Wednesday, December 19, 2012

FMM: Christmas Questions

Rinda posted a list of Christmas questions on her blog that originated with The BoysMum2Blog and is sponsored by the All the Weigh blog.   I decided today that playing along might be a way to get me out of the funk I've been in lately!

Christmas Questions 
1. How will you celebrate the holidays this year? This year it will be just the five of us at home.  We'll go out for dinner on Christmas Eve (Macaroni Grill), drive through a few neighborhoods to see the lights on the way home, open Christmas P.J.s and then send the "kids" (ha! they are all adults now!) to bed early so Christmas can magically appear.  On Christmas Day we have a treat (usually cinnamon buns) for breakfast, open gifts, watch the Christmas Parade on television, and I cook.  After the traditional turkey feast, we often go out  to the movies. Last year we saw "We Bought A Zoo".  Not sure what it will be this year.
2. What’s the weather currently like where you live?  It's been mostly grey, wet, and dismal in the 40's and low 50's with occasional peeks of sunshine.
3. Do you decorate your home for the holidays? If so, share a picture please!  Despite rampant rumors that I'm a total grinch, um, YES! We do decorate. Not a lot, not particularly lavish. And pretty much confined to one small area of the house.  But I like it!
(this shot taken for the 12 Days of Christmas class)
4. What’s your favorite Christmas movie? It has become a family tradition to watch Elf together every year.  I'm not typically a Will Ferrell fan, but the innocence he portrays in this movie is convincing and funny. We also love Polar Express, all of the Santa Clause series, and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.
5. What is your favorite Christmas song? I don't have a single favorite.  In the religious category, I love  "Do You Hear What I Hear?" as sung by Bing Crosby.  In the more secular arena, I'm a fan of "Where Are You Christmas" by Faith Hill (from the movie "The Grinch") and most recently Train's "Shake Up Christmas"

6. Do you have an advent calendar? No. We haven't had advent calendars since the kids were pretty little.  It wasn't a tradition that really caught on with them.
7. Do you prefer colored lights or white lights? For outdoor decorations I prefer white lights.  Indoors, on the tree, we've always had color.  Since our switch to LED lights a few years ago, the colors are somewhat garish and not all that Christmassy IMHO. And I miss the twinkle lights.  I think I'd happily switch to white at this point.
8. What is your favorite food to eat over the holidays? I love our traditional holiday dinner. But among the favorites - acorn squash baked with butter and brown sugar (yum!) and my daughter Rachel's peanut butter blossom cookies (super yum!).

9Do you display a live tree, or do you prefer fake trees? It isn't necessarily preference, but convenience.  I grew up with fake trees because my mom was allergic to the real thing. We have a fake tree.  We've had the same one for 27 years now.  Environmentally friendly (especially when you keep and reuse it as long as we have!) and no messy sap and pine needles all over the carpet.  But I would love to have the pine smell!
(This shot was taken for the 12 Days of Christmas Class with a homemade star filter)
10What would you need to make your holiday perfect his year? My "perfect" holiday is really simple. I just want my family to be happy, get along (as in refrain from sibling squabbles), express an appropriate amount of real gratitude for all they've been given, and maybe even offer to help in the kitchen.  It really doesn't take a lot to make me happy!

Now, I think some wrapping paper is calling my name....

Friday, December 14, 2012

In Memoriam

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Martin Luther King, Jr.
No doubt by now the news of the deaths of 20 school children and 6 adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut has reached around the globe. It is a senseless tragedy.

As a parent, as a human being, I feel shattered. Newtown was a tiny little town "where nothing ever happened" much like the town in which I have raised my own children.  I don't watch much news because it affects me too deeply on an emotional level.  The little I saw tonight had me in tears.

My heart wrenches for the parents who will spend Christmas Day without the overly excited kindergarten child who still believed wholeheartedly in Santa Claus and couldn't wait for the day to come. I can't even begin to imagine how hard it will be for them.  And my heart goes out to the parents of the children who survived, who will have to deal with the aftermath, the nightmares and flashbacks, the fear, the innocence of childhood ripped away at such a tender age. Nothing will ever be the same for any of them. Tomorrow the world will not look quite as bright as it did this morning. They will heal, and move on with time, but their reality has been forever altered.

I know nothing of the story of the young man behind this tragedy, who killed his own mother and then went into an elementary school and shot at dozens of innocent children. I can't fathom what would drive someone to that type of violence. I feel terrible sorrow for his brother who was first wrongly accused of having been the gunman, and then left to deal with the death of his mother and his brother and all of the pain his brother has caused.

I have no wisdom to offer. I have no answers. All I can offer in this moment is love.  And I'm sending all the love I can muster out into the Universe, to help get these people through the next day, the next week, to begin the healing for this tiny town, to let them know that others share their sorrow.  Will you join me?

Just A Quote For Friday

My Christmas cactus is in bloom! Lots of buds this year!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Ten on the 10th - Longwood Gardens

My mother gifted Jay & I with a one year membership to Longwood Gardens. Wanting to see the Christmas display, we made the drive yesterday. The weather was cold, wet, and dreary, so we didn't stay to see the outdoor light show in the evening, we just toured the Conservatory and the DuPont house.

In keeping with Shimelle's Ten Things meme, here are my ten best shots from yesterday:

 There were many Christmas trees displayed throughout the Conservatory - most of them featuring a single color scheme for the decorations. They were absolutely gorgeous and elegant and so different than my own Hallmark mish mash of sentimental ornaments. This first is probably my favorite shot from the entire day. It feels magical. And yes, I'm in it! Although no idea who the photo bomber is next to me.

 Loved these crystal drops!

 In the roughly two and a half hours we spent at Longwood, I took 66 photos. I deleted only 6 upon upload. I spent way more time taking these adjusting white balance and focal points (the two new things I have learned from Cheryl Johnson's 12 Days of Christmas class) and really thinking about composition. The results were that I ended up with a lot of great SOOC shots.  Most of these have only had slight sharpening for the web as post processing!

 What is it about bright yellow flowers that just makes me smile?

 From the kids' trees room.

 Longwood Gardens has been experimenting with designer shades of hibiscus.  I thought this was pretty neat!

 The room of desert plants really didn't hold much interest for me... except for these furry little guys that look like people somehow!

 One of the table arrangements up close. Love it!

 This table is forever long and set to serve 48! The crystal candelabras and all the flowers... so over the top. I admire the beauty of this, but would never set my own table this way.

from the tree in the DuPont house. The second photo above was also from this tree which was all decorated in green, gold, and crystal.

Thanks Mom! We're definitely visiting again in the future!

One thing I noticed in reviewing my shots of the day. The ones where I tried to take in an entire scene (a complete tree, that long table with all the fancy place settings) were technically okay, but missing any "wow" factor. Without fail, all of the shots that drew me in were the close up ones of the little details.

I'm wondering... what does that say about me and my photography style?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

30 Days of Gratitude | Final Share

 This first snowfall is completely gone and we've now had a couple days in the upper 50's and even 60 degrees (farenheit).

 Here's another sourced from the Internet - since I couldn't post photos of staff at work (and didn't have my camera with me in any event.)

And with that, my thirty days of Gratitude is complete. It was wonderful documenting it all. I wasn't able to keep up with the actual pages each day, but thanks to Grateful160 I had recorded one or two grateful moments each day and was able to go back and complete the pages easily. Grateful160 will send you an email or text up to four times a day, asking what you are thankful for. A simple email or text reply records your gratitude in a personal online journal that you can access at any time. If you are looking for a simple easy way to establish a daily gratitude practice, this might help!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

30 Days of Gratitude | Share 6

Thanks to all who commented on yesterday's Gratitude Share. I have to admit that the first photo (for my document retention project from work) was sourced from the internet. I couldn't imagine setting that up!

For today my third photo is also sourced from the internet. I simply googled "safe travels" and found a photo that would work for my thoughts for the day!

This is only a small portion of my Internet shopping. I've been opening, inventorying, and hiding the shipments as they come in each day!

This was the day we celebrated Jay's birthday, although his actual birthday was December 1st. He prefers to celebrate when the girls are home and he gets a photo with them each year. I'm still kind of freaking out at how grown up all three of them are!

Sarah returned home via train, bus, and metro. Jay drove Rachel back to Bloomsburg Univ. I didn't breathe easy until everyone was safely where they belonged!

Having the whole family home again is nice. Having a quiet day to catch up with my own life is nice too!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

One Little Word Blog Hop - December Edition

Hello! Whether you arrived here from Naomi'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 Margie for members of Ali Edwards' One Little Word class over at Big Picture Classes. 

Our November assignment was these "I statements" meant to help us reflect our how our Word has played out for us in the past year. I know that "focus" was a good word for me and that I learned a lot about being productive and staying on task.

And here is my November FOCUS tracker:

If you are following the hope, your next stop is Ruth's blog.  If you get lost, here's the whole list:

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Simple Moment | November

I can't believe it has been eleven days since my last post! I am so far behind in EVERYTHING!

I find that when the girls are all home my time is not my own. We had a lot of great family time over Thanksgiving week.  Time where I let go of all of my routines - logging food, meditation, commenting on blogs, writing blog posts, attention to scrapbooking (like gratitude pages) and online classes - all went by the wayside in favor of spending time with my girls. I don't regret it for a second, but I do miss the routine. So now I'm back and desperately trying to catch up with myself.

First up - I finally managed to record a Simple Moment for November:

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

30 Days of Gratitude | Share 2

My spread for the 7th - 10th:

Here's the 7th:
There are some thing that it isn't easy to get a photo for. Thank goodness for Google Images! I was able to source photos for the 7th & 8th from there and will continue to do so on days where I just don't have anything to fill that space.

Here's the 9th:
Really appreciating our library lately!

And finally, the 10th:

Thursday, November 8, 2012

30 Days of Gratitude

Although I'm late getting a post up, I am participating in the 30 Days of Gratitude project (which I have done in past years as well.) This year I decided to do a 4x6 hybrid project which is being added to my Focus Album, so Cathy Zielski's templates wouldn't work for me. Not to be put off by the minor inconvenience of the lack of ready pre-made templates, I used Cathy's design as a starting point and created my own 4x6 templates.

I used Krystal Hartley's "Autumn's Chorus" digi papers and printed each page on 4x6 matte finish photo paper and inked the edges.  I even did the math so that the space for the photo is a clean percentage of a 4x6 photo - so I'm cutting photo's to 2.667 x 4 inches (2/3 size).  I'm able to print two photos to a 4x6 photo paper this way!  I created and printed all the date stamps on a single 8.5x11 page and cut them out and adhered with foam squares. 

And then put the blank pages into the album. And immediately realized the foam squares were a huge mistake, making it impossible to close the album! So I had to painstakingly remove all those foam squares (4 per card) and re-adhere the date blocks with regular adhesive.

 Yielding a much better overall result!

 Here's the first spread.  And yes, I did use last Friday's quote as the opening to this section of my Focus album!

Here's a close up of the title section - all digi, using Krytal Hartley's Autumn's Chorus kit.

 November 1st. You knew I'd have to use this photo again, right??

November 2nd.

 The second spread in the album.

November 3rd. Pumpkin art courtesy of Rachel (the M&M guy) and Becca (the smiley one).

 November 4th.  Daylight Savings Time ended and the clocks went back an hour. Sunday seemed forever long!

November 5th. Caught wind of this meditation challenge on facebook. So far I'm loving it! You can still sign up, we are only 4 days in!

November 6th. And you all know the results. I'm ambivalent about the outcome. Snapped this photo while I was actually IN the voting booth!

I love Cathy's idea of Share A Page Friday's, but I know going in that won't work for me. So I'm going to share every time I complete a four day spread... assuming I can keep up with it!