Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Few Photos and Unsolicited Photo Advice.

I've decided to learn 'full manual' mode with my camera, meaning I'm using the 'M' on the dial and no longer using any automatic settings, and as long as the photos are taken in my back yard in the early evening, they turn out beautifully. Any other location or lighting, and it's a gamble. The other day I photographed an entire soccer game on the wrong setting, and every shot was completely blurred. Go me.

A few years ago, I checked out a book from the library on photographing your family. I don't remember the title of it, but it was something along the lines of 'Photographing your Family'. Anyway, it was written by a professional photographer who used a regular point-and-shoot camera to photograph the book, just to demonstrate that beautiful photos can be taken with an average camera, if you just know how to use it. I loved the book. There was a noticeable improvement in my photographs after I read it.

Here is the basic advice as I remember it:

* Read your manual. Try out the different settings and try to get a basic understanding for what your camera is able to do.

* Get close to your subject. Now get even closer. I'm a big fan of this one. In fact, I've noticed that the tops of my children's heads are hardly ever in a photo.

*Avoid using the auto flash at all costs. It looks harsh and washes out the colors and natural shadows of the photograph. I've mostly stopped using the flash, but it is very challenging for me to get non-blurry pictures in darker situations. Still working on that one.

*Use and pay attention to natural light. This has made the biggest difference in my photographs, probably more than any other advice. Good light is indirect light and can be found next to windows, on porches, in the shade, and most importantly just before and after sunset (or sunrise, but I wouldn't personally know about that one.)

I used to take a lot of photographs in full direct sunlight, but I learned that was a big no-no, as it makes everyone squinty and washed out. The best light in my house is on my back porch in the afternoon, when the sun is bouncing off the side wall of my house, making a nice glow just under the porch and inside the back door. That's where these came from:
The only downside of that location for me is that the back porch is also the land of broken toys and Little Tikes crap, so I really have to get in close to the kid so no one can see the clutter that is surrounding them.

*Also good advice: remove clutter from the background of your photo. This is a difficult one for me, for I live a cluttered life. For instance, I let Tommy hold my camera the other night and he took this photo of me:
Notice anything distracting? I've got to give him points for the creative angle, though.

I'm thinking about taking a community college photography class this spring, which is exactly what I said I was going to do last spring, but I chickened out. If I do end up taking it, maybe I'll do some more posts like this one. What about y'all? Got any other photo tips?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

And now I shall talk about food.

It is official, I have finally run out of things to blog about.

I was amazed to see, however, that my sidenote bananadilla recipe has polarized the nation. Well, maybe not the nation, but at least the few dozen folks that stop by here regularly. Some scoffed at the ridiculousness of the bananadilla, and even tried to make them into some newfangled s'more recipe. Others tried them and liked them.

You can take my word for it, scoffers, they are good. Good like a Mexican peanut butter banana sandwich. I also forgot to give credit to my mom, who e-mailed me the recipe a few months back from somewhere or another that I have now forgotten. So props to that unknown publication.

I also want to go on record and say that I don't even like s'mores. I know that is going to cause some controversy in this already polarized nation. I am an avid camper and Girl Scout Leader, and I will not hide my preferences any longer. I cannot live this lie. S'mores are disgusting.

Don't be mistaken, I can put away some roasted marshmallows. And we all know I have no problem with the Hershey's. I simply refuse to waste these separately delicious desserts by combining them with a dry, crumbly cracker and calling it by its arrogant name, which in itself assumes that it will be well liked. It's not even a real contraction. It's a fake contraction and a disgrace to desserts everywhere. To s'mores, I say: N'more.

In trying times such as these, I hope you can support a blogger who takes a stand.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Things that made me laugh this week:

-Katie, while eating dinner at Sonic, jumping down from the table and dancing what could only be described as a 'ninja dance' to the song 'Girls Just Wanna Have Fun'. I took a video of it on my cell phone, and it brings me much joy. That kid is funny.

-The Office. (Pammmohlaaaaaa!)

-My brother-in-law's facebook profile picture: -My kids dressing up and watching 'Dancing with the Stars'. Tommy changed into this outfit just for the show, open shirt and everything.They crack me UP.

-Also, Tommy calling his soccer cleats "cleaks". I've never once corrected him. Is that wrong?

Monday, October 20, 2008

So it's been a while since I've felt like posting anything on the blog. I've started several posts that went something like: "I'm sick and I'm whiny and my husband is out of town and woe is me," and then I've just deleted them because they were boring even to me, and I've lived it. So the gist of it is, I was sick. So sick, in fact, that I went to the doctor (which I never do) even though the only appointment was right after school and I had to take all three kids (which I would never do in my right mind). That's pretty sick.

I had myself a right nice little pity party, complaining to everyone who would listen that I wanted to call in sick, but I couldn't, that I still had to take care of the kids and cart them to soccer practice and games and such, and whine whine whine whine my husband keeps calling to tell me how beautiful Boston is in the fall whine whine whine whine I want a vacation.

But I survived, and thankfully my children did, too. I fed them bananadillas every night for dinner, and they were in heaven. What's a bananadilla, you ask? It's a tortilla filled with peanut butter, a few chocolate chips, and slices of banana, and heated in a skillet. Served, in this case, with a side of Doritos.

Now you know why I never publish recipes on this blog.

So the end of the story is I slept all day Sunday after Greg got home, and Julie took Katie for the day so I slept all day today, too, and the world seems to be a much brighter place now. I'm even planning on cooking an actual dinner tonight, one that involves vegetables and meat.

Another thing that helped my perspective was that on Sunday, our church was celebrating Missions Week, and they had set up a replica of a street in India where we support a school for pastors. At the end of the exhibit was a life-sized replica of one pastor's house, where he lived with his parents, wife, and two children. It was one room, about 9 by 7 feet. The same pastor, whose photograph was hanging from the wall, has recently been beaten for his faith. Greg and I did the same thing at separate times that day, looking at the kids and saying, "Now aren't you thankful for our nice big house? Hmm? Aren't you glad we have freedom of religion here? You should be."

So that was a good reminder to myself that maybe needing a vacation and getting a cold isn't the worst thing in the world. I'm hoping I'll keep that perspective later this week when my husband goes out of town AGAIN.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Tea with Supergirl

Grace stayed home sick from school today, and since Katie went to play at a friend's house, the two of us got to spend the entire day together alone. So I did what all moms do for their sick babies when they are home from school, I dosed her up with Tylenol and took her shopping for a Halloween costume. What, you don't have that tradition?

We got back home and set about busying ourselves with different tasks; me with the dishes, and her with yet another art project, and she looked up and gave me that snaggletoothed smile.

"This is fun, Mama. I can't remember ever spending the whole day with just you and me."

"Oh, but I do. The first twenty months of your life," I told her, "we spent every day like this, just the two of us."

We talked about the little house in Durham, North Carolina where we lived when she was a baby, how I would take her on walks in the stroller and rock her in her little green nursery there. How Aunt Stacie lived nearby and would come over after work. About her first birthday, when all of her grandparents and all of her aunts and her only older cousin came to celebrate. We talked about how we were just a little family back then, just the three of us in our little house, happy, but not a complete family just yet.

We decided to have a tea party, and I deemed the occasion worthy of the Good China. It's not every day that I get to have Supergirl all to myself.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Random Information You Need

The other morning I woke up before dawn to go running and got dressed in the dark. I put on my pink track pants and met my friend Julie for our daily workout. Later that morning, I went to another friend's house to pick up her kids for school. At the school, I hopped out of the car, waved an apology to someone for accidentally blocking them, and then bent over to help unbuckle a few of the six children that I was dropping off. Then I went back home, and as I was getting ready to take a shower, I noticed that I had put on my light pink track pants over some really dark colored underwear.


There you have it.

Fair warning to all of you ladies who might be wearing pink for Breast Cancer Awareness month: Get dressed with the lights on.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

What Little Boys Are Made of:

1. Muddy knees.
2. Snaggled teeth.
3. Baseball Caps
4. Charm

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Best Laid Plans

This weekend the kids had two extra days off of school, and we had planned to take a trip to Big Bend National Park. It's my favorite place in the world, and I've been itching to get back there. Unfortunately, my husband's work schedule did not permit him adequate time off to make the trip, so we canceled it. I was consoled with the fact that we could still plan a camping trip for the weekend, even if it was only for one or two nights.

Plan B was canceled due to the three soccer games and one practice that were scheduled for this weekend. It was at this point that I wrote my whiny post about needing to get out of town at all costs. That plan is still in the works, although I am seriously considering taking the money I had set aside for the trip and going shopping instead. We'll see.

I was placated by Plan C, which was for Greg to take Monday off so we could all go to the State Fair. Plan C was washed out by the rainstorm that greeted us when we woke up on Monday morning.

So we made Plan D, which was to take the kids to Planet Pizza. Planet Pizza is sort of an indoor mini-amusement park that's much cheaper than the State Fair, but with crappier food. I asked Katie's friend Molly to come along, so everyone would have a ride partner.

But then the sun came out, and we revisited Plan C, deciding to go to the Fair after all, and take our chances that it wouldn't rain again. I broke Molly's heart and dropped her back off at home, promising to take her to Planet Pizza another day.

The new plan C made the kids cry because they had their hearts set on Planet Pizza, where the rides are unlimited. (We had told them we wouldn't be riding rides at the State Fair because we didn't really want to take out a second mortgage. Mainly we just wanted to look at pigs and watch the shows and eat funnel cakes and see Big Tex, who is a giant talking cowboy statue that tells people to wash their hands.) (I really love Big Tex, but that's another story.)

Faced with the prospect of spending all of that money to get into the Fair, only to possibly be rained on and surrounded by whining about not being able to go on rides (an idea they had been fine with before Planet Pizza was thrown in the mix), we decided finally to go to Planet Pizza.

So I went back and picked up a perplexed Molly, and we spent a beautiful sunny day indoors riding bumper cars and ladybug teacups and eating nasty pizza.

And it was a good plan.

Tomorrow, the kids have yet another day off of school, and I foolishly promised them we could go to the Arboretum. I am now taking bets to see how many times those plans get changed.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Hypothetically Speaking....

If you were just dying, pining to get away for a few days, where would you go? Say you needed to stay within two hours or so from your house, and you lived in....maybe Dallas, for instance. Let's also suppose your husband was traveling for work and couldn't come. Would you take three kids camping by yourself? Or would you brave the absolute hell that is staying in a hotel room with them? Or would you just go somewhere for the day and drive back late in the evening?

Would you go to a drive-in movie theater? Would you want to go to a Dr. Pepper museum? What if there were two of them and you didn't know which one to choose? How much Dr. Pepper do you think you could drink? Would it be cool to own a Dr. Pepper t-shirt? Would you just not care and buy one anyway?

What if you found a really cool website that lists odd roadside attractions. Would you go see any of those? What about a house that is built to look like the Munsters' mansion, or a Texas-shaped swimming pool, or dancing frog sculptures at Willie Nelson's gas station?

What if you lived in a place where the land was really flat and the trees never changed colors, like, oh I don't know, let's say Dallas. Would you head north to find some mountains? Maybe a waterfall? Would you go to Oklahoma just because you've never been there before and it's only an hour or two away? Would you visit a lavender farm? Or go see dinosaur tracks? Or go mining for gems?

So. What would you do?

The kiddos

The kiddos

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