Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Well, here it is, 3 months later.

Hi! How have you been?

I've been, well, I've been me.

Kate finally stopped abducting me at the end of September, and we performed Shakespeare's Women. It was a lot of fun - the most fun I've had doing a Shakespeare show.

I auditioned for the second show of the semester, Crimes of the Heart, and was cast as Lenny, the oldest of three sisters who all discover somewhere along the way they might be losing their minds. It's a great southern comedy, and I had a blast working with some wonderful people and learning so much about theatre. It was one show that I was not ready to have end.

But, alas, it did, and the drama department moved on to its Christmas show. They did a version of Dickens's A Christmas Carol. It was really good. They perform this one for bus loads of children that come from the local schools. I did not participate in this one, however, because I needed to catch up on the semester and write about 15 papers.

And the semester has ended. The last day of classes was Monday, and exams began today. I don't have any until tomorrow, so I'm taking a break and finally blogging.

Christmas is coming, rather quickly, and I've been following all of my scrapbooking-bloggers as they Journal their Christmas. I tried this last year - it ended up like all of my other scrapbook projects, falling flat on its face. I also tried doing it digitally, and then my free trial of Photoshop ended, so I couldn't even access what I'd already done. Such is Rachel's way.

This year, I decided not to even start. Exams, like I said, start today, and I have two on the very last day. (They're really dragging this out.) So I've decided that I'm not going to stress about anything Christmas-y until after my exams are over. Once that's past, I'll consider decorations and baking and gifts and scrapbooking. But for now, I need to finish this semester.

So, come December 14... we'll see what Christmas things find their way into my life.

Monday, September 27, 2010

I Am Not a Finisher

I was doing so good...

I haven't written down a learning in 10 days. I actually haven't written down anything I've eaten in 10 days, either, and that might be why I only lost a pound this week. At least I'm still moving in the right direction.

I went to church yesterday (for those of you who know me now, you know how rare that is). I subbed for someone in the handbell choir. I do enjoy playing handbells. But, that's not my point. While I was there, a friend mentioned to me that she was really enjoying reading my blog. She said that she didn't blog herself, nor did she read very many blogs because she didn't really find them interesting or captivating, but that she liked mine because I could come up with all of these great plans, and then life gets in the way and they all fall through.

Maybe that's my niche. Maybe that should be my blog; all the things I start and never finish. Because there are a lot of them! This friend said she wanted to ask me for some advice on doing some scrapbooking. I told her I would love to help, and that I had all kinds of advice on how to start a scrapbook, but absolutely none on how to finish one.

I say all of this facetiously, however to a certain extent it's true, and it's helping me further define my identity for myself. I am not a finisher. And, interestingly enough, I knew this when I was in at least the sixth or seventh grade. I used to write fiction, and I had all these great dreams of writing a novel someday. I had tons and tons of ideas of what novels to write. I had notebooks full of one page summaries of novel ideas. And to this date I actually completed one of them. Out of the hundreds of ideas, one has actually surfaced into a (relatively bad) story (I mean, I did write it when I was a freshman in high school). But I remember thinking that I would be good at presenting story ideas, and then letting a novelist take over and actually write the story, like so many of those series books I read as a teenager did. I knew, even then, that I am not a finisher.

The thing with all these things I learn about myself is that I need to figure out how to put it into action in my life. So I don't finish things unless I have external forces holding me accountable. I memorize lines because I'm going to be standing in front of an audience delivering them, acting, and not only will I look like an idiot if I mess them up, but the audience will be sorely disappointed. I keep track of what I eat because my husband asks me what I've eaten, and helps keep me on track each and every day. I feed my dog because if I didn't he would go hungry. I do laundry because I need clean clothes to wear.

But I only clean my house when company is coming over. I don't scrapbook, because I'm the only one I disappoint when I don't get it done in a certain amount of time. I follow through when there are consequences that will affect others. I don't mind suffering my own consequences, as long as I am the only one I'm affecting.

So, how do I use this knowledge about myself to improve myself?

Well, first of all, I think I need to do a better job of setting boundaries and determining my priorities. (What else is new?!) And then I have to learn to rely on others to hold me accountable. I've gotten pretty good at that with hubby, and he is so supportive of me in so many ways. But I can't expect him to help me with everything. If it's a priority in my life, then I need to treat it as such, and get others to hold me accountable - expect something from me.

All of this may only make sense to me, and maybe that's okay. I also don't really have a conclusion to this. I don't know where to go from here. But that's part of the process, right? Finding the peace in between - being at peace, even when I haven't reached the end. Because, as we all know, whatever "the end" is, be it perfection or completion or anything else ending in "tion", it is very far away.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Kate Has Abducted Me

At least, it seems that way.

For those of you who don't know me, my extra-curricular activity of choice is theatre. This fall the company I act with (my school's company) is performing an original piece about Shakespeare's Women, and I am, you guessed it, Kate, from Taming of the Shrew. I'm also Lady Macbeth and Desdemona (from Othello), but those characters don't seem to have taken hold of me quite like the shrew herself. I have to say, this is the most fun I have ever had doing a Shakespeare show, and I've had lots of fun doing lots of Shakespeare. But there's something about Kate. It may be that she has so much depth for a comedic female character. It may be that she gets to beat people up. Whatever it is, I love her, and am having a blast.

This joy, however, has completely consumed my life. Between that, class, and trying to get in observation hours at the local public schools (part requirement for two of my classes), I have been going non stop from 8am to 10pm every day for two weeks. Hence, no LSNED pages. (My ink did come in, by the way. Haven't even printed one picture.)

I have, however, been keeping track of my learning! I'm very surprised at myself. But, as part of my weight loss adventure, I write down what I eat every day on a notecard, and I decided sometime ago that I would write my learnings for the day on the back of said notecard, and so now I have a lovely stack of September notecards with my diet on one side and my learnings on the other. I think I may just scrap the notecards when I get around to it.

So I have a great stack of notecards with learnings, but alas, no pictures for at least the past week or so. And really, no end in sight for my crazy schedule. When this play ends, I'm hoping to have a part in the next one to pick up, and I'm not even a third of the way through my observation hours (though I am close to that beloved third mark).

In the midst of all of this craziness, I am not finding time to "reflect" (my word of the year), nor am I even really finding time to breathe. I feel constantly stressed, and worry about whether I am actually going to be able to get it all done or not. I worry about my husband and my dog, whether they feel abandoned or neglected by my constant schedule. I know the rest of my family does because I am never able to talk to them. But one thing I am not doing is regretting. I do not regret my choice to quit my cushy job with benefits, sell our house, and follow my husband back to this crazy place called college. When I walk across the campus green, or spread out my blanket to study for an hour, I am nothing but thankful for the opportunity to take a new direction in my life, in our life. I know in my bones it was the right choice to make, just like I knew in my bones almost ten years ago that my husband was the one I was supposed to marry.

And so today, I learned that I am thankful. Because it took me a long time to get here, and I'm going to be grateful for every second. Even though there never seem to be enough of them.

Monday, September 6, 2010

September 4

One of the challenges Shimelle helps us get over in this project is the hesitation to believe that you can learn something new every day. Because it is true, we do learn something every day. It's just whether that something is worth scrapbooking, or even worth noticing. I think the latter may be my problem - I don't notice all the things I'm learning.

Saturday evening found us watching college football at home. I was struggling with my learning for the day, because I couldn't pinpoint one thing I had learned. We were watching the Auburn/Arkansas St. game, and they showed a picture of Toomer's Corner. Now, if you're not an Auburn fan, you may not know the importance of this intersection. It's right outside the Auburn campus, and after every home game that is won, fans flock to Toomer's Corner and TP it. There's even a live webcam where you can watch the action.

Auburn football runs in my blood. Even though I've never lived in Alabama, my grandfather was a professor at Auburn and the pastor of Auburn First UMC for a number of years. My father attended Auburn for his associate's degree. And Auburn is the town where I knew my grandparents. It always felt like "home" - especially to a preacher's kid who moved a lot and never really had one home.

I remember visiting during the fall, when college football was alive and kicking. My grandfather often worked at the games, and if we were in town my dad would go with him. That left me, my mom, my sister, and my grandmother at home, where Grama would cook while she listened to the game on the radio. Boy, she got into her Auburn football games!

I have a vague memory of going to Toomer's Corner one night after a game. I'm pretty sure it happened, because it certainly is something every Auburn fan should experience at least once. I must have been very small, likely riding on my father's shoulders, as the fans went crazy in celebration. Seeing Toomer's Corner on TV brought back all those memories of Auburn games, and Auburn itself - my grandparents' home, my cousins playing in the back yard, the sense of family that I was surrounded by as I grew up. To me, Auburn will always feel like home.

Today I learned that even though I never lived there, Auburn, AL will always feel like my home.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

September 3, or Why You Don't See Any Scrapbook Pages

Friday morning I was feeling great. Two nights of sleep, and I was still manageably up-to-date with my homework (mainly due to the reading I was able to get done between the hours of 2 and 5am several nights before). I decided that I would finally print out some of my pictures and get them and my learnings on those beautiful pages I'd started the previous weekend and feel up-to-date with my LSNED book, too.

Here's what I found:

Today I learned: check your ink levels in your printer BEFORE beginning a month-long scrapbooking project.

I printed out two pictures, and they looked horrible. My husband had noticed a couple of weeks before that we were running low on black ink, so he ordered a new cartridge for that. (We live in a very small town with only a Wal-Mart for shopping. They don't carry our cartridges.) He didn't think to check the color cartridges because he rarely uses them. So, now, three days into LSNED, I am unable to print pictures. That kind of messes with my hope that this year would be "easier" because I can print pictures at home!

The new cartridges have been ordered - and I actually got a pretty good deal on them - and will be here sometime next week. So, maybe next Friday I'll still be caught up with my homework and can take the morning to put together 9 pages. :) They are all scrapbooked.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

September 2: A Cooking Lesson

Thursday morning found me feeling much better. I slept through the night Wednesday night, which was a truly beautiful thing. Tuesdays and Thursdays are long days for me, because I have class pretty much from 8:00-4:45, and then rehearsal starting at 6:30. However, feeling better and having a reprieve from rehearsal prompted me to cook dinner. Or attempt to cook dinner.

I joke a lot that I cannot cook a meal without screwing something up. This is probably untrue - I'm sure that at some point in time I have made a meal that was edible without noticeably messing something up. But I certainly can't remember it. I have done things that others told me it was impossible to do. I had a friend once tell me that cooking rice was the easiest thing in the world, and that we did not need to spend the extra money buying the rice-in-a-bag rice. So, following her directions, I bought the much cheaper boxed rice, and proceeded to not only burn the rice, but melt the un-meltable, microwave safe bowl in which I was cooking the rice. Yeah.

When I cook, and successively mess something up, it's usually not that bad. Usually I mis-measure something, or leave something out by accident. And I guess Thursday night wasn't that bad, in relative terms. I mean, I didn't render any of our cookware useless. But we did not eat the dinner I cooked. I made rice (the rice-in-a-bag kind, thank you very much) and lemon chicken. After the chicken had been in the oven for over an hour, it still wasn't up to the proper temperature. Not even close. And when the asparagus I had cooked came out limp and disgusting (again - I'd tried it several weeks before and screwed it up then, too), we opted to order out for pizza.

So, my learning for Thursday night?

Today I learned that even when I follow the directions, I can still manage to screw up dinner, resulting in Pizza Night.

I took three pictures for today's learning: the chicken (still cooking), the rice waiting for chicken and the asparagus disgustingly lumped on the plate (I was that close to having a meal ready), and our eventual dinner - veggie pizza.

I wonder how many other days' learning this month will revolve around cooking?

September 1

Well, my learning for the third day of the month will clue you in to why I haven't posted any pages. But we'll get there. For now, I'm just posting pictures and learning. The pages will have to come later.

My learning for day one was:

Today I learned that getting on stage, even for just a rehearsal, is what makes everything else go away for me.

As for the picture, I just have a photo of my script at this point, but I may get a friend to snap a picture of me at rehearsal some night.

I got sick this week. I don't really know why. I still don't know if it was allergies or a cold or what, but I felt horrible! I didn't sleep for three or four nights - I'd go to bed around 11:00, lay awake until 1ish, finally go to sleep, only to wake up around 3 or 3:30, unable to go back to sleep. On the plus side, I got a lot of homework done in those wee hours of the morning.
 Along with getting sick, we started rehearsals for the fall Shakespeare production. This year we're doing a compilation show with scenes from 10 different plays - which means everyone's playing multiple characters. I'm playing Lady Macbeth (from Macbeth), Desdemona (from Othello), and Kate (from the Taming of the Shrew). I'm most excited about Kate.

I was really not looking forward to how busy I was going to be, and to having to be all active and stuff during rehearsal, with me being sick and all. But Wednesday night, when we blocked my scenes, I found that I had this sudden energy and excitement that came from nowhere. I felt better.

I've had this experience before - during The Importance of Being Earnest, I think I was having an allergic reaction one night because I had this horrible stomach ache, and I almost called in sick to rehearsal. But it was close to performance and I didn't want to disappoint, so I went anyway, and somewhere in the middle of rehearsal, my stomach stopped hurting and I found I was actually enjoying myself, despite feeling bad.

In the musical Next to Normal, the daughter, Natalie, sings a song called "Everything Else." She's playing the piano, a Mozart piece, and singing about how when she plays the piano, everything else goes away.

Now, everything about Next to Normal resonates with me in some way or another, but this song has taken on particular meaning in light of my learning Wednesday. It was exciting to me to realize that acting is truly what makes everything else go away. And I am lucky to get to do it.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

I'm Ready, Are You?

I decided to go ahead and make some "blank" pages for my LSNED scrapbook. There was a football game on, and that's usually a good time for me to spread out my supplies on the coffee table, because we're surely not going anywhere for at least 3 hours!

I ended up making 10 pages (over two games-I'm not that fast). I'm doing front and back because of my limited supply of original paper. I guess I could have added in some cardstock and done a front for every day and not a back, but since I started with sketch paper, I knew it would look different, if only to me.

So, here are my ten pages! I haven't put the date on any of them, and haven't even put the "title" (Today I learned...) on some because I'm not sure where I want it to go yet. But, I figure this is a very good start!

I'm planning to do my journaling (what I learned) on the yellow strips on each page. I decided to do a mix of 3x5 and 4x6 photos, and then there's one page with 3 3x3 photos. So, we'll see how this works out. I'm a little concerned because when I choose a page for one day, the reverse side has to be the next day. Hopefully that will work out, though. I guess we will see tomorrow!

I've got my camera ready. Here we go!

Friday, August 27, 2010

School Days

School began this week! It's my last semester of coursework, and I am really excited about the classes I'm taking this year. As far as education courses, I'm taking a methods course and a technology course. Then for English I'm doing one on novels of the 1900s, ancient literature and mythology, grammar, and a research course. The research course is going to be very beneficial, as I'll basically be researching my senior thesis, which I'll write next semester. More about that later, though.

Weekend one and I already have a ton of reading. So's the life of an English major, I guess. The first novel we're reading for the novels course is Dubliners, by James Joyce. It's a collection of fifteen short stories that all relate to one another. So far I've read the first seven. Some of them are really interesting. My favorite so far is The Boarding House. It's about a woman who runs a boarding house with her son and daughter. Her daughter strikes up a relationship with one of the boarders, and when the mother finds out, she confronts the man intending to force him to marry her daughter. It weaves their perspectives together, and tells the story without telling the story. One of Joyce's techniques was to present the story without narration or interpretation, and to let the reader interpret it him or herself. Pretty interesting, but it makes you work for the story. It's certainly not easy reading!

In other book news, I finally got my hands on a copy of Mockingjay, the third book in The Hunger Games trilogy. The local public library got their copy in and, since I requested it, I was first on the list to get it. It was so new the glue on the library cover wasn't dry yet! I haven't cracked it open, since I made a promise to myself I would read for school before reading for fun. But I'm hoping I can knock out my school reading tomorrow and have all day Sunday to indulge in Mockingjay. I can't wait to find out what happens!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Alternative Bucket List

I follow a blog called Unclutterer. It's a really interesting blog that explores ways to unclutter your live, both physically and emotionally. The blogger, Erin, offers suggestions on how to reduce your amount of personal possessions, how to organize everything, products to aid (and impede) organization and uncluttering, and various other things. Her posts are always good for either a laugh (her Wednesday Uni-Taskers area always enjoyable!) or an idea to implement in my own life as I seek to be less cluttered. (She has yet to tackle scrapbooking, as far as I know. I'm afraid. I'm very afraid.)

Today, scrolling through my blog reader, I was brought to a recent post about an alternative bucket list. Instead of trying to summarize Erin's post, just go read it and then come back. I'll wait.

Since I recently breathed new life into my bucket list, this post caught my attention. However, when I went to the site linked to in the Unclutterer blog and read some of the comments, I couldn't help but thinking that this had really turned more into a forum for complaining. I can appreciate Erin's list of things not to do again - fighting for a parking space is not worth anyone's time. But it seems like the negativity that radiated from the comments on the original post only made me feel kind of depressed, instead of uplifted.

I don't think that was the intent. It can definitely be empowering to say "I'm not doing that again!" or "I won't stand for this anymore!" and some of the lists included items such as that. "I will not give up" was one that encouraged me, and "tolerate all the not-subtle racism around the mosque in downtown NYC" was an appropriate item for something people should not put up with. But I was surprised at the number of comments that included something about the disgusting nature of public restrooms. Really? Yeah, they're gross. We all know that. You know what you're getting into when you go into one. You're going to put that on your list of things the world should not tolerate?

Having said all of that, now, I'm not sure what I would put on my Alternative Bucket List, as I will call it - hey, I guess that can be item number one - I will not use curse words on my blog. Well, there's one thing. I should probably put something like I will not stress about the future I can't control, but hey, we're trying to be realistic here. Though, since I'm in the middle of a weight loss adventure (sounds so much better put that way than "diet"), I'll throw in this: I will not weigh over 200 pounds. I think that's a good start.

Monday, August 23, 2010

LSNED, Album Cover

So I spent all day Saturday creating my album cover! I'm very excited. I decided to do something kind of different - no standard 8x8 or 6x6 for this girl. My album size is 10x6. Random, right? Don't ask me how I decided on that. I have this old sketchbook that I got as a gift in high school that I've used on and off for random artsy things, including the one art class I took my first time around in undergrad, and since the covers of that book have long since been used for various other projects, I decided to use the paper (and likely the binding) to create my Learn Something New Every Day (LSNED) album.

The paper was 10x10, with bind-it-all-like holes on the edge. I just cut four inches off the top and got my base pages:

And now I have left-over 10x4 paper to do something fun with...

Next, I cut down some chip board pieces to 10x6. I painted them green (front and back to cover up that ugly cardboard brown!) and then used my crop-a-dile to punch holes to match the paper:

Then began the process of decorating the cover. This is what took me all day. Saturday was kind of rough because, for some strange reason, I only got 3 hours of sleep the night before. Went to bed around 1:00am, and woke up at 4:00, wide awake, with no hope of going back to sleep. So I watched My Sister's Keeper on demand and balled my eyes out, which certainly didn't help my fatigued state. Anywho, I digress. It took me all day and even into Sunday to finish this cover, when I should have been able to have completed it in a few hours.

I first added some white to my green paint and painted a "10" in the center to signify the year. As it turned out, this didn't turn out, and was barely noticeable after I added everything else, so I ended up having to add more white paint and paint over it again. I think in the end it turned out really good. (This is probably what took the most time, as I was very anal-retentive about painting the 10 the first time, and then highly disappointed that all of my work had been for nothing.)

I used some stamps to create the "learn something" out of a cursive font, and then transferred the image using a pencil technique I learned several years ago so that they would look connected.

(Pencil technique: so easy! "trace" or draw your image (or stamp) on a piece of paper. Turn the paper over and cover the back side of the image with pencil, just coloring over it solid. Then turn the paper back over, place it over whatever surface you want to transfer the image to, and trace over the image, making edits as you desire (in my case, connecting the letters). May seem like a no-brainer, but I thought it was ingenious when I learned it. Of course, I was, what, 12?)

I used chipboard letters painted blue for the "new."

And then came the "everyday." Something else that took entirely too long, but mainly just for me to make a decision. I used a stamp set that looks like typewriter keys, but there was too much black. So I did the negative image by stamping yellow ink on yellow cardstock and then blacking out the non-stamped parts with a Sharpie. However, by this time, I had stamped these cute little flowers in the corner, and the letters were so big they would cover up one of the flowers. So I started from scratch and created my own typewriter key images in a smaller size.

I added a little bird (so cute, I may use him on every page!), and then, realizing that my "learn something" was slightly off-centered, added another flower to the edge to balance it all out. But you can imagine that I did that on purpose.

So, finally, here's my cover:

On the back cover I put the month and date, since the month is not on the front and the date is somewhat obscure:

I have yet to actually scrapbook a page, and even after my plan from my last post, I may not. I have drawn out some 10x6 sketches, so I have something to work with, but I may wait and scrapbook each page after I get the images and learning, to see if they speak to me. I don't want to box myself in.

Have you joined yet?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Learn Something New

If you followed my last blog, you may remember a month long challenge in which I partook called Learn Something New Everyday. This challenge/class is taught by Shimelle, a scrapbook artist in London. I've followed her for several years, and last year I decided to join her in going back to school with this class.

I actually finished my scrapbook... this morning. And it even doesn't have pictures on several of the pages, but they are pictures that must have never been taken because I can't find them anywhere. I do remember taking pictures and saving them up for a trip to Wal-mart because at the time I did not have a way to print pictures at home. Somewhere along the way they must have become lost or, more likely, I neglected to take pictures for the last 9 days of the month.

I do think it was pretty ingenious of me to have this as my learning for three of the days:

However, I must not have learned this very well, because I'm planning to do Shimelle's class again.

Looking back at last year's book, I want to do things differently. One major thing is that this year I can actually print pictures at home, so that means I don't have to wait for a trip to the photo counter to get my pictures. I also think I might try to lay out my whole scrapbook - i.e. have every page scrapbooked with space for a picture (standard 4x6 so I don't have to cut it down) and journaling - before the class starts, maybe before I start school next week, even.

Finally, I also want to do a little more journaling. Part of my problem with last year's lack of pictures is that I don't remember what I intended for some pages. So, I may have pictures, I just don't remember. One page in particular has the journaling "Today I learned I am blessed to be here." I don't remember why on that particular day I was feeling particularly blessed to be somewhere. I wish I could. That's the kind of thing to remember.

So, I'm off to start planning for this year's Learn Something New Everyday. Check out Shimelle's blog and see if you want to join in. It by no means has to be a scrapbooking class, though that is what it's tailored to. It could be a photo challenge, it could be a journaling challenge, it can be anything you want it to be.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Bucket List

Did you see the movie The Bucket List? Pretty good movie. I'm a big fan of Morgan Freeman. Jack Nickolson, I can take or leave. And Sean Hayes is absolutely wonderful! (I really wish I could see him with Kristin Chenoweth in Promises, Promises, but that's a blog for another day!)

Anyway, on my last blog I began my own bucket list, or, as I liked to call it, a Life List. Since I seem to have moved over here, and am quite happy in my new blog home, I thought I'd bring my Life List with me and continue it. Here's what I had:

1. See the Grand Canyon.
2. Be a mom.
3. Direct Ragtime.
4. Write and teach a Harry Potter curriculum.
5. Be on NPR.
6. Have a party in my beautiful backyard. (It's not yet beautiful!)*
7. Travel to Italy, France, Germany, and Austria.
8. Learn to make a Wilton Flower.
9. Cook a meal without screwing something up.
10. See the Great Barrier Reef.
11. Live outside the U.S. for 3+ months.
12. Get a Master's Degree.
13. Weigh 130 lbs.
14. Bring Canvas bags to the grocery store. (check!)
15. Learn to dance ballet. (took a class... does that count?)
16. Learn to play the violin.
17. Sing jazz in a classy bar/night club.
18. Flip a house.
19. Visit every state in the U.S.
20. Learn to swim properly.

(*For number 6 (Have a party in my beautiful backyard), the backyard is different, but the intent is the same.)

So, here are 10 more things to add to my list:

21. Compete in a triathlon.
22. Play Natalie in Next to Normal. (It may be too late for this. I'm still coming to terms with that.)
23. Play Diana in Next to Normal.
24. Learn to play the guitar.
25. Get a Doctorate.
26. Play Cathy in The Last Five Years.
27. Be able to run a 5K.
28. Write a novel.
29. Take professional-quality pictures.
30. Make my own clothes.

Okay, I think I should probably work on some of these before I keep adding more!

Do you have a life list? What's on it?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Sunday's Photo Challenge

Sunday held a new crop of photo challenges. I had a lot of fun with these, as I sequestered myself in the bathroom (good light and a blank wall) to get some self-portraits, and ended up with pictures for two of these challenges.

Challenge 13 was the self-portrait. I really like the way this turned out because of the bluriness. It gives it the idea of movement, which I feel describes me pretty well, especially once returning to school. I never seem to stop.

Challenge 14 asked whether we prefer candid or portrait shots. I definitely prefer candid, as I hate portrait shots of myself. I snapped this of my husband. His look says "not amused" - he doesn't particularly care for my camera antics.

The next challenge was to photo our scrapbook work space in the midst of a project. I've been working on the photo challenges, so my space hasn't had a chance to get too messy. Consider this a bragging shot. I love my scrapbook space! Since moving to a new house, we gave up the guest room for separate offices. I have an entire room to myself! I have a huge desk that my father-in-law made out of a table, and I put three bookcases on top for storage. It's a great set-up: plenty of room and all my supplies within reach!

To zoom out, I took a picture of our back yard. We have a great level yard with a cute little porch. I have many plans for this space: I'd like to build a garage, or maybe a bonus room, and possibly plant a garden. For now it's a blank slate.

I completed the second to last photo challenge of the day in the same "photo session" as my self-portrait. As I mentioned, I really don't like portraits of myself. I don't think I'm very photogenic. My smile always looks fake. So I decided to experiment a little with smiling and see if I could get a shot I liked. I'm pretty pleased with this one.

The final challenge, number 18, was general: take a picture of something at home. This is my money jar. In an attempt to eat more healthy, I've decided to give myself $10 for every pound I lose between now and Christmas. I'm keeping it in this jar as a visual reminder. I had a lot of fun decorating the jar with some extra fabric scraps left over from a baby quilt I made. I've already lost a few pounds!

So, that will do it for the photo challenges for Shimelle's scrapbook weekend. I had a lot of fun experimenting with taking pictures, and with having some inspiration for what to shoot. I want to improve my photography skills, so this at least got me more active in taking pictures. Seeing as I have less than two hours until the deadline for the crop, I don't think I'll be making any of the scrapbook challenges. I may use them for future inspiration!

Thanks, Shimelle, for an inspired weekend!

Photo Challenges for Saturday, 7-12

Since I can snap a picture pretty quickly, I decided to take on all of Shimelle's photo challenges first. Saturday held six new challenges.

Challenge 7 was to look up. I found this pretty cloud in my back yard. I love how when the sun hides behind clouds, it makes the clouds look dark and scary.

For Challenge 8 I got to play with one of my favorite sites, I Has a Hotdog! It certainly makes my day seeing cute pictures of dogs and cats, and the funny things people make them say. I relate, because I make my dog say funny things all the time. However, I've never considered myself clever enough to share one of those things with someone else. So, here's my first Loldog creation!

Challenge 9 was to take a picture of something in nature. This is a tree I planted. I think it's a maple tree. It actually started out as a weed in a friend's flower bed, but so far it seems to like its new home in my yard.

Shimelle says she loves taking pictures of shoes. I, too, enjoy a good shoe picture, and even included one in a mini-album I did of 10 reason I'm a lucky girl (reason 8 - I have three pairs of my favorite shoes in three different colors). However, for this below the knee challenge, I decided to, once again, bring in the dog.

Our dog is obsessed with feet. He loves licking toes, feet, ankles, and pretty much anything below the knee. So I caught a shot of him licking my feet one night as we were trying to go to sleep.

Challenge 11 called for a reflection shot. For our 5th anniversary, hubby got me a beautiful free standing mirror with a jewelry box inside. It sits right inside our bedroom, so I got a picture of our unmade bed through the mirror. When I was young, I loathed making my bed, so much that I got a futon and slept only with blankets. (I was a stubborn child.) One of the things I looked forward to about being an adult was not "having" to make my bed. We make it when we have company, of course, to put on appearances and all. But somedays it's nice to not worry about the state of your bedroom. And, it makes a made bed all that more special.

The final challenge for Saturday was to take a picture of something literary. This is my to-read shelf. It grows faster than I can read, to the point that I had to remove some of the decorative things that were on the far right side to make room for more books. There's everything on this shelf: a Rob Bell book, a couple of books from my youth, the Princess Bride, three books of the new line of novels from the publishing company I work for, the first Southern Vampire book, How to Read Literature like a Professor, The Lovely Bones, and Lamb. Lamb is a repeat (along with the books from my youth), but they're so enjoyable I can't wait to dive into them again.

So, that's Saturday! Up next - 6 more photos for Sunday's challenges.

Photo Challenge 6

The last photo challenge of the first day was appropriately to take a picture of a light in the dark. So here's mine:

Holy cow, I love True Blood! My husband and I are so addicted. We borrowed Season 1 from a friend (I now blame said friend for said addiction). We watched all 12 1-hour long episodes in one weekend. The following week, we re-activated our account with Netflix to get access to Season 2. That same week, the same friend with Season 1 acquired Season 2 and passed it along to us... which we then watched within the next weekend. (Are you with me?) Following our gulping Season 2, we have now added HBO to our cable plan solely to watch it.

I'm actually kind of ashamed, but not enough to do anything about it. Well, anything except curl up on the couch Sunday nights and watch the latest episode! Speaking of which... Russell is psycho, and I can't wait for Erik to kill him. Sookie needs to get over this Bill thing and realize he's a creep. And Tara, poor Tara, I know it must be horrible what she's been through, but that doesn't give her reason to treat everyone else like crap. I have to say, though, out of all of them, Jessica is my favorite. Us redheads have to stick together.

Photo Challenge 5

We were to photograph a sign for Challenge 5.
I struggled with this one, because I had no idea what sign to photograph. Then I saw this sign right outside my back door that I had never paid attention to before. We live really close to a major highway. I kind of have a love-hate relationship with this highway. Living so close to it instead of closer into town makes getting places so much easier - we just jump on the highway one direction and we're at Wal-mart, the other, and we're at the interstate in no time. But living so close to a highway involves much noise, which always makes the dog bark. And, a highway is not the best place to walk a dog, especially one who's terrified of big trucks. Whatever my feelings on the highway are at the moment, however, I thought this sign looked kind of cool, and was pleased with my picture of it. Maybe I'll get the hang of this photography thing after all.

Photo Challenge 4

Photo Challenge #4: Take a photo that contains explosive energy.

Okay, I kind of cheated on this one, because Shimelle suggested it in her post. However, it was not an easy picture to get! It's a picture of a match being lit. I used the timer on my camera to light it at just the right second. I like it. Definitely explosive!

Photo Challenge 3

Take a photo through the glass.

Do you know how hard that is? Especially with a not-so-great automatic, point-and-click camera! I tried and tried, but could never actually see what was on the other side of the glass. I suppose it's not technically through the glass if I raised the glass, but I did it anyway. Hey, it's still a window.

I wanted to get a picture of my dog (can you tell he's kind of spoiled?) Whenever he hears something outside our house, he runs to one of the two windows that's behind a couch and checks it out. So here he is checking out... well... me. Because I'm outside making noise. So he'll come to the window so I can take his picture. It's a big cycle, but it ended in a cute picture, don't ya think?

Photo Challenge 2

Photo Challenge 2 called for something manmade.

This is the porch swing that will hopefully some day actually be a swing again! For years it lived in my husband's grandmother's garage. When we bought our first house, she gave it to us as a gift to put on our new porch. It never quite made it, however. Now it has been moved to our second home, and it patiently waiting in its spot to be washed, sanded, painted, hung, and returned to its glory days. I'm envisioning it with green pillows...

Photo Challenge 1

For Shimelle's first photo challenge we were to take a picture of something up close.

This is my dog's tennis ball. It is rarely out in the open and not moving. If he sees it, he wants to play ball. I mean, that's what it's there for, right? But for some reason this evening, he left it behind for something slightly more important. Not much pulls him away from the ball - usually only thunder or a really loud truck that must be barked away. So while he was away, I snapped a close up of the tennis ball - because I may never get that close to it again!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Happy Days

It's been awhile. July was eaten alive with class work. I took two education classes in my quest to be a certified English/Theatre teacher. And I also had a stumbling experience that I blogged about but have yet to post. I may yet. But it drained my blogging energy and consumed my thoughts, and since I wasn't ready to be public with my experience, I didn't blog at all.

But, here I am. I found out this weekend that a scrapbooker I follow, Shimelle, is hosting an online crop! I'm kind of excited because I haven't scrapbooked in at least a month and a half (July = 8 major class projects). She's posting challenges on the hour for 12 hours each day Friday-Sunday. Yes, it's Saturday night, and no I have yet to complete or even start any one of them. But, her "deadline" gives me all day Sunday and Monday to work, and that's only if I want to be entered to win something. Her challenges could simply be inspiration. Either way, I'm looking forward to a couple of happy days of scrapbooking!

So, since hubby returns to work Monday after the summer holiday, I will be home with only my work to distract me. And I think it can wait at least a day.

Check it out if you want to play along!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Weeds, Weeds, Go Away

I weeded my flower beds! They were so overgrown that you couldn't even see the mulch below. But I actually got out of bed at a decent hour this morning, slathered on the sunscreen (on top of the burn I got from a trip to the pool earlier this week) and attacked the weeds that had taken over my pretty yellow flowers and bright pink roses. About half way through, Mark joined me and helped get a lot of the vines out of the front - they were the nasty ones that gave me the greatest problem. I really appreciated his help!

Now we once again have a pretty flower bed:

It's the bed on the side of our house. The beds in the front have a couple of weeds, but are nothing like the one on the side was. Maybe I'll attack those weeds tomorrow.

Pretty yellow flowers! (Are they buttercups? daffodils? something else? I have absolutely no gardening knowledge...)

And bright pink roses! (I know what those are... surprisingly...)

I really only knew one thing about weeding before - you have to get the roots. I learned that it's much easier to pull the weeds out sideways instead of straight up. What I need to learn is how to make it a cleaner progress - I ended up with a lot of mess on our driveway, and was too tired by the end to clean it up properly, I'm sure. I picked up as much of the weed roots as I could and then swept the rest back into the flower beds. They'll probably burrow themselves down and grow again, just to spite me. But I'll just pull them out again. Since I know how. And now know that I can.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Catching Fire

I finished the sequel to The Hunger Games 33 hours after it came into my possession. I believe that's the fastest I've finished a book since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (which, by the way, have you seen the trailer??? So excited!!!)

Catching Fire was all I hoped it would be and more. They did definitely keep the love triangle in check - and once Katniss made her choice, she stuck with it, and didn't flounce back and forth depending on who she was with at the time (like some other girls caught in a love triangle seem to do...)

It moved very fast in parts that I didn't expect, but the reason became apparent as I discovered that the parts I was expecting were not the focus of the story. It began with their "victory tour" - a trip through all 12 districts that the champion(s) must make half way through the year. I expected this to be the bulk of the story, but it was over by seventh chapter. The idea of the book is that by attempting to beat the games by planning to commit suicide at the end of the last games instead of killing one another, Katniss and Peeta have inadvertently started a rebellion throughout the districts. The President at first makes Katniss believe that she has to appear to be so in love with Peeta on the tour so as to stop the rebellion (by making people believe that she only attempted suicide out of love, not out of an attempt to rebel against the Capitol). Katniss does her best, but fails, and then later learns that there was really no way she could have stopped the rebellion that had begun - and that President Snow must have had other reasons for prompting her actions.

Katniss lives in fear of the president and the Capitol, believing that she and her family, including Gale, are going to be squashed out of existence any day. Her fears come to reality when the President announces the special Games that are to be held in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the games - the tributes will come from the living past champions, not from the children of each district. As this settles on Katniss, she realizes that, as the only female past champion in her district, she is going back to the Games. The focus of the story, therefore, became Katniss's return to the arena to fight another year in the Hunger Games, with Peeta at her side once again.

I appreciated the reality of these characters and their actions. Katniss is not completely honorable - and even acknowledges that how can someone who won the games be honorable? She is very aware of her flaws, her inability to return Peeta's love and her unworthiness of his love (which is true, she really doesn't deserve him), the gratitude of her choice to love Gale, even though she's not sure she wants to follow through with that because she has no desire to have children of her own to be subjected to the reaping and go to the Games. These characters are consistent and developed, and while secrets abound and you never really know what's going on (because Katniss herself is never fully aware, and she's the one telling the story after all), the story weaves in such a way that there are not really any loose ends, except those that are leading you to the next part in the series.

I have really enjoyed The Hunger Games, and am looking forward to the completion of the story with Mockingjay, which is supposed to be released sometime in late August. That's a bummer, because the fall semester begins at the end of August. I'll have to squeeze in a little pleasure reading before my course load takes over.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Kitchen Remodel

We bought our house in May. It was a win-win-win - we were renting from friends of ours, and they were ready to sell. We seized the opportunity to become homeowners again without having to move! We love our little house, but as any homeowner knows, there are always things to change and upgrade. So we made our list, and the first big thing we decided to do was a little kitchen, or I guess, dining remodel. We have an eat-in kitchen instead of a separate dining room. So in that space we built in an eating area in the kitchen and painted. Well, without further ado, here are pictures!

Before, we had a large open wall along which we placed our counter-height table and a bookcase that sort of held all of our games and cookbooks. Along the perpendicular wall, we had a 55-gallon fish tank. The fish tank found a new home, the table found a new lot in life, and the bookcase... is in our hallway for now, until we get a new piece of furniture that matches and will hold everything and can move all of that stuff back into the kitchen.

We painted the kitchen a sage green - it's actually called Urban Safari, whatever that means. Mark's dad (who is a general contractor and who we couldn't have done this without!) put in bead board and a chair rail, then put in two storage benches.

We ordered a new standard-height table, in the same series as our counter-height table. Mark's dad cut down the chairs to fit the new height of the table. Mark and I spent three days looking for fabric and pillows to match the plates on the wall (the inspiration for the room), then used the fabric to cover foam for seating and the pillows as a back rest. New lighting, chair cushions, and some wall art from our living room completed the look, and we have a new eating area in our kitchen!

We love it! But to call it an "eating area" is probably misleading. Our true purpose for creating this space was to have a comfortable place to play games on the numerous game nights we have at our house. Before, we found ourselves gathered around our coffee table on the floor. Now we have a great game table and comfy seating. And a place to host a family meal or two. I guess that means I need to learn how to cook...