Monday, November 29, 2010

The Camera Loves You Darlin'..

My parents and nephew came for Thanksgiving.  We had an absolutely wonderful and relaxing holiday with several days of sleeping in.  I was so sad when I heard the 6:00 a.m.  alarm clock this morning.  

I also had the opportunity to try my new camera out doing some Senior pictures.   Katie is the daughter of Emma's first grade teacher.  We have been talking about doing Katie's pictures since last year.  She attends South Carolina Governor's school of Math and Science.  So, we grabbed the chance when she was home to do a shoot.  We had to reschedule from Friday to Saturday due to rain.  And I'm so glad we did because the weather was perfect!  

This may have possibly been the easiest photo shoot I've ever done.  Though I love chasing my girl's giggles for a picture, I have to admit that I enjoyed the opportunity to do a shoot with someone I didn't have to bribe to smile.   And as you can see, it was a wonderful treat to me to have such a beautiful model for  to test out my skills on.  

click twice to see in largest format

And, for you other photographers out there, I'll be posting a freebie of this storyboard template shortly..

Thank you Katie and Mel for a wonderful Photo Shoot!  It was such a pleasure!

Special thanks to my friend Julie at Julie Tyree Photography for being my "set of fresh eyes" and giving feedback on this shoot!



Saturday, November 27, 2010

Christmas Card Freebie

I've been making Christmas cards for months.  So I decided I'd make a little something to share.  This template is in Photoshop format.  I left it in simple layers so that there's no messing with clipping masks and it can easily be customized to fit your personal taste.  

You can Download Christmas Card template by clicking:

  Also, if you are using another program, that won't support PS, you can simply enlarge the card, and do a right click, "save as" and paste your picture into the white box.   Merry Christmas!

Decorating the Tree

Holiday Catch Up
Posted 1/14/2011

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Lights of the South

Posted 1/14/2011

Trying to catch up on my holiday posts.  For the sake of order, I am posting behind posts in the dates that they occurred..

Mom, Dad and Justin came for Thanksgiving.. We had a great time and having Justin with us was a treat.  My girls just adore him.  On Thanksgiving evening we went to Lights of the South.  This was a much improved visit to last year when just the four of us went on a night that was much closer to Christmas and much colder!  A trip to  Lights of the South on Thanksgiving evening to kick start the Christmas season might just be a new tradition.  

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Nature Hunt

November 2, 2010

My kids get election day off of school.. Our city voted to increase our sales tax by 1% to pay for city improvements.  The extra tax money will go toward park improvements and some other things.  While I do agree that we have amazing parks and I'm very proud to be part of a community that is willing to invest in itself to become better, I would have much preferred a tax increase that supported improvements in education.  Especially at a time when our teachers are being fur lowed.. Anyway, no one asked me so, I decided that I was going to use those taxes for education one way or another.  And since another glorious break is upon us (hooray for no six a.m. alarm clocks!), I thought I would share our little activity in case there is someone else as cheap as I that is looking for a cheap way to entertain their kids during Thanksgiving break.  

taken on the bridge that runs through our neighborhood park
I do believe Chloe was spitting a piece of pine straw out of her mouth..

So, we did our civic duty and voted and then armed with a camera and a plastic bag, we took the girls on a nature hunt at the park.. 

 Our "Autumn Nature Hunt List"

yellow leaf
green leaf
red leaf

3 acorns

piece of moss

animal Hole 

animal tracks 


blade of grass



hole in a tree 


pine cone

smooth and shiny rock



something that doesn't belong in nature

y shaped stick

spider web 

unusual shaped leaf

brightly colored flowers

I was pleasantly surprised that we were able to find most things on our list.  

click twice to see it at it's largest

On the itinerary for Thanksgiving break:  A visit from the grandparents, Ribbon Christmas Trees, a trip to Lights of the South and did I mention, NO ALARM CLOCKS?



Wednesday, November 17, 2010

What to Wear Wednesday

The most common question asked about family pictures.. 
 What should we wear?  

One classic option is to dress everyone in matching white, all in black, etc. This option freezes your family in time. It also shows unity.  And, sometimes it's the best choice for a portrait taken when a certain room in the house is in mind with which to hang to portrait in.   If this is what you are going for, look no further, this option is still acceptable!  But, chances are, if you've ever taken a family picture, you already have that "everyone's doing it" white and khaki's on the beach and you're looking for something new and fresh.  

The idea is to coordinate without matching.   And in turn, each family member is given individuality and expression of their own personality without interrupting the flow of the picture.  Lucy can wear her favorite shades of pink while dad can still wear his manly brown.   To help spur you along, I scoured the internet for my favorite combinations.   Most of these ensembles were pulled from Gap and Old Navy's website.   I certainly don’t expect you to run to the store to purchase the items in these pictures. Chances are, there is something in your closets that will work great.   
The easiest way to accomplish the task of color coordination without matching, is to find a print for one family member with a color pallet that you love and then coordinate the other members..  However, this can also be done by layering.. Once, I did a session of a mom and dad and two daughters.  The mom wore a orange shirt with a brown cardigan, the dad wore a brown shirt and the girls wore orange dresses.  They coordinated beautifully.   

Many thanks to the talented photographers that put these ensembles together.  I looked for owners to give credit where credit is due but found them in several different locations with no owners attributed.  If you are the brains behind these wonderful ensembles, please let us know so we can become your newest followers!

A Few Tips:
* Most important, choose comfortable styles.  Nothing makes a cute kid grumpy faster than stiff clothes that constantly need to be adjusted.  And for mom and dad, wear whatever it is that makes you feel like you can take on the world!  If you don't feel comfortable in what you're wearing it will surely be reflected in your photos.
*Basic color rules apply.  Wear colors that bring out your eyes and look best with your complexion.  Dark colors make things look smaller, light colors make things look larger..  
*Simple colors and designs work best on adults but sometimes a bold print on a child can bring out a fun or silly personality.
*Choose styles that portray your family's personality.  
*Long sleeves work great pulling the attention to the face.



Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Haunted By Questions

I was excited to get a guest post slot over at the blog of Jason Boyett, author of O Me of Little Faith: True Confessions of a Spiritual Weakling In his book, Jason  gives a candid and honest account of the doubts that he encounters in his journey to faith as he seeks answers to the questions that many of us have asked ourselves but haven't had the guts to say them out loud.  I love Jason's openness about a matter that so desperately needs discussed in circles of faith.  Not to mention the fact that his quick wit and dry humor keeps me laughing the whole way through.

So here's my post as first seen at "O Me of Little Faith".   Thank you to those of you that left me comments over there.  I apologize if you've already read it.  I wanted to make sure I got it in my "faith" archives over here.   Don't forget to  check out all the other great posts on faith and doubt over at Jason's blog.

Haunted By Questions

The timing of this post is somewhat ironic. When I agreed to write it, I assumed I'd be past the crisis of faith I intended to write about. As it turns out, I'm still shoulder-deep in it, and trying to find a way forward.

It's really easy to have faith as I sit in my own little world, with my loving husband and my healthy children, when my life isn't being challenged and I feel like I've got God all figured out. If I could only find a way to keep my family and my friends from being touched by pain, I think I could keep up that charade. It's easy to do when everything is bright and sunny and we appear to be God's favorites...His "chosen ones."

But today, I'm thinking about a friend with a sick child and a mountain of medical bills that just keeps getting bigger. I'm haunted by a friend who got laid off from his job, a friend who wants a baby but seems to be unable to have one, a friend who is in constant pain with no identifiable reason, the friend who is staying in an relationship with an adulterous spouse for the sake of her children...and the friend who just couldn't do that. Today, I'm thinking about (dare I say it?), the friend who is gay and didn't ask to be. 

Usually, I'm the person I've described in the beginning of that last paragraph, living a bright and sunny life on cloud nine, with a living and vibrant faith in a loving God. However, when that life is disturbed... when I'm in my darkest, most private hours, there is no mistaking how small my faith really is. A few months ago, my family lost a member to a life-long fight with Cystic Fibrosis. It was a long fight, fought by one of the most faithful of God's followers that I've ever known. A fight that looked like was going to be won. Then, in a sudden turn of events, my 39-year-old cousin was taken from us. I sincerely prayed prayers of confident faith that should have moved mountains. But for reasons that I don't understand (and that, in all honesty, probably wouldn't give me any comfort anyway), it appears to me that, at least for now, those prayers were not answered. 

My questions about God and faith may not be those pondered by the average skeptic, but they're struggles nonetheless. I'm not sure that I have ever, in my life, doubted God's existence. Did you know that when an infant is born prematurely, its mother produces a different milk than what is produced for a full-term baby? Did you know that the milk produced in that situation is especially suited for that baby at that age? For me, even the small glimpses that I catch of the complexities of our world point to a Creator much greater than myself, and to an intentionality that isn't explained by chance or chaos. 

Even though I have confidence in God's existence, I'm often plagued by two questions: "Does God know what He's doing?" and, if so, "Is He actually good?" I realize that those questions may appear disrespectful to God, and perhaps they are. But, I have this hunch that He can take it. Besides, the fact that I just admitted that I have those questions and asked them "out loud" doesn't make them any worse. God is already very aware of them. 

In truth, these questions have taught me something. I am learning that my following Jesus is about a lot more than finding an escape route from Hell..or death...or pain. I want to be on the side of what's true and pure and good. When I look at the wonders of this world, I feel as if my choice to follow this God was right. But on other days, when the pain of the world is what I see, I'm haunted by questions. In my heart of hearts, I believe that whatever this is that we're all a part of -- this thing that we're all trying to make sense of -- is going to be overwhelmingly obvious once we are truly able to see the full goodness of God. I think we may even be somewhat amused that we never even entertained an idea that was even close to the reality of how it all works together and how good this God is. But for now, God's goodness is so out of reach from my limited perspective, that I don't think I could comprehend it, even if it could somehow be fully explained to me. 

So for now, I step out and follow Him, admitting that some days, I'm uneasy about it all. In the end, I'm thankful that following Him requires faith and not sight; trust and not certainty; hope and not total comprehension. I'm pretty sure that faith cannot exist without questions, and I've got enough of those to go around.



Sunday, November 07, 2010

Lift Up Your Hearts With a Smile-- It's Family Time

I think I've been putting this off for fear that someone is going to get mad at me.  .  Emma had a four day weekend not too long ago so we planned a trip home so that we could catch up with everyone.  Well, that four day trip ended up turning into a two day trip since we had a long photo shoot on Thursday night and we didn't end up getting everything ready to leave until after lunch on Friday and we had to get up at the crack of dawn on Monday to get back for a parent teacher conference.  So, as usual, we did not have time to see everyone we wanted to see.  There are some dear friends from high school that I haven't seen in years and I didn't see any of my dad's side of the family this round.

It was the first time I had been home since Tony's funeral in May and I was just sort of longing to be with other people that understood the enormity of how the world has changed since losing him.  The girls had been asking me about Tyler (Tony's son) non-stop and I  felt like we needed to be near them.  All of us getting together was a painful reminder that Tony wasn't with us..  But, it was almost like I could hear his laughter mixed in the conversation in the next room.  So bittersweet.. We have so many precious memories.  But they are still so painful to think of.. I love them all so much.  

My hope is that we'll have a little bit more time when we go home during Christmas break.   Here are a few highlights from our trip.. We made a point to get family pictures as I'm determined to get more acquainted with my tri-pod so that I'm in more pictures. The one  in the middle is my favorite and totally captures who my family is and who we want to be.  I decided to hold on to the rest until we decided what everyone wants to put on their Christmas cards.  



Friday, November 05, 2010


The hot sun rises and the grass withers; the little flower droops and falls, and its beauty fades away. In the same way, the rich will fade away with all of their achievements.  NLT James 1:11

Over the course of my life, I've spent a lot of time studying James 1: 1-8.  It's the go-to scripture when trials come into your life.  I actually have most of that scripture memorized.  Here's the "Dana Ellis Modern-Day-Paraphrased-Version":

 When life does what life does, and gets tough; be happy about it.  When we face trials, our faith is tested.  And when our faith is tested, we develop perseverance and perseverance is the thing that develops character.  So hang in there, and let perseverance develop.  One day, you will look back on those trials and know that you are fully developed and not lacking in anything because you survived them.  

If you lack wisdom, if you don't know what to do about these trials...Ask God.   But, ask without doubting.  Keep hold of your emotions and keep your head on straight and know that God is going to handle this.  When you're unsure, you are like a wave tossed about the sea and blown around like the wind.  Reacting to trials in that way causes a person to be wishy-washy and terribly unstable...and that never helps anything.

It might not be eloquent, but that's how it translates in my mind.  And though I can't say that I've grown to the point that I am happy about facing trials, I have begun to endure them with the knowledge that there is a purpose for them.   But, when I was reading Karen Kingsbury's "Above the Line" series (which I highly recommend) and James 1:11 was mentioned, I realized that I had been stopping short at verse 8.  As it turns out, verse 11 actually validates why we should consider it pure joy.

Since losing my cousin Tony in May and my friend Susan in September,  the past few months have really been for me a time of evaluating the things that I make priorities in my life.  James 1:11 solidified those thoughts for me:

The hot sun rises and the grass withers; the little flower droops and falls, and its beauty fades away. In the same way, the rich will fade away with all of their achievements.  NLT James 1:11

So often, life gets in the way and I find myself wasting a lot of my time, resources, energy, etc. on things that aren't permanent.  I have really started trying to ask myself: "Am I investing in something eternal here?  When it's all wrapped up and said and done is what I'm worrying about here going to matter?"  And I'm learning that a lot of time, the answer is "no",  I am learning that often, I, my family, my friends and the world will be better off if I turn my attention,f my time and my heart in another direction.  

God, please help me to make your concerns my concerns.  And please give me peace about those things on which I unnecessarily waste my time, effort and heart.



Thursday, November 04, 2010

Rainy Day Activity-- Bathtub Fun

I'm gonna make this quick as my bottom is not enjoying the hard bathroom floor that it is sitting on.  It's a rainy day here in South Carolina.  And though we desperately need the rain,  rainy days leave me looking for activities that won't have us sitting in front of the TV all day. 

 Solution:  Bathtub paints.. So easy to make and chances are, you already have everything you need at home.

What you need:  
Baby shampoo
food coloring
paint brush
small containers for holding paint
camera to capture your materpiece

Simply put five drops of shampoo and five drops of food coloring in separate containers for each color you want.  When the masterpiece is done, take a picture, then hand your child an old wash cloth (this might stain). Have you child go to town washing the walls.  Finally, rinse child and bathtub and you have a clean artist and a clean bathtub.

Caution: While this washes off quite easily from fiberglass or marble tubs, it does not wash easily from grout.  I learned this lesson the hard way when our non-toxic fun resulted in me resorting to bleach for clean up in my bathtub which is surrounded in tile and grout.    




Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Meet Lizzy

As in Lizard.  As in the one that Emma caught as her pet and is now loose in my dining room.
Who said I needed boys?