Wednesday, September 30, 2009

a quick link

loving this post today. thought i would share it :)

big mama is one of my favorites to read, mainly because of her humor, her genuineness and her fantastic writing.

she and boo mama cover a lot of the lifeway and beth moore events and they've both been compassion bloggers, but they're also both amazing writers that always make me laugh or think about things. and today's post by big mama (also known as melanie) did just that.

enjoy :)

(p.s. attempts at doing textures in photoshop, along with edited images from my "best friends" session with rachel and jess in the works. i promise.)

Monday, September 28, 2009

i heart faces: blue

i have lots of pictures that could have qualified. shades of cerulean ocean. carolina blue sky. turquoise-tinted rooms or crisp lakes in deep depths of navy.

but my favorite shade of blue comes in smaller forms :)
thanks for sharing those beautiful blue eyes with me, josh :)

check out the other "blue" entries over at i heart faces this week!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

making things work

this morning, i headed off to rocky mount for a family photo shoot. i had been wanting to use the imperial center for a while now, and luckily, a family contacted me that lived in rocky mount and was totally game for using it! i will definitely be coming back--the textures and architecture here are just amazing...

the photos were mainly to celebrate jackson's upcoming 2nd birthday. wooo, two year olds are tough! always on the move and not quite sure about strange young women with clicking, flashing black cameras.... it took a few minutes for him to warm up, but we were able to get some great shots. and i'm sure the downtown neighborhood enjoyed our renditions of "twinkle twinkle" and "itsy bitsy spider" to keep his attention!

watch out for this guy! hunter has a future as a model one day. he had lots of great ideas and was a natural in front of the camera...

there was also this perfect warehouse/loading dock across the street to add to our urban location--loved these doors and the brick work around them!

and i particularly enjoyed this shoot because of the editing! i've always used some of pioneer woman's actions, but now i'm trying to incorporate more of coffee shop's actions that are a little more complex but SO worth it. this one sorta happened by accident, but i loved the end result. it's gritty and a little dark but looks SO COOL!
the main reason editing was easier this evening was a little investment we made for the photography business. i had been over at brent and emelie's house last weekend and looked at some of my photos on their huge monitor there (brent is a graphic designer.) what i was missing surprised me. there were so many details that i would have wanted to fix if i just could have SEEN them! justin and i had discussed getting a large monitor for my editing earlier in the year but just never got around to it. so we did some price comparing and went shopping this afternoon. now i have a great work station set up in the living room and a lovely 23" HD monitor that shows crystal-clear images. it's a lot easier to use photoshop because i can keep the image on the big screen and my tools/actions on the laptop.
i'm tempted to go back and edit old photos now that i have this new equipment. next step... new camera body? sigh... one day!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

ready for fall

if soley to wear this scarf that i'm knitting.

but it can't come too early, cause i still have ways to go.

knit, knit, knit, purl, purl, purl.

something different

i don't know if it was mckmama or somewhere else where i first read about steel cut oats. but with fall coming in (sometime soon, at least--fall, where are you?) and me getting tired of my typical breakfast routine--you can only eat so many peanut butter and banana sandwiches--i decided to pick up a bag and test them out this week.
after a little bit of research, i learned that this is a different part of the oat grain than the quaker rolled oats: (from mccann's irish oatmeal webpage)

Steel-Cut Oats are whole grain groats (the inner portion of the oat kernel) which have been cut into two or three pieces using steel discs. Golden in colour and resembling mini rice particles, they are as nature intended – nothing added and nothing taken out.

How are they different from Rolled Oats?

Rolled oats are flake oats that have been steamed, rolled, re-steamed and toasted. Due to all of this additional processing they have lost some of their natural taste, goodness and texture.

so everyone and their mother had a recipe about how to cook them over night in a crock pot. and i was hesitant to cook them that way. mainly because i have a huge crock pot and i knew i'd only want to cook a small serving before i knew whether or not i liked them. my mornings are actually fairly relaxed, so i decided i'd have time to cook them in the morning. i set the water to boil as i was taking pepper out, and it's a 1 to 4 ration of oats to water, so i just needed to boil 2 cups for my experimental 1/2 cup serving of oats.

after about 20 minutes of cooking and minimal stirring, they were ready...
and yes, i'll admit, they were so good and very filling. much better texture and flavor than regular oatmeal. i added some cinnamon, a little vanilla, honey and dried cranberries. the honey was absolutely necessary, but worked well to sweeten it up.
i had some leftover, and i'd read where some people make large batches and then scoop out servings the rest of the week to warm up in the morning. we'll see how they do re-warmed...

oh, and thanks for all of the support on the caffeine thing! today was tough again--i had a long drive to and from my client's house this afternoon, and i was hungry and yawning the whole time. i'm encouraged by everyone's stories, though, that it is worth it and it does get easier :)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

what i lack in energy i make up for in good intentions

i have decided to kick a bad habit. admittedly, one of the few bad habits i have. i've managed to avoid cigarettes, biting my finger nails, and even twirling my hair.

but... my weakness has been the stimulant drug legally (and occasionally naturally) found in many drinks and foods.


granted, it's not as bad a habit as others i've met. i remember when my brother could down a six pack of mountain dew without a slight increase in heart rate. my own husband was once known for drinking four coca colas during his work day. i've kept it simple--a nice mug of coffee in the morning and a diet, caffeinated soda at lunch (or tea sometimes.) i've always known that caffeine affects me so i don't drink it after 4 pm, usually, or i'll have trouble falling asleep. but when i miss it, man, do i miss it. headaches, tiredness, just feeling off.

and now i'm trying to kick it for good.

i'm two days in, and i'm feeling it. i'm doing a half caff coffee in the morning and planning on mixing decaf in slowly. i will do a scoop of flavored caff coffee just to give it a kick, but then it's water, crystal light or decaf sweet tea for the rest of the day.

i caught a whiff of this yesterday evening....

and it smelled soooooooooo good! i'm already figuring out how i can enjoy some of bruegger's pumpkin spice coffee. we're there every week at our bruegger's, and i think our coffee girl will give me half of the regular flavored and half decaf.

and i've totally been craving one of these....
or one of these. the carbonation, the bite of aspartame (i know, weird, but it's one of those diet soda things) and just enough sweetness....
is this sad? anyone else tried to kick the caffeine habit before? any suggestions? the headaches and sluggishness will pass eventually, i know, but it's been rough the past few afternoons!

Monday, September 21, 2009

golf carts and casseroles

i almost forgot to post pictures from my brief jaunt on the greens.
oh yes, i was able to make it by to a golf tournament after work one day to take the golf teams' pictures. (by the way, finding teams of four men at a time is somewhat difficult. kinda like herding cats. once you think you have them all together, one wanders off...)
but in the process, i got to drive a golf cart! and track down teams all over the course. this made for a pleasant drive, as it was still overcast and sooo comfortable.
golf courses are quiet. and peaceful. and excellent practice for a girl who hasn't driven a golf cart before. (not that it was difficult, but it did take a little getting used to.)

later on in the weekend, i made a tasty casserole that i thought i'd share because it's just easy and delicious and has gotten some great reviews in the past. i call it "tasty chicken casserole." creative, right?

we start with cut up cooked chicken. you can boil it, you can saute it, you can get it (if you really want to) out of a can. however you want your chicken prepared. i chose to do two small dishes here--one for a couple with a new baby and one for us.
prepare a regular box of rice a roni. i chose herb and butter, but the recipe recommends chicken. the herb and butter was actually pretty good :)
and then two cans of french cut green beans. we don't usually eat this kind, but it's good in the casserole. as you will be able to tell, i don't care about generics for a lot of products. we only have a few items where we "have" to have a specific brand.
the basis of any good casserole--a can of cream of chicken soup. (this really isn't as appealing as pioneer woman, is it? she doesn't typically show the congealed can of soup in her photos...hmm, must work on food photography.)
and (ugh...) a cup of mayo. i don't like mayo in large quantities. in fact, i did two half cups here cause (obviously) i was doing two smaller casseroles, but i also just don't like seeing that much mayo all together.

now go ahead and put that stuff together while the rice a roni is cooking, and add some salt and pepper...
ahh, cheddar cheese. the other staple in classic southern casseroles. two cups for this recipe, but you can always add more. (do you see pepper in the background there? she likes it when i cook--always cleaning the kitchen floor!)
go ahead and pre-set your oven to 350 to get it ready...
and ahh, yes, the rice a roni is done. go ahead and add that to the party!

mmm....looks delicious, right? not really, but trust me, it's worth it.
go ahead and pop that baby in the oven for 30 minutes.

have you met the sweet leaf tea granny? best tea in a bottle EVER. hold on, what's that still doing on the counter?
yes, in the fridge. next to our small casserole that was waiting for us (we ate it tonight and it was worth the wait.)
now put some french fried onions on top of that and cook it for an extra 5 minutes until nice and crispy.
and you, my friend, have a tasty chicken casserole with all of the sides included. you have your chicken, you have your rice, you have your green beans. i call that dinner.

(thanks to anne c. for passing this along many years ago. i think i have a corn bread recipe of yours around here, too!)

One small cooked chicken (or chicken pieces, tenders, whatever you've got)
1 can condensed cream of chicken soup
1 cup mayonnaise
8 ozs. shredded sharp cheddar
2 cans string beans, drained
1 regular box chicken rice-a-roni, prepared as directed
dash salt and pepper
small can french fried onions.
Mix all ingredients except fried onions. Cook at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, add fried onions to top, then cook 5 more minutes until crispy.

i heart faces: candid

when you're on a trip with 30-some teenagers, the bus breaks down and you're stuck in mcdonald's parking lot...

what do you do to pass the time?

check the cell phone/blackberry.

head on over to "i heart faces" to see the other candid photos this week!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

scroll through fast enough and it's a flipbook!

we had such an amazing crowd tonight, between our friends and small group members and other youth group volunteers, and justin's sister who was able to stop by as well.

(luckily, justin said he was so focused and it was so quick that he didn't have the chance to notice how many people were there. he's not big on the whole "center of attention with lots of people" thing. whereas i thrive on it. we're wonderfully opposite.)

tim lowering him down...

and then, of course, my flash didn't fire. so forgive me for the bluriness--

romans 8:12-17 (the message version)--

So don't you see that we don't owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There's nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God's Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go!

This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It's adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike "What's next, Papa?" God's Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what's coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we're certainly going to go through the good times with him!

i just love the message. it's an amazing way to see the scriptures come alive.

(finally, cute baby pic. this little one is caleb. i'll post about the dinner i took to his parents last night sometime later this week!)

a new creation

i'll be honest--i've been composing this post in my head for the past couple of days and mentally deleted it several times. (actually, i had the whole post up for about 5 minutes and then took it back down.) it's a topic that i know is divided among people's perspectives, other denominations, etc.--and the best way i can approach it is to say that this is my opinion, this is what our church teaches, and if you want to talk about it or get more information on why i feel this way or how the church approaches it, i'd be more than happy to discuss it. however, i couldn't NOT share this with the blog world because i figured that if that if this post touches one person, has one reader asking questions or gets them thinking, pursuing, finding a church home or someone to talk to--then it's well worth it my nervousness and anxiety about sharing this very personal matter with the world.

the reason i'm nervous and anxious, but also so incredibly happy and joyful--is because tonight at small group, my husband is going to be baptized!

now some of you may be curious, because obviously i post on here quite often about our activities at church. "lauren, you just talked about spending multiple hours on end at church--you're there most every sunday, volunteer, and you and justin are in a small group. what's the deal with baptizing, especially now?"

both justin and i were sprinkle baptized as infants or children and grew up attending church. i was confirmed in middle school and my youth group and church were a huge part of my life growing up. i'm thankful for that and know that it is the core of who i am today.

in college, however, i took the opportunity to explore and try out some other churches. i'll be the first to admit that my relationship at the time had a huge play in that decision, but i don't regret it. there's nothing i can change about that and it has brought me to where i am now. that first year or two at college was a time for me to figure out what else was out there, test things out, and most importantly, make my faith my own.

and i did. i found a great church, a tight-knit college ministry and Bible study group. and now, baptism became a decision that i made on my own, symbolizing a new life in Christ. the old life, with my sins and mess and everything i had done wrong--it was gone, and grace, God's love, and Christ's sacrifice had given me a new life.

"therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"

do i think that this was when i was "saved"? i don't know. i don't know if "saved" is necessarily a term that is appropriate here. i know i had felt the spirit before when i was younger and was on the right path, but pinpointing one time/place/date is not something i could easily do. i did a lot of studying on baptism before i made my decision, though, and knew that it was an important part of growing within my faith and again, making it my own. a lot of people refer to it as "an outward symbol of an inward decision"--that by making that decision to be baptized, you are saying that you're going to try and live your life for Christ and follow Him. a lot of people also believe that baptism is when the holy spirit will actually come within you. i know that after my baptism, i felt at peace--that this action symbolized a new start, a clean slate, and a renewed relationship with Christ.

the immersion--it specifically represents a death to the old life, then being raised up again to a new life. being buried under the water, just as it was done in the Bible. romans 6:4 says, "we were, therefore, buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life." (quite coincedentally, this was a huge part of the sermon this morning during worship.)

so over the past year or so, we've been sharing the stories of our faith with our small group. we've taken the new member class at our church, and now it has become a decision that justin has made for himself, as well. a decision and an experience that he'll share with our friends and small group members this afternoon.

i'm excited about this evening and continuing this walk of faith with my amazing husband. i know that our God is a God of grace, of love and of forgiveness, and i pray that those who have gone before us and have lived their life for Christ will be with us one day.

i also pray that if your heart is moved, and if you want to make that decision--to have Christ call you one of His own--that you follow His command to be baptized and to live your life for Him. it's not an easy walk, and yes, we mess up and make mistakes and ask for forgiveness and start all over again. but with Him and with one another, we are able to make it through this earthly life and on to the eternal heaven.

we are never promised tomorrow,
but we can rest in the promise of being together with Jesus in heaven as His children, His followers, His kingdom.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

happy birthday, jake!

this afternoon, i made it over to jake's 2nd birthday party. his parents, brent and emelie, go with us to church and volunteer with the youth group--and brent often plays in the praise band. i had fun just taking some relaxed pictures after my busy morning. (by the way, i'm trying to fix the grain on those. i realized too late that my camera was set at a high ISO, and some of them are incredibly "noisy.")
by the time i got there, i missed most of the slip and slide and pool time. we talked outside for a little while as the kids were getting cleaned up and then made our way inside for presents and cake.
above, you can see emelie showing jake his pirate themed card.

and below, you can see jake doing his pirate "arrrrgh!" (we had already lost the game at this point, but he had good intentions.)
i like this picture of brent showing him another card. great expression :)
of course, this little guy was hanging out. loved the light here.
jake got a cool ramp toy from one of his aunts, and it held the attention of all the young boys for the rest of the party.
jake's friend there is teddy (short for tewodros), who was just recently adopted from ethiopia by a family from our church. we've talked about doing family photos sometime soon with them--so be on the look out!

then it was time for cake and singing... (though he's out of focus, i LOVE this face.)
and attempting to blow out the candle...

in the end, mom had to help out.
it had been a long afternoon for josh.
so we hung out a little bit longer while jake played (can we just talk about the lighting here? seriously. talk about a profile.)
and enjoyed a 2 year old's birthday party :)