Friday, December 25, 2009

Favorite {Photo} Friday--Yes, It's Red

If you follow me on Twitter or we're friends on Facebook or you've come within 500 feet of me while I'm trying to take photos, then you might've heard me complaining about my camera. It's a Pentax and nobody else uses Pentax, which doesn't bother me that I'm not a "cool kid" with the same camera as everyone else, but does bother me because there's no one else I can turn to when I have Pentax-specific questions, or to offer-up Pentax-related tips and tricks like so many people with Canons and Nikons do. What does bother me is that it takes forever to focus if anything at all in the viewfinder is moving; I can't use it to take photos of my nieces since those beauties never ever stop moving. As if that's not bad enough, the camera makes these really annoying noises while it's refusing to focus, noises that make me want to throw it, as hard as I can, through a wall. Yes, not even through a window, but straight through the damn wall and onto the lawn outside, like I'm Superman. And there are some other wonky things that piss torque me off about it; the more I learn about photography, the more my camera pisses torques me off.

Jason has heard, more than 18 zillion times once, about how much this camera annoys me. How I have to wait for just the right light and put the camera on a tripod and jump up and down on one foot while crossing my fingers and singing the Latvian National Anthem, just to get decent shots of my jewelry. And then run downstairs, upload them to my computer, see which of the 1400 I took came out okay and which I need to re-take, and start all over again. And then edit EVERY SINGLE PHOTO for contrast and brightness, because I just CANNOT make the camera do what I want, no matter which settings I try and how many practice shots I take and which Eastern European countries' national anthems I learn.

The problem is that I have all these nice lenses that I've acquired that fit my Pentax [like this one and this one, both of which cost a lot less when we got them than they're listed for now, holy crap cow, I'm glad I looked these up to link them, I feel rich now! :)]. And when I looked up the later-model Pentaxes, specifically the K20D, the reviews of it list the exact same problems that I have with mine (the ist DL). But when it comes right down to it, my camera is holding me back in my business; I hate listing new things because it's such a dang process to take photos of all my pieces. So I was just about ready to give up and go ahead and buy something totally and completely new. I decided on this back in, say, September.

Except I'm a Maximizer. I can't make a decision about a purchase this big without researching it to the Nth degree, and I haven't had the time or the mental energy to devote to an Nth degree search, so I just haven't done it. I've dealt with the annoying, I-want-to-throw-it-through-a-wall camera, and tried to focus on how lucky I am to have a nice camera, and how I'm learning to use it better, and blah blah blah I hate my camera.

So imagine--I mean, seriously, just try to imagine--my surprise when I opened up my Christmas present from Jason on Christmas Eve, and found this:

Yes, it's fluorescent red. I realize it's hard to tell in this photo, so here's another shot:

Here it looks sort of fluorescent coral. It kind of changes depending on the light, but if you remember the 80's, then you remember this particular color. Fluorescent red; in some lights it looks almost hot pink, except there's a little too much orange in it. That drink glass next to the camera, in case you're wondering, was to help dull my senses.

Here's another photo from the Internets:

So, I must admit, quite frankly, that the red freaked me the heck out. I love red, but aren't cameras supposed to be, you know, not fluorescent black?

But sweet, sweet, Jason did the researching for me; this is a brand-new model from Pentax. So brand-new that he didn't even know if it would arrive in time for Christmas!! The initial reviews are much, much better than the reviews for mine or the K20D. I didn't have any small children handy, so my awesome mom ran back and forth across the living room, and holy crap, this baby took her photo! And it didn't make any noises that made me even think about throwing it through a wall! It just took her photo as she zigged and zagged across the living room! [And really, how many moms of 34-year-olds will zig and zag across the living room late at night on Christmas Eve? Awesome.]

Obviously I have a lot to learn about this new doll, and I have to get used to the fact that she's fluorescent red, but I'm super excited to work with her and see how she does. And Jason's already promised that if I don't like it I can sell her on eBay, LOL! :) Actually this model is available in America in black and white, and limited edition colors of (fluorescent) red and navy; in Japan it's available in customization of I think 20 different body colors and 16 different grip colors... now that would be something to get used to! I guess our boring old black cameras are going to be a thing of the past... does that make me a trend-setter? LOL! :)


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Home For Christmas--By The Hair of Our Chinny-Chin-Chin

As you may know, last Friday night a huge snow storm blew into the entire Mid-Atlantic Region. And as I mentioned in my last post, as our flight was scheduled for early Saturday morning, this left me a tad bit stressed. So we decided to pack up early and head into a hotel next to the airport, to give ourselves that much more of a chance to catch our flight.

But first, we had Wine and Cheese Club night. Luckily Elizabeth's place was just a couple miles from the hotel, and normally it's just for us girls, but since Jason was with me the other ladies said he could come in. They even gave him a little bit of cheese. :)

By the time we left there was already some snow on the ground and sticking to the roads, and we were very happy to arrive at the hotel without incident. Once there, we learned that three airlines--American, Delta, and I can't remember--had already canceled all their flights for the next day. Alaska still showed our flight as scheduled, although they'd moved up the departure time by an hour.

The hotel couldn't guarantee that the shuttle to the airport would be running in the morning, so we weren't sure if we'd even have a ride; the cab companies had all just stopped answering their phones. So we decided that the shuttle driver would probably at least *try* to run the shuttle... at the very least, he'd try the first run at 5 a.m. If it was too dangerous then they'd probably not do any more after the first one, but we figured that our best chance to get to the airport would be to take that very first shuttle.

So we tried to catch a couple hours' sleep before waking up in the 4:00 hour (which should be illegal, by the way). There was probably 10 inches of snow at that point and it was still coming down; we were excited that the driver was going to give it a shot. Luckily, he was fabulous and we made it to the airport just fine. Then, Alaska checked our bags--another victory! Every little step towards us getting home was celebrated.

At the gate they told us to remain in the area because once they opened up boarding, we all had to hurry up and board because the airport was going to CLOSE and we needed to take off as soon as possible if we wanted to get out. Yikes! Then they came back on and told us that we were waiting for the crew--oh, for Pete's sake! Finally the crew arrived and Jason and I practically cheered. Then we boarded and everyone seemed very blase about the whole thing... I wanted to shout at them, "Do you want to be stuck at the airport? What is wrong with you? Hurryup hurryup hurryup!"

Once we were all on board we had to wait for the de-icing trucks, which were working on a Continental flight and were taking forever. Meanwhile it's still snowing, and they keep telling us that the airport is going to close soon, and Jason and I are trying to think good thoughts and not tell each other all the "we're going to be stuck at the airport" thoughts we're having. Finally the de-icers came over to us, hooray! Midway through the pilot came on and said that once they finished de-icing we had to hurry up and get to the runway because we only had 6-7 minutes after the de-icing to be cleared for takeoff. Jeez, could you please give us more of a sense of urgency, I'm not quite stressed enough back here in seat 20A!

After they finished de-icing, we backed away from the gate and then. just. sat. there. I had my eyes closed, trying to relax, and just praying for everything to line up so we could take off. Seriously, I was praying for the pilot, the flight attendants, the air traffic controllers, Alaska Airlines, the airport janitors, I mean everyone.

Eventually we started moving again, although I had my eyes closed and was trying to relax, so I wasn't paying attention until Jason said, "We're on the runway!" National Airport (aka Reagan) is right in the city, so it has a really short runway. And it was snowing so much, and the wind was whipping everything around, that there was a lot of snow on the runway. A lot. So as we were speeding up, Jason and I are holding hands, just hoping and praying for liftoff; neither of us would have been at all surprised if the plane had slowed down again, slid to a stop, and the flight was canceled then and there.

So when it lifted off, Jason and I both cheered, and fell in love with Alaska Airlines. We flew all the way to Seattle and from there a quick hop to Portland. A lady on the flight to Seattle checked her phone when we landed and told us that her friend was supposed to be on the very next flight out of D.C., flying to Portland via L.A., and that flight had been canceled and she couldn't get another flight until the 24th! So it might have been raining in the Pacific Northwest, but Jason and I were both walking on sunshine, soooo thankful to be at home!

The next day, Sunday, we woke up early (still on East Coast time!) and went to my home church. It was the Childrens' Program, so sweet and cute.

I love the tradition of the Advent Wreath.

Then we went into Portland for the Saturday Market and we grabbed a quick bite at the Thirsty Lion.

On Monday I finished up some jewelry projects/gifts that I hadn't had a chance to finish before we left, and we went to see Avatar in 3-D. [My review: The way they made the movie was fascinating; I really liked some of the surprising and creative ways that the "aliens" were different from humans; the 3-D glasses gave me a headache; the story was nice but very predictable; I think that it will revolutionize the way movies are made.]

On Tuesday we headed to Jason's parents' for the big football game pizza party, which I will not talk about because it was pathetic (the game, not the pizza party).

His parents live up on a hill and it gets foggy here; it's pretty (as long as you're not trying to drive in it!).

One of Jason's uncles made this and it's somehow lasted many years, coming out every Christmas! I love the little icicles.

Yesterday I wrote my Christmas letter, made copies, and put Jason and his mom to work folding letters and stuffing and stamping envelopes. So glad to have this crossed off my list!

Today we're heading back to my parents' for our annual Christmas Eve party, with homemade clam chowder and smoked salmon... yummmmm.

Merry Christmas!!!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Favorite {Photo} Friday--I Like Snow?

Remember when we almost didn't make it home for Christmas last year because there was a record-breaking snow and ice storm in the Pacific Northwest?

The good news is that there's no snow predicted for the Pac NW this year, hooray!

The bad news is that there's a shitload record-setting amount of snow about to dump on us here in the Mid-Atlantic region. Starting around midnight.

Since our plane is scheduled to depart at 8 tomorrow morning, this timing is not ideal.

So we're throwing everything together a little bit early and heading into a hotel near the airport, just to make it a bit easier on ourselves. Whew, will I be glad to get to Oregon!

I've been stressing about this all day, reading weather reports (even when I don't want to be, like on Twitter and Facebook updates and people sending me text messages) and worrying, so I decided to grab a couple photos of one time when we had a TON of FUN in the snow!

If we ever When we get to Oregon I'll hopefully have time to write about this fun trip in the Alto Adige region of Italy with our friends Keith and Katie. I wrote a bit about it here but there's more to tell.

But for now I have to go dry my hair and finish packing up some jewelry supplies for presents I haven't have time to finish yet! Wish me luck and safe and uneventful travels! :)

Updated to add: We made it safely to the hotel. Alaska has not cancelled our flight yet, although three other airlines have cancelled ALL flights tomorrow. So it's looking like we're going to spend the snowy weekend at the Sheraton, although we still have hope (even if it's just for the sake of having hope). I feel like crying but I know this is just a stupid travel problem, and it annoys me that I'm not able to be calmer about it and I'm so stressed. Taking lots of deep breaths, reminding myself of the much more serious and sad problems that so many of my friends are dealing with today, and staying close to Jason. Wish us luck!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Your Way Will Be Lighted

Art is so subjective; what one person loves, someone else will think is junk. I went to a higher-end Arts & Crafts show yesterday and I saw some of each. :)

I usually go to the shows to get inspired by ideas, and buy some smaller items... there's usually a row or two of gourmet food items and that always makes good gifts. This year I bought a small pottery dish that has these little spikes in the middle of the bowl... it's for rubbing garlic cloves on, then add a bit of olive oil and dip in some crunchy bread. Yumm--I looove garlic. I also bought a couple of small stained-glass ornaments to hang in my kitchen window; I bought two last year so now I have one for each "section" of the window, one to represent each season of the year... I have a "thing" for the four seasons, too.

I also have a serious love of words. So when I stumbled into Rebecca Grace Jones' booth I felt right at home. She makes Words and Weavings, and I just fell in love with so many of them. I especially love this one that's on her website, and a whole bunch that aren't. Most of her work that was in the booth was like this one or this one--a weaving with words, with or without a small watercolor, mounted onto a handmade paper or mat. But there were a few that were paintings with a weaving with words mounted on top.

Although this was not the first thing in the booth that caught my eye, when it finally did I stared at it for a long time, and my throat got tight. Rebecca saw me and came over and we stared talking. I told her how much I love the piece and how beautiful her artwork is. I told her how lovely it was that everything she makes is actually handmade and hand-written; I was disappointed with the number of artists who were selling digital prints of their original artwork at prices that you'd expect to pay for originals. She said that a lot of people just don't notice or don't care, and seemed happy that I appreciate the difference.

I looked around some more, and decided that it was a big enough purchase that I needed to think it over overnight at the least... and knowing me, I knew that that would probably mean I'd talk myself out of it and come up with a lot of reasons why I shouldn't buy it (some of them true and valid, some of them false and self-defeating).

So I left her booth and walked around the rest of the show; at one point I thought it was only 15 minutes until the show closed, so I ran up and down the last two aisles to see if there were any must-haves, just in case I decided not to come back the next day. When I realized that nobody was leaving I looked at my watch again and laughed out loud realizing that there was another hour left, so I looped back around at a more leisurely pace. :) Then I went back through the whole show floor to the booths I'd marked to check out again--I try not to buy on the first go-round in case I find something better further later on... yes, I'm a Maximizer, remember? :) After I finished that, I decided to go take another look at the painting one last time before I left.

And I felt the same thing I'd felt the first time I looked at it. Like I was seeing something so true and real and beautiful to me that my throat tightened and my eyes welled up. I told myself that I could always come back tomorrow, and if it was gone then it just wasn't meant to be. I talked to Rebecca again and told her that I'd probably be back the next day; I had to crunch some numbers to see if I could make it work. She told me that it meant a lot to her that I loved it so much; she'd had it for quite a while and was wondering who would fall in love with it. I told her that I understood, I've experienced the same thing making jewelry; I've made some things that didn't sell for a while and just when I'm starting to question it, all of a sudden someone will order it and tell me how absolutely perfect it is for them. Everything lines up.

As I walked away yet again, heading towards the exit, I knew that everything had lined up; it was meant to be mine. I don't feel that way often, at least not about purchasing things, so the fact that I felt this way was significant. So I sat down and called Jason. We have a rule about purchases over a certain amount, plus it's Christmas, so the budget for the month is overflowing filled. But as I tried to explain it to him, my throat kept tightening and my eyes kept welling up, and finally he said, "We'll make it work. It means a lot to you, so we'll figure it out."

So I went back and told Rebecca the good news; I had to have it. Because I could pay with check (rather than credit card), and I think also because she was happy it was going to someone who loved it so much, she even gave me a very generous discount! As I carried it out to the car I was so happy I cried a little, and I couldn't stop smiling in the car on the drive home, even in stop-and-go traffic. :)

I propped it up in the hallway at the top of the stairs, and in between hammering jewelry orders today I keep sneaking upstairs to sit in front of it and just take it in. I'm so, so happy with it. I love the words (which Rebecca wrote) and I love that it's Grace with a capital G. I love that it's in both warm and cool colors. I love that the trees and the colors and the slanting purple shadows remind both Jason and me of Italy. I love that the words are written on shimmery paper the same color as the frame, and that the threads in the weaving match the colors in the painting perfectly. I love the balance and the reaching branches and the blue sky. I love it.

I hope that this weekend you're finding whatever is true and real and beautiful to you, too. :) [Click on any of the photos to see them larger.]

Saturday, December 12, 2009

December 11th

In about mid-November I had a big surge of Etsy orders from the plan-aheaders who do their Christmas shopping early, and then it quieted down. It quieted down so much that I started worrying about all the supply orders I'd put on the credit card. I had a feeling that there would be another surge from the procrastinators, but I just wasn't sure.

This past week orders have been coming in and I've been so thankful. Then yesterday I went to deliver an order at my hair salon to one of the stylists. It turned out that she left early, but I decided to show my stuff anyway, and I sold two pairs of earrings. Then as I was leaving I remembered that I'd told the owner of the salon that I'd stop by sometime with my new designs. She works across the street at the salon's training center, so I decided to pop in.

If you sell your own creations, then you probably understand how awkward it can be to do something like this. I mean, it can be awkward enough if you're hawking something like Girl Scout Cookies... you don't want to seem pushy, people can be rude and ignore you or give you a dirty look, etc. But when it's your own artwork, your own creations, it can be extra scary! If they turn down Girl Scout Cookies, you can just tell yourself that maybe they're on a diet or they don't like Thin Mints. But if it's your own labors of love that they turn down, well, it can bruise the ego a bit!

I've actually gotten pretty good at it, because I don't take it personally if people don't buy anything. I have a diverse-enough range (in my current stock I have about three times what I have listed on Etsy) that usually people will like something at least. I'm not pushy at all, and I tell people the truth--I love to know what people like the most, because then I know which items are most popular and I can upload those to Etsy first. So just by looking at what I have to offer and telling me what they like, people are helping me and I'm appreciative. And if they don't buy anything, that's fine, and I thank them for helping me out... I appreciate their input, and when I have some new designs can I stop by again for them to look things over? They always say yes, and I think it's because I'm not pushy or guilt-inducing! :) I usually give out a business card or two as well. :)

ANYWAY, that was a tangent! The point is that it can be intimidating to walk in somewhere with a basket of your creations and say, "Hey, would you like to spend some of your hard-earned money on some stuff I've made?" But I'm always glad when I do it, even when I don't sell anything. And I'm really glad that I did it yesterday, because at the training center I sold NINE necklaces! WOO HOO! And five of them were brand-new designs that I haven't listed on Etsy yet, so I need to remake those now! :)

Then I came home and found more orders in my Etsy and on Facebook and in my e-mail inbox! Yesterday was by far my biggest days of sales EVER... and it wouldn't have been if I'd been too scared to put myself and my work out there. My point is... put yourself out there, you'll be glad you did!

Since I spent so much time doing orders and sales yesterday I decided to make it my page for my December Daily album. I wanted to do a photo grid with photos of some of the things I sold... usually this takes me forever because I'm OCD about making everything exactly the same size and spaced properly and etc. But in a couple online classes I've taken I've been using Photoshop templates... and I decided to try to make my own. I know, like, woah. If you know Photoshop you'll say woah because this is so easy; if you don't know Photoshop you'll say woah because you have no idea what I'm talking about. :)

So I dove in and did it and figured out clipping masks and just made myself pleased as punch with this new tool in my arsenal! I added in the "december" and graphics I made before and changed the color (and the number, obviously). Then I printed it out to put in my album, and it didn't look right because the background of the page is cream and the white looked too glaring. Plus when I printed it, my 4x6 photo printer trimmed off a little bit of the outside edge, so it wasn't even all the way around with the white lines in the middle (OCD, I told you).

So I started looking for a "digital paper" that would match my layout. I don't have that much because I don't scrap digitally, so whatever I have has been obtained through free downloads. But I quickly tired of looking through my folders, because I don't have my digital scrapbooking stuff organized well (because I never use it). So instead I took a page from my friend Cynthia's book, and I scanned in the (actual, physical) scrapbooking paper that I'd used in the layout! Then I copied it into the background of my photo grid, and I made the background larger so that when the printer cut down the edges it would still be even.

Voilà! It printed out perfectly so that it matches my page and looks great!

I love learning new things that will make my life easier!

Jason is finally up and around so I can go tackle the things on my To Do list that make a lot of noise. :) Bang-bang-bang, lots of jewelry to work on today! :)

Have a great weekend! :)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Favorite {Photo} Friday--Christmas Markets

On Wednesday I was stricken with the worst case of homesickness for Italy that I've had in a long, long time; maybe even the worst case ever. I have a post mostly written about that and I hope to finish it up and "publish" it this weekend. But of course it made me think about being in Europe during this time of year, and how much I miss it! I've also made a friend on Twitter (I know, what a crazy world we live in!) who's an American living in Germany... I keep telling her to go drink some Glühwein for me. :) So that's made me think about it, too.

I wrote a bit last year about Christmas Markets. I love European Christmas markets. Looooove them.

I mean, hello? How could you not?

Beautiful beautiful. Every time I get frustrated with my photography I should look back on my photos from five (or even three) years ago... oh, the things I could make my camera do to these babies now! But still, I love it.

And another one just for some color and variety. :)

Tonight I'm off to cuddle on the couch with Jason and watch a movie... he's been waiting for me so I'd better not keep him waiting any longer! Have a great weekend!

Oh! And I'll be taking Etsy orders through next Tuesday only... so if there's anything you've been meaning to order, now's the time!! :)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Read the Labels

[Edited to add: This is a rant, and I apologize. Yesterday I had a serious case of homesickness for Italy so today crappy stuff in America is pissing me off. Tomorrow we will return to our regularly scheduled pre-Christmas, joy-focused programming. Thank you! :)]

When Jason and I went out to dinner last Friday night, I asked how a lot of things were prepared because I'm on this diet. The waitress was really nice and later on in the meal she told me that she'd lost 15 pounds by eating Special K Bars... she said she had one for breakfast and it filled her up so she didn't eat again until dinner.

I was skeptical but decided to check them out at the grocery store today when I happened to stroll past that aisle. The ingredients shocked me so much that I took a couple photos and I must share:

Okay, here's the item I'm talking about, the strawberry ones. I didn't look at any of the other flavors but I'm sure they're all similar. And what are the ingredients in this magical health food bar that will help me drop a pants size in just 2 weeks (advertised on the front of the box)?

They always try and confuse people with parenthesis, so let me break it down. Here are the ingredients, in order, with the parenthesis taken out.
  1. Cereal. Which seems fine, but the second ingredient in the parenthesis after rice? Sugar.
  2. Corn syrup. In case you don't know, corn syrup is what America started using in place of granulated sugar because it's cheaper and America has a crapload of corn. So corn syrup=sugar.
  3. Sugar.
  4. "Strawberry flavored fruit pieces," the first parenthetical ingredient of which is, you guessed it, sugar.
  5. Vegetable oil.
  6. Fructose. Fructose is a monosaccharide that's almost twice as sweet as table sugar; it's yet another form of sugar.
  7. Dextrose. Watch out for those ingredients ending in -ose; they're just sugar.
I'm not saying sugar is evil. I'm just saying that it's not a health food. The fact that this fake food crap exists and they market it as a diet food just makes me mad. Before I go off on a rant about how much money big food corporations spend on marketing and lobbying, trying to keep the American public fat dumb and happy, I'm just going to say, READ THE LABELS.

The Hippie Whole Foods Lived-in-Italy-and-Knows-How-Good-Real-Food-Is Crazy Lady

Friday, December 4, 2009

Favorite {Photo} Friday--Date Day

Jason took the day off work today, and as chance would have it we both needed to run down to Fredericksburg, a city about an hour away, so we decided to make a day of it and drove down together. After our errands were done we had a little time, so we went to Old Town and re-found a little coffee shop Jason had been to before.

I'm not a Starbucks person. I know, I know. I'm just not. I brew my own espresso at home and make my own cappuccinos and I never, ever, ever have an urge to go to Starbucks. So when I got this beautiful drink, I just had to take a photo of it because it felt so special! I love that pattern the barista made!

Then we went to see The Blind Side, which I loved. What an extraordinary story, and Sandra Bullock was so good in it that you totally forgot that it was her and not the actual woman the story's about. And now I'm speaking with a little bit of a drawl. :)

Then we went out for a fabulous meal, and now we're back home. So I uploaded the photos I took today (which weren't many) to choose and print one to add to my December Daily album. I cropped the above photo and then realized there was a nice blank spot on the left where I could do the same thing Ali did here. So--get this--I decided that instead of buying Ali's templates, I'd try to do it with my own handwriting! And then--get this!--I actually figured out how to do it! I wrote out "december" a bunch of times, scanned it in, did some Photoshop stuff, added a line and two circles, and voilà! It's so not perfect but you know what? Before I started I didn't know how to do a lot of the steps required, and now I do! So that's awesome.

Now I'm off to go hang out with Jason some more, watching comedy. The very best part is not just that we had a really great day together, but that starting next year he'll be working a "9-80" schedule, so he'll have every other Friday off! Although we didn't intend it to be, today was a great example of how we can treat those Fridays like stolen time, having dates together and doing fun things. Hooray! :)

Have a great weekend, friends!