Thursday, December 31, 2009

Resolution '10

I hope you didn't come here thinking I had a great self-improvement plan for the new year. You should look for a more promising post by some other blogger on my sidebar if you want such a thing. I'm sorry to say, resolutions like that are just a recipe for failure on my part.

I do actually have a goal for the new year, though. I want to work on figuring out Photoshop. I've been following I Heart Faces in 2009, and have worked on some of their challenges. Recently, I posted this photo to ask for some suggestions on how to fix the background.


Thanks to Susan Keller, my photography guru, I got brave with my clone tool and cleaned up the lines and extended the paneling to fill in the remaining space. I just needed a little kick in the pants.

So while we've been on the road over the holidays, I decided to spend some car time tackling one of my favorite old photos of Bethany.


I adore my nephew Kyle, but he did not exactly enhance this picture. I figured if I could clone paneling into the other photo, I could recreate this background too. Maybe.

Not bad. I totally surprised myself. I added a little vintage look since she looked kind of old fashioned.


Then I remembered the post Kate (a.k.a. Givinya de Elba) did where she linked to a Photoshop tutorial on layers. I thought if the background were blurred, it might make my little hack editing job less noticeable.



After messing around with the background, the blur, the color and the shadows, I can't quite figure out which I like best. Too much? Too little? What do you think?

I'm looking forward to getting more of this stuff figured out this year. Do you have a goal for 2010? Whatever your heart's desire, may you find yourself blessed by its fulfillment, or by something else you never dreamed of. Happy New Year!

P.S. Mama Kat has an assignment for Writer's Workshop about New Year's Resolutions. You should be able to find some over there!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Cut!

We were playing some fun games with the grandparents, and Ben won his. He wanted a picture of himself flexing his muscles. (No, he's not vain!) Bethany thought she should be in on the action and proceeded to keep her eyes closed to ruin the photos. I told Ben he looked great, and I told her she was fine because I could just crop her out.

Boy, did she shape up in a hurry.


Yeah, I like the first one better too.



Click the button to see some other funny photos this week!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Wrap-Up

Last year we spent the first Christmas that our kids were old enough to remember with their grandparents. There is really no telling who treasured it more. On the way home--two long days' journey--there was talk of next year. We decided that since each year will surely get more complicated, we would indeed take these eager grandkids to the land of their Christmas dreams once more.

One grandma has us to help her get everything ready, and one has us to help her take everything down. Both of them spoil us rotten. We love them. :-)


Thank you Lord, so very much, for grandmas and grandpas.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Reflections

"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor,
so that you through his poverty might become rich."
2 Corinthians 8:9


Reflecting on the beautiful truth that gives light to the world this season.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 18, 2009

How Great Our Joy!

This is my favorite Christmas picture ever. Ben and Bethany were playing and talking about the Christmas story and I got the bathrobe idea. The rest is history. I love the wonder in their eyes.

Here is the original:




I'm taking advantage of Constructive Feedback Friday at I Heart Faces today, and I would love some suggestions for making this original even better. It was shot with my first point and shoot digital (I am still point and shoot), and I would like help with some adjustments in Photoshop Elements, and any cropping and background suggestions. Thanks!

Hope your joy is great this season!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Cinnamon Chip Gems



You asked.  I deliver.  I'm such a pleaser.  But seriously, these are good.  You can see the process of making them in my last post, demonstrated by Bethany.  They are "puttsy"--having two of us really helped!!


Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
  • 2 packages (3 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup ground toasted almonds
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk(not evaporated milk)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-1/3 cups HERSHEY'S Cinnamon Chips, divided

Instructions:

1. Beat butter and cream cheese in large bowl until well blended; stir in flour, sugar and almonds. Cover; refrigerate about 1 hour.

2. Divide dough into 4 equal parts. Shape each part into 12 smooth balls. Place each ball in small muffin cup (1-3/4 inches in diameter); press evenly on bottom and up side of each cup.

3. Heat oven to 375°F. Beat eggs in small bowl. Add sweetened condensed milk and vanilla; mix well. Place 7 cinnamon chips in bottom of each cookie shell; fill a generous three-fourth full with sweetened condensed milk mixture.

4. Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until tops are puffed and just beginning to turn golden brown. Cool 3 minutes. Sprinkle about 15 chips on top of each cookie. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Remove from pan using small metal spatula or sharp knife. Store tightly covered at room temperature. About 4 dozen.



Notes:  I omitted the almonds, and still yielded four dozen.  The tool Bethany was using was a tart shaper.  She dipped it in powdered sugar to prevent sticking.  I bought mine from Pampered Chef  with my mini muffin pans.  I bought two more pans because of this recipe--they take a long time, and it's nice to be able to put the second pair of pans in right when the first two are done baking.  It was totally worth it, because this is Lee's all time favorite!


Cinnamon chips are not always easy to find.  They would be great with chocolate or butterscotch, too.


Bon appetit!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Christmas Nostalgia

We went downtown for the Holidazzle Parade again this year, and to the Macy's display. It's so much fun!  And of course, Macy's has this very handy Santa's workshop at the end to transport you back to your childhood when things were oh so much simpler.  You have to love the vintage toys.  What I love is taking them home with me for free.  On my camera.



Their cookies inspired me to get busy in the kitchen.  I seriously lucked out because we had a snow day this week and my baking partners were home to spend the day helping me.  I adore my baking partners.



The older one left for school this morning, whistling "O Come All Ye Faithful" as he headed out the door into the single digit temperatures.  Nothing a little cocoa after school won't fix.



Truly, it's the most wonderful time of the year.


Note:  If this makes you hungry for some cookies and you need a recipe, check out this link!  Also, my cookie exchange recipes from last year are here--although you now have to click an extra time to get to the links.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Flying South

Not us. Yet. But tons of birds got the memo last week that winter was indeed coming to the tundra, and decided they better get going. Bunches of them stopped in our yard for a snack. That very same day, some of the winter birds seemed to come out and bid them goodbye. Or were they reestablishing their domain? At any rate, here's what I saw:

Bye robin!

Hello, Ms. Cardinal!

Bye little black bird I've never seen before!

Bye woodpecker!

Well hello Mr. Bluejay! You know, you would look
STUNNING right here, mingling with the crabapples!
I'll wait....

What? You would rather go hang out in the neighbor's yard with Mr. Cardinal? Well, I won't be able to get a very great shot all the way over there!



OK, could you at least turn around?

What, you're mooning me now?

OK, so I realize I'm not in control, but at least I'm still young and idealistic.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Standing Room Only at the Inn

Bethany has always been my eager assistant when it comes to Christmas decorations. This year she was about ready to take it over. I was in the middle of something when she found the nativity set and proceeded to set it up on the mantle. It's pretty high off the ground, at about my eye level. From the next room, I told Bethany that she might want to put the taller figures in back and the shorter ones in front so everyone could see. Here is what I had in mind:


Here is Bethany's interpretation:


She put the smallest figures closest to Jesus, and the taller ones behind them, so they could all see the Guest of Honor. Good for her. It's not all about us anyway.

I wonder. Who else could we put ahead of ourselves, so they can get a closer look at Jesus?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Treasure of Advent

I first posted this two years ago, but have been thinking about it all weekend. It's so easy to rush Christmas. But that first Christmas waited until the fullness of time...



Advent is one time of year (and Lent is the other) when I really appreciate the sense of reflective anticipation that was instilled in me through my liturgical heritage. In the traditions of my present church, we tend to forget that a season of waiting is a season of preparation. We are so eager to jump to the happy ending that we tend not to have the patience for the tension of the chapters of climax.

Or in this case, the silence between the chapters. More than four hundred years between the old and new testaments of scripture. How's that for a pregnant pause?

The scripture photographed above is the beginning of Handel's Messiah (rendered in calligraphy by Timothy Botts--breathtaking book!!). The text of Messiah does the most amazing job I've ever seen of capturing scriptures that illustrate the need and waiting for a Savior, and the fulfillment of the promise. It is packed with paradox, and has made me love the prophets. It has caused me to realize that all of history--in fact, all of eternity--rests on a BUT. Listen...

"For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people, BUT the Lord shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee, and the Gentiles shall come to thy light and kings to the brightness of thy rising." (From Isaiah 60:2-3)

The writer of the book of Hebrews puts this spin on the BUT: "In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways,..." (and then He was quiet--though not absent--for centuries!) "...BUT in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word." (Hebrews 1:1-3a)

His WORD. After 400 years of silence. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. ...The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:1-5, 14)

Whew! Gives me goosebumps. Ponder that while you're waiting for your cookies to bake. :-)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Irony. Cruel irony.

About 6 months ago, our TV broke. We've been meaning to replace it. Some friends gave us an old 20", which helped us have time to do our homework. Because you know, buying a TV is a big commitment. Especially if you're the kind of people who only buy one every 20 years or so. It better be good.

So this morning (Saturday) we were looking through the Sears Black Friday ad. We're big shoppers like that. It turns out they had a really amazing Saturday only deal on just the kind of TV we were thinking of buying. Miracle of miracles, about 45 minutes of online research later (Lee thinks it's important to note that this was not so much research as REVIEW of research), we were out the door to see if we actually liked what we saw. And maybe buy it.

We found the TV and started watching it play through the demo. Games, yup. Digitally animated cartoons, OK. How about some faces? Oh, yes, this Brett Favre commercial! Hilarious! And he looks pretty good on this TV...



They didn't have any left in stock, but they could have it in by December 17. Well good heavens, we waited this long. No big deal. We told the salesman we'd just have a "quick look" to compare what we were seeing with some other sets.

About 20 minutes later (or more?), we decided we'd take it. All proud that we made up our minds faster than Brett. (Well except for the six months we've been "researching".) The salesman comes back and says he's very sorry, but in the time we took to make up our minds, the computer was now showing that it was out of stock altogether, and they wouldn't be selling it at that price any longer. But it would probably be a good deal again before the Super Bowl.

You're not funny, Brett. Not. one. bit.



Epilogue:

After a chilly ride home, Lee made a beeline for his computer and got the TV online at the sale price, available for pickup at our local store in about three weeks. Smart. move.

OK Brett. You're funny again. But now we expect to be watching YOU. In the Super Bowl. On our new TV. WINNING! Got it?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thankful

Today was "Special Friend Day" at our kids' school. It started out years ago as "Grandparents Day", but clearly, that was a little problematic. I know our kids would have been among those left out each year, since their grandparents live across the country.

This year it was cousins Kyle and Tyler who got up early on their first day of break from college so they could make our kids feel special. This is Tyler's third year. They rock.


I am thankful. Very frequently these days I am thankful for my five nephews. All young men now, and all amazing role models for our our kids. I loved them when they were little, and while I watched them grow. Seeing them in their young adulthood, living out their ideals and dreams, excites me as I think about the future ahead of my own two.

Even better, I am encouraged knowing that another generation has come of age. In some ways they are better equipped than I could ever be for solving the issues of our day. Of their day. We all have far to go, but they have arrived to take the baton. It will be a long handoff. I'm thankful for that, too. But already, I am cheering for them, and for the impact they are having in their leg of the race. I hope they enjoy running it even half as much as I am enjoying watching them.

So this Thanksgiving, thank you Lord for the next generation. Through them you give us great hope.

"Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations."
Psalm 100:4-5

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Table Talk

Tonight we sat down to a ham dinner.

Bethany: Mom, do they HAVE to kill the pig?
Ben: The pigs are eventually gonna die anyway.
Bethany (to me): Is that true??
Ben: Sure, and then they go to hog heaven.

I wonder how many harmonious omnivorous families have been divided over the story of Charlotte's Web.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Dream Come True

The moment we have long awaited finally came on Sunday. One year and a week ago, our church broke ground on our new building addition. This week was our dedication of the new ministry facility. It is beautiful.

One of the most beautiful things about it is that everywhere I look, I remember people working. Members of our church family, working together, to make our dreams come true.

None to soon, the work was finished enough so that the city inspector could sign off, and grant us "Occupancy". It seemed funny to me. We were all eager to occupy our new space, but I thought most of all that I wanted and hoped for God to occupy it. In ALL his glory!

But then it occurred to me that though he dwelt in a central location, namely the tabernacle or temple, under the old covenant, under the new covenant he dwells in the believer. Simply put, if we gather, he is there.

We built this building with our hands, our hearts, our time, our minds, our offerings, our faith, and our prayers. It was only natural to want to invite God in. But he gave his son, a gift infinitely greater than what all of us offered put together, and through HIS sacrifice, God invites US into HIS presence.

Even so, Lord, we invite you to enter into our worship and ministry in this new place, to show us more of yourself than we have ever seen before.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

You are gonna LOVE this!

My friend Marlene over at Stitchin' By the Lake posted a cake recipe the other day that I feel obligated to share, because it would just be wrong to keep it to myself. It is the easiest cake EVER. Two ingredients:

One dry cake mix
(Marlene used chocolate, but I used carrot cake.)

One can of pumpkin. (The smaller one, 15 oz. or whatever it is.)

That's it!


Mix together and spread into a 9x13 pan. Marlene warned us that
it doesn't settle into the pan, so spread it evenly. She was right.

Bake at 350ยบ for 25 minutes. Give or take.

Now, while it's baking, do you know how much fat there is in a serving of pumpkin? None. Sodium? None. Cholesterol? None. Sugar? 4 grams. Fiber? Lots! Vitamin A? About a week's worth.

Check after 25 minutes to see if it's done. It will be dense and moist and absolutely yummy! Frost if desired. I used cream cheese frosting. (From a can--obviously--why ruin something perfectly simple?) It's heavenly. I'm calling it

Miracle Cake.


You're welcome. But you should really go thank Marlene.

UPDATED: You can make any cake mix this way, BUT...I made chocolate this way and wouldn't do it again. Marlene would. Someone else made a yellow cake this way and promised me she couldn't taste the pumpkin. You may or may not be able to. But with carrot cake, YUMMMMM!!! I promise. Spice cake too.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

OK, so I lied.

...or, "Why it pays to have smart friends on Facebook."

Remember in my last post where I said that we've had a lot going on and that it was all good stuff? Well that was not entirely accurate. Obviously, I meant all good except the normal bad stuff that I choose to forget just as quickly as possible because it hardly deserves mentioning.

Like this.


What, you ask? I know, that's what I said. Bethany started Brownies this year, and earned her first two "Try-it" badges. She wanted me to get out the "ironing table" right away and iron them on. (This should give you a clue about how often we get out the "ironing table".) So like a good mom, I did. I ironed those suckers right on, impressed with how straight and secure they were. Until Bethany said the senses badge was upside down. Really? Oh...the nose. And, uh, yeah, the mouth. OK, so THAT was a pretty easy mistake to make. No one told me they came in different directions and I should be sure to wear my glasses to tell which side was up. We tried pulling, prying, scraping, all to no avail. I assured Bethany that no one would notice. Well sure, that took care of it...


She. Was. Inconsolable.

So I got on Facebook, and posted that I was moving to Australia. It took all of two minutes for someone to catch my allusion to Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day. And then, Facebook friends to the rescue. The suggestions and condolences started rolling in. How to release a completely stuck badge? The same way you stuck it! Duh. One more trip to the "ironing table", and voila! Unstuck and restuck.


Bethany was ecstatic! She did not even mind the residue, since she plans on earning all 80 brownie badges this year, which will cover it up in a jiffy. Sure, Girlie, you go for it. I'm told that GooGone will also take them off, and I suspect it would remove the residue completely. But then I would have to wash it. And then some other stuff might start falling off. Such a dilemma.


So I really didn't lie after all. All's well that ends well, right? Who knew Facebook would be such a lifesaver? It's a good thing. Bethany took great care this morning getting ready to fulfill her solemn role with her troop in the flag raising for the Veterans Day observance. She wanted every detail to be perfect.

To our veterans and their families, we thank and salute you for this beautiful life we enjoy thanks to your commitment and sacrifice on our behalf.

It's been a little crazy around here...

I wish it were "Silly Week" at I Heart Faces.
I'm pretty sure I could win.




We've had such a busy month or two around here,
and not much time to write about it. But it's all good stuff.

Just a few random things:
Remember when I put winter on notice?
Well it worked. We've had some GORGEOUS
weather these last several days.

Remember Bethany's shoes from back to school?
I don't know whether she will wear them out
or outgrow them first, but either way,
I'll be so sad when their time is over.


Here is my heart, all in one place:


There's more good stuff ahead. Stay tuned.