Sunday, December 13, 2009

Nester's Tour of Homes

Christmas Tour of Homes with The Nester

Hey, y'all! I thought I was getting a head start over here so I'd be all ready for Nester's Christmas Tour of Homes, but that tricky Nester started a day early. No telling whether I'll get any visitors being so far down the list, but if you made it this far, welcome and rest your tired touring feet...uh, fingers.

Somehow we ended up with a cute little itty bitty tree this year, which is a result of either a) waiting until all the 7-8 foot trees are gone from the lot, b) letting people under 5 feet tall select the family tree, or c) both. Every time I walk past the living room I giggle ruefully, because it is such a wee little thing. It smells divine, though, and that's the most important thing to me.

This paper angel has topped our tree for 16 years, since my mom gave it to us the year we got married. Her halo is a little crooked, but heck, so is mine.

This is one of several nativity sets that grace our living room. My mom bought it for about five bucks when the kids were small, and it has remained intact.

Here's another one that sits on the coffee table. It was a gift from one of my Sunday School students years ago.

This is the "main" nativity set, from Jim Shore's Heartwood Creek collection, which my hubby gave me a couple of years ago. I cannot tell a lie: This photo was taken last year, but it looks just the same this year minus the garland in the background.

Our fireplace is gas and has no mantel, so for years we have hung our stockings from pushpins stuck into wood shims wedged under the TV. We are very fancy over here. This year I finally stuck some of those 3M Command hooks on the fireplace and the kids wanted to know where our "regular hangers" were. You get used to a certain standard of living and it's hard to let it go.

Here's my Hoosier cabinet in the kitchen, stuffed full of Christmasy stuff. It's maybe a little busy, but it makes me happy when I eat my cereal.

This is the living room area that's just inside the front door. It's mostly the same as last year, except for the ladder which I picked up recently at a cute antique store and the relocated cookie cutter garland which is no longer looking over Bethlehem.

We are trying something new this year called "Not Spending More Money Than We Have," which has required me to not buy any new decorations. I did, however, buy $4.99 worth of mixed evergreens when we bought our tree, and I split them between a wooden caddy on the Hoosier and the two arrangements shown below. I like to think that Nester would be proud of my thriftiness and shopping my house for the other stuff.

And finally, I bought this window really cheap at the same antique store where I got the ladder, added a banner I made using scrapbook supplies, and several years of Christmas photos. This will hang on the wall as soon as I can track down some picture hanging wire. I'll take a better photo of it then too.

Merry Christmas, and thanks for stopping by!! I'm off to visit the other homes on the tour.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The agony of defeat

Thanks so much to all of you who voted for my layout in the Queen of Paradise contest. I didn't win, and didn't even make the top 4, but I was inspired to create several pages that I really like so it's all good. Thanks to the design team at Croppin' Paradise for hosting a really fun contest. I posted my first two challenge layouts earlier, so here are my submissions from rounds 3, 4, and 5.

Challenge 3: Create a page about the person you'd want to be with if you were stranded on a desert island.

Challenge 4: Scrap your favorite book.

Challenge 5: Use only products more than six months old.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Help a sister out

I'm visiting my mom and dad for a few days, so this will be a short post. Don't bother going to my house to rob it, because a) there is absolutely nothing worth your trouble and b) my husband and incredibly vicious dog are still home.

Anyway, voting is now open for the round two challenge at Croppin Paradise. If you are so inclined, go vote for your favorite card. You don't have to register or anything. Thanks, and if you are lucky I will soon return with a video of my 2 year old nephew singing "Boom Boom Pow."

Oh, and the voting is only open for 24 hours.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Queen of Paradise Update

Tonight over at Croppin Paradise they announced the immunity winners from round two, and I didn't get immunity this time. Boo hoo, boo hoo. Tomorrow we'll find out what the next challenge will be, and those entries will be posted for voting on Sunday.

For the round two challenge, we were shown a photo of a tropical beach scene and told to create a layout using at least two colors from the photo. I made these two and chose (with a little help from some friends) to submit the first one.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

We will not be expecting an Oscar*

Yesterday Thomas "graduated" from Oakland, the small private school he has attended for the past two years. When I posted photos from the ceremony on my Facebook page, a couple of people commented that they couldn't believe it had been two years already, and we certainly share that feeling. It was no small decision to make the substantial financial commitment to give Thomas this opportunity, but we believe it is an investment that will pay off big in his future. The Oakland School's literature refers often to "the Oakland Way," and whatever that "way" is, it works. Thomas said yesterday that Oakland feels like a big family because students of varied ages all have the chance to really get to know one another, their teachers, and the staff. My bright but distractable and disorganized son is so much more confident and responsible than when he began at Oakland, and he has been loaded up with skills that should (fingers crossed) help him continue his success when he returns to public school in three weeks. He will start eighth grade working well above grade level.

Each graduating student chooses a teacher to deliver a brief speech about them at the ceremony, and Thomas chose his main reading teacher, Jamie. This video is pretty awful, both because of where we were seated and the unspeakably dreadful lighting in the gym. (If we had any more money, I swear I'd give a donation earmarked for improving the gym lighting in the interest of saving the photographic sanity of future parents.) The audio is excellent, though.

Before I show you a few more photos, I want you to know how bad it really was. This first one is straight out of the camera, and this was the BEST of the white balance options. (I know that only my few photography geek buff friends will care about this.)

So that should make my edited shots look pretty good by comparison. Here is Thomas listening to speeches.

Receiving his certificate.

Thomas and Oakland director Carol Williams.

With his favorite teacher, Jamie. (Is that my little boy or a junior senator?)

*The post title refers to the bad video, but it also reminds me that in the annual dorm awards, Thomas was voted "Most Likely to Be a Movie Star." Help me, Rhonda.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

I have the immunity idol!

So I entered the Queen of Paradise contest at Croppin Paradise. It's a Survivor-style contest where everyone participates in a challenge, and then the "locals" choose four participants to receive immunity for that round. Those who aren't granted immunity participate in a mini-challenge, and their projects are voted on by the general public, and the lowest vote-getters are eliminated.

The first round's challenge was to create a layout about your favorite restaurant, and the round winners were announced tonight. I was lucky enough to be one of the four who received immunity, so I am safe until the next round. Can I get a "woohoo"?

I am very nervous about what will happen if I don't get immunity and have to move on to a voting round, because a) I don't have tons of online friends who will vote, and b) I am reluctant to browbeat those I do have. But for now, I am thrilled that my torch was not snuffed out.

We went to Cheeseburger in Paradise Saturday night so that I could take photos for the layout, and my coaster had a picture of a drink called a Pink Flamingo Rita, with a pink plastic flamingo pick in it. Thinking that the pick would be a cute page accent, I said to the waiter on one of his visits, "Could I possibly have one of those pink flamingos?" As soon as he left, it occurred to me that he was, of course, going to bring me the drink. Never let it be said that I have not sacrificed for my craft.

School Days Scrapping

Last week I picked up a cute school-themed paper pad by My Mind's Eye, and it's got me in school-scrapping mode. I am really ready for school to start, not because my kids are bored and driving me crazy, but because I am bored and ready to get back into a routine. Both children have been at camp all day for weeks, and I miss them. I am at loose ends with nothing to do, and feeling a bit useless. I realize that this is a problem many moms would love to have, but I am ready for fall and back-to-school and church activities and an upcoming trip to Chicago with some wonderful friends.

These papers have wonderful texture, spot embossing, and glitter, which makes even these very simple pages look a little bit fancier, and somehow sparkly school buses are perfect for Annamarie.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Year of the Rabbit

We live in a suburban neighborhood that is surrounded by wooded areas, so we are no strangers to wildlife. We have deer in our front and back yards fairly frequently, and Miss Ruby will just stand and watch them, wagging her tail humbly, as if to say, "I recognize that you are much bigger than I and have sharp hooves." She doesn't bark at the deer.

The rabbits are another matter entirely. We have only rarely seen bunnies around here until this year, and they have been in our front yard almost daily this summer, feasting on the fine crop of tender clover we have cultivated in lieu of actual grass. (I was not hiding behind the bushes...I took this photo through the kitchen window. Maybe the shrubs need a little trimming? If you click on the photo you can see the cute little bunny.)

For some reason, the rabbits make Ruby totally lose her mind. Is it a breed thing (from one of the many unknown breeds in her questionable heritage)? Is it their sheer cheekiness as they sit there calmly chewing while she barks and whines and tries to claw her way through the kitchen window?

All I know for sure is that it is exhausting work barking at those bunnies.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Simple Vacation Album

I have been working on an album for the big American Southwest vacation we took last year. Because we took so many photos, a couple thousand at least, I am using a very simple style with a lot of photos per page. For the title page, I printed out a map of our route that Ron created using Microsoft's Streets & Trips software. (Have I ever mentioned how that man loves to plan a trip? He is a trip-planning fool.)

Here are the first few pages, created mostly with cardstock, scraps, and the Making Memories Slice and the Travel cartridge. I plan to add at least a little embellishment to the plainest pages, but right now I am all about getting the photos and journaling (done by Mr. Trip Planner on the laptop as we traveled!) down on the page.

So, is anyone else watching "More to Love" and willing to admit it? Those poor women...they were all lovely women but it was really painful to watch, and I'm just glad I'm already married so I won't have to resort to joining them next season. One poor girl felt compelled to tell the guy right off the bat that she'd never been on a date, one jumped into the pool in her evening gown much to everyone else's discomfort, and one calmed her nervousness with wayyyy too many free beverages. I was a bit disappointed to see that the guy apparently sent home the five largest girls. Way to make it not about the weight, dude.

In other TV related news, next week is the season finale of So You Think You Can Dance, and I hate this part. The final six dancers are all so talented that I can't stand to think of any of them being eliminated. That said, someone clearly has to go home and I voted (multiple times) for everyone except Evan and Kayla. I can't express how much I love this show and how much I wish I could dance like they do, but if I could I would obviously have to overcome some boundary issues. By the end of the season, those dancers have been in very close proximity to the sweaty crotches of all of the other dancers. (Is "sweaty crotches" a search term that is going to get me a lot of weird visitors?)

Um, let's see, what else? Yesterday we had the sunniest rainstorm I have ever seen. The sky was blue with almost no clouds, yet it was raining.

I took that photo on the way to pick Annamarie up from "Colt Camp," where she gets to ride horses and swim and apparently, be hosed down with dirt on a daily basis. She has never been one of those kids who likes to get dirty--it is no secret that she is a girly girl--but she comes home absolutely filthy every day. In the photo below, she is wearing a regular t-shirt, but it has taken me eight days of camp to convince her that anything with rhinestones and/or sequins is overkill for camp. This was on the way home, and that is her stuffed horse Misty Stacey Beer whatever she's calling the poor floppy, broken-necked thing this week.

And with scintillating news like that to report, you'll surely wonder why I am not posting every day.

Friday, July 17, 2009

I will never sleep tonight

HI! HOW ARE YOU? I'M GOOD, REALLY GOOD. I was feeling pretty draggy before I went to pick Thomas up from summer camp for the weekend, and I thought a cup of hot cranberry tea might perk me up a little, and now I AM PERKY. "Bouncing off the walls" might not be an overstatement. We're getting ready to head out to dinner with a friend, but I thought I'd use some of this excess energy to post a couple of layouts. Maybe after we get home I'll have some more tea and whip out 15 or 16 pages before I crash.

Many times I have considered signing up for a kit club but haven't actually bitten the bullet until Margie Romney-Aslett and her daughters announced the opening of The Girls' Loft. I love Margie's style and knew that I'd love the things she threw together, and I was not disappointed when I received my first package this week. Look at all of this pretty pink-and-greenness.

Both of the pages below were done with the Girls' Loft kit. The first one is an older photo that I have scrapped before, but it's one of my favorites.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Yes, I am scrapping

The embellishments on this last one might look a little random, but all of them were part of the kits used in classes on the Ultimate Scrapbook Cruise. So there's a sticker from Heidi Swapp, a rub-on from Karen Russell, a brad from Margie Romney-Aslett, etc.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

This is summer

I have to admit that I am not one of those moms who cherishes summer breaks with long stretches of empty, unscheduled days. For starters, neither of my kids are gifted with the ability to entertain themselves; yesterday Thomas spent the entire three hours Annamarie was at summer school "in my bubble." Every time I moved, I bumped him with my elbow or my desk chair and wondered when exactly it is that teenagers are supposed to want to spend lots of time away from their parents.

After vacations, Thomas' year-round school, and Annamarie's summer school and Colt Camp, very few "lazy days of summer" actually remain to be conquered. Occasionally though, the planets align themselves just right and produce a day like today... a day that is just like what I imagined summer would be before I had actual children.

We were joined for the day by Thomas' friend Harry, one of those kids who never seems to run out of ideas for things to do. Harry brought his bike, and the boys rode much farther than I am usually comfortable with, up to the nearby high school. (I've been thinking a lot about letting go recently. It's not easy. When did I become such a control freak?) They came home a couple of hours later, sweaty and smelly and ready to hit the neighborhood pool.

Harry is also a bit of a daredevil, the opposite of my own cautious and fearful boy. When we arrived at the pool, Harry entered at a full run like this:

He decided he wanted to try to do some flips, the mere thought of which freaks Thomas out. It might hurt, or he might get water in his nose, but he was perfectly willing to jump up and down and cheer Harry on. (You can click on any of these photos to make them larger, and please note that I found the focus "sweet spot" on my new lens.)

And later on, Thomas got daring enough to risk an almost-belly-flop.

After two and a half hours I had to drag the boys (who had both claimed to hate swimming) out of the pool. But where was Annamarie during all of this summer fun? She was right in the thick of things, making sure to alert me to every potentially unsafe move anyone made. She is a terrible tattle-tale. Here she is saying, "Mom, Harry pushed Thomas in the pool." (Harry never fails to win my heart by being incredibly kind to Annamarie, including her and teasing her gently.)

Let's back up a second and see how upset Thomas was about being pushed in:

Yeah, I thought so.

We ended the day at Vacation Bible School, where tomorrow we are going to prepare meals for 10,000 people. Seriously...tune in tomorrow.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

How to Become a Better Photographist

Remember back on the Ultimate Scrapbook Cruise when I won a spot in Karen Russell's Photographer's Workshop? I am now a proud graduate of the class, and I can say enthusiastically that it is worth every penny of the tuition (that I blessedly did not have to pay). The class was everything that I had hoped for and more. If you're not familiar with Karen, she is a past Creating Keepsakes Hall of Fame winner, designer of the fabulous Narratives line of scrapbook products (although she has now sadly retired as a product designer), and an amazingly talented photographer. She shares glimpses into her beautiful life on her blog, Snapshots of a Good Life.

Karen has said that she spent seven months working 50-60 hours a week preparing The Photographer's Workshop before welcoming the first student, and it shows. The course and the website are thorough and well thought out, and Karen responds quickly and graciously to questions posted on the message board. Probably because she is largely a self-taught photographer, Karen explains the technical aspects of photography in terms that even beginners can easily understand. She is funny and real, and offers constructive criticism while encouraging every student. The random photos in this post were all taken as part of my assignments, and every time I would pull out the camera, my kids would ask, "Is this part of your homework?" When I told them that I was finished with the class, Annamarie said, "So now you are a photographist like Karen Russell?"

I highly recommend The Photographer's Workshop to anyone who wants to become more skilled at capturing the beauty of everyday life in photos. It is probably not the right class for people who want to become studio or landscape photographers, and it does not cover photo editing. The course is designed to get participants taking better photos straight out of the camera (all photos in this post are editing other than minor cropping). The waiting list is huge, but it is worth the wait.

So what did I personally learn? Much of the information in the class was a refresher for me, which is always a good thing. Karen's explanation of the exposure triangle (the relationship between ISO, shutter speed, and aperture) was great. I discovered that I just may not be able to overcome my biggest weakness as a photographer, which is my inability to move myself around easily to get the best shots. I thought a lot about that, and on our Disney trip I would often set the camera up for a shot and then hand the camera to Ron, and tell him where to take the photo from. I might have to share credit for the resulting fabulous photo, but at least it will have been captured. (I did suffer one mini-stroke when I handed him the camera and he said, "I'm just going to switch it to Auto to make it easier.")

Just one more comment: Over the last ten years, I have taken a lot of classes with "celebrity" scrapbookers, and while I've enjoyed them all, I have often been disappointed by how thoroughly the instructors had bought into the notion of their own fame. That's all I'm going to say about that, but as a long-time reader of Karen's blog, I was really hoping that she would be as genuine in real life, and she could not have been sweeter when we met. She didn't treat me like a weird stalker at all. :) Also, I feel better about things after taking the class with some awesome ladies who are even worse Karen-stalkers than I am.