Tuesday, January 24, 2017

"Birthday Beauty"...

I am visiting family and friends in Tennessee, and luckily my visit coincided with the birthday of Amy Jane,  cousin/ little sister. We laugh because my family is "birthday challenged" to remember the date of someone's birthday and must resort to many tactics in order not to forget them. However, once we remember that important day, 
we go to great lengths to mark it, and try to make the birthday girl or boy feels loved and special!

Rule Number One
The birthday girl can do no work! They are "queen" for the day and cannot help with the normal, routine chores of the day like, setting the table, cooking, emptying garbage, unloading dishwashers...etc.  Amy Jane took this rule to a new level, and even stayed home 
from work to enjoy the whole day with us to do "nothing". This is a photo of her, 
lounging in front of a glowing fire, enjoying her day of no responsibility. 

 Rule Number Two
You get a home-made birthday cake! My mother made Tiramisu and it was divine...the birthday candles weren't trick candles, but did something I haven't seen before; the flames from each one glowed a different color. If you look closely in the following photos, 
you might be able to see them in action.  

Rule Number Three
You get to choose whatever you want for birthday dinner....this birthday dinner consisted of 
steak shish kabobs, wild rice with onions, garlic and celery, and a beautiful green salad embellished with fine china, real silver, and of course - candlelight! 

 Rule Number Four
The birthday cake must be proudly presented with a vibrant, rousing, 
and badly out of tune rendition of "Happy Birthday"!

You can see the colored flaming candles here!

Rule Number Five
Huff and Puff and Blooowwww the candles out! 
She got them all in one shot! 

Rule Number Six
Now this is an important rule that is often ignored as one gets older.  Children never fail to follow this rule, but adults too often let this one go by the way side. That rule is to 
lick the candles, once you have successfully blown them out. Amy Jane needed no reminding of this 
rule - So remember....stay young ~ lick your candles

And finally ~ the best rule of all ~ Rule Seven
Open your presents!!!!! There are many variations of this rule; you can take your time and try to guess what it is, carefully loosen the tape and remove the wrapping intact, or you can go wild and rip the paper to shreds in no time flat! It is your choice on how to follow this rule!

Rule Number Eight
Elaborately give thanks that someone actually got you the very thing you have been wanting or needing for the entire past year! It is a miracle; and now your life is complete. 

That is...until next year's birthday rolls around!
Oh, I almost forgot the last birthday rule. Now this rule is the only one that is optional.
Rule Eight ~ Save the bow for the next birthday bash! 
Happy Birthday Amy Jane, do you think I will see that bow
on my future birthday present?

Thursday, January 19, 2017

"Friday Fotos" - from my "Guided365" online course

 One of my "New Year's Resolutions" is to improve my skills in the 
hobbies that I love, mainly photography and making jewelry - and if you have 
read my blog before, you know I am a huge, hobbiest photographer!

If you click on any of the hashtags, they will take you to the photo on Instagram.
To see all the photos from the entire class on one page
click on following hashtag..

In order to achieve the goal of improving my photography skills, 
I actually committed to a course that will last the entire year!  
It is called Guided365, and we will literally get a daily email every day this year, with an
 emphasis on various skills that will build upon each other.
This is no wimpy, kindergarten course... within the first
 two weeks, we are already off the "auto" setting, and shooting 
on the Program and Aperture settings.  Next week, we move to the manual setting. I am 
a self-taught photographer that has read thousands of blogs, studied many an article, 
and poured through my camera manual countless times to figure out exactly what 
all the buttons and settings actually do!  This blog is truly the outlet for my 
love of photography, combined with
 my love to write and journal.
I won't post all the daily photos we submit for "homework", but will cherry pick the best. Don't think that every photo you see here turns out perfect, because for every photo posted on this blog, I probably took ten to twenty shots to "get it right"!  Each day we get 
an email that explains a topic, gives us "prompts" of how to take a photo for homework, and we post it to Instagram with #guided365 and # of each day...which I had no idea how to use when I 
started this class! I am learning so much! The goal for above photo was to pick one part of a subject's face, and bring it into perfect focus, while blurring the background. 
Doesn't Toula have the cutest, little nose ever?

This photo's goal was to shoot a fast moving subject, and capture it with
the entire subject in focus. Now that was hard! This photo looks like Toula is just casually strolling  back to me, but she was literally in a full gallop! 
The object in her mouth is a stuffed, (or rather "unstuffed" rabbit).
 I made sure to note this fact in my Instagram posting, so animal
activists would not be protesting outside my backdoor! 

My goal for this day was to take an animal or person, pick the eyes as a focal point,
 bring them into clear focus (making it the first part of photo to which your eyes are naturally drawn), while leaving the rest of the face still in focus, but blurring the background. 
This is all easier said then done, and thankfully, I have a pretty 
good, self-taught background, but it a scary step for students new to photography taking 
this class, and have never taken a photo out of "Auto" mode.
  Kudos to our horse, "Doc",  what a great model! 

Homework for this photo was to shoot a building at an upward angle in Aperture mode, with an aperture that allowed you to keep the closest and furtherest point of the building in focus. 

Secondly,  we were challenged to shoot with a large aperture (which means very little light comes through the camera) and capture a "sun-flare". The reason photography is so confusing is that large aperture means small len's opening. This took many practice photos and lots of patience!
 Toula, my trusty photography assistant, and faithful model, was of little help! I had to kneel, and get down low to the ground, in order to shoot 
at an upward angle. Toula took this motion as permission to 
come right over, and "lick" my camera lens!.
Dog slobber and my very expensive camera lens became well acquainted!

For this assignment, we were asked to take a photograph on Aperture mode. Once we had that photo, we had to manually override the light meter, and shoot same photo one stop lighter, and one stop darker. As I previously stated, this is no baby course! We were to post the best photo from the three. Mine turned out to be the photo that was manually stopped down one stop, 
(in layman' s terms that means to make it darker then the camera computer originally photographed)  teaching us that even as good as digital cameras are now days,  the
  camera doesn't always choose the right exposure! 
That is why you should shoot on the "Manual mode", if you are a serious photographer. 
I know how to do this; but this lesson and homework drove the point home!

And the final photo of the week was to take everything we learned, and roll it into one photo! This entailed photographing a moving subject, all in focus, with the right exposure and a blurred background! My sweet six month old Golden Retriever, ("Toula") 
helped me achieve this, as she was heading to the river for another dip.
"Only in Louisiana",  does one enjoy seventy-three degree weather in mid-January,  and  joyfully jump in and out of a river! I am going to make "Friday Fotos" a weekly routine, so I can post my best photos of the week, and hopefully document inprovement
 of my photography skills as we move through 2017! Maybe,  I can even invite my classmates to join me, and post their best photo of the week on my Friday post! There is a lot of talent in my class, and as you can  tell by this post, I am excited about it! 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

:: Weekending ::

Our favorite place to spend weekends and holidays is the one hundred year old "Logcabin" that has been in Gary's family for, well....One hundred years! Constructed in 1905, it is now actually 112 years old!  This is the original log room, built back in the day when there was no electricity, no air conditioning, and the only heat source was this fireplace that was painstakingly built by hand, rock by rock. Gary's grandmother would tell us stories about how her father and his friends would have "log stripping parties", when they all sat around stripping bark off the logs cut from the property. Oh, if these walls could talk!  When Gary and I decided to purchase it from the family twenty years ago, it had not been used in at least fifteen years, and we spent every weekend (I called them "workends") renovating the plumbing, electricity, and just about everything needed to actually be able to use it! It truly was a monumental task, but so worth all the blood, sweat and tears we poured into this place! 

All three girls could come home for the weekend due to the upcoming Martin Luther King holiday. Last night was just spent catching up on sleep (Elizabeth, now in her second year of vet school had pulled an all nighter for her Friday test), and the other two girls chatted about things that girls chat about...makeup, friends, and life's general adventures!

This may look like an ordinary scene from a river bank, but this 
Palmetto plant has an unusual story.

Twenty years ago, it was but an ordinary, two-foot, house plant purchased from Home Depot with the purpose of sprucing up our newly purchased, very tiny, first home. Not having quite the botanical knowledge I now possess, I had no clue that it was an out-door plant, and my new, green friend quickly began to turn brown. When it seemed there was no hope of saving it, I put it out on the corner for the garbage service to take. Unbeknownst to me, Gary rescued it, and planted the "dead" plant down on the river bank, by our logcabin.  Now, either Gary has a super green thumb, or there is some powerful fertilizer and nourishment in that soil down there, because our dead plant not only came back to life, but it is still thriving,  and now is at least twenty feet tall! Do palmettos ever get that tall? It has survived temperatures ranging from 105 to 15 degrees, floods that covered it for weeks, hurricanes, droughts, and who knows how many various pests and bugs that have attacked it. Right now, we are in the midst of the season I call  "Sprinter" - (Winter and Spring together -  70 degrees today), so it doesn't look so great, but come Spring, it will be 
growing, green, big and beautiful! Good move Gary!!!

Another pleasant discovery this morning
We have had this natural, sand beach across from 
us on the other side of the river bank, but this morning as I was 
photographing the "Super-Palmetto Plant",
 I discovered.....

We now have natural white sand on our side of the river bank! The recent 
flood must have dumped it there.

Who needs Florida...we will be enjoying sun, sand and water this 
summer right outside our back door! Clearly, our dogs already knew about this...
hope they put on sunscreen! The beautiful Golden Retriever in this photo is Cajun.
You can tell she comes from show dog bloodlines, as she always holds herself as if she is 
in the Westminster Dog show! Another "fun fact" about Cajun is that she has to have something in her mouth. It can be a sock, a koozie, a dish rag...
we call whatever she carries around
  her "Baby"! She won't destroy it, or chew on it; she just needs that
oral fixation of having something in her mouth!  
I bought her this dog toy for Christmas hoping she might stop losing all our socks! 

 Cajun's real baby, "Toula", decided it was time to take it from her Mom...

After a good tug of war,  she gave up!

The "baby" stayed with Cajun!

Better luck next time Toula! 

Friday, January 13, 2017

Oh Deer! Our Christmas card adventure...

I must admit that our Christmas card almost didn't happen this year. We had the perfect idea for the card, but corralling three, very busy girls and finding a day they can set aside for a photo shoot, is quite challenging to say the least. Finally, after several failed attempts, they donned white shirts, and with less than a week before Christmas, 
we set out to get the perfect Christmas card photo. Our card's caption was to be
  "Merry Christmas to your nearest and "deerest" 
and would involve shooting the perfect photo of the three girls and "Clove", our pet deer. (You can read more about our adventures raising Clove if you want, by clicking on this link "Clove") Clove was given to us at the tender age of five days old, and was a part of our family for a year. We decided to return her back to her original home (our good friend's deer farm) so she could breed, have babies and have "deer friends". Anyway, back to the Christmas card adventure! Clove was thrilled to see us and came running to greet us all, especially her owner, Ellen. I did a quick test shot (photo above) and believe it or not, the light was perfect. I don't usually have the luxury of shooting in such good light. It was nice to have the light working for me, because shooting one good photo of a quickly moving deer, and three girls should be a record awarded from the Guinness World book of records! Here is how the day went, and luckily for you, my "deer" reader
I am only going to post several of the 150 photos taken!

My first photo went really well, and I was thinking this would be a piece of cake. 
However, we all decided this just looked too posed! 

Future attempts to take another shot like this were thwarted by Clove's best friend "Bambi"!
We then attempted some less posed shots....

They were cute, and lots of fun to shoot, but not quite what we wanted.

This one was great, but I didn't want a fence in the photo

Clove's baby got frisky and riled all the deer up, 
so we took a brief intermission,  and got back to it 

I loved the one above, (by now I didn't care about the fence!) and we were about to call it a day, until we realized Ellen's face was out of focus!

At this point, everyone was getting tired ~ and the girls a bit loopy

I was beginning to think this was to be the year of no Christmas card. Getting the right photo was but a minor part of this process. We still had to go home, design the card on the computer, print it (and pray for no printer problems or ink shortage), sign them, stuff them, address them and stamp them! This all had to be done that night if the cards were to arrive before Christmas. 
No pressure at all!

I rallied the troops again, and got this shot! YES - it was the one...until the girls pointed out that an ear was in Ellen's face..so we tried again! 

Hip Hip Hooray!!!! Finally!!!! We got a photo of all three girls that they liked, with Clove looking at the camera, no other deer invading our photo, and good background scenery! We hightailed it home, Sara designed our card, we printed, stuffed, licked envelopes, addressed, 
stamped and they made it to the mail  the very next day! 
Mission accomplished (by the hardest)

This isn't a good photo of the final product...it really looked much better than this! I just 
had to snap it quickly to finish this post! Wonder if other families have this much
 adventure making their Christmas cards?

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Puppy Love

Pound-cake, our feline friend you see on the right, entered our lives around five years ago. He came from the pound courtesy of Sara (my middle daughter)! Sara lost her beloved Labrador Retriever, Scout, and wanted another animal companion, but didn't want to replace Scout with another dog because she was Senior in high school heading off to college. The next best solution in her mind was to choose an old, wise and hopefully, well trained cat from the local animal shelter. Poundcake fit the bill! All our previous cats have not enjoyed living with our rambunctious dogs, and soon adopted nearby neighbors to live with. When Sara brought Poundcake home, I figured he would follow suit! However, Poundcake has been around the block once or twice, or maybe twenty times...who knows! He walked in our house, tail and head held high, and went straight to the food bowl, where he stayed for the next twenty-four hours! That is no exaggeration! Once he realized the food bowl was there to stay, the next step was to explore the new surroundings and that included the three dogs. Dominance was quickly established, and Poundcake was clearly the winner. Our dogs wouldn't think about crossing his path! In order to get the dogs outside, Poundcake could not be on the steps or within ten feet of their path. None of our dogs dared to cross him. That is until "Toula" came into the picture. Toula is the daughter of Cajun and is our six month golden retriever. This summer we were blessed with seven beautiful Golden Retriever pups, one of which was Toula! From the time Toula was introduced to Poundcake, they seemed to have a special bond. Toula is the only dog Poundcake has ever given the time of day. They seem to have a love affair going. Poundcake will even walk over to Toula and (ask in their secret language) for some "lovin".  A little love is happening above, and it melts my heart every time it happens (which is at least once a day)! 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

It is a new year - 2017

Homework was to pick a focal point on a subject and make it stand out
I love the start of a New Year! It is a clean slate just waiting for all the improvements and goals you hope to accomplish; a chance to correct all that didn't happen the year before. This year, I am really taking the new year seriously. My health is back on a somewhat even-keel, and I now actually feel like jumping back into the hobbies and activities I used to love, but have been abandoned for the past few years. The first thing I did this year was to buy a new planner. After years of trying to go paperless, and attempting to use my iPhone for a calendar and organizer, I admit I am a product of the non-technical era and it just won't work for me. It is back to my faithful Franklin Covey planner and I am so happy to have made this decision. My iPhone will remain a supplement, but my daily appointments and tasks will be recorded in the old fashioned manner - paper and pen! The photo above is the result of my plan to improve my photography and renew my love of capturing life's daily adventures. (Hence the name of my long ignored blog!) It is an online course that sends a daily email with instruction, prompts and even homework! Wow...it has been a long time since homework has entered my vocabulary. Along with taking concrete steps to enhance my photography skills,  my  newest passion is designing and creating jewelry! Self taught, it has been my primary hobby for the last year resulting in my love for photography falling by the wayside. Hopefully, this year will bring a better balance between the two! The last goal is to  introduce daily exercise into my regime as well. So, in a nutshell, to accomplish all of this, I must get organized and use my time efficiently! I have really missed my little, old blog...and I am happy to be back. Hopefully, the daily photography class will make it easier to document a slice of my life "Only in Louisiana" and the year 2017 will be well documented!