Living creatively, love of photography, and passionate living.

Posts tagged “photography

Practice, practice, practice.

Whatever strikes my interest, I just go ahead and take a shot.  This day, it seems it was mostly about texture.

It was such a beautiful day–in the middle of winter, at that!  So, again, I ventured out at lunch with a friend.  We drove down a deserted road and came upon an old barn.  We stopped and got out of the car, cameras in hand.  It turned out to be such a fun afternoon that neither of us wanted to go back to work.  Truly, we could have stayed out there all afternoon and had no trouble at all finding so many more things to capture on camera.

I think we’ll probably go back sometime…


This is my kind of winter!

Okay.  So, I know we had a terribly hot summer.  And I know I said I wouldn’t complain when winter got here–no matter how cold it got–because it would be such a relief from the however-many-days above 100 we had last summer.  But I have been enjoying the unusually mild winter we have been having the last couple of weeks.  I’m talking upper 50’s and low-to-mid 60’s! Especially, since this week is going back to cold and chilly again.

Because it was so nice last week, I made it a point to get out and walk during my lunch time at work, taking my camera along with me.  These are just a few of the images I was able to capture.

Hope you enjoyed viewing these and it gave you some winter relief if you live where it’s been cold and blustery lately!  Next time, I’ll post the pics from the other day I was out and about.


They made a commercial at the place I work.

…and was it ever fun!

First of all, I can’t believe how many people it took

… and even how much more equipment it took!

Believe me, there was twice as much more of each.

I’m not going to tell your where I work, for obvious safety reasons — which I try to teach to my children when they are using the Internet as well.  But I will tell you that I do digital work for a company that has a retail and Internet business.  I get all the images ready and put them online.  I make sure everything is in its place and showing up in the exact space it’s supposed to be, as well as a bunch of little extra stuff that goes along with making sure you have the right images for the item that you may be interested in purchasing.

I love my job and feel blessed to work at a place where I not only enjoy what I do, but am able to work around people who are, for the most part, upbeat and like to joke around with me and make me laugh!  It’s a relaxed atmosphere, even though there is a tremendous amount of work to be done with deadlines constantly abounding.

So, anyway.  There were all kinds of lights and cords and cameras around the place last Friday.  I was asked to be in one of the background scenes, but declined, as I am not a fan of being in front of the camera.  I’d much rather be behind it.  And that’s exactly what I did the rest of the day– stay behind the camera so I could catch the work in progress!


Chunky Crochet Hat

I am in the midst of an all out crochet-fest!  I just can’t stop crocheting things!

I have been out buying yarn like crazy for the past few months, as if the world’s supply of yarn will end in two days and I don’t want to be the   only one left with nothing to wrap and loop into something spectacular.  Thank God for printable coupons on the internet, is all I can say.

My hands haven’t cramped up quite yet while I’ve been fashioning more wraps and scarves and hats than we could ever wear in a season.  I love wearing the things I make.  I especially like the uniqueness of making something myself.  There’s nothing worse for a woman than going out and seeing someone else wearing the exact same thing you bought because you thought it looked great on you, only to discover the middle-schooler at the movies was thinking the exact same thing about herself in that blouse.

That actually happened to me once.  I was probably in my mid-twenties and I saw a 14 or 15-year-old wearing the same top as me at my husband’s nephew’s wrestling meet.  How embarrassing!   (Almost as embarrassing as the amount of times it took me to spell embarrassing correctly.  But, hey, now I should be able to spell it more easily next time!)  I vowed then to start sewing more often in an attempt to make sure that never happened again.

And that’s why I like making my own things.  My daughter wants to start an Etsy shop and says she will help make things.  Only, so far, she’s made two hats in comparison to my numerous accessories — one of which she is keeping for herself.  The other, well, let’s just say she needs some more practice.

I made this hat in a chunky yarn with a large hook.  I really didn’t have a pattern for this one.  I just started my little ring and kept going round and round till it was the size I wanted.  I’ve just been doing it for so long and so many times that I often don’t use a pattern.  I just start something and see how it comes out, having some sort of an idea what I’m going for.  I saw a couple of hats with the bigger yarn and I liked them, so I thought I would try one for myself.  The color was what attracted me to this particular yarn. It’s perfect for this time of year.  Take a look and try one yourself!


Prayer Shawl and Hat for Cancer Patient

 

A couple of months ago, I got some devastating news about one of my sisters who was having a lump removed from her neck.  She had  a tumor that was growing rapidly on one side of her neck.  She made arrangements to have it removed and have a biopsy done because of the size and speed of which it was growing. In the meantime, while waiting to go to her appointment, another one started growing on the other side of her neck.  

The first one was removed and was found to have all the cells in it to be dead, and no cancer.  Supposedly, this meant her immune system had killed it off.   Another appointment was made to remove the other and to biopsy it as well.  There was a delay in the appointment for some reason, and it was postponed another week.  While waiting for this appointment, two smaller tumors were popping up on the same side.  

The second tumor showed there WAS cancer this time.  She was diagnosed with some kind of Lymphoma.  The decision was made that she should have chemo, and possibly radiation afterwards, in order to stop the growth of any more cancerous tumors and to keep it from spreading.  She had already had a scan done to locate cancer in any other part of her body, but none was found.     

This news was more than my father could handle.  My father already had bad health with diabetes, and high blood pressure that was being controlled with pills.  He began to have severe chest pains that, if he was ignoring in the past, he could no longer ignore.  He went to his doctor (Thank God!) and was scheduled for an immediate heart catheter procedure.  They found at least 4 blockages in his arteries leading to his heart!  They scheduled him for emergency triple bypass – saying they would do three or four bypasses, depending on what they found when they went in. 

My dad is a stubborn man, and this was a shock to him that he was just not ready or prepared for, so he postponed the surgery for ten days.  I was so sick with worry he would not make it the ten days, because the doctors told him if he walked out of the hospital, he might not come back.  He was a walking time bomb.  I prayed daily, as did my family and friends. 

He made it back to the hospital, a little more prepared mentally for what he was about to undergo, but faced with the fact he, also, might not make it.  When they went in, they found five blockages after all and made the repairs to all five.  The surgery was approximated at 4 hours, but I think it ended up being closer to 6.  He came out okay, was in the hospital about 9 days, went home for one night, and was back in the hospital the next day.  He was swelling up and it was just getting worse.  They got his swelling down after one day and kept him in from last Thursday evening till Saturday around 1:30 in the afternoon.  He’s been home for two days now and I hope he is finally on the road to a great recovery. 

My sister, on the other hand, lost all of her hair after one chemo treatment, in just a matter of a couple of weeks.  Her mother-in-law has purchased a lovely wig for her, but she doesn’t want to wear that all the time, of course.  She has a thin knitted cap she can wear, also.  I wanted to make something special for her to help her feel somewhat comforted when receiving her chemo or just being at home.  So I made her a prayer shawl and a cap to go with it. 

The shawl is made using a double-crochet stitch.  I made the first row of chain stitches as long as I thought I wanted it to be wide.  Then I started the second row with double-crochet stitches and just kept going until it was the height I thought would be good for wrapping around her shoulders.  I used a variegated yarn in colors that I thought would be soothing, and yet cheerful enough. 

Then I made her a cap to wear with it and to keep her warm.  I just used a single-crochet stitch in the round.  Again, I just kept going until I thought it would be long enough for her to have enough to roll down if she wanted more coverage.  I took the leftover yarn I had from her shawl and made a flower to accent the hat, making it look more like a matched set.  I’ll give it to her tomorrow and hope she loves it!  I made it while at the hospital with my dad when he was recovering from his surgery. 

It’s been a tiring last few weeks.  I feel tremendously drained.  I wish I could just put on my comfy pajamas, crawl in my bed, and sleep for days!  I don’t even need to eat … just sleep. I grab every soft blanket I have at night and clutch it tightly, trying to soothe myself to sleep each night since this all started.  I don’t even notice if I’ve been dreaming, and morning seems to always come way too soon. I haven’t talked to my friends for so long, except for a few texts here and there to keep them updated.  I finally got to talk to one of my best friends this evening for a little bit, and I probably didn’t give her much of a chance to speak because I just started talking immediately. I wanted to tell her as much as I could to catch her up and before the exhaustion set in again for the night. 

I want my life to get back to normal.  But it’s hard to do when my world seems all different now.  Because I forget what normal is anymore.  And I just want to find that place when I felt like I could make it through the daily “stuff” and all it took was a decent supper, a good sitcom on the t.v. and a sugary snack before bed to make my world all right again. Then, I could start the next day and do it all over again.

I’m thankful my father made it through the surgery, but I won’t be completely okay until I know he’s made it through his recovery all the way.   And we will have to wait to see if my sister will need radiation, too.  She’s already had two chemo treatments.  I think she is having one more before they check her again for tumors. 

And now, I need my sleep.


My new crochet shawl.

Hey, everybody.  I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but I seem to be having a hard time lately getting to my computer to blog.  I think it’s work and being busy and life in general getting in my way with my blogging.  But that is just how life works, isn’t it?  Maybe it’s not so much that life is “getting in my way,” but that life is just happening. 

My very good friend (we’ve known each other since Jr. High) has a mother who is dying of pancreatic cancer.  My thoughts have been with her lately.  We’ve been talking  a lot, as we do when something comes up in our lives that is so life altering, and I want to make sure that I am there for her to support her.  I made her mother a prayer shawl (which I forgot to photograph before I gave it to her) out of baby yarn that was a sherbet green.  She is so frail and only weighs about 80-something pounds–at least that was a few weeks ago.  I didn’t want to make it too heavy for her so I made it out of chain stitches with an open crochet look to it to keep it lightweight.  She loved it.  I was so glad I could make her smile.  I hope it brings her much comfort in these last days of hers. 

And then I was sick myself with what I think was food poisoning.  I was so sick I had to go to the ER.  But I’m better now.  While I was resting and getting better, I started crocheting some shawls for myself as well.  I have made three shawls in the last few weeks!  I am going to show you them all, but one at a time.

I made this shawl out of black yarn with in an open crochet pattern.  It has fringe and I can wear it many ways, as you will see.  I got all the patterns from either the internet, books, magazines or old patterns I had stashed in my project files.  You can find many yourself or make up your own.  Hope you like this one and it inspires you.  I’ll show you the second one next time!

 


How to use old frames.

I love creating something new and different out of old things.  I use to go to auctions, estate sales, garage sales, and flea markets all the time.  Many times something would capture my attention because of some element of design, such as color, shape, or texture, and I would think I just couldn’t live without it!  I would purchase it, not sure how I was going to use it later, but sure in the thought that I would find a way. 

While out at an estate sale one day, I found these old, ornate frames and knew I wanted to hang them but didn’t have any large pictures to put inside them.  I wondered how I would find something I liked and that would fit my decor.  I didn’t want to spend a lot of money because I had already got a great deal on the individual frames.  And they were all gold and peeling and flaky.  I liked the ornateness of the pieces, but not the gaudiness of them while they were gold.  So the first thing I did was paint them all.  I’ve already finished them a long time ago, so I can’t show you the process, but I can tell you what I did.

I cleaned the frames up with some rags first.  Then I took an old scrub brush and lightly brushed off any flakes of the gold finish that were already coming off.  I wiped them again with a clean rag and set them on some old newspaper to paint.  I found an off-white color and poured some into a dish.  I really didn’t want to paint completely over the frame in a thick paint, so I added some water to thin the paint out.  I used acrylic paint, like what you would use to paint your walls.  I also purchased some other pastel colors in small cans that I used for accent color.

First, I lightly brushed the off-white paint over the frames.  I didn’t worry about getting every spot and crevice, because I wanted to show off the texture and keep some depth in the design.  After I let that dry, I mixed the pastel-colored paint with water, also.  Then, I lightly brushed over the relief areas of the frames.  I didn’t do the whole frame, just areas I wanted to highlight with a touch of color.

After the frames were dry, I was anxious to hang them.  Only, I still didn’t know what to put inside them.  I went to one of the local craft stores here in town one day and found these really beautiful and small fabric frames with ribbon hangers.  I bought two of them and used some old, dried flower petals I had in my freezer to insert into their display area.  Then, I hung these inside of the bigger frames on my wall!  I absolutely loved them!  It was perfect for me.  I didn’t want these huge pictures on my walls because my room is long and narrow and I didn’t want to make it look smaller than it was with images that were too large. This solution was much better.

As you can see, I also hung an old piece of costume jewelry (which I have a nice collection of) on the corner, just for some added attraction. 

Here’s the other beautiful, old frame after I finished it.  It’s got just a hint of a mauvy-purple on it.  It’s kind of hard to see in this picture, though.

One frame was left.  This one was vertical.  I needed a place to fill above my desk where my computer sits and where I spend a lot of time.  It’s a narrow little corner in my bedroom and I like color for inspiration.  My walls are a nice neutral color that change a little as the day progresses.  They start off a sort of buttercream color and change to an almost pinky-apricot toward the late afternoon and evening. 

I wanted to keep the frame in the same color as the other two on the adjacent wall.  So I just painted the main color and no highlight color.  Because I decided the color would come from what I would hang inside.  I use it as a sort of catch-all for colorful posters and mailers and postcards.  Right now I just have them stuck inside or tacked to the wall.  I want to get some cork board and cut to a size that I can tack to the wall behind the frame. 

I like looking up while I’m working and seeing the array of images and color.  I’m going to fill the whole space up like a collage. 

So, that’s something you can do with old frames without having to find an exact image the right size to go inside.   It doesn’t even matter if they are falling apart.   A new coat of paint will help them stay intact.  I’ve had mine for over 6 years and they are not flaking or peeling anymore.   Hope you enjoyed this post.  Go out and find something old and inexpensive to decorate with that makes you smile when you look at it!


Amazing colors of a Native American Pow Wow.

I have always been fascinated with Native American history, traditions, culture, etc.  I use to read books on the different tribes that existed all over our country and could forever look at pictures of the costumes and dress that were worn by these proud people.  I taught myself how to bead woven bracelets as a young teenager from books about Indian beading.  And whenever there is any type of documentary about Native Americans, I’m sitting in front of the t.v. completely enthralled with all the facts, visuals, and narration.

So last month when the opportunity came to attend the American Indian Festival held here in town, I grabbed my camera and took off with my son and daughter to experience the sights and sounds and abundant color of the original people of our country. 


More Night Images

Okay.  So sorry, I forgot to post last week!  I got busy and thought I would do it on Monday (Tuesday at the latest) and before I knew it, the weekend was here already! 

Anyway…

I’ve been out taking  more night images, trying to get better at it.  I had good opportunity the week before last because we had so much going on here around town.  There were even fireworks!  The weather was so stinkin’ hot during the day that the evening was the only time we wanted to venture out anyways.  My kids were good sports and tagged along most of the time (okay, there might have been some forcing and threatening) and helped carry my “stuff.”  My son even attended part of an outdoor night concert of someone who was before his time — although he has heard me play Eddie Money’s album on my old stereo before.

I had some nice surprises and was pleased with the ones that I was able to capture nicely.  The goal is to learn, even from my mistakes.  Hope you find something you like as well.

This first one is of a guy who had the coolest car with hydraulics.  He put on a show for me when he saw I was taking pictures with my camera.  Unfortunately, another car came up beside him (between me and the white car) and was blocking my view just as he had his car turned all the way on its side and was shooting out all this white smoke!  By the time I ran around to the front side of the car that was blocking my view and readjusted my camera, the show was over.  I was so mad!  I have one of where he is looking straight into the camera and giving me this big smile!  What a great guy.

This couple was just as friendly.  Maybe the guy on the farthest motorcycle didn’t want to be photographed, but the lady on the back of the closest one gave me a friendly wave and a smile.

When I was a  kid in high school, the big thing to do on Friday and Saturday night was to “drag Douglas.’   That’s the name of the main street in our town, and you would see all your friends and meet some new ones by getting in a car and driving along Douglas street.  The cops were good about letting the kids ride up and down the street, as long as no one was breaking any laws.  People still do it, obviously. 

Here’s what it looks like now.

And here are the rest of my night shots.

Eddie Money in concert.

A cool “mistake.”

And a fireworks show along the river.


Water Fountains at Night

It’s that time of year again.  Our annual RiverFestival is in full swing and there are plenty of opportunities for some practicing of  night shooting.  It’s tricky for me, because it causes me to have to use more settings than I’m use to or know exactly how to use.  But what better way for me to get in some practice.  The nights are full of people and events, so I plan on making full use of that.

The festival has changed dates this year, and it’s a month later than it normally takes place.  I can honestly say I don’t like it at this time of year.  It seems like they are trying to shift things and there were some big changes that I have heard a lot of people say they don’t like.  So we’ll see if they keep it this way or switch it back to May.  It’s been extremely HOT and that doesn’t make it any more fun for me.  I almost had heat stroke yesterday.  I know I had a moderate case of heat exhaustion.  My daughter and I were out walking in the heat in the middle part (also, the hottest part of the day and not the wisest time to be out, but my son wanted to meet up with a friend) of the day.  We had umbrellas, but the temp was up around 100 degrees.  We were out for about 2 1/2 to 3 hours — a third of that time was indoors in air-conditioning.  We both drank plenty of water the whole time we were out walking around. 

When we finally stopped for the day, we were driving to get something to eat when I started to feel sick to my stomach and a little headachy.  I was struggling with my window (it fell off the track and I was having trouble getting it to roll back up–yes, the air conditioner is broke right now so we do the old-fashioned way and roll our windows down) and was standing in the parking lot, in the shade, and pulling it back in place.  I guess I exerted enough energy to wear myself out even more after the sun and heat had already taken a beating out of me.  By the time we walked into the lovely air conditioning of the restaurant and I sat down, my legs and even the palms of my hands were sweating profusely.  I had to sit and just try to relax with the ice-cold water bottle on the back of my neck and side of my throat to help cool my blood going to my head.  Finally, I started to feel normal again, and once I ate a little something and drank some iced tea, I felt much better.

My point of saying all of that is that I won’t be doing much at the RiverFestival until the evening hours when things have cooled down some.  As a result, I will be able to do more night shooting in an effort to figure out what is the best way to do it and how to make it all work. 

There are some pics I won’t be able to show just yet, because I am entering the photo contest again this year and hope to win more than I did last year.  Therefore, I can’t show the photos I plan on entering yet until the contest winners have been announced sometime in July.  Here are the results of my first night.  They are pics of water fountains in the area.  There was another one that was of a larger waterfall, but I couldn’t get those to come out right.  I need more practice first!  Plus, the wind was blowing like crazy and I had to stand right in front of the fountain to get the pic I wanted, which meant the water was splashing and blowing all over me and my camera.  I wasn’t going to risk it and just wanted to wait for a calmer night. 

I have to tell you it took me several tries to get the effect I wanted.  I had to mess around with my settings and every time I moved to a different area or fountain, the lighting changed depending on where I stood.  I need to learn to slow down and just take my time.  I didn’t use a tripod.  I probably should, but I don’t want to carry one around and I like the challenge of hand-holding my camera and just using what I have–myself and whatever is around me.  It forces me to use my settings more and to do a lot of adjusting, which is how I think I want to learn in order to know exactly what my camera does when I use this setting or that, and when I turn the dial this way (up or down in numbers) or that.

I like the way the water droplets in the second one shine like jewels in the air and stand still.  And I think I captured the flow of the water at just the right speed in the first one.  It’s not too milky and not too stagnate.  You can see some of the water droplets captured in a stand-still mode, while the main waterfall flows naturally.  And I tried to get the bottom one when the wind was blowing really hard so you could see the water splashing sideways, but I never could get it just right with the time I had.  My son was with me and he was getting tired and wanted to go home.  I didn’t want to try his patience any more than I already had, because we had a really nice time that evening together.  His sister had teamed up with some of her friends and it was just him and I for the night.  We walked around, had some good food, and then sat and watched the fireworks before grabbing these shots and heading home. 

Stay tuned for more to come of my night shooting practices!


Changing a photo.

Well, I hope everyone enjoyed their holiday weekend and was able to squeeze every moment of relaxation out of it they could.  I know I tried.  I ended up doing a lot of cooking.  Although, I didn’t barbecue even once over the past three days.  I just did a lot of indoor cooking instead.  I guess I was just in one of those moods. 

Anyway, I had planned on getting out and doing a lot of things with my camera.  However, I never seemed to be able to fit it in anywhere.  Then, on Sunday in the late afternoon, I was finally able to step outside and down the street to photograph one of the many downtown churches in our area.  I’m only going to show you one part of what I shot, because I am working on transforming it into something other than what I started with. 

The church is absolutely gorgeous on the inside, too.  Maybe I’ll be able to get inside one day and see if I can take some photos.  But for now, I wanted to focus on the outside.  When I got there, I saw that some repairs were being done and there were wooden railings and scaffolding up everywhere on the building.  So I zeroed in on the top.  There are a total of three domes on top, and I picked the one I could get the best view of at the time. 

Here is the original.  Actually, I shot it in RAW but always make my adjustments and then save it as a TIFF.  This is that TIFF after my initial adjustments.

You can see the scaffolding in the lower right corner.  I removed it and did some improvements with color and tone.

Then I couldn’t decide if I wanted to make it black and white, or just desaturate the color a little, so I played around and came up with this.

I liked it.  It reminds me of something out of an old school book.  But I never stop there when I have captured an image that I see so much potential in if I know I can play around even more and just work it out. 

I knew I wanted to see this as a night image.  And I knew I didn’t want the building to become a silhouette.  I wanted to be able to still see what a magnificent structure this is by keeping some of the lines and curves showing.  So, I knew moonlight would have to be included. 

This is what I’ve done on it so far.

I’m loving it so far!  I know I want to add some night creatures, but I don’t want to make it into something creepy.  I’ve begun to add an angel to it, though I know you can’t see that yet.  I won’t show that until I am completely done with it.  But I love what it’s becoming and I can’t wait to work some more on it! 

I’ll show you the completed work when I’m finished.  I just wanted to share with you one of my work’s in progress. 

See you next time!


Getting Through It All.

Oh, I should be in bed now.  My son has already let me know it’s past my bedtime, now that I’m back in the working world of steady paychecks. (Yea!) But I meant what I said, I love blogging and I don’t want to give it up.  I may be busy as can be right now, but I have no intentions of slowing down.  That’s just not me.  If there’s a way for me to push one more minute out of the day, believe me, I will.

And this is just another part of my life that I am getting through.  Not rushing through, not hurrying through, but living through.  And it feels wonderful! I don’t want to let all that I have on my plate right now keep me from enjoying one little minute of it.  It’s just life.  So much to do, true, but when is it not like that — at least if you are a single mother anyway?  I’m sure all parents, in general, tend to feel rushed at times.  So I know I don’t hold the trophy for busy parents.  And, Lord knows, I’ve done it long enough that I ought to be used to it by now. 

I’m just going to keep on doing what I’ve been doing and not let anything stop me from living and getting the most out of every precious moment of life!  And thanks and praise to God!

And if you’ve been keeping up with what’s been going on in my busy life, you know my son (my youngest), just graduated from high school.  It was a special moment, for sure.

Here’s the moment I lost it. 

Yep, that’s right.  From the moment that kid walked out to find his seat, I started feeling the insides of me come pouring out.  I was thankful I had my camera to hide behind and to make myself focus.  It was one of those just-bite-your-lip-till-it-bleeds moments.  A trying time to steel my emotions and keep it together. 

And if it weren’t for the giant jumbo-tron, I don’t know if I would have ever caught a glimpse of him walking past those first few steps because I was shaking so much trying to keep from breaking down while holding my camera (hence, the blurry pics) that I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to enjoy watching the moment instead of trying to record it.  (Note to self: Don’t attempt to ever take important family moment pics again or I’ll miss the times of my life!)

When my son finally did sit down, I can honestly tell you right now that I’ve never stared at the back of someone’s head for so long and with such intent as I did for those long minutes before he got up to receive his diploma. 

My eyes (and my heart) never left the back of his head.  With every sideways glance he gave his friends, with every nod, with every smile and laugh during those minutes, I thought of all the goodness that is my son.  My heart sang with happiness and pride for the long road we’ve been down to get here.  I’m not going to sit here and tell you that he’s overcome some disease or drug problem or disability.  I know there are plenty of kids that go through stuff like that.  Kids that go through troubled living environments. 

But what I will tell you is my son is the product of a divorce.  Something that he did not ask for nor did he deserve.  Nor did his sister.  My son is the product of a single-parent household.  He was a latchkey kid who had to come home to a house alone and to no adult supervision–unless you count the over-the-phone check-ups and threats to “get that homework done!”  He was responsible for his own laundry and his own snacks and sometimes his own meals so that I could keep a job and pay the bills to keep a roof over our heads. 

And never did this boy give me one ounce of trouble. 

Yes, there were the usual arguments over teenage problems like getting his room clean and staying off the video games till homework was done.  But he never ran the streets, never left the house without my permission, never fell prey to anyone who tried to steer him in the wrong direction.  He’s got a strong will and a strong sense of right and wrong.  And I just couldn’t have asked for a better son.

And if you’re tired of hearing me sing his praises, we’ll you better just stop reading now because this is my blog and I love my son! 

We are close and always have been.  I was thinking of all the times I made him peanut butter cookies while he was growing up as I watched him walk up the stairs to the stage.  I thought of the time during winter, toward the spring, when he was about 4 yrs. old and there was snow on the ground.  He’d been sick with a cold and had been wanting to go outside and play.  Finally, he got better and the sun had come out and it was warm enough to take him and his sister outside. 

I’d been telling him all about snow angels and what they were and how you make them.  The sun had already begun to melt the snow into puddles of muddy water here and there in the yard in between mounds of snow.  I was helping his sister roll balls for a snowman when I looked around for him.  I didn’t see him standing anywhere close and I sort of panicked for a second.  Then, as I walked toward the driveway, I spotted him lying on the ground, smack dab in some half-way melted snow, arms outstretched, with the biggest smile on his face I have ever seen on any child.  I said, “Son! What are you doing in that water?! You’re going to get sick again!”  He just looked up into my face and said, “I’m making snow angels, mommy.”  He was so happy.  My heart was filled with so much joy to see the joy he had inside him to just make one snow angel. 

That was one of those “just stand here and cherish it, burn it into your mind for safe keeping, and don’t ever forget it” moments. 

This day was another one of those moments.  So that’s exactly what I did.  It’s there forever.  And I will never forget how happy I was seeing the smile on his face as he felt joy again for this accomplishment in his life. 

Everything our children do are such  milestones in their young lives and something to cherish, for the moment passes so quickly.  Even a camera can’t capture that time and make it hold still forever–it’s just a glimpse of a memory already gone by.  But…it is such a joy to know that we had some part of making our children into the fine young men and women they become in life someday.  I feel proud, for him and for myself.  


Unknown Roads.

Sometimes in life, our world changes.  Maybe it’s because we made the choice to change it, or maybe it’s because it’s changing due to circumstances we have no control over.  Whatever the reason, we have two choices.  Either we can embrace the change or we can be unhappy about it. 

Being unhappy about it doesn’t really seem like it will do any good in the end.  The change is still going to come.  And trying to fight it is only going to waste time that could be better spent figuring out how to deal with it, how to get through it, and how to get on with it.  I’m not necessarily talking about a life or death health issue here.  Some of those are definitely a worthwhile fight.

What I’m talking about are changes that come in life that make us have to make choices.  Like job changes or moving changes or career changes.  Maybe its a change to live with someone like a roommate, spouse, or boyfriend/girlfriend.  Whatever the change, we know the road is uncertain.

We can’t see the end result, so how can we even be sure we are doing the right thing?  Well, I don’t know the answer to that.  What I do know is that once you make your choice, don’t look back.  Keep moving forward, one step at a time, until your road gets better. 

You may not always be able to see what’s at the end of the path or even what lies ahead at times.  Everything seems unsure, and you can’t always see things clearly.  But if you have a goal, a plan of what you’re after, of where you want to be or get to, then you can make it through the seemingly scary parts.  Keep your eye on what lies beyond the obscurity.

Because, you know, sometimes it the part of the road that makes us have to take chances and figure it all out without a map to get us through that teaches us the important things in life.  It’s that part that makes us grow and learn and become a better person.  It can be that exact part that makes us proud of ourselves for making it through and coming out even better than when we started this path, this unknown road.

And you might have to make some detours along the way.  But that’s okay, too.  A straight road, while seemingly safe and secure, can make for less adventure, excitement, and opportunity for growth.  You might not always know which way to go.  Some days, you could be heading one direction, a little to the right, and the next week, you could be headed a little to the left.  As long as your still moving forward, that’s what matters the most. 

Traveling down unknown roads can be nerve-racking, or full of uncertainty that brings anxiety.  Change can do that sometimes. But if we remember that we are strong and can deal with anything that comes up as we travel along, we can end up in a pretty good place.  And then, and only then, we can look back at the road we traveled to get to our destination and realize what we endured to get here and how much better it made us.  And then we can smile with pride at how we conquered our fears and took a chance, with confidence, that no matter where our road ended, we made the best of it and we let it make us a better person.

And there are no pretty pictures for that.  We all make our own picture of our lives that fit us.  Go out and find yours!


The Boy is Growing Up

It’s true.  You look up…and they’re almost grown.  I’ve been busy this past week, and will be the next few, getting my son all ready for graduation.  Prom has come and gone.  Graduation is around the corner.  Parties are being planned.  Memories are rushing through my head.  I won’t bore you with pics of a boy you didn’t know (although, you may have one of your own who is in the same stage in life or close to it), but I will brag about the man he is becoming.  Because that is exactly what is happening, right before my very eyes.  And I’m proud of him.

My son never has a harsh word to say about anyone.  He wouldn’t even know how to form the words to describe that kind of feeling because he just doesn’t look at people that way.  If he sees a negative quality in someone, he observes it,  then lets it alone.  Everyone that crosses his path in life is treated fairly by him, and he sees them as a potential friend and treats them as such.   He treats all people with respect–whether they deserve it or not, or whether they have earned it or not. 

I have watched my son hold doors open for women of all ages, and a few men, too.  He is generous with his things and loans out anything that is his without even a care about having things damaged, lost or not returned.  If there is one piece of chicken left on the serving plate, he will ask if anyone else would care for it before he will take it for himself.  He will ask me if I can give his friends who have no means of transportation a ride home if it is cold or rainy so they won’t have to walk (and, of course, I say yes). 

My son has played a few sports throughout his school years.  While he is fairly competitive and likes to win more than lose, he believes in good sportsmanship and doesn’t mind losing to someone who is good-hearted in whatever sport they are playing. He likes a good joke and lots of laughs with his friends and his family.  He’s intelligent, well-spoken, polite, and well-liked.

And he prays.  He prays in such earnest that I am in awe of him when I see the obvious relationship he has with his God.  It sometimes almost brings me to tears to know that my son is touched so deeply by the faith he has in God. 

He has plans to go to college in the fall.  And as I watch him turn into this great young man who I once knew as a playful little boy, I feel so much joy in my heart that I can barely stand it. For I could not have asked for a better son.  And I wait in great anticipation of the full-grown man he will soon be.  I wonder at what he will do and accomplish in his lifetime.  I believe he will be a great father and husband, friend and co-worker, uncle and mentor.  He is a loving person, always willing to take a hug from me, or surprise me with one of his own, along with a kiss on the cheek. 

And…he let me take his senior pics!  What a great kid!


Good memories, bad pictures.

I took a trip this past weekend with a very good friend of mine to Manhattan, KS to see Los Lonely Boys (YEA!!!) at the McCain Auditorium on the Kansas State University campus.  It was the first time I had ever been to K State or Manhattan.  The campus was awesome.  We didn’t see much of it, mind you, because we didn’t get to the campus till late when it was just starting to get dark.  But what little I did see, I thought it was very nice.  I would love to go back and just walk around some time. 

I took my daughter’s camera–just a small point-and-shoot.  I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to take my larger camera inside the concert and I wasn’t sure if it would have been safe in the hotel room or left in our vehicle.  Didn’t want to risk it, so I borrowed hers instead.  But when we left for the show, I was worried I wouldn’t even be able to take hers in, so I left it in the car.  It’s not mine and I didn’t want to have it confiscated.  I’m just not good at NOT obeying the rules.   But when I got inside the auditorium and discovered our seats were in the 4th row from the stage, directly in the middle with no obstructions whatsoever, I was so upset I didn’t risk it after all!

The concert was great and I loved every minute of it.  My legs were shaking from the excitement of the music and constantly tapping my foot on the floor.  These guys are just so good.  My friend and I were gettin’ our groove on, boppin’ around in our seats to the music, getting up a couple of times toward the end to shake our groove thing (Yes, I grew up in the 70’s, sorry.  I haven’t a clue what kids say today.) My friend can scream like no other and was not afraid to show her appreciation with a hoot and a holler whenever she could.  I even gave a few cries of gratitude myself with a couple of closed-fist shakes and waves. 

**This video was not taken by either my friend or I, but it’s a good one, nonetheless. It’s long, so just be aware.

We stayed the night and got up in the morning to barely grab a couple of bagels and orange juice from the complimentary breakfast set up.  On our way out of town, we stopped at the most fabulous place to eat called Coco Bolos.  The smells were drawing us in from the street, and the flowers and colors of the building, along with the outdoor patio on such a beautiful sunny day were beckoning us to go inside and taste!  I’m so glad we did because the food was excellent.   The food was fantastic and the atmosphere was so nice.  And this is where I would have had these great images to show you of the meals we had, the artwork hanging along the bar wall, the chairs (red and black with curved legs) along the bar, the awesome bathroom with black toilet and sink and artistic tilework along the backsplash.  They had stereo piped into the bathroom with another quirky chair in the corner, a large oval mirror and tilework coming under the door but not completely covering the concrete floor. 

I hope I can go back sometime this summer.  But I’ll have to make a plan of it because it’s a 2 1/2 hr. drive from where I live.  Maybe I can take the same route and retake all the beautiful pics I missed on the way up and back because I didn’t know her camera well enough to realize all but 7 of the pics did not come out properly.   When I questioned my daughter about why they didn’t come out, she tells me then that you have to hold the button “like this” or you’ll end up thinking you took them when you really didn’t!  Ugh! 

Anyway, here’s what I did take on the way back, on the road and as we made one stop in Council Grove (most of those pics didn’t come out either).

*This was a really quaint church we saw in Manhattan before we got to the restaurant.  Didn’t get the steeple pic, though.

*These next two are from the man-made lake in Council Grove.  My friend stopped so she could use the pit stop, but I was afraid of possible spiders under the rim, so I passed and just prayed my bladder would hold out till the next stop.  It did. 🙂 

*These next few are from the town of Council Grove on their main street.  I really like stopping in the main area of small towns here in the mid-west.  We did a little shopping and they had a really neat soda fountain in one store where we shopped.  No pics came out, but great to see and talk with the lady in the shop.  She was really pleasant and asked us where we were from. 

*We headed home and I only got one shot out of all the rolling hills, the green pastures, the horses and the cows, the old churches and barns… but what a great time I had with a really good friend.  And what fun and fond memories I’ll always have — even without the photos to remind me!


Sisters and Quilt Shows

Today I had a great time doing a little sister bonding and perusing the Walnut Valley Quilter’s Guild bi-annual quilt show.  It was entitled “There’s No Place Like Home…A Kansas Quilt Show.”  It was about a 45 minute drive from where we both live, so it gave us plenty of time to talk and catch up on what’s been going on in each other’s lives. 

I knew the drive was going to be just a little bit, so I took along some crocheting to keep me busy.  Actually, the truth of the matter is, I wasn’t sure what kind of driver my sister was because I haven’t been a passenger in a car she’s driven in quite some time.  So, I was trying to distract myself — just in case.   I do all the driving around here, chaffeuring my two teenagers around everywhere.  I don’t trust very many people to drive me anywhere, and it’s nerve-wracking for me to be in the passenger’s seat rather than behind the wheel.  I hate having no control in any situation.  I didn’t say I need to be in control of everything, I said I dislike not having even a tiny smidgen of control in a situation. (Did you hear that ex-husband? Do you understand the difference? Oh, hell, you don’t even read my blog!) 

Anyway, she did okay, I guess.  As I said, I tried not to pay too much attention.  It was nice to talk about our interests, how our kids were doing, the similarities in raising teenagers, and family gossip.  Normally, I don’t like gossip and try not to partake in it, but this was family gossip. You know, things I need to know.  The weather was perfect.  It wasn’t supposed to get bad till later in the day so we were fine because we left early enough in the day.  We had a great time looking at all the beautiful, hard work these people put into their quilts. 

         “Pay no attention to the man behind that curtain!”

                               How fun is that?!  I loved all the colors and the artwork.

                  Normally, I’m not a fan of dark quilts in general, but I really liked this next one. 

There was also another room full of quilts called The Patriotic Exhibit.  It was fantastic and very sentimental.  They were so beautiful it made me want to make one to display in my home.  One in particular had the Pledge of Allegiance embroidered on it. 

There was also an area entitled “The Man Cave” with a sign quilted saying exactly that.  At first, I thought it was an exhibit.  I was standing there staring at the sign and the work put into it and the two smaller quilts in the area portraying “man cave” scenes.  There was an older gentleman sitting in a chair and he was not very friendly looking.  We were laughing at the idea (and I was wondering why the man was not telling us anything about the mini-quilts).  Then I realized it was an actual “man cave” for the men who did not want to walk around looking at quilts with their wives!  Ooops!  We quickly walked away, our heads down. 

On the way back, we stopped at a Mexican restaurant to have a bite.  We sat and talked about our kids, laughing and sharing our frustrations over the antics of teenagers.   Finally, we drove home.  We decided we should do this kind of thing more often.  It was nice to get away for a few hours.  And living in the mid-west, there is always something of this nature going on somewhere.  We made plans to make plans for a once-a-month trip during the summer and fall, maybe just traveling to an out-of-town quilt shop for supplies and to drool over the fabric, buttons, patterns and ideas. 

I’m so glad my mother taught us to sew when we were young.  It not only created a good life-skill that helps us save money and gives us another outlet for our creativity, but it brings us together and enables us to continue to create good memories in our lives as we spend time sharing our love of sewing.  And I really enjoy that.


What a wonderful night for a moondance!

Last night was the night of the Supermoon.  Something about the closest the moon has ever been to the earth, or in a long time, or something.  I didn’t even know about it till my friend told me.  So, I got my camera ready and was anxious to see if I could get some good shots.  But, it was cloudy most of the day and I wasn’t sure if the clouds would clear up by evening.

After getting back from the grocery store with my son, I told him it didn’t look like it was going to be a very good night for moon gazing, much less picture-taking.  We looked everywhere in the sky, but could see nothing.  Then, when coming back from picking up my daughter from a play, there it was … big and bright and shiny.  The clouds had started separating and it was like a curtain was being pulled back for us to take a peek.

I ran inside and got my camera, and my son accompanied me to the drive way, where I had a perfect shot between a couple of trees.  I didn’t have a tripod (still not yet! what is wrong with me?!) and so he let me use his shoulder part of the time to lean against.  Then, I just started leaning against my car to try to hold steady.  We were “ewwing” and “awwing” all over the place at the sight.  The clouds were just so spectacular, the way the moon cast it’s light upon, in front, and behind them.  The best part was spending time with my son.  He had just as good a time as I did.  I hope I made some great memories for him and that he will remember the night he and I stood in the chilly night air gazing at the moon!


The Magic of Photoshop

I like taking images of all kinds of things with my camera.  And I like being able to manipulate those same images, if I feel like it, in Photoshop.  I’ve been working in it now for several years, and feel very comfortable moving around and using different techniques to get the results I need to create the kind of work I do. 

Many photographers use Photoshop to varying degrees.  It’s just part and parcel of the industry.  The main use is to improve images taken that don’t quite measure up to the perfection everyone wants to see in their photos.  Mostly, color correction and tonal improvement are what’s needed.  But there is so much more you can do with Photoshop, or one of many other editing programs out there.  I’m sharing with you some examples of what can be done when you really know how to manipulate things in Photoshop.

This first one is an image I used in a post a few back.  The little girl was so cute and smiled for me when I asked her grandfather if I could take her picture.  But I didn’t like the background and how bright the sun was on the street and house behind her.  I thought it was distracting.  So, I used an overlay I created and cropped the image to focus more on her face and smile.

                                                                                                                                                   In this next image, taken by photographer Darren Decker (whose permission I have to use this photo), I wanted to really make the image more romantic by getting rid of the background entirely and focusing on the soft, emotional kiss of the groom and his bride. 

                                                                                                                                                                                             I like it much better now, because the focus is totally on the couple.

                                                                                                                                          

Forgot to remove your glasses? 

                                                                                                                                                                           Don’t worry.  I can fix that and pump up the color and mood, too!

                                                                                                                                                                                                           The lighting in this image was really washing everything out and ruining the romantic setting and mood of the wedding pics.  Night had already begun to set in and it was hard to get a really good image with just what the photographer had on hand for lighting.  I was the second shooter and was loving the idea of what this could be.  It took some work, but I was so happy with the result.

                                                                                                                                                       You really have to have some sort of art knowledge and skill to do more than simple color correction.  But if you do, there is no end to the possibilities you can create. 

Sometimes you just don’t have enough time to capture the shot you want.  But you can see there is something there.  I can hardly wait to rush home and start on an image once I have shot it, because I have this idea in my head of where I want it to go and it’s exciting to start working on that. 

Like this work by Blackbear Bosin.  My image did not do him justice.   So, I worked and worked on it, till I thought I had something that would make him proud. 

                                                                                 It’s fun to see just how far I can go.  The only limitation is my imagination.  And, believe me, I feel like I have no limitations there!


Choices and No Regrets.

I’m a big believer in the idea that whatever choices we make in life — good or bad, right or wrong — we make them alone, and most often, we made the choice that we believed was right for us at the time we made it.  That’s it.  That’s the best it is and all it will ever be. 

We stand alone on this earth.  And, I mean when it comes to how we live our lives and the choices we make.  We might ask others opinions.  We might research possible results.  We might pray to our God for answers.  We might just close our eyes and jump in.  Whatever decision we make, the final choice is ours alone.

Everyone, every single one of us, makes good choices and not so good choices.  And we make choices every day, all day long.  We make the choice in the morning to how we want to start our day.  And, believe it or not, we do have some control about the attitude our day will take on based on how we look at the morning when we get up. 

We decide how we will treat others, and how we will let the way others treat us affect us.  True, sometimes it’s hard to stay focused when others seem to be out to get us (for whatever evil reason of their own), but it can be done.  We just need to remember that no one walks in our shoes but us, and, therefore, no one has the right to judge us for the choices we make.

There are people who seem to make bad choices throughout their lives, as if they never learned from their mistakes.  Mistakes are going to happen in life.  But when a person makes a conscious choice to continue to do things to try to hurt others, to maliciously want to cause another person harm, you have to wonder what is in this person’s heart.  What does such a person think they are going to gain from trying to wound another person? 

These are the people I try to avoid.  There can be nothing good to come out of being around them.  They have not grown up yet, or lack the maturity to deal with life in a rational manner, or don’t, apparently, know how to handle real life and the situations that come from the challenges that arise out of day-to-day living as a supposed grown adult.  Their life is the proverbial train wreck that is waiting to happen.

And it’s unfortunate that we all know someone like this.  They might even be a part of our own family, or someone we have to work with.

Sometimes, a choice can seem unclear.  Seemingly right choices can end up being wrong, or vice versa.  The waters can be murky, leaving us not knowing exactly which way to turn or what decision to make.  I believe it is at this point where we do the best we can, use our hearts and our heads, and move forward with no regrets.  For, truly, we are the only ones that have to answer for our choices, no one else.  And that is exactly why we live our lives for ourself and no one else.  That’s not to say we don’t take other’s feelings into consideration, but only we know the reasons why we make the decisions we do.   

And it’s a shame when others do try to judge us for those decisions which they no nothing about. I think those people usually forget about “those that live in glass houses” and “he who is without sin” casting the first stone. 

If we make our choices with a good heart and good intentions to begin with, that’s the best we can do and should not feel regret, no matter how others may try to judge us.  An evil heart is the thing to question.  Anyone that would purposely try to harm another is the thing to avoid.  Acting out of jealousy or envy or with the purpose to hurt another are all bad choices.

If you’ve made a decision, a choice, that seems unclear of the outcome, try to remember what the goal was.  And always remember that even out of a bad decision, something good can come, if you just look for it.  Sometimes, it just a learning experience.  Sometimes, it’s a way to make you realize that you need to choose a different path.  And, sometimes, you get it right and, eventually, you start to see the forest through the trees.  The path opens up, and things become clear again. 

Stand strong in your decisions always.  If you’ve made them from a good place in your heart, you have nothing to fear, no matter what others might say or how they may try to judge you.  Life is a learning experience as we grow, and we make the best choices we can at the time we have to make them. 

Those that have nothing better to do than to try to tear down others for the choices they make because they can’t focus on their own lives and deal with their own issues is something I will never understand.  I sometimes think it is a way for them to avoid dealing with their own shortcomings in life.  To examine their own life and their own ways is somehow too much for them.

What I do know is that we all travel our own road.  Because of the choices we make, the directions we have chosen to turn, the decisions we make at all the crossroads — it’s all our own path.


Lion Dance, Celebrating the Asian New Year.

This time of the year is the celebration of the Chinese New Year.  As a result, I spent my Saturday chauffeuring around my son and some of the other members of his Lion Dance club to 4 different venues between two cities (very close).  We were out from 2 till after 10 that evening.  My son is the only non-Asian member of the group.  They all accept him in as if he is one of their own.  He’s sort of like an understudy of the group, of which there are a few.  He is, essentially, the “back-up” of the back portion of the lion.  Which means he has to follow the foot steps of the front end, and, when he gets good enough, will carry the front man when they do jumps and lifts.  For now, he steps and shakes his booty when required to do so. 

It is physically demanding and requires them to stay in a bent over position for a large portion of the dance.  They do a lot of running, push-ups, and some weight training to help them stay in shape.  I have started to see a change in my son’s physique, which is normally of the “string bean” variety.  However, he has always been incredibly strong (it use to take me and two other nurses to hold him down when it came time to give him his vaccines when he was just a toddler) and has been increasing his muscle mass around his shoulder and upper arm area, not to mention the workout his thighs and calves are getting. 

Their first performance of the day was at the home of a man who was hosting an Asian New Year celebration for family and friends.  Thank goodness after having the last few weeks of freezing temps and snow/ice, we had a break and the weather was near 70 on Friday and the day of their performances as well. (Didn’t last though.  Back to 26 degrees as I type this on Sunday morning.) Everyone gathered outside as the show started.

The lions danced around and made a show for the audience while the host held his grandchildren up for a closer look.

As is part of the tradition, money was put in a high place above the ground for the lions to find and cause them to use their acrobatic skills to entertain the audience as well.  “Where is that money?  I know it’s here somewhere. I just need to stay on this guy’s shoulders long enough to reach it!” 

I’m not exaggerating when I say it took “forever” for the red lion to try to get the money from the place it was wedged in the pole of the basketball goal post.  He kept trying and trying.  Both lions took turns and were getting nowhere.  I felt sorry for them because I know they must have been exhausted by this point.  Trying to get that big head around where he could reach his arm out and make a grab for it was impossible with that hoop in the way. 

In the meantime, the band (which consists of a drummer and a guy playing the cymbals) played on and on and…excruciatingly…on. 

Now, it was time to send the blue lion back in.

Finally, with a little help from one of the guests, the money was retrieved and the grand-daughter was a happy little girl with a smile from ear to ear.  (That lime flavored icee didn’t hurt either.)

The guys had time for a little soccer and a snack, and then it was time to head back on the road to the next stop about 30 minutes away.  We got there early so while they waited outside for a bit, I inspected those head pieces a little closer.

Now it was time to open the show.  These guys were shakin’ their money makers!

A little crowd-pleasing dance through the audience and a few stunts

… and we were off to the next place, a high school celebrating diversity and talent.

Applause, applause … and off to the last show.  This was a celebration at an Asian club where there was food, music and dancing, and maybe some drink (but I couldn’t really tell because I’m not familiar with Asian beer and I only had a 7-up anyway).  Oh, and my son finally got his shot at fame here.  Since him and his partner hadn’t been practicing as long as the other club members, they were allowed to cheat a little and use a chair.  My son says their success rate in jumping and landing correctly without sliding (You try that with a pair of those slick-fabric pants on and a curtain around your head while one of you is holding a giant bobble-head of a lion!) is only about 50/50 right now, and a fall would look worse than being assisted by a chair.

A little switcheroo of players, and the last stunt of the night is performed while more money is gathered for the lion club. 

Then everyone headed home and to bed.  It was a long day.  We did have fun, though.  And I love that both my children explore all kinds of cultures and groups and get to know the world through their experiences.  As a result, they can easily adapt to any situation or place.  They live in the real world, as do I, and openly accept and are eager to learn about and embrace (whether they agree with them or not) anyone or anything  new and different from what we are used to or know.   Their friend base is larger because of this, their tolerance for others different from them is greater than the average person’s, and they have a desire to want to know more and experience more outside their own four walls of home and their city. 

I wish more people would get out and experience something new outside of their own culture and what they are used to and what feels “safe” to them.  Think of how much better a place the world would be!


Can You Eat Out Alone?

Alone and lonely.  These are two words that might sound the same to some people, because they think of them both in the same negative way.  But they are not the same.  Most people conjure up sad images of someone who is “alone,” and think of such words as cold, isolation, despair, or misery. 

People are alone for a variety of reasons — some by choice, some by chance.  And while I am sure that it is depressing to some to be alone, it doesn’t mean it is that way for everyone who finds themselves eating their dinner alone at night.  I have some friends who I know would never go out to eat a meal alone.  They find it sad and depressing and are embarrassed, for some reason, to eat alone.  I, on the other hand, love it. It makes me feel independent and capable.  I don’t  need a book (but it’s okay if you do or you just like to read while dining), but sometimes I will take a magazine.  I prefer to use that time to think about myself and what it is I am wanting to accomplish next or any little project I have going on or just watch other people and couples.  Sometimes, I just sit and completely enjoy my meal.  And anyone that’s been a mother for any length of time knows what a treat that is in itself!

The other day I had errands to run and it’s been so cold and we’ve had such bad weather for a while that we’ve been shut-ins for a bit.  Everyone was back at school and I was alone.  I thought how nice it would be to just sit alone with a cup of hot chocolate and my favorite doughnut (cherry cordial) at the donut place down the street.  I grabbed a magazine, some pen and paper, and my camera and headed that way. 

The girl at the counter asked me if it was for here or to go, and I proudly said, “Here!”  Then she asked if I wanted whipped cream, and with a big smile on my face I said, “Yes!”  I got my treats and headed for a table in the main room.  There was one customer with his laptop near the back, so I chose a booth facing the window where there was some light to read by.

I sat there and flipped through my magazine, reading an article and looking up now and then at people occasionally walking by.  I was so happy to have time to myself outside of my home, to just enjoy being alone and independent.  I’m not scared to be alone — unless it’s dark, but that’s a whole different thing.  I’m not sad to be alone because I have good friends and family that I see and talk to when I can, want to, or feel the need.  I feel peace when I can enjoy being with myself doing what I want or just relaxing or taking some time for slowing down and remembering the important things in life that matter.

I think everyone needs to learn how to be alone at some point in their lives.  I definitely think all young people need to learn how to live alone before they live with or marry anyone.  It gives you a chance to really get to know yourself and what it is you want out of your own life so you can feel solid in your decisions later in life. 

I’ve been in a relationship before (a past marriage) where I felt so lonely toward the end of it.  I remember the feeling and know I never want to feel that way again.  I could not imagine how anyone could be living with someone and, yet, feel so lonely.  I can honestly say, while there have been times since I’ve been single now and then that I wished I had someone to go out with or just spend some time with, I have never felt lonely the same way I did when I was married when things were at their worst.  That’s a horrible feeling and one I like to make the distinction between when I talk to my kids about being alone.

Lonely has its degrees of lonesomeness, and a little bit lonely is bearable.  But feeling totally alone (especially while in a relationship) is not something to be tolerated.  And while I’m certain my experience with loneliness never reached the depression stage, I can see how that could quickly happen if one was susceptible to that condition.  

Maybe I like being alone and feel okay with it because I have so many hobbies and things I want to do.  I love learning anything new and will seek out information anywhere I can to obtain a new skill.  I think it’s important for couples to be able to be alone in the same house even.  Just knowing the other person is nearby in another room enjoying their alone time with a hobby or the T.V. is comforting to me.  I don’t need them anchored around my neck to feel close. 

So, learn to be alone and be okay with it.  Learn to enjoy your time with yourself and contemplating the things in your life that matter.  Use your time alone to relax and recharge.  Spend some time alone doing something you love and can do alone, like a favorite hobby or reading a book.  Being alone is great and is okay and is not a bad thing.  Being alone can be a good way to get to really know your own self and to think about an important decision you need to make.  The ability to be alone with yourself speaks about how comfortable you are with yourself.  Do you like yourself enough to spend some time with “you?”  I do.


Why I Am Blessed

I read a post last week from a woman who I have never met in person, but who sometimes inspires me and sometimes makes me chuckle with her writings. You can read her post here at  http://pamelahutchins.com/2011/01/12/i-can-be-your-hero-baby/  I’ve been thinking about that post everyday since I read it.  It’s about one of those things that you know you should do, but you sometimes get busy with the work part of living — the hard stuff — that you forget to do the good things that make others feel loved by you and that lift them up as often as you should.  It had to do with words and praise.

It was a good reminder for me to remember to praise my own children more often and use kind words to encourage them, and not think that the only way to get them to do the things they should is by using more harsh words in the way of scolding or chastising them for not doing better on something.  Because the truth is, my children are a blessing to me.  They are, in fact, the greatest blessing of my life.  I couldn’t have asked for two better kids.  They are the loves of my life and what truly makes me the happiest in life.

I always knew I wanted to have children and be a mother.   But for a long time, I didn’t know if I would even be able to have any at all.  And I was trying to make peace with the fact that maybe it would never happen for me. 

When it finally did happen, I was elated and knew my dreams of being a mother would now make my life more fulfilled.  …and it has, indeed. 

I never thought I would be a single mother, but that’s how it’s ended up.  I’ve raised my kids alone for the past almost 9 years now.  It’s not been easy, either.  But I would NOT trade my motherhood or my two children for anything in the world.

My kids are almost grown now.  My daughter is 19 and in college, and my son is 16 and will be starting college in the fall.  They both still live at home with me, but I know that won’t last forever.  So, I do try to cherish every moment with them now, while they are here with me everyday, while I can. 

Like the other night when they offered to make shrimp tempura with zucchini and carrots. I’d been having kind of a rough morning, which they noticed.  So, of course, I took them up on the offer.  I’ve taught them both how to cook (as well as how to do their own laundry, which they do) and they do a pretty good job of it.  I took a peek in on them after they had started, and my heart just sang at the sight of them!  My daughter was in one corner of the kitchen dredging the shrimp in flour

… and my son was in the opposite corner battering up the ones his sister had already done.

Then my daughter brought her laptop into the kitchen so they could listen to their own music.  I have my kitchen radio turned to some station that plays classic rock and 70’s music, and they know not to touch the dial!

After she started the music, she went right back to flouring the shrimp, while my son continued to work his magic.

 

 

                                                                                                                                                                          Then it was time to start the fry pot.  In the meantime, my daughter made a zucchini tower.  Afterall, there still kids!

I stood there and watched them work together, while they laughed and talked about things that mattered to them.  I felt so lucky and so blessed to have these two wonderful human beings in my life.  They were trying to give me a break from everything and some time to do what I wanted while they made supper.  They’re caring and thoughtful, and they will pull together when they have to in order to get something accomplished. 

Before long, the food was ready.  They had let me sample a few of the shrimp, and it was tasting really good!

We laid a blanket on the floor in the living room and made a sort-of picnic.  (Yes, we do have a dinner table.  But, sometimes, just for old time’s sake, we like to pull our picnic blanket out and do like we did when the kids were little and make a picnic in the living room.) We talked and enjoyed our meal together.  I was truly happy, as I am anytime I get to spend time with them together. 

I told them thank you for making supper, and that I would do the clean-up.  I felt so much better than I did earlier in the day.  And I couldn’t help but think how good my life is because of these two kids.  We’re very close, and I hope we always will be.  And whenever I count my blessings, guess what number one and number two are?!


Guard this Caldo recipe with your life!

Do you have recipes in your family that have been handed down from generation to generation?  You know, the ones your mother or grandmother would not give you until you could prove that you were mature enough to guard the ingredients with your life?  Like Colonel Sanders secret mix of spices that make that Kentucky Fried Chicken taste like no other. 

What is it about my mother’s generation that made women not want to give out their recipes — especially to anyone outside of the family?  It’s like it was some kind of competition that made them the “Queen of Cooking” if they had a food item that no one could quite figure out what exactly all the ingredients were and what made it taste so much better than anyone else’s version!  I think it gave them something to feel special about in a lifetime where women stayed home and kept house and made delicious suppers every night and baked all kinds of homemade goodies.  The kitchen was their domain and home life centered around that room where delicious aromas wafted into the living room and upstairs into our bedrooms from the hall.  They needed something that made them stand out from the rest of the housewives and that made everyone sing their praises when they entered the dining room or a neighbors potluck, all eyes on them like they had just won the Miss Universe contest or something. 

And, hey, I’m not knocking it.  I love to cook, and I learned a lot of my cooking from my mother.  But, often, I take her recipes that I watched her make throughout my time growing up at home and give them my own twist.  Something that I can hand down to my own daughter. 

This is a recipe that my mother use to make (with my own added ingredients) on cold, winter nights when you thought you just couldn’t stand one more miserable day or night of too much snow, too many layers, and too much used Kleenix.  It’s basically a stew.  We never called it Caldo (we never really gave it any name), but when I got older I realized that’s what it’s called by many Hispanic families who had this at their own table on those same cold nights.   

I hope you make it for you own family to help keep them warm this winter and enjoy it as much as I did when I was growing up.  But just remember, don’t give it out to just anybody.  It’s a secret!

CALDO RECIPE

You will need:

Beef stew meat, about 1 1/2 to 2 lbs.

1 cabbage

3 medium potatoes

3 corn-on-the-cob

4 carrots

1 medium yellow onion

cilantro – just a few sprigs

2 cloves garlic

1 can stewed tomatoes

Spices – salt (or spicy combination mix), pepper, garlic POWDER (not SALT)

2 tbsp oil

**I’m just going to tell you right now that if you don’t like to cook, don’t attempt to make this.  It takes a lot of time and work — at least, if you want to make it right.  I gathered all my ingredients and my pots and pans around 3 o’clock or so and we didn’t sit down to eat till a little after 7 p.m. that night.  I did a lot of chopping, dicing, peeling, cutting, and “watching.”  This is good for a Sunday evening meal or on a day when you feel relaxed and want a good home cooked meal.  Just make sure you have the time when you start. It’s well worth it!

How – To:

First, put the oil into a frying pan and let it heat up on medium heat.  Add your stew meat, sprinkling it with your spices, and brown, keeping an eye to not let it overcook.  You just want the meat seared and most of the oil cooked off (by turning the heat up higher toward the end).

While the meat is browning, take a pot and start boiling water for the Caldo.  Use a big pot, at least 3 quarts, but 5 is better.  I used 3 because my other pot was being used for something else.  (We won’t talk about it, okay?)  It was filled to the top by the time I put everything in, so try to use a bigger one if you have it.  Only fill it half-way with water so you will have room for all of your ingredients.  Add some more of your spices.

When the meat has browned, add it to the boiling water.  Also, add the can of stewed tomatoes.  Bring it to a boil, and let it continue to boil for about another 20 to 25 minutes.  Then, turn it down to a low boil and cook for at least another hour so the meat will get tender.  The thing about beef stew meat is that you have to cook it very slowly for a long time for it to get tender.  If you cook it too fast, it gets tough.  So, don’t be in a hurry. Just keep testing it with a fork every 30 minutes or so after the first hour.  Keep the lid on tight, but watch for boil-over.  (I hate it when that happens!)

Now cut your cabbage in quarters.  Keep the stem intact, cutting right through it as you slice your cabbage.  Rinse as thoroughly as possible, without separating the leaves.

Your going to start boiling it to cook while your meat is getting tender.  Use a small pot that will just fit the size of the cabbage because you don’t want it to fall apart too much while you are boiling it.  You can add a little salt if you like.  (I, personally, don’t use any because I watch my salt intake and have gotten use to not using much anyway.)

Let the cabbage boil for about 5 minutes or so, then place cover on pot and simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes more.  I boil this in a separate pot from the stew for two reasons. First, cabbage is so tightly contained that even though I rinse it well before cooking, I’m always worried that there might be little bugs in between the leaves.  Boiling it in a separate pot allows me to see if any bugs are in it as it starts to gently separate as it cooks.  I wouldn’t see them, if there were any, if they were swimming in my big pot of beef and red tomato water.  And, secondly, I don’t like cabbage.  I don’t like coleslaw or sauerkraut on anything to do with cabbage — except in Caldo.  But, I don’t want my whole stew to taste like cabbage stew.  I just want some of that flavor.  Therefore, I cook it in a separate pot, then place two of the quarters in my stew to cook with the meat and tomatoes to add that little flavor of cabbage.  Then, I will add it to the stew later, as you will see. 

While your cabbage is cooking, start cutting up your onion.  Cut it in big chunks.  This whole stew is based on it’s “chunkiness.”  I used about half or less of a medium-sized onion.  (I love onions!)

Dice up your garlic, too.  Just small pieces, it doesn’t have to be tiny, little diced pieces.  It’s going to be cooking a long time in the stew anyway, so no one is going to be getting a nasty piece of garlic in their mouth that’s too big and horrible tasting!  I don’t have a picture of the tiny, little diced pieces that you didn’t do because  I told you not to dice them so small.  You don’t need to see that, do you?  If so, just use your imagination here.

Okay, now it’s been about the right cooking time for the cabbage.  So take two of the quarters out of the pot and place them in the big pot that has the stew meat in it.  Add the onions and the garlic at this time, also.  The meat has probably been cooking for about an hour to an hour-and-a-half at this point.  It still needs to cook much longer to get tender.  Put the lid on the pot and let it continue to simmer.  I cooked it for probably another hour or so.  It was about 4:50 at this point.  Continue to cook the remaining cabbage quarters in the other pot until tender.

Now everything is starting to look and smell good!  You should have your potatoes, carrots, corn, and cilantro left.  You can peel and cut your carrots and potatoes now.  Remember, cut them into big chunks.  Put your cut potatoes into a bowl of cold water until you are ready to use them.  This will prevent them from getting brown.  (Yuck!)  Wash your cilantro and place aside.  Cut your corn into thirds. 

Check the meat tenderness.  If it’s starting to get tender enough that you can cut it with a fork without it falling apart too much, then it’s ready for you to add the last ingredients.  This is kind of tricky, getting the meat just right.  Because you don’t want to overcook it so that it falls apart and shreds in the water.  So you must have some experience with cooking meat in stews.  You want to time it so that if it cooks for about another hour with the potatoes, corn and carrots, it will be done perfectly and not underdone or overdone.  If you cook a lot at home, you should be able to gauge this okay. 

Take the cabbage out of the stew and place in small bowl to the side.  Cover it with foil so it will stay warm.  Now this cabbage looks good to me!

Add in your potatoes, carrots and corn.  Also, add more water if needed.  Tear off the small leaves of the cilantro and drop these onto the top of the water.  It looks and smells so good!  Cover with the lid and you’re going to let it cook about another hour so everything will get tender.  (It was about 5:30, maybe later, when I put these in the pot.)  Keep watch because you don’t want to have the potatoes overcooked and getting mushy and falling apart.  Just keep testing with your fork every so often. 

I checked my potatoes for doneness and they were ready.  I cut up some lemon wedges and placed on a small plate.  Then, I warmed up some flour tortillas in the oven.  We were so hungry and ready to eat at this point!  It was just smelling so good throughout the whole house. 

Spoon the soup into large bowls, making sure to get a little of everything into the bowls.  Leave enough room for the cabbage.  I just cut the cooked quarter pieces into two or three smaller pieces and added some to the bowl of soup.  Now butter your tortilla (Mmm … memories of childhood!), roll it up and serve with the soup.  Add some lemon (this is probably why I like the cabbage in the soup because the lemon makes it taste just right.) and warm your tummies!  My son says this is “hibernation” food.  He eats it and just wants to go climb in bed and sleep for two days! 


My Blue World

(I knew that image of that disco ball I shot would come in handy one day!)

Picking this weeks post was really hard for me.  I thought about it being the first post of the new year and all that and wanted it to be something special.  I tossed a few ideas around in my head and couldn’t quite settle on anything.  I tried a few things out, and became frustrated.  Nothing seemed good enough or significant enough. 

I read some other blogs and still couldn’t come up with anything special.  I have some changes I want to make and some new things I want to add, but they’re not quite ready. 

Then, early Sunday afternoon, my daughter and I went to see Cirque Du Soleil.  The show was called Alegria.  We were both excited and eager to see this show.  We’ve been counting down the days for a couple of weeks now.  I was so hoping I could sneak my camera in and get some pics, but I knew that was going to be out of the question.  The tickets clearly stated “No Cameras/Recorders.”  And then I thought that it was probably for the best.  Not just for the performers (although I’m smart enough to know to turn off the flash), but for me as well.  Without having to focus on getting good shots, I could just sit back and fully enjoy the show.  And did we ever!

It was stunning!  The music is still playing in my head, several hours later.  Of course, the acrobatics are the thing that is the main focus.  But the overall effect of the music, the colors, the costumes, and the mood produced along with the acrobatics, made for the best experience and fantasy I have seen in a while.  It was perfect for getting me out of my world and into a world of over-stimulated senses that left me feeling inspired and refreshed! 

I came home  to put that new post together and all I could think of was the color blue. 

I love the color blue.  It always calms me and makes me feel relaxed and happy.  I like wearing blue and think it’s a color that flatters everyone.  I want to share with you some of the different shades of blue I have found in some photos I have taken.  I hope they make you feel soothed and calm like they do me.  And I hope you will feel inspired at the start of this new year —  like I do now after seeing Alegria!