Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015! What a Year!

Whew! What a year! This year has seen so much. Moving from our beloved New Mexico and learning new territory. Redesigning and redefining the blog. The Keeping Up Appearances Project. New pets for Em and a new pregnancy for Marquette. New jobs. 

And through it all you've stuck with us and we've found new cyber friends as well! 

We can't thank you enough for your support through all the change this year. We love this blog, we love the community that has grown here, and we love getting to interact with you all. Thanks for sticking with us as we've transitioned from just a "Pinterest Fail" blog to a much wider scope. We truly believe that life is what you make of it, and that it's okay to not be "Pinterest Perfect". 

We can't wait to see what 2016 holds for us, the blog, and you all. We have more small home posts to share, Pinstrosities to analyze, food to burn, crafts to try, life to ponder on, and goofiness to giggle at, and we can't wait to share it with you! 

Happy New Years Eve to each and every one of you! 

Monday, December 28, 2015

How Christmas Really Went...

Well, I wrote up my cute little Christmas post, and it was completely true to the day. Or at least what had transpired thus far. All 7 hours and 44 minutes up to that point really was great, being split between sleeping and sitting in the Living Room with my Mom and "Baby" Boy. 

Other than being earlier than normal, it really was a lovely way to start the day. I wrote the blog post, closed the lap top, went to finish breakfast prep and eat with my family, and it all felt so magical and fun and perfect. 

And there's a part of me that just wants to leave it there. 

Oh, naive 7:44am Christmas morning me. 

Our Christmas wasn't bad, not by any means. But in keeping with the "realness" of the blog...leaving it at my cute little Christmas morning post just wouldn't be the whole story. By today I'm kinda chuckling, but by the time I went to bed on Christmas Day I wasn't chuckling at all. 

Christmas morning, the start of it, was magical. I loved it. I still love that memory, and the story of Darrow escaping and going to find Grandma really is funny to us. But after I closed the laptop I should have started knocking on wood. Maybe that's it. Maybe I jinxed myself with that post, bahaha. 

The normal time frame from when Darrow wakes up in the morning until his one nap of the day is about 4 1/2 hours. On a normal day, that's perfect. But when he wakes up before the butt-crack of dawn has even started mooning the world that puts the whole schedule off. A fact I failed to realize until he'd already started to melt down as we were clearing up breakfast. By the time we got sat down around the tree to open presents together he was running on fumes and doing whatever he had to in order to convince himself that he really wasn't tired. 

Looking back I should have let him take a nap then and have him open presents later. But that just didn't seem as fun to not have him open then right then and I wanted him to be there as a part of the family to have everyone open gifts. I still argue in my head what I should have done different, and have pros and cons to each option. But that doesn't change what we did or how it all turned out. 

But lets just say that by the end of opening presents he was in manic mode, and I was being a little ridiculous and was trying to get him to look at the presents I made him rather than the presents with balls to throw and lights to turn on. I knew that was going to's just given. Lights and sounds trump all. Little fabric fish just don't compete. And I knew that. I knew in the hype that would be how it turned out. And yet I let my mommy feelings get hurt. By a 2 year old. 

And there's not really much point in recounting the whole entire day. But you can imagine how it went with a sleep deprived toddler, a sleep deprived hormonal mom, and a day full of expectations of magic and peace. 

Again. Looking on it now, just a few days later, it wasn't a horrible day. It wasn't a bad day. It was a good day. I didn't end it in a happy place. But I could have taken steps to change that. Not by what happened, but by how I responded. 

When it comes to Christmas morning, the big items typically win. That's just nature. The laptop present is definitely more exciting than the beanie cap present. I knew my simple gifts weren't exciting. I truly didn't expect oohs, aahs, tears of gratitude, or anything of the sort. I just wanted them to know I loved them and wanted to do something for them. And the homemade gifts did just that. But I let myself be frustrated by Darrow's actions as a sleep deprived 2 year old, and my own pride with the simple gifts I'd made. And I let that ruin the rest of the day for me. 

I threw a pity party for myself, and when I do that it opens the doors on all the other cages releasing the Motherhood-is-Rough Monster, Nothing-I'm-Doing-Makes-A-Difference Beast, and any other Pity-Creature that I keep cages for in my head. And when I say "it" opens the doors, I really should say I walk through the portals of my head opening up each and every cage myself and chasing the monster out and poking it with a stick. 

Why do I do this to myself? And talking with other friends and family in the recent and not-so-recent past I know I'm not the only one that does this. So...why do we do this to ourselves? I let myself ruin a wonderful day trying to be a Pity Gladiator Martyr. Once all the monsters were out of their cages and riled up it took me another day and a half to get them caged up again, but they are still rattling the bars of their cages. 

Someday I'm hoping I'll learn how to get rid of the Pity-Creature Cages in my head and to tame the beasts. But for now, I think the first step is learning to not walk down the hall and open up each and every cage just because one of the monsters escaped.

So after a little bit of sleep and working to put things back in order in my head, I'm feeling a little better about life. But I hate the 2 days that I wasted on feeling sorry for myself, especially when the catalysts were so small and non-devastating. 

I wish I were ending this post with a quick list of "5 Ways to Avoid Being a Gladiator in Your Own Pity Games", but I'm still figuring that out. The point of this isn't to bum you out. It's not to gather pity for myself. But I guess really this post came to being for 2 reasons. First, often as I write things sort themselves out in my head better than when I just try and sort them out by sitting and thinking. I feel like sometimes I don't know what I truly feel until it comes out of me in written word. Writing helps me sort through ups and downs. So I write this as my own therapy. Second, because maybe somehow this helps someone...not because I gave any tips or advice or help, but sometimes it's just nice knowing that someone out there is fighting a similar battle. Fighting to get through life in once piece. Fighting to come to grips with the reality that Life truly isn't Perfect...and that it is perfectly okay that it isn't. 

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

Growing up, Mom would finally just about have enough on Christmas morning and have to come wake us up at 8am so that we could get Christmas morning going. We'd all then get up and we knew the drill. 

We couldn't go near the tree or our stockings, not even to peek, until we were dressed, had any chores done Mom and Dad wanted (genius! We'd sweep floors, pull weeds, wash windows, whatever!), and then we all had to eat breakfast together (and of course then clean it up) before we'd gather around the tree. 

Dad would then hand out presents one by one. We all giggled when he'd "mix up" the names and read our presents as "To: Santa! From: Marquette!" Christmas morning would stretch out as we sat as a family, playing, visiting, singing, calling Grandparents, and finally remembering we had stockings. 

I love the memories of our Christmas mornings growing up. I'm so excited to have Darrow getting old enough to get into the hype of Christmas!

And get into the hype he did. We're spending Christmas with my parents and family this year. This morning, at 4:45am, Darrow woke up, quietly opened the door, crawled downstairs, and sat on the bottom step and sat and talked to himself until Grandma heard him and got up. I finally heard him at around 6:15 and realized he wasn't upstairs, but Cameron and I both were. I flew downstairs to discover him and Grandma sitting and snuggling. Apparently this kid didn't get the sleep in on Christmas morning genes, bahaha! We sat and visited, looked at the Christmas tree lights, and snuggled until everyone else woke up around 7:15ish. 

We're all still working on chores, making breakfast, and even pulled Grandpa out of bed (amid many grunts from was hard work). And I wouldn't trade it at all. I love Christmas morning and I'm so grateful for the blessing of being with family. Here in a few days we'll get to go spend time with Cameron's family and that'll just be the topping on the cake for this break. We hope you all are having a wonderful Christmas Day full of joy and love!

Merry Christmas!! 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Lumps of Coal...a Little Too Black

DIY gifts are so fun! The time and energy put into them makes them dear to our hearts. Which I think is why when one turns into a Pinstrosity, it's extra frustrating or funny. 

Jessica decided to put together lumps of coal goodies to give out to friends. In her email she said, "I would like to submit my ultimate failure...that 20+ of my gift recipients felt the sting of."
photo and tutorial by
"As you can see, the original post/pin didn't say HOW MUCH black food coloring to I guessed.  And....I put in WAY TOO MUCH!  The picture is of my baby girls smile after eating it.  Not only did it turn the mouth black but the only thing you could taste as you ate it (and after you ate it) was food coloring!"


I experienced this once with frosting on a Minnie Mouse cake. The bakery used a ton of black food coloring and that was all anyone could taste on the whole cake and all of us had black mouths. Black food coloring is one thing where a little bit can go a LONG ways! 

Monday, December 21, 2015

Winter Solstice Tradition

It's here, the last official day of Autumn. Tomorrow Winter officially starts. Eek! 

Winter scares us a little. And now that I'm the Mom of a toddler, it scares me a lot. Cold weather, rain/snow, wind, mud, early sunsets, etc. The Winter Solstice just seems to make it all a little more real. 

Which is why we've tried to implement a family tradition from Cameron's youth into our lives. A Winter Solstice Dinner. Finding things to celebrate, look forward to, and/or appreciate can help to lessen the dread or the emotional impact of winter for us. 

Each year on the Solstice, Cameron's family would have the traditional American Christmas dinner (as the food for Christmas was all the incredible traditional New Mexican Christmas food). They would get in their nice clothes (ties and all), practice and learn manners, and have a fabulous meal as a family. 

We started doing this about 5 years ago. Some years we make a meal for the two of us. Some years we invite people over. Some years we go out somewhere fun to eat. But it's become a fun tradition for us in our lives. It helps to turn the fear and dread of Winter aside, at least for a few days, and we get to start Winter off on a happy memory and fun note.

Looking back at our very first Winter Solstice meal, it wasn't incredibly fancy as far as what we made or what we spent, but it felt fancy at the time, and it is still a fabulous memory. Working together to make something special was really neat. Some years our celebration meals were meager and other years they were a touch on the more fancy side (at least we thought they were fancy).

One of my favorites is from a few years back.

When my brother was 14 or so, I told him that I'd do a full 7 course meal for him for a date if he ever wanted me to. Well, he finally called that one year and so we held our Solstice meal a little late to accommodate the date. He and my cousin asked out two girls from my church and brought them out to the house for dinner, then took them bowling. I had so much fun deciding on a theme, putting the menu together, and getting decorations up. I LOVE doing these dinner parties. 

Brigham (my brother) and I decided on a Snowman theme and tried to incorporate that into as many of the courses as we could. I had plans to make snowmen for the table centerpiece as well, but I ran out of time. I do like what did pull together though. I hit up the after Christmas 50% off sale and got me a pack of 20 mini trees, some glittered and scented pinecones, 4 silver snowman ornaments, and 4 gold plate chargers. I also picked up 2 small packs of gold and silver ornaments for our New Years Tree (since we didn't get the tree decorated in time for Christmas, we ended up with a New Years Tree instead), and Cameron Brig and I worked on making ornaments as well. 

The Decorations:

Thanks to Google Translate, we did the whole menu in French. I knew that no one coming to dinner knew French, but I figured it would help provide some good conversation (which it did) as they tried to figure out what each course was. 

And then we had the New Years Tree nearby for added awesomeness.  

The Menu:

Course 3: Salad
This was just a generic salad, with garlic cheese croutons and their choice of dressing (we have tons). Then I had the great idea to buy mozzarella cheese pearls and put three on a toothpick, topped with an olive to make a snowman. Only I found out when we opened the package of cheese that cheese pearls aren't necessarily the cheese snowmen looked more like modern art then snowmen. Oh well. 

Course 4: Mango Sorbet. 
I forgot to get a picture of this course. We bought mango sorbet at the store (I made my own once and that was more than I wanted to deal with this go around). We served the sorbet in small decorative canning jars with a gold ribbon tied around the top. 

Course 5: Mashed Potato Snowman with Chicken gravy, served with Parmesan Asparagus,

Course 6: Chicken Cordon Bleu with Sauteed Peppers
I didn't end up getting a picture of this course either. But it was yummy! Cameron cooked up the chicken and it was perfection. We were going to serve it face up with a piece of rye toast cut into the shape of a hat so it would be a snowman head, but I forgot to do that...I forgot to even pull out the toast. But it was still delicious. 

This was supposed to be cute...but it just ended up looking like a snowman massacre. 

Everyone had a water glass, but then we also gave them the option of Homemade Egg Nog or a Homemade Vanilla Cream Soda. We served the Egg Nog and Cream Soda in our fun "fancy" glasses, and drew on snowman faces with dry erase markers. 
For homemade vanilla cream sodas, fill a glass 3/4 of the way with shaved ice (like you get at sonic). Pour in your flavored Torrani syrup (found in the coffee aisle in your grocery store). In these glasses Cameron filled the cup about 1/4 of the way with the syrup. Pour Club Soda in the glass, filling about 3/4 of the remaining space. Finally pour in some heavy whipping cream or half and half (we used heavy whipping cream this go around). Stir and enjoy!

It was so much fun to serve the dishes and to carry out the dinner. I loved it. Cameron would periodically go out and provide some entertainment. He juggled osage oranges, he did a "magic show", he read the menu in his best and worst French accents, and was just a hit. All in all, I think it was a success. 

We've learned that it doesn't have to be huge and planned out to the extreme or even expensive to be memorable and a fun start to a hard season in the year. Each year we see what would be special and what would be fun and mold it to where we are and our circumstances. Tomorrow we'll go out for lunch at one of our favorite restaurants, and I'm excited!

Happy Last Day of Fall Y'all!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Signing our Signature on Life

I just did a post on my photography blog about this, and then realized this idea expands out to life, not just photography. This is a lesson I need in my whole life, not just my photography. So, I've reworked this to include all of life, because I needed to hear it, and maybe it'll help someone else too. 

Let me start by talking about photography and then expand it out to encompass more.

You would think that photography would be an easy thing to find a style, a signature with. You just take pictures a certain way, or have certain poses, or certain locations you turn to time and again because they are just you.

For some, finding their signature may be easy and quick. For me, finding my signature has been a long process. One where up until a little over a week ago, I still didn't see much progress on. And then a light bulb turned on. And I wrote a whole post about how this applies to my photography. And then I realized this applies to life. But I already talked about that in the beginning.

Photography has been a long road for me, a slow process. There have been times the progress was quick and times where, in the middle of things, it felt like I was going nowhere. Looking back there was always learning and progression, but it doesn't always feel like forward movement in the moments of frustration.

I never felt like I had a signature style though. I felt like I was trying out everyone else's signatures. Working on up close shots or trendy poses and shots. And they were pretty and I like them. But they weren't mine. I was signing other people's names.

For the Rising Tide Society Summit I participated in recently we had daily challenges. One was all about finding your signature and showing that. I didn't know how to do that...I didn't know what my signature was.

So I started by going through my shoots from the last two years and picking the one or two photos that just stood out to me most, the ones I loved the most. No rhyme or reason, just the ones that spoke to me. One by one they went in a folder, and at the end I looked at my collection. And there, staring at me and smacking me in the face was my signature.

Consistently, my favorite shots are the ones where I've pulled back, having the subjects small within their environment. I love these shots! I love the emotions they convey to me. To me, these show a whole different view of the story of the day and of the moment.

More recently I've done fewer and fewer of these shots during sessions. They aren't typically people's favorites, and they do take some running back and forth. So I changed my signature to mimic more of the "normal" and "expected" styles. Those styles aren't bad, or wrong. And I love including them in my shoots. But I was neglecting my signature. I was burying what helps to make my work different. What makes it my work.

So now my goal is to include at least one, if not a few, of these in every session. I want to work on developing my signature and making it truly mine.

And that brings me to life. We see so many ideas of beautiful living rooms, decadent meals, organized and meaningful family activities, dripping with cuteness relationships, elegant Christmas mantles, etc. It can be so easy to just go for what is big at the time, for what everyone else likes, what we see.

In this past year I've worked to define my fashion style (via Savers and other thrift stores...because that's how we roll), and for a few months I tried going for what was trendy and trying to make popular fashion work on me. For the most part, it really doesn't. I know that. I knew that before. But still, I wanted the current look. So I took some pieces home with me that I wasn't in love with but I was sure I could make it work.

Those pieces haven't been worn once. They sat in my closet until I did the latest purge. I wasn't true to my style. I wasn't true to who I am and what works for me. I'm happier and feel more like myself when I'm not trying to dress like fashion bloggers. Now of course there's nothing wrong with fashion bloggers. I just need to find one that rocks my style and get ideas from her! I know my style. I love elegant and classic. I love my style truly, and the more I embrace it, the more I love it and the more it truly is me.

The same thing can happen in our homes. I look around my little house and look at my inspiration boards on Pinterest and want "this" or "that" look. I've had decorating paralysis because I just didn't know how to make the space work for us with all the open storage we have. The board games on the shelf in the living room aren't pretty, and my sewing machine  sitting on the metal shelf by the computer desk isn't very picturesque, and this or that isn't just how I want it. So I wasn't going to do anything until we were somewhere else and I could really make the space mine.

But that's a little ridiculous. I can make the space mine right now. It won't look like the blog I follow with the cute little carpenter style house with the gorgeous navy and peach decor. It can't. They don't live in my house. I do. My family does. Our house, our space, should look like us. It should have our signature on it. I can work around these "obstacles" and embrace our family style rather than doing nothing because I can't sign someone else's decorating style on my walls.

This can even translate to our relationships with our spouse, significant other, children, parents, family, friends, etc. I want a strong marriage. I want a happy family. I want healthy friendships. But my style is now showy. We don't have a marriage that drips with cuteness and flowers. And I sometimes get down about that because I see friends with marriages dripping with cuteness and a part of me really wants that. But that's not us. And that's okay. We can have a quiet and private relationship and still be just as strong. Neither approach is better or worse. But when I get down about how we're not as cute or when we push for a couple signature that isn't our own we just feel fake and weird and it's not us.

Breaking through fears is big. For many of us there is a fear in at least one aspect of our life about fitting in. We may not even think about it as fitting in, but we're afraid to be ouselves and we're afraid to sign our name to our style. With me and my photography, as with many photographers, this is my art. This is one of the places you can find pieces of my hearts. As artists, we want people to love our work. But, not everyone will love every shot. That's how art is. We have to be brave enough to be who we are and to show the art that speaks to each of us. In life, we have to be brave enough to be who we are with our homes, our families, our relationships, our actions.

As we do that, as we let our lives truly reflect who we really are, and not just reflections of trends and "normalcy", our work (be it in our family, the things we create, the food we make, the lives we live) will be full of life, and we will attract those who speak the same "language" of heart, and we'll feel more fulfilled with our progress. We have to be brave enough to sign our own names to our life.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Twas the Week Before Christmas...

Twas the Week before Christmas, and all through the house,
Homemade projects were stirring for Toddler and Spouse.
The stockings were hung under books on the shelf,
And the tree hung all tangled, thanks to an "elf";
The child doesn't stay nestled all snug in his bed;
For Mom is a-sewing, surely RIGHT NOW he must be fed;
And mom in her sweatpants, her great winter suit,
Works on some presents she hopes will be cute.
When over in the kitchen there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the couch to see what was the matter.
Away to the kitchen I flew like a flash,
Tore open the cupboards and let out a gasp.
The light on the layer of the new-fallen flour,
Gave a lustre of work for an extra long hour,
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But a miniature face full of great cheer,
With a little bright smile so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment, the cake he had licked.
More rapid than eagles his pleas came,
And he cried, and shouted, and called them by name:
"Want, cookie! want, cake! and Hot Chocolate Milk!"
His cries were as smooth as Velcro on silk!
To the top of the sink, to the top of the wall,
His hand prints did cover, cover it all-
As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up in my arms the little elf flew
With arms full of forks, and even spoons too—
And then, in a twinkling, I heard in the drive,
The hum of Dad's car, The elf might make it alive!

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Em-Life: My Hubby Dresses Me! Fab or Fail? Week 2

If you are just tuning in this is a series about how I give my husband complete control and decision making rights as to what I am wearing for a month of Sundays! If you missed the first week you can find it here. Last weeks post also kind of breaks down why I am doing this, and why I picked Sunday's, check it out!
This week was a unique week, it's my birthday week and I've known for a few weeks now that my birthday was going to be full of adult responsibilities as opposed to the usual fun and treat-yourself day it has been in the past. The way the day was planned was that Chip (my husband) left for work at 8AM and got home at 4PM and I left for work at 1PM and got home at 11PM, we would completely miss each other that day. On top of everything this is his Dead Week for grad school which means lots of study groups and little time at home for Chip, and I just miss him!! I was pretty bummed about the impending days and anticipating it being crummy. With this in mind Chip really wanted the day before my birthday to be good. He wanted my Sunday outfit to be extra Em-rific! Let's see how he did!

The pictures are uber similar, but all the other ones were washed out so this is what I have to work with this week.
Earrings: Little hedgehogs (Etsy, Gift)
Necklace: Forever in My Heart (Gift)
Sweater: Target
Blouse: Downeast Basics
Undershirt (not shown, same color as skirt); Downeast Basics
Skirt: Downeast Basics
Leggings: American Eagle
Boots: Uggs (Gift)
How do I think he did this week?
I felt like an old granny.
Between the shapelessness of the skirt and blouse combo and the fuzzy boots to church, I felt like an old old old lady. I was super warm and comfy for sure, but I didn't feel beautiful in this at all. I got to church and everyone was wearing slick dresses and cute heels and I felt frumpy. I was trying hard not to compare, but it was definitely one of those outfits that I just didn't feel good in.
Chip was trying really hard to use some of my favorite colors (baby puke green) and some of my favorite pieces, the leggings and blouse, but he put everything together it was just too much! Also, when I wear a skirt and blouse combo like above I generally tuck in the blouse to give me some sort of waist, but he preferred the shirt out, and that was his decision to make not mine.
Was it a complete and utter disaster?? No. Did I enjoy wearing this outfit? No. What was worse was (for him and for me) he was trying really hard to make me feel like myself for my birthday weekend and instead I felt like a frump. He felt bad that I didn't feel like a rockstar that day.
I also didn't like that it was just black, grey, white and green. It felt more matchy matchy then what I like and the pattern combos were a little much to look at. My hair was in a little "bump" and it's grey so it extra made me feel like a granny, and I had very little make-up on whereas usually for my birthday I like to glam it up.
This being said, I'm not upset with him, I love him forever! This just wasn't my favorite look, and in his defense this is his 2nd time in his life he has ever done this, last week being the first time. I think because he did so well last week I was expecting a lot. All par for the course I suppose! Tune in next week and see how he does!
**Reading through this before I posted I hope it doesn't come off as mean to him at all. After church I told him what I liked and what I didn't like and why, he wasn't offended, but he was a little sad that I wasn't feeling great for my birthday weekend. We aren't upset with each other, or hurt in any way shape or form, just so no one thinks I'm picking on him, everything I wrote here today is something we have already discussed. :) **

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Dirty Dr. Peppers

I have a yummy and easy drink to share with you all! We learned this over Thanksgiving and LOVED it! 

As non-drinkers, we're always on the lookout for fun and tasty "fancy" drinks. We like looking at the cocktails and mixed drinks menus at restaurants and trying to get ideas on how to make those at home without the "kick". Having a special drink at a fancy dinner, on a date, or at a party can really help take things up a notch.

This recipe is super simple. Super super simple. Really. 

All you need is Coconut Creme coffee creamer, and Dr. Pepper (or we even love this with Root Beer and think it would taste phenomenal with red cream soda or orange soda as well). Add ice if that's your preference. 

Yea hard water stains. Oh well. 
The steps are super hard here. Fill your cup 1/2-2/3 of the way full with ice. 

Pour in your soda.  

Pour in the creamer. Stat with a little, and add more if you want more coconut flavor or more of a creamy texture. 

Serve with the layers separated for a fun visual effect, but stir it up before you drink it! 

There. Told you it was simple. 

I've seen other versions online that take the Torani Coconut syrup and lime juice. That sounds super yummy too, but we really love the creaminess that the coffee creamer adds in.