Monday, November 23, 2015

I Am My Own Teacher

For the past few months I have been my own professor.  I am teaching myself Photoshop and InDesign. Photoshop was a challenge, but I feel I have a grip on the basic essentials of the program. I can't believe I have been doing photography without Photoshop.  However, what you usually see of my photos are natural considering I didn't have the software to enhance.  Photoshop is great for when you need to add things or change a background for print (meaning magazines and such), but for everyday photography I think its best to stay natural and true to the elements in which you took the photograph. Photoshop has so many uses besides making someone's complexion look perfect or slimming them down.

InDesign is more up my alley. I have always been in love with design....whether it is print layout design or interior design.  I have been doing design since my days on my high school newspaper staff. Technology has changed so much since I was in college that I was afraid I would struggle with InDesign. I was pleasantly surprised that InDesign is not much different from my days of QuarkXpress on the Mac computers in college. After a day of familiarizing myself with the essentials, I was breezing through a creation of a brochure, business card, and magazine cover layout. Now onto adding it all into my portfolio and continuing to learn. 

As I have gone through these programs I have used a lot of my own photography. I forgot I had taken some pictures at my parents awhile back and wanted to share. Not my greatest work, but my camera is crapping out on me and I am hoping a new one is in my future (along with a sweet 300 mm lens!).  These pictures are untouched by Photoshop as you can probably tell.
Bench in my parent's front yard
At a park close to my parent's house

Getting pumpkins at my favorite orchard- Garwood's

My my favorite orchard- Garwood's

My parent's backyard

Fence along my mom's garden

My parent's backyard

My parent's backyard

Caught this after my mom watered her garden

Wind chimes nestled up against the woods 

Friday, October 30, 2015

Always time for a break from life--in the Smoky Mountains

Exploring Cades Cove in the Smoky Mountains
My absolute favorite time of the year. Autumn. I am simply a happier person in the fall. My daughter has two weeks of fall break.  It is usually a bear to keep her busy for two weeks, but this year we kept insanely busy.  Week one, my daughter and I went to see my parents. No big plans. No frills. Just us and my parents and I loved every second.  Visiting my parents is a vacation for me.  I am in love with their house and the land that surrounds it.  I get to see my hometown and visit with my sister, niece, and nephew.  Nothing is any sweeter.

Week two my husband, my daughter and I went to the Smoky Mountains. My husband and I went there for our honeymoon 13.5 years ago and I have been wanting to go back ever since. We rented a cabin between Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. It was totally secluded and out of the way on some crazy back roads.  The tree colors were barely changing when we arrived, but by the end of the week they were really popping.  I am glad we got to experience the Smokies during the fall, but I have to say that I doubt I will ever go back this time of year.  The crowds were insane and the traffic to get into the park and Gatlinburg were at slow crawls most of the day.  After day one we learned our lesson and got up pretty early to beat the traffic and crowds.  Totally worth not sleeping in.

We did the typical Cades Cove and Clingman's Dome, but we also did a hike to Laural Falls which was beautiful.  I did some investigating and found a little entrance to the park called 'Greenbrier' about 7 miles east outside of Gatlinburg that is a mostly gravel road about 6 miles long leading to two trail heads.  It runs along a little river and the photo opportunities are spectacular.  We were able to walk out onto the river via many rocks and boulders.  It was a wonderful way to spend part of my husband's birthday. If I had a heaven on earth it would be Greenbrier.

My highlights including sitting on a rock next to a river and having a chipmunk try to climb up my back. I have never jumped so high in my life.  Being the photographer that I am, I ventured out onto some shady rocks in the middle of a river and ended up with one leg completely drenched and laughing at myself so hard that my other foot fell in. I loved every minute.

We had a raccoon visit the deck of our cabin every night. He would just stare up at us as we looked at him through the window.  On our drive through Cades Cove we were lucky enough to see a momma bear and two cubs right next to the road as they munched on food. I got a lousy picture because a ranger stood nearby telling us not to stop and keep moving. was a great experience for our daughter. 

I loved every minute of our vacation. Actually, having reservations and going someplace is the only way I can get my husband to take a vacation. He even admitted that if we had not had this planned he would have cancelled his vacation. He is a total workaholic, but after 17 years together I am a little too used to it.  Even though his bosses insisted he take a vacation, I know I have to plan something or else he would never take vacations. Sigh.
Cades Coves- Smoky Mountains

My daughter and I in Cades Cove

Cades Cove--we took an off the beaten path road because believe me, traffic was backed up here. 

Laurel Falls just outside of Gatlinburg

On our way back to Gatlinburg after day one 

My daughter and husband at the main entrance to the park

Bad phone picture--but our daughter ice skated for the first time at Ober Gatlinburg

Utterly beautiful week

We played miniature golf on a hillside course called 'Hillbilly Golf'

Oktoberfest at Ober Gatlinburg meant my husband and I enjoying our favorite beer- 'Spatan' from Germany

Finishing up our Hillbilly Golf adventure

Beautiful jellyfish at Ripley's Aquarium in Gatlinburg

Our daughter in 'The Village' in Gatlinburg after breakfast at the 'Pancake Pantry'

Gatlinburg in the early morning was so peaceful

An off the beaten path gem in the Smokies- Greenbrier

Glad I pushed my husband and daughter to try out this off the beaten path road in the Smokies- Greenbrier
On our hike up to Clingman's Dome- sunny and 73 degrees that day. Simply stunning day.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Power in the number 1

The power of 1 is this beauty
There is power in the number 1.  This exceptionally long transition into the next phase of our family has made me embrace the joy of the glass being half full- not half empty.  I have come to see that having an only child is a blessing (most of the time).  At times my daughter even comments on the positives of being an only child. Focusing on the future and the unanswered prayers has made me see what God wants me to see.....the power of one.

The following are a few of the reasons why life with an only child makes my glass half full (these are my personal views as I try to look on the bright side of infertility and just the way I see it as it pertains to my life and personality):

1. Less Stress. Plain and simple. When you have less on your plate you can be more relaxed. One parent-teacher conference. One dance class. One set of notes coming home from school.  One birthday party a year. You get the point.

2. Homework. Need I say more? Some days are better than others, but on the days where homework takes us 45-60 minutes I say a 'thank you' that I only have one child. Any parent who has the homework struggle knows the pain.

3. Spontaneity.  Doing activities on the fly is so much easier with one child.  A few weeks ago it was too hot to go up to my parents lake house so instead we rented a u-haul at the last minute and drove up to my parents house and finally took my piano off their hands. It just felt so easy to do with one child. As soon as we got back we went shopping for mattresses which took 4 hours and never did we have to worry about kids running all over the store.

4. Marriage. Our daughter is almost 9 and pretty independent.  We know she will sleep through the night. She runs off and plays with friends. Grandma will take her for a weekend. More time with my husband (even if it is just watching football together in peace or working on projects side by side in the garage) is priceless.

5. Morning Coffee. Enjoying the early mornings on the weekends with my husband and good cup of coffee on the back patio before our daughter gets up- wonderful! She then joins us for breakfast and I am fully awake with my coffee already in full effect.

Morning coffee at the lake house
6. Money.  Obviously. Less Kids= more money saved.

7. No Minivan. If there was one thing I promised myself in college it was that I would never drive a minivan.  Sorry to all my friends and family that do--it just isn't me. I am actually back to driving a car and not an SUV and I love it!! (Unless someone wants to buy me a brand new Jeep  Grand Cherokee, I would gladly switch back!).

8. Child Personality. One diva is enough for me. I see puberty in my future and you will find me in the fetal position somewhere. All parents deserve awards for making it through the teenage years.  LOL!

9. No Sibling Rivalry. I remember the days of my sister and I yelling at each other. She once put me in a headlock to get the remote control. We used
tape to mark our territory in the backseat of the car.  Oh, we get along now and I love having her, but childhood wasn't pretty. No wonder we got grounded a lot.  No fighting in this house!

10. Focused attention. She is our world. Everyday is about her and only her. I lay quietly in her bed with her at night and she reads to me.  I can take the time to do her hair in the mornings and many other things I, personally, do not think I could do or get accomplished with more kids.

Our daughter fishing at dawn at the lake house
When life throws you curve balls you have to stand tall and see things for what they are and realize what is right in front of you. I am in no way saying that having more than one kid is crazy. We would love to have 2-3 kids, but this is the path that was chosen for us. Accepting that has not been easy at all. Looking at my daily life and what is easier makes the transition less painful.
     May you all look at the glass half full today. 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

A Chalkpaint Virgin

Last year my mom gave me a little side table she had found.  It was a rough piece with deep scratches and cracks. but I could see the potential. I wasn't sure quite what to do with it at first so it sat around in our garage.  Back in March my mom and I visited an antique mall where she spotted chalkpaint for sale. I immediately thought of chalkBOARD paint and was about to dismiss it.  My mom proceeded to tell me that it was basically a new type of paint and NOT a chalkboard paint. She told me she had heard how easy it was to use chalkpaint on surfaces without sanding.  I was suddenly intrigued by the idea of not have having to sand and prep.

A few weeks later I remembered I had this little side table my mom gave to me and decided to give chalkpaint a try. Although, with a few different steps I was leery at first.

My first stop was Pinterest. I started learning everything I could about the process. At first it seemed overwhelming and I wondered if I should just stick with what I know. I have refinished furniture in the past including a dresser, night stands, and my daughter's 'Jenny Lind' bed. Those projects were the typical stripping of paint and countless hours of sanding.  The results were great and enabled me to simply put on a clear coat or stain and keep the look of the beautiful wood.  However, this side table was rough and I knew that even stripping and sanding it would not really bring out the natural look of the wood.  This became the perfect opportunity to try the chalkpaint.

Now, they say you do not have to really prep the piece by sanding, but this side table was rough and in the early stages of working on this piece I was still unsure about whether or not I was going to do the chalkpaint or not so I started sanding it. The only prep that is suggested is to fill in deep scratches with wood filler.  After sanding I had some people tell me they thought it would look good with just a clear coat on it. The more I looked at it I did see how the legs could look charming with just a clear coat in order to keep the look of natural wood. I still had an itch to use the chalkpaint so I thought, "why not use both!".  The top had some discoloration so I decided to use the chalkpaint on the table top and put a clear coat on the legs-no stain. I am excited to get started on another piece and see how the chalkpaint handles without any sanding.  There are other techniques to make it look more aged, add crackling, or achieve a two tone look.  I hope to try these in the future when I get more daring.  

These two pictures are after a light sanding. There was a purplish color on the top of the table that would not come out which made it the perfect candidate for the chalk paint. The legs were unstable which I fixed by using new brackets on the underside of the table top. 

People rave about 'Annie Sloan' chalkpaint, however, I found these smaller ones at Jo-Ann Fabrics. I did not want the bigger 'Annie Sloan' paints- at least on my first attempt at this.  I picked up the color I wanted and also wax to be applied after a couple of coats of the paint. I also picked up this brush at Jo-Ann Fabrics, but next time I will get a better quality brush or use one specifically for the chalkpaint as I think this will make a difference in the smoothness of the finish. Chalkpaint has a low odor and is eco-friendly. 

After deciding I would do a clear coat on the legs, I sanded them with a low grit sandpaper and then finished it off with a high grit.  I then wiped it down well with a wet towel and applied a coat of polyurethane.  Once the first coat dried I did a very light sanding again, wiped it down and put on a second coat of polyurethane.  Once that all dried I was ready for the chalkpaint on the table top. 

The paint is not much different from regular paint. I just found it a bit thicker.  Use long strokes as you cover the piece.  If bristles get into the painted surface just wait for it to dry and brush them off with your hand (which is easy to do with chalkpaint).  

After I put on two coats of the chalkpaint (allowing about 1-2 hours between coats) I decided to give this piece a distressed look. This table was already very rough with a crack near the bottom so I knew the distressed look would be great for this project.  I used medium grit sandpaper and rubbed where it would naturally get scuffed up- like around the edges or raised surfaces. After distressing it, I wiped it down and applied the wax with clean, lint free cloth. You can also use a brush and then wipe off excess wax with a clean cloth.  Dip the cloth in the wax and apply in strokes to the surface making sure to work it into the wood and get all crevices, rubbing well as you go.  Let it sit for a day and then use another clean, lint free cloth to buff it and bring out a slight sheen.  It is recommended to apply a layer of the wax every 6-12 months.  Do not clean with furniture polish or abrasives. 

My first chalkpaint project is in the books.  I am hoping to find a new piece of furniture soon and use chalkpaint again. It is so much easier than I had anticipated.  The top had some imperfections that are not noticeable with the chalkpaint.  

    I finished it off with a new lamp, candle, and a picture of my grandpa. 

The table now sits next to the couch in our bedroom and makes for a nice, quiet place to read a book. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Goodbye Ned

I took this a couple of month before he died..his typical back rub. 
Last week we lost our Ned. Our beloved American Foxhound-Lab mix got hit by a vehicle. He had been living with my in-laws since April of last year when we moved and could not have either of our dogs with us in our temporary house. However, they loved living on the farm. What dog wouldn't love the freedom to roam around so much land, take walks in the woods, jump over creeks, and occasionally get dirty by jumping in the swampy pond? They loved it so much that our other dog, Memphis, would run away from us when we would visit--thinking we were taking him back to where he would have to be in a small yard or in the house.

His usual sleeping spot under our desk. 
Ned was the most lovable dog I have met despite being a whopping 85 pounds.  When I would read my daughter her books at night I would kneel next to her bed.  Ned would come upstairs and push his head under my arm and look at the book while I read to her. Often, he would snuggle up to our daughter when she would lay on the floor and then proceed to roll on his back and insist on a belly rub.  His favorite place to sleep was under our desk. We tried to buy him a bed several times and always within a week he would chew it up.  He always seemed OK without one.  He would get a huge grin on his face when he was happy and we would say, "Ned's a HAPPY DOG!". He hated having wet paws so going outside in snow or rain was horrible for him. His worst moment? Grabbing a plate full of steaks off the counter before we put them on the grill and had stepped out of the kitchen for about 2 minutes. However, I will remember only the good.  He was our Neddy and when I got the news my first thought was, "Oh no, this is going to devastate our daughter".

Our daughter spent 10 days with my parents so I had a few days to figure out how to break it to her. I put a picture of her and Ned in a frame for her room and put a picture of Ned up on the refrigerator. When she got home she immediately saw the picture on the refrigerator and simply said, "did he die?".  She is so perceptive. It was a rough evening but thankfully since my mom, niece, and nephew had brought her home and were staying for awhile she was kept very busy for the next couple of days. Losing your first pet is never easy.  She worries now that Memphis will be sad. We adopted them both in 2004 when they were already both about 2 years old. He lived a good long happy dog life and will be truly missed.

Our summer is quickly coming to a close.  Our daughter starts third grade in 12 days. We kept very busy this summer including a trip to my parents lake house for our annual 4th of July weekend extravaganza. The weather was great and although my dad's boat is still causing us all fits we enjoyed a lot of fishing and going out on the paddle boat.

The one thing I will love about school being back in session is my routine coming back.  I have missed my routine. Having my exercise time, my job search time, my errand/housework time, and my photography time will be welcomed with open arms. Although I did not get the job from my last interview, I learned a lot from it and am now lightly considering going back to school.  We shall see! Can't keep me down.

I have also been working on a project that is just about done and I will share it as soon as I add the finishing touch.

A nice scene from my hometown that I captured back in June.
Our daughter enjoying the cold waters of Lake Michigan.
Just a little run on the beaches of Lake Michigan. 

My mom sitting on the dock enjoying the city's fireworks. 

Happy 4th of July!

Biggest fish we have ever caught off the dock...a 16 inch catfish. 

Our daughter fishing off the dock in the early morning hours at the lakehouse.