Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My Darling Daughter

It's time to write a post about my daughter, Alyssa. She has been a big part of why I breathe for the last 30 years. I love her beyond imagination; I admire her beyond words. Just having her in the room with me fills me with peace and contentment.

She is beautiful and smart and funny and strong. She is talented and creative and driven. She is organized beyond anything I have ever thought of being capable of. She is an amazing mother to my grandchildren.

I remember everything about the day Alyssa was born. I had been having contractions for 2 days. A late night trip to the hospital revealed that the contractions were strong enough to keep me awake all night, but not really moving me closer to giving birth. That morning I had a doctor appointment and stopped and bought a glazed doughnut and milk on the way. This could explain why she has such a doughnut obsession to this day. The doctor examined me and sent me to the hospital where my minor contractions turned into major contractions. She was born at 4:58 that afternoon. Having not slept in two nights, I was exhausted. The cord was wrapped around her neck, so they whisked her off to the nursery to observe her and sent me to the maternity ward. They brought her to me for nursing several times, and the maniac nurse forcefully tried to assist me. All we got out of that was a crying baby and an even more exhausted mommy. Finally I was able to get a few hours of sleep, and when the nurse brought Alyssa to me at midnight, she finally left us alone. Instead of trying to nurse her, I just looked into her eyes. She gazed up at me, and I fell in love. I spoke softly to her, telling her how much I loved her, and when we were both feeling calm and peaceful I fed her. I feel that same peace and love just remembering that time.

It's Alyssa at age 1!

Look, Alyssa! The pictures are extra large!

I won't bore you with all the stories of Alyssa's youth. At least not today. I just wanted to share with you what a precious daughter I have. I think of so many moments from her childhood that make me smile. I am so proud of the woman she has become. You should be sure to check our her blog over at Near Normalcy. And, of course, I'll be posting more about her at another time, because in addition to all those wonderful things that are true about her, she is SO much fun to annoy! Be sure and check out this post for more about that.  Finally, the best thing about Alyssa is that after all the times I've annoyed her, she still loves me and actually likes to be around me. I think that's cool. And it gives me a reason to breathe.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

What's a Listicle?

Well, I've seen the word Listicles around the blogosphere, and as near as I can tell, this week's list is supposed to be baby pictures. Therefore (that's this week's vocabulary word in room B205) in the name of Listicles, by the power given me by NaBloPoMo, I present: My Favorite Baby Pictures!  (They're my grandchildren in case you weren't sure.)

Granddaughter #1  The Princess at her first wedding. That's her auntie.

The Princess and her big blue eyes

The Princess at Easter
Granddaughter#2  The Model. Bet you can't guess why I chose this picture!

The Model with her big blue eyes

The Model at birth
Granddaughter #3 The Athlete
The Athlete
The Athlete
And finally, the grandson, aka The Monster
The Monster -- I know, I know. Just trust me
The Monster in a tub
And that's my first listicle. Whatever a listicle is. I'm pretty sure my list is only supposed to have 10 items, but I've got 4 grandchildren, and I'm not cutting any of them in half.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Getting to Know Your Camera

Yesterday, I told you how I hope to improve my photography by using the book Digital Workbook for Dummies.

Today I'll update you on my progress through the book. If you're also interested in improving as an amateur photographer, leave a comment so we can help each other through the learning process. There's just nothing as exciting as the blind leading the blind helping each other learn new things.

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, the book contains step-by-step tasks for dummies like me to learn how to get that DSLR off the auto setting and use it the way it was intended. Chapter 1 is about learning your way around your camera and becoming familiar with its basic settings. I've had my Canon EOS Rebel T3    for several months now, so to a certain extent I'm familiar with the settings. That doesn't mean I'm comfortable using them, so let's work our way through the chapter.

The first exercise helps you set your image size and quality. DSLR cameras give you the option of shooting in RAW or JPEG or both. There are several things to consider when choosing  your format. Eventually you'll need to have your picture in JPEG, so it would seem to make sense to just shoot them that way in the first place. If you shoot in RAW, you will have to use software to convert the pictures before uploading them to Facebook or your favorite photo sharing site such as Flickr. Also, JPEG files take up less room on your camera's memory card.

So why would you want to shoot in RAW? Mainly because shooting in RAW gives you more flexibility in processing your photos in your editing software. I like to shoot in RAW because I still can't trust myself to get my white balance and my exposure right. These are really easy to correct in the Photoshop software when using the RAW format.

The other setting in this exercise is the image size. The image size you choose depends on the use you intend for the photo. Using a smaller image size gives you room for more pictures on your memory card, but limits the ways you can use the photos. Exercise 1.1 helps you decide what size you should choose. My decision is to shoot large files in RAW format. I also carry extra memory cards. This gives me the ultimate in flexibility in processing and using my files.

What size and quality settings do you use? Why?
 Other posts in this series:
Amateur Photography Blogging
Focal Length
Changing Lenses

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Amateur Photography Blogging

When I started this blog, one of the things I hoped to focus on was photography. I'm a complete amateur, as amateur as it gets! Cameras run shrieking in fear when they see me coming. The overarching theme of my work to date is blurriness. Unlike my mother, however, I don't cut off people's heads, so I figure I must have some natural ability. There's something to build from.

So I did what I always do when I want to start something new; I got a book. Okay, I got several books. The one I'm going to share with you today is Digital Photography Workbook For Dummies (For Dummies (Sports & Hobbies)). "For dummies"! It's perfect! What I like about this book, is that it really is a workbook. It has assignments. I have other books that teach me what to do in an abstract sort of way. This book is very hands-on and gets to the exercises right away, starting with getting to know your camera settings. Exercise 1-1 is on page 5: Setting Image Size and Quality. Chapter 2 deals with light and exposure. Chapter 3 discusses the rules of composition. From there the book goes on to different picture taking situations. There is also a section on working in Photoshop Elements. There are exercises for every topic. According to the cover there are "more than 100 step-by-step tasks in full color!"

 We'll call this the official beginning of the photography part of the blog. I'll go through the book one exercise at a time and share them with you. I won't actually violate any copyright laws. I'll just share the results of my attempts to carry out the exercises. This will either be informative or hilarious. Time will tell.

Where are you in the continuum of photography from beginner to expert? How did you reach the stage you're in?  Do you have any favorite how-to books or sites you could share?

Other posts in this series:
Getting to know your camera
Focal Length
Changing Lenses

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thoughts on Redundancy

Do you type your PIN number in at the ATM machine? Well, stop it!

Okay, that was rude. Stop it, please. You see, our society is full of thoughtless redundancies. Your "PIN number" is your "Personal Identification Number number," and the "ATM machine" is the "Automated Teller Machine machine." It's the acronyms that are causing the problem.

The problem isn't that people like being redundant. The problem is they don't realize they're repeating themselves. Some people just don't stop and think about it, but the longer an acronym is in existence the fewer people there are who actually know what the acronym stands for. When we don't know what words are already represented in the acronym, we are more likely to add on unnecessary words.

Do you use scuba gear? Scuba stands for Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. Apparatus is a synonym for gear. Scuba gear is redundant. Have an IRA account? That's an Individual Retirement Account account. Similar to the PIN number is the VIN number, Vehicle Identification Number number.

So think about it before taking your SAT test.

What other redundant acronyms can you think of?

Friday, November 25, 2011

An Apology. Sort of. More or Less

We celebrated Thanksgiving yesterday at my mom's house. Today we celebrated at our son's house.  I am up to my eyeballs in turkey. Turkey contains tryptophan, an amino acid which makes one sleepy. I have been consuming mass amounts of tryptophan for two days now. This is the excuse I have chosen to use for not having a blog post ready to go today. I've reached early evening and still have nothing to say.

However, I didn't get this close to the end of the month only to fail now at NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month). I have successfully written 24 blog posts in a row, and I'm going to get 6 more finished and pat myself on the back.

So let me tell you about our quarter-mile dash through Downtown Disneyland last week. We met our son and daughter-in-law and The Athlete in Disneyland. After an afternoon and evening of riding elephants and watching parades, we went to dinner (aka supper, according to The Hillbilly). We chose a restaurant on the end of Downtown Disney that is farthest from the place where our shuttle would pick us up to deliver us safe and exhausted at our hotel.

Have I mentioned that the daughter-in-law is 7 months pregnant? And after a full afternoon of singing birds and boat rides that took us around the world past singing children (sing it with me now!), and a really good, filling dinner (supper), we found ourselves 1/2 mile from the shuttle bus. 10 minutes before the last bus for the evening was scheduled to leave. With a 3-year-old and a very pregnant young woman. We found ourselves with 2 choices: 1) walk back one mile to the hotel or 2) spend the night in Mickey's house. Granted, option number 2 would have required CIA training which none of us had. My Hillbilly, The Son, and I resigned ourselves to the walk. Little Mama had other ideas.

She pointed that belly at the parking lot and turned on the afterburners. "I am NOT walking back to the hotel!"  Not one of us was able to keep up with her. The Son carried The Athlete, The Hillbilly pushed the stroller, and I just hustled. Half way through the Gumball Rally, The Hillbilly could see that the son was weakening. Little Mama was still out in front and not looking back. The Hillbilly and the son executed an in-flight trade off, stroller for Athlete.

I looked ahead and saw the security checkpoint. Little Mama sailed through without stopping. The Son shoved the stroller through and waved as he went past. The Hillbilly followed right behind. I stopped, opened my purse, shut my purse, and hurried on, falling behind. Ahead of me, Little Mama was cutting through traffic in the shuttle area, The Son close on her heals with the stroller. The Hillbilly was telling The Athlete, "You may have to carry Grandpa the rest of the way."

The shuttle was in sight. Little Mama found new reserves of energy and reached the bus as it was closing its doors. I held my breath.... and the doors opened. Little Mama hopped on. The Son proceeded to fold the stroller, and by the time he finished The Hillbilly, The Athlete and I were seated, panting and sweating, on the bus.

The Son stepped onto the bus, looked at Little Mama and said, "We could have walked in a leisurely fashion to the hotel without killing ourselves like this."

And Little Mama looked at him with that air of contentment that only a pregnant woman can summon up. And she just smiled.

So, anyway, I'm sorry for not having a real post prepared for you today. I promise to try harder tomorrow.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Pumpkin Pie Confessions

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope your day is wonderful and your turkey finishes cooking eventually. It seems to be a holiday tradition at my mom's that we eat at least an hour later than planned because the turkey isn't getting cooked. Fortunately I love my family, so spending time with them is a good thing. We have a huge family. My parents have 4 kids and 10 grandkids and 2 great-grandchildren, 4 child-in-laws, and 2 grandchild-in-laws,  and we all live close together and like to spend time together. It's never quiet. Ever.

But that's not what I came here to talk about. I came here today to make some confessions. Pumpkin pie confessions. You see, in  my family, I am in charge of pumpkin pie. My baby sister doesn't like pumpkin pie. She's in charge of apple pie. My other little sister, well I don't think she likes pie at all. I think she's in charge of eating the turkey. But she makes amazing Christmas cookies, so it all evens out. So for the last 30 years, I've been making pumpkin pie, and I have a few confessions to make.

1). I make an amazing pie crust. My Hillbilly brags to people about my pie crust. It's light, delicious, and flaky. But to save my life, I cannot make a pretty pie crust. I can't even make a not-horribly-ugly pie crust. So I need to confess that I have pie crust envy. I look at all the pretty pie crusts in the magazines or at other people's tables and wish I could make my pies look that good. I saw a picture the other day where they had used a cookie cutter to cut the pie crust into little leaf shapes. Somehow they even pressed in the little leaf veins. THEN, they took the little leaves and layered them all over the top of the pie. It was beautiful. I loved it. I wanted to rush home and try it myself. Then I got a grip on reality; it's never going to happen. I am embarrassed to have anyone see my pies. I'm seriously considering blindfolding people when I serve them my pie, removing the blindfolds only after they've sampled the flaky deliciousness.

2). I don't follow the directions in the recipe. I don't mean I improvise on the ingredients. Nothing wrong with that, but I don't. But the recipe says to mix the dry ingredients in a small bowl, then mix the wet ingredients in a large bowl, then add the dry stuff to the wet stuff in the big bowl. What?? Why?? Will the sugar and spices not mix if I don't mix them together separately from the eggs and pumpkin? Will the eggs and pumpkin conspire to keep them apart? I don't think so. I mean, I've been baking pies this way for 30 years, and I've never yet had one come out with all the sugar on one half of the pie and the cinnamon on the other with the ginger and cloves fighting it out in the middle. Why would I get another bowl dirty? Okay, I'm confessing this, but I'm not repenting. I'm going to keep right on doing it this way.

3). The recipe calls for evaporated milk. Most of the milk makes it into the pie, but I always save the last two swallows so I can drink it. I love the taste of it, but only two swallows worth. More than that and I suddenly don't like it anymore, so it's not worth it to buy a whole can just for drinking. I think of it as a special baking day treat. (I do the same thing when we make homemade ice cream, but that's another confession, so forget I said it.) It's weird, I know, but don't judge. It doesn't hurt anyone and the pie is fine. So there!

So there you have it, my pumpkin pie confessions. What are your kitchen confessions? What little kitchen quirks do you have that you just don't talk about? Go ahead and share. You'll feel better for it.