Friday, February 12, 2016

Photography: Our Annual Valentine Photo

For the past 6 years I've made a collage of funny face photos of my kids and we send it out as a card to family members.  It's our "Box of Chocolate" photo.  The photo card always says, "Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get."  Isn't that true with kids?  You never know what you're going to get from these fun lovin' and sometimes temperamental kids!

I gave a little sneak peek at our "behind the scenes" on Instagram.  The kids have been doing their own "selfies" for the past few years.  I often have to leave the room while they take their photos.

Here's our card for this year:

And here's the photos from 2016 all the way back to 2011.

They do grow up too fast, don't they?  And I think I've finally figured out a template for the photos!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Pinned It & Did It: DIY Bird Bath

Do you like to pin things on Pinterest?  Do you like to do them?

I'm trying to do the things I pin.  "Trying."  You can see if I fail or pass. 

Today's edition of "Pinned It and Did It" is a DIY Bird Bath.  I wasn't planning on sharing this on the blog, so my photos aren't "blog-worthy."  But, oh well.  It was a fun project and I bet you could do it too.  You might even be able to far surpass what we did.  Plus, it's a great project for kids.

Our old bird bath was metal and rusted out.  I wanted a new one, but I had some stipulations:
  1. It couldn't be expensive.  (Have you seen how much some cost?!)
  2. It couldn't be metal that would rust out again.
  3. It couldn't have lots of ornate flowers and such.  (I'm not a fancy girl.)
  4. It had to be heavy duty. 
  5. It had to be simple.  (Again...not ornate.)
Well, I found metal ones.  I found heavy concrete ones with squirrels and flowers.  I found a stone one that sits on the ground with bunnies on it!  I found a bronze one with an angel.  I found ones that looked really cheap, but were still $30.  I found ones that looked like they would blow over with the slighted bit of wind and we have wind that can take a staked trampoline out of the ground and throw it across the yard.  I just couldn't find what I was looking for in a bird bath to purchase.  Call me picky, cause I am.  I wanted simple.

I googled bird baths.  I looked on Pinterest.  I found this one.  It's pinned in my house stuff pins.  It's pretty awesome and it's my inspiration.

This project required:
  • a basin for the birds (I used a ceramic flower pot water catcher)
  • 32 rectangular bricks
  • two large patio bricks
We already had two large patio bricks left over from a shed project and water barrel project. They didn't match, but that's alright. We use what we have.  I went to Lowes and purchased the rectangular bricks during a Labor Day sale.  I also bought construction adhesive to adhere the bricks together, but we nixed that idea.  I calculated the cost of this to be around $30.  You could probably even do it for cheaper if you can score some used stuff or a super duper sale.  $30 was worth it to me, because this bird bath was way better than any I saw that we could purchase. 

Essentially this is like building with blocks or Legos.  The kids were on this project like it was a new Lego set.  I just had to get the materials and they did the rest.

1) Do a dry run of your bird bath to make sure it goes together like you want.  We may have had 3 or 4 dry runs, just because it was fun to build with the bricks.

2) Find an area for the bird bath, preferably near a tree.  Level the ground.

3) Lay your bottom patio piece and make sure it is level and completely covering the ground.

4) Stack your first layer of bricks into a square.

5) Alternate your second layer.

6) Continue alternating the layers until you have used all the bricks.

7) Place the last patio paver on top.

8) Admire the work of the wonderful bird bath builders.
9) Add your basin of choice and fill with water. 

We used a ceramic pot water catcher for our basin.  It was cheap and I couldn't find what I was looking for.  I was going to let the kids paint it and then I was going to seal it, but we were too excited to see it in use.  We put it on without any paint or sealer and it's starting to chip to pieces in the cold weather.  In the spring, we'll be looking for a new thrifty basin.  You could use a large bowl, a serving platter, or anything that you can find that will hold water.  The birds really like to have a rock in it to stand on.  Also, it's still standing strong without construction adhesive and we can move or fix the bird bath if we need to.

Here's a few snapshots taken from inside our house.  It's always lovely to put the bird bath in a spot where you can view it from the house.  We can sit at our dining room table and watch the birds.  It's better than actually having them in our house, though I'm sure the kids would love to have a bird.  Our allergies just wouldn't appreciate it...or the dog.

Have you made a DIY bird bath?  What have you done?  Or have you pinned something else and did it?

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Photography: Favorite Equipment

Since I've ended my photography blog, I thought I would redo some of the favorite posts here.  This is an everything blog, so photography stuff will fit in.  Eventually, I hope to get up some of the favorite tutorials.  Notice that I said, "eventually."  I'm really not fast with getting multitudes of things done.  That's why there has been a load of clean laundry laying around for the last week.

I've pared down my photography equipment and props by the loads.  I emptied containers of newborn props from under my bed and in my closet.  Now I've just got one container of special things and I use all of what I have.

Here's what I use quite a bit and what I love:

My camera.  It's the Nikon D3100.  It's a lower-end DSLR and a crop sensor camera.  You can rock end a low-end camera and take some pretty fantastic portraits with it.  Just don't use the kit lens (18-55mm), you need to invest in a prime lens for portraits.  I also have a Canon EOS-M that I adore.  It's a mirrorless camera that is easy to take places. 

My favorite lens.  The Nikkor 35mm F1.8.  This is a lower cost prime lens.  (I about choked...saying $199 is low!?  But there are lens that are over $1000!)  I love this lens!  It's on my camera 90% of the time.  There are other focal length primes lens out there, but I went with the 35mm because of the crop sensor on my camera.  A 50mm would be a good place to start if you have a full sensor camera and want to get a prime lens.  Prime means that it is a lens that only has one focal length.

My favorite speedlight.  I adore natural light, but sometimes you want a little oompf.  A little help.  A little boost in the light.  I avoid the on-camera flash because it isn't flattering.  A speedlight is awesome!  Mine is a Yonguno 468-II for Nikon.  I've had this baby for years and it's still working.  I love it!  Here's a similar one: the Yongnuo Speedlight YN 560 III.

My favorite wireless trigger kit.  A wireless trigger kit is pretty much the chocolate sauce on top of your real vanilla icecream.  Seriously, I don't know how I functioned without this.  I can use it as a remote trigger to take self-portraits of my family.  My kids use it to take their yearly selfie photos for our Valentine's card.  Even better....I can use it to make my speedlight trigger off camera.  Yes, I can have an off-camera flash with this wireless trigger.  I have the Yongnuo RF-603 II 16-Ch Wireless Flash Trigger for Nikon.  I purchased a stand and a softbox for the speedlight that gives me a cheapo off camera flash system.  I'm not going to recommend the softbox I have, but it's tiny and packages up small. 

My favorite white balance system.  I use an ExpoDisc for all my portraits.  It does make a difference, I love it! For snapshots, I use auto white balance.

My favorite cleaning equipment.  I use a rocket air blaster, Nikon lens pen, and an unused toothbrush.  Rocket blasters are so much fun, I love that thing!

My favorite editing program.  I use Photoshop Elements 11.  You can probably tell that I go with the basic and low cost stuff.  I like it and I'm happy with it!  Currently, there is an Adobe Photoshop Elements 14.  I occasionally use PicMonkey (the free version) when I need something quick and online.  I love their collages, they're very useful for a blog!

Other stuff.  I also have a reflector that I use for portraits.  It's a 5-1 system that folds down small.  I won't recommend the one that I have because it pretty much fell apart quickly.  I jimmie-rigged it back together with safety pins and still use it.  I'm thrifty like that.  I also have a backdrop stand that I use once in a while.  I have two rolls of Savage seamless paper backdrops that I use.  I hate dragging out the backdrop stand and rolls of paper, but they sure do make a difference in portraits!  I use the thunder grayevery year for my kids' school portraits.  I also have the bone whiteand love it.

Bascially, whether you have high-end equipment or low-cost equipment....Rock What You've Got!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Lego Minifigure Christmas Countdown Day 23

December 23.
The Lego Minifigures are starting to celebrate Christmas!
There was a new Christmas Lego set to be built!  The boy got to build it!
Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Lego Minifigure Christmas Countdown Day 22

December 22.
This has got to be a record for me.  22 days in a row!
Today the Lego Minifigures want us to read "The Night Before Christmas."
And I did read it.  I read it to the kids while we enjoyed some baklava!
What a special Christmas treat!  Now we have to make more chocolate pretzels, because we ate them up or gave them away.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Lego Minifigure Christmas Countdown Day 21

December 21.
This morning we woke up to the minifigures and mini pancake muffins.
How thoughtful!
Now I won't have to make breakfast the next few mornings. The kids can warm it up themselves!
Merry Christmas Week!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Lego Minifigure Christmas Countdown Day 20

December 20.
I don't know how these Minifigures do it.
I think some little girl helped them out today.
They were trying to make gingerbread men.
This one is reading the directions.
These ones are cutting the gingerbread men out.
This one is "frying" them up in a pan. 
I wonder if he gets away and if they can catch him?


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