Monday, December 23, 2013

A Moment

It's 12:23 am on December 23. I just walked the puppy and now am lying on the couch with her so that she will calm down and go back to sleep. 
I should go to bed. 
I know that Chester will have me up in less than 5 hours so that she doesn't die of starvation 
I should go to bed. 
I have cookies to bake and errands to run and presents to wrap tomorrow. Today. 
I should go to bed. 
But the lights. The glow of Christmas lights fills me with peace and wonder and serenity. I am alone with my puppy and my two cats and my thoughts. 
I don't want to go to sleep. 
Tomorrow will be chaos. 
I want to enjoy the lights. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Photo Recipe: Winterizing a Photo

We got a puppy yesterday.  We've had cats for all 17 years of our marriage and while I love animals, I love cats for their lack of neediness. (Read: we can be gone for hours with no worries.)  But when my in-laws' dog had seven puppies in September, I knew we were toast.  How could we not take on of Bella's puppies?
Rue joined our family yesterday.  Boo and I went on a shopping spree at PetSmart last week and decided that she needed a winter coat.  She is a short-haired dog, after all and and it's supposed to be one doozy of a winter here in Illinois.  When my daughter got home from school, we dressed her up to go outside and of course, I had to take photos.
{Nikon D7000 | 55-300mm lens @ 85mm | f/5.6 | 1/125s | ISO 1000}

This is what I started with:

I'm not one for posing (and 10-week-old puppies and 11-year-old girls feel the same way) so we took a bunch and this one was by far my favorite.  I first adjusted the levels to get the black of Rue's fur a little "juicier." Then I decided the whites weren't white enough.  I went to Love That Shot's Simplicity Photo Veil Collection to see what I could do.  I chose Chamomile an applied it at 25% in overlay mode.  I was pretty happy with the result.  Rue's black was blacker and her whites were definitely brighter.

I am never happy with just one adjustment and I wanted a little more vignette, so I went back to the Simplicity Collection and added the Fairy's Frock Veil. I made sure to choose a veil in the cool range and with the purple-tint of this one, I thought it might be perfect.  I added it at 50%  in overlay mode.

I liked it more, but wasn't quite satisfied, so I added a hue/saturation layer and decreased the saturation to -25 to take a little of the color out of my daughter's hat and coat.  And then I discovered one more veil to really make things look ice-cold:  Vanilla Twilight.  I added this at 50% in soft light.

I really liked the end result.  I think the photo looks plenty chilly now!   If you enjoy simple ways to play with your photos, check out what they have at Love that Shot.  Misti and Michelle will take care of you!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Photo Recipe: My Moody Winter Sky

I was was so proud of myself for keeping up with my thankful posts even as I struggled because I didn't want it to turn into an inventory of the reasons my life is awesome (I didn't want it to feel braggy.)
So, one co-old morning, when I opened all of the shades completely to let the sun shine in and warm the house (total opposite from a typical summer day,) I realized what was what I was thankful for that day: the warmth of the winter sun.  I went out on my front porch, in my pajamas, and tried to get a photo of the winter sky.  I wanted leafless tree tops and that cold blue sky and that quality of the sun that just hollers "It's winter!"
Now, my house is across the street from the Junior High School where my son is an eighth grader.  I did not take the time to play with a lot of settings because I didn't want his buddies to look out the window and see crazy Mrs. K on her hands and knees taking pictures of the sun.  They all know the camera is attached to my hip, but still...
So, I came inside, loaded the photos and this is what I ended up with:

Nov recipe before

Bleh.  I like the silhouette of the trees, and the sky definitely doesn't look summery, but I just didn't love it at all.

Three days after this, we had horrific storms (I live about 9 miles from Washington, IL) and all I could think about was what a moody, fickle sky we have.  With that in mind, I decided to aggressively edit the photo to make it moody.

I am an experimenter and I picked some different textures from the Love that Shot Collections to see what they would do with my photo.  I started with "Wicked" from the Fairytale collection.  It has a nice midnight-blue feel.  At first, I had hoped it would give me a little blue in the sky, but that's not what happened.  But I loved the way it looked:

Nov recipe step 1

I next decided that I wanted a little more color variation, and more texture (remember, I am not subtle) so I chose a texture called "Mauna" from the Kalani Collection.  I loved the colors it added to the photo around the sun:

Nov recipe step 2

Finally, I decided to completely embrace the dark, foreboding feel that this photo was taking on.  I went to the Olde World collection (my favorite of all of the collections) and chose a texture called "Calais" for its dark vignette and ancient feel.  It reminds me of old parchment that has had ink spilled on the edges.

After I added that, one, here was the finished product:

Nov recipe step 3

In review, I added Wicked from the Fairytale Collection (overlay, 75%) then "Mauna" from the Kalani Collection (overlay, 75%) and finally "Calais" from the Olde World collection (overlay, 75%.)  Here is the comparison.


I like how my winter sky now looks like a creepy full-moon Halloween night!  I didn't end up with what I had intended, but sometimes that's just how life is.

If you'd like to learn more about Love That Shot's Photo Veils and Textures, just click here! Experiment and enjoy!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Thankful. November 10.

It feels very strange not to have a photo to go along with this one, but I don't.  Well, I could, but I am not going to take the time to dig out and scan old photos.
Today, I am grateful for moving.
I had moved 16 times by the time I was 14 years old.  I have lived in 5 different states, and while I have lived in the same house for the past 14 and a half years, I still consider myself a bit of a nomad.
If I had not moved like that, I wouldn't have an appreciation for different parts of the country.  I wouldn't have many of my friendships.  I may not have become as obnoxiously outgoing as I am.  I would be much more uncomfortable with change.  I wouldn't understand that friendships ebb and flow and that's ok.
My family always talks about that last move and the opportunities that it brought to me and my sister.  The move to Princeton, IL was a fabulous one for our family.  Princeton instantly felt like home.  I felt accepted and I was able to be highly involved at the high school.
One of the coolest experiences of my high school career was my volleyball team winning the State Championship in 1990, 23 years ago today (ahhh!  There is a connection.)  If we hadn't moved to Princeton, I wouldn't have had that opportunity.
I am grateful for the  moving.

Thankful. November 9.

I find friendships fascinating.  They ebb and flow and some stay true while others fade away.  I am so very thankful for the friendship that exists between these two families.  The M family moved to the next town several years ago, but when the kids get together, it's like nothing has changed.
Sometimes I think that the space makes the friendship better and that if they actually all went to school together, they might not be friends.
Stupid adolescent weirdness.
Anyway, I am glad they don't live near each other so they can be friends and have fun without the pressure from cliques, etc.
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Thankful. November 8.

Sometimes it is the little things in life that make one happy.  Today it is craft projects.  My daughter can spend hours happily crafting away.  She has found instructions online for creating the little Minecraft objects out of those little melty plastic beads. 
I think it's awesome.
I miss crafting.
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Thankful. November 7.

Today I am thankful for people who are willing to spend time wandering around and photographing random things with me.  I think of it as experimenting, and it wouldn't be nearly as much fun without others joining me.  Plus I would really feel like a doofus if I was crawling around cemeteries all by myself.
Added bonus:  it's fascinating to see how two people can see them same thing in entirely different ways.
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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Thankful. November 6.

Oh crap, it's later in the month than I thought it was. Deep breaths, Shannon!
Today, I am thankful for traditions.  My dear friend Amber and I have been exchanging crazy birthday gifts for years in this very gift bag.  According to the earliest sticker I can find on the bag, it was first shipped between Texas and Illinois in 2000.  I ship it to Amber every year for her November birthday and then I get it back with my December birthday gifts.  And then I bear the responsibility of NOT losing the bag until the following November.  The pressure!
The tradition of it all makes me smile.
And why the "Oh crap?"  Her birthday is just three days away.  I hope it gets there in time!
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Thankful. November 5.

Today I express my gratitude for this cat. She lets me cuddle with her by day even though I chase her through the house, hurling expletives and threatening to kill her, every morning at 5:15 am. 
We have an understanding. I feed her when she demands it and she tolerates my petting her lovely fluffiness. 
Can it be any other way with a cat?

Thankful. November 4.

My daughter came home from school and presented me with these three leaves that she picked up on her walk home.
I am grateful for two things:
1. I live in a place with changing seasons.  I get to feel snow in the winter, smell lilacs in the spring, feel thunder shake my house in a summer storm and see these absolutely gorgeous fall colors.
2.  It makes my heart happy that at eleven years old, she still collects things for me. 
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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Thankful. November 3.

A puppy. Who doesn't love a puppy?  I am thankful for this puppy for several reasons. 
1. She's cute. 
2.  My daughter has wanted a dog for-ev-er. Forever. Seriously forever. 
3. She serendipitously came into our lives, relieving me of the responsibility of choosing to seek out a puppy. 
4.  Every kid should have a kitten and/or a puppy once. We survived the kitten. Now is our chance to survive a puppy. 
5.  It's a good life experience. 

Thankful. November 2.

I am so thankful for this man, who, without complaint, sits through multiple selfies and patiently looks where I tell him to so that I can have a satisfactory picture of the two of us. 
He's pretty awesome and this is just one reason why. 
And yes, the wind blew my hair in my eyes, but this was way better than tries 1 and 2, so we went with it. Even I have limits. 

Thankful: November 1

 I have been struggling with this whole, "I am going to spend November cataloging all of the things I have to be thankful for" trend.  I think that it fantastic that we all stop complaining and criticizing and instead examine the blessings in our lives, BUT I get my panties all in a bunch when I start to read the laundry list of how awesome everyone's lives are. Is this a contest?

That being said, I do want to take the time to think about the things in my life that are wonderful and special and bring a smile to my face.  And I am going to be completely honest about some of the weird things that just make me happy to have my life.  (Plus I hate to be left out, so I am totally joining in.)

 November 1:  I am grateful for fantastic fall colors, with a side serving of appreciation for the fact that my neighbors don't call the police on me when they see me crawling through their yards with my camera.  You see, I don't have any pretty trees in my yard, sniff, sniff.

Between that yellow (Silver Maple, maybe?) and the red of the Burning Bush, I was in love.

Also, I am thankful that I didn't make a total fool of myself by slipping, tripping, falling or doing something equally as clumsy as I took these photos on one of the busiest streets in town.

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Thursday, August 1, 2013

Sensible Shoes

When I got dressed this morning, I said to JJ, "We won't be walking too much today, will we?" 
We started by trying, once again, to have breakfast at Dottie's True Blue Diner.  We walked the two long blocks down there only to discover that they are closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.  Whoops.  Back to Show Dog we went. 

 We were a little unsure because it was one of those places that boasted organic foods.  To me, that means, "not simple."  We were pleasantly surprised.  The food was really good.  KJ had pancakes with a chai syrup.  We didn't tell him until after he pronounced it "delicious" what he was actually eating.  JJ had a hot dog breakfast concoction.

After that, we hopped a bus to Golden Gate Park.  In my head, Golden Gate Park was going to be like Millennium Park.  In reality, it is massively humongous.  It is three miles long.  And we got off the bus at the east end and intended to walk to the west end and hit the beach.  And we did that, but it took much longer than anticipated.  Note to self: do a little more research next time, especially when sidewalks are, um, narrow. 

The kids were awesome.  There was no whining or complaining.  We took a side trip and rode a paddle boat around Stow Lake.  We made friends with squirrels.  We walked and walked and walked and walked.  And then we walked some some more.

We got to the ocean and it was cold and windy and beautiful.  

We explored some freak alien-looking kelp and some jellyfish that had washed up on the beach.  

We stuck out feet in the cold water.  After I saw those jellyfish, I wasn't letting anyone go in very deep.  

We watched a fisherman fish and feed the ones that were too small to keep to the gulls.  It was like Wild Kingdom the way those gulls fought over the fish.

Once we finished there, we walked and walked looking for the next bus stop.  It wasn't where we thought it was, so we walked some more.   We did find the Tsunami Evacuation Route.  That's not something we've ever seen in Illinois.

We took the bus up to Land's End.  When we realized that we were going to have to hike down and then back up another huge hill, we gave up that dream and walked back to the bus stop to head to Pier 39.
Are you catching the theme for the day?
It's walking.
We visited The Aquarium of the Bay out on Pier 39.  That was the kids' choice.  They love fish.  :) The aquarium is small, but cool.  (I am spoiled by Shedd.) The best part was the two tunnel aquariums that you get to walk through.  Yes, walk.  

Finished up with a final dinner at Sam's Diner.  Now we are packed and ready to head home with very mixed feelings.  
And tired feet.  
But at least no one reeks of garlic tonight.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Stupid Technology

Lost last night's recap somehow, so I am going to make this short and sweet.
Rented a car for the day to drive to Muir Woods.  JJ navigated the city like a pro.  The road to Muir Woods was mildly terrifying with the twists and turns and thick fog.  I thought we might fall off the edge of the earth. Boo really struggled with car sickness.

Got there early enough that we were in the second parking lot easily.  By the time we left 3 1/2 hours later, people were parked a mile down the road.  It was a lovely hike.  Very few bugs.  Lots and lots of hills.  Oh, and coastal redwoods.  Did you know that they get 25-50% of their water from the fog?
Oh, wait, I am making this short and sweet.

Had lunch at Fred's Diner in Sausalito.  JJ had their deep fried French toast and millionaire's bacon.  Yeah.  It was pretty darn good.

Tried to walk the Golden Gate Bridge from the north side, but couldn't figure out how to get to it. I'm ok with it.  This photo was worth the dead-end.

So we headed back south and miraculously got a parking space in the second lot on the San Francisco side. We walked about 1/3 of the way across the bridge before the kids had enough.  I won't lie to you, between the crowds, the wind and the rumble of traffic, my knees were a little weak.  Looking down didn't bother me.  Looking up took an act of sheer will, and a wide stance.

After the bridge, we decided to go looking for the Mythbusters studio.  They don't give tours (pouty face) but at least we can say we saw where it is. It is so much smaller than I expected!  Nothing fancy.

We returned the rental car, hopped the California Cable Car line (so much less crowded than the other lines) down to Market Street and then walked back to the hotel.

One more day.  Everyone is a little sad about it.