Finding the Beauty in Everyday Things

Guest Contributors are so much fun!  Today we have Gabrielle who has found a lot of peace, creativity and joy in the everyday around us.  She recently went on a photo walk with some other photographers to capture the city of Reading PA!   Here is her share!!!


I have been caught taking photos of some strange things. Perhaps the most absurd of these images is a mounted print that hangs in our bathroom. Joel swears that it cannot be a photo of the same old, dirty, battered, multi- colored rain barrel that sits in our yard, but I saw its potential. I have overheard him tell people that I take photos of the goofiest things. I am not really sure what that means because after ten years together, he holds the distinction of being my most photographed subject!

But seriously, is everything in your world always picture perfect? Is your neighborhood television’s description of perfection?  If you answered yes, you may return to your little town of Stepford, Connecticut. I, however, have learned that things are never ‘picture perfect’ and that ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’. As a photographer, I have learned that I need to ‘think outside the box’. (Ok, enough with the clichés)


Although I currently reside in a little country town in Chester County, Pennsylvania, I grew up in the big city of Philadelphia. I learned to find the beauty in ways those who live in the country may not appreciate. For example, I maintained a cement garden, watering the pretty flowers that grew in the cracks until my dad announced that they were weeds. On the weekends, I would walk along the avenue to shop, making sure not to step on the cracks in the pavement. Ever know anyone with Astroturf on their porch? Yep, this girl did! I still love visits to the city and enjoy photographing the sky scrapers like the next tourist, but what became my passion early on was trying to see the beauty in what was right in front of me.


Recently, I joined a group of friends on a photography exhibition to Reading, PA. I say exhibition, because Reading has a crime rate double that of the national average. We went as a group because we weren’t sure what we would encounter. Until this point, I had only visited Reading to view the famous Pagoda and I had no idea what to expect. But on the day of our adventure, our group decided to stay on the edge of the city, an area known as Wyomissing. (Perhaps you have heard of it? A little known artist by the name of Taylor Swift used to call that area home).


But the area still has an inner city vibe: store fronts advertising wares glistened in the harsh sunlight, trash littered the pavement, and some buildings were devoid of life, long since abandoned in time. Yet, as we walked on, we photographed textures and baubles that spoke to those of us who dared to look for beauty in the least likely of places.

We spent a few hours walking up and down streets and through a little park. We even spoke to many locals who did not like a group of individuals with camera walking around their city. At the end of a handful of hours, our feet -and our shutter fingers- were tired.


I think my favorite images from that day were of two very similar, yet different objects. Both were strings of lights. One was old, large, Christmas lights hanging from an awning outside a hardware store and the other consisted of large, round, clear bulbs hanging through the trees outside a building. Both were easy to miss if I hadn’t stopped to notice. Taking the time to look at the ordinary from different angles, capturing the light’s reflection as it refracted through the glass, and recognizing the beauty of weathered objects make me happy. (Cue music; “Can’t nothing bring me down; I said; Because I’m happy…”)


I challenge you today to grab your camera or your cell phone, and go on adventure to find something new and make it exciting. Learn how to set your focal point (yes, you can do this with a cell phone!), or play with your aperture and see what you can find in your own town! If you wish to post a link to your photo, I would love to look at it and let you know my opinion. You can see more of my images on my facebook page:; or on my website:


PS. In case you are new to photo sharing, Flickr is a great place to post and share links to your images. Your most recent images are free for you to share with others. You can always add more, but only the most 250 or so images can be seen To share more than that, there is a fee. I use the free service as TurtleBugGraphics.



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Canning Meats– Not as scary as you think!

One of the basic parts of any food storage plan is protein.  I’m a big proponent of storing what I already eat, and most of the meals that I cook in my home require meat.  For awhile I was trying to buy expensive dehydrated/freeze dried meats, but the price is SUPER high and the quality is only- so so.  When I first heard about canning meat and heard you put the meat in the jar raw, I though EWWW GROSS!!! I had visions of raw meat sitting in jars on my shelf.  I was not interested in learning more about it.  Fast forward a few years later when my friend Shannon Veal fed me a chicken salad made from canned meat.  I was amazed at how great it tasted and when she told me how easy it was, I was even more excited!  I can’t sit down and feed you a yummy meal made from this meat, but I CAN show you how easy it is, and use pictures to do it!  The following link will show you step by step how to can meat with LOADS of pictures.  Its MY site, and has other great food storage information as well, so feel free to browse around. EVERYTHING is free, and there are no ads (Yay!)

Canning Meat- Not as scary as you may think!

Have you tried canning meat before? What are some of your favorite recipes?

We love using canned chicken in Chicken Salad, Enchilada’s, ANY casserole, fettucini alfredo, lettuce wraps, broccoli chicken cheese soup, chicken noodle soup, etc!

We love using canned beef (it comes out shredded)- in Tacos, Spaghetti, Taco Soup, Enchilada’s, Stuffed Peppers, Beef Stroganoff, Etc!

My only problem with canned meat is that we eat it faster than I can seem to can it LOL:) Its so easy to make a quick meal with meat that’s already cooked and ready to go!  This summer we took our canned meat in the jars on our roadtrip and I just opened the can, added mayo and relish and stirred it up, then added it right to the bread for delcious sandwiches!

Making Sandwiches from Home Canned Meat~

Making Sandwiches from Home Canned Meat~



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Cassie Ray Clark - July 21, 2014 - 10:18 pm

LOVE this post! I’ll be canning my first chicken this coming weekend & will have this page opened for reference! Thanks for sharing!!

Fried Zucchini- Southern Style!

Happy Fourth of July!

I am always fascinated by American History, and recently we traveled through New England learning as much history as we could fit into 10 days.  I think that’s why I love the 4th of July so much, because its a chance to celebrate what makes our country great.  Freedom.  Its also an opportunity to get together with family and enjoy some yummy food. Since July is the height of our Garden’s produce cycle, we are almost always enjoying tons of Zucchini this time of year, and I love finding new ways to use it.  Some of my favorite ways to cook it are Zucchini Parmesan, Zucchini Bread, and Baked Zucchini Fries But my VERY favorite way to eat Zucchini comes from my youth.  My mom would stand in the kitchen frying up these delicious morsels and we would steal them off the paper towel she put them on, faster than she could make them.  We would burn our tongues most of the time, because we couldn’t wait to bite into them!  So not healthy, but so delicious anyway. Now I make them for my own family, and never manage to have any room left in my tummy by the time I get them on the table, because I “tested” so many while I was cooking.  I mean, I made them myself, so its fair, right?  My kids (and husband) sneak them too…and I am honestly surprised I had enough left to take a picture this time.FriedZukes

Fried Zucchini

1 cup flour 1 1/2 cups water  Put in 1 cup to start with and then keep adding till you get the texture of pancake batter 1 tsp Garlic salt 1/4 tsp paprika Sliced Zucchini (or green tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, etc) I put the pictures in order with the steps for you:)You’re welcome;)ZUkes Steps#1 Mix up your flour and spices in a wide bowl then add your water till you get the consistency of pancake batter

#2 Slice up your Zucchini, I like to do it diagonal to get my slices as large as possible

#3 Or do Green Tomatoes.  Why? FRIED GREEN TOMATOES…nuff said

#4 Dip your Zucchini in the batter then drop into a pan of oil.  I just cover the bottom of the pan with about 1/4 inch oil

#5 Get a brown paper bag and cut it open- this will absorb the oil and keep your zukes crispy

#6 They should be bubbling really well on the sides or your oil isn’t hot enough

#7 Flip them and then pull them out and place on your brown paper bag (I just ask for extras at the grocery store) ENJOY!  I usually salt them and then serve immediately.


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Summer Sauce, A Family Summertime Favorite

Our garden is finally producing, and its HEAVEN! You may remember my earlier post about cheap garden boxes, well they have worked out beautifully, and we are reaping the rewards in the kitchen!  I love Zucchini, and everything that you make with it, I am seriously one of those rare people who NEVER gets tired of it.  I also love spaghetti, and love to fill my sauce with hearty cut veggies sometimes, instead of meat.  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE meat, but in the summer…when its hot outside, and my garden is bursting with veggies, THIS sauce is absolutely perfect.

“Summer Sauce”

1 medium onion cut up

A couple of cloves of garlic- chopped

Basil to season- fresh is best, but dried will do

Cut up veggies as you have them- I like to use 1 large Zucchini, 1 large squash, a couple of large tomatoes, and 1 large green tomato,  (if you have never cooked with green tomatoes, you are missing out!)

1 can tomato sauce

1 cup Heavy Cream

1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese


Sautee the Onions, Zucchini, Garlic and Squash in some Olive Oil until they soften up

Season with the Basil, and other herbs you enjoy

Add in the tomatoes and stir well

Add the Can of tomato sauce, and the whipping cream

Simmer the sauce for a few minutes then add the parmesan cheese – if you want to thicken it a bit you can take  2 TBSP of flour and mix with about 1/4 cup of milk till you get a thick soupy consistency- then slowly stir that into your sauce.

Salt to flavor


Serve over Angel Hair Pasta- or if you have it spaghetti Squash mmmm…







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DIY pallet wood shoe storage

The solution to my shoe problems!!


When we moved into our new home in December, we thought it would be a fantastic idea to go shoe free.  The only problem?  No mudroom!

There is a small but deep coat closet, only closet on the first floor, next to the garage.  My bright idea was to take these shoe racks we had to hold our most used shoes.  Then on the other two walls we put coat hangers up to hold the coats.  The kids loved having hooks at their level to hang their coats.

After a only a month or two, the tower of shoes began to sway dangerously whenever someone touched it.  The closet is also in a windowless area with no light in it.  We installed a battery powered LED light that had a motion sensor.  It worked some, but the shoes seemed to disappear into darkness in the shoe racks.  Since the kids couldn’t see well, they mostly tossed their shoes onto the floor to be easier to find when they come back.  More often then not, the floor was completely covered 2-3 shoes deep!

Here is the old closet setup on a barely messy day!

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I saw this great idea and tutorial on Sawdust Girl!  Now it was my turn to do my own take on this idea!!  Love the clean white look of hers.


There were a three pallets I picked up a while back to do things with so I had some great rustic wood on hand!

Next I needed to buy pegs!  After a trip to Home Depot yielded very high priced pegs {almost $3 a pair} I searched online.  It delayed me getting the project done a week or two, but was well worth the savings as 100 pegs cost $24 including shipping.  The image will take you to American Woodcrafters Supply.


Now that all the supplies were together it was time to go!

First I decided what height I wanted the shoes to hang from and drew a level line across the back of each piece of wood.

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Next I took a pair of my shoes to measure the hanging distance.  {My niece was on hand to pose for the pictures and help me with the project.  All things are more fun with a partner!!}  My idea was to hang the pegs close together for the pairs with the greater distance between them for hanging.

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I went with 2.5 inches between the pair pegs and 4.4 inches between each pair.  Unfortunately, I did not account for the second pairs width coming towards the first one.  This turned out only a little squishy on my shoes, fine for the kids and did not fit at all when Guy’s size 13 shoes are on there!  We marked up 6 boards with 7 pairs each making room for 42 shoes to be hung.

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One of the men at church loaned me this fab drill press.  I wanted the pegs to hang at a bit of an angle so I put a riser on the plate where the wood sits when drilling.  I also decided to drill my holes all the way through the wood to facilitate a faster project.  Once on the wall you cannot tell my holes go all the way through.

DISCLAIMER – This probably wasn’t the safest practice so I am not advocating this method for obtaining an angle to help your shoes stay on.  The tutorial Sawdust girl did gives some other tips on how to get an angled hole.   I really loved the thoroughness of her explanations and images accompanying them.

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We used wood glue and a hammer to tap the pegs into place.  A few of the pegs are ‘off’ as we did not go back and look for that when they were left to dry.  I’d definitely recommend looking closely before your glue sets.  A level would also be a great tool to check with.  Oh well, it was my first real project working with wood since 7th grade!!  I’m sure my thought process and skills will improve as I keep practicing.  :-)

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The colors of the wood were off quite a bit.  We hung four on the wall the old shoe racks were on and the two lighter ones on the other wall.

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The board with the clamp is one that I split when taking the pallet apart.  The split wasn’t too bad and the shoes will not be very heavy.  After a little wood glue and clamping it, the board was back together.

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We left room at the bottom for boots and a few miscellaneous shoes.  There is a bigger space at the top to accommodate the long mens size 13′s!

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All of the shoes are now easy to see in the low light.  Adults now fit in the closet since the 12 inch deep shoe rack is gone!

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Did I mention before the pallet boards were perfectly sized for the wall with a 1/2 inch of clearance to get them in easily?  That was exciting!!!

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We found that my wedges and flip flops all hang nicely too!  It was an unexpected bonus.

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The kids all find the closet pegs much easier to use.  They hang their shoes without being asked, and have had no trouble finding the shoes they are looking for.

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It looks so much better in there now!!  Maybe we’ll get this no shoe thing down now that we have a useable system.

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Shannon White Everyday Creative Bio About

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