Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Zoom in < Zoom Out #1: Tidepools (and photo plans for 2014)

Throughout 2013, I participated in Helena's weekly photography meme look up//look down. You can see all my photos in that meme by clicking on this link. It was the first time I was able to actually complete a year-long blog project. I usually lose steam after about a month. But I found it an easy meme to complete and several times during the year found myself grateful for the regularity it gave to my blog. For 2014, Helena has decided to continue her weekly meme with the theme of "zoom in zoom out."  And I'm really excited about playing along. So, on Sunday when friends invited us to go visit the local tide pools, I thought it was a good opportunity to find my first pairing. Helena's firs pairing of the year is here.
I started by zooming out to capture a wide angle of the tidal area:
As we wandered about the tide pools, I took a variety of photographs for my zoom in. And finally settled on this close up of a sea anemone:
I'm looking forward to the different ways of approaching the zoom in < zoom out idea. Will you be joining in? 
Do you have other photography plans for 2014? I'm starting the year with the free class Frugal Still Life Photography with Cheryl McCain.  That's the only photography class on my agenda, but I have a few others that I have purchased and never completed, so I may revisit those as well. I'm interested in what others are planning for 2014.

Monday, December 30, 2013

A Whole Lot of Holiday Random

I spent today taking down our Christmas tree and packing up the decorations; putting them into storage until next year. As I did, I thought a whole lot of random thoughts from the holiday season:
1. I received a whole lot of wonderful ornaments and cards from blog friends this year:
I participated in a great festive swap/holiday ornament exchange organized by Miriam. I received the very cute gingerbread man from Heather and the delicate star from Miriam herself! I also received a wonderful, unexpected surprise ornament.
It's from Andy Lean, a wonderful artist and blog friend who I met this year. Plus, I got all sorts of wonderful cards and goodies from friends in blogland. And, yeah, I still haven't sent out my cards (but I will this week!).
2. I'm binge watching The Good Wife and House of Cards on Netflix. Enjoying both immensely!
3. I'm reading The Round House by Louise Erdrich for my book group. Her first novel, Love Medicine, is one of my all time favorite books. This one is very different, but so far I like it.
4. I spent a glorious Saturday morning on the soccer pitch:
The Half Moon Bay High School soccer program traditionally holds its alumni game on Thanksgiving Weekend. This year, they decided to hold an alumni 8v8 tournament. Henry and several recent graduates formed the team that eventually won the tournament. It was so much fun to reconnect with these young men and see what they have been up to.
5. Here's a great recipe I enjoyed at my brother's house (quinoa salad, served warm or cold):
saute onion in olive oil; add one cup of quinoa and two cups of vegetable broth; simmer until all liquid is absorbed; drain and rinse one can of black beans, once can of corn and one can of chopped tomatoes; when quinoa is cooked, toss in beans, corn and tomatoes. Season with lemon pepper. 
6. While in Southern California, Clara went on her first college tour with my brother who works there:
She really liked the campus (which made me happy). Clara is interested in studying animal behavior and Cal Poly Pomona has a good agriculture dept. where she could do just that. Other good schools with agriculture departments are Oregon State, Chico State and U.C. Davis.  A few schools have animal studies programs which are actually even better suited to what she wants to do. Those schools include the University of Redlands in Southern California; St. Joseph's outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Wheaton in Massachusetts, and Canisius in Buffalo, New York. It's still a long way until she needs to apply, but it's fun to start thinking about it! She does not want to be a Veterinarian (a decision that became even clearer to her after she did a Vet shadow program this week).
7. Paul and Clara are working on constructing a chicken yard out back. So far it involves a lot of digging. Clara's decided to get pullets, instead of chicks, and they will be available mid-January. They should have a nice fenced yard (around the coop) by then.
8. I got all dressed up to go to Christmas Tea with friends
I took this selfie before heading out. It occurred to me that there is a big difference between Going to Tea (which is what we do in the United States) and having tea (which is what we do in the U.K.). The former is fancier and rarer. The latter is an everyday occurrence. In the U.S., we treat grabbing a cup of coffee much more the way that Europeans treat having tea.
9. My bad luck streak trying to win at the annual cookie exchange party continues. The theme this year was college spirit, and I thought I had a winning entry:
Until I got there and saw this:
Sigh. Someday I'll win!
10. My favorite Christmas present this year was a fitbit! I love being able to track my steps every day. I've logged 10,000 steps most days (or gotten close). I found out that I climb lots of stair flights each day, too! 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Look Up//Look Down #52: Home for the Holidays

I went home for the holidays - back to visit my brothers and sisters (and Paul's family) in Southern California where I grew up. There I found the perfect look up//look down pair to end 2012. Looking up at the roof line of the house where I grew up (and so thankful that my brother still lives there and hosts big family gatherings), all lit up for the holidays. Looking down at my parents' final resting place. I took Henry, Clara and my niece Maddie there to visit, reflect and decorate. Thanks again Helena  for hosting this meme.

Re-learning to enjoy the holidays

I had a really lovely holiday this year. Leading up to Christmas week, I did a little crafting and getting ready. I took photos to document things for my December Daily album and made plans for what the finished project will look like. During Christmas week, I spent time shopping with my boy home from college, going to parties with friends here on the Coastside, and enjoying a wonderful family outing to the tree farm. We then we drove to Southern California to visit extended family. Now we're back home for one of my favorite weeks - the quiet time between Christmas and New Year's. . . a week to clean and plan and rest and rejuvenate.  
Although I really enjoyed the holidays this year, it wasn't clear to me that I would. Because earlier this month, everything about the holidays reminded me of how I spent the holidays last year. . .  which was with a very sick husband, stressed children and myself just barely holding on. So, I retreated to my art journal and dealt with the ghost of Christmas past:
And that's exactly what I needed to clear the cob webs, to allow myself to enjoy myself and to re-learn to enjoy the holidays. The power of art never ceases to amaze me!
I have lots of photos to share this week of my holidays and thoughts and plans for the new year. But first, off to visit your blogs. I hope you had a wonderful holiday, too!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Tell me about chickens . . .

Yes, you read that right. Can you tell me everything you know about raising chickens? 
Clara enrolled in the agricultural science track at the high school this year, and she needs to take part in a "supervised agricultural experience." Although volunteering at the humane society technically qualifies, she wanted to do a real FFA (Future Farmers of America) project. So, we agreed that she could raise chickens in the backyard.  She's planning to buy 4-6 chicks at the Feed and Fuel Store just after Christmas. She'll start them in the laundry room or garage before moving them outside. Eventually, she will try to sell eggs and will keep record books to track her expenses and receipts. 
So, we hunted around for a free or low cost chicken coop, and found this one on Craig's List for a mere $60. It's a 2-4 chicken size coop, but she and Paul are thinking about adding on to it. She's also planning to fence off a nice size run outside the coop in the back yard. The coop came with a large cage for chicks, feeding and watering bowls, some bedding, and a good sized role of chicken wire. 
And that's about all I know! I'm looking for advice, resources, suggestions. And I'm curious about how many of you raise chickens now or have in the past. And I have a really stupid question. Where do the chickens sleep at night? There's a shelf for laying boxes behind the shingled door on the right hand side of the coop, but I had the impression that your hens weren't supposed to sleep in those boxes? Obviously, I;m pretty clueless.
A new adventure for a new year . . . looking forward to your help!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

look up//look down #51: winter at the lighthouse

Winter on the California coast brings wonderful sunsets. Tonight, on the way back from swim practice, Clara and I saw a beautiful sunset developing. We pulled over at the first available opportunity to take a picture, and it turned out to be the parking lot of the local lighthouse. It seemed the perfect opportunity to capture my pair of weekly photos looking up and looking down for Helena's meme. A fine penultimate pair!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Holiday Crafting: Christmas Cards and Gift Card Holders

I had a very productive morning - I made 20 Christmas cards and 8 gift card holders! I worked with the Club Scrap Gnome for the Holidays Stamp/Stencil set and the matching card blanks, which made things really fast, easy and fun. Most of the cards I made were really simple:
But some of them had a few more bells and whistles:
I had so much fun making the cards that I found some little manila envelopes that I thought would make good gift card holders, and I stamped on those, too!
Around lunch time, I looked at my completed stack of goodies and smiled broadly.
It was a good morning indeed. I also got my order of photo Christmas cards today. So, now all I have to do is work on addressing envelopes! Am I the last one to be getting my cards in the mail?

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Holiday Crafting: Birdhouse Ornaments

Amid the hustle and bustle of the holidays, I'm grabbing bits of time here and there to do a little holiday crafting. Andria of Drawing Near posted here and here about super cute little birdhouses she got from Art by Heather. I hustled over and got myself a few kits because Heather's store is closing (today, I think!).
I decided to substitute my own ephemera for what Heather had included because I wanted to make birdhouses that could be used for Christmas tree ornaments. I give each of my Goddaughters an ornament each year and these were perfect! They were super easy to make and really got me into the holiday spirit. They're really tiny (you can see their size relative to  a standard die in the package).
I'm keeping the St. Nick birdhouse but will be gifting the ornaments. Have you had a chance to do any holiday crafting? Is it for yourself or to give away? 

Friday, December 13, 2013

A Quote and Link for Friday

Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time.
Laura Ingalls Wilder
I love Deb's "Just a Quote for Friday" tradition, so I'm following along with a Tim tag and photograph, circa 2000. And one more Christmas gift for you - check out this link to see a really wonderful collaborative between an elementary art school teacher, her students and artists from round the globe.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Want to give handmade cards as a holiday gift?

I love the convenience of giving gift cards at Christmas.  But I never feel like I'm giving a real gift when I give one  . . . you know, a real gift - a package with wrapping and ribbon.  So, what I've taken to doing is to give a handful of homemade cards with the gift cards.  I have A LOT of cards in my stash, so I choose a nice assortment and bundle them up with the gift card.  Most people really seem to appreciate them (because people always need cards but many people don't have the time or know-how to make cards). A few years ago, for my brothers and sisters, I took collage sheets I made with family heritage photos and used them to make simple note cards.  They were a big hit.
What if you want to give handmade cards but don't have any on hand? 
Here's an easy recipe for using collage  images in cards:  patterned paper + image + ribbon + embellishment.  Need more detailed instructions?
1.  Choose a collage image. It can be vintage, fun, grungey, whatever.  Mat if desired.
2.  Choose a patterned paper for the background - coordinate color and mood, but a small and fairly busy pattern works best. 
3.  Choose an embellishment (or set of embellishments) that captures the same color and mood of the card.  I like to use small embellishments in groups of three.
4.  Choose a coordinating ribbon.
5.  Arrange the image and embellishments.  Adhere.
Acknowledgement and Variation
I got this idea from a pair of cards I received in a card swap.  The cards were created by Debbie B, and her original card (with the Dubai postage stamp) is below.  If you would like more layers on your card (or if your patterned paper background is not busy enough), you can add some stenciling on the patterned paper and stamped script, like I did in the "Daddy's Girl" card below.

You may be wondering - what is a collage sheet?  It's basically a collection of images that you can cut up and use in your art.  You can buy them at places like artchix, or you can find lots of free downloadable collage sheets by googling free downloadable collage sheets.  Here's a link that's a nice start (you just click on her image and it will give you a screen that you can print out).  
p.s. This post is a combination of a couple of posts from 2009. I got the idea to freshen them up and repost from Sian's "Blog cos you want to" Suggestion #2: Play on the Popular. You can read her great idea here.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Look Up//Look Down #50: Lights (+ Question on Photo Printers)

Continuing to snap pictures for my December Daily album has given me some interesting choices for the weekly photo meme Look Up//Look Down. I chose this seasonal pair (looking up at the house across the street and looking down on the lights which have not yet been put up at our house) because I like the contrast in scale and the parallel subject.
I'll probably end up including the top photo in my December Daily album on a page about neighborhood decorations. I'll say probably because I'm not 100% sure which photos will go in until I get the photos back from the printers. Because I still send my photos to be printed. Because I don't have a home printer. But I'm thinking about buying one for myself  asking Santa for one. So, I'd like input.
Do you have a home photo printer to recommend? Any to steer away from? And what ink do you use and what paper to print on? Karen suggested that the paper can make a huge difference. Thanks in advance for your help!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Dec. Daily: Snow Day!

Here's a page from my December Daily album that is a little different.  First, it's not about what we're doing here at home. Instead, it captures a very special story for Henry, even though he's 350 miles away at college. When I woke up this morning, I had a text from him which consisted of this photo:
The journaling on my page reads: "On December 6, Henry woke up to snow in Eugene, Oregon! It's a fairly rare occurrence, so the entire campus celebrated. Henry went to a football player vs. student snowball fight and played a little snow soccer. We've had record lows here, but nothing compared to Henry's snow day." And here's another picture I pulled off facebook:
My boy is wearing #16, standing second from the left and rather sensibly dressed!
The other thing that's a little different about the page is that it's out of order. I recorded the journaling on an undated miscellaneous page between Dec. 3 and Dec. 4. But that's just fine. Ali Edwards mentioned on her blog that she doesn't stress about matching the stories up with the exact dates because each story is a part of her December story. And that really spoke to me. I'm happy to capture this story, even if I didn't experience it and even if it's technically out of order because it's part of our family's December story. And now it will always be recorded in my December Daily.
How much flexibility do you allow yourself in your December album?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Dec. Daily: Christmas at the Humane Society

One of the things I'm enjoying about my December Daily album is the way I am capturing how the holidays are being celebrated at the places where we live our regular, ordinary lives.  For instance, Clara and I go the the Peninsula Humane Society every week to walk dogs and care for them in their kennels. When we went today, we found Santa there posing with pets!
During a break, he offered to take photos with volunteers, and I couldn't resist capturing a visit with Santa.
Even Clara was game!
Have you noticed how your everyday, routine places are dressing up for the holidays? Have you gone to visit Santa?

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Thinking about dogs . . .

The other day, I was watching The Dog Whisperer . The sound of the dogs being trained by Cesar Millan attracted Aria's attention, and she sat up to watch the show with me. In fact, Aria likes to watch TV, in general, as long as there are dogs on (like the National Dog Show).
Our dogs, Aria and Gypsy, are a surprisingly big and happy part of our lives. They are constantly underfoot, greeting us when we return home and hanging out with us while we work. 
I've been thinking about dogs a lot lately.  Deb wrote recently about her Lucky dog, and Amy's family is mourning the too-short time spent with her pup.  For most of our kids' lives, we had a beagle terrier mix named Buster. When he passed away, it was hard. We eventually held a ceremony to say good-bye to him and that did make everything easier. I blogged about it here and made this scrapbook page.
And now we share our lives with two more dogs. Both of them rescued - one from a shelter in Southern California and one of them from the local humane society where Clara and I volunteer. They bring so much comfort and joy to our lives that I often reflect on the question "Who rescued who?"
If you plan to add a furry friend to your family, please consider visiting your local animal shelter. There are so many awesome dogs, cats, bunnies, birds, turtles, lizards and more looking for a new home. If you already share your life with an animal, I'd love to hear about it in the comments today.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Look Up//Look Down #49: Christmas Time at the University

This December I chose to do a December Daily album, rather than Journal Your Christmas, because I want to create an album that documents not just the holidays but also what our lives are like at this moment. So, a lot of the pages will feature regular activities.  Like today, when basically all I did was to go to work. I did take this nice look up//look down pair that captures both the season and my work place. Looking up at the winter sky behind St. Ignatius church on campus and looking down at the reindeer and Christmas tree in our library. That's a picture of our Dean on top of the tree! The second photo will definitely be going into my December Daily.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Look Up//Look Down #48: Cross Country

I hope I haven't overwhelmed you with cross-country posts - LOL! But this should be the last one for this season. It's my entry for Helena's Look Up//Look Down meme. And I actually have two entrys.
Take 1:
Looking up at leaves, tossed in the air by happy girls. And looking down in the tent during pre-race stretches.
Take 2:
Looking up for a jump shot with the team. Looking down at the race course - Clara strong among a sea of runners.
So, that should be the last of the cross-country photos for a while. BUT I will be back tomorrow with another look up//look down pair.  I counted up the remaining Wednesdays in the 2013 and found that there are only three left; which means I missed a week somewhere. Tomorrow, I'll post #49; then only three more pairs to complete the meme. I'm really happy I've stuck with this one. Has anyone else stuck with this for the entire year?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Look Up//Look Down #47: Thanksgiving

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving this year. In the morning, I took Gypsy out for a long walk because I knew we were going to be gone for most of the day.  I looked up and snapped a photograph of a small red biplane. Later in the day, we went to the house of some good friends to cook and share a wonderful meal. While we were preparing dinner, Jack informed us that we would be listening to vinyl record albums as our soundtrack. It was so much fun to look through his collection and stroll down memory lane. I looked down and took the photograph of the album on the turn table.  I thought the two photographs would make a unique look up//look down combination for Thanksgiving. 
And here's a more conventional shot of our family celebrating together.
For those celebrating Thanksgiving, I hope it was a good one. And I was wondering about the music format you use - vinyl? digital? something else?