Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Wanna Hear a Joke?::Soup::January 31

From GCFL.net:
Big Fish
Received from Jonathan Skinner

A class was taken on a fishing boat for a field trip, and
the teacher, in an attempt to lessen fears of big fish,
stated, "There are no fish big enough to swallow people."

"But how about the fish that swallowed Jonah I learned about
in Sunday school?" asked one little boy.

"You can't believe everything you're told," responded the

"I'll ask Jonah when I get to heaven," he replied.

"What if Jonah didn't go to heaven?" prodded his teacher.

"Then you ask him," was the reply.

OH! I forgot to show you my soup pic.

It is tricky to shoot food! The colors have to be just right, and it's hard to tell where the focal point should be. I think this soup is just right, though. Except for the little bit of carrot on the side. Oh well.

It is also difficult to photograph food because it doesn't have a built in focal point like people and animals do. You can't just look deeply into the cookie's eyes, focus and click. So what *do* you focus on?!

I didn't realize any of these problems until I started trying to photograph food.

I wish that I would have kept the bad examples so that I could show them to you also. Envision this, if you can: no vegies showing, so it was just a mass of broth; the light turning the broth's color just a hint of green. Yuck. Not quite what I was going for.

Today's practice was grilled cheese:

I also took some pics of my tuna sandwich, but quickly deleted the pasty-whitish/pinkish grossness. I'll have to try that one on another day when I've got a few more tricks up my sleeve.

Here are the tips and tricks I've learned so far:

Try to find your subject's focal point. Turn the dish around and around, looking at it from all angles. Get down a little lower, like when you photograph a baby and see if that helps.

Get the lighting right. Lighting will change the subtle shades of color. Even flash will do that, so try to use a warm, natural light, or if you need to use flash, play with the intensity of it, maybe putting your hand in front of it, like I did with the doll. Even the shadow on the grilled cheese detracts a little from the pic; when I try again, I'll try to avoid that.

Pay attention to the background. I put the bowl of soup on that placemat because it felt more earthy & homey, just what I felt a vegetable soup needed. I also put it in the white bowl, because I've read that colored dishes will sometimes distort the color of the food in the dish, making it appear unappetizing.

Make the food look delish. With the soup, I rested the spoon on a dumpling in the bottom of the bowl, which pushed the vegetables up just a little to make the soup appear to be loaded with vegies. With the grilled cheese, I looked at the whole sandwich first, then pulled the halves apart a bit, making the cheese pull apart a little. I like the effect, and even think that the cheese strands act a little as leading lines, leading the eye back and forth between the halves.

Throughout this month, I'm going to focus a lot on food. I think there are lots of tricks I'll be able to learn by study and practice.
January is OVER, can you believe it? I hope that you enjoy this last day of January.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Such is the life of a Grandpa

When Aiden came to visit last weekend, he climbed up on the back of the couch, sat down on Grandpa's neck, then proceeded to play with his hair. In the second picture, Steve's expression reminds me of Rodney Dangerfield's "I get no respect" schtick.

Thanks to you friend and family who support me in my endeavors; I have already sold one of my calendars, a few pictures/canvases, set up a senior portrait session for this summer/fall, have my first potential student of my preschool (ad)venture that I'd like to start this fall, and get lots of verbal pats on the back. I really appreciate you all! :)

Today will be a quiet day, and let me tell you that I need one of those! I hope that you get exactly what you need from today as well. :)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Random musings of photography and preschool

I've realized I've moved on from the anger part of the grief process. On to depression. Isn't the mental/emotional healing process awesome?!

I'm trying to be proactive, so that I don't slip into a despair like I did a few years ago when grieving my mom's ill health that put her in the nursing home for good. I'm trying to listen to cues from my body, telling me what it needs and trying to be patient and understanding with myself.

Photography and exercise seem to be good stress reliefs. I wish it was warmer/dryer, so that photography outdoors seemed fun instead of putting it off because of comfort.

I am trying to decide prices and packages for portraits; come spring, I'd really like to start with photography as a business. I finally think I'm ready for it.

I'm also toying with the idea of starting a preschool in my home come fall/schooltime. In high school, I worked in the early childhood education program from the summer of my sophmore year through my senior year, and then I went on to work as a preschool teacher in a commercial daycare. Those little 3 and 4 year olds are where my heart is.

Today, Jared, Matt, and Steve have gone to get hay for the goats, Emily and Steve are sick today, we have Aiden today and tomorrow and he is down for a nap for a moment, Michael is just hanging out, and I am antsy wishing for warmer weather.

Seems like a great day for baking and cooking... I wish Amber was around to help me do it!

Anyhow, I hope that you have a great weekend!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Liver Transplant Clinic Day

We are headed up to the liver transplant clinic today to find out if my brother Bill will qualify for a transplant. Keep us, and especially him, in your prayers today, please.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


And I'll even share my wish with you: That we can all do it again next year. :)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The countdown to 42....

If you were born in another country on the other side of the world where it isn't even the same day as where you are now, you'll understand why every year I put a clock for Guam on my sidebar. It is the only way I know *exactly* when I turn one year older.

Right now, I am 41 for about the next 6 hours.

My kids & grandbaby will all be here to celebrate with me this evening, along with Steve & Bill. I will be thinking of my mom, and I know that she'll be thinking of me too. Only she'll probably be thinking of me tomorrow, because she is a stickler for waiting until the 26th since that is my real birthdate. ;)

I hope that you have a wonderful day today! I know I will :)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Our Sledding Hill and the Blues, Greys, and Whites of Winter

Yesterday morning as I drove by our sledding hill, I decided that I really should take a picture of it one of these days; later in the morning I decided that there was no better time than the present!

The sun was still mostly behind the eastern mountain when I got started, and then all at once it popped out…just in time to be covered up by a cloud.

I took advantage of that one minute of sunlight though, and captured the sunlight playing in the snow.

We haven't gone sledding there for a bit; we need to remedy that! In the spring, when the snow melts and runs down from the mountains, the valleys of this area will be covered in water. My kids have gone and waded in that water in the spring. Many kids who have 4 wheelers love to drive up and over these hills come summertime. This area is all-purpose, year long fun!

Because I have two pictures that are relatively the same except one has the minute-long-sunlight, I thought I'd show them both to you to show how lighting makes all the difference.

This one was with the sun behind the mountain/cloud:

And this one had the sunlight:

The picture without the sunlight looks okay, but the one with the sunlight makes the scene look more playful and sets the stage for the mood I was looking for in shooting our sledding hill. Also, if you look closer, you'll notice that the second pic that has the sunlight also looks more 3-d than the other one, since light areas and shadowed areas add depth.

And this was another view from the same area. I love the greys, blues, and whites of winter. I like the moodiness of winter, and especially the moodiness of the mountains in winter. So for this picture, since I'm trying to convey that moodiness to my viewers, the lack of happy sunshine is a good thing.I've wanted to capture that mood on film for awhile now. I plan to make this one into a print. I'll let you know how that turns out. :)

The lighting that you choose for your picture will change the mood a ton, whether you want your picture to show the happy, sunlit hills that you and your kids play on, or the moody, gloomy mountains on a grey winter's day.

Make it a great day! ;)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

A Saturday semi-tutorial for hard lighting situations

I don't usually drop by on Saturdays anymore, but today is an important exception. ;)

This morning, while everyone else in the house was still sleeping, I decided to take picture of another porcelain doll from my mom. This is the one I'm going to keep; I gave the other one to Emily when I discovered that the one I'd chosen before was the one that she'd wanted to choose.

Anyway, so I was taking a picture of the doll with the lights off, including the sunlight: there seems to be dark clouds over the sun today, and it is RAINING in Utah in January. This is the kind of weather I love for January, but it sure is crazy for Utah to be so accommodating.

So, of course I had to use my external flash to raise the shutter speed from over one second to compensate for the darkness. The first few pics I took were just getting the lighting where it needed to be, by looking at the histogram and making sure I wasn't loosing anything off of either side, by being too light or too dark.

Voila! I got the lighting where it needed to be and here it is:

Bleck! Right? That's what I thought. The harsh shadows and the stark, cold light wasn't what I was going for. So, I placed my hand in front of the flash (about 2 inches away) so that the flash could reflect off of my hand, but not take away too much of the flash, and here was the result:

Much better! Don't you think so, too? And the same technique will work for a pop-up flash too.

I just wanted to stop by and share my success and perhaps help someone else with their tricky lighting situation too. :)

Have a wonderful day!

Friday, January 20, 2012

My 2012 Calendar is up for sale at etsy

My 12 - Month 2012 Nature Calendar is finally up for sale at MerrieMelody.etsy.com Yay!! :)

This Moment::January 20, 2012

This Moment - Inspired by SouleMama; A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

This is a picture that Emily took for her photography class in high school. I let her borrow my camera, since it takes better pics in the dimmer light than hers does.

It was a lot of fun to help her figure out her "Leading Lines" assignment that is due today. I had a lot of fun helping her and then watching her create. There is something about passing along information, especially to your children, that is magical.

I hope that you have a wonderful weekend, and I'll see you back here on Monday. :)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Days of Pondering::January 19

The past couple of days have been "reflecting days" full of moments just pondering.

Husbands have been one of the topics. And again, I come away thankful that I have mine. How he manages to do what he does and make me feel the center of his world (most of the time - he has to have balance ;) is an amazing thing to me.

Routines/Schedules. Not merely day to day, but seasonally. This is a new thought for me. I have day to day routine that I love to do, and I schedule around those things, adding in important things that might get missed if I didn't make a conscious effort. I'm realizing that I have my yearly routines too. For instance: I haven't been wanting to photograph "stuff" as much right now. What I'd *really* like to be doing is quilting. So perhaps I'll have to be aware that there is a natural rhythm to my hobbies.

I've also, in my past couple of days of pondering, thought on the fact that during different seasons I am drawn to different colors. Some colors always stay the same: green: always! light yellow: always! Red is a color I am attracted to in the middle of winter, and as my mind mulled this over I realize it is a balance thing. In the middle of winter, there are many greys, blues, whites: water/metal colors. Red is a fire color. It is all about balance.

Good things are happening in our lives. Things that make us take a look at where we are, where we could be, and where we want to be. Finding that most of the time we are where we want to be has made me feel more content.

Another thought that has occurred to me is that I want to start noticing repetitive patterns in more and photographing them. I was taking a look at this website and loved the patterns. I don't see things in repetition like this; okay, I see them, but I don't see them to notice them. I really enjoyed the photos and am interesting in gaining new sight.

Oh, very, very good news! I have lost 5 pounds in the past 5 days! I need to lose a couple more to get back to my "never-go-above-this-weight" weight, but I'm well on my way. I didn't get here by starving or really "doing" much. I just filled my plate at the beginning of the meal with the portions that I used to eat (as compared to Thanksgiving, Christmas, & New Year portions. Who was the dufus that came up with the "eat yourself silly" season, anyway?! I wish we could spread those holidays out a tad, so that it was easier to keep a handle on my weight.) So instead of eating my sandwich and then seeing Michael has left half of his and eating it too, I ate my one and put Michael's in a baggie in the fridge for another meal or snacktime for him. I had originally tried to go w/o chocolate ... it is my comfort and I needed to be comforted while I was going without my bigger portion since I was feeling denied, so I decided to allot myself a certain number of Hershey's Kisses a day and no more. It has worked! :D

Today I'm going to clear off my sewing center and set about to sew soon (I'm feeling so alliterative! ;) Take care and have a terrific day!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Back from the long weekend

About a week ago, I was sitting on the sofa and looked over at the piano. What I saw was a bit of an accident that works so well it looks like I meant to do it!

Here, I'll show you what I'm talking about:

For Christmas, Steve gave me a canvas of my cows picture (it is my favorite of all of my pics), and since I haven't found a home for it, I set it on the piano behind the nativity. I thought it might look a little cluttered, but I had good intentions of finding a home for it right away. (No, I haven't found a permanent home yet, and yes, some of my Christmas decorations, including the Nativity is still out. I'm not procrastinating.... I just haven't gotten around to it yet. :P )

So anyway, there I was, sitting on the sofa, watching tv or something (I don't remember, after all, it was last week! ;) and I notice that the canvas makes a great background scene for the Nativity. :) So I had to take a picture and show you.

Over the long weekend, I read _The Help_ (which looking back on it looks like I planned it that way, since it was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, but I didn't. It was just fortuitous :) I really, really, really, loved the book and highly recommend it! Then, last night, Steve & I sat down and watched the movie. It was alright, but not as good as the book. If you know you'll never get around to reading the book, at least watch the movie, but if you can, read the book first (though it might drive you crazy at how things are changed around a bit! ;)

Today, I am glad to get back into my normal routine. I love vacations and spending time with the family, but having a schedule can bring peace too.

Have a great day!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Playing with external flash

External flash has turned out to be trickier than I thought it would be, so I've been playing with it to fine tune the process.

Last night, Josh, Karen, & Aiden came by to visit, and while they were here he was given a banana in the high chair. I thought, "Hey! Since he is safely contained in the high chair, I should take advantage of the situation!" and I grabbed my tripod, camera, and external flash and played for a bit. This is what came of it.

I see lots more playing in my near future, too!

I hope that you can play at something that you love today too!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

One of my (photography) successes from yesterday :: and a lesson on panning

I follow "How to Photograph Your Baby" on facebook. On Monday, a picture was posted and we were asked to guess the exposure: shutter speed and aperture (f stop). It was a panning pic of someone's baby in a swing; the baby was sharp in focus, and everything else was a blur.

I had done this before!! So I took a good look at the pic and I left my guess in the comments. Then yesterday I checked back and saw this: (Yes, it is a bit long, but skim through to the BOLDED LETTERS if you aren't a hobby photographer, & read the whole thing if you are, for there is good info in it)

Welcome back to GUESS THE EXPOSURE!

Yesterday we all made our best guess at what shutter speed and f-stop Stephanie used to shoot this sweet swinging picture.

The good news is someone got it 100% right! The bad news is that some of the answers were so bad many of you are now banned from the site for 24 hours. :)

If you said the shutter speed was 500th of a second or faster (like a 500th or 800th or 1000th or 1200th and you know who you are!) you have to go outside and put your camera on one of those speeds and wave it around like you're panning a kid on a swing. Can you blur the background like in Stephanie's picture? No! It's difficult to get camera MOTION blur at a 1/1000th of a second. Try it . This will be a good exercise for those of you who haven't been paying attention. The rest of us will stay here in the warm classroom and have cupcakes while we celebrate with our winner:

MELODY (and my last name)!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Congratulations!

Melody's winning answer was 1/60th of a second at f8.

Let's take another look at Stephanie's picture. Yes, she panned. That means as the swing went back and forth she moved her camera back and forth at the same rate. That's why Stephanie's child is perfectly sharp but the background is blurred. She did a perfect job of panning.

If she had panned at 1/1000th of a second there would be no motion blur effect and the motion blur is what makes this picture work so well. Everything would be frozen and a little boring in my opinion.

If she had used, say, 1/8th of a second everything—including the child on the swing— would have been out of focus mush and we wouldn't be here today talking about this picture

F8 was a good safe guess for the f-stop. The f-stop affects depth-of-field. If she had used f2 the background would be very blurry. If she had used f22 the background would appear sharper—if the shutter was the same, that is. I know that's a little convoluted but work with me on this one.

So f8 is a medium f-stop and the background appears to be medium sharp so that makes it a good safe guess. Did Melody guess? Yes. Was she a little bit lucky? Well, yes, but all good photographers are lucky.There's really no way for a viewer to know for sure what the f-stop would be in this picture, but Melody's answer was an educated lucky guess.

Thanks to all of the contestants! (I was kidding! There's cupcakes for everyone! Come back in to the classroom! Oh my goodness, it was colder outside than I thought! You're blue and shaking! But look at it this way—nobody said a 10,000th of a second! That's progress!)

So see you next time on

By: How to Photograph Your Baby

I may not win photography contests, but at least I know my exposures! ;)

Today will be the last day with my brother Bill's daughter & her husband. They came into town on Monday, and it has been a lot of fun to visit with them. I wish they lived closer! I will miss them greatly.

To all of you, I wish you a Happy Day filled with all of the goodness it can hold.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Picking up Aiden

I babysat Aiden this weekend, and when Josh and Karen came and picked him up on Sunday night, there was such a cute reunion :)

I hope that you have a GREAT day!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

January 5th::My New Calendars!!

I got them back from the printer's, and they are all ready to go!! I'll be selling them for $12.50 + $5 shipping & handling on etsy so keep a look out! (If you want to buy one before I get it up, just leave a message in the comments along w/ an email addy for me to contact you.)

You can browse it here :)

Have a great day!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A little of this, a little of that:: recipes, patterns, and a ink to my creative writing blog

I'm scouring the blogdom for some interesting fodder for my own blog today. So far, I've seen some interesting things like a recipe for lip balm. And a pattern for a tablet protective cover.

You know what I found to be even more interesting than those two things though? The idea of this life: (It is the author to the lip balm recipe bio)
Margaret Boyles lives in a wood-heated house in central New Hampshire. She grows vegetables, eats weeds, keeps chickens, swims in a backyard pond in summer, snowshoes in the surrounding woods in winter, and commutes by bike whenever possible.

You know what I find most interesting? It is very similar to the life I lived in Kentucky.. only instead of me doing the fun-outdoorsy-stuff, it was my kids doing it while I sat inside and gestated or lactated. It was my time in Eden. Really. Did you know that you can read about that past life? A link is located on my left sidebar. It is on a different blogsite: Jumping Write In. The whole blog reads like a compilation of short stories. I hope that you love to read them as much as I loved to write them. Oh, plus one is fictional; the one about the husband dying. I have always wondered if I could go back to living in the country without Steve, so in the story I killed off the husband and had them have no kids, because who wants to be a widow with six little kids? Not me! Anyway, go read a story or two, it'll be fun! And then I won't have to think so hard about what to write on this blog today. ;)

Have a super great day! I'm off to clean the tub and toilets. Yee haw!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Still Life::Vegies & New Year's Resolutions

Yesterday, Steve brought home some vegies and for some reason placed them carefully on the table. I saw them, saw the beautiful, complimentary colors and had to take a picture.

I took the picture with the natural light (coming in through the window) at 4:30 p.m. The aperture was set to about 29, so that I could make sure all of the vegies were in focus; the ISO was set to 400, to prevent the graininess that my camera produces at 800; so that left the shutter speed to come up with the difference: 15 seconds. A tripod had to be used, of course, but the final result was just what I was looking for: beautiful colors, all in focus, and the lighting was perfect. (In fact, I loved it so much I sent the pic to the printer's for 4x6 and 5x7 copies that will be in my etsy shop sometime next week. :)

Also yesterday I came up with some resolutions and my word: Bloom.
Here is what I wrote down:
Word: Bloom

1) Turn my home into a haven.I have looked at other houses, but none have been able to win over my heart more than the one I’m in.
I like the cottage look of my home. I like my neighbors and my neighborhood. I like the people in my small town and I like that they know and like me and my family.

I want to see the shortcomings in my home and try to find ways to turn them around into things that add beauty and value.
For instance:
I don’t like that we notice the billboard & freeway. Solution: lacy draperies would work nicely to add beauty and also to semi block the view.
I need to put the fence back up and paint the house this year.
I need to fix the flooring: it will never be any better than it is right now until it is fixed.
Organize what we have, store what we need/want, and get rid of stuff we won’t use or that is unusable.

2) Become a part of the/a community (town related “stuff”) I’m in, or join a group to give me that sense of belonging.

3) Make sure I’m living and not just surviving. The past few years have made it hard to concentrate on taking care of myself, but I can’t live that way very long. Take the time (and a little money, if needed) to take care of myself. (Photography only counts if it is truly play.)

4) Worry less about what people might think of me and worry more about how I view myself. In the end, I will be a better person for it.

5) Play harder. I work and I rest. I need to allow myself to play more often and with more enthusiasm.

6) Have a schedule as part of my routine. Take time to sit down and evaluate how my day is going and make a schedule, when needed, to get myself back on track.

7) Live healthier.
Take good quality supplements.
Eat healthy foods.
Make menus to ensure that over-all nutrition is happening.
Be active: Exercise every day for at least 30 minutes, whether it is going for a walk, working out with a video, or playing an active game/sport.

I have some things to work on, schedules to make, and menus to plan.

What about you? Are you a word & resolution person too? I've been looking around at other people's blogs to see what they are doing, and it seems to be about 50/50. If you feel comfortable sharing in the comments, I'd love to know about yours.

Have a terrific day!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy 2nd Birthday to Aiden!

Our little guy is 2! Can you believe it?!

On Saturday, we celebrated his birthday. Then later than night we took him to the doctor for an ear infection and pink eye (which he'd come down with just a few hours before the party started and fever broke out during) poor little guy!

He liked the cake & playing the games, though, and I took some pics to share with you:

He liked tasting the frosting. (And I thought it was cute. Prob'ly since I'm the Grandma, not the Mama. :) Karen finally saw and so the cake was taken away. But I got pictures :)

He is so fun and such a joy! Happy Birthday, dear Aiden! Happy Birthday to you!

Have a wonderful day!