13 years of Christmas Cards from Kate & Jason!

Christmas 2014

Willy Wonka Christmas Card

Homage to the 1971 Gene Wilder musical classic: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

I bear a bit of resemblance to Gene Wilder, so a little Condescencing Wonka was in order.

Willy Wonka Meme Parody




And for those not familiar with the meme, there are many along these lines:

Wonka Meme Graduate



Wonka was a daunting card as we tried and failed in 2012, sadly prompting us not to do a wacky card that year. Here's a shot from that anemic 2012 attempt.

Old Wonka shot

We took "glass elevator" too literally and we had a cranky 2 year old in tow when we went out scouting and made a half hearted attempt.

2 years later we realized that Jason had Grandpa Joe's eyebrows on as the mustache.


Merry Christmas and a Happy 2015!


Christmas 2013


A photo of mama Kate from 1977, same dress, and about the same age.

Also, Zoe's cousin Megan wears the same dress HERE, in a photo from over 20 years ago.


Zoe as Shirley Temple

This year's theme seemed obvious after spending the summer out and about in small town NC with our curly haired brown eyed girl. Humid weather had her ringlets going crazy and on any given day she just about stopped traffic with people fawning over her similarity to Shirley Temple. It was like traveling with a celebrity, and a very slow way to get errands done.

It was also a little eerie because something I know from attending area auctions is that many, many grown women have vintage doll collections with whole shelves devoted to Shirley Temple, she is A#1 popular. So there was a funny little star-struck aspect to the women who stopped us, as if they wanted to brush her hair or pose her arms before they would let us continue on our way. I never knew quite what to say.

Anyway, humid ringlet season has passed and she’s a little older now so not quite the walking/ talking Shirley doll anymore but we had to give it a shot.

Zoe was a champ and waited patiently for this moment.

Not Zoe :)


Christmas 2011, Introducing... Zoe!

In honor of the ever amazing Coen Brothers, and their 1987 film:

Raising Arizona


And the debut of our 9 1/2 month old Zoe

We were deep in rural Chatham County, set up with 2 generators and assorted lights, (anticipating a night shoot). Only a few cars drove by, (one took photos of us!) amazingly only one slowed. We thought they'd surely ask what we were doing in the 40 degree evening with a baby, our unusual costumes and diaper boxes aplenty- but he barely slowed and instead asked with singular focus "have you seen a buck run through here? I just shot one and it ran off." We had not and he drove away quickly. Apparently the panty hose on Jason's head did not register.

Jason is below, teaching Zoe how to be a ham.

The mustache is real.


A stormy November day cleared to a cold and beautiful late afternoon. I was envisioning a dusk or night look but the clouds were amazing and we decided to quit while we were ahead.

Many thanks to Jason Dowdle for shooting for us.

Zoe tried to make a break for it a few times but overall she was a super champ during the shoot, even with her first ever runny nose.


Christmas 2010

Our take on the 1951 Hepburn / Bogart classic "The African Queen".

This one was a project for Jason, he built the boat and rigged it up in our neighbors Tom & Jamie's pond.

Many thanks to Tom Laney for wading in and getting the shots for us!

The cardboard machete we made came out ridiculous so I did a tedious (though rudimentary) photoshop insert job later on.


Christmas 2009


We wanted to leave this one a mystery but the original subjects are too good not to share. They look like some sort of unknown Barrow Gang, although they're probably just a country couple doing their best to look tough. Click to enlarge:

The original is an unmarked mystery that I bought at a local auction. A one-of-a-kind tintype, probably taken around 1890. The man may be native american. I LOVE his cut-off shorts! The couple have a western / frontier feel but they may be North Carolinians- the countryside here was tough back in the day. It's still even a little tough. :)

Over the years the tintype darkened and suffered dings and dents to the metal. Here's what it looks like in real life, before I cleaned it up digitally and tweaked it a little:

We were hesitant to do a heavily photoshopped card but the original was such a gem that we couldn't resist. I had a heck of a time inserting us, my photoshop skills are far from expert and I had a deadline. I chose to leave a bit of color and definition to our faces, it ruins the illusion a little but it makes for a more dynamic printed pic. Plus I like the spooky feel. I chose the face pictures based on the angle of our heads, that was the critical element.


Christmas 2008

At artist Clyde Jones' "Critter Crossing" in Bynum, NC

The indestructible hairspray morass. So well made, we had trouble removing it!

The Guild

I couldn't find suitable green and white striped tights, so we used 2" white gaff tape (and photoshop) for Jason's stockings.

The League


The artist Clyde (on the right) and his neighbor Virgil (and PeeWee) were tickled that we decided to shoot there.

They pulled up chairs for the duration and became our peanut gallery, commenting jovially on our various trials and tribulations. Clyde claimed he'd have nightmares about us later that night.

Clyde is one of our favorites, a genuine and sweet man. He's a classic local character but his work is known worldwide, having been shown in the Smithsonian and on the great wall of China. If you're in the Chapel Hill / Raleigh area be sure to visit his primitive and whimsical "OZ".


Christmas 2007

Behind the scenes in our barn:

Our freakish December heat wave did not include the afternoon of the photo shoot, it was 40 degrees by the time we were done. I thought I was going to have to photoshop out the goosebumps on my legs. If we weren't so cold, we might have thought to uncover the pool table for the above shot.

Barn restoration pictures are here, I recommend the slideshow option at the top and then scrolling through.

Trial first shot:

The "real" me & Jason. I love this shot.

The movie poster:

Somehow I couldn't get Julias butt angle right, it must be the extra foot of leg length she has.


December 2006: Bringing It All Back Home



The original 1965 Bob Dylan album cover:

Card Trivia-

4 items are a dead match to the orginal, the Robert Johnson album, the "Another Side of Bob Dylan" album behind Kate, the fallout shelter sign and the LBJ Time magazine.

We thought about using a real cat but without a remote for the camera shutter posing for this shot is comedic enough.

<--The Painting under the Christmas tree is a 1965 oil painting of Bob Dylan by North Carolina artist Homer Vernon. I recently bought about 20 of his interesting paintings at a rural auction.

It doesn't take much time to set up and take the actual shot, we make a big mess but we get it done fast - just like it's a "real" shoot. What's time consuming is the mailing lists and the printed version.



Christmas 2004

After hanging the lights in 80 degree weather on December 10th we ended up taking this photo on the 13th- 30 degrees & 25mph winds. We can use the alternate version below if we ever start a country band & need a Christmas album cover.

American Gothic, by Grant Wood:

We planned to do an additional "Southern Gothic" version, (prominently featuring our lawn gnomes, flamingoes & other classy items) but decided to quit while we were ahead.

People have said "nice head" & "where did you get that done", so for the record: that's really us, we're in front of our house & we did everything ourselves, (based on "American Gothic"). I used photoshop for the sepia tone & the blue sky but every thing else is real. It was freezing that day -we looked at the painting, ran outside, put up a big softbox light & RAN RAN RAN back & forth to the camera while our neighbors drove by wide-eyed. Thankfully it only took 8 shots. This year was the least expensive setup, minus the cost of the house (which we use everyday) we spent 50 cents for Jason's spectacles.


Christmas 2003

Jason & Kate as the Las Vegas magician duo Siegfried & Roy. This card was based on our Halloween costumes (and the tiger mauling incident).

Originally Jason was scheduled to appear:

Halloween 2003 in our old apartment in the East Village. In December of '03 Michael Jackson was accused of child molestation (again) so we scrapped the baby/balcony card idea as it seemed to be in poor taste. Instead I turned Jason into Siegfried, the partner to my bloody neck wound. Jason wasn't thrilled about that image but I made him very small on the card so he doesn't look, um, so unusual.


Classic Halloween 2003 photos are HERE, featuring the real Siegfreid, Roy & Tiger Act, Don Zimmer, and Michael Jackson's reaction from the crowd...


Christmas 2002- merry twistmas!


This photo was hard to accomplish in our 400 square foot apartment. Jason would hit the shutter & then do a crazy scramble/climb type thing to get to the bed ontime.

I didn't do any photoshop-ing, that's the real angle of his head.


I bought most of the twister items on Ebay and reauctioned them after we made the card. I made a decent profit on the sheets, I think putting the card in with the auction helped.

They were gnarly poly/cotton and felt like fiberglass.


Christmas 2001
Christmas 2000

Christmas at the Beauty Parlor. Those are scissors in Jason's hand. There are battery operated Christmas lights in my hair but they don't show.

Trivia: The vantagepoint of this shot is the same as the Twister Card. A big bookcase is in both backgrounds & the angle of the wall is the same. This setup is where our bed usually was, it was a mess to make the space for this shot. Jason's Mom got the hairdryer chair from a nursing home, it still works.


Our first photo card.

that's our faux fireplace / bar / phonograph & 8-track player / light up cabinet in the background



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