Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

Here's a small sampling of photos I've taken over the past year that never saw the light of day. They've been trapped in folders and on memory cards, without edits or the benefit of a bit of Photoshop. This is my way of saying goodbye to 2008. So, goodbye,'s been real.

You best get ready, 2009. I'm going to rock your socks off.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas 2008

My Christmas was really awesome:
  • Good Christmas Eve dinner at my parent's house
  • Christmas Eve services with our families
  • Quick pizza/wings hangout with Di (Dave's sis), John, Miranda and Cord.
  • Christmas morning alone with Dave, just how I like it
  • Christmas Day hosted at our place with my family
  • Gave Christmas portraits to my parents and sisters
  • KitchenAid mixer.  k-i-t-c-h-e-n  a-i-d  m-i-x-e-r
  • Christmas lunch/dinner was not planned well by Dave and I, but my family waited patiently and it ended up being worth the wait
  • Seeing Sebastian
  • Game with Dave's family
  • Christmas movies watched around and on Christmas: Home Alone, A Christmas Story, Nightmare Before Christmas, The Family Stone, and Mamma Mia (I know it's not a Christmas movie, but we watched it)
  • Day-after-Christmas homemade waffles (it's definitely shaping up to be a tradition)
For those of you who are materialistic snots, here you go:
  • What I gave: hat and scarf, red hoodie, books, magazine subscription, prints with custom typography, portraits, Mamma Mia!, White Christmas, Christmas decor, socks, underwear, My Little Pony, Berenstain Bears book, Chutes and Ladders, Candy Land
  • What I received: Cute Christmas decor, silicone baking pan, Pier One gift card, hat with big buttons, house socks, cords, sweaters, camera remote, Peace Like a River, The Tales of Beetle the Bard, KitchenAid mixer, Partini game, The Host, photos, makeup bag, lotions and sprays, Kohl's gift card
  • I have to be honest, I truly did enjoy giving more than receiving this year. I really put a lot of thought into my gifts, and loved giving things that I made myself.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

Oh, there’s no place like home for the holidays,
For no matter how far away you roam -
When you long for the sunshine of a friendly gaze,
For the holidays - you can’t beat home, sweet home!
I met a man who lives in Tennessee, and he was headin’ for
Pennsylvania and some homemade pumpkin pie;
From Pennsylvania folks are travelin’ down to Dixie’s sunny shore;
From Atlantic to Pacific -
Gee, the traffic is terrific!
Oh there's no place like home for the holidays,
'Cause no matter how far away you roam -
If you want to be happy in a million ways,
For the holidays - you can’t beat home, sweet home
I met a man who lives in Tennessee and he was headin’ for
Pennsylvania and some homemade pumpkin pie;
From Pennsylvania folks are travelin’ down to Dixie’s sunny shore;
From Atlantic to Pacific -
Gee, the traffic is terrific!
Oh, there’s no place like home for the holidays,
'Cause no matter how far away you roam -
If you want to be happy in a million ways,
For the holidays - you can’t beat home, sweet home!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I'm a Cookie Ninja


Check my skills. He can't even capture my awesome knife wielding. I'm like lightning.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

AdventBlog: Day 4 (giving)

I've decided to give as many homemade gifts as possible this year, and that gift-giving includes you!

I know most of you have already purchased, wrapped, and stashed your Christmas gifts...those are just the kind of readers I have.  ;-)  For those of you who might NOT be fully prepared, I wanted to offer a little something to help you along. Here are Christmas tags in two different color schemes. Please save and use them if you can! Make sure to download the "original" size so it will print out correctly on an 8.5x11 piece of paper. If you would rather have the PDF, please email me and I'll send it your way!

If you want something more specific, please don't hesitate to ask. I'd love to customize the color scheme for you.

Happy Christmas!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

AdventBlog: Day 3

Derek preached a really great sermon today on "hope," more specifically "hoping in God." Here's a quote he used that I can't get out of my head:

"Creatures are not born for desires unless satisfaction for these desires exists. A baby feels hunger; well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim; well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire; well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing." -C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Saturday, December 6, 2008

AdventBlog: Day 2

Dave and I finished up decorating our home today. Something happens to me when I'm done dressing up my living space for Christmas: I start anticipating the holiday. The decorations are a great kick-off for me. I love how the entire mood of the house changes. Suddenly, everything feels peaceful and cozy. Here are a few corners of our home (aaaand a christmas self portrait with my new haircut):

  • We decorate. Jesus had a manger and a cave.
  • We hustle. Heaven stood still.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

AdventBlog: Day 1

ad⋅vent  [ad-vent]
  1. a coming into place, view, or being; arrival: the advent of the holiday season.
  2. (usually initial capital letter) the coming of Christ into the world.
  3. (initial capital letter) the period beginning four Sundays before Christmas, observed in commemoration of the coming of Christ into the world.
  4. (usually initial capital letter) Second Coming.

Beginning tomorrow (well, today) and for the rest of December leading into Christmas, I am going to focus this blog on the advent season. Hopefully, it will be helpful to someone other than me. Really, it's simply going to be an exercise in letting my mind wander as I think through what Christmas means. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Three Reasons I Appreciate Pastor Derek Sanford

Bear with me. I'm trying to win him this.

Inspired by his new blog theme , I'd like to give you three four quick things I appreciate about Derek:

  1. He is passionate about Jesus and making Him famous. He especially loves doing this through and for people who are struggling and need to be served.
  2. He is a visionary leader who also happens to be very organized. I remember many a time when the two of us were positively giddy over a newly organized booklet or binder.
  3. He is, by far, the second-funniest person on the planet (Dave is number one, of course).
  4. He is a wonderful and loyal friend. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


A while back, I was playing the game Portal with my friend, Brian. His goal was to teach me how to play a PC video game, but I was distracted by the story line. About five minutes into the game, I could tell where it was leading and what was going on, which completely distracted me from my task of learning. In fact, I still don't remember "how" to play, I only remember the story line. He blogged about my "incredible sense of foreshadowing" the next day.

He's not the first one who has noticed that.

A while back, I made a (bad) habit of yelling out things like "she's weird," or "he did it" when watching a movie. Now, I just find myself rolling my eyes at the outcome before my friends have any idea what's going on.

I started the Twilight series last week. I'm about 400 pages into book two, as of last night. The problem is, I'm almost 100% sure I know what is going to happen and what is going on (and not because someone told me). I really hope I'm wrong. We'll see. The one thing about me, though, is that I commit. I'll finish it. Even if I do know the ending. Just ask Aaron . We've committed to many a bad movie together, waiting for one or both of our spouses to realize how horrible it would turn out to be.

I don't want to read to much into it, but I think is a silly side effect of the discernment gift I have. I can usually read people pretty well. Sometimes, I will feel completely awkward in a situation and afterward I have to explain to Dave why. It's frustrating to realize things that other people don't, but it can also be a blessing. I only wish I had a better measure of compassion to go along with it.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Full-Timing It

I'm absolutely loving only having one full-time job. It's incredible. I'm experiencing a very steep learning curve for some things, but I really like it.  I'll get there.

I'm sorry I haven't been a faithful blogger. I haven't been a faithful friend to a lot of people, either. (wow...can I GET any more depressing?)

The goings-on:

  • Dave and I went to Toronto to see the Sound of Music. It was a really great time, although I absolutely crashed because I was so tired.
  • My cousin had her baby all safe and sound! She's in the high risk category, so it was a relief. I'm doing announcements for them, and I'm super excited.
  • We plastic-ized our windows for winter. I never claimed to have a glamorous life, people.
  • I'm loving the ESV Study Bible. I can't imagine what kind of pressure these people were under to make this thing happen.
  • I've brought my garden veggie spaghetti sauce back to life with a new twist and some chicken. I find myself wanting to have it every night for dinner.
  • We're going to Myrtle Beach for Thanksgiving. 
  • I think one year, I'm going to go anti-social for all holidays. I will stay in my bed and be alone for all holidays. Wouldn't that rock?
  • Churches are messy organizations. Not because they're poorly run, but because they're a "people business."
  • Directed a little drama this evening. Too much pressure.
  • Got asked to sing in a 12 person ensemble. I don't think the asker knew who he was talking to. Eek. Can I get an amen?
  • I'm insured. w00t!
  • Speaking of w00t!, Brian has a new game that makes me want to buy my first gaming system. It's soooo cute.
  • I'm reading Twilight.
  • Dave has been filling out the husband role nicely, lately. I love him.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Why I Voted for John McCain

Since the last presidential election, I have spent a lot of time researching how I think the national government should be run. I used to be a single issue voter (abortion rights) and I used to want the President to be a Christian. Today, I can honestly say that neither of those things are true anymore. I've come a long way and would not consider myself a Republican OR a Democrat. I'm saying all of this because I think there are some people who will write my comments off. I've said some pretty crazy things in the past. I regret a lot of it, but I feel it had to happen so I could make the changes I needed to.

Here are my reasons:

  • I think a limited government is the best thing for our country. George Bush has not been a traditional Republican in this way. I believe John McCain is.
  • This country needs a moderate (along the lines of Clinton and Reagan). I believe John McCain does have a record of "reaching across the aisle," and that says a lot. We don't need to keep polarizing ourselves. It's counter-productive.
  • Supreme Court Justices need to make decisions based on the constitution and law, not circumstances and empathy/sympathy. I believe John McCain will appoint responsibly.
  • Economics and Taxes. I feel more comfortable with McCain's plans. I don't think either candidate has the correct solution, but this one feels more right to me.
  • Generosity. I don't want the Government taking more of my money and then deciding where it should go. I want to feel freedom to give generously to my sister(s) if they need help. I don't want them relying heavily on Government hand outs. European nations are the most stingy givers, and this is the main reason why. Americans are generous people. I don't want to see that change.
  • Leadership. Leadership is different than motivation. Though it says a lot to have a well-run campaign and be a great orator/motivational speaker, it doesn't say enough. McCain has proven himself ready and worthy to lead the country and our military.
Whatever your decision, please know that it doesn't change the way I feel about you (and I hope you can say the same!). Thanks for reading. 

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Where Did October Go?

Let's cut to the chase. The biggest news bulletins in my life:

  • November is going to rock. I'll be done juggling both of these jobs and will be ready to take on the challenges of full time ministry. I can't wait. I'm sad, really sad, to be leaving the Cleft Palate Institute, but it's for the best (for them and me).
  • I suffered a big disappointment recently. I'm not going to go into it, but please pray if you think of me as I try to wade through the sludge.
  • Aaron turns 30 this weekend. Hello, fellow 29ers? Are you hearing this? 
  • We're doing something special on Sunday with him to celebrate, and I'm super excited.
  • Our friend Tom, who has served with me on the Grace PowerPoint Team FOREVER, gave a very generous gift to Dave and I. He gifted us with two tickets to see "The Sound of Music" in Toronto. It was an honor to receive a gift like that. We're gearing up to spend 24 hours or so in good ole' Canada. Awesome.
Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Church Marketing Sucks

My guest blog was just published at . These guys do a great job at lifting up the value of "communicating, with uncompromising clarity, the truth of Jesus Christ." I stand behind their mission 100% and am honored to be a part of the team that is helping churches around the world do this marketing and communications thing better.

(It is even complete with it's own typo, which is "me.")  ;-)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Monday, October 6, 2008

Weird Hair

 I have REALLY long eyebrow hairs and eyelashes. It's bothersome.

Don't let anyone tell you that long eyelashes are enviable. They are really weird. They get all crumpled up when you sleep. Right before my wedding, a Clinique consultant told me I should get an eyelash PERM. HELLO?

As for the brow? Well...I can't really pluck them too much because I don't have a LOT of hair, just long hairs that are sparse. That's a problem.

My name is Danielle...and I have weird eye hair.

Friday, October 3, 2008

The Outsourced Associate

I just wrapped up an initial project with a brand new client who I absolutely love! I've never met him, but I know him through email, and I'm pretty sure he's a pretty incredible guy. He just passed the bar (w00t!) and is starting a business and launched a web site to serve existing law firms. Genius idea. Here is the stationery set I designed for him You can see a few more at flickr):

Congratulations, Josh!

Monday, September 29, 2008

The End of an Era (and the Beginning of a Better One)

September 26, 2008

I am writing you to officially tender my resignation from the NWPA Cleft Palate Institute effective Friday, October 31, 2008.

Working for Cleft Palate has been a great experience. I could not have asked for a better group of people to work with: from the staff at the Achievement Center to the volunteer Clinic Team and Board of Directors, everyone has been wonderful. I only wish I would have had more time to get to know the two of you better. I have grown in many ways here and will always treasure the opportunities provided for me by Cleft Palate.

I will be accepting a full-time position as Communications Director with Grace Church. While I will miss all of you very much, I feel that it is time for me to begin working in my field of Graphic Design and Communications. The offer came as a complete surprise to me, and it is an offer I cannot refuse.

I will do my best to finish my current projects before my last day. I would also like to return and help with November clinic, and will be available to you and the new secretary during the first two weeks of November, if needed. The staff at Grace Church realize that it is going to be very difficult for me to part ways with clinic and are willing to work with me during this transitional period.

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask. I wish you all the best.

Danielle Hartland

Photo I took of Hayden, the face of the organization.
You know what the craziest thing is? His family attends Grace now.

I feel a bit more free, and I have a renewed sense of and trust in God's sovereignty. This is all happening very quickly, but also at the exact right time. I don't remember what it's like to only have one full-time job! Of course, I'll keep up with r.s.v.p.designs, but I have a feeling that everything I've been doing at 80% will now be able to be 100%. I can't wait! Oh...I guess I'm not waiting anymore!

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
-Ephesians 3:20

Friday, September 26, 2008

I Have Perfect "Color Vision"

I guess that's good, considering what I do.

My results, after my first and only try:

Compared to others:

Take the test! Let me know your results. Maybe everyone gets a perfect score and I'm not at cool as I think I am. It's possible. Have a great weekend!

I'll have some exciting news to share come next week! And who knows, maybe I'll start blogging again.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Impromptu Day of Solitude (kind of)

I drove my parents to Pittsburgh this morning so they could catch a flight to California for my aunt's funeral. She died on Wednesday afternoon. As I was driving away from the airport, I had the sudden realization that I had no where to be. Sure, I had work to do, but I didn't care all that much. I was really feeling the need to be away and alone.

After helping Dave via phone and web to locate some files, I quickly came up with an itinerary for the day. After that, I scolded myself and got off of the computer. I put everything away and just started driving. My goal? Get lost, get out of the car, and walk. I didn't get too lost: I mean, it's Pittsburgh.

My Day:

  • Went to IKEA and just looked at the room setups. Got a free bag for filling out a survey.
  • Drove downtown and snapped some pics.
  • Walked around the strip district, shopped the street market, and took more pics.
  • Ate a sandwich and a pickle outside.
  • Spent 2 hours at the Andy Warhol Museum. (15 minutes were in the cloud room. It was so peaceful)
  • Bought a belt and a shirt.
My Pics:
I only took about 20, so I didn't have much to choose from. Here are some decent ones:

My Thoughts:

  • I feel better when I take time for myself. It doesn't need to be a whole day in a different city if I make it a bit more frequent.
  • God time in the car is one of my favorites. Especially when I catch someone looking at me talking to myself. 
  • I like to take pictures. I don't feel I'm all that great at it, but it was nice to do it for myself.
  • Mourning is very different for each person. No matter how it's expressed, it's still painful.
  • Sometimes I really wish I lived in a bigger city. I just love the energy. A city on lunch hour is a sight to behold.
  • Andy Warhol is really inspiring, so is his mom's handwriting. It is gorgeous.
  • Andy Warhol was seriously mental.
  • Andy Warhol was a genius.
  • Is it normal and/or socially acceptable to cry in museums?
  • It's been a rough couple of months.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Financial Peace University: Week 1

Dave and I had our first FPU class Sunday morning at Grace. I have to admit that I was nervous about the whole experience, mainly because I have a low tolerance for cheese. I was worried the video teaching would be cheesy and overly "motivational" (if you know what I mean). Dave Ramsey is a really great speaker. He's genuine, and it shows. I was pleasantly surprised.

Beyond that, I can see that this is a masterful program. Everything is broken down to a basic level, but it's applicable no matter where you are in your financial journey.

For the first time in a couple of years, I have some hope in the area of finances. Even though we're far away from where we want to be, the end is in sight. It's not as bad as I make it out to be, and we're going to be fine...excellent, actually. My main prayer at this time is that we'd both just jump in 100% and try it together.

This week we're:

On Saturday, ask me if we did it. 

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Two Announcements and, Hopefully, Many More to Go

I just wrapped up these two projects. The first is for a couple with a newly adopted daughter, using the photos I posted a while back. The other is for a dear friend who just had a baby. She took all of the pictures and emailed them to me. I edited them a bit and put it together. Both of these have been a joy to work on:

I'm currently working on an announcement for Morrow John Piper, which makes me more happy than I can explain. I can't wait to have it finished.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

My To-Do List is Ever-Expanding

I'm not going to bore you with it.

In my quest to become more efficient and ... sane, I've been tossing around some different ways to organize my time and tasks. Over the past couple of months, I feel like I've lost the ability to plan and execute. It's bad. I've said, "oh yeah, I forgot" more in the past two months than in my entire life leading up to this point. That's not me.

Some things I'm considering (a.k.a struggling with):
  • My main time slots: god | marriage | home | family | friends | grace | cleft palate | r.s.v.p.designs 
  • Online organizer: But what if I'm not online? Pssh. Yeah right.
  • Smart Phone: Is this REALLY going to help? Or will it make me even MORE accessible and scattered? I'm thinking that having my calendar in front of my face at all times couldn't be a bad thing. It's the "getting instant emails" part that scares me.
  • Workplace effectiveness: How do I get work done in environments that require relational and team/cooperative working? Should I block out "don't bug me" time? I already spend one day working at home. 
  • Tracking Hours: I've started tracking hours for the things I do. I want to see a 30-day snapshot of how I spend my time.
  • Family/Friends: I don't spend time with my family and friends anymore. When I'm at someone's house, I'm either on the computer or thinking about something I need to accomplish as soon as I get home. I've lost the ability to be "present."
  • Marriage/Home: I work WAY too much at home.
  • Balance: I have one job that is taking off and is quickly becoming more and more complicated (this is actually a good thing). I have one job that is completely in maintenance mode and requires hardly any energy (this is not good - but is beneficial to the other job). I have a business that I really want to nurture because it's amazing. It also fits into my master plan of having an awesome job if I want to work at home someday.
What strategies do you use? Found any new tools lately?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Glorious Monday

That's an overstatement, I admit it. It was a good Monday, though.

I finally dropped my laptop one too many times out of the awesome laptop sleeve Dave got for me. I really love it, but it's just not practical. I went to Marshall's and got a Sumdex laptop/briefcase type bag. Here it is:

I highly recommend it (and the brand).

I also had a great meeting with Derek at Panera and laughed a lot. I ended the day working on web redesign issues with Rachel and Chris and then dinner with Rachel. It was a very productive day.

Most days, I feel like I'm just spinning and being pulled in every direction, depending on what someone else wants. Monday was different. I set my schedule, tasks, and agenda...and it showed in the end result. Today? I'll try.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Remember That One Time? When I Blogged?

Hello? Is anyone out there? Ugh. I'm sorry I've been M.I.A. Since I put my feet down on Erie soil this week (after our Myrtle Beach jaunt), I've been keeping an incredibly ridiculous pace. I don't know if I even have friends anymore, let alone blog readers.

For now, I'm leaving you with some pictures from Myrtle Beach. Dave will post most of them over at his blog.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Myrtle Beach!

Dave and I are off to Myrtle Beach this weekend for a surprise celebration of his Dad's 70th birthday. Apparently we're going on a casino cruise. Weirdness. Should be a good time. Random and spontaneous road trips with Dave are really awesome.

And hey - with an offer of gas money and a free place to stay, how can you say no? You can't. I mean, at least I can't.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Saw My Aunt

To be completely honest, it was awful. I don't really know how to explain it. She was way worse than we thought and pretty much out of it. My cousin is praying that she will still be alive for the birth of her next child (in 2-3 months), but I just don't see than happening. Isn't it funny how we can make plans for this or that, but when someone who is supposed to die has plans, it seems sad and even silly? None of us are promised tomorrow, but we sure do act like we are.

Even though it was sad, I still felt very blessed to be there. It was good to talk, even though it was just for little moments, and help her as much as I could. She knew and understood I was there, and I'm pretty sure she comprehended what I was saying, which was good.

The thing I didn't expect was how much she looked exactly like my grandmother right before she died. I just saw Aunt Carol two weeks ago, and didn't think that at all. I guess a lot can change in two weeks. I must have had a mental picture of my grandmother hidden in my brain of the last time I saw her. When I looked at my Aunt, it flashed in my mind. It was a very haunting and sad moment. I could hardly breathe. That's the thing with Cancer (for me), I can't detach one experience from another. I can't look at my Aunt and only think of her. I think of my two grandmothers, grandfather, becky's sister, Dave's mom, and on and on. It's arresting in that way.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Cancer is the Worst Word.

Becky (my mentor, older sister, second mother person) and I always say that the word "cancer" is pretty much the worst word in the English language. It's not a word you want to hear, especially in reference to someone you love. We've both heard the word and experienced it first hand several times. That does not make it easier. In fact, I think it makes it worse.

My Aunt has had breast cancer for some time now, and we just got word that it has spread to her liver. This is pretty much it. I guess that's the last place it goes before you die. The doctors are talking in terms of days now, not months or years anymore. Usually, doctors are accused of being too soft and telling you things to comfort you. Once they say the word "days" in a sentence about how long someone will live, I think the comforting process is over.

She came to visit and wasn't allowed to get on a plane to go back to California without having some tests done. She lives there with my with my cousin, Colleen, and her family. Aunt Carol was visiting us and her son near Cleveland. Colleen has been taking care of her and she's pregnant right now, so I'm not sure what's going to happen. It's one of those helpless times.

I definitely want to go see her. I have to. She's still so close to Erie. I feel the heavy weight of having some important conversations with her along with feeling like I haven't been a good enough niece and god-daughter. I hate this.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away." And he who was seated on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new." Also he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true." - Revelation 21: 1-5 (ESV)
That cannot come too soon.

:::edit::: Leaving this morning to go see her with my parents.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

I Need to Talk to You About Brownies

(Sorry this is blurry, but I couldn't take another one because I bit into the brownie. Heh.)

I have found, and perfected, the best brownie recipe in the world. It only took me three tries! The original is
here. This is my variation (do not attempt this unless you are ready for two-inch thick fudgy, yet cakey, goodness):

2 sticks unsalted butter (you’ll need a bit more to grease the pan)
9 ounces of 60% cacao chocolate chips (Try Ghirardelli. It is so worth it.)
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
2 cups sugar
1/2 tablespoon vanilla (or use brewed coffee)
1 1/2 cups sweetened, flaked coconut (Don't check out if you hate coconut. You can't taste it, it's just for texture and sweetness.)
Powdered sugar, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease a 9x9 square baking with butter (just grab a bit with paper towel and smear it around). Also, the 9x9 thing is important. This is why the brownies are so thick.

Melt butter and chocolate over a double-boiler and stir gently until smooth and shiny. If the butter isn’t at room temperature, give it a little head start before dumping in the chips. I used a heat-proof bowl (pyrex) that fit into one of my sauce pans. Make sure the water isn’t high enough to touch the bottom of the bowl when boiling. Also, a heat-proof rubber spatula is great for stirring. It can scrape down the bowl as you stir, and it doesn’t muck up the consistency of the chocolate. In fact, I just let mine sit in the chocolate when I walked away to do something else. I never took it out.

Remove from the heat and cool slightly.

Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt into a mixing bowl and set aside.

Whisk together eggs, sugar and vanilla (or coffee) in a mixing bowl until combined. Don’t use a mixer, use a whisk and your muscles. It’s not that hard, and it makes a BIG difference.

Pour in about a ¼ cup of the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined (eyeball it). This will bring up the temperature of the eggs so they don’t get cooked by the warm chocolate mixture. 

Add the remainder of the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined.

Add flour mixture in 4 parts, whisking gently until each part is combined. You don’t’ want to over mix this part.

Add coconut and fold in gently with the spatula you used to stir the chocolate.

Transfer batter to baking pan and bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the pan. Each one of my batches baked for 50 minutes.

When done, let cool in pan on a wire rack for about an episode of The Office and then invert onto a wire rack to cool for at least 10 minutes more. These can be served warm, or you can try to wait. Good luck with that.

Cut into 9  HUGE squares.

Dust with powdered sugar and serve (with vanilla, mocha, or chocolate ice cream…or all. I mean…you made these brownies, you may as well go all the way).

I will never buy another boxed brownie mix again.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Migraine? SERIOUSLY?

I don't have much to say other than the fact that I had the worst migraine of my life yesterday and am, therefore, one day behind. I was in bed until 4:00 pm (not a typo). It was a bummer because we had Candace overnight and I wanted to do something fun in the morning, but I ended up calling my mom to come get her at 9:30. I hope she won't be traumatized from watching me cry on the couch until my mom got to my house.

Ugh. Migraines are horrible. If you don't have them, take a moment to rejoice.

I'm going to catch up on work, rather than blog. Please forgive me.

Friday, August 15, 2008

2008 Communications Olympics

I think the fact that I can stay up for all of the "prime time" Olympic coverage and have work to do through the entire thing says something (bad). If I didn't love what I do, it would be a nightmare. However, I love strategic planning, designing, and implementation. I have been loving this last couple of months!

I just wanted to take the opportunity to give some Grace people a sneak peak at what's changing. Of course, if you don't go to Grace, you can still look, it just might not interest you as much. Here's some of what the communications minds (derek, rachel, dave, and me, basically) have been up to:


(apparently I have no time for good photography at the moment.) We have updated our logo and general look to fit who we are and are becoming as a church. Hopefully, I captured it well.

With that comes a web site redesign/reorganization that makes me so excited I can't stand it. It's going to be an amazing online experience. I can't wait for everyone to see it (and use it!). I've never done so much research in my life. It will all pay off when it launches, though. I'll be sure to give you a sneak peek at that, too.

p.s. The #1 place I want to be right now is Minneapolis. :::praying, praying, praying...and even hoping a bit.:::

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Envelope Sizing and Information

(this is an update from a post on one of my older blogs)

When I began the process of designing invitations and announcements, the one thing that frustrated me the most was figuring out which envelope to use when and what size to use with which paper, etc. I've compiled a small list of the most popular sizes in my experience. Hopefully, this helps you. There are two different types of announcement quality envelopes that are most popular: announcement text and baronial.

This first one is announcement text, the second is baronial:

Baronial envelopes are formal style envelopes with a large pointed flap. They can be used for invitations, announcements, greeting cards, and anything that needs an added touch of elegance. They are usually made of more expensive papers. Announcement text envelopes are designed for use with matching text and cover papers. You can usually find a paper that matches exactly. These are still appropriate for special occasions.

Here are two charts that show the most standard sizes and then the ideal size for an enclosure. The enclosure doesn't have to be exact, but these do indicate the best, clean-looking fits. Feel free to click for a larger view and save each image for your own use.

You should always double-check postal regulations. Depending on the weight of your piece, there may be additional cost involved, so take one to your local office and have it weighed before you make too many. Sometimes, it is just a matter of trimming a piece or using a lower weight paper to bring down the cost.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Hayes Fam

Here's a sneak peek at a "beachy" photo shoot I did for an awesome family. As soon as Juli (mom) said, "I love having my picture taken," I knew it would be super fun and easy. Justin and Juli are in the process of adopting and it's almost official. We're preparing to send out announcements and party invitations using some of these photos. I think we also accidentally took Chrissy's senior portraits!

As I was taking these photos, I couldn't help but think how awesome these guys are. It's like they've been together since she was born.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Internet Has Changed My Life (Yours, Too)

I have been freaking out lately (in a good way) about the internet. I cannot believe how much it has changed the way I do things. Here are just three examples (I could probably list 100):

  1. I can stay connected with my friends/family whether they live near me or not (Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, etc.).
  2. I can learn about new ideas, techniques, and trends for ANYTHING.
  3. I "rub shoulders" with the best and brightest in my field. It's insane how much I can learn from these geniuses in a day. 
How have the interwebs changed your life? 

Friday, August 1, 2008

5 Inspiring Women

Here are the five women who have been inspiring me and my work lately. They are great. Check them out:
  1. Molly: to be honest, I have no idea how she does it all. Period. I want to be like her, because she is like Jesus.
  2. Abby Smith: I love everything she designs. I can't get over some of it.
  3. Kem Meyer: She does my job at Granger Community in Indiana (a lot better, but still).
  4. Design Crush Kelly: I love her daily inspiration. It's refreshing.
  5. Lindsey Janies: Her wedding photography is gorgeous.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Time Out

I was going to post my inspiring five women, but I want to help some of you first. I feel really bad for those of you who come to this site directly, without subscribing to it (and all the other blogs you read). Use RSS! It's powerful! I promise your life will change. Just ask my husband.

Read this.

Let me know if you have any questions.

Help me, help you.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

Trailer's out. See it here!

5 Inspiring Men

Here are five men who have been inspiring and/or guiding my work as of late (whether they know it or not). I shouldn't hog them. Check them out:
  1. Matt Donovan: logos/identity, creative process, photography, and for leading me to the next name on my list
  2. Joshua Blankenship: brand, strategy, taking an entire organization through a huge transition and living to tell about it
  3. Abraham Piper: words, blogging
  4. Seth Godin: communications, marketing
  5. David Choate: design, fun with type, pushing limits

Tomorrow? You guessed it: the women.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Macs Make Everything Look Awesome

My number one design issue is that my MacBook Pro makes everything look beautiful. Pretty big problems, right? Something happens when I look at my work on a PC (u-g-l-y you ain't got no alibi, you're ugly, yeah, yeah, you're ugly). It's ridiculous.

If graphic design were a dressing room, Mac monitors would be the skinny mirror.

There, I said it.

(Flipping gamma).

Thursday, July 24, 2008

8 Ways to Save Money on Event Stationery

(this is a re-post and adaptation from my old beautiful papers blog)

Of course I am biased here, but I would say that paper goods for your event are one of the most important investments you can make. Whether it's a wedding or baby shower, a well thought-out invitation design will do a great job to set the stage for your celebration. The downside is that it can be expensive to get invitations, place cards, etc. custom designed and printed. Oh but people, there is an upside. Here are some tricks to making it more affordable:

  1. Budget, Budget, Budget: When you talk or email with your designer, make sure to give her a price range that you have in mind. This will help when designing the piece, and you won't fall in love with something that is too expensive for your budget.
  2. Use one color, and use it well: Some of the best invitations I have seen have only incorporated one color. If done well, it creates a very bold and dramatic look.
  3. Size DOES matter: Ask your designer to figure out the most economical size for your particular design. A good designer will know the methods of the print shops she works with.
  4. Envelopes Shmenvelopes: Skip the inner envelope and use specific names on the outer envelope. This could also save weight on postage.
  5. Google Maps is the best: instead of a separate piece with detailed directions, include a small card that leads to an online map.
  6. Dancing Queen: For a wedding, you can include a line about the reception right on the invitation (unless it's a majorly formal event).
  7. Addressing: instead of hiring a calligrapher, have a friend with good handwriting help you out (or, GASP, use labels. News flash: not many people care. How many wedding ENVELOPES do you see hanging on the fridge?)
  8. Return Address: Your designer should be able to make a file for you that can be made into a rubber stamp, using your font. Just take it to a place like Copy Max or Kinkos. The stamp can be used on the actual invitation and the reply card, if there is one. Or, ask your designer to create an address label that includes your return address.

I guarantee that you will be glad you set aside a little bit of extra money in your budget for this. At least promise me that you won't dismiss the idea without talking it over with a designer first. Most of us just want to make beautiful things. I know for me, that if I can work within a pre-existing budget, it makes the whole process easier.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Movie and Marketing Mayhem

That title is weak, I get it.

Within one week, Dave and I have seen two movies and are now going to see a third on Saturday. I assure you, this is not typical behavior. Here are the three:
  1. Dark Knight: I hated this movie. It was awful. Don't believe the hype. Um...yeah right. This movie rocked my face off.
  2. Mamma Mia!: Molly and I saw this show together in NYC a while back and I was really curious and excited to see how it was captured on film. They did a decent job. If you haven't seen the live show, you probably won't fully understand it, but it's worth a view. Cheap theater if you haven't seen the show (unless, of course, you love Abba...then spend the full amount, baby!).
  3. X-Files: This one might seem strange. The X-Files was the TV show that got me on my kick of watching series in an obsessive manner (Alias, 24, etc.). Every week, without fail, Mike would come over and watch it at our house. Some of my funniest memories of my family are from those times.
I have a lot going on for both church and r.s.v.p.designs in the way of marketing and identity. As far as church is concerned, here's what's in the works:
  • Logo: I am very excited to make some much needed tweaks to our logo. Elliot is about to get a wake up call.
  • Web: I'm in the process of cleaning up, re-designing, and re-writing a large amount of things on our site. I'm excited to simplify. It's like cleaning out a closet. I feel like I can breathe better.
  • Graphics Standards: Basically, this "manual" would outline how we use (and don't use) our identity items, along with some grammar and writing guidelines. I was supposed to do this about...five years ago. It makes sense to tackle it now that we're in the new building and I'm in the process of changing some things anyway.
  • Ministries: there are too many projects to list here, but it's a lot.
  • Team: My goal is to have a fully functioning Communications Team in the fall. Any of you Grace peeps want to join? It's a great volunteer opportunity, and I provide awesome snacks! (We need: web content editor, mailing/bulletin editor, graphic designers, marketing people, web designers and programmers, videographers, writers, and just plain old creative thinkers.) Seriously, let me know, because so far it's me, Rachel and Dave. We need help.

Monday, July 21, 2008

10 Reasons I Loved Camping

Dave decided we should go tent camping (yes...that says "tent"). I would not have come to that decision on my own. Ever.

Here's my list:
  1. Dave did everything. I mean, I ASKED what I could do to help. I also happened to pray that he would refuse my offer. Prayer is powerful and effective. W00t!
  2. It's relatively cheap. I would rather camp than go to Cedar Point or something like that. Whenever I have to spend a lot of money, the fun factor goes down for me.
  3. I pushed my limits (with a two year old on my hip). We crossed a bog on a floating bridge made of plastic with no railings. The muck seeped in as we walked and I had to pretend to be excited to see a slithering salamander at my feet.
  4. The food is fun. Candace had her first s'more, I had a cherry "mountain pie," and we made smith's hot dogs and blueberry pancakes.
  5. Campfires are wonderful things. How is it that it can be 90% humidity, but people still sit around campfires? I don't know, but I did it. It's mesmerizing. Also, I think the fire has a secret power to bring out good conversation.
  6. Our camp chairs rock. We bought them randomly while on our honeymoon. I'm glad we did. I could sit in one for three days straight.
  7. It's peaceful. Our particular campsite didn't even have the sound of crickets. It was amazingly silent.
  8. Air mattress. Enough said, I think.
  9. Our tent doesn't have a roof. It has a fine netting, but you can see the stars. The rain protector is put on separately.
  10. It was another mini-adventure with Dave. He's really great at creating experiences and making memories. Our kids are going to love him for that.
I'm sure Dave will post pics and details over at his blog.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Doner Wedding Photography

I just finished weeding through almost 1000 photos from a wedding I shot in June. I've had some requests for more, so here they are (in a completely random order)!

Bryan, Jamie, and the kids who were in the wedding:

These two were hilarious. They wanted their pic taken really bad:

Place cards (made by yours truly):

Look out Baptists, there's dancing a foot:

Jamie's Dad has the most photogenic face:

Just after the kiss:

I LOVE this one:

Quiet moment together during the reception:

Their first dance rocked. It was so much fun:

During the message:

Doesn't this look like an old movie marquee or something?:

This shot brought back memories of my wedding (it was in the same room):

The guys:

Nervous (and beautiful) bride:

Flower girl:

When their friends and family are done viewing and ordering, I'll make the flickr set public so you can see all of them. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Random Church Tour of '08

On the way back from Molly and Aber's, Dave and I decided to stop at Willow Creek Community Church right outside of Chicago. Dave had never been there, and I hadn't been since before their new building campaign. 

  • It's big - TOO big. When your church is in its design phase and you start talking about escalators, you need to back that truck up and re-evaluate your situation. Escalators?
  • They're proactive with guests. We had people saying hello in the lobby and a very friendly usher talk to us at length.
  • They're obsessed with growth. The main pastor talked about filling their new place to capacity. They also planted a church in downtown Chicago.
  • They put on a MAJOR production. I can't even describe it. It makes Grace seem like a Sunday service at the local monastery.
  • They have multiple campuses, even with that huge facility. It was probably 80% full at at the 5:30pm Saturday service.
Then, we stopped at Granger Community Church in Granger (South Bend), Indiana. 

  • They don't pressure guests. Heck, they don't even acknowledge them. I stood in the lobby looking up at the ceiling with a confused face for literally five minutes while Dave was getting coffee and no one said a word to me. When we tried to turn in a guest card at the end of the service, the info desk guy looked as though we had handed him a live grenade. "Ummm...sure...I guess...yeah...I can take this."
  • They value the younger generation. I knew it as soon as I saw the tube slides for kids to enter their lower level classrooms. I fully believed it after I read it in the bulletin and heard the pastor talk about it.
  • They believe in innovation, but not for it's own sake. They innovate so people will be able to understand that Jesus loves them. I know that because the Pastor said it in his sermon.
  • They value creativity. Everything from their building design to the double projectors pointed at each screen told me that they let their people dream.
  • They want people to love Jesus. That is the #1 thing I took away from the service.

What does this mean for me, as a Christ follower, and my church? I don't fully know, but I have some thoughts:
  • Jesus' renown needs to be our #1 priority (and people need to KNOW that).
  • We need to value the younger generations. They might be the future, but the future is now. We need to get on it. 
  • It's OK to be creative and use different art forms to connect with God. 
  • I've always struggled with my quality of work, but honestly, visiting both of these churches made me realize that I am actually a contender. I know that's a weird way to put it. I felt encouraged that I didn't see anything that I didn't already do, or couldn't do.  The same God who gives these people inspiration is available to us. Why wouldn't it be just as good?
  • Every community is different. Each community is made up of people who are different. We can't (and shouldn't) try to duplicate something being done without making sure it fits "us."

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Road Trip + Minneapolis + Chicago =

A LOT to blog about!

(and a lot of photos to edit)

Dave and I left on July 5th for Minneapolis. I'll let him tell you about the road trip experience (he already started) and Chi-Town. I'll say this though: it was a really fun drive and we didn't listen to the radio, CDs, or iPod at all. I was shocked. We talked and laughed a ton. We needed it a ton.

The week at the Piper complex (that's what I'm calling it from now on) was awesome and just what I needed. I loved waking up at 9am and just going slowly about the day with no real schedule. We did fun things, but it wasn't action packed insanity (as per our usual, which I do love). Here's a quick run down of some favorite moments with pics following:
  • Experiencing Orison: holy cow, hilarious.
  • Meeting Molly's doctor.
  • IKEA run.
  • Mini golf.
  • Making "the cake" (and taking pics of every step, ahem).
  • Paper Source run with Molly, and being assaulted by the rain.
  • Dinner with Karla.
  • Upwords.
  • Making our own, mac only, internet cafe.
  • Fogo de Logo.
  • Visiting the cemetery.
  • Bowling at the U of M (St.Paul).
  • Ice cream overload.
  • Dinner at Pastor John and Noel's house.
  • Successful Pineapple Mojito making. 
  • Helping Molly finish up Felicity's scrapbook.
  • Breakfast before we left.
  • Stopping by to say an impromptu goodbye to Orison on the way out.

Tomorrow I'll tell you about the two churches we visited on the way home and how the experience changed my outlook on ministry.