Archive for December, 2013

Road Trips and Star Wars Sheets

Wednesday, December 25th, 2013

road trips

I have a confession to make. I’ve had a parenting success. There I said it. Whew, that was hard. Last week, our entire family drove from Asheville, NC to Philadelphia, PA. That’s 11 hours with 2 kids verging on tweenhood, a bouncy 7-year-old, and oh yes, a baby. Now, we are used to road trips, but apparently, others think we’re crazy. I’m constantly asked by people with wide eyes and gaping mouths: “Wow, how do your kids do in the car?” or “Wow, that must be really hard.” Okay, well, it’s not my FAVORITE activity, but my kids actually do just fine on a long road trip. And….wait for it…we don’t even use DVD players. Yes, I’m here to tell you it’s possible. For most of their childhood, we haven’t lived near family so we’re constantly on the move at holidays. We’ve always packed an activity bag for them with small toys, books, markers, coloring books, and usually something new to pique their interest.

But, this post isn’t really a how-to-take-your-kids-on-an-11-hour-road-trip tutorial (although, if you really want my opinion, you can take me out for coffee). I was actually struck last week by how hard it was for me to admit this triumph (really?..it doesn’t take much, folks). A friend of mine asked me THE question while we walked down the street together and I said: “Well, they actually do just fine on road trips…always have.” She nodded with approval, then I quickly quipped: “But, don’t worry, that’s about the only parenting success I can claim!” We roared with laughter. It was pretty funny AND pretty true.

Then, I thought to myself, “Why can’t I just say road trips are super in my household and move on?” Fear of bragging? Fear that I’ll jinx myself? I’m not exactly sure. But what I do know is that there are a couple tricks up this old girl’s sleeve, even though most of the time I feel like a complete toad.

But, you should know, while my kids do great on road trips, I hardly ever change their sheets. And, I haven’t trained them to change their own. {Gasp!} I probably shouldn’t admit this to the world wide web, but sometimes months go by without a single swap. Yes, that’s months- not weeks. But yesterday, I changed the boys’ sheets to their brand-spanking new Star Wars sheets and I was proud of myself. The boys were ecstatic, which goes to show you how little that special activity is done around here. Merry Christmas! New sheets.

Ah, well. I receive comfort by telling myself that though I’m not that great on maintenance, we’re big on love around here. {Repeat mantra. Daily.}

Hope you and your kids had a very Merry Christmas together, even if you’re on the road with them in the car for 11 hours straight.

Photo Feature Wednesday: Portrait of an Artist

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

box of pastels

She arrived ten minutes late, apologizing profusely while she pulled out a large canvas from the back seat of her car. “I don’t mind,” I said. She looked frazzled. She had just come from the print shop. “It took longer than I thought,” she said. She also stopped by the post office to send paintings off to the people who loved them and bought them from her. She was experiencing mild separation anxiety.

“Can I help you?” as she fumbled with the canvas and her supplies. No. She had it. I got the feeling she was used to scrambling.

We walked from the parking lot into Wedge studio, down the hall to her tiny studio space that she shares with a sculptor. The sculptor wasn’t there–only Cheyenne and me.

She set down her things and I pulled out my camera. While I fiddled with my equipment, Cheyenne turned on soft piano music in the background. The studio, the music, the paints changed her demeanor—calming her anxiety.

She had painter’s clothes on. Jeans and clogs splattered with paint and an olive green shirt faded from multiple washes. No makeup, though her hair was neatly combed. She drank coffee out of a Spiderman mug.

I spent the next three hours watching her work with modest supplies- No. 2 pencils, pastels, paints out of squeeze tubes mixed together in a tin pan. We talked along the way. I heard about her life as an artist- her schooling, her teachers, and her inspiration. The natural landscape–created by God– speaks something deep into her soul. She names her paintings with titles like: He Restores My Soul and If I Kneel Down and Wait Will You Paint my Spirit Gold? Her heart speaks to God through the paint.

I was struck by her humble beauty–the lack of pretense. No look-at-how- great-I-am or how-wonderful-my-paintings-are (which they ARE, by the way). She simply worked, creating something beautiful in the mundane out of the overflow of a pensive heart.

Documenting Cheyenne and her art through pictures was one of the highlights of my year. Not only because her work provided beautiful photo opportunities, but because I got to see her as an artist and a person. The camera captured a REAL LIFE in action.

Real life in pictures with real people– that’s the beauty that speaks to my soul.

Cheyenne Paints

painting signature

**Cheyenne’s website is under construction, but in the mean time find her on Facebook @ Cheyenne Trunnell Ethereal Landscape Paintings.

Foolproof Fudge {without a candy thermometer}

Saturday, December 7th, 2013

I know you’ve been counting down the seconds ’til I get my act together and FINALLY post my go to Christmas fudge recipe. Wait no longer. I use Taste of Home’s Two-Tone Fudge recipe. I leave out the walnuts, however. I have a real problem with nuts in fudge. It takes away from that smooth, creamy quality I want to savor when I eat that first bite, ya know? It’s kinda like adding mint to chocolate. I don’t want anything to alter the purity of my chocolate. Mint and chocolate should remain 2 separate entities (I’m in the minority, I know). But if you like nuts in your fudge, go ahead and include them.

I make this fudge every year around Christmastime and I promise it comes out perfect every time…without a candy thermometer!  Follow the directions precisely, especially the timing on the boiling. Set your kitchen timer for exactly 5 minutes. That’s the most important step to follow. You, too, can get foolproof fudge. Without a candy thermometer. Every time. Promise.

fudge

Ingredients
1-1/2 teaspoons plus 1/2 cup butter, softened, divided
2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup sugar
1 cup evaporated milk
1 jar (7 ounces) marshmallow creme
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup Chopped Walnuts
1/2 cup butterscotch chips

Directions
Line a 9-in. square pan with foil and grease the foil with 1-1/2 teaspoons butter; set aside. In a large heavy saucepan, combine the sugars, milk and remaining butter. Cook and stir over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Bring to a rapid boil; boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low; stir in the marshmallow creme until melted and blended.

Remove from the heat; stir in vanilla. Pour 2-1/2 cups into a large bowl; stir in chocolate chips and walnuts until chips are melted. Pour into prepared pan.

Add the butterscotch chips to the remaining marshmallow mixture; stir until chips are melted. Pour over the chocolate layer and gently spread to cover. Refrigerate overnight or until firm.

Using foil, remove fudge from pan; carefully peel off foil. Cut into 1-in. squares. Store in the refrigerator. Yield: 2-3/4 pounds.

You can package up the fudge and give it to friends for the holidays. I like to wrap it up in wax paper and add decorative ribbon, greens, and berries to spruce it up, like so:

fudge
fudge

Let me know if you try the recipe this Christmas. Also, feel free to shoot me any questions in the comment section or on my Facebook page.
Enjoy!

Photography Feature

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

Taking a break from Christmas-fare today. First of all, I haven’t made the famous Christmas fudge yet. Erg. The week is getting away from me. And secondly, I’d like to start doing a weekly photography feature on Wednesdays. Yes, I know it’s Thursday. Like I said, the week is getting away from me.

So, here’s the scoop and what I hope happens with this blog. On Mondays, I’ll share something that’s been hanging around inside my pea-sized brain and share that with you in writing. Wednesday, I’ll share recent photography shoots or photographic inspiration. You’ll have to be patient with me, though. I’m an amateur. Look for the 10% you do like in the photos and message me privately (and sweetly) about the 90% that needs improvement. Seriously. I am really enjoying being behind a camera; I find myself thinking in pictures a lot (say a prayer for my family). Lastly, on Fridays, I will continue the (month-long) tradition of Friday Favorites. Thanks to an important member of my advisory board (whether they know it or not), aka SweetPea Lifestyle, for these organizational tips.

 

Okay, so it’s the Wedenesday Photography feature…on Thursday, I know.

 

See Joel and Kate.

See Joel and Kate be about the most photogenic couple I’ve EVER seen.

They wanted a shot for their Christmas card so I got really creative and took pictures of them in my front yard. That’s what friends are for.

 

 

couple Christmas card

KateandJoel2BLOG

KateandJoel1BLOG

 

Aren’t they cute?

 

 

 

 

JoelandKate Photo Bomb

 

Another thing that happens when you take pictures of your friends in your yard is that your silly 7-year-old photo bombs A LOT.  He’s a funny kid.

To see the complete gallery of Joel and Kate, click on the Life in Pictures heading. The rest of the photos are there- in all their glory. Thanks Joel and Kate!

It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

Good morning! It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas around the Davis household. I’m not-that-crafty, but I tried my hand at a homemade Christmas decoration this year.

homemade decoration
Original Inspiration:www.mayarts.com/winter-wonderland-pinecones/

Ironically, I made this pleasant pinecone swag while Duane and I watched a foreign Christmas war film-Joyeux Noel. I think I needed to distract my mind a little from bombs, trenches, and artillery. Actually, the movie was great and the cinematography breathtaking. It’s based on a true story about a Christmas truce between French, English, and German soldiers during WWI. They stopped fighting for one day beginning on Christmas Eve and celebrated the holiday together. Maybe they made some pinecone swag over champagne together?

Anyway, this week I’m really excited to share a recipe for my Christmas fudge that I look forward to making every year. And the best part is: you don’t need a candy thermometer. I quickly package it up and give it away so that I only gain 10 pounds in December instead of 20. I give it as teachers’ gifts and it always gets rave reviews.

Stay tuned…

onNeutralGround