The Civil Wars...

I love discovering new music.  It's like getting to know a new friend... one that is super talented and can sing to you (or with you, in my case.)  I love to sing along.  Even though I'm horrible.

I love finding different artists, that aren't popular yet, that no one has heard of.  I love alto's, mainly because I can sing along with better ease.  I love harmonies, I love girl/guy duo's.  I love acoustic, slow, quirky music.

So when Stephen emailed me yesterday and said he was making a "mix" CD for our upcoming road trip, I told him to find some new music for us to listen to.  (Another great thing about him?  He loves music more than I do... and LOVES finding me new bands.  It's perfect)

Yesterday he came home and put on some new music for me (thank you all who purchased itunes gift cards for my husband.  If you ever questioned buying an itunes gift, that he may not like getting a gift card, let me just say he uses them, and he's already spent all three gift cards he received this year.  Thank you.)

So, the first group he puts on is a group by the name of The Civil Wars.  Have you heard of them?  I hadn't.  I loved them.  His comment was, "They are like Lady Antebellum without the third guy..." and he's right, but much more folkier(if that's a word) than Lady A.  Very mellow, indie, folk...I  Love It.

Meet Joy Williams and John Paul White.

Listen to them... I think you'll love them.

Here's the crazy part.  I went to research them (so I can get to know my new friends...) and I found out I already own Joy's music.  Way back in 2005, I bought her album...

Her Genesis album from 2005

Now, I don't know if you have ever heard of Joy Williams on the Christian circuit, but she is/was one of my favorite voices and songwriters.  It's her!  She's reappeared!  My friend had disappeared and now she's back, dyed her hair black and singing in a duo.  Welcome back friend!  I love this new look you've got goin...

I love getting reconnected. 

She's been busy, writing songs with Trent Dabbs, which were made famous on Grey's Anatomy... and starting her own record company with her husband, called Sensibility Music.  Oh, and putting her solo career on hold to be in this duo with John Paul White.

Here's her song with Trent Dabbs.  Really good.

Anyway, I've found some new friends and thought you would love them too.  I want to share them with you... so jump on board, because I have a feeling they will be around for a while and should be getting some awards here soon.  They're up for two Grammy's this year. 

You know who Joy and John Paul remind me of?  A present day June and Johnny. 



Choosing Action Sets to edit photos in Photoshop...

Not every picture is perfect.  Some, yes, are perfect without editing, as they depict a certain event or moment in time and don't need photoshop or a change in the brightness to make them more appealing.

But most of my photos, since I'm still learning, sure do need editing.

I downloaded Photoshop elements in July, and LOVE it.  (I used Picasa from Google until then, which I think is still a great free editing tool). I'm still learning Photoshop though.  If you ask me if I've had a class or read a book on my camera or the software, I'm sorry to say I haven't.  I know I know... I just like to play and learn.  Hands on kind of girl...

So, once I got Photoshop, I learned that there are these things called Actions.  In short, they make your pictures look bea-U-tiful with a click of a button.  You still have to know how to use Photoshop, but this makes it much easier.  What was once an "ok" picture, turns it into a more vibrant image... as it was intended.  It does take a while to edit each image, to make them look just right, but in the end, it's so worth it.

Some Actions are free..

Pioneer Woman offers amazing actions that are really all you need, if you're a beginner photographer.  Click here for a full tutorial and a free download.  Be sure to get both sets.  They're amazing.  The sharpen tool, fresh color tool and the edge burn are my "go to" actions.  Oh and I love the seventies tool.  All amazing.

This photo was processed with Pioneer Woman b&w beauty.  I do love this action.  It's a soft black and white.

And this is the before and after of sweet Lily... using Pioneer Woman's Fresh Color Action.  Both great images of her, just one is more vibrant.


But I'm to the point where I want the official Actions.. the ones you pay for.  And I know I seemed crazy asking for Actions for Christmas... but how much fun will it be when I can really do some cool stuff with my photos I take?  So cool.

Here's the hard part.  Where should I buy Actions from?  Or Plugins?  What do you use?

I'm torn between Florabella (this image is from their website, which shows what their Actions do... and I love the treatment on this photo... I love their website too.  Check them out!

Or RadLab, which is a Plugin to photoshop and immediately shows you what your images will look like after running the edits.

The great thing about RadLab is that you can download a free trial on their website.  And if you "like" them on facebook, you can get a code for 10% off your first order.  Pretty cool if you ask me.  Price is kind of steep for the RadLab... $149, but as I read reviews, it's worth every penny.

Here's what I've edited so far with my free demo last night.

This tree was just a "testing light" photo, and to be tossed out... but after processing it through RadLab, it's a total keeper!

This photo was also processed with RadLab.  I used four different treatments for this image and I love it!  I love the softness, since they are so sweet together.  I thought it just worked for them.

Do you have a favorite action or plug-in in Photoshop?  Give me ideas on which way to go! I have a hard time making decisions...

Gift Giving...

Now that our families have grown, and on both sides, there are no little children, we've moved to a fun drawing of names for Christmas gifts.  When there are 15 of you, it's nice to be able to focus on one gift for someone.

Sunday night, we all sat around in a circle, at Granny and PawPaw's with sweet Christmas tunes in the background.  We took turns opening our gifts from those who had drawn our name and we were able to see what everyone else received.

I'm really bad about having people take my picture, so I'm never in the pictures, but I got such a sweet gift.  Jentry Beth painted a canvas for me with "Baker" on it, and it's just precious.  She also gave me some rockin earrings and a really cool scarf.  Thanks Jentry Beth...

Stephen made out with a haul...

Three new records (and I took this picture for Candace and Jack... aren't you jealous we have your favorite group on an album?  I knew you would be...)  We got home and immediately listened to all three records all the way through.  Awesome stuff.  Thanks Jacob and Whitney!

And his next gift was awesome too.  I can't wait to hang this in a kids room or in a music room.  Ohhh, a music room.  I just thought about that.  Somewhere for my cello, his record player, our stereo... all our vintage records.  That would be an awesome room.

And for those of you who know me well... you knew my first words when I saw the poster were "I love birds!"

Mary Katherine hit it out of the ballpark with a very creative gift for Jacob.  She got Mr. Songwriter himself a subscription to American Songwriter's magazine, and the most precious leather journal for him to write all his songs in.  Such a sweet gift MK!

Granny had a good Christmas too... a new wreath for her lakehouse!  She could have fit in the box...

All in all, it was a very sweet time together, with lots of relaxing, watching movies, and eating way more than we needed to be eating.

All the girls in their new scarves... a theme for this year!

And the boys... in their LSU gear.  Geaux Tigers!
I'm still not ready for Christmas to be over.  Can we keep it going please?


Christmas with the Bakers...

Christmas Eve was a wonderful night with Stephen's family, which started at our church, First Baptist Shreveport.

Stephen was one of the readers between the hymns that we sang.  Such a wonderful service complete with an amazing organist and cellist.  I was in heaven.

After that, we went back to the house for supper.  Although it was raining quite hard, we all made it in to dry off by the fire battery lit candles in our fireplace. 

I'm never taking my tree down.  I love it so much.

On to dinner.  This was a first for us.  A 6 course Christmas Eve dinner, for 9 adults... and boy was it fun to do!

I loved setting the table.  I found some vintage china that my mother had given me, and paired it with our everyday white dishes.  The table was made complete with a tartan runner made by my mom, and a centerpiece from Target's clearance section.  I added some fresh cut greenery too... because I love it!

First course:  Mixed herb greens with candied pecans, dried cranberries, sliced green apples and crumbled goat cheese.  We dressed it with a simple homemade balsamic vinaigrette.

Second course:  Roasted red bell pepper soup with crustinis

(we didn't have enough soup bowls, so we just used some fun coffee glasses we had. Worked out perfect!)

Third course:  Bacon wrapped dates stuffed with Boursin cheese and chopped pecans, drizzled with jalapeno jelly and soy sauce glaze.

Fourth course:  Smoked brisket, orange, honey and rosemary glazed carrots, and a potato gratin with rosemary crust.

(not sure how I missed getting a picture of the brisket, but it was gorgeous!  Thank you Mom and Dad Baker for smoking it for us!)

 Mary Katherine did an amazing job on this potato dish.  It was divine!

Fifth course:  Palate cleanser, Raspberry and lemon sorbet.  (thank you Pier One for such cute dishes!  And only $1!)

We made the sorbet in our new (thank you wedding registry) ice cream/sorbet maker.  It was SUPER easy and really fun.

Sixth course:  Dark chocolate dessert cups filled with chocolate pie filling, raspberry sauce and a fresh raspberry.  (this was my favorite since I LOVE chocolate) (and my grandmother's raspberry sauce) (and dessert in general)

At the end of the night, we opened presents and had a really nice time together.  It was nice to sit and enjoy being together, and celebrate being a family.

At the end of the night, after all 9,000 dishes were washed, and everything was put up, I was a little depressed to clean off the dining room table.
Everything was put away.  I didn't like that.  I wanted the table and everything to stay just as it was!  I don't like this season ending.  It's such a wonderful time of the year ;)

But I'm glad all 9,000 dishes are clean.  Whew.


A Very Musical Christmas...

Merry Christmas everyone! I have much to catch you up on!  First of all... it was a very fun Christmas ;)

Stephen gave me the most special gift. 

My very own Cello.  He found a local music shop that will rent this cello to me and eventually, I can own it.  I'm so excited I can hardly stand it.

I haven't played since High School and ever since, I've been dying to take it back up.  I think the Cello is one of the most soothing, beautiful musical instruments ever created.  I'm so excited to get reacquainted with this old friend.  To get to know her sound and admire her beauty.

And as I play, I will look down and see the heart on the bridge... which I've always found so beautiful. 

I love that this little piece of wood, influences the sound which the cello will eventually put out.  The bridge you see above, on my cello, has a french bridge, which allows my cello to have a bright sounding tone.  I love that.

I love the heart on the bridge. Since the bridge is the "heart" of the cello, I find it very appropriate.  But I also think of something else when I see the heart.

I will know that this cello was given to me because my husband loves me so much. He is the most proud, loving, generous husband who longs for his wife to make beautiful music in our home.

Someday I'll be able to fill our home with music and I can't wait for that day. 

We've already decided we will hold a recital with other friends that play musical instruments. 

And we'll serve cookies and punch and invite parents. Won't that be fun?

It's going to be a fun year getting reacquainted to such a wonderful old friend, who I've missed dearly since high school.

Hello again, dear old friend.  Welcome to the Baker family!


Being Full...

After Thanksgiving, I was thinking about how FULL I was. We seriously ate the e-n-t-i-r-e weekend.  No breaks. 

We had the typical turkey... although with my mom and Stephen making it, it was no longer typical.  It was fabulous.

Sugared pecans...

(PS- I love being married to a Southern man.  They cook.  They cook gooooood)  I just stand back and watch and then offer my baking skills when it's needed.

Boursin stuffed bacon wrapped figs and dates.  Oh yes.  Lauren made these and they were out of this world.  (thank you sister for your marvelous manicured hands.  You'd be a great hand model)

I can't tell you how many of these I ate.  This might as well have been my personal plate.

Meats and cheese platter.  Meat from Fresco in Shreveport, all Italian cured meats.  Amazing.

Mini chocolate pies.  Same as the ones at our wedding.  My favorite.  Thank you Mom for making these... they're amazing.

Thanks Molly for the super cute cups! 

The most yummy, filling soup... Dad... you did an amazing job!

But what I've realized is that the holidays are meant to fill eachother up with not just food (although I love food) but to fill eachother up with love, quality time, hugs, silliness... which has never been so clear, now that we all live far apart.  We have to take those precious moments to enjoy our time together as a family and love on one another.

Every moment is special.  I love these women...

And if you don't know my Grandma Polly... you are missing out. 

Quality time.  Yes, even at the computer central kitchen table.  (We're just geeky.  It's ok.)

We are so blessed to be filled to the brim with love from our families but most importantly, my Lord. He has given us so much to be thankful for this Christmas season, and all throughout the year.  And what a fun year it has been for me ;)

I'm so excited to have my first Christmas as a wife and to wake up Christmas morning with my husband. We are so full and so blessed.

My cup runneth over...

You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.  Psalm 23:5-6