Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Real Life Inspiration: Simple (yet radical) living

This past Sunday night we got to have dinner with our friends Jarrod and Kendra at their super cute, 1937 home. They challenge and inspire my way of thinking on a regular basis, they are a perfect couple if you ask me, and I love it.

They dream big, aren't afraid to challenge the status quo, protect/defend/promote an individuals God-given freedoms, and their lifestyle is a conscious act to walk out their beliefs. We had so much fun talking to them, there's no way I can adequately portray all the inspiration I took away from them, but I'll sure have fun trying :) We talked about everything from homegrown, organic foods to homeschooling, to vaccinations, to home births, to informed consent in the medical field, to natural family planning, to photography, to owning a farm-ette someday, to un-conventional ways of  earning income, to learning some of the lost "arts" of survival that our grandparents and great grandparents knew as a normal way of life but that our generation is clueless about.

Jarrod is a dreamer, Kendra is super solid on her facts, they are both doers, and together they make an awesome team.

Ok, so I think the first thing I'll touch on is unconventional ways of making an income. Here's me and Shaun's real life example. When we first married and didn't have babies yet Shaun and I both worked. It was a great time for me to pursue a career and to save up our money. But even though we thought we were budgeted and really putting money away, we look back and wonder where all the money that we spent went. Enter Drew into our lives. I cut back my hours to approx 20 a week. However, things like getting take-out, paying full price for something we needed and I didn't have time to shop around for, filling up the gas tank on a weekly basis, calling repair men to fix it if something in the house broke, etc were still very much a part of our lives. When I chose not to go back to work after having Isaiah I was afraid of what it would do to our standard of living to lose my income (and our benefits, which were all through my job). But I knew it was what God was calling me to do and where my heart was. What we have learned since then is AMAZING. Number one, we live on a budget that is fairly (ok, very) rigid. However, it is not a prison, it is a very freeing thing, because we can spend the money we have without the guilt or fear that we should maybe be spending it somewhere else or "what-if-I-buy-this-and-don't-have-the-money-to-pay-my-bills-later" attack. Number two, we learn to do things (repair, furniture re-finishing, artwork, garden growing etc.) ourselves. P.s.- google is a very helpful resource for repairing things you have no clue about. ;)

Something to think about: Would you rather work 40+ hours a week and pay others hundreds of dollars for repair/maintenance work (lawn care, car maintenance, broken appliances, roofing, any home upgrades, etc.) OR, would you rather work 30 hrs a week and take one day to stay home, keep on top of your budget, learn to repair things that are broken yourself, mow your own grass, change your own oil, grow a garden etc. etc.

For some people they might honestly answer they would rather work and pay someone else in order to avoid the headache of trying to learn to do things they don't feel like doing. (Or some crazy, energetic people might work 40 hrs and do all the extra stuff themselves!) But, for some people the answer might be the latter. If it is, I encourage you to think more about this, and don't be afraid to explore the option of cutting back hours if you are willing to make the commitment of making your time as valuable as your income.

Now that I don't have the daily commute to work and the hours and hours away from home anymore, I spend my time helping to keep on top of our budget, telling our money where to go instead of just having it leave and us not really knowing where it went, we don't get take out very often, we fill up the car less often, I have the time to be thrifty, or make things myself, we grew a tiny vegetable garden... you see where this is going. (I'm trying to make my time valuable for us as a family) One huge thing that you can save money on (if you are a newlywed or just setting up a household) is furniture. Going to retail furniture stores can take a huge chunk out of savings (not that this is never appropriate, just if you don't want to spend that kind of money there are other alternatives). We have been learning how to find old furniture that is still in good condition but needs updating and refinish it to make it work for us. There are several recent pieces that we (Shaun) have been working on and I am taking before and after photos of that I'll definitely be posting later.

ALSO! photography has been a huge blessing for us. I enjoy it SO much, and I can totally schedule it to fit in with our life, I only have to be away from home for an hour or so at a time and I can do the editing from home. There are often creative ways you can turn something you love into a source of income for your family.

For Jarrod & Kendra, they have come up with some really great ways that I think are genius to turn their love of gardening into a source of income. I don't want to steal their thunder, so I won't elaborate on those ideas here... But they are really, really good ones! I guess what I most admire about them is that they are taking things they are passionate about and using them to their fullest potential.
Especially when it comes to gardening and eating organically.

Another thing we talked about is how our generation is so dependent on technology and our society as we know it for survival, that if something ever happened to change the way we all live and function, most of the basic skills for surviving are unknown to a lot of people (including myself). Gardening, sewing, hunting, canning/preserving foods, to name a few. Jarrod & Kendra are learning so many of these skills and what I love is that they are using the technology of today to help in the process.

There are so many more topics I didn't even touch on here... But, the bottom line.... these guys are more inspirational than they know, and I woke up the next morning still thinking and processing a lot of what we talked about. Because writing is my outlet... a lot of it came out here. :)

So thank you Jarrod and Kendra for being willing to live lives that might not always be mainstream, but are very true to your convictions and are inspiring to many! You guys are awesome!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

soft pretzels

The other night we made homemade soft pretzels. I loved it because everyone could "help" especially with the rolling out part. 

They were really yummy, especially with dipping sauces. I have a few left over and I still want to try rolling one in cinnamon and sugar too. 

(love the little finger pointing in the photo above...)

Mmmmm.... :) 

 So I had copied and pasted this recipe onto my computer when I saw it awhile ago, and I have no idea now where it came from :( But here it is below in all it's copy and pasted glory in case you want to try making them. I'm sure there are lots of other good recipes out there too, and I think they are better the longer and thinner you roll out the dough. Also, I had trouble with my parchment paper smoking in the oven so I wouldn't use that if I make these again. Other than that we loved them!

Auntie Anne’s Pretzel’s Copycat Recipe
  • 2 cups milk (I used 2%)
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp active dry yeast (2 packets)
  • 6 Tbsp packed light-brown sugar
  • 4 Tbsp butter, at room temperature
  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus an up to an additional 1/2 cup as needed
  • 2 tsp fine salt                   
  • 2 cups warm water
  • coarse salt, to taste
  • 6 Tbsp butter, melted
  • Dipping sauce for serving, optional*
  • Warm milk in a microwave safe bowl in microwave (or alternately over stove top in a small saucepan) until temperature of milk reaches 110 degrees, about 1 1/2 - 2 minutes on HIGH power. Pour milk along with yeast into the bowl of an electric stand mixer and whisk together until yeast has dissolved, let rest 5 minutes. Add brown sugar, 4 tbsp softened butter, 1 cup flour and 2 tsp fine sea salt to milk mixture and using the whisk attachment, stir until blended. Switch attachment to a dough hook, add remaining 3 1/2 cups flour and kneaded mixture on medium low speed until elastic. Mix in up to an additional 1/2 cup flour, as needed, until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow dough to rise in warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line two baking sheets with Silpats or parchment paper (alternately you could grease them). Punch dough down several times to release any air pockets. Divide dough into 12 equal pieces (the easiest way to do this is to divide the dough in half, then divide the halves into halves then those and into thirds). Cover divided dough loosely with plastic wrap (just to prevent a dry crust from forming on the outside) and roll each piece out into a long, thin rope about 32 - 36 inches long (I found working on a non-floured to very very lightly floured surface worked best, I began with a lightly floured surface and realized it was much harder to get more stretch, plus it was much faster to roll them out when working on a less-no flour surface). Form dough rope into a pretzel shape.
  • In a shallow bowl, whisk together baking soda and warm water then fully immerse pretzel into water mixture and allow excess water to drip off (I ended up shaping most of them into the pretzel shape once placing on the cookie sheet rather then doing it twice, I would just fold the rope into halves several times then immerse in water mixture then shape them on cookie sheet). Place on prepared baking sheet, reshape as needed and sprinkle to taste with coarse salt. Repeat this process with remaining dough. Bake pretzels in preheated oven 7 - 11 minutes until golden brown (note that you will likely only be able to cook 6 at a time among the two baking sheets) Remove from oven and brush top and bottom of pretzels with melted butter. Serve warm with optional dipping sauce. Reheat in microwave or in a warm oven once they've cooled, if desired.
  • *Dipping sauces I would recommend are yellow mustard, marinara sauce, or honey mustard. For a sweeter option, try with a warm homemade doughnut glaze, caramel sauce or chocolate sauce. Alternately if you want another dessert option, skip the coarse salt step of the recipe and sprinkle instead with lots of cinnamon sugar.
(end copy and pasting)

Monday, January 28, 2013

DIY monogram art.

For my mother in law's birthday I had the idea to make a personalized monogram canvas for her gift. At Michael's these canvases come in a pack of three. So I ended up making one for my mother in law, one for my new sister in law, and one for us. :) I bought wooden letters to attach to them and just hot glued them on. The K's came individually and the little letters came in packs of two. It just so happened that amoung the three couples there are two letter d's and two letter s's... so I really lucked out :) 

So, if you decide to do this project too you will need a canvas (any size), wooden letters, hot glue and a can of spray paint. So simple. :) 

Here's what the canvases looked like before being spray painted with just wooden letters attached. 

I just love a monogram... Especially when it belongs to you and your man. :)

Wish I had a photo of all three of them done but I had already given my mother-in-law hers. I spray painted two of them gold, and originally did ours silver. Then I changed my mind and decided I'd like ours better white so I lightly sprayed over the silver and I like the layered, textured look that gave it. 

I hung ours over the outside of our bedroom door. With the shape and size of them I think over a door is the perfect spot for them :) But they could definitely look cute elsewhere too. 

And yes, we have a way cool bedroom door thanks to the previous owners of our house. 

It's glass with a sheer curtain over it. 

And one final close up. 

Love how this little project came out, and that it can be personalized for anyone. It makes a great handmade gift and is not very time consuming at all. 

Friday, January 25, 2013

exciting things

The in-between time is pretty important stuff. It's what makes the milestones worth it. The attitude with which we wait defines our character much more deeply than the excitement that overtakes us when the waiting is over.
I want to be a good "waiter."

My mind is so full of ideas for my photography business. My sister created a whole identity package for me that I can't wait to share with everyone. But I can & will wait patiently to the best of my ability. I have several really exciting photo shoots coming up that I am full to the top with ideas for. And I can't wait to make them a reality. But I can & will wait patiently...

We have quite a few house projects going on right now... and our garage is temporarily turned into a furniture re-doing factory. I am anxious to see finished products, anxious to clean the garage back out and park a car in there again. But I can & will wait....

Waiting with a smile!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

basement finishing : shared office love :)

I asked for HomeDepot/Lowe's gift cards for Christmas, and while I was definitely labeled "boring", my family (on both sides!) came through for me! So on our date Friday night we went to Chillies and then to Home Depot so I could start spending my Christmas money :)

The first project on my list is to create an "office" space that actually inspires me. Right now our desk and computer are located in the unfinished, concrete block and cement floor storage room of our basement. While our budget doesn't include completely finishing the room, we (or I) do want to do some drywalling, some painting, and some fluffing to make it a space that you actually want to be in. Shaun and I will share the space, each have our own desk, but one computer and it will be my "photography headquarters." :)

So, we bought paint for the cinder block walls and I brought home paint color chips to try to decide on a color for the dry walled wall.... I'm feeling a minty green aqua blue color... Shaun wasn't so sure. He wants it to still feel "manly"....

So below are my color selections to choose from...
 And then here's what Shaun was feeling:

Hmmm... Not quite on the same page yet. :) That's ok, merging our tastes will be part of the fun :) 

Looking forward to updating as we make progress! :) 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Mr. & Mrs. Darren Kauffman

So the morning after the bachelorette party the girls went to the reception venue to decorate. (I stayed home and made lunch for all the bridesmaids for the day of the wedding, but I did get to go take a peek at the beautiful ballroom!) 
One thing I was able to help Steph with a few days before the wedding was the project you see below. I did their engagement photos (to see that shoot click here) and she chose twenty some of her favorites and had them enlarged and then used spray adhesive to attach them to canvases. She had found a tutorial on how to blow up photos for a very reasonable price (I think it's called engineer prints and you can get them through places like staples, etc.) and she also found the canvases on sale. The result was simply stunning... As soon as you came into the reception hall the gallery walls featured the couple we were all there for, and it was so cool! (I have to admit, it was pretty neat seeing photos I had taken blown up and on gallery walls too!) 

 below: the ballroom 

That night was the rehearsal dinner. One thing I absolutely loved was the music they selected for the ceremony. When we all started getting emotional when Steph came down the aisle and it wasn't even the actual wedding yet I knew the next day was going to be outrageously beautiful. (and it was!) 

 (little side note, my dress was from h&m, only $24 regular price, and in my opinion it is the perfect "little black dress"... love the lace detail! and my bracelet is from a boutique and was a gift from my mama for Christmas)

Love how they look at each other :) 

the groomsmen

the bridesmaids

The ring bearers! 

The bride and her daddy

At the dinner Darren and Steph got up and said a little something about each person in their wedding party or people who had helped before they handed out gifts. Loved that personal touch, it made us all feel so loved and appreciated. 

Then the morning of the wedding day!!!! I got up at 5:45 to do my own hair so I could be home with the boys as much as possible. But I did get to sneak over to the salon to see everyone and do my make up with the rest of the girls :) 

Below are Steph's sisters helping each other get ready. Love these candids :) 

Our awesome t-shirts, made by the bride (she gave them to us when she asked us to be in the wedding party)
the bride!!!!

Make up! 

 After everyone was done at the salon we went back to the beautiful house that Steph's family had rented for the weekend to finish getting ready and take photos.
 Her dress was amazing. It was so perfect for her... lace and sparkle.

 We took some practice shots.... Thank goodness! Tips we learned: Shoulders back, breathe out!

Only thing that makes me sad is that when I am in a wedding I don't get any photos of the ceremony. Oh well, lots of other people got  good pictures :)

The worship during the ceremony was just so, so good.... all the music was. Speaking of music, Darren wrote Stephanie a song as his vows, and it was so good!! Just to give you a taste, some of the lyrics included "in sickness and health, in poorness or wealth, I'll always have these googly eyes for you."
A very good family friend, Kelly Beiler, caught all but the last line on video (her camera battery died) and posted it on you tube. Click here to watch it!! (Thanks so much for recording that, Kelly!)

Post ceremony here we are :)
Drew carried a sign down the aisle that said "Uncle Darren, here comes your bride!" So cute!

Picture time was a little rough... the boys were well past nap time and going on very  little sleep by this point. .. I had my only mini mommy melt down of the whole wedding experience at the point during which Drew was running across the stage behind Steph's family photos and not listening and coming to me, and there was no way I was going to try to run across the stage to catch him in a long, strapless dress with Isaiah in one arm.... I was envisioning the worst photo bomb ever... but I think it was all ok in the end. 

The whole Kauffman family!!! (special thank you to Emily for taking photos for me during this whole time!)

 Isaiah was ripping petals off my bouquet, pulling out my earrings and eating my necklace through family photos. I was trying to stay calm....
 Love him anyway. ;)

Love these two photos of the four of us all dressed up! 

 My sweet men :)

My main man! Love him so much.
 For real, he is so good to me.... :)

 Playing hide and seek in the curtains

Lovey my sissy!!!! 

 Giving hugs! (that may or may not have turned into wrestling shortly after)

Love this photo of Drew and his uncle Darren!!

Wedding food!
Darren's old room mate flew in from Oregon to cook for the wedding. The food was UH-maz-ING! Some kind of spicy chicken with mangoes and the most wonderful beef with this creamy mushroom sauce, green beans and delicious potato salad with egg and ham in it... mmmmm :) 

Cake cutting time!!!

 One of my favorites from the whole day is below :)

 Dancing the night away!!!


 Last shot before the bride and groom were ready to go!

 Running out the door!

Congratulations guys, your wedding day was absolutely beautiful. Loved all the details you focused on, the honor you gave Jesus, the love you expressed to each other... Hope you are having a blast on your honeymoon!!! We can't wait to welcome you back as husband and wife!