Friday, February 28, 2014

Frugal Still Life - Week Seven

The week seven assignment was to photograph jewelry. I used this as an opportunity to photograph the beautiful (ridiculously expensive) 14k gold earrings Jay bought me for Christmas.

 I started off with the tried and true white foam core board, but I wasn't satisfied at all...

 So I once again gave the window curtain a go...

 Then I dug through my stash of crazy quilting fabrics and came up with this turquoise brocade...

and this black floral...

I have a definite favorite in this bunch. One that I think best shows off all the detail of the earrings without the background competing.  Which one do you think is best? And aren't these earrings gorgeous?! (Actual size from the top of the teardrop to the bottom of the "fringe" is 1.5")

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Scrapbooking Shares

I've been participating in Layout A Day this month and actually following the prompts each day. But getting them posted to the LOAD Flickr group was enough to keep up with - so it is nearly the end of the month and I haven't shared anything I've been scrapping. Over the next few days I'll share some of them...

 Getting December's "Simple Moment" into a layout.

 Going all the way back to last June to get "My Precious" scrapbooked!

 One of my rare paper layouts - pulling memorabilia I had saved from October of 1996. Not only do I have the newspaper write-up in that pocket, but my entire two hour presentation!

 Scrapbooking the weather - this is a "seasons" page. And my world still looks very much like this, minus the ice.

 The prompt was to scrapbook without journaling. And I love this photo from my trip to Sedona with Deb so much I figured it would make a great "title" page to the pocket scrapbooking I did for the rest of the trip.

And finally, this one of Sarah headed back to D.C. after Thanksgiving. I used a QuickPage from designer Miki Ferkul at ScrapbookGraphics so I could get this done in a super hurry.  All I added was the two tags for journaling and the date.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Zoom In/Zoom Out #9 and Frugal Still Life Weeks 4 & 5

Well, I completely missed last week's Zoom In/Zoom Out. My excuses run the gamut of a rough work week (Board of Director's Meeting, two presentations, Staff Meeting) and pulled muscles in my back on Friday morning that literally had me flat on my back in bed for the entire weekend. Turns out that a combination of Aleve and Flexeril really does make me sleepy! Today is the first day I've been able to stand up straight and walk without pain, so I'm feeling really good about that!  It also means that I was absent from blogs for a bit, but managed to catch up over the past few days. You all are a very prolific blogging bunch!

Anyway, I've captioned this as #9 although I totally missed #8, just so I can stay with the group. I actually set these photos up to do the Week 4 Frugal Still Life assignment of creating a still life in the style of the Old Masters painters.  I took 29 shots trying to get this just right!

This is my set up.  It only took me two shots to realize that I hated the paintbrushes in the vase and I wasn't loving the pillow as a backdrop.

So I pulled the window curtain from behind the bench (still attached to the rod) and arranged that as a backdrop.  I love the turquoise and copper in this little vase that I picked up in Sedona while visiting with Deb.  And I love the embossed detail on this antique legal book (printed in 1860!) that my Mom gave me when I passed the bar exam back in 1987... does that date me???

It then occurred to me to add in a piece of ribbon as the "complementary color" for our Frugal Still Life week five assignment. But I wasn't loving the white base of the photos.

So I pulled up more of the curtain and arranged it over the foam board as both a base and a backdrop. Ahh, now we are starting to get somewhere!

But the little peach ribbon wasn't enough to really qualify in the complementary color category and the green sea glass was distracting. So I took that away and added some orange buttons and a prima flower.

After changing my perspective one more time, I finally had a photo that I felt fit the assignment. But I wasn't sure it really looked like anything the Old Masters would have painted.

So I added some textures. Kim Klassen old world on overlay at 50% helped to darken the image, really play up the shadows in the folds of curtain and add more gold tone. Kim Klassen extreme grunge on soft light at 50% helped to frame out the edges.  So those of you versed in art history... did I succeed in creating something worthy of the Old Masters? And if so, which one? I'd love to find an image or two of which I could say this was in any way reminiscent.

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

Monday, February 24, 2014

A Year of Kindness - Challenge Week 8

 I hope you all had a chance last week to offer a complement for a helpful sales clerk, attentive wait staff, or anyone else who was able to assist you in your daily life.

This week's challenge is similar, but on a different vein. Do you frequently rely on the reviews posted by others for a product you are contemplating purchasing, a restaurant you want to try, or maybe a book you might like to read? I know I do! And often when there is a lot of negative feedback I will pass on even trying it. But I'm sure that, like me, you have products you love and swear by. Products you would be lost without. A scrapbooking tool? A cleaning product? A brand of clothing that is particularly durable? A favorite restaurant? Or maybe a book or a movie that really resonated with you and changed your life? Whatever it is... look it up online and leave some positive feedback! (of course, be honest) Your review may be the one that entices someone else to take a leap of faith.

Come back and let me know where you left positive feedback!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A Year of Kindness - Challenge Week 7

Last week's challenge was to send out a card to someone in need. I did get one posted to the person I mentioned in the post as well as a few birthday cards posted. Another one in the mail this morning. So that part of my kindness campaign is moving along. But I need to find some time to get creative and make more cards! My stash is getting mighty thin. Were you able to send out some love via the mail?

Initially when I planned this weekly challenge, I thought I would gather ideas and create a bunch of posts and have them scheduled to auto-post to my blog every Monday. Obviously, that didn't happen. First off, I haven't had time to create a bunch of posts. Second, I've found that creating a new post each week allows me to be more organic about what I choose to put out as a challenge. It allows me to see what comes up in my own life and react.

So, my apologies for being late this week. I spent most of yesterday out doing the research necessary to purchase a new washer and dryer and simply did not have time to even consider a blog post. But it was my experience in making that purchase that inspired this week's challenge.

This week's challenge is to compliment a helpful sales clerk or attentive wait staff to their manager. It is great to tell the person who helped you what a great job they did. But if you also seek out and let the manager know, it helps that person with job security, raises, promotions, etc.  In fact, Barbara posted about this just two weeks ago!

Our sales person at Sears, Liz, was knowledgeable about her product line, walked us through the pros and cons of various options, and knew which machines had the best ratings from Consumer Reports. When we asked questions she didn't know the answer to, she was able to look up the information quickly. The shopping experience was quite pleasant (despite the fact that I really did NOT want to spend money on new appliances!) and I felt we were able to make an informed decision. We thanked Liz for her help.

I then sought out her manager and let him know what a good job she had done. He was appreciative to hear the positive feedback, but also asked me to do him a favor and go online to the website listed on our receipt and fill out the satisfaction survey.  He told me that it is those survey responses that allow them to give employees recognition, promotions, etc.  Well, I did just that when I came home. The survey was all of three questions and took less than two minutes. I rated Liz as "outstanding". I hope it helps her!  I also grabbed my last Kohls receipt and filled out the survey for that one too!

And yes, it is still a winter wonderland here!
I know that people are generally quick to complain and voice negative feedback for bad service, poor quality, or shoddy workmanship. This week let's try to catch someone doing good and complement them for it!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Zoom In Zoom Out #7 and Frugal Still Life Week Six

For anyone who is counting, yes, I've missed weeks four and five of Frugal Still Life. Week Four (trying to create a still life like the Master Painters) and using metering modes honestly had me totally stumped. 1. I don't have any props that fit the bill. 2. I need to find my camera manual. I don't know how to change metering modes. Week five was about using complementary colors. And well, I just haven't gotten to it!

But week six - food photography - all over that one!

Here I have most of my delicious omelette in focus and you can see my plain white Corning Corelle everyday dishes and my Oneida flatware. The flatware was mostly wedding gifts. And I haven't felt the need to have actual silver or change my pattern in over 28 years!

 Zooming in a little bit and changing the perspective, I love that you can see the green on the pear slices.

Close Up with a much more shallow depth of field.  And in case you were wondering, this was my lunch. A three egg omelette with havarti cheese, anjou pear slices, and sliced almonds. It should have also had sliced bacon on top, but I wasn't in the mood for it this particular day. I learned this combination while in Phoenix with Deb and have finally perfected the at home version! Yum!

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, February 11, 2014

Monday, February 10, 2014

A Year Of Kindness - Challenge Week 6

Last week's challenge was to do a kindness for a neighbor. Despite my physical limitations and how much I detest being cold, I did manage to shovel a portion of a neighbor's sidewalk when I was done with my own. I did as much as I could until my back couldn't take it anymore. The neighbors to the other side of me helped plow out the bottom of my driveway. So it felt like there was a lot of swapping kindnesses and paying it forward happening here. I also sent a book I was done with on to a friend who might benefit from it and sent out my largest stack of cards so far!

I also showed myself a good bit of kindness this past weekend. Saturday I had the day completely to myself. Instead of spending MY day cleaning house and organizing, I spent some time getting creative, and I took myself out to the movies to see Disney's "Frozen".  I really enjoyed it and LOVED Olaf! I'm dreaming of Summer too, Olaf!
On Sunday, I spent the day with Jay and we went to see the movie "The Monuments Men."  Very interesting story about saving some the world's artistic treasures from the Nazis.  It is rare we go out to the movies at all, so two in one weekend was quite a treat.

What about you?

The challenge for this week is hopefully an easy one - send a card to someone who needs one.  Do you know someone who is feeling down, sick, or just needs to know you are thinking of them? Make a card, put it in an envelope, address it, put a stamp on it, and put it in the post. If you do just one of those steps each day, you'll have it in the mail by Friday!

Don't know anyone who needs a card?  That's okay, I do!  I came across this blog post two weeks ago:
Cards for Melody.  If you don't want to click over to read the post, let me give you the short story. Melody is fighting cancer. She could use words of support. Here is the address to send a card:

Melody R
PO Box 697
Portage, MI 49081

So if you can't think of anyone else, send a card to Melody.  Maybe send one to her in addition to anyone else on your list!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Let's Talk Weather (Zoom In Zoom Out #6)

 This was the view out my front door on Monday. It snowed all day.

 Zooming In.

 When you add new snow on top of existing snow, this is what you get! LOTS of snow. We did go out and shovel it all. Yesterday you could see our sidewalks and driveways, with mounds of snow piled on either side.

 This was the view out my front door this morning. Looks like more snow on the sidewalk, right?

Nope! It's all ICE. The trees are bowed down, kissing the ground from the weight of it. From a distance all the branches are an ethereal white, ghost trees. When the wind blows the ice crackles and pops and groans as the branches try to sway. Little bits of ice break off and fall, tinkling, to the ground. The snow is blanketed in a sheet of ice, making a crusty top to this snow pie world.

After an hour outside shoveling heavy slushy ice off the sidewalks (and not even finishing the driveway) I'm exhausted and my shoulders, back, and biceps ache. On the upside, I needed the workout! I kept telling myself, this is what a fit person can do. And I want to be a fit person. Fake it til you make it, right?

So now I'm sitting here in my warm home, at the computer, grateful for this day, grateful to be alive. Lots of my co-workers are without power. One has a leaky roof. Another had a tree come down across both his cars. So I'm definitely feeling like one of the lucky ones today.

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, February 3, 2014

A Year of Kindness - Challenge Week 5

So what Kindness did you do last week? My list included simple things like putting away a chair for an elderly student at my Tai Chi class, making an appointment for Rachel's hair, washing an entire hamper of dirty clothes that Becca brought home from college, rescuing a shopping cart that was left abandoned on a grassy median in the grocery store parking lot, and directing a young couple who was staring forlornly at the empty shelf where the Tostitos chips should have been to the floor display in the next aisle over.  I found that when I was being more observant of my life and my surroundings, the opportunity to be of service, both at home and in my community presented itself over and over. None of those acts of kindness cost me anything more than a moment or two of my time (okay, well, except the laundry which took all day on Saturday!). How about you?

It was a week ago today that my friend and neighbor Chris Witte was tragically killed in a hit and run accident in front of her mother's home. I went to her service on Friday evening, along with my husband and two youngest daughters. According to the obituary, the family was accepting condolences from 4:30 to 6:00 p.m. with the service beginning at 6:00 p.m.  We arrived at the funeral home around 5:20 p.m. And what we saw was a line of people waiting outside, in the cold, stretched around three sides of the building, just to pay their respects. We waited patiently, with numb toes, for an hour and a half just to get inside the building. And then another half hour + snaking in and out of the space inside the building until we reached the family. In deference to all the other people still waiting, we kept our condolences short. And then we waited for the service which finally started around 8:15 p.m.

I thought about how quick the media was to cover the tragedy of Chris' death, but how sad it was that no media was there to cover the outpouring of love to this family in the wake of their loss. I listened to Chris' daughters speak about  what a great mother they had, of how they just didn't know how they would go on without her. I listened to the minister (also a neighbor) speak about what kind of friend and neighbor Chris had been. And I took the example to heart. Chris was outgoing, extroverted, the first person on the block to knock on your door and introduce herself and welcome you to the neighborhood. She asked, and was genuinely interested, about what was going on in your life. And the next time she saw you, she'd ask for details about something you had long since forgotten you even mentioned to her. She greeted everyone with a smile and wave. She knew most of her customers at the local grocery store by first name. That's just who she was.

I am not Chris. I am a born introvert. I hang on the fringes at parties, waiting to be introduced, rather than taking the initiative of introducing myself.  I express my thoughts and feelings far better with the written word than I ever could hope to do in person. It is not in my nature to be like Chris. But I can take some lessons from her about being a good neighbor.

So this week, my challenge to myself, and to you, is to do a kindness for a neighbor. Someone on your own block or in your own neighborhood. It can be as simple as a bright smile or a wave hello. Maybe you could make a batch of your famous chocolate chip cookies and deliver them in person. Or maybe, if you happen to live anywhere like where I do, you could shovel a bit of their sidewalk when you are done with your own. Or return their fly-away recycling bin to their front porch. Whatever it might be, just reach out, and make your own neighborhood a better place.