Monday, January 31, 2011

Caputuring the Little Things

I'm working on my photography and working on capturing the little things. Things like Xiomara's little pout as she played outside in the snow for the very first time.

Or how Meridian has a bit of mad scientist hair in this picture, while Xiomara refuses to look anywhere else but at mama.

Lastly, how Zoelle is trying to feed Xiomara an apple here and how I have a picture stored somwhere of my sister trying to do the exact same thing to me.

It's the little things that matter the most in life and I'm working on capturing them.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Camera Bags, Taking Pictures, & Photoshop

You may not know this about me, but I took four years of photography in high school. On top of that, I took a community education class that was offered in our town, and I took my camera with me everywhere. Back then, I had a nice Minolta manual camera. I loved it. I also loved developing my own prints. The darkroom was a place I could go to relax, think, and create the only art I was ever even remotely good at. Sometimes I miss that camera and I definitely miss having a dark room. One day, I would love to create a dark room in my house.

I knew that Minolta inside and out and I wasn't afraid to use it or take any picture with it. I dreamed of being a photographer one day, maybe even professionally. Photography was a passion. It still is a passion.

Then entered the world of digital photography and I was confused. To be honest, I still am. I have a DSLR camera and I take it with me almost everywhere, but I find myself shooting in Auto when I SO want to shoot in manual, but I'm scared. It occured to me today that I need to ask for help. So I am. If you could teach me how to re-learn photography with a DSLR, what would you tell me?

I also thought I should ask for help with Photoshop. You see back in the Fall, I won a copy of Photoshop Elements on a blog, and was super excited to use it. Yet, I've barely touched it as it scares me. So again, I ask for help. How do I jump into learning Photoshop? What can I do that doesn't take a ton of time to do (as time is hard to find around here)?

Lastly, because I didn't want to leave you wondering if I got my Kelly Moore bag....I did! It came last week and wow is it a beauty! I'll be doing a full review on it soon, but let me just say for the record: this bag is gorgeous!!

So please if you can help me at all with re-learning photography or learning photoshop, I would appreciate it. I miss my passion and I really want it back.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Her new doll

Alternately titled: Don't text and stroll

Monday, January 24, 2011

Cutest Baby Contest!

Hi blog readers, my local radio station has a Cutest Baby Contest with some fantastic prizes. I entered Xiomara in it and of course would love to win. I think it goes until Thursday night and you can constantly keep clicking refresh and vote again. There is no limit! If you want, spread the word, so I have a chance!

This takes you to her direct picture but you still have to scroll down to about the middle of the page and she is in the second to the right hand column. Click on her name and scroll to the bottom to vote and you are all set!

Thanks so much!! I appreciate it!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Kitchen Renovation Complete

I can now finally post the update to my kitchen renovation. While it's not 100% complete as my husband told me there are a few tiny things he has to do, I decided today I would post pictures anyway.

 So here is what we replaced:

*the floor (which I never took a before picture of)
*the countertops
*the hardware
*the backsplash

Total Cost: $350

I'm very happy with the results. Considering how tiny our kitchen is, it made it look completely updated for a small price! Thanks hubby for all your hardwork! I love it! Our next step is just to update our refrigerator to one that is stainless steel (which is why I didn't have a picture of it). So that is that. Not sure how that ended up into a months long process but it did. Thus, I'm happy to be done!

Monday, January 17, 2011

She's Reading

Each week, we go to storytime at our local library. The girls love to read! I love to read! Chris loves to read! We love to read to them!

So back in November when I noticed Zoelle wanting something more for school and for reading, a friend introduced me to the Bob books. I immediately fell in love with the simple, easy to read style of reading.

 It would be Zoelle reading these though, not me and I needed to see what she could do. So I handed one over and sat amazed as she slowly but surely put each letter together to read for the very first time.

Since that day, she has read many Bob books. Thanks to Papa Curt and Grandma Lisa, she got her very own set for Christmas. We are still on the first set, and that's okay as I'm in no hurry. I'm letting her take the lead on this reading thing. Some days she wants to read lots, others, just a bit. Either way, she is extremely proud and we are proud of her.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

My Top 5 Favorite Bloggers!

As a blogger, I'll often get asked if I read other blogs. The answer is I do! Not as many or as often as I would like, but I do read. I also like to take the time to visit your blog if you visit mine. I might not be regular at visiting, but I do try my best to visit when I can. I find blogs can be so informative and enlighten my mind to other viewpoints or information I otherwise would have never known.

Typically each blog that I have read I have found through fellow bloggers. So today I wanted to share with you my top 5 blogs that I try and read each day. If you haven't visited their blogs, I hope that I can give you a glimpse into each of their lives so that you too may want to become a regular reader and glean insight into something you otherwise would not have.

1. Metropolitan Mama-Stephanie Sheaffer is a true gem. With her beautiful smile, curly hair, and loving yet firm beliefs, she talks about hot topics in a loving, non-judgemental way. Her post on spanking spoke volumns to my husband and I. Her post on why she doesn't let her kids cry it out is right in line with my thinking. She has an excellent post on her favorite and least favorite baby carriers that is great for a mama that is looking into babywearing and doesn't know which one to use. She also takes risks that I envy her for: like selling everything to live in a RV and serve others. But most of all I appreciate her for encouraging me. She has always taken the time to leave me kind comments, or answer my questions on her blog. I'm pretty sure that if we would ever get the chance to meet in real life, we could be best friends...and I like that.

2. MckMama-Love her or hate her, Jennifer McKinney  does a fantastic job blogging. I first started following her when her son Stellan was sick and dying from SVT. The mom heart in me was instantly captivated by what she must have felt. Since then, I've stuck around. Yes, some say she likes to create drama, but I believe she is just honest and I secretly wish I could be a bit more bold in my blogging like she is. I enjoy the pictures and I also find it uncany that her Small Fry is so very much so like my Zoelle in looks and spirit.

3. Storing Up Treasures-The fact that Courtney has ten children, four adopted was what first drew me in. I grew up in a big family, I have adopted siblings, and an adopted child myself. I think the reason I love her is that there is nothing fake about her. She talks openly about her struggles with adopting a toddler. Her post on laying it all out there, is often how I feel in life and on my blog. She also focuses a lot on faith and what being a Christian really means. Overall though, I just come back to the fact that she is real, raw, and doesn't ever mince her words (which is a good thing).

4. Life In Chicago-Claire is seemingly everything I am not: sophisticated, entertains at her home, and is a fantastic writer! In fact so much so that she just recently signed her first book deal. I'm rejoicing with her as she certainly deserves it! She loves food and talks openly about losing both her parents when she was still young. I'm pretty positive that Claire and I are polar opposites when it comes to our religious or political beliefs, but I don't care. I really like her and her beliefs would not influence a friendship with her were we friends in real life. My favorite part of her blog though is when she writes about her life as a mom to her gorgeous daughter Veronica. Meridian is close to her age and I often found myself comparing notes when she would blog about her struggles getting her to sleep through the night, or when she posted a picture of her first brushing her teeth by herself. Often though, I read her letters to Veronica and tears pour down my face as I reflect on my life as a mom, and specifically when I just had Zoelle. She perfectly captures those moments and memories and leaves me with a smile on my face.

5. The Pioneer Woman-I'm almost embarrassed to admit that I had vaguely heard about Ree Drummond and her popular blog but had never visited until the middle of last year. While the rest of the world was enjoying her photography tips, stories of pioneer life, and recipes, I was unaware she existed (sorry Ree). I would be completely wrong if I did not thank Ree for making me laugh each day and also for igniting a fire to want to cook again with all her amazing recipes. My husband thanks her too!

That's that! Of course there are many more blogs I do visit, but these are the Top 5 that I visit everyday! Make sure you visit them and stick around if you like them!

Do you visit other blogs? What would be your Top 5 if you had to choose?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Roasted Garlic Dip

So I have a slight obsession with garlic! I like it enough that if I feel like a cold is coming on, I will take a clove of garlic and eat it raw. I've yet to get a full blown cold in years! Yeah I know, now none of you are going to want to even get close to me for fear of smelling my garlicky breath. I chew mint gum. It helps cover it up! ;)

But I urge you to try this recipe! I got it from a friend from my church. It really doesn't have an over-powering garlic taste and it is so good with some crackers or bread! So here goes:

2 large garlic bulbs
2-3 Roma Tomatoes Quartered
Drizzle of Olive Oil
1 8 oz. Chive & Onion Cream Cheese
1 8 oz. Plain Cream Creese
Basil to taste


Cut heads off garlic

Quarter Roma tomatoes

Place garlic in stoneware dish with quartered tomatoes

Drizzle with olive oil

Roast covered for 45 minutes at 425 degrees

Squeeze out garlic and skin tomatoes once it cools

Mash in bowl

Add cream cheese & basil (I completely forgot my basil in this batch!)



Now I'm officially wanting to make another batch of this up along with some Beer Bread (my favorite with this) and eat it. Yum!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Hopefully back to normal!

I'm back! After literally non-stop craziness in my house the last few weeks, I am hoping for some normalcy! Two blizzards later, not seeing my husband for days on end, both of our vehicles breaking down, my grandpa passing away, trying to find a vehicle to borrow to get to the funeral, me experiencing a child (Z) having the flu for the first time ever in 3.5 years of parenting, our borrowed vehicle having to be fixed as the tires were shot, and finally spending a long evening in the ER after Zoelle dislocated her elbow....I am ready for normalcy!

 I'm pretty sure that in three weeks, the only positive experience we truly have had is Xiomara's Finalization. I was feeling very down and wondering why life seemed to hit me all at once, when God literally had a friend post this as her facebook status:

Psalm 34:19-20

The righteous person may have many troubles,

but the LORD delivers him from them all;

he protects all his bones,

... not one of them will be broken.
What is even cooler though is that she was thinking of me when she posted it as her status and I happened to log onto facebook right after she did. I realized that God was telling me something and so I started declaring His goodness over our family. Is life going to be perfect from here on out? Probably not, but at least I know that God is with us and that I am not in this craziness alone.
I'm craving the new normalcy...however that looks to God...I'm ready for it!
*Pictures taken on my phone while waiting in the ER.

Monday, January 3, 2011

CSN Stores Review

Each year at the beginning of the year, I go through a cleaning process in which I like to clean out the old, start fresh, and see where I could redecorate. This year I have been looking on one of my favorite sites CSN Stores. They sell lots of stuff from baby items, to furniture to modern decor. If you are doing some redecorating this new year, make sure you check out CSN Stores! You won't regret it!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Confession: I didn't want to write this post.

In case you think my life is all about "farting rainbows and unicorns", it isn't. Often people will comment or say things to me in reference to my life being perfect, or how I'm always happy. Let me tell you right now: I'm not perfect and I'm not always positive.

This winter has been an extremely trying winter for me and I'm only a little over a month into it. The possibility of more snow makes me feel sick. Like crawl in a hole, or under the covers and hide sick. I don't do well with little to no sun, and I don't do well being stuck inside a small house with three little girls all day everyday. Typically, my husband can be home more in the winter. For the second winter in a row though, he has decided to help a friend with snow removal to make some money on the side. Which is all he has been doing since the end of November it seems. However, since Thursday night I have hardly seen him as we had two back to back blizzards that brought us two feet of snow.

Needless to say, the last few days I've felt pretty crabby. I had snow up to my back door yesterday and it was to the point that even if I wanted to go somewhere (which I didn't), I couldn't. I didn't like that feeling of being locked in my own home with my husband away for over 12 hours moving snow on a holiday in which I thought he would be here.

And then at 8 p.m., just hours after I posted about life being so short, I got a call from my dad. At first I thought he accidently called me with his cell phone as all I could hear in the background were voices. But as he began talking, I remember thinking, "Either he has a cold or something is majorly wrong". I should have known then. My Grandpa Ellard had died. And I didn't get to say goodbye.

Grandpa and Grandma Meeting Zoelle for the first time.

I'm the type of person that asks questions when I know someone died. It's hard for me to think about the fact that yesterday at this time, Grandpa was still alive. "Did he know he was going to die?", "Did it hurt for him?" "After 70+ years of living, it's over just like that?" "Why didn't I call them today when I thought of them?" "Why did I have to run my 5K and not participate in my family's family Christmas with them?" I'm extremely analytical and think through everything. It seems that is all I could do last night is think, cry, and ask questions. I wanted to blog, but I just couldn't. Blogging would make it real that he was gone. A thought I still can't comprehend. What will life be like without Grandpa? I can't even imagine life without him and Grandma together!

 Grandpa meeting Xiomara. This would be the last time I would see him.

My sister blogged so much more beautifully then I ever could about him, but I did want to share a few thoughts about Grandpa that I so loved.

My sister and I were the oldest grandchildren for many years. In fact, the next youngest grandchild was six years younger than myself. Growing up, we were very spoiled by them. However, I don't think it was any secret that my sister, being the first grandchild, was favored by my Grandma. I think Grandpa knew that and when no one was looking, Grandpa would often give me a special treat or make a funny little joke that he knew would instantly wipe my tears off my face.

Grandpa was also a heavy smoker. He always kept his cigarettes in one area of their kitchen. I remember one day going over to those cigarettes and Grandma saying to me, "Vanessa don't you touch those cigarettes, those are your Grandpa's favorites.". All I knew about cigarettes at that time was that they were bad for me and anyone else who smoked, so I responded, "Aren't they all the same? Gross?" Grandpa with a twinkle in his eye started laughing winked at me and said, "I suppose you are right".

Grandpa also snored very loud. I remember once as a kid pretending to snore like Grandpa did and Grandpa just laughing about it. He was a good sport about his loud snore! :)

My last memory of my grandpa I have is the one I think all of us have, him driving away doing his finger pointer wave to us with a big smile on his face. It's a memory I'll never forget.

I love you Grandpa! I'll miss you. I can't imagine life without you.

I will probably be taking a break from blogging this week as I prepare and go to my Grandpa's funeral. I do have one post I have to put up for a company tomorrow, but outside of that, I probably will not blog (unless I remember to do my Wordless Wednesday).

*I can't find any pictures of Meridian with Grandpa. :( If any of my family has one, I'd really appreciate it.