Aladdin Jr.

Tonight Ellee and I had the privilege of going to watch a performance of Aladdin Jr.  It was extra fun because we had quite a few friends from our Youth Group that were part of it.  They all did an amazing job and we really enjoyed watching everyone.  Here are some pictures from our fun evening at ESM’s Junior High Production of Aladdin Jr.

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Congratulations to everyone who helped to make this night a great success!  They have one more performance tomorrow at 1:00pm so if you’re looking for a fun way to spend your afternoon, you should totally check it out.

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Ellee’s Violin Story

I started playing the Piano in 2nd grade and then the French Horn in 5th.  I stuck with both through high school and enjoyed the perks which included fostering a general love for music as well as band trips to New York and Georgia.  When Christian got to 4th grade, he told us he just wanted to sing in chorus and we were fine with that.  His music teacher Mr. Frederick was outstanding and encouraged an appreciation for music that he still has to this day.  Because Christian was involved in a variety of sports and other activities, I figured it would be okay to not add an instrument to the mix.

However, Ellee was different.  When she got her list for potential band or orchestra instruments, she was so excited.  She carried it around as she dreamed of what instrument she would get.  She was delighted when she was assigned the violin.  We too were excited for her and thought it might just be a good fit for our sweet girl.

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God graciously provided a beautiful violin for Ellee, borrowed from our wonderful neighbors, the Skarkas.  It had belonged to their daughter Luisa and they were happy that Ellee would be able to use it.  We were so thankful.  Ellee was so excited about it that when she got it insisted on carrying it around with her everywhere she went that day.  I have a picture of her on my phone with it while she was browsing the candy aisle at Rite Aid.  To this day, it always makes me smile.

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We were also blessed at the end of the summer to have our amazing friend Steven come and give Ellee a few introductory lessons.  He played the violin and it was so fun to watch him pass his love and passion for it to Ellee as he patiently taught her all the basics of what she would need to know.

All that being said, Ellee started in the Orchestra this fall and it’s been such a great experience for her.  She has an amazing teacher, Ms. Sico and she has been learning so much.  A quick story about Ms. Sico…  A few weeks ago we were debating possibly pulling Ellee out of orchestra.  She was missing key lessons in class when she was pulled out for group lessons and we were conflicted.  So I reached out to Ms. Sico with our concerns.  And she was absolutely amazing.  She offered to have Ellee come in early to get lessons before school and this is what we’ve done and it’s been working out wonderfully.  I thought it was so kind of Ms. Sico and Ellee was so happy that she would get to continue in orchestra.

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It’s so important to help our kids find their gifts and talents.  It’s been so fun seeing Ellee try new things this year and so far she is really loving the violin.  So much in fact that she gave me a personal concert the other night, complete with a beautiful new dress up dress from our friend Ms. Kathi.

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And much to my delight as I sat there listening, I realized that our daughter can play the violin as well as read music beautifully (for a first year student that is).  It was sheer joy for my heart watching her as she played and she was equally delighted and proud of all that she has accomplished so far.

And this would be the beginning of Ellee’s violin story.  Thank you to the many people who helped to get everything started for her.  We are hoping for many more chapters and years to come as our daughter figures out her gifts and passions, especially when it comes to music.

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Holiday Series: Down by the Bay

I met Colleen at Hot Yoga.  She is one of the Yoga instructors and in her classes I learned how to strengthen my warrior pose and deepen my forward fold.  In between asanas and ujjayi breathing I came to greatly appreciate her kindness and her love and passion for helping others and teaching Hot Yoga.  One day after class, she asked if I would be willing to do a session with her children over the Thanksgiving break and I told her absolutely.

We met up, down by the bay, on a beautifully overcast day.  One daughter was home from her first semester of college, one in high school and the youngest had just started his first year of Kindergarten.

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And I have to say, they were all a delight to work with.

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I loved capturing a few sister shots.  I know that I probably didn’t learn to truly appreciate my sisters until we were older.  Now, like our Dad always told us would happen, they are my closest friends and I love and appreciate them dearly.  I truly did learn that my friends would come and go, but it was my sisters that were forever.

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It also made me happy to capture a few pictures of Colleen with her sweet kids.  Sadly, if you’re like me, you don’t have a ton of pictures of yourself with your kids.  Usually, we are the ones taking the pictures.  But moms are terribly important and should be photographed so know if you book a session with me, it’s something I’ll always encourage.

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Booking a portrait session is a wonderful way to capture your kids wherever they are at in life.  And since we all know how quickly time passes by, there is no better time to do this, than the present.

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I’m so, so happy that Colleen chose this time to do a session with her beautiful children.

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And I’m so thankful for the wonderful afternoon we had, down by the bay, capturing memories to be cherished for a lifetime.

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On a side note:  I’m still booking Holiday Sessions and would love to work with you and your beautiful family.  Details and pricing can be found here.

The Living Room Christmas Party

It’s Christmas time.  Well, kind of.  I mean, if you go by hearing Christmas songs on the radio and checking out the Christmas wrapping paper, gifts and decorations that have been out on display at Costco for weeks now, it’s totally the season to be jolly (and has been for about a week now).  And I personally am incredibly excited for it.  All that being said, we kicked off our Christmas season tonight with our Living Room Christmas Party.  Even though it’s still November, when we looked on the upcoming calendar and saw that basically the next five Sunday nights are full (with Christmas activities), we knew we’d have to fit it in tonight, or wait till January.

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We opted for tonight.  And it was awesome.  We played a game that involved rolling dice for doubles and then trying to open duct tape wrapped presents while wearing mittens and a scarf till the next person rolled doubles.

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It was super challenging and super fun to watch.

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And all in all, it kept our group of 20 teens entertained for a good fifteen minutes or so.  Which is pretty impressive, if you ask me.

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Afterwards, while I fried up some chicken and Cilantro wontons, Jeremy played Christmas story trivia with the teens and then read them the best Christmas story ever from the Bible.  As I worked in the kitchen, I couldn’t help but smile knowing how hard my husband works to encourage teens to grow stronger in their faith.  Investing in the lives of others is an incredibly rewarding job and Jeremy does it so well.

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And afterwards, we feasted.  The kids did a great job bringing fun and delicious foods.  The winner of the night was definitely the chicken and bacon ranch pasta that Jared’s mom made.  I’m totally looking up that recipe to try someday and it was fantastic.

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It was an awesome way to spend our Sunday evening.  We are so excited to kick off this busy, but amazing Christmas Season.  We’ll literally spend the next month celebrating in our various groups and ministries.  Christmas is an amazing time at Eastport Bible Church and if you are local, you should definitely come and join us for our upcoming events.  Most every group and small group at our church will be celebrating this month.  We also have our Children’s Christmas Play, Christmas Cantata, two beautiful Candlelight Christmas Eve Services, a Live Nativity and a Sunday Christmas Day celebration that Jeremy will be sharing at.  And again, if you are local we would love to have you join us for these awesome events!  If you’d like to know more about our church feel free to check out our website: www.eastportbiblechurch.com.

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A Plate of Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.  Seriously, I love and look forward to this day every year.  I love the football (probably an overstatement, though I do love our Turkey Bowl and the fact that Detroit won this year), I love the food but most of all, I love that this day is solely dedicated to being thankful for everything that God has blessed us with.  I’ve learned the value of being thankful, and not just for today.  Gratitude is something that I try to acknowledge every day and it’s helped bring joy and contentment to my life and has also helped shift my perspective in a beautiful way.

All that being said, I knew I wanted to take time tonight to write about Thanksgiving.  And as I was reviewing the picture I took of our Thanksgiving meal, I realized that I could use it to share about just a few of the things that I’m thankful for this year.  It probably sounds strange, but bear with me because I think it will all make sense.  Here goes.

Applesauce– It’s my Mom’s homemade kind and for my whole life, it’s always been my favorite.  My mom knows it, so every year when she makes and cans it, she sets jars aside to bring out to us.  The applesauce reminds me of my family and especially my Mom.  Though I’ve been married and away now for thirteen years, there is always a small part of me that misses being with my family during the Holidays.  It would be fun to be able to be a part of the large Thanksgiving meal that my extended family still gets together for and especially great to be able to see my sisters and spend time with them and their families.  That being said, I am very thankful for the family that God gave me and especially for the times that we do get to spend together.

Scalloped Potatoes–  We got them from Costco yesterday when they were being sampled out and they were absolutely delicious!  Super easy too, since they were already made up and all you had to do was cook them in the oven for twenty minutes.  They remind me of the “things” in life that I’m thankful for.  I’m thankful for Costco.  And Hot Yoga.  And my Essential Oils and French Macaroons.

Caesar Salad– For some reason it reminds me of New York.  I guess since I didn’t really eat it much till we moved out here.  That being said, it reminds me of all of the things that I’m thankful for that are part of New York.  I’m thankful for Eastern Long Island and for the amazing people that we’ve grown to love here.  I’m thankful for our community and especially for our church.  Each week, we interact with friends of all ages and minster to kids from Kindergarten through 12th grade and even though it can be exhausting at times, we are so thankful to be able to do what we do.

Yams with Marshmallows– I thought it would be a good idea to “toast” the marshmallows for a few minutes under the broiler just before our meal was ready.  However, when I opened the oven, the marshmallows had caught on fire.  Which left me with beautiful yams with burnt marshmallows all over it.  They were Ellee’s creation though so I had to find a way to fix them.  I scooped off all of the burnt ones and replaced them with fresh ones.  This time I toasted them while watching them and they turned out perfectly.  And it reminded me of how many times I mess up in life and how many times God comes in and takes my ugly messes and makes them beautiful again.  That… that is something that I will always be thankful for.

Green Bean Casserole–  Ellee helped me make this and the yams and the apple pie.  So of course it reminded me of how thankful I was for her and for Christian.  Our kids are amazing.  And difficult.  And wonderful.  And challenging.  But they are one of the biggest blessings of our lives and we are truly thankful for them both.

Filet Mignon– And finally the filet.  Truth is, no one in our family likes turkey.  So we decided quite a few years ago to just eat what we wanted to eat on Thanksgiving.  And steak was our number one choice.  My amazing husband grilled up this steak and he is the last person that I wanted to share my gratitude for tonight.  Jeremy is my best friend and we are truly better together then we would ever be apart.  He loves me and supports me and puts up with my craziness.  He makes me feel like the most beautiful woman in the world and he is the greatest blessing in my life.

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And that about sums it up for tonight.  Granted, there are so many things and people and places that I’m thankful for and the list could probably be eternal.  But this year, thanks to my plate of thanksgiving food, this was my list.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Turkey Bowl 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!  In our usual tradition, we kicked off ours at 8:00am with our annual Turkey Bowl.  Because in our minds, there is no better way to start off Thanksgiving than with an hour and a half of high quality flag football.  Here are some pictures from our morning.   We had a great turnout of Youth Group students, both past and present and we could not have been happier to spend our morning with them.

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Kudos to these girls who were happy to sit and watch the fun from the sidelines.

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Side note.  I love the man in the grey hat.

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I love his heart and passion for working with our Youth Group.  I love how he inspires others to be excited about the things that he is excited about, this morning being Flag Football.  Somehow he convinced 27 people to get up early on Thanksgiving morning and come play football in the freezing cold.  Though for the record it wasn’t so bad if you were running around playing football.  Anyhow, I love him and I’m so thankful that we get to do this life together.  That’s all.

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I loved these girls and their ingenuity for keeping warm on the field.

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And this one?  She was our MVP.  She’s super athletic and made quite a few amazing catches and touchdowns for our team.

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By the end of the game, these girls had to come up with more drastic measures to stay warm.  So they all piled together under the blankets and kept themselves fairly warm and entertained just fine.

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Finally, you know you’ve had many good years serving as a Youth Pastor when one of your former students brings his wife and the other brings his fiancé to the Turkey Bowl.  It made my heart so happy to have them join us this morning.

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And that wraps up Turkey Bowl 2016.  Thanks to everyone for coming, to Hannah’s Dad for bringing us hot chocolate and to Thanksgiving for being a great reason for us all to get together.  Because we truly are thankful for these kids and for the fun times and memories we get to make and share with them.  Happy Thanksgiving!

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Eastport’s Little Secret: A Wine and Cheese Shopping Night

Thanksgiving is now literally just around the corner, which for most means fun, food and family time.  I’ll be honest, it’s always a personal favorite of mine.  And then the day after that is one of the biggest shopping days of the year, Black Friday.  In general, I don’t mind shopping, but have never been one of those fun (or crazy) out all night shoppers.  Instead, I usually wait till things settle down and maybe hit a store or two on Friday afternoon.

So, if you’re looking for some non-crazy shopping fun, or if you’re the kind of shopper who goes out all Thursday night, and then spends Friday morning catching up on sleep so you can go out again later in the day, you will probably want to check out our very own Eastport’s Little Secret.  And if you’re looking to wind down with some holiday shopping on Friday evening, between the hours of 4:00pm and 7:00pm, owner Faye Michaelides has a special treat in store for you:  A Wine and Cheese Shopping Night.  “It’s just a fun way to get ready to celebrate the Holidays,” she explained with a smile, this afternoon.

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Speaking of this afternoon, I drove over to Eastport’s Little Secret to capture some pictures  of some of the fun treasures that the store has to offer for this year’s Holiday season.

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The Hamsters could be found, all decked out in sweet little Santa hats.

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And if you’re in need of everyone’s favorite Elf, you can find him just in time for his big December 1st reveal.

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Eastport’s Little Secret even carries “Elf Pets,” who can keep your Elf company this year as he travels around your home stirring up all sorts of fun.

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And Parents.  You won’t always be moving an Elf around your home, but you can always remember this special and magical time in your children’s lives, with this sweet Elf ornament, ready to hang on your tree.

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Wandering around the store, I couldn’t help but smile at all of the festive reminders of my favorite holiday.

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I’ve always been a huge fan of Christmas and everything that it brings.  I love finding special gifts for the many loved ones in my life.

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These adorable and multifunctional Sock Ornaments are sure to bring a smile to anyone who appreciates the cozier things in life.

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In addition to fun Holiday finds, Eastport’s Little Secret also had all sorts of sweet and unique gifts.  I love their children’s section and we are always guaranteed to find the perfect gift for any occasion.

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I actually bought one of these platters for a friend who then brought it to my house with some delicious banana bread this morning.  She told me that she loves it and has used it many times already.

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For the record, there is still one more day till Thanksgiving, so if you have time on Wednesday to stop by, you are sure to find the perfect gift for anyone hosting Thanksgiving day this year.  I’m sure they would appreciate being rewarded for their hard work with a fun gift from Eastport’s Little Secret.

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Seeing and feeling these slippers in real life I couldn’t help but want like five pairs knowing how cozy they would be on a cold winter morning.

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Our daughter Ellee fell in love with these as well.  She couldn’t decide which ones she liked best because they were all so adorable.

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I’ve got to be honest.  I’ve just highlighted some of the fantastic things that you can find at Eastport’s Little Secret.

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There are so many treasures in this store, that you really do just have to stop in and check them out for yourself.  So go ahead and enjoy these next few days of delicious food and thankfulness and time with loved ones.  And when you wake up Friday morning and get ready to start your shopping for the Holidays, drive down to Eastport’s main street and check out Eastport’s Little Secret.  Say “Hello” to Faye and browse around and see the beautiful things she has stocked her store with.  There is absolutely something for everyone!

And again, if you’re looking for a nice way to wind down on Friday night, stop in from 4:00pm-7:00pm for Eastport’s Little Secret’s Wine and Cheese Shopping Night!

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*I’m so thankful to share that I have an ongoing photography partnership with Eastport’s Little Secret.  All of the opinions expressed in this post are mine.  If you are a local business looking to enhance your advertising with beautiful photography, please feel free to contact me and we can talk about how I can help to share and feature the best that your business has to offer.  

Contact: lauraherr8@gmail.com or find me on Facebook.