Thursday, January 30, 2014

One Little Word - January

My One Little Word for this year is KIND. I'm in Ali's class again which is now hosted via her website rather than on Big Picture Classes. It is a very active group. Ali had a LOT of work for us for the month of January - Here are my pages:

The quote on my photo says "You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give." ~ Kahlil Gibran.  Very literal since I'd just donated 9" of hair!  And all my regular visitors will recognize the photo I'm using to represent my Year of Kindness project.  If you are new to my blog, check out the link and consider joining in with us!

I'm doing my One Little Word assignments this year in a Smash album, so I've had to modify a bit from the handouts Ali has provided, but I'm finding that easy enough and really enjoying the ease of the pre-made album.

The quote in this spread says "In a time lacking truth and certainty and filled with anguish and despair, no woman should be shamefaced in attempting to give back to the world, through her work, a portion of its lost heart." Louise Bogan.  Bogan was an American poet and these lines were probably written during the Great Depression of the 1930's, but they are still just as true today. And the cornerstone on which I'm basing my work with my word KIND{ness} for this year. I want to give back to the world a piece of its lost heart.

My final page is my Intentions for 2014.  My Year of Kindness blog project didn't even make it into my writing because I felt that intention was already well-enough expressed on my blog and well underway! But I have big plans for this year and I can't wait to see how it all plays out.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Hug A Little Tighter Today

On Monday morning my neighbor and friend, Christine Witte, was killed in an apparent hit and run in front of her mother's home. And just like that she is gone. She was 51. Her husband Ron died suddenly and unexpectedly in 2009.

Chris had been our neighbor for twenty six  years. Our kids played together when they were young. Chris was the kind of person who knew everyone in the neighborhood.  She genuinely cared about everyone in her circle of influence and was the catalyst for bringing this neighborhood together. The news kind of shook me to my core. I feel off balance.

But what has me the most upset is how sad I feel for her children. To have lost both of their parents in the span of five years when they are so young. It really breaks my heart. You can read more about Chris and her family HERE.

And it reminds me just how precious and fleeting this life can be. How you never know how long you truly have and what moment might be your last. You have no guarantee of tomorrow. But each day that you wake up you do have TODAY. Make the most of it. Live it fully. Love and be Kind. Give. Play and have Fun. Breathe deeply. Sing and Dance. Paint and Create. Do the things that bring you joy and worry less about all the "shoulds".

And hug your loved ones a little tighter today.

Zoom In Zoom Out #5

My choice for this week is a simple everyday photo:

Kira sleeping in the rocking chair

But it always makes me smile when she sleeps with a paw covering her eyes. She snores too!

And I took a bit of advice that Carola left in the comments on last week's photo.  I found the manual focus button on my lens. Voila! I can still have that pretty paisley pillow but with a softer focus in the background, and my diffuser sticks in sharper focus. Thanks for the lesson Carola!
I am  linking up with  Helena's Zoom In Zoom Out meme.  Click on the link to see what other people are photographing this week!

Monday, January 27, 2014

A Year of Kindness - Challenge Week Four

So how did smiling go for you? I caught myself rushing through my errands a few times and slowed down enough to smile at the clerks at the grocery store and the pharmacy. I had a great day at the office smiling at EVERYONE - I suppose they were wondering what I'd been smoking before work. ;) But it's true, smiling is contagious and it does make your day lighter and happier. I even found myself smiling when I was alone!

For week four's challenge, I thought we would bring kindness back home. And I'm simply calling it "do a kindness at home."  This can take so many forms. For me, our division of labor at home is I cook, Jay does the dishes. But on days when he has had a particularly difficult day at work or has had a miserable commute home, I will often do the dishes for him. This costs me nothing more than a few minutes of my time and allows him an extra few minutes to unwind and relax. Sometimes it is just what he needs to get out of his work funk.  When the girls are home, I try to make sure that their work uniforms (both waitress at different places and have required dress shirts) are always clean on the days they go in to work. This isn't my "job" or "chore" - they are adults and perfectly capable of washing their own clothes. It is just one more way I choose to show kindness at home.

The day I caught Rachel and Becca out shoveling before their Dad came home from work.
Without being asked.   And the pride in my motherly heart swelled.
Please come back when you have a chance and tell me what kindness you did at home this week!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Zoom In Zoom Out #4 and Frugal Still Life #3

This week Cheryl had a guest instructor for our Frugal Still Life class and we were tasked to do a set up similar to that of the instructor. I didn't happen to have any dry flowers handy, but I did have a set of old oil diffuser sticks in a pretty little vase.

 So I started with this little set-up. We had a lot of snow which was bouncing extra sunlight into the room. And I used the white foam core board to the left to also bounce light back.

Here's my first shot. I really like the paisley pillow as a backdrop, but at the same time was frustrated that the camera insisted on focusing on the pillow when I was trying to focus on the little green balls. I'm not at the point of using manual yet, so I guess that will come eventually.

Same subject matter using a top down approach. And I got those little green balls in focus! This one also begged for a square crop.

And finally, same shot as above with some texture added just for fun.  The textures included:
Alexa's Honey Grunge on overlay at 38%
Kim Klassen's Cinnamon on soft light at 64%, Cherish on soft light at 100% and Annabelle on linear burn at 54%

Which is your favorite?

I am also linking up with  Helena's Zoom In Zoom Out meme.  Click on the link to see what other people are photographing today!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Year of Kindness - Challenge Week Three

I apologize for being a day late with this post.  I pretty much lost the last two days of my life to being functionally blind, thanks to an eye infection in my right eye that caused my eye to be painful, swollen, blood shot, and extremely light sensitive. I couldn't wear my contact lenses and wearing my back-up glasses just made my eye water even more. So I was being as KIND as I could to myself and left my computer OFF for two whole days! I know, unheard of, right? I can't even say I suffered withdrawal. I slept most of Sunday... 4 hours in the middle of the day and then went to bed at 7:30 and slept another 12 hours. And Monday I did things that I didn't really need clear vision for - like laundry. Thankfully today the pain, swelling, and light sensitivity is gone and I am back in action! Now if the redness would just go away...  But as luck would have it, we are having another massive snow storm and our Board of Director's meeting for tomorrow is cancelled. So I don't have to drive into work and I don't have to worry about greeting directors with an ugly eye. I consider that to be the Universe's way of being KIND to me.  Which just makes me smile.

And that is this week's challenge - SMILE at everyone you meet.
It is a gift to the person you smile at - and you never know when your smile and friendly greeting could turn an otherwise bad day for someone. And it is a gift to yourself - because when you are smiling, you can't help but feel happy! :)

Are you smiling this week?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Zoom In Zoom Out #3

This is my office set-up. I was watching part of the Big Picture Classes "Play" event today and listening to Tracey Clark talking about finding the humorous in the little everyday things at home, when I saw it...

Tell me you see it too?

My speaker is looking a little sad today because I think it is about ready to go. It works occasionally. But don't bump any of the cords or it will quit again. Ugh.

I'm playing along with Helena's Zoom In Zoom Out meme.  Click on the link to see what other people are photographing today!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Frugal Still Life #2

In our Frugal Still Life class (which will be offered as a self-paced class beginning in March), the second week is about determining whether to fill the frame with your subject or leave negative space.  Each style has it's pros and cons and ultimately it probably comes down to a question of subject matter and personal preference.  I also used today's Capture Your 365 challenge (yummy) in choosing my subject matter.

Here is my subject with a LOT of white space. I would definitely want to add a quote to this!

Still some white space but coming close to filling the frame

And finally, I have completely filled the frame with my subject. Yummy!

And here is the pull-back shot showing my set-up:

Surprising how simple this is, isn't it? As you can see, I used white foam core board as my back drop and placed the subject near a window.  Even though it is a dark, dreary, rainy day, there was plenty of natural light to take the photo and the white board helped to bounce some of the light back onto the subject.  This is a pretty much north-facing window and I use this set-up a lot when photographing layouts.  I'm shooting with a Canon 60D with a Tamron 18-270 All-In-One lens.  I'm not all that good with any of the "manual" settings yet, so I generally shoot on Program mode and make sure to adjust the white balance setting before taking my shots.

Monday, January 13, 2014

A Year Of Kindness - Challenge Week Two

It almost seems that it should go without saying that kindness begins at home. And even more close than home - that being kind should begin with being kind to ourselves.

But right now this seems to be an area where I'm struggling. A LOT. I'm not good at setting boundaries and sticking to them. I am very good at seeing the needs of other members of my family and doing my utmost to put their needs first, often leaving my own on the back burner, simmering. And we all know that is a recipe for getting burned!  As in burned out, tired, sick. To the point where we are unable to care for ourselves let alone anyone else.

So this week I challenge you to be KIND to Yourself!

How you ask?
Maybe you will make time for a bubble bath.
Or take yourself on a nature walk, camera in hand.
Maybe you'll look yourself in the mirror and say nice things to yourself, and thank your body for the wonderful job it does in getting you around.
Maybe you'll make some time for pampering - a manicure or massage.
Maybe you'll spend some time getting messy with paint. Or cutting and pasting pretty papers.

For an inspiring article about being kind to yourself, read here.

This week I actually have some "ME" time scheduled. I'm spending the weekend at a crop in Reading. I'll do some cutting and pasting. I'll likely get a massage. I won't be doing any housework or cooking! This little break is much needed and probably long overdo. And I'm excited!

So tell me, what will YOU do to be kind to yourself this week???

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Zoom In / Zoom Out #2 & Frugal Still Life Photography

For our first exercise in Frugal Still Life, Cheryl was showing how to use a nice piece of black velvet and/or a light box to get a still life.  Her examples were a glass jar with coins spilling out and another with marbles.  I don't own a light box. I don't own a piece of black velvet. And this class is about being FRUGAL.... so... I do own a lovely dark teal throw blanket and a sun room with beautiful light!

And that isn't a glass jar - it is plastic. From the dollar store. But it IS really and truly how I store my washi tape! So I just tucked the blanket into a chair, laid out the jar and tapes and then started photographing from various angles. The sun was coming into through sliding glass doors to the left. The chair is a swivel base, so by just turning the chair, I was able to adjust how much light was on the subject. Turns out, the least amount is what worked best (it was a bright day).

And the washi is ready for it's close up!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

2014 - A Year of Kindness & Challenge Week One

Hello all my blog friends!  As you know, I've already spilled the beans that my One Little Word for 2014 is "Kind" (or "kindness" depending on the circumstance).  I chose this word because, honestly, it is one that kept coming up on my short list the last two years, but I kept avoiding... not quite ready to take on the everyday moment to moment awareness that I knew it would entail. In fact, when I look back over my "one little words" over the years, in four out of five years, my intentions for the word included adding more kindness in my life.

My words in the past have included:

2009 - enrich  In included an intention "to enrich the lives of others by practicing kindness"
2010 - wholehearted  My 10 for 2010 included "practice kindness"
2011 - happy
2012 - focus  I was going to document random acts of kindness during the month of October.
2013 - dare  One of my daring intentions was "Dare to make a difference"

Unfortunately, in each of these years I feel like I fell short, like I disappointed myself in this particular area, like there is so much more I could have done or should have done.  So for 2014, Kindness is my MAIN focus. And in this way I'm sure to make it happen!

1. I intend to be KIND to myself by pampering myself and taking care of my body (healthy eating and exercise), and by making and allowing myself time to be creative and time to participate fully in online classes which means that sometimes I will have to say "no" to other demands on my time, in order to protect that time for me.

2. I intend to be KIND to my family by being present in the moment when I am with them, by listening intently, by meeting their needs as much as I am able without violating my first intention by putting my own needs last.

3. I intend to be KIND to others by being aware and in the moment when I am out and about, by finding opportunities to offer a smile, a compliment, a helping hand, or to be of service in some way.

To make the KIND to others a reality, I am undertaking two projects this year.

First - The Year of the Card - paper cards (mostly handmade) through snail mail to everyone I know for birthdays, anniversaries, thinking of you, get well, whatever the occasion may be. To realize what an undertaking this is for me, understand that I have a subscription to Blue Mountain, and I usually send e-cards or just post good wishes on Facebook. I haven't sent a birthday card in the mail in.... well, years.  But in 2014 I want to fill mailboxes around the world with happy mail!

I need YOUR help to make this outreach project work.  For some of you I have your address, but not your birthday. For some of you I know your birthday, but not your address. And for some of you I don't have any information at all! Would you like a birthday card in the mail from me this year?  If so, email me at scrapdreams @ with your birthday and address. I'll get you added to my file! :)

To make sure that this project would be successful, I spent the week between Christmas and New Years setting up. I used a large index file box (holds 5"x8' index cards) and using a divider for each month, made up a calendar of sorts on the front of each card with dates and names of each person who had an occasion that required a card for the year. Then I added envelopes and addressed each one to the recipients. So I have a year of addressed envelopes!  Next I went through the stash of cards I already have made and added cards to the envelopes for January and February. Each week I just have to pull out the cards that need to be mailed that week and pop them in the post! I even bought stamps and put in the front of the file box. And I'll be working throughout the year to make new cards to fill the rest of those envelopes!  Wouldn't you like one???

Second - A Weekly Kindness Challenge. I'm really excited about this one, but also a bit scared. I almost don't want to post it because I'm too afraid that others won't be as enthusiastic as I am and it'll be one big flop. But hey, even if I am the only one playing along, it will still be a good way to keep myself accountable for my word and to keep it out there. So here's the deal. Every week on Monday (except this week since it took me too long to get my thoughts together), I will make a Kindness Post to my blog. I'll include things like an inspiring quote, a link to a story about a kind act, or something similar, something uplifting. And finally a challenge. The challenges will be simple things that will require very little investment of time, and, as much as possible, little or no cost. You will have one week to complete the challenge. You can participate every week or just once in a while when the spirit moves you. You can come back to my post and comment about your results and/or leave a link to where you blogged about it, or you can keep your involvement totally private - your level of participation is entirely up to you!  I just hope some of you will be as excited about this idea as I am and will want to play along with me!

Kindness Challenge Week One - pay someone a sincere compliment. This can be in person, via a comment on someone's blog or facebook post, over the phone, via email - however you communicate. Sometimes a sincere compliment can really make someone's day! And it costs you nothing. I had a sales clerk at JCPenney compliment me on my new hair style and I was still smiling about that later in the day. Sometimes it is just nice when someone notices!

Will you play along?  Tell me YES!, then come back again and share how it went!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Zoom In / Zoom Out #1


Helena is sponsoring a year long creative photography meme called Zoom In/ Zoom Out.  And since I'm planning on doing a CaptureYour365 Project this year and seriously work on my photography skills, I thought it would be fun to join in on this challenge. Can't promise I'll participate every week, but I'm going to do as much as I can!

I'm also signed up for a couple photography courses this year.  First up Frugal Still Life Photography which begins January 6th and is totally FREE.  Care to join me?  I signed up for this one because honestly my favorite type of photography is flowers and nature shots. Flowers make great highly cooperative subjects!  About half-way into FSLP, I'll be starting Practice! which begins on February 4th. This class is a year long - once a month topic (such as aperture) with four different assignments attached to it. Regular price is $124, but you can grab it on sale for $99 just until Monday. I hope this is the one that is going to teach me the ins and outs of my camera! Hope to see some of you in class!

And without further ado, my first Zoom In/ Zoom Out attempt:

a cheap Glade vanilla scented candle. Oh the joy!

complete with reading glasses...

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

One Little Word Blog Hop - January Edition

Can you believe this day is here already??? 2013 just flew by!

Whether you arrived here from Lee's Blog  as part of the One Little Word Blog Hop, or you are here because you love me and drop by regularly... Welcome! I love visitors! The One Little Word Blog Hop is a monthly hop run by Lee for members of Ali Edwards' One Little Word class over at Big Picture Classes. The hop goes live on Wednesday at 6:00 a.m.  You can always check back later if someone's post isn't live yet.

Our November assignment was to collect photos that represent our word. As of December 1st, I hadn't gathered the photos of my most recent dares. So here is November's assignment, albeit a bit late:

Our December assignment was to reflect on our word and what we got from it, and what we wanted to remember of it as we bid it goodbye:

My DARING Highlights of 2013:
January - researched, gathered recipes, and started a paleo diet.
February - completed LOAD213 challenge
March - went to a Stampin' Up party by myself, went to the Cherry Blossom festival in DC
April - did a major clean/purge in my craft room, including boxes and bags of
memorabilia, went to the Cherry Blossom festival in Philadelphia
May - completed LOAD513 challenge;
June/July - completed the Summer of Color Challenge; traded in my trusty old Blackberry
for an iPhone; enjoyed a week at the Jersey shore with family
August - engaged in street photography for One Little Word class and Summer 2013
Photography Scavenger Hunt; sent Rachel and Becca off to college and began to
experience the "empty nest" lifestyle (love it!)
September - visited my mother; learned to shoot a 22 caliber Beretta hand gun
October - Traveled twice for work and combined with personal travel; went on a
helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon with Jay; saw two shows in Vegas; toured Sedona
with Deb
November - completed 30 Days of Thankful album
December - cut off 9" of hair to donate to Pantene Beautiful Lengths
Throughout the year - finished some old UFO's including Perpetual Happiness album,
1998 Disney album, and Sarah's baby album. Tried pomegranates, avocado, sweet
potatoes, and several new recipes. Attended a series of different yoga classes via a
Living Social deal. Met up with three different blog friends. Established fairly consistent
morning pages and meditation habits.

And my tracker for December:

In all, 2013 was a very good year for me and I bid it farewell with fondness. But I'm also very excited about 2014 and all the potential it holds!  For 2014 I have chosen the word "KIND" and I'll be back with more about my meaning and hopes for this word in a future blog post.

If you are continuing on in the hop, your next stop is  Margareta's Blog.

And just in case you get lost, here's the entire list: