Weekend Wandering: Up North 2016

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Happy Monday and first day of August!

I have to share a bit from our mini getaway this past weekend. It was our annual trip to the Leelanau/Traverse City area. We’ve gone up there the last three years at least once and every time we go, it gets better. This time we learned a couple more things and found some new favorites. I want to go back so badly (I’m already scouting out beautiful Airbnb rentals in the area).

We combined this trip with a reunion with some of our best friends after a year apart. It felt extra special to be on a beautiful vacation with people we really like. We spent a bit too much time in the car and in tacky shops, but since we never stopped chatting, even those less exciting parts of the trip were great.

We enjoyed some of the best beach days I’ve ever had on Lake Michigan and watched 3 stunning sunsets. Some of my favorite times were our meals on the enclosed porch overlooking the lake. I’ll share the cutest spots we discovered later, in case you want to plan your own trip and so I don’t forget for next year’s trip.

Life is good when you’re Up North with friends.

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Small Joy: Cold Brew

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This summer has been unusually hot for this part of the state. Usually things cool off during the night and I need a light sweater on the way to work. But instead, we’ve run our ancient hand-me-down air conditioner multiple nights and hid out in the bedroom (the only room that the AC can cool). In the morning, a hot cup o’ joe is the last thing I want. Consequently, I’ve been dabbling in the world of homemade cold brew and iced coffee.

Once I figured out a technique that works for us, my dabbling quickly descended into an addiction. When I tasted how much smoother and less bitter cold brew is, it’s hard to go back. I am not exaggerating when I say that my coffee has become my 2nd or 3rd favorite part of every day.

In case I’ve piqued your interest, here is the recipe that works for me. You may need to tweak it for yourself, but don’t be discouraged. It took me a couple tries to figure out exactly how I like it. (in fact, my batch from last night didn’t turn out very well because I didn’t give it the full brew time. C’est la vie.)

Ingredients:

  • 4.5-5 cups water
  • 1 cup course ground coffee beans (I would recommend a medium roast like this)
  • milk (I love this coconut-almond milk)
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • ice!!

Equipment

  • A french press (or a carafe and sieve)
  • Coffee grinder
  • a drinking straw or two
  • your favorite glass or drinking jar (I drilled a hole in a canning jar lid because I refused to pay $10 for a pre-made one. It works great and keeps me from spilling in the Jeep on the way to work)

Instructions

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  1. I like to grind the beans fresh and coarsely. I’m not too particular, but it does help to have the grounds coarser.
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  2. I dump 1 cup of the grounds into the french press with the water. I used to measure, but don’t anymore because it holds just about the right amount of water. I let the mixture to sit for 18 hours on my counter. I usually make my brew at dinner time and drink it for breakfast — easy peasy. coffee2
  3. After 18 hours (give or take, this isn’t a science. Just figure out what works for you), I push the french press down and either stick in the fridge or mix with milk and a bit of maple syrup. I used to remove the grounds and filter through a coffee filter, but have gotten lazy, especially because keeping the grounds at the bottom haven’t made that big of a difference in taste to me. I usually do 1 cup cold brew, 1 cup milk and 1 tbsp syrup with 4 ice cubes. I like my brew stronger, so the milk creates a lovely iced latte.coffee1
  4. The best part is sipping on such a yummy drink. I love using a fun glass and straw. Somehow, it’s never quite enough.

If you try this and have any success I’d love to hear about it. Small daily joys like these are crucial in a wold where evil and hurt are so prevalent.

Yellow House Adventures: Kitchen Reveal

Oh hey, remember when I talked about updating our kitchen?

Well, it’s been done since Easter and I just never got around to taking pictures. Anyway, I finally remembered to do it and I can’t wait for you to see how great it looks. We didn’t change any of the layout or functions, so I’ve haven’t had any adjustment in that sense. I’d gotten so used to how nice it all is, that I was shocked how bad it was when looking back at pictures. The kitchen was the last room to get a makeover because I really didn’t think it was that bad and really it was Dave’s idea to do anything to it. But now I can’t believe what a difference a couple coats of paint, a new countertop/sink and white appliances can make.

I fall in love with this little house all over again every time I take a step back and realize how cute it really is.

To summarize the work we (Dave and a friend did most of the real work) did, I’ll list it here before you see the amazing results:

  • Paint Cabinets
  • New Countertop
  • New Sink and Faucet
  • Backsplash
  • Valances
  • Coat Rack
  • New (to us)  Stove
  • New (to us) Fridge
  • New Light Fixture
  • New Range Hood
  • Magnetic Knife Board
  • Extra Surface between Fridge and Range (This is amazing, it added 30% more counter space and filled a really awkward gap in the kitchen.)

Starting off with a couple before/after shots:

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And here are shots of just about every angle of the room:

 

Michigan the Beautiful

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I’m sure you’ve noticed how much I love my home state, Michigan. While we may not live in the most interesting place — I like to compare our neck of the woods to a pancake — we’re never too far away from an adventure just waiting to happen. Michigan is one of those places that doesn’t exist anywhere else, mostly because of the Great Lakes. We take them for granted, but we’re they define so much of life around here. During the summer, we find ourselves in many cute shops and art studios all over the little towns and beaches. If I had walls that needed art here are some things I would love to fill our home with. I love these both for their beauty and because I have strong emotional ties to the subject matter. I hope you enjoy them.


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Found Here These prints are stunning. Unfortunately I can’t afford them all.


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Found Here This is the cutest. Wouldn’t it’d be perfect as wallpaper too.


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Found Here Dave and I spent so many hours on this beach in the UP. It’s even more beautiful in person.


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Found Here This artist’s work is so complex and enjoyable. I love his detailed drawings as well.

Wedding Photography: Morgan & Greg

gregmorgan140Happy Friday! I thought a wedding might be a cheery way to end the week. Hope you enjoy.

As I mentioned before, Dave and I spent one Saturday in May photographing some dear friends’ wedding. It was a small wedding and simple enough not to overwhelm us. Capturing such an important day for people we care about was no small task! We were a little nervous about messing up (or at least I was, Dave had the time of his life).

I struggled the most with lighting and keeping noise out of the pictures. However, with some help from Photoshop and Camera Raw, I am happy with the results. I keep reminding myself that I’m an amateur and to hold myself to a standard of grace not perfection. My first inclination would be to never show these to anyone, because I only see the mistakes. But just like the wedding isn’t about the photographer, these pictures aren’t for me or about me. They’re for Morgan and Greg. They tell a small but important part of their story. And I pray that my contribution will help them fondly remember their special day for decades to come.

Greg and Morgan’s love story reaches all the way back to high school. I have memories of third wheeling with them on the way to classes and at our senior prom. They got back together after college and quickly achieved old couple-like relationship status. It has been one of my biggest joys that they like Dave and that all 4 of us can be close. Finding old friends is hard and keeping them is harder. I couldn’t stop smiling as I took these pictures.

Since these two are usually a more privately affectionate couple, it was so sweet to see their love for each other on their wedding day. Morgan and Greg are such down to earth and genuine people that I have no doubt they will bless those around them for years to come.

Congratulations, friends. Thank you for sharing your wedding and your lives with us.

Portraits: Baby D

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Isn’t that yawn just the best? I think the little nose wrinkles are the best. I wish I looked that cute when I yawned.

This little guy is a friend’s nephew and she wanted to surprise her sister with some baby pictures of him. Since I’d never done any infant photos, I was a bit nervous. So worried I’d mess it up, or we wouldn’t get him to calm down, or everything would just go terrible. I tend to put way too much pressure on myself, but I was surprised by how well it went.

Baby D was a champ. He slept most of the time and when he woke up it was just for a snack. I read up on some Pinterest tips and we just dove in from there. Kept things calm, put no pressure on ourselves or the little guy, and took our time. I am so pleased with our results. They’re not perfect, but for my first attempt everything turned out better than I imagined. Yay for leaving my comfort zone and finding success.

I hope you enjoy a sampling of Baby D. He sure is a “little nugget.”

 

 

Wandering Wrap-up: Pacific Northwest

Happy Saturday! I hope you’re enjoying a cozy morning with some nice people. I thought today would be a good time to do a little wrap up of our Pacific Northwest adventure from last weekend.

It all started because we found a killer deal for plane fare on Cyber Monday. We bought them, told our friends out there that we were coming and headed out last Friday. There wasn’t much more planning than that on our part.

When we landed, Dave’s college friend, Ben, was there to pick us up and we assumed our seats in his Tahoe that we would keep for the whole weekend. Every time we drove anywhere Ben gave us the rundown of the area: history, industry, and so many random facts. It was great to have our very own tour guide.

Saturday was our first day exploring and we headed into Seattle. My favorite part by far was our stop in to a little coffee shop. It was the best coffee I’d had since leaving Austria over a year ago. The little foam bunny didn’t hurt either. We spent the rest of the day wandering around Pike’s Place and some other places. I think my expectations were a bit high for downtown Seattle and while it was a fun experience, I think the real value is not in the city, but outside it.PNW5PNW8PNW.jpg

On Sunday we drove out to Mount Rainer National Park after a super early church service. It was such a clear blue sky day. Once we hit the mountain with our snowshoes, we could tell we were overdressed. One of the guys ran back to the car with a load of jackets and shed layers.

Considering we were prepared not even to see the Mountain due to the PNW’s infamous mistiness, we couldn’t believe how fortunate we were. As we ascended, the entire Cascades Range stretched around us. We saw Mount St. Helens with her top blown off, a small avalanche in the distance and 360 degree breathtaking views. We were truly in the middle of it all. My brain couldn’t register that what I was looking at was real. Every time we turned around we all exclaimed in wonder all over again.DSC_5238PNW18PNW27Our final day out there started super early as we had a 3 hour drive down to the Oregon coast. But even the long drive was interesting to us as we passed by the Columbia River and many other sights we’d never seen before.

We stopped in Seaside for lunch and totally splurged on some seafood. It was so fun to try oysters for the first time and get some fresh fish and chips.

After lunch we headed out to the Ecola State Park and hiked north toward Indian Beach. Not only was it sunny but it was 75 degrees. As I sit in Michigan with temperatures nearing zero, I can’t believe we were hiking through summer-like weather less than a week ago. While the temperatures were heavenly, the views were unreal. As a Michigan girl, I had always assumed the Pacific Ocean was a slightly more impressive Great Lake. Boy, was I wrong. While the mist, foam and general size of everything blew my mind, it was the wildness of it all that struck me the most. Everything out there is just so much more wild. So big and Wild.

When we reached Indian Beach, I ran into the Pacific for the first time in my life. It was a good first impression. I just wanted to soak up every moment, every view.

PNW38 PNW43PNW46We finished the day with a walk on Cannon Beach, which proved itself every bit worth the clichés. It’s an otherworldly place. We hit it at low tide and in the perfect lighting. Dave and Ben introduced me to a pair of seastars and lots of other tide pool friends. It was a day of firsts.PNW49

Sadly we only had 3 days out there, but it was long enough that we’re both semi-seriously thinking about packing up and moving out there. If only the weather were always that beautiful and friends that available for adventures.

Pacific Northwest, you far exceeded our expectations and captured our heart. We’ll be back.

Portraits: The R Family

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Back in December, I took portraits for some friends. It was my first chance to take portraits for a family and boy was I nervous! I so wanted to a good job and am my own worst critic, so naturally I made Dave come along for creative and emotional support. It was a chilly day, but the light was pretty and the kids were so cute. This family is really just the sweetest. I’m sure you’ll see that in the pictures below.

So here it goes, I’m putting my work out here. It some ways it feels like I’m putting a little part of my soul in public to be judged. However, to grow my craft and art, I need to practice courage and confidence as well.

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