I think I probably mentioned back in 2015 that I bought a new Nikon DSLR camera when my old Kodak ‘point and shoot’ died, and then I took took a 6 month photography certification class (cert II).

I was originally intending to take the full year class (cert III), but between my inability to understand the later assignments and the fact that most of the second half of the year was about studio work, I decided to just keep working with what I had learned in the first half. (The last thing I needed on a fixed income was the impression that I need an expensive studio setup!)

The class did exactly what I was hoping it would. It taught me how to get off automatic mode an into manual mode, and it gave me the information I needed to teach myself more.

There were assignments, especially toward the end of the course, that I missed entirely because I just couldn’t wrap my mind around what the instructor was asking for but I have a notebook of the assignments and my first results. I can redo the class as often as I want to now and learn more every time. I also now understand enough to make sense of YouTube videos and articles on Photography sites. Score! I won!

For the last three years, Jack and Rod and I have been going out on photo walks every few weeks, as time allows. I learn a lot from what catches their eyes, so that I am able to stretch out of my comfort zone even further. It’s been great fun!

I have continued to play with my kit lenses, the pair of zoom lenses that came with my camera and I have gotten to the point of being pretty happy with at least some of my results on every outing.

Zoom lenses are convenient. They let you shoot many different kind of images without changing your lens. Between them, my lenses ranged between 18 mm and 200 mm. That was super convenient and I got very lazy and attached to zooming rather than moving to get the shot.

However the thing about kit lenses is that they are intended to be inexpensive and to give maximum flexibility to a beginner who doesn’t yet know what they “need” in a lens. They are intended to be replaced eventually by a higher quality lens – possibly a prime lens – as the beginner becomes an experienced photographer.

There is nothing wrong with a kit lens. A good photographer can get stunning photographs with them! There is no equipment with which a mediocre photographer like me is going to capture a world class image.

Still, I was curious. A prime lens is smaller and lighter and is easier to travel with. A prime lens has higher quality glass because it doesn’t need to move as the camera zooms. A better quality lens should give crisper results.

Unfortunately I couldn’t figure out how to try one without buying it. And although they are  available in a range of prices, I couldn’t justify a new lens when I have two perfectly good lenses and I didn’t even know whether I would like using a prime lens.

Then TJ, my oldest son, gave me a New Year’s gift. My first thought was to squirrel it away for a rainy day…but that lens just kept tugging at me.  Rod encouraged me to indulge.  So we went to look.

As it happened, we arrived at the camera shop on a day when a lens of the type I was thinking about was on sale. A much better lens than I was ever likely to consider was available for almost exactly what TJ had sent.  I crumpled and left the shop the new owner of a 50 mm prime lens.

It gives a very  different result than I am accustomed to, in part because it is a wider angle than I usually use.  I have brought it out several times  around the house to try various ideas and to try to see how I can best use it.

It’s almost like the feeling when I first got my first camera- it’ that different.

What a wonderful challenge!  I’m having a blast!


It would appear that the blog is working again!

Thanks to Rodney, Dave, and Steve!

Now let’s see whether I can get back into the habit of posting….

This photo is from our most recent photo walk. Jack and I have been taking semi-weekly photo walks lately.  He has become far more discerning, and we have started to swap cameras. I take the little point and shoot and he takes the big, fancy camera every other walk.

Most recently, we escorted a group of homeschoolers on a photo walk – something we may try again sometime because it went pretty well. I took this photo with my phone, because no one had charged the “point and shoot” battery lately and it ran out of charge a dozen photos into the walk.  The technical quality isn’t very good because I tend not to use my phone as a camera very often, but I like the photo.

Oh, cool!  We’re back on-air!  I am so happy!!!

BIG pot of soup

Serves 12.

Cheyanne and Sereniti Havens - 2012 photo sitting

3 lbs. pork soup neck bones
4 bay leaves
2 tablespoons lemon juice
8 c. water

1 medium chopped onion
2 stalks celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, chopped
1 small head coarsely chopped red cabbage
1/4 eggplant, chopped
4 stalks chard, chopped fine
1 zucchini, sliced
1 summer squash, sliced
1 jalapeno pepper
2 pint cans tomato sauce

3 tablespoons dried thyme
2 tablespoons paprika
2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 c. parsley

Continue reading BIG pot of soup

Sunday, November 6

We had been looking for multiplication and division flash cards. Nerida found them at Learning Express, so we went to pick them up yesterday.  Last night, while I made dinner and Rod cleaned the kitchen walls (he’s a multi-talented guy, is my honey) I got to sit in on an arithmetic class.

I have never thought of math as hysterically funny, but with these guys it sure was.   They didn’t just drill with the cards.  Jack explained how he was going to figure it out, then he figured it out…and if he knew the answer offhand, Rod asked “How did you get that?” Every new card also brought a new joke or silly insight, and there was almost as much laughter as there was learning going on.

I have a feeling Jack is going to like math more than I do — and he’s already faster at it.  (Given some time, I suspect he’ll be more accurate, too.) I wish I’d learned math this way.

Speaking of the flash cards … remember my high aspirations from yesterday? Very little of it got done, because we went out shopping.

We needed to get the cards, some kitchen tongs, and a Samhain present from Jack to Rod…and some vegetables, and a tablecloth to fit the big table, and….it was after dinner time when we finally got home.  So, I cooked dinner and Rod mopped the walls and ceiling and Jack learned multiplication. All in all a productive day.  Just not the one I expected.

I am slowly coming to the conclusion that my grandchildren are in for an unpleasant surprise. Their mother keeps a house so clean that you can eat off the floors and everything sparkles. Unexpected company may be annoying, but I doubt it’s ever embarrassing because the state of the apartment. My sons and my mother know I’m a lousy housekeeper. They may be dismayed, but they won’t be surprised. (On the other hand I have been in the boys apartments, I doubt they’ll be overly dismayed — they learned my bad habits well.) I wish I could pull it together to be magazine perfect like my fantasy had it a few weeks ago, but … I guess reality is winning and really, maybe that’s not a bad thing. 

I am completely amazed at how much difference two nights of  ‘all the sleep I could stay asleep for‘ has made. I didn’t really realize how tired I was until I wasn’t anymore. I feel amazingly energized!

Hmm, that suggests that I should probably insist more firmly on  having an earlier bedtime at least for me. Rod doesn’t need as much sleep as I do these days and Jack sleeps a couple of hours (at least) after I am up for the day…so when I proclaim bedtime for the night they’re both inclined to drag the chain a bit. We read a bedtime story together before we go to sleep, and if I am asleep they have to skip the story, so it really works best if we go upstairs together.

(Pondering…I wonder whether I can convince them to pretend to sleep for that last half hour — or read and go back downstairs until they’re ready to sleep.)

Jack is getting to be an enthusiastic cook!

Today, he is making bacon and eggs for lunch, and other than consulting on oil levels and handling the hot plate in and out of the warm so he can add eggs to it, I have no role in the cooking. He has some unorthodox methods, but I am inclined to let him work it out for himself. A few questionable meals is a decent trade off for growing a confident cook. I made tonight’s stew along side him for the first part of the process so I was at hand to advise and make sure he knew what he was doing. Good thing. He does know what he’s doing, but he hasn’t learned to split his attention and we almost had burnt bacon…it’s extra crispy, but edible.

It’s not long, I think, before he’ll be ready to take a turn making dinner once a week.  He’ll need a lot of assistance at first — a whole meal takes some advanced timing sense and a lot of changes of focus — and several “recipes”, for that matter.  But he’s almost ready.  He can already make breakfast and lunch — last I heard he made a mean mac and cheese.

I’m sure you recognize this handsome young man…this is Connor, Jack’s best friend for the last 5 years. Nerida and I took the boys out, as I mentioned a few days ago, and this was the photos I got of Connor. Isn’t he a fine looking young man? He has lovely manners, too!

(Hi, Connor! You can leave a comment if you want to…)

Anyway, it’s more than time I hit the shower and got my day started.

Have a great one, everyone! See you tomorrow!


Good morning everyone! My four day weekend is off to a fantastic start! I can’t believe how long I slept this morning! (It’s been a very long time since I managed to stay asleep past 10am, but I did today.)

I must have really needed the sleep — but we’ve been up early to get our qi gong done and try to make early meetings for weeks now, and some of those evenings, I also had to work from home to get things ready for release next morning. It wasn’t too tiring in the moment, and I *really* enjoy the work, but I guess it caught up with me. On the even brighter side, the comp time has given me an extra day to get ready for our grand houseful!

It has become obvious, though, that editing and writing are skills you really do have to keep up with to stay sharp. It’s been most of five years since those skills were used at work, and I find that other people are catching things I missed. It’s not a disaster, but I need to pull out some drills and get sharp again if i want my skills to be useful enough to use. (Blogging, while fun, isn’t pressured enough to keep me sharp. And you see how much of that I’d been doing lately.) *grin*

One kind of interesting thing we’re doing right now is trying to come up with a “traditional” Thanksgiving dinner that is close enough to what TJ and Corey remember but also doesn’t contain any of our food sensitivity triggers.

So far, the biggest challenge is a grain free stuffing. I’ve recently found some recipes (thank Providence for Paleo sites) and now we’re trying to decide amongst the recipes.
Instead, I am vaguely tempted to get a bag of bread cubes to make the recipe TJ and Corey remember — I think if I mix it out on the porch it might be OK. Or maybe a wheat and gluten free bread to make the dried bread cubes from so all the kids can eat it. Rod and I couldn’t — but we’re grownups. We’ve been living without it this long. We’ll survive.

The other recipes seem … ok. The fruit and nut ones sounds yummy, but not really reminiscent of stuffing I grew up in and fed TJ and Corey. I might make it along with chicken for another Sabbat meal, but not for Thanksgiving.

Jack has developed a sensitivity to coconut flour, which rules out many of the grain free breads that many of the others are based on.

The rest start with ground beef. Nope. Not going there. I don’t CARE how they taste, ground beef doesn’t belong in my Thanksgiving dinner. I may try them as a stuffing for a squash another day, though.

This is the proposed menu so far:

  • Deviled eggs, olives, and pickles
  • Turkey (of course) and gravy
  • Stuffing (need to find a recipe)
  • Cranberry sauce
  • Sweet potato surprise
  • Fried apples
  • Braised cabbage
  • Roasted cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and beets
  • Gingered carrots
  • Pumpkin pie

I think it’ll work. Too much food is traditional, but we’ll be feeding 12, so I think it may be “just enough”.

I was delighted when Johanna and her family accepted our invitation for Thanksgiving. We love their company. Johanna has been helping me translate my monthly letters to the grandchildren for many years now so I think she’d like to meet the two who started it all and I think it will be a bit of a relief to Bella and Leo to find Swedish speaking children after being here almost two weeks. A real reason for them to feel “thanksgiving”.

Our homeschooling project has taken a turn that I could never have planned and yet it is SO thrilling.

We have live and breathed Ancient Greece for 15 months. (I expected it to take about 4 months.) At this point, Jack really KNOWS his ancient Greek history and can tell most of the stories himself. One of the last books we have tackled was one written by and for a very religious Christian audience. Lots of the stories are abridged, with parts missing or subtly changed. Because he now knows most of the stories by heart, his new job as we read the last few books is to point out where the differences are and to try to spot the authors’ bias. All authors have bias, if course. Some we like better than others, but they all have one. I had no idea that Jack was ready to start learning about it, but it has become an organic part of our studies now. I really hope Rod will post about his experience of how it is going, because he and jack usually do the work when I’m not home.

I don’t know whether we will be able to do it so easily in the next unit — we’re scraping together what information we can find about ancient Asia, Americas, and Sub-Saharan Africa. There isn’t much available on those regions for this educational age, so it will be tough to find enough on one topic to compare authors points of view, but once we move on to Rome, it should be very easy to do again. (If you know of great resources for ancient Asia, Americas, and Sub-Saharan Africa, please do let me know. We’re using grades 5 to 8 for most of our resources.)

As a scrapbooker, I can’t help but wonder from time to time whether all of this time, love and money will be appreciated after I put the finished pages into their books and move on. I can’t know about the other books I make, but from time to time, Jack goes through a phase reassures me that his books will remain important to him.

He’s just gone through another one of those phases where he pours over every scrapbook he can find. His, his nieces’ and nephew’s, complete and still in progress. It’s interesting because each time he does that he seems to get something new and interesting from it. This time, in addition to the stories he always loves, he started to take an interest in the way the pages were constructed. He noticed that one page had no story and wondered about it. I showed him the hidden journaling inside a photo mat and he was amazed! He wanted to take out every page and check it for hidden journaling.

I think I’ll have to do that more often. He loves it! But I have to make sure I *always* use the “hidden key — a line of metal brads as a “…” to say that there’s more hidden there. Otherwise he’s going to tear the pages apart looking for his surprises. Did I mention? I’m thrilled at his interest. 🙂

Oh, and the baby?  This is the lovely Miss  Audrey again.  I had a blast!  We just say around her Mamma’s living room and chatted and I snapped almost 200 photos.  Once she got used to me and my flashing camera and started to ignore us, I got some I really liked.  Isn’t she gorgeous?

Tomorrow, I’ll try to share some I took of Connor when Nerida and I took the boys out for out Autumn Adventure.  I’m glad we went when we did, because the gorgeous leaves are so transient.  They’re mostly gone now.

But for today, it’s time to get to work.  I have four free days to get the house ready and we’re going to need every bit of it and then some.  Today’s project is that never ending project of getting the public areas of the house back in shape, like we do every weekend.  But tomorrow, we can start on the more important part — the private areas of the house that get a dash and a promise unless we’re expecting overnight company. We need room for four more beds.  We have the room, and the beds, thanks to very generous friends.  Now we need the space on the floors to actually open the beds.  (I expect to continue the project once I’m back at work.)

See y’all tomorrow!

Update October 8, 2011

Edited to add: all this time later, I found that I hadn’t clicked “publish”.  Oops.


Hey, all! I’ve had a couple of “significant” posts in mind (and in drafts) for weeks now. What I haven’t had is the ability to sit still and think long enough to finish them. Oh well, another update.

Work is getting busier, and entirely in a good way — I have had writing project after writing project to work on – -sometimes as many as three per day! I’m having a blast! I am still in charge of facilitating audits, but you know, as one thing of many, it’s just not that bad. (As “most of what I do”, it was dispiriting. No one loves auditors…and they don’t have a real soft spot for the auditor’s mouthpiece, either. It felt neither important nor appreciated and that’s something I don’t deal with well.)

So, work is going GREAT!

On the other hand, Rod, Jack and I have been fighting a cold for the better part of two weeks. I think we finally won. Just in time to go see Grandpa John, who is finally out of the hospital after three weeks fighting pneumonia. (I wonder whether we picked it up when we visited him in the hospital last time…I hope so, because then it’s a germ his immune system will recognize and if we’re not entirely clear, he’ll still be OK.  But I think we are done with it or we wouldn’t go.

We’re just a little over a month out from the kids’ and my mother’s visit! I am so excited! I can’t wait for everyone to get here and I have been planning adventures and menus and practicing my Swedish in my head and with Rosetta Stone.

But I’m also painfully aware that we really aren’t ready yet. We have canned and frozen lots of food, we have arranged for enough beds, but at the moment there’s not enough floor space to use the beds. 🙁 (I need to get better at this housekeeping thing.)

So, am I cleaning like a fiend? Nope, here I sit blogging and watching my social media sites. I am even late getting a card out for Wenche, Rod’s mother, who has a birthday coming up soon.

But it feels so good to sit for a change.

The kids visit and my lack of organization also means that most people will be getting boxed cards this holiday.  I still haven’t made the first card and we have 12 weeks to go.  The odds of my making all of the 150 cards I wanted to.  Somewhere near zero. Now … to make myself OK with that. I love making the cards, but…as Mark keeps telling me, they were never intended to be another way to stress myself, they’re supposed to be fun.

I did it…after all these years, I really did.

Since my feet have stopped hurting all the time, I went out and bought a lovely pair of high heeled girl shoes.  I haven’t done that in more than 15 years.  The non-stop plantar fasciitis made impractical shoes really painful.  For a few years there I rarely wore anything but my New Balance Walkers — they had become my orthopedic shoe of choice.

When I stopped eating grains, my feet gradually stopped hurting and I started to be able to wear less supportive shoes.  You know, like real shoes.  But I have just about walked the soles out of my last couple of pair and it was time to look for new shoes.  I still need to buy some sensible shoes, too — but I bought some highly impractical but very pretty shoes.

I never thought I would be able to do that again. Ironically, I have been looking for a pair of shoes like this (Victorian style shoes) for a couple of decades, and right now they’re very trendy.  Me…trendy.  What a hoot!

These are photos  I took a few weeks ago when Jack and I were on our own on a Monday.  I was just playing with the camera…trying some new settings.  Jack was sitting still but paying more attention to the questions on his game.  I especially like the first one, though Jack practicing his “irresistible” look is pretty funny, too.

Now that Jack is almost 9, we’re adding some more practical matters to his curriculum.  Things like money literacy, nutrition, consumer literacy, and that sort of real worth thing.  I’d like to get more serious about science, too, though really?  Jack seems to cover that rpetyt well on his own.  he’s fascinated by science.  I’d just like to get a more organized approach togetehr to make sure there aren’t as many holes in his education as there are in mine.

Oops.  The guys are home.  Time I started my day.

The Renn Fest

As Jack mentioned last week, we went to the Holly Renaissance festival last weekend with one of his homeschooling groups.

It was home-schoolers day. so it was pretty quiet. I have been avoiding the Holly Renn fest for decades becauise it’s just *too* crowded. But it is also a lot of fun and very, very well done, so when I heard about home-schoolers day, I was quick to say I’d be there. It was perfect for the crowd hating me! The scenes were all set and there were enough people for it to feel festive — but few enough that anything we wanted to do was just a short wait.

The kids loved the gauntlet — a game that involved hanging from pelvis straps and making their way through…well, I’m not sure. It was pretty high off the grown and they slid around on rails that took them too far away for me to see. But they all had a blast and wanted very badly to do it again, and again, and again. At $5 per head, though, Jack went once.

They liked the maze — and it was quiet enough that the keep let them go through as many times as they could while I tried to get a hot drink. I never heard how many it was, but they were well ready to move on when I got back.

Other than the gauntlet, I think the jousting was the biggest hit – -they were all eager to attend a second joust a few hours after the first and their expressions were marvelous! We had a blast!
I announced early on that I would be bringing my camera to work on my portrait photography, and no one objected. In fact I got permission to post some of my favorites here! (Thanks, ladies!)

Fortunately the day was overcast and perfect for capturing bright clear colours and I was able to shoot without worrying about light all day.

That was just as well because other than Jack and Connor, these were not children who knew and trusted me. (And Jack was being a little stand-offish. He is far too old to be cuddly in front of his friends, I learned.)

The boys were moving too fast to be in many of the good photos — it’s hard to catch a photo inside the maze or the gauntlet from the ground.  I got some good ones of the girls, though.  The first two photos are of Katie — in the first she just popped her head of out a little house that all the girls were playing in and I loved the contrats between her white dress and the purple house!

In the second photo, she was delightful!  Climbing a rope ladder in a dress and wellies has never looked easier!  (Maybe the fairy wings help?)

In the third photos, we have Myra, Ruby, and Annaliese.  I loved their laughter.  I probably (from Jack’s reports) don’t want to know *what* they were laughing about, but the connection is just gorgeous and so clear in this photo.

The shades of pink help, too.

An amusing story about Anna.  She was born a couple of days before Jack was, and her parents, Mary and Troy, were in the same birthing class as we were.  They live not far from Nerida and Connor and we re-met Anna and her family through Nerida.  Anna was the first child, and they have three now — I will share photos of Alissa and Noah another day.  They are as adorable as Anna but I didn’t do them justice in my pictures.

Here, another photos of Annaliese. I love the contrast between the dark background and her sweet, demure innocence.

Anyway, I had so much fun chatting with everyone that  I didn’t get nearly as many photos as I expected.  I discovered that two families in the new group are classical home schoolers — Troy and Mary and Erika and her family.  I can’t wait to hear more about what they’re doing.  I’ll bet they have a lot of ideas that I’ll want to use!  (Especially Erika, since she also has adult children and I think they were home-schooled, too.

Anyway, I got some photos that I liked — these among them. And I stretched myself into very new approaches…as in taking photos of children who don’t know me and aren’t posing.

The boys did eventually slow down and I got a few of them, too.

You know Connor from previous posts.  He and jack have been buddies since they were very, very little.  Jack was two and Connor was three when they met.  And Jack sees more of Connor than he sees of pretty much any of his other friends.   They’re both being homeschooled, they both have one Aussie parent and one American parent, and they are both sweet and smart boys —  but otherwise, they couldn’t be much more different. Not unlike brothers.  And they squabble like brothers, too.  Just as well they don’t share a bedroom (or even a county).

I got this shot when they were discussing something of deep importance to the mud-puddle set and evidently Connor found Jack’s reaction amusing.  I think having Jack’s back turned actually makes this a stronger photo because it puts all the focus on Connor and his reaction.  It worked better in black and white because they were weraring so many colours between them that the colours were distracting.

And finally this shot of Jack, at his first experience with archery.  He’s been as fascinated my archery as he is by swords ever since he first encountered the idea.  (In Robin Hood, I think.)   He has been talking not stop about getting a bow and arrow for at least a couple of years.

He did reasonably well for an absolutely first try…he got one of his 10 arrows into the straw bale that was holding the target.  I know he would have loved to spend more time on it, but his friends weren’t as enchanted as he was.

It’s a decent snapshot, but it’s not a great shot.  it does, however, capture a moment that may one day be important to him.  His first try at archery.

There’s more to say about a lot of things.  I hope I can post again soon.   Meanwhile, I hope you all are well!

Where have I been?

I wish I had an exciting answer, but really, I don’t.

For months, I had an abscessed tooth, which I though was a chronic sinus infection for most of that time. You knew that, right?

I spent two months on antibiotics, which limited the infection but wasn’t able to eliminate it. A week and a bit ago, I had the tooth removed…and started top feel better and less inflamed almost immediately. But not better enough to feel like writing.

Now I feel heaps better…but since I’ve been sick, and so many things that I could post about didn’t get written…I spent a few days wondering where to start.

When it comes down to it, I think the most exciting thing I have in my stack, is that I have had my first “official portrait sitting” with my lovely niece and nephew, Tiffani and Kodi Stalzer and their three gorgeous children.

I felt ready to start experimenting with portraiture outside the family, and I asked Tif and Kodi if they’d be willing to model for me in exchange for family portraits. They agreed, and we met last weekend.

This is a few of the resulting photos.

The girls are at that camera shy stage, and they don’t know me well enough to ignore me yet, so I’m not terribly happy with the shots I got of them…I’ll post them next time, though, because they’re beautiful girls even if the photos don’t do them justice. (I wonder if I could get individual sittings with each of them … so I can match the quality of these photos.)

I got some shots I was happy with, but even more important, I got a chance to experiment with my “photographers hat”.  That is, seeing potential photos and guiding people who aren’t my son into place, keeping everyone at ease and, as Sue suggested, enjoying the process.

Of course, with such absolutely drop dead, gorgeous models, it was easy.  🙂