Around the Table

When we moved to League City, south of Houston, in 2007, we planted a church. It was just a little different from most churches where we had served in the past.

But, it was a good different.

We tried to take the good from the past and chuck the ineffective/not-so-great, and planted a church, designed on the church in Acts, in the Bible.

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.  All the believers were together and had everything in common.  They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47

Not every idea worked perfectly, and our church, which is still in existence, even though we had to move, is still trying to get it right. (Aren’t most churches trying to get it right? We are a group of flawed humans, after all.)

But, through all of it, we felt (and still feel) God’s hand of favor was and is upon that little church.

One of the things we did a little different was to have weekly local neighborhood gatherings. (A couple different families would host in their own neighborhoods, getting to know their neighbors.)

There was ALWAYS food involved!

(And, you know how I love me some food!)

Long story, short, we would meet at our house, or at our neighbor’s house, bring a pot-luck meal, and while eating, we would share our lives. The highs and lows of the week. The kids were included in the conversation, as well. It was important for them to hear and be heard.

We invited other neighbors and we shared meals with them. It was not designed to be exclusive in any way, shape, or form.

But, it was bigger than just a supper club.

We served our neighbors together.

Galveston Service Opportunity 9-28-08 010

We played together.  (That link is only one of the many Hunks vs Punks posts I’ve written about…do a search for Hunks vs Punks, and you can read them all!)

784370288_hunks vs punks '10 226

(Not only did we play football together, we went to football games together…)

tablegroup@game 158 blogcopy

(I actually DO know the lady at the bottom right; I just didn’t when I took that picture. She’s probably still talking to her neighbor because he’s probably still texting…)

We prayed together and even baptized together…

Baptism--Oct. 13, 2007 (8 yrs. old) @ Village Creek State Park creek (3)

And, of course, we ate together.

Stan and Scott2011-4

It was a beautiful thing.

ThrillCam and I will forever be changed, for the better, because of our neighborhood Table Group.

LCneighbors1 copy

(photo credit to Jeremy Knight)

So, guess what?

We are trying it, again, with our new neighbors!

We had a group of 4 families over, on Tuesday night (no, I didn’t take pictures…yet!).

We threw out the vision.

We’ll see what happens.

Either way, whether we meet weekly and eat together, or not, I’m excited to see where God takes us, as a neighborhood.

Because, I KNOW how lives can be impacted and changed just by reaching out and loving one another…doing life together.

E.

It’s that time of year…

No, not football season.

No, not Fall weather.

No, not boots and plaid season.

No, not cold and flu season.

CSHS Homecoming 2011-29 webcopy copy

It’s HOMECOMING SEASON!!!!!

And, we all know what that means…

MUMS.

In honor of all those moms out there making mums…

Moms and mums.

Mums making mums.

Mummummummummums.

Mum’s the word!

Okay, I’ll stop.

I must, once again, post my most favorite video of all time. If you have ANYTHING to do with Homecoming, anywhere, you must watch this video. You’ll die.

I do.

Every time.

Crazy, no? It just blows my mind, those mums and their mums…

Guess what…I’m doing the mum thing again, now that my youngest is in high school…

(You can read about one of my past mum encounters about two years ago, here.)

Yes, my youngest son has asked a girl to Homecoming.

In fact, he asked TWO girls to Homecoming!!

…to two different Homecomings.

He’s going down to the Houston area to escort one friend this weekend, and then, next weekend, he’s asked another sweet girl to his own high school’s Homecoming!

I’m having to provide TWO mums this year!!!

(Yes, you can cry for me now.)

(If you would like to contribute to the MUM FUND, please send checks or cash…ASAP.)

I’m sure to have pictures to share soon…

E.

It is finally here…

sicembearssuit copy

Third grade.

Baylor Homecoming Parade.

Keds.

Big gold buttons.

Gold turtleneck.

Polyester.

SIC EM BEARS! SIC EM BEARS! SIC EM BEARS!  over every inch of my suit.

My most favorite outfit. …Ever.

College football has begun.

Amen.

E.

College Bound…Again.

IMG_6211 copy

Welp. Off he goes again.

This time, to move into an apartment, on campus, for his Sophomore year.

Unlike a lung that can regenerate after injury, my heart is, once again, damaged beyond repair–a tiny sliver is ripped away each time he leaves, and what is left is ragged and stringy. Unrepairable.

Don’t get me wrong.

I am so truly excited for him each time he leaves for a new experience; whether it was Kindergarden, summer camp, middle school, high school, summer baseball, and once again, college. It means he’s growing up and becoming the man God has designed him to be. He NEEDS to be away from me and his dad. It’s required.

Otherwise, he stalls out and remains dependent on us, not on the Lord. He doesn’t truly develop and grow, mature.

But, I must admit, each step my son takes toward a clean get-away, toward his complete independence, seems like miles to this mama.

And, I can’t seem to run fast enough to catch him.

I love you, J. Have a FANTASTIC year!! Come back to visit your old mama! 

E.

P.S. I have a number of friends who have just moved their kids into their new dorm rooms for the first time. I saw this article on FB, today, and thought I’d pass it along. It speaks to all parents who are sending their babies off to college, or on to a new adventure. Read: Washington Post article.

Smoky Cajun Style Blackened Peach Cobbler

burnedpcob

This was going to be the BEST peach cobbler.

Ever.

Unfortunately, I forgot about it.

And, I left the house.

For two hours.

Yep.

And, if I’m going to be totally honest, I knew that the cobbler was almost done, because I had checked on it about 10 minutes prior to leaving. It had already been cooking for about 45 minutes. I honestly thought to myself, “I’m going to let it go about another 10 minutes, then I’ll take it out before I leave for lunch.”

Then, I promptly forgot about it.

I forgot about it until I was driving home, full from lunch, sitting at a stop light and happily thinking how nice it is that it’s only getting up to 96 degrees these days, instead of 103 or higher….

Then it hit me.

You know that feeling in the pit of your stomach?

I immediately picked up my phone to call my nephew, who was the only one at the house, to ask him to run downstairs to check the cobbler and to turn off the oven.

I’ll be in the shower. 

That was the text I saw on my phone.

I couldn’t call him.

Needless to say, a number of traffic laws were about to be broken…

(Yes, it did cross my mind that I probably burned down the house…or, at the very least, in the process of burning it down.)

(As I was flying home, I had visions of my nephew, stuck in the shower while flames whipped up around him. My only consolation was that he was in the shower…maybe, just maybe, he could be saved by spraying the fire with the shower water????)

(The next thought was how I hoped he listened intently to his father, who is a fireman, so he’d hopefully know to stop, drop, and roll.)

(Then, it occurred to me that he’d be buck naked when the fire trucks arrived and how mortified he’d be and how he’d never, ever come to visit me again.)

(But, at least he would be clean and smell nice. I thought that was a good thing, no?)

Whew! No smoke billowing was out of my house when I turned into the driveway.

ThrillCam was right on my heels as we entered the house. I yelled, “It’s okay! Nothing’s on fire!”

While I opened the oven door, and reached through the surging mass of black smoke to grab the burning cobbler, he opened the back door so I could race out and place the hot dish outside to smolder.

burnpeachcob

As I stared at the charred cobbler, I held a moment of silence.

“Dang, ” I thought.  “Now I won’t have any peach cobbler.  And, I was really looking forward to some peach cobbler.”

Through my tears, though, I noticed something about the cobbler that gave me hope.

Much like new growth after a forest fire, there before my eyes were golden, juicy peaches, unharmed by the searing heat of the oven, protected by the martyrdom of their brother and sister peaches.

Was it possible?

Was my peach cobbler salvageable??

Was just the top layer of peaches burned while the rest was soft and juicy, even after 3 hours in the oven??

cleanpeachcob

Why, yes!

Yes, it was!

I just had to dig a little, that’s all!

(Now, if I were one to go all spiritual on you, I’d say there’s a lesson for us all in this: even when we’ve been burned, charred…smoldering and smoky from the latest hurt or trial, underneath it all, we might find, if we dig a little, goodness and perfection.  “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” I Peter 5:10)

yummypeachcob

Smoky Cajun Style Blackened Peach Cobbler.

I meant to do that.

E.

P.S. all photos taken with my iphone camera

P.S.S. My squeaky, clean nephew never knew there was a problem.

Strawberry Jam!

I made strawberry jam!

IMG_5163 copy

My internet friend, MizBooshay, recently posted pictures of her strawberry jam on Instagram.

I was smitten. I adored the little jars of red jelly, although I was very leery of the time and effort needed to tackle such a domesticated project.

I mean canning things communicates that you mean business.

You.are.serious.about.cooking.

Donna promised me it was easy-sneezy.

(I trust Donna. I read her blog daily, and I feel a connection…a friendship.)

(I don’t believe MizBooshay would ever lead me astray.)

So, I took the leap.

IMG_5165-Editweb

Once I washed all the mason jars, I was ready to go.

IMG_5164-Edit

I cleaned and hulled my strawberries.

IMG_5186 copy

Then, I smashed the living daylights out of the sweet berries.

IMG_5187 copy

(Cooking is cruel, y’all.)

(And, I would know, because I.mean.business!  I’m canning after all…)

Next, I added some sugar to give the strawberries extra sweetness.

I also threw in a little lemon zest to give it, well, a little zestiness.

(I am fully aware zestiness is not a word. But, I stand by my made-up word, because we all know what it means, whether it’s real or not.  And, really, if we want to get picky, “Yay” is not a real word, either, but y’all don’t seem to mind using that word!)

(My English major mother, God rest her soul, would have had a conniption over that one. Yea is yea, not yay!)

IMG_5188 copy

After I added the sugar and zest, I had to boil water and the pectin for a bit.

Not much, just a bit…like one minute, I think.

After the minute, I poured the water/pectin mixture into the strawberry/sugar bowl and stirred until all the sugar was dissolved.

The final step was to fill my jars with the red, juicy sweetness…

I could not contain my excitement as I waited the 24 hours to see if my jam would actually set up.

IMG_5190 copy

Once the jam has set, you can store your jam in the freezer, so you’ll have some for later.

And, I am here to say, my boys LOVE this jam on biscuits in the morning!

IMG_5192 copy

So, MizBooshay did not lead me astray! It was as simple and as delicious as she promised!

(Yay!)

E.

Cadillac Ranch

IMG_5661 blogcopy

There’s really no way you can drive through, or even near, Amarillo, Texas, without making the jaunt over to the Cadillac Ranch.

No way.

As the daughter of the now deceased Queen of Everything Texas, whether kooky or historical, there was no way, I, personally, could bypass this famous (or infamous) tourist stop.

(I texted my sister later to say how proud our parents would have been of me for the little side stop in our vacation.)

Honestly, though, even if I weren’t still trying to impress my (deceased) parents, I would so stop at Cadillac Ranch! It’s just one of the Texas things to see and do!

IMG_5642 blogcopy

Cadillac Ranch has zero educational value, unless you count quirky “art” and the mere ability to say you’ve been there, educational.

And, I do.

My youngest son has added to his culture bank, fo’ sho!

(Now, to make sure we inserted something educational into the visit, we discussed the importance of Route 66 and the various, often quirky, attractions along the famous highway–Cadillac Ranch is located in a pasture along Interstate 40, but the road the pasture is on is the original Route 66.)

Cadillac Ranch was originally created by three artists, back in 1974 , by sticking 10 Cadillacs into the ground, a la Stonehenge style. (Although, the degree of tilt corresponds to the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt.)

The pasture where the cars reside is private property, but it is encouraged to cross onto the land via an unlocked gate.

IMG_5643 blogcopy

Once you’ve entered the field where the cars are on display, you begin to notice, unfortunately, trash.

Empty spray paint cans.

Besides “trespassing,” you are also encouraged to “tag” the cars.

IMG_5657 blogcopy

We had not come prepared (with our own can of spray paint), but there were plenty of partially used cans on the ground to pick from.

When in Rome…

IMG_5666 blogcopy

We all got in on the act!

IMG_5672 blogcopy

Once you look closely, you realize just how many years of graffiti/paint has been coated on these cars!

Look how thick the paint is!

IMG_5652 blogcopy

There is not a single inch of any of the cars that hasn’t been colored upon.

IMG_5646 blogcopy

Really and truly, if you are ever in Amarillo–or anywhere near there–you should take the 30 minutes to see the Cadillac Ranch.

Just to say you did.

IMG_5651 blogcopy

E.

Montana or Bust!

IMG_6324blog

My family recently did the Griswolds’ thing and drove to Montana for a family vacation.

We drove from Texas.

(that in and of itself should be impressive)

Three days to get there.

Three days to get back.

Through seven different states.

Worth every hour on the road.

My husband and I put this family vacation WAY high on the list of favorites. (My boys may disagree, simply because the last three days–with nothing planned but hard 8-12 hour driving–really shrouded the good memories of the trip. I know, though, as they forget the boring drive home, they will begin to remember the highlights of the trip. And there were many!)

Here’s a short list of some of our adventures:

We visited new friends in Montana and ate some of the best steak ever.

We drove to Wyoming, more than once–more on that soon.

We hung out Yellowstone–we saw lions and tigers and bears. Oh my!

(Okay, we didn’t see lions and tigers.)

We hiked in Teton National Park–I didn’t pack the proper shoes, so I hiked in flip-flops…

We stopped at every state sign and took a picture. (See picture above.) My boys were THRILLED every time we stopped. Thrilled, I tell ya!

We had F.U.N., fun!

I’ll unpack our trip over the next few posts, if I may.

Stay tuned!

E.

Music, Anyone?

I am the last person you would want to ask about music. Seriously.

I have no clue what band is the latest thing to hit the scene.

In fact, if you looked in my music library on my computer, you would see lots and lots of 80’s bands and songs.

I’m stuck in the 80’s and I can’t get up!!

But, recently, I have come across a few bands that seem to make it to my playlist over and over.

And, guess what!

They are from the 2000s!! (Yes, I understand 13 years is a long span of time considering how much music is produced monthly….cut me some slack, will ya?)

As I was preparing for this blog post, I realized that if I were going to give reviews on music, I would most definitely need a larger, more descriptive vocabulary.  Saying things like, “I like it a lot!” and “It’s just plain good, y’all!” doesn’t cut the mustard.

I knew I would have to dig deep in my soul to find phrases like, “latticework of concordant chords,” and “where labyrinthine layers of effects-laden guitar build to cathartic crescendos,” etc. to describe the music.

Whew!

That took it out of me.

I can’t do it.

I’m just not that creative. Nor is my vocabulary expansive enough.

So, I decided I would tell you how I use each album. In other words, I’ll attach an appropriate activity to each artist or band–what I might do while listening.

Simple, right?

For example:

The Civil Wars.

images

Just about everyone has heard of them, but on the off-chance that there’s someone crawling out from under their own personal 80’s rock, I offer this great duo as my first suggestion.

They just released their new album (See? I still call them albums; that should tell you something…), called The Civil Wars (fitting, no?).  I like it almost as much as their hit album of 2011, Barton Hollow.

I am sad to read that the duo is no longer speaking to one another. So, even though we got this latest album out of them, I’m not convinced they will continue to record together. Which is a shame, since they write and sing so well together. I sure hope they work out whatever conflicts they are having and eventually produce another album.

Just think of all the songs they can write about their “break up” and “make up” season!  Taylor Swift would have NOTHING on them!

When I’m listening to The Civil Wars, I can usually be found:

1) driving long distances

2) sipping wine or coffee

3) company is over and we are eating dinner and, again, sipping wine

4) working on photos on my computer, alone, in my office, sipping wine

(I jest.)

Okay. So, if you like The Civil Wars, then you most likely will love Johnnyswim.

download

I recently learned of them via another blog.

Boy, am I glad I read that post!

Johnnyswim’s album has 6 whole songs.

It’s short.

But, you get a bang for your buck with those 6 songs!

They aren’t exactly like The Civil Wars–they have a little pep in a few of their songs with very creative nuances (i.e. the bass drum making a subtle heartbeat while they sing…you guessed it… “Heart Beats”).

Activities while listening:

See list above.

Add sipping wine.

Hic.

Last year I somehow stumbled upon Brandi Carlile (not to be confused with Belinda Carlisle of the wonderfully fun 80’s group, The Go-Gos).

Brandi Carlile falls into the same category as The Civil Wars and Johnnyswim…sort of, but not really.

Brandi4-300x300

(See? I told you I’m no good at this!)

Brandi has a folky feel, yet, she leans heavily into some classic country. I told my husband she’s kind of a female Johnny Cash. But, folkier.

She’s described as, “American alternative country and folk rock singer.” (All they missed was gospel in that list!)

Her songs are fun, and thoughtful, with an occasional nod to the past.  Check her out.

Okay, so this is what I’d do while listening to Brandi:

1) mow the lawn (No, really! I do a lot of listening to music while on the riding lawn mower! …we have a lot of yard to mow these days…)

2) ride a horse

3) shell peas on the porch, sipping iced tea (Fooled you! You thought I’d say wine, didn’t you?!)

4) take a long road trip …to a dude ranch

jbt_grand_national_front1

My college-aged son, much to his chagrin, has influenced my music tastes as of late.

One of the bands he told me about, about a year ago, is John Butler Trio. I absolutely love this band! I can listen to them almost daily, they’re that good.

(This is where I struggle getting beyond, “I like them a lot, okay?!”)

They are so creative and fresh, in my opinion. A little rock…well, a lot of rock…but with unusual beats and rhythms, and crazy guitar sounds. Please check them out!

(Other bands I can listen to on a daily basis include Coldplay, U2–of course!–Switchfoot, John Mayer, Jack Johnson, and even Mutemath–another older recommendation by my oldest son.)

I can listen to John Butler Trio while:

1) mowing

2) driving–long and short distances

3) working on my computer

4) eating

5) sitting out by the pool

6) sipping iced tea AND wine

7) breathing

(Please be aware, this band is for adults, as there are a few dirty words on a couple songs.)

Everybody-s-Talkin-by-Tedeschi-Trucks-Band-Live

At the time I read about Johnnyswim, I was also made aware of Tedeschi Trucks Band.

Oh my. What a GREAT band! Their Live album is like a long, well-constructed jam session!

It’s fantastic.

Susan Tedeschi’s voice. No words.

Okay, amazing.

Yes, amazing would be a good word.

She is a mix between Bonnie Raitt and Janis Joplin, and oh-so-good. Lots of bluesy soul and depth.

Her husband and lead guitarist is Derek Trucks. His music history is pretty amazing, itself. Do a little Google on the guy.

I am determined to see this band in concert, at some point in my life. I have a feeling they would be sooo much fun to see perform live.

(By the way, is it Te-DESK-ee or Te-DESH-ee??)

I listen to this band while:

1) driving long distances–their Live album is long and full–it’ll fill your car with a great groove

2) sipping wine, while hanging out by the pool, with friends

3) cleaning the house

4) folding laundry

5) mowing (Yes! I DO mow a lot, thankyouverymuch!)

6) eating

7) cooking

8) well, just about anything, honestly

benrector_somethinglikethis

Ben Rector needs an honorable mention, as well. I really like his fun style–he’s kind of peppy, light, has catchy tunes. You’ve probably heard his work without even realizing it. I believe he has a couple songs on commercials??

And, don’t forget Mumford and Sons!

a5qr6sycmaecbbw_large

Oh! And, as someone who prides herself on not purchasing tons of music from American Idol, and the likes, I must admit, I broke down and downloaded Phil Phillips album.

Love it. Honestly.

It’s just plain good, y’all!

E.

P.S. Tell me what your favorite band/singer is!

Chief

IMG_5558 copy

I know I’ve mentioned it before, but every summer ThrillCam and I make the trek up to the Branson, Missouri area to retrieve our son from their favorite place on earth: camp.

Our oldest punk attended the same summer camp for many years and had to eventually choose between camp and baseball–baseball won. But, those years he attended were as equally as precious for him as they have been for our youngest son (and their cousins, who also now attend).

Summer is just not summer for our youngest son without two weeks immersed in scripture and every conceivable fun activity. You name it, they do it: basketball, baseball, dance, bikes, swimming, two-stepping, bubbles, campfires, singing, archery, tribal competitions, Bible study, the Blob, paddle boats…the list is too long to go through. Suffice it to say, the kids have a blast!

I’ve said for years that Disney has nothing on camp–Kamp is truly the happiest place on earth, at least it is for my boys.

This summer was no different.

Well, actually, it was a little different.

You see, our youngest son was given the honor of leading his tribe, the Choctaws, as their Chief. (Last summer the tribe voted him in as their 2013 leader.)

IMG_5519 copy

I must warn you, bragging is about to begin. So, if that bores you, please move to the next blog on your reader. I’ll give you a moment to leave. I totally understand. But, if you stay, I promise not to take too long.

Our son was given the Leadership Award, along with the honor of being Chief of the Choctaws.

For a parent who has seen that quality, or at least the potential in him, well, it caused the heart to expand few sizes. I’m always…well, mostly always…very proud of my boys. (Let me say this: I’m ALWAYS proud to be their mother.) But, over this past weekend, I stood a little taller, smiled a little bigger than usual.

I was told by counselors and the camp director that my son stepped up to the plate and apparently knocked it out of the park.

So, so proud.

(Okay, bragging done! Thanks for humoring me.)

E.

Be a Good Neighbor

IMG_5372 copy

Some people you just hit it off with immediately.

Some people fall into the “they will will be lifelong friends” category.

You know them.

You have a couple of friends like that.

Right?

We do.

ThrillCam and I have a number of those friends from our old stomping grounds, south of Houston.

I am happy to say, we can now add a few new folks to our list here, as well.

We moved to the Waco area nearly a year ago. While it seems like a long time, it has flown by.

Our first few months we spent holed up in the new house getting things moved in. We weren’t spending a ton of time meeting people.  We didn’t really start to church shop until after the new year. We sat alone in the football stands for most of our son’s football season. I did not go up to the school to volunteer. And, on top of that, our house is set off the road with a few acres, not in a typical neighborhood.

We pretty much made it very difficult for anyone to get to know us.

If we were going to actually make friends, it sort of rested on the shoulders of the very people we needed to meet, but weren’t. THEY were going to have to be intentional about meeting us.

Enter: Mark and Julie.

Look closely at the picture above. Those two are the poster children for the term Good Neighbors.

They immediately reached out to us and invited us to church, to their home, to share deep and thoughtful conversations, to eat. (Offer food, and I’m so there!)

They took a risk.

Julie took it upon herself to introduce me to more girls in the area. We started having lunch out. Or, I’d invite the girls over for coffee. I was even invited to celebrate a new friend’s 40th birthday, which is huge in my book!

Or, Julie and Marlo and Kim would take me walking or to Zumba and cause me great pain the next day because I was (am) so out of shape.

But, that’s another story.

Mark asked ThrillCam and our youngest son to join him, his sons and a few other dads and their sons, to hang out on Sunday evenings. Mark wanted to just pour into the neighborhood boys and foster stronger father/son relationships.

This couple has made our transition a little easier, a little sweeter.

Learn from these sweet folks; reach out to someone you don’t know well, open up your circle of friends to a new (or not-so-new) neighbor, take a risk.

Who knows? You may gain lifelong friends!

We often think others don’t want to be bothered, but you may be totally surprised if you reach out.  Honestly, don’t we all want friends, to be cared for, to be loved? ThrillCam and I did!…do.

Of course, it may not work out as supremely as my new friendship has, but you will be better for trying, for risking, for loving.

That, I do know.

So, get out there, and be a Good Neighbor.

E.

Lastest Obsession

IMG_5196 copyweb

If you follow me on Instagr.am (esimmonsphotography), then you’ve already seen pictures of my latest breakfast obsession.

How can pictures truly depict how delicious this is??

How can words fully describe this experience?

So simple.

So yummy.

So different.

IMG_5199 copyweb

Toast.

Avocados.

Lemon juice (don’t skip).

Red pepper flakes (a MUST).

Salt and pepper.

That’s it.

Unadulterated, uncomplicated, luscious, creamy, light, scrumptious, melt-in-your-mouth, nummy, yummy…

I’ll stop now.

IMG_5197 copyweb

Try it.

For my sake.

I beg you.

E.

Pico or Salsa?

IMG_5166-Editweb

Should I make Pico de Gallo or Salsa with my tomatoes and peppers?

Julie R. gave me the peppers from her father’s garden. There are both jalapeno and serrano peppers in the bunch.

I’ve never cooked with serrano peppers before. Have you?

They just sound hot, don’t they?

Super hot.

If my youngest son were typing this, he’d follow Super Hot with, “I’m super hot, you know.”

IMG_1052 copy

Yes, super hot.

I LOVE jalapeno peppers, though!

Yum!

So…pico or salsa?

Which do you think?

Do you have a favorite recipe for either?

Pico is extremely simple: chopped tomatoes, chopped onion, diced peppers, cilantro, salt and pepper, maybe a squeeze of lime juice.

(I don’t know if it was because it was on the island of Cozumel, or what, but I had the best pico de gallo there. Just simple pico and lightly salted tortilla chips. So fresh and yummy!)

Salsa is different. Everyone has a favorite recipe.

Do I add avacados? Pineapple? Mango?

Chunky? Or pureed and smooth?

My tomatoes are very sweet, by the way. Like really sweet! I love them!

But, if they are that sweet, would you do a sweet salsa instead?

Or leave it as is and let the sweet tomatoes mingle with the peppers and onions, so they form their own alliance?

IMG_5167-Editweb

What say you?

Pico?

Salsa?

E.

Zucchini Muffins

IMG_5178-Editweb

Do you recall the zucchini growing in my garden?

Let me remind you…

IMG_4167-Edit

I don’t think the picture does it justice.

Imagine a hand at the end of that thing and you’ve got my arm.

(Except my arm is not as smooth and it jiggles more.)

But, just imagine, okay?! (Not my jiggly arm…the zucchini with a hand…wait.)

I wasn’t real sure the zucchini would taste all that great once I actually tried to cook it. So, someone on Facebook suggested I use the big zucchini for bread.

Good idea!

So, I made muffins.

I’m a rebel like that.

“You don’t wanna get mixed up with a guy like me. I’m a loner, Dottie. A rebel. So long, Dott.”

Name that movie.

Has nothing to do with zucchini.

IMG_5168-Editweb

I used an extremely easy recipe on AllRecipes.com.

I, of course, tweaked the recipe.

(We’ve already established my rebel-ness.)

For example, it called for 3 cups all-purpose flour, I used 1 cup all-purpose, the rest whole wheat flour.

The recipe called for 1 cup vegetable oil.

I used 3/4 cup coconut oil and 1/4 cup vegetable oil. (Some people suggested, in the reviews of the recipe, to use a portion of apple sauce to cut down on the oil, but I didn’t have any on hand. So, I tried using a healthier oil.)

I sifted together all the dry ingredients, except the sugar.  Then, I added the sugar into the oil, eggs and vanilla (above) and beat them until creamy.

IMG_5175-Editweb

Next, I poured the dry ingredients into the wet and mixed those thoroughly.

(I didn’t take every single step pictures. I’m too messy, I usually forget, and don’t like to get my camera all sticky. Plus, the lighting in my kitchen is icky.)

Finally, I dumped 2 cups of grated zucchini and 1 cup chopped walnuts into the bowl and mixed it up.

Hey!

Notice that cute spatula/scraper/thingy I have!

See it below?

It’s shaped just like a baseball bat!!!

IMG_5176 copyweb

(My sweet friend Julie R. gave it to me. We’ve only been friends for a short while, but she already knows me well!)

I baked the muffins with the convection oven for about 15-20 minutes or so at 325 degrees. But, the recipe calls for a much longer baking time of 40-60 minutes for a loaf or two of bread.

(Loaf. What an odd word. Say it a couple times real fast and it starts sounding weird… loafloafloafloafloaf… See what I mean?)

Boy, am I happy I made these into muffins, though! Bread would have been super, too.

What I like about this recipe is that it is not too terribly sweet. But, will certainly scratch that itch, if you’re hankering for a little sweet something.

(Oh! And, if you chop the walnuts small enough your non nut-eaters will never know they’re in there.)

I like them in there. They add a certain…um… nuttiness to the recipe.

ThrillCam gave his seal of approval–he confirmed that I put zucchini in them, because he said you couldn’t taste it at all.

Score!

A sorta sweet, sorta healthy muffin that even your kids (and your hubby) will like…you could re-name them if need to.

Take out the zuchhini part and just call them Magnificent Morning Muffins!

After they’ve scarfed down 3 or 4, then you can tell them there are veggies inside! (Or, just wait a couple years until they can handle the truth.)

By the way, you can freeze the bread/muffins for a quick breakfast or snack.

IMG_5177-Editweb

You really should give these a try, especially this summer, while the fresh zucchini are plentiful!

And HUGE!

Enjoy!

E.

ZUCCHINI MUFFINS/BREAD

Adapted from Mom’s Zucchini Bread in AllRecipes.com submitted by v monte.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 C. all-purpose flour

1 1/2 C. whole wheat flour (or all 3 C. can be all-purpose flour)

1 t. salt (I used Morton’s LiteSalt)

1 t. baking soda

1 t. baking powder

3 t. ground cinnamon

3 eggs

1 C. vegetable oil (or coconut oil)

2 1/4 C. sugar (I think I used much less than that)

3 t. vanilla extract

2 C. zucchini, grated

1 C. walnuts, chopped

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 325*

2. Spray with non-stick spray, or grease and flour muffin tins or two 8×4-inch pans.

3. Sift together flour(s), salt, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon in a bowl.

4. Beat the eggs, oil, sugar, and vanilla until creamy.

5. Gently fold in the zucchini and walnuts.

6. Pour or scoop batter into prepared pans.

7. Bake loaf pans for 40 to 60 minutes, or until tester comes out clean. (Or, if making muffins, in regular oven, bake for about 20-30 minutes.) (Or, if making muffins in a convection oven, bake for about 15-20 minutes.)

I kinda felt sorry for the little guy…

IMG_5045-Edit

This is what I saw the other morning when I let Bear out to do his bi-ness.

I don’t know how he got there, but the little guy was hanging on for dear life.

I have to admit, I was torn as to how to handle this situation.

If it had been a snake, there would have been no hesitation. The snake would have gone (I’m sorry snake lovers) to snake heaven (if there is even such a thing…I think not…).

But, this little mouse was cute.

And wet.

And desperate.

So, I did what all delusional, indecisive people do: nothing.

I told myself he was having fun on his little water ride.

I told myself he was sunbathing, enjoying his little vacay.

I told myself he could drink plenty of water if he got hot.

I reminded myself that he could even swim a little, if he needed to cool off. After all, he got there somehow, right?

Every time I would walk by the pool that day, I would check to make sure he was okay, but I would never dip him out.

I mean, come on…I didn’t want to re-populate the mouse population. We don’t need any more mice on this planet, there are plenty.

But I didn’t want to kill him.

I just don’t think I’ve lived in the country (again) long enough.

I’ve softened a bit in the 25 years I’ve lived in the city.

A few hours later, I walked by the pool and the little guy was gone.

Next to the pool lie the pool skimmer pole.

Someone had fished the mouse out.

I never got the guts up to ask ThrillCam what happened next.

Country life is harsh.

E.

Independence, Fireworks, and Schoolhouse Rock…

“May the sun in his course visit no land more free, more happy, more lovely, than this our own country!” — Daniel Webster

Thank you, Schoolhouse Rock!

You rock!

Happy 4th, y’all,

E.

P.S. If you want to show your kids more Schoolhouse Rock videos about Independence Day, check out these on YouTube:

*a newer adaptation of an original Schoolhouse Rock video by Pavement, No More Kings

*the original Schoolhouse Rock version called No More Kings

*or, the Schoolhouse Rock video, Shot Heard ’round the World

Happy Independence Day!!

(I posted this in 2011, but the sentiments and ideas still stand. Hope you all have a safe and wonderful time with friends and family this week celebrating this great country we are privileged to live in. God bless America! E.)

 

 You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks,and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness.  You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism.  ~Erma Bombeck

Whether or not you throw a Frisbee, or stuff yourself on iffy potato salad, I hope your Fourth of July is super!

In honor of Independence Day, here’s a brief recap of what it is all about (credit goes to History.com for the following excerpt–had I written it, it would have been three times as long and full of incorrect information, so I decided to go with someone reliable.  And, it never hurts to have the occasional refresher course.):

“In June 1776, representatives of the 13 colonies then fighting in the revolutionary struggle weighed a resolution that would declare their independence from Great Britain. On July 2nd, the Continental Congress voted in favor of independence, and two days later its delegates adopted the Declaration of Independence, a historic document drafted by Thomas Jefferson.”

(Stained glass window of The Reading of the Declaration of Independence to Washington–as in George–1776, at Mount Vernon.)

I thought I’d list a couple ideas for things to do on the Fourth of July.  Of course, by now, you’ve probably already made your plans, but just in case you forgot something, here you go.

July Fourth ideas:

  1. Of course, fireworks.  If your city has not banned the firing of them due to no rain, then you should absolutely grab a lawn chair and some Off! and go watch them.
  2. Take pictures of the fireworks–don’t forget your tripod!!
  • Shoot manual and at a slow shutter speed: allow for long exposures of many seconds to 30 seconds, or you can even try the bulb setting
  • Use a quick release trigger for the camera, if you have one.  If not, try setting your release to a 2 second or 10 second delay, especially if the fireworks are being shot off at very regular and quick intervals.  You can press the shutter button and allow for any shake to subside before the picture is taken.
  • Shoot at a low ISO 100-200
  • Pretend the next number on my list is 3.
  1. Eat some watermelon.  I don’t know why, just do it!  Because it’s so yummy!  And, it just goes with Fourth of July, that all.
  2. Ask some neighbors over to grill some burgers and hot dogs, and play some games.
  3.  Have a neighborhood parade–decorate the bikes and wagons and play some loud patriotic music (like John Phillip Sousa), and take your parade through the neighborhood.  If you want to throw out candy, like at a big parade, let your kids throw out all your old Halloween candy.  It’s a great way to get rid of it, and I consider that recycling!  What?  You didn’t keep all your old Halloween candy?  No one keeps candy for that long?  Really?  Oh.
  4. Play horseshoes, ladder golf, washers, or cornhole.  All four are fun games to play outside, while eating your watermelon.
  5. Hang a flag in your front yard somewhere.
  6. HAVE FUN!!

Happy Independence Day!

God bless America,

E.

Gardeners: Help Wanted!!

IMG_5150web

Why does my corn look like this?? Where did I go wrong?

Each piece I pulled and shucked, had rotten spots at the top, where the silks come out. And, as I pulled off the husks and removed the silks, it was obvious not all the kernels developed.

And, here I thought my corn was going to be my winner this year…

Oh!

Another thing:

IMG_5153web

What caused this on my beautiful tomato? A bug, or the heat?

What say you, oh wise and experienced gardeners?

Wait.

I’m not done yet.

I mean, if I’m going to ask for help, I’m going to put it all out there.

I’m being transparent, folks.

My gardening pride will not hold me back.

I am willing to learn!!

Teach me, Gardening Gurus!

This.

IMG_5157web

Again, heat?

Poor little watermelon…

OR, do you think water sat on it too long?

Help, wise ones!

(Yes, I promise I took that rock out.)

One more request:

Why am I not getting any green beans?

IMG_5156-Edit

I see tons of sprouts/buds of green beans, but when I look for fully grown beans, there are none to be found. I think in all this time, I’ve seen THREE whole beans.

Is this my culprit?

IMG_5159web

(Do you know how hard it was to snag a shot of this little bugger? He would quickly scoot around the stick every time I’d get a good view of him…those stinking big bug eyes…I just know he’s guilty of something…)

Okay.

There you have it.

Bring it on, give it to me, be honest.

Practice some tough gardening love on me.

I can take it.

Love,

Elizabeth-I-am-a-gardening-failure-Simmons

Baseball

IMG_4376 copy

Did you know that there are MILLIONS of little black balls of rubber embedded in field turf ? (Did you know there’s a difference between field turf and Astroturf? Astroturf was first invented for the Astrodome in Houston, Tx. They are both synthetic fibers, but Astroturf was inflexible and caused many injuries. Field turf has been improved over the years and the use of the rubber balls–and sand–help to prevent injuries.)

I knew the tiny bits of rubber existed due to the time I’ve spent on football sidelines, but it wasn’t until I was down flat on the fake grass to grab the above picture that I truly understood just how abundant the black stuff was.

I still have imprints on my legs where the black stuff dug into and stuck to my skin.

The good thing, it camouflaged the cellulite.

Sort of.

Okay, not really. It only lodged itself into the cellulite making it that much harder to remove the dag-blame stuff.

According to eHow, the pellets are made from frozen rubber tires.

Well, here, you can read for yourself:

  • When you play on, or carefully inspect FieldTurf, it’s easy to notice a number of small, black pellets that sit below the surface of the synthetic grass. These black pellets are loose, and as you run on the FieldTurf, your feet will flip them up into the air. The pellets are made of cryogenic rubber and are a vital part of the infill structure of FieldTurf. The rubber pellets used in FieldTurf are environmentally friendly. They are produced from recycled tires that are frozen through a cryogenic process. While frozen, the tires are broken into the small pellets that will eventually end up in the FieldTurf.  –eHow.com

ThrillCam spent quite a bit of time and energy acquiring the turf that had been removed from a high school football field somewhere in Texas.

IMG_4374blog

We were thrilled the previous owners of our new house built a rather large metal building on the property because the front section was just the right length for a batting cage, which both of my boys (and a couple neighbor friends) have put to good use.

Getting the turf TO and INTO the building required an act of Congress; it took multiple days, the use of the tractor, and numerous strong-bodied males to move and roll it into place. (ThrillCam had to cut it into smaller pieces just to be able to lift and move it–with the TRACTOR! It was extremely heavy.)

Then, after the turf was put into place and glued down, the little black pellets had to be spread around to provide spring and cushion.

You can barely see, but to the left of the cage (in the above photo), there are buckets and bags against the wall. See them? Left-over pellets. Extra. Lots. (There are a few mounds of the stuff on outside the building, as well.)

The pellets are environmentally friendly, in that they are made from recycled tires, but, honestly, they will never go away. Ever.

I considered using the extra around my garden as a type of mulch, to prevent weeds growing around the edges. Seemed like a great idea, initially, but, I’ve decided against that because they would eventually make their way into the garden soil, which doesn’t sound beneficial to my tomatoes. (And, we know how much trouble I’ve had in the past growing tomatoes….)

Anyway, we are happy to have the turf, the millions of rubber balls, and the batting cage, because our family loves baseball.

Baseball–actually, any sport–is a great metaphor for life, in so many ways.

Like the Babe Ruth quote I put on the top photo–it applies to all of us whether we play baseball or not.

Every strike can bring us closer to our next home run.

So get out there and start swinging!

Eventually, we will hit a home run!

(Just don’t fall while running the bases–I’m still picking little black pellets out of unmentionable places….)

E.

June 23, 1990 to Present

Abundant Staff Wedding Photos 028

We were so wet behind the ears, weren’t we, Babe?

Young, and so very, very unprepared.

Unaware.

Naive.

And, oh-so-innocent.

Sometimes I still feel that way. Unprepared. Naive.

Most of the time, though, I feel Secure.

Loved.

Respected. 

Honored.

And Adored.

________________________________________________________________________________________

Over the years, we’ve changed quite dramatically.

Our hairlines have grayed and thinned.

Our middles have expanded and contracted…and expanded again. (Well, okay, mine has expanded again. You quit drinking Dr. Peppers and you magically lost 1,000 pounds in 2 weeks. Yes, I still love you even though I’m desperately jealous.)

Our two boys have each reached well over 6 feet–we are now looking up to speak to them. They are no longer small enough to hoist onto our hips, nor do they take 2 hour afternoon naps. They look like you. And, yet, they look like me. Personality-wise, one is more like you, one my mini-me. And, yet, really, they are not carbon copies of either of us. They are their own, individual, strong, Godly persons.

We’ve survived your various church staff positions over the years and learned from each and every experience. In looking back, even the hurtful job changes can be viewed as good–stretching, growing, hopefully maturing seasons.

We’ve buried both of my parents in less than 5 years.

We’ve moved closer to yours.

IMG_2927

Can you believe we are no longer in our 20s, our 30s?  …We are nearing the age of “older parents,” maybe even grandparent age!

Even with the job changes and moves, etc., I think the last couple of years have been the most trying. Wouldn’t you say that? In a weird, tons-of-change-kind-of-way? And throughout all the years, we have never once discussed the idea of living separately, away from one another. Never.

Has the thought occurred to either of us? I’m sure, yes, but it never gained momentum, was never given life.

I can’t imagine that life; I don’t want to.

I thank God daily that He continues to share you with me, that He shares the boys with us.

You each are a gift, a treasure.

Thank you, ThrillCam, for 23 really great years.

I look forward to 23-plus more with you.

All my love,

E.

P.S. Here’s a crazy and amazing must-read story of some of our family history, our destiny. Not only does it tell a little more of how ThrillCam and I met in college, but how 3 generations earlier, our families were oddly connected.

Thrill-Cam

IMG_2927

I often get asked, “Why ThrillCam?”

Okay, not often, but occasionally.

No…

To be perfectly honest, rarely…

Rarely do they ask.

But!

On that rare occasion, I must first ask them for clarification.

The person usually responds, “No, Elizabeth, I understand why you married him. What I mean is, why the NAME ThrillCam?”

I know I’ve explained this before in various blog posts, but it finally dawned on me to add some video footage to back my story.

You see, I’ve called ThrillCam, ThrillCam, since the 1980’s when we met and fell in love in college.

(Baylor University, by the way–Sic ‘em!!!)

Abundant Staff Wedding Photos 026 copy

IT WAS THE EIGHTIES, PEOPLE!!!!

We were young, skinny, had more hair, and gosh, I want those legs back…

Anyway, during that time, The David Letterman Show was doing an reoccurring segment on his show called, Late Night Thrill-Cam!

(Oh, and my husband’s name is Cameron.)

Scroll forward to the time 7:10 to watch the segment:

The ThrillCam was such a roaring success, the David Letterman Show added new versions of the ThrillCam:

(Audio is not great, sorry.)

If I remember correctly, David Letterman also had the Late Night CowCam. (I’m thinking the whole Late Night ________Cam fizzled out after the CowCam. Can’t imagine why…)

Anyway, my husband’s nickname has stuck, at least, for me. Surely no one else would want to call him ThrillCam, which, I believe I’m safe in saying, he greatly appreciates.

No matter what you call him, he’ll always be my beloved.

E.

Creative Challenge Update

naturecollageblog

Last week, I issued a creative challenge: to try something new, to stretch your creative legs a bit.

My personal challenge was to use a different camera lens than my go-to 70-200mm. Using different lenses offers different vantage points.

The lens I grabbed was my Canon 24-105mm. I had purchased the lens for our trip to Jordan back in 2010. I needed a good lens that would give me a little zoom along with a wide angle. It worked pretty well for me. But, since purchasing the lens, I haven’t used it too terribly much. It just doesn’t give me what I hope for.

Or, to be honest, I have not worked very hard to learn its strengths and weaknesses.

(May I take a moment to say something that’s been heavy on my heart? Just because someone has a bunch of expensive camera gear it does not mean they actually know how to use it. Cameras have continued to improve over the years and everyone has a pretty decent camera in their possession–even the phone cameras are improving with each new release–that does NOT necessarily equate to a good photographer. A good photographer knows how to creatively and properly compose a photograph. A good photographer knows how to expose for the light properly. A good photographer can take his/her camera off auto–if they want–and still take beautiful, creative photographs. A good photographer knows how to pose one or more people. So, if you hear someone say, like I did the other day, “Wow, that is a great camera and lens! I bet it takes super pictures!” please remind them the equipment needs someone to actually know how to use it creatively to capture super pictures.)

Sorry.

I guess what I’m trying to say I needed to practice with a new lens to learn how to best use it. In some pictures I succeeded (notice the road pic–I didn’t put the horizon in the middle of the picture; it leads the eye and adds interest), some I didn’t (like the sunflower, above and below–I didn’t expose too well for the backlit subject–I needed a reflector or something to pop some light to the center of the flower, or I needed to move and squat differently, but my knees were already beginning to stage a coup).

flowersBlog

It was 3pm and blazing hot, about 90+ degrees the afternoon I took the above photos. Too hot and harsh to be out practicing, but it was good for me. It forced me to deal with some not-so-great light. I had to change my ISO, speed up or slow down my shutter, and close down or open up my aperture, depending on what I was shooting. All good for me, especially since I was using a somewhat unfamiliar lens.

All in all, it was a very beneficial lesson for me–fun and creative, to boot!

How did you do over the weekend? Did you work on something creative? Please let me know what you worked on and if you learned anything through the process.

E.

Purple Martins Galore!

So I told you our Purple Martins had babies. It was a very exciting time for ThrillCam and his little adopted family.

Then, once the babies grew big enough to fly the coop, the Martin house became eerily quiet.

It was empty.

No birds for about three to four days.

I even mentioned to ThrillCam that maybe he should go ahead and take down the house, because the Squatter Sparrow was starting to take over the place and call it home.

But, then, suddenly, from out of nowhere, the Purple Martins began re-appearing!

IMG_4450

And, not just one or two…

IMG_4429

Today, we were counting up to ten or twelve Purple Martins flying around our backyard.

It was as if the original family left and told all their friends how great the landlords were and that they, too, should check out the apartment complex!

If you build it, they will come, apparently.

(That stinking Sparrow was such a pest! It did not like the Martins returning; he had assumed the place was his. He/she kept flying around, madly chirping…or chirping madly. Not sure which. Either way, the bird was mad and the bird was chirping.)

This experience has really captured our attention over the last couple of months. We waited for what seemed like forever for them to choose our house. Then, once they decided to stay, we were nervous they weren’t going to like it and leave. All the while, the Sparrows kept building nests on the opposite side of the Martins and about every 2-3 days, ThrillCam would lower the house and clean out the Sparrow nests…. Of course, once they had babies, we knew they were fully calling it home. It’s truly been fascinating to watch the whole process.

And, now, we have even more who are congregating on and in the house! In fact, I sat watching them for a good 30 minutes, counting all the extra birds flying around.

Eventually, it dawned on my to video our fine feathered friends!

(The video’s a little shaky, as I had not grabbed my monopod or tripod.)

Listen to how noisy they are–very excited little things!

Oh! And listen for the clicking noise…

(Just click on the link below to watch my video.)

http://video214.com/play/QBFPusOvAFBDNVUi6CvvFQ/s/dark

The Sparrow stayed on the house, if you noticed, but eventually, the Martins shooed him off.

We are really curious why the Purple Martins left for a few days and then returned. ThrillCam has read other people’s experiences and they believe the Martins are beginning to group up for the impending migration back to South America.

I guess we’ll find out in the next couple of days as to whether they intend to stay and be “late nesters” or if they are just resting and preparing for the long trip home.

When they do finally leave, we’re going to miss them; they’ve added quite an odd bit of excitement in our new country experiences!

E.

50 Pancakes and Wild Cherry

ThrillCam left Monday afternoon with a twin bed tied down in the back of his truck, headed to Houston to see our oldest son play baseball and give him a bed for his summertime apartment. It was a very quick trip, but required ThrillCam to spend the night.

Of course, with ThrillCam away for the night, it meant our youngest punk and I were given the opportunity to have a date night and share one of our most favorite foods: sushi!!

IMG_2142copy

ThrillCam will go with me to eat sushi, but it’s not his favorite. My youngest son and I love the little raw fish wrapped in yummy sticky rice and dipped in soy sauce… So tasty…

(My oldest son and I share an intense love for boiled crawfish–also not a favorite of ThrillCam, nor my youngest. Do you have a special food you share with only one of your children or with a sibling/parent?)

Sushi, while yummy and often memorable, is not the point of this story.

As we were driving home, my son started playing Tom Jones’ It’s Not Unusual on his ipod!!

Check out those moves!!! (My parents both really liked Tom Jones, so it was a wonderful memory for me. Music can do that, you know?) (How many 14 year olds do you know who has Tom Jones in the music library?? My kid is a goofball, honestly.)

Again, though, Tom Jones is not the point of this story.

Well, actually, he sort of is, because his music was the start of an entirely unforgettable evening I had the privilege of sharing with my son.

You see, we had to get home to make 50 pancakes (and one GIGANTIC one)…

photo-3

…for a school project due the next day.

Now, in order to keep this real, I must admit that sometimes in moments like this I am prone to feel a little resentful and grumpy.  (He texts me about this project on Monday at 1pm and it’s due on Tuesday; his partner is not coming over to help, so it falls solely on us to provide the pancakes; he has no idea what making 50 pancakes entails–“Does mom have milk and eggs and pancake mix? Does mom even have time to make 50 pancakes? Oh! You mean I’m supposed to help cook them? Should I provide syrup and butter? How am I going to keep 50 pancakes cold until class so I don’t poison all my classmates? How are we going to warm up 50 pancakes so my friends will actually want to eat them? Maybe mom can bring 50 pancakes plus one gigantic one to me on Tuesday right before my class at 11:28 a.m.? I like turtles.”)

Tom Jones changed my attitude. He put me in a good mood. My son didn’t even realize the impact the playing of a now-funny song would set the tone and mood for the evening.

Then, he played another 70’s groove.

Once we got in the house, still laughing about the songs we just jammed to, I turned up the stereo and blasted him with a whole playlist of 70’s R&B Funk while we made pancakes.

Benmakingpancakes-2 copy

(He was making a REALLY weird face, on purpose, for this picture…I didn’t think he wanted it plastered all over the interwebs, so I photoshopped it. All photos were taken with my iphone.)

We cooked and played songs like:

We danced.

We sang.

We flipped pancakes.

We boogied.

We mixed more pancake mix.

We Vine-d some of his dance moves. (Vine is a new social media app that uses video.)

We flipped more pancakes.

We danced more.

We laughed…a lot.

I know this sounds so weird, but I will live on this evening/memory for a very, very, very long time. My son really has no idea what the evening meant to me, even though I’ve hugged him and told him how much I enjoyed myself and his company.

photo-1

My hips are sore, but my heart is full.

E.

First “Harvest!”

IMG_4082-Edit

Looky! Looky! Tomatoes!!!!

I’ve tried not to smother them with too much love–I’m afraid I’ll scare them away.

I, of course, have not breathed a word about the Topsy-Turvy. No siree.

IMG_4079-Edit

My green bean plants look healthy and are growing fast!

Do my eyes deceive me, or does that not just scream baby green beans?!

IMG_4084-Edit

Bell peppers are one of my husband’s favorite veggies.

I’m happy to report we have ONE!!

IMG_4083-Edit

And, check out my corn, baby!

IMG_4081-Edit

I’m hoping I planted enough corn, this year, to promote cross-pollinating. I was informed, after last summer’s dismal corn “crop” that three stalks was not enough to produce corn that actually looked and tasted like corn.

Live and learn, I say.

Live and learn.

Whirled Peas!

IMG_4078-Edit

I only have two growing plants out of all the seeds I planted, so we’ll see how the pea situation turns out.

So, as I was taking pictures in my garden, I checked around the squash and zucchini plants, which have grown HUMONGOUS and have intertwined themselves.

(Experienced Gardeners: is it okay to plant squash and zucchini so close together? Will I eventually start seeing “squa-cchini?” I was also sort of worried about the watermelons and cantaloupes becoming one… Can I end up with Cantamelons, or Waterloupes?? What about Canta-cchinis? Can that type of cross-breeding happen in a garden?? I’ve always heard not to plant your sweet and hot peppers close, as they will all become hot. Can that happen with melons and/or squash??)

Anyway, while I was looking at the squash, I noticed I had two zucchini hidden deep under the plants.

IMG_4085-Edit

Um, oops.

I’m thinking I let my zucchini go a little too long on the vine…

IMG_4167-Edit

They are huge! Like the size of Robert Griffin III’s throwing arm huge!!

I plan to use them tonight at dinner. We’ll see if zucchini that big are worth eating.

I’ll let you know.

And, if they are good, I’ll need your address, so I’ll know where to send them. Looks like I’ll have a little zucchini to share this summer…

Happy Gardening!

E.

Right Now…

IMG_3547

Right now, I’m seeing green!!

IMG_3549

And, new growth!

IMG_3550

And, right now, I see lots and lots of potential!!

IMG_3551

While I claim the garden as my own, I have to give a shout-out to my main squeeze, ThrillCam.

IMG_3542

Right now, he has supported my crazy idea to plant a rather large (for us, anyway) garden in our backyard.

(Unfortunately, I may not have chosen the very best location, as it took a TRACTOR to drill holes for the fence posts!)

IMG_3544

Um, yeah…

Sing with me, “SOLID! SOLID AS A ROCK!…”

Even my youngest punk got in on the action:

IMG_3545

It was short-lived, but I give him an A+ for effort!

(I’d never seen such a tool before! Apparently you slam it down to chisel the rock. I know this because I watched and observed. I’m good at that, watching and observing.)

ThrillCam even hauled over some hay bales for my homemade compost heap. (The hay is supposed to slowly break down along with the veggies and dirt to make yummy compost…eventually…next year.)

IMG_3555

Right now, the weather is fantastic and it’s a pleasure to get out there and pull weeds, to get dirty.

Right now, the plants are happy and healthy, not withered and shriveling from the horrid Texas heat.

Right now, I look quite successful in my gardening adventures!

IMG_3554

Right now.

I’ll keep you posted.

E.

Shenanigans…

IMG_3179

My youngest son’s 14th birthday fell on Easter weekend this year, which made it difficult for us to have any type of celebration at the time.

We ended up postponing the party until this past weekend.

IMG_3173

I really believe, though, it was worth the wait!

Seven of our son’s buddies joined him for a sleep-over and par-tay!

This year, we by-passed the usual go-cart or rock climbing party and got a little more creative.

We went on a Photo Scavenger Hunt!

We split the boys into two teams and drove them to the specified locations on their list to complete their tasks. (each team started at a different place on the list) Then, as the task is being done, or completed, a photo or video must be taken for proof. (Pretty much, all photos were taken with a phone-camera.)

I haven’t had this much fun in a long time!

Below is the scavenger list  (tasks listed in no particular order) and some of the photos….

PHOTO SCAVENGER HUNT

*You have 10 minutes to choose a song and choreograph a routine for a flash mob in Target. (Team)

While at Target, you must purchase the following items: Fun Dip (or Warheads), one package of adult-sized underwear (like Depends), a small roll of foil, and sidewalk chalk. Once purchased, each team member must eat enough candy to turn their mouths a different color (team tongue photo for proof) AND each team member must wear a pair of underwear (over their clothes) to the next PUBLIC assignment.

IMG_1039 copy

*Climb on and pretend to herd the cows at Suspension Bridge (Team)

20130421-101645.jpg

*One team member must chug a Dr. Pepper in front of DP Museum

*Team must lead Baylor University students in a “Ahhhhh, Sic ‘em Bears!” in front of Bear Pit

*One member must get 10 signatures on their chest from strangers.

(this was probably my favorite task)

20130421-101555.jpg

(We used non-permanent markers!)

IMG_1037 copy

*Entire team must wear foil hats.

IMG_1043

*One member mummified with TP.

IMG_1027

*One member lying on sidewalk with chalk outline and a quote bubble.

*Team jumping in air.

*Team wearing clothes inside-out.

*Team pyramid.

*Team holding one team member off ground.

*One member “antiqued” with flour in face (must be done OUTSIDE).
IMG_1052

*Team as a band in studio.

*Team in canoe, on dry land.

(“I’m King of the world!!!”)

IMG_3165

In the end, the judge (our oldest son who was home from college for the weekend) called it a tie.’

What a fun, silly distraction after a very heavy-hearted week!

Still praying for the injured and hurting in Boston and our neighbors in West,

E.

Helpers.

o-MISTER-ROGERS-HELPERS-QUOTE-570

This photo has gone viral since the Boston Marathon bombings, and for good reason. It’s a good advice.

ThrillCam and I have lived near quite a few disasters over the recent years and it’s amazing to watch the good that comes from very sad and seemingly helpless situations.

We’ve watched Helpers come in very different forms over the years…

We had been living in Clear Lake (Houston) Texas, right down the road from NASA, for not very long when the space shuttle Columbia exploded.

images

I don’t believe we were remotely prepared for what we witnessed as this large city, and yet, very small community of engineers, contractors, scientists, and friends rallied around NASA and the shuttle victims’ families. When I say it was amazing, it was amazing.

Everyone in the community was connected, in some form or fashion, to NASA, and more specifically, to an astronaut. For such a large population, the degrees of separation were minimal.

I remember mourning friends who personally worked alongside the astronauts telling me stories of how they walked side-by-side through brush and thicket searching for pieces of the shuttle for days following the explosion; they were determined to help find even the smallest sliver of metal that could help the investigators piece together the hows and whys of that tragedy. It was their way of helping.

Our oldest son was in the same class/grade with one of the astronaut’s daughters. So, we were eye-witnesses to the attention and support given to her and her family. Helpers with tangible offerings of many prayers, food, carpooling, house-cleaning…anything that could help ease the burden of sorrow the families were feeling.

“Everything in the world is about to be wrapped up, so take nothing for granted. Stay wide-awake in prayer. Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless—cheerfully. Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God’s words; if help, let it be God’s hearty help. That way, God’s bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and he’ll get all the credit as the One mighty in everything—encores to the end of time. Oh, yes!” I Peter 4:9

During our time in the Houston area, we evacuated three times for the threat of, or the actual frontal attack of hurricanes.

While Hurricane Katrina didn’t hit our area directly, we watched as hundreds of evacuees fled Louisiana to Houston and its surrounding areas. Churches, families and businesses opened their doors to these refugees, feeding and clothing them. Our church sent teams of workers to some of the hardest hit areas in Mississippi to help in the recovery process. It was beautiful and inspiring to watch.

CORE sign 2

Photo credit to Gateway Community Church.

“Jesus sent his twelve harvest hands out with this charge:

‘Don’t begin by traveling to some far-off place to convert unbelievers. And don’t try to be dramatic by tackling some public enemy. Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood. Tell them that the kingdom is here. Bring health to the sick. Raise the dead. Touch the untouchables. Kick out the demons. You have been treated generously, so live generously.” Matthew 10:8

We moved a few years later, further south, to plant a church in the town of League City. League City is in Galveston county, about 30 minutes (minus traffic) south of downtown Houston and about 30 minutes north of the Galveston Bay.  Hurricane Ike hit Galveston with force, causing a devastating storm surge.

Our church took a small, but dedicated, loving group of helpers down to help with the cleanup efforts following Ike. (You can read my post about it here.)

ikewaterline copy

Just a few days ago, the Boston Marathon was bombed. Unbelievable and, again, devastating.

But, I am amazed by the first responders (that include just regular folk who stayed to help), who swooped in, immediately, to help the victims. This morning’s national news did a piece on the EMS workers who were stationed in and around the race. Because of their presence, they were able to move 90 people to area hospitals in less than an hour.

Helpers.

And, now, today, I sit here reeling at the close proximity of our new home to West, Texas, the small town devastated by the fertilizer plant explosion. I grew up going there on a very regular basis to buy kolaches and go country and western dancing! My heart is heavy and sad for the precious people of West, as they continue to search for loved ones and tend to injured ones…

But, I am also, once again, reminded of the good in people. Immediately, churches and businesses opened their doors for the refugees and hurting people of West. Donations of blood and gift cards and clothing and baby diapers, etc. are flowing in.

I’m, once again, watching the loving hands of Jesus being lifted through service and care.

This is just unfolding and I am looking forward to hearing the hero stories…

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
 My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.” Ps. 121-1-2

Solution.

Mornings and evenings usually begin with ThrillCam and me sitting out on our back patio: me drinking my coffee, him staring at his Purple Martins, us listening to the water trickle down the pool’s waterfall.

It’s a beautiful beginning and ending to our days.

During these times, we are finding ourselves more and more intrigued by all the different birds that fly around our house. We have a ton of beautiful red Cardinals, some Blue Jays, Mockingbirds, Finches, Sparrows, Doves, Hummingbirds and even Road Runners!

Bird watching, to be honest, has never been my thing. I mean, I like them and all…

I love Mockingbirds (the state bird of Texas!), especially, for their constantly changing chirps and songs.

I love Road Runners, thanks to Warner Bros. cartoons. (“Beep. Beep. Zip-tang!”) (Please tell me you get that reference. Please.)

Oh! And, I love doves, because they are so tasty.

(I’m keeeding!)

(Sort of. Okay. Not really. They are pretty, lovely birds to look at, but they are also pretty and lovely to eat.)

In the past, for me to sit and watch, and really notice birds?…not so much.

Thankfully, all that has changed.

Last week, we found our peaceful mornings disrupted by some bold and pesky little birds.

A set of Barn Swallows (or Chimney Sweeps, as I grew up calling them) were attempting to build nests under my office porch.

IMG_9500 copy

They’re pretty little birds, aren’t they?

They are part of the Swallow family (same family as the Purple Martins) and they do a good job of eating bugs.

So, why aren’t we helping them out, like we’ve helped the Purple Martins?

The problem is, Chimney Sweeps build mud nests DIRECTLY onto the side of the house. Not only that, but they are messy little critters.

I felt bad shooing them away, because they are so darn cute and beneficial, but I knew I did not want them living ON my house.

We noticed one spot, in particular, where they were returning to time after time. In fact, we could be standing there, directly under the porch where they were trying to nest, and those birds would literally dive-bomb us!

We had to figure out a way to thwart their efforts.

We tried attaching foil to the little ledge, but the foil blew off.

We tried knocking off the mud and grass the birds brought in, but they just returned to rebuild.

We were becoming nearly as obsessive about these little birds as our Purple Martins, but not in a warm, fuzzy way.

Finally, ThrillCam did this:

20130417-110211.jpg

Pretty smart, huh?

The CDs move in the wind and reflect light and scare the little squatters away! (And, so far, no one has noticed the CDs up there since they are sort of hidden from view.)

I thought it was brilliant!

E.

Swallow versus Sparrow: The Throwdown

In this corner, we have the small and sprite, but ever so persistent, the lowly and common Houssssse Sparrrrrrow!!

swallowcollage

ANNDDDDD, over in this corner, we have the current, reigning, and defending Champions…

IMG_9532 PMObsessioncopy

…Fighting, out of South America, the Purrrppplllleee Marrrtttiinnnsssss!

IMG_9591 copy

Here’s the deal. If a mooch, like a House Sparrow or a Starling moves into your Martin house before a Purple Martin does, often, the Martin will seek other housing.

So, needless to say, we have been keeping guard over the Martin house, lo, these last couple of months, striving to prevent a squatter from moving in and taking over.

It hasn’t been easy, let me tell you.

ThrillCam has to take down and clean out the nests of a Sparrows, which have yet to deter them in the least.

She/He/It returns, over and over.

Every time the Martins fly off in search of bugs or nesting materials, Sparrows would fly in and begin building a nest.

Home Wrecker.

Look at that Sparrow’s boldness! She’s walking right in, like she owns the place, while the owner is in the backyard!

IMG_9530PMcircling

Stinkin’ Squatter Sparrow.

Oh, but don’t you worry about those Purple Martins! They know the gig. They see what that silly Sparrow is up to.

Busted!!

PMSwallowattack

PURPLE MARTIN DON’T CARE!!!

OH SNAP!

IMG_9522PMscareoff

That’ll teach you, Sparrow!

Go Purple Martins! Go!

E.

Update:

We’ve noticed a new, third Martin that looks like another female. It might be a young, immature male, but we are thinking it’s actually a female.

Okay. We don’t know what it is.

BUT, it’s exciting to see 3 Martins now! We hope more will come to roost.

We are still having trouble keeping the Sparrows out of the Martin house. In fact, I walked outside, yesterday, to see a female Martin and a Sparrow participating in what I would call a bird’s version of WWE!  It was Wrestlemania at its best!  I really do believe the Martin was injured, slightly, but she was NOT going to let that Sparrow stay in her house!
Of course, ThrillCam and I are doing what we can to help the Martins. But, goodness gracious! Those Sparrows are persistent little buggers!!
I’ll keep you posted as the sage unfolds.

Purple Martin Obsession

Two Christmases ago, ThrillCam received a Martin house.

You see, his grandparents had a Martin house when he was growing, and he recalls it quite fondly.

So, our youngest punk gave him the Martin “apartment” house, below.

20120222-085300.jpg

He put up the house last Spring, but, sadly, no Purple Martins took to the new home.

This is a Purple Martin, by the way:

IMG_9532 PMObsessioncopy

(That is a female, I’m pretty sure. Females have a light chest and are more brown in color–young male Martins also have a lighter chest, but I’m pretty sure this is our female. Males are a deep, deep purple, almost black, all over. I’ll have better pictures in a following post.)

Purple Martins are known for their amazing in-air acrobats and bug-catching skills.

After we moved, and before ThrillCam put up the Martin house this Spring, he did a little more research. The internet is chock full of good information on how to attract and prepare your birdhouse for Purple Martins.

And, because of my husband’s new-found obsession, I am now very knowledgable in the ways of the Purple Martin. I patiently sit at the feet of my love and listen as he explains the habits and needs of these migrating birds.

For example, did you know Purple Martins migrate to the Amazon each winter?

*Once they have laid claim to a house, Purple Martins return to the same house every year.

*Purple Martins send out scout birds (young males) to find a new place, if the family of Martins has outgrown their home. (We noticed scout birds back in February.) I’m assuming they kick out their oldest male punks to go out in search of a new home, new career, etc.

You know, I can relate to the Purple Martin mamas…we did the same with our oldest punk (insert sad, crying emoticon); we sent him off to college. Waaaaaahhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!

Oh.

Sorry.

That’s a different story…has nothing whatsoever to do with Purple Martins.

*Once Purple Martins nest in a house, they will fight off anything that tries to move in. (More on that later.) But, if a House Sparrow, for example, builds a nest in the house before Purple Martins move in, the Purple Martins will seek other housing. (My next post will show you this problem.)

*Purple Martins soar quite high and feed while flying. Rarely do they come down to the ground to capture a bug.

*Did you know that the eastern Purple Martin is dependent upon people to provide their artificial homes?

These are just some of the little, fascinating facts ThrillCam has passed along to me as we patiently awaited their arrival.

For nearly a month, the man would stand at his office window, looking through his binoculars, watching, hoping a Martin family would move in.

Then, over the Easter weekend, sure enough, a set of Martins began circling the house and actually landing on it. In fact, our Martin house initially had a Martin decoy on the top. That weekend, we witnessed the female Martin dive-bombing the decoy, while the male would land on the house. I told ThrillCam he needed to remove that decoy; that mama bird was not going to raise her babies with that intruder leering over them!

ThrillCam took off the decoy on Easter Sunday afternoon. Sure enough, they both began landing on the house and going in and out of the tiny holes. I’m pretty sure the female started hanging pictures on the wall that very evening.

ThrillCam has been beside himself with excitement at having a new family move in! He has been watching, expectantly, for about 2 months now.

I wish I could convey to you how invested my husband is in these little bug-eating birds.

It’s almost as much fun watching HIM watch them, as it is to watch the birds!

20130406-185227.jpg

E.

Want to find out more about Purple Martins? Check out this link to the Purple Martin Conservation Association.

Planted.

blogcollagePlanted

I’m very excited! I’ve started my garden!!

I actually got a few plants and seeds into the dirt!

The seeds have yet to do anything above ground.

IMG_9496 Plantedcopy

I’m anxiously awaiting their little baby sprouts.

But, I did plant a few transplants, like tomatoes, bell peppers, squash and zucchini. And, I’ve been watching them closely, to see if they like my dirt/compost mix.

IMG_9493 Plantedcopy

Yep. That’s a tomato plant.

Yep. It has yellowed leaves.

Look at the one in the background; it ALREADY looks dead!! I may have already over-watered them on the very first day they were placed in the ground!!

(Actually, I didn’t over-water the first day. Yes, I watered them, but two days later it rained…a lot.)

Ugh.

Honestly, I think any plant I purchase should each come with a little plant creed attached to them, a declaration, a battle cry:

“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night nor the cursed touch of Elizabeth stays these branches and leaves from swift completion of their appointed fruit & vegetable production.” 

Why? (please read the following with feeling…angst…emotion; maybe even beat your chest and rip your sackcloth)

(huh?)

Why, I ask you?

(louder, please)

Why, I ask you, was I born with such a strong desire to plant and grow things, and yet, lacking in the much-needed abilities to do so??  

Well, I’m just crossing my fingers that all the seeds and little transplants will be strong and persevere.

May they rise above my gardening ineptitude and shortcomings.

Wish the little fledglings luck.

They need it.

E.

It’s Spring! And, we all know what that means…

20120127-091442.jpg

If you’ve read my blog for any amount of time, you’ve learned quickly that I have a black thumb. I cannot grow much of anything.

But, I try.

Oh, how I try.

Take tomatoes, example.

I love tomatoes.

Tomatoes are the easiest thing in the world to grow, besides toe fungus and monkey grass. (Don’t ask me how I know these things.)

For some reason, though, I cannot grow tomatoes.

I’ve tried. (Do a search for tomatoes and read all the blog posts I’ve written on the little red fruit…it is a long and sordid affair.)

I’ve tried growing them in hanging contraptions.

I’ve tried growing them in pots.

Then, last year, I tried growing them in a raised bed.

CSHS VFB v. PDawson 2011-24

I was only marginally successful.

This year, though…this year will be different.

I just know it.

I feel it in my bones.

Stay tuned…

E.

Look out veggies, here I come!!

IMG_2210

I’m a glutton for punishment.

I am going to try a vegetable garden.

…Again.

We’re now living in a different region of Texas, so I’m giving it whirl here, hoping the change of location will solve all my gardening woes.

This time, I even got my husband and his little red tractor involved.

IMG_2221

Since we have more space, I figured, I needed a larger garden. Right? (Let’s hope I’m not biting off more than I can chew…)

ThrillCam ran over the ground, breaking and churning up the dirt and rocks.

IMG_2225

Over the last few days, I’ve been going through and picking out the rocks and left-over clumps of grass.  I’ll need to work the dirt a little more to prepare it for the seeds and plants.

I’m kicking myself over the fact that I didn’t start a compost heap over the winter months. I guess I just need to purchase some organic compost to mix into the soil.

As you can probably tell, I’m a little behind on the prep work, which means I’m rushing the process and cramming in steps I should have started about 4 weeks ago…. I learn every single time I try this whole gardening thing.

Hopefully, though, the gardening gods will be on my side and I’ll have some home-grown veggies before too long.

IMG_2227

Oh,  and don’t you worry…I’ll let you know how it all turns out.

Listen! I’m doing this alone, people!! I expect some feedback and advice.

Happy Spring,

E.

Jill’s Story

I was made aware of this story through CreativeLive, this weekend, when photographer Sue Bryce and film-maker Hailey Bartholomew previewed it for us.

It is moving, and beautiful, and real.

Please take a few moments to watch it:

(Note: there are a few photographs in the film showing Jill topless, after chemo and surgery. While I feel like my daughter~if I had one~should see this, you may not, so please watch without children, first.)

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/57597999″>The Light That Shines</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user612630″>hailey bartholomew</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

If you would like to share this video, you may go to Sue Bryce’s blog Sue Bryce’s blog and embed the video onto your Facebook page or blog, as well.

E.

How small I am…

I am reminded, in this fantastic video of photographs taken by the scientists on the ISS, how small I am.

And, it reminds me how beautiful creation is.

And how thankful I am.

May something today, whether it’s a video, a photograph, a smell, a child, a smile…whatever it is…may it cause you to pause and be inspired…and may it remind you to say thanks.

E.

P.S. Here’s what Knate Myers wrote on Vimeo about the video:

Every frame in this video is a photograph taken from the International Space Station. All credit goes to the crews on board the ISS.
I removed noise and edited some shots in photoshop. Compiled and arranged in Sony Vegas.

Music by John Murphy – Sunshine (Adagio In D Minor)
itunes.apple.com/us/album/sunshine-music-from-motion/id297702863

Image Courtesy of the Image Science & Analysis Laboratory,
NASA Johnson Space Center, The Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth
eol.jsc.nasa.gov

Lost is found

20120706-094110.jpg

When my mother turned 60, she and Daddy took my sister, my uncle, ThrillCam and me to Italy. It was the trip of a lifetime. Fabulous scenery, history, and, of course, food.

Oh, the food.

But, that’s another post.

One of my most treasured memories of that trip was the day we got “lost” in Venice. My mother, sister and husband went with me to find a little Venetian shop that made masks. I was on a mission. I wanted an authentic, handmade Venetian mask.


Long before we had smart phones with GPS, we searched for the shop using a poorly printed map of Venice.

We walked down long, skinny alleys, over small bridges, and through school yards, all while laughing and snapping pictures of quaint doors and windows…and lots of laundry-on-the-line shots. It was fun being lost in Venice. And, oh, so memorable.

Continue reading

Tips for photographing Fireworks

HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY!!!

(I am not at my regular computer, so I couldn’t dig up any fireworks photos of my own! The photo above is curtesy of http://www.provincetowntourismoffice.org)

Follow these tips for great fireworks pictures: 

  • If you have a tripod, use it. Even on point and shoot cameras. Just set it up next to your lawn chair.
  • Turn your dial to M for manual. Don’t be afraid! It’s good to try something new! It’s good to practice! Trust me.
  • Set your aperture at about f/8 up to f/16. (The higher the aperture number, the more you’ll have in focus–larger depth of field.)
  • Place your focus on manual (and/or infinity). BEFORE it gets dark, find an object in the distance, about equal to where the fireworks will be exploding, and set your focus on that. Now, you are set. (Once the fireworks begin, you need to check your shots. If the are out of focus, stay in manual to refocus. Auto focus will not work well in this situation.)
  • Shoot at a slow shutter speed: allow for long exposures of many seconds up to 30 seconds, OR you can even try the bulb setting. (Bulb setting allows the shutter to open when you press the shutter button and it will stay open until you press the shutter button again. The bulb setting is located on the settings dial on most cameras.)
  • Use a quick release trigger for the camera, if you have one.  If not, try setting your release to a 2 second delay, especially if the fireworks are being shot off at very regular and quick intervals.  You can press the shutter button and allow for any shake to subside before the picture is taken.
  • Shoot at a low ISO 100-200 (You will be surprised at how much light fireworks give off, even when it’s pitch black outside.
  • Do not use flash. Won’t help.

Most of all, HAVE FUN!!

And, please be safe and smart as you celebrate our country’s birthday.

God bless you and God bless America,

E.

I Got Flocked

Rather than trying to explain my past 2 months and the crazy-busy season it is and was, I will just jump right in an show you one of the funny happenings during that time. Hopefully, I can get back on top of my blog and write a little more consistently, again…. (fingers crossed)

A few weeks ago, we were “flocked.” Continue reading

More Ollo Clip

The Ollo Clip is the little iphone lens adapter that I purchased about a week ago. I’ve finally had a few moments to play with it more (and to read the directions).

Okay, so here’s my lantana (again) taken with my normal, unadorned, iphone camera.

Nothing to write home about.

But, check this out!

KAPOW!!

20120418-095845.jpg

Macro crazy!!

You know that can’t be all there is! Keep reading!

New Look! Same Great Product!

Well, I really liked the black background for my blog, but unfortunately, many of your computers did not.

Quite a few friends and family members told me their computers would freeze up if they tried to read my blog.

We can’t have that, can we?!

The only thing I can come up with is, the previous theme allowed much larger photos which may have just bogged down some systems?? (I’m technically challenged, so I honestly have no clue what I’m talking about.) (To be honest, I should be shrinking my photos, anyway, but I usually don’t take the time for this blog. I re-size anything I post on Facebook or my business blog.)

So, I’m trying a new look.

I still lean toward clean, simple themes, so I was glad to see this one. (I may change to this one on my business blog, as well.)

Please give me feedback if you still have trouble.

And, thanks for taking time to read this drivel! I enjoy writing the silly, meaningless stuff, so thanks for stopping by regularly! Please tell your friends to stop by!

XOXO,

E.

P.S. I wanted to add a picture to this post, so I decided to pay homage to my addiction to crawfish. I LOVE YOU, LITTLE RED MUDBUGS!!  YOU COMPLETE ME!!!

Hello, my name is Simon. And, I like to do my drarings…

20120405-100409.jpg

My nights have been ending later than usual, me working late into the night at the computer, editing Senior Portraits.

20120405-100402.jpg

I love it, but it tends to throw off my circadian rhythms.

20120405-100416.jpg

When I do finally turn off the computer because my eyes are bulging and bleeding, my body is tired, I crawl into my bed, snuggle down in the covers…and reach for my phone.20120405-100423.jpg

You see, I can’t sleep just yet.

I have unfinished business.

20120405-100430.jpg

My bedtime ritual (no matter how late it is) includes catching up on Words With Friends, Scramble, and now, Draw Something, which happens to be my new favorite.

20120405-100437.jpg

As you can tell I am a horrible artist.

But, to my credit, it’s not easy drawing on a little touchscreen on the phone.

(I’m not sure if I were to switch to the iPad it would make much difference, though.)

At least I don’t just write out the words…I actually attempt to draw something.

And, I go to bed happy.

Can you guess what the words are for each drawing?

E.

1. Tugboat

2. Shower

3. Rock Star

4. Funeral

5. Princess

6. Grave

Gardening…

20120329-174737.jpg

Well, I’ve planted most of my seeds and already I’m seeing sprouts! I snapped a few pics with my phone-camera, but hope to get better shots next week.

20120329-174724.jpg

I’ll have to show you a plant that I am now thinking is a squatter-weed. It’s HUGE!! I kept thinking it would produce some vegetable, but now I’m thinking it’s just there to shade my bell peppers, which not a good thing.

Here’s just the stalk:

20120329-174847.jpg

It’s like a modern-day version of Jack and Beanstalk in my backyard…

It’s raining today, so once it dries a bit I’ll get out there and take some more pictures. Maybe one of you who know more about gardening than me, can tell me what I’m growing. (I’m really pretty sure it’s a huge weed…)

Speaking of growing things, I saw this video and thought it was pretty cool.

I don’t have the same green thumb the man in the video has, but I’m inspired to improve.

20120329-174757.jpg

Maybe my little garden will provide a little extra for my friends and neighbors, or even a food bank.

20120329-174809.jpg

Hope you find inspiration somewhere today.

Oh, and eat your veggies!

E.

Keep Calm and Carry On…

(photo credit: Wikipedia Commons)


My friend Andy Bondurant over at The Collective recently shared a video that I found enchanting.

(I call Andy a friend, but he’s never even met me. He has no clue who I am. But, because he is in my home on an almost daily basis through his blog and Twitter, I feel we are friends. It’s very one-sided, but that’s okay. I’m happy with the arrangement.)

So, have you been seeing a TON of the KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON signs on Pinterest, t-shirts and the likes? I certainly have.

There are even different versions and spoofs of the saying. (All of the following posters are available for purchase, just copy and paste the URL.)

Like:

(http://society6.com/jeremybingham/KEEP-CALM-burger-king_Print)

Or, how about:

(http://society6.com/rachelb/Keep-Calm-and-Click-On_Print)

And, this:

(http://www.etsy.com/listing/91391194/cookie-monster-keep-calm-and-carry-on?ref=sr_gallery_14&sref=&ga_search_submit=&ga_search_query=keep+calm&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_ship_to=SE&ga_page=5&ga_search_type=handmade&ga_facet=handmade)

And, finally, this:

(you can purchase this at: http://www.etsy.com/shop/JulienDenoyer)

I really hadn’t thought why the saying is suddenly so popular.

In fact, it didn’t really appeal to me, mainly because I was seeing it EVERYWHERE. It was and is all the rage.

But, Andy brought my attention to a video that explains the background of the original saying.

And, now because I know the backstory to it, I love it!

I would give anything to have one of the original posters…

Check out the video. Kind of cool.

Thanks, Andy!

Keep Calm and Carry On,

E.

What was I thinking????

Twice a week, I choose…choose…to subject my body, mind, and soul to torture.

Torture is actually an understatement.

Twice a week, ThrillCam and I drive our tired, weary, out-of-shape 40+ year-old bodies to YMCA to see Cheri.

She looks all sweetness and light, but don’t be fooled.

Underneath that power-lifter body and friendly smile is …is…well, I don’t know what it is, but it’s not right!!!

Okay, maybe that’s a little harsh.

She has become my friend, after all.

But, mercy me… She’s tough.

And good.

We are still working out on the TRX system, which is a strap system that uses your own body weight for resistance. (We also use kettle bell weights, the stationary bike, medicine balls, and any other item used to break the spirit of a human being.)

(It even looks like a torture device, no??)

We work out on Tuesdays and Fridays and it never fails that our muscles…no, our very beings…are sore for at least two days following.

And, then we go right back in for more.

It’s stupid.

It makes no sense.

It’s horrible.

I die a little each time.

Don’t believe me?

This is the proof.

20120329-123748.jpg

Cheri worked me so hard I couldn’t even get up from the floor last week.

And, yet, I love it.

I do.

I think.

My core is so much stronger.

My stamina is so much stronger.

…No, I haven’t lost weight.

Yet.

But, that requires changes in my eating and I’m not there yet.

It’s enough that my muscles are in pain…I’m not ready for my stomach to be.

I’m not ready to be in a bad mood 7 days a week.

I’ll settle for just the 4-5 days that I’m sore and angry for now….

E.

P.S. To be honest, I cannot say enough GOOD things about Cheri. She is absolutely awesome! I’ve never met a trainer more knowledgeable, more capable, or more caring. THANK YOU, CHERI!!!

I think.