almost there

Nearly three years ago, I shared the next photos. It showed my first attempts at capturing the northern lights and the small success I had with practice.

I took up photography as a hobby. I have no intention of pursuing anything outside of shooting for my own enjoyment and way to document our growing family. Mostly self taught, which consists of much trial and error, and steered on the right course by my mentor MachoTurbo who charges next to nothing. Sundays evolved into camera chats. I voiced my questions and ambitions with my shooting each week, and he kept me on the straight and narrow, leaving me with “assignments” in order to help hone my craft. Eventually, life would get in the way and neither one of us would have anything to bring to the table with pictures that week. Soon it just became a weekly catch up on the happenings and every once in a while, we had something photography related to talk about.

A couple weeks ago, Daylight Savings to be exact, the kids and I were dragging ourselves to 9 pm. The early sunset had seemed to suck out all of our energy, but when my sister in law texted to say that the northern lights were out and bright, we all needed to see for ourselves.

A giant glowing green rainbow stretched across the sky and we unanimously let out an “ooooooooooo, aaaaaaaaaa”. It only took a matter of minutes, and the light show was beginning to dissipate. I rushed inside to get my gear. With camera and tripod in hand, I turned off all the inside lights on my way back outside. We turned off the garage and porch lights and I felt an adrenaline rush to get my camera set up in time. In my madness, I managed to pinch the tender skin between my thumb and pointer finger while unsnapping the leg extensions on my tripod, and the next line of words I used was described by Reid as, ” a whooooooole lot of bad words.”

Suddenly, I was desperately trying to remember what settings I needed to use and took a few pictures to get it dialed in. I’ll leave out all the boring details, but all you really need to know is that in order to get a clear picture at night you set your camera up to have the shutter open for an extended period of time and it must stay perfectly still. Reason for the tripod. Also why the dog and both kids got hip checked a time or two to keep them away from my setup. Hayden was the only one who humored me after that. Sharky and Reid both decided they had better things to do.

My efforts paid off and I was pleased to have a couple more photos to add to my catalog of “attempts at the northern lights”. Hayden is old enough now to grasp the concept of what’s taking place, and even if my photos didn’t turn out, the experience with her was worth the time we spent outside. I have fond memories of star gazing as a kid, and it’s nothing short of magical that our children get to experience the northern lights in their lifetime. Something not everyone gets to do.

Far from perfect, but progress I’ll gladly accept. The thrill of the chase was enough to light a fire under me, and I’m hopeful to keep up the momentum with shooting. I’ll leave you with a somewhat unfocused photo of the Big Dipper and wish you all a happy Sunday.

scrapbook sunday: forty four

June!

The last time I blogged was the beginning of the summer, which just goes to show how busy of a season it became. I can’t guarantee that going forward, I’ll be any faster between posts, but I do have photos to share today.

I recently developed three rolls of film. I don’t shoot my film cameras often, and when I do, its months before I develop the pictures. A part that I have really come to love. Each roll is like an Easter egg. Who knows what it will contain. I’ve been letting the kids take over part of the rolls, I love to see what they come up with to shoot, and it’s been a learning curve for me to get back to basics. I’ll share what the kids have been shooting in a different post but today I’ll leave you my favorite shots. Enjoy.

diy: car air fresheners

It’s summer time and it seems like every time we plan a road trip with the kids, life gets in the way and we have a project or another matter to tend to. We have one we have been making some plans for and Andy and I are determined to make it happen before the end of the month. Any amount of time with all three of the munchkins doesn’t go without a few hiccups. Our little ones are actually great road warriors, but I was already mentally checking off in my head what oils I would be bringing for needed stress relief.

Lightbulb!

Diffusing is a major go to for mood in our house. While I don’t have a car diffuser (YET!) I had seen a few really cute ideas about making your own vent diffusers. Plus, who doesn’t love getting into a car that smells good?! It definitely distracts me from what is possibly living in my backseat that was left behind from my children. All you need is a few small craft supplies and you’re on your way to a better smelling car.

– felt

– small clothespins

– leather cord

– small poms

-hot glue gun

– scissors

– essential oils

I decided to go classic and used a basic tree cookie cutter to trace my shape on the felt, while it was folded in half, in order to give me two identical pieces. Cut a small piece of leather cord, and glue it inside the top before glueing the two pieces together.

So easy! These would make adorable gifts for people! Cut any shape you like and use 5-10  drops of essential oils on the felt before placing in the car. I love that it’s reusable and just a cute way to add personality to my car. I found that placing it on my dash vent while my car warmed up made for a smelly treat when we were ready to take off! (This will obviously yield better results when it’s cold, and your warm defrost is on.)

Next up was the vent diffusers. I glued a single pom on a clothespin (making sure it was one that fit well on my vents) and made enough to have a few up front and then a few to place on the vents above the kids’ seats. While they work great while we have the air on, I realize in the summer with the windows open or driving without air going, they won’t be as effective. A USB diffuser would definitely be better suited for that.

But this a simple idea for our upcoming road trip. Place a few drops of your favorite essential oils on the poms and clip them onto your vents, and away you go! I’m definitely thinking of using the blend Peace and Calming for the vents by the kids. 🙂

lemon blueberry granola bars

Snacks in our house are LIFE. They keep my kids from having to ask me for something to eat approximately 64 times a day. If we have a solid snack ration, they only ask me 27 times 😉

Snacks brought trouble for the middle child. Being home all day meant he would burn through snacks, like a box of granola bars, in no time at all. The bigger issue though was the wrappers. ALL OVER THE HOUSE. I can’t tell you how many times he had his “snack privileges” revoked. I do realize I could remedy this by not buying them anymore, but I ate those delicious little suckers too, you know?!

Thanks to a few trial and errors, we found a great granola bar base recipe! Even better, they were a huge hit with the kids, and we’ve yet to go back to store bought!

Completely customizable. A short list of ingredients I can pronounce and feel good about. Less waste. SO DELICIOUS.

Reid’s favorite of course involves mini chocolate chips and peanut butter. But I always go for the zesty flavors! Using essential oils in recipes like this is perfect. You might even turn a nay sayer of lemon into a lover. Since essential oils are made from the rind of the fruit and not the juice, they aren’t acidic. It helps give it, in my opinion, a much mellower flavor. The usual complaint in our house is that lemon is overpowering. I won’t name the person who feels this way. (hint: it’s not myself or the kids) This also remedies any issue of consistency since you aren’t adding any extra liquid.

BASE RECIPE

1/3 cup sugar (I prefer coconut, simply for the taste)

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup unsalted butter

1/4 tsp salt

2 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats

1 tsp vanilla extract

The rest is up to you! Swap out the vanilla extract for another flavor, use any combo of dried fruit and nuts, or maybe you’re strictly a chocolate and granola lover!

For my version, I used around 20 drops of Lemon essential oil and 1/2 cup dried blueberries.

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 375. Add your rolled oats to an 8×8 square baking pan. Toast in oven for approx 8-10. I like to pull out and mix up every few minutes.

2. While your oats are toasting, make your topping. To a small saucepan, add sugar, honey and butter. Cook over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved and butter is melted. When mixture is ready, remove from heat and add salt and vanilla (if using).

3. Once your oats are done, pour them into a bowl to cool, along with your pan. I use this same pan to put the finished product in. One less pan to wash! When the pan is cool enough to handle, line with parchment paper or foil.

4. To your slightly cool oats, add your sugar mixture. Make sure to evenly coat everything in your bowl. If you aren’t using mix-ins like chocolate, add these in at this point.

*For chocolate, wait 10-15 minutes before adding to oats.

5. Scoop into your prepared pan and press down evenly. I like to use the 8×8 since it makes for a thicker bar.

Chill for two hours. If you can wait! It’s common for us to only make it 45 minutes before we dig in. Slice your bars into whatever shape/sizing of your choosing. You can get 8 bars if sliced long, and for the kids I cut them shorter, making 12 in a batch.

They keep best if chilled. I slice up my parchment paper from the pan and use it to separate each bar in a container.

Now, we just open the fridge and pull out a bar. Easy peasy, LEMON squeezy. Let’s see what fun combinations you come up with!

oh, there she is.

It’s been fairly silent around here. Spring swept in and brought sunshine, and yard work and days spent soaking in every last bit of the gorgeous weather because it is short lived in these parts. A baby on the verge of walking, and who STILL does not favor sleep. School’s out and summer vacation is officially in gear. Also, the blonde haired middle one is back to exploring the neighborhood in his free time, with his naughty little yellow dog alongside of him. All of this and it seems my updates with you have taken a back burner.

This summer is shaping up to be one I want to document and share with you so I’m getting back in the swing of things to post more.

I also went out on a limb and opened another window into our lives and decided to share how I use essential oils with my family, and our journey to having a chemical free home. It’s work. Literally. I’m working from home, from this very screen, and sharing my love of all things oily with family and friends, and a whole lot of new people too. But it was also work trying to juggle the mix of personal accounts and “business” accounts. I had the thought that I could start a different blog and showcase exclusively on it how we are using products and essential oils to steer towards a greener home. It’s not as easy as throwing out all your current household products and purchasing toxic free ones. It takes time, and a budget and finding what works best for your family. Documenting all this on a site created just for that began. A separate Instagram account and hopes of perhaps being able to navigate it all on top of my own personal feeds and blog.

I’m here to say that it was a bust. Just a couple of weeks was all it took for me to realize that I was already overwhelmed and not able to pour time and quality into each endeavor. In order to achieve what I’m after, I need to scale back. When I sat down and looked at each project, my end game is simply showing people our lives. How we use essential oils for sleep support, hormonal support, sores muscles, boo boos, and skin irritations. Why diffusing is a much safer and cleaner way to make your home smell great. And slowly, we are ditching household products that are filled with harsh chemicals to natural products that are non toxic.

With that being said, you will see the occasional post here about such things. I’m not here to shamelessly plug products constantly, I’m just opening up that window for you to peek in. There are already a few projects posted on that site, so before it gets closed up, I’m going to share them here. I avoided A LOT of housework and holed up away from children in order to finish them, so I’m not letting them go to waste!

Thanks for sticking around friends and cheers to the start of summer!

imperfections

This last week was just not in my favor. I had a baby with a serious sleep strike going on. I woke up each day irritable and short tempered. That attitude overflowed onto everything I did. It seemed as if the kids were intentionally being terrors and trying to get under my skin, when the reality is that I was just acting like an asshole and being a bad mood Betty was the cause of all my strife. After a day where all hell broke loose, instead of pouring myself a stiff drink that night, I filled up a large glass with water and raised my white flag. I went to bed early and defeated and tried to be very intentional with my thoughts when I fell asleep; that tomorrow would be a better day.

I woke up, still cranky, but determined to get this monkey off my back. While still chilly, we have had some incredible weather lately, and I had an itch to get out and shoot. I figured fresh air and a heavy dose of vitamin D could cure my blues. Sharky hopped in the back of the car and we left the house early afternoon, just as both boys were ready for a nap. The setup seemed perfect. They both fell asleep quickly. The warm sunshine beaming through the windows, and the open road ahead of me, it was bound to be a success.

The boys slept the entire time and while I didn’t get off the beaten path to much, there were plenty of places for me to stop and let the dog roam free and stretch, and for me to crawl on top of the car and shoot.

I felt refreshed. I felt renewed. No one will contest that spring in Alaska isn’t beautiful. I came home pleased with the shots I had and happy to have something to edit that night. Noticing though that I needed to clean my screen. I did my very best to hold off letting the kids use my IPad, but I eventually broke down and they are allowed to watch on it at times. Consequently, their grubby little fingerprints covered my screen.

We got ready for bed that evening, all of us cheerful from the days activities. I tucked Hayden in and whispered that if she got up early the next morning, that I would let her skip the school bus and take her to school. Stopping to get breakfast on the way. Who wouldn’t have sweet dreams thinking of McDonalds breakfast!?

I grabbed my camera on our way out of the door, knowing that I could probably get a couple chances at some great morning light, while we burned off some time before that 9 am drop off.

Man. I felt so productive and proud that I had turned my bad week around. Until I noticed when I went to post the photo above on social media. I had cleaned my IPad screen, yet that pesky spot I had noticed on my photos from last night was still there. With a sinking feeling, I grabbed my camera and quickly scrolled back through all my latest photos. That spot was on all my shots. That smudge was not on my IPad but on my FREAKING LENS!

I spent the next few minutes cleaning my lens and wallowing in self pity. I was heartbroken that my photos now had a flaw that was completely preventable and my own fault. I scrapped the Instagram post I had started and removed the other photos from the Scrapbook Sunday post they were set to be in. Ugh.

That smudge nagged me all day. The smudge had teamed up with the monkey and made their way to my back.

It took me a while to realize that my own perspective was the cause of my frustration. There is a solid chance that most of you won’t even notice the spot. Or if you do, it’s not as distracting to you as it is to me. Perhaps this was the universe trying to tell me to get over myself. There isn’t a single person out there who doesn’t have struggles. Our imperfections and flaws are what make us original. Unlike anyone else. My baby who can’t sleep through the night will grow into a toddler who wants to sneak into my bed. Soon, school age and arguing about bedtimes. My three year old that gets into all sorts of mischief will eventually be to busy with his own life to need me to clean up his messes. That little spot that “ruined” a few photos is insignificant. I didn’t leave the house that day with the intent of getting award winning photos. I needed a fresh start, and I got it. Maybe that’s what our imperfections are there for. Reasons to make us step back and realize when we need a fresh start. And if that’s the case, things are going to stay fresh around here for a long time. 🙂

our escape from the arctic

My original plan was something along the lines of ‘”Our Tropical Vacation” but I wanted to add a little more drama to it; catch your attention. Did it work? 🙂

It has taken me longer than I expected to get this post done, but it’s been nice to have time to unwind and get back in my groove. Looking back at pictures now that it’s been a few weeks, makes me appreciate the time we had away from home even more.

The idea behind this trip started after we returned home from our last escape from Alaska. Having just gotten back from the northwest, we were still eager to get a break from winter. Andy was working nights, and in his spare moments texting me throughout the evening. A couple days shy of New Years and we both agreed we still had an itch for a warm vacation. On a whim, I searched Airbnbs in Hawaii and stumbled upon on what was a pretty incredible deal. I forwarded it to Andy to have a look. Never having been the one to really question an adventure, he told me to book it. The rest luckily, fell into place smoothly. By New Year’s Day, flights and rental car were booked, we even got my sister in law to join us, and we were headed to Oahu the very next month. WOO. HOO.

I think what I was most excited about, apart from the obvious (warm weather, ocean air, relaxation) was seeing the kids experience the ocean and all of its wonder.

As you can probably imagine, traveling with three small children in tow, has it’s challenges. We hit gold with our Airbnb though. It was a (private) attached guesthouse with our own lanai looking out over the water. Our host was an incredibly sweet 74 year old retired couple (Alvin and Pat), who had their 7 year old granddaughter (Averie) living with them. The kids instantly hit it off with her, and in no time at all Hayden referred to her as her Hawaiian sister. It felt like home away from home. With a full kitchen, we rarely ate out, and instead cooked majority of our meals at home. Each morning, everyone was up with the chickens in time to watch the sun rise up over the horizon. The kids would race out in their pajamas and swing, while the rest of us soaked in the warm morning sun and drank coffee. If I could bottle up a mood, it would be those very mornings. A fresh cup of coffee in my hand, the air humid from the early morning rain, the sounds of water lightly crashing up over the stairs leading from the yard, and the giggles of the kids racing to see who can swing the highest.

Alvin and Pat had paddle boards, kayaks, and an assortment of floaties available for us to use. We purchased sand toys for the kids to build sand castles, but ended up only having a couple beach days away from home. The rest of the time, we used the gear at the house to swim or paddle all around the bay. Arm lengths away from the kids running around the backyard. Steps away from our beds where little people could lay down and nap when they needed. We kept the fridge stocked with snacks and all our favorite sandwich fixings. Each night, we barbecued for dinner and eventually our new found friends started joining us, and it became something we looked forward to at the end of each day. We swapped stories and learned about each other’s home life. The kids got to see where Averie’s elementary school was, and Alvin brought over bowls of rice each night and even treated us to some incredible teriyaki beef he prepared. He had already lived such a full life and he and Andy had hours worth of stories they indulged in. He even unveiled his vintage cars and took Andy for a few rides during our visit.

The winters in Alaska are long. Often we get snow by October and this year it most likely won’t be completely melted for another month. If we are lucky. We needed a change. Sunshine and days spent in a single layer of clothing. There were a few days that we had wanted to take the kids to places like the Sea Life center or different parks, and we ended up bagging those plans and just staying at the house. Those days turned out to be my favorites times during the trip. The kids ran all over the yard and played. We made drinks and laid out in the sun. No agenda, no where to be. No one was worried about home work, laundry that needed to be done or dishes that sat in the sink. Our only priority was reapplying sunscreen.

Often we packed lunches and would head out for the afternoons, with no real plans. Usually finding a new beach was on the agenda, and we made sure to stop at the local fruit stands. Our fridge stayed stocked with fresh fruit and juice for each day. There were a couple days we did touristy stuff, but I’ll save those details for their own post. Each evening we returned home before the sun set, and prepped for dinner. Getting back in time to watch as the tide slowly crept out and we were able to go down below the yard and walk the small stretch of beach that appeared. The kids would scream and run from the small black crabs that would start to gather on the rocks, and each day I found a new piece of coral to add to my collection to take home.

Since coming home, there is rarely a day that the kids don’t ask about us returning to Hawaii. Especially as the snow continues to fall around us and spring is taking it’s sweet ol time arriving. It’s not hard to day dream about being back in paradise, so until then I’ll continue to look back at posts like this and revisit all the incredible memories we made.