November 30, 2011

a muddybuddy morning

Mornings are usually quiet, laidback affairs at our house. Unless we're making a big breakfast -- usually reserved for special days, such as birthdays, holidays, or hey-it's-a-Tuesday-let's-celebrate kinda days -- we don't have a set schedule. As long as we're up and dressed before noon, it's all good. Okay, some sarcasm there, but honestly, our family is not a at-this-time-we-do-this kinda family. We're spontaneous, creative, and, let's face it, we like to sleep in.

Yesterday we made muddybuddies, and by we, I mean my sister Chloe, although I did offer to lick the spoon (turns out she already had several interested kiddos). We let them cool for as long as we could wait, translated as, as soon as they looked slightly chilled, they were out of the freezer and into bowls. Chocolatey, peanuty-buttery, powdered sugar dusted goodness that is naturally gluten-free, making it not only delicious, but a perfect mid-morning snack for everyone.

Chloe and Brennan played parcheesi while the others looked on, eating their muddybuddies and watching them like it was a game show. I might have even heard Brennan call, "five spaces for five thousand." But I could be wrong. I think Chloe won, although only by rolling lucky -- but then again, that's the whole nature of the game. Whatever the case, it was a perfectly lazy, lovely morning.

What do mornings look like at your house?

November 28, 2011

Chocolate Orangettes

Right now, I'm sitting at our kitchen table covered in years worth of stories scribbled accidentally, stains, and scratches that etch it with memories, typing words while listening to the Swinging Christmas Station on Pandora. We've spent the day decorating the inside (my siblings must have made at least fifteen candycanes to adorn our cabinets and countless snowflakes hang from our walls) and I'm in the middle of making Christmas sweets that won't last until the first of December. (hey, I'll be glad if they last until tomorrow)

I've always been a lover of sugar. I'm not a fan of cheap candies, you know, the Hershey's bars and fun-size Snickers (although, I won't turn away a Reese's Peanut Butter cup. We all have our weaknesses). I want the good stuff. The melt in your mouth chocolates and candy sticky with sugar and the homemade caramels slowly spreading in buttery waves. The candy that's oh-so-bad-for-you but tastes like a million bucks (although, I've never tasted a million bucks, I'm sure that's what it tastes like. Trust me on this one) and you can't help yourself from reaching for just one more truffle. Chocolate's one of the major food groups, right?

Wait. Don't tell me, I don't want to know.

When I was littler, and it was just my sisters and I, we'd often go down to this charming town by the water with my parents and grandparents and spend the day browsing the streets. One of my favorite shops to peruse was this old-fashioned candy store that looked as if it came out when my grandpa was a boy. They had all manner of sweets and delicious treats to tempt you, and I remember staring longingly at the rows and rows of candies in glass jars, hoping somehow for all of them. Like I said before, I love sugar. One of my favorite treats was a chocolate covered orange. There was something about that sugary, chewy piece of orange coated in rich chocolate. And there still is.

I'm lucky enough to have a sister who subscribes to Food Network Magazine. As a result, I get to read all of the issues that come in, and I was so excited when the December issue came with a booklet of fifty holiday favors -- all of course being sweets. So when I saw the orangettes, I knew I had to make them (along with the other forty-nine delicious delicacies. redundant? maybe. but so true) They weren't difficult to make, but they were definitely time-consuming. It took me about an hour and fifteen minutes to prepare them, and then they had to cool for eight hours before I could dip them in chocolate.

Overall though, it was so worth it. I think I'll whip up another batch today.

Chocolate Orangettes
recipe adapted from Food Network Magazine
1 orange
1 cup sugar + extra to toss in
around 1/2 cup semisweet or bittersweet Chocolate

Slice the ends off the orange and score the peel without cutting into the fruit. Remove the peel and cut the rind into strips. Boil the strips in water for about 15 minutes, then drain and rinse. Whisk one cup sugar and one cup water in a saucepan and add the orange peels. Cook until soft, about 45 minutes, at a simmer. Drain and toss lightly in sugar, and transfer to a rack to dry for 8 hours. Dip in or drizzle with melted semisweet chocolate and let harden. Then enjoy and wish you made more.

I put mine in the freezer for about half an hour after drizzling with chocolate, because I like them chilled. Make sure to toss them lightly with sugar, because you want them to be dusted, not drowning. I ended up spooning chocolate on mine, versus dipping them, so it wasn't as smooth as I had hoped, but that's okay. Next time, I'm going to whip up a big bowl of melted chocolate and completely immerse them, then eat the leftover chocolate with a spoon.

Pretend you didn't just hear that. And then go make some chocolate orangettes. They're so worth it.

November 26, 2011

your story // week 2

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite days of the year. Not only does it usher in the beginning of the Holiday season but it's a day of gratefulness. Twenty four hours set apart to specifically be thankful and reflect on your blessings. We spent the day at my grandparent's, playing scrabble and sampling cheese (I kid you not -- the asiago cheddar on the toasted crackers were a favorite), watching football and a movie, eating food (of course), and talking and laughing till my stomach hurt. It made me realize how much I love these people and how truly blessed I am that they're my family.

My grandma made five pies, two of which were gluten free (pumpkin, pumpkin apple, another pumpkin, apple, and berry), and we topped them with cool whip or icecream. Turkey, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, cranberries, sweet potatoes, corn, buns, and a veggie platter consisted of our menu. Thursday was laid-back and perfect. It was a day full of food, family, laughs, joy, and so much love.

Since I'm still not supposed to do much, I didn't take many pictures. That's okay. The moments are sometimes more important than a photo. Now I'd like to was your Thanksgiving? And what are you grateful for? A few things I'm especially thankful for...
your story || aspire

read about the project here

the smell of dinner cooking
laughing as we crowd into the living room
poetry and words
games played for hours
dusk falling swiftly and stars shining bright
gluten free food
memories and traditions
Jesus and his unfailing love

Want to join? Post a photo of your week, your day, your month, year, or whatever it may be, and tell us about it. Add as many or little photos or words as you want. It's not the length, number, or amount that matters. It's the story. Your story. Grab the button, share your post, and say hello to another friend.

November 23, 2011

I'm thankful for...

It's been a little quiet around here lately. For the past week since my surgery, I've been pretty much living from the couch. For ten days, I'm not supposed to walk or go anywhere, so I've been going a little stir-crazy. My ankle is starting to feel better, although it still hurts and aches, and I'm ready to get going on physical therapy to bring it back up to strength. So grateful for all your prayers -- I feel so blessed!

In the midst of it, there's a lot to be thankful for. Like the sweet nurses at the hospital, or the Little House on the Prairie Marathons with my mom afterwards. The first snowfall on Saturday, when I sat on the couch and watched the flakes drift to the ground and coat the world in a layer of white. Caleb praying a sweet prayer over my ankle that made my heart smile. Being able to rest and catch up on work (okay, so seemingly contradictory, but still good!)

Today, I'm linking up with my mom with a fun project she does every year called The abc's of thanks. So here's my own little list of giving thanks, from a to z.

What are you thankful for?

Head on over, say hello
and link up your own list of loves!

Happy (early) Thanksgiving!

November 19, 2011

your story // week 1

I was going to write about when my dad took my sisters and I out to lunch. I had my post ready, set to publish, and -- boom. It just didn't feel right. It wasn't that it wasn't genuine, but the words and story got lost. You see, I wanted to write something special for the first week of your story, but honestly, because of my surgery, I've been cooped up inside on the couch, tired, aching, and somewhat miserable.

I haven't done anything glamorous or exciting this past week -- hey, I haven't even taken many photos. Truth is, I've been so busy with life that I haven't had much time. And what time I've had has been spent sitting on the couch with my foot elevated in a big 'ol boot.

But I thought back to Woodland, our early vacation in July, and wanted to share that. Because it's so much a part of my story. You see, every year, my whole family -- siblings, aunts, uncle, grandma, grandpa, cousins -- all go up to the lake. We stay at Woodland resort, a place that's been around since my mom was eight (when she started going). Small, quaint little cabins with the backyard a few steps down to the dock and a water.

We stay for a week, each year, and celebrate life. We celebrate family. We eat and fish and and play cards, we laugh loud and have late breakfasts and do silly things with water toys. We have campfires and game nights and days spent swimming, till your skin is red and your face freckled and sand squishes in your toes. Our days are filled and crazy and lazy all at the same time.

Each year seems better than the previous. More stories, more laughs, more life. Early morning breakfasts in Grandma and Boppy's cabin, with the cast iron pan sizzling with blueberry pancakes and sausages, while we play trivia games. Nights spent on the boat, the sun dipping below the trees and the sound of the lake and the smell of the air. In between moments when nothing special is happening, but everything special because the whole day is ours for the taking.

So, when I thought about Woodland, I wanted to write on that. Because it's good. It's not just a vacation, not just a tradition, but a symbol of our family. The turning point of the year. Of family and life and good food (because believe me, we eat good at the lake) and laughter and lazy days and love and adventures and generations.

And that's a little more of my story.

What's yours?

your story || aspire

read about the project here

Want to join? Post a photo of your week, your day, your month, year, or whatever it may be, and tell us about it. Add as many or little photos or words as you want. It's not the length, number, or amount that matters. It's the story. Your story. Grab the button, share your post, and say hello to another friend.

Happy Saturday!

November 16, 2011

interview with Jessica Shae!

photo credit: Photography by SM

Hello friends! I'm featuring the lovely Jessica Shae here today! I'm a huge admirer of her work and am so excited to share her interview with you! She's a wedding photographer in Texas who's the oldest of me! ;) Her faith is such an encouragement and her work is truly amazing. Ohhhh, and she met a boy...and they're pretty cute together. ;) Read on and prepare to be majorly inspired!

photo credit: (left to right) Rachel Leigh, Kristen Leigh

Share a little about yourself!

Hi y’all!
My name is Jessica Shae and I’m a 22 year old wedding photographer who is obsessed with nail polish, cowboy boots, sweet tea, big trucks, and summertime, amongst a lot of other things.

I’ve lived in Texas for most of my life, with a few years in Denver and Chicago mixed in. I’m the oldest of 7 kidlets and therefore people are always telling me I’m from a big family—I just say it’s a party round the clock, there’s always something interesting going on! I love them all oh so much.

The boy I’ve liked for over 8 months made me his girlfriend this summer, therefore making it the most exciting and happy summer of my life. He’s the smart/funny/responsible/witty/wonderful half of the equation, and I’m the dramatic/fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants one. He very kindly lets me take a million and one pictures of us together…so obviously he’s perfect for me ;)

I like to read and cook (when I have the time), I’d rather be barefoot, I tend to procrastinate and I obsessively take pictures of e.vri.thing. around me with my iPhone. (let’s hear it for instagram!) I collect quotes, old books, and memories. And I love Jesus. My “…determined purpose is that I may know Him. That I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly.” Phil 3:10a

How did you get into photography?

My story is not one that starts out explaining how I’ve been obsessed with photography since I was 3 and ½ and held a camera in my hands for the first time. I didn’t get my own camera until I was 15, and it was just a point and shoot digital camera. I bought it because we were living in Colorado at the time and wanted to be able to take pictures of the mountains and all the gorgeous scenery I was constantly surrounded by. I definitely had no thoughts of making it a business or becoming a wedding photographer. Slowly but surely I started taking more and more pictures of people along with all the landscape/nature pictures I was taking and then decided that people were actually a lot more fun to shoot.

Over a period of about 2 years I got a nicer camera, took a couple of classes, and started a portrait business. The last 2 and 1/2 years since then have been spent building up my business into a full time job and I’m in my second year of shooting weddings, which is my absolute fav. Photography is not my all-consuming passion, there are a lot of things in my life that are more important to me than my job and business. But, I do adore what I do. Documenting love and happiness is one of the greatest things ever--in my humble opinion.

What is your favorite part about photography/being a photographer?

The fact that I get to be a part of the most intimate, happy, and exciting days and moments of people’s lives never really gets old. I see their tears, their laughter, I get to catch the adoring looks a couple exchanges during an engagement shoot, and their ecstatic happy smiles as the fact that they’re REALLY MARRIED sinks in during those first few moments after the wedding ceremony. I get to take the pictures that they’re going to show their children and grandchildren someday as they tell the story of how they fell in love. Pretty special I think.

One lens you couldn't live (or at least shoot) without?

50mm 1.4, HANDS DOWN. It’s my baby and I sometimes shoot whole weddings with that one lens—that’s how much I seriously love it.

Five favorite images from your whole career are?

Oh dear, this feels a little bit like having to pick a favorite child or something, I could never pick absolute favorites, but I guess these are some top picks:

Your biggest inspirations?

Mmmm, not sure if we’re talking photography inspirations, or life in general inspirations, so I’ll give you a little of both.
The Poser (he actually only lives about 15 minutes away from me, so I'm hoping that means that someday I'll run into him at the grocery store or something.)
Jonas Peterson
Jose Villa
Ann Voskamp: A Holy Experience: her blog A Holy Experience is a daily read for me, and her book “One Thousand Gifts” is one of the most challenging books I’ve ever read
Oswald Chambers – Favorite author of all time, hands down. I’ll never get tired of reading his words, and consequently being challenged by them.

Best tip for any aspiring photographer?

As cliché and boring as it may sound, take LOTS of pictures! There's really no better way to learn than to take hundreds and hundreds of pictures, every week if you can! And then critique those pictures, think about what you like and don't like about each one, and what you'd do different if you could take the picture again...and then apply what you've learned the next time you take pictures!

Find mentors in your area that you can take out for coffee or lunch and just pick their brain. Ask if you can go along with them on shoots and even just hold their bags or be their assistant so you can see them in action and learn how the "pros" do things.

And don’t ever let your equipment hold you back. Nice equipment can be helpful but it’s not absolutely essential to becoming a good photographer. Learn to work with what you have and then as you are able to buy nicer equipment your job will just become easier and easier!

Funniest (or most embarrassing story) from a shoot?

I’m sure I’ve had them…and blocked them from my memory :)

Anything else you'd like to add?

Thanks for reading, friends!

And thank you Hannah for interviewing me, I’m so honored to be featured on your blog!

Isn't she great? And don't you just love her photos? Thanks so much again, Jessica! Make sure to head to her blog and check out more of her wonderful work. Also, follow her on twitter and like her work on facebook! Make sure to leave some comment love as well!

On another note...I'm having surgery later today to remove an extra bone in my ankle that's causing impingement. It's what's been the source of the intense pain in my foot, so I'm definitely ready to have the surgery to get it fixed so it can begin to heal. However, to say that I'm a bit nervous would be an understatement. Would so appreciate prayers today!

November 14, 2011

your story.

Sometimes I feel like blogging has become too commercialized and impersonalized. The trend seems to be to blog to gain traffic or get comments. To post because you want your words to be received, not because you have something to say. In the midst of all the noise, it's easy to lose your voice. It's easy to feel that you have to do/photograph/write/be like someone else. It's easy to discount your gifts and talents.

But at the heart of it, blogging is truly about your story. Step outside and breathe in the smell of leaves and remember why you write. Bake with your littles in your kitchen, flour on your face, and remember why you make pictures. Spend a day surrounded by family, and remind yourself of who you are and who you want to be.

Remind yourself that you have a story to tell, and it's precious. It's something that only you can share. But if you want, you can tell it to us. And we can celebrate it with you. That's the heart of blogging. Sharing, celebrating, and growing. As we tell our stories, we see that there are others like us. C. S. Lewis said, "Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: "What! You too? I thought I was the only one."

Blogging builds friendships. It's not about the stats, comments, popularity, numbers, or any of that. It's about the people you meet and the stories they have to tell. Through our words, we can spread joy. We can tell our daily stories of the deeper story that Christ is writing. And we connect with others who say, "what! you too?"

So with that, I'd like to offer a new project. Appropriately called, Your Story. It's a weekly link up on Saturdays celebrating your story. Post a photo of your week, your day, your month, or whatever it may be, and tell us about it. Add as many or little photos or words as you want. It's not the length, number, or amount that matters. It's the story. Your story.

It could be of the day you went to the pumpkin patch. Maybe it's of the sun hitting the leaves just right on your walk home. It might be the photos you took of a client turned friend. Perhaps its of the way your siblings or kiddos eyes lit up as you hung Christmas lights. I don't what it is, but that's the beauty of it. Whatever it may be, share it with us and little by little, tell your story. It's important, unique, and wonderfully, perfectly, yours.

And I would love to hear it.

your story || aspire

grab the button and spread the word.
tell your story.

November 12, 2011

thankful thoughts

This week I'm thankful for...

Mad Libs at Barnes and Noble with friends, twenty minutes till closing, and the laughter from it
Tall Peppermint Mochas + Gingerbread Lattes at Starbucks
Starbucks' Red Cups (yay! I admit it...the fact that they're back made my day)
Playing Mancala with my sisters and mom
Orange juice and tonic water at the Table
My Grandparents over for dinner
The sun breaking out from the clouds
friends and photos that are so inspiring
Rereading Food Network Magazines
the arrival of Kinfolk Mag
a brisk chill in the air that speaks of snow
pictures of my family
silly Eli playing with his sword
portraits taken at 11:11 AM on 11/11/11 (yes, I did.)
early morning movies + chats with close friends
meeting people in the most random places who are gluten free, and hearing their stories
Samuel's cute face
Caleb talking to my dad, asking if, "his folks," were coming over. (he makes me laugh)
yummy gluten-free chocolate cake
laughing with my mom
the fact that the Halloween has been replaced by Christmas at Target
Journaling (is that even a word?)
finding so many recipes that I want to make
socks, scarves, and sweaters
this video and these photos
change and business with a dash of craziness
sunsets and golden hour and light in general
my family (so very thankful)

what are you thankful for?

November 10, 2011

padawan no longer.

He turned eight and built legos at the worn table. Hot cocoa, an obi-wan kenobi costume, and a lego game were his favorite presents. In fact, we went outside and he showed me his jedi moves. Did I mention this boy is going to take martial arts soon? He was twisting, kicking, jumping, and whirling, while jabbing his blue lightsaber and using his force powers. And he stood just a bit taller than the day before.

The wind whipped his hair and chapped my fingers and face and we laughed. Winter is coming and we ran around the backyard with leaves crunching underfoot and trees shooting limbs bare and tall to the sky as the wind stole our breath. I laughed and took photos and couldn't stop thinking how blessed I am to be his sister. I'm so proud of him.

Love you, Brennan. You'll always be my favorite jedi.
ps. and yes, heis air-borne in the photo third from the bottom. he's the real deal.