Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Cookietown ...


Rick, myself, and Nichelle went to a musical performance put on by the local church last night. When we got home, Nicole and the boys were baking sugar and gingerbread cookies. That was a nice surprise, especially since I've put off baking them for so long. We waited until this morning to get them decorated. Now we have two big plates full of Christmas cookies.

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Before or After?


I'm not that great of a photographer. I do it for fun. The majority of time I have no clue what I'm doing. I can only imagine what I might accomplish if I knew how to work my camera well. Regardless, people still tell me they like my pictures, which I love hearing. The fun part for me is editing a picture to make it look better than the original. I do this a lot, especially on Instagram. I love playing with the filters, cropping, and even using the contrast effects. Above is a picture of an ornament filled with glitter that my girls made years ago. One of my photo challenges yesterday was "Sparkly", so I took the above picture. Then I turned it into this one ...


The picture below was taken out of the car window as Rick and I sat at the stop light. I didn't even have the window down for this one.


I cropped it, changed the filter, added a frame, used the contrast effect, and I got this ...


I do the same thing with stupid-selfies too. I took this one yesterday right before Rick and I left the house to finish up our Christmas shopping. Notice the look of enthusiasm. Haha!


Again, cropping makes a huge difference, as do filters, frames, and so forth. I've posted about WYSIWYG before. That stands for "what you see is what you get". We live in such a high-tech world nowadays that most of what we see isn't really what we get. I don't know about you, but to me, it's fun to be able to tweak photographs so quickly and so easily. It's not really about taking that perfect picture. It's more about knowing how to take a crappy picture and make it into something better.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Banana Nut Bread


I baked some Banana Nut Bread yesterday. I had some bananas frozen that I needed to use, so now seemed as good a time as ever. I don't make it too often, which is silly because I really like it a lot, especially smeared with butter. That's why it looks a little wet in this picture. I probably should have waited to put the butter on until after the photo, but I was thinking more with my stomach. I don't know who posted the recipe. I found it on Instagram, and I took a screen shot of it, but I didn't catch the name of the person in the picture. The recipe is below if you're looking for one to try. Click on it to make it bigger.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

IG Agony?


A few days ago I watched a video clip called The Agony of Instagram. Click on the link if you want to watch it for yourself. It's basically another story about social media envy, which we've all heard many times over. This time they're saying it's not from Facebook or Twitter, but from Instagram. That caught my attention because I am fairly new to Instagram. I was very much a late-comer to that site, and I didn't join until a long time after most of my friends did. However, being the photo-freak I am, I quickly passed up most of my friends in posting. As you can see above, I've put up 2,771 pictures. I'm sure that number will be higher by the time you actually read this blog. I kind of like taking photographs ... well, duh.

The video talks about people being jealous when it comes to seeing friends posting particularly good pictures of family photos, dinner spreads, etc. Do you feel that way? I don't. I'm not jealous of anyone's photos. Well, maybe when I see the lead singer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers with his way-to-young-for-him model girlfriend ... but that's another story. I love seeing people's photos, and it doesn't matter if they're perfect or not. The ones that are perfect looking just impress me. I'm more like, "Dang, that's a great shot!" If anything, it makes me want to try harder to improve my own photography skills — not make me jealous thinking my friends are better photographers or that they have nicer things. And besides, what's nice to one might not be as nice to another. I have friends with beautifully decorated Christmas trees with antique ornaments. Mine is filled with kids' crafts. I saw friends post gorgeous Thanksgiving tables with exquisite, fine china. Mine had paper plates and pine cone turkeys. What IS perfect anyway?

Not everyone feels the same way. I'm sure there is a huge percentage of people on Instagram who aren't into photography at all. I'd bet there are many who just like snapping a quick picture and posting it. There are the professionals though, and each image they post is a work of art. I see a lot of those, but I'm not jealous, I'm more often impressed. Photography is just as much of an art-form as it is a skill. Most photographers take dozens of photographs just to get one they're satisfied with. I certainly wouldn't call myself a photographer in any professional sense of the word — it's a hobby for me. I joke and call myself an Indoor Wildlife Photographer because some of my best shots are taken from inside the house through a dirty window. Others are taken from the passenger seat of our car while we're driving 70mph. The trick is editing them to make them look cool. Like any other photographer, I often take many pictures just to get one that I'll post. The same goes for "selfies" (I hate that word), and often times I take dozens before I get one I'm actually willing to put up. Do I use filters to make them look better? Of course. Who wouldn't want to look like they have perfect skin over a bunch of freckles?

The video talks about FOMO, which stands for the Fear Of Missing Out. Just the fact that someone is being paid to study this makes my head spin. It makes me wonder where the money came from — tax-payers, probably. It's interesting how they say young men are the most affected by FOMO, but the guy doing the study doesn't really know why. I did like how the co-founder of Flickr said, "Social software is both the creator and the cure of FOMO. It's cyclical." I thought that was a very interesting comment, and certainly a much glass-half-full way of seeing things, verses the Oxford study that focused only on the negative.

I've had people tell me things about my pictures, such as how great my hair looks. Yeah, it did for that one particular shot, which is why I posted that one. Or, how nice and clean my house looks. I'm not a neat-freak, but I certainly won't post a photograph of my living room when it's trashed, which is usually is. Or, how perfect looking my Christmas tree is. Lighting, angles, and filters are wonderful things, aren't they? So, this whole jealousy thing is silly to me. Maybe it's not to others, but it is to me. What might look like a "perfect photo" to one person usually isn't. Some people just try harder to make it appear that way. Is that fake or giving a false sense of something? Maybe ... maybe not. Go look at any magazine and I bet you what you see isn't really how it was when they photographed it.

What do you think — do photographs make you jealous or feel like you're missing out?

Monday, December 16, 2013

Tonight's Moon ...


I went outside this evening and took a couple of shots of the moon. I managed to get a few decent shots, mostly because I took the time to put my camera on a tripod AND go outside. I swear, I take so many photographs through my dirty windows or while we're zooming down the highway at 70mph. I can only imagine what I could do if I actually got outside and tried to get some good pictures. Beautiful moon tonight, regardless. I hope you got to see it, too.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Raggedy Ann & Andy


I wish I had my original Raggedy Ann & Andy dolls. I remember them vividly, even down to the boxes they came in with the see-thru windows. For whatever reason, I loved those dolls when I was younger. Like so many of my childhood toys, they were either lost, given away, destroyed, or something. The dolls pictured here are miniature versions of the ones I had. My mother-in-law bought these for me a few years back at the Navy Exchange she shops at. If you look closely, you can see that infamous yellow rickrack and that blue and white purple outfit of Mrs. Beasley. Raggedy Ann & Andy sit happily on her lap, along with some other of my childhood toys. Only a few are originals; the others are all replicas. My MIL has a great pair of dolls that one of her relatives hand-made for her. I should have taken pictures of them when I was in CA recently. They're awesome dolls.

Raggedy Ann was born on September 7, 1915 by creator, Johnny Gruelle. Three years later, she was marketed along with a series of stories. Her brother, Andy came long in 1920, dressed in a sailor suit and hat. Raggedy Ann was designed for Gruelle's daughter, Marcella. She brought him an old, hand-made ragdoll, and he drew a face on it for her. The story says he pulled down a book of poems — The Raggedy Man and Little Orphan Annie — and decided to call the doll, Raggedy Ann. Marcella died at the age of thirteen after receiving a vaccine for smallpox. Johnny Gruelle blamed it on the vaccine, although doctors said she had a heart condition. Regardless, Gruelle became an opponent for the vaccinations and used Raggedy Ann as a symbol for the anti-vaccination movement. 

Did you have a Raggedy Ann & Andy doll when you were a kid?

Friday, December 6, 2013

Catholic School Girls Rule ...


Okay, that's a really bad pun from a pretty raunchy song by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I couldn't resist though, being the loony fan I am. The Catholic school girl above does NOT rule. In fact, she was very, very nerdy, and pretty much a complete dork.

However, her daughter rules in many different ways. How Nichelle fixed this picture is beyond me. I only had one little copy of this one, and as you can see, it was covered with some sort of gunk. Nichelle was able to remove all the splotches. So ... although I still look like a DORK in the picture, she did a great job.

I only attended Catholic school for a year and a half. My sister was forced to go there by my mom. Like the dumb little sister I was, I said, "I wanna go too!" And so began my 1.5 years of absolute torment. I hated everything about it. The nuns were were so mean, they made us play dodgeball at recess, and I got scolded continuously for trying to have my own handwriting style. I hated the jumper too. The older girls got to wear the cool plaid skirts, but me? Oh, hell no. I had the stupid jumper. Ugh — I'm having serious flashbacks — eye is twitching.

Anyway, thanks for fixing this photograph, Nichelle!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Two-Ingredient Fudge


I saw this recipe on Facebook recently. I'd heard of fudge using two ingredients, but I've never tried it. I was pretty skeptical, but it was super easy and the fudge turned out great. All you do is put a bag of chocolate chips into a microwave-safe dish along with a small can of sweetened condensed milk. Microwave for about 3 minutes, and then remove and stir until blended. Then I stuck it in the fridge and left it there overnight. It started to firm up right away, so you could chill it for less time. The picture below was taken right before I cut it into squares.


My family loved it and is already asking me to make more. I don't know if I like it more or less than traditional fudge, but it sure was easy. Fudge in three minutes = awesome.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Pumpkin Spice Balls


I saw a recipe on Facebook for a 2-ingredient muffin. I figured Thanksgiving morning would be a good time to give it a try. All you do is mix a box of spice cake mix with a small can of pumpkin. Then you bake it at 350 degrees for about 12-14 minutes. I made mine in mini muffin tins, so I got 36 muffins out of this. They came out like little balls, almost resembling donut holes. I think they were called pumpkin muffins, but I'm calling mine Pumpkin Spice Balls instead.


HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Dandelion


This is another book I found at the thrift store recently. I love rummaging around our local Salvation Army. Most of the children's books are a quarter each. Soft covers used to be a dime, but I think they've started charging a quarter for most of them now. Anyway, I got this book at 50% off, so technically it was only 12.5 cents. Not bad for a 1977 hardcover, don't you think?

Dandelion is very excited to be invited to Jennifer Giraffe's tea party. Although the party is a "come as you are" event, Dandelion spruces himself up to the nines — he gets his hair washed and styled, he gets his nails done, he gets some fancy new duds to wear, and he even brings flowers. The only problem is — he's made such drastic changes to his appearance that Jennifer doesn't recognize him and won't let him into her party. Poor Dandelion. How will he manage to get to the party? Will his friends recognize him? Will they accept him for who he really is?

I love this book. I love books with great messages. It seems nowadays publishers steer clear of picture books with moral lessons. Not all do that, but some do. I've seen it posted directly on publishers' submission guidelines. I suppose they feel parents don't want their children to be preached at while reading a story. I understand that, but I don't think it's always a bad thing. I think it's good to let children know they don't need fancy hairstyles or expensive clothes to be accepted or liked better. We live in a day and age where kids are growing up so much faster. I guess maybe that's why I cherish these older picture books so much. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Rain Puddle


I came across this wonderful, old picture book at the local thrift store recently. The Rain Puddle was written by Adelaide Holl and was illustrated by Roger Duvoisin. After searching Amazon, I see there are various copies of this book put out by different publishers in different years. The copy I have is from 1965 and was published by Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Co. So, in other words, this book is as old as I am — yikes.

Red Hen is pecking away when she comes across a rain puddle. Looking into the water, she's alarmed to see another red hen looking right back at her. Fearing her feathered friend has fallen into the water, she summons the help of a turkey. The turkey goes to see for himself, and sure enough, he's just as alarmed to see that a turkey has fallen into the water. And so it goes ... one-by-one, all the farm animals check out the puddle, only to see a new animal has fallen in. It isn't long before the entire barnyard is in hysterics thinking the puddle is filled with stranded animals. Just when everyone is about to totally lose it ... the sun comes out.

It's a cute book. I love these old ones, so I'm always thrilled to come across them, especially when I buy them for a quarter. This time I really got a bargain — books were 50% off.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

My Boys


I took these photos of Nathan and Neil the other day. We homeschool, and even though some homeschool groups do school pictures, I like to do them myself. I wasn't sure what theme to go with this year. In the past, we've done Hawaiian shirts, plaid shirts, denim jackets, and so forth. I thought about hats this year, but decided on ties at the last minute. I think they turned out pretty good. Nicole said they looked like little businessmen. 

Thank you all for your comments on my blog post below this one. They mean a lot to me. I don't know why, but writing that all down and putting it out for people to see really helped. I will get through this, and I just want to say thank you for all the comments I received here, on Facebook, Twitter, and even Instagram. I have some really awesome friends. Thank you.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Barbapapa?


Does anyone have this book or is familiar with it? I stumbled across this 1970 hard cover edition at the thrift store recently. I didn't think much of it, but I like books from that time period, so I bought it. It cost me a whole quarter. I took it home, read it, and then was surprised how cute it was. I decided to do a little sleuthing around, only to learn that the book was part of a series that began in France in the 1970s.

If you would like to learn more about Barbapapa, click here for what Wikipedia says. There is also a Barbapapa website that gives more information, but I don't think you can buy the books directly from there. Click here to check out the website.

I knew nothing about this book series, character, or even that there were cartoons and comic books created. Some of my friends were familiar with it, and one of them says she still has her copy of the book. That's pretty cool. The copy I have has a 1970 copyright, but I don't think it's a first edition.

I don't want to give out too much of the story — just in case you want to check it out for yourself — but it is basically about this blob-like thing that was supposedly born a family's garden. He grew and grew, but became too big for the family to keep, so he gets moved around from place to place. That's all I'll say, but I will add it has a happy ending. That's good. I always love happy endings.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Best-Dessert-Ever

Okay, so it's not too pretty to look at. You're probably saying, "Gross! What is that?" It's just a scoop of vanilla ice cream topped with Robert Rothchild Farms Roasted Pineapple & Habanero Salsa. I found this stuff at Costco, so I have a big jar of it. I've put it on rice cakes, over meatless patties, on sausages, and so forth. Today I decided to try the ice cream. OH.MY.GOODNESS. Now I'm going to get so low-carb vanilla ice cream so I can enjoy this more often. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Blue Horses


Rick, the boys, and I are in Billings right now. Rick had a work conference here, so the boys and I tagged along so we could spend some time with Nicole. She goes to Rocky Mountain College and we haven't seen her since Christmas. So, when we found out Rick was coming here for work, we decided to join him and see her when she wasn't in class. Right now the boys are doing some school work in the hotel room, while Rick is at his conference all day. Nicole gets out of class at noon, so we're going to head over the Zoo Montana later on.

On our way here, we saw these blue horse sculptures near Three Forks, Montana. I took a couple of pictures, which I posted on Instagram the other day. Mind you, we were going about 70mph, so the pictures aren't that great. There are something like 39 sculptures on this hill, so it was pretty impressive. They're designed by Jim Dolan. If you click on his name, it leads to his website, but I don't know if you can get to anything about the horses there. There was an article in the Three Forks Herald, if you want to read more about them.

Friday, September 13, 2013

An Egyptian Sistrum


We made a Sistrum in school today. The boys are doing a simple study on the history of music and right now they're learning about ancient times. One of the instruments talked about was the Sistrum. It is basically a percussion instrument that is most often associated with Ancient Egypt. If you click on the link, you can read a little more about it. Obviously, ours isn't quite authentic, but it works. We did our best with an old coat hanger, some wire, and a couple of beads and bells. The boys were each going to make one, but we decided to work on just one together while we were learning about it. Even Denny got into the festivities ...

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Messing with Photoshop ...

Unlike my daughter, I have very little knowledge how to work Photoshop. All I ever use is the modified version — Photoshop Elements. Nichelle uses the big program and can do so much. She really amazes me. I found a picture and thought I'd play around with some of the special effects. The results are pretty freaky-deaky! The original photograph is shown above here.

Above effect: Cutout

Above effect:  Glowing Edges

Above effect:  Mosaic Tiles

Above effect:  Neon Glow

Above effect:  Note Paper

Above effect:  Stained Glass

Obviously, these are just a few of the effects. There are a bunch more. I can see how this would be addicting. I've also seen people make pictures out of the Cutout one. There's even one that could be used to make a cross-stitch design. Pretty cool stuff. One of these days I'll learn how to really work the program!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Back-To-School!


Yesterday was the first day of school for us. I have to say, it went really well. We started on time (well, almost), finished on time (maybe a little early), and got everything accomplished. I think the boys were happy to be back. They both showed up in the classroom dressed with their teeth brush and hair combed. I know! I was just as surprised — gasp!


Here are a few new pictures of our classroom. They're pretty much the same as our old pictures. I really haven't changed it around in a few years. This is a room in our walk-out basement and makes a perfect classroom and home office area. We do most of our school work on that round table, but the boys also use the small computer desk on the left of the bottom picture. We've got a lot of floor space, which is great, especially for reading, bigger projects, PE stuff, etc.


Here's a picture of the boys yesterday. I know I said they combed their hair — they did. Nathan's hair is so wavy, so it kind of gets the best of him. However, he did it by himself, so who am I to complain. So anyway, yesterday went well and it was nice to see the boys so eager to get started. Today? Neil came creeping into the classroom in his jammies and bathrobe. Nathan came in and plopped an ice cream sandwich down on the table. At least he was dressed, but it wasn't even 8:30am yet! Needless to say, they weren't too happy. Neil finally got dressed and Nathan saved his ice cream for after lunch. They never cease to surprise me.