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Monday, May 31, 2010

Happy Memorial Day!

We take a moment to remember those who have lost friends, family and loved ones to defend our nation and our freedom. We honor our past heroes and pray for those in action now and in our future.

The Brooks Family

{To remember what this day honors, take a look at the amazing photo assignment going on over at The Pioneer Woman. We were featured in Group 4 and have been amazed at the response over this treasured picture of us at my husband's deployment homecoming-our first as a married couple.}

Monday, May 24, 2010

Three people: May Edition

While searching and reading in the "blogosphere" all about taking better pictures of your family, one constant piece of advice was to make sure that you, the mom or photographer, made sure to get out from behind the camera sometime. Whether it was a lack of self-confidence on how we look or a fear of losing control over the situation (as in, we worry that a timer/spouse/stranger may not take as good a picture as we would have), we tend to stay on the other side of the lense and leave ourselves out.

However, "perfect" photography is not my aim in taking pictures: I want to capture moments of how life is right now and I want to be present in those moments.

So, on Thursday evening, with my hair a little dirty and in a ponytail, after a long day at a doctor's office confirming that my son's heart was now perfect (yeah!), and with my husband handling the grill work while I learned to work the timer on the new camera, we captured this moment.

I am making a commitment to take a family picture in some shape or form every month for the rest of the year.

Will you join me?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Somebody got a new camera...

{Well, maybe more than one of us got a camera!}

I am excited about learning all about my new Nikon D5000 DSLR...

I am interested in all your favorite photography blogs, help, tutorials, or even classes to get me movin' in the DSLR direction...any suggestions?

Friday, May 14, 2010

{Friday Finds} Police Memorial Week

Every year, 140-160 police officers die in the line of duty. This one week in May, we remember them and honor their loved ones.

National Police Week
May 9-15, 2010

1. Police Officer Birthday Invitation by Andersruff

2. Personalized Police Beer Mug by Distinct Glass

3. Lego Police Man Cuff Links by Nostalgic Links

4. Officer Down Lampwork Heart Bead by Ankle Biter Beads

5. Rescue Play Set by Bungalow Quilts

6. Handcuffs charm by Charmed by Karen

7. Hand Stamped Custom To Protect and Serve necklace by My Bella's Beads

8. Alabama Speed Trap Fine Art Photograph by annadykema

9. I love a Hero Custom Necklace by Seize the Night

10. Fingerprint Vinyl wall decal by Circle Line Studio

11. Retro screenprint Detriot PD tee by Detriot GT

12. Bullet money clip (shot during SWAT training!) by Seize the Night

Thursday, May 13, 2010

{Tasty Treat Thursday} Mocha Kettle Corn

Simple pantry ingrediants +

a simple special ingrediant =

a sweet caramel chocolately treat!


1/4 cup vegetable oil (not pictured)
1/2 cup popcorn kernels
1/3 cup sugar
(we use the unprocessed cane sugar that looks brown for "vegetarian" eating purposes but feel free to use whatever white sugar you have at home)
1 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp mocha power
(this is different from normal cocoa powder and does have a sweetness to it...we have considered experimenting wtih hot chocolate mix as an alternative!)

Mix sugar and popcorn kernals in a bowl together and set aside. Heat up oil over medium heat in a large pot with a secure lid (preferably with two handles). Put three kernels in the pot and after they pop, add your sugar/kernel combination.

{Warning: flying popcorn kernals are HOT and will burn you if they touch skin...we leave the lid off and stand back because we think it is fun to watch these three kernels pop out of the pan, but do that at your own risk!}

Keep lid on pan securely and shake the pan continuously until the popcorn slows to only popping a kernel every second or so. Carefully remove lid and pour into large bowl.

{Warning: the sugar has been carmelized and is SUPER hot at this point. Don't use your hands or stick in your hands to fluff the popcorn until it has a minute or so to cool down.}

While the popcorn cools in the large bowl, shake the salt and mocha powder over the popcorn and shake the bowl to spread around and break up any popcorn clumps.

Once cooled, serve and enjoy!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

One Word Wednesday

Polka Dots!

{I know...that is technically two words...}

This was a small Mother's Day gift to myself and am absolutely in love with this set. Unfortunately, the coordinating green dot bowl is worth more than I paid for this full set of three!
I hope you enjoyed your special weekend!

Monday, May 10, 2010

a walk in the park...

Yesterday, we took a little break to take a walk in the park. Little mini-trails in our local park are perfect for short legs that are more into finding neat things than exercise (although the fresh air and energy burn off did lead to a great naptime!)

It is amazing to see how interesting the most mundane things {to me} are to a two year old...

The whole walk was infused with strong floral smelled amazing
{until I got home and had to partake in some serious allergy medicine}

We found massive pine cones...seriously, some were close to a foot tall. They would make one heck of a peanut butter bird feeder!

We played I-spy through the trees.
{I-spy is the new obsession around our house lately...}

We discovered a tree that was the meal ticket for hungry wood-peckers...

We found tiny pine cones that were good for accesorizing otherwise mundane sticks

The small pine cone became the official souvenir from the trip...

The neatest part was that I relinquished all control over the direction taken on this was symbolic of how much my little guy is growing up and it made me equal sad and happy.
{We walked around this wooden bridge 5 times}
Remember my spring goals? This week has become a culmination of starting this new season of life: my first graduate class is coming to an end (lengthy paper due this weekend), we are running a 10K this weekend and a duathlon next weekend (my husband's first multi-sport race!), and my garden is coming along nicely (except for the broccoli that seems to go from too-small-to-cut to already flowered overnight!)
P.S. The above due dates and busy schedule have translated into low inventory over at Camp Cupcake, but I wanted to toot my horn a bit: we have been open 6 months today and my sales have surpassed my goals ten-fold. I look forward to getting back on track in order to move onto an even greater second half of this first year!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Of rum and ruffles...

Have you ever heard of the person that is so predisposed to addiction that as soon as they take a swig of rum, they can't stop?

Ruffles are my new rum...

I am so excited about learning to make them, that I have plans for all the things I want to ruffle.

This is why I love the crafting community. They share tutorials and project ideas to help you out of a crafting rut and remember that creating something yourself is so rewarding.

{I want to wear my camera to the grocery store today, just because I love this strap that much. That isn't wierd, right}

My ruffling skill still needs alot of work but I will accept the challenge.

Find the tutorial to make your own ruffled camera strap at Crap I've Made.

There is also an entire blog with ruffle inspiration over at Ruffles and Stuff (check out the entries into her Ruffle Your Stuff contest-mass crafty inspiration!)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

This is the way we go to school...

Lately, my son has been obsessed with "going to school." He wants to ride on the school bus when it comes through the neighborhood and pretends to put on his "school backpack." Admitedly, some part of me is sad about this since I a) don't want him to want to leave me and b) I am not quite sure how I feel about what is going on behind the doors of most institutional schools these days.

The time has come where people have started to question on a regular basis when he will be starting preschool and, lately, I have been questioning what is best for our family, now and in the future. But, for the time being, we will keep learning on the table on the back porch {and the kitchen table, living room floor and in the garden dirt.}

We will make sure that we take time to have a little snack break together...

We will utilize the vast amount of resources around us to supplement the learning that simple play provides.
{I have compiled some of my favorite preschool learning resources below!}

We will use our hands to learn new skills...
{I found these lacing boards-2 in a set for $1 at Micheals!}

And {at the top of the importance list}, I will show my son that adults continue learning, no matter their age or circumstances.
{Sarah Vowell is my new favorite author and I am only a few chapters into this snarky look at the early American Puritans...according to reviews, this isn't even her best book but it is rocking my world!}

Favorite preschool learning resources:

Where we started:
for 2-4 years olds and literature based...this website has SEVERAL curriculum levels for older/most advanced kiddos. They even have activities, books, and ideas of super early learning with babies.

What we mostly utilize now:
Tot School Lap Books and Tot Trays
Lap Books are based on "unit learning": picking a theme your kid is interested in and learning different skills/subjects based on that theme. For example, we have done a lapbook unit on Big Trucks and Farm Animals, among others. We pick out library books that focus on the theme to read during the week (or longer, if the interest lasts.)
Tot trays are Montessori-inspired skill learning activities. If you have one near you, Micheals has a good supply of inexpensive supplies for tot trays and you can join their parent/teacher program (the Knack) and get extra coupons.

What we look forward to using:
First School (not a program but has TONS of resources)
Lap book resources for older kids/themes
Sonlight Parent's Companion (literature based, non-scheduled preschool program)

A note on mainsteam resources: I tend to {strongly} dislike licensed characters (Disney Princesses, Dora/Diego, etc.) but mostly because I think they are over-marketed and I don't want to be asked to buy stuff every time I go to the store. However, I believe strongly that the best learning at this age is done through play. And, frankly, Nick Jr. and Disney employ some very smart educators and their websites offer some good, fun, educational resources.

Do you have any favorite early learning resources and programs? Do share!