redneck entertainment

A few months ago I scored a train table off of Freecycle. At first I was going to give it to my inlaws for their boys, but they found they didn’t have room for such a large, awkward piece of furniture. It sat in our garage, destined for a yard sale, when I had a moment of brilliance (or white-trash-epiphany, whichever) where I concluded that hey, it’s just the right height, it’s otherwise useless for us so why not turn it into a water table for outside? I mean, right? Why spend fifty bucks on a Step 2 table (that’s OK, probably better, and at the very least, better looking) when we had one right here in front of us? Or we could, with some clever MacGuyvering. And if we’re being honest, cleverness really had nothing to do with it. Cheapness did. But whatever, the girls got a water (and mud, thanks to Daddy) table while I got to bask in my brilliance for a couple hours. Until I realized that Aven had stained her swimming suit with our weird ink mud.

Sometimes it’s hard to reconcile my girls who like to get muddy and dirty and marker-y (and Vaseline-y and ink-y and toilet water-y) with these girls, who like to wear dresses and sit like ladies. Legs crossed, of course.




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Toddler session with Lizzy

Toddlers are hard to photograph. They’re move-y and can be temperamental. Whenever I shoot my girls (with a camera; don’t call CPS please) I usually just park myself on the grass and get tons of candids. I can take anywhere from 200 – 300 photos in an hour if  my girls will last that long. Sometimes I can finagle posey shots, but mostly I capture lots of in-the-moments while they’re chasing butterflies or leaping off rocks or smelling flowers.

Out of those 200 photos, I usually get somewhere around 50 that are decent and useable. If I’m lucky. Such is the life of a photographer, I suppose. I really should post my cutting-room-floor shots sometime!

Anyway, last weekend I had the privilege of working with a brand-new toddler, Lizzy. Not super brand new to me since I’ve known her since she was born, and I’ve known her daddy since he used to rollerblade in my driveway with my brother when he was seven years old (and maybe even last month?), but as far as photographing her? Brand new. I wasn’t sure which bribes would work. And like… I’m not really allowed to use bargaining chips with other peoples’ kids like “no ice cream unless you smile at mommy!!”, right? (not that I’d ever do such a thing. cough). Fortunately the whole Mommy Thing  – at least facets of it – carries over into interactions with other kids. We giggled and became friends and although she was done modeling for me by the end of that hour, the time within it was well spent. I’d like to have her over for a playdate sometime. Maybe I’ll even let my girls join in! ; )

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spring in the high desert

I love springtime. Springtime in Nevada can be pretty volatile; sunny and 70 degrees one day and snowing and 40 degrees the next. It’s unpredictable! That’s why I was so stoked this last weekend when we had consecutive days of sunshine and warm temperatures!

The storm clouds rolled in Sunday night, however, and gave birth to an amazing thunderstorm and lightning show. I love high desert storms; the smell on sagebrush is my most favorite.

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pulled pork

people say it tastes better than the Pig!

It’s one of my favorites. I like to eat it by itself; a bun just muddies up the whole depth of flavor and basically gets in the way. After stealing bite after bite straight out of the crockpot tonight I decided to have mine over a seasoned-crusted baked potato. I normally avoid carbs but I figure the carbs from a God-made vegetable are better for me than the human-made ones that go into bready things. Umm… right?
And running makes me hungry, ya’ll, so.

I don’t really follow a recipe with this and never have, and as such it always turns out tasting a little bit different each time. But still rich and flavorful and yum, so there’s enough consistency across the board to keep it delicious. So I will ballpark it for you recipe-needers out there.

First, you gotta make a rub. I mean, you can buy pork rubs and chicken rubs, but why waste the money when you probably have all the ingredients right there in your spice rack? I throw together a mix of brown sugar, dry mustard, cayenne, paprika, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder and seasoned salt and whatever else I’m in the mood for. This time around I threw in some Greek seasoning (that’s quickly becoming one of my favorite go-tos for everything) and some Forward! from Penzey’s. (See below for more exact-ish measurements)

Once the spices are combined, really rub it into the meat. They don’t call it a rub for nothing! Massage it in; get your hands and fingers caked in the stuff. Do this at least four hours prior to cooking. Letting it sit overnight is even better.

Ours hung out in the fridge overnight, soaking it all in.

This morning I took the meat out and let it sit at room temp for about 20 minutes. In the meantime, I got my crockpot out and dumped the remaining marinade into the bottom of the pot. If you let it sit overnight you’ll find that the meat “sweats” as it marinates — use that juice! I also added some veggie broth for moisture. You can use whatever broth you want. Veggie is what I had on hand.

Get a lightly-greased pan screaming hot. Like smoking  – literally. I used a little olive oil for the grease factor (added after the pan was up to temp, otherwise your oil will be smoking and not necessarily the pan). Plop your meat in and let it fry until it gets a nice, thick sear. You will smell burning sugar and other things that might make you think things are about to catch on fire, but this is a good thing. Caramelization and all that. It all adds up to delicious. Do this for all sides of the meat, even the tops and bottoms. Use tongs to turn it, not a fork. Don’t pierce the meat and let all the juices escape!

Put your meat in the crock, drizzle your favorite barbecue sauce over the top and turn it on low for 6-8 hours. Mine today cooked on low for 6 hours and it was a little over 2 pounds. Crock sizes/temps vary, so use yours the way you know best.

About 20 minutes before serving, shred the meat and stir — this will let it soak up all the juices inside. YUM. Re-cover to keep it hot until you’re ready to eat.

Jen’s Pulled Pork

2-3 pound pork roast (I used a picnic roast this time because it was on sale; I’ve also used shoulder roasts)

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 tbs. garlic powder
1/2 tbs. dry mustard
1/2 tbs. paprika
1/2 tbs. onion powder
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. seasoned salt
1/2 tsp. cayenne (or to taste)
1/2 c. barbecue sauce (I used Sweet Baby Ray’s this time; Famous Dave’s original is also good. Or make your own! Even better)

(**note: exact measurements are inconsequential; I always just eyeball this and do things to-taste. You really can’t go wrong! Like I said above, I added some Forward! and Greek seasoning and you can do the same. Or not. Whatever.)

1/2 c broth, chef’s choice (or enough to fill the bottom of your crockpot about 1/4 of an inch)

Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl or shallow dish.
Rub the pork roast liberally with the mixture, massaging it into the meat.
Place roast in a ziploc bag and refrigerate at least four hours; overnight is better.

When ready to cook, heat a lightly-greased pan on high heat until it is smoking hot. Sear roast on all sides, forming a nice crust around the meat. You want caramelization.
Meanwhile, pour broth into bottom of crockpot, along with any extra marinade collected in the ziploc.
Once meat is seared on all sides, place in crockpot (fatty side up, if applicable), drizzle with barbecue sauce and cook on low for 6-8 hours, depending on your crockpot’s specs.

20 minutes before serving, shred meat with two forks and stir, allowing the meat to soak up the broth and sauce. Re-cover until ready to eat. Serve on rolls, buns, potatoes, ice cream, straight out of the pot, etc.

Like I said, I served mine on a seasoned-crusted baked potato, which was delicious!! I rubbed a couple potatoes with a thin layer of olive oil then sprinkled them with some Greek seasoning (specifically this; you can get it at Walmart and it is AWESOME) and kosher salt. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes or so, depending on the size of the potato.

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a big day!

The seventh of April has always been an important day in our life as a couple. It was that night, thirteen years ago, when we unexpectedly held hands on my trampoline. I remember Rachel was there as well and I nudged her in the dark as if to tell her FINALLY! It’s happening! Fortunately it wasn’t a one-time only thing (as so many of those hand-holding experiences are at that age) and neither of us looked back. Four days after we held hands, we kissed. And eight days after we held hands, he told me he was falling in love with me. It might have seemed too fast to everyone else but for us the timing was perfect. We’d been friends for years and years — since junior high — so it wasn’t as if we were just getting to know each other. And aren’t relationships spawned from friendships some of the best?

Two years passed until April 7, 2001 – the day that he proposed to me. My parents said they cheered when he called them to ask for their blessing because they were so happy that he was going to be an “official” member of our family. That night we had a rotisserie chicken from Raley’s, a bag of Lay’s potato chips and a six pack of RC Cola as our dinner in the mountains. Every year on April 7 (until recently) we’d recreate our anniversary dinner to celebrate the proposal.

Then, in 2010, April 7 was the day I went into labor with Aven. I remember that night like it was yesterday! We reminisced the other night about Aven’s labor and birth and how April 7 became such an important day in our lives for so many different reasons. It’s crazy to look back on that first April 7 in 1999, to April 7, 2012 and to see how much has changed in those 13 years. It all started with innocent hand-holding and has since turned into a home, two kids and a Life together. It’s amazing, really. Who’d have thought that that would lead to this?

April 7 used to be celebrated just as joyfully as our wedding anniversary in years past. But since Kids Happened, our focus has shifted a little, and even moreso now that Aven’s birthday is the day after. We still celebrate in the background, as it were, but our girls have definitely become the main event.

Since our weekend evenings were filling up with Aven’s birthday party and other Easter-related things, and since Kyle had to work during the day, we colored eggs on Friday night with the girls. It was about 30 minutes of chaos, but super fun anyway. I managed to get a few photos in between the dye-splattering, egg licking and general GET YOUR HANDS OUT OF THE CUP!-ing. (All Aven, of course).

Kyle had to work this weekend, so that was a bit of a bummer. We celebrated Aven’s birthday on Saturday evening with pizza and painting and lots of general overstimulation. We had a good time!

I made her a mini-cake and I made “ice cream cone” cupcakes for everyone else. As usual, I over-filled the cones with batter and they overflowed. But no worries, I was all they just look like they’re melting! so I left them like that. And topped them with cherry frosting and melted chocolate and sprinkles. They looked cute. Sorta. (not really?) but they were….. weird. The texture of the cone was strange and they were just. Yuck. I threw the leftovers away and that “recipe” is officially deleted off my Cute Things For Parties list.

I colored the cake batter with gel colors and alternated pink and green. That part was cute!

birthday girl with her daddy!

Instead of handing out gift bags to all the kids, I decided to get tiny naked birdhouses for all the kids to paint. It was fun!

And those little flower pots with the peep bouquet? Those were handed out at the end via a “lottery” where each kid had a number under their seat. The tops are filled with pastel M&Ms, which pappy and uncle Mitch ate throughout the party. haha

I love how her little hands are clasped.


Rapunzel dress from uncle Andy and aunt Kendra! Jovi was soooooo jealous and kept trying to trade her old busted Cinderella dress for this one. haha

Aven's Easter basket

Jovi's Easter basket

I went to Michael's last week and bought a ton of gardening things and outdoor stuff for them. We're doing to build them their own little garden this summer. And for some reason, they both love umbrellas.

This was taken at 5:30 in the morning. FIVE THIRTY

awesome umbrellas and jellybeans for breakfast.

Egg hunt. Jovi was the only one looking; I think Aven realized it was FIVE THIRTY IN THE MORNING

After early morning shenanigans were done, we made it to church (by the skin of our teeth) and then headed up to my parents’ house afterward. While they were staking out a spot for us in the canyon for a picnic, I took some photos of the girls in their front yard.

Candids are so much easier with kids. They were running around chasing a butterfly. I just stood back and shot.

And then I lucked out and captured this:

Can you see it?

I managed to get them to sit for five seconds so I could get some pose-y shots, but it didn’t last long.

and then Aven made this face and posing was all over.

After that completely exhausting ten minutes of whirlwind photo-taking, we changed our clothes and headed up to the canyon with my parents for a little picnic. I was missing Kyle, but we still had fun with some egg hunts, cold fried chicken (YUM) and general Easter-ness.

when did she turn into a KID??

sunkissed cheeks

my girls ❤

My baby is two!!! Here’s a little progression…

Aven, still in my belly! I think this was only a few days before she was born.

Aven Brooke, just a couple weeks old.

One month

First birthday (I know, shocking, right?)

Aven Brooke today!

My sweet little hurricane ferret.






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catching up.

I meant to post a photo of the Valentines Jovi and I made a few weeks ago… You know.. when it was still relevant. But I have been pulled in a billion different directions lately and frankly have not had the time to take many photos of Life, let alone post them.

But still:

Cute, right? I wish I could take credit for the idea, especially when the moms of her classmates were OMG!!!-ing over them. But no, it was a pinspiration I saw months ago and vowed to do myself, eventually. I like how they came out.
Apparently my dad had one of these hanging outside of his office as a “Who I Stay Safe For” motivator, and someone came along after a few days of it being on display and stole the sucker. For some reason the image of a grown man, hard-core miner sucking on a lollipop just cracks me up. But instead of taking the photo down (because I mean.. weird pose otherwise, right?) my mom bought a huge tub of mini-tootsie pops so he can refill it and Jovi can “hand” out suckers all the live-long day. Too funny.

I don’t have too much to say these days. Life is good. Jovi is slowly getting back to her normal self (it’s been a challenge the last few weeks! I thought my kid was broken.). We are gearing up for some vacations and other adventures in the coming months. And me? I’m still waiting. Waiting waiting waiting… I really hate waiting. But that’s me these days. Just sitting over here twiddling my thumbs and things. I will elaborate in the near future (hopefully) but for now I am caught in that weird place of limbo.

So to distract you from the suspense, here are some pictures of my lovelies!

we busted out the "real" paints the other day. Non-toxic, of course, because.....

.... she likes to paint her tongue. Naturally.

This is her "on the verge of laughing and trying hard not to" face.

A couple weeks ago I came home from work to find Kyle making cupcakes with the girls. How awesome of a daddy is he?? He even made homemade cream cheese frosting and colored it purple. Love him.

Here is a time lapse for you:


A couple days after the fun cupcakes I was in the kitchen doing something and Kyle had stepped outside. The door was halfway open and the girls were loitering in and out of the house. I (mistakenly) thought they were occupied and playing. But no. Aven found an ink pad of Jovi’s.

I made these super delicious banana gobs with orange-vanilla buttercream filling a couple weeks ago. SO GOOD. I sent them ice fishing with Kyle and his family because I am rad like that.

Also, I found a new love of my life. Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter.

Have you tried it? No? DO IT NOW. Immediately. It is this creamy deliciousness that tastes like cookies but is spreadable like peanut butter. It’s good on everything. Apples, waffles, crackers, pancakes, right out of the jar with a spoon…. I’m going to bake with it this weekend. Except I sort of don’t want to because then I might run out before I go back to Reno. DISTRESS!

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I really hate waiting. And I want to say I especially hate waiting for something I’m anxious for, but isn’t that the very definition of waiting? If you weren’t wrapped up in thoughts of it, waiting, it wouldn’t really be “waiting”, would it? Apparently I also tend to get wordy about silly things when I am hurry-up-and-wait-ing.

J is apparently feeling better, as evidenced by the two time-outs she got herself into before we even left the house. I mean… the energy for disobedience and arguing has to come from somewhere, right? On one hand I was GRAWWWR about it, but once I got to work and my hair settled down and my heart rate returned to normal and I saw things in regular color pallets instead of through a red tinge, I decided since she has the mental wherewithal to defy me, that means she must be inching ever closer to “normal” as far as her health, and that is good. (and, you know, I am being hyperbolic up there).

In all the crazy, put your shoes on now I am not telling you again!, rushing out the door haste, I totally forgot her lunch. It was another one of those &@^% moments initially, but then I decided it was a good thing. We’d go on a lunch date and sort of cancel out our morning. We’d laugh and share chicken nuggets. Hopefully.
Her sister is with my mother-in-law today, and said MIL called a bit ago and offered to take J this afternoon too for lunch and naps and etc. So we will be doing that instead!

There really is nothing better for an emotional, clashing, my mommy won’t listen to me! morning than a good dose of Grandma, right? And for me, coffee. Make mine a triple shot breve.

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