Thursday, February 26, 2009

This morning I made my third round of carrot/zucchini/pineapple whole wheat muffins... A recipe I found and altered a bit so that Noah would be getting more veggies in his diet. The first batch was such a hit that I have made it my goal to keep them on hand all the time. Noah will have two for breakfast with a sippy of milk, and even with the sugar/oil that is in them, I feel secure that he is eating something ultimately good for him.

If your kiddos need more veggies, give them a try! They taste like carrot cake, kind of, but more "muffin-y", if that makes any sense. (The whole wheat flour helps it to taste less like dessert and more like breakfast.)

Carrot Zucchini Pineapple Whole Wheat Muffins

3 eggs
1 cup oil
2 cups sugar (granulated)
2 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 cups shredded carrots
2 cups shredded zucchini
1 8 oz. can drained crushed pineapple
3 cups flour (I use 2 C. wheat, 1 C. white)
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. nutmeg

Mix eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla together in one bowl. Stir in the fruit and veggies. In a separate bowl, mix up the remaining dry ingredients. Add the dry mix to the wet mix. Bake at 350 degrees for--
25-30 mins for muffins
45-60 mins for bread pans


In other news, I am working frantically on my upcoming "REAL" website for my photography. It is really cool to see it coming together, but I'm not gonna lie, it is also really OVERWHELMING. Putting this site out there means I'm doing this FOR REAL. People will think I am a legitimate, skilled professional. And while I do have the skills.... well.... in so many ways, I still feel like a little fish in a big pond. So much more to learn. So much already learned in just the last two years. Ah, well... strange journey. Exciting future. REAL websites coming up.

In honor of the website opening next week, (that's right-- I said NEXT WEEK.... EEP!!) I give you this little gem-- one of my favorites from last year of, well... okay, it's MY son. But I have NO issues putting him in my online portfolio. After all, I sharpened and honed a lot of my skills on him throughout his short life, bless his patient little heart. Of course he gets a few spots in the portfolio!!

{3 month photos}


Last random for the moment--

Next week, Beckie comes back from Iraq for a visit, and I CANNNNOT wait. I miss that girl! If you weren't reading this last year, I blogged about her ditching me for the money-making opportunities of Iraq here.... And at the time, it felt like a year would be an eternity. And yet-- here we are, with only three months left of her stay, and a mid-year visit to tide me over! We are going to play with Noah at the zoo, the mall, St. Charles, the park, pretty much everywhere, so she can get in her "Noah fix" while she's here. You bet there'll be photos!

I love my family... LOVE my sisters and my brother. Love my parents. Love Joe's incredible parents and siblings.... I haven't mentioned that on here recently enough, and thinking about the joy I get from visits, trips, photos, and good ol' fun family time makes me so happy, because they are such a big part of the richness of my life.

Anyhoo... enough random rambling for now... I'm going to guiltlessly, unabashedly, decadently go lie down for a wee little nap whilst my sweet baby naps. Because I can. Because I should. And because when the next few kids come along, I may never gt this chance again.



Wednesday, February 25, 2009

This is me, right now.

From some angles, I think, "Hey, yeah! I'm a spunky, funky, stylin' gal!"

From other angles, I see a chubby old lady with clown makeup on, and I quickly move past the mirror.

It's about 2 inches shorter than I planned.

It is curling nicely.

It takes NO time to style... which translates to cute some days, and SCARY other days.

(Interesting how one head o' hair can morph into so many different incarnations of the same thing, and even the slightest shift in the part makes it work or fail.)

I don't mind photos of myself. As long as I get the final say on which ones get shown.

I don't mind being 31. I think.

This is me, right now.



Sunday, February 22, 2009

{Go-- make your own "Polaroids." Get "arty" this Sunday afternoon...
Download at: and start playing.}


Little Stack of Joy

Friday, February 20, 2009

Am I the only one whose heart beats a little faster at the sight of new fabric, waiting to get made into something lovely?


What makes YOUR heart beat faster?

When You're Feelin' Gloomy:

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Ugh. another February day. Grey. Blustery. Cold. Yuck.

I'm reaching that "end-of-winter CRAZINESS" time where I am SO. DONE. WITH. IT. And it is easy to be grumpy. Gloomy. Touchy. Trapped indoors, stuck doing the same routines, feeling uninspired. And tired. And UGH.

And I bet a few of you are feeling it, too.

Well, I have a short-term fix. When everything is grey and BLAH, what else but a fresh, newborn little baby could make you forget your chilly toes and your selfish wants for a moment?

Here, for a quick winter cure, two sweet, handsome, incredible baby boys I got to photograph a couple of weeks ago.

How can anyone stay gloomy for long, when looking at these?

Newborn Noah:

Newborn Max:

Feelin' better? Yeah, so am I.

We can make it a few more weeks.... right??

(Please, daffodils and sunshine and green tips and leaf buds and robins and bunnies-- please hurry!)

Happy Mail: My Contribution

Sunday, February 15, 2009

In addition to receiving lots o' love in the mail, I did my fair share of making fun stuff to SEND....
Here, a bunch of random stuff I was able to finish and get in the mail this February:

First off, our Valentine's Cards/late Christmas cards:

{our family photos taken by the lovely Jodie!}

Now, I must throw in a disclaimer-- to any of you who are thinking, "Hey! I didn't get one of those!! What the hey??" I must explain my streamlined system this year. With true apologies, I honestly just sent one of these to whoever sent us a Christmas card. It was the simplest way. I kept all the envelopes from Christmas in one stack, addressed OUR envelopes using those envelopes, and VOILA-- that was our SEND list. So, siblings, cousins, best friends-- those of you who you KNOW we love, that didn't get one of these--- truly I apologize! And it is NOT a ploy to get more Christmas cards from you guys next year. We'd be thrilled to get NONE, because, well-- then we'd be off the hook! LOL! Just gaze upon these photo likenesses of our card and consider yourselves GIFTED. Love you!

(OOh boy. I am now worried I might have opened a few cans of worms there. I really don't like drama. I really didn't want to cause any. You guys KNOW I love you, right?)

Changing topics: Sock Monkeys!

This little fella was commissioned. A friend asked me to make it for another friend for a little compensation, and I was thrilled at the prospect of making more monkeys. I'm kinda addicted to making these critters! the girl receiving this guy loves the color blue so I factored that into it... but being for a Valentine's gift, I had to make it fit, so he got a lil' red heart! He also has my initials on his bum, but I didn't do a very good job at it, so the owner might just think it is a mess o' red thread stuck to his bottom. Ha ha!

And this little fella was a gift to a new baby of one of my dad's co-workers and a sweet, super nice lurking blog reader of mine... This lil monkey is angora (yum!) and has jingle bells in his belly so if his baby wants to give him a shake shake, he's get a tinkling sweet sound!

(Love that he is sitting on my collection of vintage books from my mom's childhood-- Bobbsey Twins, anyone? Trixie Belden?)

and lastly, after receiving a WHOLE cheesecake and gorgeous magnets for MY swap gift, my little giftie pales in comparison.... But here it is, anyway:

* A hand-embroidered apron with rick rack and polka-dotted grosgrain ribbon (idea adopted from the fabulous Emily of Little Mama and Co.
* A handmade card
* yummy Oreo Truffles
* chocolate covered fortune cookies (love the brand name??)
* the recipe for the truffles

....And there ya go.... some of the happy mail I got to send out this month!

Off I go, now... I have a few more sock monkeys in the works, and they are calling to me after posting those photos!! :)

My Valentine's Swap Gift

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Remember the Valentine Swap I participated in? I received my treats on Monday, handmade and HAND DELIVERED by my dear November Mama friend, Beth. I came home Monday afternoon after a walk with Noah to mail MY swap gift, to find this box on my doorstep!

Beth had DRIVEN it OVER! (She lives about 45 minutes away from me, so it was no small errand!)

Don't mind the crushed appearance of the box--- I had to give Noah a ride back up to our apartment atop it! Ha!

And inside:

And, oh--- what came next???

Seriously? a FULL, gorgeous, HOMEMADE cheesecake for ME??!

Um, yes! Turns out, Beth is an EXPERT cheesecake maker. She even made a dozen of them for her own wedding reception. Truly, after just one bite, I was converted. Give me a Beth cheesecake over Cheesecake factory ANY day.

{White chocolate cheesecake with a raspberry swirl, a brownie crust (!!), and fresh raspberries and glaze and white chocolate melted drizzle on top. HOLY COW.}

And the gifties:

A bouquet of roses that are actually pens... with fortunes attached! Cute!

A gorgeous digi-scrapped recipe card for a molten chocolate cake I will be making someday soon...

And a tin FILLED with personalized glass-topped magnets... With photos of Joe, Noah and I... pictures of cupcakes, sock monkeys.... Could they BE any more perfect???

(to read Beth's tutorial on these magnets, click HERE. She is so good!)

What a TREAT. Thank you so very much Beth... I felt so loved and honored to get you as my swap giver. Joe and Noah get a kick out the magnets, too, and we have ALL died a little eating your cheesecake!

Here's hoping all of you got a little giftie or sugary love today.... It's good for the soul!

Happy Valentine's Day!!

Who Loves Happy Mail??

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Ooooh, Me! Me! *raising hand excitedly*

And today did NOT disappoint!!! Truly!! Must be the upcoming holiday or something, 'cause above, you see two care packages from dear friends, what I can only assume to be FLOWERS from who I can only assume is my mother-in-law, and a few cards from friends and my mom.

So exciting!!

And in praise of happy mail and dear friends, I think I will dedicate the next seven days or so to posting photos of recent happy mail I've gotten, adored, and never posted about. I have the Valentine's Swap stuff to share with you, my Christmas Swap treats, various other fun boxes of love.... And since Valentine's Day is about love, it will be my way to pay tribute to the incredible people in my life who think to send a box of smiles in the mail to little ol' me.

I am abundantly blessed.

Quick Tag From Tamara!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The directions, according to my sister-in-law Tamara:
"Here's what you have to do: Look in your pictures folder, and open up the fifth folder. In the fifth folder, you have to upload the fifth picture. (Why so many #5s???? Because what I say goes! HA!) It's really that simple. Then, underneath it, explain the pic and pass it on. And who am I to judge....really, even if you're NOT can still do it, just b/c you can...just b/c I LOVE you!"

Nicely put, smart-alek Tamara! Ha-ha! Okay, I'll bite. Why not?

So.... I go to "My Pictures". And bypass folders "Borders Frames", "Classic Photos", "Storyboards", and "2004-2005"... To get to the folder "2006". Done.

Now, I get another group of folders... So I bypass "March-April", "April-May", "May", and "Europe" (sad! That would have been a cool one!) and get "Summer". Okay.

Here's where it gets tricky. Because I still have a few folders within this folder. But only a few. So do I count those three folders as part of my "five count"? If so, here is what you get:

{INFO: This is a random shot of some of the gifts we bought out family when Joe and I went to Europe. Clockwise from apron: ceramic salad tossers and a personalized embroidered apron for my sister Julina from Florence, the Quidditch and Olivia books are in German from, well, GERMANY, for my sister Beckie, the fake Prada bag was from Rome, also for Beckie, Venetian glass fountain pen and Venetian stationary from uh, VENICE, for Elise, and the tapestry hanging is of Venice, from Venice, for Elise. There were other gifts, in other shots, but this is the one you get. The End.}

Or--- do I skip past the folders and go to the fifth actual photo? If so, here is the winner:

{INFO: This was taken by my mom, on my birthday, 2006. I am 29. I am a bit skinnier. *sigh* My hair looks GREAT, don't you think?? Heh-heh... We are in front of our Mason Lodge, and are headed to the Missouri Botanical Gardens for a birthday outing-- a stroll and some lunch. The dress-over-jeans was a birthday gift. The lil' purse was a gift from my mother-in0law for our Europe trip. It held passport/money/small camera VERY well. The end.}

So which pick?
Meh. I am happy with either choice.

But I WOULD like to point out something. These are from summer 2006. And I got my beautiful new DSLR (Canon 20D) camera in November 2006.

Can't you just TELL the difference from these shots to my usual ones these days??? The drabness, the soft, non-sharpness...Yikes!

Run, all of you, and go buy a Canon Rebel or something! It's only $500 (yeah, ONLY... ha!), and the change in your photo quality will be SO worth it!!!

But, just for fun, let's see what five minutes of Photoshop can do for that dingy, so-so photo of us above:

Hmm. Well-- so there ya go. Even with a point-and-shoot, you can always make improvements.

Anyhoo.... that "fast tag" became more of a time drain than I originally planned. Story of my ineffecient life!


No worries... It's grey and raining anyway... what else would I do with my time?

Okay. I tag...... Whoever wants to do it. 5th folder, 5th photo. On your mark..... get set....


Love Plans

Monday, February 9, 2009

Love is in the air... And it is ZOOOMING towards Valentine's Day at record speed. And I confess: I have not done much this year in preparation! Not like my dear friend Jodie, who has been a PROLIFIC Valentine's Craft Creator this year, even with three kids three and under. (See her amazingness here, here, and here.) Wow, Jodie!! Someday, I'll get there.

But I HAVE been working on some stuff, and still have a few things left to do...

1. The box above is zooming somewhere in the USA today, but I can't say where until she gets it. Because it is a SECRET! My ELW girls and I are all doing a Valentine's Day craft swap but keeping our recipients secret... So this box is full of goodies for my girl. I'll show you what's inside as soon as she gets it. But a few hints-- it involved machine sewing, hand sewing, melting, squishing, cutting, assembling, typing, and designing. Muahahahaha! How's THAT for cryptic?

2. I need to write a detailed, sweet love letter for my hubs....

3. And because we never got Christmas cards back to the people who sent us one, Joe and I have a date tonight with my paper cutter and sticky squares as we assemble Valentine's Cards with the photo we had planned to send out with the Christmas card. I've got cute paper already purchased, and the photos are printed. We just have to sit down and DO them. And then follow through with ADDRESSING envelopes and STAMPING envelopes and SENDING these dadgum things. :)

4. and perhaps I'll make a batch of Valentine's Cupcakes. Hmm... Raspberry filling, cream cheese icing, sugar crystals on top? Hm.... Gotta work on that!

...And other than that... well, THAT is the extent of my Valentine's Day mojo. Next year, perhaps, we'll do some decorating. And some activities with Noah, who will be two and WAY more into it by then... This year? I am just loving my two loves and enjoying the few things I do find time to make with my hands... and I am simply grateful for my sweet little life.

I LOVE it.

Snapping Out Of It By Snapping Photos

Thursday, February 5, 2009

My sweet kiddo is still sick. It's getting better, but we are nowhere near WELL. *sigh*

Oh well... This is just the first of many bouts of sickness in my life as a mom, I suspect. So, when cabin fever threatens to take over, and the winter blahs are stealing away the creative juice, what does a girl with a camera do?

Why, stick her sick baby kid in a basket and make him pose for photos!

don't you love how he is alternately miserable and FED UP with this whole process? That, or super fascinated by the yarn... Ha ha!
The inspiration for this shoot came from a heads-up thread on the TwoPeas Photography Message Board... Someone had spotted this gorgeous blanket on Flickr and said she needed it desperately. She said it could be found at TJMaxx, and that set everyone on the hunt... Suddenly, much like the Tickle Me Elmo type mentality, we ALL wanted one of these blankets! So funny! Well, lucky me, I finally found one at the fourth store I checked, and VOILA-- I now possess this silly, yarn-y throw blanket. And ya know? Though I bought into the craze, I am still very pleased with the results.


And since I have learned a million things about good photography from my TwoPeas associates, this post seemed a good time to "pay it forward" a little with some "How I Did It" info... So, let me show you my "set-up" for this quick, impromptu shoot with my little guy:

And a few notes:

1. It is ALL about the light. Oh, MAN is it about finding pretty light. And the prettiest light I have found indoors is in my very own bedroom, at about two to three hours before the sun sets. In this case, my windows face west, and the photos were at about 3:30 pm.

2. BUT--- this light would NOT be so pretty if it weren't for my white muslin curtains. Too much of that western sun pouring in would take away that soft, diffused light you see in the photos above.

3. So. GREAT light + nice big windows + good diffusing curtains (NOT blinds-- too many "stripes"!) = an amazing photo setting

4. Okay. See the backdrop? This is a piece of heavy rayon that I draped/tucked into the top drawer of my dresser to take away the distractions of the background. In a perfect world, I'd have this hanging from my background stands, so there'd be no folds or wrinkles... But like I said-- this was totally fly-by-night, impromptu, so I made do.

5. The hardwood floor is lovely... So I kept it in. But you could also bring the fabric all the way across the floor, or if your carpet is neutral and not covered in broken Cheerios, you could leave it as is.

6. See how I shot so the light came from the side? This is mostly due to necessity. You can see my bed (the blue and white duvet), and you can see there just isn't much room to shoot. So I set it up where I'd have the most room to maneuver, since I use my 50 mm lens indoors and the 50 mm needs a LOT of space to get all of the photo in it. In hindsight, the side-lighting is LOVELY, and has the tendency to create drama and mood in photos.

7. I have also shot head-on in this area (see old samples, below). When you shoot head on, or so the light is directly behind you, if creates a more even light, which is also a wonderful result, but often has less "mood" and more "studio" effect. Also, if the light is directly behind you, make sure you aren't casting a shadow on your subject!

8. When the light is gorgeous like this light, the post-processing can be kept to a minimum. Truly, all I did to the first three photos was sharpen and defog using the Unsharp Mask Filter... and then I spent a bit of time on that pesky, fold-y, wrinkly backdrop fabric. I was bugged by the huge crease in it right behind Noah's head... In a perfect world, I'd have set this up better in the beginning so the crease was nowhere to be seen... But alas... Hindsight is 20/20. So I used the healing brush like mad, and I am glad now that it is not very distracting anymore. In fact, I bet if I hadn't even mentioned it, you might never have gone back to those shots and looked to see my "cleanup job". Ha!

9. I think that is all my info for my setup-- oh, except, let me give you my settings: My camera was set at ISO 400, and the shutter speed fluctuated between 1/100th and 1/160th of a second. The aperture fluctuated between 3.5 and 4.0.

10. Lastly, to show you how I have used the HECK out of this silly little corner of my apartment, here are some of my Noah photos over the last year. I'll add some info at the end to detail each one. But if there are any questions left over or ANYTHING, please feel free to leave a comment and I'll try to answer it with a comment of my own.

1. Swaddled in Basket: see the dresser? No backdrop here. And it works. Morning light.
2. Noah and Me: Self-timed portrait using the window with the curtain as backlighting. I exposed for my face so the background would be blown out and I would get proper exposure. Afternoon light.
3. Polar Bear: He is on our bed, and the windows are behind me to my right. Morning light.
4. Stripes in a Bucket: this is in the EXACT same position as the yarn photos above. Midday light.
5. Fur Hat: the yellow blanket is tucked into the dresser and Noah is propped in his boppy so he is upright. Nearly the same angle as the above yarn photos. Morning light?
6. PeaPod Kid: This is on the floor beneath the windows. I put my shag rug down, then Noah, then stood on a chair above him to get the shot. Windows to my right. Midday light.
7. Black & White: this was a candid. Noah was playing on the side of the bed and I got right next to the windows, to my back, and lucked out with this shot. The f-stop was low enough that the messy background was totally blurred, and therefore NOT a distraction. Afternoon light.
8. Chair & Onesie: Same exact spot at the yarn basket shot. See the dresser? Afternoon light.
9. LOVE: this is the sample of straight-on light. The windows are behind me, and Noah is set up on our bed with a black backdrop. See how it looks more "studio" because the light is flat, and not so nuanced? He's propped on a boppy under the black fabric. Morning light.

Okee-dokee... That is it for tonight, all!

Hope SOMEONE got something out of this! I know I am ALWAYS fascinated by the "behind the scenes" stuff photographers show me... so interesting, and so enlightening.

Okay... off I go. There is much to be done before I can go to bed. And maybe Noah will make it a whole night without fluid coming out either end of his poor, torn-up body. *sniff*

The Lost Days:

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Feels like I've been in a vacuum of time and space the last few days... Like the time has just been lost.

What's been going on?

Well, Noah got the stomach flu on Saturday, and it's still hanging around right now.

{here's Noah just now, quietly playing with Dad and his basket of toys}

{here's the "sick nest" Noah's been inhabiting for the last two hours: Blankie, Lamby, sippy with Pedialyte, little dish of Cheerios, and not shown-- a parent to snuggle with}

So what has the last few days consisted of? A list:

* baby puke, nearly always at night. Once in the bathtub.

* a few gross diapers

* lots of cuddles (rare and delightful, since my baby is NOT a snuggler)

* at least 10 loads of laundry. Almost all of them small and inefficient, but necessary. Only to have another small load an hour later. EXASPERATING!

* at least 7 baby baths, two involving a messy finale

* crackers... toast... applesauce... pedialyte...water...cheerios...

* middle-of-the-night cleanups and reassurances

* naps for mom whenever possible

* longer-than-usual naps from Noah

* leftovers. No energy to make real dinners here

* no church on Sunday

* I got out to see a movie last night with friends, only to come home to another report of baby barf. :(

* emails and phone calls with trying to "stay connected" in the middle of this island of SICK

* hubs working/sleeping the first half of this, then being around and AMAZING the second half

* an impromptu trip to the zoo yesterday afternoon, just Noah and I, to GET OUT OF THE STIFLING HOUSE and get some fresh air. Did both our souls good. Noah laughed out loud at the sea lions and the prairie dogs.

* a middle-of-the-night slumber party, just Noah and I, on the floor of his room... for a little while. To comfort him.

* and for me? Initiation into the Real Mom Club...

So. That's where I've been. Where I'll be until further notice... just the little family in the little attic, trying to get well.
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