Here’s to trying something new with my blog in 2018! Hopefully it’s not the only new offering you’ll see this year.
In my continuing desire to get more comfortable in front of the camera, I decided to record a book review video. It’s brief and spoiler-free, and something I’ve been wanting to try for a couple of months. I hope you’ll take a few minutes and watch it!
It’s also the first book I’ve completed this year, which means I’m already on my way to reading more books than I read last year — but more on that in an upcoming post!
So turn up your volume, or put on your headphones, and click on the video below to watch!
So after watching, is this a book one you’d add to your list?
Also, I’d love your feedback on this type of blog post. Do you like the review in video format? Would you rather I typed it out as a normal post? Or would you prefer not to see book reviews at all? Leave me a comment here or on one of my social media pages.
What books would you like to see me review in the future? What recommendations do you have for me?
Happy New Year. I want to offer you a New Year’s resolution.
Resolve to get outside. I know that seems crazy because it’s absurdly cold in Michigan right now (and in the U.S. in general), but I mean it.
But you’re an outdoorsy person, you say. Of course you’d tell us to go outside.
I’m not telling you to go camping right now or climb a mountain or anything like that. I talking simpler. Take a walk. Go sledding with your kids. Find somewhere you can go ice skating. Have you ever seen the stars on a crisp winter night? They’re brighter than any other time of the year, and you’ll have a great chance of seeing the northern lights.
But I’m cold, you say. I hate being cold.
And that’s the rub of it. So many of us who live in the great white north get frustrated and depressed during these six-ish months of the year because we’re afraid of the cold and annoyed with snowy commutes. And I get it; don’t get me wrong. It’s gray until April, and the commutes really are annoying. But, I think there’s a deeper lesson for us here, something God is trying to teach us that we might be missing.
There’s beauty to be had in all of life, whether it’s sunny and 85 or snowing and just above zero. Just yesterday I was driving through East Grand Rapids and I found myself overwhelmed at the beauty of the snow-covered neighborhoods. Yes, the roads were crap and it took us forever to get anywhere, but if you took a minute to look, it was really beautiful. This morning I woke to temperatures just above zero, but the sun had broken through the lake effect snow clouds and given the day a golden hue, the brightness magnified by the white on the ground. If I’m honest, these are some of my favorite days of the year; there’s no breath of air like the bitter cold crispness of deep winter.
I think God wants us to learn to appreciate our circumstances. The apostle Paul said to the Philippians, “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
Winter is a good place to start learning contentment. Try to look beyond the hood of your car on Tuesday morning to see how winter has painted the world around you. Go take a walk around the block and see the snow clinging to tree branches and cardinal bellies. Take a drive to the ski lodge and hit the slopes for a day. Throw on your boots and go sledding with your kids.
If you learnt to enjoy it, just maybe winter will be over a little too soon.
Joey Cottle is a pastor and writer from West Michigan where he lives with his wife, Abigail, and two kids, Liv and Levi. He’s passionate about theology, leadership, and a host of other things. Check out his personal blog here.
And here it is, my annual year in review post! Memory lane 2017 is a happier place for me, and I hope it’s the same for you. I feel like it went by shockingly quick! But I’m ready for a new leaf.
Most of the good of the year was drowned out by insufferable U.S. political garbage, terrifying natural disasters, and too many mass shootings. I got wrapped up in all of it myself, I admit, but I try to remember the positive aspects of 2017 as well as the blessings I’ve been given this year.
And there were quite a few! It’s almost as if 2017 was making up for what an awful year 2016 was. Let me recap:
After six months of being unable to work following my 2016 surgery, I started a new job in the early months. In addition to working with a fantastic group of individuals, I’ve learned so much, and continue to do so each day while having fun creating content for others to enjoy. I’m thankful for it every second I’m there, even when I’m exhausted or having a bad day.
My incredible grandma celebrated her 90th year of life, surrounded by more than 100 friends and family. It’s a milestone I’m thankful she was able to have and fully enjoy.
Then in the later part of the summer, I finally got to experience the thrill of being asked one of the most important questions in life. Justin put a ring on my finger in Ludington and we started a few tentative wedding plans.
Little did we realize we’d be officially married 3 months later! It was a big surprise for so many, but I’m so glad Justin and I tied the knot in an intimate ceremony, and I can’t wait to party it up with a real reception — hopefully this summer if possible!
And finally, only a few weeks before Christmas, Justin was offered an awesome position at a company in our area. It’s full-time, pays excellently, has great benefits, and is perfect for his graphic design, photography, and videography skills. We both are very excited, and are looking forward to finally feeling more stable in the upcoming year.
While 2017 is about to say goodbye, I’d like to thank all of you who continue to support my blog by reading my posts, even if they’ve become a little more spaced out than normal. I cannot tell you how much it means to me, and how happy it makes me when I see some engagement on my social media.
As 2018 approaches, I’d love if you could please share my blog and social media pages with your friends, family, coworkers, acquaintances, and anyone else you meet who may be interested in my little corner of the world!
I do plan on creating my typical survey for you to provide feedback on my blog, as well as help me cater to what you’d like to see in the future. I hope I did better with it this year. It’ll be on most of my social media pages, so make sure you follow at least one of them in order to take it! I value what you have to say and try my best to accommodate your likes without sacrificing my own. What I don’t want is for this blog to feel like work.
This year I chose to challenge myself and read 20 books, which may seem like a lot to some. And I definitely made the effort! But did I meet that goal?
Yes! I read exactly 20 pieces of literature. And I’m expecting to finish one more book before the year is over. Sound the applause, I’m taking a bow!
In the early months of the year when I was still recovering from my intense health scare, I took full advantage of my local library and borrowed books from nearby friends, which definitely helped me get through the challenge rather quickly.
I finished the challenge in early November, and I will admit I started slacking on my reading once I read the last book to complete the challenge. But I really did need a break. Times got busier with planning a wedding and the holidays, and my favorite TV shows came out with new seasons, so novels were placed on a back burner.
Here’s what I read this year:
I definitely got more into reading memoirs this year, and they didn’t disappoint. I loved learning more about Phil Collins, Sue Perkins, Lauren Graham, and Malala Yousafzai. Those books surprised me, opened my eyes to a lot of different things, and also made me laugh. I’d definitely recommend them!
I read two books series this year: The Selection and The Lunar Chronicles. The Selection books were very quick reads, enjoyable, but much more geared toward teenagers. Very cutesy. The Lunar Chronicles I really loved because of the creativity of the story and intertwining of each book. I wonder if they will ever become movies.
My least favorite was definitely The Cherry Harvest mostly due to the unlikable characters — mostly the main character, the mother. I wouldn’t recommend this book to anybody.
I definitely plan on starting the 2018 challenge as soon as possible, but I’m not sure how many books I’m going to challenge myself to read. Just thinking about reading more than 20 gives me a bit of anxiety! Maybe I’ll just stick to this number. What do you think?
Did you take part in the challenge this year? And even if you didn’t, how many did you read? Which were your favorites?
Want to connect with me on Goodreads? Click here and add me as a friend!
For the last post in the photo manipulation series I’ll opt to keep it short and sweet.
Have you ever wanted to be in a movie? Psh. What kind of question is that? Of course you have.
OK, probably not — but I’d love to be sometime. Or better yet, I’d love to work on one.
My job isn’t just photography — I do videography too, and a lot of the same principles apply when it comes to making things look good in both.
Color correction in video is very similar to color correction for an image in Photoshop, which is why creating the image above is possible. I looked over footage of a bunch of movies before settling on this scene in “Star Trek, Into Darkness.”
This scene is perfect for what I was trying to do. The reactions, the direction Scotty is looking in — all of those factors really helped shape this.
I stuck to using a green screen to make it easier to lay myself into the composite above. In Photoshop, if you select just the green hues in the background it makes cutting out my image much easier.
Well, because green is very different from the color of skin. There’s a huge contrast between the two, which makes selecting just the green and not my face simple.
Here comes the hard part: I had to not only shoot myself in the right position, but I also had to make sure the lighting was even enough across the image so that I could make it match the movie’s.
I took dozens of shots before getting to this one. It involved moving lights around and trying different poses.
Once I shot the image I wanted, I took it to the computer to see how well it fit into the scene. I had to be looking in the right direction, and the placement of the paper and pen needed to be exact so Scotty was actually looking at it.
Next, I had to do A LOT of color correcting to match the movie. It took roughly 2 hours and asking my peers for help (because my eyes started to get used to seeing the same thing over and over again) before I arrived at the final image.
If you compare the image to the right and the final composite above, you can see that there are many lighting differences between the two. The shadows needed to be enhanced and I needed to change many of the highlights on my face before it looked right.
To be honest, the image still doesn’t look quite right to my eyes, but I think it’s about as far as I can go given time constraints. It also doesn’t help that my mind knows that I don’t belong in the scene — so there’s that.
Photo manipulation is a lot of fun! I hope you enjoyed this four-part series. Obviously there are many more ways to do photo manipulation. Thanks for reading!
Justin McKee is a photographer with big ideas living in Michigan. In addition to portraits, wedding photography and video, he also enjoys wildlife photography. He always seeks to learn more about his craft.
It’s been ONE YEAR since I’ve had a Stitch Fix box! I can’t believe it! Does it seem like that long to you?
And come to find out this is my 22nd Fix! Holy crapola. That goes to show you how much I still love this company and the service it provides, and I was just as excited to get this box as I was my first box! Never fails.
Don’t know what Stitch Fix is? Check out earlier reviews located in the tab under the banner at the top of this blog to find out how this personal shopping experience works its magic.
In my opinion, Stitch Fix is the easiest gift for the holidays. Seriously, all you have to do is purchase a gift card, and no longer do you have to worry about finding the right size, color, or style for that individual. It’s a no-hassle way to gift someone a personalized shopping experience that they don’t even have to leave the house for! They use the gift card to keep what they like, send back what they don’t for free, and even can exchange an item for a different size. So. Stinkin’. Easy. Purchase a Stitch Fix Gift Card – All Types for that certain someone now!
And what’s even better? That man or woman receiving the gift card can get more bang for their buck! Through the end of January, Stitch Fix is waiving its $20 styling fee for new customers! So now those newbies can try it risk-free. Perfect! Just click that link!
So onto my Fix. Because my former stylist, Kimberley, has moved on to a position in her career field, I was paired with a stylist named Sasha. I always get nervous about having a new stylist, especially because she had large shoes to fill, because I never know how much attention they will pay to my notes and Pinterest board, but I think Sasha did a good job for her first time. More on that later.
This post contains affiliate links through which I may be compensated, but all opinions are my own!
I’m excited to show you a closer look at what I received. But first! If you’d like to see the unboxing video I filmed on Facebook Live, go here!
Lila Ryan — Liza Skinny Jean; Size 4/Petite; $98
In her note, Sasha said these jeans were an olive color, but I disagree. My eyes see more of a brown, and not exactly an attractive shade of brown, either. Upon wearing them, they are exactly like my dark wash Lila Ryan skinnies I received in my January 2016 Fix, which is a great thing. They’re comfortable beyond belief, the perfect length, and fit very well. The problem is, though, I don’t like the brown color at all, they barely work with anything I already have, and don’t like the high price tag. These are definitely going back.
Marc New York — Stellana Puffer Vest; Extra Small; $68
This vest is pretty basic, and I did like it in general. It fits well, and black goes with everything. The small details are cute, and I eventually got used to the pattern of the stitching, which my husband says reminds him of Kevlar. The zipper, however, feels poorly made and I actually have issues with it when I tried on the piece. Even though it’s a nice vest, I don’t think it’s worth the price. Back it goes.
Skies Are Blue — Maguire Elbow Patch Top; Extra Small/Petite; $58
All I need is an axe and I’m set! I’ve never worn buffalo plaid before, and I wasn’t expecting to like it as much as I do. It also has the cute elbow patches I love. Unfortunately, the cut of this piece does not work for me and it makes me constantly tug on it. It just isn’t comfortable to wear, even though the fabric itself is incredibly soft. I will be returning this item.
RD Style — Moana Elbow Patch Pullover; Extra Small; $64
This sweater is actually one I had pinned, so I am very happy to see it in my box! The knit of this item requires a shirt or cami underneath, and the fabric is on the softer side. I was very unsure about this top when I pulled it out of the box due to the thick seams in the front, but once I put it on I fell in love! It’s cozy, fits well, and again has the cute elbow patches. It’s also very versatile as it can pair well with jeans, leggings, scarves, and an assortment of jewelry. I am in need of another sweater, so I’m glad to say I will be keeping this!
Kensie — Lyndsey Ruffle Detail Knit Dress; Extra Small; $68
I want to like this dress more than I do, but I can’t get over the ruffles, which I keep calling bat wings. They just sort of overtake everything else when I look in the mirror, and don’t really allow for cardigans to fit nicely over the garment — which would be a necessity in these cold months. The length of the dress is in the awkward length that makes me look shorter too, and that’s a problem. As you can see, I have two pictures of this dress because I want you to see it as is, and then show a way to dress it up a little with belt and colorful scarf (that I also got from Stitch Fix as a sweet gift), which I think really makes a difference. But it’s just too problematic for me to keep.
I’ll start off with what I liked: as I said before, I believe Sasha did a good job because I could tell she customized the box as close as possible to what I had said in my note and through what I pinned. I really appreciate that, even though most pieces didn’t work out for me. That said, I will likely ask Stitch Fix to keep her as my stylist.
I don’t have much negative things to say about this Fix. My biggest “complaint” is that I would have liked to have seen more colors or patterns. It was a bit of a bland box, and winter is so dreary here I need fun pieces to counter it.
Now it’s your turn. What do you think of this month’s box? Leave me comments or tell me on Facebook!
Most of it has to do with nostalgia — playing it in the arcade of my hometown’s regional airport while waiting to greet family members or at the theater before a movie. But I’ve always loved the creativity of the tables: the ramps, figurines, and graphics, the clangs, dings, buzzers, and thunks of the ball hitting or bouncing off obstacles, and actual sound bites from whatever movie, TV show, or band featured. The game becomes hypnotizing as you focus on propelling the silver orb with a precise hit of the flipper.
There’s a semi-underground group of people in the southeast region of Michigan who are die-hard pinball fanatics — otherwise known as pinheads. So much so they know the ins and outs of the table, and how to repair them. They formed a club years ago called Vintage Flipper World (Ann Arbor Pinball Museum), and it has become the third largest dedicated pinball venue in North America. It’s currently only open to the public twice a year, and these men and women show their huge hearts on Black Friday, as they host a public-but-not-publicized event to benefit those who are less fortunate during the holidays. And if you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen a preview of what I’m about to write.
To attend, you must bring a new toy to benefit Toys for Tots and canned food items. And this isn’t the place to be stingy about it. Your donation should be fit for not only those who will receive the gift, but also as a way to say thank you to the dozens who allow the event to take place. The club members not only show their generosity by providing free food and drinks, but open up their doors to what I have come to believe is the Mecca of Pinball. Once inside, you can play pinball all night long, on every table, without quarters.
Inside an old VFW hall sit between 150 and 200 pristine pinball machines, dating as far back as the 50s and 60s. Four rows and a back room showcased dozens of tables alight and ready to be enjoyed. It’s an incredible sight! It definitely created an excitement in me as my eyes glittered with their reflections. Which to play first? How do I even begin to choose?
Upon walking up each row, I immediately recognized a number of tables: The Addams Family, Earthshaker, Elvira, The Simpsons, Terminator, Fun House, and Star Trek to name a handful. Others, such as Lord of the Rings, Doctor Who, Pirates of the Caribbean, Iron Man, Metallica, and Phantom of the Opera, I was especially drawn to and made sure to play, and the retro tables also charmed me over due to their simplicity and sound. It’s like being transferred to another era when the silver ball hits each bumper, making the bell ring.
While the experience of playing pinball for hours on end was exhilarating and extremely fun, it really felt like you were part of something special. And I give tons of props to the members of Vintage Pinball World for hosting such a night of entertainment like none other. They really showed they care about giving back and enjoy sharing their passion with others. Each club member I spoke with was kind and informative if I had questions (and I had quite a few, believe me!).
I hope to return again for the same event next year! However, I’m going to try and snag tickets for their other public event, the 2018 Ann Arbor Michigan Pinball Showcase, where two additional rooms filled with tables will be available for play. Can you imagine?
Thanks to these Michigan pinheads, you may not have to!
Written with permission by Clay of Vintage Flipper World Ann Arbor Pinball Museum
If I were to take a guess, we’d all like to see a miracle. Even the most skeptic atheist among us would like to see God move like he did in the Old Testament or watch Jesus walk on water and raise the dead. The books of Acts describes people being healed by merely touching the shadow of Peter as he walked by them on the street. Seeing that would be mind blowing and so… assuring? Then we would know. There could be no more doubt in our minds that God is with us and for us and is just as real as the Bible claims him to be.
Well, I’ve got some news for you. I’ve seen the miracles. I’ve watched a man whose muscles were wrecked by cerebral palsy stretch out his withered hands and fingers with new life. I’ve personally prayed over a deaf person and they could suddenly hear. I’ve seen the presence of God fall on a room with tongues of men and angels just like it did on an upper room nearly two millennia ago. You’d think I would have seen enough to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that all this believing I was doing actually made sense.
But I still have my moments of doubt and times when I find myself looking heavenward just wondering. Maybe this is all a sham? Maybe I’ve just been kidding myself to feel better.
The truth is that miracles don’t always work to produce faith. I mean, think about the Pharisees. They saw all the miracles that the disciples did, but rather than proclaim Jesus as Lord, they called him a demon and had him martyred under political pretense. Think about the Israelite nation that sat at the foot of a mountain that was literally on fire with the manifest presence of God, but rather than stand in awe and worship, they made a golden calf and started worshipping it with a drunken orgy. I mean, they went from marching through the Red Sea on dry land to an orgy. It was like… a couple weeks at most.
So I think we need to turn our attention to something else.
Not that miracles are bad; they’re incredible. They do change lives and build up faith, but there’s a deeper—dare I say, better—miracle constantly happening that will give us all the assurance we could ever need of God’s presence.
It’s the miracle of new life.
Sounds cheesy, I know, but I can’t get over it. It’s the miracle that takes us from who we were, people addicted to sinning, and makes us into who God wants us to be. Romans 8:11 says “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies…” The very Spirit of God is working inside of you right now to overcome the sin that so easily besets you and shape your character into God’s character.
The power of our testimony isn’t merely in the supernatural acts of healing we get to see from time to time; rather, it’s the simple statement “I was a sinner, but now I’ve been made new.”
Joey Cottle is a pastor and writer from West Michigan where he lives with his wife, Abigail, and two kids, Liv and Levi. He’s passionate about theology, leadership, and a host of other things. Check out his personal blog here.
Last week, Justin and I tied the knot during a simple, intimate ceremony in front of our immediate family and two of our closest friends. Surprise! It was short, sweet, and absolutely perfect.
Once the engagement took place, he and I both had the idea of a stereotypical wedding day filled with a conservative amount of pomp and circumstance with nearly a couple hundred guests after compiling a rough list. Due to our financial circumstances and the timing of the engagement, we figured we would wait two years until the big day. However, we took a hard look at that decision and changed pace, knowing we wanted to make sure the older members of our family were there for the big day since they mean so much to us. We also took into account our health. Although both of us are at a pretty stable point at the moment, we wanted to make sure we had power of attorney if something life-threatening happened in the future due to Crohn’s Disease. And honestly, we were just plain ready!
In the end we’re really glad we decided to get married in this way. Planning took about three weeks, and I can honestly say it was 99% stress free.
Now, even though the wedding has taken place, Justin and I still want to celebrate with other family members and our closest friends. God willing, we’re hoping to have a low-key gathering in the summer or fall of next year and do more of the traditional aspects of a wedding day! I mean, come on, I didn’t make those bridesmaids boxes for nothing!
We are incredibly happy and feel very blessed from the support we’ve been shown already. As for me, I’m so thankful to call Justin my husband, and I’m looking forward to married life!
As I celebrate Thanksgiving today, I reflect at how truly blessed I’ve been this year following last year’s hardships and struggles. Though it all hasn’t been smooth sailing, it’s been night and day since 2016. That fact alone makes me grateful.
I hope as you enjoy your full-fledged dinners today, you take a moment and count your blessings.
Here’s a good chunk of what I’m thankful for this year, besides the typical response of family, friends, and health:
Beach proposals. A welcoming workplace with great coworkers. Moving helpers. Friends who visit from other states. Lush. Seeing my grandma celebrate her 90th birthday. Mayo Clinic physicians and nurses. Bridge Cards. Sailing on the Detroit River. First birthdays. Purple-streaked hair. Glasses of wine with friends. Entyvio. No Name Road and M-22. Eating poutine in Niagara Falls. Battleship on the balcony.
And sorry to be a tease, but the biggest thing I’m thankful for is still a secret — yet will be revealed soon! Make sure to keep your eyes on this blog to discover what that is. Sorry not sorry!
I also want to state I’m thankful for you and every other reader that comes across my blog and spends a few minutes reading my posts or simply window shopping through my recipes or past Stitch Fix posts. I really appreciate your time here, and I hope you continue to check back here or follow my social media accounts to stay updated.
What are YOU thankful for this year? Tell me in the comments below!