Monday, January 31, 2011

Office Remodel

Since I got home at the end of October I've been in the middle of one remodeling project or another.  The first project, my home office, while not finished, is coming along and I thought I'd share where some of my creative energy has been going lately.  Best of all, I pulled my camera out for the first time this week so I could share my progress.

I've never really tried to photograph a room - it was challenging and I have a LOT to learn, but it was fun to play with angles.  My big challenge was the light coming through the large windows.  I didn't realize how poor my exposure was until I pulled the photos up in Photoshop, which just gave me an excuse to try and learn a few new things in Photoshop.  I wasn't completely successful in transforming the photos but , I finally attempted using adjustment layers a curves a big step forward for someone who usually just applies an action and goes with it.  The final lesson was that I need to make some time to take some of Kim Klassen's classes if I ever want to take it to the next level.

I think I'm going to tease you today and just share the before and inspiration photos for the office and make you come back on Wednesday for some after photos.

Pros:  A huge room, fantastic windows with an amazing view

Cons: blah colors, worn out carpet

The Inspiration:  Emily A Clark's Office
What I loved: dark walls, white furniture, flashes of color

I discovered Carrie Newcomer this week thanks to the music collection at my local library.  Her voice is gorgeous and she has a song that is perfect for this post "Before & After."
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Friday, January 28, 2011

Friday Musings

I have a small (really minor in the scope of world priorities) problem.  My spelling, which was never anything to write home about in the first place, has gotten worse.

Five years ago I went to work for a company which uses U.K. English.  I had to learn how to spell all over again.  I may have been too successful, now instead of being a bilingual speller, I find I can't get my typing fingers to remember how to spell "American" which means I'm wearing out the delete key on my keyboard. There is still hope for me, I haven't yet found a reason to start a sentence with "whilst."

As I said - a very small problem, but one that has been driving me crazy this week (and don't get me going on my inability to master the metric system - why oh why doesn't the US education system spend more time on this, or probably more accurate, why I didn't I pay more attention.)

What has been driving you crazy this week?

One thing that hasn't driving me crazy is this great song recommendation from the awesome Kristine at Blue Elephant Photography:
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Thursday, January 27, 2011

i-Studio Post - Little Ones Playlist

Hop over to Kim Klassen's Inspiration Studio today to see my post.  We're putting together a playlist of songs for the little ones in our lives and I'd love to have your suggestions.

While you are there, you can also hear the incredible playlist we put together last week - Just Breathe - full of songs to help you deal with a stressful day. Pin It

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Cooking 101 - Spinach and Chickpea Coconut Curry

I decided to try my cooking experiments on my parents a few weeks ago.  It was met with mixed results. This vegan dish wasn't a hit with my "meat and potatoes" dad, but my mom thought it was edible.  As for me - I've sworn off Indian food (more than 2 years living there seems did me in for a while) but for some reason I loved the thought of this recipe from the second I saw it in a novel I was reading.  The reality of the recipe left me wanting just a bit more something - without some changes this one won't make it into my regular meals.  I found it too bland - again that may be because I'm used to authentic Indian food - but this needed some more kick.
Here is a link to the recipe - this author, Jane Greene, has some other recipes that look incredible so I may give a few of them a try.  In the mean time if you check it out and have some suggestions on how I could spice this one up, please send them my way.

I went old school for music this week while I cooked and pulled out a little Collective Soul - I'd forgotten how much I used to love them.
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Monday, January 24, 2011

Moving Forward

When I wrote my last post, my real intent was to share the reason my posts were a little blah and to excuse the lack of photos.  I had no idea when I wrote it that I would spend the next several days, as I read and re-read your comments, I would feel so much comfort.  From the bottom of my heart, thank you for your kind words and suggestions.  I feel incredibly fortunate to be a part of this wise and supportive community.

Thanks to all of you, I know I'm not alone - we all lose our mojo from time to time.  I also know this season seems to be getting a lot of us down.  And, most importantly, I have greater faith that my creative spark will come back again and I'm content waiting until it is ready.

I also spent the weekend putting many of your suggestions to work.
  • I did a little meditating and realized that in addition to the weather, a busy work schedule and my remodel projects have me stressed out and, that this stress may very well be a part of my problem.
  • I sat down and made a list of all the to-dos that float around my head, filling my mind to the point it can't contain any more.
  • I slowly started ticking things off that list - it's still long and will take a while - but I feel lighter having made progress.
  • I cleaned out a few cupboard and closets bringing a little more order to my life.
  • I made sure some of those to-do's felt at least a bit creative - I hung some pictures in my nearly finished office remodel project.  I also pulled out a can of spray paint and painted some projects that will go in the office (I'll show you soon.)  Best of all this project caused me to pick up the camera - just to get a before photo - but still progress.
  • I spent time with family, who graciously helped me move out of my master suite so the remodel can start (tile goes in Wednesday.)  I even used some of my new and improving cooking skills to make them homemade ice cream as a thank you.
  • Last, but not least, I spent some time relaxing with a good book and a movie.
Bottom line is - I may not have my mojo back yet, but I'm feeling better about life in general and know its just a matter of time.  Thank you so much for your great suggestions - I'm very happy to be a part of such an incredible community.

Grace Potter is a new favorite of mine and this song seems to align with those creative waves and dips - at times it does feel as if we are either falling or flying.
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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Lost My Mojo

Photo taken last was Monday's photo.

I'm not really sure how it happened, but I've lost my mojo.  That magical "thing" that makes me want to create.  I haven't picked my camera up since Christmas and even then I only did because I knew I should.  I just don't seem to have that spark in me calling out to create.

I can't decide if it is the winter blahs - that time each year when the world just feels white and gray all over or if I'm still burned out from the holidays.  Whatever is causing my loss of mojo, it seems to have settled in for a while.

The only time I felt any spark was while I was working to rebuild my photo library after crashing it. Looking at some of my older photos did make me want to pull some of my favorites out now that I have a basic understanding of Photoshop, there are some that I'd like to take to the next level, even some taken in the days before I had a dslr.  (FYI - I did manage to recover everything, but it was a LONG week doing so.  And a huge thanks to all of your for your back-up and organization tips, I'm using several of them.)

What do you do when you lose your mojo?  I could really use some tips.

Taking some of the advice in this song might be a good first step:
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Monday, January 17, 2011

Let's All Give it a Try

For those of us in the US today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I loved learning a bit more about him thanks to the specials online and on the news and I also loved having the day off.  I spent the morning traveling home after a long weekend at my parent's and spent the afternoon catching up on email and blogs - I'm hoping to start the week feeling almost caught up - which would be a nice change.

While I was catching up I thought I'd pass on a little something I learned recently - how to turn off word verification for commenters on my blog - I'm just sorry I didn't do so sooner.

Turns out I'm not the only one who hates it, Ashley Sisk, posted about it last week and linked to a great tutorial at Forever'n Ever'n Always Photography on how to get rid of that pesky word verification and how to attach your email to your google account so when you comment I can send a response.  I'd love it if everyone would join in - think of the time we'd all save.

Thanks to Ashley for creating the above icon.

Do you have any blogging pet peeves?  Things we could join together and improve?  Please share in the comments, lets make blogging easier and more fun.

Today's song is another discovery thanks to Cindy at Quaint Handmade - Teddy Thompson.  Love him!
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Friday, January 14, 2011

Cooking 101 - Chicken Tortilla Soup

My latest attempt at learning to cook is a winner.  Not surprisingly, given the weather, it is another soup recipe that my mom and I experimented with until it hit the sweet spot.  It is super easy and contains ingredients you probably already have around the house.  It has become one of my favorites, even if making a batch means I'll be eating it for days.

Chicken Tortilla Soup
6 cups chicken broth
1/2 to 1 tsp cumin
2 cups chunky, fruity salsa (mango, peach, pineapple)
1 can white corn
2 cans beans (black, is best, but white or a mix also works)
1 1/2 to 2 chicken breasts, cooked & shredded

Optional Toppings
Tortilla chips
Sour cream
Lime juice

Bring broth, cumin, salsa, corn and beans to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes.  Add chicken and heat through.  I prefer throwing it all in the crock-pot and simmering for a few hours.  If you want to make this vegetarian style try vegetable broth and replace the chicken with more beans.

I've been listening to Zac Brown Band pretty steadily since I got my hands on a copy of their latest over the holiday, including while I was whipping up a batch of this soup.  The entire album blew me away, there is a reason I love these guys.
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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Little Love

Last week had my head spinning at the amount of love that came my way from some of my very favorite bloggers.  First Natalie, an adorable mom with equally adorable children, who just happens to be a talented photographer, nominated me for a Trendy Blogger Award.  Just as my blush started to subside, the amazing Tezzie, another very talented photographer, who along with her adorable children are surviving a very snowy winter in Sweden, nominated me for the same award.  Since I pretty much ooh and ahh over both Natalie and Tezzie's blogs on a daily basis, I'm completely honored that they thought of me.

Then the sweeter than sweet Cindy, whose photos of NYC (especially of the Botanical Gardens) blow me away on a regular basis, nominated me for the I Love Your Blog Award.  This award comes with a request that you answer a few questions, since I loved reading Cindy's answers I thought I'd play along.

1. Why did you create the blog?
I was moving to India and wanted a way to stay connected to friends and family.  I never expected I'd end up making new friends or falling in love with photography thanks to blogging.

2. What kind of blogs do you follow?
I follow hundreds of blogs (seriously) a little of everything: design, photography, music, news, technology, travel, lifestyle, etc.

3. Favorite make-up brand?
Stila, Benefit and Jane Iredale.

4. Favorite clothing brand?
Don't know that I really have one - just clothes that make me feel good and are in my budget.

5. Your indispensable make-up product.
In my teens and twenties this would have been long, but now as long as I have at least a swipe of mascara and lipgloss I'm okay (and yes, I recognize I have this backward, I should worry more now than I did back then.)

6. Your favorite color?
This changes daily and depending on what we are talking about, but for the last year I've been in love with turquoise.

7. Your perfume?
I've been wearing Carolina Herrera, but I still miss Hanae Morae

8. Your favorite film?
Another really hard one for me.  The list is long, but I love Sabrina, If a Man Answers, Pride and Prejudice and Roman Holiday.

9. What country would you like to visit and why?
Italy is my dream.  I keep swearing I'll go, but when I do I want to be able to spend weeks so I can explore it slowly.  Frankly I wouldn't mind living my own little version of "Under the Tuscan Sun" (and yes, I want my story to end with an equally hot guy.)

10. Make up the last question and answer it for yourself.  What's your favorite way to relax?
For me, it is with a good book and some good music.

Just yesterday the lovely Natalie sent me the Stylish Blogger Award.  I'm giving credit for this one to Designer Blogs and their snazzy update of my blog a couple of months ago.  Since I've spent the last couple of months working from home in yoga pants there is nothing stylish about me personally.

Here's the deal - I'm not great with passing these awards on - mostly because I read so many incredible blogs I have a hard time choosing recipients.  So, if I read your blog - and odds are you know I do because I try and comment regularly, consider the awards passed onto you.

And - if you don't think I read your blog, but you are reading this, do me a favor and comment so I can find you - I love discovering new blogs and blog friends.

I also want to thank ClareELK and Tammy for the very sweet blog shout outs - they made my day.

Today's song is one I discovered thanks to Cindy (who has a great record of turning me on to new artists!)

Do you love a band or artist you think I should hear about?  Please share! Pin It

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Little Organization

One of my favorite things to do at the beginning of a year is to clean and organize.  I've spent the last couple of weeks cleaning out closets and drawers, taking stuff I don't need to the D.I. (Goodwill) and stripping wallpaper to kick off a master suite remodel.  It has been a lot of work, and isn't quite finished, but it feels good to get rid of the old and start fresh.

It was feeling so good I decided I would continue and organize my seriously over-full and cluttered laptop. I've been getting the disk full error for a while I knew I needed to get photos off the hard drive and onto an external.  At the same time I decided I'd make back up copies.  I got a process figured out and started working.  All was going well, I knew it would take a bit of time, but it was worth it.

Then it happened.  If you have a Mac you are familiar with the warning that you shouldn't unplug an external drive before ejecting it.  Well, I'm here to tell you to listen to that warning.  I accidentally unplugged the drive and somehow corrupted my entire photo library.

The good news is it appears I will be able to recover most of it - thanks to the backups I was in the process of making, but it is going to take weeks to rebuild it and clean it up.  Please send up some prayers that I won't lose anything.  I know many of you must also have thousands of photos - any tips for storing, organizing and backing them up you want to share with the rest of us?  I've been using iPhoto to organize photos just because it is easy, but since I have to rebuild anyway I'm thinking of switching to Adobe Bridge or some-to-be-discovered program.  Any suggestions?

Lesson learned, in 2011 I am going to be MUCH better about doing timely backups and will organize my photos so that they will be easier to find.

Thanks to Amanda over at Project Simple Life for turning me onto Zee Avi - a fun new discovery for 2011.
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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Christmas 2010 - Blissful

Christmas Tree
It feels a bit strange that, after announcing my intention to spend 2011 living in the present,  I'm now posting about something that happened nearly two weeks ago -  but I have to record a glorious Christmas spent with the people I love most.

Dear family: when I said I didn't take many pictures during our celebration this year - I lied.  I loved spending time with you this year, and you are a pretty good looking bunch.   But, Mom, you are as good as ever at avoiding the camera.

  • We made snowmen.  And yes, brother dear, I do have a photo of your snowman "revisions" but this is a family blog so we'll just leave it on my hard drive.  
  • We made snow angels.  Miss M can talk her papa into doing crazy things like get down in the snow to help her out.  Aren't grandpas the best?
  • Tiny T discovered that, when dressed in snow gear, falling down, means he can't get up.
  • We played with new toys - lots and lots and lots of new toys
  • We played a little Wii - and I came in last place every time - but I'm not bitter, not at all.
  • We cooked (and ate) great food
  • We cuddled
  • We hung out together
  • We napped......
With expressive little ones like this all around, having a good time was easy.

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Monday, January 3, 2011

Hello 2011

Eyes forward to the future
It feels so good to be back and to kick off a new year.  I've enjoyed my 2 week vacation from work and blog-land (thanks to the post scheduler for keeping this place up and running while I ignored my computer.)

I routinely set New Year's resolutions which fall by the wayside by the end of the month, which is oh, so, depressing.  But I love the concept I've seen all over your blogs lately of choosing one word for the year.  It seems so full of possibility and gives even someone like me a chance of making it stick.

It won't surprise anyone to know that when I started thinking about my word for 2011 I first turned to music.  I started listening and looking for inspiration in music and lucky me, I found just what I was looking for in Ray LaMontagne's "Be Here Now" - one listen and I knew that my word for 2011 was going to be: PRESENT.

For 2011 I will be PRESENT:

  • I will enjoy the life I have each and every day. 
  • I will stop thinking/saying that when this or that happens/changes life will be better/perfect/right.
  • I will be present and engaged when I am with my friends/family so that they know how much they mean to me, and to make sure I don't miss the really important things in life.
  • I will be present and productive when at work, giving it my best to ensure my clients have the support they need.
  • I will be present and focussed when I am having fun and not caught up in worrying about the things I "should" be doing instead.
  • I will work to make certain that through my words and actions I am a present/gift for those around me.
  • I will work to present my best self to the world, improving my health and strength while reducing my stress.
As I've thought about my intentions for 2011, I realized that if I want to be more present in life I may need to set some new priorities and make some commitments.  My first commitment is to a 30 Days of Yoga program that starts today.  I've always wanted to try yoga and I love the idea of committing to it for 30 solid days.  I'm hoping this will kick off a long-term commitment that will leave me stronger, more focussed and with the satisfaction of comes from the discipline of daily practice.  If you are an experience yoga practicer and have some tips I'd love to hear them!

My second decision is to change my regular 5 posts a week schedule to 3 posts a week: Monday, Wednesday and Friday (and on Thursdays at i-Studio.)  This was a hard decision, I loved my practice of posting each weekday, but I honestly believe that if I want to be more present in my life I need to free up some time to truly live.  And who knows, it may just make for better posts on the days I do post (or at least that is what I'm hoping.)

I'm curious - are you picking a word this year?  And if so, will you share it? 

Or are you making resolutions?  What are they?

But for everyone - what are you best tips for following through.  I really am determined to make 2011 an incredible year and could use all the help I can get.

Let's kick the music part of this blog off with my inspiration song for the year:

Don't let your mind get weary and confused
Your will be still, don't try
Don't let your heart get heavy child
Inside you there's a strength that lies

Don't let your soul get lonely child
It's only time, it will go by
Don't look for love in faces, places
It's in you, that's where you'll find kindness

Be here now, here now
Be here now, here now
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