Home on the Plains

This weekend Keith and I went to visit my family at their new home in Wichita, Kansas. Visiting my family in a house that I've never been to, let alone lived in, in a state that I know nothing about was a weird experience. We miss them and it was so good to see them. They have a beautiful back yard, complete with a shaded patio/dining area, fountain, and pool, all beautifully landscaped. I'm happy that they have such a peaceful outdoor sanctuary. We took part in some Wichita cultural events including the annual chili cook-off and a collaboration between a great traditional Irish band and the Wichita symphony. We also walked each morning in a beautiful wildlife reserve. My dad seems happy, if not extremely busy in his new position; my sister is taking a few classes at Wichita State; and my mom is about to start a new job that will be great for her setting up a wound program at a home health care office. She's also volunteering at clinic. They still feel a little out-of-place and are anxious to know and be known, but they're trusting and looking forward to what God has for them there. Family, it was so good to be with you this weekend, though too short! We love you and we can't wait to see you again!Clouds from above always amaze me.


Tip of the Day: Froth Milk in a French Press

I told Melissa and Stephanie about this last night at community group, and they were so intrigued, that I though maybe the world should know. If you are fancy-shmancy and hip (or just too cheap for a coffee pot like me) and own a french press, you know that it makes delectable, euro-style coffee. But, did you know it can also add one more notch of luxury to your morning cafe? After you've made your coffee, clean out the french press and add about as much milk (warmed or straight out of the fridge) as you would normally put in your coffee (multiply if you are serving others.) Then pump the press up and down quickly. Voila! Frothed milk! Add to your coffee, top with cinnamon, and enjoy a wonderful coffee-shop quality latte at home. My every Saturday morning starts with this, along with some books, Bible, and journal, on the back porch. Ahhh....

And to go along with my post about good mornings, here is a prayer from the "Valley of Vision," a book of Puritan prayers that a friend gave us for our wedding, that I love.

Compassionate Lord,
Thy mercies have brought me to the dawn of another day,
Vain will be its gifts unless I grow in grace,
Increase in knowledge, ripen for spiritual harvest.
Let me this day know Thee as Thou art,
love Thee supremely, serve Thee wholly, admire Thee fully.
Through grace let my will respond to Thee,
Knowing that power to obey is not in me, but that
Thy free love alone enables me to serve Thee.

Here then is my empty heart, overflow it with Thy gifts.
Here is my blind understanding, chase away its mists of ignorance.
O ever watchful Shepherd, lead, guide, tend me this day.

Two questions for you: What kind of coffee do you brew at home? And what is your favorite way to spend a quiet morning at home?


.Leftover Love.

Some of my favorite moments of marriage are evenings when Keith and I have no plans (a rarity!) and we just get to relax together. And one of my favorite things about evenings like that is coming up with something delicious and nutritious to fill our bellies. Every time I get to cook for just Keith it is wonderful reminder that we are married, that we are home when we're together.

I'm not a recipe girl. I definitely like to try them to learn new things...but rarely will I consult a recipe more than once. I learned how to cook in my mother's and grandmother's kitchens, sitting on the counter "helping" while they chopped, seasoned, tasted, tweaked and created great food. Their culinary style was a blend from "the old country" (my great grandmother was from Norway) and my mom's favorite Mediterranean flavors and influences. Now coming up with something with what we have around is such a source of creative opportunity for me.

It usually goes a little something like this. Last night I knew we had some leftover shredded rotisserie chicken that I wanted to use (Publix mojo flavor...yum), half an onion from the other night, and half a carton of grape tomatoes that were nearing the end of their prime. We made some rice (a process that I still haven't perfected, why is rice so dang hard?), and I started in on the magic. I started with the onions, caramelized them in a sautée pan. When they began to brown I added garlic and the grape tomatoes. When the tomatoes started popping open I added the chicken, garlic salt, a little ground red pepper, a little cumin, and dried parsley. Stirred for about a 30 seconds then added about 1/3 cup of white wine, 1 cup of chicken stock, a half a can of diced tomatoes (also leftover), and a good dose of capers (my new favorite ingredient.) I let it simmer and reduce, experimented a little more with seasoning adding basil, more red pepper, and a touch of tarragon, and few quirts of lemon juice. I topped it off with a little olive oil and we ate it over the rice. It was DELICIOUS. We enjoyed it on the back porch with another new favorite: cucumbers, tomatoes and a little salt, pepper, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. I was so happy. And after dinner my sweet husband helped with the dishes. Life is good.


Cross cultural delights: Cockadoodledoo = Quiquiriquí

Ok, so I am unashamedly unoriginal. Pretty much all of the directing I do to cool things on the internet come from GOOD magazine blog. (GOOD magazine is a cool pop culture/social issues magazine whose subscription profits go entirely to charitable non-profits.) But this was just too cool to not mention.

One of the most fascinating and hilarious things about crossing language barriers in other cultures is the discovery that even sounds such as animal sounds, cars and trains, and even expletives such as "Ouch!" are different in other languages. This website complies them all in a thrilling audio/visual interactive experience. (South Korea's is my favorite every time.)

Have fun!


Photography Pointers 102: Light

Here is my second, and last, installation of photography tips. Normal blogging will resume shortly. Today we'll talk a little about light. Right down to the core, photography is all about light. You've got some sort of contraption that holds either real or digitized film that when exposed to light, creates a photograph. You can even make a basic camera by poking a hole in a box. A huge part of photography is assessing conditions and controlling how much and low long your film is exposed to light (again, not an expert...just attempting to go off of my meager understanding and explain).

That late-afternoon, golden light will make any photograph look brilliant. But unfortunately some of life's most photo-worthy happenings take place on cloudy days, or worse, indoors in poorly, unnaturally lit rooms. At one point I was so frustrated that I vowed to only take pictures outdoors between the hours of 7 and 9 am and 4 and 6 pm, but that really didn't get me very far. I hate using flashes, so I avoid that last-resort at all times. But here are some tools that, with the right understanding, will slowly but surely help you adjust to most lighting situations. I'll start with the ones that most cameras allow users to control, and end with the manual functions. This will be incredibly brief and shallow, but it's a starting point for people who want to learn more. There is hope for blurry and orange photos!

ISO: (or film speed) I don't know what this stands for, and who really cares? What you need to know is that the higher the number, the more sensitive to light. Bump it up to 1600 and taking pictures indoors is much more feasible. The film will not need as much light to expose so you can take pictures at a quicker shutter speed a.k.a less blur. At noon outside, you'll get the most detail and contrast at 100. And experiment with everything in between. But beware...the higher the number, the grainier the image (which I think can be endearing sometimes).

White Balance: White balance is basically an adjustment that helps colors stay natural looking in all different lighting situations. In most digital cameras this function gives you options for sunny, cloudy, florescent, tungsten, etc. It's fun to play around with and will make your colors look better. The most practical advice for this one is, if you're shooting indoors and people are looking slightly orange...switch your WB setting to tungsten. But if you move outside and notice things looking slightly blue...you know you left it on.

Shutter Speed: Shutter speed deals with how long the shutter stays open (I won't get into the technical suff, but on your camera's setting, the bigger the number, the faster the shutter speed (until you get to into seconds). You'll need something above about 30 to shoot without a tripod and avoid blur. When the shutter is open for a longer amount of time, more light comes in, but this also means that there is a better chance that whatever you're shooting will move while the shutter is open, or the camera will be unsteady and the picture will come out blurry. A faster shutter speed lets in less light, so you need adequate lighting, but it is quick enough to freeze moving objects. If you have manual settings on your camera, you can play with shutter speed to produce some fun effects such as the picture shown above of me in a subway in Prague (taken with a slow shutter speed).

Aperture: Aperture also deals with how much light the camera lets in, but this time instead of controlling how long the shutter is open, it controls how big of a hole the light comes in through when the shutter clicks. Obviously a smaller hole=less light. The number system with aperture is a little tricky at first, but just remember that a smaller number=bigger hole. Aperture is also really cool because it deals with focus too. Pictures where the subject is in sharp focus and the rest of the picture is blurred (called Aperture also deals with how much a shallow depth of field) are taken with a wide aperture (smaller number). Think about it this way: Our eyes are a much more sophisticated version of a camera. We can focus on things in the foreground or background, and subconsciously blur whatever we're not looking at. But what do you do when you want to see something far in the distance? Squint. This is a great way to remember, and visualize, that for landscapes and pictures where you want everything in focus, you need a smaller aperture (bigger number.)

This looks like a pretty good website for more photography tips, if you're interested.

And my favorite photography book, because it is interesting, unique, and has a lot of practical and creative advice with lots of pictures is The A-Z of Creative Photography.

In other news: We had a really fun and active weekend that included our favorite neighborhood restaurant, supporting friends in the local music scene, playing soccer with Mexicans, making pizza, studying for the GRE, hiking at the soon to be Red Mountain Park, and our church that we love.


I want to be a teacher: photography pointers 101

This is one of my favorite photographs that I've taken, of my beautiful friend Amy a couple weeks before her wedding. Bekah's request for some photography pointers the other day gave me the idea for this post. I want to be a teacher; I really love telling people about things I have learned and care about. I am by NO means an expert, but I figured I'd share what little knowledge I do have.

So, from what I've learned through many less than beautiful shots, here are some easy ways to make your photographs better--whether snap shots of your family, or a little something to fulfill that artsy side. And you don't need a fancy-shmancy camera.

Composition: The way you frame a picture and arrange subjects within the shot.
  • This is probably the first "rule" (really more of a guideline...you know the old adage...learn the rules so you can break them) you'll find on any photography tutorial on composition. Photography, and all art really, has this thing called the rule of thirds. Basically, it makes sense that you'd want to put the subject right smack in the middle of the picture right? Nope. When the subject, or especially the horizon is dead center, the picture is basically cut in half, and our eyes will quickly get bored. When I think about all of this, I really am amazed at the way God made us to be drawn to beauty. Our eyes are happiest when what they're looking at gives them a path to move and be entertained and...to make a long story short, the rule of thirds helps with that. It is most pleasing to our eyes if rather than placing subjects or lines in the center of a picture, we place them in a third. There is a helpful grid, that many digital cameras actually have a screen mode for these days, to help decode that theory.
  • Picture your frame being divided into 9 squares. Any horizontal and verticle lines, such as a horizon or architectural element should lie on the lines of the grid. And your subjects, like the figure and sun in this sketch, should roughly fall on the intersections of those lines. This also creates balance. Here is a photograph that puts this theory to work. When your subject is a close-up of a person's face...the eyes should fall on those intersections.
  • The next composition pointer is, keep it simple. Always pay attention to what is going on in your picture besides the actual subject you are trying to shoot. The age-old example of this is a tree growing out aunt edna's head because you have unwittingly placed her in front of a tree trunk in the family portrait. You also don't want a horizon in the background placed directly behind someone's head. Especially when shooting people, keep the background as simple as possible, move them in front of a wall, or blur it with aperture (we'll get to that later.)
  • If you can't get a good shot from where you are standing...move. Some of the most interesting shots come from perspectives that are not at shoulder height (being short I really have to remember this.) If you're taking a picture of a little kid, squat down and get on their level. Play around, hold the camera down by your hip and see what you get. Climb on things. Have fun :)
  • Look at your favorite pictures and try to figure out what makes them good. Also visit flickr and be inspired--that's how I got into it.
I think that's all for today. And in my humble opinion...those are the best tips to begin with. If this is a hit I'll talk about light tomorrow... blur and orange skin be gone! And if you are interested and have any questions, ask away, and I'll try to get to the bottom of it.


.frank and bekah.

Meet our friends, Frank and Bekah Burder. We got to hang out with them last night, partially so I could give Bekah some photography pointers, and as usual we ended up on the tennis court in the park across the street from their apartment, with their two rambunctious dogs, talking as the sun went down. We always come away from hanging out with them refreshed and encouraged. They are creative, down-to-earth, passionate, and they dream big about everything from hand-made greeting cards to giving their lives to love and serve. I'm writing about Frank and Bekah (sorry guys :) ), because they inspire me, and maybe they'll inspire you too. The Burders live in an area of Birmingham called Avondale, which, as you know if you're familiar with it, isn't necessarily the place where you'd expect a young, hip, successful, white couple like them to live. The area is predominately black, and many of the apartment buildings surrounding their own are subsidized housing. It may not appear that they are doing anything all that spectacular; their service is not the organized kind that we're used to. Their efforts may not have drastically changed any lives--yet. But they know their neighbors. They can point to every building and tell you about the people who live there. When we walk down the street they make a point to greet everyone we pass. They are not afraid. They care deeply about their neighbors, and have chosen not to distance themselves from them, have chosen to be ok with a little "danger," a few strange neighbors, stretching to relate, feeling uncomfortable, because they really believe the gospel. And I want Jesus to change my heart too as I learn from them.

A slide show of the evening.


I can feel it in the air...

And I know you can too.

Though officially still 5 days away, and probably many too warm days to come, yesterday testified that Fall is on its way. Oh, what a special time of year.
Last night we celebrated by hosting family dinner with yummy white bean and turkey chili and Keith's famous corn casserole. We sat outside on the porch and left the kitchen door open long into the evening to bask in the coolness.

Crisp, cool morning air; explosions of color; sweaters and merrels; that woodsy, earthy smell. What are your favorite things about fall?



Well, my fabulous friend Melissa tagged me in a little quirk listing thing. So here goes. I've had a pretty hard time thinking of 6 quirks...especially because hers were so weird and hilarious. It's kind of ridiculous how normal we seem to ourselves sometimes.

1.When I read National Geographic, I ALWAYS start at the back and read to the front.

2. I am about as far from a "type A" or perfectionist personality as they come. This fact is evidenced in that I am atrocious, I mean HORRIBLE, at wrapping and folding. I hardly ever wrap gifts with wrapping paper because it looks like a 3-year-old did it.

3. I really don't like ordering the same thing at a restaurant I frequent or watching movies and t.v. shows that I've already seen. There's too much out there for that.

4. I've gotten a little better about this lately, but my whole life I've been famous for not eating the last bite of my food. As a matter of fact, the last bite often really grosses me out. And my reasoning for this is that it has obviously become the last bite because I've already eaten all the acceptable ones.

5. I am allergic to pressure. Really. Last summer I started getting inexplicable, red, itchy splotches on my skin all the time. I started noticing a trend: on my shoulder after carrying my purse, on my collar bone after wearing a seatbelt, on my knee after crossing my legs...sure enough, I went to the dermatologist and told him my symptoms. He nodded knowingly, took my forearm in his hand and gently, but firmly, pressed his thumb into my skin for about 30 seconds and then watched as a hive formed in the shape of his thumb after about a minute.

6. I am fully convinced that I have levels of magnetic material in my body that break watches and give me a remarkable, innate sense of direction.

Not a quirk, but worth mentioning. I ran out of gas for the very first time this morning (disclaimer: I'm driving Keith's car these days, and he'll confirm that it has a quirky gage). My sweet husband came and rescued me. And bought me coffee. He's good to me :)

I tag:
Shireen Wright
Jen Wilmore
Mandy Mann
Britney Almaguer
Katie Friberg

rules: link to the person who tagged you, post the rules on your blog, tell 6 quirks about yourself, tag 6 fellow bloggers, and comment on their blogs to alert them of their assignment.



If you're in Birmingham this weekend, be sure not to miss the Greek Festival! We went last night and had a wonderful time. And we LOVE Greek food. YUM! Bonus, we ran into these fine friends and many more more. I love Birmingham, that small town feel, in a city!

Reader culinary challenge:

I have been endowed with a cabbage. And I'm not sure what to do with it. (other than apparently making a little piggy face out of it.) My friend at work gets a basket of yummy local, organic fruits and veggies delivered to her door every month by grow alabama. I recommend checking it out. She often brings me tomatoes because she is allergic to them, but this month she gave me a cabbage. So before I go scoping my cookbooks and realsimple.com, I thought I'd come here.

Any Ideas???

in other news: our trip to visit my family in Kansas has been postponed due to the hurricane. (you know, airport mayhem.) So though we are pretty antsy to see them and their new home, we will be enjoying the weekend in Birmingham.

p.s. for those of you who don't read exclusively in google reader, you can see that I found a pretty, simply fabulous new template. It'll take some more tweaking to make it work for me, but I'm excited!


And now presenting my incredibly good-looking husband...

And to be fair...his foxy wife...

I'm still trying to figure out who I am...

A little bit about me and my blog, in case you were wondering...

My name is Elaine. In April I married my wonderful best friend, Keith. Since the start of this year I have relocated myself in Birmingham to join Keith and his friends who have quickly and sincerely become mine; graduated from college; started a new job as a copy editor; and, as I said before, become a wife. So, this blog is basically me fleshing out the ups, and downs of all of that new stuff in my life in both the big events and the minutia. My most frequent posts are about our life and the life of our community, photography (my favorite creative outlet) and other creativities such as cooking, journaling, art and the like; and issues that creep their way into my brain.


.discovering me.

Today I'm going to buy a new journal. I have this thing with journals. I have tons of them. And I often leave them unfinished, because it is a rarity that a season of my life lasts exactly as long as the pages in my journal. I can't really stand to continue writing in a journal after the season that it began with has passed. Right now my most recent journal is from when I was in Spain (pretty sad huh?). And the random entries penned in the last several months hang awkwardly on the brink of an overwhelming expanse of blank, ivory pages. It would be foolish to think that the creativity in me that has been buried somewhere underneath laziness and the overwhelmity of lots of changing and becoming and "adult" will suddenly flow forth freely at the opening of a new journal, but I can feel it bubbling up and I want to be ready. I'm honestly a little scared of trying. But more excited than scared. Really, it's all connected. This "becoming" thing (becoming a wife, becoming an adult, becoming like Jesus, becoming a friend, becoming a homemaker, become a teacher, becoming me) is pretty intense.

(from a great season of journaling.)


Weekend Recap

Not that you are expected to be interested in a play by play of our weekend, but it was a particularly eventful one, so here it is:
  • On Friday evening, Keith and hit the ATL to hang out with two of my favorite Spaniards, Antonio and Angel, who are in the states for a few weeks, and a bunch of the other extrangeros who were in Spain with me. It was the first time I've seen a lot of them since Spain, and it was SO wonderful to be with them again. They took good care of me while I was in Spain, and it was great to be together again. And hilarious, because they are.
  • We jetted it back to BHAM on Saturday morning because we hate to be away. I took a nap (we got to be around 2:00 the night before) and then went with Keith to play around with some of our friends. Somehow I got talked into playing in a game of 3 on 3 futbol (3 on 3 meaning me, and 5 very talented soccer players, 4 of them male). I havn't played soccer (not to mention any team sport) since middle school P.E. and I got schooled trying to cover Jamie, but it was actually pretty fun. My legs disagree today.
  • Sometime during the day Jamie texted a bunch of us with a mysterious message of a secret gathering, which turned out to be a very fun, girls v. guys scavenger hunt around Birmingham. Highlights included Jamie getting a complete stranger to braid her hair, Cory and Kara attempting and failing 3 times to get into a UAB dorm room, and me asking for directions in Spanish. I hung my head out of Jamie's mini cooper and asked "Sabes donde esta el estarbooks?" People were so eagerly helpful and flabbergasted at how to give directions to a non-english speaker. It was hilarious, we did it three times just for the heck of it. And the weirdest thing is that they didn't question for a moment that we didn't speak a word of english. people are funny. Cory got a video, so maybe i'll post it. We also played rock.paper.scissors with a random guy in a the chevron who admitted that it was the highlight of his evening.
  • Sunday afternoon Cory, Jamie, and I went to a "cut your own flowers farm," which ended up being a cool ladies yard with a few rows of flowers. It was really delightful though, and I shot some film which I will post later.
  • And as always, church is one of my favorite parts of the week :)
And, I sincerely wish weekends could last forever, but since we are already into another week, have a good one!


.scattered compositions.

Of late I have had a bit of a hard time finding a focus or rhythm for my photography, or really any of my choice creative outlets (journaling, art, music..). And I'll go ahead and blame it on the amount of time, and regularity, that I find myself sitting at a desk, in a cubicle, talking to no one, and reading boring things over and over again. BUT I still really love photography, and I'm willing to keep pushing through with what I've got. So, here is a slide show of my favorite shots I've taken since I moved here. (though, many of them where not taken in Birmingham.)


View slideshow


On the bright side of my cubicle

I've mentioned this view to you several times before, so I thought I'd show it to you. My office, though I don't want to be confined to it forever and the work I do in it is not the joy of my life, it is a cozy place with a delightful view, and for that I am thankful. I feel a bit like Pollyanna. Speaking of which, did everyone love Hayley Mills as much as I did growing up?

In other news:
  • RCC Community groups start tonight, and I am SO excited. I might attempt to make these: I should have tried the recipe last night...but oh well, there's always break and bake.



Sadly, I just deleted the post formerly entitled "of Sports and Politics," because I was serious when I said I didn't want to use my blog as place to discuss things that should be talked about face-to-face, or at least in the context of mutual understanding and respect. There is too much opportunity for hurt and misunderstanding. If you would like to embark in a conversation with me, wherein we may attempt to hear each others hearts and respect each other's thought processes (because believe me, I have thought about it). Then please email me and I will share with you (as I have done already with close friends and family who expressed concern) the thinking, experiencing, reading, praying, and relationships which have played a part in my journey, which I am still on, to be an informed, humble, wise, Jesus-oriented decision-maker.


Blogging Friends

Family Blogging:
Mom in Kansas
Kim in Kansas
Sweet little Catherine
Kelly and Misty
Davis Family Blog (not updated often, but the archives are quite amusing)

Dear Blogging Friends:
Thirty Travelers
Redeemer in the City
Britney Almaguer
Stephanie Kling
Michael Costa
Cory Bordenaro
Miska Collier
Winn Collier
The Freebirds
Mama Debbs
The Geyers
The Richies Three
The SuperManns
Kate Defuniak
Matt Francisco
The Wrights

Friends in Far Away Places:
Jen in D.C. and Beyond
Drew in China
Jennifer in India
Jen Wilmore
Biscuet in China
Tatum in Hawaii
Kristen in Ethiopia

Blogging Inspiration:
A Bryan Photo
A Beautiful Mess
Electric Lion
A Holy Experience
La Tartine Gourmande
Magnum Photos Blog
Simply Photo
Stephen DeVries Photo
The Big Picture
Caleb Chancy Photography

Long weekend: Project

This was my art project for the weekend, along with making prints of some of our wedding pictures and hanging them up. yay. I wish I wish I could say the bird was an original creation, but I found it on google, printed it on light cardstock, and mod-podged it to the canvas. Regardless, I'm happy with the result :) Now keith and I are off to ride our bikes to a new coffee shop in the neighborhood as the start to our wonderful day off. Happy (no)Labor Day!