“so if you care to find me, look to the western sky!”


Hello friends,

As this year is drawing to a close, I feel like a new season of my life is beginning. So much has happened this year, and so much is yet to come. In a lot of ways, I feel like a different person, with new dreams, ambitions, aspirations, and ideas. I am brimming with excitement at what the next few months will hold.

Throughout the past couple months or so, one thought has been ringing through my head: I must decrease, so that Christ may increase. Lately I have been striving to do just that. Decrease. Simplify. Get rid of all the junk and frivolities that clutter my life so that I can focus on Christ.

So by now you’re probably thinking I’m about to say that I’m going to quit blogging. Nope, I’m not. :) But I am leaving here, my wordpress site, and transitioning to a new blogging home, one that is just as I described: stripped down and simplified. Raw. Real. Focused on the One my own story should be focused on.

My time here at wordpress has been great, but I want to start over where blogging is concerned. My wordpress home is too structured, too centered on numbers and followers, too… too… just too. I’ve felt for so long that my blogging has been me-centered and built upon all these pre-supposed standards of what blogging should be. There is so much more to this beautiful life than just me. My new blogging home will be one where I am finally tossing away all those standards of how often I should blog and what I should blog about and how many followers I have and what all my blog stats are. This new blog will just be me and my thoughts, a personal online journal if you will, words that will hopefully point my readers back to Christ, the One who should receive all the praise and credit.

So does that mean on my new blog I’ll never ramble about my favourite books or share my latest fashion finds or rave over my newest musical love? Ha. Ha. HA. Really, people, who are you talking to? But I don’t want my blog to be a review site or a fashion blog or a fangirling headquarters. I want it to be rich and real and raw, not formal or structured or planned or themed. A place where I share my thoughts and ramblings as I strive to live a life that proclaims the excellencies of Christ. A place where my readers can relax, laugh, and be inspired to embrace this life, this adventure! that God has given us.

If you have stuck with me through my time here at wordpress, give yourself a hug and pretend it’s from me; your sweet comments, encouragement, and love have been truly appreciated. And if you plan on sticking with me over at my new home, then I’m thrilled to happy tears. Life is a journey, friends. I’m learning as I go, and I’d love it if you traveled it with me.

Click here to visit the new place.

It’s been great, ya’ll. I love you guys.
~ Payton

(P.S. A great big humongous THANK YOU to my wonderful sheep, Jess, who designed my new space. Whether you follow me or not is up to you, but if nothing else head over there to check out her beautimous work. It’s gorgeous, guys.)

the p. family // portraits.

My name is Payton, and I only photograph families whose last name begins with P. Okay, not really. Actually, it’s just total coincidence. This family is in no way related to the other P family I photographed earlier this year. Whew. Glad I got that off my chest.

Guys, this family is an absolute blast. I’ve known them for a while now, and we had so much fun during this shoot. And they didn’t seem to mind all the weird things I made them do (insert snarky laugh). Yup, it was quite the adventure. But really, what else can I expect from a family who makes their one-year-old laugh by chanting, “Lilian, what does the fox say?” (Lilian wasn’t the only one who laughed.)




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jc & jenn

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bren & cait












of seasons, singing, and shampoo.

(I just love alliteration, don’t you?)





I’m really quite put out right now. There I was, all those long summer months, yearning for fall to make its appearance. And now fall’s practically over and I barely remember it. Sigh. That’s what I get for being busy, I suppose. I didn’t mean to skim over fall. Autumn is my favourite season and October my favourite month, but I feel like I completely missed them, and that makes me all sad inside.

But then I stop and think about everything that happened over the fall months, everything that kept me from enjoying fall in the way I am used, everything that kept me busy… and, well, it was all good in the end. Because seasons aren’t just for the weather and the changing of colors. There are seasons of life, too. Sometimes it’s as though every day is a new season, because every day brings something new, something different, something adventurous (even little adventures).

One thing I am purposing to do in my current season of life is truly invest in other people. On my flight home from visiting Amy last week, I sat with a fellow Oklahoman, total strangers to each other but both of us headed for home. And we talked for every second of that flight. For over three hours, I chatted and laughed with a complete stranger, someone I knew nothing about, but someone who was someone and therefore had their own story to tell (as I heard somebody say recently, “Every person is the hero of their own story”). As I sat there, I was struck with how often I don’t listen; how often I just blaze through life, doing my own thing, investing in only myself, when there are hundreds of people around me who have their own voices that need to be heard. The world is so much bigger than just me.

So. I’m trying to learn how to shut up and listen. How to reach out, instead of holding back. How to decrease, so that He may increase. How to stop talking and just do.




I’m sure you have noticed an increase of music-related stuffs here on the blog. That is no accident; it is by design. You can definitely be expecting more in the near future…

I have given myself a challenge. Upon hearing the song “Defying Gravity” from Wicked in its entirety a couple weeks ago, I was amazed at how easily Idina Menzel handled all those belted high notes. Then I proceeded to have this mental conversation:

“Boy, that’s a cool song. I wish I could sing it.”
“Who am I kidding. My voice could never handle those big notes.”

“But it would be really cool if I could. I would feel so accomplished.”
“Well, why not? If I practiced and tried some vocal exercises, I bet I could pull it off!”
*Gulp* “But it’s such a hard song…”

So if I haven’t completely freaked you out by the extent to which I talk to myself, feel free to keep reading… Readers, I have given myself a vocal challenge. I know my voice as it is now could not hit those big notes, at least not with some semblance of ease, and not without sounding like I was in dire physical pain. So I have scoured the internet for voice exercises, warm-ups, and ways to extend my vocal range, and I am going to practicepracticepractice until I can sing “Defying Gravity.” I’m sure it will be a lot harder than I’m expecting, and it will take a great deal of time and patience, but I’m ready and eager. So while Elphaba is over there defying gravity, I’ll be over here defying the limitations of my voice until I can sing this song!



Do ya’ll remember when I posted that I would be trying the homemade honey shampoo? Well, I tried it for a good long while, and… it was not my friend. While my mom tried and loved it, it made my hair heavy and hard to style. And I’m not sure if the honey shampoo had anything to do with it, but I ended up having to get about four inches of my hair chopped off because the ends were so heat-damaged (bad lil’ Petie was not diligent in using heat protectant). It is in a current state of recovery. :P

So between the baking soda/apple cider vinegar and the honey, I’m definitely a baking soda girl. I’ve been using it again ever since the honey shampoo, and I still love it. Looks like I’ll be sticking with that for a while!

(all the pics are random shots from my trip to D.C. that really have nothing to do with the nature of this post)

“Yes, yes. This pleases Cute Owl.”

I just got home from spending four glorious days (instead of just two) with my darling Amy. The original plan got a makeover, and I ended up getting to stay longer. WOOT WOOT NO COMPLAINING HERE.



Ah, my little Chauvelin, how do I describe thee? I can’t even describe the intensity of the feels when I saw Amy’s face for the first time in real life. When she and her dad arrived at the conference center to pick me up, she called me to let me know she was walking in the door. I flew down the hallway, rounded a corner, and KA-BOOM DOT COM there she was. Before I could even take in the moment, we wrapped each other up in a tremendous hug, complete with the high-pitched squeals of “It’s you! It’s you! It’s you!” I don’t think I actually cried, but my heart was full to bursting. After months and months of wondering and dreaming about what it would be like to meet her, Amy was there, right in front of me!



The next few days were filled with such an eclectic and numerous variety of activities that it would be ridiculous for me to try and list them all. We sang. We squealed. We traveled. (One day we even made the trek to D.C.! My first time!) We ate. We stayed up until unholy hours. We watched movies that made us cry (I showed her War Horse, but she got me back with that ending of West Side Story. Seriously?!). We laughed so hard we couldn’t see through the tears. We quoted movies and certain videos like there was no tomorrow. We joined her siblings for a rather giggly rendition of Les Miserables. We held deep, late-night discussions about everything from the future to a Little Women dream cast.

And we were crazy. Completely, utterly crazy. But what’s important is that we were crazy together. :D As you can see from the following pictures which portray perfectly what too much sugar and not enough sleep do to people:




(Don’t ask. Please just don’t ask.)


~ “Hey, look! We’re at my lairrrr again!”


~ Making a bunch of top ten lists in the living room with the whole family. Now that was fun. “Top Ten Villains We Have a Hard Time Hating.” “Top Ten Cutest Couples.” “Top Ten Couples Who Never Were” (JACK AND MARY). And the lists go on…

~ “This is exciting, aren’t you excited, I’m excited.”

~ Spontaneous hugs. We made sure that happened plenty of times.

~ We recorded “For Good” together. Sniffle. Both of us were having trouble getting through the line, “And now whatever way our stories end, I know you have rewritten mine by being my friend” without tears interfering with our singing.

~ We also recorded “The Phantom of the Opera” theme together. HAHA. I was the Phantom, which was quite amusing considering I got to belt out in my best Ramin-voice, “SINNNNNG FOR MEEEEEEEE!”

~ Busting out in perfectly-synchronized singing whenever either of us said the word “popular”, which happened quite often. It may or may not have been on purpose…

~ Making/drinking pots of tea and feeling quite British while doing so. And coffee. But mostly tea. Because tea, I love tea.

~ Singing The Lion King while walking down a city street. “Oh, I just can’t WAIT to be kiiiiiiiing!”

~ Petie: “So in Oklahoma rodeos, mutton-bustin’ is when random kids from the crowd see how long they can ride a sheep before they fall off.”
Amy: Wow. *giggles* Can you imagine Alf from Lark Rise trying to ride a sheep?”
Petie: “Are you kidding? That would be impossible! The sheep would have to ride Alf.”
*A mental image arises*

~ Frequent references and reenactments of Benedict Cumberbatch’s cell phone.

~ Pretending to be hipsters. Or really, making fun of hipster jokes. “No one understands my pain.” “Maybe that’s because you’re a flip-flop.”

~ “How much for the horse tornado? Or the bodiless giraffe? Or the spray of hydration? I MUST HAVE THEM.”

There’s so much more I could say and way more things we did together, but you get the idea. :) Basically, we had the time of our lives and made some pretty phenomenal memories.

And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have rewritten mine by being my friend.
I do believe I have been changed for the better
And because I knew you, I have been changed for good.

~ Elphanine

a ghostly review.


I’ve always found it funny that the poster shows an entire mask, when in reality, the Phantom always wears just half a mask to cover one side of his face.

The Phantom of the Opera is only one of the most popular and successful stage musicals of all time. And I’m only one of the biggest musicals fans of all time. And the 25th anniversary version only stars one of my favourite singers of all time. So it totally makes sense that I had never seen it in its entirety until a couple weeks ago, right?

Er. Wrong.

I don’t know why I’ve put it off for so long (“Shame, shame, shame!”), but when I had a nice pile of ironing to do (joy) I finally settled down to watch the 25th anniversary production of The Phantom of the Opera (henceforth abbreviated as POTO) from start to finish. It took two sittings and eleven shirts, but I finally did it. And all I can say is… wow. Really, I was in danger of burning either myself or one of my father’s shirts from being transfixed to my computer screen. I’m not saying I loved absolutely every minute of POTO, but where it was good, it was really good.

POTO has been one of my favourite classic novels for a while, and though there are several differences, the stage production is a gorgeous adaptation. I’ve always found the Phantom to be such a complex, interesting character: a murdering, dangerous man who just wants to be accepted and loved despite his deformity. Through the lyrics and the script, the musical does a fabulous job of portraying all possible sides of the Phantom. The 25th anniversary production, starring Ramin Karimloo, Sierra Boggess, and Hadley Fraser, is chock full of jaw-dropping talent, amazing voices, and powerhouse acting.


I cannot imagine anyone other than Ramin Karimloo as the Phantom. Nope, not even Michael Crawford. (Frankly, his voice annoys me, and don’t even get me started on Sarah Brightman.) Ramin completely embodied the role. I forgot it was Ramin Karimloo My Favourite standing there singing; instead I saw the miserable, lonely soul (which, of course, I care nothing about ;) ) of the Phantom. Ramin was everything that is the Phantom: fascinating, creepy, deceptive, charming, and dangerous. All of those reflected in his voice. When he sang “I am your angel of music, come to me, angel of music,” that sent major chills down my ever-lovin’ spine.

Sierra Boggess and Hadley Fraser were almost as impressive. Sierra Boggess was incredible as Christine. I could literally watch her change and evolve throughout the story, from a naive little girl to a self-sacrificing, compassionate woman. Not to mention she has a voice from beyond the heavens. So much so that I can forgive her few warbly bits, and she almost makes me wish I was a soprano. Hadley Fraser was good as Raoul, but I thought his acting was better than his singing (his “Brava! Brava!” made me giggle most heartedly). He definitely had a good voice, it just didn’t astound me like Ramin and Sierra (but I find it easy to overlook since he is our beloved Grantaire and equally beloved Random Army Captain). Hadley’s best moments were when he was yelling, especially during “Wandering Child” when he’s screaming at Christine to ignore the entrancing beckoning of the Phantom.

Now on to the music. *rubs hands with glee* The overture at the beginning, with the dramatic unveiling of the infamous chandelier, was more perfect than perfect. How cool would that have been to actually have been there? The ballet sequences, such as “Hannibal,” tended to bore me, and “Prima Donna” seemed to last for.ev.er. But most everything else had me as fixated to the screen as Christine was with her Angel of Music. And speaking of which, “Angel of Music” wins the award for Petie’s Current Favourite POTO Song. I immediately fell in love with the melody, but the best part is when the Phantom, Christine, and Raoul all reprise it in “Wandering Child,” another favourite of mine.

And then there’s the theme song, the scene where we fully meet the Phantom for the first time. It’s interesting how the Phantom and Christine are mutually fascinated with each other; the Phantom with Christine because he has a hope of love from another human being, and Christine with the Phantom because she sees him as the otherworldly personification of her dead father. And yet the Phantom still has a profound sense of power over Christine. He’s spent months teaching and manipulating her, so now she’s clay in his hands, and he knows it. The most chilling part of this song is the end when the Phantom commands her to sing. That’s Sierra Boggess’s shining moment right there. I didn’t think a note that high was possible, yet she hits it strong.


Now we move along to “Music of the Night” which, though a beautiful song, tends to drag after a bit. “Poor Fool, He Makes Me Laugh” made me laugh. “I shall not leeeeave, but hiiiiiiiide over there to obsuhhhh-eeeerrrrrvvee..” Believe it or not, I had never heard “All I Ask of You” before, at least not all of it, but it instantly skyrocketed to the top of my Best Songs Evah list. And now would be a good time to explain my position on the huge Team Phantom vs. Team Raoul debate. Are you ready for a shock? I am neither. It would obviously be a huge mistake for Christine to marry the Phantom (seriously, talk about an abusive relationship!), but I can’t make myself be Team Raoul either, though I like the guy well enough. I understand the Phantom is deranged and psychotic, but it just doesn’t seem fair that he should experience all this suffering and loneliness and misery while Raoul and Christine are over there in La-La Dreamland. Am I the only one who thinks this? I honestly get mad at Raoul when he says, “I love her! Show some compassion!” I feel the Phantom is totally justified in screaming back, “The world showed no compassion to me!” That’s one of my few Go-Phantom! moments.

“Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” took my breath away, not only because of Sierra’s amazing voice, but because of the passion and emotion she pours into this song. By the end, I was all, “I KNOW CHRISTINE I KNOW I WISH YOUR DADDY WAS HERE TOOOOOOOOO.” How it gradually transforms into “Wandering Child” is just spot-on. The Phantom suddenly appearing, disillusioning Christine into believing he’s her long-lost father figure, and Raoul pleading with Christine to rebuke the Phantom. And then the fire. THE FIRE. That was amazing.

But really, I’m just getting all my other thoughts out of the way so I can settle down and focus on Ze Absolute Best Part of This Whole Musical: “The Final Lair.” The whole musical is worth watching just for this one sequence. (Although I must admit all the people in the beginning chanting “Keep your hand at the level of your eyes!” got kind of annoying. Um, how is Raoul supposed to see where’s he going? “Christine! I shall rescue you! *SMACK* Oops. Wall there.”) The Phantom has finally lost it, dragging Christine into his home underneath the opera and trying to force her to become his wife. All the while Raoul is hot on their trail. I started crying when the Phantom sang, “I’m hunted down by everyone, met with hatred everywhere. No kind word from anyone, no compassion anywhere. Christine! Christine, why? WHY?!” and I didn’t really stop until the end. The singing is so powerful here, especially from the Phantom. He has never been loved by anyone, not even his own mother, and now he has morphed into a bitter, angry creature of darkness. “Pity comes too late! TURN AROUND! and face your fate!”

Raoul finally makes his appearance, only to be caught by the Phantom in a hangman’s noose. Christine is left with a decision: agree to marry the Phantom and save Raoul, or don’t agree and watch Raoul die. “This is the point of no retuuuuuuuurn!” The Phantom and Raoul start yelling at each other, but finally Christine’s voice breaks through, her words shooting daggers through the Phantom. Sierra Boggess nailed these lines. She sounds angry, betrayed, regretful, sad and compassionate all at once: “Angel of music, you deceived me! I gave my mind blindly!” In a menacing, yet weary tone, the Phantom hisses, “You try… my patience. Make your choice.” And then comes one of the greatest moments of any musical, movie, book, or drama. Christine slowly rises from the ground…

 Pitiful creature of darkness, what kind of life have you known?
God give me courage to show you, you are not alone!

The music rises to an absolutely outstanding crescendo, and this is the part where I completely lost it. I think a few tears dropped on the shirt I was ironing. Because Christine, choosing to stay with the Phantom just to save Raoul, kisses the Phantom… twice. In all his ugliness and wickedness and despair. Showing him that he can be loved. And Raoul’s face is one of total misery as he realizes that Christine is doing what he told her not to do in the first place: “Don’t throw away your life for my sake.”

But back to the Phantom and Christine. The look on the Phantom’s face is absolutely heartbreaking. In that one moment, he realizes all the mistakes he’s made in trying to force Christine to love him. And I had the thought that Christine’s kiss might have been the first time anyone in his life had ever touched him. THINK OF THAT. With a cry of anguish, he frees Raoul and orders them to leave. And this right here is Ramin Karimloo’s best moment in the whole show; screaming at Raoul and Christine to leave him, forget him, to never tell anyone about him, “Swear to me never to tell… the secrets you know… of this angel in hell!!”


Pardon me while I wail. There was so much sheer anguish and torment in that scream. Brava, Ramin Karimloo. But my tears cannot stop yet. Because when Christine comes back to return his ring, all the facades are stripped away. The bitterness is gone for a moment. And there sits the shunned soul of the Phantom, a little boy rejected by his own mother, a desperate soul who just needs love. And he whispers, “Christine, I love you.” She cries. And so do I. Some more.

Honestly, the ending lines from POTO rival even that of Les Mis. Broken and lost and destined to live alone because of his mistakes, the Phantom cries,

“You alone can make my song take flight!
It’s over now – the music of the night!”

Watching the 25th anniversary production of The Phantom of the Opera was well worth the time and tears. Like I said, I didn’t love every single minute of it, but I would so watch it again. I’ve already bought the soundtrack (which is practically the whole thing in audio form) and have been listening to it nigh every day. The songs are gripping, the story is riveting, and the music will leave you utterly breathless.

country girl

“She has burst like the music of angels, the light of the sun…”


About a year and a half ago, I was still pretty new to the official blogging world and had just hosted my first blogging event. I was excited to be receiving a lot of comments during my event, and one day a new commenter popped up by the name of Miss Dashwood. Her comments amused me immensely, so I hopped over to her blog and completely fell in love with it. I adored her style of writing, her humour, and her unabashed love for period drama and historical fiction. I dropped her a comment expressing my admiration for her blog and thanked her for visiting mine. That was February 15, 2012.

Miss Dashwood (whose real name, I discovered, was Amy) quickly became a frequent visitor to my blog, and I to hers. Her blog was utterly charming, and I looked forward to each one of hers posts. Eventually, we became quite familiar to each other, leaving comments on just about every one of each other’s posts. I hosted a giveaway on my blog, and Amy was one of the winners. When she contacted me to retrieve her prize, we struck up a friendly conversation.

And then came The Question.

“Before I close this e-mail, there’s something I wanted to ask— would you be at all interested in corresponding with me? I really like and admire your blog and I would love to be “e-mail pals” if you’re interested– we seem to have a lot in common!  But if you’re too busy/have too many other correspondences to keep up with, I shall not be offended. :)”

I remember later Amy confessed to me that she was a wee bit nervous to ask because she didn’t want to seem presumptuous, but ask she did. Of course my reaction was, “DUHHHHHH.” There was no way I was going to say no to this girl!

Our emails were long, rambly, and frequent. As it usually happens with new friendships, we talked about literally everything under the sun and learned about each other’s interests, likes/dislikes, family, hobbies, etc. As time passed, I knew Amy was someone I wanted to call my good friend. She was kind, passionate, absolutely hysterical, and full of life. And I discovered a yearning heart for God in her. Every email I received from her encouraged me in the Lord, and she always, always made me smile with her witticisms and period drama references. :)

Then came the inevitable question from Amy: “Soooo have you ever watched any of the Les Miserables concerts?” And once I said no, I hadn’t, but that I was a Les Mis fan, she pretty much insisted (threatened and blackmailed is more like it) I watch them as soon as possible. And thanks be to goodness that I listened to her, because not only did my love for Les Mis explode about tenfold, but it brought my friendship with Amy to a whole new level: The Screaming Fangirl Level. Our emails to each other were suddenly full of caps lock, an overabundance of exclamation points, and snarky comments about Nick Jonas. She had made a bona fide Les Mis fangirl out of me, and I’m pretty sure she was extremely pleased she had someone with whom to fangirl. Before we knew it, we were planning a Les Miserables Concert Week together, a four-part series celebrating the Les Miserables musical. To this day, Amy and I maintain that hosting that event together, with all the dozens of emails and exchanges and pictures and laugh-out-loud moments, is really what sealed the deal. Because after that, we were officially kindred spirits.

So now, several phone calls, a few Skype chats, and about a BILLION emails later, Amy is one of the dearest friends I have. She’s someone with whom I can be totally goofy and irrational and nonsensical, but then settle down and have a meaningful conversation with as well. We agree on (and talk about) practically everything (“I KNOOOOOOOOOW”), and on the things we don’t quite agree on… well, yes, there are rifles and barricades involved, but no one gets hurt! ;) And we have so many inside jokes it’s not even funny (no pun intended). All we have to do is say words like “shirtsleeves” or “puppies” and we collapse into fits of laughter. That’s why “e-mail pals” is just too cheap of a phrase to describe our friendship. Amy is my wonderful little Chauvelin, my devious comrade, and my darlin’ dear.


You can imagine how utterly thrilled, extremely excited, and absotively posilutely OUTSIDE MY EVER-LOVIN’ MIND EXHILARATED I am to be going to visit Amy next weekend!!! 

I know. I’m so excited I can hardly stand it. It happened like this… my mom and some ladies from my church are attending a conference next weekend. When I found out the location of this conference and it suddenly clicked in my mind that it was incredibly close to Amy’s home, I was all BING BING BING RADAR RADAR. So I pretty much begged my parents on hands and knees to let me tag along. (I was so exuberant they practically had to tell me to shut up and let them think about it.) Once I got the go-ahead from them on a Friday night, I called Amy in a frantic state of excitement, a whole speech planned out in my head of how I was going to spring the surprise on her, and lo and behold, she had the audacity to be having a friend over for the evening. So I chatted with her mom, told her my evil plot, and hung up with the assurance that Amy would be calling me first thing in the morning.

Saturday morning rolled around, and at promptly 7:29 A.M., my cell phone buzzed in my pocket. I’m pretty sure Amy’s first words were, “SO WE HAVE SOMETHING TO DISCUSS???” Why, yes, my little Chauvelin. We most certainly do. *rubs hands with glee*

So yup. In less than two weeks time, I shall be traipsing around with my darling Amy. Though it will only be for two and a half days, I am thrilled to tears. We’re compiling lists of all the things we want to try and cram into those two days, and though I’m sure we won’t do quite everything, whatever we do will be splendid. Just because we’ll be together. :)

Here’s to you, m’dear Chauvelin! See you in a few days!!
Your Puddle-duck


worth it all.

this song has been the anthem of my heart this week. it is my prayer that at the end of the day, i’ll see all the troubles and the petty problems and the heartaches and the pain, but still be able to say, “Jesus, you are worth it all.” because with all i’ve lost, i have found everything in him.
(and please forgive the quality. i’m still figuring out the best recording method for my rather loud piano.)

and this video is for jess, because i love her so ridiculously much and she fills my life with happy juice and i made her a deal that if she would, i would. and my goodness, would you just go watch her video please? because her voice is just amazing and she sang one of my favourite songs just for mwuah. (she really had no choice. i practically threatened her, after all.)