new set of painted sculptures to collect downtown. This is one of the White River Art Canoes installed in 2021 and 2022. Taken 4/22/23.
We got home in time to set up the basement for Dean's Stay Golden birthday party.
Debbie collected parts over several months and made a LEGO Golden Girls set ...
... and Tom made a fresh loaf of Japanese milk bread ...
... and golden raisin oatmeal cookies to match the Golden Oreos we served on a custom LEGO cookie tower.
Gotta love color-coordinated party outfits! Taken 4/22/23.
The next morning, we picked up Claire for an overnight visit. Taken 4/23/23.
Tom went down to Jill's to do some handyman work and got to see their new tent set up for the kids in their playroom. Taken 4/24/23.
Meanwhile, Debbie was still sorting Dean's pictures, ...
... and sorting some more, ...
... and stil more. Taken 4/26/23 - 4/27/23.
Another Saturday, another round of soccer games. Nearly all of the kids' grandparents and great-grandparents were there to cheer them on, including us, Greg, Jared's parents, Greg's parents, ...
... and Christine's mom. It was nice to get to meet her and Christine for the first time.
Here's Kelly showing off her moves, ...
... and soon-to-be-stepbrothers John and Liam smiling at each other even though they were on opposing teams.
Snack time! Taken 4/29/23.
Audrey and Dean came over to help sort pictures and to bring more tubs of pictures, this time from Audrey's family.
Here's a well-deserved dinner break. Taken 4/29/23.
More sorting the next day, ...
... then two days later, Audrey and Dean came over to make dinner ...
... and bring back some of the photos they had taken home to help sort. Taken 5/2/23.
Wedding tasks temporarily replaced photo sorting when we picked up Zelda to cat-sit her during Jill and Jared's wedding weekend.
She made herself right at home. Taken 5/4/23.
Debbie scanned and edited photos from Jared's life and matched them up to similar events and themes in Jill's life.
She also labeled and filled popcorn snack bags, ...
... and made a gold-and-white mat to hold a poster for guests to sign.
Tom made a gluten-free meal to bring along to the wedding dinner for Kelly, ...
... and Debbie made some additional charcuterie spears.
Here's the custom LEGO wedding display Debbie created, along with a custom-printed tile with the bride and groom's wedding logo.
Of course, there was a bowl of custom-printed tiles for guests to bring home.
Finally, we played with the grandkids a little before heading home. Taken 5/5/23.
We got up nice and early the next morning to watch the coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla, ...
... but the main event of the day was Jill and Jared's beautiful wedding. We did lots of last-minute tasks like set up the chairs, decorate the garden gazebo, create Jill's bouquet, put out food, etc., etc., then sat back and enjoyed the ceremony.
Before heading off to dinner, the grandparents and great-grandparents spent some time hanging out in the beautiful weather.
Once downtown, we gathered the kids and walked to the restaurant, stopping for adorable pictures along the way.
Our grandkids are the cutest. No question.
We had a delicious dinner at the Eagle, ...
... and a fun time at the small reception back at Jill and Jared's house afterward, including a round of Malört shots, ...
... and dancing with the kids.
All the kids changed into their pajamas and went home with us, where the party continued with some LEGO building ...
... and a sleepover in the basement. Taken 5/6/23.
The next morning, the brand-new stepsiblings played with LEGO some more ...
... and then we loaded them up in the van along with Zelda and drove them home. Taken 5/7/23.
When we got home, we needed to celebrate the Eighth Annual Make Pappardelle For Dinner Day. A couple of months earlier, Cousin Rachel sent us a picture of the pappardelle she would be cooking up, Hatch Green Chili, so we looked up the manufacturer and bought a few flavors for ourselves too.
We made tomato-cracked pepper pappardelle tossed with salami, onion, and garlic, ...
... and here's Oswald really hoping Rachel will spill some of her pappardelle. Taken 5/7/23.
Claire had her third skull MRI to check on her neurofibromatosis 2. It was really heartwarming to find Claire in recovery playing with a toy that a nurse had found for her. Debbie had kept her Winnie the Pooh toy and when Claire woke up, her nurse remembered her playing with Pool so she got a similar toy from the hospital's loaner toys. Of course, Claire was glad to see Pooh again, but played with them both interchangeably until she was ready to go. Taken 5/9/23.
A couple of days later, we saw her ENT to review the results of her MRI. We were disappointed but not surprised to learn that some of her NF2 tumors had grown since the last scan, but she still doesn't appear to be bothered by them. Taken 5/11/23.
Here's Tom's first try at making bagels. Nailed it! Taken 5/12/23.
Jack and Nolan stopped by to play LEGO for a little while. It's great to have LEGO fans next door! Taken 5/12/23.
We had a traditional Eurovision viewing party with Audrey and Dean for the first time in years.
We matched our garment colors to a flag of one of the participants. Debbie and Dean both chose Poland. As usual, we didn't agree with Europe's choice of winner but that's a tradition too. Taken 5/13/23.
It's a dream come true for Tom! He can finally justify owning a Starlink.
This beauty will be bringing us sweet, sweet internet on future camping trips. Taken 5/16/23.
More photo organizing and scanning. This time, it was Audrey's photo albums that were being processed. Taken 5/16/23.
And still more photo organizing and scanning Will it ever end? Taken 5/19/23.
Debbie took a brief break from Audrey's photos to bind this little booklet of Jill and Jared's childhood photo pairs that she printed for their wedding. Taken 5/19/23.
We had beautiful weather for our last soccer outing of the season.
Here's Kelly with the tiny girl on her team who was so good we nicknamed her "Pele."
Great season, girls
After Liam's and John's teams posed for their team photos, it was time to pack up ...
... and Jill got a photo of all four kids. Taken 5/20/23.
Oh, my. More photo sorting. Taken 5/22/23.
Debbie treated herself to a day of rearranging some closets to be able to store all of our road trip supplies in one place.
Sure, it has to share closet space with linens, but this tiny room is nearly all camping equipment now.
While she did that, Tom went to Jill's house to help with her dishwasher. Taken 5/23/23.
.The next day, Tom headed to Dayton to help his brother hang drywall. Here's the room framed and ready, ...
... here's Mike cutting drywall, ...
... and here's the end result. Taken 5/24/23.
When your Viking uncle turns 80, you send him a birthday card worthy of the occasion! Taken 5/27/23.
Lord, have mercy. After six weeks of nearly daily effort, Debbie was finally done with Audrey and Dean's photos. She made thumb drives in triplicate to store all of the digitized photos, ...
... and packed the heavily-weeded and highly-organized compactly in four boxes. Given how many pictures Debbie started with, you can be sure that there were hundreds of duplicates that she had to wade through. Taken 5/27/23.
Getting that huge monkey off her back called for celebrating. Hooray for bottles of Elmaro Rosa and a comfortable patio!
We also celebrated with a loaf of delicious homemade cranberry-walnut bread. Taken 5/27/23.
Audrey and Dean invited us over the next day so we could deliver the completed photos.
We had all watched "The Traitors: Australia" recently, so there was an Australian theme to the gathering.
There were also thank you gifts, ...
... including a red bread baking dish for Tom, ...
... and the LEGO Starry Night set with a light kit for Debbie, which we put together a couple of days later.
Look at that adorable LEGO Vincent Van Gogh! Taken 5/30/23.
Our last letter and rent check from our Arizona tenant had come at the start of April, followed by a letter and rent check from his son at the start of May noting that Ralph had been hospitalized with Covid and would be moving out of our property, so we made plans to head to Arizona in June.
Since we'd be seeing Debbie's brother when he came to help us prepare the property for sale, Debbie took pictures of the family minifigs she had made, starting with their dad with his glasses, guitar, and Norwegian sweater, ...
... their mom with her straight blond hair, banjo, and hand-knit sweater, ...
... Doug in his Boy Scout uniform, ...
... and Debbie pushing Girl Scout cookies. Taken 5/29/23.
Here's a pretty new light fixture for our front patio. Taken 6/1/23.
While picking up Claire from her group home, we got a last-minute request to get more summer-weight pajamas for Claire, we had to search a few places until we found some that would work for her: long t-shirts with tie-front pants to hold the shirts in place. Taken 6/2/23.
After Claire went to bed at our house that evening, we played some online games with Jill and Jared. Taken 6/2/23.
The next morning, we took Claire home, then got the house ready for ...
... a breakfast-for-dinner-themed party, complete with pajamas.
Mmmm, waffles. Even more mmmm, hash brown waffles.
After dinner, we held the epic BBC Cereal Bowl. So many types of cereals tasted, so many decisions debated and made. The winner was a tie between Golden Grahams and Lucky Charms.
A good time was had by all and partially-eaten boxes of cereal were consumed for several weeks afterward. Taken 6/4/23.
The very next day, we headed north to attend another fun Macalester College reunion, ...
... then made our way to Arizona to clean and sell our property there. We took the very long way home, stopping at LEGO stores and national parks on the way. Read all about the trip here.
Shortly after our return, a storm passed through our backyard, taking down two large tree branches while we watched.
While they were the neighbor's tree branches, all of the damage was slowly done to our yard as the branches balanced precariously between the broken tree and our lawn. Taken 6/29/23.
Since we were finally home long enough to enjoy it, Tom filled our luxurious 10' inflatable pool for the first time this summer. Taken 6/30/23.
With grandkids coming to visit, Debbie built a set of six identical LEGO apartments to be stacked and decorated.
Once the kids picked the color apartment they wanted, their parents got to each decorate one too.
This is exactly the sort of thing that a LEGO-loving grandma likes to see.
Here's the completed result, stacked in the order that the kids requested.
Here are Liam's apartment, ...
... John's apartment, ...
... Jared's Dungeons and Dragons gameroom, ...
... Bennett's apartment, ...
... Kelly's apartment, ...
... and Jill's pizza parlor.
Meanwhile, the pool had warmed up enough to have a fun swim break.
Here are some happy kids.
There was dinner in the kitchen, ...
... and gluten-free birthday cake made by Grandpa for his own birthday.
Once the kids went to bed, it was time for the adults to celebrate Tom's birthday. Jared cued up the soundtrack ...
... and Tom's birthday shot was served. Jill and Jared created a delicious Bantha Milk cocktail in a milk carton with hilarious detail. Taken 7/1/23.
Jill's family left the next morning and then Tom took Claire home too.
Next, he opened his birthday presents from Doug and Susan. A flashlight? No way!
Audrey and Dean came over with a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure birthday party for Tom.
The first half was space-themed with cocktails and games, ...
... and the second half was ocean-themed.
Happy birthday, Tom! Taken 7/2/23.
Here's the first Fourth of July display Debbie has created. It's fun and easy to do with custom-printed fireworks tiles from third-party vendors.
We love having lunch at our favorite noodle place - always delicious. Taken 7/5/23.
We stopped by Jill's for a bit and admired the new book bags they had each decorated.
Zelda got comfy in her cat bed, which she prefers to have lined with a crinkly plastic bag.
Jill served up lunch for the kids.
After lunch, ...
... the kids tried dragonfruit for the first time, at John's request.
Through the miracle of remote real estate services, Debbie was able to close on the sale of her Arizona property from the comfort of her own kitchen table. Taken 7/7/23.
We brought back a lot of groceries from the Arizona property, including a couple of boxes of Shake 'n' Bake with an intriguing coconut shrimp recipe on the box. We tried it. We liked it. We made it again. Taken 7/9/23.
After 25 years, it seemed like it was time to watch "Friends" from start to finish. Some of the dialog in the series hasn't aged well but we still enjoyed watching it. Taken 7/9/23.
The day that the real estate deal in Arizona closed, we celebrated with a trip to the Indianapolis LEGO Store, where Debbie purchased another modular set, the Jazz Club.
The real estate proceeds dropped into our checking account moments before meeting Audrey and Dean for dinner at Big Lug on the Prairie, so you can guess that we picked up the check. Taken 7/11/23.
We bought a LEGO bulldozer set for Tom the day we learned that the Arizona property was sold, and he finished putting it together the day after the property closed.
The bulldozer is so amazing that it can move one of Debbie's shoes down the hallway and put it under the bench while taking approximately 20 times as long as it would take to do it by hand. But it sure is fun! Taken 7/12/23.
We took a quick overnight trip up to Coon Valley, Wisconsin, for a family funeral. Taken 7/15/23.
The Jazz Club LEGO model was lots of fun to build. Taken 7/17/23.
This new tub faucet with integrated wand will make it much easier to wash Claire's hair in the bathtub. Taken 7/19/23.
This beautiful castor bean plant is the latest in a line of plants descended from seeds our late friend Rick gave us many years ago. Taken 7/19/23.
This Saskatchewan truck finishes off the Canadian provinces portion of our U-Haul collection. Taken 7/20/23.
Ewwwww. It turns out that the reason we would see a carpenter ant in our house every couple of days is because we had a giant colony of them living in the old swim spa styrofoam cover we foolishly stored in our attic ... after leaving it out to dry outside, which was apparently long enough for some carpenter ants to move in.
After an entire day of spraying and vaccuuming and removing, Tom had a vanload of former carpenter ant habitat ready to haul to the dump.
Off it goes! Buh-bye! Taken 7/21/23.
We spent a fun day with Stephanie and Todd in Cincinnati at the Bricktionary exhibit.
There were hundreds of LEGO models representing each letter of the alphabet. This knitted H was a favorite.
We each got to put together a LEGO square to add to a huge mosaic made of hundreds of squares.
We loved the zipper effect on this Z.
Afterward, we had a delicious lunch at Taft's Ale House, set in a beautiful former church. Taken 7/22/23.
Susan and Doug let us live vicariously through them as they went on a week-long Alaska cruise. Little did we know that they had the same cabin category that we had just upgraded to on our upcoming cruise in October. Taken 7/23/23.
Tom continued to do battle with the mess that was our attic. He disposed of all of the old insulation to make way for fresh new, ant-free insulation. Taken 7/23/23.
After negotiations with our neighbor, a tree service finally came to take down the broken tree and the one next to it that was leaning precariously over our yard.
Tom watched with fascination as the branches were brought down.
The tree service needed access to our yard to clear away much of the debris.
In just a couple of hours, we were able to see the sky, to our great delight. Taken 7/24/23.

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