Friday, February 8, 2013

Up Before the Sun

Today was Kassy's day to make breakfast for seminary.  We were up at 5:00 making icing and rolling out cinnamon rolls. (See recipe below.) We knew, with the snow storm that had already begun the night before, that there was a chance of it being cancelled, but we went ahead and were prepared just in case.

Bella got up with us because there was no way cinnamon rolls could be made in this house without everyone enjoying them. She set to work on a batch just for us. It wasn't long before Bella's batch was rising, Kassy's was baking, I had finished up a quadruple batch of icing (not on purpose, just a result of measurements gone wrong), and a half batch of gluten free were in the works. That would be around the time that the call came in telling us that school had been cancelled and thus seminary as well. I'm hoping they freeze well...

Bella found a spot among the recycling boxes, water bottles, and wheat buckets to wait out the "rising time."

Ready to bake

Kassy made a special batch of G Free just for Ava.

Done! Can you even see them under that mountain of icing? 

Here's our recipe, thanks to my amazing Aunt Pat.

1-1/4 oz package dry yeast (or 3TBS)
1 cup warm milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup margarine, softened
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
4 cups flour 

1 cup packed brown sugar
2-1/2 TBS cinnamon
1/3 cup margarine, softened

Icing:8 TBS margarine
1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup cream cheese
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp salt (I use even less than this)

For the rolls, dissolve the yeast in the warm milk in a large bowl.Add sugar, margarine, eggs, salt and flour; Mix well.  Knead the dough into a large ball, using your hands dusted lightly with flour.  Put back in mixing bowl and let rise in a warm place about 1 hour or until the dough has doubled in size.  

Roll dough out on a lightly floured surface, until it is approx. 21" long by 16" wide.  It should be approx 1/4" thick. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.To make filling, combine the brown sugar and cinnamon in a bowl.Spread the softened margarine over the surface of the dough, then sprinkle with the brown sugar and cinnamon mixture. Working carefully, from the long edge, roll the dough down to the bottom edge. Cut the dough into 1-3/4" slices, and place in a lightly greased baking pan.  Bake for 10 minutes or until light golden brown. (For the big batch I made, it took about 15 minutes.)

While the rolls are baking combine the icing ingredients.  Beat well with electric mixer until fluffy, approx 7-8 minutes.  When the rolls are done, spread generously with icing. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

A New Approach to Storytelling

After being inspired by several different photographers, I set out today to tell a story. There's always plenty going on. I just had to narrow down what to cover today.

So, I joined Kassy and Bella this afternoon in their studio (aka bedroom) where several projects were in full swing. Follow along in the storyboard above as I tell the story and give the full picture.

We have three February birthdays in our house. Bella's famous in our house for her gifts of cards and candy. I suggested she use her knack for Cricut creating to make cards this month. After all, a 10-year-old is on a budget and handmade is so much more personal anyway. She was finishing up the first card when I got upstairs.

Kassy, meanwhile was working on Maya's Mary Janes. She was snagged on a sketchy part of the pattern, and we spent awhile troubleshooting together. Eventually, we deciphered what needed to be done, and she was back on the machine and sewing. For a little while at least. That old pesky tension issue with the bobbin popped up again. Once again we were back to troubleshooting. The threading was good, so we broke out the can of spray air to clear out dust and lint. That did the trick.

Maya woke up from her nap and made her way upstairs to join us. She entertained herself by stealing, or secretly gathering, up her sisters odds and ends to play with. She was very proud of the crochet hook she had gotten ahold of. She was certain that the big girls were unaware of her tricks and seemed pretty pleased with herself.

Bella moved on to her next card, making steady progress.

Maya found a tangled necklace to add to her collection. It kept her engaged for a good bit. Notice how she's sporting Kassy's pin cushion bracelet?

Kassy is a perfectionist. The first shoe was nearing completion, and there were a few things she was not happy about. A little frustration was creeping in. This last photo of her is right before she decided to call it quits for the day and come back tomorrow with a nice fresh mind.

Bella continued to work, piecing together cute little odds and ends to create adorable birthday wishes for her sisters. And, finally, one of her finished products.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Baby, Please Come Home!

As many people know, I have a completely supportive and hands on husband. There's not much he won't jump in and do. I always appreciate this about him, but never so much as I do when he's gone.

This amazing man of mine has spent the last two weeks "in the field," an Army term I can't 100%  define for you because I'm still kind of new to this. The extent of my limited knowledge on his experience boils down to this: he sleeps in a tent in the desert, I don't hear from him much, and there is far less showering than he would like there to be.

Back to my point. It's been 2 weeks. My appreciation is growing daily. Here's a little list to give you an idea of the things he usually keeps up, I don't think about, and thus have been "off" with him gone.

1. Folding laundry. Currently there are about 6 loads of unfolded laundry in my living room. The baskets line the wall and in front of the fireplace. It's all clean, but folding laundry has never been, as much as I try to make it be, at the top of my priority list. There are so many more things to get done, the good, the bad, the ugly, and let's face it, the much more fun. But, that husband of mine, he jumps right in. Either he does it himself or lines up a few girls to get it done for me.

2. Finger nail trimming. This fact jumped up and slapped me in the face as I helped Aria put her socks on the other day. Yikes! I set up an appointment right then for her to meet me after teeth brushing for a trim. It served as a friendly reminder of yet another thing that gets done without me noticing. So, that night everyone lined up for a clipping, and I can now say that we are good in the finger and toe grooming department.

3. Taking the garbage to the curb. Never have to do it and that's why we have recycling overflow in the basement and a stuffed can that was pretty heavy to move to the curb after a week of garbage collection had been missed.

4. Snow removal. It hasn't been much, luckily. The first time it fell I was able to sweep it right off the sidewalks. The last time, I introduced Kassy and Bella to the snow shovel. There's a new batch waiting right now. I may just get to use the snow blower yet.

5. Waking up at 5:20am Monday-Friday to take Kassy to seminary. It's cold out there at 6:00! But, every morning I appreciate him a little more. He never lets me do it when he's home so that I can get the extra sleep.

6. Wearing the kids out at bedtime. Every night, without fail, Dad gets wound up right before bed. Wrestling, tickling, chasing, tossing, and very loud voices commence right at bedtime every night. A lot of times I will beg him to please not get them excited right before bed. I won't be doing that anymore. It didn't hit me at first. Why were they running circles through the house squealing their heads off every night? Why, no matter what time I put them down, were the little ones not falling asleep until 10:30? That loud craziness was actually the missing link to our peaceful bedtimes.

So, with all this said, I have to admit that there are many things I know I'm leaving out. In short, he's amazing, I miss him, and Sunday night cannot come fast enough. Things have actually gone really smoothly, we're just ready to see his face again. And, I'm making it a point to trim all the nails and fold all the laundry (with the help of 12 other smaller hands) before he gets home, so that he can enjoy things like being inside a real building, sleeping on a bed, sitting on cushy furniture, and showering with more than baby wipes and much more frequently than once every two weeks.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Bella's Spirit Session

I’m currently taking a photography class from the wonderful Thea Coughlin. We’ve explored camera settings, lighting, and composition. However, what I’ve loved most is the exploration we’ve done into the emotional side of our photography. Thea shoots what she calls Spirit Sessions. What’s a Spirit Session? Well here’s her definition.
A Spirit Session is a photography study on the spirit of the object or subject. It begins with emotionally connecting with the subject by entering into an inquiry stage where the photographer taps into the story that is waiting to be told.”
One of this week’s assignments was to conduct our own Spirit Session. Here’s the story of my very first one.


I did this session with my daughter, Bella. Bella is 10 and amazing. The sad thing is that she doesn’t seem to realize just how amazing she is sometimes and can be really hard on herself. I made sure that everyone else in the house was occupied, so that it could be just her and I. We started our session by chatting all about her. I wanted her to share what she loves and thinks about herself. Bella loves to play the piano and bake, traits I already knew about. She couldn’t say what she liked most about herself, so I offered some things I have observed.
We started out at the piano with her playing and me snapping.
We moved away from the piano and closer to the window and continued our conversation on her positive traits as I took more pictures. I wanted to capture her natural facial expressions in good lighting. Finally, she revealed that she thought her curiosity was a good trait. Why? Because she learns a lot of new things. We got a a few good laughs during this part of our conversation.

 ISO 200
Aperture f/2.0
Shutter Speed 1/320

Next we went outside and I took our conversation in a different direction, tying together what she loves to do and likes about herself. I kept her talking and snapped away.

  • ISO 100
  • Aperture f/5.0
  • Shutter Speed 1/100
I explained to her that what she loves to do makes her a creator and that creators are artists. She is an artist.
“But, I don’t paint,” she replies.
“Artists take what is inside of them and create to express it in any form. You do it through music, baking, and sewing now.”
I asked her to think of others ways she would like to create, and we brainstormed some ideas. I caught the image below as she pondered.

  • ISO 100
  • Aperture f/5.0
  • Shutter Speed 1/100

  • ISO 640
  • Aperture f/1.8
  • Shutter Speed 1/160
This session was a moving experience. I went into it thinking I was going to create wonderful dialogue in order to achieve the photos I hoped for. The photos were actually the secondary experience. Taking the time to help Bella look a little deeper into herself, find what was there, and discover ways to bring those wonderful things out into the world was the prime experience. I was just lucky enough to be able to capture images of the process.

Friday, January 25, 2013


A little fairy, sat at a piano singing her own original song and her mama decided it need to be captured.








Yoga Babies

When Bella mentioned that she wanted to start a regular exercise routine, I suggested that she should try yoga. I pulled out a children’s yoga dvd I had and she liked the idea. She convinced Trista to join her and the three youngest begged to participate too. They all found their spots and really got into it. It was actually pretty peaceful. So peaceful in fact, that I didn’t notice a certain 2 year old quietly slip away, but more on that later.








Sand Castles in the Kitchen

While the dreamlike, peaceful world of family yoga and singing fairies was going on in the other rooms, the reality of having an adventurous and “creative” two year old was happening in the kitchen. The child, as we’ll call her in this post, appeared in this state asking me to open a granola bar. Oddly enough, the first thing I noticed was that her jammies looked really faded in the middle. Then my eyes were drawn up to the powdery face. In a shocked whisper asked, “What did you do?”
The response? “Want to see my sand castle I made in the kitchen?”
And, tadaa. Four no. 10 cans containing pinto beans, black beans, white flour, and my beloved fresh ground whole wheat flour. Not only was she very proud of the sand castle, but she kept asking if I liked her tall building.
“Did you see that tall building I made, Mama? Do you like my tall building, Mama? It’s really shiny and pretty.”
In the end she kept the pride she had in her work. I captured the moment as I forced myself not to smile or laugh and delivered a calm, yet stern lecture. Even though sand castles are beautiful, dumping lots of food on the floor is a big no-no, and she will never do that again. You can see below how devastated she was by reprimand.