Monday, December 25, 2017

Christmas Day 2017

We spent Christmas Day quietly at home, a tradition I have cherished for many years.  I'm usually so busy earlier in the month, I have felt the day couldn't be properly enjoyed if we were rushing around, needing to be somewhere or preparing for company.  This time, it felt almost too quiet.  Perhaps it will be time for a change next year?

It was a white Christmas.  :)

A few of our favorite gifts . . .

This one was from a friend.  You wouldn't think I'd get excited about paper plates, but there are plenty of opportunities to use them, and I like fun and colorful designs.

Also from a friend.  We didn't know about this company with my name and got a kick out of it.

From Greg, which he picked out all by himself.  I love it.  We tried one out immediately, and I am definitely going to enjoy these!

For Greg:

Kylen got a couple of comment shirts matching his current passion.  I bought the first one, but I actually like the second, from friends, a lot better.  Good job, Friends!

I couldn't pass this up.

We also received two personalized family gifts from friends that were really nice, a sign and an ornament!

We spent a lot less on each other than usual and gave a gift for our whole family, a Nintendo Switch with one game:

And this is what we did the rest of Christmas Day and most of the break until after New Year's.  We decided to make it a family game, so no one is allowed to play alone until we beat it.  Great bonding time: taking turns playing, trying to figure out puzzles, and arguing about what to do next.  We're not thrilled with the town where Link is forced to dress like a girl, but otherwise we think it's one of the best games of all time.  Definitely the best Zelda game ever.

We couldn't believe how tiny the cartridge is!  So cute!

We kept a few other traditions, and - for dinner - made our belated Thanksgiving meal the day before so we didn't need to cook.  :)

Friday, December 1, 2017

November 2017

November was a fairly busy month with a large variety of activities, especially for Kylen.  His schedule included playing a lead role in a reader's theater, a game night, seeing several shows, outings related to volunteering at the local theater, rehearsing a skit for our co-op's Christmas party, teen writer's gatherings, voice lessons, and basketball.  Co-op ended for the holidays, giving us our Mondays back.

We received a bout of heavy snowfall unusually early.

Greg and Kylen were given tickets to a Gonzaga men's basketball game - in a suite!

A local gal, who taught art classes in our city for over a decade, retired.  We went to visit her, and it sure did bring back memories!  Kylen and I both took classes when he was in grade school.

We celebrated Thanksgiving with Greg's parents at a restaurant.  My favorite was the soup.  It was amazing!!

The restaurant was in a hotel.  We liked the cute chalk drawings in their computer area.

The day after Thanksgiving, we had a wonderful dinner at a friend's house.  :)

A member of our co-op hosted a crafting get-together to make decorations for our co-op's Christmas party.  I thought that was a fantastic idea!  It went really well, and I learned how to make glittery yarn balls.

Well, on to December!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

On Your Mark! Game

Ever since I've considered teaching a drawing class at co-op, I've had an affinity for drawing games.  I stumbled across one at Hallmark with good reviews and decided to buy it.  You wouldn't normally think of Hallmark as being a game store, but this one is actually pretty good!  I enjoyed it most with two or three players, but it can handle up to eight.

There are categories for drawings such as "things", "activities", and "famous characters".  Everyone has to guess the title of the other players' artworks.  Here's one by Kylen.

An added challenge is that players are required to draw on a surface that already has markings.  The markings must be incorporated into the drawing.  It can require a lot of creativity, which is a big part of what makes the game fun.  We all enjoyed seeing how the other players worked their markings in.  Greg and Kylen are very creative and artistic, even though Kylen doesn't usually express himself through drawing.

We ended up taking numerous pictures, because we were often impressed with each other's work.  Here is one by Greg.  He had to incorporate the moon shape.

I did this one.  It had the black circles where the table and chairs are drawn.

I highly recommend this game, especially for people who like to draw or are creative.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

October 2017

October boils down to three biggies: senior pictures, school, and Willy Wonka shows.  On the college front, Kylen filled out his first scholarship application and started his first college class.  He's taking a dual enrollment English course through Liberty University online.  It's worth a half high school credit.  If all goes well, he'll take a second English course before summer.

When we did senior pictures, we also got a family picture for our Christmas cards.  :)

And that was October!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Senior Pictures

One of the things I was nervous about this year was senior pictures.  Photography is one of my hobbies, and I thought it would be nice if I could take them myself.  I also have been wanting to rent an expensive camera to see if it might be worth purchasing one down the road.  My aunt, who is a professional photographer, recommended Lensrentals.  They were great!  We ordered the Canon 5D Mark III and - for the lens - the Canon 24-70 mm f/2.8L II.  It came with a strap, hood, filter, charger, laminated cheat sheet, and battery.  We used everything except the filter.  We kept the hood on continuously, as that was the advice I read online.  We had to supply our own memory card, which we didn't know when ordering.  Good thing we had one from our own camera!  We also used our own tripod.

I'm a perfectionist, and pictures are something I really, really care about.  To me, there are two times in your life when you should have professional photos done: your senior year and your wedding day.  (OK, and maybe a few family photos and baby pictures too.)  The problem is that I'm a total amateur who does not enjoy learning my way around a camera.  All the technical jargon in the manual quickly loses me.  I prefer a good auto mode where I like to stay most of the time.

So I was putting a lot of pressure on myself.  We were aiming for late summer/early fall, and just as I was going to order the camera, we got fires that filled the sky with smoke.  I waited for the air to clear.  Then, the weather was hit and miss with rain and cold.  I started to wonder if we'd be able to take them before winter!  I am very sensitive to cold, and my top location of choice was Mt. Spokane.  I knew I'd be shooting a couple hours without gloves, and my hands are particularly sensitive.  Plus, it can easily be 10 degrees cooler up there.  While waiting, I busied myself with researching tips and ideas for poses.

Relying on the 10 day forecast, which I knew wasn't reliable, I finally got the order in.  The camera arrived a day early (no extra charge).  I had counted on having a few days to practice, but we moved up our first session to match the weather.  We scrambled to get ready, and in our rush out the door, small details were overlooked.  Like not realizing how badly Kylen needed a trim . . . and forgetting to remind him to use lotion.  Neither bode well for closeups.

I discovered how difficult it is for me to handle a camera that size, something I'd been concerned about.  I gained a whole new level of respect for professionals who lug those monsters around.  It was tricky to figure out how to hold the camera with my deformed hands (arthritis), and I had to rest frequently.  In fact, Greg took a large portion of the outdoor shots.  I would tell him what I wanted or frame the shot, and then he would take the actual pictures.  When the tripod was used, he attached and removed the camera for me.

Then there was the wind.  It was blowing his hair all over the place, and because he needed a trim, the impact was pretty significant.

We came home, downloaded pictures, and I got a shock.  They were terrible.  Truly terrible.  Mt. Spokane - where I have been dreaming of taking his senior portraits for years, where we have so many family memories, where I have gotten fantastic shots in the past - completely let us down.  There was something wrong with the lighting.  It was a clear sky, but there was a haze over everything.  The color was washed out, and there was shadow.  Even the shots with our own camera turned out bad, so I know it wasn't from using a different camera.  So disappointing!

Riverfront Park was another location I was considering, so we did a session there on a different day.  I had time to give Kylen a trim, and he remembered to use lotion.  Thankfully, some of those turned out well.  In another session, Greg took the camera to get pictures of him playing basketball.  Unfortunately, we didn't remember to find the action mode.  Most of them ended up blurry.  I did a couple sessions at home with him playing piano and video games, wearing one of his production costumes, and holding a basketball.  We probably took around 1,000 shots and got a handful we were pleased with.  Through it all, I was trying to maintain a positive attitude so that Kylen would have good memories associated with his senior pictures.  I didn't always succeed!

I guess I'm glad we did it, but there is a part of me that regrets not having them professionally done.  I will probably always wonder if we would have been better off that route.  It certainly would have saved me a lot of stress, and I would have been just as happy so long as they turned out well.  A professional would have known how to cope with the strange haze on Mt. Spokane.  In fact, he probably would have figured out how to use it to his advantage.

I've been slowly editing, and here are some of our favorites.