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Sunday, September 25, 2011


 My Horse.

Having a bit of a horse themed weekend. I downloaded this game for iPad a few weeks ago called, "My Horse." I just remembered yesterday to show it to Lauren, and now she's obsessed with it. You can do all kinds of fun things to take care of your horse like mix its feed, dress it up in tack, and enter it into competitions. It's just like having a real one, without the smell and the expense.

Good boots are hard to come by.

I've had this shot in mind for over a year now. Mark wants to sell our antique horse because we currently don't have a place to display it. However, he's forbidden to do so until I've exhausted its use as a photo prop. Since today's challenge was "Begins with B," I thought it was about time to put on my boots and saddle up.

Speaking of begins with "B," I'm so sad that we didn't make our usual trek to this weekend's Great Geauga County Antique Show in Burton, Ohio. This was the first in at least the last nine years that we didn't go. However, yesterday afternoon was Lauren's first swimming lesson, so we felt that it was more important for us to be there, rather than have my parents take her while we went to Ohio for the day.

Since this summer she taught herself how to hold her breath underwater, we signed her up for Level 2. As I watched the lesson, I began to freak out inside because they were really challenging her by asking her to try things she hadn't before, like floating on her back and using a kick board. On top of that, some of the instructors were high school students, and I was skeptical that Lauren was going to try any of these things with an unfamiliar teenaged boy coaching her. At one point, I even wondered if maybe the instructors would recommend that she move to Level 1, because most of the Level 2 students seemed to be relatively proficient. I sat there reminding myself that it was my job to push her to do things outside of her comfort zone, even though I was very uncomfortable watching it.

At the end of the class, they lined up all the kids so they could jump feet first into the deep end of the pool. Some of the kids were even brave enough to jump off the diving board! I couldn't get Lauren to jump into the shallow end of our community pool, so I thought that there was no way she was going to do it.

Soon it was her turn. She stepped up to the edge of the pool and paused for a little bit.

Then she jumped.

I practically cheered out loud. When her turn came up a second time, she did it again.

When lesson was over, I came down from the spectator area to meet her. I asked her, "That couldn't have been my little daughter that I saw jumping into the deep end of the pool, was it?"

She exclaimed with a big smile, "Yeah - I did it twice, and I wanted to do it three times!"

I'd say she's Level 2 alright.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Higher learning.


Yesterday, Mark and I attended curriculum night at Lauren's school. It provides parents a chance to learn more about teaching methodologies and what goes on during the school day.

Ms. Truby's class.

It gave me a chance to take some photos of Lauren's classroom. She strictly forbade me from doing it before the school year started when we went to meet her teacher. HA! I showed her! In fact, I've resolved that I'm not going to tell her that this blog even exists. It will be our secret.

Like kindergarten, first grade sounds like a lot of fun. However, you can tell that things are getting a little more serious. The classroom decor, while still cute, isn't quite as warm and fuzzy as kindergarten. The kids no longer sit at a table, but they now each have their own desk with folders and textbooks. Lauren was very proud of her desk. Earlier this week, she described how she "organized" her desk so that folders are stacked on one side and books are stacked on the other. And sure enough, she did.

The biggest difference is curriculum. A lot more is expected of first graders. We've already had a spelling test and a vocabulary test that contained words like "supportive" and "distance." Right now, they're reviewing the simple addition that they learned in kindergarten, but by the end of the school year, they'll be adding two digit numbers together. She also has additional subjects like Social Studies and Science. The grading system is now A, B, C's and D's.


The theme of Lauren's classroom is "World Class Champions," and everything is related to the Disney movie, Cars.

Daddy and...Lauren?!

The kids pulled t-shirts over their chairs so it looked like they were all sitting there in class. See the gray egg-shaped thing to the right? It kind of works like "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire." The teacher asks a multiple choice question, and the kids "buzz in" their answers. Once everyone has answered, a chart pops up on the screen that shows the percentage of students who answered each choice. The teacher can also use the information to run analytics that show who is answering correctly and who might need some help. Pretty neat, huh?

Helping hands.

Here are this week's "Helping Hands." Lauren's current job is "Banker." According to her, she has to count fake money, but I don't think it has anything to do with Monopoly.

About me.

Here's her "About Me" poster that hangs outside the classroom. I was pleased to see that she included a drawing of Marcus. She's generally not too fond of him because he likes to steal her toys.

So it sounds like it's going to be another busy year. Thanks to Grandma and Pappy Bruno (who I know are reading this) for watching Lauren since Mark and I had to attend. It wasn't quite date night, but we’ll have plenty of time to spend alone together when Lauren’s away at Harvard.

Man of science.

Man of science. Today's challenge is "Magnify." Mark is a scientist - in fact his lab is the biological imaging center for the university where he works. So one Christmas I gave him this antique microscope and an old copy of Gray's Anatomy. Today was another dreary one, devoid of light, so I broke out the strobe once again. Originally, I was going to title this with a quote, so when I went looking, I found this one: "Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing." ~Wernher Von Braun And that's exactly what I'm doing when I try to work with off camera lighting - research. ETA: I almost forgot to mention that this post is dedicated to Mel C. She'll know why. Hint: It has to do with the book.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


 Abstract love.

I expected to post only the honeymoon photos today, but then again, I didn't expect Mark to give me an anniversary gift.

Since we are in the middle of redesigning our kitchen, I had told him not to worry about buying gifts this year because we're already treating ourselves with a new kitchen. Nonetheless, he went ahead and purchased this original painting by El Gato Gomez. You have to check out her her site - the her work is AMAZING! Yep, I think this makes us gen-you-ine fine art collectors.

I was thrilled by his thoughtfulness, good taste and the fact that that this painting fulfilled today's photo challenge ("Exotic") quite nicely! I think it will look awesome hanging in our new kitchen.

Nine years.


Today marks our 9 year wedding anniversary, so I thought it would be fun to show some NEVER BEFORE SEEN (Okay, rarely seen in the last 9 years), photos of our honeymoon!

Honeymoon in Vegas

I adore our honeymoon photos, and in fact, I'd have to say that I hold them more dear than the ones from our wedding day. Several years ago, I made a photo album / scrapbook for them. We spent our honeymoon in Las Vegas, so only a Vegas style album would do! Yes, that cover is velvet. Doesn't it remind you of the decor in a cheap casino hotel room? Totally appropriate.

Inside the album.

Here's a peek at the inside. I had intended to include journaling to describe our trip, but I never got around to it. I admit that journaling, even though it's so critical to memory keeping, is my least favorite part of scrapbooking, and I'll often finish every other part of a project other than the journaling. Lauren's kindergarten album? Finished, all but the journalling.

But back to the honeymoon, which came way before Lauren.


Here we are in the lobby of the fabulous Venetian hotel where we spent our stay.


Here I am joking around in front of the Mirage. This was before Manticore went berserker and almost ate Roy, so this was not meant to be a parody.


Here's the closest I'll ever get to the Eiffel Tower.


And the closest I'll get to Harrison Ford, for that matter.


For those of us who know my darling well, this is too easy. We'll just say that Mark is hanging out at FAO Schwartz at Caesar's Palace.


Me lounging in front of the pyramid at Luxor.


Me pretending to be Lady Liberty in front of New York, New York.


Mark taking liberties with some ladies.


Elvis impersonator. A very short Elvis impersonator.


Yes, here's that same old shot that everyone has of a weird guy on stilts tickling someone with a feather. You can only be so creative with your vacation photos.


 As you can see, we had a lot of fun. Maybe next year for our tenth anniversary we'll return to Las Vegas, with Lauren in tow of course. :)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Meet Harry.

Meet Harry.

(Get it? "Hairy" eyeball?)

Just in time for Halloween next month, Lauren dug out this little guy and suggested that I take a photo of him. This time around, I thought I'd try some off camera lighting to achieve the look I wanted. I started to learn off camera lighting last Spring, but since there has been plenty of natural light to go around, I haven't been practicing at all. My plan is to really learn flash during the winter months when it gets dark at like 3 p.m., and there's little hope of taking a decent photo without it.

This one actually turned out exactly how I envisioned it and is straight out of the camera with the exception of a little sharpening. It was not taken in front of a black background. I mention this because I'm super proud of myself for using my camera to kill the ambient light in the background and turn it black.

This was for the challenge "Begins with 'S'." Lots of "s" words come to mind here:  spooky, scary, silly, and of course, sighted. ;)

Coming up tomorrow - a very special anniversary post. You won't want to miss it - lol!

Friday, September 16, 2011


Standing tall.

For the last month or so, I've still been doing the daily challenges off and on, but I haven't been so good about posting them here. In fact, I've been experiencing a creative slump these last couple of weeks. It happens now and then, but each time it happens, I fret that this is going to be the time that I don't recover! So in an attempt to break out of my slump, I brought my camera to work with me everyday. I've been promising myself for sometime now that I would do this, but I can never seem to bring myself to follow through. That is, until this week. I brought my camera to work with me everyday, vowing to take just ONE photo before the end of the week.


I drive through our local park to and from work. It's pretty scenic, especially in the mornings when I see sunrises, deer and sometimes turkeys. I also pass by this field. I've been trying to get up enough nerve all week to stop and take a few photos. Why the hesitancy? For one, places to pull off the road are few and far between on my route through the park. Also, I'm not exactly dressed to go hiking. Then there's the fact that I'm kind of in a hurry because well, I'm on the way to work. Or, I'm on the way home from work and need to pick up Lauren from grandma's, take the dogs out for their potty break and get dinner started.

So that gave me all of about ten minutes to get the job done.

Welcome to Scout Field.

Apparently, the place is called Scout Field. The sign says that it is "a grassland habitat, an area dominated by tall grasses & wildflowers, and inhabited by many species of birds, insects, small mammals, reptiles and amphibians. Grasslands are vibrant, visually pleasing, part of our environment and need to be protected."

Hints of autumn.

Right now, the field is covered in goldenrod as far as the eye can see. Bees were crawling all over it. I ventured into the goldenrod just a teeny bit so that I could get some of these shots and thankfully was not stung (However, I did find numerous little burrs stuck to my shirt when I arrived home.).


Here is just one of the many bird houses scattered across the field. As soon as I got out of the car, a blue jay flew over my head.

Fields of gold.

I had to hold the camera above my head to get this shot. I wish I had more time to follow the trail, but I guess that will have to wait until I have more than 10 minutes to spare (And the company of Mark, because the place is fairly isolated.).

Hopefully this is the start of a new habit. At the very least, I plan on stopping by the field again so that I can track changing of the seasons.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Finally first.

 First day outfit.

Usually our district starts school at the end of August, but this year the kids went back after Labor Day. So I feel like I'm late arriving to the back to school party.

New backpack.

Believe it or not, I had to convince Lauren to pick out a new backpack. While her old one was still intact, it had acquired quite a few stains last school year, but she was still insistent on using it. This frog themed backpack was a last minute Target purchase. The fact that it's printed with her two favorite colors, turquoise and pink, really helped my cause. When I look at this photo, it really bothers me that the cute stuffed froggy head is facing the wrong way. Just so you know.

The first day outfit was another challenge. She had picked out something a little too casual for the first day, so I had to send her back for a re-do. It was a classic mother and daughter moment, one that I'm certain to relive over and over again during the next 12 years.

Mocking the camera.

However, I did not have to convince her to get her haircut. Every since I had gotten them last Spring, Lauren has been obsessed with "side bangs" and had to have some of her own.
  Walking to the bus stop with Daddy.

Lauren walking Daddy to the bus stop.

 Walking to the bus stop.

Here's last year for comparison. Big difference, huh? Little did I realize how much Mark had shrunk over the past year. Lauren is practically up to his elbow now.

Away she goes.

And away she went. She is a old pro at this now. After all, she is a first grader.