Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday's Finds

Welcome to 'Friday's Finds!'
First started by my friend Colleen as a way to share something new that you love,
I wanted to join in this week.
I have two I wanted to feature...first Kimberley's Sophia Jane Boutique.

Kimberley makes all the bows herself and usually has a monthly theme.
What I love is that she'll customize the bow to any size you might like...Grace loves the larger sized bows
( we usually order around 4 inches)
. We bought several Christmas bows and I found quite a few that coordinated perfectly with her clothing.

What caught my eye a few days ago is her Chinese New Year bows....please go check them out.
I've never seen any like these anywhere.
I love the simple, classic style with the frog button.
I've already placed my order for a red one with a black frog to match Grace's Chinese New Year dress!
Kimberley has all kinds of ribbon and creative designs for bows and I know you'll be very pleased if you order from her. And she has many more beautiful bows on her site including a collection of Valentine's Day bows too.

Coming from a very creative family, I have a real love and true appreciation
of anything that is handmade.
My mother is what I call a 'master knitter,' she's knitted most of her life and gets paid to make beautiful sweaters, felted bags, and pretty much anything you can knit. She also sews most of her own clothes. Growing up, I was encouraged to be creative and have always loved to work with my hands. It's probably no surprise that I adore the etsy site and have been shopping there for several years.
My second 'find' is an etsy shop called 'Roses and Rhubarbs.'
I first met Casey through my blog and later found her shop.

The Roses and Rhubarb shop makes precious, handmade, soft fabric dolls, and other stuffed items to coordinate with the dolls. Grace saw the sea horse and fell in love with it, so I ordered it for her recently.

As an extra gift I bought her the 'Rosie the mermaid' doll. They arrived last week wrapped beautifully. I will confess they both were supposed to be for Valentine's Day and miss Grace saw the box on our dining room table and peeked inside. I didn't have the heart (excuse the pun) to let her wait until Valentine's Day for them. Rosie and her sea horse friend are now Grace's favorites!

Go over to the Roses and Rhubarbs shop and see what's available, the dolls make a wonderful gift for any little girl in your life. Casey and Tonya feature the fabric dolls and animals, and do custom party planning too.

And please remember to see what Colleen has posted for her Friday's Find. I'll be back next week with more of my finds ( I already know what I'm posting).

And happy Friday!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

black and white Wednesday

It's Black and White Wednesday again.
Taken in July 09 on a vacation to Mexico, this was shot the first evening we arrived. It was about 7:30 pm and you can see the sun setting in Grace's eyes. What I love about the image is the sand in her hair and on her face, her windswept hair and especially the curve of it near her eyes and nose. But my favorite part of this picture is Grace's contented and happy smile. The image was processed minimally and besides removing one hair over her mouth, I left the picture alone, except for converting it to black and white. I love the simplicity of the image and probably for that reason, it's my very most favorite picture I've captured of her. A framed copy hangs in our home.
Take a look at more black and white images on Lisa's blog and through her link.

Monday, January 25, 2010

i heart faces ~ texture

The photo challenge theme this week is 'texture.'
I took this picture in November of a friends daughter, miss Isabelle.
The natural texture of the church door (behind her) inspired me to add a few textures to the image. I love texture and will use it to add dimension or just 'a little something' to an image.
Please check out more work on the iheartfaces blog!

recipe Monday ~ comfort food

It's Recipe Monday again over at Colleen's blog. If you'd like to see what she posted, hop on over and also see who else linked today.

Friday I made one of our very favorite soups, in fact it tastes just like a twice-baked potato. You can reduce the fat in this soup by using fat-free half and half along with reduced fat cheese and sour cream.

"Baked" Potato Soup

6 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes ( about 3 & 3/4 lbs.)

1 large onion, chopped (about 1 cup)

3 (14 oz.) cans chicken broth

2-3 crushed garlic cloves

1/4 cup butter

2 & 1/2 tsp salt

1 & 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper

1 cup half and half

1 cup (4 oz.) sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded

3 TBS. chopped fresh chives

1 (8oz.) container sour cream (optional)

4 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled

Shredded Cheddar cheese

  • Combine first 6 ingredients in a 5 quart slow cooker.
  • Cover and cook on HIGH 4 hours or on LOW 8 hours or until potato is tender.
  • Mash mixture until potatoes are coarsely chopped and soup is slightly thickened; stir in cream, cheese, and chives. Top with sour cream, if desired, and sprinkle with bacon and Cheddar cheese before serving. Makes 12 cups. Enjoy!

Friday, January 22, 2010

some favs on a Friday

Taken earlier in the week...
these are a few of my favorites of my smiley girl. I tried to convince Will to come outside but he would have none of it.

Miss Grace would stay outside in the snow and cold all day if I let her.
Happy Friday!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

black and white Wednesday

It's Black and White Wednesday again...
loved seeing everyone's pictures last week and found quite a few new blogs too!
Well, lately I've been dreaming of warm weather, sunshine and beaches...
and the closest thing to that were these shells I keep on a table in our master bedroom.
This was shot on a white bench with a fair amount of light coming through the window. I wanted a lot of negative space in the image and shallow depth of field. You can see the blur start on the edge of the shells and the edge of the antique dish. Normally I would have left this with very muted, soft colors but loved the way this turned out converted to a black and white.
I added a few Florabella 2 textures to make it more vintage looking. I love the effect.
Please check what Lisa has posted and more black and white images linked to her blog. :)

Monday, January 18, 2010

recipe Monday

Lately Grace has been asking if we could bake something.
We didn't do as much baking as I wanted to over the holidays, so I thought it would be a great opportunity to try something new.
And since my friend Colleen, of
The Crazy Eight created 'Recipe Monday' I am linking to her blog. Please check out what she's posted and what others have too through her link.

So what did we bake?
We tried a recipe from 'Martha Stewart's Cookies' book, which is a fabulous cookbook in my opinion. It has every cookie you could ever dream of in it...all extremely yummy looking. I let Grace choose and she picked, 'Cream Cheese Swirl Blondies.'

Grace measured the ingredients and put them in the bowl, she wanted to do it all. This was her first time using an electric hand mixer and she did awesome. She's an expert at cracking eggs too I have to say...

I did let her have a little taste of the cream cheese mixture...

And here they are...

Cream Cheese Swirl Blondies

Cream Cheese Swirl Blondies

11 TBS. unsalted butter, room temperature plus more for pan
1 & 2/3 cups plus 2 TBS all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1 cup packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 & 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
6 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line a buttered 8 inch square baking pan with parchment, allowing a 2 inch overhang. Butter lining, not overhang.

2. Whisk together 1 & 2/3 cups flour, the baking powder, and salt in a bowl.

3. Put 9 TBS butter and the brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add 2 eggs and 1 tsp vanilla; mix until combined. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture; mix, scraping down sides of bowl, until well combined.

4. Put cream cheese, granulated sugar, remaining 2 TBS butter, 2 TBS flour, 1 egg, and 1/2 tsp vanilla into a bowl and mix with an electric mixer. Mix on medium speed until smooth.

5. Pour half of the blondie batter into the prepared pan, and spread evenly with an offset spatula. Spoon two-thirds of cream cheese mixture on top, and spread evenly. Drop dollops of remaining batter on top (spacing about 1 inch apart), and spread. Top with dollops of remaining cream cheese mixture, about 1 inch apart.

6. Gently swirl cream cheese mixture into batter with a butter knife, running the knife lengthwise and crosswise through layers. Bake until golden brown and a cake tester inserted into center comes out with a few crumbs but is not wet, 45 to 47 minutes. Let cool slightly in pan, about 15 minutes. Lift out; let cool completely on a wire rack before cutting into squares. They can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.

I would describe them as a combination of a bar cookie/cake in a way, with a smooth, slightly tart taste and are a little bit rich. Heavenly...
Hope you try them!

Friday, January 15, 2010

something pretty

So as the reality that Winter is really here and staying for a while sunk in,
I decided I needed a new little 'something.'
This week I bought this beautiful Phalaenopsis orchid to pretty up my family room. Couldn't resist taking a picture of it and adding a few textures to it.
Enjoy and have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

{black and white Wednesday}

My friend Lisa, over at The Long Road to China has started a regular Wednesday post. It's called 'Black and White Wednesday.' I love black and white photography and would like to do more conversions of my color pictures, so I hope this weekly post will help me try more of them.

So for my first one, I chose the above picture (it's the straight from the camera color version without any processing). This was taken in mid November at the Memorial Union in Madison. I loved the way Will was standing and the expression on his face. He is kind of looking at me with his 'laser beam' look.

And here is the black and white version.
I chose to process it this way for a couple of reasons...first texture.
Texture lends well to black and white. In this picture, there is texture in the wood door, stone wall and brittle leaves behind him. Also the texture of his sweater and distressed jeans really pops in black and white. I also felt like the mood of the picture kind of dictated that I make it a high contrast image...he's got this 'intense' look on his face and the black and white version added to it.
Thank you Lisa for doing this... please hop on over to her blog for a look at what she posted and what others have too from her link. Can't wait to see what y'all post!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

{cabin fever}

Sunday afternoon, we all had enough of staying indoors due to the bitter cold weather. Everyone was tired of playing Wii, board games, watching movies and our 2 littles were even sick of playing with their toys! My diagnosis was that we had a healthy dose of cabin fever.
So my prescription for our little ailment was to get outside... we made the short drive to one of our very favorite places, the north shore of Lake Mendota in Madison. What Grace and Will were surprised about was all the ice and snow on the lake and that you could actually walk on it. They both loved it. :)

Even though Will looks like a frozen icicle in the above picture, he was warm and toasty and happy to be outside. He didn't object at all to being there. Usually he's not fond of the snow and cold and I can't really blame him for that.

Grace was determined to find the ice under the snow, which she accomplished. Will was fascinated by the hockey game going on and
would have watched it forever. Maybe someday he'll play hockey like his big brother Nick.

Our snow bunny would have stayed outside all afternoon but eventually we had to leave, it was terribly cold and windy. Both kids fell asleep in the car on the way home. You know Winter has just started and we're trying to enjoy it...but I sure wouldn't mind if Spring came early this year!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sunday Snapshot ~ Grace Lanli

Ni Hao Y'all

Stefanie at Ni Hao Y'all started 'Sunday Snapshot' and I wanted to participate this week.


My second child, the daughter I'd hoped, dreamed and prayed for many years.

Grace and her brother Nick are 17 years apart. In hindsight waiting 17 years for this little girl made perfect sense, because Grace is the daughter
we were always supposed to have.

Her name fits her perfectly.

We first met in the Gloria Plaza Hotel in the city of Nan Chang in Jiangxi Province, China. It was the last day of August in 2003, and she was 12 months old. She came into my arms easily and gave me a sweet little smile... it was one of the happiest moments of my life and I already loved this angel.
We had a first year of great transition, she was sick with chronic ear infections and reactive airway disease, and had many sleep issues. Right around her second birthday that all stopped. A few months later she was diagnosed with a profound speech delay. A profound delay means no speech, none. She made very few sounds. I remember being concerned but also knowing somehow my strong willed, smart little girl would overcome it. Grace started speech at age 2 and now 5.5 years later, you would never know that at one time that was an issue. Grace has worked extremely hard in therapy with her language and speech issues.

I've mentioned many times on my blog that I've never met such a joyful and happy child, she has a ready smile and infectious laugh. She has a true 'joie de vivre' or joy of living and expresses it easily and often. Grace is a kind, gentle person and a natural nurturer...and I believe someday she'll make a wonderful mother. She has a love of learning and school and asks to go even on the weekends! I would describe her as soft spoken and a little shy in new situations but once she knows someone she'll talk their ear off. (hmm...sounds very much like her mother). Our girl is artistic and draws or paints every single day. But if I picked one word to describe Grace it would be 'survivor.' Because even with all these gentle traits she has, she is also fiesty at times, has a will of iron, and enormous strength underneath it all which will serve her well in life.

I'm constantly in awe of how our children come to us and the matching process that occurs and I've had a few of my friends who are waiting for their children ask me about it. When I look at Grace's travel group of 11 families I see an individual child that fits their family to perfection. Personally I believe there's an element of divine intervention in it. We are very blessed to have Grace as our daughter and cannot wait to see what the future holds for her!

Friday, January 8, 2010

flashback Friday

Don't know about you but I'm already getting sick of ice, snow and Winter and it's only the beginning of January...ugh. We've had more snow and bitter cold temps so I brought these pics out for the memories of our Mexico vacation last July. I've been wishing I was right there feeling the warm sun on my face and watching my kids play in the sand and water. And a refreshing fruity drink sure would be nice...
Well...we have no vacation plans presently, but a girl can dream can't she?

We've had a busy week with school and getting back to a more normal routine. Will had his 4 year well check up today. He is healthy as a horse, has grown 9 inches(yes I said 9 in 1 year!) in height and now weighs 35 lbs.
Looking at the above picture of him, I can't help but smile at that adorable face and wish y'all a Happy Friday! I'm hoping to get outside in the snow for some pics with my 2 littles. Have a wonderful weekend and stay warm!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

new year and a fresh perspective

Taken outside 5 days ago, I've taken very few pics after Christmas.

I've always liked how we get to start all over again Jan. 1 of the year and think about how we might do somethings a little different or improve a bit. I'm not a big resolution person, but I do have a mental list on what I'll be working on this year...
  • Spend more one on one time with my kids ~ I'm writing this coming off of 4 solid days with my kids indoors(it's way too cold to go outside here to play). What I have done besides taking down our Christmas decorations, is spend more one on one time with them...which I plan to continue. Will and I have played games, colored, practiced writing his name and played with his new race car set together. I hear him saying many new words I had no idea he knew and took time to just sit down with him on my lap, 'in the moment.' I helped Grace paint her nails tonight and today we did some crafts together and she read to me.
  • Eat healthier and get on my treadmill. I mean come on, we all know what we're supposed to do...but being moms we tend to take care of everyone else first, and us last. I'm putting myself first in this area. I plan to live a long life and be here for my kids.
  • Spend more time with my parents. My dad will be 80 in April...he's extremely healthy and active for his age, but I see my parents both slowing down. I also will be taking many more pictures of my parents.
  • Continue to learn about photography but also slow down a bit with it. The last year has consumed me with learning everything I could about my camera and photography in general. I'm taking it a little slower, and realizing this is a lifelong love and a journey... learning some on my own and through local classes.
  • And live in the moment, laugh, love and pray more...
© Aging with Grace and strong Will
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