Day 302 - Halloween

A perfect Halloween evening - clear and a little cool (but it is the end of October - it's supposed to be cool).

I drove Erica to her friend's house and then wove back home, passing by the endless stream of parked cars in the 'hood. I know people come to our neighborhood to trick or treat, but didn't realize the magnitude until today. No wonder our huge stash of candy goes quickly.

Erica and her friends are dressed up as a tennis pro, a bum and a sports fan:
Teen Costumes

[note - I do not endorse those Yankees. She is a product of her father when it comes to this baseball stuff.... and Go Red Sox!]

As usual, Brian and George went out together.
Brian and George on Halloween
Brian's costume is a result of the past two years' costume meltdowns. So this year, I refused to put much time into it and he came up with his own costume idea. The boys only visited three houses - ours, George's and our next door neighbor's. I think they are at the age where they don't care about trick or treating. It's a phase that will pass in about two years.

At least George's brothers dressed up appropriately:
Scary Jester

Part of the reason why Brian doesn't want to walk around the neighborhood, is he would rather spend time at George's house handing out candy and working the spooky "tricks" of the house:
After all, Jill has her house decorated to the max:
The Haunted House
Brian's favorite activity - hiding in the coffin, making noises and jumping out to scare the visitors. If you look carefully at the above picture, you can see Brian peeking out of the coffin - he has the Elmo mask on his head.

It was another fun Halloween in our little town on the prairie! A great end to October.


Team Up Thursday - Halloween Edition - Spooky

After I put together last Thursday's diptych for Team Up Thursday, I knew I needed to hold off posting until today, Halloween. I love the spooky graveyard from Lee, which goes nicely with the spooky portraits displayed at my friend's house. Really, I think my friend's relatives are a little "different".....

Team Up Thursday - Spooky

The tricks and treats are just about to start here. Hope you have many treats and no tricks this Halloween night.

Most Thursdays, Lee and I create a diptych based on a theme. You can view the other great diptychs at the Team Up Thursday Flickr group.


The Trees are Bare

Some spooky trees for your Halloween Morning.

Bare Trees


SOOC Saturday - The Laundry Room

Really, the laundry basket in the laundry room. I liked the patterns against the light.

In the Laundry Room


301/365 - The Last Soccer Game

Erica's soccer team played their last game of the fall season. Erica had a shot on goal, but it was a little off to the left. The team won again in windy conditions.


Erica playing left wing, running into some opposition from the other team.

The girls will start back up in the Spring and hopefully continue their success.


Early Morning at Work

I had to go into work early this morning. I love the color of the sky right before the sun rises.

Start of Another Friday


300/365 - Sammy Takes a Car Ride

One of those spur of the moment ideas. Sam was hanging out in the garage, I needed to run a quick errand to a friend's house and I didn't want to pick him up and put him in the house. When I opened up the door to the car, Sam jumped right in, so I decided to take him with me.

Sam roamed around the back seat of the car, eyes wide and taking in all the scenery that flew past. He didn't venture up front until we were on our way home and he was perfectly behaved.

10.10.29 - Sam Takes A Ride
Taken while we were safely parked in my friend's driveway. He's checking out the action across the street.


299/365 - Morning Coffee

I'm sure I've posted pictures of my beloved Starbucks coffee, but I don't think I've posted one this year.

The cooler air outside really makes that morning coffee taste better. Warm, steamy and cozy...

I make my coffee with 2/3 decaf and 1/3 full test coffee from Starbucks. I like to choose Starbucks' "seasonal" coffee and this fall I found this 25th Anniversary blend. I snatched up the last bag in the local store and haven't seen it since.

10.10.28 - This Morning's Coffee

It's a perfect match for the Decaf Sumatra I'm blending it with, and that Pumpkin Spice syrup I'm using. Fall in a cup!


Bonus Shot - Relaxed Hannah

After I posted last yesterday's Daily picture, Erica summoned me to take a picture of her and Hannah on the couch.

Hannah Relaxes

Hannah never gets this relaxed and "unlady-like". So we take her picture and post it to the blog. Will she ever live this down?

I think if we give her more food, she won't care at all.



Living on the prairie means we experience a nice breeze on most days, but you forget how biting cold that wind can be, even in the fall.


And it was sunny when I took the picture. Now it's just overcast, a little damp and COLD.

The furnace has been turned on at home, and with a forecast of frost tonight, the country roads have been salted (Yes, I do think that is crazy).

Hoping your Thursday evening is warm and cozy.

And no, I didn't forget Team Up Thursday, but I'll be posting on Halloween instead.


Feeling Like Halloween

My friend, Jill does a great job decorating her house for Halloween. Orange lights, spider webs, flaming cauldrons, bats and spiders adorn her porch. There are skeletons and witches in the windows. She hasn't put out the tombstones and coffin yet - those will go out in the front yard on Halloween.

I liked the skull and cross bones that hang right by the doorbell - a nice way to greet one's guest this spooky season.

The Skull and Crossbones

I used three different textures and a high pass filter layer to sharpen the skull portion of the picture - to give even more "edge".


298/365 - Practice

Brian practicing saxophone. He's figured out how to play "Hot Cross Buns", "Mary Had a Little Lamb" and "Ode to Joy".

10.10.27 - Practice Time


297/365 - Candlelit Breakfast

Big surprise this morning - storms (well, that's really not too surprising), high wind (again, not surprising), and lots of rain.

Then, just after the storm passed through, the power went out. That was the surprise.

And as we were scrambling to light candles (yup, no flashlights, no surprise there), I noticed our neighbors in the cul-de-sac still had power! No fair!

Oh, well, at least we got to enjoy breakfast by candlelight.

10.10.26 - Breakfast By Candlelight

And the power was restored 3 hours later.


296/365 - Fast Shipping, Great Service

This is our second experience with Zappo's and once again, they have impressed us with their great service and fast shipping.

Ordered Saturday evening, arrived today. Wow.

10.10.25 - Speedy Arrival

Erica's latest [expensive] purchase. Yes, she agreed to pay for them herself, draining her account down to about 20 bucks.


The Barn

I've photographed this barn before, but was lucky to get this shot of it this morning on the way to work, with the sun burning off the mist and fog.

Morning on the Farm

And a vintage version, using Coffeeshop's Butterscotch Vintage Action:
Vintage Morning

I say lucky because I simply pointed my camera towards the side of the road while I was driving. I keep my eyes on the road, etc. I don't use this "drive by" method very often, but this morning's mist was very ethereal.


295/365 - Hanging On the Couch

I got to snuggle with Sammy this evening. He's in his standard "spot" - the corner of the loveseat. And laying on the "bear blanket" (a bonus, as it is the most sought after blanket in the house, especially in the cooler months).

10.10.24 - Hanging Out With Sammy

Such is the life of a kitty cat. Tough, but someone's gotta do it.


The Leaf

One of the girls found this leaf yesterday during our photo shoot and I had to take a picture of it - I haven't seen too many yellow and red leaves in my backyard this year.

We needed two hands to hold it steady in the blowing wind - it's like they are taking good care of a fragile leaf.

A Pretty Leaf

I used CoffeeShop's Simply Vintage Action on the original version to give it the nice, soft feel. And I added a light vignette, to brighten up the edges of the photo. It's the first time I've used such a vignette - normally I use a dark vignette.

I hope your Sunday morning is filled with light and colorful leaves!


294/365 - Friends

Erica helped me today while taking pictures of our friends. She may have been helpful soliciting their smiles, although they were pretty smiley to begin with.

All Smiles


Under and In the Tree

What started out as a gloomy, rainy day, ended up warm and sunny.

Perfect for a little photo shoot with Dan, Amy and their adorable kids:
Dan and Amy's Family

One of my favorite shots -
Up in the Tree


293/365 - Dough and Visitors

Brian got to play with pizza dough tonight:
10.10.22 - Rolling Out Dough

And we had a surprise tonight - a gaggle of visitors looking for Erica. Too bad she wasn't around at the time. The girls were out for a pre-Halloween scavenger hunt, which included taking a picture of a cat. They took a picture of Sammy.

Where's Erica?


Selective Focus - Daylily

Since it's been almost 18 months since my last major "gear purchase", I've been itching for something "shiny and new". I'm enamored by the cool selective focus abilities of the Lensbaby, but not sure about the price - the Lensbaby composer runs about $250, and I know I would want the Wide Angle converter ($80) and Fisheye optic ($150). That's almost $500 for a lot of plastic.... I could buy the Nikon 10.5mm Fisheye lens for a little more money, or be saving for the 105mm f2.8 Micro lens I've been coveting.

So I started researching ways to replicate the "Lensbaby Selective Focus effect" using Photoshop Elements. I tried a couple of things and ended up with some pleasing results.

The original picture:
Daylily In October

Steps taken:

  1. Duplicated the original image in a new layer (ctrl-j)
  2. On the duplicate layer, distorted the image by selecting Filter --> Distort --> Polar Coordinates --> Polar to Rectangular
  3. Still on the duplicate layer, applied a Motion Blur by selecting Filter --> Blur --> Motion Blur --> Angle of -90, distance of 125 pixels (this can be modified to fit your picture)
  4. Again, on the duplicate layer, distort again by selecting Filter --> Distort --> Polar Coordinates --> Rectangular to Polar
  5. You should have a blurry, distorted top layer.
  6. Apply a Layer mask on that distorted layer. Since this functionality is not available with PSE, I use the Layer mask action for PSE from the CoffeeShop.
  7. Using a soft brush, with the foreground color set to Black and my brush opacity set to 40%, I erased away the blurry portions on the layer mask, revealing the in focus layer below.

The final result:
Selective Focus - Daylily

Another example - Lee's picture of her daughter's knee high Converse sneakers:
Just a Little in Focus

I'm sure this is one of many ways to achieve the selective focus effect. I've seen examples using a Gaussian Blur, too.

So, for now, I'll hold on to my money and keep playing with filters. Or maybe I'll just buy that Nikon Fisheye lens and keep playing with filters!

I've linked up today's post to the Love That Shot Link-Up . If you have a shot you want to share, make sure you go and check out Love That Shot.


Back to Italy - Arriving in the Cinque Terre – Monterosso

Yes, I still intend to complete the "Stories of Italy". Slowly but surely! Afterall, I still need to create a Blurb Book with all the pictures and stories....For previous entries, click on this handy-dandy Italy Trip Link

Our drive out of Modena led us north on the A1 past Parma, then south on the A15 towards the Ligurian coast. Along the trip, we viewed the beautiful mountains of the Tosco-Emiliano National Park, before heading into the Cinque Terre.

Driving in the Cinque Terre reminded me and Scott of our adventures in Scotland, three years ago - narrow roads and limited visibility with the added feature of sharp cliffs to the sea. I am glad I wasn’t driving. We felt much better once we could see the coastal beach coming ever closer and finally, we had arrived on the main strip of Monterosso al Mare, the furthest north village of the Cinque Terre.

We checked into our hotel, La Spiaggia, located right along the Monterosso’s long strip of beach.
La Spiaggia

After the three hour car ride, it felt good to be out and about, taking in the beautiful ocean view and breezes. And check out the view from the room. (This was the view from Dave and Dawn’s room, but ours was very similar, being two floors down).
The View from the Hotel
The first thing we checked out was the beach where we dipped our feet in the salty water.

Monterosso is the largest of the five villages of Cinque Terre, with a lively resort and touristy feel. Along the Walkway The temperature was perfect – in the low 80s with that cool ocean breeze (we just missed the heat wave from a couple weeks back).

We enjoyed dinner outside as the sun went down, and as we walked back to explore the shops along the walkway, we saw a full moon rise above the mountains.
Moonlight In Monterosso
And yes, the image is a composite of two shots, but it gives you an idea of how beautiful it was at night! We experienced our first gelato from the little stand right outside our hotel before calling it a night.
Our First Gelato


292/365 - Annual Haircut

Time for Erica's annual haircut.

Well, maybe it hasn't been a year, but it just seems like it.
10.10.21 - Hair Blown Out


Team Up Thursday - Laces

Lee picked out this week's fun theme - Laces - an extension of last week's "shoe" theme.

Lee's photo of her daughter's knee high Converse sneakers is on the left. Wow - those are some serious laces! My daughter's laces hang in one of our cars - a prize from one of those carnival games you play at the amusement park.

Team Up Thursday - Laces

Each Thursday, Lee and I create a diptych based on a theme. You can view the other great diptychs at the Team Up Thursday Flickr group.


Confused Daylily

Blooming at the end of October.....

Face to the Sun


291/365 - Stuffed in the Jacket

Erica stuffed Sammy into her North Face jacket. And Sammy didn't mind (too much)! I think it's because of the cooler weather.

10.10.20 - In the Jacket

It's the only way he gets to go outside - stuffed inside Erica's jacket.


290/365 - Orange Jello

Brian has been on a big Jello kick. Probably because Jello is 99% sugar, with some citric acid. I've limited him to one package a week, otherwise he'd eat it all week long.

He can make the Jello all by himself, and today he used new containers - two ramekins and one mug.
10.10.19 - Orange Jello


Held Up to the Light

I played with some more textures today. I love TTV layers as they instantly give a vintage, faded look to a photo.

Held Up to the Light

And they can somewhat "save" a blurry one. (Well, it's really not blurry at the focus point. The focus point just happened to be on the grass and not the soccer player)
Running Away

The overlays were free, from Jill at Flypaper Textures.

I set the TTV layers to Multiply Blending mode, around 80-90%.

Birch Leaves
And while I think it would be fun to have a true TTV set up, this seems to be a lot easier.


289/365 - Goofing Off

Just another shot of the kids goofing off in the back yard. Today, both kids and I visited the dentist. Wow, another six months have flown by. No cavities, no issues.

10.10.18 - Goofing Off

We're enjoying the weather while we can - we've been spoiled these last two weeks!



During my Saturday morning run, I ran by the retention ponds in the 'hood and the temperatures were cold enough to cause a mist on the water. Beautiful! But I didn't have enough time to run back home and grab my camera - I had an 8:30 soccer game to get to. I thought I could go back Sunday morning.

But as soon as I stepped outside Sunday morning, I knew there would be no mist on the water - it wasn't cold enough. I walked out to the ponds and sure enough, just water. But instead, I watched the sun come up.

Sunday Morning

One of my favorite Norah Jones Songs:

Sunrise, sunrise
Looks like mornin' in your eyes
But the clocks held 9:15 for hours
Sunrise, sunrise
Couldn't tempt us if it tried
'Cause the afternoon's already come and gone

I guess seeing the sunrise was a nice alternative to mist on the water.


288/365 - The Family Picture for 2010

Long story short, here is the 2010 installment of the family photo.

This Is the One

Taken in the backyard, with the remote shutter release.
Of course, the entire event was fraught with the usual drama and silliness as the kids had to check each picture as it was taken. We really gave our neighbors some comic relief with our shenanigans.
Some of the outtakes:
Brian Goofing Off

Looking at the Cats

And then we added in an extra dynamic - pictures with the cats:
Outtake 2

This is as good as it gets with three cats who don't really like each other:
As Good as it Gets with Three Cats

Because soon after, one of them always gets away:
Losing Control



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