Thursday, October 29, 2009

Carving Carnival

Carving pumpkin time! This year was the first time we had the Dremel attachment for carving pumpkins. Mark supervised/taught the kids how to use it and I helped scoop out the guts and toast the seeds. Sandi (Mark's sister) was even able to carve a few pumpkins, and her artistic flair made it lots of fun to see her results.

She gave her pumpkins to a friend as a housewarming gift and it was a big hit! Raeley designed her own pattern for the pumpkin and included her signature.

Raeley's Pumpkin
Jonathan's Pumpkin

Robert's Pumpkin
Cameron's Pumpkin

The Honey People

I went to pick up some natural honey last week as I was driving home from one of my gyms. It was late when I got to the honey man's house. He lived a little way out in the country and they were a little worried about me trying to find their home that late at night. However, they graciously allowed me to disrupt their usual order of evening events.
I picked up all the honey he could jar for me from the time I called till I made it to his house. What happened next was a very small, almost insignificant event but it is sticking with me. You see, I did not stay long at their house. We chatted on the dirt driveway outside his back (front?) door in the cool, dark night.
Beside the fact that I couldn't believe how dark it was out there, I couldn't believe how nice they were to me. And here is the life transforming part. No, it wasn't the cool evening with the calm breeze, feeling submersed in nature (and wondering where the apiary was). This older couple made me feel so good just by dropping by and caring enough to get the honey. They were good natured, relaxed, and jovial.
I drove away thinking - That's it! That is what is important in life. Investing in people. I invest a lot into my kids. We spend a lot of time investing in things - houses, cars, clothes. At best we reach out to our family, but out sphere of influence is pretty small. At least mine is. How many people other than family do I reach out to? How well do I reach out to even my family? Am I spending too much time investing in my kids pleasures by running them different places, but not really investing into their lives?

Investing in people. It takes effort. And vulnerability. The rewards are worth it. I am challenged to revisit my priorities and make more of an effort to invest in people's lives.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Kentuck Art Festival

The Cars
Raeley's Favorite. Medium is Metal!
A few Saturdays ago, we headed out to the Kentuck Art Festival in Northport AL (near Tuscaloosa). Mark's parents met us there. This was truly a talented group of artists! The booths were full of wonderful paintings, sculptures, pottery, quilts, and photographs. I heard about the festival from Deep Fried Kudzu. If we had more time, the small downtown of Northport looked delightful!
Sloss Furnace from Birmingham was there with a furnace set up and ready for pouring metal. You could scratch a design into limestone and they would make a metal trivet out of it. Raeley did a great job on that. We saw some friends of ours, Michael Cole and his wife, whom we met through Sandi (Mark's sister), and we got to see some of his new work.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Getting ready for Christmas Photos

It's that time of year when we are all getting ready to take family Christmas portraits.

Mark, being the resident photographer of our family, has shown me so much about setting up
for a good portrait. As you get ready to take pictures of your family, keep these basics in mind:

1. There should not be significant gaps between people sitting or standing next to each other. Overlap and get close. Eyes are drawn to gaps and not to faces.

No gaps, pyramid outline (see #2).

2. The outline of the people should be a pyramid. For instance, if you have some sitting and some standing, see #1. No gaps! Of course, this does not apply if your entire family clan (Dugger size) is getting pictures taken.

Do you see how your eyes are thrown off by the tall gal (Emily) at top? You spend time looking at the bolt and chain and not on the faces.
3. Watch your perspective. Make sure you aren't making photos look too leggy or the bottom of a shoe is wayyy in front. Look for soles of shoes showing, arms at funny angles, and how high or low you are pointing the camera. Too far of an angle up or down exaggerates certain things about people.
See how the downward shot makes it too leggy/bodyish?
Ah, that's better!

On the photo below, the angle is slightly above eye level, a good angle for this shot. Notice how not having a pyramid shape, but having a gap in between the two people standing makes your eyes wander and you don't know where to look. Try to avoid this. If this were a posed picture and not a candid, I would have had Amber sit closer to Sarah (mom) and Jonathan kneel on the floor to make it more of a pyramid shape.
4. Watch the lines. As mentioned above, arms at funny angles need to be watched, but take it a step farther. An arm should lead to a focal point, a head should lead an eye to a line or another focal point.
Notice the above picture. Sarah's elbow is a bit distracting, but if her arm were down, your eye would be drawn to the baby (McKenzie). Amber's arm, being bent, is pointing straight at the McKenzie's 's head, but it is not at a flowing angle so it's distracting instead. I know, I know, I'm being really picky now!

It would look better if this were a pyramid shape (notice the gap?), but it is a good example of lines at work. Do you see how the heads being in a line and the arms (Robert's and Raeley's) all lead your eyes in the same line to Cameron, the cute little one at the bottom. If we had shifted Raeley (tall girl) over toward Robert (in dark blue shirt), the gap would have been eliminated.
5. Skinny tips: to make people look more skinny, have them turn to the side a bit. Make sure they stand or sit up straight. Have them face the natural light if you are not using a flash. Keep the camera slightly above eye level so they look up slightly to slenderize the face.

Happy Holiday Snapping!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Angola Prison Rodeo

You see this driving in:
and this driving out:

Mom and Sister Trip Part 2

On Sunday we went to the Angola Prison Rodeo and it was quite an experience! There is a Christian overtone to the whole event and the opening of the rodeo gave me goosebumps. I was very impressed with the whole prison establishment set up there. I don't have many photos because there are several things you can't bring in with you, cell phones and cameras being some of them. It set the mood, driving in past gurad towers, huge fences, a one way long driveway, searches to enter the gates, police everywhere, and all those prisoners behind the fence.

Think about it, the average term for the prisoners at this facility is 80 years so if you're in there,
a) you've done something really bad
b) you will be in there a long time
c) you don't have much to lose if you get hurt... or worse

Talk about reckless abandon! They had crazy "games" like bull pinball where you try not to get plowed over by the bull and you can't move from the hula hoop on the ground, and bull poker, where you sit at a table playing poker while the bull attacks you. Last one standing or sitting wins.

There are craft/furniture booths manned by the prisoners with good behavior. The other prisoners who have crafts to show are standing behind the fences and if you have a question about a piece you can go over and talk to them. My dad bought a rocking chair for a very good price!

We heard the traffic gets very backed up, so we got there early and also left before the very end of the rodeo and I am so glad we did because sometimes people are stuck in traffic for hours.

That night we went out shopping for a while, then back to the plantation where we cooked dinner in the room and watched football. Monday morning I headed to one of our clubs for the day-back to the real world so soon!

Cuddlebug Christmas Gift

This is a link to the Cuddlebug, a paper craft tool. They are running a contest so check it out! It would make a great Christmas gift!

Friday, October 23, 2009


Well, I was off coffee for a while and then the weather turned cool. It's just too perfect of a comfort food on a cool day NOT to pick up a warm steaming cup of murky energy. So I am back into my caffeine routine again. I've found, particularly since I've been used to not having caffeine in my system, that I can't have it in the afternoons or it keeps me up. Guess who didn't sleep but a few hours last night? Thanks, Caffeine! I guess I have a love - hate relationship to you.

I tried this new recipe after having a delicious pumpkin spice latte last weekend with Mark. I found it a little bland, so I made a few changes. ENJOY!

2 cups milk
3 T canned pumpkin
2 T white sugar
2 T vanilla
3/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
OR: 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/8 tsp cloves, 1/8 tsp nutmeg, and a teeny tiny pinch of ground ginger
3/4 cup brewed espresso or 1 cup strong brewed coffee

Directions: Mix all ingredients in a crock pot and cook on high for two hours. Whisk again and serve with a cinnamon stick and whipped cream.

I didn't put mine in a crock pot, I just put it in a medium saucepan and simmered for a short while.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Picking Muscadines

Raeley's friend Alli came with us.

A few weekends ago, we went to pick Muscadines in Tremont MS. There is a vineyard in Bull Mountain Bottom. If you are from the area, you'd know exactly where the bottom is. The house on the property was built in the late 1800's. It is a large two story dog trot, modernized, of course!
It didn't take long at all for the 7 of us to collect enough muscadines (Raeley brought a friend). The vines were ripe for picking! The kids had so much fun in the country running, swinging, enjoying a slight break in the rain. 5 gallons later, the rain sprinkling down again, and we decided it was time to head home.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Annual Mom-Sis weekend

Rainy girl's weekend away - reminded me a little of Charleston last year, with everyone arriving in a torrent of rain. This year the torrent was not so bad as that, but the rain persisted a little longer. I enjoyed a long, serene drive to St. Francisville, LA down the Trace almost all the way. Although the drive down the Trace was enchanting, the drive pulling into the plantation house where we were staying was oh-so-stunning! As soon as I turned onto the driveway, I felt that I was stepping back in time. The majestic oak trees lined up framing the house, gazebos dotted the lawn, the mist hanging in the air from the rain all seemed surreal.

I made it just in time to share a glass of wine with everyone then we freshened up and left for dinner at the Magnolia Grill. A very cool place, screened in porches, wooden walls, nooks and crannies with tables, and I didn't even see the inside of the restaurant! We sat at a great table just the right distance from the stage and enjoyed chilling out to the live music. The singer was very talented and set a cool, bluesy mood. I could have listened to her for hours. Back home (Butler Greenwood) we stayed up late talking and eating fudge that the boys wanted me to bring for everyone.
Saturday morning was a lazy morning and I woke up earlier than my sisters so I stole next door to enjoy visiting with just mom. After a while we went back and sat on the porch overlooking the small pond and drank coffee with everyone, watching the ducks swim on the pond. The view was splendidly framed with huge camellias that looked more like trees than bushes. The dainty flowers with the moss hanging from the branches made me feel like I was sitting in a hidden bungalow.
We ate a leisurely breakfast of croissants and took a tour of the plantation home where we were staying. This house has been in the same family since it was built in 1786. The items in the house were straight out of the attic. One room still had the original carpet and furniture. We have toured plantation homes on every vacation with my mom and sisters, yet none quite as homey and realistic as this when you keep in mind the family still lives in the house! After the tour we went to the downtown area and went in a few stores. There is one store there called Grandmother's Buttons. I wish Raeley could have been there, she would have loved that store!

We were able to meet Karen's niece Kristin for lunch. I've known Kristin since she was born so it was fun to see her again and have her crash our girls time. Kristin's husband is from the area and they were visiting his family that same weekend. YUMMY Cajun seafood soup for lunch at Charlies. A cool piece of trivia, our waitress was from French Camp. After lunch we stopped in a few more stores then headed back to the Plantation home to meet my dad and watch a few football games.
Before we knew it, it was time to get ready for my mom's birthday dinner.
We went to a nice, delicious restaurant at the haunted Myrtle Plantation called The Carriage House. I split a shrimp dish with my sister and left so full! We also had Sensational salad (a salad in this area with a parmesan garlic dressing), along with stuffed mushrooms and fried green tomatoes for appetizers. I knew when I tasted the green tomatoes that this was a restaurant that knew how to cook, they were so light and not heavily fried. They brought out a melt in your mouth bread pudding for my mom - so rich and creamy and warm! Back at the plantation home we gave my mom her gifts, had lots of laughs, and we warmed up the Muscadine pie I had made for mom. Mmmm! It was so good (even though I was still dreaming about that bread pudding)!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Menu Monday

Join OrgJunkie for more menus!
This week will be a busy week, so I picked easy, low time meals.
Breakfast: Hard boiled eggs, toast
Lunch: leftover chicken
Dinner: Pork Roast, carrots, potatoes, salad
Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with basil and mushrooms
Lunch: barbeque sandwiches
Dinner: Orange Glazed Chicken and rice, broccoli, fruit salad
Breakfast: Baked Oatmeal
Lunch: Sandwiches and fruit
Dinner: Open faced roast sandwiches, chips
Breakfast: cereal
Lunch: co-op, grab and go whatever's handy
Dinner: Chicken and pasta stir fry
Scrambled eggs and salsa
Lunch: soup and mac and cheese
Dinner: Breakfast for dinner
Breakfast: cereal or hard boiled eggs
Lunch: pack a lunch for Tombigbee
Dinner: Cooking out at Tombigbee, probably hamburgers

Pork Roast
Braised in saucepan then covered with Lipton Onion Soup mix, garlic, worcheshire sauce. Cook in crock pot all day with cubed potatoes and carrots.

Orange Glazed Chicken
1/2 cup orange spread
4 TBSP soy sauce
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp garlic powder
30 oz chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces

Marinate chicken in above ingredients. Grill or broil until done.

For chicken and pasta stir fry, mix chicken with whole wheat pasta, add 2 TBSP orange spread with a splash of soy sauce and toss. Add left over broccoli, a can of water chestnuts and roasted sliced almonds.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Caterpillar Cupcakes

Well, the cupcakes never did morph into Caterpillars. What is the fun of waiting to eat them? They just kept disappearing.
Didn't Raeley do a great job with the photo?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Funny Kids

Cameron starts off a conversation at the dinner table about her love for math. "Don't cha know that I love math? I don't have to play with friends in the afternoon, just let me work in my math book." Wow - Stop - I want to turn back time and get a voice recording on that!
Jonathan replies "Just wait till you get to Algebra. I don't even know what X is."
Cameron whispers to me "I know what X is. X marks the spot."

Jonathan's pretty funny too!

Tonight Cameron was helping me pack for my trip. She was the judge and I was the fashion girl. I was getting my outfits together and showing them to Raeley and Mark (who did not agree on anything - usually they always agree!) but had not gotten any shoes out yet. "Shoes! Shoes!" she yells, very concerned, jumps up, tells me not to move, and brings me shoes, necklaces, earrings, and bracelets for each outfit. Mark laughed as he reminded us of how she would pick out the most outlandish shoes when she was just a year old at the shoe store and we would have to sneak her plain (in comparison) white shoes home. She's into her shoes!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Meal Plan Week 6

This weekend we didn't eat what I had on the meal plan, so some of the meals are from last week, and you can find those recipes here. For more recipes, check out Meal Plan Monday at

Monday: Pepper Lime Chicken, Cauliflower, brown rice, salad
Tuesday: leftovers from Sunday
Wednesday: Sweet potato and chicken tortillas, and southwestern medley
Thursday: Red Lentil Soup and Easy Fish
Friday-Sunday: Who knows! Mark has the kids. I'm leaving for a weekend getaway with my sisters and mom. WooHoo!

Red Lentil Soup
1 1/2 cups red lentils
6 cups water
3 bay leaves
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 slices fresh ginger root, each about the size of a quarter
2 medium carrots - 1 cup grated
1 cup canned tomatoes, or one fresh tomato chopped
1 small green or red bell pepper (1/2 c finely chopped)
1 1/2 cups chopped onions
2 TBSP olive oil
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
pinch of cayenne
2 TBSP fresh lemon juice
grated asiago to top
salt and ground black pepper to taste

Sort and rinse lentils. Put the into a soup pot with the water, bay leaves, garlic, and ginger. Cover and place on high heat. Prepare the carrots, tomatoes, and bell peppers, and add them to the pot. Bring to a boil, stir, reduce the heat, and simmer, covered, for 15 to 20 minutes, until the lentils are tender. While the vegetables simmer, saute the onions on medium heat in the olive oil in a heavy skillet for about 10 minutes or until browned. Add the cumin, coriander, and cayenne and saute for another minute, stirring to prevent sticking. Remove from the heat. When the lentils are tender, remove the bay leaves, and ginger from the soup pot. Stir in the sauteed onions and the lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle Asiago cheese on top of each bowl.

82 calories
3.3 g protein
3.2 g fat
11.2 g carbs

Easy Baked Fish
Tilapia, Grouper, MahiMahi, or any other other white fish
seasoned mix such as adobo or Tony Chacheres
Olive Oil

On a baking sheet, drizzle olive oil to coat. Place fish on baking sheet and turn so both sides have olive oil on them. Place skin side down on baking sheet, sprinkle with seasoned mix and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Enjoy!

Fish typically has 17-24 grams per serving (100 grams). Olive oil is a healthy oil and is good for you, so I am not worried about counting it. Your body needs it, just make sure you use a high quality olive oil that is expeller pressed.

The red lentil soup is filling enough to be a meal on its own, but it is not enough protein for us!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Weekly Report

I have waited to post this until I made a caterpillar cake with the kids, but it just hasn't happened yet.
Various Governors of Virginia, Cromwell, John Rolfe
Started Indian Notebook
Raeley: Boston Masacre and Tea Party
Read Cameron caterpillar books
Language Arts:
abstract and concrete nouns
Cameron: More work on names
Robert - changing ratios
Jonathan - order of operations, multiple operations
Cameron - addition and number lines