Thursday, June 30, 2011

Photography tips: Fireworks

I figure lots of people are going to be watching fireworks this weekend and sitting around a fire so it's a good time to pass on a few things that I've learned while messing around with photographing these two things. 

Let's start with tips for fireworks. I'll post about fire tomorrow.

4th of July

These settings are a good starting point:
ISO 400
APERTURE f9 or f11
If you have a dslr just put it in manual mode and change all of those settings. Get your manual out and learn how if you don't already know.

If you just have a point and shoot you should read your manual as well to see if you can change any of those settings. You are going to want to make sure your flash is off and if you can't change all the settings see if you can just change the shutter speed and see what happens with that.

I didn't use a tripod because I felt limited. You may want to use it as it is really tricky to stay really still for the second that the shutter is open. I sat in a chair and just kind of braced myself. It worked for me.

Find out where the fireworks are going in the sky. Get your settings where you want them. I don't remember if I had to manually focus or not so you might have to mess around with that a little bit.

Give it a try and just remember... if you are only getting frustrated just put the camera away and enjoy the fireworks like most of the other people... without the camera.

If you get some pictures this weekend I would love to see them!

4th of July
Last year was my first time photographing fireworks. I surprised myself with  how well I did and I'm hoping it wasn't a fluke because I would love to get some more awesome photos this year.

You can see last years fireworks photos HERE and HERE.

Give Him your all.

You know the saying "the truth will set you free"... well there is more to it...

John 8:31-32 says
IF you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. THEN you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.

Pretty big qualifier there. But if you truly believe in Jesus you will believe what he says. You will hold to his teachings you will be a disciple and know the truth. And the bonus of that is that the truth will set you free.

And when we hold to God's teachings... when we truly believe... it won't be hard to be obedient, to follow God without question. To lay down our lives. To be on fire instead of lukewarm. To put God as our first priority instead of our last.

Francis Chan says "It's easy to fill ourselves up with other things and then give God whatever is left. God gets a scrap or two only because we feel guilty for giving him nothing."

Do I just give God my leftovers... my leftover time? My leftover energy? My leftover words and praise?

Is my heart really set on him?

"I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I am about to spit you out of my mouth." (Rev 3:16-17)

I think it would do us all well to say "Am I hot or cold? Or simply lukewarm? Do I REALLY believe? Or am I content giving God just a little bit of myself?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Another day at the zoo.

I know we go to the zoo a lot but that's ok... we like it. :) And we aren't bored of it yet so we are going to keep going. We get a membership every year to the Pittsburgh Zoo and it's definitely been worth our money every time. Our current membership expired today so I am really glad that it worked out for us to go one last time! And I had a bunch of guest passes left on our membership so I asked my friend Kim to come along with her three kids.

The kids all paired up and became buddies for the day. It was cute and I didn't mind having someone else to hold Liza's and Jason's hands.

It was an eventful day at the zoo. The first thing we get to is the snow leopard. The snow leopard is always sleeping way in the back corner and he's no fun to see. But this time he was out and walking around and came right up to the window. It was exciting.

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The rhino was actually out where we could see it too! He's often in the back of his area giving us nothing but a nice view of his butt.

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The leopard display is finally finished... they've been working on it forever. But the leopard was out and beautiful!
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We spent some time watching the elephants.

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As we rounded the elephant house we saw that we could get our pictures taken with one of the elephants... for $10. After thinking about it for a second we decided to all get in the picture and split the cost since they take the photo on your camera. Easy to share. It's not every day that the kids get to be right up next to an elephant and touch it.

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The monkeys were all kinds of fun today. Lots of playing around and making noises. And some were just resting in awkward positions.

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Then it was off to the aquarium.

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The polar bears... I have this thing... I've been to the zoo so many times but I have never seen the polar bears swim. There is this tunnel you can walk through and watch the polar bears swim over you. But they never swim. Then, the past two times I was there the polar bears were swimming so we ran to the tunnel and as soon as we got in the tunnel the bears got out of the water. Sad face.
Well this time we got to the top of the polar bear display and they were in the water AGAIN! I didn't even bother trying to get to the tunnel because I knew they wouldn't still be in the water. And it was shortly after that they got out.

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After watching them for a few minutes they started "fighting" and all of a sudden they were up on their back legs going at each other and they ended up in the water! So we decided we should head to the tunnel. We got to the tunnel and waited for a few minutes and they did it again! I finally saw the polar bears swimming from the tunnel.

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It didn't last long but at least I finally saw it! I mean... it's in the commercials and the movies! (The Next Three Days.) Shouldn't it happen in real life!?

Anyways... we had a really great day. There were some staff in the reptile house with some snakes and lizards out that we could pet. The kids loved that. Just lots of exciting and different things at the zoo today. We spent five hours there and I am completely exhausted!

My favorite photo from the day...

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Madly in love? Or not?

I realized that I have a few posts in draft from quite a while ago that never got posted. This one is from Crazy Love by Francis Chan. It's good. It will make you think... as all things Francis Chan will make you think and challenge you.

I spoke recently at Grandma Clara's funeral, and I could honestly tell the mourners gathered that I had never known anyone more excited to see Jesus. Every morning Clara would kneel by her bed and spend precious hours with her Savior and Lover; later in the day, just the sight of that corner of her bed would bring joy-filled tears and a deep anticipation of the next morning spent kneeling in His presence.

Grandma Clara acted toward God the way we act toward people we're madly in love with.

When you are truly in love, you go to great lengths to be with the one you love. You'll drive for hours to be together, even if it's only for a short while. You don't mind staying up late to talk. Walking in the rain is romantic, not annoying. You'll willingly spend a small fortune on the one you're crazy about. When you are apart from each other, it's painful. even miserable. He or she is all you think about; you jump at any chance to be together.

In his book God Is the Gospel. John Piper essentially asks whether we are in love with God:

The critical question for our generation--and for every generation--is this: If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ was not there?

Hard question.

Be honest with yourself.

If you could have all that could you be satisfied with heaven if Christ was not there?

When I first read that my honest answer was probably. How sad! But I've been working on it and today I'd like to say I'm a lot closer to answering "probably not." Hopefully it won't be long before my answer can be "DEFINITELY NOT!"

Fall in love with your Savior. Madly in love.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Mike and I have been saying for years how nice it would be to have a fire pit outback. We had thought about asking our landlord if it would be ok but we never got around to it.

Last week Liza was walking around picking up sticks because she was going to build a pretend fire. We ran into the maintenance couple  and Liza told them what she was up to. Maintenance couple just loves my kids and they said "We have this thing that you can build a fire in. Someone gave it to us three years ago and we never used it. You can have it if you want it."

Yes please!

They dropped it off the next day. And the day after that we had a fire and roasted some marshmallow.

The thing is basically a grill... but it has a thing that goes around it so you can put the lid up higher and have a fire in it. It's weird. But it worked!

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We invited the neighbors down and they roasted marshmallows with us.
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I didn't eat any marshmallows... it's that whole no eating sugar thing. I know it seems like one marshmallow wouldn't be that big of a deal but people! I LOVE marshmallows! Oh man. I love them. I would have ate the whole bag... so I didn't eat any.

But I roasted some for others.

I'm good at roasting up marshmallows to perfection.
But no one was taking pictures of me so I can't show you.

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Eventually the neighbors went home and we tucked the kids in bed.
Then Mike and I went back out and enjoyed the fire by ourselves for a while longer.

It was perfect.

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We'll be doing it again!

Train up the Children

Proverbs 22:6
Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.

My Bible notes say that instruction and discipline are primarily involved. Also, "the way he should go" is the right way or the way of wisdom.

Parenting is a TOUGH job. We have a few short years to "train" our children for the rest of their lives. And I'm sure I'm not the only mom to ever have moments where I wonder "am I messing them up? Setting them up to fail?" I hope I'm not.

But how do I know that I am training them well? Training starts on day one... and I feel like I've been exhausted since day one. This is a HUGE responsibility. I want to get it right.

That said, I also know that I will never get it perfect, but I'll still give it all I've got. Liza and jason are worth it.

I need a plan.

1. Ask God for wisdom.
Do not try to do this in my own strength with my limited amount of knowledge and wisdom. God created my children. He designed their unique personalities. he knows what they need--and he will share those things with me. "Call to me and I will answer you. I'll tell you marvelous and wondrous things that you could never figure out on your own." (Jeremiah 33:3 The MSG)

2. Lead by example.
To tell them about God and say that it is important to live your life for Him but then turn and live my own life contradictory to my words will not teach them how to live for God. The way I live will speak much louder than the words I say. If I tell my kids to trust in God and then go through something difficult, I better be trusting in God. They will remember how I live my life... and they are always watching and listening. I'm amazed at the things they pick up!

3. Know when to let them fall and fail.
If I jump in and rescue my kids every time life gets a little bit hard they will never learn how to handle life on their own. I need to let them fail sometimes. And then use those situations as teaching moments. I have to train them in life skills. They need to learn that there are consequences. Always.

4. Teach them about choices.
We make a gazillion choices every single day. A lot minor, some major. I need to give my children the freedom to make their own decisions. If I dictate everything in their lives when they are young how will they ever learn to make decisions or learn about consequences? They need to develop the ability to think things through because it won't be long before they will be making some of the most important decisions of their lives--who to date, whether or not they will live for God, what to do with their lives, who to marry, how to spend their money.

It's A LOT of responsibility. Intimidating. Amazing that God has entrusted me with this mission--to train two beautiful little children to be great people who impact the world with good.

This is my greatest task. This is the thing that matters most NOW.

Train. Instruct. Discipline.

Lord, help me! Show me the keys to their hearts. Help me to understand their personalities. Give me wisdom for every situation. Help me to know the times when they need rescued and the times when it's good to let them fall. And reveal to me the areas of my life where I am not setting a good example. Thank you for these beautiful children that you have trusted me with. I can't raise them well without you. Help me. Amen.

Proverbs 22:15
Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.

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Monday, June 27, 2011


Every summer our town has the Cruise-a-palooza. Main Street is shut down and then lined up and down with "fancy cars" as the kids like to call them. Everyone comes out to look at the cars and eat the good "fair food". Mmm.

We got home from church, grabbed a quick (and early) lunch and headed downtown to join the crowd. The kids loved riding in their wagon yelling out when they saw their "favorite car"... which just so happened to be about every five cars. Mike always enjoys the cars. And I just enjoy some fun time out with my family... and some good french fries.

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I know Mike is a bit out of focus in this next picture but it's not every day that I get a picture of myself that I like so I'm posting it anyways. :)

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Mike likes the vipers.

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But his favorite car was the General Lee. Too many memories wrapped up in that one for him.

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Mike looks like he doesn't have an arm in this next picture. But I look good soooo... :)

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We had a really nice time. Sundays are Mike's only day off so it's always nice when there is something going on that we are interested in doing. And the best thing about the Cruise-a-palooza is that you don't have to spend any money to have a good time. It was such a cheap family time out for us. The fries cost a few bucks and that was all that we spent. You just go to enjoy the cars and the crowd.

My favorite cars are always the Mustangs. I want a '64. It's my dream car. I want a white exterior, red interior. I didn't see my car yesterday but I saw plenty of Mustangs.

Do you have a favorite old car?

God's Will?

Here is something else from Francis Chan's The Forgotten God. It's good!

How many times have you heard someone say, "I just wish I knew God's will for my life"? I know I've longed for this before. But now I see it as a misguided way of thinking and talking.

There are very few people in the Scriptures who received their life plan from God in advance (or even their five-year plan, for that matter!). Consider Abraham, who was told to pack up his family and all his possessions and start walking. He didn't know where he was going. He didn't know if he would ever be back. He didn't know any of the details we consider vital (e.g., his destination, how long the venture would take, what the costs/rewards would be, whether he'd receive a 401(k) or health insurance). God said to go and he went, and that's pretty much all he knew.

I think a lot of us need to forget about God's will for my life. God cares more about our response to His Spirit's leading today, in this moment, than about what we intend to do next year. In fact, the decisions we make next year will be profoundly affected by the degree to which we submit to the Spirit right now, in today's decisions.

It is easy to use the phrase "God's will for my life" as an excuse for inaction or even disobedience. It's much less demanding to think about God's will for your future than it is to ask Him what He wants you to do in the next ten minutes. It's safer to commit to following Him someday instead of this day.

 Needing to know God's entire plan before we start will only paralyze us with fear. But what if I get it wrong?? Chances are that at some point you will. Get over it. Ask for forgiveness. Pick yourself up. Ask God to show you the next step.

We are human. We will never be perfect. Don't let perfectionism keep you from taking steps either.

Just obey. One step at a time. God will be there every step of the way. Trust Him. And when He says GO you say OK. And as Joyce Meyer says sometimes we will just have to "do it afraid." It's not really trust if we know all the answers ahead of time.

In John 14:15 Jesus says "If you love me, you will obey what I command." It doesn't say "If you love me you will obey me as soon as you have figured out my will for your entire life."

Just take that step!

It wasn't long ago that I heard Lysa TerKeurst speak on the same topic. God's will. She was of the same thought... stop trying to figure out God's will for you life. She used the verse 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18:

"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

She said that if you are joyful always, pray continually and give thanks in all circumstances that you will find yourself in the center of God's will.

Just walk with God. He'll keep you on the path.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The hard question.

I recently finished reading The Forgotten God by Francis Chan. Good book. Made me think. Made me question myself. Helped me grow. I recommend it.

In the book Francis Chan shared something that someone once asked him...

"What would your church (and the worldwide church) look like if everyone was as committed as you are? If everyone gave and served and prayed exactly like you, would the church be healthy and empowered? Or would it be weak and listless?"

Talk about making you evaluate yourself!

I started asking myself some questions.

Do you pray often? With the right motives?
Do you serve with the right motives?
Are you exhausted from overcommitment?
Are you being led by God and for His glory?
Or are you doing what you want, the way you want, for your own glory?
Are you a cheerful giver?
Or do you count your tithe to the exact penny and give no more?

What if everyone served, gave and prayed EXACTLY like you?

I've got some work to do.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Ooooooh! It's a VLOG!

For those of you that don't know what vlog means (mom and dad maybe??) it stands for Video Blog. And I REALLY hate talking to the camera and I've been almost chickening out for days but decided to just post it already.

Pardon the crazy glare on my glasses, the weird light and the unfolded pile of laundry on the chair behind me.


I hope you have enjoyed my series on forgiveness and reconciliation. It's been fun and I enjoyed really digging into a topic. I have a new series coming up and we could seriously be on it for months. But it is going to be good... and challenging. But I figure that as Christians we should always be challenging ourselves to become more like Christ. I am still finishing up the first part of the next series but I'll have plenty of other good stuff to post in the meantime. (At least I think it's good!)

Before we move off of forgiveness and reconciliation though I want to share one last thing.

I've been reading in Proverbs and if you haven't read Proverbs in a while you should! It's all wisdom and I bet you will find plenty of advice or understanding for the situations you currently find yourself in.

Proverbs 20:22
Do not say, "I'll pay you back for this wrong!" Wait for the Lord and he will deliver you.

I think I am just going to let some other scriptures do the speaking today.

Psalm 27:14
Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.

Psalm 62:5-8
Find rest, O my soul, in God alone'
   my hope comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation;
   he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God;
   he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in him at all times, O people;
   pour out your hearts to him,
   for God is our refuge.

Rest in God.
Wait on God.

And while you do... pour your heart out to him.

I don't know how many of you have a private journal but journaling is one of my favorite things. It gives me a place to pour my heart out to God and it's been a powerful thing in my life. It's also really great to be able to look back and see the God-journey I've been on over the past year or two or three. Do you journal?

Here's a great song by Jeremy Camp called I Wait for the Lord.

Thanks for hanging with me on this journey through forgiveness and reconciliation. I've loved all the emails and comments from all of you. God is good!

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Little Rascals Winnerrrrr

Congratulations to Kelly from Life in the South!! You are the winner of The Little Rascals dvd.

Please send me an email with your address and I will get that out to you soon!

More giveaways coming in the hear future. :)

And another favorite quote from the movie...

I... Stymie... Member in good standing of the He-Man Woman Haters Club... Do solemnly swear to be a he-man and hate women and not play with them or talk to them unless I have to. And especially: never fall in love, and if I do may I die slowly and painfully and suffer for hours - or until I scream bloody murder.

God Forgives!

Unfortunately not everyone will be like God. We may “confess our sins” (or wrongs) to someone but they will withhold forgiveness. We can’t force someone to forgive.

But what about God?

1 John 1:9
If we confess our sins he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

This verse speaks of God’s character. We do not have to be afraid to confess our sins to God. He loves us! He wants to be in relationship with us. If you confess your sins to God he will do what he said he will do--he will forgive you.

Every. Single. Time.

Never hesitate to go to God and lay your heart bare in confession.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Oh Jason

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Will I reconcile with everyone?

We can’t force someone to reconcile with us. We can apologize. We can do everything in our power to right the wrong. But not every relationship will be fully restored.

Once we do our part to reconcile it is up to the person who has been hurt. Maybe the hurt was too deep. Maybe they lost trust or no longer feel that their heart is safe in that relationship. Or perhaps they are just unwilling to forgive.

We can’t force them to enter back into a relationship with us.

Forgiveness is dependent upon nothing and no one other than yourself. Reconciliation IS dependent on forgiveness.

Reconciliation will look different in different situations. It’s possible that you will need to reconcile with someone you have wronged but were never in a relationship with. You do what you need to to right the wrong done but that doesn’t necessarily mean you will become friends with the person.

And as I’ve mentioned in a previous post, there are people that I may chose to walk away from at some point.

Boundaries are important! Boundaries are necessary. We are told to guard our hearts and there are people who are unsafe. We do not have to be friends with everyone.

Proverbs 12:26
“A righteous man is cautious in friendship.” (chooses friends with care)

Proverbs 2:24 says “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered.”

There are people who we are better off to avoid forming relationships with.

Romans 12:18 tells us “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

Sometimes to be able to live at peace with someone we need to make sure we are never in the same room.

When we have wronged someone we should always attempt to reconcile, but it won’t always end the perfect way.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Pirates of the Caribbean

Don't miss my giveaway! Open until Friday Morning.

The first Pirates movie is one of my all time favorite movies! Love it! It makes me happy.

The second and third Pirates movies... not so much. A complete waste of my time. I'll never watch either of them again. They rank somewhere beyond ridiculous in the volumes of "we tried too hard."

So of course I was a bit skeptical of the fourth one... Pirates of the Caribbean On Stranger Tides.

 I had heard mixed things about it but Mike and I needed something relaxing to do the other night when we had a babysitter and there weren't any other movies that we really wanted to see. So we went. I figured even if the movie wasn't real great that two hours of Johnny Depp never hurt anyone. :)

And honestly... I loved the movie! It was fun and clever like the first one without going overboard. It also did not have the characters Will and Elizabeth which I thought was a good thing. The story line was completely different from the other ones, it introduced new and interesting characters and the only thing that realized I was sitting for two hours was my butt.

I was feeling really blah when we showed up at the theater but the movie left me feeling good and light hearted.

A great date night movie!

What is a good movie that you  have seen recently?

I just LOVE these two guys!

I have to carry a bucket around with me to constantly catch my melting heart.

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I just love these two soooo much!

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My heart is in a puddle. Someone help me please!

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There is just something so awesome about watching my husband play with our son.

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I'm a lucky girl to have these two guys to love!

Who should reconcile?

In the Bible, the person who has been offended is told to forgive. But what about the person who has done the offending? What are they to do? According to God’s Word they are to seek reconciliation.

Matthew 5:23-24
"Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”

If you’ve offended someone, wronged them, hurt them (intentionally or not) you are to go to that person. Seek reconciliation. Offer a sincere apology and do what you can to make things right.

Does this mean that if you are the one who has been offended that you can’t take steps toward reconciliation? Absolutely not. Anyone can work toward reconciliation.

But if you have wronged someone the responsibility definitely falls on you so don’t wait around for the other person to start. Seek reconciliation. Do your part.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Strawberry Festival

Two weekends ago we went to a strawberry festival. Soergel's Farm is about 45 minutes away and we had heard great things about events that they have put on in the past so when Mike heard about the Strawberry Festival we decided it would be a really fun thing to do as a family.

The first thing we did was catch the hay ride up to the strawberry fields to pick our own strawberries.

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Before catching the tractor ride back down to the main part of the farm we took some time to run through the maze.

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It was an absolutely gorgeous day. Perfect for a family outing at a local farm!

The kids enjoyed the pony rides... (At $2 per kid to be walked around a small circle three times they better be liking it!!)

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They played in all the little wooden houses. Liza was pretend selling us pretend ice cream in her little ice cream store...

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And we had fun with the little wooden photo stands...

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There were a few "petting zoo" type animals, lots of food and strawberry desserts. We also got to look for gems!

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Soergel's also has a gift shop with lots of unique items, a garden center,  organic store. They sell Amish made furniture. There is tons to do there. If you are in the area you should definitely check it out! And I'm sure we'll be going back next summer for the Strawberry Festival! It was a perfect way to spend a family day out!

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