Test Kitchen #18 ~ Peach Cobbler

Cobbler. I know some people that do not like cooked fruit but a scoop of warm cobbler with a scoop of vanilla ice cream? That is just down right delicious in my opinion. Cherry is my favorite but my husband is pretty partial to peach. This particular recipe is one my Mother has made all my life and I call it the one cup of everything cobbler.  Easy to remember because it’s one cup each of the the three main ingredients. I bake mine in a plain old boring baking dish but she always made it in a cast iron skillet. Lip smacking good, quick and easy…gotta love it!

What you’ll need:
1 stick of real butter (I use real butter and only 3/4 cup is needed)
1 cup of milk
1 cup of sugar
1 cup of self rising flour
1 can of peaches or cherry pie filling
What you’ll do:
Place a stick of butter into your baking dish and put it into your oven while it preheats to 350 degrees.
Combine milk, sugar, and flour together in a bowl, stirring until blended. (It might be lumpy…no problem.)
Remove your pan of melted butter from the oven and pour mixture into the pan but do not stir.
Dump in your can of fruit and gently even it out around the pan but try to not stir up the mixture.
Bake for 45 minutes or until the top is toasty brown and bubbly.

Allow to cool for a few minutes and then serve with vanilla ice cream.  I double the recipe and use this as my go to dessert for church suppers and when we have unexpected guest.

Linking up with Sweet Sharing Monday, Marvelous Monday, and Melt in Your Mouth Monday.


Blog Circle

Back in August of last year my very first post here was part of a blog circle with a group of amazing and talented wedding photographers. Also busy, amazing, and talented wedding photographers. See, the plan was to have a theme each month which was fine in September but then it just sort of fell off the radar I think. And then of course the holidays came and ain’t nobody got time for dat. But thanks to some industrious and organized people we have a list of themes for the new year so that we can work on each month at our own pace.

I’m excited about this because seriously, there is some amazing eye candy and story telling by this group of people. And they are pretty nice to those of us who are maybe not in the same skill level. It’s kind of like the great ball players who are really nice to the water boy 🙂

This month’s theme is black and white. When I first started shooting it was with film and I shot differently when using black and white film. I’d visualize differently because I was thinking in terms of monotones and blacks, whites and grays. When I started this theme I realized how much less I’ve done that since I’ve gone to digital. And, honestly, I’m not really happy about that. Sure you can click a button and move some sliders around in post processing to convert any image to black and white but there is something different I think about an image that has been conceived in the often dramatic and mysterious world of black and white, nurtured and created with that purpose. Not that some images aren’t converted from color to b/w with success…they are. I just realized how much I had actually limited myself by having the option to do it later rather than in camera. Of course it’s possible that this is just my weird perception too.

I’m actually going to show a mix of black and white images…some current and taken just for this theme and a few from back in the day. Hope you enjoy them!

One of the great things about black and white images is the way it can remove distracting elements and really allow you to see more of the story.

In portraits it can really focus all the attention on your subject.
Revealing vulnerability.
Or the soft newness and innocence of newborns and toddlers.

It can add a sense of timelessness to the ordinary. 

And be dramatic and moody.

Adding a touch of mystery to the commonplace.

My Mother doesn’t care for black and white photography. When I was shooting film she would always ask me if I had run out of the color kind. She likes bold color and that’s fine and good. Color has it’s place obviously. But this themed project has reminded me that I need to focus on black and white more as an art form itself rather than just a conversion option for some images.

For more about black and whites…and to see some beautiful examples…I invite you to visit photographer Lauren Kinde for some really interesting black and whites.

Where Our Chapters Meet

During an interesting conversation last night the question was posed, “What is the Bible?” The simple answer is that the Bible is the story of God and His people. It’s tells of perfect love, unfaithfulness, forgiveness and a global pursuit. The amazing thing is that we are part of that story. And that somehow all our stories can connect and meet and share a plot line.

It happens in the unlikeliest of ways too. Just take the arrival of the King for instance. Not what anyone was expecting at all. Think of the crazy ways you’ve met the people who are part of your story now. Some of it sounds crazy and impossible doesn’t it? That’s really what this post is about. Somehow, through the magic of cyberspace and blog hops I can across a woman who knows all about the Author’s way of writing unlikely scenarios into our stories, who has learned that the way up is the way down.

Because of this I am now part of her story. Not just as a passive reader either, observing the latest chapters unfold on her blog and facebook. But praying for her family as God penned a chapter of their lives in the tiny land of Haiti. You are part of that story too. Go visit with Jennifer and see what God has done and is doing in the story of His pursuit of His people. Read how her husband and daughters have story lines that thread across the country for thousands of miles from Iowa to Haiti. It’s beautiful.

 Sharing with Photo Story Friday.

Housekeeping 101

Here are a few thoughts I have been thinking about housekeeping.
Do it.
Doesn’t get much more basic than that does it? Stop whining and moaning and do it. It’s got to be done because the last time I checked  cleaning fairies only exist in my feverish imagination. And, here is the real kicker, do it with a happy heart. Why?
Because we’re told to do all things…even laundry, dishes, and toilet scrubbing…without complaining.
Happy, happy , joy, joy, right?
There are days when I hate the idea of cleaning up again because it seems like the same mess I cleaned up yesterday. Dirty dishes. Every day. Dirty clothes. Every day. Sweep the floor. Every day. Okay, well not that last one. Not every single day. But, hey don’t judge me 😉

You get the point. A lot of what I do is the same thing I do all day everyday. Why pick up the living room when I know that four girls will come bounding in later this afternoon leaving remnants of themselves and school all over it? Because I want them to have a place to unload all of it. Knowing that it will be dealt with and put in it’s proper place. Knowing that someone else’s eyes will sweep over the load they’ve been carrying, helping them sort out the unnecessary and trash, letting them know that someone else will accept the color page offering and treasure it or will give them a place to cry over a failed test. I want them to have a place where wounded hearts and hurt feelings can be soothed or bad attitudes can be adjusted and joy can be shared.

Sort of like us being able to go before God and unload all of the stuff we lug around. We can trust that He will put our messy emotions and thoughts in their proper place. His eyes sweep over us seeing into the deep pockets and helping us get rid of the unnecessary things we carry there…he accepts our broken hearts and failures and chips away at the walls of pride. I want my living room to be a place where my children come to find mercy and grace and it’s really hard to do that if it has piles of laundry and yesterday’s junk everywhere distracting us.

Sound like I’m spiritualizing a little too much? Maybe. Except for two things. First, my kids come home to laundry on the couch some days. And, as I sort of confessed earlier, my floor isn’t always swept clean and hey, isn’t that a barrette on the mantle and oh, I’m sorry you just sat on the hair brush. The parallel of having your home in order to minister to your children (husband or friends) doesn’t magically transform your humble abode into God’s throne room. But it does bring me to the second reason that I don’t think I’m over spiritualizing house work.

We are imitating God as Father and God as Son when we tend our homes. In the book, Keeping House ~ A Litany of Everyday Life, the author reminds us that housework is all about bringing order out of chaos…it is a way that we participate in God’s work of creation. God’s continued involvement in this world is not done and we see His work everywhere everyday. Our need to tend home and hearth each day is an answering faithfulness to His steadfastness. Christ came as the ultimate housekeeper. Putting to rights that which had been put into disorder. And, as Margaret Kim Peterson also states, “But if in Jesus God himself could take up a towel and wash other people’s feet, surely we, as Jesus’ adopted brothers and sisters, can find it in us to wash one another’s dirty clothes and dirty dishes and dirty floors.”

Viewing your daily homemaking chores with spiritual eyes will not suddenly give angelic wings to your cleaning routine. But it is a way to see the value of your everyday work no matter how monotonous it may feel. It’s a way for our story to echo His story. All of our stories read differently so it is natural that the way I keep house will be different from how you keep house. Figure out the best way you can tell that part of the story and then be faithful in the telling of it.

Sharing with The Proverbs 31 Sanctuary and Cozy Book Hop. Also linking up with Womanhood With Purpose’s Friday Link Up Party.

Sweet Shot Tuesday #3

I like to try and photograph different things…practicing focus, composition, and lighting, etc. I started using flowers a lot because they were cheap, stayed where I put them, didn’t talk back or need to use the rest room, be bribed with candy plus they come in various colors that allow me to work on lighting and camera settings. Win win.

I’m saying all of this since last week I posted an image of a flower and I am doing it again this week. But there are some differences. Last week was soft and dreamy with an isolated focal point. This week is just bold color and dramatic, albeit, natural light. You end up with two photos that are vastly different even if they are both flowers. Lessons to be learned here for portraits don’t you think?

Linking up with Sweet Shot Tuesday.

Pinterest Test Kitchen #17 ~ French Toast Casserole

I love breakfast foods, don’t you? It is not unusual to hear, “Yay, we’re having breakfast for dinner!” around our house. Whether it’s the standard bacon, eggs, grits and biscuits or bacon and pancakes or even black beans, eggs, tortillas, and caramelized onions we are big fans of morning foods at night.

But Saturday was my birthday and my chief resident child chef made a scrumptious french toast casserole while her siblings set a beautiful table complete with sparkling glassware and a lovely card penned by our budding calligraphy writer for a delightful brunch.
It was so pretty and tasted so good!
 (As you can see in the picture though we probably should have covered it while it was cooking because some of the top pieces were a little more brown than the others but that did nothing to the taste.)
What you’ll need:
2 loaves cinnamon swirl bread cut into small chunks
8 oz cream cheese cut into pieces
*a dozen eggs
2 cups milk
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp sugar +1 tsp cinnamon mixed together
What you’ll do:
Spray the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. 
Layer half of the bread in the bottom of the pan and sprinkle cubed cream cheese pieces all over. 
Sprinkle half of the sugar and cinnamon mixture all over.
Layer the rest of the bread pieces.
Whisk together the eggs, milk and sugar and then pour over the bread. 
Sprinkle with the remaining sugar and cinnamon over the top, cover with foil and refrigerate over night. (Or all day if you’re planning to have it for dinner 😉
**Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes or until it no longer jiggles when you shake it.
Serve with syrup. 
And big glasses of milk. 
And bacon.
Lots of bacon.
It really is a delicious treat…the cream cheese cubes soften as they cook so you bite into this warm yummy creaminess mixed with perfectly flavored cinnamon bread. 
*We have a sweet young couple in our church that raise chickens. After a while of not laying eggs due to molting and the shorter days they finally got some eggs and very generously shared some with us. They actually keep us pretty well stocked and we love it! Nothing taste better than fresh yard eggs and oh, my goodness they are so pretty.
Sharing the kitchen goodness with Sweet Sharing Monday and this is definitely one for Melt In Your Mouth Monday.

Telling Our Story in Pictures

Yesterday I was reading about a photographer that doesn’t do normal portrait sessions. She offers instead a day in the life kind of thing. She gets to her clients house really early and photographs whatever they do throughout the day from breakfast and playtime to dinner and the kids evening baths.

Maybe because I love the way pictures tell a story but I loved this idea. I’d love to shoot a day like that…the bits and pieces of everyday beauty that make up our lives.

I think this is why we, everybody in general, love to look at pictures. It reminds us of chapters of our stories.
This is why we take the pictures in the first place, isn’t it? So that we can read the story over and over again? So we can relive our favorite parts over and over, pointing to a moment caught in time saying, “Remember when…”

So do it. Hire someone or just grab a camera. Take good pictures and some not so good pictures. But illustrate your story, your family’s story. Not just the special days like birthdays and weddings but the normal everyday it’s only special because it’s us days. You won’t regret it.

Strolling through some of my old pictures and they tell the story of a budding new photographer who just got a camera in her hands and has no real idea of what to do with it. Selective color ~ just say no.

Good gracious I love this man.

I see pictures of the two of us, of him, and I read a tale of love and redemption. 

Pictures of my kids speak of chapters on love, learning, hilarity and silliness, frustration, first times, success and failures, and the list goes on and on.

She wasn’t as thrilled as her brother to be feeding the birds.

Little I love you’s have always been part of our life. Claire is the first one to make it a game about the number of people in our family. Every time we leave or she goes to bed it’s the I love you sign followed by two fingers for me and Daddy, the I love you sign followed by all five fingers for all of them, the I love you sign again with the word seven to complete the circle. Every now and then Rob will try and throw her off by saying something like “I love you, eleventy billion!” which prompts a giggle.

They always manage to have fun together.
Part of her story will be how much she looks like her father.

I have probably taken hundreds upon hundreds of pictures of my kids. For some reason this one is my absolute favorite. One of these days I just might make a big ol’ canvas print.

She’s a runner. Actually she just enjoys  exercise in general. This was the day she ran her first 5k.
Sweet sixteen.

She’s the hardest on of them to photograph. I guess because I just want to capture the sweetness of her gentle heart and that seems nearly impossible.

But I can get her being goofy!

His story gets a little complicated sometimes mainly because it has the footnote of autism. But he adds a lot of happiness and laughter to our story with his quirkiness. He is quite the character.
And the charmer.

Looking through these, rereading parts of our story is bittersweet…they’ve all grown up so much! I can’t wait to see the story unfold in the years to come.

I think it might time to update our story book a little this weekend…wonder if I can talk them into a photo session?

Sharing with Photo Story Friday (if you only click through one link it should be her’s…the pictures are just fabulous!) 1440 and the No Rules Blog Party.

I Mean It

The other day I shared an article with a friend of mine on child rearing and housekeeping. We both agreed that there was nothing wrong with the article itself but that we both had trouble with the author’s use of the phrase, “good enough”. Our perception of the term is that good enough is not really, well…good. It’s a lick & a promise and hoping for better at another time. Read in context though, with the whole of the author’s thoughts and you could see that our perception was slightly off. Meaning the issue was us and not the writer.

I find that I feel that way about several different words. Buzz words if you will. Especially with churchy words. Words that you hear bandied about in Christian circles. Words like authentic and relevant. Whenever  I hear those kinds of words I have an instinctive urge to roll my eyes.

Sounds horribly judgmental doesn’t it? Like I am weighing the speakers spiritual life and finding it wanting. But honestly, just like with the term “good enough”, the issue is mine and not the speaker’s.  I just find those words to be used too often…too carelessly. It’s become quite vogue to be authentic and relevant. And seriously who is going to say that they want to live a life, especially a Christian life, that is fake and irrelevant?

The real problem is that often the things we say or do are things we don’t mean.

I didn’t mean to be short tempered with the children.

But I didn’t mean to be patient either.

I didn’t me to nag or belittle my husband.

But I didn’t mean to seek how I may be his helpmate either.

I didn’t mean to ignore my chores or or doing laundry or preparing dinner until the last minute.

But I didn’t mean to keep my priorities in line either.

Several years ago when my oldest daughter was around twelve or thirteen she was asked to unload the dishwasher before going to school. She did not want to unload the dishwasher and it showed in the noisy manner in which she was completing her task. When I corrected her for being so loud her response was, “I don’t mean to be loud.” My response was to point out that she wasn’t trying to be quiet either.

We tend to view the Ten Commandments as a list of don’ts. Don’t lie, don’t kill, etc. But for each negative there is also a positive. We’re charged with not killing and within that command is the admonishment  to pursue life.

In Ephesians Paul tells the thief that it isn’t enough to just stop stealing.

Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.  Ephesians 4:28 ESV

He is to stop stealing, certainly, but he is also supposed to work. And the purpose of his work is not for his own good it’s so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. It’s for the good of the community. It’s so he has something to offer.

If we mean the things we say…if our actions have the meaning we intend for them to have…then we will be working for the good of our husbands and wives, for the good of our children, and for the good of our churches and community.

This past Sunday my husband shared this exhortation as we entered into our time of confession:

We live in a world in which good is often called evil and evil good. It is considered a cardinal virtue in our time to be tolerant of sinful behavior, even to defend it. It is a matter of pride for many to go so far as to celebrate what God expressly condemns.
Now, we can pretty easily get most of us on a bandwagon to support what I just said. “Yes,” we’ll say, “everything has gone upside down.” But there is a problem of the same kind that we might be quite comfortable pretending didn’t exist. That is, we often fall into the same error with our own lives. We become comfortable with our own sin; we even grow fond of it. If we acknowledge it as sin, and call it sin, we have to do something about it if we have any integrity at all. But our affection for it deceives us into actually calling sins virtues.
 Our task each week in confessing our sins is to call sins sins, and to agree with God that they are sins – offenses against him. And when we do this, we find that he forgives us and reorients us to righteousness. 

Simply put I want to mean the life that I’m living and many times I need to call my sin sin and to not just let it be enough to not do certain things or be a certain way. If I’m serious about that, then I don’t really have to be worried about whether or not I am relevant or authentic…those things are a by product, a result, of living like I mean it.