Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Photo Editing vs. "Photoshopping"

Sometimes I forget that not everyone is obsessed with photography.  So when someone says, "Is that picture "photoshopped?" it throws me a little, because I recently realized that to some people (especially non-photographers), the term "photo editing" has a negative connotation, as if "photoshopping" always means altering a photo in a "fake" or unrealistic way.  Not true.

Although that kind of extreme alteration of a photo can be a creative, artistic expression, and I'll sometimes do that for fun, it's not what I mean when I use the term "photo editing."   I take pictures of families, babies, pets, events, and places, so using Lightroom (or Photoshop, or PicMonkey) to edit a photo simply  means making that photo look its best.  Often, DSLR images need some post processing. Point-and-shoot cameras usually have better straight out of camera images than  DSLRs because point-and shoot cameras are already internally adjusted and don't have the versatility of  DSLRs in terms of settings.  It's more expected that DSLR images will be polished in "post."  Plus, a quick edit can save an otherwise unusable image.

See how subtle the differences are in the before and after shot of Sunny above?  (Recognize this shot from my last post?)  I edited it in Lightroom, with just a few simple adjustments with sliders. I can choose to punch it up even more if I want to, but these quick adjustments are all that are necessary to me for this photo.

As you can tell, I edit simply. Most often, I adjust the exposure, usually add some contrast, crop if needed, and sharpen a bit.  I don't make people look thinner or airbrushed or such things. (Well, if a client asked me to, I would!)  Occasionally I'll whiten someone's teeth a tad, but only an adult's teeth and only slightly. No glowing teeth here. I might add a little vibrance to the color, if needed. Even this kind of simple editing is subjective. Some people like a bright, "contrasty" image, while some prefer a softer, less vivid image. That is individual taste and art.

Picture Style and Picture Control
Do you hate to edit photos at all, or just want a head start?   No worries, if you have a DSLR, there are some adjustments that can be made within even the most basic DSLR that change the way a JPEG image looks straight out of camera (SOOC).  In Nikon,  this is called Picture Control, and in Canon it's called Picture Style. There are several basic settings from which to choose: Neutral, Standard, etc, and within those, some fine tuning of Contrast, Brightness, Saturation, etc. These are fun to play around with, and the fine tuning can help you achieve the look you want, without a lot of editing later. (P.S. I shoot JPEG with my DSLR, but if you shoot RAW, none of this applies, as a RAW image is completely unprocessed and needs more editing. My daughter only shoots RAW.  I prefer smaller files and don't enjoy editing as much as my daughter does. RAW, though, will give you the most control and will help recover badly exposed photos much better.)

Free Editing Programs
In the past, I used some free photo editing software that occasionally made changes that I didn't want (like changing the haircolor or skintones), when I was simply trying to brighten the photo. But even the free editing programs have improved a lot since then.  I really like PicMonkey. The basic version is great, and they also offer a Royale version with more effects and fonts. Picasa is another free program I've used. It's more basic, but is useful for very simple adjustments.

The duck photo below was one of the first photos I ever edited with Lightroom 5, and I was able to pull the shadows out  and make a dramatic difference very quickly. (Love those sliders!)

So, photo editing is simply adjusting photos to look their best, in much the same way that back in my film photography days I chose a company to develop my photos. (For instance, the film processing at our neighborhood drugstore  was always a bit off in color and exposure, vs. the processing at the camera shop nearby, who took the time to color correct and brighten the dark ones.)

Photography vocabulary can be a little confusing, don't you agree?  Do you edit your photos?

Disclosure: This post contains an affiliate link. As always, I only recommend products or services I love!

Linking to:
Wordless Wednesday at Create with Joy
Sugar and Spice
Wordless Wednesday at Mama to 5 Blessings
Wordless Wednesday at Crafty Spices
Photo Friday at Pierced Wonderings
Make My Saturdays Sweet at Amanda's Books
Made By You Mondays at Skip to My Lou
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Monday, February 23, 2015

Birthdays, An "Ink Book," and Sunny

My birthday came and went earlier this month.  It was a sweet, simple birthday (as my birthdays tend to be these days. I love that.)  My husband and I went out to dinner (gluten free pasta. It's funny how much more the restaurants charge for a gluten free pasta dish, but it's completely worth it. Also, why don't they offer some gluten free rolls along with it?  I've got to write that email...)

These days, my birthday is a guilt-free day of relaxing a bit and a few little surprises from family. This year, I couldn't come up with any gift ideas in time for my husband, so I went online and found a calligraphy book I wanted. (Husband calls it my "ink book."  "Did your "ink book" come yet?)  A couple of new nibs, some red ink (which is great for Christmas, so the description said), and I'm a happy birthday girl, ready to start some calligraphy projects. (Yes, maybe some projects for next Christmas.)

Which brings me to my next random thought, in my series of random thoughts today. I want to say that I'm so glad calligraphy has loosened up.  As in, when I first started learning calligraphy, there was so much emphasis on doing it "correctly."  A sort of highbrow exclusion of any letter forms that didn't follow the rules. That was always a little intimidating, because, after all, it's supposed to be a form of creative expression. So I'm really happy to see the recent acceptance of "modern calligraphy" that allows tweaking the letterforms to suit your own vision.

And, if you all are curious, the book I got for my birthday is called Modern Calligraphy, by Molly Suber Thorpe, and you can get it from BiggerBooks.com.  It's full of examples of pointed pen calligraphy, and it includes lots of projects.  I especially appreciate all of the variations shown for different letters. I love the book. My new favorite "ink book."  I actually have two books entitled Modern Calligraphy, and I love both of them. (The other one is by Lisa Engelbrecht and is wonderful too.)

My daughter's birthday was just a couple of weeks before mine. She's twenty-one. Twenty-one. That is a surreal feeling, and it's hasn't quite sunk in just yet.  I like her so much better than I liked myself at twenty-one.

Final random thought (question)--Do your dogs go a little crazy in the snow?  Our Sunny runs back and forth, in a tail wagging, bottom wiggling, crazed running sort of way.  We had our first significant snow a few days ago, and Sunny is loving it. Of course, her favorite spot is on a "softie." She's "not spoiled, just loved."

May we all appreciate the comfort of a warm softie on a cold day as much as Sunny does.

This post contains an affiliate link.

Linking to:
Photo Friday at Pierced Wonderings
Good Random Fun
Sweet Shot Tuesday
Think and Make Thursdays
You're Gonna Love It Tuesdays
Creative Inspirations
Wordless Wednesday at Create with Joy
Picture Perfect Party
Where Your Picture Says it All
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Wordless Wednesdays at The Tays in London
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Monday, February 16, 2015

Easy Chicken and Dumplings (with a Gluten Free Option)

See this cute recipe box?  It was my mom's.  I love that most of  the recipes in the box are in her own handwriting.  The dumpling recipe I'm sharing with you came from that little box and is a very simple one. It's a staple at our house. Sometimes I just want some comfort food (don't you?), and it's definitely that.
First, place some chicken breasts in a large stockpot with enough water to cover them, cover the pot, and bring to a boil. Then, reduce the heat and simmer until the inside is no longer pink (165 degrees internal temperature. I go by color.)  Cooking  time will vary. For chicken breasts with skin and bones, it's roughly 30 minutes. For skinless, boneless chicken breasts, it's about 20-25 minutes, and for chicken breasts cut in half, it's about 15-20 minutes.   Hint--If you're in a hurry, using boneless chicken breasts eliminates the tedious process of pulling the meat from the bones.

When the chicken is cooked through, remove it from the pot, remove the bones, cut it into bite sized pieces, and return it to the pot.

Next, add a can of chicken broth  or a half container of Trader Joe's Organic Low Sodium Chicken Broth and season it to taste with salt and pepper. (No firm measurements here;  I usually do everything to taste.)

Now, mix up the dumplings.
*I substitute gluten free flour for regular flour, butter or Earth Balance for the shortening, and I use almond milk in place of the milk, but the following is my mom's original recipe.  (My dumplings are usually not as fluffy as my mom's used to be, probably because of some of the substitutions. But they taste good!)

1 1/2 cups flour*
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons shortening*
3/4 cup milk*

Measure the flour, baking powder, and salt into bowl. Cut in the shortening thoroughly until the mixture looks like meal.  Stir in the milk.  Drop dough by spoonfuls onto the hot meat. ( I also sprinkle a little flour in, to make it a bit thicker.)  Cook uncovered for 10 minutes. Cover and cook a few minutes longer.

That's it! See, I told you it was easy.  Even the picky eater at our house likes this, and I hope you enjoy it too.  It's dumping snow outside, so I'm feeling the need for some warm comfort food today!  (Are you getting the snow too?)

Linking to:
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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Narnia? Why Yes, Behind the Feather Boas

The magic of a little child's brain is one of the most exciting things on this earth, isn't it?  The thoughts hidden inside those cute little heads, behind those big eyes are amazing.

My kids had really vivid imaginations when they were small. (They still do.)  My daughter, now 21 (!), lived in a preschool world with very fuzzy boundaries between what was real and what was imagined. (She would plant beads in the ground and wait patiently for the "bead tree" to come sprouting through the soil. Things like that.) 

We were at Hobby Lobby recently, and, as she always does when we pass by the feather boas, my daughter told me that when she was little she knew there was a Narnia world behind those boas.  Despite the fact that every time she parted the boas and found only the display wall instead of a magical world, her little mind still believed that if she found just the right moment to part those boas, she would be able to enter that world.

I don't remember how I responded to her when she did that.  In my hurried "mom rush,"  I probably responded with some "how fun" response or something similar. She says she vaguely remembers me gently explaining that Narnia wasn't actually behind those boas. I'm sure I was trying to soften the blow of her finding only a white metal wall.  But, she tells me now, that she remained undaunted by the wall. She was still very sure that the magical world behind those feather boas truly existed.

Thinking about that makes me happy. 

Do you have some magical memories too, even your own?

Linking to:
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Monday, January 26, 2015

Photography Tips for New DSLR Owners-Modes and ISO

Maybe some of you are where I was when I got that first DSLR in 2007, afraid to take it off automatic, for fear you will break something if too many dials are turned or the wrong buttons pushed.  (Can anyone relate to that, or was I simply paranoid?)  The feelings of the brand new DSLR owner--both ecstasy and fear!

I'm a bit obsessed with photography.  (I've talked about the genetic quality of my photography obsession before...)  Although I am a reading tutor by profession, (and I love it), last year I did some newborn photo shoots and would love to make room in my life for more professional photography. But the day I got my first DSLR was a scary one.

I've had this post partially written for months, and my drafts of it have been way too long, trying to talk about everything a new DSLR owner might want to know.  So, for now, I thought I'd just talk about modes and ISO.


I recommend moving away completely from full automatic as soon as you feel comfortable,  but if you are not wanting to veer too much from automatic just yet, at least switch from full automatic to Program mode (P-mode, which is still an automatic mode, don't worry.)  Program mode will give you more versatility, while still choosing proper exposure settings automatically.  For instance, it will allow you to choose the focus setting so that the focus will be exactly where you want it, whereas full automatic often just focuses on the closest thing. THAT is a big deal.  NOTE, though, I am not  saying you must switch to manual focus. No matter which mode you are in, you can still use autofocus. I do occasionally use manual focus, but not typically.

Aperture Priority  mode (abbreviated A on Nikon, AV on Canon)  is one of my favorites, because if I use a wide aperture (small f-stop number) it allows me to get a nice blurred background.  With aperture priority mode, you set the aperture, and the camera automatically sets the shutter speed. A wide aperture (small f-stop number) will give you a more shallow depth of field. That just means that less of the picture will be in focus, and you can get the subject (the part you focus on)  to "pop" out from the background.  (If your camera has a Portrait mode, that basically does the same thing.)  A narrow aperture (bigger f-stop number) allows you to get more of the scene in focus.  Aperture Priority mode works best for subjects that stay still!  For children, I tend to use Shutter Priority instead.

Shutter Priority  mode (abbreviated S on Nikon, TV on Canon) is a great mode to use, especially when taking pics of children. With Shutter Priority, you can freeze motion (fast shutter speed) or blur it (slow shutter speed.) You set the shutter speed, while the camera automatically sets the aperture.  For moving subjects, if you set your shutter speed to 1/200th of a second, or even 1/500th of a second if kids are moving quickly, you will be able to eliminate a lot of the potentially blurry shots. (Or, if your camera has a Sports Mode, that works too.)

Manual  mode (abbreviated M) will give you the most control over your camera.  Don't be afraid to learn it!  It's actually very simple.  I tend to get the best exposures when I use manual. With full manual mode, you set the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO yourself, and keep an eye on the exposure meter (seen through the viewfinder)  to determine if your photo is exposed correctly. There are many great videos online and instructions on Pinterest that demonstrate manual mode. (Again,  I am talking about manual MODE here--not manual FOCUS.  I still use autofocus in manual mode.)

Don't feel pressure, though, to learn different modes until you are ready. I shot on Program mode for quite a while after I got my first DSLR.


Generally, the lower the ISO, the less "grain" in the shot, so I generally shoot around 200 ISO outside, or 100 ISO if it's really sunny. On a cloudy day, I'll use 400 ISO.   Inside, without the flash, I can go up to, or even over 3200 ISO, with my Nikon D5100, and still get good images, even in pretty low light. When you use a flash, you don't need higher ISOs. (I use an external flash and bounce it. I'll talk more about that in a future post.)

Cameras these days really vary in their ISO abilities. My Nikon D200 (an older, "semi-pro" DSLR which I love), for example, is very "noisy" (grainy) if I go much over 800 ISO, while my newer Nikon D5100 (a basic DSLR, great for bloggers, now discontinued with a successor available), gets clean shots at even 3200 ISO.  I've also shot with a D7000, which has more features than the D5100, but if you aren't needing a professional camera body, the D5100 will give you quite the same image quality for much less money. (The two cameras have the same sensor.)  Many of the pictures on my blog were shot with the D5100.  The newer version is the Nikon D5300, with more megapixels and features.  I purchased my D5100 for a great price at Adorama, a wonderful online source. They have both new and used equipment, and I highly recommend them.

The D5100 allows me to get clean images inside, without a flash.

A good book that explains the relationships between ISO, shutter speed, and aperture (the "exposure triangle"), is Understanding Exposure.  Once you have a clear understanding of the exposure triangle, things will fall into place with practice. The best way to learn is to pick up the camera and shoot, because, honestly, you could read about this stuff all day, but practicing it (as with all skills), is the quickest way to learn.

This past year I got out and played tourist in my own city.  I do tend to complain about my city sometimes--the distance from any ocean, the humidity in the summer, the cold in the winter, etc., etc. BUT, St. Louis has an incredible zoo, art museum, botanical garden, ballpark (go Cardinals!), restaurants, theaters, children's museums, and many, many other fun places to explore and photograph.  Here are a few shots from around our city this past year. (And it never hurts to have a daughter who is a fellow photographer and loves to edit photos!)

The art museum is amazing.

The  herpetarium at the zoo is gorgeous.

I'm so glad to be back, writing at my blog again. It just feels like home.  I'm hoping my voice won't go off into echoes, since I've been gone a while. Thank you for spending time here today. Maybe one day I'll talk about some of the reasons I've been gone, but for now,  I'm looking forward to re-connecting with old blog friends and making new ones!
This post contains affiliate links, from companies I love and recommend.

Linking to:
Katharine's Corner
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Friday, July 11, 2014

A Day in July (and a Tire)

Our pool is full and sparkling, (unlike last year when we couldn't keep the pool clear at all, because we didn't realize the filter needed new sand!), the garden is thriving, and my glorious gladioli are blooming again (just a little late. I was beginning to think we had lost them to the horrible winter, along with the hydrangeas.) These good things take my mind off of our continuing house disaster.

AND, we've been out and about taking pictures (even if they are just pictures from the phone. Not the best resolution, but it does capture memories. And often, that's most important.)  So I thought I'd do a little phone picture dump today.

When my sister moved to Florida a couple of years ago, I adopted some of her pretty daylilies, and
they're beautiful.  (When I planted them, I had them all labeled nicely, but the labels are long gone, so I don't know the names of each one. I should probably ask her...)  They are wonderful perennials--I recommend them!  She gave me several colors, and this is one of the more pastel varieties.

We have a sculpture park near our house, so my daughter and I had a walk there yesterday.  Here and there among the sculptures are some fun things for kids. Like this....pod? My daughter called it "the pear." Whatever you call it, it's amazing, and several little girls were having fun climbing the ladder to play inside.  (My daughter was a tiny bit jealous because it wasn't there when she was little.)

There's also a huge red sculpture that's made from salvaged oil tanks.

We happened upon this huge tire, thinking it was another fun thing for kids to climb on, but no, it's one of the "sculptures."  See the sign?  A sculpture?  It's a tire.  I'm pretty opened minded about art, but hey, it's a tire.  

A fun place for some photos though. (And no, we didn't climb it!)

Do you have any unusual parks near you?

(P.S.  Is there a Blogger guru out there who can help me figure out why my vertical photos are posting so HUGE all of a sudden?  I've had this blog for almost 3 years and have never had this problem before.)

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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Make Envelopes with Scrapbook Paper (or Magazines, or Calendars...)

Although I haven't been crafting or creating too many fun things lately, my daughter has, so she gave me permission to share some of her creations--like these pretty envelopes.

She made them with scrapbook paper.  That brought back memories of making these myself.  I've always  loved to have cute envelopes to send real mail. Sometimes I address them in calligraphy, sometimes I pull out some fun rubber stamps, and yes, sometimes a sticker or two. (Embrace your inner child...)

(By the way, I have a LOT of pads of 12x12 scrapbooking paper that I've been collecting through the years, and from the look of my stash, you would think I was saving it for some future crafting apocalypse. I'm really happy that my daughter is actually using hers.)

It's easy to make the envelopes. Here's how:

Carefully take a plain envelope apart, and use it as your template.  (No need to buy an envelope template, as I'm sure you have some different sized envelopes around the house. With that said, I do have some cute little envelope stencils.)

Trace around the unfolded envelope onto your pretty paper.

Cut out, fold, and glue with a strong gluestick.  (When you buy a greeting card, instead of using the envelope that comes with it, consider making one to coordinate with the card. Just use the original envelope as your template.)

Think outside the box.  Do you have some magazines with pretty photos or some beautiful calendars?  Papers like that are shiny and perfect as envelopes. Depending on the type of paper you use, you may have to use an address label.

This is the paper pad my daughter used.

You can also dress up your envelope with pretty stamps. I love these songbirds.

This would be a fun summer project with kids.  You probably already have everything you need to make these.  Have fun!

Linking to:

An Alli Event

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Thursday, June 12, 2014

Raised Bed Gardening with Cinder Blocks

Having been away from blogging for a while before my last post, I almost feel like the new kid on the block again.  It was just a couple of months, but feels longer. So, thank you for being here!

With the exception of photography, my creative endeavors have been lacking recently too.  Some people become more creative when confronted with life's challenges. I, on the other hand, tend to kind of go the opposite way.

With that said, I have many things to be thankful for over the last few months!

For one, my sweet baby girl (age 20!) is home from college for the summer. She goes to school locally, but lives in a dorm during the school year. So it's nice to see her face every day.  Plus, I love how she kick starts all of the gardening around here.  Have you seen these raised bed gardens made from cinder blocks on Pinterest?  She did, and actually decided to try it. (I had to cart the cinder blocks home from Home Depot in two trips--those things are HEAVY and weigh down the car. Thankfully, an employee loaded them for me.  This is one of the times a truck would have been useful...)

What do you think of the tie-dye crocs?

Yep, that is corn coming up.

These are easy to make--Try it!   Place the cinder blocks on the ground to form a rectangle (size optional), lay down some weed fabric or newspaper, and add your soil. (I'm not sure how important the weed fabric or newspaper is, since this is the first year we've done this...)  Then start planting.  My daughter put corn in the large section and marigolds in the small spaces.  (Did you know marigolds repel some garden insects?) If you'd like to sit while you garden, leave a few of the small spaces empty.

Now if we could just keep the rabbits away...

We're appreciating the nicer weather  and are enjoying coffee on the deck again--a simple pleasure. Sunny loves it too (well, the deck, not the coffee)  and will snooze in my arms until I go in.

Why is this picture so big??   No clue...

Are you doing any gardening this year?

Linking to:
Crafty Spices
Katherine's Corner
Fishtail Cottage Garden Party
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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Back With a Handmade Father's Day Gift (A Treasure in my Closet)

I've been sort of in withdrawal mode, as we've been dealing with our home renovation disaster(s), (so I apologize for not visiting your blogs more!)  This time of life has had some weird challenges (as do most times of our lives, I suppose. True for most.) 

My husband and I have been trying to decide our next course(es) of action to fix our house issues.  Among other things, I've also been bettering my photo editing skills (thank goodness for Lightroom), and I've been trying to figure out which direction to take with my blog. I do know I want to continue blogging, and with life changes, perhaps come some blog changes 

We've also been doing some spring cleaning. Spring cleaning is a funny term, (I do clean the rest of the year too!), but it's a good time of year to tackle the closets and other exhausting projects.

My husband helped me with our bedroom closet over the weekend, because he's sweet like that. He didn't know what he was in for. (He does have a lot of boxes of stuff in there.) 

The closet is now spotless and fresh, and during that adventure, I unearthed some fun treasures--Old photos that had never been transferred to photo albums (the proverbial "pictures stuffed in a shoebox, from our film camera days. Well, in photoboxes.  At least the pictures are stored chronologically.)  A red dress from 20 years ago that I couldn't bear to part with and that my daughter has now claimed for her own. (It's her size now, not mine.)  

I also found some cute little projects that our kids had made when they were little (even before Pinterest fed our creative souls.)  Like this little mint tin turned Father's Day "card" that my daughter made years ago.

I thought maybe someone out there might want to make this cute thing with their own little daddy's girl or boy.

It's just a little accordian folded strip of cardstock glued to the inside bottom of an Altoids tin, with the Dad rectangle glued to the other end of the strip. It kind of wiggles when the box is opened, which is what makes it fun.  My husband always melted at these gifts, because they represented effort and love.  He and I have abandoned some of our packrat ways, choosing to live more simply and less cluttered with stuff,  but little treasures like this one aren't going anywhere.

Have a great weekend everyone. (No more closet cleaning for me--at least not his weekend!

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

It's My SITS Day!


Woohoo, it's my SITS day! (I bet you couldn't read that in the weird post-title font, could you?)   I've been looking forward to being featured on SITS, and the day has come!  I'm so happy (and kind of nervous--like I'm having a party and didn't clean well enough!)  I'm a shy one, after all...

If this is your first time here, welcome! If you're a blogger, and you're not familiar with SITS, I recommend that you come on over and participate in the community.  I've met so many wonderful bloggers and have learned so much about blogging and social media there.

My blog is eclectic and hard to categorize (kind of like me!)  In a nutshell, I love to be creative, and that spreads to every area of life, doesn't it?  I like to make things, read things, photograph things, grow things, talk about things...you get the idea!  I tend to sprinkle pictures of my family and our baby, oops I mean our Yorkie, Sunny, into the blog too.  My About Me page  will give you a bit more detail, well, about me.

Some of my favorite posts and my readers' favorite posts are on my sidebar, and some of my craft tutorials and recipes are in the nav bar at the top, so please feel free to explore!

I'd love for you to follow me on Twitter, Bloglovin, Pinterest, GFC, and/or subscribe to my posts by email.

Thanks so much for visiting. Your comments really do make my day!

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Deb's Sleeves

That's me in the very shiny, teal dress in 1992.  I was the matron of honor at my sister's wedding.  My name isn't Deb.

Did you see Napoleon Dynamite?  Do you remember the scene where Napoleon tells Deb, "I like your sleeves. They're real big"?   Well, I can't look at this photo without those words running through my head.

I think my sister was a very pretty bride, big sleeves and all.  (And I still have that shiny, teal dress!)

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Pointed Pen Calligraphy--Encouragement and Resources for Beginners

Hi all. Have you been staying warm?

(I just had to throw that snuggly picture of Sunny up there.)

Now on to the real reason for this post. I love calligraphy, but I have known quite a few people who have been intimidated by it.  A friend of mine took a class once but felt that she wasn't able to learn it.  It does take patience, but if you try it, please don't give up.  One day it will click, and then, with practice, you'll  be able to produce some hand lettering that will surprise you. Really!

I've done italic calligraphy for years, but recently, I've begun learning pointed pen calligraphy, specifically copperplate and variations of it.  It's a beautiful, flowing hand, and I'm excited to be making progress with it. It also has me working with dip pens a lot, because for pointed pen calligraphy, a dip pen is best, as the nib needs to be flexible, and fountain pen nibs really aren't (unless you want to pay big dollars for vintage ones!) Plus, you really can't get that nice, elegant line variation with a fountain pen.

By the way, calligraphy involves drawing individual strokes with a pen; it isn't really handwriting at all.  Your own handwriting is sort of irrelevant here, so don't worry if yours isn't the best.

Now, you just read above that you can't get good line variation (thicks and thins) with a fountain pen (which is true--the nibs aren't flexible enough), but I did use a fountain pen for the sample above. (Sometimes you just have to use whatever is convenient, and a fountain pen is more portable!)  But I will post some better samples for you in the future!

It's been a fun, creative process to learn pointed pen calligraphy.  I was surprised that my background in italic calligraphy shortened the learning curve.

Here are the books that I have been using. I highly recommend them:

Mastering Copperplate Calligraphy: A Step-by-Step Manual by Eleanor Winters

Modern Mark Making  by Lisa Engelbrecht
(If you click this banner and buy the books from Biggerbooks.com, I will get a small commission for your purchase.)
Free Shipping at BiggerBooks.com

I purchased my nibs and ink from Paper and Ink Arts and John Neal Bookseller--both are excellent online resources.

There are also really good video tutorials by Joe Vitolo at Iampeth.com, as well as free, printable guidelines there (that I print out on quality, bright white inkjet paper for practice.)

I hope you'll try pointed pen calligraphy. It's a beautiful way to add fun and elegance to your art projects and correspondence (yes, sometimes I do still correspond by real mail--remember this post?)

(As an update, we are still struggling with the home renovation issues, but we're making progress.  I haven't been here at the blog as often as I'd like, so I appreciate your visit today!)

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Saturday, January 4, 2014

A Very Strange Year

Well, it's a new year--thank goodness!  As we're preparing to take down the Christmas decorations, I'm looking back and ahead at the same time.

 2013 had some wonderful highlights, including my son's college graduation. Plus, my husband and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. 25 years!  (And, the Cardinals were in the World Series, which equals a fun October. If you're a baseball fan, you understand.)  I'm incredibly grateful for those sweet events.

To my immediate family, though,  2013 will always remain "the lost year."   What am I talking about? (No, I'm not referring to the loss of our 18 year old monarch--Lucy, our Siamese cat. Although that was sadness, and we are still grieving.)

Since I didn't really talk about this at my blog (my blog is one of my escapes from the trials of everyday life, so I share the positives mostly!), suffice it to say that home renovations, coupled with chemical sensitivities, can sometimes be nightmarish and expensive. And, while hotel living can be fun for the short term, it can very depressing to not be able to live in one's own house full-time.  And, tearing out newly installed, beautiful flooring and decorative additions can be, in a word, miserable. And having these events stretch out over a full year, well, you get the idea.

Couple all of that with the fact that some people, even very close people, simply don't understand such rare and bizarre circumstances, and so much of it gets misinterpreted and misunderstood.

Waah waah, right?  Life can be difficult, and our situation--as rough as it's been for us--is minor, compared with the trials others are suffering.

So, with eager anticipation, I'm looking at 2014 with high hopes and optimism. I've recently received a job offer that will fit with my schedule beautifully, and I have some other creative, income producing plans in  mind. It's exciting!

I'm one who believes that God uses these trials in our lives for good. (I've seen it happen many times in my life.) And, as I told my husband the other day, "Someday we'll look back on all of this and (maybe) laugh."

So, Happy New Year everyone!  I wish each one of you a joyful 2014.

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Our Simple Photo Christmas Card

When my kids were little, I'd faithfully take their "Christmas card picture" every year, usually in front of our Christmas tree.  I was a stickler for details when it came to the clothes for those photos--new outfits, candy cane tights for my daughter, and with her dresses, the "bow shoes" of course. I'm not sure why I thought they always had to be bow shoes. I wasn't such a stickler for my son's shoes, apparently--(notice the sneakers in the second photo.) But then, he had no interest whatsoever in dressing up!  One year, we ended up at the mall for the shoot, amidst a zillion shoppers and the giant candy canes and fake snow. Fun pictures (but I need to find them and scan them. Yes, they were taken with film...)

Mine are the two matchers on the sides (cousin in the middle)
As my kids grew older and life became more busy, the Christmas photo sessions became less frequent, and our relatives and friends mentioned that they missed the Christmas picture that I used to incorporate into the card (and sometimes they missed getting a card at all!)  Plus, some of the older relatives don't have Facebook, so they haven't seen pictures of our "kids" in a while.

A few days ago,  I put this photo collage together in a few minutes on PicMonkey, and I'm really happy to be sending a photo card this year.  In hindsight, I'd have made this a 5x7 style, as I already have 5x7 photo paper.  (Both of my kids also think it needs to be redone to include a picture of my husband and me! The problem is finding a recent picture of the two of us together. We need to work on that...)

I really like PicMonkey. It's a free site that allows you to edit your photos with basically no learning curve. I especially appreciate how easy it is to make photo collages there. (I've made blog banners in the past with the collage feature.)  I often use PicMonkey for my photo editing too, instead of some of the photo editing programs I've actually paid for, because I like simple and fast. Plus it's fun.

PicMonkey gave me a free month of their Royale upgrade, in return for showing you my collage. I have used and loved PicMonkey for a while now, so I was happy to do it. Although PicMonkey is free, you can also upgrade to the Royale plan to get access to more features.  I recommend them highly and just recently become an affiliate.

I hope you enjoyed some of my old film memories!  (Photo sessions were a lot more complicated before digital--I never knew what I had gotten until I had the film developed.)

These munchkins are now 23 and 19 years old.

I'd love to hear about your holiday photo stories!

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Monday, December 16, 2013

Christmas Candle Display

The older I get, the more I enjoy simplicity.  And traditions.  Every Christmas season, we pull the decorations from their corner of the basement, and with very little variation, we deck the house.  There's something comforting about that for me.  Are you like that too?

So here's my simple, quick, way to display a Christmas candle. Place the candle in the center of a small plate or candle tray.  Arrange some small ornaments around it.  Done!  Simple, right?  But much more festive than the candle alone, I think.

Christmas time came in a hurry for us, and I'm a little behind on things.  How are you doing? 

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