Thursday, January 30, 2014

49 Things in My Life

Sian suggested this list of 49 things quite a while ago and asked readers which ones they have done. I've highlighted the ones I have accomplished.
Meeting Dolores Huerta, one of my idols
49 Things: My Life in a List
  • Kept a friend for more than twenty years
  • Made my own jam (lots of it, in a Little House kind of way)
  • Sewn a quilt
  • Learned how to tap dance
  • Ridden on a tandem
  • Walked up the outside of a volcano
  • Found or sent a message in a bottle
  • Crossed the equator
  • Slept in the open air
  • Appeared on Live TV
  • Been locked in overnight - or long enough at least for it to start getting scary
  • Seen the Terracotta Army in China
  • Admired the Crown Jewels in London
  • Looked at Paris from the heights of the Eiffel Tower
  • Caught a glimpse of the Northern Lights
  • Visited a penpal
  • Tracked down a long lost relative or friend through the internet
  • Set my heart on something and worked tirelessly to achieve it
  • Driven from one end of my country to the other
  • Flown in a hot air balloon
  • Built my own house
  • Found a beautiful fossil to take home and keep
  • Gone to a school reunion and enjoyed it
  • Met an idol
  • Been photographed with someone famous
  • Held a stranger's hand just because they needed me
  • Had a handsome man buy me champagne
  • Partied through til breakfast
  • Won a bet
  • Found something valuable and make sure it is returned to its rightful owner
  • Sold something I made myself
  • Had an interesting part of my body pierced (or maybe a tattoo?)
  • Dyed my hair a crazy colour
  • Gone out on the town in an outfit I've made entirely myself
  • Spent far too much money on something I've never worn
  • Spotted a ghost
  • Discovered a peacock feather lying on the grass and take it home
  • Been recognised for some kind of community service
  • Judged a competition
  • Won a competition
  • Started a Mexican Wave
  • Taken part in some kind of endurance event
  • Scored an own goal, figuratively or otherwise
  • Discovered disappointment, but found a way out of it
  • Got something published
  • Seen my name in lights
  • Taken up something new and discovered that I'm good at it
  • Asked for my money back
  • Been treated as an emergency
Which have you done?

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Zoom in Zoom Out #5: On the road

A quick zoom in zoom out photo pair this week featuring the world's greatest carry-on luggage. It rolls, it actually fits under an airline seat, and it's big enough for a 2-3 day business trip. I'm off to Denver for a conference. But I'll leave something on my blog for you to read, with a wink and a nod to my friend Sian.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Let's Sit and Have a Cup of Tea . . .

Come on in and sit down. . . let's have a cup of tea and chat (a monthly meme hosted by the Amazing Abi) . . . 
It feels good to sit down because I've been on my feet a lot lately. I'm still walking dogs at the Humane Society with Clara; I've upped my work-out routine; and I've been packing boxes and putting things away from the spare bedroom. The latter two, a result of work I've been doing thanks to my one little word for 2014 - illuminate.
I bought this beautiful ring from Lisa Leonard to help keep my word visible. In the past, I've bought One Little Word necklaces from her, but my word this year was too long, so I poked around her site until I found this ring. In addition to "illuminate," the words "clarify" and "lighten" are also stamped inside.  I love it!
And it has definitely kept me on track with my word. I joined a weight loss challenge at my gym, and I've completely changed the way I eat . . . definitely for the better. I've only lost four pounds in the first two weeks, but I feel so much better. My energy level is through the roof; my clothes are fitting a little better; and my hot flashes have disappeared completely. I'm also working out more, and I've got another new piece of jewelry to help me with that - a fit bit! I love the gizmo (which tracks your steps and activity levels), but it definitely needs a better clasp as it keeps falling off. Recently, it went missing four almost two weeks! 
Luckily, I found it today while working in the spare bedroom (it had fallen into a suitcase I was packing with Henry's spare clothes). I'm determined to clear the room out and turn it into a room that I can use as my art studio but that will also serve as a guest room and can easily become Henry's room when he's home from University. At a school auction last fall, I bought a package which included a few hours of consulting with a woman who specializes in "home organizing." We had our first meeting last week, and she gave me some good ideas and homework which included clearing the room and figuring out what I want to put in it. I've been very good so far at packing Henry's stuff up and purging books so the room is almost empty. The next step is to organize and purge my art supplies, so I know exactly how much stuff I have to move in. She's coming back in a few weeks to help me figure out the best way to organize the room and then how to decorate it.
If we had a chance to sit and talk over tea, I would tell you that I'm really profiting from the introspection caused by my one little word. I'd tell you that, as I have examined the various parts of my life and my feelings about 2014, I have realized that I want this to be a year of letting go of burdens, of lightening up, of not worrying and not being stressed. I have goals and things I want to do, but I am not setting up unrealistic expectations. I am fine with slowing down and enjoying life, of not constantly feeling like there are things that need to get done. And, ironically, I'm actually getting more things done than ever!
I would admit that I'm watching less television and spending less time on the computer, but mainly I'm being more efficient because I'm not wasting time spinning with worry about things beyond my control. I feel like my path to happiness is becoming clearer and better illuminated.
Just in case this starts to sound too deep, I would show you had I spent my time today - finally finishing up and mailing my Christmas cards! As a bit of an explanation to by friends, I stamped this on the front of the envelopes:
That's about all the stamping I've done lately, but I have been doing a lot of photography. I'm really enjoying the Still Life Photography class and the Zoom In Zoom Out weekly challenge. I'm also taking an online class called Studying under the Masters which I'm working through slowly, but that's okay.
Before you'd leave, I'd ask you advice about one thing that's been puzzling me as I go through my supplies. Do I need to keep the negatives from the photographs I took on film? What about extra photos that I didn't think warranted being scrapped? I'm feeling ready to let them go (and it will free up a lot of space), but want to know whether I'm making a mistake.  What do you think?

Friday, January 24, 2014

Staging a Matisse Still Life Photograph

I'm taking a nine week online class called Studying Under the Masters. The course features a different artist each week. Week 1 was Matisse, and learned a lot about his still life style, which feature vibrant colors, a lot of patterns and (often) women. I was thinking about doing a Matisse-style art journal page, but then I decided to try to stage and photograph a still life in the Matisse style. The photograph up top is what I came up with.  I'm pretty happy with it, and I think it does reflect Matisse paintings like these:
What do you think? Can you see the similarities? 
Here's my set-up shot:
I used a flowered skirt and three scarves for the backdrop, arranged on a chair. The frugal still life photography class definitely influenced this shot as well. It's fun to combine classes, isn't it?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Photographing the Secret Life of Chickens

I've been spending time in the chicken coop this week with my camera, and I've taken a few photographs that I find really interesting.
I feel like these give me a look at the secret life of chickens.
And make me aware they each have their own personalities.
And makes me wonder about what's in their souls.
The gifts of a photography practice never cease to amaze me.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Frugal Still Life Photography #3: Vase Variations

This week's lesson in Frugal Still Life Photography featured a guest photographer (Barb from Keeping with the Times) creating beautiful work with a simple set up a vase and a few things from nature. You can see her photo and check out her blog here. I bought this little milk bottle last week when Alison visited, and it seemed a perfect starting point.  Adding some alstromeria pods and chicken feathers to complete the tableau resulted in a photograph which I love because it is very me. I wonder if it might seem a discordant combination to others, but I feel like I own this photograph; that it is a part of who I am. I only wish I remembered how to add textures in PSE. . . . I think it would improve the overall photograph.
I tried a few other set-ups, as well.
I think this would make a really cool photo card for Valentine's Day. Don't you?
And then there's this one which really built on last week's lesson about white space and the first week's lesson about sometimes cutting items off:
It took a fair amount of cropping for me to get a composition which worked. Ultimately, I think I achieved a nice balance, although perhaps I should have brought the right side in just a tad more. What do you think?
My final shot doesn't really respond to the prompt very well. But I don't care . . .
Because I love it! The angle, the focus, the composition. Everything. 
I'm really learning a lot in this course, including a few things about set-up.  Here's my pull back shot.
I've seen several participants drape backgrounds over a chair, so I decided to try that today. I actually put a pillow case over the back of the chair and laid a dishcloth along the seat!
I played with some other still lifes (inspired by the artwork of Matisse) which I will share this weekend.  In the meantime, I love your feedback and comments. Always like to know which ones people like best.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Zoom In Zoom Out #4: Clara's Chickens

Helena hosts a weekly photography meme encouraging bloggers to zoom in and zoom out to get interesting perspectives. I've got two pairs to share this week; both taken in the chicken coop. Look at this and see if you can guess what it is:
Here's the zoom out shot:
Now you can see this is the bit between Buffy's eye and her beak.
How about another pair? This one from one of the Americaunus hens:
Zooming in on the back of her beautiful head.  And then zooming out:
So you can see her entire body.  Which pair do you like better?

Monday, January 20, 2014

OLW Check-In: New Year's Revolution

When was the last time you sat down with a cup of tea, a pencil, paper, and time to ponder exactly what you want to get out of your life?  At the beginning of the year, I signed up for the free class "New Year's Revolution" by Do What You Love.  I thought it was a good way to focus on my one little word for 2014: illuminate. It turned out be a wonderful way to shine a spot light on different parts of my life and make concrete plans for moving forward. The work sheets helped me think deeply about what I learned in 2013 and where I want to be at the end of 2014. I came up with four areas to focus on, and two of them surprised me a bit. That I want to focus on getting fit and helping Clara are no surprise, but my desire to become successful in my work life and end the year with a beautifully decorated house really will force me to change my priorities a bit. The worksheets were really useful for coming up with concrete action plans in each of these areas and creating time lines for accomplishing things over the course of the year. I decided to make January a month for "first steps." I'm figuring out the things I want to do and starting to make plans. I'm starting to illuminate a path for a wonderful 2014. 
The class is still available, and you can download the worksheets here. How are things going with your One Little Word?

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The chickens have landed!

On Saturday morning, Paul and Clara went to the Feed and Fuel to pick up pullets (two month old hens).  Clara will be raising them and selling their eggs, as a project for school. She got six chickens. One White Leghorn. It's a breed originally from Italy:
Clara named her Lavnerne!  
She also got two Ameraucanus hens (a breed from Chile), which lay colored eggs.  One has a black muff:
And the other has a a small grey-orange muff:
She hasn't named these yet, and they seem like the sweetest, easiest-going of the hens.
She also got three Buff Orpingtons (an English breed). 
I can't really tell them apart, so I've taken to calling them Buffy 1, Buffy 2 and Buffy 3. Clara hasn't named these yet either. I think she's open to suggestions if you have any.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Blog Friend Random Goodness

I received a wonderful package in the mail recently. It was a blog hop prize from Jennifer Grace.  I used it make a couple of spring cards! She even has another give-away going on now. Click on this link to check it out. I also made some Valentine's cards.
I was inspired to make them by an assignment in the "Studying under the Masters" online class I'm taking. Matisse is the first artist, and I learned how he liked to combine at least three patterns in many of his works, so I decided to the same in a batch of cards! I'm not sure why I've been bitten by the card-making bug this year, but I have. 
And speaking of blog friends . . . 
I had the tremendous good fortune to be visited by Alison of Life in the Slow Lane. We had phenomenal weather and a wonderful time together. She wrote this nice post about our visit. Alison and I met last year in Spain (where she lives), and we picked up just where we left off - chatting the morning away. It was great to see her!
Last, but certainly not least, if you like Stacey's blog "Havoc and Mayhem," be sure to go visit her (here's a link). And if you have been a follower of hers, please check your reader to see if she's in there. Apparently many readers mysteriously dropped her blog. I know mine did, and I missed several weeks of her acerbic, hilarious writing. Don't let that happen to you!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Let's Talk Collecting, Displaying, Decorating and Discarding

A few days ago, I shared a photo shoot that I did featuring the Lladro figurines I inherited from my mother. She had a huge collection, and when she passed away, we divided them up. Mainly each child took the ones which we had given her as gifts over the years, although some were divided up equally.  I have a few collections myself, mainly Belleek china and knick-knacks from my travels. One of my goals for 2014 is to organize and purge my home, and I am struggling with what to do with my various treasures. Traditionally, I have always displayed the same things year-round, but I've decided that I should get into the habit of rotating what I have on display and keep other things in storage to be brought out later. 
So, I sorted through my mom's  new collection with that thought in mind.
 I decided to store this beautiful angel with my Christmas decorations and bring her out once a year.
My mom bought this bear when we took a Alaskan cruise together; I bought one, too, so now the two will live together in my china cabinet:
My mom said that this pair of children reminded her of Henry and Clara, and I almost put them up in storage to be brought out at another time. 
But then I decided to put them on display on top of my china cabinet, along with the Lladros I gave her from my travels to Ireland, Spain and China.

That left two figurines which I lovingly wrapped up and put into storage. I'm not sure when I'll pull that box back down and add these back to the collection. For now, it feels good to have this bit of my mom keeping us company. Even though I hadn't opened the Lladro box for over five years, I know I'm not ready to discard this collection; I don't know if I will ever be ready for that.
So, I'm wondering what decisions the rest of you make about how you display or decorate with the things you collect. Let's talk. Are there things that go up and down throughout the year on a set schedule? Or when the spirit moves you? How do you know when you are ready to discard things your purchased (with perhaps a large price tag or that have sentimental value)?  Any tips for letting go?
"Let's Talk" is a semi-regular series designed to inspire frank discussion and sharing of information on issues relating to photography, art and blogging. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Zoom In < Zoom Out #3: Guide Dogs for the Blind

Helena is hosting a weekly photo meme in 2014 she calls zoom in zoom out. I've really enjoyed seeing all the photos of people playing along this year. Several people have posted a series of photos (I had only been thinking about pairs of photos), and I decided to give that a try this week. So, here's three photos from our recent visit to the Guide Dogs for the Blind School. These were all taken in the puppy kennel area.  
This is such a versatile meme; looking forward to seeing the various interpretations.