Elizabeth Anne VanderPutten
Our Christmas Letter 20

Merry Christmas dear family and friends

This has been a fun year, despite the craziness of Congress. It's been amusing watching one after another of the Republican candidates melt down in the Iowa Caucuses.

On a lighter note, we really did have a lot of fun traveling this year. Elizabeth says she is practicing retirement. In February, she and her friend Barbara Butler went on a Tall Ship cruise along the west coast of Costa Rica. Because of a bum foot, she opted out of the Zip Line, but did do everything else. Meanwhile, Brian was playing in snow storms and ice in Arizona and New Mexico. (Why is it that Elizabeth, who likes the cold, went where it was warm, and Brian, who wears overcoats when it is below 80, went where it was cold?)

In the spring, Elizabeth visited her friend Barbara Richardson in Naples Florida. She drove from Miami through the Northern Everglades where she got some great pictures of alligators, but which were uncomfortably close.

June saw us in Yellowstone and the Tetons. We met a bunch of really crazy folks who got up at 4:30 every morning in the cold (there was snow everywhere) to try to spot wolves. (We joined them for three days.) Another morning, we got to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone at 6:30, like all good photographers, waiting to catch the first morning light, only to learn that the rainbow over the falls was expected at 9:30 a.m. (how do they know that?) So once again, in the cold we waited. Ah, the trials of photographers, but it really is fun.

In July we went to Saratoga where we got to play with our great-grandbaby, Rhiannon, who is of course brilliant, beautiful, and incredibly well-behaved (really!) We also saw Rhiannon's mom Sara, Dan, Michelle and Erica.

The year's highlight for Elizabeth was her October safari in South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana. Besides elephant riding, she walked with lions, caught a 6-pound fish, photographed four of the big five (cape buffalo, leopard, lion and elephant), as well as beautiful birds, giraffes, wild dogs, hippos, zebras and warthogs. The last are her favorite. It was hot, especially nights in non-air conditioned tents. Meanwhile, Brian was in Colorado looking for autumn colors, again in the snow.

In October, Elizabeth went to Sacred Heart Academy for her 50th high school reunion, which was enjoyable, although she still denies it has been that long.

We look forward to an exciting new year. So far, Elizabeth is working on a trip to Jordan, and planning one to Bhutan. (Why Bhutan, you ask? Because no one she knows has ever been there!) Together we are sketching out a vacation in the Colorado Rockies. We are especially eager to see grandson Shane when he returns from his deployment in Afghanistan this spring.

Brian J. Larkin and Elizabeth Anne VanderPutten
Washington DC
December 10, 2011