Wednesday, March 4, 2015

snow days, spring, and miracles.

 Spring is right around the corner.  We just know it.  We feel it in our bones, have an extra pep in our step.  Garden plans are underway, a few seeds even tucked in safe and sound under the blanket of snow.  Yes, you read that right-snow.  Again!  
We've gone all winter long with nothing but a good chill through our bones.  Hardly any snow to talk about.  And yet we find ourselves snowed in for the second week in a row, strains of Christmas carols playing in the background, feet padded in jammies as we're tucked in safe and sound together.

 I don't mind.  Today I stood out in the snow for a minute and it was the most surreal experience.  The flakes were giant and swirling so fast it felt just like being inside the middle of a snow globe. I keep reminding the girls that spring will be here soon and we'll traded our jammie feet for rain boots and stomp about in the garden and mud.  We can't wait.  But for now, we're enjoying this last goodbye of winter.



 The girls and I baked some really delicious bread today I thought I'd share with you.  I honestly wish I could share a real piece across the computer!  Add a few cups of coffee and we'd have ourselves a real rosy chat. 

 This simple banana bread is sweetened with organic, pure maple syrup.  I don't typically eat desserts made with white sugar except for a rare occasion.  The girls and I sprinkled some cinnamon and brown sugar on the top of the loaf and it added such a nice crunchy, sweet taste.  

 Both my girls are eager helpers in the kitchen but Betsy Grace is really the one who delights in pouring, mixing, tasting, and feeling every single ingredient we come across.  We say she'll be our little chef someday. 

You can find the recipe for this delicious bread here.
I think this would make a delightful gift for a friend, wrapped all pretty.  I'll have to make another loaf soon and share a few wrapping ideas! 

 The last part of the day we were graced with noticing this. 
As Charlotte's Web says, "Don't you think the web itself is a miracle?"

 Yes, we do.  I had already noticed the web on my own and hadn't said a word about it.  Then along came Anna Ruth later in the day and excitedly pointed out the window, calling me over to see the web. This made my heart skip a few beats….so proud and happy to know my girls are learning to see God's tremendous beauty tucked in almost every nook and cranny.
On my own, later in the afternoon, I stood and watched the strands of the web hold tight against the pull of the wind.  The question kept running through my mind, over and over.  How did the web hold together through such fierce winds?  

That isn't anything but a miracle. 
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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Photography Retreat for all: the iPhone, Auto User, and Manual (take a look!)

 Friends, it's no secret I LOVE, love my Nikon D7000.  I saved up for this camera and use it every single day.  It is just quite simply, my fave.   I even taught myself how to use manual mode and there's no turning back there either.  But, the fancy camera or ISO/white balance/shutter speed actually AREN'T what made me fall in love with photography.  Not one bit.  
 In fact, I've tried dozens of times to pinpoint the exact date when I fell so hard for this passion of mine and I can never quite do it because it's hard to remember life without this extra pair of eyes and hands.  And feet.  My photos take me and my memories places we'd otherwise never visit.  
 When I advertise my photography retreat or talk to people about their photos I always make it real clear and obvious that I think photography is for all.  I've sat in on some pretty uncomfortable conversations with "real" photographers saying that there is so much access to photography that it shouldn't be ok for so many people to consider themselves photographers.  As you may guess, I strongly disagree.  Yes, there are certain opportunities and jobs that call for a certain level of expertise.  But wanting to capture your family and world? Go ahead, claim photographer status. 
Because the truth is your eyes, mind, and soul are God-given and exclusively yours.  We've heard that since kindergarten haven't we?  The "you're unique" speech.
 I believe it's worth repeating again. 
Each of these photos you're seeing are some of my faves.  They spark a memory or make tears jump into my eyes.  

And they were all taken with my camera phone. No fancy Nikon in sight.
 We can probably all agree that there are professional photographers who make a living from their cameras.  They own fancier equipment than we do and have more knowledge than we do.  And you bet if I ever enter the working world with my camera somehow, I will most definitely proudly say which equipment I use and that I shoot in manual mode.
But let's get back to real life.  Real life is with our families, it's meals at the table, hands being held.  Children playing, teenagers growing, generations gathering.  A tear that barely slipped out, water shimmering on the lake, the light reflected in your favorite coffee cup…

this is real life.  It's yours and mine too.  We are all invited to show up to that.
(the photo above and ones below were taken with my old Nikon, in auto mode.  They are some of my top favorites, ever)

 My upcoming photography retreat is a hand extended to you…
we'll be learning practical lessons for our cameras and phones about lighting, temperature, depth and perception, and styling a photo.  But the bigger invitation is to retreat for a day to listen…to figure out what makes your heart thump or your soul dance in your photos.  And if the answer is nothing…we'll figure out why.  I'll help you uncover your confidence for capturing what is specific to you and treasuring your own unique rosy in the routine. 

Because it really does have so much to do with confidence.  The picture above is one of my all-time favorites.  It's even under the "Holley Gerth Downloads" section above on my blog, with a lovely quote of Holley's.  I remember (with a laugh now!) the day I posted this picture somewhere and I got a response that it looked like a meat patty.  The viewer couldn't figure out what it was a picture of! I had myself a good laugh over that one…but I kept the picture.  Because it reminds me of spring from the past with two babies and Brett traveling overnights and there I was, continuing to seek out the beauty.





 So think photography isn't for you?
Think again. 
To me, you can have the fanciest camera in the world and take the most emotion-less photo ever, complete with bad lighting. 

You can also use a camera phone and capture an entire story of emotions and memories all in one shot.



Personally, I'll always choose to shoot with a fancy Nikon because it's just what I love. 
But the greater story I wish to be apart of is that of telling stories and capturing the rosy in the routine, no matter what camera I have in hand.  

THAT is what I want to share with you and teach you about on the farm.

(an oldie, but such a goodie)

Retreat details: 
We'll learn about depth and perception in our photos, how shooting from different angles can tell a different story, and give ourselves time to simply be inspired and photograph what our hearts focus on.  We'll have instruction time in the cozy farm cabin, letting our conversation get to the heart of what we want our photography to be about.  We'll also have time to roam on the farm, stopping to practice and be inspired along the way. While my focus is mainly capturing your everyday just like it is, I'll also share some of my favorite photo props and styling tips. Last, we'll end by dining on appetizers on the porch, cameras in hand and equipped to capture a photo at the table that tells a story.  
This will be a one-day retreat, taking place Saturday, May 16th from 9:30-2:30.  Lunch, snacks, and retreat workbook are provided.  Cost $100. 

Email sunshinebysara@hotmail.com to reserve your spot! I'll invoice you via Paypal.  Because of the time spent on this unique retreat, no refunds will be given.


Monday, March 2, 2015

Quilt-making with toddlers

I've mentioned in the last post or two I've been really motivated the past few weeks to include schedule changes in the ebb and flow of our routine that just generally make life better/easier/more rich for us all.  That tiny little section of the evening after rest time and before dinner can be a beast.  It helps so much if I have something engaging and interesting out on the table for the girls when they wake up.  Then we can spend about an hour together, learning and playing with my girls getting my full attention.  Afterwards I give them a choice of getting a toy or blocks out of our toy closet and they are expected to go play on their own.  Then I start dinner, unload the dishwasher, tidy up, and on the days I'm real lucky-fold clothes! I am super fast at these chores and can actually get a lot done in a little amount of time if the girls are happy. 

And you know what?  Once this little system is working!  And they are learning so much and so excited to wake up and see what the "activity" is.  This particular day it was quilting.
This idea came right from a lady I follow on Instagram, her username appropriately called "teach preschool".  I stole a quick glance at one of her ideas she was setting up for her school kiddos and decided to make it our own at home! I simply set out masking tape, brown paper, and quilt squares for the girls to wake up to.  Both girls really surprised me with how far they took this little project!  Anna Ruth instantly had the idea to put the tape all around the fabric, just like the sections on "Granna's quilt." (my mom is an excellent quilter.  I did not inherit that talent!)

Betsy Grace surprised me too!  She carefully taped each piece down and then colored in-between each block.  This is new for her…sitting down and focusing on something for quite a long time.  Remember, she's two! 



Something I really love about learning with my girls is watching how differently each of them carry out an activity.  They are given the exact same supplies and yet every single time each of their creations turn out so unique!  The best part is they never even look up to see what their sister is doing.  I like that because they are very fully confident in their own ideas. I pray this confidence lasts and lasts.






Another sweet moment captured after a different day's activities 'round the table. 
One of the sweetest spots of us gathering together is that I've noticed the girls are much more willing to show love to each other once I've been there with them, showing them how to talk to and treat each other. 

I suppose this reminds me of our relationship with Jesus and how we treat others too. 
Once we've spent time with Him isn't our confidence built, our souls ready to love on others around us? 

Happy Quilt-Making!