Looking Backward With Photo Memories

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Last night I was going through old photos.  While I have my client images well organized and backed up appropriately, my personal photos have been stored haphazardly on CDs, DVDs, and old external hard drives.  My goal?  To make sure my photo memories didn’t get lost forever.  If there’s interest, I’ll go over some ways to store photos in another article — send me an email or comment on this post.

Anyways, it was really interesting for me to note my experience taking a walk down memory lane.

Every photo was steeped with emotions, feelings, and memories.

When I looked through a series of images from a family vacation, I could recall additional events that occurred that same day.

It was amazing.

And poignant.

"To look backward for a while is to refresh the eye, to restore it, and to render it the more fit for its prime function of looking forward." ~ Margaret Fairless Barber ~ {Shared at BPhotoArt.com}
“To look backward for a while is to refresh the eye, to restore it, and to render it the more fit for its prime function of looking forward.” ~ Margaret Fairless Barber ~

Some of my favorite photos now, are ones that wouldn’t have been all that important in the moment.  Photos of loved ones who’ve passed, photos of pets who aren’t with us anymore.  Even photos of the exterior of my childhood home.

Looking through all those photos made me nostalgic, sure.

But it also made me feel grateful.

Grateful for my childhood. Grateful for so many memories. And grateful for the photos to share with my kids.

Going through those photos was a chance for me to get out of the mindset where I can’t see the forest for the trees.  In the daily grind, sometimes you just forget to look at the big picture.  But those details, while they matter, have to be aligned with your master plan to be effective.

So, this year, as you look forward — consider looking backwards first. You may find, as I did, that it helps clarify things for you.  You become more aware of your blessings, or rediscover forgotten goals.

Clothespin Christmas Angel (an elf alternative)

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My kids are really excited for December.  And since Thanksgiving has come and gone, there’s definitely been an uptick in the Christmas spirit around our household.  Last year, I’d been considering making kindness elves for the Christmas countdown, but never got around to it.  I have never really liked the elf on the shelf idea, so this year I did a little more exploring of alternatives to elf on the shelf, and kindness elves.

Some people made kindness elves, kindness kids, etc — whose purpose was to help the kids learn to pay it forward.  I liked the idea.  But then I stumbled across this idea of a Christmas angel.

 

Considering an alternative to Kindness Elves or Elf on a Shelf? We made a clothespin Christmas Angel! - BPhotoArt.com

I decided to print out a few kindness elf printables for the Christmas angel to share with the boys each day.  After checking out a bunch of different options, I decided to use these cute circle tags by Passionate Penny Pincher.

And since we celebrate Christmas in both the secular and religious sense, the Christmas angel will also be delivering a daily advent prompt to help my boys understand things on a more spiritual level too.  That part was easy, as I found this printable that goes along with the Jesus Storybook Bible #afflink …so I printed out a set of free printable advent cards for December.

When the kids wake up, I’m going to have this cute little clothespin angel sitting out on the kitchen table with some of the printables I mentioned inside this envelope.  I also wrote a brief “introduction” letter to the boys, from the Christmas Angel, of course.  The text was inspired by a Christmas Angel note I found at The Riches of His Love.

Considering an alternative to Kindness Elves or Elf on a Shelf? We made a clothespin Christmas Angel! - BPhotoArt.com

How to Make the Clothespin Christmas Angel

Now, in case you’re wondering how I made the clothespin angel, here’s the quick cliff notes version.

(Sorry, I didn’t take step by step photos, as I honestly wasn’t sure how it would turn out!)

Considering an alternative to Kindness Elves or Elf on a Shelf? We made a clothespin Christmas Angel! - BPhotoArt.com

I took a square piece of fabric that was about five inches by five inches — and cut a small hole in the center. Then I pushed the clothespin through the opening.

Using the gold pipe cleaner, I made a halo at one end, then bent it around the neck of the clothespin angel to secure the fabric “dress.”

I used another gold pipe cleaner as a combo waistband and set of arms.

Then, I took two more pipe cleaners and bent them into angel wings.  Honestly, they looked more like flower petals than wings at first, but I still think it turned out cute!

I then attached the wings to the clothespin Christmas angel on the back side (at the “waistband”).

Using some permanent markers, I colored the main part of the clothespin gold (it turned out more brown, but oh well), and drew a face on the Christmas Angel too.

I kept it really simple… because, well, simple is better!

…and easier.

So, if you don’t have all the supplies, then by all means, improvise!  Make it work for you 🙂

Considering an alternative to Kindness Elves or Elf on a Shelf? We made a clothespin Christmas Angel! - BPhotoArt.com

I’ll see how many days we continue the Christmas Angel concept… it might be a huge hit, or it could be a bust.  I’m all for being practical.  So, I’ll try to report back and let you know how it turned out.  It may be that this Christmas Angel ends up as nothing more than a cute decoration for our Christmas tree!

What are your ideas for helping kids get in the Christmas spirit?  Do you try to focus on being kind, or…? Do you love/hate elf on the shelf?  Don’t care one way or the other?  That’s cool too.

Regardless, I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

 

Easy Last Minute Thanksgiving Activities + Crafts

posted in: Notes | 3

 

Thanksgiving kind of snuck up on our family this year.  I’m not sure if it was just because life was busy, or we were preoccupied with school and the daily grind.

Whatever the reason, Thanksgiving is here.  And we haven’t decorated.  We haven’t finished going grocery shopping.  We know we’ll be spending Thanksgiving with family, but the details?  Nope.  Those are still TBD.

Maybe you’re a little more on top of planning ahead for the holidays than I am.  But, then again, maybe you’re not.  Whatever your holiday preparedness, I’m going to share some easy last minute Thanksgiving crafts and activities for the whole family!

And, if you scroll all the way to the bottom, you’ll even find a round-up of 12 or so recipes to help you use up your Thanksgiving leftovers.

There are several printables, some games, many crafts!  Most are oriented towards kids, but there are some that I think would be fun for adults too.

Okay, so without further ado, here are the activities.15+ Easy Last Minute Thanksgiving Activities + Crafts for Whole Family - BPhotoArt.com

Thanksgiving Conversation Starter Coasters (printable!)

I love the idea of these conversation starter coasters from Adventure in a Box!  You can print out the coasters from the free printable, and enjoy a number of fun conversations that might not have been otherwise had!

Thanksgiving Conversation Starter Coasters Printable - Adventure in a Box
Thanksgiving Conversation Starter Coasters Printable – Adventure in a Box

Thanksgiving Bingo (printable!)

If your family is into games, maybe you’d like to try this Thanksgiving Bingo Game from One Creative Mommy.  It looks really cute, and even if you don’t have Thanksgiving themed m&ms in the house, I bet kids would love playing with whatever snack or treat items you have on hand.

Best Thanksgiving Bingo - One Creative Mommy
Best Thanksgiving Bingo – One Creative Mommy

 

Egg Carton Turkey Craft for Thanksgiving

I love Red Ted Art crafts, and this Egg Carton Turkey craft is no exception!  Plus, it holds candy corn… too cute!  These would make adorable name cards for a Thanksgiving dinner, don’t you think?

Egg Carton Turkey Craft for Thanksgiving - Red Ted Art
Egg Carton Turkey Craft for Thanksgiving – Red Ted Art

Thanksgiving Gratefulness Game

Planet Smarty created this Gratefulness Game to Promote Wiriting and Math for her kids.  I love the idea of this game.  And, if you want to make a pretty thankfulness collage like is shown in the image below, check out the blog post for info on how to do that too!

Gratefulness Game to Promote Writing and Math - Planet Smarty
Gratefulness Game to Promote Writing and Math – Planet Smarty

Paper Roll Tukery Craft

How about this cute paper roll turkey craft from Non Toy Gifts?  Everyone is bound to have a spare paper roll (or two) lying around the house.  And, in a pinch, you could make a cylinder out of a piece of paper, right?

Paper Roll Turkey Craft - Non Toy Gifts
Paper Roll Turkey Craft – Non Toy Gifts

Thanksgiving Thankfulness Tree

Last year, we created this Thanksgiving Thankfulness Tree, and the boys loved it.  Even though we haven’t talked about it since then, my older son mentioned it out of the blue as we were talking about preparing for Thanksgiving.  I guess it really made an impression!

Make a Photo Thankfulness Tree for Thanksgiving - BPhotoArt.com
Make a Photo Thankfulness Tree for Thanksgiving – BPhotoArt.com

Pinecone Turkey Craft for Kids

Here’s another cute idea from One Creative Mommy!  Have the kids make pinecone turkeys!  I can totally see an extension activity for this craft — I think we’ll be making them using autumn leaves as the feathers since my boys love nature scavenger hunts so much.

Pinecone Turkey Craft for Kids - One Creative Mommy
Pinecone Turkey Craft for Kids – One Creative Mommy

Quilled Thanksgiving Cards

If your kids want to get in the spirit by making Thanksgiving cards, here’s a gorgeous craft idea from Red Ted Art.  You can make Quilled Thanksgiving Cards!  I think these would be fun for adults to make too…. but hey, maybe that’s just me.

Quilled Thanksgiving Cards for Kids - Red Ted Art
Quilled Thanksgiving Cards for Kids – Red Ted Art

Thanksgiving Cranberry Slime

Since no holiday is complete without a little mess, or a little science experiment,… why not give this Thanksgiving Science: Taste-Safe Cranberry Slime a try?  My boys would love doing this.  Although, you’d have to have cranberries (or get them on your next run out to the grocery store!).

Thanksgiving Science: Taste Safe Cranberry Slime - Schooling a Monkey
Thanksgiving Science: Taste Safe Cranberry Slime – Schooling a Monkey

Leaf Mandala + Thanksgiving Turkey Coloring Pages (printable! for grownups!)

Yes, I admit, this collection of Thanksgiving activities has been mostly centered on ideas for kids.  But, when the kids, are happy, the adults can be too, right?  Anyways, here are several Thanksgiving Coloring Page Printables from Red Ted Art.  Get the kids set up with an activity, then start coloring one of these yourself!

Leaf Mandala & Thanks Giving Turkey Coloring Pages (for Grown Ups) - Red Ted Art
Leaf Mandala & Thanks Giving Turkey Coloring Pages (for Grown Ups) – Red Ted Art

Thanksgiving Hats

Another cute idea to keep kids busy?  Make Thanksgiving hats!  There are ten different ideas in this post by Non Toy Gifts, and I have to admit, some are pretty creative!  My boys liked the boat hat best.

10 Thanksgiving Hats for Kids - Non Toy Gifts
10 Thanksgiving Hats for Kids – Non Toy Gifts

Thanksgiving Matching Game (printable!)

Here’s another cute printable that you can use to pass the time on Thanksgiving day!  Beauty Through Imperfection created a Thanksgiving-themed matching game printable.  If your kids are anything like mine… this should be a hit (no promises, they could be engrossed for hours, or it could last only minutes).

Thanksgiving Matching Game - Beauty Through Imperfection
Thanksgiving Matching Game – Beauty Through Imperfection

Turkey Place Cards

Since no Thanksgiving table is complete without decoration, these turkey place cards might be a cute project!  Although Mommy’s Bundle designed them for the kids’ table, I can see them in use at a low key family table too!

Turkey Place Cards for the Kids - Mommy's Bundle
Turkey Place Cards for the Kids – Mommy’s Bundle

Thanksgiving Turkey Snack + Kids’ Craft

If you’re looking for a somewhat healthy Thanksgiving snack, this edible craft turkey for kids from One Creative Mommy should be a hit…. it was for a class of kindergardeners, at least!

Thanksgiving Turkey Snack + Kids' Craft - One Creative Mommy
Thanksgiving Turkey Snack + Kids’ Craft – One Creative Mommy

Turkey Baster Pom Pom Game for Kids

This Turkey Baster Pom Pom Race, by School Time Snippets, is very simple, but I bet it will be popular with the younger kiddos!  Simple, no prep, and easy to clean up. My idea of a perfect game.

FUN Turkey Baster Pom Pom Game for Kids - School Time Snippets
FUN Turkey Baster Pom Pom Game for Kids – School Time Snippets

Turkey Bookmark Corner for Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving Turkey Bookmark Corner, from Red Ted Art, is really adorable.  And is the perfect thing for Thanksgiving, don’t you think?

Thanksgiving Turkey Bookmark Corner - Red Ted Art
Thanksgiving Turkey Bookmark Corner – Red Ted Art

The Gratitude Game (Pick up Sticks)

I love this Thanksgiving-adapted take on pick up sticks, by Teach Beside Me!  The Gratitude Game inspires thankfulness by having you name something you’re thankful for each time you pick up a stick.  Great idea!

(Thanksgiving) The Gratitude Game -Teach Beside Me
(Thanksgiving) The Gratitude Game -Teach Beside Me

Cultivating Gratitude: Ideas for a Month of Thanksgiving

Even thought I’m posting this days before Thanksgiving, the concept of gratitude is still valuable.  Especially considering, for many of us, the next holiday approaching will be Christmas. And in a world of “I want” and “I need” — it’s nice to be intentional about giving thanks.

Cultivating Gratitude: Ideas for a Month of Thanksgiving - Betsy's Photography (BPhotoArt.com)
Cultivating Gratitude: Ideas for a Month of Thanksgiving – Betsy’s Photography (BPhotoArt.com)

Recipe Ideas for Thanksgiving Leftovers

This last one isn’t really a Thanksgiving Day activity, but since the holiday typically includes an abundance of leftovers, you may appreciate these ideas on how to use up all those Thanksgiving meal items!

12+ Recipe Ideas For Thanksgiving Leftovers
12+ Recipe Ideas For Thanksgiving Leftovers

Okay. Now I’m finished, I promise. Go enjoy your Thanksgiving celebrations, have fun during your festivities, and make sure to remember the most important thing to be thankful for is the gift of friends of family.

“Why Do I Always Dislike How I Look In Photos?”

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This is one of the complaints I hear a lot.  Whether it’s a client coming to me for a session, or just a comment in the course of casual conversation, the sentiment is the same.  Most of us don’t like how we look in photos.

But why?

I ran across an article (What’s Up With That: You Hate Pictures of Yourself) the other day that hit the nail on the head. It talked about a term called mere-exposure:

Formulated in 1968 by a psychologist named Robert Zajonc, it basically says that people react more favorably to things they seen more often. Zajonc tested this with everything from shapes, to facial expressions, even nonsense words. Since we see ourselves most frequently in the mirror, this is our preferred self-image. According to the mere-exposure effect, when your slight facial asymmetries are left unflipped by the camera, you see an unappealing, alien version of yourself.

And wow.  I can’t believe I never quantified this reason before, but it makes total sense.  We all know ourselves based on part of our daily morning routine —  the mirror.  We’ve grown up seeing ourselves a certain way — and the bathroom mirror is we spend time making ourselves look beautiful, or examining the intricate details (and yikes, flaws) in our facial features.

So what’s that got to do with this?

Well, our faces aren’t perfectly symmetrical.

One eyebrow may rise a little higher on your left side, your smile might pull back a little more on the right.  But when we see these things in photographs, it’s on the “wrong” side.

When you see yourself in a photo — it looks “wrong” because it’s different.

The photo is flipped — it’s not a mirror image, so the facial features you’re used to are on the opposite sides.

And that’s where this sentiment comes in.  Even if you look great in your photos, they probably will look a little foreign to you because you don’t look the same as you see yourself in the mirror, day in and day out.

This is why sometimes everyone loves your photos but you.  They see you and know you as the photos capture you.

But you?  You know yourself in the mirror — the mirror image of that photo.

It’s not that you hate how you look though.  It’s just that you don’t really recognize yourself (This is The Real Reason You Always Hate How You Look in Photos):

Ultimately, when we dislike a picture of ourselves, it’s not that we think we look necessarily ugly. It’s just that we find our other self — our inverse self — more attractive.

If you ask a third party for their opinion on the photo, chances are you’ll get a different perspective on whether that photograph actually looks like you than if you tried to make that decision yourself.

Depending on the person, they may like one image of you better and another image less — purely because of which facial features and expressions of yours they have seen you make most!

So next time you see yourself in a photo and think about saying you don’t like how you look, just take a moment to remember — you know yourself as you see your face in the mirror.  There’s definitely no exact science to which photo of you is best.

But chances are, you do look good — like yourself — in photos after all (although maybe not to you!).

family-photo-mirror

 

Michigan Family Photo (in the studio)

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Here’s a simple family portrait that we did at the studio.  The whole thing took about thirty minutes, including photos of the kids by themselves.  If you’re looking for quick and easy, there’s nothing simpler than that.

bphotoart-family-kids-brothers-studio-photo-folio

And yes, the kids were being silly, but you wouldn’t know it by the end result (well, not by the family photo, at least).  We did take some silly pictures of the boys together, of course.  Want to know how this client thought the session went?  Here you are:

“Betsy was professional, efficient, and produced a lovely portrait for us! She was great handling my kids’ antics and going with the flow. Thanks, Betsy!” – Abbie L.

Getting your family photo done doesn’t have to be complicated or stressful.  You deserve a hassle-free portrait experience.  Choose a photographer you can trust to make that happen.  For more information about planning your next Michigan family photo with Betsy, contact her today.

Professional Portrait – Woman

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When it comes to convincing you of the value of what we do, there’s no better way than to simply pair an image with words.  Words, that is, from the client.  Because their testimonials cut to the heart of it all, and mean more than any words we could assemble.

I so appreciate what you have done.  You did a great job with taking the photo; you were professional and quick! My time is precious with a busy schedule but you got me in and out with a great outcome. The retouching you did was fabulous. Thank you so much.

bphotoart-professional-headshot-woman-photo-studio-folio

Yes, a picture says a thousand words.  But sometimes you need just a few more.  If you want to read more testimonials from other clients, please do so!  Rest assured that we can quickly and easily create a business headshot for you within a half hour at the studio.  You’ll be pleased with the results, and when you use your updated professional portrait you will be making the right first impression!

 

Family Photo at Barton Hills Country Club

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We photographed this family a while back, during the summer months. It’s always nice to be able to plan a family photo session for someplace outdoors.  And if you can choose a location that is meaningful for your family, so much the better!  For a golfing family, there is no place better for family pictures than at the golf course.  So we did their family picture at Barton Hills Country Club, their favorite golf course.

Family photos don’t have to be formal, they don’t have to be held in the studio.  It’s just as easy to go on location and find someplace that really reminds you of what’s important to your family.

Ann Arbor Graffiti Alley Senior Photos

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It can be tough to find a spot for senior photos that hasn’t been overused.  But even with a place as popular as Ann Arbor’s graffiti alley, it’s all about your vision.  Betsy uses her photographic talent to bring dramatic lighting and different camera angles together so that your senior photos will look unique — even if they are taken in a popular place for senior pictures.

Don’t worry so much about whether a particular spot is “overused” — make sure you trust your senior photos to the right photographer, so that you can get creative and unique results — no matter where your senior photos are taken.

For this high school senior’s portraits, we went on location for the bulk of her session.  We also did some traditional senior portraits back at the studio, though by traditional we really mean studio setting, with studio lights.  With the right clothing, even something simple can still be personalized and unique.  With senior portraits, if you’re going to do a two part session, we recommend starting at the studio — that way you have time to get used to being in front of the camera (Betsy will do her best to help you relax and start having fun ASAP).  These studio photos are often used for high school yearbook submissions, as they usually have backdrop requirements and such.  Once we have that out of the way, it’s off to the location of your choice for a fun and creative photography experience!

Newborn Baby Photos in Studio

posted in: Notes | 0

Sometimes with a new baby in the family it can be tough to get out of the house.  But one of the first excursions, in our biased opinion, should be for newborn pictures! If you are looking for those adorable sleeping baby photos, it is best to plan this session for the first week or two of baby’s life.  Because as we all know, babies sleep a lot to begin with, and then become more alert more often as they get older.  That’s why we have so much interest in our Baby’s First Year plan — it includes multiple sessions so you can have us photograph each adorable stage.

Siblings and family members are always welcome in newborn baby photos!  If you’re worried your kids won’t sit still for the camera — just relax and let us do our thing.  Betsy has many tricks to get willful little ones looking their best for the camera.

Extended Generations Family Photo

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There’s something unique and special about extended family portraits.  Yes, it can seem tough to get the whole family together.  But it is worth it. Because you’re bringing the whole family together.  So plan your session, have Betsy create your portraits, and then take the rest of the evening to be together as a family.  Life is too short, we all are too busy.  You have to make family a priority.  You deserve to have portraits not just of your kids, but of your entire family, on your wall.

A secondary challenge?  Location.  Sometimes people want to have their family photo taken, but aren’t sure where to do it.  Well, the studio is always an option.  But Betsy likes to recommend you consider having your family photo taken somewhere more unique to your family.  Your parents’ home.  The old farm house that’s been in the family for generations.  The park where your grandfather proposed to your grandmother.  Family photos are a special occasion — and it’s ok to put some thought into planning where you want yours done!

Family Photos with Horses

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I recently did a family photography session that included the family’s horse.  We met at the barn where their horse was, and after doing a series of family portraits on location (without the horse), it was time to bring her in from the pasture.

Well, needless to say, since it was December, and on the warmer side, it was a little muddy.  My client took some time to brush off the dried mud, and then I had her walk up and down this stretch of ground between two of the barns.  I love capturing moments between animals and their people.  And this one is one of my favorites.  The fog lends an ethereal quality to the scene too.

Of course, with horses, one of the challenges is that most startle at a camera’s flash.  The same was true of this beauty.  So, we concluded the session with another series that included the whole family.

 

First Snow – Grayling, MI

posted in: Notes | 0

It’s amazing how transient things are, how quickly the seasons change.  We went up north last weekend as part of our continued “working on the cabin” saga.  And yes, that’s why things have been a little quiet around here on the blog.  Real life obligations always come first — in this case, it was an amalgam of things for clients as well as the addition we are adding to the cabin.

Anyways, last weekend we were expecting cold weather, but certainly not snow.  We unpacked the truck in between snow flurries and frozen rain showers.  And in the morning, we woke up to a winter wonderland.  Well, snow wasn’t completely covering the ground, but there was certainly enough for the boys to stomp about, shovel off the deck, and make snowballs.

Here’s a view off the back deck of the cabin, at sunrise.

bphotoart-DSC_8313-Pano-grayling-mi

Yes, it was still snowing that morning.  The grayish white specks all over these images (faintly resembling sensor dust) are really large snowflakes coming down.  Zack was enthralled and wanted nothing but to be carried outside so he could try to grab snowflakes.  Toby tried his hand at catching snowflakes on his tongue, before moving onto bigger ventures — shoveling the deck.bphotoart-DSC_8305-grayling-mi

There’s something to be said for the warmth of the early morning sun coming up over a snowy scene.  These pictures simply don’t do it justice.

bphotoart-DSC_8301-grayling-mi

The air was a bit hazy with all that moisture as the sun came up, giving off an ethereal glow…

bphotoart-DSC_8297-grayling-mi

And here’s the best “it’s snowing” picture I took before heading back inside to make breakfast.  So many snowflakes in the air.  It was gorgeous.  Cold.  But gorgeous.

bphotoart-DSC_8294-grayling-mi

Thanks for letting me share.  I’ll be working more blog posts back into the schedule this fall and winter, so don’t be surprised to see things get “back to normal” around here.  As always, I’d love to chat with you about planning a portrait session… so get in touch!

Michigan Pasty Recipe – Meat Hand Pie

posted in: Notes | 3

While Michigan doesn’t have an official state food, in the UP (upper peninsula), there is a fond love for the pasty.  Pasties are meat hand pies, and depending on who you ask, a pasty may or may not have specific filling ingredients (potatoes, onions, rutabaga, carrots, meat).  A little further on, I’ll share our recipe for Michigan Pasties, but first, a bit of history.

According to a student webpage project done for Michigan Tech University, the history of the pasty is quite detailed.  It was a common meal for workers in Michigan’s upper peninsula copper mines (originally Cornish, but adopted by other European immigrants).

The pasty became popular with these other ethnic groups because it was small, portable, was very filling, and could stay warm for 8-10 hours. Pasty rivalry occurred between the Finns, Swedes, Irish, Poles, Germans, Scots, Italians and French with each group contributing something in the way of seasoning and other ingredients. All groups agree that pasties must contain two things, potatoes and onions.

The pasty was eaten by hand, and could be reheated or eaten cold. We’ve tried both ways in our household; the boys LOVED having cold pasty leftovers for lunch.

The portability of the pasty not only made it easy to carry, but if it should get cold it would be relatively easy to heat up. This was done by putting the pasty on a shovel and holding it over a head-lamp candle. Miners never ate a pasty with a fork, they ate it end to end, and held it upright to keep the juices in. Since entire Cornish families worked in mines and each member of the family wanted different ingredients in the pasty, the Cornish wife would stamp the bottom corner of each pasty with an initial. According to the Cornish Recipes Ancient and Modern, “The true Cornish way to eat a pasty is to hold it in the hand, and begin to bite it from the opposite end to the initial, so that, should any of it be uneaten, it may be consumed later by its rightful owner. And woe betide anyone who take’s another person’s corner!”

bphotoart-pasty-meat-handpie-DSC_6990An internet search for “Michigan Pasty Recipe” will produce many different pasty recipes — according to a UP pasty resource  I found, it appears there is no longer a set of required ingredients:

Pasties consists of a crust filled with diced potatoes, rutabagas, carrots, onions & ground beef seasoned to perfection. Now some people combine ground pork, ground beef, and ground lean beef. Now a days they even have chicken, veggie, and even a breakfast one.

Another bit of interesting history trivia?  In 1968, then Governor George Romney declared May 28th Michigan Pasty Day.  Oddly I’d never heard this, despite being born and raised in Michigan.  Thanks, History channel!  Apparently the tourism industry …er, the Mackinac Bridge, helped elevate the status of Michigan’s pasty from a homecooked meal to a restaurant-worthy entrée:

 After the 1957 Mackinac Bridge opened the Upper Peninsula for tourism from southern Michigan, the pasty shifted from being a food mainly cooked at home by U.P. locals (known as “Yoopers”) to one sold at restaurants to visitors from southern Michigan and beyond (playfully derided as “Fudgies” for their preferred dessert).

I also didn’t know that there is an annual pasty festival in early July (according to the Pasty Recipe on the Cooking Channel!)

Making Michigan Pasties

And now, it’s time to share our take on a Michigan Pasty.  Well, at least, our most recent variant.  I admit, I’ll make them with whatever is on hand.  This time, we skipped potatoes entirely (gasp) because I didn’t have any!

I chopped up the vegetables first - carrots, onions, and celery.
I chopped up the vegetables first – carrots, onions, and celery.
Then, I combined all the spices.
Then, I combined all the spices.
I added the melted butter to the seasonings.
I added the melted butter to the seasonings.
And then combined all the filling ingredients (vegetables, meat, and seasonings).
And then combined all the filling ingredients (vegetables, meat, and seasonings).

Next, it was time to start on the dough for the pasty.  We used freshly ground einkorn flour, and shortening (rather than our typical butter).  My toddler helped with this phase quite a bit!  Also, if you’ve never heard of a Danish dough whisk (#afflink), you need to try one …or at least check out when we made Irish Soda Bread with the Danish dough whisk.  It really simplifies the dough mixing process; I love how easily the ingredients get blended together — and how little mess there is!

My toddler helped me measure and dump.  To the flour and salt, we cut in the shortening...
My toddler helped me measure and dump. To the flour and salt, we cut in the shortening…
Here's what the dough looked like after cutting in the shortening, and adding water.
Here’s what the dough looked like after cutting in the shortening, and adding water.
Next, we divided the dough into four equal parts.
Next, we divided the dough into four equal parts.
One at a time, we rolled them out onto our baking sheet (~10" rounds)
One at a time, we rolled them out onto our baking sheet (~10″ rounds)
Adding the filling to our dough - just on half the dough, leaving at least 1" around the edge.
Adding the filling to our dough – just on half the dough, leaving at least 1″ around the edge.
I used the silpat to help flip the dough over top so that it didn't tear
I used the silpat to help flip the dough over top so that it didn’t tear
And here are two pasties ready to go in the oven, already crimped!
And here are two pasties ready to go in the oven, already crimped!

And that’s it!  Into the oven for almost an hour, and when they come out, dinner is ready!

A quick snapshot of a finished pasty, right before my toddler cut into it.
A quick snapshot of a finished pasty, right before my toddler cut into it.

Michigan Pasty Recipe

Dough Ingredients

  • 4 c. einkorn flour
  • 1 c. butter
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1 t. salt

Filling Ingredients

  • 1 lb. carrots, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 3 Vidalia onions, diced
  • 1 lb ground beef or venison
  • 2 T. butter, melted
  • 1 T. Thyme
  • 1 T. paprika
  • 1 T. rosemary
  • 1 T. coriander
  • 1 T. onion powder
  • 1 T. garlic powder
  • 2 t. salt
  • 2 t. pepper 

Instructions

  • Combine flour and salt in bowl. Add butter, and use a knife to cut into flour.
  • Add water, and stir with Danish dough whisk (#afflink) until well combined.  If necessary, add more flour or water so the dough is workable.  If you use normal wheat flour, you’ll probably need another 1/4 cup of water.
  • Divide dough into four sections (we rolled ours into balls) and set aside.
  • Combine first four filling ingredients in a large bowl.  Separately, combine butter and seasonings; drizzle over top of fillings and stir to coat.
  • One at a time, roll each dough ball into ~10″ rounds.  place filling on half the circle, leaving 1″ border around the edge.  You can mound the filling up high.  Then, fold the dough over top, and crimp the half-circle pasty’s edges together.  We rolled these out on a silicone baking sheet, and then used the silicone to help flip the thin dough over top.  If you plan it out right, there is room to roll out two pasties per baking sheet (with no need to transfer).  That way, you don’t have to worry about the dough tearing and the pasty innards leaking out!
  • After all four pasties are completed, place the baking sheets in the oven at 375 F for 50 minutes, or until golden and cooked through.
  • Enjoy!

The nice thing about this recipe is that it comes together pretty quickly.  The ingredient list may be long, but if you have kids who like to “measure and dump” — no problem.  While older kids can be involved with every step of the process, you can let younger kids help help roll out the dough for their own pasty, place the fillings on the dough, and “check on the pasties” by looking through your oven window as it cooks.  My toddler was so excited to eat dinner the night we had pasties!

I love pie crusts, and the pasty crust is similarly delicious :)
I love pie crusts, and the pasty crust is similarly delicious 🙂

Have you made pasties before?  What fillings are your favorite?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.


tour-the-world-by-foodThis post is part of the Tour the World by food series — make sure to check out some of the other blog posts that highlight various state foods!

Here are some more resources on the Michigan Pasty (and other state foods), if you’re interested:

Don’t Lose Your Pictures

posted in: Notes | 1

Don't Lose Your PicturesLast year, my child accidentally did a factory reset on my phone. And he wiped the micro SD card clean too. At first I was furious. He should know better than to mess with Mommy’s phone, right? But then I took a breather. He was only three, after all. He thought the pattern passcode on my lock was a fun new game. And, I obviously neglected to realize that I had the default phone setting “erase all data after 10 failed login attempts” turned on. whoops.

So, as I thought things through, my anger dissipated. In its place, I was left with a keen awareness of just how fleeting electronic data is. Sure, I’ve tested and reviewed data recovery software before, but I’ve never had an actual loss. It’s not the end of the world. These weren’t wedding photos, or birth photos. I know enough to download photos to my regularly. So all that was lost? This past month’s cell phone photos and videos. But they were still memories that mattered. Memories of Toby being brave at the hospital when he got his x-rays, a video of him getting his cast put on.

Thankfully I don’t have to report to a client that I’ve lost their photos. And I pray I’ll never have to do so… my redundant backups should be prevention enough. But I’m still regret the loss.

So I thought I’d take a moment to remind you — please download your phone pictures regularly. Save them to your hard drive, burn them to a disk, put them in the cloud. Do something.

And what should you do if you lose your pictures? Take it as a reminder to do better next time. A reminder to be grateful for the memories you do have.

My attempts at using a photo recovery program were mostly unsuccessful.  Out of 3,358 files recovered, only 303 were fully recovered. The rest were partially corrupted. Thankfully I found the manual backup I’d done when switching phones several months ago.  So I’m only out 2-3 months’ worth of pictures.  Yes, this made me sad.  But you know what?  My life isn’t defined by the photos I have.. my memories aren’t relegated to pictures.  Sure, they capture the memories for me to enjoy later, but I can think back fondly on those memories without photos too.

I’m strangely okay with the fact that these pictures are gone.  My life is not defined by the pictures I take of it.  My enjoyment of this life is not dependent on the pictures I have captured.  Life is more than that.

I’m glad I’ve been documenting and sharing snapshots from our life on social media — snippets of those months are preserved there.  And, in the big scheme of things… no one has been hurt by this loss.  Maybe an emotional drainage has occurred, but nothing more.

 

20 Questions About Dad (For Your Child to Answer)

posted in: Notes | 4

bphotoart-20-questions-ask-child-about-dadEarlier this month I shared a post with 20 questions about mom that I asked Toby; it was really cute to see his answers.  So, for Father’s Day, I thought we’d recreate the list of questions, but this time ask the questions about daddy!

1. What is something dad always says to you?
I love you.

2. What makes dad happy?
That I play with him.

3. What makes dad sad?
That I don’t listen.

4. How does your dad make you laugh?
He plays with me.

5. What was your dad like as a child?
When he was none, then he was one, two, three, four, five…

6. How old is your dad?
Like 100!

7. How tall is your dad?
Five!

8. What is his favorite thing to do?
I don’t remember, but I probably know. … play with me!

9. What does your dad do when you’re not around?
Work.

10. What is your dad really good at?
Playing tennis.

11. What is your daddy not very good at?
Working.

12. What does your dad do for a job?
I don’t know what he does. He sits down and works.

13.What is your dad’s favorite food?
Some broccoli.

14.What makes you proud of your dad?
When I work with him.

15. If your dad were a character, who would she be?
I don’t know. Maybe a fire engine!

16. What do you and your dad do together?
I sometimes go in the back with him, and I dig…

17. How do you know your dad loves you?
If Daddy builds a train track with me, that means he loves me.

18. What does your dad like most about your mom?
That she cooks dinner.

19. Where is your dad’s favorite place to go?
To up north.

20. How old was your dad when you were born?
Five

21. If your dad becomes famous, what will it be for?
For playing with me.

22. How are you and your dad the same?
That I like to show daddy the bottom feeder. Daddy likes to build the playground with me. I like to build a snowman and throw snow at him.

23. How are you and your dad different?
I like to eat cereal and he doesn’t all the time.

Okay, so we did a little better with these questions a second time through, but I’ll admit he still didn’t want to focus on answering the questions.  Other things called.

Happy Father’s Day

I thought it was fitting to share this on Father’s Day, in honor of my husband and dads everywhere.  Thank you, sweetie, for all your hard work, for the times you make our boys smile and laugh, and the ways that you are a good role model for them.  It is a blessing to have these boys, and a joy to be raising them with you.  Here’s to many more years of parenting together!

Quick + Easy Oatmeal Cookies (GF Recipe)

posted in: Notes | 22

The other night we whipped up some cookies, and, as usual, I improvised the recipe.  This quick and easy oatmeal cookie recipe is based on Clean Green Simple’s Oatmeal Cookie recipe.  Except I had about 3/4 cup of gluten-free bisquick that I was trying to use up.  Because, honestly, what can you make with that little? Now I know… oatmeal cookies!

Don’t they look tasty?

bphotoart-oatmeal-cookies-recipe-easy

I pulled out these lovely teal cloth napkins just to photograph the cookies.  They were my grandmother’s (read my blog post about her – Legacy of a Truly Excellent Woman).  And in case you’re wondering why there aren’t more cookies… well, by the time I got around to photographing them, this is all we had left.  Seriously.

bphotoart-oatmeal-cookies-5878

Since I made up the recipe on the fly, I wasn’t quite sure if the oatmeal cookies would be fluffy or thin and dense.  They did puff up some, and ended up being nice and moist inside too!bphotoart-oatmeal-cookies-5881

Just a few more pictures of these oatmeal cookies, then I’ll get you the recipe.  I promise it doesn’t take long to make them up.  The hardest part was waiting for them to cool!
bphotoart-oatmeal-cookies-5883

I love oatmeal cookies.  And these are good add-ins like raisins (or, if you’re my husband, gumdrops) too.  Or just plain.  Mmmmmm.

bphotoart-oatmeal-cookies-5884

Okay, I promised my recipe.  Here’s the quick and easy oatmeal cookie recipe.

Quick + Easy Oatmeal Cookie Recipe

Ingredients

  • 3/4 c. gluten-free Bisquick*
  • 1 3/4 c. rolled oats
  • 1 T flaxmeal
  • 3/4 c. applesauce
  • 1/3 c. honey
  • 1/4 c. oil
  • 1 T vanilla
  • a dash of salt
  • Optional – 3/4 c. raisins or gumdrops

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 375 F.
  • Combine all dry ingredients except optional add-ins.
  • Add all wet ingredients, stir to combine.
  • Stir in optional add-ins.
  • Drop by heaping spoonfuls onto lined baking sheet (we use silicone baking sheets – amazing!!).
  • Bake for 13-19 minutes – remove when edges begin to brown; let rest for 5 min or cool enough to handle.
  • Makes 20 cookes (2-2.5″ diameter).

*A note about the use of Bisquick.  You don’t have to use bisquick – just sub it out for 1/4 t. baking soda and 3/4 c. flour of your choice (gluten free if desired).

And what was the verdict?  Well, our enthusiastic eaters approved of these cookies.  I love that this recipe can be not only gluten free, but free of refined sugar too, if you use normal flour rather than the Bisquick (who knew that Bisquick had sugar in it… before this, not me!).

The texture of the oats more than made up for (dare I say, covered over?) the usually distinctive taste of gluten free rice/potato flour blend that was used to make the gluten free Bisquick.

My husband, who is picky about his gumdrop cookies, gave the shrug of approval, as if to say, “not my standard go-to, but not bad.”  My toddler LOVED his cookie, and wanted seconds (we had to decline, since it was just before bed).

These went really well with a nice glass of cold milk. Just saying.

What’s your favorite kind of cookie?  Have you ever improvised a recipe on the fly?  How did it turn out?

5 Reasons We Love the Ann Arbor Hands On Museum

posted in: Notes | 1

I have many fond memories of the Ann Arbor Hands On Museum as a child. My girl scout troop had a lock-in there (we got to sleep on the 4th level of exhibits!), we had numerous field trips… and now I get to take my boys to experience the museum as well!  This post has actually been months in the making… I kept pushing it back in the schedule and I’m not sure why.  Maybe it’s because there is so much to do and see, or because the Hands on Museum keeps changing and updating their exhibits.  Whatever the reason, no more excuses!

These pictures are from a year ago, so it’s a bit of a trip down memory lane.  Toby looks so little, it’s amazing to see just how much kids grow in a year’s time.  And of course, Zack hadn’t arrived yet either.  A lot changes in a year.

Anyways, the Hands On Museum.  I wanted to share 5 reasons why we love it.

1. The museum encourages curiosity about how things work.

This is a biggie for me.  Growing up, my favorite books were “The Way Things Work” and an illustrated first aid book.  I was always asking: “why?”  I wanted to know how the world worked.  And I see that same natural curiosity in my boys.  Toby asks why a lot — and I don’t want to dissuade him from being interested in how the world works… but I admit sometimes the constant “why?” question does get old.  So we’ve come up with a solution — he has to ask what we call “why questions” or sentences.  It can’t just be “why?” — but needs to be a complete thought.  So far, that approach has worked pretty well!

2. There is a toddler room with age appropriate activities.

Before this room existed (years ago), all of the exhibits were child friendly, but many were geared towards older kids.  And during the day, when the museum became filled with children, it could be tough for the little ones to explore amidst the big kids.  The toddler room gives little ones a place to play …without worrying about being bowled over by older children.  There’s even a baby zone, for extra little ones.  We have spent many hours in this one room; Toby loves the ball whatchamacallit that has a conveyor belt, ramps, drop zones, and of course buckets for collecting the balls.  Also popular?  The toddler water table.  Two parent-friendly features that I really appreciate are the fact there’s a family restroom right off the toddler room (so you don’t have to pack up and leave just for a potty break), and that there is always a staff person monitoring the toddler room (to keep kids from leaving with out their adult)

3. It is a great option for winter excursions.

During the long winter months, it’s tough to keep from going stir crazy inside the house.  Since the Hands On Museum is about 15 minutes away from us, we would frequently bundle up and venture to downtown Ann Arbor for a fun playdate — either with friends, or just on our own. If we got out of the house as planned, we’d usually arrive just when the museum was opening.  Perfect for us, as it wasn’t yet busy, and we could plan around naps and lunch.  Sometimes it’s just good to get out of the house.  And the Hands On Museum can be a great place to go.

4. Membership options can include guest passes.

As a birthday present one year, we got a family pass to the the Handsn Museum — one that included guest passes too.  It was really nice to be able to introduce other friends to the Hands On Museum and not feel bad about finding out if they had a pass before inviting them.  We like to take care of our friends, and for the small upgrade fee in our membership, this option was totally worth it.  Plus, grandparents can take the kids too!  I think there’s also a named caregiver option as well, but since i watch the boys during the daytime, that was never really of any concern for us personally.

5. Making memories here is nostalgic.

Most people who grew up in this area have been to the Hands On Museum themselves — and since it’s been around for so long, many local parents my age have fond memories of going to the Hands On Museum as children.  It is so much fun to see your own child get excited about the same things that you fondly remember from childhood.  The ambulance is a classic, as is the working cut-away toilet, and the skeleton pedaling the bicycle too.  There are many new things to explore at the Hands On Museum, but one thing is sure — your child will definitely have fond memories of this place once they are grown.

The Ann Arbor Hands On Museum has over 250 hands-on exhibits that cover a variety of topics:  science, technology, engineering, art, math.  The Museum is open daily, and if you’re worried about it being crowded, you can always call ahead to see if there are any school field trips scheduled to arrive that day.

Make Your Own Fabric Play Fort Kit!

posted in: Notes | 21

Make Your Own Fabric Play Fort Kit for Hours of Imaginative Play!As a child, I loved making forts with my brother — we would remove the cushions from our sofa and reconfigure things to make a fort with a roof, windows, and even a door (another cushion).  This play fort kit is inspired by those memories, as I wanted to give my boys something that would inspire them to play creatively and use their imaginations.

What better way to do that than by playing fort?  Sadly, we don’t have couches that are conducive to making cushion forts (yes, I’ve tried, amusingly).  So this fort kit seemed like the next best option.

My toddler has enjoyed making blanket forts with me — but the downside of blankets is that they’re so heavy.  It’s almost impractical to use a heavy blanket for spanning wider spaces — sheets would work much better.

So, when we had to retire our master bedroom sheet set, I decided to salvage some of the fabric and turn it into pieces of fabric for a fort kit.

There was no formula, no measuring.  I cut the sheets up into random sized squares (well, rectangles, mostly).  The fitted sheet too — I trimmed off the elastic so the fabric could lie flat.

Since woven fabrics tend to fray, I did finish the edges.  You could use your sewing machine to sew a hem around each piece, or if you have a serger, just serge the edges.  Pinking shears (the scissors that cut a zig zag pattern) would have also worked.

Anyways, once the pieces were finished, I looked at the pile of fort fabric and decided we needed a bag to keep everything together.  So, I folded a long rectangle of fabric in half, and sewed it closed on three sides to make a bag.  Then, I added a drawstring to the open end.

Being the overachiever that I am, I also decided to decorate the bag so no one would be confused as to what it was for.  So I used permanent marker to write: “Fabric Play Fort” on the bag.  If you decide to decorate with permanent marker (or paint…anything that will go through multiple layers of fabric), make sure to put a piece of cardboard behind the fabric so that your decoration doesn’t bleed through.

Finally, we had some PVC pipe frames that were at one point used as laundry hampers.  They’ve been commandeered for use with the fort kit.  Or for use as a bear cave, or boats, you name it.  I love how easy it is to repurpose stuff when you’re focusing on imaginative play!

Here are some more pictures of the fort kit.  Click on any image below to enter gallery view mode, or hover over an image to read the captions.

We’ve already gotten a lot of mileage out of this fabric play fort.  And Toby has used it for more than just fort building too!  One day, the fabric pieces became a cape and wings, another day they were strewn on the floor to make a nest inside a cave… the imagination knows no limits.

I love that this fort kit was so simple to create.  You really don’t need the stow bag, and if you didn’t care about frayed ends, you could really skip the step of finishing the edges too.  Hey, while we’re at it, you could just get a cheap sheet set and leave it fully intact for use as a fabric play fort kit, right?  Stuff the sheets in the pillowcase for storage, and you’re done!

And, as a bonus?  My non-napping toddler was more than enthusiastic about taking a nap in the fort tent we made.  Naptime was easy, and as I was snuggled up under the fort, basking in the afternoon sun that streamed through the window, I was grateful for the new memories I get to make with my kids every day.

The pieces of fabric were tied together around the chair and clothes tree; the other end was shut into the dresser drawer.
The pieces of fabric were tied together around the chair and clothes tree; the other end was shut into the dresser drawer.

 

Do you have a favorite childhood memory that involved imaginative play?  Did you ever make forts as a kid?  Do you think your kids would like this fabric play fort idea?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

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