Category Archives: photography

Photo books

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blurb

2015-05-18 18.57.02I’m not sure how I managed to post twice on Monday. The front porch chairs were not supposed to post until today. But here is a bonus post instead! I get so excited every time I get a book from Blurb.com in the mail. I’ve been making these books since Dorothy was a toddler and I love them so much. I don’t print any of our family photos as regular prints except for those I give as gifts. Instead, three or so times per year I sit down and comb through the best of my digital pictures and put them into a Blurb photo book. Blurb software is really much better than that book-making nonsense at Snapfish or similar, because you use it offline on your computer and then upload the final product. There are lots of layout options, or if you prefer you can design your book in your own software and upload it to Blurb as a .PDF. The print quality is better from Blurb too. Over the years I’ve come up with a process for making my photo books quickly, and I’ll share it with you.

1) Comb through digital photos and make a folder (or folders, if you really want to be organized) of the best ones. Import the best ones into your book and have the Blurb software sort them into chronological order. Plop them into the Blurb photo layouts so that photos of the same event land on the same page or set of pages (like my pumpkin patch pictures above).

2) Copy and paste Facebook or social media updates into a Word document if they contain cute things you want to remember, like things your kids said or funny family stories. Change the document to plain text so all the web formatting doesn’t make your book text look odd, then make a text section in the book to hold your social media updates so you can remember them instead of just sharing them with Uncle Harry and everyone from high school and then forgetting them forever.

3) Take some snapshots of your kids’ best recent artwork and make a section for them. Caption them so you know who make the art and any explanation of subject matter necessary.

3) Go back through the main photo section and do as much or as little captioning as you wish. I used to do lots of journal-type entries, but now that time is shorter I mostly let the photos speak for themselves. I will identify friend-children who appear in the book or note where we were on outings, etc.

4) Next, make a section to preserve your phone pictures. My iPhone is set to upload my photos automatically to Dropbox, and then it’s easy to import them into my Blurb book from Dropbox on my computer. I like to make a section in the back of my Blurb book with 9 photos to a page so I’m not paying a huge amount of money for lots of pages of lower-quality phone photos, and they end up printing at about the size they show up on my phone screen. I don’t spend time captioning them and I only omit the real duds because part of the fun of this section is looking back and seeing that we took four goofy selfies before we got one good one, etc.

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5) Finally, put your favorite picture from your book on the cover and a funny one on the back cover and give your book a title that indicates the time period it covers. Order it, and enjoy!

Christmas is coming

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polaroid-swag

We’ve been getting into the Christmas spirit around my house! Dorothy drags around a shopping sack full of little bits and projects she’s crocheted or sewn and then wrapped in homemade paper. She’s amazing! I ordered favorite photos from our past Christmases from Fotobar, which makes Polaroid-style prints on chipboard. They make a sweet and simple decoration clipped to green twine. We’re all enjoying the memories of our previous holidays, and our snapshots of all three kids as babies in the same Santa suit are particular favorites.mess2 messEverything else is a mess! I’ve got piles of fabric and snips of yarn everywhere. Hostess gifts, mittens for a cousin, homeschool papers, new Christmas pillows for the living room…it’s all somewhere in the disaster of my workspace and seems to be seeping into the rest of the house as well. Tis the season, right?

A camera bag

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I have been looking for a camera bag. Standard-issue camera bags are both ugly and very expensive. There are some fantastic ones on Etsy, but those are beautiful and very expensive. I’d been considering making a camera bag but the construction of a sturdy enough bag to protect my camera in transit had me a little worried. Then yesterday I found this red vinyl case at a thrift store. It’s got the look of something that might have been a gift with makeup purchase twenty years ago but it’s in perfect condition. It is sturdy, with hard sides and strong handles, and it is just the perfect size for my little DSLR with the flash attached. It was kind of awesome in it’s own right, in a red lipstick kind of way, but wasn’t my style. I thought I could make it better if I had different colored old vinyl bags to cut up and make into flowers, but, well, I didn’t have any of those, and thrifting more bags just to cut up to decorate this one didn’t really fit my project schedule or budget so I improvised with what I had on hand–felt.

I used more of the felted wool blanket I’d used to make my Kindle case, plus other felt from my stash and some cool buttons to make flowers. I used hot glue to attach the pieces to each other and to the case. This project took less than a half an hour and I think I paid $2.50 for the case. Now this case is the kind of awesome that fits my style and I’m looking forward to using it for my camera. I’m also pretty sure that if I get tired of the decorations or want to change them that I can just peel off the glue.

I’m also going to share a review of a recent purchase from My Pix 2 Canvas. I’d purchased a Groupon (or was it Living Social?) deal for this company and finally took just the right photo to try out their services. I snapped this picture of the kids in front of my brother and sister-in-law’s barn last week and I really like it. Both kids look like themselves, the weathered barn siding looks cool, and the colors the kids are wearing just happen to work really well in my bedroom, which is where I’d envisioned hanging my bargain canvas. Uploading and ordering the canvas was easy and it arrived fast. The print quality seems very good, although I’m less than impressed with the way the extra canvas hangs off loose in the back. There is also no hook or wire to hang it with. I’m still very pleased, though, and I’d probably order from this company again. The actual image quality and color faithfulness just seems a lot better than those I’ve seen at, ahem, large warehouse club stores, for example. Their regular prices are a bit high but it appears that discount codes are easily available with a little Googling. I like the look of traditional, framed prints but this is an inexpensive nod to this current photo-display trend, so I’m sold.

Our NOLA and Orange Beach road trip

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So I think I mentioned that I took quite a handful (ahem…825) of photographs on our recent vacation. I finally combed through them today and picked the hundred or so best for a Blurb book I’m hoping to make before a coupon expires. I wanted to share just a few favorites on my blog, but excess seems to be the name of the game for me and vacation photos. I narrowed it down to twenty-three I simply had to share.

The first two go together. “Real food,” southern-style, at a truck stop in Alabama. Wouldn’t mistake that menu for one from a Yankee state, would you?
Although we’d already eaten lunch we had to try something from a place with so much local flavor, so we came away with these deep fried peanuts, which the package informed us to eat “shell-nall.” Well, we did. Dorothy declared them nasty, Worth spit his out. Rob seemed rather neutral. I loved them! Ate the whole bag over the course of the vacation. I thought they tasted rather like high-fiber peanut-butter filled pretzels. Yum.
This photo was taken walking down Canal Street on our first night in New Orleans. All the lights and craziness had us mesmerized after our long drive, and Dorothy couldn’t keep her little germ-magnet hands from exploring the city along with her eyes. Bourbon Street revelers threw beads to Dorothy from a balcony and she scrambled all over the ground scooping them up with joy, having no knowledge of the racier version of that tradition. A panhandler told her she was the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen and she believed him completely and glowed with pride.Worth was given a little freedom to explore out of the stroller with the help of our monkey backpack, which is a contraption that would have horrified me before I became a parent myself. Now I figure it’s not a child leash because I’m not yanking on it; it’s saving my kid both from screaming and from being struck by traffic. Worth buys into the idea that it’s just a cute toy that allows him to walk just like his sister, without the indignity of holding Mom’s hand. We stuck beads on the monkey for fun and got laughs all over the French Quarter.Each of my family members took in New Orleans in his or her own way. Worth looked for sticky things to touch. Rob and I looked at architecture and sweets. Dorothy looked for ways to spend her souvenir money. She found a small plush cat at an expensive little doll shop on Jackson Square and it became her constant companion for the rest of the trip.Rob became the happy owner of a new Stetson at the awesomely old-school Meyer the Hatter. He used to be a regular at the store when he traveled to New Orleans for business. Now their hat selection was one of the things that drew us back as family vacationers.Dorothy and I took the street car through the Garden District and out to the end of the line and back, just like the character Jenny the Giraffe in a book we’d read before our trip. I loved how the book had prepared her to enjoy the ride. She was thrilled when we passed the same landmarks Jenny had introduced us to, and she enjoyed herself more just by having some context for the experience. Her kitty seemed to enjoy the ride too.After so much excitement, however, Dorothy pooped out halfway through the return trip. I thought it was sweet that my fiercely independent girl could still nap with her head on Mom’s lap.Sleep was nowhere near Worth’s mind when we seated him in front of beignets at the Cafe du Monde. I’d made beignets from a mix earlier in the summer to get us excited for our trip, but they were definitely not like the real thing. Worth looked at the powdered sugar and just dug right in, face-first.
There is something that brings out the kid in everyone at these little sea-side gift shops. Worth and Dorothy still had money to burn (thank you grandparents!) during the second leg of our trip, and we were all happy to hit some beachy souvenir shops when we arrived at our next destination a little too early for hotel check-in.
The campy charm of the gift shops is a little timeless, I think. Other than the slogans on the shirts, have they really changed much since my childhood, or that of my own parents? We loved the shark entrance of this one in Gulf Shores.

Worth took to the beach immediately. I’d expected some hesitation about the sand or the waves, but my boy was full of fearless joy the the whole time. He met the waves head on; he ate sand.

I hope the size of this picture shows the detail that made me include it. Worth’s face is covered in sand.

Dorothy immediately made new friends each time we went out to the beach. If she couldn’t remember their names she’d just boss them around by saying, “friend! take this,” etc. She played age-old beach games with children from Alabama, Tennessee and Louisiana while her father and I chased our sand-eating son.

I was a little unsure about how to spend Worth’s souvenir money. Although he doesn’t talk much he has a way of making his opinions known, but he hadn’t seemed to develop any real opinions about gift shop items until we found Gawk on Orange Beach. Worth offered Gawk the pacifier out of his own sandy little mouth right there in the gift shop, so I knew we had to take that parrot home. Sweetly, boy and parrot snuggled in the hotel bed.

One afternoon we took a dolphin cruise. Rob and I were impressed with the number of dolphins we saw (many), and the kids were really impressed that I bought them chips from the boat’s snack bar. Vacation, baby!

Dolphins.

Me with my chip- and sand-filled boy.

We took the children to an old fashioned mini golf course. There were plaster mermaids, tiki gods, all the good stuff. It turns out, however, that our little family may not be quite ready for mini golf yet. Worth wanted to throw the balls (see him here, trying to pry Rob’s out from under his foot) and Dorothy had no interest in playing a game she was unlikely to win. Oh well–now we know.

My family patiently displayed on-cue affection in front of my tripod on our last night on the beach. We have a photo of Rob and I kissing Dorothy on another beach when she was Worth’s age, and I wanted to recreate that photo with the four of us. My sweet family, on record!

Dorothy used the last of her spending money to buy (drum roll, please) another small plush cat, this time with matching plush carrying case. Amusingly, the two cats and their purse still seem high in the toy play rotation at home, even several weeks out. I guess she knew what she wanted. How silly of me to think that souvenirs should say something about the place they came from–these kitties say something about my little traveler!

And a tired-out boy, sun-kissed, sand-filled and still fully dressed. These are the memories I want to keep!

More Aunt Stephanie’s Room

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The guest room is officially done! The neighbor girl who plays with Dorothy walked in, not having been in the room since we were using it for post-move storage, and gasped. It was so gratifying. And then she was so impressed that we had a whole room just for guests that it made me remember Anne of Green Gables and Aunt Josephine and I secretly vowed to invite her over to sleep in it sometime. It does feel sort of indulgent to have a guest room after we seemed so cramped with the four of us in our two-bedroom six months ago. I made up the bed with clean sheets today and am feeling that much more settled here. Ignore that the brass bed really needs to be polished. I augmented store-bought bedding (Target and IKEA) with homemade toss pillows and I sewed homemade bias tape along the bottom of a plain store-bought bed skirt.

In such a bright room I wanted bright photographs too. I painted old gold picture frames black, then snapped photos of the kids posing against a backdrop of the (uncut) curtain fabric. It’s not like you’d walk in and notice that the photo backdrop matches the curtains, which is just as well, but the overall effect does help tie everything together in this bright and colorful room.

I wanted to bring some of the room’s black accents onto the bed so I made one pillow using this terrific owl fabric I found online. It didn’t quite work, though. You remember that Sesame Street game from when we were kids?  Which of these things doesn’t belong?  It was totally this pillow. I thought that if just one owl could be orange then it would really make everything look harmonious, so I grabbed an orange Sharpie marker and colored one owl in. Let’s hope the cat doesn’t puke on this pillow because I have no idea how orange Sharpie would wash, but I love the way it turned out. Now the pillow looks like it belongs perfectly.

I also embellished the white pillowcases that go with the plain white sheets on this bed. I used more of the homemade bias tape (do I need a support group for my recent bias tape problem?) and some of the decorative stitching on my new machine.

My success in painting the hokey flowers on the thrift store rocking chair inspired me to try something similar on an old milk can. I bought this jug at a yard sale when we lived in Oak Park and kept it on our front porch at our last two houses. It was already black but was starting to look sort of pathetic and rusty, so I sprayed on some new black and painted on the flowers and our name. I may get tired of looking at my own unprofessional art work every time I enter my front door, but it shouldn’t be hard to spray on over the decoration when that time comes.

A gift for the classroom

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It is a tradition in Dorothy’s school to buy a book for a child’s classroom on his or her birthday. The book is brought in all wrapped up and the birthday child gets to unwrap it, then the whole class listens while one of the parents of the birthday child reads the book to the class.  I thought it would be fun to make a book for Dorothy’s class on the subject of their class pet, a guinea pig.  I took photographs of the animal while he was staying with us last fall (each family gets the “privilege” of weekend sitting for the pet a couple times during the year) and used Wikipedia to fill in some bits about the animal that were not obvious to me. I had almost finished the book the week after our guinea-pig-sitting several months ago. Then we sold the house and my efforts at childrens’ literature and most everything else went all to h$%!, so by the time I remembered again that we were expected to gift a book to Dorothy’s class on her birthday it was already last week. I considered ditching the effort and just buying some book but decided I’d gone that far, I may as well finish it.  Typing up the last couple pages didn’t take long but unfortunately shipping the thing from Blurb.com (on the West coast) to Kentucky did, and I was too cheap to spring for quicker shipping. I still went in to read to Dorothy’s class on her birthday, but I just read a book she’d selected from her own collection.  Now that the gift book is here I’ll take it in tomorrow all wrapped up to read and Dorothy will get to play the birthday girl one last time. I ordered a copy of the book for Dorothy too and she seems to like it.

I really wanted to work on throw pillows for the living room today but it just didn’t happen. The baby is fussy over teeth or a cough or something and he is refusing to sleep unless I’m holding him, which means a) he’s not getting enough sleep, and b) the rest of the time he’s a Grumpus McGurkus, which is our household name for someone who is in a very foul mood (inspired by a favorite book of Dorothy’s). I did catch just a few minutes at the machine, however, and made a padded sleeve for my little camera. I know you’re thinking, “doesn’t she have a big camera? I’m pretty sure I’ve seen her at soccer practice, one of those moms who thinks she’s the press corps?”  Yes, I do, but jokes have been deservedly made about how much I like to photograph my children and my big camera isn’t something I can just toss in my purse and always have on hand.  Thus I still have and use my little camera and I recently had to replace it, possibly because the inside of my purse is not a very safe place to be even if you are the small unfussy camera. I used scraps from Dorothy’s birthday dress to make a very simple little Velcro pouch. I lined it with polyester quilt batting to make it nice and soft, and hopefully the polyester will repel rather than soak in liquids in the event of a spill.  (Liquid spilled inside my purse?  Well, have you ever dined out with my children?)

First birthday

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The big first birthday!  And this is supposed to be the post in which I wax nostalgic and say something sweet about one year ago today, right?  I think one year ago today I was using *very bad words* in a loud manner at Baptist Hospital East.  Ha ha.

Here is a collage I made of the big boy.  I used Photoshop to create a layout similar to one we purchased from Sears when Dorothy had her first birthday.  (Before I purchased the good camera!)  I hung a sheet over the stair railing and snapped away while Dorothy and Nana repeatedly handed Worth the ball, caught it, and returned it to him, guaranteeing happy faces.

I made ball-themed gift packs for the small guests at his party.  I sewed little drawstring bags out of ball-reminiscent polka dot fabric and included ball-shaped candies, a swimming pool splash ball, and a little coloring sheet of Worth with a ball (more Photoshop).  Worth has recently become obsessed with balls and sees them everywhere, always with an accompanying chant of “baw-ul, baw-ul, baw-ul.”

Here’s the table all decked out for his party, with a ball-themed cake courtesy of Nana.  I made chili and we had a casual supper.  It was fun to entertain in the new house, even though much of it is still a work in progress.
And the birthday boy himself, enjoying his birthday cake and all the general merriment.  Sweet boy!