Are you like me and scroll through your Instagram feed, oohing and ahhhing over so many beautiful photos?

Are you unsatisfied by Instagram’s filters, thinking…

“Mine will never look like that. How do THEY do that? The lighting, the vibrancy, the tone!”

Well friends, I’m here to tell you how.

{Wow. That totally just sounded like an infomercial.}

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After spending time with some blog-friends a few months ago and chatting with them about their secrets, I’ve realized they’re not all that talented after all {totally kidding, you ladies are insanely talented}. The photography apps they use though, are also incredible.

My childhood friend, Rebekah Gough over at {A Bit of Sunshine}, and two new friends Sara Schneider {Life is Beauty Full}, and Katie Harris {Creole Wisdom} {who incidentally is also a professional photographer. So I obviously ate up everything she said}, gave me these recommendations!

photography apps

Afterlight // VSCO Cam // PicTapGo


But I’ve really taken to one of their favorites, more than the others…



 I use this app on almost all my photos these days, whether for my Instagram feed, blog posts, or simply pictures I want framed here at home.

Want some examples?

Yesterday was Imani’s birthday so I’ll start with a few photos from her big day:

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For my photos, all I generally do {for now anyway} is choose Backlit when in the Scenes category. I then click on The Lab and scroll across to Brightness & Contrast, finishing in Highlights & Shadows.

Eventually, I may get more in-depth and use more features, but if you’re curious what I do…there you go!

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I’m far from where I’d like to me in the photography department, but baby steps people…baby steps.

I’m really loving how it’s lightened up my photos, gaining vibrancy, and more the look I’m desiring, rather than the filters Instagram offers.

So go download some of these apps, try ‘em out and see which works best for you and how you’re wanting YOUR photos to look!

Can’t wait to see!


Just in case you’re dying to know {wink, wink} what’s going on with us day-to-day, outside of the blog…instagram is a great place to find out. Do you follow me on Instagram? If not, click here {or search under hugsandpunches}!

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Sometimes I get frustrated. I get wrapped up in my own little world of chaos.

And then I stop on a photo like this…


And this.


And then I remember how crazy life is. How good and funny and creative God is.

I mean quite honestly, remember…I never wanted kids.

And now we’re this??


Anyone else out there find that humorous? Anyone? Anyone?


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But He has. And we’re genuinely happy.

These smiles you see aren’t for the camera, they’re real-life, honest to goodness happy-go-lucky grins.


Has it always been this way?


Is it like this every second of every day?


But the Lord is so gracious and so good and loving. He has brought us through hell and placed us gently on the other side. I mention it here and there, but because I want to be respectful of our children, I’m cautious on where those boundaries lie.

I promise you though, at times it’s not pretty.

Like, at all.

Have you ever felt that? Felt as if a storm swirled around, whipping your hair violently as it blew your entire being, threatening to overtake you?

I’ve certainly felt the darkness drifting in as an elusive and volatile enemy.

Let me tell you, my friend…I’ve been there.

And you know what? I prayed a prayer years ago that God use me. REALLY use me.

And funny thing is…Ben prayed that same prayer.

So here we are, living a life out of the ordinary…overcoming struggles we never expected to face. Being fluent in desperate phrases such as, “God help me, I don’t know how to do this!”

And He not only listens, He answers.

You, Lord, are my lamp;
    the Lord turns my darkness into light.
30 With your help I can advance against a troop;
    with my God I can scale a wall.

31 “As for God, his way is perfect:
    The Lord’s word is flawless;
    he shields all who take refuge in him.

2 Samuel 22:29-31


I am amazed at all Christ has taught me through our struggles, through the darkness and the storms. Things I wouldn’t have been able to learn any other way.
We must let Him teach us rather than allowing trials to consume.

We are not our trials.

We are not our sins and temptations and struggles.

We are children of God. Period.

Embrace the promises He’s given. Cling to hope. Pray for joy.
Remember, He listens. And answers. He may allow less than perfect circumstances to surround you for a time…but He will also see you through.

Let Him.





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I’ve mentioned before how much I l-o-v-e LOVE this book.

bread and wine - shauna niequist

At the end of many of the beautifully written chapters, Shauna lists a recipe mentioned within the pages you have just read. Which is brilliant really, because she makes everything sound so delectable, had she not included them…I think I would have been a bit sad.

And none of them are extremely scary or need a degree from Le Cordon Bleu to figure out.

I promise.

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The first of her recipes I tried was the Blueberry Crisp. She describes it as healthy and lightly sweet, fresh, and simple.

She forgot to include delicious.

Shauna Niequist Blueberry Crisp

After looking through the ingredients and realizing other than some maple syrup, there’s no added sugar…

I thought I’d try it for breakfast.

So making it the night before, I placed them gently in the fridge overnight.

Shauna Niequist Blueberry Crisp

By the way…I’m not a blueberry fan, so I used blackberries & raspberries.


Gluten Free Blueberry Crisp {from Shauna Niequist’s book Bread & Wine}

Serving Size: 4-6

Gluten Free Blueberry Crisp {from Shauna Niequist’s book Bread & Wine}


  • 4 Cups blueberries (or almost any fruit, really)
  • .
  • /// CRISP TOPPING ///
  • .
  • 1 Cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup raw, unsalted pecans, halved or chopped
  • 1/2 cup almond meal (available at Trader Joe's or health food stores, or made easily by putting almonds in food processor until fine, but before thy turn to almond butter)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


  1. Mix together the crisp ingredients.
  2. Pour the berries into an 8x8 pan, and then layer the crisp topping over it.
  3. Bake at 350 degrees 35 to 40 minutes, or up to 10 minutes longer if topping and fruit are frozen, until fruit is bubbling and topping is crisp and golden.



Rather than use an 8x8 inch pan, I used small ramekins so we would all have individual berry crisps.

Like I mentioned in the blogpost, I don't like blueberries so I instead used frozen blackberries and raspberries. It was fantastic.

Oh, and I of course doubled the I do for pretty much everything with a family our size!

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Try it! You’ll be sure to love the sweet…yet not TOO sweetness of it.

Can’t wait to make again using other fruit and berry combinations!

Let me know what you think!

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Chores are a necessity in our family. If the kids didn’t help out, I literally would never get to play with them.

Therefore, I love chores.

AND…I love what it’s doing for our kids.

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They’re learning responsibility and tasks they’ll need to know for the rest of their lives.

And we’re all about preparing our children for the world…not the world for our children. Pause there for a minute and let that saying sink in.

We need to prepare our children for the world…not the world for our children.

When Ben and I heard it a few years ago, it really impacted the way we parented.

chore board

Because I love a good diy, and because I’m not willing to spend much, making a chore board ourselves seemed like a great idea.

We found this tin shelving at Ikea awhile back {sadly I can’t find it online}, in their clearance area. I think we maybe paid $7 for the entire thing.

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Rather than building it so the shelves extend like they’re supposed to, Ben screwed them vertically and used the rails as a frame.

chore board 1

I don’t love my handwriting all that much, so I found this rub on transfer for the top. I like that it says “To Do” rather than “Chores” because well…because I couldn’t find one that said Chores…but also because it reminds them this is their contribution to the family.

It shouldn’t be looked at as a chore. We want them to do it with a happy heart.

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Using washi tape, I created sides for each child.

I cut the washi tape {the same ones I used for my business cards} in half to signify the separation between the “to do” and “done” areas…and kept the full thickness of the tape to divide between the children.

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Finding tags in the dollar area at Target, I glued the silver cardboard letters {also from Target’s dollar section} to the tag and used another fun washi tape to adhere it to the tin shelf.

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 For now, they’re loving it. They bound down the stairs in the morning to find what tasks we’re asking them to do for the day.

Some are everyday {making their beds, brushing their teeth, putting away their clothes}, and some change. Sometimes Abreham unloads the dishwasher, sometimes it’s Ezekiel.

At times we ask Anton to feed our dog Thatcher, sometimes it’s Laith, and instead Anton needs to gather all the trash from the bedrooms and take it outside to the big garbage can.


They genuinely love the responsibility. They love that we entrust them with jobs, they say they feel like big-kids and the older boys tell me they’re excited to be good husbands someday {yes, they’ve actually said that}.

Don’t be afraid to give them tasks…and remember, the more they help out around the house…the more time you have time to PLAY with them {what a concept}!!!

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Don’t you get excited when Target launches a new line?

Well, the beloved blog Poppytalk is next to launch their own shop…due to come out this Sunday, June 22nd and I promise you’ll want to rush over and fill your cart with some of it’s whimsy.

Want some sneak peeks?? Thought so.

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Florals mixed with the lure of the great outdoors was the inspiration behind this collection.

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“We wanted something that could adapt to entertain a glamorous party in the backyard, to a casual picnic at the beach,” according to the bloggers and designers behind Poppytalk {husband and wife team Jan and Earl}.


Talk about glamping and fun picnics! I’m sure excited…are you??

/// A few more peeks here, here and here! ///

{what a perfect way to help in celebrating the little things like we talked about last week!}

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