Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Bowl of Thankfulness

Sorry for the late Thanksgiving post, but better late then never right?  Just as we have done in years past (2008 and 2009) our family spent the month of November filling our bowl of thankfulness.  Every night at dinner we each write down what we are thankful for that day (no repeating!) and read them aloud on Thanksgiving day.  Every year the kids understand the concept a little more and I'm so proud that they really thought about what they are thankful for.  They came up with things much more meaningful then basketballs (what Ethan was thankful for 99% of the time last year).
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and I'm so glad we started our bowl of thankfulness tradition.  We have so many things to be thankful for that dedicating one day to thank God for all our blessings just isn't enough.  And hopefully as the Christmas season begins my children will understand that they are already blessed with so many things that giving to others shouldn't be a big stretch.  Of course they are six and four so I know that we have awhile before the idea of giving gifts is more appealing then receiving them.

This was my first year officially hosting Thanksgiving.  I think we may have had it at our house in 2007 but I have no photographic proof nor do I really remember it (I had a two year old and one month old...cut me some slack!).  This was my first time roasting the turkey, that I am sure of.  It turned out just lovely, as did the rest of the dinner that everybody contributed to.  It's not Thanksgiving without a mound of mashed potatoes, the disgusting sweet potato casserole everbody but me and Brian loves, my favorite cran-raspberry salad with the marshmallow cream topping, and of course plenty of pie.  I'm a firm believer in high pie to person ratios, this year we scaled back to four pies to 7 adults and 2 kids.  If cherries weren't so expensive I would have added a cherry pie too.
And this year's sampling of thankfulness:
* Paper and Crayons -Ethan
* Rain -Kellie
* Having Friends -Grace
* Lazy Saturdays with Football -David
* "Golden Hour" Sunlight -Kellie
* The Bathroom -Grace
* My Bride finding and doing something she loves -David
* Eating Breakfast -Ethan
* David's Dungeons and Dragons Group -Kellie
* The Earth -Grace
* Chicken Noodle Soup -Ethan
* Mrs. Wagner -Kellie
* Pajamas -Grace
* Good Beer -David
* Quiet -Kellie
* Doughnuts -Ethan
* Summer -Grace
* Netflix Instant Watch on Sick Days -Kellie
* Visiting Friends -David

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Christmas Gift Ideas for Photographers

I'm a part of a women's photography group and we we met this morning and the topic of reasonably priced photography accessories to add to the Christmas list came up.  Most of us don't have families who are able or willing to plunk down large chunks of money for dream lenses (wishful thinking!) but there are plenty of budget friendly photography accessories and gear that you have a chance of finding under your Christmas tree!  Here's a list of ideas that won't give your husband a heart attack when they see the price:

1. Wireless Remote
Useful for self portraits, or even low light photography when you're using a tripod and slow shutter speed to reduce camera shake.  You can also get the wired variety, which I own, just know that wireless would be much easier and you're not tethered to your camera!  Make sure to get one that works for your camera make and model.  Here is one for the Canon Rebel series.

2. Gray Card
You want your gray card to be 18% gray, you can find it for $5 at Focal Point (our local photography store).  Useful for setting custom white balance, and since they're cheap there's really no excuse not to have one!

3. Reflector
I use mine a TON.  It's really a staple and something I bring to every photo session I have.  I even have a "low tech" one that stays in my kitchen just for on the cuff shots of my kids!  You can totally go low tech with this and use a white poster board or silver auto windshade, but having a real reflector is pretty nice.  You can find a bazillion of these on Amazon, they come in every size and shape under the sun.  I'd stick with a reasonable size to start out with, probably 32" or so.  Here's a link to just one of the zillions of options on Amazon.

4. Pop Up Flash Diffuser
There are several low budget alternatives to purchasing a pop up flash diffuser, but there's something to be said for easy and durable!  The Lightscoop, Gary Fong, and Lumiquest are all good affordable options.

5. The Lens Pen
Have you noticed any dust or smudges on your lens?  Funny spots in the same spot of every photo?  Then it may be time to clean your lens.  The Lens Pen (or similar knock off) is a good way to do it yourself that's not completely scary.

6. Camera Strap Cover
Sure you can use the functional but not very aesthetically pleasing camera strap that came with your camera and it won't affect the quality of your images one iota.  However there's something to be said about using pretty things, so a camera strap cover isn't very necessary but it sure can be fun!  They are also fairly easy to make, so you could even make them as Christmas presents to give yourself :)  My husband bought me mine from Etsy for my birthday and I love it!

7. Extension Tubes
If you'd love to experiment with macro but a macro lens isn't in the budget (darn!) then add a set of inexpensive extension tubes to your wishlist!  I've never experimented with extension tubes but they are similar to my ghetto macro technique, they just allow you to use one lens instead of two lenses with one held backwards.  The cheap ones will require manual focus (just like the ghetto macro technique) or you can buy the expensive ones with built in auto focus.  Of course if you're going to spend that kind of money you can probably go ahead and just buy a macro lens!  Here's a link to an inexpensive set of extension tubes for Canon and Nikon cameras.

8. Filters
There are a lot of different kinds of filters, some that do fun effects (starbursts etc) and others that simply protect your expensive lens!  Make sure when you add these to your list to specify the size filter you need (check the back of your lens cap to find the size).

9. Memory Cards
Who doesn't need more CF cards (or whatever memory card your camera takes)?  I prefer to use several smaller ones then one or two big ones so that if something happens to my card I still have some images to work with.  My preferred card size is 4gb which are pretty cheap!

10. Card Reader
I'm ashamed to say I only recently bought one of these handy devices and it is a lifesaver!  It zips the photos off my CF card in no time flat and is soooooo much faster then just plugging my camera in to my computer.  Seriously, if you dread pulling images off your camera because it takes forever you will want one of these!  I think this is the one I have, it's currently $10.54 which is so worth it.

11. Bokeh Kit
Want to play around with fun shaped bokeh?  Sure you can do it yourself by cutting out the shapes in perfectly cut out cardboard circles, or you can ask for this bokeh kit and get started playing right away!

Friday, October 7, 2011

My Baby is FOUR!

I really can't believe that my baby is turning four today.  In fact he turns four in just under two hours...at 10:25 this morning.  I remember his birth very well, mostly just how utterly exhausted I was from laboring all night and how much energy I felt the moment I gave birth to him.  He was definitely not the cutest baby immediately after birth, he looked pretty beat up and had the scrunchiest old man face but we loved him anyways.  Still do in fact.  I never knew just how special the mother son relationship could be before I gave birth to my son but I have to say that it's taken me by surprise.  I love this boy more than words can say!
It's not a post from me without a thousand pictures, and I tried my darndest to keep it to a minimum but I had a really hard time choosing my favorite photos of Ethan from the past year.  I tried to choose some of my favorites that show his personality and some that I haven't shared here before.  He's such a boy!
Things Ethan is totally into right now:
The Flash
Iron Man
Any sport
Any super hero
Dress up
Eating whole apples
Super Hero capes
Snuggling with Mommy and Daddy

Monday, October 3, 2011

A Day in the Life: October 1, 2011

The Momtographers group I am a part of had a "Day in the Life" challenge this week where we photographed an entire day start to finish.  I had great intentions to do it all week and kept forgetting until three hours into the day but finally remembered to do it Saturday morning while camping at the coast.  So not a regular day, but at least I did it!  I'll try again to capture a regular day this week maybe.
7:14am First thing I see waking up in the yurt...the skylight.  And then Ethan dropped a pillow on my head.
7:20am Back from the bathroom with the kids and reading a chapter of Feast of Crows on the Kindle while the kids played.  Dreaming of hot coffee.
8:06am James and Jessi are on a walk with Vinnie.  The kids are still playing and David is up and starting the morning fire.  Feels awesome!
8:43am Coffee is finally ready.  Rejoice.
9:53am On our way to the beach
 10:31am Found a way cool chunk of barnacles that washed up on the beach.  The barnacle creatures were still alive and moving and we watched them for quite awhile.
10:51am Still playing on the beach...barely any wind and gorgeous beach weather!  (Photo by David Parry who wants you all to know that he can take pretty pictures too)
12:12pm Back to the campsite.
12:23pm Lunch!
1:31pm The girls and Vinnie went on a walk while the boys napped in the yurt.
2:14pm Decision time...which way to go?  We chose right because who can say no to a hiker-biker camp?
2:21pm Still walking...this time north along the beach and treeline.  Great view.
3:17pm Back to the campsite and Ethan is up from his nap.
3:51pm Hot Chocolate and Apple Cider late afternoon pick me up.
4:48pm Just started the evening fire and hanging out
5:41pm Dinnertime.  Turkey hot dog roasted over the fire...hit the spot!
6:32pm The bazillionth bathroom trip of the day. Be glad I spared you the trip with the poopy underwear.
6:36pm Self portrait in the bathroom mirror.  Not too bad for no shower all day.
6:45pm S'mores time!
7:55pm The kids played Headbanz with Daddy and James in the yurt.  This was the last shot I got for the day because afterwards there wasn't enough light for photos.  Mostly we just sat by the fire until we went to bed early :)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

August in Photos

I know I'll never get around to writing everything down that we did this past August but since I finally got the majority of our family photos edited I thought I'd share some favorites.  Since I doubt most of you want to peruse all 572 personal pics (that's just the ones that I edited as jpg's and doesn't count client sessions!) I condensed it to a few collages.  I can hear all the sighs of relief.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Gracie: Soccer Star?

Grace's first soccer game was last Saturday and we had typical soccer weather: cool and gray clouds.  I was expecting a game similar to last year's hilarious start to the season where the kids had no idea what they were doing and the coaches were on the field telling them what to do the entire time.  Not this year!  This year we watched a soccer game.  As in, the kids knew how to kick off, throw the ball in from out of bounds, how to do a corner or goal kick, etc.  What a world of difference.  The one thing that stayed the same from last year was the herd mentality where there was no real teamwork in passing the ball but just a big group of kids following the ball around the field.  They did try to differentiate between defense and offense by having two kids hang back a little which sort of worked.  Grace didn't understand the defense concept at all and kept trying to run after the ball.  This year she is a go-getter!

I am so proud of Gracie this year, she really stepped up to the plate and is a fully participating member of the team.  Last year she took on the role of looking cute and staying out of everyone else's way as they played the game.  This year she is running hard and getting into the action.  I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw her getting into the middle of the action time after time.  She never stopped running and never hung back.  She may be the smallest on the field but she is determined not to be the slowest!
I did get Grace to soccer pictures by 8am on Saturday morning, but since I didn't buy anything apart from a team photo I took one quick "nice" photo after her game.  Her "small" uniform swims on her and she had to wear last year's shorts because this year's won't stay up even when we cinch them as far as they go.  At least the socks aren't as ginormous as last year and fit much better!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Back to School!

Back to School season is in full swing at our house.  Last Tuesday Grace started first grade and today Ethan started preschool.  It's a big year of firsts for us, the first year Grace is in school all day and the first year Ethan is enrolled in preschool.  For Grace the big deal is eating lunch at school and for Ethan it's the fact that he has a can of crayons with his name on it in his classroom.  This year I got smart and took both kids' back to school pictures separately and before the big day.  Less stress for Mommy and allows for more creativity!  I didn't forget my camera for the actual first day of school either, but I just went with the flow and concentrated more on documenting the experience.

We did Grace's back to school photos the Friday before school started after we dropped off her school supplies in her classroom.  She picked out five apples in Safeway before our photo session, one for everybody in our family and one for her teacher.  On her first day of school we all walked to school together and got a few snaps of her in her new classroom.  She was so excited!

 Ethan and I met a few friends at his preschool the week before he started as well.  He mostly wanted to play on the playground but we did get a few good ones!  This morning we dropped Grace off at school and then Mommy, Daddy, and Ethan swung by Dutch Brothers for a hot drink treat before heading to preschool to play on the playground until it was time for Ethan's class to begin.  He was soooo excited and couldn't wait to hang his backpack on his hook.  When he got to his desk he found his crayon can with his name on it and was just over the moon happy.  He told us that we could go and happily waved goodbye.  Such a big boy!