Monday, October 27, 2008

Bloggy Giveaway!

It's time for the Bloggy giveaways again! My sister, Hannah, was kind enough to let me put these hand-crafted earrings up for grabs. One entrant will be the recipient of these authentic, beautiful earrings!

To enter, visit her blog and leave a comment telling everyone which pair of earrings is your favorite, or what new creations you'd like to see.

*For an extra entry, you can blog about this giveaway and leave another comment with the link to your post.

This giveaway will remain open until 10 PM EST on Friday, October 31. A winner will be randomly chosen, announced, and notified by email. If I do not hear from the winner within 3 days, another winner will be chosen.

More giveaways at the Bloggy Giveaways Quarterly Carnival!

Bloggy Giveaways Quarterly Carnival Button

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Safely Home!

Praise the Lord for His hand of provision and safety!

After a tiring week of surgery for Misha, he arrived safely home to us on Friday night. The surgery turned out to be a more traumatic experience for him than we had expected; but the Lord's hand was upon Misha and he seems to be recovering wonderfully and relatively quickly.
His haven has become the living room couch, where he spends most of the day resting. When dad asked him if he would prefer to be in mom and dad's room, where it's quiet, Misha emphatically shook his head and said: "No children in your room. Boring!"

Even though there are many more mountains for Misha to climb, this particular mountain has been conquered and he is on his way to recovery!

Going to spend some time outdoors

We're so blessed to have Misha's sweet smile within our home again. Thank you all so much for your prayers and support! You've been a wonderful blessing, and we pray the Lord will bless you all in return!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Surgery has begun

Having just kissed and prayed over Misha, we are now sitting anxiously in the waiting room…the next few hours of his surgery will seem an eternity!
Why did evil win over good in the garden of Eden? That is a question I’ve found myself asking continually as we’ve been at the hospital preparing for Misha's surgery. Even though death has been conquered by our Lord, we must still face the consequences of living in a fallen world.
My dear brother, Misha, is now experiencing a heavy dose of the evil in this world. Because he was born with this disease, it is necessary to have a double amputation in order for him to have improved mobility.

When it was first decided that our family was to foster Misha during his surgery, I didn’t feel very sympathetic towards the operation that would take place. In my mind, it seemed so distant and in-personal; I didn’t fully comprehend all that would be involved. But since Misha’s arrival on September 24, I have grown to love him in a way I never anticipated. He is now truly my brother, and I cannot imagine life without him completing our family!
Because he has become my brother, I am experiencing an overwhelming fear, anxiety, and doubt; there is a sympathy and compassion you feel towards a family-member that is hurting, which allows you to taste a little of what they're experiencing.

Yesterday had an early start for dad, mom, Misha and me. After being admitted into the hospital, the day started with many visits with doctors and nurses. Misha and I were able to break away between visits and sneak in some PS2, (Spider-man won most of the time!).
The conclusion of visits came with the last visit to the prosthetics department. In the midst of the conversation, Misha caught my eye and began to make different facial expressions. Our attention spiraled downward as we exchanged expressions back and forth trying to make the other smile. Every time he flashed a smile at me, the room would light up!
This continued for a while until the prostheticist pulled out the samples of what Misha was trading his legs for. I could see a cloud pass over his face and the light faded. We left the room and I could feel a heaviness of understanding at everything he must be meditating on. It had been a full day of information about the pain, hardships, and procedures that would stand in his future, and it seemed as if the cost was greater than the rewards.
Once we walked out of the room, mom and I gathered around him to offer our support. In my butchered Russian I told Misha everything was going to be okay. He began to fight back tears, and after moments of fighting he hung his head in despair and began to weep. We gathered him in our arms and grieved with him; knowing that though the surgery is necessary, and will improve his life, it was needful for him to grieve over the loss of his legs. The amount of change the surgery will bring into his life must be daunting for him. After a few hours of sweet fellowship Misha’s spirits lifted. Though he was incredibly nervous going into surgery, he no longer seemed depressed about his situation.

Misha has no knowledge of a Sovereign God. If I were facing this surgery; I would have security about what would happen to me if all went wrong and I died, I would know that whatever the outcome it was God’s will and He would work everything to our good and for His glory.
Please pray that God will reveal Himself to Misha through this. Pray that He will comfort him with a peace that surpasses his understanding.
This is such a wonderful reminder to all of us how despairing life would be without the promise and comfort of our God!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Photo Tip for the Week

What is ISO and How Does it Effect Your Pictures?

ISO/Film Speed determines how sensitive the image sensor (Memory card) is to the amount of light present.
Back before digital cameras became so popular, ISO indicated film speed and you could only change the ISO in film cameras by buying different ISO rated film itself. Today though, digital cameras can adjust themselves as if you had changed the type of film you are using. All you have to do is change the ISO setting on your camera.

Your camera's sensitivity may differ a little from my camera's, but here are some general ideas of when to use which ISO speed:

ISO 50 - 80 - for taking photos in bright light; excellent for close-ups, landscape, and portraits. Produces fine detail and image quality.

ISO 100 - for extra sensitivity with little, if any, reduced image quality.

ISO 200 - cloudy and overcast days. Acceptable image quality, with very little visible noise.

ISO 400 - suitable for indoor photography whether or not a flash is used. Useful for "stop-action" and sports photographs. The quality will not be as sharp as 200, but you shouldn't have too much noise visible.

ISO 800, 1600 and above - useful for taking photos in very low light, or outside in good light when increased shutter speeds are required. It is important to know that at these ISO speeds you will have a great deal of noise/grain (tiny specks that appear in the image and reduce the sharpness/quality). There are times that noise can add to the effect of the picture; just be sure you want noise in the image before you take it...there's no removing it after you shoot.

Now, with all that said, what is the point of ISO? Well there are many uses for it, but the most common one is lighting control. The higher you have your camera's ISO set to, the easier it is to take pictures in dark places.

Taken at ISO 1600. The noise is very noticable, and the picture is lacking in sharpness.

Taken at ISO 200. There is not much noticeable noise, and the quality is sharper.

Because these photos were taken outside in the sunshine, it wasn't necessary to use ISO 1600. But when you're in darker lighting situations, and not able to use flash, it will be necessary to use a faster ISO (i.e. 800+). This can be frustrating because your images will have a good deal of noise; sometimes so much as to not have a useable image.

There are many ways to experiment with your camera settings to create great shots; ISO is one way to do that. Just play around with the different numbers in dark and light situations and see what results you get.

So to sum it up:

-If you want crystal clear, sharp looking pictures, you need to use as low of an ISO setting as you can, (as a guide, it's best to use ISO 100 as much as possible).

-EXPERIMENT and have fun!

Top photo courtesy of Bubbels.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake

Unlike most cheesecake recipes, this one is pretty easy. It's lacking in difficulty, but not in flavor! I'm thankful that it's easy because it just so happens to be my dad's favorite.

Noah helping his aunt

Ingredients: Yield 16 servings

2 graham cracker crusts (you will end up with two cheesecakes)
3 packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup (8 oz) sour cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 package chocolate chip cookie dough (I use the store bought pre-made dough)
miniature semisweet chocolate chips, optional

In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add eggs; beat on low just until combined. Add sour cream and vanilla; beat just until blended. Pour over crust. Slice cookie dough; drop dough slices over filling, gently pushing dough below surface (dough should be completely covered by filling). Place cakes on a baking sheet.

Bake at 350 for 30-50 minutes* or until center is almost set**. Cool cakes completely on a wire rack. Sprinkle with chips. Refrigerate overnight.

*I know it's a broad time frame; but since oven temperatures vary so much, I would check the cheesecakes after 30 mins. They will probably have to cook a little longer, but it's good to check and be safe!

**To know if the cheesecake is set, look for the edges to be a little puffy; the center will still look relatively glossy, but it won't feel wet when you touch it. The object is to keep the cheesecake from "cracking". You'll know if it happens; and if it does, you know to not cook is so long next time!


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Afternoon at the Lake

We spent Sunday evening at Craig and Rose's house. They were kind enough to open up their home and share a wonderful meal of hamburgers and hotdogs. The kids had such a good time swimming! Hannah, Matt and I were discouraged by the cold water, but it didn't stop the kids!

I love the admiration in Misha's face as he looks up at dad.

The life-jacket was a little too small, so our creative Matt came up with a way to keep Misha buoyant.

Dad finally broke down and got into the cold water!

Misha splashing away...

taking a quick breather

I love Josiah's face, gasping for breath in the background!

The boys pretending to be innocently asleep; don't be fooled!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

More Family Pictures

Because our family has increased since our last take on pictures, we decided to have another shoot today. I was really missing Christie this time, as I found myself running back and forth between the tripod and "my spot" in the picture. You're amazing, Christie!

Here's our blessed family...

It's a little emptier without my two elder sisters; but we're still a pretty full group!

Matt showing off his high-jump! Whew!

Now, I'm sure that I'm supposed to give a good explanation for this...but the only explanation I can think to give is that we're Johnsons, and our source of amusement is different from most!

A Sweet Gift

Friday afternoon I got a call from Sarah letting me know that our dear friend, Leah (in California), had sent a letter with money and the request that Sarah, Hannah and I go to Los Amigos for dinner. Leah's only stipulation was that we take plenty of pictures (proof that she loves me!).
We had such a wonderful time of fellowship and the food was amazing!

Thank you SO much, Leah! Your thoughtfulness was such a blessing and provided an evening of encouragement for each of us. The only thing missing was you.
Leah, you mean the world to each of us and we miss you! May God richly bless you for the ray of sunshine you bring into our lives.

Unlike our usual visits, this time we splurged and got Coke!

Here's the cheese dip, Leah!

We LOVE you, Leah!!!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A Visit to the Biltmore House

On Friday we decided to take advantage of our Biltmore passes, which expire on Sunday.
The grounds were absolutely breath taking! I'm so excited about fall and can't wait for the leaves to turn colors!

At the biltmore farm, the kids had a blast partaking in the festival events.

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