The Frugal Grandma

I have a weakness for Christmas items on clearance, so the adrenaline rush hit when I discovered a mid-January 90% price reduction sale recently.  Whoa… a gingerbread tree kit for less than $2.  This would be fun to do with my two-year old granddaughter! Oh, no…Christmas is 11 months away.
So what.  She is two and we can call it a winter tree. 

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Rachel2-8865plCurious fingers open the box and pull out the contents.

Rachel2-8887hfm20plHmmm…pretty, but what do I do with them?

Rachel2-8903It wasn’t too hard to stack the cookies, but the kit frosting wasn’t quite as plentiful as the box portrayed.  Cream cheese frosting would have been easier.

Rachel2-8900dmvOops!  Someone took a bite…

Rachel2-8914Add the pretty candy balls.

Rachel2-8923hfm20dmvEven winter trees need a (broken) star.

Rachel2-8925Tah-dahhhh!!
Considering that a two-year old tends to have the attention span of a gnat, I’d say lasting one full hour on a project is impressive. On top of that, it held MY full attention for an hour. I did rush the decorative frosting part and pretty much globbed it on. Martha Stewart would have rolled her eyes and tisked

Rachel2-8944Even though the results weren’t as perfect as pictured on the box, it looked just fine to me.  In this case, I declared the process  more important than the results.  I doubt that I will be asked to be a contestant on any of the cake decorating reality shows, anyway.  That’s O.K., I have enough to do already!

“Create with the heart; build with the mind.”

~Criss Jami

Christmas is for children… learning the art of giving.

The pretty lights and excitement of opening brightly wrapped gifts are not the only things that provide joy and delight for children. It’s also about the giving. How many of us remember toiling over a project at school meant to be given as a Christmas gift for our parents?  The pride attached to the process, completion of the task, as well as satisfaction when the recipient expressed sincere appreciation:

Oooooh…. an angel made from the Readers’ Digest. It’s perfect and I LOVE it!      


6a00e5509b40db88340120a76e856c970b-320wiThird grade was the year of the Readers’ Digest Angel.

DSCN8340Let’s see… second grade found me tying plastic strips (school received a supply closet full of plastic products donated by 3M that year) onto a coat hangar bent into a circle shape in Mrs. Butzer’s class.  We started well before Thanksgiving since we were tying strips the day the announcement came over the loudspeaker that President Kennedy had been shot – November 22, 1963.

imagesEveryone can use a decorative pencil can. This project worked for multiple Christmas seasons.

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My mouse traps never looked this cute. I recall spray painting them gold, probably before they banned lead in paint. Maybe that explains a few things, huh!

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Weaving  pot holders kept me busy and was  yet another practical item. My mom liked practical items.

bookmark1Felt, glue and hair clips were the essential materials needed to make handy bookmarks and were given to the piano and Sunday School teachers.  Those were the days we all read books that we held in our hands rather than electronic tablets, Kindles, Ipads and the like.  Again, mine weren’t this perfect but did include sequins so they sparkled.

These memories from childhood that pop into my head seem trivial, at best, but must have made an impact since they are still there. The feeling of pride from making a gift with my own hands and satisfaction with the process of giving apparently made a lasting impression on me.

Maybe it IS better to give than receive…?

I’m so excited…!

O.K., so I’m getting into the Christmas spirit and it’s pouring over into my photography obsession.

How did I do this?  You’ll find the camera info below the image.

Christmas is for Children

Christmas is for Children

Canon 5D Mark 2
2 images blended:

Base image of Tree lights:   ISO 200 / shutter 1/15 / aperture 2.8 / braced on knees to hold steady without tripod

Little girl image taken in studio with Alien Bee lights:  ISO 160 / shutter 1/160 / aperture 5.6

Text added with Photoshop CS5 and border added using Kubota Actions

Yes!  I’m so excited that Christmas is almost here!

Even an old lady like me can get into the Christmas mood    (No, I haven’t gotten into the wine cellar yet today!)

Through the eyes of a child… a prairie perspective

Growing up on the prairie…

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Feeling the dirt below your feet
The wind as it blows through your hair
Nature and its noisy chorus at nightfall
Warmth of the sun on your face
Finding the perfect stick
Watching ants
Noisy silence

A mother’s love…

God sure knew what he was doing when he designed this feature of human nature.
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Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. ~ Psalm 127:3

On the edge of adulthood…

…excitement, anticipation, anxiety, questioning, wondering…

This Bible passage seems to speak to young people as they look forward to graduation.
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Thoughts race through young minds on the cusp of a new world. Which direction should I go? Which school or vocation should I pursue? …and the age old question – What if I fail?
So many opportunities before them in high school and beyond. If one tries, there is an activity or pursuit that will fit their talents, personalities and interests.

I am usually in envy of young people with their whole adult lives ahead of them, but should I be? I am in a transition phase, as well, but I have many years of experiences and efforts behind me.  I already know what I can and cannot do so that narrows the field. (Lots of things I use to be able to do that are not options now)  I also know what I want to do which is also a plus.

The big question, though, is what SHOULD I do?

O.K., so maybe I’m not so different from these young guys and gals after all!  Maybe the Bible passage is a good one for all of us in any of our stages in life.  Hmmm…

Camino Day 4 ~ Every rock has a story

It is  Camino day four and we are just leaving the hilly vineyard region past Cacabelos and discover a touching memorial along the side of the path.

Spain-1030606dmv Another pilgrim must have passed away near the vineyards.

Spain-1030606-2dmvI hope his daughter was able to finish the Camino and fulfilled his dream, as well as her own.

Spain-1030628dmvI don’t have many photos in Villafranca del Bierzo due to the constant rain, but I just can’t resist strolling ladies.

In the Middle Ages, the town of Villafranca del Bierzo is first mentioned in 791. The origin of the modern town is connected to the Way of St. James as a rest place for the pilgrims which started to reach  Santiago de Compostela from the 9th century.  ~Wikipedia

Spain-1030630dmvcrIf you want clean clothes you need to do the laundry, rain or shine. It is going to take some time to dry if the weather stays like this in Trabadelo, Spain.  The village is in the region of El Bierzo and Galician is spoken here.  It is still the province of Leon but we are getting closer to Galicia.

Spain-1030641Our Spanish is limited and her English is, too.  We still managed to have a wonderful conversation.

Spain-1030639She has to be one of the cutest ladies I’ve seen.  Her twinkling eyes and warm smile can sure brighten up a dreary day.  “Buen camino!”  are her parting words.

Spain-1030642dmvThe 17th century Parish Church of San Nicolas is in the background. This simple church contains a small seated image of the Virgin with Child dating from the Middle Ages.

Our gang is now traveling in three groups.  Kathy, Lori and Jane are together;  Randy and Joyce are bringing up the rear; but where are Joan and Diane?  Are they pursuing an alternative camino experience?  Are they sitting in a bar somewhere, too exhausted to go another step?  Have they been abducted?

Hmmm…

Love…in the purest form.

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A tender moment in time between a father and his newborn son.

It’s Photo Friday ~ Let’s catch some action!

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Canon A2E / flash on camera / 2001?

~Quote by Dan Frisby

If you have kids involved with sports, you have probably found yourself photographically challenged from time to time. Gyms are so varied as far as lighting and white balance issues. Cameras have improved through the years which helps the outcome considerably. When I started taking basketball action shots I used a 35mm SLR with an on camera flash and 400 speed film. My first digital camera was a Canon G5 point and shoot that was extremely noisy above 400 ISO. Now I’m able to shoot a Canon 5D Mark 2 at a high ISO with tolerable noise, shoot raw and make adjustments in Lightroom.

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Canon G5 / flash on camera / 2005

Do the inferior images of previous years bother me? Absolutely not! The main thing is I have an image that caught a moment in time. Life is not perfect and it’s O.K. if your images are not of Sports Illustrated caliber. My journey was a learning process and still continues.

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Canon 5D Mark 2 / ISO 6400 / 2.8 @ 1/500

We all like to improve our photography skills so how can we increase our chances of catching a good action shot?

1. Prepare to use a high ISO. I often use 3200 to 6400 depending on the light in the gym. I try to use available light and avoid flash since I have had better results and on camera flash can be distracting during a game.
2. Use a fast shutter speed. 1/1000 is good but I found I would often need to go with 1/500 to have enough light even at high ISO’s and that yielded adequate results.
3. Experiment with angles. The best shots are often not from a seat in the stands. Try taking the pics from different ends and corners while staying out of the way of referrees and players. Try high and low angles.
4. A long lens helps. I use a Canon L, 70-200 IS lens. 300-400 would be great but I don’t own one.
5. Don’t spend too much time “chimping” (Checking your shots.) You will miss some good action shots if you are constantly looking at your images in the camera. I would do some practice shots to tweak my settings during warm ups and use time outs to check what I had and make adjustments, if necessary.
6. Try to take some of the images with your team’s fans in the background. You may want to zero in on the crowd and catch some fun shots.
7. Try using Al servo focus with continuous action to track moving subject. I would often use one shot focus with the center focus frame selected but, if the action is rapidly moving toward you,  Al Servo focus is useful option. Check your manual to see how to access it on your camera.

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These moments are fleeting and will be gone before you know it. Parents, enjoy these days and capture lots of memories to cherish for a lifetime.bb-6172
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It’s Photo Friday and Red Riding Hood is Sad.

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ISO 160 / F 3.5 / 1/400

Combination of two main images plus treeline layers added and blended while the subject was flipped horizontally for more a pleasing composition. Creek was removed as I found it distracting ~  I wanted the emotion of the subject to be the main focus. Color was desaturated enough to give a vintage tone, wanted the dress color to tie in with the trees and a slight warming filter was added. Falling snow was added in layers with a motion blur added to the final top snow layer. Eraser tool removed any distracting snow on face.

My dilemma was whether to remove any snow in front of the face to emphasize her expression or leave some to appear more realistic. Hmmm…

I would love to give this a painted look.  Any suggestions?