Saturday, August 31, 2013

{Simple Saturday} A Place to Call Home

Linking up with Iris over at Country Girl's Daybook for a Simple Saturday.

Friday my brother and sister-in-law went from nomad status back to home-owners.  After a cross-country move to be closer to family, listing and selling their house down south, and living with family here, they finally found a house to suit their needs.

It needs work, it's got grit and grime worked into most every surface, but it's got location, square footage and lots of beauty waiting to be reawakened.  This house is going to be the place where my nephews and niece bring prom dates to meet parents, have sleepovers, and build a lifetime of other memories as they transition from tweens to teens to adults.  It has the space to be everything my brother and sister-in-law have been looking for, and I'm so happy for them that they've found it.

Because it's been the kind of week where cleaning all day sounded like a break if I got to do it without the babies, one of my sisters graciously watched kiddos while hubby worked so I could head over to the new place.  We spent the day talking, laughing about the sheer magnitude of cleaning needs, and scrubbing every surface.

After nine hours of pretty continuous effort by two-three people at all times, we got the kitchen livable.  The cabinets need to be painted to seal in the peeling paint and such of yesteryear, but we got a huge jump on the dirtiest room in the house. 

With family all around to help, this is our barn-raising, getting together to help them make a place to call home.

The day included peeling out old contact paper and lots of scrubbing

Note where I stopped scrubbing to capture the magic behind the fridge

Thursday, August 29, 2013

{Theme Thursday} Shadow

We went to a local park for a picture day.  I'm still working on my camera settings, so I had some washed out photos with shadow:

Some, I took IN the shadow:

But, I REALLY wanted to play with actual shadows, so Wednesday, I tried to get Little Bean to go outside and do some photos:

A cloudy 98 degrees makes for a hot, crabby, unsuccessful 5 minutes outside.

So, we broke out the flashlight and played with shadows in the bathroom.

Here's Sweet Pea's best shot:

ISO 125, shutter speed 1/125
I couldn't get her to stay still very long, and I need to work more on my f-stops (this one was at 2.8), so she was a little blurry.

So, here's my best shot for this week's challenge:

I couldn't crop out her face, because it was hilarious!
I used the same settings, and it was a clearer shot because my model was willing to stay still.  Looking forward to more challenges to play and learn!

Go check out Cari at Clan Donaldson for more!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

{WWRW} The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society

Click on this pic to check out all the great reads over at House Wife Spice!

Sometimes, I just pick up books in the library because they're within easy reach and while I'm eager for a good story, my ability to peruse at leisure is severely hindered by the babies I'm trying to keep from pulling out all the books.

The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking SocietySo, a recent grab and go was The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society. I'm not a scrapbooker, but the cover was pretty (judging by the cover, I know, I know) and it was in the new book section.

When I cracked it open, the first sentence I read was, "The goat was Connie's idea."  Ummm....who's Connie, did I miss something?  I usually like a little more lead up and character development than the bomb-drop approach. 

Once I got used to the author's style of starting a story somewhere near the middle and then filling back in, I started to get pulled in to the various vignettes.  Throughout the book, the reader moves between story lines of different characters who all, somehow, are tied into the scrapbooking club. 

For a busy person who is going to be setting the book down a lot, it can be a little confusing to keep everyone straight and to catch a few of the subtle ways that people are drawn together, but the book does develop a rich story line.  As the characters' lives are knit together through the course of the book, I found myself wondering what was going to happen with the adoption, how the society leader would work through her health problems, and how the lonely, sad widow would come out the other side of her grief and betrayal.  The book delves into individuals who have suffered infidelity, experienced poverty or loss of parents, have failing health and a variety of other true-to-life stories pieced together.  A few of the story lines seemed overly-contrived, but all-in-all, a decent story.

The ending might a little saccharine for some, but I do love when the good in individuals triumphs.  I never really made my peace with the home-wrecker, but I liked reading a book set in my area of the country, although it really could have been any small town. 

Now, check out what else Jessica is up to :)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Double Chocolate Beer Bread

My brother went shopping for beer the other day while I was over.  He brought back a beer called, "Dirty Blonde"....he likes pale ales, so he thought it would be right up his alley.

It was chocolate beer.  None of us cared for it, deciding it was overly sweet.  Since he bought a six-pack, I decided to take one and experiment.

Beer bread is a favorite of mine, it's quick and delicious. Beer bread is usually 3 cups flour, 3 tsp baking powder, sugar to taste, and a can of beer.  So, taking the basic recipe, I composed a recipe.

Double Chocolate Beer Bread
3 cups white whole wheat flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 tsp cocoa powder
1 cup chocolate chips
1 can Dirty Blonde chocolate pale ale

Mix everything but the chocolate chips and beer together to combine well.  Add in chocolate chips, mix to combine.  Add beer, fold until wet through.  Bake 350.  I used a large muffin tin and it took 30 minutes, a loaf pan would probably take 15-20 minutes longer.

The compulsory ingredient shot

The dry plus butter

Mixing in the chocolate chips
Adding the beer

The sticky batter

Dropped into the cast iron mega-muffin pan

Fresh from the oven

Cooling....time to dig in!
 The verdict:  Still hanging somewhere in the middle between beer bread and sweet bread.  After eating half of one of these giant muffins, I'm unsure about them.  The texture is good, the chocolate chips are great, but I'm unsure whether or not this recipe is a keeper.   In the soft chocolatey goodness, there's still that hint of beer, and I can't really decide if I like it.  I think it's good enough that further experimentation is warranted.  Next variation, I'm thinking maybe up the sugar and switch it to brown sugar.  In the meantime, I'm fairly confident my family will polish these off in short order!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Picture Day - August 2013

Today I have SB's younger bio-sister visiting.  With three babies under 2, of course I decided we should go to the park and take pictures!  So, off we went this morning between naps and bottle feedings.  Here, pictures of my bio-babes to share the fun of our outing :)

After reviewing the files, I've decided I need to 1) start working on shooting with .RAW files to get better results in editing, 2) work on my settings to get better results before editing....just generally working to get a higher quality photo.  Practice makes perfect, right?  So here's today's practice: