363/365 - New Year's Eve Lunch

Note - I'm not sure how today is the last day of the year, but I'm only on day 363 of my Project 365. Maybe I miscounted somewhere along the way, or maybe I started late. Who knows. I guess it doesn't really matter - tomorrow is a New Year and today is New Year's Eve!

Which we celebrated with a nice lunch at KoFusion, a nice sushi restaurant in the Downtown area.
10.12.31 - New Year's Eve Lunch

We didn't know that they offered a wonderful buffet at lunch, which included three types of sushi. All the items on the buffet were wonderful - Chicken Curry, Pork and Veggies, Sweet / Spicy chicken, Spicy Tuna Roll, Big Sushi Roll and California Roll, just to name a few.

Brian loves sushi, too:
Brian's Sushi Selection

After lunch, we walked to Pekara bakery, where I ordered a cannoli for desert.
Desert at Pekara

I was kicking myself for not bringing my purse, which holds my camera (you know, when the hubby drives, there's not much reason for me to lug the purse around). I was lucky I had my iPhone, which I used to take the pictures.

There are a lot of unique stores in our small Downtown area. I should go back again with my big camera. I guess it will have to wait until "next year", though!

I hope you have a safe New Year's Eve and a fabulous 2011!

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2010 Reflections

Reflected in Red

Another year’s end is upon us – and like previous years, now is the time to reflect upon the past year and to set forth goals for the upcoming year. Like the end of year performance appraisal at work, I generally don’t like these exercises. I prefer to keep looking ahead or just keep plodding forward.

[Sometimes life gets like that – a little bit of forward inertia means you move forward, but perhaps without purpose – simply plodding forward. I guess that is why we reflect and make plans – because moving along with purpose feels better than just plodding forward]


So, looking back at the past year, what did I accomplish?

  • Over 5500 shutter accuations. That’s about the same pace as last year.
  • 2000 Uploads to flickr. 700 more than last year. Maybe I’m getting more “keepers”. Or maybe I’m not as picky!
  • I’ve become so much more proficient with PSE - I learned how to install and use Actions in PSE. That has opened up a lot of post processing options for me.
  • I also learned how to create and use clipping masks, layer masks and other techniques. Now I’m learning Lightroom.
  • I’ve made new friends in the blogosphere – and they inspire me on a daily basis.

So what didn’t I do in 2010 that I originally planned?
  • I didn’t apply any HDR techniques like I had hoped to, but hopefully that will happen in the coming year.
  • I didn’t participate in some of the photo challenges I set out to do in 2010, but added new challenges instead.
  • I didn’t purchase any “major” photographic equipment – probably a first for me! I added a fun fisheye adapter and a used 50mm lens to my bag. I would like to add that 105mm Nikon Micro lens and buy a bigger bag in 2011.

What might be in store for 2011?

For the month of January, I will be posting less frequently. After two straight years of posting to two blogs almost daily, I’m somewhat burned out. I’m thinking once a week over the next several weeks might give me enough of a break from things. One of my goals in 2011 is to create several photobooks of my images, like the Blurb Book I created of my trip to London. I should be able to make a good start if I take a break in January.

What else?
  • I plan to start posting older pictures, taken before 2008.
  • I still plan to participate in Team Up Thursday with my partner, Lee.
  • I still plan to participate in iffles.com Monthly Theme Challenge.
  • I’ll still carry my camera in my purse and take pictures - probably not daily, but probably frequently enough to slip in some fresh material now and then.
I thank you for taking the time to visit and read, to comment and inspire me. I wish you all the best in the coming year.

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362/365 - Christmas is 70% Off

'Tis the season for great deals on Christmas decorations.

Brian wanted a taller tree for his bedroom. The little 12" tree we bought several years ago was too small for all the ornaments he put on it and it tipped over constantly.

Today, Brian, Scott and Grandma Fay visited the Target and scored a nice 4 foot, pre-lit tree, 70% off (they paid $17 for it - another bargain). They set it up in his room this afternoon.

Even though Christmas is over, it's nice to have something new and festive in the house.

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Team Up Thursday - December

Unfortunately, it's been a while since Lee and I teamed up. Hopefully, we'll get back into a weekly rhythm with the New Year. And we leave this month with a look at what makes December, well, December.

101230_TT_December4x6_lowres

Lee's gorgeous Nutcrackers ring in the Christmas holiday while I captured our snowy (record breaking) December.

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.

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361/365 - More Uggs Knock Offs

Ever since Erica purchased her Uggs Slipper from Zappos, I have been coveting a pair. I've worn a hole in my current slipper and the cozy lining is all gone. I was hoping for a new pair at Christmas, but that didn't happen (I'm not complaining - Scott bought me something just as nice - I'll have to take a picture of that tomorrow).

I was mentally prepared to spend between $70 and $100 for a pair of slippers like Erica's. I went to the Zappos website and tried to select a size 7 slipper.

And received this message - "The Shoe / Size Combination you have selected is not Available" - at least 6 times!

OK, I understand. Christmas was a few days ago and I'm sure folks are heavy into the after Christmas shopping thing. I set up the "e-mail me when this selection becomes available" bit. Then I hit the local Outlet Mall's Famous Footwear store after work.

And came home with these:
My Ugg Knock Off Slippers
And I only paid $35 for them!

Let's look at Erica's Uggs to compare:
10.10.25 - Speedy Arrival

I think I can live without the Uggs label on the top. And I will attest that my BearPaw slippers are just as comfortable.

And for $65 less than the Uggs, I think my wallet feels better!

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Silver All Over

The farm / park about a half mile from the house.

Silver All Over

I used a texture from ShadowHouse Creations' Rustic Art Collection to emphasize the coolness of the snow.

The rains are coming tonight and I don't expect the snow to last at 50degF. So we enjoy it while we can. I hope you have a wonderful night!

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Day 360/365 - Mornings

While I wish I had this week off from work, I would have missed the gorgeous, sparkly landscape this morning.

I love the look of these red twig dogwood branches in winter. Covered in frost, they are even more beautiful.
Red Branches

I watched the sun rise as I approached the interstate ramp.
10.12.28 - Sunrise

And that sun really made the pine trees at work sparkle:
Vanishing

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Touch Up Tuesday - Exposure Fix - Frosty Pines

Here's another reason to shoot RAW. You can take a terribly exposed photo and still salvage it.

This morning's frost covered much of the landscape and we had the added bonus of actual sunshine to add that sparkle. Unfortunately, I completely over exposed this scene - rows of pine trees at work. I shot it from the car and didn't have time to re-adjust the exposure.

Overexposed

But since I shot it RAW, I can adjust the exposure. This one was really blown - I adjusted the exposure -1.2 from the original. I then converted the RAW file to .JPG and finished things up in PSE - simply cropping and adding a slight vignette.

Frost Pines

For RAW processing, I am currently using Nikon's free ViewNX2, which gives the user the basic adjustments of exposure and white balance (basic, but essential!). I like that it is really pretty easy to use and reads in any custom settings I have set up in the camera. And you can't beat the price.

Even so, I am currently learning Lightroom 3 - I think that it will speed up the processing and add some functionality not available through ViewNX2.

And I am sharing another capture from this morning - the same pine trees, just a little different perspective.

Vanishing

I am linking up today to Paper Heart Camera's Touch Up Tuesday. I hope you found today's touch up information helpful!

Touch Up Tuesday's at the Paper Mama

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359/365 - Just a Small Sampling...

...of the Christmas / Holiday cards we received from friends near and far.

We are so blessed to have friends next door and friends as far away as China. I love the prominence of photo cards and really love it when we get to see picture of the entire family, not just the kids. I wish I could capture all of the cards in one 4x6 capture, but I think this one gets most of them.

10.12.27 - Truly Blessed

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Patio Seating

Not too welcoming right now, but it's warm inside.

Seating

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358/365 - Relaxing Day

The last day of my 4-day weekend, and we are just relaxing at home.
Scott caught the Colts game via the internet.
Fay watched the Giants lose to the Packers.
I started reading a book on Lightroom 3.
Erica took a 5 hour nap.
Brian played games at George's house.
The cats napped on the couches.

A perfect lazy Sunday.

10.12.26 - Relaxing Day

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SOOC Saturday - Merry Christmas

Over five inches of snow fell overnight. Thank goodness we don't have to go anywhere today.

Expect for a little walk around the neighborhood. Had to work off some of that Christmas Ham.
Garland and Bulbs
And take pictures of my neighbor's front door.

I hope you had a Merry Christmas.

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Day 357 - Christmas

A wonderful day, starting with the view of the backyard:


The bonus of having older kids - they don't wake up before the crack of dawn. This was the first year the adults got up before the kids. Around 8:30am, Brian woke up and we sent him into Erica's room to wake her up [otherwise, he wouldn't be opening up gifts until the afternoon].

Surveying the Presents

And later on in the afternoon, the kids played with some of the new toys:
Dad's New Toy

After dinner and another round of Clue, this time with all five of us [I won this time!].
New Edition

A Great Christmas!

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Christmas Eve

The snow is falling softly, covering the landscape.

Berries in the Snow

May Your Days Be Merry and Bright

Boughs

And May All Your Christmases be White

Slightly Sticking

Merry Christmas!

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356/365 - Christmas Traditions

One of our favorite holiday traditions - making and decorating the gingerbread house.

Roofless for Now

The finished product:
10.12.24 -The 2010 Edition

Christmas Eve and the snow has started to fall:
Snow, Finally Falling

The best thing about snow on Christmas Eve - we don't have to go anywhere and we can simply watch the snow fall peacefully.

Christmas Eve

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The Lost iTouch

About a month and a half ago, on a Tuesday afternoon, Brian admitted that he couldn't find his [2 month old] iTouch. Before getting frantic, I calmly stated - "Oh, don't worry, Brian, I'm sure it will turn up - we just need to look for it harder".

That evening, we searched every little nook and cranny in the family room. I moved couches, stuck my hand into the deep recesses of both couches (not a pleasant activity I'll tell you), and even searched the trash (worse than the couch, by far). Over the next days and weeks, we recounted the days leading up to that Tuesday - where the iTouch had been, who had played with it, etc.

I finally relinquished that it was lost, that maybe I had thrown it away with the papers on the desk. [Because, once upon a time, I accidentally threw away Erica's cell phone along with the Sunday paper - you know, those devices are SO small and light! A total accident! One I am still reminded of from time to time...]. I started to admit to co-workers and friends that buying an expensive electronic device to an 11 year old maybe wasn't such a great idea. I started to think about the impending cell phone purchase and how to mitigate the risks associated that.

[Truth be told, we have very responsible kids - we had never experienced any major issues with belongings and they treat their stuff well. I started to hear all sorts of stories from other parents and realized that we weren't alone!]

Fast forward to Tuesday. Brian's best friend, George, is over. Brian has been spending a lot of time at George's house because George has been grounded from electronics use, and things are "too tempting" over here. Today is the last day of his ban and the two of them are in the basement getting out the board games when Brian discovers his missing iTouch, sandwiched between the board games. Excitement ensues. We laud the discovery. We charge it up a little bit and the two boys start to play with it. I take pictures of the boys, filled with such joy.
Happiness, Right?

Oops - George is still banned from electronics....

So Excited, Forgot About the Electronics Ban

The irony of it all - the only reason why they found the iTouch was because of George's electronics ban. And now he'll be banned for another day. Sorry about that!

But Thank You! We'll make sure you get to play with the iTouch in a couple of days...

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355/365 - Clue Game

We had a full day of last minute Christmas preparations, cleaning and laundry. For me, the day started with a much needed run outside - the sun was shining and the road was clear of snow and ice. I have a feeling I won't see these conditions after today (lots of snow in the weather forecast).

I headed out to run errands, but stopped off at Starbucks first.
Peppermint Mocha Day

After my errands, the kids and I spent the rest of the day cleaning and preparing for Grandma Fay's arrival, just in time for dinner.

After dinner, we broke out this year's new CLUE game. Seriously, we have at least 8 versions of the game and there seems to be a newer version each year.

10.12.23 - Time for Clue

Thinking and Rolling the Die

Erica won tonight's game.

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Now for Some Star Bokeh

I made a new bokeh filter yesterday using a star punch. Unfortunately, my centering skills were a little off, so one of the star's points is rounded off. Probably need to make another one.

Star Bokeh

Taken outside a local restaurant who has lights strung across the outdoor patio. It's too cold to eat outside now, but I like the lights.

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354/365 - New Addiction - Angry Birds

Oh why did I purchase this App? I had heard bits and pieces about this game and hey, it is the number one App on iTunes. And it's only 99 cents. But it's addictive, too.

10.12.22 - New Addiction!

The object of the game is simple - launch the birds out of the slingshot and kill the pigs. Sounds easy, right? Heck, the pigs are even stationary! The key is to get the right trajectory, which can tricky.

The game reminds me of my C+ programming class back in college, where we built a golf game using trajectories (factoring in force applied to the ball and wind speed / direction). Of course, our game graphics didn't really exist (well, I think they consisted of keyboard dashes, dots and slashes - really high tech - NOT!).

The game is a hoot and the best 99 cents you can buy. Now, if only I could get past Level 1-21.

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353/365 - Was Lost, Now Found

The long story short - Brian's lost iTouch has been found. I had resigned myself to its demise, afterall it went missing almost two months ago.

10.12.21 - Was Lost, Now Found

The whole story deserves a separate blog post - and I'll have time to pull it together over the next couple days, so stay tuned.

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Touch Up Tuesday - Cousins

My sister called me the other day, requesting my photo manipulation skills. She had taken a picture of her two boys for the annual holiday card and didn't like the colors.

Even though she hadn't shot in RAW (I chastised her for that, but then again, she doesn't get her camera out very much - I need to chastise her for that, too!), I was still able to adjust things adequately using PSE:

The SOOC shot:
Cousins - SOOC
The boys are a little on the pink side, like the white balance isn't quite right. I also didn't like that fish ornament on the tree - very distracting.

In PSE, I created a duplicate layer (this way, all the edits are on that layer and not the original layer - if you make a mistake, you can just delete that layer). I chose Enhance --> Adjust Color --> Remove Color Cast and using the eyedropper, selected a spot where the color should be white or a neutral gray. This warmed up the photo and removed that reddish cast on the boys skin.

Then I removed that fish ornament using the clone tool.

Lastly, I cropped the photo a little bit.

The final result:
Cousins - Edited
My sister was happy with my edits and the boys' smiling faces will be gracing the houses of many friends this year.

I'm linking up to Paper Heart Camera's Touch Up Tuesday - there are lots of tips and tricks there.
Touch Up Tuesday's at the Paper Mama

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352/365 - Sweet Treat Surprise

We are blessed to have such great neighbors who are friends. Tonight, Kellie and cute little Maddie delivered some goodies - Puppy Chow and Peppermint Bark. Totally yummy.

10.12.20 - A Sweet Treat

No pictures of the Puppy Chow, and I didn't get much of it - the kids devoured it!

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Color in the Snow

I found the ornament in my neighbor's yard. I'm sure one of her boys (or my son) brought it out there for "some reason".

Wishing You a Merry Christmas

And more color and frost.
Iced Over

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351/365 - Sleepy Sunday

Can you tell winter break has started for our kids? That's Brian sleeping in the kitchen on the makeshift couch. He's joined by the two cats.

10.12.19 - Cuddled Up

I think the cats will be completely spoiled by the time the kids have to go back.

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Early Hoar Frost

I woke up this morning to sparkly hoar frost. Unfortunately, I had to be on the road and at church by 7am, really too early to take any photos. I feared by the time I was done with morning activities the frost would be gone.

So I turned on some outdoor lights and did the best I could with the available light.
Morning Sparkles

As luck would have it, the cold temperatures and cloudy conditions allowed the frost to stay around through the morning.
Frosted

Winter Berries

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350/365 - Magic Time

Tonight's event - the annual work holiday party, complete with Magician.

He even visited the tables before dinner and ran through some cool tricks:
Table Magic

Changing two silver coins into five:
He Started With Two Coins

Then working with doves during the official show:
Four Doves

And picking on the HR Manager:
Dan The Magician?

A fun and entertaining night.

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