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Hooray for better family pictures in June! On Father's Day we took some pictures with our freshly weeded garden as a backdrop. The kids have had fun planting, picking, and learning about gardening this year, so I thought it would be fun to capture that aspect of our yard. I love that Owen and Sophia are cracking up in the second picture. Duncan, as you can tell, really isn't in to getting his picture these days. But that shows his quiet and shy side. I'm going to think up something silly or fun to do next month for our family picture. Maybe sparklers for the 4th of July?!?

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So, my goal of one family picture a month has proven harder to implement than I imagined.

April was a failure. Josh was gone two whole weeks out of the month and I simply completely forgot.

May found me suddenly remembering. We tried a family picture on Mother's Day. It didn't go so well. The kids wanted their Sunday clothes off and to play with the chickens. The image below was the best shot we got of us. Yeah, really. The others were even worse.

I planned on scrapping these pictures and trying again on their birthday. But the party came and went and no family picture. So this will have to do for May.

 And honestly, it makes me laugh. So that's a good thing, right?

Jarrettsville: A Novel

You could say I'm continuing the book theme from last week. This week, I wanted to share an interesting local connection to a book I recently read: Jarrettsville.

I first saw the book advertised on our local library's website. The author was in town to market the book and you could meet her and listen to a talk. I didn't go, but bookmarked the book for future reading.

I didn't particularly enjoy, nor would I recommend the novel, per se. I felt a lack of connection and empathy with the main characters. However, I did enjoy reading about the county I live in during the post-Civil War era. The local connection was the most interesting to me. I was also reminded what a tumultuous time period this was--especially for Maryland--being a border state. The novel, although fiction, is very much set in history and the author's own family past. One that included a woman named Martha Jane murdering her lover/fiance, Nicholas, shooting him down in public. That act not only caused a local stir, but a national one, and the end of the novel includes articles covering the trial, held in Bel Air, that were published in not just in The Baltimore Sun, but The New York Times as well, as you can see here.

Bethel Presbyterian Church was featured in the novel, and it is also Martha and Nicholas' resting place. It is a church I pass by often and have long admired. It reminds me what I imagine Father's Tim's church in Mitford might look like. And so, one day I decided to find Nicholas and Martha's graves. I traipsed through the graveyard, recognizing many names from the novel, including those of the founders of Jarrettsville. I found Nicholas' grave first. It takes me a good while longer to find Martha's. I wonder about their sad lives and what they'd think of the novel and how accurate it was in describing them.

Dead flowers tumble from a jar at the foot of both gravestones. I wonder who left them: a family member or a reader?

 

Read Away the Summer {Ungrind}

Image Credit: Ungrind.org

Image Credit: Ungrind.org

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me,” wrote C. S. Lewis and I agree. Whether the tea is steaming on a cold day or iced to cool me in summer heat, whatever the season, reading is my favorite form of entertainment.

But it’s summer when many of us often have extra free time to read. School is out, vacations are planned, and tote bags are stuffed with towels, sunscreen, and paperbacks. Or maybe it’s a Kindle or Nook these days.

Whatever your preferred method of reading, I’ve compiled a list of titles I’ve enjoyed over the years. I’ve tried to include many different genres: popular fiction, classics, spiritual, biography, memoir, mystery, and a bit of history. Just a small sampling, but I hope enough to get you started on compiling your own summer reading list!

Continue reading at Ungrind . . .

But before you go, please tell me what book you're most looking forward to reading this summer! Or post it in the comments section over at Ungrind. One can never have too many good books to read!

A Veggie Tale

Back on May 1st I shared we were going to do a 31 Day Veggie Fest. I'd been in a food slump, and doing this challenge honestly made me enjoy my food again, as we tried many different dishes. I was so excited about the meals I picked to make in the month of May! We did cheat and eat about 3 meals with meat during that month, such as salmon on Mother's Day and the typical hot dogs and hamburger cookout for Duncan and Owen's birthday.

I wanted to share what I came away with after we purposed to eat so many vegetables, as well as to share some of my favorite recipes.

First, I discovered I crave vegetables and fresh food more than ever, and have less of an appetite for meat. I have to say this surprised me a bit. Although my appetite for meat had been lessening, I thought that I might really be craving a huge steak or something after the month was over. That was not so, however. Instead, I simply craved more vegetables! And actually, not only do I not crave much meat, it's actually become a turn off. Not all meat, but particularly red meat and chicken. This may be seasonal for me as well. In the summer I usually do crave salad in general, although I would still fire up the grill for some ribs. I still love bacon (I know, right?) and seafood is always something I enjoy. But a hunk of chicken breast with two sides? No thank you. If we do eat meat, I find we prefer it has a garnish to a salad or a little bit in some stir fry. Perhaps that will change when the chill air of fall arrives and I crave a comforting stew, but for now, less is more.

Secondly, it would seem my stomach is much more sensitive than it was before. Seriously, I used to have an iron stomach! No gastronomical issues for me! Now while this may seem like a negative, I'm taking it as a positive. I'm thinking my stomach is reacting more strongly than is used to the negative foods I put into it. For instance, while Josh was on one of his business trips I craved Chinese food. I got the same takeout I always get from the same place I always get it. But I felt so terrible after eating it. Not sick, just yuck. Also, after eating at Outback I also had a bad experience due to the fish (I think) I was served. All that to say, fresh foods make my stomach happy these days.

I'll also note that my husband loved all the meals too and the kids did fine as well. Sophia eats vegetables very well. The boys, not so much. But they don't eat meat well either. They'd be happy eating fruit, carbs, and dairy just fine. Sometimes I'd add a little something extra to their meal, like applesauce.

So that's what I discovered after doing our 31 Day Veggie Fest. It didn't end up being hard at all and I enjoyed discovering new recipes. And here's some of the winners:

Vegetarian Enchiladas from Cornrows and Meadows

Tortellini Salad from Super Natural Every Day

Sweet Corn Pasta from The Creative Mama (I'd made this before, but it's still a winner)

Classic Cobb Salad from Smitten Kitchen (I omitted the chicken). Pictured above, bottom left.

Bok Choy Stir Fry with Shrimp and Peanuts on Coconut Rice (I've also used this with Kale. I wish the pictures were prettier on this post, but seriously, this is fabulously delish! Never used Bok Choy until this spring using this recipe.)

Vegetarian Chili from Martha Stewart (I never thought I'd say I'd like vegetarian chili over a meat chili, but this was fabulous! Topped with creamy avocado, crispy tortilla chips, and cold sour cream, it was awesome!)

Easy Fried Rice (I used brown rice, not white)

Pasta with Kale and Walnut Pesto from Real Simple

Superfood Quinoa Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette (My favorite quinoa salad recipe)

5 Layer Greek Dip (A huge hit when I took it to a gathering. Can also be used as a wrap (Hummus as spread, veggies in wrap). Pictured above, bottom right.

And, this isn't a veggie recipe but I had to share the most tasty shortcake recipe I've ever had! It was a Rosemary Strawberry Shortcake Pizza. Oh wow! It was so good! I added some thyme too, along with rosemary. The flavor of herbs with honey drizzled strawberries was divine. And the pastry was flaky, not dry like some shortcakes. It's pictured above, top right.

So there ya go! Enough recipes to inspire you for your next menu planning session! Enjoy!

Lost and Found Family {Ungrind}

When it was discovered my dad was having an affair, the family unit I'd known for twenty-seven years was slowly torn apart.

Now what I once knew as my family no longer looks the same, feels the same, or is the same. It's felt like what I'd imagine losing a limb might feel like; first searing pain, then numbness, now an ever-persistent ache. At times, losing a parent to death would have seemed like a more welcome trial.

I’ve had to battle bitterness and unforgiveness like never before. But I’ve also experienced support from a family bigger than my physical family: the family of God. And more importantly, despite the faithlessness of my earthly father, God has been a faithful spiritual Father.

Continue reading . . .

Note: This article was first written in 2008 and Ungrind is republishing it for Father's Day. It's also being republished this summer in an Israeli publication, Beyneu. Apparently, the themes in this article resonate with many readers--even internationally. The journey is a long and hard one, but I'd glad to be able to share in the struggle with others in God's family.

(Image from www.ungrind.org)

Five

Well, it's taken a few weeks longer than I wanted to post pictures from the boys' 5th birthday, but I guess that's what happens when life is busy with camping trips, re-hauling this blog, and birthdays galore around here.

It's hard to fathom it's been five years since my little buddies were born. Each of these little guys hold a unique and special place in my heart. I can't believe how long and lean they're growing. How boyish they are getting as they leave all toddler and preschool chubbiness behind.

The boys asked for two things for their birthday: to have a Lightning McQueen cake and some special friends over. We did just that, inviting a few family members too. It was a low-key celebration but just what they asked for.

They begged for cameras. You bet I was happy to oblige them both with their very own first digital camera!

They got big boy bikes from my mom. That's the look on Duncan's face when he first saw them (above right)!

Beyblades are all the rage these days (below).

I found inspiration for this cake here. Mine didn't end up as neat and tidy looking, but hey, they didn't care and it tasted good. (I was going to put Lightning McQueen and Mater on the cake. That was the plan. That would make sense, right? But no, the boys wouldn't let me in the end, saying they'd "get dirty.")

Time to sing "Happy Birthday!" and blow those candles out!

Pirates even made an appearance!

The piñata was a smashing success. One little guy decided to really smash it to pieces!

It was a perfectly gorgeous evening and plenty of fun! Happy birthday to my favorite five-year olds!

 

Multitude Monday | Revitalized Eyes

“I am carried away by the impulse to keep up, though this sentiment inspires only a perpetual state of wanting. I’d rather punctuate my days with actions turning me towards gratefulness, revitalizing my eyes to see the calm goodness already around me.”  -Julie Pointer, “A Quiet Life” in Kinfolk, vol. 3 I too, know well the perpetual state of wanting. And one way I battle that is by counting my blessings. Revitalizing my eyes to God's goodness all around me. And so I count . . .

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2012-06-11_001

622. That Josh's business travel went well and he arrived back home safely. 623. That all went smoothly while he was away. 624. Time with my mom on Tuesday just hanging out.

625. Tasty and healthy quinoa muffins that my kids, who aren't muffin lovers, actually like. 626. All morning spent with friends playing at the creek. 627. The boys riding their bikes with no training wheels!

628. Saturday evening at my sister's documentary party. 629. A family reunion, good food, and pool time on Sunday. 630. Sophia affectionately patting my back.

631. The color of blue hydrangeas that grace my yard. 632. A testimony at church that had me in tears and penetrated the hard places that still cling to unforgiveness in my heart. 633. Starting my new study of James: Mercy Triumphs.

What is one thing you are thankful for?

Foodie Books for Kids {updated repost}

It's that time again. Time for gardens full of fresh vegetables and orchards of luscious fruit. We've already gotten our first pick-up from our CSA and our own garden is full of lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, herbs, and beans. All my kids eat fruit wonderfully, but sadly only Sophia eats vegetables very well. One thing that's been fun for us has been to read "foodie" books to the kids. It's a different way for them to learn about food and hopefully spark an interest in trying new types of food too. I've posted some of these titles before, but I've updated it include some newer ones we've just discovered this year. So check out some of these books at your local library this weekend and snuggle on the couch or outside on a blanket for some reading time with the kids. Here are our favorites:

Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert

With bold pictures and simple words, follow along as a garden is planted, grows, and then is harvested. The result is a yummy vegetable soup!

Cook-a-Doodle-Doo! by Janet Stevends & Susan Stevens Crummel

This was the boys' favorite, because they love cake and because Nonna (my mom) owns chickens and so they get excited when they see pictures of chickens. I really loved the illustrations and the story was cute with some humor thrown in that only adults would get too. Basically, the book is about a Rooster who decides to make a cake from his famous grandmother's cookbook (his grandmother being the Little Red Hen). We follow his adventures as he and his friends learn to cook. I liked that fact that in sidebars there were explanations and instructions about cooking that went more in-depth for older children. Also, the recipe is included if you wanted to make your own Cook-a-Doodle cake!

Oliver's Milk Shake by Vivian French

Aunt Jen takes Oliver and his cousin Lily to find out where the ingredients for a "yummy scrummy fruity froth icy nicy tip-top tasty milk shake" come from. They visit a farm and pick their ingredients and make tasty milk shake. Although Aunt Jen has a little surprise from Oliver at the end.

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DSC_0508

Oliver's Fruit Salad by Vivian French

Oliver's adventures continue as he makes a fruit salad with his mom and grandparents.

The Victory Garden Alphabet Book by Jerry Pallotta 

We love all (there's a lot of them!) of Jerry Pallotta's alphabet books and I use them to reinforce alphabet sounds while learning about nature. This one introduces kids to garden veggies.

Mice and Beans by Pan Munoz Ryan

Rosa Maria is planning for a big party for her granddaughter and gets some help along the way from some mice who live in her house. A really sweet story sprinkled with Spanish and includes a Spanish glossary and pronunciation guide at the end.

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DSC_0506

Do you and your kids have any favorite "foodie" books? Please share!

Change {An Important Announcement}

I redesigned my photography blog back in January and loved the look and the ability for more design freedom by using Wordpress along with ProPhoto. However, I soon discovered several things. First, I did not like having to go back and deal with the restrictions a Wordpress.com blog gave me at over at Dancing by the Light. I was frustrated with what I could do with it after experiencing so much design freedom in this space. Secondly, it was just plain hard to keep up with two blogs. I only have so much time in my life, and trying to keep two blogs up to par was just too much. The solution to this problem is that I've now merged all the content from Dancing by the Light to this new address. All the posts from both of my previous blogs now reside here. It has also resulted in an updated design along with a new name: danielleayersjones.com. So update your readers and your subscriptions, I'd hate to lose you, my faithful readers!

Take a look around and check out the links. There's a new About page and my Writing page has been updated too. And special thanks again to Kelly Sauer for the lovely images that grace my header and the other pages.

I'm also looking forward to focusing on my writing with renewed purpose, which is another reason for the new url. I am still available for photography sessions, but I will say it's going to take a back seat to my writing. This fall I will begin homeschooling two kindergarteners. I am sooooo excited! As someone who was homeschooled for all 12 years of my education and loved every minute of it, I'm excited to be on the other side as an educator to my children. That said, looking forward to the fall has made me really re-evaluate my priorities.

So update your readers and stay tuned! During the past week or so that it's taken to update and merge and redesign I've not been able to write new posts and I have so much to share: pictures from the boys' 5th birthday, a trip to see the graves of real-life characters who inspired a book set locally, an update on our 31 day veggie fest, and more!