Watching their brother relationship grow is so fun to watch.

They fight daily. They don’t take turns. But they love to be around each other.

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Mmmm…. I love a good tomato soup recipe.

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Recipe No 4. : Classic Tomato Soup (found via Styleberry Blog)

I’ve used this recipe several times now, but this was the first time using fresh basil and thyme from the herb garden. When we eventually attempt to grow tomatoes again, I’d love to try making it with home grown tomatoes as well.

Verdict: Beau isn’t a fan of tomatoes except in ketchup and salsa, so I made this on a day he was gone for dinner. I, of course, ate more than my belly could technically hold, and still had leftovers for days. I enjoyed ever last drop of this soup and will not let myself make it again until we restock our tupperware dishes so I can freeze some of the leftovers.

After years of me (& Daniel Tiger) reminding Ephram how good it is to try new foods, he actually gave it a go! He said he liked it, but didn’t ask for any more than the first few bites he had. Alwyn actually liked it! But it sure was messy!

As an attempt to get my family eating healthier and from our garden, I’m on a mission to make 20 different recipes using ingredients from our backyard veggie, fruit, & herb gardens.  You can see the rest of my recipes here.  

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Week 25 has taken me awhile since it included our trip to MN and there were just too many photos I wanted to include. So I broke it up into 5 pages.

I wouldn’t do this with just any week, but visiting our MN family means lots of opportunities to take new photos of all of the boys’ cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents.  So it made sense to include as many photos as I wanted here.

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The first page is devoted to our flight and visiting my 101 year old grandpa.  101!  So glad we could see him again.

I’ve been sort of itching to try out a layout since it’s been nearly a decade since I last scrapbooked the traditional way.  But, finding a place to start was hard.  I actually scrap “lifted” this layout from Andrea (her layout here), because I loved the simplicity of the grid, while still bringing in other embellishments. Thanks for the inspiration Andrea!

Since the boys’ first flight was a pretty big deal, it worked out perfectly for a layout, though I do wish the photos has been taken with my DSLR rather than my iPhone.

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The journaling was printed on transparent paper, but doesn’t show up well in the photos of it.

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Our first day and a half were spent at my dad and step mom’s house.  The Plus One and Strawberry kits worked so well with the bright summery colors in the photos.  I love how it turned out. 

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Then we  headed south to see Beau’s family for a day.  We made sure to grab a picture of all the cousins since it doesn’t happen often.  Adding their ages above their heads since I think the boys will enjoy looking back at the age differences between all of them as they grow up.

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A little story about The Jones Market had to be included since my two SILs, my niece, and I all wore our necklaces this day.  I included their business cards and I love all the gold it influenced me to use on this page.  I don’t use it nearly enough.

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The next day we drove back up north, this time to my mom’s house.  Grandparents came over and then we did some exploring around the lake.  

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The last page includes more photos at my mom’s house, visiting my other grandma, and our flight home.  Design V was such a fun pocket page to work with since it allows for so many horizontal photos, and also a lot of journaling.

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Using this Studio Calico stamp worked out really well on the last page.  Ephram loves maps (I do too) and is always identifying MN and TX whenever he sees them.  I added watercolors to the card to highlight them.

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My boys have already looked through these pages a dozen times while they’ve been on my desk and Alwyn even says many of their names now. Pretty huge since he’s only met many of them 2 or 3 times in his life.  That more than justifies using 5 pages in my album on this one trip.  :)

See the rest of my Project Life album here.

Supplies Used: Project Life Kiwi Core Kit, Project Life Plus One Mini Kit, Project Life Strawberry Core Kit, Project Life Jade Core Kit, Project Life Great Outdoors Themed Kit, Studio Calico July kit, Mr. Hueys Watercolors, Studio Calico Funnel Cake (map) stamp, Project Life Journaling PensDesign A Pocket Pages, Design V & Design S from Small Variety Pack 5, 12×12 Page Protectors and Becky Higgins Corner Rounder.

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I’ve been fielding a few questions recently about my black and white images, so I thought it would be perfect for a blog post.

I’m a huge fan of color, but when it comes to photography, I have a soft spot for black and whites.  They help expressions shine through, they help focus your eye, and they’re just plain beautiful!  But there are hundreds of ways to convert a photo to black and white.  Below are the ways I do black and white photos, in three different spaces.

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On in iPhone.  The majority of the photos I take these days are on my iPhone.  Not a big surprise, right?  For over a year now, my go to iPhone editing app has been PicTapGo.  There are many other fantastic apps out there that do great black and white conversions, but I just love the control of PicTapGo.  ‘Milk & Cookies’, ‘Power’, and ‘Simple BW’ are my fave black and white filters, and then I usually add a bit of ‘Lights On’, ‘Crispity’, and ‘Skinny Jeans’ to increase the contrast and brightness to my liking.

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In Lightroom.  My DSLR comes in at a very close second for personal usage these days and I import all of my photos onto my computer through Lightroom.  Again, there are numerous computer programs out there that do a terrific job of importing, organizing, and editing your photos, this is just my preferred method.

I use VSCO presets and primarily stick to the black and whites in the VSCO Modern Films 01, then remove the added grain (just not a fan).  And similar to my iPhone process, I’ll usually bump up the brightness and contrast as needed after applying the black and white preset.

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In Photoshop.  Occasionally I’ll convert to black and white in Photoshop.  This is usually when I’m planning out a Project Life spread digitally and I want to quickly turn a color image into black and white.  If I’m changing it at this point it’s usually for one of two reasons.  Because I liked the colored version a lot, but it will work better in my spread as a black and white, or it was a photo I took on my iPhone but have yet to edit it at all before loading it onto my computer.

For this situation, I have created my own Photoshop Action (seen in green above, called DLP BW).  By making it an Action, it only takes one click to convert the photo.  The action quickly adds three layers above my photo and if I do want to adjust the photo further, I usually play with the Levels Adjustment layer to lighten it up.  If there’s interest, I’d love to share the Action along with a little more info on how to use it.

Hope that helps!  If you have any further questions, please post in the comments.

related: iPhone photography tutorial

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Some weeks come together super quickly.  Others… not so much.  Week 27 was one I was super excited to get done and it took probably a half hour total.  But Week 22 sat “in progress” for weeks.  Which is why I’m finally sharing it today.

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Week 22 was the week Houston received nearly 10 inches of rain in about 5 days.  Since I had recently purchased a cute weather stamp from Freckled Fawn, I knew I needed to delay working on this week until I had that stamp.  If I’m going to buy something, I’m definitely going to use it every chance I get and this was a perfect occasion.  Adding it to this rain drop card (from the Stampin’ Up! Everyday Adventures kit) was even more perfect.

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The rest of the week came together fairly quick since I used my typical Design A formula of half BW/half color photos, and focused on blues and greens.  And I’m still very much in love with the “Fact No.__” stamp from a past Studio Calico kit.  When did I become such a stamp lover?

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Okay, onto Week 27 and the Fourth of July.

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Like I said before, this week came together very quickly since I knew I’d be using at least a few cards from the gorgeous Studio Calico 4th of July kit.  I already had 4 BW photos from the week I loved and settled on 5 more color photos that worked well together.

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The “In Review” and “Today” journaling cards are in the Kiwi Kit, but can also be bought digitally here and here.  They provided plenty of space for journaling about the week and it even allowed me to sneak in a “song of the week” into the spread.  ;)

Oh, and FYI, I used my Becky Higgins corner rounder to round the corners of that wood veneer flag and it worked perfectly!

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See the rest of my Project Life album here.

Supplies Used: Project Life Kiwi Core Kit, Stampin’ Up! Everyday Adventures kit, Freckled Fawn weather stamp, Studio Calico July kit, Project Life Journaling PensDesign A Pocket Pages, and Becky Higgins Corner Rounder.

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Our jalapeño plants have been producing like crazy lately!

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Recipe No. 3 : Bacon Wrapped Jalapeño Thingies

We’ve made these a few times before but always grilled. I don’t know why I’d never tried them in the oven previously. Broiling them for a 1-2 minutes at the end really crisped up the bacon. With 4 giant jalapeño plants I have a feeling we’ll be having these again! I paired them with rice in attempt to tame the anticipated spice a touch.

Verdict: Sooo yummy. I was sad when we finished them! The first few bites were a bit spicy for me, but Beau didn’t think so at all. I didn’t push the kids to try and they didn’t seem interested.

As an attempt to get my family eating healthier and from our garden, I’m on a mission to make 20 different recipes using ingredients from our backyard veggie, fruit, & herb gardens.  You can see the rest of my recipes here.  

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Can you believe 2014 is already half over? I can’t. Just a couple more spreads to finish up and my first album for the year will be complete.

If you’re a Project Life-er, how are you keeping up this year? Past years I always was about a month or two behind because I’d wait until I had enough photos to print to justify shipping. This year I’ve been using Costco for printing and have found it vital to keeping me current.

This week I’m sharing Week 24: June 9-15

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I really struggled coming up with enough photos for this week, which is a big reason you see a lot of black and white. But I love that it allows the colors from the journaling cards to really pop out. The Kiwi Kit is just gorgeous (& now available in the Becky Higgins’ Shop!).

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This week’s song of the week card was made with watercolors on a 3×4 Project Life grid card and Studio Calico wood veneer letters. Creating these each week is a fun little creative challenge in and of itself.

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Follow my 2014 album progress here and see the cover page for this album here.

Supplies Used: Project Life Kiwi Core Kit, Mr Huey’s Watercolors, Becky Higgins 3×4 Grid Cards,
Project Life Journaling Pens, Design A Pocket Pages, and Becky Higgins Corner Rounder.

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June was all about my trip to Minnesota with Ephram & Alwyn. Planning for it, packing for it, prepping my brain for it, and then recovering from it. It felt right to take my monthly self portrait there. Being in Minnesota made me unexpectedly giddy. We visited twice last year as a family and I don’t think I felt this way at all. Maybe it was because Beau was there with me last year? I don’t know. There was definitely something different about this visit and I still can’t put my finger on it. Of course, I reminded myself that Minnesota is only that nice a few months out of the year. But I enjoyed the break from extreme heat and humidity.

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June recap.

- I finally finished that book I started back in April. The Power of Habit was a super interesting and I’m now much more aware of the good and bad habits I have. I’m such a slow reader and do not discipline myself nearly enough to stop everything else and read (a habit I should probably adjust). So I purchased the physical copy of The Fault of Our Stars recently in hopes that I’ll feel okay reading it when the boys are playing nicely and set a good example. When I read on my phone, I feel guilty that I’m setting a bad example. And admittedly, I am often distracted by notifications and emails while doing so.

- We fell into a new schedule last month after I committed to letting go of Alwyn’s morning nap. It helps me enjoy the chaotic-ness of two little boys when we have some sort of a plan for the day. Instead of waiting until Alwyn’s morning nap to shower (or waking up ridiculously early), I’ve been having him shower with me and has been super helpful. We are finally able to get out of the house most mornings instead of trying to squeeze an outing in between his morning nap and lunchtime. Now if only I could keep him awake until we get home from those morning outings.

- We/I survived the trip to Minnesota without Beau. I may have shed a few tears of pure exhaustion at the Minneapolis airport after Alwyn sprinted to the window from the opposite side of the terminal to see the planes, but we made it home safely and had a fantastic time visiting everyone.

July goals.

- Keep developing a loose schedule.

- Purge my closet. I probably don’t need capris from 2001 anymore.

- Have Ephram help me send out a few letters + photos to family.

- Go swimming. July in Houston is hot!

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Last week we flew back from our 6 day trip to Minnesota. Beau stayed home to both work and renovate the bathroom, while I braved a solo vacation with Ephram & Alwyn. I instagrammed a few photos during our visit, but really tried to keep my Nikon handy for the majority of the trip.

We stayed with my dad and step mom the first two nights, Beau’s parents for one, and then my mom’s house for the last two. And much of the time, between sleeps, was spent seeing as many family and friends as we could fit in. Doing a quick count of my hands, that included four grandpas, six grandmas, nine cousins, numerous aunts and uncles and friends, and countless hills. It’s amazing the little things you notice about a place when you’ve been gone for awhile. The hills were a big one for me since Houston is so flat.

Minnesota & the people there still definitely have a piece of my heart. Can’t wait to visit again!

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We planted green beans from seed this year and they grew SO fast. Actually, they began taking over our peppers, because even though these were the bush type, they started vining everywhere. We probably should have set up a trellis for them to climb, which would hopefully have lead to a higher production. We only got two green bean harvests out of our garden this year before deciding to remove them because they just weren’t producing much and were taking up so much space. Gardening is always a learning process, I suppose.

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Recipe No. 2 : Green Bean Bacon Bundles

I put off making this recipe one night because I wasn’t in the mood to do much cooking, but when it came to actually making them the next night, it didn’t take as long as I thought.  I chose the recipe because who can deny vegetables wrapped in bacon and brushed with butter and sugar?!

Verdict: I loved them. Beau enjoyed them as well. Ephram & Alwyn? Well… they liked the bacon. But that was about it.

As an attempt to get my family eating healthier and from our garden, I’m on a mission to make 20 different recipes using ingredients from our backyard veggie, fruit, & herb gardens.  You can see the rest of my recipes here.  

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Going back through my 2010 photos this year, printing them and creating a Project Life album has been just as fun as staying current with my 2014 album.  Maybe even more so since I can work at whatever pace I want to.  Since I’d had the beautiful Great Outdoors Themed Kit sitting in a drawer for a few months just waiting to be used, I figured it was finally time to get it out.  Back in September of 2010, we visited Jay Cooke State Park with 6 month old Ephram.  Fall in northern Minnesota is spectacular.

I took a lot of photos on the this trip, so I didn’t want to limit the number of spreads I used on it too much.  I had no idea how many it would take, I just selected the photos I liked in order of when they were taken and stopped when I had filled a page.  I ended up creating 5 full spreads.

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Wood veneers work SO well with the woodsy Great Outdoors themed kit.  The white space on the card below is actually an Avery label.

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I recently stumbled upon Daily Designables which is where I found those digital leaf brushes for Photoshop and printed them onto the yellow card.  

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In this next spread I did something I’ve never done in my 2010 album before.  I added a note about what happened in the future.  Since I’m creating this album 4 years in the future, I figured, why not include some interesting facts? This bridge we stood on actually washed away in a heavy rain event about 2 years after we visited.  Since both Beau & I had visited this bridge several times growing up, it was pretty crazy to read about that when it happened.  Especially since we’re weather nerds and all.

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The next page included a ton of photos of Ephram sleeping during a second, and much shorter hike we made that day.  It was pretty cute, and it was super difficult to pick which photos to leave out, so I got another whole spread out of that short stop.

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This page also includes a few Project Life cards from Studio Calico and the Jade Core kit.  I love that transparent overlay with handwriting by Nicole Reaves.  Gorgeous.

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Finally we made it to our campsite where we had dinner and did a quick photoshoot in the wildflowers before we put Ephram down to sleep.  

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The last page ended up being one of my favorites.  Probably because of the 12×12 photo of Ephram & I.  Again I used a couple of cards from the Studio Calico kits and a few fun embellishments.

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I’m so glad I had blogged about this trip back then because I wouldn’t have had many details to journal about without reading what I wrote 4 years ago.

Have you ever scrapbooked a vacation or trip from years ago? What did you use to remember details about it?

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Pinterest is my favorite. Is it yours? For years I’ve been collecting project ideas for the future. For that “someday” when I have time to really learn to sew well, or knit, or cook. But a couple months ago I came across wood burning and decided it looked simple enough to give a try. I was itching for a new craft and have been staring at blank walls in Alwyn’s room for far too long.

I had grand ideas for using the wood burning tool to create labels for our garden, but found that writing pretty letters was difficult. But making shapes (lines, chevron, dots) were quite doable with the variety of tips included in the kit. Which led me to think of negative space pointillism art.

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During one of Beau’s weekly trips to Home Depot or Lowes, I asked him to pick up some wood.  The 2′x4′ piece cost he bought was about $12 and I had him cut it into different sized squares with his jig saw.

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After drawing an outline of stars with pencil on the wood, I began burning dots. Using the tip in the first picture worked best for me, but any tip with a small rounded point at the end would work well.

Once I burned the first few dots, and got a feel for how long to hold the tip down to burn a decent dot, a rhythm formed.  The process was a bit tedious, but didn’t take too long.  I focused on creating dots along my pencil marks first, keeping them very close together, and then worked outwork, spreading them out as I went.

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Once all the burning was finished I stained them. Since this was my first time staining so it took some practice. After realizing I didn’t like the color of either stain we had on hand (one was too dark and one was much too light), I decided to blend them together. The Chestnut was much too dark to show the burned design, and the Natural didn’t match the wood in Alwyn’s room. To blend them, I first wiped on the light Natural stain, wiped it off, and then added a light coat of the darker Red Chestnut stain.

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Overall, a pretty cheap and easy project to complete. And I hope to have them up on Alwyn’s walls soon!

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