Friday, August 26, 2016

DIY letterboard and the power of "no".


Are you shaking your head laughing, wondering why my title says "no" and my first photo says "yeah!" .  I can explain, I promise! I have always wanted a letter board.  If you unloaded the random wish list from my brain onto a notebook page the results would be strange and would leave you curious.  Things like "set of lockers, letter board, and a good pair of overalls" definitely make the list, among other random objects I'm just waiting to come across serendipitously.  I thought I was close to checking "letter board" off my list when I noticed them popping up all over Instagram.  I did a bit of research and quickly discovered these cute little boards were way out of my budget.  

So I put my creative thinking cap on and started hunting around Etsy.  I came across a listing for these letters at a super great price and immediately purchased them. 
To finish my letter board I simply stuck them onto an old canvas and watercolored the edges.  This project couldn't have been any faster or easier, plus it was inexpensive! 

As for the words on the canvas, well, they have a story of their own. 
Does God work on you and work on you, slowly and steadily over time through all different ways of communicating? He does me.  Perhaps I'm a bit slow to listen to Him.  But whatever the reason, the past year He has done a life-changing work in me.  Through sermon podcasts, discussions over bible verses with Brett, certain songs, books, being quiet, many prayers, conversations with others, and just complete signs from God, I have learned the value of both "no" and "yes".  

Previously I was living a life of hustle, of "dream bigger", of serving my IG/blog world more than my world, of trying to be the skinniest, most successful, and biggest people-pleaser.  This way of living was exhausting.  Combined with raising two babies, being a wife, and barely being a friend, it was the straw that broke the camel's back.  I have since learned the value of a good hearty "yes!" and a grace-filled no.  I shared this with a friend over coffee this week (a wonderful yes!) and we got so tickled at all the ways people will truly to pull you, all the directions your time will be tempted to go. 

I won't go into all my "no's", because there are too many to list.  
Just know that my "yeses" include those glorious words above.  They include showing up in real life for my friends, day in and day out.  Texting, dropping dinner over, sending prayer videos via text, or lending a listening ear in real life.  My "yes" includes giving my family my best energy first, researching and learning more about adoption and foster care and scriptures concerning orphans more than ever before, painting because it's simply fun, and photographing families because it fits well with our family's schedule.  My "yes" includes stacks of laundry, a fridge full of home-cooked food, opening my home to others, and also giving myself grace to rest and be quiet.  It means not posting my whole life on Instagram or trying to be anything other than what I am, myself.  No more, no less.  

My "yes" means I can curl up with a good book, pressure-free.  It means I can handle the big, hard things of life that seem so near some days because my brain and to-do list aren't clogged.  It means a much, much shorter "to do" list than ever.  

Where do you stand on all of this? Have you found the freedom in saying yes to the best, most needy things, leaving your soul filled to tend those actual needs? Have you included self-care and enjoyable things in your "yes", so you are refreshed to take care of others? 

I'd love to hear your heart. 
(p.s.-one way I stay refreshed is with music! Christy Nockels is playing while I'm typing!)

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

focus and perspective: a mini photo lesson

Photography runs in my veins.  I'm not sure why, I just see the world in photos.  Driving down random roads interesting backdrops stare back at me, the rest of the world fading.  Rain is no longer just rain.  It becomes a million sparkles, just begging to be photographed on the freshly washed grass.   The business side of my photography is simply the icing on the cake. It thrills my heart immensely to offer the gift of storytelling through photographs to others.  But, (and don't take this the wrong way) it isn't the whole cake.  If I never photographed another family on earth besides my own, I would still pull out my camera on a daily basis.  It just does something for my soul.  I am in a season right now of figuring out what gets to take priority in my heart and mind.  I can tell you for sure, the photography stays. 

Once upon a time I taught a one-day photography retreat on the farm.  What complete joy it was to share my passion with others and see their eyes light up at this amazing gift we call photography.  Today, let's pretend that we're on a mini retreat together.  Lean in close-I have a few tips that hopefully will inspire your own photos! 
 First, let's talk about focus! I want you to go back up and look at the first chicken pictured again. 
Now look at this one.  See how the focus has changed?  

These photos were taken with my phone, by the way. In the first photo the focus is on the whole scene.  I simply held the phone up to the scene and moved it up, down, and to the left and right, trying to find that sweet spot of light.  Then I took the photo. 

In the second photo I stood up, instantly putting me at an angle where I was looking down at the chickens.  I noticed that the chicken wire made an almost "frame", so I decided to go with it.  While holding the phone still I tapped the phone screen where the chickens were.  This made the focus box show up around the chickens, leaving them extra-sharp looking and the chicken wire fence blurry. 

This is one of my favorite ways to take a photo.  You still notice the chicken wire and it definitely helps play up the story of the image, but by choosing to have it out of focus your eye goes entirely to the main subject-the chickens. 
 Tip number two is all about perspective.  As I was traipsing around the garden this flower caught my eye.  You might be surprised at first that I took a picture from behind the flower, instead of in front.  But remember, perspective is everything.  I'm always fascinated how a group of people can all photograph the same thing and yet every single view/angle/take on that same thing will look different. 

It is pounded into our heads as children how unique we are and how great that is!  Then as we get older the shininess of being unique kinda wears off.  Or we learn certain rules for photography.  I remember this one, simple "rule." Find what makes my heart feel something and photograph that

Do you see the many layers on the back of this beautiful flower?  Or how it seems to bow down in awe at the beautiful, blue sky?  Or how about that one petal on the bottom that is kicked back away from the rest, just doing its own thing?  That's what I see from this perspective.
The obvious way to photograph these flowers would be to hold your phone or camera above them.  That would certainly deliver a gorgeous view.  But these two beauties, hanging out next to one another, are as equally interesting from the side.  To take this photo I did the same thing as I mentioned in the first tip-I tapped the flowers to put the focus there and let all the green grass and blue skies fade into the background and become blurry.

Again with the side view! Come on, I bet you even have a favorite side view of yourself.

When looking for an interesting perspective to capture, don't forget the side view.  Things aren't always their most beautiful selves from capturing them straight on or from up above.  I thought this photo was made interesting also by the fact that the flower is the main focus, with not much of the stem showing. 



As always, I love to capture things up high, even if it means holding the subject up high yourself!
That blue sky just paints the most gorgeous, eye-catching background for this simple bouquet of flowers.  Had I just held the bouquet up with the dirt as my background, the dreamy affect wouldn't have been near the same. 
And last but not least, don't forget to also look down low! I got way down on the ground to capture this basket of okra and flowers.  If I had stood up to take this photo a lot of the details on the front of the flowers would have been missed. 

I challenge you to look for new ways to focus and find perspective this week! 
Any other photography questions? Ask away!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Food for the mind and body. (Podcasts)

Happy Monday! We are coming off a weekend away and full of food treats.  Pizza twice (yum), cheese and crackers, and even some sugary treats.  I woke up this morning giving myself a mental to-do list which included eating some better foods for my body so I feel refreshed and ready to face the week with strength.  I thought a peek into the garden would do the trick. 


Of course many of these are from a trickle of photography that's been streaming out of the garden all summer long.  A capture here, a click there.  Our cucumbers are now long gone but our pantry is stocked with pickles for fall and winter days. 


My best, most intense exercise has by far come from the garden this year.  Especially during potato digging times!  There is something about getting my fingers and toes in the dirt and sweating buckets that just doesn't live up to the treadmill or an exercise video.  I need the earth. 

We've had tomatoes for days and already have a nice supply canned as well.  There's nothing like a bright, red jar of tomatoes to brighten up a cold, grey winter day.  


The thing I like about the garden is how easy it is to provide our bodies with food.  Real food.  No needing to check for ingredients, no counting calories.  Just the pure pleasure of biting into a ripe, juicy garden tomato, seeds dripping down your chin. 


A few other easy recipes we've enjoyed this summer are DIY snow cones.  After watching Betsy's skin become so dyed with color after eating a roadside snow cone last year I decided they weren't for us.  So this year we crushed ice in our food processor and then added real fruit juice from either watermelons or blueberries on top.  I simply crushed the fruit, poured the juices over the top, and then added a piece of two of fruit on top of the ice.  The girls love these things! 
We also tried this "Nutella" spread made from black beans.  Surprisingly enough, this was really good!  Brett and I first ate Nutella in Italy and once we came back to the states we were totally under the impression it was healthy.  Now we know better.  This dip was thicker than Nutella but the flavor was fantastic.  I enjoyed it with apples. 

A favorite way I've been dressing up our Asian-inspired meals and adding a bit of crunch is with black sesame seeds.  I simply toast them for a minute on the stove-top and add to just about any dish.  


And of course, you can't go wrong with a bowl of soup made from homemade broth and tons of veggies. 

See, I feel ready to make good, delicious food choices already! 

Another way I enjoy feeding my mind is by listening to podcasts.
I usually put one on at night when I'm folding laundry or sitting on the back deck with Brett. 

Or cooking.  

A few I enjoy are: 




How about you? What are you eating/listening to lately?  


Friday, August 19, 2016

Now booking fall/winter photo sessions!

First, "Happy Fri-yay!!!".  My favorite day of the week.  

I wanted to share a bit about my photo sessions today.  If you've been around for long or even any time at all, then you know my heartbeat is truly for lifestyle photography.  I adore capturing life in its purest, most authentic form.  My favorite way to capture love, tell stories, and create heart-stirring photographs is by simply being totally present with my clients.  

Sometimes that looks like a photo session on my farm, with a few props included for play and fun.  Other times it means an in-home session, where I simply hang out with a family for a few hours and capture their beautiful everyday. 

My photo sessions always include trust.  You can trust me with your heart, the details of your life, and to see beauty in your story.  On the flip side, I trust you to know how much your story matters and is worth capturing.  Sometimes I'll hear a client say "My home isn't pretty enough" or "I need to be skinnier."  Those, my friends, are just lies.  If not now, when?  If we don't look life full in the face and document it now, when will we?  

It would be an honor to elevate your everyday by capturing you in a photo session.  Whether it's simply you, an entire family, a casual Saturday morning at home, a group of girlfriends, or a special tribe of people you'd like captured, I am taking a limited number of photo sessions now through the beginning of December.  

To end, a special note on why I believe in giving you so many digital images.  It is the never-ending argument in the photo world it seems, to give the images digitally or not.  I am obviously all for giving you a flash drive full of your family's story.  Photos should have meaning, not just be something we store on our phones, and should be printed.  Otherwise, they sit silent. If you were to come to my home you'd find an entire wall of mini photos, 366 in fact.  And that's just on one wall alone!  We also have boxes of photos to sift through at the breakfast table, memories lingering in the air and spirits lifted. 

All that to say, I want you to have these precious memories and to do with them as you wish.  I beg you to print them and let them tell a story in your home.  That is why I believe in a flash drive full of digital images. 

To book your own photo session, simply email sunshinebysara@hotmail.com or message me on Facebook! 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

We are a camping family.

I wrote yesterday on Instagram that there are two kinds of people-those with eyes of wonder about practically everything, and those who see the world as regular.  The same could be said of camping.  I've quickly come to realize either people love the outdoors and that is their go-to for fun, enjoyment, and peace, or they prefer the indoors.  In both cases neither one is "better" than the other, just different.  And different is good.  For my family though, outdoors is our everything. 
There's no place I'd rather be than with my family, out on the river or lake.  Even when rain drops suddenly shower you and the snacks are getting soggy.  There is just something about our natural world that does so much for me.  When my to-do list feels big and angry and like it's handing out marching orders, I march myself outside instead.  The trees and water drops and heart rocks and green grass never give marching orders.  In fact, they don't even beg to be noticed.  I find the outside world much gentler than that, running by a clock of a different speed.  Slow is embraced, celebrated even.  Have you ever seen a tomato turn red by trying to make time tick faster?  

Me either.  The rhythm of the outdoors seems purely connected to God and as I'm finding in this season, His timing is generally far different and slower than my over-zealous mind would prefer.

One constant among the changes of life for our family is our love of camping.  For at least a year straight Brett tried to talk to me about purchasing a pop-up camper.  I was so against it until one morning early last spring and I was tired of talking about it and said "sure."  True story! He found a perfect (for us anyway) little pop-up camper on Craigslist and we bough it that day at a great price.  We haven't ever looked back since.  





I'm so very, very glad I had a moment of weakness and finally agreed.  What an adventure our camper has been!  Turns out, we are a camping family.  We just simply love it.  So far we've mostly camped within an hour or so of home which makes it do-able for a weekend trip.  We have plans to venture further out into the United States next year, more of a road-trip style.  Sometimes we take our bass boat and fish, other times we walk up to a fishing spot or hike. 




The girls are excellent outdoorsy girls.  They know the rules and the way things go.  For example, life jackets must stay on whether you're in the boat or simply playing in the river.  They know that mama always brings snacks wherever we go and that sometimes we have to find unconventional ways to use the potty! TMI, but truth with littles.  The girls know to expect color books, stickers, and camper-only toys (just a handful) for play during the day, that is when they're not playing with sticks, leaves, rocks, and pinecones.  They know bedtime comes late with a movie in the camper beforehand.  They adore camping food and all that there is about camping.  They are adventure-seekers for sure. 


Usually in the midst of our time something like this appears and takes my breath away.  You just can't find this on the aisle at Target!
We eat really well on our camping trips and everything tastes better from a campfire.  Last time we even packed up my homemade kombucha and added in a can of seltzer water to make it extra fizzy.  Simply delicious! 



One of my most favorite parts of camping is that all the house chores are at home.  That means I'm simply free to play with the girls non-stop and enjoy all their silliness.  
We rest more when we camp and there's something about this cozy bed that usually makes me sleep hard and really well. 





You must keep in mind, of course, that camping isn't perfect.  Just like anything else you see on this wild thing called the Internet, it's never quite as good as it looks.  Well, this comes pretty close, but still there are moments not pictured like a storm brewing, a major sinus infection for me, squabbles between the girls, and having to pack up early only to find sunshine 10 minutes later that you don't see here.  I feel like blogs should have a sticker that says "Warning: Things not as perfect as they seem."  At least that's true here! Our camping trips are never perfect and are actually quite a bit of work beforehand.  There's lots to pack and remember and even if you pack light, it still isn't that light with a family of four. 

But once you wake up and see the river has disappeared due to fog you can't help but think that it actually is pretty close to perfect. 













(This local water-so, so good!)





Today I'm thankful for retreats in the midst of a restless season, the calming power of watching a spider weave its web, the taste of campfire food, and the many possibilities of camping in the future. 

Are you a camping family?  Have any tips or questions for me? 

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