Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 OLW Clean-Up

{Photo shoot inspired by Deb of Paper Turtle}
Well, 2012 is coming to an end, and today I put away the Christmas tree, decorations and ornaments.  I had a little help from Aria. 
It always feels good to put everything away and get the house back to "normal." For me, it signals the end of Christmas and the start of the new year.  
Before jumping into 2013, I wanted to take a few moments to reflect on my "One Little Word" for 2012.  I chose the word "Home" and this is how I described what I wanted to do:
"I want to work on finding my creative home, tending the relationships that are the home for my heart; and fixing up my physical home.  . . . Creatively, I see myself focusing more on my original art - drawing and photography, especially.  I want to incorporate more of these things into my collage work. . . . . I'm looking forward to spending more quality time with my husband and children. . . . Finally, there's a whole laundry list of things that need to be done around our house - from hardwood floors and fence repair to serious cleaning and purging of storage spaces and the back lot."
I feel like I did pretty well on these three areas. I definitely developed my drawing and painting skills and continued to work on my photography, and I've spent more time focusing on the family.  I've also done lots of purging.  I still have to work on the kids' rooms and the garage and the fences need to be fixed, but otherwise I have hit almost every room in the house, as well as the back yard. As a result, I had the perfect spot to put away all my Christmas boxes this year.
For 2012, I also set an intention, which was "Don't give up before the miracle happens." I didn't really do much with my intention, but that's okay. For 2012, my one little word was enough to help me focus on what I wanted.  I've chosen my word for 2013 and an intention to go along with it.  I'll be posting those this weekend.
Did you have a one little word for 2012?  If so, how did it work for you?

Friday, December 28, 2012

2012 Top 10 on My Blog

It was an eventful year here at Gallorganico. As the year winds to an end, I wanted to mention the top 10 bloggy things for me this year.
10. My 2012 One Little Word: Home. I focused on three aspects of home:  decluttering my physical house; working on my relationships with my husband and children; and developing my art (especially my drawing and painting). I'm working on a fuller OLW post wrapping up 2012 and talking about my OLW for 2013.
9. Week in the Life - In April, I completed this photojournal project, and I'm really glad I did.  I took a lot fewer photographs this year and made many, many fewer scrapbook pages. So, having this mini-album documenting our life has become even more meaningful.
8. Month of Gratitude - Bernice sponsored An Attitude of Gratitude challenge blog in November. I followed along and made a gratitude journal that I really love. More importantly, I've started a daily practice of gratitude, using It is a wonderful way to pause each day and note something for which I am grateful.
7. A Simple Moment - Alexa, over at Trimming the Sails, has started a monthly meme called "Simply A Moment." It is a wonderful way to record one moment a month. I think what I love most about the meme is the opportunity to hone my writing skills.
6. Story Telling Sunday - And speaking of honing my writing skills, Sian over at From High in the Sky sponsors this wonderful monthly gathering of story telling. And I love it!
5. Nature Photography: Ode to Nature.  The Alisa Burke class "ode to nature" inspired me in many different ways. But my favorite thing was how it spurred me to take composed nature photographs.
4. Paint Party Friday. Every Friday, Kristin and Eva host a gathering for anyone who wants to share some form of painting. PPF makes it much more likely that I will get out my paint brush at least once a week, and I love it!

3. Sketching - I have taken a series of classes all of which have helped me develop my sketching skills (101 Faces;28 Faces; Male Faces; Art of Wild Abandonment; Ode to Nature).    These have made a huge difference in my art this year.
2. Meeting Blog Friends - This year I had the great good pleasure to meet Sian, Alison and their families. They were both wonderful experiences. 
1. Summertime Photography Scavenger Hunt - last, but certainly not least, I loved hosting the summertime scavenger hunt, which had almost 75 participants this year! It brought me lots of new friends and lots of blogging stories. Exactly what blogging is all about.
What would be on your blog's 2012 Top 10?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Our Christmas

We had a very nice, low-key Christmas around our house.  It really began on Christmas Eve, with Paul and I finding a rainbow off our back deck:
Clara and I took the dogs for a nice long walk on the beach.
And then we came home to enjoy some champagne and Christmas crab:
Christmas Day was full of goofs. First, I realized too late that I had failed to charge my camera batteries! So, no real pictures of Christmas morning.  Later in the day, when I went to pull the turkey roast and casseroles out of the oven, I stuck the thermometer in the bird and realized it was still basically raw and the oven was cold! Someone had accidentally turned the oven off (probably when he or she had turned off a kitchen timer).  Oh well, we warmed up some chicken apple sausages and served them with mashed potatoes, carrots, peas and gravy. No matter. It was a very nice day. We watched movies and went to visit some dear friends in San Francisco.  Henry and I both got new iphones. Clara got a TV and Paul will be getting a nice area rug.  Everyone got a few small presents, too. This was the first year the children really shopped for Paul and I, and it was very nice! I received a blank art journal, an iphone case and some candy from them. Paul received a blanket/throw, socks, candy and a fancy pen. I was touched by how well they did in selecting gifts we would actually like.
On Boxing Day, we enjoyed watching some English Premiere League soccer (loved the Manchester United victory) and then Clara and I went out shopping. She bought a bunch of new things for her room, and I bought this wonderful Nativity pair. All-in-all, an enjoyable Christmas holiday for us. How was yours?

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas from my family to yours, and
from our town to yours!
Wishing all my friends in blog land a wonderful holiday. Be back in a few days.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Heading Into the Holiday

Thank you all so much for your prayers and encouragement! I haven't had too much time to blog lately. I did get out for a nice little walk with the dogs this evening and took this instagram photo.  I've been busy watching my boy play soccer.
Their team finished second in a very competitive month long tournament.
And my boy (center) was named to the All Tournament team.
In Christmas news, I ordered my Christmas cards back on Thanksgiving and have mailed some international cards, but haven't even started addressing my domestic ones. And this will be the year where I did 90% of my Christmas shopping standing at the gift card kiosk at the grocery store! On the upside, I did package them all up and mail them to Southern California in time for them to get to our families. I still have to wrap the presents that I'll be distributing here. Maybe tomorrow. I hope you're having a good time as you head into the holidays,

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Searching for Rainbows (December Moment)

Dec. 13, 8:00 p.m.
The darkness of a winter night is closing in.  Clara and I sit at the dining room table working on her home work. Over on the living room sofa, Henry and his girlfriend sit close, heads bowed together, giggling over something on one of their iphones.  I hear the sound of the dog gnawing on a bone - chewing, always chewing, that one. The lights on the Christmas tree blink on and off. I get up to make myself a cup of tea. It should be an idyllic scene, but something's not quite right. Because tonight, once again, I'm acting as a single parent.  I'm weary, but holding it together.
Suddenly, I hear a voice. His voice. Chatting with Clara. I realize that she has dialed him up in the hospital on "Face Time." Clara chats with her daddy and then hands the phone to me so I can show him the microwave we bought this afternoon. Then off to Henry, so the two of them can talk about his day.
Paul's back in the hospital.  Again. It turns out that none of his siblings is a bone marrow match and can be a donor for the transplant that the doctors would like to do.  They expect it will be a few months before they can locate a donor and perform a transplant. So, the doctors decided that he "might as well" finish the last two rounds of chemotherapy.  After we already had an "end of chemo" party. Sigh.
Yes, we've hit a bump in the road.  We all went into a bit of a funk yesterday, but now I hear Clara chatting animatedly and I am thankful that she and Paul hatched a plan to connect with Face Time.  She patiently showed her daddy how to install it on his phone and then how to use it.  It's a nice break in the day, a beacon of hope, just like the rainbow I saw this morning during a break in the rain. Yes, we've hit a bump in the road, but we will continue to search for rainbows. And donors.
Edited to add: I wrote this moment last week. Paul came home late Saturday evening, and, if everything goes well, he should be home for the holidays. Please don't be sad when you read this moment. It is just life at a certain moment in time. We're disappointed, but we remain guardedly optimistic for a good long term outcome. As always, I appreciate your prayers and believe strongly in their power.
The recording of this "Simple Moment" is inspired by Alexa of Trimming the Sails. To see other December moments, click on this link.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Fan Salute

One of my favorite parts of my son's soccer game comes at the end.  Win or lose, the boys come over as a team to salute the fans and thank them for their support. This was taken after a very nice 3-1 win, which put the boys into the championship game (to be played this Saturday). It's a lovely tradition, don't you think?
By the way, Kim Klassen has some free printable gift tags (and a nice give-away) in her post here. Check it out.

Monday, December 17, 2012

FMM: Christmas Questions

Last Saturday, I popped over to the Starbuck's coffee shop near where my boy was playing a soccer tournament. As I got out of my car, I heard someone singing Christmas carols - loudly and enthusiastically! I looked up to find this Santa singing happily outside a flower shop. I'm not sure why, but that moment totally put me in the Christmas spirit. The BoysMum2 blog out of New Zealand occasionally participates in a meme called "Friend Making Mondays," which contains a list of interesting questions designed to help people get to know each other better. The meme is sponsored by the All the Weigh blog. This week questions were Christmas-related, and I thought I would share them (even though it's Tuesday and not Monday - LOL!).  If you want to play along, you're encouraged to link your answers back to the All the Weigh blog.

 Christmas Questions
1. How will you celebrate the holidays this year?  We're going to be staying home this year. Usually we travel to Southern California to see my brothers and sisters, as well as Paul's side of the family. I'll miss getting together with everyone, but we'll try to have a happy holiday anyway. We're going  to a few holiday parties and will probably go see a movie on Christmas Day. Plus, I'll probably take Clara and some friends up to the City at least one day. From a present stand point, Henry and I are getting new phones (and I'm getting a new 50 mm lens). Clara wants a TV for her room. I think we'll get Paul a new carpet for the living room. The kids aren't done with school until Friday, and I wish Christmas was later in the week!
2. What’s the weather currently like where you live? Rainy days, alternated with warm sunny days. That's what winter is like around here.
3. Do you decorate your home for the holidays? If so, share a picture please!  I do a little decorating. I put up our stockings on the mantle and then put out my growing collection of Nativity sets. Here's the three newest sets:

4. What is your favorite Christmas movie?  I really like White Christmas, but Paul's favorite is Miracle on 34th Street. So we always watch both. I also really like Home Alone, Die Hard and Full-Court Miracle (a Hanukkah movie).
5. What is your favorite Christmas songs? I love all the traditional carols. I think God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen is my favorite, but I love a rousing group rendition of Twelve Days of Christmas.
6. Do you have an advent calendar?  No. I keep meaning to get one, but I've never found one I love.
7. Do you prefer color lights or white lights?  Color. We're alll about fun and eclectic in our decorations, rather than matching and refined.
8. What is your favorite food to eat over the holidays?  Cookies and fudge! We'll probably make a turkey and get some crab, too!
9. Do you display a live tree, or do you prefer fake trees? We usually get a live tree, but this year, given Paul's immunity issues and the new dog, we bought a fake tree.  It is really convenient and looks okay:
Henry, his girlfriend and her best friend decorated it for me.  It was so much fun to listen to them giggle and see their happy faces while they decorated it.  Our ornaments are very eclectic and each one has a story behind it. I loved sharing the stories with the girls. 

10. What would you need to make your holiday perfect this year? I'm hoping for a peaceful, happy day with my family. 
If you answer the questions, I'd love it if you would come back and link your post so I could find out more about your holiday!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Nontraditional Holiday Images

Yes, sure, I have plenty of cute pictures in my scrapbooks of holiday baking. But this is the picture from this year. I was making cookies and left for about an hour and half. And when I came home, this is what I found! Clara took a picture, and we both laughed because if you can't laugh when you come home to find that your dogs have torn into a bag of flour, then you probably shouldn't have dogs!  I thought it was nice of them to bring it to "their" blanket to play with rather than drag it all over the house at least!
And here's a couple of other non-traditional holiday images I wanted to share:
Carolyn Dube of A Colorful Journey used really fun mixed media techniques on gift bags.  You can see her post here.
Carla Sonheim has a free printable PDF of her unique gift tag.  Read about and access it on her blog at this post.  Finally, the Sunday Postcard Art blog recently ran a "Steampunk Christmas Challenge" which resulted in all kinds of fantastic nontraditional holiday postcards. You can see their top six finishers at this post.
Do you have any links to nontraditional holiday images to share? If so, I'd love to see them.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Just wanna say . . .

I love these two kids so much and am grateful they are safe and sound. My thoughts and prayers go out to the parents, relatives and community members of Newton, Connecticut.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

PPF: Gifts of the Season (A Peek Inside My Sketchbook)

Not much time for art these days, but I did collect some eucalyptus leaves and seed pods on a recent walk with the dogs in the nearby hills. I thought they fit the Sketchbook Challenge theme for this month: gifts.  These bits of nature really are gifts to me.  I find it interesting how each season the Earth offers up different gifts for me to find on my nature walks.
I've also been thinking about the Virgin Mary, at least in part because of the Twelve Days of Mary hosted by Recuerda mi Corazon blog. So, I did a few sketches thinking about what makes an image of Mary iconic:
My mind lighted on four different things: a golden halo; a blue head scarf; a sacred heart and the Baby Jesus (who, one could argue, is the ultimate gift of the season!).  These are only sketches, and I might try my hand at a larger painting that incorporates the halo, head scarf and heart.
I'm linking these to the Sketchbook Challenge and to Paint Party Friday, since these were all painted with my watercolors (to see other painterly goodness, click on this link).  And I'm wondering, what do you think are the gifts of this season? How would you express them in art?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: On the Run

Homestead Christmas Cup, Decemeber 8, 2012

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Photo Cards: Monthly Make and Product Review

For Christmas every year, I like to give some hand made cards.  This year, I decided to do something different. I made cards featuring my photography and had them printed at Snapfish. I made several themed sets.  The first set (above) features "sea" photographs.
The second set has a "land" theme. 
The third set features photographs of Ireland.  I also printed a pair of sympathy cards.
It was a lot of fun to make them, and I'm really glad that I did (and I'm calling them my Monthly Make for December). But, to be honest, I'm not completely sold on Snapfish. I found the website a bit difficult to use because it seemed to over-crop my photos, which limited the choices of photographs I could use.  Also, the pricing was very confusing (I used some discount codes), though they ended up being very reasonably priced.  Finally, while I liked the smoothness of the cardstock and thought they did a good job on printing the images, I would have preferred for the card stock to be a bit thicker.   I would have used a different website, but I couldn't figure out how to use the ones I looked at! I do think I want to make more photo cards in the future, but I want to try a different site next time. I'm not very good with technology, though.  So, I'm looking for recommendations for a very easy-to-use sites to make photo cards.  As well as any comments you have on these sets.

Happy Mail!

It's been so much fun going to the post office box lately. I've started to receive Christmas cards from my blog friends around the globe! Each one brighten my day.  I also received a fantastic prize package from Jennifer Grace of Jennifer's Jumbles.  I won the blog hop give-away in her Frosty Festivities blog event.  By the way, Jennifer has put together a wonderful PDF with ideas from that event.  She also has tutorials and other features from her previous blog events.  You can access them all at this link.
I haven't managed to address my Christmas cards yet, but I'm hoping to do that tomorrow. What about you? Have you sent your cards yet? Have greetings started to fill you mail box?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

PPF: A Life Long Love Affair

The current Fall Fearless and Fly Challenge over at Artists in Blogland asks what has inspired you throughout your life.  I chose to create a page about my life long love affair with photography. It includes a quote by Aaron Suskind, which I think I got from Karen of Random Reflections: "Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have captured on film is captured forever . . . it remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything." In the upper right hand corner, I included a list of photgraphers who I find inspiring (including Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange, Annie Liebovitz, Richard Avedon and Imogen Cunningham). Did I include your favorite inspiration on the list?
Speaking of inspiration, I made this page using a technique that Carolyn Dube of A Colorful Journey has used several times on her blog, including in her Fall Fearless and Fly page. She creates a messy background, finds objects and paints out the background, leaving the elements for her page. I've seen others do this, too, but I couldn't find their pages to link with. I didn't quite achieve that look, but I like my page nonetheless. And I think I'll keep working on it.
I'm linking up with Paint Party Friday and thanking Kristin and Eva for hosting the party, which makes sure I take out my paints at least once a week! To see other painterly goodness, check out this link

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Let's Talk Cameras and Lenses

I'm curious . . . 
what type of camera(s) and lens(es) do you have? What do you find to be their advantages and disadvantages? 
I started my most recent foray into photography in 2005, with a Nikon D50 and its basic "kit" lens (18-55mm).  These served me really well for a really long time.  
My next lens purchase was a zoom lens that would extend to 300mm. I got it to shoot sports and street photography, but unfortunately, I broke it when I tripped and fell at a baseball game. A similar fate befell my next zoon lens (a Nikon 55-200). I'm currently on my third zoom lens, a Nikon 55-300, and I'm trying really hard to take good care of it.
I have two other lenses, both of which I love. They are both "fixed" or "prime" lenses - a 50 mm and an 80 mm.  They both allow me to shoot at a very low f-stop, which has been very useful for shooting indoors and (especially) inside basketball gyms. And they take gorgeous, crisp photos.
The biggest limitation of the D50, though, was that it only has 6.1 megapixels. As I became a better and better photographer, I felt the need to upgrade. Last Christmas, I upgraded to a Nikon D5100, which I love.  It's got 16.2 megapixels and all kinds of bells and whistles which I am still exploring. Both my kit lens and my zoom lens work really well with it.  
Unfortunately, neither my 50 mm nor my 80 mm lens will autofocus on the D5100. They both will on the D50.  So, if I want to use the lenses with my better camera, I need to focus manually, which can be tricky but not impossible. I took Aria's portrait using the D5100 and my 80 mm lens. Sometimes when I want to use either of the lenses (especially the 50 mm), I will often pull out my old, trusty D50 and use it. It feels a bit clunky, but I love the ability to autofocus. This is especially true for street photography.  I put a lot of money into the 80 mm lens and don't want to have to replace it, so I think I'll just have to work on my manual focusing abilities!  The 50 mm lens was very inexpensive - it's actually a film lens. But the glass on it is really beautiful. 
Still, my next lens purchase might be a 50 mm that will autofocus on my D5100. Alternately, I'm considering purchasing a 35 mm lens that will autofocus on my D5100.
I have a very old iphone with a very bad camera. Maybe once I upgrade my iphone, I will add that camera to my inventory. But not yet.
To summarize, I have two cameras: a Nikon D50 and a Nikon D5100. I'm unwilling/unable to give up the D50 because two of my favorite lenses will not autofocus with the D5100.  I have four lenses: a 18-55, a 55-300, a 50 mm and an 80 mm.  I am considering purchasing a new 50 mm lens that will autofocus or a 35 mm lens.
So, now it's your turn.  Let's talk. . .  tell me about your camera and lens inventory. And what  is your likely next purchase. I can't wait to hear what you have to say!
Let's Talk is a semi-regular series to solicit honest discussion and feedback on an issue of interest.  All opinions welcome.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Christmas Self Portrait

Taken December 2, 2012

Monday, December 3, 2012

Reflecting on a Month of Gratitude

This is the last page in my Gratitude Journal that I worked in all November.  The page features a Psalm ("I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.") and notes three things for which I am most grateful this month.  To see the other pages in my journal and to read about its overall structure, click on the "gratitude" label at the end of this post.
This is the first time I have done a gratitude journal, and I have a few random thoughts.
I used Bernice's Attitude of Gratitude challenge blog as my inspiration, and it was wonderful! As someone who hosts one major blog event a year (The Summertime Photo Scavenger Hunt), I know that it is a lot of work. So, kudos and huge thanks to Bernice for presenting so much inspiration and keeping up the blog.
Bernice featured a wonderful quote on the last day of November: "You simply will not be the same person two months from now after consciously giving thanks each day for the abundance that exists in your life.  And you will have set in motion an ancient spiritual law: the more you have and are grateful for, the more will be given to you." Sarah Ban Breathnach 
I do think that the gratitude journal has made a very tough month more bearable, and I do feel like things are turning around for us. It is interesting to think the two are connected.
Finally, I really liked using up things from my stash. It felt great to use things I have and turn them into something I love.
Did you do a gratitude project in November? Do you have any reflections from your experience to share?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Hello Monday

Hello Monday . . . a meme started by Lisa Leonard.
Hello High School Soccer Season .  .  . my son's team started their preseason with a nice 2-1 victory in the Homestead Christmas Cup. The tournament continues for the next three weekends. Plus, there's some other preseason games at his school. We've got a big fundraiser coming up next weekend, and I've got to help the Coach with a few other things. Very busy, but I love it.
Hello High School Basketball Season . . . my daughter's team is also playing their preseason. She had three games last week, and she has two this week. Plus practice. I'm not sure she realized what a big commitment it is, but I hope she sticks with it an learns to appreciate it.
Hello New Doctors for Paul . . . thank you all so much for your kind comments on yesterday's post. Each one warmed my heart and made me feel loved and supported. We are so relieved that things are moving forward. Paul's care has been taken over by the bone marrow transplant team at Stanford Hospital. Right now, we're praying that one of his siblings is a good match, so we can determine if a transplant is the best course of action.
Hello college acceptances  . . .  Henry received his first two acceptance letters this weekend! One from University of Oregon (which is one of his top choices because they have the premiere sports marketing program in the country). The other is from Michigan State (which is a school he really wanted to apply to, but which is very far away from here).
Hello Christmas . . . we bought an artificial tree this year (just easier with the new dog and Paul's immunity issues), and we put it up over the weekend. It's got lights but still needs ornaments. I started decorating the house, too.  We'll probably still make a trip to the tree farm to make wreaths and walk around but, for now, I appreciate the low hassle factor of the fake tree.
Hello 12 Days of Christmas Photography Class and other Holiday Creative Challenges . . . looking forward to playing with my camera and scrapping (last year's Christmas pictures). I also think I'll be focusing a bit on Angels (see here and here) and the Virgin Mary, due to some challenges I've seen that call to me. The Sketchbook Challenge topic this month is gifts, and I think I'll play along there as well.  And I always like to do the Fall Fearless and Fly challenge, if I can manage it!
What are you saying hello to this week?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Storytelling Sunday: Four Little Words

Sian of From High in the Sky hosts a monthly meme called Storytelling Sunday, in which she invites people to share stories in words and/or pictures. You can check them out at this link.  Here's my offering:
Friday afternoon, I scurried into the High School gym. Late for the game because of the visitors I brought with me.  I had stopped by my daughter's old school to pick up some of her friends.  They wanted to go see her play basketball for her new school. I told them not to worry if we were a little late because Clara didn't usually get into the game until the second quarter. To our surprise, Clara was already on the floor. She had been moved up to a starting position, and she flashed us a quick smile as we settled into our seats.  The girls were excited and giggling, sitting a few rows in front of me. Although I was happy for Clara, I was distracted. 
Paul was in the hospital - again.  He had been hospitalized on Tuesday with a fever.  He was on the mend from the infection, but we were waiting on test results. He had a scan to see if he has any active cancer cells left in his body.  Even with a good test result, he's probably still  looking at a bone marrow transplant to complete his treatment. But still.  Still.  A good test result would mean no more chemo and a chance to move forward.
My phone vibrated. I looked down and read the text: 
Tumor in complete remission. No activity on the pet scan. :)
I started crying after reading the first four words.
The girls asked me what was wrong, but I couldn't answer.