Category Archives: Just Plain Fun

The Artistic Side of Photography

As I continue with Photo 101, I’m feeling a leetle more comfortable with my settings and am glad that my assignments this week are helping me focus on the artistic elements of photography. It’s more rewarding to think about what I want an image to include and then make it happen than I had supposed. For example, in the crayon picture below, it was fun to set the picture up, get a good exposure, and then realize that even though it’s more “artistic” than I usually shoot, it still tells the story about what we were doing at the table that afternoon.

I still prefer taking pictures of my kids over still lifes, though.

Compared to last week’s homework, I felt like this week’s came much more naturally. Hooray for that!

Beginning again with photography

Sometimes Mom needs a turn to be a learner in this school gig.

For the past two years, I’ve wanted to improve the photographic evidence of our lives but haven’t been in a season where I could do much more than read an occasional blog about it. I started being more mindful about light as a result, and even chose a light gray as the new wall color when we repainted over the tan so that light could be more reflective when taking pictures indoors. As I’m learning now, the gray walls are challenging me to find the right white balance setting to use, but they are a lot (LOT!) better than the brown.

And then…

Amazon announced that they were going to start charging sales tax on all purchases. I’d had my eye on a Canon Rebel, so I used the impending deadline as an impetus for the purchase. Call me crazy, but sales tax is a hefty chunk of change on a purchase like a DSLR.

Once in my hands, I promised myself I wouldn’t shoot on auto and spent the next 4-5 months in trial and lots of error. It was kind of getting old, actually. So I started asking people whose photography I admired about their method of learning. My cousin tipped me off to Nicole’s Classes.

I signed up for Photo 101 and began my transformative journey.

Week One has found me watching the online tutorial videos several times in an attempt to absorb all of the information. I vaguely remember learning about aperture and shutter speed in a college photography class, but it turns out there’s a lot more to a good picture and I wanted to really understand the equation that would yield a good exposure. Thinking this much about what a picture needs for good exposure is much harder than blindly pointing and shooting, hoping for a good picture. It makes my head hurt, but the results are looking better.

One of my big peeves this year has been how many pictures are on our hard drive that aren’t worth keeping or printing. My blogging and picture sharing/uploading has come to a near stand-still because it’s overwhelming and time-consuming to sift through the 300-500 images we record each month. So even if the quality of my pictures don’t improve, I’m grateful for this class because it’s helping me be more mindful and deliberate about what I shoot. I’m hopeful that 2013 will be a better year for pictures, though, both in quality and quantity.

Thankfully, I have four more-or-less willing subjects who understand that I’m trying to learn how to use my camera and need their help for my class. It was fun to spend a couple of hours in the backyard with them, trying to get things right. Here are some of my favorites (although not all are what I submitted as homework):

(Sam spotted a swallowtail butterfly just as I clicked this one)

(Ever my man-in-motion, Henry didn’t stop for me to take a picture of him. Good thing one of our assignments was to test fast and slow shutter speeds!)

Easter Craft

What do you do on a rainy afternoon when everyone is itching for something different to do?

You dig through the archives of your memory bank and produce a spontaneous craft project!

I honestly don’t know why this jumped into my head this morning, but it worked. I remember doing this on several different occasions during my elementary school years. It’s pretty simple.

You will need:

  1. Tissue paper, in whichever array of colors work for you
  2. Scissors, to cut tissue paper into 1 1/2″ x 1 1/2″ squares
  3. Cardstock, to draw or copy a black-line image onto
  4. Glue, the drippy kind, not the stick kind
  5. Pencils with fairly new erasers (the flat top makes things a little easier somehow)
  6. Paper plates (optional), should you have preschoolers who get frustrated with glue. Squirt a little puddle of glue on their plate and let them dip.

Here’s a quick tutorial:

Start with one of your pieces of tissue paper, cut into a small square. We used 1 1/2″ x 1 1/2″ but you could do smaller or larger, depending on the look you want. The squares don’t have to be exactly square, by the way, but it helps if they look squarish. How many you need to cut will depend on how big your image is. But you’ll need a lot. 🙂

Place the pencil eraser in the middle of the tissue paper.

And gather up the ends so that you are holding the edges of the tissue paper against the pencil, like so.

Either squeeze a little drop of glue onto the tip of the tissue paper as you keep holding it to the pencil, or dip the tip of the tissue paper into the glue on the paper plate. Either works, just make sure you’re still holding onto the tissue paper.

Gently press the tissue paper onto the cardstock in the location of your choice. This is Henry’s. He chose to keep each of his tissue papers pretty close together for a fuller look.

Each of my kids approached this project differently and I loved seeing what they came up with. Here is Sam’s:

Kate caught the vision of this project and exhibited some amazing manual dexterity for a 3-year old!

Becca could have cared less about trying to make it look like everyone else’s:

Still cool, though!

Also, on Becca’s, you can see how I quickly free-handed an Easter egg with the Sharpie. Forgot to take a picture of that step!

Rinse and repeat until your image is filled in to your liking.

The beauty of this project is that you could easily adapt it to any holiday, any occasion, any shape, any size. The other beautiful thing is that these are materials most households would have on hand (assuming you stock tissue paper in your gift wrap box). I love a pick-up craft that is easy to execute.

Have fun creating!

Getting Ready for Year #2

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been grateful that I can consider homeschooling a hobby. I’ve had no end of fun getting things in order for our upcoming school year to start. The plan is to teach Henry and Samuel in tandem, with separate math classes. We’ll be following the recommendations outlined in “The Well-Trained Mind.”

The only curve ball I’ve had to learn to hit is that of my darling daughters letting it be known that they want in on this school thing, too. I finally decided to NOT participate in the preschool co-op that I’ve had Henry and Samuel do, mostly so I don’t overextend myself. I really want to focus on consistency with the boys. Besides, there will be a few standing play date appointments every week and the girls will be in a weekly dance class so they’ll be getting all the preschool socialization they need. So I’ve spent some extra time getting their preschool year put together, including amassing busy bags filled with learning activities that can keep them busy on their own when I need to spend time with the boys.

Things are almost ready and I am so excited for our October 1st start date!

Personality Embedded in Schoolwork

I have always delighted in the reality that each of my children are individuals (even my identical twins). That said, it has been an absolute pleasure to see that individuality come through the boys’ schoolwork.

Henry is an oldest child. Thus, it was no problem for this oldest child to recognize the need for order, neatness, and–dare I say it–perfection in his workbooks. Here are Exhibit A and Exhibit B.

Samuel, on the other hand, is combination engineer/artist. He is constantly drawing and creating. Thus, it was no surprise to see all of the doodling and embellishing take form while he’d wait for me to help him with something in his workbook. Here are some of my favorites:

(The giant climbing up the hill)

(The man so freakishly happy that he needed arms to express just how happy he was)

Evidence that Mom was taking too long explaining something to Henry.

(My favorite, the robber who needed legs to be able to get away with the cash)

In his defense, Sam is developing some nice handwriting and can make it through a page without doodles, if need be.












A Valentine’s Day Tradition

Wasn’t one of the best parts of elementary school the Valentine’s Day party and valentine exchange with your classmates? There are so many little nuances of this ritual lodged in my brain. For example, it was completely acceptable to sign a valentine “Like, Mindy” instead of “Love, Mindy” if you didn’t particularly like someone. When preparing the valentines, it was necessary to dump the bag of candy conversation hearts on the table and pick out exactly the right ones to put in the envelopes going to your closest friends. And the boxes we’d decorate took weeks of planning and decorating. There were always a few kids who had the coolest boxes–the box decorated like an actual mailbox, or the box decorated with a paper fringe. The box beautifully decorated with doilies and hearts. The box that looked like a robot.

Alongside the sadness I’ve felt that the old tradition of delivering valentines via the “Knock and Run” method has died, was the horror with which I discovered that the sacred valentine’s boxes of yesteryear have been downsized in importance and are now found in the $1 bin at Target.

I dunno. Was it just me? Were valentine’s boxes a big deal only at my elementary school?

Needless to say, it was with great happiness that I received an email from one of my go-to gals, inviting us to join in a Valentine’s Day homeschooler’s party. There would be crafts, cookies to decorate, and valentines boxes to fill with valentines that had been painstakingly prepared in advance.

Who says that homeschooled kids miss out on all the fun?

I combed through the closet for empty shoe boxes and sat down with the boys to help them catch the vision of the “art project” we were about to embark on. They were on board quickly, and we spent a delightful afternoon cutting, constructing, taping, and Exacto-blading. Here are our finished products.

I know the kids had fun, but I doubt they had as much fun as I did. I had a blast brainstorming ideas with them until we were able to come up with just the right thing for their boxes, each of which is representative of things they are passionate about now. There was a lot of excitement as we created, and I loved watching their faces as their boxes started to come together. And I LOVED watching their faces as they carefully carried their boxes into the party. They were so pumped.

We may not ever deliver cards to our neighbors by knocking and running, but as long as we can find people willing to come to a party, we’ll have a chance to build some memories while we decorate our shoe and cereal boxes in preparation for it.