Checking In

Little Bird Nest | Checking In | Arches National Park

You may have noticed (or not, and that’s cool too) that I started with weeks one and two of my real life series and then disappeared after just two posts. I haven’t forgotten, I’m not procrastinating, and I definitely haven’t lost interest. The truth is, I’ve had a lot of other stuff taking up my time lately. For those of you who don’t already know, I’m a Soldier in the Army National Guard, which means that I typically have duty one weekend a month and two weeks a year. The last two weeks have been my annual training and I’ve just been super busy with that. (Although my duties did take me down to Moab which is why I’ve included a picture I took at Arches– not such a bad gig, huh?) I’m doing an additional National Guard course right now, and I’ll be doing that for the next two and a half weeks as well.

I often wish that life would slow down and allow me some time for my hobbies, but that just ain’t the case right now. I’m sure we’ve all been there. My favorite thing about being in the National Guard, though, is that I can be on duty for weeks or even months at a time, and it’s kind of like having a full-time job again, where I get to interact with adults everyday instead of just toddlers. But unlike a real full-time job, there’s an end in sight. And as much as I love the work, I’m focused on that light at the end of the tunnel where I’ll get to spend all day every day with my kids again, dabble in photography, enjoy my hobbies, and try (and fail) to understand toddler logic.

So until then, I’m just checking in to let you all know I’m still here.

(If you’d like to be notified when my Real Life series resumes, be sure to subscribe to email updates!)

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Real Life | Week 2: Guilty Pleasures & White Chocolate Peanut Butter

This week’s prompt in my photography e-course was “Guilty Pleasures”. The challenge was to photograph the stuff the stuff I enjoy but am not necessarily proud of, with the idea that these so-called guilty pleasures are often fleeting phases and can change drastically over years or even months.

I would have to say my biggest guilty pleasures is catalog shopping. I enjoy the catalogs I get in the mail the way some people enjoy magazines. I’ve actually enjoyed catalogs for as long as I can remember. One of my earliest memories is sitting on the couch with my mom, flipping through a catalog of fancy girls’ dresses. I would point to one I liked and ask, “How much is that one?” And my mom would read me the price, which meant absolutely nothing to me at the time, and then we’d move on to the next one that caught my eye and I’d repeat the question over and over until we had flipped through the entire thing.

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Even now, every time I check the mail, I’m secretly hoping to find a catalog, preferably one from Hanna Andersson or Lands’ End or The Company Store or Knit Picks— those are my favorites. I almost never buy stuff from catalogs. Occasionally I’ll see something I really like and order it online, but for the most part it’s strictly eye candy.

Originally I thought I would have difficulty documenting my catalog obsession this week due to a large purge that happened at my house a couple of weeks ago. But, like a true addict, I was able to find some squirreled away throughout the house, including the Spoonflower catalog– seriously, I think I may never throw that one away!

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Another one of my guilty pleasures is my love for classical choral music. Ola Gjeilo happens to be my current obsession. I never listen to this stuff with other adults around– not even my husband. It’s not that I’m that embarrassed about my slightly choir-nerdy music tastes– I just don’t want anyone to say anything negative about it and ruin it for me. Have a listen for yourself and see what you think.

Okay, enough about catalogs and choral music– let’s get to the good stuff. My current food obsession: white chocolate peanut butter. If you like peanut butter at all, you’re going to want to try this stuff. I literally eat it by the spoonful.

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My version is based on a recipe from Laura Fuentes’ cookbook The Best Homemade Kids’ Lunches on the Planet, and it seriously is the easiest thing to make. It’ll take you like less than 5 minutes. I make it with fresh ground unsalted peanut butter that I get from the bulk section of my favorite grocery. Using fresh ground or homemade peanut butter makes it a minimally processed food that’s actually not so bad for you when eaten in moderation. However, in moderation is generally not how I eat this stuff, which is why it landed a lead role in my “guilty pleasures” post.

Scroll down for the recipe!

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White Chocolate Peanut Butter

Makes about 1 pint

Ingredients

1 cup fresh ground or homemade natural peanut butter
1 cup white chocolate chips or vanilla melts
pinch of sea salt (optional)*

Directions

Combine the peanut butter and white chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high for about a minute or so, until the white chocolate begins to melt, being careful not to overheat it which could cause the sugars to caramelize. Stir until the white chocolate has completely melted and everything is evenly mixed. Add sea salt, to taste. (*If you use pre-salted peanut butter, you can skip this step.)

Spoon into a glass jar and allow to cool… or just eat half of it right away, like I would! 🙂

Note: When I make this, it’s really thick at room temp, though it will depend on the texture of the peanut butter and type of white chocolate you use. If it’s too hard to spread at room temp, microwave it for a few seconds before serving.

 

What are your current guilty pleasures?

 

Real Life | Week 1: Good Morning, Good Night

Back at the beginning of 2015, the amazing bloggers over at A Beautiful Mess launched an e-course titled “Capture Real Life in 52 Weeks”. For my birthday that year, I was gifted a subscription to the class. It has been approximately 109 weeks, and I’ve never really gotten past the first couple of lessons. Whomp. So… I’m starting again, and I’ve decided to blog my progress each week in order to help keep myself accountable.

(Incidentally, that class is no longer available, but they’ve got an e-course called “Everyday Photography” which looks pretty similar.)

I have always loved photography as an art form, ever since seeing a black and white portrait exhibit at a museum in Chicago when I was a young teenager. Since smartphone cameras have become much more advanced in the recent years, I’ve tried to use photography, not just for snapshots, but for personal artistic expression. And, more recently, to document the lives of my children. I have a pretty nice DSLR camera now, too, so I’m working on my technique as well as trying to find my own personal style.

So, back to this e-course. The prompt for the first week is “Good Morning, Good Night”. It didn’t really require stepping out of my comfort zone because sleeping babies, and little kids in general, are cute and relatively easy subjects to photograph. Taking indoor photos early in the morning and late at night, though, when natural light is low, made it somewhat technically challenging. As a result, my photos turned out a bit grainy, but for the most part I don’t mind– it just gives them character.

Good Morning

Little Bird Nest | Good Morning Good Night 1

When William was a baby, he was a terrible sleeper. In fact, he didn’t start sleeping through the night on a consistent basis until after he had turned two. In order to maintain my sanity and get the most sleep possible at night, I co-slept with him for most of his first year and a half. Nights could be super rough, but waking up next to this sweet sleeping face was one of the best parts of my day.

Now William often comes into my bed– the queen-sized bed I share with my husband that isn’t really big enough for a third person– and snuggles up next to me at night. On the particular morning that I took this photo, Garrett had left early for work and William came in after he had already left so there was plenty of room for both of us. What made it even sweeter was the fact that he brought his own pillow with the Ninja Turtle pillow case that his grandma had made for him.

Even now, some nights are rough, but seeing his adorable sleeping face when I wake up is always a welcome sight.

Little Bird Nest | Good Morning Good Night 2

Winter, on the other hand, wakes up trapped in a crib. Because of the co-sleeping situation with William, he never had a crib– just a mattress on the floor. When Winter was born, I thought I’d do the same type of co-sleeping arrangement with her as well, but just a few months in, we realized that she did much better on her own with walls around her. So we fixed up Garrett’s old crib so that it more or less conformed with modern safety standards, and put Winter in that.

When I hear that she’s awake in the morning and go into her room, the first thing she does is either hand me her bottle or point to where she’s thrown it on the floor. I guess it’s her way of saying it’s time for breakfast.

After that, she’ll jump around in the crib, point to various things around the room, and look out the window when I open the blinds. She’s usually pretty eager to be released from her confinement, though.

William wants breakfast immediately after he wakes up, but I always try to slow things down and get some cuddles out of the kids before heading downstairs to the kitchen.

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I thought this would be a good opportunity to get myself in front of the camera too, since I’m obviously a major part of my mornings!

The picture of me with Winter turned out blurry, but it’s still one of my favorites. Despite the lack of focus, her eyes are still perfectly bright!

And finally, who doesn’t love a good outtake?!

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That last pic pretty much sums up our natural state. A picture is worth a thousand words! haha

Good Night

Taking photos of our nighttime routine was considerably more challenging because, well, it was dark. Plus bedtime is always a bit crazy with a couple of toddlers.

After the bedtime storm is over, though, I like to go in and check on them one last time before I go to bed. Often this means fixing Winter’s blankets, since she has an odd habit of pulling them all over her head when she’s sleeping, leaving the rest of her body uncovered.

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Not to mention seeing those sweet sleeping faces is a good reminder of what is often so hard to remember during the tantrums and screaming– that my kids are the greatest blessing I’ve ever been given, and I love them so much it hurts.

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