Monday, January 30, 2012

Photo Editing

I just LOVE this picture of Hanna. In fact, I took a lot of great photos of her over the weekend and I can't wait to sit down and edit all my favorites. There are about 16 or so of them. And even though that doesn't sound like a lot, editing can be time consuming.

Although this picture in particular wasn't bad to begin with, it just needed a little brightening. I didn't want to get too overly dramatic or artsy with this one because it was such a simple photo. I wanted to keep it simple.

I don't know if you can see it in this picture but her hair color is red now. Almost a maroon and it suits her so well. I like it better than her natural hair color, to be honest. It goes so well with her skin. She looks stunning. I can't wait to show you more of the pictures I took of her. But I need to get up and move around. I can't sit for too long, my butt falls asleep.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

MCP Actions Snag a Canon or Nikon Camera Giveaway!

MCP Actions Snag a Canon or Nikon Camera Giveaway!
Choose from a Canon 5D MKII & 85mm f/1.8 lens OR Nikon D700
Click the link below.

I wanted to share the link because it would be sweet to win a camera and I wanted to fill you in on the contest. And also, I earn 5 entries for each person who enters with my custom link. ;) So help me, help you, help me....or something.

toilet humor

Today Emma was in the bathroom and she must have been making grunting noises or something because I heard Eden say, "Do you have a big grandpa turd or something?"

I heard this from the laundry room and started laughing and Eden came in and started laughing because I was laughing.

"What?" she said

"Grandpa turd???" I said

"yeah, don't you remember that?" she said

"no, what's that from?" I said

"You used to say that to me all the time." she said

Two things:
A) My memory is crap
B) Eden's memory is phenomenal

"NO! I don't remember that! But dang I'm funny, aren't I?"

Then she says, "You're always saying funny things."

I love that my kids think I'm funny.

Monday, January 23, 2012

SO much fun

I have so much to blog about suddenly and I feel like I could burst! But I've been so busy this weekend having fun with my kids that I really haven't had time to.

If you are my facebook friend you will know that our family celebrated the Chinese New Year today with decorations, music and food. We made a fun weekend out of it. Something different and exciting to do rather than the usually boring weekend stuff.

Although making the food was fun, it was a bit stressful getting it all together in the end and produced a LOT of dishes and big mess in the kitchen so next year we have vowed to order out for our Chinese feast. I'm ok with that.

I took tons of pictures of my cute girls. I FINALLY got my fix. I've been itching to take pictures and today I got a lot of good ones I can fiddle with in Photoshop. I have some beautiful kids. As I was uploading pictures to my computer tonight I was practically squealing with excitement. They were all so awesome. The light coming through our kitchen patio door was perfect. I want to move the table completely out of the kitchen and use the dining room exclusively to eat in. That way I could use the kitchen as my studio. Yeah, I don't think Andreas will go for it either. But when you have that beautiful natural light shining through, you get some gorgeous photos as a result.

Anyway, I'll leave you will a little teaser from today:

Oh, and there were donuts. What could be better?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Did I ever tell you.....

...that I'm an artist?

Yup, that's my thing. That's my outlet. Some people are smart. Some people are funny. Some people like to hang upside down from trees. Me? I appreciate art. Here is a sample of some of my own art:



They are a bit juvenile, I don't claim to be great at it, but it's a hobby. Something I love to do, although, sadly, don't get time to do it anymore. I need to work on making time. Because if I made time and practiced, just like anything else, I would get better.

Did I ever tell you that I love to take photos and edit them? Of course I have. I have taken thousands and thousands of photos. I love the art involved in photography. You don't just point and shoot. You need to find the art and represent it through the photograph. It's the best thing there is. I love photographing both people and nature. Anything, really. Because you can find beauty in a pile of trash if you look hard enough.

This is my beautiful niece, Chelsea. She let me have hours of fun photographing her last year.

Did I ever tell you that I play piano? Quite well, if I don't mind saying so. And it's not often that I admit to being good at something. Ever. The only problem is that I dislike playing in front of people. I like to play for myself though. Recently I taught myself how to play the Adele song "Someone Like You". It's a beautiful piano piece. As I was picking it out on the piano I thought, why am I spending all this time trying to figure out the song when I can just buy the sheet music? Duh. So I did. It's lovely. Playing the piano is an art. Everyone has a different style. That's what makes art so delicious.

One of my all-time favorite pieces of music is Clair de Lune by Debussy.

It's a very difficult piano piece. I played it at my last recital. It probably took me something like 6-8 months to learn.

I took many years of piano lessons and went through numerous recitals (probably 10 years or more). People often ask me why I don't teach my girls piano. The answer is, I don't know. We've tried a few times. They are only interested when they feel like it. Which is fine. I don't want to force it on them. They'll learn when they seriously want to. And when they do, they have a live-in teacher. I taught my niece's piano lessons for a while. As we were sitting at one of their recitals, their dad (my brother) leaned over and said to me "Listen to that. You did that." It was a great moment in my life to realize that I had helped someone else learn and appreciate music. She played beautifully.

Did I ever tell you I'm a great cook? Well, I am. My late father was a master chef, as are my siblings. All of them. Every single one. We all love to cook. Last night, I made one of my very favorite meals: flank steak florentine. Unfortunately I didn't get a photo of it but it was marvelous looking and tasting. I love trying new recipes and my kitchen sometimes becomes my laboratory because I am constantly trying to come up with healthier ways to prepare foods we love. I love when I make food that other people want the recipe for. I made a super healthy chocolate muffin recipe once that even pleased my sister's very picky husband. That is the kind of stuff that makes my heart grow! Cooking is an art, not everyone has the talent. But I'm pretty certain most mom's do. You kind of have to. After years and years of preparing meals for your family, it's pretty hard NOT to be good at it. I don't think I know a single mom who isn't a super chef.

Please excuse my little bit of egotisical blogging. I know it's not all about me. But there are times when it does a person a little good to be proud of their accomplishments. I know that I for one spend far too much time picking myself apart and exposing my flaws than I do acknowledging that I also have very good things to share with the world.

People like to talk about themselves. It's natural. There's nothing wrong with it. But it does bother me at times when people (usually the same ones) feel the need to toot their own horn over and over and over again about how awesome they are. I'm supermom! I'm superwife! I'm superemployee! I'm superexerciser! (maybe that's me some I'm the best ever at everything and everyone wants the world on my shoulders because they know I can handle it. These people must be lacking something that they have to constantly validate themselves with pats to their own backs. Maybe it's confidence. Sometimes I just feel like screaming, "OK! We get it! You are awesome at                . Let's move on now!"  But then after my split second of geeking out about it, I'm satisfied to know that these "super people" are just people who like to toot. (smiling)

Would you say you're a busy body?

That's one of the many questions I was asked by a counselor I saw this past week.

"Do you find it hard to sit still?"

Well, I guess but only because I know there is so much stuff I need to get done at all times. Not because I couldn't sit still, I just don't have time! - that was my answer.

I do, however find it hard to relax. I'm usually always tense. Even around friends and family members. There are precious few people that I feel truly at ease around, my mother, my husband and my children. Perhaps it's because I know these people love me unconditionally. I don't fear detachment from them.

So yeah, I am trying counseling. I was pretty traumatized by the panic attacks I was having and my doctor said that medication would only help a little. But combine it with some counseling and you have a better chance at overcoming it. So I made an appointment, and I went. It wasn't bad.

It was a little awkward to have to give so much personal details about my life to a complete stranger. But it was a comfortable environment and I wanted to be there because I want to get help for my growing anxieties. I didn't hold anything back.

We delved into my past, talked about family, and all the things I guess I expected her to ask about. Such questions are needed in order to find a cause for the problem. I am going to go on a weekly basis to learn techniques to deal with anxiety and panic disorder. These are things we are not born with and what these counselors go to years of school to be able to teach us. And I am willing to learn.

Among the positive things I am doing now: exercising. It didn't surprise me at all that she brought that up. In fact, since being an avid exerciser is supposed to help with such a broad range of things, it was a given that it would be mentioned at some point. The thing that sort of scared me is that if exercising regularly can help, and I already exercise regularly and still have anxiety, does that mean that my anxiety would be quite a lot worse if I was a couch potato?

Then something clicked, the week I had "the big one" I had decided to take a week off from working out. It was Christmas vacation and I wanted to be enjoying that week with my family, relaxing, eating cookies, playing games, watching movies, etc. Maybe on a subconscious level I am a fitness fanatic to help ease my anxieties. And outwardly I perceive it to be something I do mainly to look better and stay healthy.

It's all so "what if" and "maybe" to me. I honestly don't know how anyone could ever really know the true and real reason for a disorder such as this. I've always been a quiet, shy person. Someone who would rather be in a corner unnoticed. But that's a personality trait, be it good or bad, I think it is just what makes me me. It's the irrational fears that I have, which are a part of why I'm mostly a quiet person around other people, that are what fuel my anxieties. I might have what's called distorted thinking. And this makes sense to me too, but you'll remain in the dark about that one.

Just letting my thoughts pour out through my fingers feels so good. I do that a lot and then don't post just because it's therapeutic getting it out and reading it back to myself. My head is so jumbled, jam-packed with a thousand thoughts at all times. So much so that I wish I could turn my brain off. Especially at night. I'm thinking about the day, what I got done and what I didn't get done and will now have to do tomorrow. I'm always thinking thinking thinking and worrying that I won't remember any of it because there are SO many thoughts going on all at the same time.

I have trouble concentrating. I know that if I ever went back to school or took online classes I would never get anything done. The kids are talking, the dog is barking, there is too much to distract me. Just tonight I was trying to read something and I couldn't focus. I just can't focus and retain anything unless the room is totally quiet and chaos free. These are the types of things that make it hard. And I feel overwhelmed and not in control. Therefore I get irritable that is common of people with anxiety.

I'm learning a lot about myself, my behaviors and soon I will be learning how to deal with the undesirable behaviors so that I can become a better me. I've been praying for so long (I don't even know how long....years) for God to help me become the person I want to be and I feel He is steering me in the right direction. He doesn't just magically tap you on the head and all your troubles are solved, but He does give you nudges. And sometimes bad things have to happen before the healing you have been asking for can begin. He works in mysterious ways. But I trust Him. He will lead me and I will follow.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

cupcake wars

Ok folks, we need your help!!

My family held a little friendly competition in the kitchen tonight. We split into two teams. We drew a theme from the jar and had to bake cupcakes based on the theme we got.

Team 1: A day at the beach

Team 2: Burgers & Dogs

Please help us decide the winner between team 1 and team 2. Vote for your favorite in the comment section please. Deadline for voting will be Sunday evening at 8pm.

I will also be posting to facebook. If you'd like to vote via facebook instead, "like" the picture you think is the winner.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

I'm cheating

This is how I know there is a God

Today is a scheduled break from my healthy eating habits. While I think it's important to consume healthy foods, I also think it's wise to indulge once in a while too. Since I'm sort of a closet pig (oink), I would go nuts if I didn't get to eat what I love now and then.

I couldn't think of anything else I was craving more....than nachos. Usually when I crave it's something like french fries or pizza. But it's been a while since I've had nachos so I just went crazy. All the best toppings: taco meat, refried beans, sour cream, green onions, chiles, green olives, cheddar cheese (am I missing anything?). I did forget the salsa but there was already so much flavor I didn't miss it. And as you can see, I piled it high!

And ate it all.

That's a 10 1/2 inch dinner plate, my friends.

See my finger trails on the plate? I'm not afraid to eat with my fingers.
And this empty plate is proof to you people (oh, you know who you are) who give me such a bad time about not eating. I EAT! I just don't eat like this all the time, which is how I'm able to stay thin. (oh, and getting exercise helps too)

For lunch, I plan on having last night's leftovers (cannelloni). I had halibut while the rest of the family ate the cannelloni, so I'm excited to get to try them.

For dinner, Italiano~! [again] but I don't mind. Spaghetti Puttenesca with garlic breadsticks and CHOCOLATE CAKE for dessert.

There it is, in all it's fatty sugary splendor.

After dinner ~ cup cake wars. Andreas might be the reigning chopped champion but considering I can whip up a cupcake without even looking at a recipe, I'm pretty sure I got this!

Cocky winning attitude? Check!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Dinner Italiano!

I know I promised pictures and results from the adult Chopped held last week, but I'm on my laptop and those pictures are on the PC downstairs. So I will make it up to you by posting something else pertaining to food.

You already know that we like to do themed dinners every now and then. I say it's for the kids but I probably like it more than they do. Last night, since it was my overfeed day (or cheat day, if you will) I choose *spaghetti alla puttanesca for dinner. Complete with garlic toast, garlic breadsticks, Italian sparkling water, wine and a lovely (omg - tasty) olive antipasto platter. It was so delicious.

And to go with the theme, of course, we had Italian music playing in the background, Italian flag colors, decorative Chianti bottle on the table, checkered table cloth....anything that said 'cozy Italian cafe' to me.

I'm scheduled to have another overfeed day on Thursday so we will do Italian night again, since Hanna and Eden missed out this last time.

We usually cycle between:
1)Chinese night - chopsticks, paper lanterns, special dishes, etc.
2)Mexican night - all the appropriate food, dishes, decorations - we go all out
3)Italian night (see above)

We need another one to add to the mix. It would seem logical that we incorporate a Swedish or Norwegian night, but we do those on occasion anyway, I guess. I'm up for suggestions. Any other fun nationalities we could add to our theme dinner nights? Nothing too off the wall - like cooking alligator or anything like that. Maybe, Hawaiian Luau night would be fun to do in the summer, for instance.

Please feel free to comment and leave suggestions.

Interesting footnote (found on Wikipedia):

* Spaghetti alla puttanesca (literally "whore's style spaghetti" in Italian) is a spicy, tangy, somewhat salty Italian pasta dish (AND MY FAVORITE - FYI) invented in the mid-20th century. The ingredients are typical of Southern Italian cuisine.

I'm cookin' like an Italian whore, yeah! I knew I was Italian in my former life!!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Chopped - kids

Last weekend, we held two chopped competitions. I was finally starting to feel a little better, I could function pretty normally so it was time to do at least ONE of the fun things I had planned for us over vacation.
We let the kids battle it out against each other in Arff Kitchen Stadium first. Eden and Hanna went head to head for both entree and dessert rounds.

puff pastry
summer sausage
sharp white cheddar cheese

Searching for just the right spices

Eden's finished product - lovely

Hanna's finished plate - I thought it was beautiful
As far as presentation goes, it was a really close call, but I think Hanna had it in the end. However, Eden won the entree round because her food tasted better. She had wrapped ingredients in her puff pastry whereas Hanna just cooked the pastry and stacked the ingredients. We had to give creativity and taste to Eden. It was a close one though!
Judge Emma - or Jemma as she called herself
Dessert Round
cotton candy
ritz crackers
marscapone cheese
chocolate chips

Eden's concoction. It was FAR too sweet for me to eat.

Part of Hanna's dessert included a glass of melted cotton candy mixed with chocolate instant drink mix and a hard candy fizzing at the bottom of the glass. I expected it to taste horrible but it wasn't bad. Still pretty sweet though.

Although Hanna won the dessert round, Eden ended up winning the overall competition. But it was a close one.

Next time I will post the other chopped competition of our vacation. Chef Andreas (or no.2 as I like to call him) and Chef Wonderful (as the kids were calling me)

Let me explain:

A while back the children started calling Pappa, Plop. And soon after Mom got switched to Pom. So we are Plop and Pom instead of Pappa and Mom.
Then we saw the commercial for the pomegranate juice POM Wonderful. And they started calling me Pom Wonderful. Perhaps I started that one, I don't know for sure.

So this was my judging card - Pom Wonderful
Next post will contain the exiting photos and results from Chopped - adults.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Better days

It's nice to know other people that suffer from panic attacks. Not that I'd wish them on ANYONE, just that it's nice to know someone understands what you are going through. Thanks for the comment and thoughtful words, Carin.

Today was the first day since Tuesday night that I felt like myself. That's 5 days. It took that long to recover from my last attack. I was finally able to eat without feeling like I was choking. I was able to swallow fine. I could produce my own saliva without needing to chew gum (my jaw is so sore from all the chewing and clenching). I'm still pretty tired and I fear slipping into a panic again, but I'm trying to put it out of my mind the second it creeps in.

I still am afraid to go to sleep. Even walking into my bedroom, knowing it's time for bed, makes me nervous. I hope and pray that I can sleep through the night. I need to be refreshed by Tuesday - when reality hits us again. Girls will be back in school and Andreas will be back at work so it will just be me and Lizzy at the house. It will seem so empty and lonely.

Tomorrow I am taking down the Christmas decorations. It's usually sad to see it all come down, but this time I'm ready to put it all away. Mainly because it will give me something to do. Keeping busy is good for me these days.

We've been playing a lot more games with the kids this past week. It's so much fun spending time together as a family instead of all off doing our own thing. Today/tonight we played Apples to Apples, Clue, Taboo and Pictionary. It's neat watching Emma draw. She's only 5 but she does really well.

We held one chopped competition so far this week. Andreas and I would have had one too if I hadn't had a week long anxiety attack. Anyway, Andreas and I chose the ingredients and Hanna and Eden faced off against one another. They did an entree round and a dessert round. I took pictures that I'll have to post another day. It was so fun watching them in the kitchen. Eden ended up winning overall. She wants to be a chef someday. She loves cooking. In fact, I've gotten my breakfast served to me 3 days in a row now! Too bad she has to go back to school soon, I could have gotten used to breakfast in bed!

Been kind of a slow week here otherwise. And that's ok! It's Christmas break, we had planned on relaxing anyway. I just wish I could have enjoyed it more. The week ahead will be a better one. I'm optimistic.