Monday, June 30, 2008

Creepy Critters

As we have been spending more time outside, we have pulled out all of Ella's toys from under the deck that have been sitting there all winter. I hate it under the deck. It is a mulchy mess of all kinds of critters. Since unearthing Ella's sandbox, I cant tell you all of the icky's we have found in there. I plan to get new sand this year because we left it open many times when it rained and there are spiders and all sorts of things all over the place in there. Seeing that she is deathly afraid of bugs at the moment, I have kept her away from it thus far. I opened it the other day and found this little critter in there.

Then we pulled out her Radioflyer wagon for her birthday so the kids could play on it and found another little critter perched on the edge.

Besides the Robin's nest under our deck, I found this nest in a little cherry blossom tree we planted last year. Its the perfect tree to have a nest in because it is really round and full. It was very well hidden. Since I saw it, I have tried to get a picture of the nest with more eggs (I got it when it had one egg, last I saw it had 2 more), but every time I go down there, the mama bird is sitting in there. She doesn't even flinch. I think she thinks I cant see her. I'm not even sure what kind of bird it is. She is brown with a bright orange beak. I cant wait to see these babies hatch!

Still working on the "money shot" of the baby robin's opening their mouth for food. I have gotten a couple but they are kinda blurry. I am just infatuated with these baby birds!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Our Day At the Beach

Today was a beautiful afternoon. We took Ella to one of the lakes nearby. This year we bought a season park pass so we can get into any of the parks in our county for free. We've never done that before, but we thought it would be a good idea for the summer, especially since Keith has gotten into fishing the last couple of years.

I should probably tell you that I am not a lake person. I was born and raised in Massachusetts so I am a full blooded ocean person. Lakes, rivers, ponds....whatever, don't compare to the ocean to me. In my youth, I had no choice but to end up in the "land of 10,000 lakes". Keith thinks its weird that I will swim in the ocean and don't prefer lakes. To me, there's more flow in an ocean. A lake just sits there collecting whatever it is it collects. I will go into a lake and enjoy myself, but for the most part, I don't like to swim in one (not that I wear a bathing suit much these days anyways).

I really did enjoy our afternoon at the beach though. Ella had great fun playing in the sand. I loved watching Ella and Keith go out into the water. It was a very shallow lake, so once Ella realized that she could walk back and forth between Keith and I she loved pretending that she was a sea turtle.

"My Love" and "My Little Love". What a great day it was.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

And Then There Was Life.....

I would like to show you the new babies at our house. I had posted earlier in Mi Casa es Su Casa that we had a Robin's nest under our deck. Everyday I look down through the deck to see if the little birdies have hatched. What are the odds that I would see one in progress! Yesterday, Ella and I took turns peering through the floor boards of the deck to watch this new little life come into the world. I got a couple of pictures with its butt and head still in the two halves of the shells, but they came out pretty blurry because he was wiggling so much.

I quickly grabbed my camera and got these shots of this alien like birdie - all full of wrinkly skin and big bug eyes. Then today, his sibling was born! I dont know what the normal hatching schedule is for birds, but I am now excited to see the other two hatch! It was amazing.

I am still waiting to get the money shot of the birdies with thier mouths open looking for food. ;)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Rules #48 and #49 For Enhancing Photographs

Rule #48 - Do not use a laptop and do not assume that they look as good on your computer as they do on someone else's.

Rule #49 - Do not try to process pictures as well as someone who has a Dslr, when you only have a little 4 mp digital P&S.

I went over to my parents house today. Ever since Ella was born I have taken many pictures and always emailed them to my Dad so he could print them out and share them with my mom. They have books of pictures of their only grandchild at their house. The last week or so, I mentioned in my blog that I was playing around with Christina's standard processing. Since working from home over the last year, I use my laptop for most everything. Surfing the web, playing with pictures....and oh ya, working. When I looked at the pictures I had sent him the last week of Ella, I couldnt believe how different they looked on his monitor. My Dad games online, so he has a wonderful 21" flat widescreen monitor.

My Dad did photography as a hobby when I was little. I imagine that is what sparked my interest as I grew up. I was kinda embarrassed at how they looked on his monitor after playing around in photoshop with the pictures of my precious Ella. Not at all how they looked like on my laptop!

In saying that, instead of following a certain way step by step, I have gone back to my way of processing photos, with some slight alterations from some wonderful things I learned from Christina's photographs. Isnt that what it's all about anyways? Taking what you have learned and adding them with your style....

So tell me, with the best criticism you've got....How do they look on your end?

Which brings me to what I want. CAN YOU GUESS? You got it. A Dslr. I am looking at the Nikon D80 or the Canon EOS XSi (450D)

Ella was trying to take a picture of me....

View more "Theme Thursday's" at Stacy's The Land of K.A.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

My Fairy Princess

Ella got so many princess dress up clothes for her birthday. Everyday, she wants to put them on and dance around the house. This one is my favorite. I love fairies. I collect fairy figurines and also have a tattoo of a I just love this little outfit on her.

She sat down for a moment to watch TV after playing for a while and had her hands folded. I quitely grabbed my camera and tip toed over to her to get the last shot.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Ella's Actual Birthday

Today for Ella's birthday, we took her to the Mall of America to go on some rides at the new Nickelodeon Universe. When the Mall opened, the amusement park there was called Camp Snoopy. They just changed it to Nickelodeon this past year, and since she knows all of the characters we thought she would have fun. We had also been to Disney World this past April and had gone on many rides. She still talks about them to this day, so we knew she would have fun.

One ride that we weren't too sure about was the Wonder Pets Flyboat. It was a ride that had sort of like a bench where all the kids sat down buckled in facing outward and then it just went up and down. She had to go on it by herself because Keith's butt was not going to fit in the little bucket seats. But we thought it didn't look that bad. So the ride went up and her eyes opened as she got to the top. Then, I was feeling a little relieved as it started to come down, because I thought that she would feel relieved too. started to come down, then slightly goes back up every couple of feet of so. So as its coming down, it goes up then down, up then down, as it jiggs its way to the bottom. Then it goes back up to do it all over again. I think it did the cycle maybe 4-5 times. But she was a trooper. As I am on the ground jumping up and down screaming, "WOO HOO" and making a fool out of myself, she found it to actually be quite enjoyable. At the end, she asked to go on it again. She also went on the ferris wheel. I thought she might be scared going up to high, but once again....Trooper!

Keith is the guy to go on all of the rides. My stomach turns just thinking about going on them. Even this little roller coaster.

She met Diego and as you can see by her face, she thought he was unusually large. :)

This dragon was the prettiest on the merry-go-round. I could hear as she and Keith walked up to get on the ride that she insisted she get to ride on the dragon.

Her new Dora cowgirl hat. She kept tipping it off saying, "Howdy partner".

Monday, June 23, 2008

Happy Ella Day

We celebrated Ella's birthday on Sunday. But tomorrow she will officially be 3 years old. The weather pretty much held out all day. It sprinkled just a little bit before company came over and then cleared up to sunny skies.

Ella had a wonderful time playing with all of the kids. We had the little kiddie pool out, the bouncy house trampoline and a little slide for the kids to play with. I decided to stay away from the treat bags because I didn’t want to get into that, not knowing how many kids were going to be there. So instead, I bought a few mini water guns to use at the pool and then lollipops that you had to fold open to lick. I didn’t realize it at the time, but later everyone was teasing me because I bought the kids “pistols and butterfly knives” to play with. What kind of 3 year old birthday party can you have if you don’t have pistols and butterfly knives? :)

We had a good turnout and I was glad everyone got to share in her special day. I had posted earlier this month about hating to host parties and wish I could just do a little dinner thing with the parents, keep it low key and skip the whole hurrah….but I am actually glad it went down the way it did. Ella had so much fun and I enjoyed being with all of my friends later in the night.

I took a few pictures of Ella during the party but otherwise she was running around like a chicken with her head cut off. At one point I just put the camera down and said, “To hell with it”.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Playing Around in Photoshop...With A Little Help

Ok, so a blog that I frequent is Momology, by Christina. Along with a few other blogs I enjoy, her photos are some of my favorites. So what do you do when you enjoy a blog? You search their archives! I found her post on a tutorial about her standard processing, and since I love Photoshop and use it myself, I thought I would give her process a try.

Now, if you know me, you know I am longing for a DSLR, since I just own a digital point and shoot. Christina's photos are as sharp as they come and mine look a little noisy, but I still seem to like how they turned out. To me they are sort of surreal looking. Her tips on how to make the color "pop" was really cool. I also like the different option she has to sharpen an image.

I love it when people share thier processing stages, because even though someone may take a tutorial and follow them step by step, as I did here, they will always come out different because of the photographer, subject and camera.

So, thanks Christina for sharing your process. I have been having fun changing things up!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Show and Tell with Mel

So this weeks show and tell isnt really about me, but about what my husband and our family and friends got to be part of. Keith works for his family business which is a spray texture and drywall company. In August of 2007 his company was honored to be part of the show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

This episode was very special too because it was the 100th family that Extreme Makeover: Home Edition had built a house for. It was a very exciting time. The project was very hush hush. Nobody involved could talk about it to anyone. As a matter of fact, any information that was passed along from the builder to any of the suppliers/contractors involved was named "Project 508" (the 508 stands for something, but I cant recall at the moment).

They ended up building the house in 99 hours. Keith, members of our family and friends were up at all hours of the night and had to be prepared to do their work at a moments notice. Sometimes leaving the house at 2am because that's when the drywall was scheduled to be hung. Most of Keith's family was there either working or volunteering throughout the week. A few of our friends work for Keith too and volunteered their time with the company. I unfortunately did not get a chance to get down there because I didn't have anyone to watch Ella.

The Swenson-Lee family lives in Minnetonka, MN and were victims of domestic violence. Their story has been featured in many newspapers and more notably on Dateline NBC. On September 22, 2006 the lives of Teri Lee's four children were forever changed. Teri Lee's ex-boyfriend, whom she had a restraining order against, broke into the family's home and fatally shot Lee and her boyfriend. The children, who lost their father in a car accident a few years before, were home at the time. Lee's then 11-year old daughter witnessed the shootings. Police found her two young sons hiding in a closet. None of the children were physically harmed.

Lee's sister, Vicki Seliger Swenson and her husband, Erik, both school teachers, adopted Terri's four children and brought them into their three bedroom home. With three children of their own and another on the way, the Swenson-Lee family has doubled in less than a year and was running out of space.

I cant even tell you though how rewarding it was for Keith, the business, all the family and our friends to be involved with this. The tragedy that this family went through and the love that the Swenson family had to take in Terri's 4 children was so overwhelming. It is something that we (even through I didn't get to go down, I still feel like I lived it through him) will always be proud to have been a part of. It is something we will be able to tell our grandchildren.

Ok, now for my 2 cents....When the house was finished, ABC hosted a party downtown for all of the volunteers involved. It was very nice, had lots of food and an open bar. We all went and had a great time. We were even told that the cast of the show would be stopping, who are we most excited to see? Why Ty Pennington, of course. Thankfully, they did all show up later on in the night, after we had been there for a few hours. They even walked around for a short time to take pictures and sign autographs. I gotta tell ya, to see the women who frantically surrounded him was amazing. Here are all of these pretty girls, some hootchie, trying to get his attention....and then there's my mother in law. Dab smack in the middle of them. She didn't care if she got to talk to him or not, she just wanted to be close to him. It made me laugh so hard. I was actually quite disappointed in the real thing....On TV, TY looks to me to be a very tall, broad shouldered kind of guy. NOT AT ALL. Little man, is all I kept thinking. Little man. He was only like 5'7" and very slender. His pants were falling off of his ass so many time he had to pull them up over and over. And yes ladies....I saw his plumber butt. It was surreal, and actually quite a turn off. Dont get me wrong. Ty is very attractive, but, little man....little man.

So anyways, I just looked on the website for the show and coincidentally, it is replaying our episode tomorrow night! Sunday, June 22 8pm/7c. Check it out if you can.

Images were provided by the builder of the project: TJB Homes
Check out other Show and Teller's here.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Preparing for the Weekend

This weekend we are having Ella's birthday party. Got lots of prep work to do....clean the house, make the food, clean the garage, mow the lawn, set up the pool for the kids, hope it doesnt rain! Sunday looks like it is supposed to be nice, but now they are saying showers. So I dont know....

We have had a beautiful week. Sunny and in the 80's...Just hold out till Sunday! PLEASE!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Sprinkler Fun - Theme Thursday

This is my first Theme Thursday post. Since Ella and I enjoyed the weather outside today, I thought it was perfect for the "childhood" theme this week. I was spraying the water hose on Ella and told her to dance. This is what she came up with. She also wanted to drink out of the hose like our dog Lulu....Something I am sure we all did as kids!

Mi Casa es Su Casa

Through the years, we have had many Robin's make thier home under our deck. But the first year they made a nest, we left it there and it gathered mites that infested our deck. They were so tiny and so many of them it was disgusting. You would walk onto the deck by the nest and they would start covering your legs. So after taking the nest down and hosing the deck off, we said we would never let another nest stay there. Our neighbor told us about stapling a dryer sheet up there and the birds would not make thier home anymore. So we did that, and she was right. The Robin's didnt make thier next there again, they made it on the other side of the deck!

While hubby has forgotten to staple a dryer sheet up there again since, the birds have made several nests. Most of them we took down before any eggs were layed, but this one we did not see until the eggs were in there already. I hate to move the nest after the eggs have been layed. So we are taking our chances and leaving it as long as we can. They are so high up that the only way we can see them is to look through the deck as we are standing on it.

Hatch little birdies! Hatch! Before the infestation comes!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Under The Weather.....

We've all been pretty under the weather this week. Keith and I both caught Ella's cold. When he came home yesterday, he grabbed his pillows, threw them on the living room floor and took a nap for an hour. When he woke up, Ella wanted to read him a "bedtime story". We told her to go pick a book out of her library and she came back with the "puppy book"......which is actually an old William Wegman address book. She loves to tell stories about what the puppies are doing in the book. She was so sweet laying on the floor while leaning on him. She made me feel better, that's for sure.

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Photography Equipment

Nikon D80
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Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens
Nikkor 55-200mm VR f/4-5.6 lens
Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Di 1:1 Macro
Lensbaby Composer
Photoshop CS3

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