Living The Dream – Life In Spain

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Today I’d like to welcome Orlena of Snotty Noses.  Orlena is a British pediatrician who lives in Spain with her husband and four children.  Her website helps parents recognize when their child is ill …and know what to do about it (not meant to replace your doctor’s advice, of course!).  She also blogs about their hectic and crazy Spanish life.

If you’ve ever contemplated living abroad, then you’ll love Orlena’s insight on living the dream and how her family adapted to life in Spain!

— Betsy

The Reality of Living the Dream - Life in Spain - Snotty-Noses @ BPhotoArt.com

Living the Dream

When I look back, I can’t pin point exactly when I decided I wanted to live abroad. I’ve always enjoyed travelling, always had that itch, that yearning to travel abroad, to seek new experiences, new smells, new sights. To taste life from different cups.

When I met my husband-to-be, he felt the same way. We shared a dream of living and working a different life. It’s not that I don’t like England, I do. I think most people there don’t really comprehend what a great country it is. For all its faults, we’re lucky to have a free health care system, free schooling and a welfare state. The problem lies more in its latitude and rather unfortunate climate.  “Perpetual winter,” I have heard it called, not unreasonably to my mind.

Deciding Where To Live

It took us a while to decide where we’d like to live. Australia would have been, relatively speaking, an easy place for me to work. But it’s a long way from family and friends. I have family in the Caribbean, a paradise destination. But that’s nearly as far and very isolated. We settled on Europe. After all, we’re all “European,” right?  We share similar cultures and our history goes back, for better or worse, a long way back.

A rather cerebral thought process led us to the Costa Brava. We both wanted Spain. I wanted Mediterranean. Not too far south that it was ludicrously hot. Pretty much as close as we could get to my mother, who lives in the southern area of France.

The only problem remaining was one of language. A double edged sword. Our children would grow up bilingual, which would be great. We would both have to learn another language, which would be fun but difficult, not to mention a barrier to working.

My by-then husband finished his PhD and started up a software business. By started up, I mean from scratch, including learning how to program computers and write software. In theory at least, we could be mobile and still earn money.

Arriving In Spain

So that was how we arrived. We spent a week in Spain looking for somewhere to rent, packed up our stuff and moved. Pretty much like that. Except my husband drove our stuff across the continent and I flew with my 2 small children. But that’s a story for another day. We arrived in one piece.

And that was it. Our new life in the sun. Now what? How were we going to integrate? Learn two new languages? They speak Catalan and Spanish here, two different languages, but similar enough to make it confusing to learn them both. What about bureaucracy? Spain is hot on bureaucracy, not even the locals like it. It’s even worse when you don’t really understand what’s going on.

We arrived in one piece to Spain - Orlena
We arrived in one piece to Spain – Orlena

Settling Into Our New Life

That was three years ago. Now we’re relatively settled. The children go to school and nursery. The oldest two speak Catalan, pretty much like a native. Although, I expect their vocabulary isn’t as good as some of their school mates.

I still feel like an outsider, but I’ve learnt to live with. The culture here is very different from the UK. I’d love to join a mother’s group and drink coffee while we watch the children play and do activities. But they just don’t exist here, not in our little town. People are very friendly and I have some friends who are happy to work beyond the language barrier. Most of my friends I met because they wanted to learn English. I guess their interest in another language makes them more forgiving.

I still find it difficult at the school gate. I’m friendly with some of the mums. Some of our children are very close friends. But, I know I’m not “one of them.”  As much as I can do small talk chat, it can be difficult to express yourself quickly and with the subtleties of your native tongue. They chat away easily, I only understand half of what they say.  Especially since, as a mark of acceptance, they now talk in Catalan to me.  They know that I’ve started to learn it; I just understand Spanish better.

There are many groups at the school gate. In fact, there aren’t that many Catalan children at the school. Spain has always had a long history with Morroco and there are lots of Morrocans. Romanians and Latin Americans make up the majority of the remaining foreigners. We’re the only British people at our school. I suspect there are others who feel like an outsider too. Perhaps we should all get badges.

Our Dream For Raising Our Children

The children don’t remember our home in the UK anymore. They know they aren’t Catalan but I don’t think it bothers them. They’re the blond, blue-eyed English boys. I think it gives them a bit of a status symbol. I sometimes worry that it will affect them, “not really belonging” to this culture. But I hope that if I keep an eye out for it, we’ll work around it. I hope that they’ll grow up reaping the benefits of two cultures. When they’re older, I hope, they’ll be able to live where they want. In this ever growing global culture, as boundaries and barriers disappear.

My dream was to bring our children up in a beautify country - Orlena
My dream was to bring our children up in a beautify country – Orlena

It was our dream that we could bring our children up in a beautiful country where we can enjoy the outdoors and teach them to enjoy the fundamentals of life. Obviously we’re always learning and adapting as parents, but we’ve achieved the first goal. Sure, there have been sacrifices — namely my career, but that’s also another story.

If something is worth having, it’s worth fighting for. And that means sacrifices. A dream that involves a fairy godmother is unrealistic. A dream where you work hard?  That’s do-able.

— Orlena

What’s Your Dream? Are You Living It?

I love how Orlena described their dream, and how they made it a reality. They are truly living the dream, and loving it.

The truth is, everyone’s dreams are different. And every dream is worth considering, no matter how far out there or how mundane it might be. Some people dream big, while other people have more subtle dreams.

What is your dream? Are you working hard to achieve it? What sacrifices have you made?

I’d love to hear your stories, your dreams, your struggles… leave a comment below!

Conquering Your Kitchen – A Kitchen Guide You’ll Love

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I recently had the opportunity to review a cookbook that’s right up my alley, and I wanted to share it with you!  Conquering Your Kitchen (#afflink), by Annemarie Rossi, is about one mom’s journey to becoming competent in the kitchen.  With no formal training and little knowledge of how to cook healthy food, Annemarie set out to learn to cook meals from scratch that her whole family would enjoy.

Conquering Your Kitchen with Menu Plans and Easy Prep Recipes - An Interview With the Author - BPhotoArt.com

Conquering Your Kitchen

The book isn’t just a cookbook, but a guide on how to get organized in the kitchen.  Annemarie explains how to meal plan, grocery shop, and make meals from real food — without a lot of complicated directions or a huge time involvement.  All of the 80 recipes in Conquering Your Kitchen require 30 minutes or less of prep work; with recipes this easy, there is no excuse not to eat healthy!

There are sections on breakfasts, snacks, dinners, desserts in Conquering Your Kitchen (#afflink) — you’ll be inspired and ready to feed your family once you’ve delved into the various recipes.  I know I’ve been on a quest to cook from scratch and make healthy meals for my own family, so it was exciting for me to find some recipes that we could incorporate into our (very relaxed) meal plan.  I’m especially excited about the fact many of Annemarie’s recipes are low in sugar, or use natural, unrefined sweeteners like maple syrup or honey — things I can actually eat!  She also discusses adaptations for those with food restrictions (i.e. gluten free).

Also, make sure to check out the free printable resources — including menu plans, conversion charts, a shopping list, and more!

My Thoughts On Conquering Your Kitchen

Long, extravagantly prepared meals are lovely, and we have accomplished a number of those at our house, but that’s mostly thanks to my husband.  He has a lot of cooking experience, including restaurant training, so at least one of us is great at timing meal components to be ready simultaneously, even though it’s not me. The recipes that Annemarie shares are right up my alley, and I love the promise of 30 minutes or less to a finished meal.

I have to admit, there are a number of occasions where I’ve gotten flustered in the kitchen while cooking, and my dear husband has rushed to my side to take over and rescue whatever meal I was attempting to create on my own.  He’s even saved a gluten-free playdough experiment from failing for me.

Despite these speed bumps, my cooking skills have improved over the years.  Practice makes perfect, and if you don’t try, you won’t have a shot at ever succeeding.  Maybe that’s why this book was such an enjoyable read for me — I’m in the process of learning how to conquer my kitchen

While reading through Conquering Your Kitchen, I definitely had some “aha!” moments.  I don’t have any specific examples that come to mind, other than the kitchen organization section in general, but I definitely found some information and ideas that could be immediately incorporated into our kitchen.

Anyways, no need to bore you with an more extensive review (though I will share some more thoughts at the end of this post).  Let’s get on to the really exciting part — an interview with the author of Conquering Your Kitchen (#afflink)!  I think you’ll find Annemarie to be really down-to-earth; her journey to conquer her own kitchen may sound similar to your own story.  Without further delay, here are the questions I asked, and Annemarie’s candidly refreshing answers!

An Interview With The Author, Annemarie Rossi

Tell us a little about yourself, your family, and the kind of cooking you all enjoy most (any favorite recipes?)
I live with my husband and two elementary school aged children outside Boston, Massachusetts. We’re a mainstream suburban American family. My 10-year-old son helps on occasion with the cooking, but it’s my 9-year-old daughter who really likes to get in on the action. She likes to make recipes out of her ChopChop Kids Cookbook (#afflink). Our favorite family meals include taco night and pizza. Personally, my favorite meal is a big, loaded salad. And we all love just about every type of dessert! Homemade ice cream is a treat we enjoy during the summer.

What was the inspiration behind The Untrained Housewife Series?
The Untrained Housewife was started by Angela England in response to an email that was sent across her mothers’ group email list: “Help! My mother never taught me how to cook!” Many women who grew up in the ‘70s and ‘80s didn’t learn basic cooking skills at home. A whole generation of intelligent, accomplished women find themselves overwhelmed by the prospect of providing homemade food to their families.

Were you what you’d consider an “untrained housewife?”
I did learn a recipe or two from my mother, but in general, I was not especially “trained” in the kitchen. I learned to cook little by little over the years.

I love the concept of empowering women to feed their families good meals. Where did you get the idea for Conquering Your Kitchen?
Angela envisioned this book long before we met, but the topic was a natural one for me. I get sad when I hear women say, “I can’t cook,” and I loved the idea of writing a book that would walk people through the logistics of how to cook good meals at home. I believe that everyone can cook. My 9-year-old makes lasagna all by herself. It’s not rocket science – it just takes time and commitment.

How did you go about changing from a packaged food household to a from-scratch food household?
We started out with the 10 Days of Real Food challenge from the website, 100 Days of Real Food. During those 10 days, we made a commitment to eat food that was either made from scratch at home or that had a very short ingredient list with ingredients that we might cook with at home. For those 10 days, we didn’t eat anything with added sugar except for natural sweeteners (honey and pure maple syrup). This 10 day experience help get me started on adjusting to a homemade food lifestyle.

Was your family enthusiastic about the home cooked meals, or did they need some convincing of your new cooking style?
My family was generally enthusiastic. They liked the idea of the 10 day challenge. There were a few instances during the 10 days when the kids encountered highly processed treats like popsicles and lemonade stands. I left it up to them to decide if they wanted the treats (I wasn’t forcing this commitment on them), and they did choose to stick with the real food commitment.

What’s your opinion on the importance of families having sit-down meals regularly together?
Sitting down as a family to eat meals together regularly is essential. My family has dinner together most nights, and we like to do a sit-down breakfast on the weekends. Family mealtime is one time of the day when distractions are set aside and we can simply spend time together.

How do you keep on top of the never-ending cycle of keeping good quality food ready for your family?
It’s impossible to keep on top of the cycle without meal planning. I plan meals one week at a time so that I never find myself without anything healthy available to eat. I also try to keep my freezer stocked with back-up meals and healthy snacks like muffins and granola bars. That way, there’s always something available even when our schedule gets interrupted.

I’m not perfect. We do go out to eat sometimes, and we do eat processed food sometimes. It’s all about doing your best and not getting stressed out about food.

Do you have any recommendations for those who are trying to conquer their kitchens — on a restricted diet?
I was diagnosed with dairy and gluten sensitivities several years ago, and it was one of the best things that ever happened to me. It woke me up and made me more aware of what I was eating. I stopped eating dairy for 2 years, and I didn’t eat gluten either for one of those years. I became skilled at reading ingredient labels, which I hadn’t regularly done before that. I now eat small amounts of high-quality gluten and dairy, but they aren’t the focus of my diet like they used to be.

For those who are living with food restrictions, I recommend focusing on the positive. You have an awareness about what you’re eating that others don’t have.

How did you see your food budget change when switching to completely homemade foods?
My food budget didn’t actually change much when we switched our focus to homemade food. Processed food is almost always more expensive than homemade food (contrary to popular opinion), but my budget remained stable because I started buying higher quality, often organic ingredients. It’s important to look at your food priorities and decide where you want to focus your spending. Organic milk and veggies, grass-fed meat, and locally produced items often cost more than their lower-quality counterparts, so you need to decide where to focus your resources.

Do you have any words of wisdom for those considering a CSA or farm share, but are worried about the “odd” foods?
I was nervous to join a farm share at first, but now I can’t imagine how I ever lived without it. A farm share stretches people outside their comfort zones and gets them eating veggies they wouldn’t buy at the store. This imposed variety results in a healthier diet, and it facilitates meal planning. Many farms allow you to swap veggies that you know your family won’t eat, so you won’t necessarily come home with food that’s destined for the compost bin.

Is the Farmer’s Market a good step down from a CSA, for those who aren’t willing to make the commitment?
I wouldn’t call it a step down. Farmers’ markets are another great way to support local farmers and get delicious, locally grown produce. Shopping at the farmers’ market is a good fit for people who want to pick out exactly what produce they bring home. It’s also a good option for those who travel often in the summer and can’t get to the farm share pick-up each week.

Do you maintain a vegetable or herb garden, and why?
We don’t have a lot of sunlight in our yard, but I do grow raspberries, chives, and a few other goodies each year. We’re planning to try pumpkins this summer. I love being able to show my children how food grows, and we all enjoy the fresh bounty that comes from our own yard. I don’t have a green thumb, so it feels a bit miraculous when things actually grow in our yard and we can eat them!

Any suggestions for those of us who have trouble timing all the components of a meal to be ready at the proper time?
I always prepare part of dinner before dinnertime. We all get hungry and cranky around 5:00 at my house, so I can’t bear to do the entire dinner prep in that time and space. I put some of the pieces in place the night before, or else during the morning. Planning ahead is a key element to success in the kitchen.

How has eating from scratch impacted your family’s health?
When we used to eat a lot of processed food, my children were always bringing home the latest cold or stomach bug from school. These illnesses would typically spread through the family, and someone was sick more often than not. I also suffered from seasonal allergies. I never thought these minor health annoyances had anything to do with food. But when I started cooking most of our food from scratch, we stopped getting sick and my allergies disappeared completely. I haven’t been congested in years. Our quality of life has improved dramatically as a result.

Of all the recipes in Conquering Your Kitchen, which are your favorites?
From the breakfast chapter, I’d say it’s the blueberry banana baked oatmeal. The raw chocolate energy bars are my favorite snack at the moment. From the veggie chapter, I love the roasted cauliflower. For dinner, I never get tired of the chili recipe. I love every recipe in the dessert chapter, but I think the brownies are probably my favorite.

Do you have any favorite cooking websites or cookbooks that inspire you?
I’ve always been inspired by Lisa Leake’s website, 100 Days of Real Food (#afflink). She helped me to see that a typical family can move away from processed food. My favorite cookbooks are Joy of Cooking (#afflink) and anything by Mark Bittman. In Bittman’s cookbook, Kitchen Express (#afflink), the recipes are written in paragraph form without specific quantities. The reader has to figure out what he means when he says to add a little bit of this and a handful of that. I think it was this cookbook that taught me how to cook things on my own without following a recipe exactly. Everyone should learn how to do this.

Anything else you want to share, about Conquering Your Kitchen or otherwise?
This may come as a surprise, but I don’t actually love to cook. I’m not one of those people who gets excited about cooking all afternoon and creating a feast. I don’t mind cooking, but I don’t love it. I do LOVE to eat, though, and I love having a healthy family. This is what keeps me motivated in the kitchen. Anyone can do this!

Annemarie Rossi, is the author of Conquering Your kitchen. She received her undergraduate degree in Psychology from the College of the Holy Cross, as well as a Master’s Degree in Pastoral Ministry from Boston College. Now a suburban mom in the Boston area, Annemarie has been happy to see a trend in healthier eating throughout New England. She enjoys traveling with her family, and they always visit farmers’ markets and restaurants that celebrate locally sourced food while on vacation. To keep up to date with Annemarie’s recipes, tips, and food travel stories, follow her at RealFoodRealDeals.com.

Final Thoughts On Conquering Your Kitchen

While I received a complimentary copy of the book, Conquering Your Kitchen (#afflink), for review purposes, my opinion of this book is my own — and I am a fan. I really enjoyed the recipes, the discussions of how to arrange your kitchen for efficient cooking, and many other tips that fall in line with my vision of a well-run kitchen.

Thank you so much, Annemarie! I hope Conquering Your Kitchen helps many feel more confident and at home in the kitchen. I don’t think I’m alone in saying that there is nothing like a good homecooked meal. They always taste so much better.

So, what about you? Do you have any favorite easy recipes or go-to meals that can be made from scratch — without too much effort or pre-planning? I’d love to hear thoughts on your confidence in the kitchen, or where you are at in your journey to conquering your kitchen!

What Makes An Exceptional Teacher?

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Today I’m welcoming Sue Lively of One Time Through as she shares a snapshot from her childhood, and the wonderful story about how her teacher, Mr. Smith, inspired her to learn, grow, and ultimately, become a teacher herself. What a wonderful tribute to an exceptional teacher!

Sue is an elementary school teacher on extended parental leave to stay at home full time with her son. She is passionate about all things related to arts and-crafts, language, and science! Thank you Sue, for sharing these musings on what makes an exceptional teacher. I can think of a few such teachers from my own childhood.

— Betsy

What Makes An Exceptional Teacher - One Time Through @ BPhotoArt.com

What Makes An Exceptional Teacher?

What do you think makes an exceptional teacher? Is it that unique ability to put oneself into a student’s shoes and see things through their point of view? Is it having a mastery of one’s subject or exceptional communication skills? Is it about seeing a student as more than just a sum of their parts?

Everyone has a favourite teacher that they can remember from early school years. Probably your favourite teacher had a few, if not all, of the qualities listed above. My favorite teacher certainly did.

Mr. Smith

He was a little unusual for an elementary school teacher, because he was a man. Also, it was widely known that teaching wasn’t his only gig. Mr. Smith not only taught full-time, but he wrote the drama critiques and reviews column for the large newspaper in the city close to where I grew up. He was highly involved in theatre himself and brought that love to his students.

I was lucky enough to have Mr. Smith for my teacher in grades 1 and 2 and later when I was in grades 4, 5, and 6; I was involved in school musicals that he directed.

What I remember most about Mr. Smith from the early grades was that he was FUN. Isn’t it always those teachers that stand out in your memory? Our classroom was full of laughter, poetry, art and drama.

I remember that he used to keep exceptional artwork up on his walls, long after those students had moved into higher grades. I was always proud to return to his class as a “big grade 5 or 6er” and see one of my art pieces still there! He just had a way of making kids feel good.

Teaching Through Discipline

He also treated his students exceptionally fair. There was one time when I was given the privilege of staying inside at recess on my own to finish an art piece. For some reason, only God knows why, I went around the room and tore a small corner off the page of everyone else’s work. I can remember clearly doing this, but to this day, have no idea why I did it!
When the kids came back in from recess, Mr. Smith easily figured out who the art culprit had been, as my piece was the only one without a missing corner!

I remember being quietly pulled into the hallway and firmly but gently confronted about my behavior. There was no scolding or shaming, just a very serious discussion about my actions and how they had affected others.

I think I remember that episode so much because I felt very deep remorse about my actions, and I was grateful my favorite teacher still liked and cared about me, even though I had been quite naughty!

Committed to Excellence

Later on, in grades 4-6, Mr. Smith directed me in the school musicals. He encouraged me to try out the first year, and really took me under his wing.

These musicals that he directed were not just “kid-stuff” either – they were big productions. We had amazing costumes rented from a theater company, professional lighting, and performed for large audiences. We rehearsed for months and really felt like we were a part of something important. They were a source of self-esteem and positive memories.

The time commitment from Mr. Smith, and the other teachers involved, must have been huge. It’s hard to see that as a kid, and although we all loved Mr. Smith, I don’t think any of us really appreciated how much work and time he must have put in to do these shows with us…and really, FOR us.

As a teacher and a parent now, I can see all the amazing things he did…and was. Mr. Smith was such a huge positive influence on me.

Encouragement Into Adulthood

He encouraged me to pursue singing and acting, which has been a source of incredible enjoyment in my life. Even into adulthood, he followed my “career” and supported me by interviewing me for his newspaper column, even giving me great reviews for my performances in several musicals.

He has become a positive mental teaching template for me. I often think about how Mr. Smith would deal with certain situations when I am challenged by a student.

He has also inspired me to direct musicals with my own students over the years and hopefully I can make a difference for some of them as he did for me. This has been one of my favorite, and the most rewarding, parts of being a teacher.

Lifelong Positive Influence

The photograph above shows Mr. Smith and me after I had received the grade 6 Drama Award. You can tell by my face that I was thrilled, and especially honored to receive this award from my favorite teacher.

When I look at it now, tears fill my eyes, and I send a hearty thank you to this special man who had such a positive influence on me as a child, and as an adult.

Thank you, Mr. Smith.

– Sue Lively

What About You?

Do you have an all time favorite snapshot from your childhood? Maybe a photo from your school years? I have memories of my favorite teachers, and seeing snapshots of their classrooms can bring so many memories to mind.

Do you have an exceptional teacher who inspired you like Mr. Smith inspired Sue? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Patriotic Artwork Craft Activity For Kids

posted in: Notes | 16

In honor of Memorial Day, I put together an impromptu art activity for our son …so we could have some patriotic artwork to hang on the front door today!
Patriotic Artwork Craft Activity - Planning a free-form activity to encourage self expression and creativity in kids! - BPhotoArt.com

While I love seeing elaborate crafts and projects others have done (via Pinterest), my style is a little more informal and aimed at culturing creativity. For us, replicating a craft or following steps to end up with the “correct” project just doesn’t always work out. Toddlers, when they have their mind set up on doing things their way…. are an immovable force to be reckoned with.

So, this free-form activity had no rules, aside from keeping ink and glue on the paper canvas (i.e. off the table).

I laid out a large white envelope as the paper canvas for this patriotic craft, pulled out some red, white/silver, and blue items that we had on hand (paper, sparkly pipe cleaners), etc. Of course, no patriotic artwork craft would be complete without stars, so I set out a star rubber stamp and ink pad. Supplementary supplies included scissors, a glue stick, tape, and a blue highlighter.

Patriotic Artwork Craft Activity Supplies - BPhotoArt.com

While Toby went after the scissors and started cutting paper enthusiastically, I showed him how he could tear up the paper into strips and even squares. He allowed me to help make some squares while he cut abstract shapes.

Then he discovered the stamp and ink pad. First his thumb went onto the ink pad, and since this was our first time using an ink pad, I told him about how he could make thumbprints — which he tried. But the stamp was more fun.

Patriotic Artwork Craft Activity for Kids - BPhotoArt.com

Toby immediately stamped his hand (just like at the library), then asked for permission to stamp his arms and face. I have to admit, I declined on the face, but did permit the arms do gain some stars.

Stars were stamped everywhere, on the paper, on the little torn squares, you name it. He then started spreading glue on the white canvas and sticking things to it.

It was great to watch the creative gears turning as Toby switched from one tool to another. The scissors were a frequently used tool, although the blue highlighter was briefly more popular.

Patriotic Artwork Craft Activity for Kids - BPhotoArt.com

Finally, he got to the tape. Long streams were pulled from the dispenser and stuck to the canvas, the table, everywhere. I helped Toby get the tape back onto his canvas, and once we decided to “save” the rest of the roll for Grandma, impromptu craft time was complete.

Toby was proud to show off his patriotic artwork craft to Grandma (whose house we were at), and to Daddy when he got home.

I love that this project came together so easily, that there were no rules or restrictions, and how our son really got his creative thought process going.

[Click on any image in the gallery below to view full size]

Resources + Supplies

Here are supplies similar to what we used for this artwork craft project. I’m all for buying in bulk when it comes to kid craft supplies… it never hurts to have extras on hand.

You may also want to check out my Art for Kids Pinterest board, where I’ve been pinning lots of fun art projects for kids (not specific to any holiday in particular)

Follow Betsy @ BPhotoArt.com’s board Art For Kids on Pinterest.

Do You Have Any Patriotic Artwork Craft Ideas?

Are you a fan of the pre-planned activities, or is free-form crafting more your style? What works best for your kids?

I’d love to hear about any craft or art activities you’ve tried, whether they’re patriotic in nature or not. It’s always fun to see what others are doing!

Aging Gracefully + End of Life Planning

posted in: Notes | 4

Parenthood has brought new considerations for us, such as the need to prepare a will and ensure that our child(ren) will be taken care for. It seems like the older you get, the more you have to think about end of life preparations. I’ve touched on this before when considering the legacy my grandmother left behind, and the fact that life is too short to put off doing what really matters.

Today I’m guest posting over at The Entwife’s Journal about getting your affairs in order — from the perspective of a grandchild (Read Aging Parents: End of Life Preparations).

bphotoart-end-of-life-planning-6377

My grandfather is in good health but had decided to set his affairs in order recently. Our son is fortunate enough to know and remember his great grandfather (“grandpa with the broken cane”); I’ve written about my childhood memories of painting with grandpa as well. While I wasn’t directly involved with his end of life preparations, but my mother and aunt helped him organize his estate and complete some necessary end of life planning.

Their checklist of things to do included organizing financial paperwork, making sure that both children knew where important documents and valuables were stored, and knowing who would do what when the time comes. End of life planning doesn’t sound fun, but honestly I think it can be bring peace of mind for all involved.

End of Life Planning Checklist - BPhotoArt.com

Having been through a number of estate distributions, I can tell you that when a loved one has taken the time to put their affairs in order and has taken the time to do end of life planning, things go much more smoothly for the surviving family members. And it is generally less stressful too!

End of Life Planning Resources

I’ve compiled an end of life planning board on Pinterest, with a number of articles and documents that may be helpful if you’re not sure what to do so far as putting together your will, making estate plans, or even organizing important financial documents. Obviously the best choice will be to consult with your lawyer or financial planner, but for those of you who like to do extra research — here you go!

Follow Betsy @ BPhotoArt.com’s board End of Life Planning on Pinterest.

What about you? Do you have any suggestions for end of life planning made easy? Stories of aging gracefully and being prepared for the final stages of life? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Displaying Baby Photos In Your Home

posted in: Notes | 14

Sometimes figuring out how to display baby photos in your home is tougher than Capturing Baby Milestones on Camera in the first place! Actually, I’ll expand that sentiment to include all types of portraits. It’s great to have family portraits to document milestones — but, once they’re taken, the dilemma becomes what to do with them?

Depending on what my clients’ homes will accommodate, I do usually recommend some sort of wall display. I love displaying baby photos, especially in nurseries! All too soon, babies grow into kids, and those adorable little bundles of joy become little men and women. Where space is a constraint, I’ve found there are still options for displaying baby photos as part of your home decor — it just takes some imagination and creativity. A baby’s first year album can be displayed on a bookshelf, a floating wall shelf, or coffeetable; smaller framed pieces can grace the smallest of walls and still look meant to be.

Displaying Baby Photos – Our Wall Decor

Let me give you a little tour through my home so you can get some inspiration for displaying baby photos in your own home too!  When you first enter through the front door, there is a very small wall next to our coat closet.  It’s a little less than two feet wide.  A while back, I found the perfect shelf (with hooks!) for the wall, and created a little display that I enjoy very much.  My mother-in-law gave me this lovely frame; and while not usually my style, the frame is something I enjoy in this arrangement.  At the far right on the shelf, you’ll see a gorgeous glass frame that my cousins gave us for Toby’s baptism – it displays the correlating photograph of his baptism.  The two wooden sculptures are pieces I picked out while in Israel with my grandmother – I am so glad they made it home safely!

home decor entryway photo display - displaying baby photos - bphotoart.com

As you stand in the entryway and look the opposite direction, you’ll see our formal dining room.  This is actually an older photo — we’ve since moved around some furniture and are now displaying these baby photos in our bedroom hallway.  But I love the grid layout of these images!

home decor dining room - displaying baby photos - bphotoart.com

As you continue into the main area of our home, you’ll see the huge fireplace, and lots of windows.  We wanted to place a portrait that would balance out the fireplace, so large scale was a must.  The photo over the fireplace is actually before kids, from a trip to New Hampshire (taken in the southernmost part of Maine).  We have several small frames on the mantel holding snapshots of life after kids — 8x10s and smaller are great tabletop options for displaying baby photos that you want to keep updated on a regular basis.  Our furniture setup has changed a bit since this photo was taken — we added in a rug, and moved couches to create a cozier, kid friendly play are.  But the open feel remains.

family room photo decor over fireplace - bphotoart.com

Next, we’ll swing by the kitchen, where we have another tiny wall, maybe a foot and a half wide.  This one presently display’s four portraits from our son’s first year.  These framed art pieces are great because they fit pretty much anywhere — giving you lots of options for displaying baby photos wherever you want to see them in your home.

home decor photos baby's first year - bphotoart.com

Finally, we’re about to get to the best place for displaying baby photos — baby’s room!  Once again, if you were to visit our home today, this room looks slightly different… We’re preparing it for the arrival of our second son (and Toby got to move to his “big boy” room”).  Anyways, the focal point of the room, when we designed it, was the wall with the crib.  We set this up before baby arrived, and I wanted to have it be personalized from the start.  So, block letters over the crib were a great choice.

wall decor displaying baby photos in nursery - bphotoart.com

The nursery also holds a very comfortable recliner, in which I spent many hours.  I set up a side table right next to the recliner so that I could easily grab my waterbottle, reading material, knitting, or whatever snack I needed while nursing our new arrival.  On the wall, you’ll see a neat three-dimensional piece that has four of our son’s newborn features — who doesn’t love infant hands, feet, ears, and even belly buttons?  If you look in the reflection of the left window, you’ll see where we placed the dresser with changing table — along with a painting to match the theme of the room.

wall decor displaying baby photos in nursery - bphotoart.com

The final wall in our nursery had to hold books, of course!  Being a bookworm myself, I wanted to encourage a love of the written word as soon as possible.  We stashed age-inappropriate books (as in “too old for a newborn”) on the shelves from the beginning, leaving space on the bottom shelf for the cloth and board books.  This was a wonderful location for reading material — right next to the recliner, which became our reading chair later in baby’s first year.  On the wall, we decided on another three-dimensional piece — it has part of our birth announcement, plus a baby photo of our son.  The top of the bookshelf has a cute frame (matches the theme of the room!) — we updated this from time to time so that we could continue displaying baby photos that were developmentally on track.

wall decor displaying baby photos in nursery - bphotoart.com

wall decor displaying baby photos in nursery - bphotoart.com

Finally, what baby room is complete without a nightlight?  I love this custom photo nightlight that displays a newborn baby photo of me with our son.  It’s now in our upstairs hallway, but regardless of where it’s plugged in, the bas relief photo looks really neat.

home decor nightlight displaying baby photos - bphotoart.com

In the studio area, where I meet with clients, I have some more ideas for displaying baby photos to share.  I mentioned this first option earlier, for those with limited wall space.  It is easy to display baby photo books on a floating shelf — you can arrange multiple books, or pair with picture frames, for a nice, modern look.

home decor baby photo albums on shelf - bphotoart.com

And finally, another framed image series.  I really love these for displaying baby photos because it really demonstrates how much change there is over the course of a year, or even a few months’ time.  This particular series showcases images from birth through around the ninth month.

home decor baby photos - bphotoart.com

Not surprisingly, we do have more photographs on display throughout our home, including ones from our wedding, photos from trips, and of course, artwork.  But that’s for another time.  For now, let me just say, I hope this virtual tour of suggestions for displaying baby photos in your home has been inspiring and helpful.  I think it is so important to surround ourselves with images of those we love and cherish, to keep the memories we hold dear on display for all to enjoy.

What About Your Wall Decor?

What memories do you have on display in your home?  Are there photos you’ve always wanted to put up but have never found the “right” spot? 

I know sometimes it’s taken me several tries to find the perfect home for a piece of wall decor.  What is your experience with displaying baby photos and planning out your ideal wall decor?

Resources on Baby Spaces + Nurseries

Here are some of the other blog posts being featured today. Topics are cover all sorts of baby spaces, from – nursery ideas and to play spaces. You may also want to check out Pottery Barn’s How To Create A Frame Display (PDF), and my Pinterest board on Photo + Wall Decor. Links open in a new window for your convenience.

Follow Betsy @ BPhotoArt.com’s board Photo + Wall Decor on Pinterest.

The Ultimate Guide to Baby's First YearThis post is part of The Ultimate Guide to Baby’s First Year — I’m one of 30+ blogs participating. Over the course of a week’s time, there will be posts on these topics:

  • taking care of new parents
  • feeding baby
  • taking care of baby
  • baby’s milestones
  • baby play
  • baby spaces
  • celebrating baby

Check out the The Ultimate Guide to Baby’s First Year for a list of all the posts on each topic.

Memories of Painting With Grandpa

posted in: Notes | 10

I may be a bit biased since it’s my line of work, but for me, photographs are an integral part of preserving family memories. There’s a time and a place to document family portraits professionally, but there’s also a soft spot in my heart for snapshots — they capture candid moments from life that are totally unplanned and spontaneous. Both types of photos are different. But both kinds are important for creating a lasting family legacy.

While I’ve written about being inspired by my paternal grandparents (My Photographic Inspiration + The Legacy of a Truly Excellent Woman), I have to confess there are many relatives who have encouraged and supported me along my life’s journey. So today, I wanted to share this picture from my personal archives — it’s of me and my maternal grandpa when I was a toddler.

Betsy Painting with Grandpa - Family Snapshot - Memories

I love this photograph! It was taken when I was a toddler, in my childhood home.  We were painting Christmas candles (well, one of us was!).  I loved helping turn white tapered candles into advent calendars.  We would paint red and green elves around the base of the taper (bottom 3″ or so), and then the rest would be evenly divided into 24 sections — numbered 1-24 for each day of December.  Then came the fun part!  Remembering to light the candle at dinner every day so that we could melt the elves by Christmas day.

Over the years, my grandpa has explored many different media in addition to painting (watercolor, oil, acrylic).  He used to have a woodworking “shop” in his basement (later it moved to the garage). In addition to making utilitarian items, he was quite skilled at wood marquetry, wood carving, and pretty much anything that required tinkering (that comes from being an engineer, I think).  My favorite wedding gift was from my grandfather — a marquetry panel of a ship. It’s framed and hangs at the top of our stairs, so I get to enjoy it every time I climb the steps.

I have many fond memories of painting and creating with my grandfather. He had drawers and bins of interesting do-dads and whatchamacallits that my brother and I would use to make things. We helped make a castle (think dollhouse, but bigger) with a plexiglass moat able to hold real fish. There was an oscilloscope in his workshop that we loved to play with too.  My favorite cookies are Springerles — his specialty.  These German cookies may be an aquired taste, but I loved helping select which hand carved mold to press into the dough.  My grandfather even made some molds especially for us grandkids!  The best part, though, was eating a freshly cooked Springerle (first dipped in milk).

Isn’t it amazing what stories can come from just reminiscing over one snapshot from your past?  That’s why I love photographs.  They open the floodgates, revive memories which have long faded into subconscious.  Pictures take us back to that moment, remind us of the things we truly value in life.

I am so grateful that my son has had the opportunity to know my grandpa, or as he is called: “Great Grandpa Rebeck with the broken cane.” Even though he lives many states away now, my son still remembers when my grandpa visited — and Toby was allowed to help “fix” great grandpa’s “broken” cane (one of those nifty collapsible ones).

It’s so hard to attribute any one thing to my grandpa, because he really did help expand my way of thinking.  I’m one of those people who always asks “why,” who loves to know how things work, and who enjoys taking apart or putting back together little do-dads.  My comfort with adapting new technology probably comes from my grandpa too — while an engineer he worked on the Apollo Lunar Scientific Experiment project (ALSEP).  After the moon landing, he eventually went into the computer technology field — I grew up familiar with that blue and red DOS screen, and even learned how to write simple DOS computer programs from him as well.

Important of Snapshots + Memories (Resources)

Here are a few links about the importance of snapshots and memories. You may also want to check out my Family History + Genealogy Pinterest board. Links will open in a new window for your convenience.

Follow Betsy @ BPhotoArt.com’s board Family History + Genealogy on Pinterest.

What Memories Do Your Snapshots Bring To Mind?

Even if you don’t have an extensive collection of family photos, I’m sure you have a few snapshots that bring back many memories.  Maybe tearful ones rather than joyful, but important memories nevertheless. We are defined, in part, by our past experiences.  We don’t have to let ourselves be bound or limited by those memories, but we can learn and grow from them.

What about your favorite photo?  Does looking at it bring a slew of memories to the forefront of your mind?

Teal Parallelogram Shapes

posted in: Notes | 4

Teal lines, angles, and parallelograms… any idea what it is? I wasn’t sure either; my mom actually had to tell me what this object was when she first gave it to me. Since then, it has seen quite a bit of use. I have to confess my toddler is quite fond of this item (maybe because it is teal, but who knows) — and frequently “borrows” it for creative uses. I’ll reveal its identity at the end of this post, and provide some resources on how to use it as well.

fine art abstraction - parallelograms

fine art abstraction - parallelograms

Since I was feeling up for the challenge, here’s a haiku about these abstracted images:

parallelograms
creating light and shadow
shades of blue and teal

What Is It?

So, any idea what it is? When I first went to write about it, I am a bit embarrassed to admit that the term “parallelogram” had escaped my memory. I had to ask my husband: “What’s the rectangle with slanted sides called?” We then confirmed I meant both sides slanted the same way (in order to differentiate from a trapezoid). I am totally blaming that memory lapse of the pregnancy hormones, by the way.

It’s a dual sided Tupperware citrus zester — It’s probably at least a good ten years old. My son likes to use it when we bring snow inside, or have playdough time. Usually my kitchen gadgets are procured for sensory play over the toy kitchen tools (go figure!).

tupperware citrus zester - kitchen gadget

See? He’s waiting to snatch the citrus zester as soon as I give the ok!

Resources

And, as promised, here are some resources on shape stuff for kids, as well as recipes that use citrus zest. Links will open in a new window for your convenience.

Shapes for Kids

Recipes that Call for Citrus Zest

What Do You Think?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments. Oh, and if you have recipes that call for citrus zest, by all means, please share them especially if it uses zest in a unique way!

If you enjoyed this post and want to see more from my Fine Art Abstraction series, make sure to check out the other images and take a guess each object is!

(*) – Affiliate Disclosure Policy

The Legacy of A Truly Excellent Woman

posted in: Notes | 32

Today I am sharing a poem in memory of a truly excellent woman, my grandmother – Fayola Ash. I wrote this in memory of her passing, which was almost three years ago — on my son’s due date (3/15/2011). He arrived about two weeks later, in good health — and he was known by name to my grandmother before she died. If you want to read the backstory behind the poem, consider some thoughts on creating a photographic legacy, and view more candid photographs, make sure to read to the end.

Betsy and her Grandmother, Fayola, in Pozzouli, Italy
Betsy and her Grandmother, Fayola, in Pozzouli, Italy (2010)

A Truly Excellent Woman

My grandmother was always certain,
calm, assured.
She had a firm foundation.
Her faith was strong,
her compassion knew no bounds.
She knew what she believed, and did accordingly.
Her whole life was a testament to her Creator.
She recovered from polio,
she raised four children (including twins),
she managed her household.
She loved and respected her husband,
deferring to him in public;
but if you knew them, you would know
he let her have the final say.
She was wise and thoughtful,
kind and loving,
opinionated but usually justified.
Her life was spent inspiring others,
through the works of her hands,
the music she created
as her fingers danced across the keys.
Age slowed them down, but didn’t stop her.
She loved music, and kept her dearest hymns
on her lips, even as death approached.
She lived a life worth living.
But in the end, cancer struck.
A vicious, quick attack,
leaving only weeks to come to terms with
the finality of the battle.
In her dying hours, she was selfess.
Caring more about the impending celebration of life,
that my son’s birth would not be
overshadowed by her death.
She always wanted the best for others.
Even at the sacrifice of herself.
Small in stature, she left big shoes to fill.
I hope my legacy will be worthy,
that one day I will fill my grandmother’s shoes.
She was a truly excellent woman.

3.12.2014


Backstory of “A Truly Excellent Woman”

This section does talk about my faith and beliefs. If that might offend you, feel free to skip to the next section. It’s just an integral part of who my grandmother was, so I can’t overlook it.

The Voice Bible translation describes the Proverbs 31 woman as “a truly excellent woman” (Pr 31:10). This is where I began when writing this poem, as my grandmother was an inspiration to all who knew her. She was everything one would aspire to be as a woman of God. While we never get over the loss of a loved one, it has taken me several years to realize the impact her life has had on me, and how I want to live my life as a wife, mother, and person. I hope that I will one day be able to look back on my life and know that I too, with God’s grace, was able to be a truly excellent woman in all my words and deeds.

A Shared Journey to Italy + Israel

In 2010, I accompanied my grandmother on a trip to Israel and Italy (she did not want to go alone). At 86, she was not the youngest on the tour, but she was a trooper. She conquered all the stairs at Tel Megiddo, she walked the Via Dolorosa, and climbed aboard a camel. Why the camel ride? She’s always wanted to ride a camel since seeing them on her travels to Egypt with my grandfather (my photographic inspiration). On this trip, she carried his camera with her (yes, I helped her use it from time to time). It was an honor to have taken that trip with her, and I have memories I will always cherish. She was a world traveler, and I got to share in her last big trip abroad.

The images below feature candid photographs of my grandmother (and some with me as well) during our travels to Israel and Italy. I’ve plenty of fine art photographs from my travels to show you, but that’s for another day. Today it’s about my grandmother’s legacy. [click on any image to view in gallery mode]

Candid Photographs of Our Journey

What About Your Legacy?

What kind of legacy will you leave? What do you hope to accomplish in your life? What will the photographs say about you to future generations?

I know I tend to ask a lot of open-ended questions, and I don’t pretend to have all the answers either. I know what matters to me… yet I make new discoveries on that front every day. I hope you too will be inspired to take an active role in crafting your legacy.

The decisions we make today, the actions we take now, all affect the person we will be remembered as by future generations.

And if you haven’t checked it out already, make sure to read my post, Life is Too Short, which I wrote earlier this month as I grieved with my friend for their loss of a family member. Pregnancy does things to ramp up emotions, so maybe that’s part of the reason for these sentimental posts. But truthfully, sentimental is part of what I do for a living. I make memories for my clients, I create portraits that capture personalities, I help document family legacies. I love doing multi-generational portraits because, for me, family is really what it’s all about.

So, back to my question: what about your legacy? Do you have someone similar to my grandmother, a truly excellent woman, in your life? Will you be an inspiration to others, as my grandfather inspired me to become a photographer? Will you be known as a someone whose shoes others can only hope to fill?

Life is Too Short

posted in: Notes | 18

Life is too short to put off what matters.  Your family, your loved ones. Spending time with those you care about.  I have a dear friend whose brother is in the hospital on life support right now. It was unexpected and sudden.

bphotoart-CJS_8788

Last year, my aunt’s father went in for routine surgery, and next thing we knew, he was gone.  Before that, my grandmother was diagnosed with and died from cancer within a month’s time — she passed on my son’s due date.

Life is not fair.  Life does not take our feelings into consideration.  Life hurts.

We deal with loss from the time we are little.  To an infant, the loss of warmth and being held can be world-shaking.  To a child, loss means saying “goodbye” to Daddy as he goes to work every day.  A teen might focus on their loss of independence.  But the older we grow, the more familiar we are with loss.  Loss of self, loss of others, loss of control.

Loss happens.  And we can’t do a thing about it.

We tell ourselves “there will always be tomorrow.”  But maybe, there won’t.  Maybe it’s worth the sacrifice to do it today.  Maybe it will make all the difference to you, to your loved ones, if you stop telling yourself “there will be time later.”

bphotoart-portrait-388

Because the clock doesn’t stop ticking.  Time keeps on going, life keeps on happening.  And it is not in our control.  We can’t control what happens to our loved ones, we can’t control what happens to ourselves.

The only thing we can control is our reaction, our response….

We have adages and proverbs galore that advise against delay, against getting ahead of yourself:

  • Don’t put off until tomorrow what can be done today.
  • Don’t go to bed angry.
  • Don’t let the sun go down on your anger (Eph 4:26).

Because time shows us that waiting …for some things… doesn’t help.  Sometimes we need to take action now.  Sometimes we need to act impulsively, to exist spontaneously.

Live in the moment, exist in the present, be content with where you are, when you are, and what you are.

Life is too short to put things off.  Do what needs doing — do it today.

bphotoart-portrait-0113

Further thoughts…

I feel like I should flesh this post out a bit more, but it just flowed so quickly, I can’t bring myself to really edit the words above. The emotions of loss and our lack of control over life. Sorrows over lost opportunities. All too often I find myself making excuses, procrastinating on what is really important (in the big scheme of things) so that I can accomplish whatever (trival) task I’ve decided needs finishing.

One of the things my toddler likes about his bedtime routine is “tell me about tomorrow.” We talk about what we’ll do tomorrow, our plans, and what we’ll be doing. Oh, if only life were so simple.

“Tell me about tomorrow” — what’s going to happen? I want to know.

I don’t think this changes as we get older either. When life goes “according to plan,” we consider everything to be good and right. It’s when the storms come and we get thrown off course that we really begin to question ourselves. Earlier this week I blogged about my print, Uphill Battle, and how sometimes life is a struggle, but we have the choice to keep plugging away.

We will have troubles in this world, yes. We will face loss. We will suffer. But amidst all those things, we can still choose to persevere… to make the moments that matter be meaningful. The other night, my son chose to have me read The Berenstain Bears and the Trouble at School (disclosure). Right now, I’m hearing Grizzly Gramps in my head, telling Brother Bear, “If you find yourself on the wrong road, don’t just keep going until you’re in over your head – back up and start over on the right road”

…and Mama Bear saying, “It’s never too late to corre

ct a mistake.”

Sometimes, like Brother Bear, I get so entrenched in “keeping going” that I forget I have a choice to jump ship and abandon my stubbornness. Life is too short.

What changes have you been putting off?

Stop telling yourself those changes can’t be made, that you’ve committed to doing XYZ so you can’t back out now. You always have a choice. Life is too short to put off making things right. Don’t put the life you want

to live on hold for “later.”

“He didn’t take life seriously, but he took living seriously.”

What will your legacy be?

Eco-Friendly Photography – Wasting Less

posted in: Notes | 1

We make every effort to be an eco-friendly photography studio. In a minute I’ll discuss how we minimize wasteful packaging and reduce our environmental footprint, but first, here’s a story about wasteful packaging. I needed loose leaf green tea for making kombucha (fermented sweet tea), and for various reasons, I ended up cannibalizing some boxes of bagged tea. No big deal, I thought. But once I got a visual idea of just how much waste is involved with individually bagged tea, I changed my mind. I know I’ll be making every effort to buy loose leaf tea in the future. It is so much more eco-friendly. The photographs below illustrate how much packaging I tossed, and how much tea was actually in the packaging. I had even tossed some packaging before this (probably a box’s worth), so the pile of trash should be even bigger.

still life green tea  - wasteful packaging - eco-friendly photography Read More

In Utero Baby Pictures (~20 Week Ultrasound)

posted in: Notes | 0

This week we went in for our 20 week ultrasound; we’ve returned with some in utero baby pictures to share! Well, I’m actually past 20 weeks at this point (over halfway through!), but for some reason we didn’t get on the schedule soon enough so we had to do it a little later.

The three of us all were able to be present for the “picture session” (as I explained it to our toddler), and Toby was excited to see the special “camera” that would look inside mama’s belly and take pictures of his baby brother. Since then, he’s been talking about the “goop” that was on mama’s belly during the baby pictures and how the tech put it on for the doctor to do a final well-being check (all looks great!).

20 Week Ultrasound - in utero baby pictures Read More

Life is What You Make of It

posted in: Notes | 0

Keith is one of my good photographer friends and mentors. After dealing with various medical issues, including a massive brain aneurysm, for almost a year, he was diagnosed with leukemia. He has been traveling multiple hours to receive inpatient chemo treatment for two weeks out of every four. And, he was there over Christmas. But, like most things, Keith hasn’t let his current situation phase him. Here is a video of their Christmas plans for while in the hospital. If that’s not inspiring, I don’t know what is.

Read More

Looking Back at 2013…

posted in: Notes | 0

Well, the holiday sick bug that’s been going around hit our household …and hard. Normally we’re not ones to get sick, but this time ALL THREE of us got sick to varying degrees. I guess, if there is a silver lining to be seen, it’s that the littlest one of us seems to have gotten off the lightest. Us adults, on the other hand, got the heavy-handed version of things (don’t worry, I will spare you the details). Suffice it to say, we’ve been holed up since Christmas, and I doubt we’ll be doing anything special tonight; I have no desire to pass this bug on to anyone else. So, if you have portrait orders to pick up, don’t worry, I will let you know when we have sanitized and decontaminated the place 😉 so that you can come get your lovely portraits without fear of also bringing home a bug.

Anyways, as we were lazying around (er, resting?) this morning, I couldn’t help but see the lovely snowflakes falling and glittering in the sun’s rays. It’s no fun to be out in the cold when sick, but it certainly is still nice to look at, regardless. Here’s some of our morning view (no turkeys today, but yesterday we say 5-6 of them).

bphotoart-IMG_4602 Read More

Making Memories for the Holidays

posted in: Notes | 0

What have you done this year to cultivate family time and creative play for the holidays?

bphotoart-IMG_4461

We really had fun with holiday activities this year (see pictures below). Many memories were made, including: playing in the snow, experimenting with grain-free cookie recipes, seeing Santa,and giving toys to those in need. Instead of cultivating the “I want for Christmas” attitude, we focused on making gifts to give to others, crafts that symbolized the meaning of Christmas, and outdoor play, of course! Pinterest has been pretty helpful for ideas, especially crafts that are easy enough for an independent toddler to do mostly on his own (follow me on Pinterest). Read More

Digital Retouching and Achieving the Impossible

posted in: Notes | 0

I’m no stranger to the art of digital retouching. In fact, I do a lot of what I call “natural enhancements” for my clients every time I create a portrait. Through lighting and camera technique I can eliminate or reduce wrinkles, downplay features that aren’t desirable — you name it, it can be enhanced. But, I believe there is a line between enhancing a person’s image and altering it. Yes, I always do my best to portray someone in a flattering light. But, I want the end result to look like them. I recently read a blog post, Photoshop Transformations and You, that really epitomizes the issue I am seeing far too frequently. I’ll repost the video below so you can watch for yourself. It’s really stunning to see the before and after versions of some of these models.

Read More

The Power of Giving

posted in: Notes | 6

As the gift-getting mentality becomes ever more prevalent in our society, my husband and I have been taking steps to intentionally cultivate a spirit of gift-giving and sharing in our son.
Besides a more well-known favorite, The Giving Tree (*), one of Toby’s favorite books that illustrates what it means to share and give is one I received as a child: The Mouse in the Manger (*). It’s about Oscar, a young mouse who runs away from home because he wants a bigger bed of straw; he ultimately gives away his entire pile of straw and learns how freeing it can be to give unreservedly. Read More