Thursday, June 30, 2011

- photo editing -

I have tons of patience and ambition to learn about photography and my camera, but not as much patience or ambition to learn about the photo editing side of things. I know the basics, and I have the tools (I own both Photoshop AND Lightroom). But for some reason, there is nothing enjoyable to me about sitting down to learn more about this software! And that frustrates me to no end because I am not an accomplished enough photographer to not rely on photo editing software yet. All of my images always seem to need some sort of fixing or editing.

It's not that I hate taking the time to edit my pictures. I just don't know how to fully utilize the editing software, and when I try to replicate what I have learned from other experts it never looks as good. I am very proficient with computers, so it definitely isn't a fear of computers...I just have no desire to take a class or learn more about the software. I'm an instant gratification type of girl...what I really want, is to just click one button to make my pictures all pretty and clean! (and yes, I know all about actions and presets, but even those never seem to just be a "one button" click).

I have found a couple awesome photographers that will also edit pictures for other photographers. It's such a great service...send your pictures to them, and they will send them back all prettied up! It comes with a cost though, and I just can't pay someone to do that to all of my pictures.

Even though I'm not too keen on taking a photo editing class....just doesn't sound like fun to might be necessary someday soon! Until then, I will fumble my way through it.

Any photographers out there have any easy tricks to share with me when it comes to photo editing?? I'd love to learn more!

(My two nemeses...I have to figure out how to conquer them!)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

- 8 years of marriage today...yeah, they've been pretty amazing -

It's our 8 year anniversary today! I just wanted to say happy anniversary to my best friend, the man who completes me. We've had quite a journey over the past 8 years, and every bit of it has been wonderful. We've traveled all over the world together, had so many fun outdoor adventures, survived job and career changes, and have brought a perfect little girl into the world. We have laughed together, cried together, fought with each other, and loved each other with all we have. We have met lifelong friends, and have watched other friends slip out of our lives. And we have done all of this hand in hand.

Some years have been tough, some have been easy, but along the way we have learned so much from each other, and grown stronger. Today we celebrate not only our marriage, but our friendship.  We celebrate the memories we have made, and the memories that are yet to come.

To celebrate 8 years of happiness, here are 8 reasons why Matt is so incredible (although there are many more than just 8):
1.  He is the most passionate man I have ever met. I fell in love with all of his passion on our very first date (well, it wasn't really a date per say, but we'll call it that...ha ha!)
2.  He truly is a family man. He always, always, always puts Ellie and I first. I am so lucky!
3.  He challenges me to be a better person, and gets me out of my comfort zone.
4.  He is such a great daddy! I fall in love with him all over again every time I see him dancing or playing with his little girl.
5.  He is so supportive of me, and my interests and hobbies. 
6.  He eats everything I cook for him...and truly enjoys most of it!
7.  He loves to have a good time, and is always up for anything!
8. He loves me unconditionally and accepts me for who I am, even with all of my flaws, shortcomings, and imperfections. That alone, is all the reason I need to love him.

Matt, you are my world, you balance me so well. You are my husband, and my best friend. You are my love and my strength. You give so much of yourself every day for our family and I am so grateful for everything you do.

Happy Anniversary to us! Here's to another marvelous year with the man that I love!

Monday, June 27, 2011

- quick recipe of the week -

I am so so excited about this week's post! First of all, this is a double recipe post. Yep, double the recipe fun today! Both of these recipes compliment each other so well. And even more exciting for me, both of these recipes are totally toddler friendly...Oh, and perfect for the summer! Have I mentioned how excited I am for these two recipes?

Let's start off with a great smoothie recipe from Kristal over at Mama at Home . I have been following Kristal's blog for quite a long time now. Her son Isaac is adorable, and Kristal is quite the amazing mother! They just recently moved and have a new house that Kristal is busy making their home. Kristal has an amazing garden and they even have their own family chickens that give them fresh eggs! She describes herself as "A SAHM with one amazing husband, a perfect little boy (that has become quite the dare devil lately), and one adorable dog. Check out her blog to meet her and her family!

This is a great recipe for your picky kiddos that aren't fans of veggies. A great way to "sneak" in those greens!

Green Smoothie
1.5 cups of frozen fruit - suggestions- combo of strawberries, peaches, blueberries, and blackberries, depending on what you have on hand.
1 ripe banana (if you aren't a fan of banana, just use half.  It serves mostly to sweeten the smoothie)
1 cup of milk (more or less as needed, depending on how thick you like your smoothies)
a large handful of either spinach or kale

Toss it all into your blender and blend until smooth.  Serve with a big straw!

(Image credit Kristal)

(Image credit Kristal)
Printable Recipe

 So refreshing for the summer! And so healthy for your kiddos!

After you are done making your fruit and veggie packed smoothie, it's time to make some sandwich kabobs brought to us by Tomi over at Three Boys and an Old Lady. Tomi is a fab mommy who loves trying new products and sharing her views and reviews with her readers! And she has some fun recipes on her blog that you have to go check out! These sandwich kabobs look like so much fun for toddlers, especially for a summer time picnic!

Sandwich Kabobs
1 pkg cubed cheese
1 pkg cubed or rolled meat (deli meat, grilled chicken, etc.)
8 slices favorite bread (use a variety for color & taste)
8 grape tomatoes
If desired: pickles, lettuce, or any other sandwich toppings

Stack bread and slice into cubes. Slide bread cube onto skewer and then allow kids to pick cheese, meat and veggies. Slide onto skewer. Repeat until skewer is filled (about 1 in from either end).
Try preparing dipping sauces like BBQ sauce, honey mustard, ketchup and mustard and let the kids dip away. 
Serve with fresh fruit and let the kids use skewers to pick up fruit for extra fun.

(Image credit

 Thank you so much Kristal and Tomi for these fun summer recipes!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

- stuffed bunny -

I think we all need our very own stuffed bunny that can bring a smile to our face every time we give it a great big hug!

(Image copyrighted by Nina S)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

- an extraordinary mom -

Meet my mom...she's amazing! I mean, she is seriously amazing! She has always been the best mom ever, but after having Ellie, she has become even more incredible. She is always there for us no matter what we need....always!

My mom watches Ellie three out of the four days a week while I work, and she also babysits on the weekends or evenings whenever we ask her to. I mean, seriously, how lucky are we? Most of our friends with children are paying for sitters if they want to enjoy a night out, but not us...we have my amazing mom!

What makes it all even better? Ellie absolutely adores my mom. She is seriously obsessed with my mom! No one else can get Ellie to laugh like my mom can. It's so adorable to watch them goof around and play together. In the mornings, when she sees my mom, her eyes just light up. Whenever she wakes up from her nap, she calls out for her "Yaya" (what she calls my mom because she just can't say Lola comes out Yaya), even if it's a day that my mom is not over watching her. There are even times when she wants nothing to do with her mommy or daddy. She only wants to be with "Yaya".

Last week when my mom left our house for the day, Ellie started crying as she pulled away. I quickly diverted her attention by playing with her. About 5 minutes later, Ellie started walking down the sidewalk in the same direction my mom had driven away in...then all of a sudden, she started running and calling for "Yaya" with the saddest look on her face. It was so heartbreaking to watch her. She was so desperate to find her "Yaya"!

As miserable as it was to watch, it also made me feel good to know how much Ellie loves the person that watches her so very often. There is nothing more assuring to me as a mother than knowing my daughter is in good hands when I am at work or when Matt and I go out. Ellie is not just in good hands, she's in amazingly loving hands...the hands of her "Yaya", otherwise known as my extraordinary mom!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

- fun in the sun makes for an outstanding weekend -

We've had absolutely beautiful weather here lately, so we spent this past weekend almost entirely outside....BBQing, sitting around our fire pit until late into the evening, eating outside at restaurants, playing in our backyard, running around by the water, and of course showering our love on the best daddy ever! It all made for a fabulous weekend!

While eating dinner at a local restaurant in our neighborhood on Saturday evening, Ellie decided to plop down on the ground to play. This is my daughter who hates getting dirty, and hates the feeling of sand or gravel in her shoes or even touching her feet or her legs...we have no idea what got into her, but she had a blast!

And let me tell me what a huge hit this is around our house lately! The water table was a wise purchase this year! She begs us to go outside to play with it everyday. And how can we resist a chubby toddler in a bathing suit?

We spent the late afternoon on Father's Day with our friends down by the water. The daddies got to relax in the sun while us mommies chased the kiddos all around. And even though it was Father's Day, we got a great shot of the kids with us moms. It is one of my favorite pictures of the whole weekend!

My wonderful friend Lisa, and her son, B, Ellie's best buddy in the whole world!

It took us so many shots to finally get both kids looking at the camera. By the time we were successful, we were all laughing so hard! The outtakes were hilarious to look at, but there were way too many of them to post! I'm not kidding, it took us forever to get this shot! Not perfection by any means, but that kind of sums up life with a toddler doesn't it? Never, ever perfect, but so much fun and entertaining!

Monday, June 20, 2011

- quick recipe of the week -

 This yummy recipe is one that I rely on quite a bit. I really love making this meal. Talk about just a few ingredients and quick prep time. If you are busy during the week, then this is the perfect recipe for you to try out! (And there's nothing better than veggies already cooked into the meal!)

Italian Sausage and Zucchini
1 1/2 lbs Italian sausage links ( I usually substitute this with turkey sausage to make it's still really good! )
2 small zucchini, sliced
1 small yellow squash, sliced
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 (14.5 ounce) can stewed tomatoes

In a large skillet over medium heat, brown the Italian sausage until the inside is no longer pink. Cut sausage into 1/4 inch slices, and continue cooking until browned. Stir in the zucchini, yellow squash, and onion; cook and stir for 2 minutes. Pour in the tomatoes, with liquid. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Serve over rice or pasta. 


    Sunday, June 19, 2011

    - happy father's day -

    I may be a little biased, but I think Ellie has the BEST dad in the whole world!

    (Image copyrighted by Nina S)

    Happy Father's Day to my amazing husband, my own wonderful dad, and the best father-in-law anyone could hope for!

    Friday, June 17, 2011

    - summertime -

    I love summer! It's by far my most favorite season! I mean, how can you complain about summer? Long days, warm evenings, baseball games, yummy summer drinks with little umbrellas in them, and lots of BBQing (which is always the hubby's job, which means less cooking for me! Hooray!) Summertime always makes me wish we lived right on the beach somewhere, with the perfect blue ocean and the delightful sand to have night time bonfires on. Or on a lake with a boat, so we could spend the whole summer out on the water. It kind of makes our quaint, but slightly boring,  little family-oriented neighborhood seem not so exciting...but, we always make the best of it, and every summer turns out great!

    I am so excited to watch Ellie enjoy this summer. She is old enough this year to actually run around in the grass, splash around in her inflatable pool, eat popsicles, and maybe even stay up past her bedtime once in awhile to enjoy a little bit of the summer nights. 

    (Image credits, idoityourself, piccsy,,, oraclefox)

    Tuesday, June 14, 2011

    - parental lesson # 1,001 out of a million more to come -

    I have no idea if I have really learned 1,001 new parental lessons since Ellie was's actually probably been a lot more! I feel like every day I learn something new about being a parent. But this realization/lesson was big enough to write about.

    I knew there would be a day when this lesson would hit me (or Matt), but I never realized it would happen so early in Ellie's life...

    We've been talking about getting Ellie into more activities this summer. It's the perfect time of the year to do it with the great weather, and let's just face it, my shy daughter can use any socialization she can get. Her best friend, B (yes, that is really his nickname!) is super active, and athletic. This kid is going to be a professional athlete when he grows up, I just know it! So B's mom is going to enroll him in soccer this summer. I was so excited when I heard she had found a soccer program for toddlers their age. Of course I want to enroll my daughter in a soccer program! I grew up playing soccer, I loved soccer, I excelled at soccer! Soccer was a huge part of my life, and I wanted to share that with Ellie.

    But then Matt and I started really discussing it. It's a well known fact around our house that Ellie is not the most coordinated or athletic's adorable, but she really is pretty clumsy. It's also a well known fact that given the opportunity, she really doesn't prefer to be running around playing with balls. She gets bored of playing with her ball in our backyard. And she still cries at the slightest fall she takes, and she cries even harder if the fall was because of another kid. She is still scared and timid when there are a lot of kids running all around her.  We started to realize that she really wouldn't thrive and enjoy a soccer program. Don't get me wrong, I definitely fought it for a bit...trying to convince myself that putting her in soccer would be good for her...that it would "toughen" her up. But then I realized I was just trying to find reasons to enroll her in soccer because I love soccer so much, not because it is really what is best for her.  And so, we talked about what she would enjoy, what would be the best for her. It became pretty clear what kind of program we should be enrolling her in this summer...Ellie loves to dance, she loves music, she loves rhythm and beat. She loves singing songs and dancing around the living room. She loves doing the actions to all the songs she knows and she asks to listen to them over and over.  Right now, this kid is not an athlete. She is a dancer who loves music and songs. So this summer, we will enroll her in a music and dance class. And I know she will love every minute of it!

    (Image credit

    So what was the parental lesson I learned? My kid might not follow in my footsteps, and that is okay. She might not be the same as I was when I was a kid. I was a tomboy, I loved sports and loved being athletic. Ellie might not be athletic. She might not be a soccer star, she might hate sports. And I have to be okay with that and support her in whatever activities she does enjoy.

    I understand that you should not pigeon hole your child into any one activity. I am definitely all about exposing your child to a wide variety of activities, especially when they are young, to keep them well rounded. But I am not about pushing them into doing something they really don't enjoy. Ellie is too young to vocalize this to us right now, so as her parents, we had to learn this lesson quickly and not force her into a soccer program just because I played soccer, or because her best friend would be doing it.

    And maybe in a couple of years, Ellie will develop into an athlete. Maybe as she gets bigger, and her legs get longer, and her feet get bigger, she will start to learn how to run fast, and enjoy kicking a ball around. But maybe not. Maybe in a couple years she will still be a dancer loving music and singing, a girly girl, the complete opposite of me as a kid. But that's okay! I want my daughter to enjoy whatever she chooses to do, even if it's not what I would have chosen as a child. That's so much more important than her following in her mom or dad's footsteps. I'm glad I learned this parental lesson, and I'm actually glad I learned it so early in her life. One more lesson down, many many more to go!

    (Image credit

    Monday, June 13, 2011

    - quick recipe of the week -

    Wow, Monday already? The weekends just fly by, don't they?

    Here is the new recipe of the week! Gena from, Life with Captain Fussybuckets sent me this awesome recipe for today.

    Gena and her hubby have two boys, ages 2 1/2 years and 5 1/2 months old.  They all love to eat and they are always busy, so quick and easy recipes are a must!  Her blog is about their life, their kids, the deals they find and products they just love. She has giveaways on their blog often and they always enjoy meeting new friends!

    This is seriously THE easiest recipe ever! 

    Pepperoncini Beef Sandwiches 
    3-4 lbs roast beef
    12-16 oz. jar of pepperoncinis
    1 package of hamburger buns or hoagie rolls
    sliced provolone cheese (optional)

    Put roast in Crock pot.  Pour jar of pepperoncinis on top of roast. Cook it on low for about 6 hours.  If the roast is frozen, add about 2 hours.  If you are in a hurry, you can cook it in 4 hours or less, on high.
    After the roast is thoroughly cooked, take it out and put it on a cutting board.  You can cut the meat or shred it with a fork and then put it back in the crock pot with the pepperoncinis.  Stir it all together and let the juices and meat mix and then spoon the meat out on to toasted hoagie rolls or hamburger buns. 
     You can eat these with just about anything.  Sweet potato fries are always good, but any side item would work just fine!
    (Image credit Gena)

    Now that's a simple recipe! Thanks so much Gena!

    Saturday, June 11, 2011

    - exercise for happiness -

    (Image credit Bob Winsett)

    I love to work out...I always have. Call me crazy, but it's one of the things I enjoy so much. I used to work out 6-7 days a week before I had Ellie...well, okay, even when I was pregnant with Ellie I was working out 6-7 days a week. I have just always loved the feeling after a great workout. I love the challenge. I love the sense of accomplishment. You can't beat that feeling!

    After having Ellie, it was hard to start getting into a workout routine again. I wanted to, but that first year with her was so hard. The last thing I had energy for was working out. Once she passed the first year mark, it became easier, but I still always seemed to find excuses. I don't know why I find excuses, considering I know how happy exercising makes me. But it's so hard with a toddler. After getting home from work, it's dinner time for her, and bath time, and her bed time creeps up so fast. And even the days I get home early, if she just wants to play, it's so hard after being away from her all day, to just leave her for another hour while I workout.  And so, another day goes by that I once again found no time to get my workout in.

    Over the last 2 months or so, I have been forcing myself to fit in a workout at least 4-5 times a week. And what a difference it has made. I never realized I had missed it so much until I started doing it again regularly. I actually bought a jogging stroller so that I could take Ellie with me, which has helped, but my amazing mom (who watches Ellie most days of the week), has actually helped me get back into my routine the most. She has stayed later at our house almost every day so that I can get my workout in, and it's been worth it!

    I've come to the conclusion that exercise makes me a happier person...and I'm so glad it's back in my routine!

    Friday, June 10, 2011

    - amazing -

    (Image credit

    I hope everyone enjoys something amazing this weekend!

    Tuesday, June 7, 2011

    - she's coming out of her shell -

    My little one has always been a shy, timid baby. Nervous around strangers, other kids, animals, and pretty much anything or anyone that she didn't know.

    Toddlerhood has done wonders for her! She's coming out of her little shell and getting braver and braver every day!

    The animals at the petting zoo used to scare her.
    Now she runs around tickling the goats...

    Being around other kids used to make her so uneasy she'd get so anxious and would just cry.
    Now she has a best friend that she loves playing with...

    She used to be so nervous around strangers.
    Now, when strangers are around, all it takes is a couple games of peek a boo,  and she will start flashing that cute smile and be ready to play.

    My little one is slowly, but surely coming out of her shell.
    She's ready to take on the world!

    Monday, June 6, 2011

    - quick recipe of the week-

    Welcome to the start of another week, and another recipe!

    I am very, very excited about this recipe! It sounds delicious! I have already gone to the store to buy all the ingredients for this one...I will be making it this week and I can not wait!

    Today's recipe comes to us from Christine over at My Sweet Potato 3
    (Follow her on Facebook as well).

    Christine is a stay at home mom of 3 children- 5 1/2 & 3 year old sons and little girl that is almost 2! They are the inspiration and joy of her life along with her husband of 11 years. She started her blog about 3 months ago and has loved every minute of it. The focus of her blog is to share her journey: the craziness, the joys, the laughter, the oopsies, the frustrations, and of course the blessings in her day to day life as a Wife, Mother, Sister and Friend! Along with her day to day journeys and joys, she also tries to post a couple recipes each month, participates in Wordless Wednesdays, and posts a tad about fitness/running. Christine also loves etsy!  She loves etsy so much that she started a shop of her own in January. Check it out here . She has some really cute stuff listed that I might have to get for some upcoming baby shower gifts!

    Meet Christine:
    "When Kyna asked me to post a favorite family friendly recipe I couldn't decide which one: calzones, cinnamon rolls, lasagna, ebelskivers, sicilian meatloaf.... Then I re-read her request and saw the word "QUICK"! Oops, let me try again...Chicken Chimichanga's it is! I love this recipe! It is quick, easy, and you can make it ahead of time to save even more time. My entire family LOVES it!"

     Chicken Chimichangas
    1 can cream of chicken soup
    4 oz. cream cheese, softened
    1 packet taco seasoning
    2 cooked chicken breasts (shredded)
    12 flour torillas
    And optional toppings that your family likes (shredded cheese, shredded lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, salsa, avocado)

    Combine the soup, cream cheese, taco seasoning, cheddar cheese and chicken breasts.

    Evenly divide the mixture among 12 tortillas, place filling down the center of tortillas, fold top down, bottom up, then roll up sides to make a packet. (If you are making these ahead of time, stop now and place in the fridge. When ready to eat, heat them in the microwave and continue with the next step).

    Heat some oil in a skillet (just barely cover the bottom of the pan) over medium heat. Once the skillet is hot, lightly brown the chimichanga's seam side down first until golden brown then turn, brown all sides.

    Serve with your family's favorite toppings and a side of Mexican rice and black beans!

    (Image credit Christine)

    Enjoy your week, enjoy your chicken chimichanga's, and go check out Christine's blog to meet her and her family!

    Thursday, June 2, 2011

    - if i could do just a few of these every day - might help me lower my stress level just a tad...

    (Image credit

    I particularly like this one:
    - Do brand new things (yes, yes, yes...we get stuck in our daily "routine". Our daily "routine" grounds me, and I actually thrive on the stability...BUT I really, really need to force myself to get out of this routine and be more spontaneous!)

    I also like these:
    - Know your limitations and let others know them too (I take on way too much every day! I just can't say no or ask for help!)
    - Exercise every day (aaagh!! Another post to come about this issue soon!)
    - Smile more (no explanation needed! I'm not an "unhappy" person at all...but it never hurts anyone to smile more!)
    - Schedule a play time into every day (I need to learn to stop worrying about the "chores" to be done, and just take more time to stop and have more fun with Ellie, with Matt, with my friends)

    Wednesday, June 1, 2011

    - photography -

    Oh photography, why must you be such an expensive hobby??

    After taking a 2 day photography workshop, I realized that in order to really get my colors, sharpness, etc up to that next level, a new lens is called for. I better start saving! This isn't even the top of the line "L" lens!! This is one of Canon's mid range lenses for cropped sensors. Still comes with a hefty price tag! I would LOVE one of their "L" lenses, but I think I would really need a bigger camera body for that...oh, yeah, and a bigger camera body means more $$$...sigh.

    Oh, how I lust after you!

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