Saturday, May 26, 2012

Planting Trees and Psalm 148

On Friday night we were able to plant 18 trees in Grandpa Ferguson's pasture under indecisive clouds. I took these pictures shortly before watering the black hills spruce trees and wrapping the aspens so the deer won't eat them. It will be interesting to see if they survive, and if we can water them enough during a possibly dry summer.

I was inspired by both the clouds, which look like waves of water, and the prairie grass and my brother BJ's corn (which apparently is dying because it needs water), which both echo and contrasted the sky. Then Saturday afternoon, while the boys were napping, I found these words from Psalm 148 which reflect the the visual inspiration with scripture.

If you click on the picture, it should enlarge so you can read the words better.

Here is the blog post with pictures of my brothers building the ponds in December 2010.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

New Photography Blog

Just a note to my blog readers (pretty sure mostly my family) that I now have a separate blog for Becky Ochsner Photography that I use to post updates related to my business.  Here is the link:

I'll see if I'm able to put a link to it on the side of this blog so that you can easily link to see sneak peaks of recent photo sessions and announcements.  So much on the way!

The Best Bran Muffin Recipe

These bran muffins are really wonderful.  They are simple, freeze nicely, taste wonderful, and my kids eat them well.  I've made them a few times for friends who've have babies, because they are easy to grab out of the freezer, warm in the microwave, and eat when you have absolutely no time to eat anything or prepare breakfast. 

The only unique thing you need on hand is buttermilk.  Surprisingly, I actually buy it regularly now for quite a few things - Homemade Ranch Dressing and quite a few of my baking recipes.  In high school I would have died.  Buttermilk isn't something that is normal for kids to grow up with.

Its a large recipe.  Can't have any, "oh I'll just try one."  Nope, need to be serious about this one. 

The recipe is originally from my time working at Dutch East Indies Coffee Company in Pella, IA while I was in high school.  We would make a batch of batter and leave it in the fridge and use as needed to make fresh bran muffins for customers.  Except we baked them in the huge muffin tin with six large muffins - like the one that you could share your bran muffin if you cut it in half.  We'd serve it with a side of Apple Butter.  The original recipe also has three cups of white sugar!  Whoa.  Two cups is adequate, unless you are wanting to sell them at a bake sale and make an impression.  I use one cup brown and one cup white.

I usually bake a few normal sized ones for myself, and then bake mini muffins with sprinkles on top for the kids.

The buttermilk in the recipe allows the batter to be stored in your fridge for up a month to six weeks.  That's the whole first part of your summer!  So rather than baking the whole huge recipe at once, bake your self fresh muffins each morning! 

DEI Bran Muffins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

1 box All Bran Cereal (15oz)  (I prefer original bran - the straw looking ones.  Might not need the whole box if it is bigger than 15 ounces.  Just leave a cup of cereal in the box, that's what I do.  I think they've changed the box size since I was in high school)
1 Cup melted butter
2 Cups hot water

1 Cup brown sugar
1 Cup white sugar
4 eggs
1 quart buttermilk
5 Cups flour
5 tsp soda
2 tsp salt

Its a big recipe, so pull out your biggest bowl.   Its easy enough to mix by hand. Dump in the cereal, and pour melted butter and hot water on top.  Mix to blend in the bran so it loses its straw looking shape.  Add Sugar, Eggs, Buttermilk and mix.  Add Flour, Soda and Salt.  Mix all together and your done!  Spray your muffin tins and fill them 2/3 full.  Now Bake some to eat, some to freeze, some for your friend who just had a baby and put the rest in an ice cream bucket for your fridge!

Bake in 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes, depending on the size of muffin tin you use.

A suggestion:  After scooping batter into muffin tin, sprinkle sugar in the raw, granulated sugar, or festive sprinkles on top.  Really helps when kids aren't so sure, but then think - oh this is a treat.  Or if you are aiming for healthier, add ground flax or wheat germ.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The following video is Rick and Karen's first interview after getting out of the candidate race.  Listen at the 2 minute mark to hear him talk about staying out on the farm in Iowa! 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Bill Hybels Video - Dutch & Money

The following video of Bill Hybels is worth watching.  Bill Hybeels, the founder of Willow Creek Community Church, reflects on his upbringing in the Christian Reformed Church and how he learned about work and handling money.  It is 48 minutes long, but worth a listen!  Very humorous, reflective, at times a little emotional, and beautiful presentation of finances.

I want to tell you today why this Dutch system produced such careful and thoughtful money managers.

Keep in mind, that he is speaking to a very large mega-church type congregation that has no clue who the Christian Reformed Church is.  Such a thoughtful presentation of the Heidelberg Catechism as well.

I haven't watched the partner video on How the Aussie's (Australia) do money, but will be soon.

{Click link below}


Who do you work for?  Do you have a vision for glorifying God in your daily work?

..In these little Dutch communities they worked for the glory of God, they worked hard, and these dutch folks really did believe that God was their ultimate provider and wanting to handle God's provisions with great care.  And God blessed them for it!  They had a budget because they wanted their money to BEHAVE.  When you don't have a budget, it dissipates, disappears... The first check you write is to God.  First line item in the budget.

Is tithing (10%) like breathing to you?

Returning honor to him is like breathing, you couldn't imaging doing it another way. 

Our agriculture communities have experienced some of the greatest years of prosperity that they've ever seen. Have we passed the prosperity test?  

Monday, May 7, 2012

What Cheer Flea Market

 The What Cheer Flea Market was a muddy mess, and I should have worn my gum boots.  Even though my toes were wet, I still enjoyed browsing through the items.  I didn't buy the sign above, but most definitely will make one for my house.  Isn't it true?

 An old stroller from the 1950s for 40.00.  It would work great for the baby parade at Tulip Time, with a little grease on the wheels. 

So many shutters for all those projects on pinterest. 

I thought this looked unique, and dangerous.  

I bought this old library card holder to use on my kitchen table to hold tea bags.  Its the perfect size and is both functional and beautiful.  I came home with this and a small wood chair for portrait sessions, along with a lot of creative ideas and projects for the "when I have time," list.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Super Moon

I drove towards the North Skunk River last night, hoping to find a landscape that would be nice for moon rise images, and chose a level C road south of Lynnville, IA. I expected the moon to rise straight East, and was somewhat disappointed when it was too cloudy to see its first peak over the horizon, when it is the biggest and brightest. Instead, there was a break in the sky where it appeared underneath a cloud, and much further southeast.

I have trouble with my camera in low light.  I'm wondering if it is because it is a mid-level DSLR, and produces quite a bit of noise in dark areas of images (the pixel-y dark areas. I find myself wondering if I'm demanding more than it can handle.  Even with nice lenses.  A full frame sensor would have been clearer, I think.  Jumping from a mid-level to a professional-level camera would require more cash then I'm ready to spend right now.  I need to be sure I'm pushing the equipment I have as far as it will go to earn that.

Sometimes I wonder if I'm trying to do the job of a 2500 truck with a Chevy Luv.

It would be fun to put my lenses on a full frame camera to see what results I get. 

Friday, May 4, 2012

Tulip Time 2012

 {Above image taken of the square in Pella during April, when the tulips were in bloom}

This time of year I start getting hungry for Tulip Time food - funnel cake, spiced beef on a stick, ribeye sandwhich, and the Asian food booth on the west side of the square in Pella.  The first year back in Iowa it was fun to introduce Brian to Tulip Time food, since he claims Orange City Tulip Time isn't anything like Pella's, and it wasn't really a part of the tradition each year like it was for me.  We look forward each year taking our family, enjoying the festival, and being a part of the community.

He does claim that he went on a date with someone who was the Tulip Queen in Orange City.  Funny thing is, every time I ask him what his memories are of Orange City Tulip Time, that is the only thing he can come up with.  It could be that it is the only thing I remember him saying too.  That is probably the case.

We are looking forward to watching the Tulip Time parade tonight in Pella, IA.  They usually start right before dark, so our kids will be in "crazy because its past bed time" mode.  They will love the bands, lighted floats, candy being thrown, and of course ask lots and lots of questions about everything.

After walking a bit from food stand to food stand, maybe meeting old friends who are also usually in the throws of keeping track of their kids, we'll grab coffee and find a spot to sit that gives us good access to the street to grab candy, and gracious neighbors who don't mind rowdy boys.  Neither of us grew up dressing up in dutch costumes, so we haven't really gotten into that tradition with our kids, though it would be very cute to get pictures of them dressed up in the future.  Probably should work on that before they get too old and protest.

And just in case they go on a date with a Tulip Queen in the future. 

I'll point out the "Future Queens" float to Ezra tonight and see what he says. 

Like me, he's probably more worried about eating good food.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


Learn to like what doesn’t cost much.

Learn to like reading, conversation, music.

Learn to like plain food, plain service, plain cooking.

Learn to like fields, trees, woods, brooks,fishing, hiking and exploring.

Learn to like life for its own sake.

Learn to like work and enjoy the satisfaction of doing your job as well as it can be done.

Learn to like the song of birds, the companionship of dogs, and laughter and gaiety of children.

Learn to like gardening, carpentering,  puttering around the house and lawn, and being creative.

Learn to like the sunrise and sunset, the sound of the rain on the roof and wind and the gentle fall of snow on a winter day.

Learn to keep your wants simple. 

Refuse to be owned and anchored by things and opinions of others.

Lean above all, to make God the most important part of your life.

About a year ago I found this poem at my Aunt Julie's house, hanging by her kitchen sink.  I copied it and took it home, and hung it near my kitchen sink for a few months, then on my bathroom mirror, and then I brought it to my desk to do something more with it, to give it a little more life, and maybe make it easier to remember. 

{Click on to enlarge}

I could not find the original author, only that it was on the back of an obituary many years ago, though Aunt Julie's mom, who owns Camp Creation near Leighton, IA, changed some phrases in it.

I posted this poem on my blog about a year ago, and got responses from friends who really appreciated it.  So I thought some might enjoy reading it again.

I've been collecting things I find on contentment over the past year, but was impacted by one line in worship last week Sunday.  During the responsive reading of The Law, the congregation spoke, "We will be content through any circumstance, because of the strength of Christ with in us."

As a response to the tenth commandment, "Thou Shall Not Covet," we committed to being content.  And then I thought of this poem again, and pulled it out of the folder I had filed it in.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

We're Back

I have taken a break from my blog. A nearly three month break, and I'm back.  I took some extra time to invest in other areas like photography, reading, and organizing my home for a once-every-five-years type of garage sale that was successful. 

Here are a few images that capture just a handful of moments during the past three months.

Unseasonable warm weather during March was a gift for our family of need-to-go-outside-all-the-time boys (and mom).  We went fishing.

I went on a Spring Break trip to serve in DesMoines with our youth group. Brian stayed home with the kids.

I photographed a very precious girl turning one.

We picked wild daffodils with cousins on an abandoned farm in the woods.

We helped organize the seed shed with Grandpa in the warm March weather, and asked a thousand times when it would be warm enough to swim in the farm pond.

I photographed a little man who had stunning red hair under this pilot hat.

Took pictures on Easter morning on the church lawn.

I purchased a new lens for Real Estate photography, and practiced on one of my favorite worship spaces in Pella.  I hope to photograph worship spaces more, and create a collection of images of church architecture over the next years.  The course I most enjoyed in seminary was called, Music and the Arts in Christian Worship, where we studied how space speaks our theology, and understanding of God.

Then photographed the Holiday Inn Express and Suites in Sioux City, IA for my first professional Real Estate photography session.  This hotel is beautiful. For more images of this hotel, see the "IOWA REAL ESTATE" section of my website at 

Real Estate photography is especially useful when space needs to sell, for hospitality venues, selling homes, and commercial properties as well.  I've always enjoyed architecture, and have done a lot of reading and research about photographing space.

We did some off-roading.

Photographed my niece, who was three months old. 

 Ended a lot of church programming, like coffee break, 412 youth group, and home builders, opening up a little more free family time.  This is our end of the year party with homebuilders. 

 Took pictures of the tulips in Pella while they were nice.  Zach is checking out the Molengraght.

And we survived my husband's back going out a few weeks ago.  I didn't take any pictures of it.  But you can imagine it wasn't fun at all.  We were glad to see the wheel chair go.  Though I think the boys would have enjoyed it becoming a ride on toy for the church drive way.  We gave it back.

And so, just a handful of things that have been happening.  I did turn 29 years old a few weeks ago.  And Elliot reminded me that even though it was my birthday, HIS birthday was next!