Monday, January 19, 2015

hello kitty birthday party (for my THREE year old girlies)

my baby girls turned three last week
so we celebrated with family on the actual day
then, once the weekend rolled around, we threw a hello kitty party for them
that was dreamt up, planned out and executed from beginning to end in six days total

yep, you read that right.
i totally dropped the planning ball this year
but our family is awesome and they blessed us with so much help in order to pull it off

some highlights from the party:

- the dark chocolate coconut cake topped with coconut buttercream + shredded coconut
(best cake i've ever made, hands down)
- lemon yogurt cupcakes topped with raspberry buttercream
(a big thank you to my sister-in-law for that flavor combination tip!)
- PINK foods 
(because, when you have three year old girls, a good chunk of your life is dedicated to the color pink)
- a crazy addicting sweet n salty popcorn concoction
- a laughter-filled game of pin the bow on the kitty

aaaaand it wouldn't have been as sweet without all the wonderful people
who gave up their Saturday morning to help us celebrate
so thank you family,
and thank you friends
my girlies are well loved, that's for sure

so, without further ado, some (err--lots of) photos:

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

hello, 2015

happy new year, friends!
i cannot believe 2014 has come and gone
by now, i'm sure you've heard about a bajillion other people say the same thing
(it's not just me, right?)
so i'm going to join the chorus
'cause the latter half of 2014 especially has been a complete and total blur:


a search for a new home
then a move
(thank you, Jesus - always providing just the right thing at just the right time!)
***
a frenzy of s-l-o-w unpacking
mingled with a couple visits from family
(my first time ever hosting people in our home!)
***
my first opportunity to second shoot a wedding
(one of these days, i'll pull together and share some favorites of those images)
***
my sister-in-law's wedding
(hooray, we're so happy for them!)
***
travel, travel and more travel
***
six family birthdays
***
a big Christmas trip
***
my photography business picking up
***
preparations for a two special someones turning three this week


...those are just a few highlights since the crazy began in September,
so i shouldn't be surprised that the whole family is now sick
and the tantrums have kinda hit an all time high
(if you are my neighbour and are reading this, please feel bad for and forgive us...!)

yesterday was particularly rough, 
but today is a new day
and i've decided to hang on to the moments in between the not-so-pretty ones
like these, from a rare half hour or so of quietness and cuddles in our house yesterday
also, i saw this quote a while back
(i can't remember where, so if someone knows who i can give credit to, please fill me in!)
and used it to make a desktop background for my laptop
that has been a great source of encouragement
so if you're feeling a bit frazzled today, 
or if, like me, you are in a season that feels so over your head
here are my two cents for you:

1)  sift out and hang on to the good moments
2)  lean in, hang on to and trust Jesus.  
even if you can't seem to find any good moments, 
know that He loves you
He is in control
 and His grace is enough to get you through

cast your cares upon him; He will sustain you and give you rest

Friday, December 5, 2014

friday favorites (advent edition)

believe it or not, 
i had never even heard of advent growing up,
despite celebrating Christmas as far back as i can remember
i blame it on being raised on the other side of the world
that's my go-to scapegoat, by the way

don't know about a specific tradition?
"oh, sorry, i didn't grow up around here"

never had (or even seen) a ham dinner until you turn 18 and start dating your future husband, 
who just happens to be as Southern as they come?
"oh, sorry, i didn't grow up around here"

have a *lightbulb* moment when you watch star wars for the first time at the age of 29? 
(thanks to said husband, who mandated it as a long overdue rite of passage)
and finally understand half of your conversations growing up 
where people kept referencing "the dark side", "storm troopers", "something about Luke's father"
"oh, sorry, i didn't grow up around here"

forgot to pick up groceries for the week?
"err - sorry, i didn't grow up around here?"

you get the picture. 

anyway, back to the point of this blog post:  advent
i did what i could, given our timeline and how little the girls were
and honestly, it was wonderful and i am so glad with how everything turned out

this year i figured they were old enough to do an advent calendar
but, if you know me, you know that one of those chocolate-a-day calendars wasn't gonna cut it
so i spent a chunk of time researching little crafts and activities for each day leading up to Christmas
some fun and cutesy, some reminding us of what we are actually celebrating
then, i dug up this awesome advent garland that my mom in law gave us at our first married Christmas
(at the time, i was still in the dark about advent so i honestly had no idea what to do with it!
also, we've never been fully successful at decorating for christmas, but i believe that first year, we put a red bow on our one houseplant and called it quits...true story!)
now, before you go thinking i'm the mom of the year or anything, 
let's get real
if you really know me, you know i'm a dreamer
i dream up harebrained ideas, like this advent calendar
but the execution isn't always 100%
case in point:  i have yet to write the activities down and put them into the garland
aaaaand, we've sort of jumbled up a few days to suit delayed naps and busy days
(...life with toddlers!  at least they don't seem to mind just having the activity "announced")
but we're getting there
i even got organized enough by the end of this week to snap a few pictures of our advent activities!
if you're stumped on advent ideas for two year olds (or almost three year olds!), 
feel free to borrow some of ours - here's what we've done so far:

Dec 1:  read "The Nativity, from Luke 1-2" in The Jesus Storybook Bible
using characters from our Nativity Play Set to act it out as we went

Dec 2: set up Nativity on the mantle + listen to and sing away in a manger
Dec 3:  make popcorn together (a first for our girlies...and very exciting at that!) + more nativity discussion as we munched on it (they're really into telling the story of baby Jesus) 
Dec 4:  make peppermint almond bark...complete with cheery chocolate mustaches!
(the girlies dubbed it "a birthday treat" for baby Jesus)
Dec 5:  print out matching sheets of nativity characters onto cardstock (tons of options online - google image search it!) and use them to play a memory matching game

oh, and if you were wondering about our peppermint bark, here's the "recipe"...roughly
ingredients:

- approx 1/2 a pound 72% Dark Chocolate
- 1 tsp(ish) pure peppermint & mint extract 
(they came blended together, so it's 1 tsp total, not each)
- about 6 toddler handfuls almonds...err, we're not exactly accurate around here

instructions:

- if your chocolate is in large chunks, get the kids to crush it in a big ziploc bag (we used my water bottle filled up as our tool of choice)

- dump chocolate into a double boiler (or use a metal bowl fitted on top of a pot of boiling water, like we did) and stir till melted through

- add peppermint extract and almonds then stir until well mixed

- pour bark onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet and pop into the fridge until it hardens

Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

what's on my mind + fudgy pumpkin brownies

so, life's been a bit of a hurricane lately
(and i use the term "lately" very loosely...as in, the last couple of months!)
between moving, a family wedding, Daniel's birthday (which we still haven't celebrated!),
photo shoots, hosting family...life in general
has made for a super busy season in our lives

plus i'm processing a lot in my head and my heart
the Lord's been working on me, slowly but surely
He's been showing me things in my life that need to be rooted out
i'm learning about truly trusting in Him,
about making Him the foundation and source of my joy
i've really been challenged by a lot of good stuff from this sermon, actually
i've never been one to understand deep concepts right away
i sort of have to mull over all the bits and pieces
so it takes a while, and it's actually quite a draining process
but i am thankful for it.

and between all the processing and busying and living,
i carved some time out to bake these amazing brownies
(you gotta fuel all that thought with something, right?  may as well be chocolate.)
not only are these grain free and delicious
(which is not always the case)
they include pumpkin puree!

now, if you are like my husband, that statement meant nothing to you
he always asks me at this time of year
"what is with you and all things pumpkin?  i just don't get it."
and neither do i
all i know, is that i LOVE pumpkin anything:
pumpkin pie, pumpkin lattes, pumpkin n'oatmeal, roasted pumpkin,
pumpkin fries, pumpkin ice cream...you get the gist 

anyway, back to the brownies
they're gluten-free, grain-free, egg-free, refined sugar free and dairy-free
sounds crazy, i know
but if you have a food allergy / sensitivity / intolerance,
you know it's possible to have "everything-free" food (as my family calls it) that still tastes good
hard to come by, maybe, but possible
so without further ado, here's the recipe, adapted from what runs lori

ingredients:

coconut oil, for greasing your pan
(or whatever other oil you like to use)

1 cup walnut butter
(i made my own, using a magic bullet + walnuts + some coconut oil)

1 cup pumpkin puree
(canned or roasted and pureed from scratch)

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/8(ish) cup honey - more if you like things a bit sweeter

4-5 pitted medjool dates
(soaked in hot water to soften for a minute or so)

1 tsp baking soda

a dash (or two) of himalayan pink salt

a chia egg
(1 tbsp ground chia + 3 tbsp water, let sit until it gels a bit)

a handful of chocolate chips (optional)*
* if you want to be 100% dairy/egg/other allergen free, use a brand that allows for that.  although i've not used it, i hear enjoy life is fantastic, and it's free of popular allergens including dairy, soy, nuts and eggs + more.

instructions:

- preheat your oven to 350* F

- grease an 8x8 glass baking dish with your oil of choice (i used coconut)

- puree or mash your dates really well.  i prefer to mash, because you get these really lovely sweet "bits" in your brownie vs. an overall sweetness boost

- in a large bowl, combine cocoa powder, baking soda and salt

- make a well in your mixed dry ingredients and add the chia egg, honey, date "paste", walnut butter and pumpkin puree;
alternatively, mix the wet ingredients in a separate bowl altogether.  i went with the former option because i like to cut out extra clean-up wherever i can!

- try to get your liquids mixed together as best as possible in the "well" you carved out, then incorporate the dry ingredients.  if you went the separate bowl route, just mix your liquids then add them to the dry bowl

- fold in chocolate chips, if you chose to add them

- pour batter into prepared baking dish

- bake for 30-40 minutes, or until you poke it with toothpick and it comes out clean

- let cool a bit, and enjoy the fudgy goodness that they are! 

Monday, October 6, 2014

mixing work and pleasure

as soon as daniel walked through the door on friday after work
i asked if he wanted to go for a "scouting picnic"
you see, i had been toting the girls around all week to different locations
trying to find that perfect spot to do my fall mini photo sessions
and while we were at it, we explored and played and enjoyed this year's mild October weather
(side note:  October?  really?!  how? why? whaaaat?! ...at least it's still been wonderful outside)

anyway, while drifting off the night before, i had thought of one more spot to check out
and so we packed up our water bottles + a simple picnic dinner
(ham + mustard lettuce wraps / apples / olives / grain free brownies for dessert...yep, we're that fancy)
and headed off for an evening of exploration / location scouting
i'd be lying if i said it went 100% smoothly
because, let's be honest, two year olds at the end of the day can be a little testy
but, i can honestly say it was well worth it!
i'm continually amazed and inspired by how intricately and beautifully created the world around us is
29 years on this earth, and it still hasn't gotten old!

i hope to pass that wonder on to our children
and i think one of the best ways of doing that is to get them out in it
and if i get some work done while i'm at it, well then that's a double bonus

aaaaaand on a slightly related note, here's a shameless plug for any of you who are local 
and are interested in booking a mini session:
i'm even running a facebook contest, where you could win your session for free!
be sure to follow the link to check out how you can win + the deadline for entries
it would be so fun to meet local readers and capture images for you!
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