photography 101 :: photography ebook giveaway

I've been lurking (that is reading without commenting...AHEM!) on Katie Evans blog for about a year.  I don't remember where I first found her, but from the get-go, there was something about her photography that made me SIT UP AND NOTICE (and I'm lazy... so that's a big deal!).

When Hazel was born, some wonderful people gave us cash as a baby gift.  What better thing to purchase (when you have NOTHING for a baby) then a DSLR camera?  I'd fiddled with cameras and photography my whole life and here was the extent of my knowledge:

  • digital cameras are awesome because they won't break your heart, like the rolls and rolls of film I ruined when learning to use my grandfather's old school SLR camera.  I kept a JOURNAL notating the shutter speed and aperature of each pic.  I studied.  I practiced.  And every.stinkin.time I tried to remove the film, I exposed it to the light.  
  • digital cameras have a hideous delay.  In case you've never been around a baby, here's some info for you:  BABIES + DELAY = MISSED PHOTO OPP EVERY TIME
  • DSLR cameras are pricey, but don't have delays!
So, Farmer Jake and I wisely took our pot of gold to the local camera shop and bought a shiny new Nikon D60. 

Here's one of the first pics I ever took with my swanky camera:

FINALLY... the ability to take a sharp foreground pic with a blurry background.  Also, this is proof that I did read the manual...ONCE :)  Don't be freaked out by the furry blob!  That's my cat, Pickel, in her windowsill bed.

And here's one of my all-time favorite photographs (this is completely point-and-shoot method, taken through a window. unedited except for a touch of color saturation.  imagine what I could do if I was using the camera to the full extent of its' abilities!)

And well, you've all seen a few hundred snapshot of my kids.  I've got just enough of an eye to take decent photgraphs and get compliments on them.  My one secret, I almost always shoot with THIS lens... an upgrade we splurged on at the camera shop.  

A few weeks ago, I was snapping pics of a chorus rehearsal and a fellow amateur shutterbug (though he knows his way around his camera) starting asking me about my camera.  My reply to every question was:  "uh, I just shoot on manual".  "uh, I don't know what that button does."  "uh, I've been meaning to read the camera's instruction manual and the text book sized photography book I bought and promptly shoved under my bed (I'm a firm believer in osmosis!).".  

The next morning, I hopped over to Katie Evans blog and decided it was time to bite the bullet and buy her book.  Long story short, she gave me her e-book and offered to let me give one away on my blog!  LOVELY!

Her book is an easy to digest, beginners guide to using a DSLR.  As I work my way through her book AND my instruction manual, I'm going to share a bit about what I'm learning and hopefully you will SEE some improvements.

Page 1:  Her style is clear, concise and chock full of easy to apply wisdom!

My first learning nugget:  There's a very good reason why I can never get those awesome pics in low light and the blurry backgrounds... I'm using "kit" lenses.  My two lenses zoom in and out which makes for easier picture taking, but you lose the ability to go to really low f-stops and take really sharp pics (which is something I've struggled with every time I tried to follow an online tip about using the aperature setting on my camera.  I didn't understand why my f-stop numbers didn't go as low as everyone says they should!  It was the LENS...not me!  Phew :).  A new lens isn't in the cards for me right now, but it's moved way up on the list of things I'm saving for!

Her book is on sale right now.  You get both the hardcover AND the ebook for just the ebook price!  I love the digital version because my computer is often at my fingertips.  However, I find myself wanting to print every page so that I can highlight, write notes and take it with me "in the field" (literally).

I'm going to leave this giveaway open for a month so that it stays open while I share a bit of my learning and progress with you :)  One winner will be chosen at random at the end of May.  You can earn 3 entries!  Let me know what you think about this new way to enter giveaways :)


Medley Acres...treat yourself to the freshest

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Whitney Farms for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.


You may have noticed that I added a new page to the header "Medley Acres" is the name of our large patch of dirt... errr... our farm...errr...our garden.  Since moving here 2 years ago,  Farmer Jake has worked just about nonstop cutting down our gorgeous, but overpowering woods, clearing land and building a greenhouse.  This week, we hope to BREAK GROUND for the first time!  

When choosing a name for our farm, we wanted people to have a clue what we are without simply being "The Kosker Farm".  Of course, I was pulling for incorporating "Idlewild" into the name, but "Idle" has no place on a farm :)  So, we are Medley Acres.  Acres of a wide assortment of delicious, nutrious foods.  Some day SOON we will have a fruit orchard, fields of vegetable, flocks of chickens, gorgeous flowers, etc.

A few years ago, Jake repainted his dad's barn to look like the old Mailpouch Tobacco Advertisements

Along that vein, he dreams of repainting our barn (used for storage, not livestock...yet) to say, "eat MEDLEY ACRES  ORGANICS   - treat yourself to the freshest".  

Here's the thing, we're not sure we can commit to being completely organic.  As much as possible, we want to grow heirloom plants and use organic products, but we must do that without breaking the bank.

Fortunately, there are some great options for people like us!  Whitney Farms® is a company who offers 100% natural plant foods and soil additives.  So your organic soil remains pure which is suprisingly a rare concept in farming!

We're off to a great start!  Check out the state of our brand new greenhouse.... and this was about 3 weeks ago... plants have doubled in size and quanity!  


Some of those seedlings are flowers for MY gardens, I'd love to add some of their organic plant food!  Organic Plant Food  As for the vegetable garden, I consider myself more of the TASTE TESTER and less of the FARMER.  Their plant foods provide nutrients with protein based nitrogen, not manure.  Now that's an improvement for our tomatoes that I can really sink my teeth into!

There is no doubt that organic is best for the environment AND my family.  So we want to go that route as much as possible and Whitney Farms® makes that so much easier!  Perhaps we will be organic enough to use the rip-off barn advertisement in good conscience...

Whitney-Farms-Logo_Banner_New_C.jpg (6 documents, 6 total pages)

Join me in switching all or part of your garden to organic!  Click any of the links to receive a $3 off coupon (expires April 29th).

Visit Sponsor's Site

smiley bits

I keep vowing to stop posting spontaneously in the early hours of the morning... but I simply can't help myself!

Hazel update:
LOOK OUT world!  She's 2 going on 13 and I have to admit, this mama is SCARED ;)  She's mastered the "ok OK" while raising both hands in surrender.  She's mastered the *exhale*, "MAMA... I can eat at Llamas/ sit on the couch/ other incredibly obvious option that infers that I'm a complete moron".

She has her OWN trample proof garden!
Hazel's potato patch 

She's mastered the memorization of books.  My cousin, Willem, did that as a wee one and now he's an unbelievably talented actor.  Perhaps Hazel will follow in his footsteps?  I'm constantly surprised if I pause while reading because she simply picks up where I left off!  There are only a few books that she can recite word for word, but every other book she can recite fill-in-the-blank style!

One of our favorite books, ,tells the sweet story of a baby trying to explain to his dad how much he loves him.  But that tricky daddy out loves him every time!  The last line in the book is "I love you to the moon" to which daddy adds, "I love you to the moon AND back".  So, my very favorite thing in the world is to tell Hazel "I LOVE YOU TO THE MOON" and to hear her reply "aaaaaaaand BACK"!

"I got a prise for you".  Hazel is really into SURPRISES!  In fact, the entire time I've been writing this, she has been interrupting me with that phrase while holding out two closed fists.  She loves to play the "guess what hand ___ is in".  Typically, one hand is thrust under my nose while the other remains close to her body.  If I mistakenly choose the hand closest to her, well, she gives me a closed lip grin and opens the one closest to me anyway.  Sometimes there's NOTHING in either hand.  *Giggle giggle* "TRICKED EWW!", sometimes there's "one TWO kix for EWW!" and sometimes there are kix cereals in BOTH hands "For EWW and for ME!"

As for the Kix, I "surprised" her this morning with a box of PURPLE KIX!  "Eww buy dat for ME? at da STORE?  *gasp* Ahnk eww Mama!"  (Did you buy that for me?  At the store?  Thank you, Mama!).  Folks, every single thing I buy at the store gets that response.  It's rather brilliant of her because it makes me want to buy her extra special treats!  I get thanked for the cheese, the bread, the grapes and especially the new Dora toothbrush.

Time to sign-off... she is literally feeding me "ALL da PURPLE ones".  All I have to do is show her them after they're in my mouth.  It seems she likes SEE food ;)


straight talk :: reflections on a writer's background

Recently I attended a lecture by Anne Lamott, a fabulous author whom I'd never read.  Luckily, my friend Amanda's adoration of this author was strong enough to pique my interest and so I tagged along.

WOW!  What an amazing woman, speaker & writer.  After the lecture, I bought her book Bird by Bird.  I've only dipped my toe into it, but already I'm kicking myself for not reading this book years ago.  It's precisely the book I need right now on my writing journey.

She has overcome a lot:  Alcoholism (she refers to herself as a sober alcoholic which I find wonderfully appropriate and a better term than "recovered"), atheist parents, drugs, single parenthood, etc.  Like I said, I've only dipped my toe into learning about Ms. Lamott, but she brilliantly shares all of her struggles and how she uses these crises to become a better writer.

Right on, great work, keep on inspiring others!  Here's the thing... after listening to her, I felt an unfamiliar tug in my gut... can I be a writer without those monumental hurdles?

I was raised by Christian parents who love and respect each other and me.  I have a faithful parenting partner.  I have healthy children.  I have enough money to pay the bills and put food on the table.  I have a support network through friends and church.

Does anyone want to read the words of a writer with such a blessed life?  Oh sure, I have BAD days and a faint trail of bad relationships (I can think of three... me thinks I'm doing pretty good!).  I've spent days and nights sick with worry.  I've cried in sorrow and have been paralyzed with fear.  Yet, I know many people would trade my life with theirs in a heart beat.  My obstacles pale in comparison when compared to an addict, an abused woman, a single mom, an orphan, a refugee...

I am not apologizing for my life or wishing that my parents had been anything less.  I'm a product of a unique situation... a Christian situation.  And not just your typical "Christian" family... a real one.

So, I guess what I've just discovered through writing this is that I DO have a lot of blessings in my life and I know precisely from whom my gifts have been given.  I fear I just received yet another nudge toward the religious writing project that I've been trying to avoid.

And hey, in the spirit of full disclosure, one great obstacle in my life is something that I've never shared publicly:  being married to and raising kids with a man who doesn't share my faith.  Imagine not being able to share such a huge slice of yourself with the love of your life!  Perhaps I should start here...


People not be nice :: Earth Day

Lately, every time I go on a walk with Hazel, she bee lines to any litter, picks it up and says "People not be nice.  WHY people not be nice, Mama?"  I could not be more proud!

I'm sure that she's learned this fabulous habit from her father who fills up the baby backpack on every hike he's ever taken them on.  It's admirable, kinda gross, and clearly very educational.
super dad giving me some writing time recently. 
To be fair, when I mentioned this awesomeness to Farmer Jake, he replied "I noticed her doing that and thought you taught her to pick up litter.".  SURE!  TOTALLY ME ;)  I'm sure I did say "It's not nice when people litter."  That sounds like something I'd say!

Let me pause right now to mention my greatest pet peeve... CIGARETTE BUTTS!  I often honk my horn when I see those telltale embers flying out of car windows.  It seems that construction workers are the most guilty and it is SO RUDE to drop them on other people's driveways and yards!  BLECH!  Go take your stinky breath and aura somewhere else... like to purgatory (which I don't believe in).

I'm proud to say that for the LAZY GREEN MAMA, Earth Day really is EVERY DAY!  I strive to make lifestyle changes that are healthier for our bodies and our planet.  But, in the spirit of complete honesty, how 'bout I end with some of my shameful anti-environmental habits:
  • I hate cleaning peanut butter jars so I try to sneak them into the garbage w/o hubby noticing (this is going to be eye opening to him since he thinks I do that accidentally)
  • I find it incredibly soothing to listen to the sound of running water while brushing my teeth.  I'm so ashamed of this!  I purposely make a big deal about turning off the water when Hazel brushes her teeth... so that she will make-up for me!
  • I love lists with 3 items, but after those 2 major confessions, I'm wiped out.  How 'bout you share one or two of your most shameful anti-environmental habits?


second thoughts

It's Day 2 of NO TV in the house.  Yes, we really did take it out  (though it's hiding in a closet, don't tell the kids).  I am being 100% honest in that if it was still in the living room, I would use it (and did use it right up until 7:45am yesterday when hubby followed through on our plan).

My two major goals for the week didn't seem connected:  quit the afternoon caffeine habit (via Coke) and NO TV AT ALL.  It's 4:27pm on Day 2 (did I mention that already) and I'm CHUGGING a cup of java.  If bending the rules was a super power, I would be... uhhh... Superwoman (I don't know many super heros).  Word to the wise, SAVE YOURSELF and stay on caffeine if you decide to break the TV habit (for yourself too, sigh).

There were quite a few TANTRUMS on Day 1 from the Hazelnator.  "But I want to watch Go Diego Go/ Super Why/ Blues Clues!"  "No, honey, we don't have a TV right now"  *cue crocodile tears and fling self to couch*.  Only having Netflix TV has the non-commercial perk, but it also means that to Hazel, every show is available every minute of the day.

There have been NO TANTRUMS today, but I'm about ready to start the crocodile tears and fling self to couch.  Oh sweet Lord, I'm worn out!

We have increased our book reading, enjoyed puppet shows (which consist of the toddlers feeding my puppet and the puppet saying "YUCK" which they find HILARIOUS.  I missed my calling in life... they make me feel like the best comedian who ever lived.), played with toys that have been ignored and invented a few new games.

I have high hopes for Day 3... which hopefully doesn't culminate with me hiding in the bathroom watching Netflix on my laptop :)  NO, I can do this!

Here are my inspiration:

Hazel and Logan (with whom I'm lucky enough to spend many week days with).  They are delightful photography props children, bursting with energy and creativity... I don't need to pacify them with TV, I need to provide them with a safe environment to explore/create/learn!  (and lest you think I'm setting the mom bar too high, after our habits are broken, TV will return as a rare reward as opposed to a constant companion!).



I haven't shared much of my "I wanna be a writer" journey on this blog. It's not a cut-and-dry journey. It takes time to seek writing opportunities, it takes time to write (though truth be told, it usually takes me 20 minutes to write and then 5 days to sit on it and decide that I like it), it takes patience to wait for feedback (like months and months). It's probably because I use words like "wanna" and "funner", but I feel like I've been hitting brick wall after brick wall.

Until today! One opportunity I stumbled upon last week just came back with this optimistic nugget: I’m reaching out to a small group of people I feel are the best fit for us based on your application. I received well over 150 applications for this position, and am now writing to about 10-15 of you. For now, it seems easiest for me to simply offer to hire you for a two blog post ‘test run’.

If this works out, I might get to join a (fabulous) mega blog.... and earn some funds for the flower garden landscaping I've been dreaming about :) I'll let you know when my trial run debuts!

setting boundaries

After last week's self exploration, I truly feel re-inspired and refreshed.  Continuing on that theme, I'm setting some boundaries/ goals (which I am currently breaking, but until I post this, they don't actually start).
  • My family is my priority.  If something doesn't give them joy, security or nourishment... it's NOT important!
impossible to snap a quality Easter morning pic in the rush to get to church... WHO CARES...these two are so precious!
  • I cannot control others and it's time I stop feeling responsible for other's actions.  Happiness is a choice!
  • I only answer the phone between 8am-9pm... baring a life/death emergency, which I probably won't know about because I've stopped keeping my phone next to my bed.
  • I will be posting new blog posts on MONDAY MORNINGS.  No more of this, "Here is what I'm thinking about at 7am while I drink my coffee" (anyone notice that theme this past year?).  That means I will not be online throughout the day!  Nope, I will be LIVING LIFE... and in return... have more interesting topics to blog about.  I may post more often, but Monday mornings are the sure thing.  Farmer Jake's favorite (non-wife...I'm sure I'm his favorite wife) blogger does that and he's encouraged me to set a regular posting time for years.  I DO listen after all ;)
  • Pairing with reducing my day time online time, I'm regaining control of our TV.  When Heidi was born, I had to force Hazel to start watching TV (netflix tv shows, so mostly PBS series and no commercials... I do have some control!).  It was how I coped with that lack of sleep phase of life.  It's now become a constant battle.  The TV is becoming her BFF and more often than not, I let her watch "just one show", which becomes "one more till Mama is done with ___".  Now that it's nice out, I'm turning it OFF!  
    • WAIT... I don't have the strength to say NO or to turn it off when I'm tired/ cooking/ comforting other children.  So, the TV is leaving the house.  It's only temporary, until habits are broken and Hazel rediscovers that her imagination is way more fun than dancing to Super Why's theme song.
  • Our family diet:  Now, I've grown in this area and do one thousands times better than I did in the past.  However, there are many days when out of fatigue or distraction, dinner feels like such a burden and veggies turn to slime in the fridge.  Yesterday I prepped 4 meals, each large enough for 2 separate meals.  It was a lot of work, but my freezer is well stocked.  I'm going to do this 2xs a month.
    • Hazel LOVES her "treats".  Easter put us over the edge.  Luckily for me, there are healthy treats that she loves:  purple grapes, cherry tomatoes, and edamame... esp the ones that come in tiny Dora packaging.  Seriously, last night I had to say "NO MORE TOMATOES UNTIL AFTER DINNER".  And I think I have problems :)  So, I need to keep her healthy treats stocked and ready to consume (since it takes sooo much work to rinse produce as opposed to tearing open a pack of gummies)

Easter + EDGE = Toddler with a nose ring
    • Mama LOVES her sugar & caffeine.  I wasn't a coffee addict until I had my first baby and no longer slept for more than a few hours at a time.  I went from a woman who NEVER got out of bed (bladder be damned) to a woman who NEVER stays in bed for more than about 3-5 hours.  When I was pregnant with Heidi, I detoxed from the coffee habit, but was thrilled to have a reason to start again after her birth.  She's 1 now and truth be told, only awakens me once or twice a night and only for a few minutes at a time.  NOT TODAY, but it's on my list of goals ;)  
      • "Open Happiness"... coke... oh how I love thee!  I've given myself permission to drink 1 coke every afternoon for the past year (see above reasons).  Years ago, my hubby set out 39 g of sugar to show me how much sugar was in one can.  That really ticked me off.  TRUTH HURTS!  Last Wednesday I drank my last one... and am refusing to buy more!  Baby steps to break the sugar and caffeine addictions :)



To do

Yesterday's post really buoyed my spirits.  Connecting through comments, facebook and conversations, I was reaffirmed by my mama idols all.day.long.  I think Hazel's Sunday School teacher said it best:

  • You are a mother who is trying her hardest to be the best Mom she can be, just like her Mom was to her. You are no different, worse or better, than other Moms who are also trying. The difference is in your heart, Julie. You care so much with the love in your heart that you think and feel you should be soooo much better, therefore the tendency is too feel guilty or inadequate. Don't, you are a human mother who can only do so much. The difference that makes you a better Mom, is because you do it with caring, and love in your heart, and you meet the needs of the ones who matter most. They love you because you are MOM. Not Wonder Woman.
So, continuing with taking the pressure OFF... Here's my plan for the weekend:

Just giving myself this freedom makes me feel so motivated.  How's that for reverse psychology?  


the best mama you can be

I am fairly certain that other women have more hours in their days.  I suffer from feeling inadequate because:  I throw dry cereal at my kids for breakfast...and let them eat it while they watch cartoons; my counter is always full of crap that didn't get put away; my buffet is not seasonally decorated; in fact, most of my house is not decorated; I don't have fresh homemade bread for my family 2xs a week; I don't read all the blogs I should; I don't participate in most of the blogland things that I should (ie linky parties); I don't write heart felt emails to my loved ones; I don't call old friends to tell them I miss them; I don't read all the top sellers; I don't engage my kids in gorgeous crafts every day; I don't have amazing educational activities for the kids every day; I don't exercise... at all for the past YEAR; I don't have enough money in the bank; I don't spend enough money on new clothes, jewelry, accessories; I haven't found a way to earn money through writing; I don't spend enough time working on building a new career; I don't help my husband in his greenhouse; I rarely help my grandparents clean or cook .....

Ok, I should just stop right there!  It's true, I feel GUILTY and LAZY all the time because of the above and many more reasons.  Every day during my online time, I find new websites that I SHOULD ALREADY KNOW ABOUT AND READ DAILY.  Forget the fact that I haven't finished my Bible Study for tonight's meeting or my book for Saturday's book club.  Forget the fact that I haven't gone grocery shopping for 2 weeks.  I should I should I should!

Fortunately, my friend Lesley from Rugrat Design (linked on my sidebar) posted THIS article on facebook this morning.  It brought tears to my eyes because the writer clearly reached into my heart and brain and wrote this out specifically for me.

Thank goodness, I still have my own mother to lean on.  My mother who was/is the most amazing mom...  She "mothered" many of my friends, encouraged my interests (though she was a little misguided with all those art lessons), played piano every time I wanted to sing (we're talking devoting weeks/months of her life to my musicals and try-outs), reads my mind all the time (and in case she doesn't simply show up or call when I need it, I can call her 5xs a day and she will drop what she's doing and be gleeful to hear from me.  "mom, how do you boil an egg?"  "mom, Hazel's on her 3rd major tantrum before 10am and I'm about to loose it", etc.  for reals.  Ask her sons-in-law...they think we're all nuts!), loves me unconditionally (though my sister and I roll our eyes when she just wants to sit and stare/smile at us) and yet she doesn't have seasonally decorated mantels, a tidy kitchen counter (hehe), uses pre-made cookie dough mixes to fulfill her Grandma duties, and really only reads family blogs...  I'm gonna strive to be more like her and not worry about measuring up to any standards I think other moms hit!

My grandmother, me holding Heidi, Farmer Jake holding Hazel, my mom and my dad on Easter morning.

Ah, who else needs this reality check today?  Pinterest is inspiring, websites are educational, goals are ok... but we mamas need to remember that the most important priorities are giving frequent cuddles and laughter... bar none!


a vintage Easter

From our nest (literally) to yours,
The lightest end is the natural color of the egg.  Next year I will make many many more of these beauties!

My camera has been BEGGING for some Hazel time and her Easter outfit provided oodles of inspiration!  Her dress, slip, silver bracelet and the tablecloth are compliments of her Kosker Grandparents who specialize in antique clothing.  If you live in PA, Ohio or Maryland and would like some vintage clothing/accessories, email me and I'll let you know when "Almost Antiques" will be in your area (they also take requests and are willing to communicate via email and ship the items)!

In preparation for Easter morning, we invited the Easter bunny over for a tea party.  Rest assured, Easter bunny left our neck of the woods in good spirits and with plenty of energy to visit your house :)


and because I simply couldn't handle the sweetness of this vintage slip, Hazel braved the chilly evening for one more photo.  I truly didn't tell her to tilt her hat and hide her face for these photos... it just so happens that these are my favorite and this was her most common pose.  She is such a natural!

OR WHAT REALLY HAPPENED:  Hazel fell in love with the Easter bunny and decided to run away to be his assistant.  Knowing I wouldn't want her to dirty her dress, she cast it aside and headed off in her slip.

hat:  BonTon; shoes:  Kohls; bunny:  Pottery Barn; suitcase: metal tea set from ? specialty store; tea set used in photos:  vintage plastic set given to Hazel from an elderly friend from church


A spontaneous day with the kids

Between work, kids and chores, Farmer Jake and I rarely spend more than 20 minutes in the same room (aka: chow time).  Well, that's not completely true.  At some point, he goes to bed, but I never see that actually happen.  Perhaps he's a vampire?  Oh wait, if he was a vampire, I wouldn't have to wake him up 3 times in the morning before he finally rolls out of bed ;)  

Today we both had a vacation day and instead of the usual:  "you take the kids from 9-noon, then I'll take them from noon/nap-5", we embarked on a family day trip.  I was ridiculously excited about this.  Life as a SAHM who babysits for friends and doesn't have a car means I spend A LOT of time in my house.  I love my house, but it's been driving me batty!

Farmer Jake DID have a meeting, so I guess it wasn't a complete vacation day, but that gave us our destination (about 1 hour away).  Stupidly, I just assumed the meeting would last an hour and found a near-by park for the kids.  After an hour and a half and two tree pee breaks for Hazel, I desperately needed an adult appropriate restroom.  
it took her awhile to warm up, but Heidi learned to love swinging!

To make a long story short, we then spend another hour and half killing time at the industrial complex where he was in his meeting.  I kept thinking "if I leave now, he'll call as soon as I get the kids into/out of their car seats".  Ugh, that was a long hour and a half.  The near-by Target really wishes I had known I had 3 hours to kill!

Then the kids were ready for car seat naps so Farmer Jake and I took turns running into one store each (he:  Lowes, me:  Kohls).  It was BLISSFUL to spend 15 minutes sprinting through the store.  I got FJ 3 new shirts, a pair of adorable silver sandals for Hazel, and for me...

SUNGLASSES!  Ok, I have to ask:  DO I HAVE A FAT HEAD?  It seems that every pair of sunglasses (I go for the plastic frames that make good headbands) press on my temples and causes headaches.  I never knew that I was a fat head :(
this pic was from last summer when I was in Pittsburgh for a bachelorette party.  we ate at Fat Heads...I should've applied for a job :)
From there, we followed some GPS coordinates to a cave that Farmer Jake has wanted to explore.  It kinda sorta doesn't exist, but we did find a different cave that we're planning on exploring on our next adult only date day!

So, what makes the perfect day with a 1yo and an almost 3yo?
  • Meals of hot dogs, nachos, ice cream.
  • Playgrounds  
  • Lots of good baby naps in the car.  
  • Silly conversations with Hazel to keep her entertained.  
  • And best of all, a whole day with just my quartet!  Sooo long overdue!


She's a peach :: party recap

There's NOTHING out there for a "She's a peach" party.  So, I'm going to share every little detail with you in case you have spent hours scouring the web in hopes of party ideas :)  If so, welcome to KoskersIdlewild!

The party was fabulous (despite my sinus infection)!  We enjoyed a small gathering of family and friends... keeping the guest list especially small since it was an indoor party.  I had a BLAST planning this party!  I've promised my nearest and dearest that I won't set the bar this high for future birthday parties.  However, I REALLY love planning a themed party... so I might pull out all the stops at some point in the future :)

First things first:  If you want to throw a SHE'S A PEACH PARTY, you need to know something... THIS ISN'T A BONAFIDE THEME!  You won't find pre-made peachy keen decorations anywhere!

Second, you can pull-off this party even when peaches are not in season IF and only IF, you have a flat of peaches that you canned 3 years ago... forgot about... and re-found in time for the party :)  BooYah!*

*I don't talk like this in real life.  Someday I'll tell you about the super cool, uber successful friend from my past who once said that and was then tortured throughout High School.  Is it too late to take him up on the date offer?

The INVITATION:  I highly recommend "borrowing" graphics from the James and the Giant Peach party pack :)  Then, I used the GoogleDocs drawing program to make my own evite (we're sooo green).

The DECOR:  

  • I bought a pack of coral scrapbook paper (on clearance!) and used the pinkish and orangish sheets to make cheery birthday banners (3" wide, 6" long.  strung on peach string.  easy peasy).  Two of the banners also display some of my favorite photos from Heidi-loo-who's first year.  
  • The dessert tree is a family favorite:  our PIE TREE has been used in a handful of weddings, present company included.  
  • The peach pom poms (or warm fuzzies as we Lutherlyn people call them) were hand-made by me during some productive TV time (how often can we say that?).  Here's a simple tutorial for you pom pom virgins :)
  • The peach striped straws were one of my favorite parts!  I scoured the web for anything peach and these were truly the ONLY party decoration that is peach.  Fortunately, I spend enough time on Pinterest to know that striped straws are a must have for any party.  I offered some with flags (She's a Peach or Heidi is #1) and some without.
  • The CHALKBOARD FRIDGE was painted by me, not for the party, but this is it's grand unveiling, and decorated by Farmer Jake for the party.  
  • The buffet isn't really decorated, but I do like to use cards as holiday appropriate decor!  
  • The KIDS TABLE was my favorite part!  We "planted" a tree through the table's umbrella hole and hung mini felted peaches.  Before they left, the kids who attended the party got to PICK A PEACH and take it home!  We also had lots of window markers and crayons and let the kids draw an orchard on our sliding glass door.  The artists were 2 years old... orchard shmorchard ;)
The two best decorations came from my new Etsy sponsors.  I can't say enough about these two ladies!  I would be tickled pink peach if you headed over to their shops for your next shin dig!  

To take your party to the next level, head over to IsaKay Boutique.  These straws can snazz up any table.  It's in the details... 

I have filled Irina from MyLittleKawaii's email inbox simply because I find her so delightful.  One perk of Etsy, is that you get to be picky about who you buy from.  I always check the geographic location and bio of the artists.  Check out this woman, you will be intrigued!  She lives in Chicago AND Austria, but was born in Russia.  For the record, that's all it takes to get a wanderlust blogger like me to pull out my credit card ;)  I can't wait to show you what I'm buying from her for my Christmas decorations.  But enough about her for now... there will be another post in the future ;)  So, WHO WANTS TO PICK A PEACH?  It's simply not right to love a piece of felted fruit as much as I do!


  • Peach Salsa from Corner Cupboard.  I was going to make my own, but upon hearing a hint of mania in my voice, my sister suggested I try to find some premade stuff.  Fortunately, I found it on the first try and sent my dad out to get it (he was in the area anyway).
  • Peach-glazed meatballs
  • Peach-Whiskey Barbecue Chicken (this one was a HUGE hit... every single recipe I've ever used from Pioneer Woman has been amazing)
  • Baked brie with peach preserves (made by my friend, Bre... of course :)
  • Passionate Peach wine from Johnson Estate Winery (which I recently visited with Bre!)
  • White peach mead made by our friends/guests Ty and Jason (clearly I invite party guests based on their peach repertoire)
  • Peach lemonade.  I simply pureed a few jars of my canned peaches and added it to lemonade mix.  YUM!
  • Peach ring gummies.  My sister and I inhaled these as kids.  As a mature adult, I never buy them, so I was excited to have a reason to indulge once again!
  • Peach flips (made by my father-in-law.  A family tradition, though typically made with apricot filling.)
  • Peach pie.  I had 3 jars left of previously canned peach pie filling.  Since it takes 3 jars to make a pie, I felt like the Universe was smiling down on me ;)
  • the pièce de résistance... PEACHES AND CREAM CUPCAKES, TOPPED WITH ROSES FOR HEIDI ROSE!  Seriously, if you get the chance to name a daughter Rose, DO IT, just so you can make these EASY edible roses for every milestone in her life.  I know I am!   
    • We LOVED this cupcake recipe (link above)!  We're not big cake people and these moist cupcakes were more like an apple cake or sweet bread.  The perfect texture and sweetness!  The icing was incredibly easy too!
    • As for the ROSES, I am VERY proud of them!  I found the idea in Disney's Family Fun magazine (which my Aunt gives me all her back issues... thanks Aunt Laney!).  Here's the link to their instructions... word-to-the-wise:  buy STRAWBERRY fruit by the foot (kudos if your stores actually sell just boxes of strawberry, I had to buy 4 boxes of mixed assortment).  Hazel does not think this is a problem.  But seriously, the other flavors do not have the wavy center line, so they don't work!

and best for last,

the GIRL:

My smother-in-law (what we call Jake's step mom, not because either m-i-l smothers me!  Ha!) offered to get Heidi a handmade dress for her 1st birthday.  We did the same thing for Hazel.  My criteria was that it must work as a dress for year 1, a tunic for age 2 and a tank/shirt for age 3.  I fell head-over-heels in love with this design by Adelaide Original (who, like the other Etsy sellers mentioned above, quickly became an internet friend.  I love technology!).  This dress has lots of shearing in the back and completely adjustable straps.  As you can see, Gamma also had a matching dress made for Heidi's new baby doll.  AND Hazel got a coordinating skirt.  Guess what my girls will be wearing for our upcoming orchard themed family photo shoot (yes, I'm overly into this whole theme thing right now)?

As for the cake, Heidi definitely approved!  The wheel barrow was a gift from Heidi's friend who spends the week days with us.  The kids immediately began clamoring for turns pushing it around the house.  Can't wait to see what CHORES I can get them to do in the yard!

Phew, that's a wrap folks.  Anyone want to give me a prize for the most links in one post?  


The birthday party post is almost finished.  Many apologies to those of you who have been waiting for it... I've got LOTS of excuses :)

  1.  5 weeks of a headache climaxing just in time for this party.  Turns out it wasn't allergies, but a sinus infection!  Since my health insurance doesn't cover office visits and I had a large bill from December hanging over me, I refused to go to the Doctor...  my mama saved the day, consulted with a Dr. and gave me the right medicine.  Today, the headache is dim and I have hearing in both ears!  Hooray!  
  2. The internet was down for a day and a half. As usual, I fiddled and fiddled and fixed it, but couldn't tell you how or why.
  3. I still haven't put away all the party decor and for some reason, my kids continue to dirty dishes and clothes.  Most days, I feel like I'm surfing... just barely balanced on top of a wave, ready to crash at any moment.
 I'm GREAT with excuses, eh?

Since it'll be a few more hours till I can put the finishing touches on my real post for today, here's a gems that should hold you over.

The Birthday Sister:

In honor of having a 1-year-old sister, Hazel GOT A NOSE RING!  Before you call the authorities, don't fret, it's just a stick-on... and she promptly peeled it off :)  She also got a new outfit, the skirt coordinates with Heidi's birthday dress and orchard theme (we're planting a peach orchard for Heidi).  It's a bit too big, but then, so are her new Converse sneakers... so I'll get a lot more use out of this outfit!  Maybe I'll even snap a pic of her when she's not twirling in her "tree tutu"!