Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Photo Project, Weeks 33 and 34

I'm not behind really I'm not! I HAVE been shooting my 52 week themes I just haven't had the time to post on them! 

I take that back. I did skip one week's theme, Week 32 Intromit, because I just have not thought of or come across something that I think would fit. That might be the one week I come back to. 

Week 33 was Air and I focused on air while we were in Colorado. Both of these were taken at the top of Pike's Peak. 

1/2000 sec., f14, ISO 1600

1/400 sec., f9, ISO 100 (edited the brightness and cropped slightly)

I know my ISO's are way different. The top was taken from inside a train so I had my ISO high and didn't have time to readjust before taken the shot of the rocky hill. The second was outside on top of the mountain and it was SO bright that even at 1/400 sec. I felt it was too overexposed so I edited it a bit. 

Week 34 - Miniscule

This was one of those weeks that I wish I had a macro lens. But in this case I got in as close as I could to my subject and then cropped when I needed to. 

1/50 sec., f5.6, ISO 1600

1/30 sec., f7.1, ISO 1600

Then I cropped this one tightly

An Eggplant Leaf
1/20 sec., f7.1, ISO 1600

These were shot near sunset so I was losing light quickly. Not bad for a slow shutter speed and being hand held. I'm not sure how I feel about the graininess. I kind of like it, though I wasn't planning on it. Is that okay? 

Next Week - Luscious

Either I need to work on my food photography or I need to find a really sexy cowboy to shoot some shirtless photos of! Any volunteers? 

Monday, August 27, 2012

How to throw a Pirate Party!!

My boys are 8! Can you believe it? I sure can't 
They had been asking for a couple years to have a friend birthday party. This year I finally consented. With twins I wasn't sure how it was going to work. Would they agree on the party theme? Would they agree on guests? 

They didn't. Yip wanted pirates and Yap wanted soldiers. They agreed, without much argument, that this year Yip could choose and next year we'd do Yap's soldier party. I did lay down the law on the party guests though. I wasn't inviting every boy they knew. They each invited two guests; we'll start with six little boys. Heaven knows these two boys keep my house busy enough. 

The boys and I worked all summer getting things ready for the party. We spread all the work out through the summer.


The cupcakes!! 

Yum! Shark Bait!! I got to tell ya, that watermelon shark was so much fun to do! 

We had pin the peg leg/hook/eye patch/parrot on the pirate game drawn up. 

We had all the fixin's to make their own pirate hook. Then we made an aluminum foil ring and the boys played catch the ring on the hook. 

Thanks Mom and Sue for all the wine corks, they made the perfect rafts :) 

We had pirate beards all ready to go along with black sashes, cardboard swords and skull bandannas. 

Don't they look awesome?!
We raided DR's closet for the pirate shirts.

DR even joined in the fun! But....he looks a bit more like a biker than a pirate! 
Hmmm, a Purdue Pete Pirate!! LOL 

 I had hinted for the last couple months that we would have a surprise guest. Meet Dillen! Dillen is a high school senior and has done some babysitting for us. The kids absolutely LOVE him because he wrestles with them and of course lets them go to bed late! 

We were ready! Once all the guests arrived and were suited up in their pirate attire we headed off to the high seas.... the driveway! 

Our grocery store down the street saved us a couple of boxes the watermelon came in. So we painted them up like the Black Pearl and the Flying Dutchmen, put the blue pool full of water in between and a plank over the top. Each ship was filled with cannonballs (wads of packing paper wrapped in masking tape).

Boy did they enjoy their "sea battle"! 

After the swords were completely soaking wet and the cardboard swords were flopping and falling apart we headed inside for cupcakes. 

Eight candles are a tight squeeze on a little cupcake. 
Eight!! Dang! 

Then off to play pin the pirate. We made sure everyone was thoroughly spun and dizzy :) 

Perfect peg leg positioning there Yip! 
He cheated by the way and was peaking under his blindfold! 

Then a pinata! I think the pinata was the most expensive thing I bought for the whole party. That thing just would. not. BUST!! We wacked it for heaven knows how long. Finally I took a utility knife and sliced it quite a few places and that helped. 

Yahoo wasn't left out! She was right in the middle of all the action.

Dillen is an awesome guy! He bought Yip a KNex set and Yap a Lego Pirate ship. Not only did he buy them each a very cool present he stuck around until bedtime and helped them each put together their model! Thanks a bunch Dillen, my boys really look up to you. 

All in all we had a great 8th birthday celebration! 
Happy Birthday! 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Sunday Devotions - ..that you do not do what you want...

Galatians 5:19-23 New International Version (NIV)

So I say,live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law. The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Last Sunday my minister gave a wonderful sermon about the Fruits of the Spirit. Most of you are probably familiar with them : love,joy,peace,forbearance, kindness,goodness,faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. These are things of the Spirit. When we are filled with the Spirit we are able to show the Fruits of the Spirit to the world.

I don't know about you but that's what I want to show to the world. Doesn't a life full of love, joy and peace sound wonderful!! All to often however I find myself feeling very unjoyful, unpeaceful and unloving. Why? I want to lead I life full of the Spirit? What's keeping me from it? My sinful nature is preventing me from shining with the Fruits of the Spirit. 

Imagine a flashlight (you and me) with the ability to shine brightly through the darkness. All it needs is to be filled with batteries (the Spirit of God). Yet when you try to put in the batteries there is something stopping you, in this case little pieces of paper with sinful items written on them; hatred, idolatry, envy, etc. These "little" sinful things things prevent us from being filled. In reality these sinful things are not little but we tend to overlook the power they have in our lives. In order to live a Spirit filled life these things must be first emptied out of us. Envy and Peace can not coexist. When we make room in our lives for the Spirit then do we receive the ability to shine. 

What is in our lives today that is preventing us from receiving the Holy Spirit? Anger? Envy? Selfishness? What steps can we take today to rid our life of these sinful desires? How can we live the life we WANT to live? 

(Thanks Pastor Jerry for a wonderful analogy!) 

Dear Heavenly Father, Help me rid my life of sinful desires. Help me find strength. Empty me Lord that I may be filled with Your Spirit! Help me SHINE! Amen. 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Great School Lunch Debate.

I've been hearing a lot this past week about the changes in school's lunch menus. (Check out Sarah's post at This Farm Family's Life or Katie's at Pinke Post and a SUPER FABULOUS post by Annie at Morning Joy Farm) In case you don't have kids in school the lowdown is that FDA is revamping public school lunch regulations. You can read the USDA School Lunch Guidelines and suggested before and after menu suggestions by clicking on these links. I also found a very good on Fox News about the monetary strain some schools are facing due to the new regulations. Basically school lunches will be forced to have less sodium, more whole grains and more fresh fruits and vegetables if they want to receive federal money. Our school has a new salad bar this year that the kids can go back to as often as they wish but no more seconds of the main meal. Yes, last year our kids could go back for seconds. I NEVER got the chance for school lunch seconds when I was growing up! 

The school lunch changes probably won't be making much of an impact on my kids. I've been packing the boys lunch for the past two years, most days. They sure don't want to miss school pizza day though! When they were in kindergarten I did push the idea for a couple reasons. First, I NEVER liked school lunches growing. I thought they tasted awful. But I ate them, every last bite. I was an athlete in high school and was starving by the time lunch came around...and was usually starving after I'd eaten...and starving till I got home after practice. And I came from a home where food was never an issue. I always had plenty of food to eat at home and there were leftovers but as an active teenage athlete I needed a LOT of calories! I don't ever want my kids to feel hungry after lunch so I'll pack as much as they'll eat. 

Second, I've worked hard getting my kids to eat more fruits, vegetables and less processed food and if I pack their lunches I know what they are and aren't eating. I know my kids probably aren't going to eat green peppers but I have no problems feeding them carrots and cucumbers five days in a row if that's what they WILL eat. 

Here's my boys' lunches for the first two days of school which are pretty standard. As they grow though I'm sure what we pack will change. 

First day of school. Milk, homemade whole wheat cinnamon rolls, frozen pineapple juice popsicle, cucumbers and carrots, roast beef on toothpicks and string cheese. 

They picked the platter clean. Except for the milk, for some reason they don't like drinking the milk I send but they'll drink school milk. 

Day Two, Salad, string cheese, boiled eggs, pretzels, whole grain mini banana muffins, apple and water. They opted for cheese and water instead of milk. 

When they were in kindergarten I tried to send hot lunches in thermoses and wrapped in aluminum foil to keep it hot. Those tricks never work! A warm lunch was always cold by the time my boys unpacked it. Considering there isn't going to be a microwave available for my kids to heat their lunches we've just stuck with cold lunches. Some other favorite foods for lunch are kiwi, peanut butter and honey sandwiches, banana smoothies, almonds, broccoli and more. 

I don't have any problem with the new lunch changes considering we've always packed a lunch. But I do agree with Katie over at Pinke Post and Annie at Morning Joy Farm; these lunch guidelines are not going to provide for the needs of all kids. Some kids, especially high school athletes, are going to need more calories and protein and fat. Remember, I starved in high school...I know those teenagers are probably hungry! 

I have heard quite a bit of grumbling around our town about the changes, especially from the high school kids and their parents. Lunch will only be 850 calories and there's a lot who believe that just isn't enough. (I don't know why considering an average adult daily caloric intake is 2000 calories. If the kids eat breakfast and dinner it shouldn't be a problem for the average kid!) But here's the thing. I don't think that it's our school's responsibility to fill up our kids. Yeah, they are required to provide a nutritionally balanced meal but our schools are SCHOOLS not restaurants. If a parent doesn't agree with the food their child is being served, pack them a lunch. Or better yet, help your child pack their own. 

I also have a big problem with the idea that these FDA regulations are going to solve the obesity problem...or even make much of a dent in it. Our children eat 730 meals a year (365 x 3) and they only eat about 180 meals at school. What kids eat at school is less than a quarter of the meals they eat in a year. Providing kids with healthy, fruit and vegetable school meals is wonderful BUT (in my opinion) it isn't going to solve the problem of childhood obesity. What we do need to do is change the buying and eating patterns of PARENTS. Monkey see, monkey do. Kids are not going to be eating healthier at home if the only thing they find in the cupboards are highly processed, high sodium foods. I believe that the biggest influence on a child to eat healthier (or do anything for that matter) will be at home. 

To really get kids to change their eating habits, we adults are going to have to explain why lowering sodium and increasing whole grains, fruits and veggies (AND healthy FATS and proteins) are better for them than processed foods. And we adults are going to have to eat that way too. It doesn't have to be a big long lecture but the conversation does have to repeated every once in a while. No, kids aren't going to turn down every sugar filled dessert they ever come across but if you provide them with the knowledge of why eating healthy is important they will respond. I have one son who refuses to drink sodas (insert my cheering face here) and another that picks apples as his snack over anything else. That doesn't mean we don't have the occasional cookie and cupcake but my boys have learned that those are the sometimes snacks and they feel a lot better when they fill up on fruits and veggies. 

I think the FDA regulations changes are great, because there are those kids in this country who's only meal of the day does come from school and it should be a healthy one. That's a sad, sad fact and I wish I had a solution for it but unfortunately, feeding children shouldn't be a school's responsibility. Teachers have already had to add the role of Parent to their loooooong list of duties, Cook shouldn't have to be added as well. 

What's your opinion? Are there any major changes at your school? Where do you stand on the FDA's changes? Do you know of a good article that addresses this issue? If so, please drop a link in the comments! 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Foody Friday - Crockpot French Toast ..and Coffee.

School is here which means some rushed mornings at our house. Most days I have no problem at least fixing them hot oatmeal or fried eggs but on days when I go to substitute teach a hot breakfast is a luxury. My boys often get their own cereal, orange juice and apples in the mornings but cold cereal gets old pretty quick. It would be great if I the boys could make their own warm breakfast...without burning down my kitchen.

I've tried overnight crockpot oatmeal recipes before but honestly I wasn't impressed.

I did happen to find a crockpot french toast recipe that, with a little tweaking, works perfectly for our family on busy mornings.

First I start off by making some beer bread. My beer bread recipe is mixed up and in the oven in less than 5 minutes and takes just about an hour to bake. I can easily bake some in the evening while I'm fixing dinner.

Beer Bread

Mix together 3 cups of flour (I use mix of whole wheat and bread flour), 3 Tablespoons of sugar and 1 can of beer. Mix thoroughly and pour into a greased bread pan. Put in a COLD oven, turn oven onto 350 degrees. Bake for one hour. Makes one loaf. This bread is very dense.

Crockpot French Toast

I found the original recipe here.

I whisk up about 3 eggs, a cup of milk or so, some cinnamon and some vanilla. I slice up a  my beer bread and soak it in the egg mixture for a minute or so. Spray your crockpot with cooking spray and layer the egg soaked bread into the crockpot. After all the slices are in the crockpot I pour in any remaining egg mixture. Right before I go to bed I turn the crockpot onto low.

The next morning it's done to perfection and best of all the boys can help themselves to a nice hot breakfast.

I don't know about you but my morning is just not complete without a cup of coffee. Seriously, I just can't function until I get a shot of caffeine. Last week the unthinkable happened! I was washing my glass coffeepot and I dropped it in the sink and it smashed!! It was too late in the day to head to town, I knew I wouldn't be able to make it to town for the next couple days to find a replacement. I was desperate...a morning without coffee. Unthinkable!!!

Did you know you can brew a pot of coffee in your crockpot? Yes you can...I did for two days in a row. I measured out the coffee grounds and water in the crockpot at bedtime, turned it on low and had a POT of coffee in the morning. Granted I had to watch for coffee grounds but I got my caffeine fix!

 Ah...the wonders of a crockpot. What can't you make in a crockpot?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

First day of School!!! Second grade?? Already?!

It's the first day of school and I'm doing a happy dance!!!
Not that I won't miss my kids, of course I will, but dang have the three of them been getting on my nerves lately!! Bickering and fighting and generally just not getting along has been the mood in our house the last couple of weeks. 

Yip, right there in front, has just revealed to me that he's a bit nervous for the first day of school so I had a tough time getting him to smile. 

Yap on the other hand has been looking forward to school starting. I'm saying some special prayers for Yap this week. Last year he and his classroom teacher didn't get along very well and I'm hoping he and the 2nd grade teacher have a better chemistry! 

2nd grade!!! Where does the time go? 
These boys turn 8 on Saturday and I can't believe how big they are. Yap is wearing a Pike's Peak shirt we bought a couple weeks's an adult size small!! Pretty soon he and I will be wearing the same size clothes!!! 

After a little pep talk Yip did get calmed down a bit and I reassured him that he'll be fine in school especially after he sees all his friends again. I don't know what he's worried about, he's such a hard worker that he won't have a problem. 

And what about little Yahoo? Well, everyone has been asking all summer if she's going to start preschool this year. I sure wish she was. She's only 3 1/2 but a 3 year old who could use the hustle and bustle of preschool. Yahoo will have to be 4 before she can attend the preschool here in town, just one more year. But she's already told me that when she starts school she wants a butterfly backpack and a butterfly lunchbox!! 

Have a great year kids! 
Special prayers to all the teachers this year too!! 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Pickin' a Melon is serious business.

I get tickled by my husband. He's so serious! 

On our trip to the mountains last week we had to drive through Eastern Colorado which is kind of boring. Eastern Colorado is a lot like Western Kansas....flat, with a few more trees. 

What they do have quite a bit of though are family farm markets along the way selling melons!! 

What makes stopping at this particular farmer's market so funny is that DR grew up in southern Indiana growing melons. He even remembers bringing up trailers full of melons to the Indiana State Fair and building those pyramids of melons? Any of you Hoosiers remember those?? 

So yeah, melons are a serious business for DR! 
When we stopped he was searching for the perfect melon. 
I was just standing back taking pictures :) 

We ended up leaving with one watermelon, one cantaloupe and one jar of honey (with beeswax!!! my choice) and half a dozen peaches which took DR about 20 minutes to decide upon. 

With my untrained eye picking the melons we would have been in and out in three minutes!! He looked, turned, thumped, compared, smelled and who knows what else to find just. the. right. melons. 

I'm sure glad he was so diligent because my oh my those were some pretty good melons!! According to me anyway. 

According to DR they weren't anything compared to what he used to grow!! LOL

Who knew Colorado was melon country? 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Another Mural FINALLY done!!

You probably don't remember this but waaaayy back in January I posted a bunch of quotes that I was considering incorporating into a mural for my bathroom. 

Well, I ended up actually starting this mural in April, believe it or not, but then life just got really hectic and I had a hard time carving out big chunks of time to paint. It was 20 minutes here, 30 minutes there. What made this mural even harder was that I chose some lousy paint! I ended up having to put on 3 COATS to cover evenly. Next time I paint a mural I am definitely putting a lot more time into researching paint!!! 

Last week though, finally, FINALLY I finished it!!!

I ended up choosing the Oscar Wilde quote, "With freedom, books, flowers and the moon, who could not be happy? 

My bathroom is kind of small and I couldn't get a photo of the full mural but I think you get the idea. (The light in there is terrible too.)The mural begins  above our mirror and sink on the left....

...then wraps around a corner and is above a window on the right. 

This little old mural only took me.....4 months!! Ha, if I didn't have kids I probably could have finished in 4 days! 

On a little side note I put up a new curtain in this bathroom, right below the mural. It had Venetian blinds in it, which I hate. DR and I argue over windows and light. He always wants them closed...he's got this thing about privacy! But me, I want the windows wide open letting in as much light as possible. 

Then the blinds broke, YAY!!! Now for a compromise...I looped a bunch of ribbons onto a tension rod as a curtain. This photo looks lousy, it looks much better in person, but now DR and I are both happy. He gets his privacy and I get light!!! 

I wish I could take credit for this wonderful idea but nope, I found it on Pinterest...of course!! 

What next? Should I attempt another mural? I'm not sure. Of all the 7 houses we've lived in I've never finished more than two murals before we had to move. Should I attempt another, or worry about bringing down the resale value?? 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sunday Devotions - What You Are is Beautiful!

Psalm 139:14 
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

A friend of mine shared this link from Jewel on Facebook the other day. I'd listened to Jewel years ago but haven't for a while. I admit that when I listened to this song for the first time I cried. Take a minute and listen. 

Look in the mirror 
Not that's another story to tell
I give love to others
But I give myself hell

You don’t have to tell a flower how to bloom
Or light how to fill up a room
You already are what you are
And what you are is beautiful

As I was listening Yahoo came up to me and asked that we dance together to the song. Right in our kitchen I held her, with her sticky fingers and her mussed up hair and her mismatched clothes and she was beautiful. I hope that I can instill in her heart, way before she becomes a teen, that she's already beautiful and nothing she does on the outside will improve her because it's what's on the inside that counts. 

I've dealt with body issue problems for a long time. It's never been so severe that I've put my body in danger with any extreme diet but I have put my emotions under a lot of stress. For a long time I've thought, "I'm not skinny enough; I'm too bulky. The numbers on the scale are too high." I spent all my teen years in school sports and I couldn't help but compare myself to my team mates; their skills and yes, their bodies. It's hard to feel good about your body when it feels like everyone else is prettier than you are even if they aren't. I always felt awkward in my teen years and the way I looked wasn't good enough. I was VERY self conscious and as a result didn't have a lot of confidence. Even in my adulthood though those emotions are hard to put into the past. 

I still deal with those feelings with not having "the right body". I have to remember though that our bodies are physical; they grow and change and get old. God didn't design these bodies of ours to be perfect, whatever that means. 

I have to remember this. 

c.s lewis

It is our soul that God is concerned with. So many of us, especially women, put so much time and effort and energy into improving the appearance of our outward physical bodies for others. Worrying if we are wearing the right clothes in public. Worrying if we are skinny enough. Worrying how we appear to others. But how much time have we spent improving the appearance of our souls to others? Are our souls shining when we go out in public? 

Dear Heavenly Father, I am fearfully and wonderfully made! Your works are wonderful. I am Your work and I. Am. Wonderful! Thank You for being a defender of who I am. I am perfect because I was created for You. Please help me to remember that who I am is a soul, not a body. Amen. 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Garden of the Gods

Our last stop in Colorado Springs before we went home was Garden of the Gods on Sunday morning. Truly, it was like walking in a garden that God had planted. 

One thing you have to understand about Colorado Springs is the town is situated at the base of the Rocky Mountains. And as you are driving to Colorado from Kansas it's not, "Oh, we've crossed the state line...there are mountains!" Eastern Colorado is as flat as Kansas. I always thought that as we approached the mountains there would be a gradual incline or at least a build up of hills up to the Rockies. But instead it's; prairie....prairie....prairie....BAM MOUNTAINS!!! 

And Garden of the Gods is BAM right there at the bottom! They are huge red rocks that looks as though they've been planted at the foot of the mountains. 

There were so many beautiful places! It was breathtaking! I took more photos here than any other place we visited. It's probably a good thing we didn't come here first because I probably wouldn't have left. I probably would have tried to sweet talk my husband into trying a popular activity at Garden of the Gods.....


Can you see that climber?? Garden of the Gods is free to the public and it's open to all climbers, as long as they notify the park that they are there. The park even gives family rock climbing lessons! Doesn't that sound awesome??? I'd love to learn to rock climb but unfortunately we ran out of time and my husband wouldn't have agreed anyway! 

Though we didn't go rock climbing with hooks and ropes there were plenty of fun places to explore. 

"Are you coming Mom?"

"OOOH that's a tight fit!"

"AAAUUUGGGHHH! I'm stuck!"

"Oh, you silly boys, that's so easy!"

One of the neatest sights was seeing these teeny trees growing in the crack of a rock. 
Can you say tenacity? 

I love Colorado. It's just gorgeous! If the economy was better or if I could find someone to pay me to hike everyday, I could see myself living there. No grain elevators though, oh what would DR do? 

Think I could convince him to raise buffalo? 

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