Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Girl Time: Creative Retreat 2013 {Northern California Photography}

As I mentioned in my last post, each summer (for the past two years now), four of my friends and I travel to our friend Wendy's lake home in Kelseyville, California for a women's Creative Retreat.  Nestled on the hilltop, overlooking Clear Lake, Wendy's home provides the perfect getaway for each of us to restore and refresh our spirits.

Wendy, Kelli, Bethany, and Angie spend their days writing and reading while Jenni and I head out with our cameras to discover what inspiration can be discovered in God's great world.

Together we celebrate the gifts God has given to each of us - and just enjoy each other's company.

While Wendy's home and the surrounding views are lovely, it's Wendy's servant's heart and giving spirit that makes each of us feel right at home.  Each day Wendy devotes herself to encouraging each of us as she freely lavishes her special gifts upon us.  We all leave time at Wendy's home feeling that much taller, that much more confident, that much more committed to the lives God is calling us to live - with our children, with our husbands, in our friendships...and in our personal creative pursuits.

She lifts us up!

While not intended...this shot pictures Wendy perfectly!  Lifting us up!  Cheering us on!
Awesome capture, Jenni!

One of Wendy's more tangible gifts is her ability to rock it out in the kitchen.  With her culinary flair, she could easily be on Master Chef - especially with her good looks and Hollywood acting background. (Seriously, Wen.  You should consider it!)  All week long she spoils us with incredible meals and snacks.

Weeks before our arrival this summer, Wendy gave us a sneak peak of her Creative Retreat menu on her blog.  All the entrees could easily be found on any top restaurant's menu.  My mouth was salivating just reading over her plans.  (I may or may not have made a mad dash to my pantry.)

Read for yourself, HERE.  Just be fore-warned.  You will be hungry afterward!

But there was one small problem.

With my new health and diet restrictions, I was super sad to discover I couldn't eat half of what was on her menu.  Knowing I needed to stay away from wheat, yeast, sugar, and a slew of other ingredients, I knew I needed to let Wendy know about my dietary needs.

True to her nature, Wendy called me back to reassure me that she would be happy to adjust the menu for me.  In most cases, minor alterations were all that was needed.  She wanted to let me know that she was just as devoted to encouraging me in my health as she was to encouraging me in my creative pursuits.

She cared about me - all of me.  Crazy diet restrictions and all.

While I can't say I stuck to my gluten free restrictions entirely (Lemon bars...who can say no to those!), I can say every bite of what I ate was absolutely DELISH!

I appreciate you so very much, Wendy!  I thank God for you!

Isn't she lovely!

These scones are gluten free.  Yay!  I can eat them :)

Berries...some of the few fruits I am allowed to eat.

I think Wendy is most beautiful when she serves her loved ones.  She does it with such grace, pleasure, devotion, joy, and ease.  She has the gift of hospitality for sure!

These pancakes had gorgonzola and bacon in them.  From what I hear they were Devine!  Wendy made mine without the goodies packed inside using a gluten free baking mix.  Which was fine by me.  They were absolutely scrumptious!

Side Bar:  Do you remember the movie Runaway Bride?  That's the movie where Julia Roberts is continuously leaving men at the alter.  At the end of the movie she finally discovers herself...which includes how she best likes her eggs.  I can't remember how she liked hers, but... how I best like mine!

All Wendy's favorite colors happen to be my favorite colors as well.  I ADORE turquoise!  This blood orange drink has become our signature Creative Retreat drink of choice.  (I drank water.)

This tea pot was a gift from Wendy's husband Matt.  To her, it signifies an open heart and a warm hospitable spirit - that to which God repeatedly calls her.  (And, if you are doing dishes at her home and wondering where to put it away.  It goes with all the other white things.  Of course, that's where I told Bethany it belonged.)

Another signature Creative Retreat entree.  I enjoyed mine - without the yummy dressing.  Still Fab!

As you can see, Wendy treats us like royalty.  And that's just one of the gifts Wendy shares with us during our Creative Retreat.  She spoils us with words of affirmation and challenges us with calls of action to love and serve more deeply.  She has an infectious love for Jesus - unashamed in her passion for following after him and offering up her praise.  Wendy has a fabulous sense of humor as well, and she loves her husband and her family with reckless abandon.  That is what I love most about her!

Wendy blogs about her experience as a Christian mother of three active boys (whom she home schools) over at Love Covers a Multitude of Sons.  She also speaks regularly at women's retreats.  Time and time again her words bring life and encouragement to her readers.

And that's just Wendy.  There are five other fabulously gifted women that enrich our time together!

Perhaps now you can begin to understand why these few days are so treasured by all who attend.

First, there's Angie.  She has a wonderful website, Celebrating Holidays, highlighting interesting historical facts about the various holidays we celebrate.  Sadly, she was not able to join us this year.  She is in Spain with her family (for an entire year) while her husband is on sabbatical.  (Poor girl!)  We missed her joyous and positive spirit this year.  She, like Wendy, is gifted at lifting up the spirits of the women around her.  She is grounded and committed to pleasing the Lord in all she does.

I still think we should have moved our retreat location to Spain.  

Just saying....

Can you imagine?

Kelli is an author (and I'm convinced an up and coming stand-up comedian).  Her blog has over 10,000 readers.  She has a gift for bringing humor and laughter into life's more serious matters.  Even the name of her blog suits her - Minivans Are Hot!  Kelli also contributes to several other blogs and partners with Compassion International.  This year Kelli spent her time at the retreat editing her beloved novel that takes place in war time Russia.  I can't wait to read it - especially the part about the greasy rabbit (sorry...inside joke)!  On top of all that, she's an accomplished gymnast who speaks Russian.

I know, right?

Bethany works independently teaching English to the children of several St. Louis families that "home-school" (i.e. hire out top notch teachers to teach each subject).  She is brilliant!  Her vocabulary is as rich and beautiful as she is herself.  Bethany also home-schools her three small children.  Her goal for this year's retreat was to catch up on her reading list and practice applying her latest cosmetology skills.  She signed on to do her cousin's mother's makeup for her cousin's upcoming wedding, so she used us as her guinea pigs.  It turns out she's quite good!  I've been putting her contouring skills to practice at home.

Make-up aside, one of Bethany's biggest passions is her work with Shakespeare in a Week.  She's written various manuscripts that help others establish their own Shakespeare in the Park programs in their communities.  She's one classy lady that I'm proud to call my friend.

Jenni is my partner in crime!  We're the professional photographers of the bunch.  (Although Wendy and Kelli are proving to have a fantastic eye for photography as well...along with a growing addiction to i-phone photography!)  I can always count on Jenni to hop out of the car with me on the side of the road at a moments notice to take pictures of random abandoned buildings, interesting plant life...or whatever it might be that catches our eye.  ("Oh, look!  An abandoned church!!!  Insert car screetching to a halt...)

Jenni and her family are in the middle of a year long RV trek around the United States.  Her wicked sense of humor comes out in each and every blog post she writes over at DareYou2Move.  My favorite is the one about struggling to comb her daughter's hair (Hair Schooling. April 23, 2013) -  HILARIOUS!!  Ever wondered which National Park would be the best to visit with your family?  Guaranteed by the end of the year, you'll find your answers on Jenni's blog - with some wicked awesome photos to boot!

Jenni is adventurous to the core!  She and her family inspire me to live life to the fullest - no regrets.

I'll be posting more about each of these women in the weeks to come.  Each one of them (except for Angie) was given a creative assignment from me for our days together.  I'll be sharing the results soon - in the form of a themed portrait session/concept shoot for each gal.

For now, I wanted to share our growing connection with one another, the fun we have together, the laughter, the joy, the silliness...the love.

It turns out we share a love for many things (other than just good food)...

Books and Fascinators


Beauty Tips

Bare feet and boat docks

Picking ants out of each other's hair!
 (Story to follow next time...)


Girl Time

Laughing out loud!

And so much more...

It truly is inspiring to have all five of these girls in my life.

I am beyond BLESSED!

Such beautiful (from the inside out) sisters in Christ!

Bethany, Wendy, Jenni, and Kelli
(Bethany ROCKED Jenni's makeup!)

It's nice having a fellow photographer around.  I got in on a few pics as well!

Let's not forget Angie (pictured here on the far right from last year's retreat).

I love these girls!

To the moon and back!

Stay tuned for Bethany, Kelli, Jenni, and Wendy's Creative Portrait Assignment results...

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Thanks so much!


  1. Teary! Great documentary of our time together.

    Matt loved the post and pictures too! He said, "There all pretty, but you're the hottest!" Ha ha ha...

  2. Give Matt a High Five for me. Great answer! He's the man!!

  3. Ah Tammy, you made me feel like I was there with you. What a special "tribute" to the Creative Weekend. I am counting down the days until next year when I can join you gorgeous (seriously gorgeous women -- inside and out) again!


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