Tuesday, August 26, 2014

#30Lists Blog Hop


I like to make lists.  I make shopping lists, to do lists, lists of books I want to read, movies I want to see, and recipes I want to make.  Lists help me organize and be more productive (when I don't lose the list or just simply ignore it ;-).  So, it's no wonder that one of my favorite crafting/memory keeping classes is 30 Days of lists, or #30Lists.  There is a round of #30Lists of March and September and I've been, as one other blogger put it, a frequent joiner but not a frequent completer.  So, I thought I'd participate in the blog hop before we get started with the September version to build in a little extra accountability.  

Our challenge was to go to the original list (all the way back from March 2011), pick a prompt and post a list.  Naturally, I chose Vacations to Take.  


Naturally, I chose Vacations to Take.  I'm excited that three of those are actually in the planning/prep stages (although, to be fair two of those are lumped in one trip).  I get antsy when there is no trip on the calendar so knowing there are two out there is a good thing.

I did this one digitally using the kit from Alexandra Rae Designs that was included in the class this time. When I looked at the kit, I wasn't in love because the color scheme wasn't my jam.  However, I remembered I could change that in Photoshop.  I went simple this morning and just did the plain block but I'll figure out how to change the colors on the others and may just go all digital this time.

Wanna join in for 30 days of listing fun?  Register before 9/1.  I'd love to play along with you. 


Sunday, August 17, 2014

Lucas's 18 Month Photo Shoot - There's a Surprise Inside!

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If you follow me on Flickr and/or Facebook, you might have thought that I was a little stingy with the photos from Lucas's 18 month photo shoot - and you would be right.  But, there was good reason.  First, I like his mommy to have the first real look and get to pick out her faves and share them first, but second - and more importantly - there was a secret message hidden in a bunch of the photos - so I couldn't reveal many of them.  But now that the news is out, I can proudly share that Lucas is going to be a big brother!

Now that his mommy and daddy have gone public with that announcement I'll share a few more of my favorite shots from the day - and the joy over the way Amanda and Steve surprised me.

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Amanda had asked me to take Lucas's 18 month photos and we set the Sunday after July 4th as the date - just a couple of days before his actual 18 month date.

I didn't attend the family July 4th event (when, I now know everyone else in the immediate family found out our Amanda and Steve were going to have their second baby) but did want to see everyone so drove over to mom and dad's and dropped off Lindsay then headed to Johnny and Donna's.  Amanda and I had talked about setting and what she wanted pictures of and we decided to highlight all of Lucas's favorite toys and things to do which involve tractors of all shapes and sizes, the dune buggy (a.k.a. the rail) and the "ninga-ninga" (that's a lawnmower to those who don't speak Lucas). Sidewalk chalk, bubbles, and if we were lucky, a train might factor in as well.

So, I arrived and we walked out to the barn and Lucas started playing and I started shooting.  I caught this pic within the first 10 shots and it has become one of my favorites.

Let's go!

And this one...

See you later guys!

He coaxed his daddy into getting the lawn mower out and after a bit of a ride around and a small amount of fussing because it wasn't running anymore, I got this awesome smile.  Seriously - this kid is ADORABLE!

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During the day, I also got a good number of looks like this one. I'm pretty sure he's thinking, "You're nice and all and I like smiling for the camera, but I've got places to Go!"

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Then, his mommy decided it was time to do a t-shirt change and she wanted to grab some "family" shots.  I shot about 10 like this before my eyes focused in on what his shirt actually said.  Then for about the next fifteen shots there was a whole lot of "Lucas - what does your shirt say!"

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Photo shoot on pause...hugging ensued!

I shot loads more shots with the "big brother" shirt on and he had a grand time playing but I couldn't reveal most of those until Amanda and Steve shared their big news more widely.

These three are probably my absolute favorites from the day.

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As I processed photos the following weekend, I posted this one on Facebook that it was making my heart all squishy.  It still does.  And seeing how much love Amanda, Steve, Donna, and Johnny shower on Lucas and how amazing he is - I can't wait to meet new Baby Stout in February and see how that little life blossoms in all this love.

An "outtake" from Lucas's 18 Month Photo Shoot

Congratulations you guys! I'm so happy for you.

P.S.  I know I haven't blogged in a while, but maybe with school starting back up, I'll get back in a rhythm again.  If not, I'll at least keep hitting some of the highlights here every once in a while.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Hanging Out With Lucas


I had the privilege of spending the afternoon with my great nephew Lucas today.  His mommy and nana were supposed to take a shopping trip to Ikea over in Cincinnati today.  I was in earshot when they were talking about the trip so I volunteered to baby sit since my work calendar wasn't booked yet and I was planning to be in the area to pick up Lindsay (Because of a work thing I'm spending my Friday's in Muncie this month so Lindsay is spending her weekends at Grandma and Grandpa's new place.)  

Unfortunately Donna and Amanda's original plan fell through because his mommy had to work today - but he still needed a sitter so I got to hang out with him for the afternoon.  


At just over 14 months old, this little man has a good solid schedule of napping, eating, and playing. He pretty much can get around all on his own, but is still contained by closed doors and baby gates - as long as you latch them completely. He's a totally fun bundle of activity and energy - mixed with just the right amount of cool, laid back kid.      


His nana watched him this morning.  I arrived during his nap.  So he woke up to a strange person in his house.  He adapted pretty fast though and nana was able to sneak out while I fed him lunch.  From there, we were off and ready for some adventure.


We had a great time watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse re-runs off of the DVR - which included a showing of Partysaurus Rex (from Toy Story) which had us both dancing.  Lucas loves to dance and sing - and he's got his own set of moves to the Diggety Dog song at the end of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. There was a lot of tractor riding too.


His nana awesomely prepped his afternoon snack and got everything ready so all I had to do was warm up his bottle this afternoon so definite thanks to her for making sure I knew where everything was and how everything worked. She watches him several days a week and I love seeing how close he is to both she and my brother.  All her work and hints made my afternoon with Lucas go really smoothly.


My favorite activity, of course, was reading some books.  We read some Dr. Seuss and I learned several things about trucks and tractors.  Just like his mommy did when she was little, there are a few pages of books that you know he knows the words to by heart - he just hasn't started saying all of them quite yet.  He's getting great at animal sounds and is really good with some of the car and truck sounds.


The biggest difference from spending time many years ago with his mommy and her brother and cousins - a difference I'm glad his nana clued me in to before she left - is that this kid is a climber - and this blue chair is his personal jungle gym.  If you blink and aren't standing right there, he's trying to stand up and do a little jig in the chair.  The boy has no fear.  I have healthy fear for both of us so luckily there were no injuries on Aunt Nicki's watch today.


So, it was smiles all around today as Lucas and I had an awesome time playing and I loved getting to visit with his mommy for a little while when she got home from work.  I so love watching her as a mom and seeing how calm and relaxed she is about the whole parenting thing.  


It was a great way to spend a Monday and capped off an excellent weekend with Gayle followed by a nice visit with my folks last night which included a surprise dinner with Johnny and Donna and Susie.  Being surrounded by family and friends is always an awesome way to spend your time and getting to spend extra time with this adorable little guy was a truly fabulous way to spend a Monday.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Auction

The Auction Gets Started

It took more than 70 years to collect it all.
It's taken dad about six months to go through it all and trash, sort, and pack it all - and decide what would go in the auction.
It took about eight days to set it all up in the community center in Williamsburg.
In just three hours and thirty-one minutes it was all sold, we'd cleaned the building, and everyone headed home.

This year, 2014, is going to be a year of huge change both professionally and personally.  But, the focus of my next few weeks will definitely be on the personal as we say good-bye, as a family, to our family farm and help mom and dad make a new home in a great new house in town.  Today was sort of an official kick-off for moving as mom and dad held their auction today at the community center in Williamsburg.  While they closed on the farm and on their new house at the end of January, it's the physical events you can see that seem to always make things real and this was very, very real.

We had worried some about whether there would be a decent crowd, but, as you can see from the photo there was no shortage of people.  We think there were about 300 people there.  Lots of old friends, tons of family, and a bunch of people probably just happy to have a snow free day where they could get out of their homes as this winter has been brutal and we were blessed with fantastic weather today.

As I said to a friend yesterday, today was going to be a lot about visiting and probably a little about crying and that was pretty much how it was.  It was great to be surrounded by family and friends.  We marveled at what some of the little items that had been tucked away in the barn or the attic sold for and we bought a few things for ourselves.  I bought three things - a pair of apple crates, an old stool, and a pair of chairs - that I split with my sister-in-law.  I'll write more about them as I get them settled in here at my house in the weeks to come.


There were a few tears (or at least a bit of emotion in the day - we're not really a family known for tears). The morning started out for me by watching dad drive the tractor out for the very last time.  My post of the photo to instragram said it best - it's served many generations of our family well.  My grandpa bought it, we learned about driving on it, and it's plowed more snow and tilled more acres than any of us care to think about.  I'm glad I captured the pic, even though just with a cell phone.  I know this experience has to be most emotional for my dad as he's lived on this farm nearly his entire life.  He's handling it all really well, but as I shared that I'd caught a shot of him driving the tractor out for the last time and he asked to see it, I caught the emotion is his voice.  We all know it's not about the things - it's about the people - but these things and this place holds so many memories and it seems we're all trying to soak them up as deeply as we can in these last moments.

The visiting of course was the most wonderful part.  And, as we go forward we're preparing to create new memories...standing around at the auction planning food for next weekend's big move and deciding on the plan of attack for what we want to get accomplished on moving day. Mom and dad have done pretty much everything themselves - and mostly dad.  My brothers and nephew helped get some things to the community center yesterday.  My sister and I have helped a little off and on with a load here to the storage shed or packing a few boxes, but most has been on dad.  It was nice to come together today and recognize next weekend is a family event - not for mom and dad to do alone but for all of us to do together...to make a new start at their new place.  As mom and I were talking today about furnishing the new place we were talking about how Easter and all the holidays after will be great in their new family room/kitchen that are connected together.

As always, a highlight of my day was enjoying young Lucas who was an amazingly good sport for the entirety of the auction.  

Snuggling with Grandpa
Snuggling with his grandpa

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Playing with mommy's keys and grinning for the camera

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Hanging out with Uncle Aaron

It's going to be a busy next couple of weeks and I hope that everything goes really smoothly with the move and getting mom and dad settled.  

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Breaking the Cycle

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It seems like for the past several years I've started off with tremendous motivation in January and I've lost that motivation - all that fresh energy that you have at the start of the year - by the middle of February. I feel like that is starting to happen again. And, I realize it's when I start feeling like I don't have things to say here in this space that that dip in motivation starts. So, facing a pretty daunting day tomorrow I'm resolved to write here tonight before I get an early night's sleep as I have to get up at 4:00 tomorrow morning! Ugh!  I won't promise this is going to be good writing, but I have some special memories to capture and share.

So, what's going on around here? First, I'm so proud of my big sis - she's now officially a blogger. And the name of her blog couldn't be more perfect - http://idontliketositstill.blogspot.com/. Trust me - she doesn't like to sit still.

Second, I'm trying to focus on the fact I've taken a photo every single day so far this year and it's felt so easy - even when other creative endeavors are getting pushed aside for all the work that's reigning down right now. MOST are cell phone photos - and most are posted on my Instagram feed.  That remains my favorite social media outlet.  Things I'm taking photos of regularly - the orchid my assistant Becky has loved over six months to produce these beautiful results...

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And, of course, loads of photos of snow - usually starring Lindsay.  I'm SICK of winter.  But, I'm glad my furnace seems to be back in full working order!  We've had four snow days, although my team is considered "essential", so while we don't have to physically report, they are still full workdays.  It's still nice not to have to venture out in this horrible weather.

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Of course, I'm also really excited about the Olympics starting.  I'm a HUGE Olympics fan.  I'll especially be rooting for Hoosier Nick Goepper who has a strong change for gold in the new olympic sport, Slopestyle.  I'll be rooting for all of Team USA - and crying through medal ceremonies (I'm a sap!) - but I'll be especially thrilled if a local guy wins gold!  Go Nick and all of Team USA!  I pray that everyone taking part in the Olympics remains safe.

But, the best part of my week this week was a photo shoot last Sunday with the sweetest little man I know - Lucas!

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He had some pro photos taken on the day after his birthday party, but they just didn't seem to hit the mark.  His nana asked me if I would help reshoot them.  I tried not to squeal when I said yes! (Luckily, it was by text so I didn't deafen her).  


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His mommy and nana hung the sheet in the background and I brought the other sheet for the floor.  The banner behind him was a decoration from his birthday party.  The chair in a couple of shots is one from Lucas's Great Grandma and Grandpa's house that happened to be the perfect height for a one year old boy.  The fur blanky on the chair was a huge hit - he loved petting it!


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We did several other set ups - some with is "I'm One" shirt and his Mickey balloons, some with just Great Grandpa's Mickey neck ties and then, of course, the cake smash photos. I took about 280 shots and was really pleased with about 60 of them. I delivered a disk of just over 100 to his Mommy and Nana.  

It was such a fun afternoon.  This little man was awesome.  He gave me so many fantastic smiles and adorably impish grins.  He went through four clothing and background changes without a single fuss.  We shot for an entire hour.  He was AMAZING - especially given that his mommy reported later that night that he had a 102 fever since he was cutting some new teeth.  

I loved when he'd come over to see the camera and I could steal a kiss.  Taking photos of my family is so much fun.  I can't wait to take more!  I find myself looking through these as well as Ashley and Matt's engagement photos at least once a day - just to get the opportunity to smile.  

Okay - I'm off to bed.  I have an early start tomorrow.  I'm so glad tomorrow is Friday.  Do you have big plans for the weekend?  What's your favorite Olympic sport to watch?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Long Weekend

Before I kick off my wrap up of the past weekend, I must say that my thoughts and prayers go out to all of my friends and family with Purdue connections, as well as to all of the students, faculty, and staff who have been touched by the now all too frequent reality of violence on a school campus. Boiler Up!

Instagram Photo January 17, 2014 at 06:42PM

I got to celebrate the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend at the farm.  A highlight was spending a bunch of one on one time with my dad.  Mom is off on an adventure with my sister Susie so the house was evenly split - girls vs. guys - when Lindsay and I arrived Friday evening and invaded Dad and Sammy's guy time.

Dad and I went on a breakfast date on Saturday morning before I headed off to Richmond to do a test engagement shoot for Matt and Ashley with my friend Diana (more on the shoot a bit further down).

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I swear the only good thing about this bitter cold weather are the pretty sunrises and sunsets that we can't get without all this cold.  They are just so different on a cold, snowy day.  

Dad and I also ran errands on Monday and he took me out to lunch.  (Don't worry - I made him super deluxe seafood nachos and peanut butter cookies with Hershey's kisses to pay him back for the dates!)

Here he is doing one of his many volunteer gigs - changing the sign at Central United Methodist in Richmond. But that was after he helped me cut a few big pieces of wood down for a few projects. Hopefully there will be some details on those here shortly.

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My biggest win personally from the weekend...getting Sammy a new blankie and he didn't eat it!

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Sammy has a bad reputation for chewing up my favorite Dansko sandals, a purse strap, and pretty much every toy I've ever brought him.  Tennis balls survive for a while - but nothing else seems to make it through even a single evening of play.  So, while I was killing some time in Richmond between the photo shoot and a hair appointment (yes - after six years - I still drive back to Richmond to get my hair cut and colored!), I stumbled on a cute doggy themed fleece blanket at TJ Maxx.  After a treacherous drive home from Richmond, I unrolled it and put it down in Sammy's favorite spot beneath dad's feet at the bar in the kitchen.  When we got ready to go to bed, I moved it over to his night time spot under the kitchen table.  It survived the night and then another night and he seems pretty content on it.  I'm hoping when they move to the new house in a few more weeks having his own blankie at the new house will make finding "his spot" a little easier for him - and everyone else.

Now, back to the photo shoot.

I've pitched to Ashley and Matt the idea that letting Diana and me shoot their wedding makes some good economical sense and would produce some great results.  Since I was home for a long weekend and Diana was around, we arranged a little photo shoot - complete with some snow!  When I first scrolled back through the shots after the shoot I was really unhappy with what I had, but as normal - once I spent some time with them in post-processing some really great shots emerged.  

Ashley and Matt are a gorgeous couple with extremely expressive faces and actions.  I loved watching them interact and getting to see how in love they are.  

We went to three different places for the shoot - a great local coffee shop called Roscoe's, the park, and then back to their house.  While we were at the coffee shop we stepped outside for some shots.  Diana was shooting them straight on and I caught this great shot of Matt laughing at something silly Ashley was saying or doing.


I love how Matt is watching her in this shot and she's laughing and soaking up the experience. 


Both of those are more of a casual snapshot than an actual engagement photo. But when Diana reviewed the shots I had from the day and picked out this next one, I had to say, it was my favorite too.  Before you scroll down, let me just say that they are standing in the middle of a street that had cars parked on both sides and industrial buildings behind them so getting rid of all that was not something I was completely sure I could do, but I'm reasonably happy with the result.  The more important thing is that the photo came out of the camera completely overexposed but going into a single color instead of trying to preserve full color and adding a little more grain made it a pretty good shot after all.   There are still a few rough areas from post processing, but I may keep playing with that.  The shot that came straight out of the camera was unusable - so I'm pretty proud that what follows was not only the end result, but also one of my favorite pictures from the shoot.


I won't steal any more of their thunder and will let Ashley and Matt reveal the rest as they are ready to do so but what an absolute pleasure it was to spend the morning with my niece and her fiance!

Did you do anything special over the long weekend?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Roses are red

Roses 4

I really want to rant and rave tonight.  I want to tell you it's been a stressful week - two weeks really.  I want to yell about people who refuse to learn the first thing about technology yet expect technology tools to work every time they pick the up.  I want to scream about technology that doesn't work.  I want to tell people to get to the important stuff first and not make me sit and listen on the phone for ten minutes - until you tell me the real reason it's late which woudn't have made my blood pressure go up if you'd actually told me that from the start.  I want to tell you that - despite all my years as a teacher and all my training - I have come to the conclusion that there are dumb questions ... but they are dumb only because you decided to forgo all thinking before you asked - you just asked and ceded your responsibility for thinking to someone else.  I want to do all those things (and...okay...in a way I sort of did).

Roses 5

But, instead, I'm posting pictures of roses.  Perhaps you think that means someone bought these beauties for me.  Well, they kind of did.  Because I bought them for me when I went to the store last Friday night.  And I think tonight, they were at their peak.


Roses 1

So, I had a little photo shoot in my kitchen. And, even though the dishes are piled up in the sink and the dish towel on the oven door needs to be swapped for a clean one, the only part you can see are the beautiful roses.  I buy myself flowers every few weeks.  They used to be secluded in my bedroom because of the cats but I can put them anywhere now so I'm experimenting with some new locations.


Roses 2

And while I like all the artsy, filtery, shots above, this one is still my favorite.  It's still the most true to life and the most rich and the most vibrant.

But my favorite shot of the whole shoot...ya, it's this one.

Lindsay in waiting

Why, you ask? Check out that catch light in her eye. That is a thing of beauty. And you, dear viewer, have no idea that she's only laying there out of promise of treats and because I'm holding her tennis ball mere millimeters from my lens - and offering up more promises of play time and goodies if she'll only hold still and not scratch, yawn, lick, bark, yip, or shake her head just long enough for the shutter to capture that gorgeous face that greets me every day and wants nothing more from me than for me to love her.  And, in return, she'll love me right back with everything she has.

At the end of a rough day when it's not even the middle of a rough week it's the littlest things that keep us going.

How is your week thus far?
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