Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter at Home

I can't recall ever spending an Easter at home. Usually we are up early, celebrating the resurrection of Christ at church, and then back home for an Easter dinner with family or friends. Yesterday, we slept in until 9:30 because we were kept awake much of the night by a restless, feverish little girl who came in looking for comfort between her mommy and daddy.

Friday Alex tested positive for strep throat and began immediately on antibiotics. By Saturday night, we clearly had two more down. Michael is the only one who has remained (so far) untouched. So while others were attending sunrise services, hunting for Easter eggs, and sitting down with family at the dinner table, we were administering medicine, washing sheets and pillowcases, holding the barf bucket for the Princess who pukes no matter what her ailment, and Cloroxing the doorknobs and countertops and any other surface a germ-laden hand may have touched.

But it wasn't all bad. It was a rather relaxing way to spend a drizzly day. And we certainly had some family time. The kids watched Voyage of the Dawn Treader, which they received in their Easter baskets, and Mark prepared a delicious meal which we enjoyed at the big dining room table. The fact that all 4 of the littlest guests at the table were still pajama clad wasn't even a problem since it was just us.

While I don't wish to make this past Easter a tradition, the fact that we were at home certainly does not diminish the true reason for the holiday. The fact that Jesus rose, victorious over death, gives us hope that one day we will be in Heaven where there is no strep throat, no barfing, no antibiotics. Until then, as long as we are a family through each event, it's all good!


pink flowers

white flower

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Good to Wow: Faith Edition

My faith is not defined by how faithfully I wake up at 5:30 to read my Bible,
SOOC Bible


how much money I give to charity,
SOOC Charity


or how often I attend church.

Are those things--church, giving, and the Word--important to my relationship with Christ? Most definitely. But those things are not the means to measure my faith.

Rather, my faith is built upon redemption and grace.

I am made in His image. He knew me before I was born, and has a plan for me. He loves me for who I am.

It's not about the things I do or don't do. It's about what He did for me.

About the Edits:
Wow - I'm really off this week!! Obviously, I had to up the exposure on both of my SOOCs - thank goodness for RAW! And here are the details of the specific edits:

On the Bible - I did a tilt and crop, ctrl-j/adjusted to overlay, and placed Kristy's Aging Estate texture/soft light 100%

On the Hands - I warmed up WB, ran CoffeeShop's perfect portrait, using color pop, brighten, urban grit on coins, skin smoother, and vignette

Monday, April 11, 2011

An Empty Glass...and Some Pictures

I have finally figured it out. I have a very set amount of Creativity in my being, so when it is being used up on Project A, there is little left for Project B. It's like I start with a glass full of Creativity. Then I slowly pour it on on one thing, resulting an empty glass.

I've been pouring (see?) all of my creativity into planning school for next year, so there has been little left for anything else (ie: photography and writing). But you know what I discovered? I have skipped 3 or 4 of my regular photography challenges, and--are you ready for this? Life kept going on as normal; the world did not end, the planet did not implode.

So I've decided that, since there is more to my life than just blogging and photography, I'm not going to put so much pressure on myself to post daily and link up, link up. In fact, for this post, I am pulling photos from the archives--more from our New York City trip.

I feel that, in photography, my greatest weakness is portrait photography. The following pictures are the result of the first planned "shoot" I did, though I wouldn't even call it that since it was a rushed 5 minutes I took as Mark checked out of our hotel. I guess I should also mention I kind of bribed my children to act right; they are a little tired of the lens and are becoming less and less cooperative.

I had seen this warehouse door with the graffiti several times in our walks down the road. I thought it was a perfect backdrop for some shots of the kids. I'm not entirely happy with all of them. I shot them in manual and, I guess, got the shutter speed too slow for photographing kids because some of them were blurry. I find that converting to black and white helps cover up some of the blurriness. Anyway, there are a lot of photos here, but I felt bad leaving any out.

Here are my girls:



the long road



Audrey & Alex



Sweet Shot Day

And my rascally boys:










4 Kids1

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Random Ramblings

It has not been the most stellar of weeks. I managed to escape illness the entire winter...which is saying a lot because I generally fight a cold the entire length of the winter. Of course I'm used to much shorter winters, but maybe there is something in the air here--or absent in the air here--which has made me healthier. Or maybe it's all of the vitamins I have been taking since my doc in GA told me he thought I have fibromyalgia and might feel better with a lot of vitamins in my system. At any rate, the crud did hit me this week, albeit not as powerfully as is typical, but I've still felt pretty lousy.

So that means there has been no glitz, glamour, fun, or creativity in school. The kids have done a fabulous job completing their assignments almost entirely independently, but there have been no "extras" thrown in there, so I know it's been boring for them.


Any of you catch the new TLC show, Extreme Couponing? While I found those highlighted on the show to be, well, extreme, I was motivated again to start couponing. I was a pretty avid couponer in GA, and I kept my supply of coupons stocked mostly by buying the 2-for-1 AJC Sunday paper. Unfortunately, I haven't found that the Hartford paper offers that deal. That kinda took the fun out of it for me; it's impossible to effectively coupon without at least 2 of each coupon. But through this show I came to realize that more and more is done on the web now. In fact, I discovered Shop at Home, which offers a lot of printable coupons, and then there is also Coupons and Things by Dede, which is a coupon clipping service. When I heard them mention this type of service on the show last night, I thought it was ridiculous, but through investigating this site, I see that I can purchase from Dede the same flyers I would get in the AJC and pay her just about the same price as I paid for 2 AJCs. And I don't even have to rush to Super Wal-Mart to get one before they're gone; she'll send it right to me. Haven't given it a try yet, but it looks promising. Of course I do not have time to be an extreme couponer--and I was a bit disgusted with some of the couponer's greedy stockpiles--but it sure doesn't hurt to save a little money!


Though I never put it in blog writing to do so, at the beginning of the year when I decided to become a better photographer, I vowed to myself that I would not create a post on here without a photo to go along with it. Well, because of my crud, I haven't picked up my camera in a few days. It just so happens, though, that my kids went for a walk this afternoon, and my oldest took her camera. I think she did a great job:


Alex has been so helpful this week - taking care of me, preparing meals.
She's growing up too fast. Last weekend we went to the Revolve Tour together - a Christian conference-type thing for teenage girls. She fit right in...right down to all the dancing around to the very loud music (do I sound like I'm almost 40??).


Guess where I'm going this weekend? To the Christian Book Distributor's warehouse sale in MA! If you know me well, you know I will be in heaven! I'm knocking out most of my 2011-12 Curriculum Shopping List. I'll hit the homeschool discount table. And all the other discount tables. AND I'll enjoy a kid-free day with a friend!

Here is that list of curriculum I'm whittling down: H.E.A.R.T.S. Homeschool Curriculum.

Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Good to Wow: Up Edition, Edited

First, I want to give a shout out to Michelle at Heartfelt Life, Handmade Balance. She awarded me the Stylish Blog Award last week. I have received this award before, so I will not bore you with 7 more random facts about me (or in my case 10 because I am so OCD I have to round it up!). If you really want to know more random facts about me, click on the About Me tab above. But thank you, Michelle! I have enjoyed getting to know you; I have been blessed by your open and honest sharing about life and motherhood, plus you are a great photographer!


Ashley's tutorial last week was the biggest a-ha moment I've had in this challenge so far. Although I did not apply to my Up photos the colorizing technique as outlined on the video, I did have fun playing with it. I took this photo (which, incidentally, is a DOWN photo):

I wanted the water to be bluer instead of that nasty brown. Learning the colorizing technique as well as the fact that you can fill the mask with black made it so easy to get blue water:

 Anyway, on to my Up photos. Can you believe that I did not know you could isolate a color in your picture on the Hue/Saturation slider? That was the biggest a-ha moment in all of the a-ha moments last week for me! Knowing that was there opened up so many other easier editing options for me! You better believe I used that tool a lot this week. Just because it was so much fun!

So the first shot:

Except for a crop, I really like this shot SOOC; however, I wanted to do some creative editing. I did nothing in RAW, just a crop. Then I cloned out some of the extraneous branches that seemed out of place after the crop.

And here was the fun part. I had in my mind that the brown color of the dead flowers would look so nice against more of an aqua background, despite how pretty blue the sky was. Before learning what I learned last week, it would have taken me forever to use the magic wand to select the sky and then adjust the hue. But this week - easy peasy: I created an adjustment layer to adjust the hue, chose blue, and adjusted the hue until I liked the color. I then increased the saturation a bit...and the plant wasn't even affected at all!

Finally, I placed Kim Klassen's chamomile texture and adjusted to overlay blending mode.

dead flowers

Now for my monkeys in a tree:

In RAW, I increased the saturation a tad. Then opened the photo, did a high pass filter on a new layer and adjusted soft light blending mode to 50%.

boys in tree

I thought about cropping so the focus would be more on the boys, but I just loved the huge spread of branches against the beautiful, blue sky, so I left it as is.

And my lone monkey:

In RAW, I increased the blacks and the saturation just a bit. I then opened the picture and did a high pass filter on a new layer, which I adjusted to pin light blending mode. I then flattened the image, created a new layer and adjusted the sharpness a bit as Jacob was a bit out of focus. Finally, I adjusted the color curves to get rid of some of the shadows on Jacob.

Jacob in tree

And my crow photo:

In RAW, I cropped and increased the blacks to try to bring out the crow a bit. I then opened the photo and created a new layer. I adjusted this layer to difference blending mode at 50%. I then created another layer and adjusted this to overlay at 100%.


And then my stormy sky photo I pulled from the archives:

I mentioned that I edited this photo once before but wasn't happy with it. I wasn't happy with it because I didn't yet know what I learned last week. This is how my first edit looked:

stormy sky edit1

You'll notice how strange and fake the trees look because I wasn't able to isolate any one color which resulted in my actions affecting the entire photo.

With last week's lesson in mind, I did a slight crop to get rid of the top of the house, and in RAW I increased the blacks, the contrast, and the vibrance. I then opened the photo, created a new layer, and adjusted it to overlay. This created a very dramatic stormy sky, but also those terrible trees as in the photo above. So I created an adjustment layer to adjust the hue/saturation. I then decreased the saturation and lightened the reds and yellows to bring the trees back to more normal.

stormy sky

Finally, I want to share with you another sky technique I've used several times, one I learned in my early PSE days through a YouTube video that I couldn't find for you now if you asked me to. But I'll try to explain it here. I know you've seen this picture before, but it was a great one to use for this example.

I took this picture in New York and love the buildings but don't like the sky. It is too gray/white...dull.
So I used the magic wand to select the sky area on the right of the photo. I then opened a photo that had a sky in it that I liked. Using the rectangle tool, I selected a section of the sky. I then pressed ctrl-c to copy this selected area. Then I went back to my building shot and chose "Edit" and "Paste into Selection". I then used the move tool to resize and fill the selected area with my new sky.

fire escapes

Well, that is it. Thanks again to Ashley for a great tutorial last week!