Sunday, January 31, 2016

A Photo a Day: Day 31

Ending this experiment/month with a cheat.

My daughter took this picture with her "toy" camera. And I love it.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

A Photo a Day: Day 30

Photos photos photos!

Mr. Moo and his favorite mousie!

I set up what was, as far as I'm concerned, a gorgeous shot here - the beautiful blurred trees in the background, the lovely light. And my girl? She would either look at her camera or look around or wiggle or stick out her tongue (no, not on purpose) etc etc etc. But hey, I still love this shot (and the others that I'm not sharing here).

Friday, January 29, 2016

A Photo a Day: Day 29

It's almost the end of the month and I've posted a new picture almost every single day!

I think I'll keep going. Why not, right? A post a day keeps the traffic uh......arriving?

Today I went on a photo walk and made myself just sling the camera over my shoulder (with its new comfy AND cute AND long strap from Crafty Staci, that's not hard at all) and just go. What good are things you own if you don't use them? (I also now have an iPhone after many years of Android use - which I did by default, iPhones are expensive and I couldn't afford them until last week when I scored a new 5S for $150 directly from Virgin Mobile to go with my $35/month unlimited plan so - and I threw a case on it, incorrectly put a screen protector on it (I'll fix it...soon), and shoved in my pocket. No babying this thing!)

I took many pictures. Here are a few of my favorites:

Decatur is home to Pete the Cat - he may be famous worldwide now, but he's from here - and I have always loved taking pictures of this Little Free Library that features him. I worked really hard to get the bokeh going. I would actually consider printing and framing the top one, honestly.

And then just a few more odds and ends:

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Thrifting Post AND Photos from Today: Day 28

As promised, LOTS of photos today to make up for the lack of photos yesterday.

Yesterday I went to three thrift stores but only bought things at one - the doggie/kitty awesome seekrit fabulous store. AND WAS IT EVER FABULOUS.

As always, I don't know the exact prices on most things, but when I know, I'll list them.

Not shown - until I can get it out of the dryer and take a pic - one pair of brown cords for the kid.

All pictures taken with the DSLR and tweaked in Photoshop, which is why there's no excuse for the poor quality of some of them, oops. I may update them in the future - I was overwhelmed today because I also just got a new iPhone 5S and was setting it up and settling into it, moving from Android to iOS (I'm pretty familiar with iOS already and the transferring of contact info was pretty easy, hooray). (I got a deal as far as I'm concerned - a new 5S for $150 added on to the $35/month unlimited service from Virgin Mobile that I've had for forever. UNLIMITED - and the data throttle threshold is so high I never reach it. Nice, eh?)

Plain green shirt - but it's J Crew so it's a good, STRONG plain green shirt.

Pink waffle shirt that Amy said matches my hair, does.

Hard-to-photograph black waffle shirt with 3/4 sleeves. LOVE.

Faux-vintage Star Wars shirt. The purple looks really good with my hair, don't care. Also it fits me well.

FAVORITE #1: FOX SWEATER. It's a little bit and a little boxy but it's SO CUTE with a tank top under it. Also soft.....ALSO FOX.

I did a little dance in the fitting room with this. It's also maybe a smidge big but way soft and so frilly and flowy and adorable.

Another impossible-to-photograph thing: A Guess sweater that is so fancy it has a little silver charm at the middle edge of the back of the collar. It's black and silver/gold sparkly. It has belt loops that I may clip off but I kind of like the idea of belting it. (The sweater goes below my hips in a cute way.) Update: It's this. Now I know what style belt to copy.

Plain dark blue T-shirt.
FAVORITE #2: LOOK AT THIS BELT. It was 50 cents. That buckle is giant and heavy. The belt itself is stamped leather and the buckle removes easily. I just...had to.


Boots!!!! IN MY SIZE. They look new - the soles are flawless. They are leather. They are a high-end brand. They are brown. They FIT. AND????? They were $4.50 for the pair. BUT WAIT!

MORE BOOTS! (I will...eventually take a better picture.) These are Clarks, black, leather, fit me, soft, comfy... ALSO $4.50 for the pair. PERFECTION.
Boots, fox sweater, sparkly black sweater, cute cardi, fancy belt, more more more....I spent about $30 TOTAL. WOOHOO!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

No Photo Today - but lots tomorrow!

Sorry to disappoint you, fan.


I went on an epic - EPIC - thrifting trip today (just one store! all the things!) so didn't have time to deal with photos. But tomorrow there will be a thrifting update that will incorporate the standard thrift score post with ALL THE PICTURES.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A Photo a Day: Day 26

When you don't bring your camera on a walk, your blog readers suffer with pictures of your lunch.

Roasted cauliflower with buffalo wing sauce. Sometimes it comes out just OK, this time it came out beautifully.

Zoodle bowl - spiralized zucchini noodles (using my Inspiralizer - that's a referral link bee tee dubs), red peppers, carrots, with a peanut butter sauce inspired by Tasty on FB. (There are also rice paper wrappers ripped up and mixed in - I simply can NEVER get rolls right so I just throw it all together.)
I connected with someone today (who may be lurking, hi!) and I may take a class with her to learn the finer points of my camera. I feel like I can do so much more with it.....

Monday, January 25, 2016

A Photo a Day: Day 25

I took what I think is an EXCELLENT action shot - alas, of a neighbor's son running and playing with a Nerf gun. I don't feel right sharing it....

But I am working slowly on leaving Av mode behind and moving on to fully manual mode. Starting to understand the balance between ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. I'm getting there.

Here, have a mirror selfie I took a few days ago.

I really can't wait to get a tripod and remote....

Sunday, January 24, 2016

A Photo a Day: Day 24

Another picture from yesterday, tweaked slightly in le Photoshoppe.

It's my friend's kid but I felt that because you can't see this child's face, it was OK to post.

I like the contrast in the colors here.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

A Photo a Day: Day 23

Here in Georgia, we got a teeny, tiny snowstorm - but it was enough to have a little fun.

This was me getting over my "camera might break" fear. I had it out in the cold and ice and snow and I just snapped away.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Boys for Pele 20 years later, as my memories intertwine with the songs

 20 years ago, Tori Amos released Boys for Pele and changed my life.

I'd already become a die-hard Tori Amos fan with the release of Little Earthquakes. I'd caught the Silent All These Years video randomly on MTV at the end of 1991, then stalked the stores until the full album came out, buying the Crucify and Winter singles along the way and devouring those too. In fact, I bought Little Earthquakes so early in its life that my booklet's pictures are black and white - a rarity before I even knew to start collecting Tori rarities. (I learned, later. I have amassed a very large collection of Tori CDs and memorabilia. Even with the digital world, I can't let go of the Crucify box, the Spark postcards....)

In 1994, I did not connect very well with Under the Pink for a variety of reasons - it came out when I was a college kid studying abroad in London and I was anticipating Little Earthquakes: The Sequel, which we all know is not how Tori rolls. Simply, Under the Pink took a lot of time for me to appreciate. Little Earthquakes was so internal and so my-heart-my-heart-you-heard-my-heart - and Under the Pink, in many ways, was so external. At the time I heard Cornflake Girl and completely missed Baker Baker. I heard God and missed Cloud on my Tongue. It took me time to hear it for what it was and to crawl into it. It did happen, but Pink is not the one I reach for.

Still, I obsessively collected every single that came out - the limited editions! the standard editions! I was in the UK and bought those CDs for one pound, three pounds (for a while they were all worth a lot more money - and then they weren't again), and I found my soulmate song in Honey, that beautiful B side that was left off of UtP.  I also saw Tori live in concert for the first time when she was touring in support of UtP (which helped me warm to the album).

So at the end of 1995, despite not loving the second album, I still considered myself a complete and total Tori Amos fan, and I was ALL IN and very very excited for her third. First, I vaguely remember, there was a promotional Internet release (dial up! it took forever!) of a short clip of Caught a Lite Sneeze. I remember it fuzzily - a teaser, a taste of the song up to the "Doo doooo dooo" part. What was coming next?

Then I somehow, in early-Interwebzy-forums-and-AOL-message-board-ways, connected with a guy who was a New York City DJ and who had some sort of in with Atlantic, Tori's label. The next time I was in NYC, I met up with him at a club (in the daytime, while he was prepping for his evening), and he gave me the four-song promo cassette, which contained Hey Jupiter, Caught a Lite Sneeze, Talula, and Putting the Damage On. I ran back to a friend's apartment immediately and we listened to those four songs on repeat. Magic.

And then and then. Another friend who worked at a record store in Boston, a fellow fan, got the full promo of Boys for Pele in the cold and ice and dirty gray snow of the end of 1995 and handed me a cassette copy. I put that in my Walkman, pressed play, and didn't take it back out for MONTHS. I listened while I walked to temp jobs and grad school classes and I listened while I did dishes in my crappy Allston apartment and I listened and I listened. I was 22. The world was full of promise, I was not sure what I was supposed to be doing.

I remember that I couldn't breathe through Beauty Queen and that I cried with the first notes of Horses. It was the entire opposite of my reaction to Under the Pink. I clicked with this album INSTANTLY. I remember before I had listened to the full album that this friend mentioned that people would love or hate Professional Widow - that it would make or break some Tori fans. I loved it. I loved it all. It was a connection with an album that I have rarely found since. It was the album I needed at the moment I needed it.

And that was because at the same time that Tori released her break-up album (an oversimplification but an overarching theme as well), I was going through the dissolution of one relationship while just about to start up another (dear reader, I married him). I remember that I curled up on my apartment floor and listened to Doughnut Song on repeat while I made a critical decision in my life to finally end that old relationship once and for all and to allow the new one to come in.

I listened to Boys for Pele at the end of 1995 and the beginning of 1996 and it told me where I was, what I needed to do, where I might go. It was raw and angry and loud and soft and long and it changed from minute to minute and it was so. so. right. Father Lucifer told me that nothing would stop me from floating. I still float. Damage let me know that sometimes you let a relationship go, but the ghost hangs around you and passes through you and you may have to let it happen - just stay still, let it move, then release it. Caught a Lite Sneeze was there when there were boys all around me - yes, boys in their dresses - and I needed my friends around me, close, to help me puzzle and push through. Hey Jupiter held my hand while nobody picked up the phone and it was just me alone, alone with my decisions and my heartache and me dropping that letter in the mailbox, me the masochist. Blood Roses - that harpsichord, delicate and out of place and then so, so right, an agonized HOWL from the gut and then a reclamation. God knows I've thrown away those graces. And Doughnut Song. He was a sun now. I was wasting all his time, he was wasting mine. I hated him. He was a sneeze, a doughnut hole, a nothing. An everything. It was all breaking apart. It was all starting.

Every song. Every song brings me back to a time, a moment, a year, a decade. 

Twenty years. 

I haven't talked to him in TWENTY YEARS. 

I have been his girlfriend, fiancé, wife for TWENTY YEARS. 

She sure can twinkle.

Today, I sing Mr. Zebra to my daughter and she sings it right back to me. I walk around the house and make up words about my cats to the tune of Voodoo. Today there are nights, late, dark nights when I pour myself a glass of wine, put on my headphones, and wait for the click that begins Beauty Queen. There aren't many albums from 20 years ago that still resonate with me on a gut level - that I'm not revisiting for nostalgia but that I'm revisiting also to actually listen. Boys for Pele is one of those albums.

A Photo a Day: Day 22

Back on track!

My husband is a voiceover artist and he wanted a picture of his new microphone in his studio. He and I both took photos with the camera, and in the end he went with one he took himself, but I think (I think!) I shot this one and I like it and so I'm claiming it.

It was difficult in the low light. The shot he eventually chose did use the flash, but this one didn't (because right now I don't have any tools to diffuse/redirect the flash, so I am trying to avoid it as much as possible).

I tweaked it slightly in Photoshop - levels, color, contrast, sharpening, brightening.

I think the framing could've been improved slightly, but I love the focus.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Weight Watchers Update: Four Years at Goal-ish - January 21, 2016

OK OK OK. I didn't take any pictures again today and then I realized it was my four-year Weight Watchers anniversary so I'm STILL BLOGGING but I'm not posting photos today.

As it was in January 2015, I'm...goal-ish. I fell off the WW wagon with a thud in December (after I weighed in - that's a dangerous trap, and I have never felt that WW supports its Lifetime Members as well as it should because of course, the company wants my money!) and I haven't entirely climbed back on. I did buy various candy and cookies in the Christmas sales (trigger food - "I can totally handle it though!" no, no I can't). I didn't walk as much as I wanted because the kid was home, the weather was bad (rain rain rain), and I got lazy. So too much sugar, too little exercise = not very good.

That said, I'm only about 2 or so pounds away from the 2+ pounds I'm "allowed" from my goal. Not far at all. Still much healthier and slimmer than I was when I started WW back in the day. And I do hate that it comes down to this obsession with the scale (because if I am over goal, I have to pay if I weigh in - and if I skip a month, I have to pay the next month! I can't win!) when WW is touting "Beyond the Scale."

I am not particularly a fan of SmartPoints either. I understand the concept and I believe it will work. But it has no wiggle room anymore. It doesn't teach people to eat in the real world, it teaches people to eat "healthy" - except fat-free cheese is still considered a good option and artificial sweeteners are still OK. And it makes sweets very difficult to work into a plan. I don't know. I am terrible at tracking so I've barely been doing so. What I did see is that, for example, my formerly 1-point morning coffee is now 3. But my daily/weekly points haven't really dramatically changed and I get far more activity points now (that I'm not "supposed" to eat but whatever whatever I do what I want!).

What I'm saying, I guess, is that if I stick with the plan - PointsPlus OR SmartPoints - I am comfortably at goal, comfortable with how much I eat, not hungry, etc. If I go off on my own....I overeat and feel gross (for example, as I type this I'm recovering from a "lunch" with a friend that was just chips and queso and guacamole. I feel disgusting. Oops.).

So I'll be resetting tomorrow, eating more veggies (my husband went to the market today and stocked the fridge, hooray!) and making more spiralized meals and trying to stop doing the thing where it's 8pm and I'm lonely and bored so I eat.

Also, here is one of my favorite lunches right now: Sautee some onions in a small amount of olive oil in the bottom of a saucepan. If I have mushrooms, I throw those in too. Sometimes I also add garlic. Then I add 2 cups of vegetable broth, a splash of sesame oil, a splash of rice vinegar, a smidge of sambal oelek, and a tiny amount of miso (this is essentially a hot and sour soup recipe I saw on a blog but I don't measure or anything and I have the miso from a different soup recipe - I love miso!). Let that simmer for a bit (I use Better Than Bouillon so I have to give that time to dissolve). Throw in some spiralized zucchini, spiralized carrots, and maybe a few dry noodles to cook in the broth OR leftover noodles OR leftover rice. In a separate saucepan, medium-boil an egg using the Budget Bytes method (I typically let it go 7-ish minutes). Put egg in soup. Eat! (I don't know the Points but it's mostly vegetables so really, how much can it be?)

So I still celebrate. Four years ago I decided I needed to do something for myself and four years later I'm still mostly on track.

And I'm very proud of what I've done and what I'll continue to do.

(It's a phone selfie so I just can't count this as a photo a day post!)

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

A Photo a Day: Day 20

I spent the entire day today taking care of something and didn't have time to take any pictures. But I'm a determined lady, yes I am.

FatMumSlim's prompt was "Patterns" today, this was my submission, it's from a few days ago, lalala.

  • My new camera strap arrived! It's much longer than the standard Canon one I had so I can wear the camera cross-body, but also ADORABLE. Double sided - one side is multicolored birds, one side is plain turquoise. It's from CraftyStaci on Etsy and I LOVE IT. Photos soon.
  • Someone suggested a few photography podcasts to me today and I'm looking forward to listening and learning more. (The downside: I already have too many podcasts AND I have the Welcome to Night Vale audio book out of the library - when will I have time to listen to all the things????)

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

A Photo a Day: Day 19

I took about 100 pictures of my daughter after school and the session was valuable in that I learned some things, including how to read one specific setting in the viewfinder and....that her wigglyness (that is TOO a word!) plus my inexperience plus my kit lens plus low light = blurry pictures no matter what I do. Faster shutter speed? Picture is too dark. Higher ISO? Picture is noisy. Aperture helps but not enough. So I don't have any pictures of her to share (nor to use in the photo book I'm putting together for my grandmother for her 90th birthday - I just need 2 more pictures and I cannot get those last 2 pictures for the life of me).

So here's a picture I took of my lunch that I then shared on Instagram. It was yummy and involved a different obsession of mine, spiralizing. It was a simple throw-things-in-the-pot-without-measuring hot and sour broth, onions, spiralized zucchini, leftover noodles, and one perfect egg.

I have the Inspiralizer (a referral link), by the way, and I absolutely love it. I used the Paderno three-blade spiralizer (also a referral link) for a year before upgrading, and it was fine, and it's less expensive as well. But there was a sale on the Inspiralizer at the end of last year and I'd been eyeing it for some time so I went for it and it is absolutely better in almost all ways. Sometimes my counter and its clamps/base are not friends - but when they do work together, the results are perfect and much better than the standard suction cups. It's sharper, it's cleaner, it's smaller, I love it. I'm in awe of how Ali has built her blog and brand up and turned it into a multi-channel business. She has the blog, the tool, a cookbook (and another on the way), meal plans, partnerships with's very impressive!

The weather is simply not cooperating for lots of photo-practice. I'm also wondering...what next? Where do I want to go with my photography? Because just posting pictures on screens....that's not it. Learning learning learning.....

Monday, January 18, 2016

A Photo a Day: Day 18

I need to get more comfortable with bringing my camera places without fear that it will somehow break. (The thing is, it's not replaceable - I got it used for a great deal and new ones cost 3-4 times as much.) I didn't bring it to the hockey game today - and I should've, but I was afraid of things like people stepping on it or spilling beer on it. It would've been fine though. Next time.

So instead you get another picture from the Decatur series. I don't know how I got this gorgeous lens flare to happen but I LOVE IT.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

A Photo a Day: Day 17

I'm determined to post a picture a day for all of January - but I didn't take any photos today.

So this is from yesterday.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

A Photo a Day: Day 16

We went to play on the square today, and the weather was gorgeous, so I finally had a chance to take some city pictures.

These - and more - are going to replace the taken-with-my-phone pictures that I use on many of my bottle openers that I sell locally.

Two favorites - this is a a sculpture and also a steam fountain, and it's a delight to photograph:

I also really like this one (which I've run through a few filters/Actions) - but I know that with a better lens it really could've been amazing. I think right now it looks a bit flat and I wish the pillar in the foreground popped and/or that the background was a little less in focus. Still, I like it.

Friday, January 15, 2016

A Photo a Day: Day 15

It was cold, rainy, and disgusting outside.

The FatMumSlim photo prompt was "Mail" so I came up with this...

Thursday, January 14, 2016

A Photo a Day: Day 14

My kid got a haircut today so I ran around like the paparazzi and played with my camera's settings. I still am trying to learn why when I set it to aperture priority, I can take great shots, but if I go to either shutter priority or manual, I often get shots that are VERY dark, despite my best efforts. I'll get it.

Anyway, this is one of my favorite shots from the haircut:

Another dilemma - the warmth/coolness of the tones in the pictures. I ran this through Photoshop, and the original was much warmer. Part of me really likes that. But possibly that's too yellow/orange/red? And this seems more accurate. I also am figuring out how much sharpening I like - I can do it manually or I can use one of a few Actions I've now accumulated. But sometimes sharpened looks fake. And sometimes it looks enhanced in a good way.

I was thinking about how my wedding was shot on film - I insisted, and I bet we were one of the last weddings our photographer shot on film - and how even there, our photographer tweaked the final images we purchased (vs. the raw proofs) and how tweaking is OK and even necessary. But I'm trying to learn how much is just right. I hope to develop that eye over time.

I've had this camera for two weeks. I'm having an amazing time with it.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

A Photo a Day: Lucky 13

This is my daughter walking unassisted at physical therapy.

I love it.

OK so while I of course love that she is WALKING! WALKING UNASSISTED! I also love this shot. The background is a little blurry, you can see the motion in her body, but her torso is perfectly in focus. If I were faster, I'd have set the focus point a little differently, maybe. And yet....this is, to me, exactly what I was trying to capture.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

A Photo a Day: Day 12

I took one picture today (OK technically I clicked the shutter a few times - I kept one of them) - of my lunch.

Spiralized turnip, spinach, garlic, "tofu cutlet," parmesan. It was so good. Also this picture's histogram was fantastic. Photoshopped: Cropped to square (I put it on Instagram with an Instagram filter over it) and sharpened.

I also Photoshopped a picture from yesterday that was blurry yet still awesome. I turned it from a bad picture into a little bit of art.

See where it says my blog name? That's just placeholders for her album name and her name, obviously. Or her zine title.
I also watched some tutorial videos on YouTube, loaded the camera's software onto my computer (may never use it but it's the only way - for now - that I can access raw files), and spent some time on Etsy looking at various camera bags and straps. I have a gift card generously given to me for my birthday and I think I've found what I want to get. But I'm going to wait a few days before hitting purchase, just in case.

What I really need to do is go on a photo safari of my little city - I took phone pictures a few years back and used them on my line of bottle openers and pocket mirrors that I sell at the artist co-op. I can do so much better with that now. But it's cold here. Thursday looks promising...

Monday, January 11, 2016

A Photo a Day: Day 11

I got some lovely shots of my kid (some overexposed, some blurry, all fun) but I'm going to share this one of my cat instead. He was in my lap and wouldn't move. I all but put the lens on his nose to get this shot. A tiny bit blurry (fixed a tinier bit with sharpening in Photoshop). A lot of love in it. I had the settings...almost right.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

A Photo a Day: Day 10

I am determined to keep this up for at least the entire month of January, but cold/gray days don't make for good photography days.

I'm learning as I go, which sometimes is frustrating - because I'll figure out something and then realize that I should've used whatever that technique was a week ago. It's the reason I probably should take a class or at least find an in-person mentor to help me out. I'm reaching that place I often get to where the enthusiasm wanes and reality sets in.

But I want to make this work.

So I practiced taking pictures indoors, in terrible light, of my very very black cat. He's probably hard for just about anyone to get right in a photo. But he's so cute when he sleeps.

These two pictures were taken about a minute apart with minimal changes in settings. Yet one's blown out overexposed (though I like the effect) and one is truer to life. Both tweaked in Photoshop - resized, sharpened, auto-color/levels/contrast.

I think I like the top one better because it's more accurate (and also because he wasn't annoyed yet - you can see that he opened his eyes to give me a dirty look in the bottom one) but the bottom one has so much more detail on him. And neither are exactly right. With a better lens, I do think I know how I could get that quilt-background to be much blurrier though.

Also I am learning that if the light is too low and the aperture is set incorrectly, the shutter speed slows to about 5 seconds and the camera gets - justifiably - crabby. But it also makes something kind of beautiful. As in....

Direct from my camera card to the blog. I deliberately started moving the camera around while the shutter was open.
And then for fun I staged a photo for the FatMumSlim photo a day challenge - today's theme was "lucky" so I combined my black cat with my losing Powerball ticket. Then I cheated the entire thing by running a Polaroid-style action that made any messiness and improper exposure look artsy....

One thing I think I need to start doing is taking notes of EXACTLY what settings I'm using with each shot. Yes, I can see most of that in Photoshop, but I'm talking about on the fly so I can see what works in real time and learn from it. It's a new week. I'll start that ASAP.

...Then while my kid and I were playing Monopoly Jr. I decided to try taking pictures while manually setting the focus and putting my camera on the floor. I'm really happy with how these came out. Direct from the camera: