To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not, rich; to listen to stars and birds, babes and sages, with open heart; to study hard; to think quietly, act frankly, talk gently, await occasions, hurry never; in a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common–this is my symphony.~William Henry Channing

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Making Memories

It's been said that a happy family is but an earlier heaven. It's a beautiful idea that I caught a glimpse of over the weekend photographing this sweet family.

Ft. Pickens, Pensacola Beach, family portraits

It was the first time I'd met Mark but I knew Amy when she used to teach K4 at Trinitas. I also had the honor of taking Mr. G's first birthday pictures. He's pretty much always been a handsome fella, don't you think?

I love photographing people more than once and having the opportunity to see how their family has grown. We'd decided to do the pictures at Ft. Pickens and we had a good laugh at how almost creepy the fort seemed when we first arrived...we pretty much had the place to ourselves.

How precious is Mr G picking and giving flowers to his Mom?

Ft Pickens, Pensacola Beach, family portraits

It didn't take long to see how much this family loves each other...truly a bit of heaven here on earth.

Ft Pickens, Family Portraits, Pensacola Beach

Thanks for spending the afternoon with me you guys!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Pinterest Test Kitchen # 70 ~ Baked Chicken Spaghetti

I cannot remember the last time I was so excited about a recipe! For some reason this pin for a baked spaghetti casserole caught my attention and I couldn't wait to make it. I actually made it two days in a row...once with a penne pasta for our weekly church potluck (I was also missing mushrooms and forgot the Tabasco sauce) and then for dinner Monday night using spaghetti noodles and adding in the mushrooms and hot sauce.

For the record while I am normally a penne over spaghetti noodle kind of gal  this recipe is definitely better with angel hair. And the hot sauce is a definite must have ingredient although you could leave it out. There is just such a small amount though that I really encourage you to use it and keep it handy in case you want to add extra. I also added extra veggies because lately I really just like them.

It has all kinds of flavor and a creamy cheese sauce that mixes well with those vegetables. Another bonus is that it all comes together in one big skillet so clean up is relatively easy too.

What you'll need:
2 cups cooked and chopped chicken
1 package angel hair (or spaghetti noodle of your choice) cooked according to directions 
2 cups sliced mushrooms
3/4 cup celery, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
3 medium to large bell peppers, 1 each yellow, red, and orange, chopped
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
1 cup of milk
8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
4 oz colby jack cheese
1 tsp hot sauce of choice (I added 1 1/2 tsp and we still added a dash more when we made our plates.)

What you'll do:
Saute your veggies in 1 TBS of butter for about 4 minutes.
While they cook mix together the soup and milk and whisk until smooth.
Pour soup mixture into the vegetables.
Add chicken.
Stir in the cheddar cheese until melted.
Season with hot sauce (also salt and pepper to taste)
Add in the pasta and mix well.
Pour into a 9x13 pan.
Sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until bubbly and a lovely golden brown.

chicken spaghetti, fresh veggies

Such a delicious meal that will feed quite a crowd making it perfect for large families or potluck gatherings.

Titus 2 Tuesday   Tuesday's Table

Friday, September 19, 2014

Play Is Work ~ Another Simple Toddler Activity

Although I didn't get a lot of comments on the blog post itself, the activity I shared here a few weeks back generated a lot of interest on facebook and pinterest. Easy busy work with a purpose for little people is apparently something people are curious about I guess.

Remember my friend Gabriel that I mentioned? He needed something to do that offered a bit more of a challenge. More than likely you probably already have everything on hand that you need for this activity ~ you simply need a plastic bowl and some clothes pins. But there are other ways to make this appealing to children and now that school supplies are on sale it's a good time to stock up on various types of clips. You can also use squares made from either cardboard or heavy card stock instead of a bowl for your child to clip the pins to.
I like the bowl since it doubles as a holder.

Again, this is a simple activity that will help develop small muscle control and that all important pincer grasp. The regular clothes pins were easy for Gabriel but the metal clips presented more of a challenge since they were harder to squeeze open. A variety of clips in different styles, colors and sizes will keep the activity fun.

Remember that clipping the clips to something is only half of the task...taking them off and cleaning up is part of the process.

You can also easily turn this into a math activity by writing numbers on index cards and having the child clip that number of pins to each card. Or instead of numbers make it a color matching game by matching your clips to colored squares.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A Dozen Years of Sweetness

It seems like it wasn't that long ago that I was posting birthday pictures of Abby but somehow it's time to do them again.

She's an even dozen this year!

Such a splash of joy in our life!

She has started piano lessons.

She's quick to hear correction and has the most tender of hearts.

She has the soul of a nurturer and seeks to make people comfortable. She is loving the babies at church and is showing herself to be quite helpful.

She is working really hard on crocheting and doing so very well. Especially considering that she is kind of winging it because I certainly can't help her.

I hate the term "tween" but that is truly where she is...that strange land between childhood and young womanhood. So much of who she will be is still not clearly seen...hidden away in the mind of God as she continues to emerge from the world of babydolls and pretend.

 She has been such a delight and we look forward with great anticipation to all He has in store for her and the woman He is fashioning her into.

Happy birthday sweet Abby Dabby Doodle Bug! We love you!

Monday, September 15, 2014

In Which I Try Really Hard Not To Become One of Those Crazy Cat People

I had to fight it when I first got the iPhone5s. I refused to be one of those people that snapped a quick shot of their food every time I sat down to a meal. The temptation was strong. I love food photography and the struggle was real, y'all.

But nothing like the battle I am facing these days.

In case you haven't heard the news, not only did we buy a house last week, but we actually became pet owners.

That's right. We got not one, but two cats. And oh my goodness they are the most precious balls of fur!
Having always been renters we've never had pets, much to the sadness of our children and despite their repeated pleading. 

But a friend sent a text with pictures of a neighbor's kittens and the rest is history. Originally we were only going to get one but after watching them playing I just couldn't stand the thought of taking just one. I knew the kids would love a cat but they're in school most of the day and I didn't want him to get lonely.

I wasn't sure I could convince my beloved, and to toot my own horn, I only asked once even though he originally said no to my request. The next thing I knew though, he was telling the lady which two we wanted. 

And this is where the battle comes in. They are just so stinking adorable that I am constantly reaching for my camera. Or my phone, which does video and they are just so cute when they're wrestling with each other but I am trying so hard not to be one of those crazy cat people that is forever sharing and posting and carrying on and flooding facebook with a gajillion pictures.

So I am going to just dump them here in a blog post and hope you don't get a cavity from all the sweetness.

Meet Tom.

And his brother, Milo.

Aren't they just the cutest? I am surprised at how much fun it is to just watch their antics. The funny thing is since they are still such babies, only five weeks old, they sleep a lot. And when they've been playing and get tired they sort of nod off and fall over. 

See why I needed a whole blog post instead of facebook? 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Test Kitchen # 69 ~ Pumpkin Bars

It's almost here. The first official day of Autumn is this month and even though I live in Florida and I know it won't actually feel like fall for several more weeks I cannot help but be excited about it. I'll hang the fall wreath my friend made me on the front door and pull out other autumnal decorations and at least pretend that it's cooler outside.

A friend recently shared a Taste of Home recipe for pumpkin bars on facebook and since I am smack in the midst of an I-wish-it-was-Autumn moment I knew I had no choice but to make them. I used a smaller pan (9x13 instead of a 10x15) so mine came out more cake like than bar like. But oh, man were they good! They were even better after being refrigerated over night and that is saying something because they were pretty darn fabulous the first go round.

pumpkin, cream cheese frosting,

What you'll need:
4 eggs 
1 2/3 sugar
1 cup oil
1 15 oz can of pumpkin
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda 
1 tsp salt

What you'll do:
Mix together the first four ingredients until well blended.
Stir together the final five ingredients and then slowly stir them into the pumpkin mixture.
Pour into an un-greased pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

For the frosting:
Mix together 6 oz of softened cream cheese, 2 cups of confectioner's sugar, and 1/4 cup softened butter. Add milk in small amounts until you get a good spreading consistency. Slather that goodness all over the top of the pumpkin deliciousness and enjoy!

pumpkin, cream cheese

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Bless This House

It's official, we now have a mortgage!

We closed on the house yesterday. We've lived here for three years, so honestly I kind of thought we'd just go sign some papers and you know, "Woot! We own a home." So I was a little bit surprised at how giddy I felt after we signed and signed and signed some more papers.

But I am. Positively giddy and truth be told, it felt different walking into the house knowing that it is actually our home now. We don't ever have to move again unless we want to.

I had very little to do with the process since Rob has handled everything. We've had the best possible experience you could possibly have...all the pieces just came together for us to buy it. Part of the reason it all went so smoothly is because of our friend Cinnamon. She is a real estate agent who loves what she does and is fantastic at it. If you're in the area and you need an agent she's your gal.

Now that we've closed on the house we've got a few major projects coming up like getting a new pool liner, a sprinkler system installed, and the kids will do some bedroom swapping. I also have a pinterest board with various other project ideas...Rob is thrilled about it :-)

It's so exciting!

While I was pondering this whole life event this week I found myself thanking God for His provision and asking some very specific prayers.

Our front door.
May it swing wide in welcome and gracious hospitality and be an entrance to a place of refuge.

Our kitchen.
May our meals, however simple, be eaten in peace with gratitude. And may we give as generously to others as you have given to us.

Our living room.
May the comfortable chairs and cushy couch be fertile ground so that conversations that are like apples of gold in settings of silver will flourish.

Our bathrooms.
As we shower and wash may we be reminded that You have washed us clean through the redeeming work of Your Son.

Our bed rooms.
May we lie down in peace because You have caused us to dwell in safety.

Pool side.
May we frolic like children in the abundance of the good and perfect gift you have given us.