Last Week in Instagram

I didn't have the chance to take many photos with my big camera, but my iPhone filled the gap.

Enjoying a bit of the red wine I bought (I bought 15 bottles through a mail order deal)

Relaxing with Some Ruby Red #wine #glass


Zoom zoom:
Early Christmas Present for Hubby #car #toy


The Gingerbread house that never got assembled - the kids got distracted by their new toys. We ate it instead, which is something that never happens.
Assemble Me #food #sweet #gingerbread


It's me taking a walk in the late afternoon. It was a little windy.
Late Afternoon Walk


Sushi for lunch!
Work of Edible Art


First snow of the season on Tuesday.... on the morning I had to go back to work .....
First #snow of the Season!!
By the afternoon, all the snow had melted away....

Thursday morning commute - it was a beautiful day!
It's Going to Be a Great Day #prairie #clouds #sky #optimism

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Practically in the Backyard

A really nice feature of our community is the Parks and Recreation department - they've done a wonderful job of creating green spaces all around the city, some close to the "urban" areas, some weaving through the neighborhoods, all designed to encourage interaction with the natural habitat of the prairie.

A new park is under construction, a mere half mile from our house. A year ago, it was just an open field, but now there are trails, a gazebo and pond area.

Fishing Hole
This looks like a fishing pier of some sorts.

Another view of the pond:
The Park

I've been running the park trails since I discovered them, about a month ago. Since then, the pier and bridge in the above pictures have gone in - perhaps they are targeting an official spring or summer opening.

It's nice to run here, along the water, especially on sunny mornings:

Not in a Rush This Morning

Sweet Shot Day

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Solitary Flight

Taken while I was on a solitary walk. It was amazing to see him soar in the sky.

Solitary

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Christmas Goodies

As predicted, not a white Christmas (unless you count the white frost on the grass - the kids didn't and declared "it didn't seem like Christmas".

But it was a very nice Christmas indeed - we are truly blessed and so fortunate in our lives.

Some of the goodies -
Uggs
Another pair of Uggs for my daughter. I stick with the knock offs to offset the cost.

Big Kid Christmas

Just when I thought the kids had grown up, hubby goes and buys them (or really, himself) a slot car track and race set. It's not your normal Hotwheels cars set. This is a heavy duty set that takes up the entire length of the Dining room. Even the grown ups can be kids again with this set.

Smells So Good

Smells like Justin Beiber? I doubt it, but it does smell nice.

Awesome New Camera Strap - a Present from my Thoughtful Daughter

A lovely new camera strap for me, purchased by my daughter. Wow, she definitely knows what I like because it is perfect.

Of course, there was so much more, but I'm to the point where I don't want to take pictures of everything. It's too tiring, even the cat had to take a nap under the tree when it was all over:

Nap Under the Christmas Tree

Hope you had a very Merry Christmas!

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Merry Christmas and January 2012 Screen Saver Wallpaper

Is it too soon to be talking about 2012? Really, January 2012 is just around the corner.....

I started making 4x6 calendars for friends and family 2 years ago. I create the calendars using photos I have taken over the past year, adding on a monthly calendar grid in PSE. The most difficult part has been picking out the 12 photos and finding calendar grids I can easily use. This year, I found several grids at the PhotoShop Elements User blog. The blog post includes instructions on how to use the templates.

Since a 4x6 photo is a standard size, having these printed at your normal photo finisher is very cost effective. I normally use mpix.com to print mine, but I always run a "proof" set off at the local Walgreens.

Last year I started using the jpeg file as the wallpaper on my computer screen. This year I am making these files available for download.

Each month, I'll create a post with the download link and include a link on my side bar.

Download the January 2012 Calendar Wallpaper File Here or use the links in the preview below:


It's my small way of saying Merry Christmas and a Happy 2012!

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A Not So White Christmas

It's not looking good for a White Christmas. It won't even be close, with forecast temperatures in the high 40s the rest of this week and next.

We'll have to settle for some "Prairie Snow".

Fox Tails

I know, it's not quite the same thing.

But still pretty in its own, sparse way.
County Road N700

The sun is expected to shine brightly these next several days, and we have family flying in for the holidays. That's what's important, not the white stuff on the ground.

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2011 Christmas Card

I previously posted about our yearly Christmas Card picture and now the picture has been transformed into a physical card:

Displayed

Yes, I couldn't help but break out the heart bokeh filter again. The picture is a little dark because I took it at dusk with no natural light, but it does the job.

This year I had to do something different for card display - in previous years, we had the baby grand piano to use as a huge display area, but it now resides at my sister's house in North Carolina.

I ended up buying several photo display cable / magnet sets - I purchased one when visiting Michigan with friends back in October. The cables measure 6 feet long and hang off a nail or thumbtack in the wall (or in my case, I just taped them to the wall). Stong magnets hold the photos / cards in place along the cable. You can see the cable behind the card in the photo above.

Here's my quick and dirty display area in the house:
Christmas Past and Present

You can buy these cable systems at PhotoJojo, although I bought mine through Mishu Designs, as that was the brand name of the single set I purchased in Michigan. I love how versatile they are - you can purchase decorative magnets to match your decor or the changing seasons. I think I need to buy some Christmas magnets to spruce up my display....

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Sparkles

I finally got some free time to take pictures of random ornaments on random trees.

Because none of these ornaments are from our tree - I see pretty ornaments and just start snapping away....

Snowballed

Silver and Gold Decorations on Every Christmas Tree #christmastree #ornament

Reflected

Even if the tree is in the middle of a lobby and you can tell by the reflection in the ornament. Sometimes you just have to stop and take a picture.

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Snowy Sidewalks

City sidewalks, busy sidewalks
Dressed in holiday style
In the air there's a feeling of Christmas
Children laughing, people passing
Meeting smile after smile
And on every street corner you'll hear

Silver bells, silver bells
It's Christmas time in the city
Ring-a-ling, hear them ring
Soon it will be Christmas day

City Sidewalks

We added the Christmas Bakery to our fledgling Lego Christmas Village this year. I saved last year's Santa's Workshop from the big Lego pit (aka the black hole in my son's room - thousands of Lego pieces from many Lego sets) and stored it in our Christmas decorations box. Brian was quite excited when he opened the box with the pieces and promptly recreated Santa's Workshop and added the white street snow for all the villagers to walk on.

Streets are Bustling

Then the bakery arrived last week:
The Bakery

I love all the details in these sets.
Winter Sports

It's the closest to a snow-lined street scene we'll encounter this year, as I'm afraid we won't get to experience a white Christmas in real life.

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Christmas in Perspective

Last week I posted a link to a song on Facebook. I was feeling a little overwhelmed, probably depressed and certainly angry about something insignificant in my life. Because I know I have such a blessed life and to be angry about something insignificant is purely me being selfish and unappreciative of the blessings that have bestowed upon me.

But that's the way I feel sometimes. I know we all feel that way, maybe even more so during the busy holiday season.

I'm going to share some songs tonight - one is the same song I posted to Facebook.


If you read my blog regularly, you know that I am a huge Sara Bareilles fan. Her cover of Joni Mitchell's River was released in 2008, but I never bought it until a couple weeks ago, which is weird because I normally buy her recordings as soon as they are released. Maybe I didn't need to hear it until now. And when it rains it pours, because the only TV show I regularly watch, Glee, also covered the song last week. Like I was feeling justified in my feeling blue.

It's coming on Christmas, they're cutting down trees
They're putting up reindeer, singing songs of joy and peace
Oh, I wish I had a river I could skate away on

But it don't snow here, it stays pretty green
I'm going to make a lot of money
And then I'm gonna quit this crazy scene
Oh, I wish I had a river I could skate away on

I wish I had a river so long
I would teach my feet to fly
Oh, I wish I had a river I could skate away on

As a counterpoint, another Sara B song, this one just released (and promptly purchased) - Love is Christmas, to help me put things more into perspective...


I don’t care if the house is packed,
Or the strings of light are broken.
I don’t care if the gifts are wrapped,
Or there’s nothing here to open.

Love is not a toy, and no paper will conceal it.
Love is simply joy that I’m home.

I don’t care if the carpet's stained; we've got food upon our table.
I don’t care if it’s gonna rain, our little room is warm and stable.

Love is who we are, and no season can contain it.
Love would never fall for that.

We sing oooooooooooooooo

Let love lead us, love is Christmas.

Why so scared that you’ll mess it up? When perfection keeps you haunted.
All we need is your best my love, that’s all anyone ever wanted.

Love is how we do, let no judgment overrule it.
Love I look to you, and I sing.

Let love lead us, love is Christmas.
Let love lead us, love is Christmas.

Finally, a small clip of a song our church choir sang last Sunday - I sing in the choir and we perform once a year - at Christmas. The song, Hope is Born Again really touched my heart last Wednesday and snapped me out of my funk....

I couldn't find a full recording anywhere online (even though I know we were recorded during our performance, but I'm sure due to copyright restrictions, our church doesn't publish them online), and the best I could find was a promotional compilation:


The song starts at 3:37

Winter Chill
Icy day
Christmas cheer feels far away
Heavy heart
December blue
Night falls hard on this solitude
Somewhere in the twilight
A star of wonder shines
And a carol breaks the silence
To remind this heart of mine
God has stepped across the sky
From the other side
He came near to us
He is real to us
The Father reaches out his hand to every child and man
Hope is born again

I hope that if you are feeling overwhelmed this Christmas season to remember the Gift that is Christmas. Blessings to you.

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It Don't Mean a Thing If You Ain't Got that Swing

.... so doo-whop down ... to the Middle School Band and Jazz Band concert.

My son has impressed me with his self motivated interest in playing the saxophone. I figured it would be a fleeting fancy, to be replaced by some other "hobby du jour". After all, musical instruments require practice, patience and you don't sound good just because you score a 100% on the Guitar Hero video game. You have to seriously work at it.

And of course, there is that "band geek" persona that seems to come to life when the kids enter Middle School. Not that I care about this sort of labeling - I played in the Orchestra all through school, perhaps one of the lowest form of musical geek there is. I know I loved (and still love) creating music and that's why I stuck with it all those years.

To open up the evening, the symphonic band played:
Enter the Musicians
The band "uniform" - tuxedo shirts, black pants and black shoes. The shirts were specially ordered at the beginning of the year, but since the boy lives in blue jeans and white t shirts, we had to make a special trip to find black pants. Let me tell you, shopping at Kohls' on a Saturday night during the Christmas shopping season was not fun. And I don't even want to talk about what we went through to find black dress shoes in a size 7. Suffice it to say, we bought up a half size and I hope the shoes still fit him in the Spring....

Much to his chagrin, Scott and I happened to nab front row seats in the audience. And the girl next him - her parents just happened to be sitting next to us. I think their expressions say it all.
Our Parents are in the Front Row....

The 6th Grade Symphonic band played three pieces. I video taped a couple of snippets of their performance, but I'll spare you the details....
Warm Ups

In addition to symphonic band, he's playing in the Lower Jazz Band (aka, the Lab Jazz Band), kind of the "starter" jazz band. At the start of school, he didn't want to play in the jazz band, but somewhere along the way he changed his mind. As the jazz bands meet at 7am before school for practice, there must be real desire to be a part of this ensemble.

I love the informality, the "coolness" of jazz....
Jazz Band Set Up

Truthfully, I love jazz band. I've kept my opinions to myself, because I didn't want to influence my son's decision to participate. Secretly, I was thrilled to have him involved. So cue the extra proud Mom smile when he stood up for a solo:
Soloist

I think he was pleased too.
Pleased

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Puffs of Cotton

We had our first official snowfall Friday morning, although I'm not sure if the dusting really qualifies as "snowfall". At least the roads were clear and the drive to school and work not impacted.

There was enough snow to form puffs on the yews at work.

Fluff and Stuff

Like nature's ornaments.
White Ornaments

I'm linking up with the Mortal Muses and their special 14 Days of Many Muses Musing. They are offering great giveaways, so check them out!

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A Little Frost

It's the time of year when every week night is filled with some combination of holiday parties, concerts, rehearsals, end of semester projects and other end of year "stuff". I haven't had the opportunity to sit down at the computer since last Sunday evening, but I was glad to have a free Friday evening to get some recent photos off my camera.

From earlier in the week - a brief glimpse of the morning sun illuminated the frosty grass for about 5 minutes.
Frozen Edges

The Lavender in the garden is frozen, but still beautiful
Spikes

Even Frozen They Embody Beauty

Here's to a relaxing weekend!

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Instagram Tricks - Posting Vertical Photos in Instagram

Have you ever wondered how Instagrammers post vertical pictures to their Instagram feed?

I know that one of the unique facets of the Instagram app is the square photo format. However, I follow some talented Instagrammers who post vertical and horizontal photos, even photos with drop shadows. I've always wondered how they did it.

Enter the power of the Internet, and I've found an app that formats your vertical and horizontal photos specifically for Instagram. The app is called Squaready and it is free. It's a very simple app - you pick the picture and it puts a white border around it. When you export it to Instagram, it opens up the Instagram app and it's ready to go.

To illustrate further, some screen shots from my phone.

This is the main screen once you open the app. Tap the Folder to select the photo you want to use. It brings you to your camera roll, and you select an existing photo.

Squaready


It brings the selected photo on to the palette where you can resize or move. There are sizing guides to help. In this example, I brought in a film strip type photo (taken in IncrediBooth),
Chosen Photo


Then I reduced it a little and moved it over.

Tap on the upper right export icon and the following dialog pops up - I always choose Send in Instagram Format.
Upload to Instgram


Instagram opens up and your photo is ready. You have to select the Normal filter. Other filters will change the color of the white background. The exception is the Inkwell filter which transforms it into Black and White.
Chose Normal Filter


In your Instagram feed, it looks something like this:

Portrait in Instagram


Even horizontal photos can benefit from this app:
Landscape, No Black Bars


Because if you use the Instagram app, you get those black horizontal bars:
Landscape with Black Bars

So go ahead and take those portrait photos into Instagram - buck the square format once in a while.....

Now, to figure out how to add a drop shadow.....

I'm on Instagram as shirley319 - hope to see you there!

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Camera Phone Friday - Looking Like Christmas

As much as I love my big DSLR, I love the convenience and instant sharing capability of my iPhone camera.

In the past week, we picked out the Christmas tree and decorated it - it's beginning to look like Christmas around here:

No, we didn't pick out an artificial tree from here - I just liked the pretty store display...

Winter Wonderland #christmastree

Here's our tree in the car:
New Tree Strategy - It Won't Fall Off The Car on the Way Home

Nothing says Christmas more than the red poinsettia:
Classic #christmas #poinsettia #red #flowers

And decorations on the tree:
Kitty in The Tree #christmastree #christmas #ornament

Today's photos taken with my iPhone 4s.
life rearranged

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All images on this blog (unless stated) are the intellectual property and copyright of Shirley LeMay Photography and Shirley Behind the Lens (© 2005-2014). Do not steal, borrow or pirate the images here.

The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code. and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act) prohibits the use of digital property to be used without the consent of its owner.

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