Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Lesson learned

My sister wanted me to take family pictures for her this past Saturday. Naturally I was completely stoked. I am honored to be asked to do this type of thing.

Saturday morning...bad news. My niece, Chelsea, had the flu and would not be able to make it for the family photo. My sister, with more faith in me than she should have, asked me if I could just add Chelsea to the photos.

Um....suuuuuure. I've never actually superimposed anyone (successfully) into a photo before. But, this is the type of thing I need practice with, so I leaped at the opportunity to try.

But before I get to that, let me just say that the family photo session was kind of a flop. All my fault of course. Here they had made this lovely Christmas arrangement by my sister's beautiful fireplace. Unfortunately, there wasn't much light in the room other than some afternoon sun shining through an adjacent window. It was casting some pretty harsh glare on the faces of my family :( I was too excited and caught up with snapping away to notice. Lesson learned: always look at the people you are photographing and make sure they are in the best light...sans glare.

One thing that helps with the problem is using the flash. However, on this particular day, I didn't use the flash as much as I should have. The reason being, I can snap pictures continuously, one right after another, without flash on. When I have flash, after two or three pictures, I end up waiting for the flash to recharge (maybe 5 seconds, but it seems like an eternity) before I am able to go again. And when you are photographing children, those seconds matter! They are fidgety which means you better capture it, and NOW.

The downside to not using a flash is 1)in a low light situation like this, blur is almost inevitable 2)I had some areas that were so badly blown out because of the glare that I couldn't use the photo unless I spent an hour or two copying, pasting, healing, cloning, smudging, etc... It's intricate, detailed work, and it takes a ton of time and patience.

Now, I did spend some time on the picture below. It was one of those wrecked photos. No flash, badly blown out areas of the left side of the face and hair. You should be able to tell the difference in the two photos. I also superimposed Chelsea. I used a photo from a month ago when we went outdoors for some picture taking one Saturday afternoon. I was a bit concerned that it would look too obvious since the lighting situations were so different. But I think it didn't turn out half bad for my first time.

You see how in the second picture, it's just too bright? And portions of the heads are white? I did the best I could to fix it. Still a far cry from perfect, but I think it is better.

So here is one with flash:

The coloring is way different: cooler and flatter. Got some red eye going on. And there is still glare (because they are still next to the window) but it isn't quite as dramatic. It's a good picture, but it could be better.

And here is another picture where I spent some time trying to rid the photo of that terrible glare. I've also taken a head from a different image and stuck it on someone who wasn't looking at the camera ;)

It's way better to get it right the moment you take an exposure than to rely on dinking around and spending all that time on post processing. A fine lesson learned.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


What a wonderful Thanksgiving we had! Our fears that the weather would be too bad for our out of town guests were calmed as soon as we got out of bed. We woke to a beautiful sunrise and crisp clear calm skies. Yessss!

We have a lot of snow. It seemed more like a Christmas feast than Thanksgiving.

I was up early - 6am, to get the bird out of the refrigerator to set for an hour before putting it in the oven. I was able to get the tables all set and beautified with my festive decorations.

I think I was finally in the shower by 10:30. It would be a loooooong day, but oh so fun.

And here is my finished bird. All juicy and delicious.

Andreas. Smiling even though the American boys were watching football (and no, not soccer). But hey, would it really be Thanksgiving without football on the tv?

Jeff and his BBG

Gregg and Rana, Sue and Bill....but wait. What is Gregg doing? Let's go in for a closer look.

Yep. I thought so.

The kids table. It wasn't supposed to be the kiddie table, not sure how that happened.

So Kathy and I ended up using plastic plates and forks. lol - We didn't care. To much to be thankful for to care what we were eating off of or where we were sitting.

The "kiddie" table


Eating the feast

Sammi, being cute as usual

Jim and Kathy


Jeff's cup




Lizzy, we chained her to the car out in the garage and threaded the leash under the garage door so she could enjoy thanksgiving with the rest of the family without being able to jump all over everyone and steal food ;)

Gregg and Chelsea playing Kinect. That was a huge source of entertainment !

A great day. Great food, great people - lots to be thankful for!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

It's almost here!

Almost time to cook the Thanksgiving feast!

I am hosting Thanksgiving for our big family this year, and I am very thankful to do so! My fingers and toes are all crossed in the hopes that the weather cooperates so that my out of town family members can all make it. I didn't like what Kip had to say about the weather a few nights ago :(

Last year, we hosted Christmas, and the weather took a dump on us. We had to celebrate the holiday a day later (at least, I think it was only a day).

This year, we were going to have 27 guests. Then we were down to 23. Now we are back up to 26 (haha). I love it! The more the merrier, I always say! My dad used to tell my mom that she was in her glory when all her kids were home. I am like that, I think, except with my siblings and their children. And their children's children! Can you believe I've been a great aunt for 5 years??? I am the only one out of the five of us that have small children anymore. Now, it's the next generation reaching the parenting age. Wow.

I love this time of year. It's cozy. I love that last night while driving Eden to dance practice, I heard Christmas music on the radio (yes, before thanksgiving....deal with it). They were playing it from 6-8pm. We had our Christmas lights outside on and they looked so beautiful glowing from beneath the snow that is so delicately hanging from the roof!

I am filled with joy! So much so that for no reason at all, some spills from my eyes at times. It might be an old song that reminds me of Christmas as a kid, at the lake cabin. My dad in HIS glory, cooking a feast for all his kids that would be home for the holiday. Wow, that guy could cook! A smart business man with many talents.

It might be the sight of Christmas lights around town. A story of someone in need. A child, hoping for a Christmas miracle. People giving to those less fortunate. So many things to warm the heart and remind us how lucky we are. I am so THANKFUL my parents gave me life!

I don't know when I'll be posting next (maybe Friday?) because tomorrow obviously I will be busy, and so will you! But I wish everyone a very happy and safe Thanksgiving. Hopefully you are with the people you love, relaxing and relishing in the wonder of this joyous season!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sun dog

So my sister calls me on her way to work this morning and says, "I'm sorry to call you so early but I had to tell you that you should take your camera and go somewhere where there is water. There is like a fog rising up from the river and it looks SO COOL!".

I love that woman.

She is so thoughtful and sweet.

Then Bigs calls me on his way to work and says, "You really should take a drive with your camera. There is this HUGE sun dog and so many ice crystals in the air...".

Well, I can't disappoint TWO of my favorite people.

First on my "to do" list was supposed to be shave my legs because the hair was getting so long that....oh why am I telling you this?? Anyway, the shower and leg hair removal was going to have to wait. I got Emma bundled as quick as I could, grabbed my gear and took off toward water :)

My first stop was going to be Convent landing, not too far from where we live, but the road hadn't been plowed yet and I didn't want to risk getting stuck. So I just kept going until I was out of the way of trees and took this photo of the sun dog:

I know I'm not supposed to point the lens directly at the sun, but I had to. Didn't I.

Then I decided, why not just go to Lindenwood and see if there is still fog rising from the river. There was. Parked the van, walked down to the bridge in tons of snow, with a camera bag around my neck and 4 year old clinging to my back. Got a few basic pictures, just to prove I was there, and hiked back up the hill. Actually, I ran, and let me tell you, by the time I was at the top I felt like puking.

Try running uphill, through the snow, kid on your back, camera hanging from your neck, freezing fingers and no breakfast in your tummy. DANG!

But, I got the picture.

first JFK performances

Maybe you have seen this video on my facebook profile but for those of you who haven't, here they are:

Emma is back row on the end right side

Eden is 2nd to last row on the end (left side)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Around the house

Ok, well we are down to 23 guests for Thanksgiving. Mom told me this morning that the Omaha Olson's will not be able to come. Dave's a busy civil engineer and he will be too busy with work. Oh well :( There's always next year.

Nevertheless, I've been busy around the house with mini projects in preparation for the festive holidays approaching. First of all, let me say that our carpet cleaning did wonders for the floor. Just look at how clean it is!!

I promise it won't stay that way for long....unless I follow everyone around with a trash basket.

And since I don't want dog fur all over the nice areas, and keep forgetting to get new gates when I'm out running errands, we have to make do. Makeshift gate #1:

Makeshift gate #2:

Some other odds and ends we've done recently to try and make the house cozier:
New curtains for the den

And we took the old valance from the den and put them in the living room. It worked better with the colors.

Also, I wanted to get rid of our tiny old tv stand. I knew a bigger modern tv console was out of the question so I had been searching online for something that was not going to get me into trouble with the money maker in the family (I am afraid I will shop myself into employment) and I stumbled on this 9 cube cubby thinger. I figured the height would be good for under our tv and perfect for getting our Kinect sensor higher. Not to mention a stylish way to store dvds, games and the baskets hide odds and ends that get left laying around in a flash!
(Emma and I playing Kinect soccer)

(yes I know it isn't centered exactly)

Two of the 4 tables are anxiously awaiting the Thanksgiving feast.

Next week I'll be cleaning and cooking up a storm. I love love love this time of year!

My littlest just got her school pictures back yesterday. They turned out better than I ever imagined! All my girls took BEAUTIFUL pictures this year!

Sorry about the funkiness of that picture, I just shot a quick photo of the magnets on the fridge.

And last but not least, I wanted to show you a beautiful canvas picture of Eden. And a cool and funky wall lamp from IKEA - I am in love with that store. Let's just say our bank account is lucky there isn't one in Fargo!

And let's just say that the canvas may or may not have something to do with my little business I've got cooking up! *wink wink*

Are you ready for Thanksgiving? I'd like to hear what your plans are!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

couch makeover #2

We got our main floor carpets cleaned today (yay!) so no more pee stains anymore (yay!). Unfortunately the giant strawberry milk stain in the living room is still with us (boo!) but it's very faint now, I can handle it. I just really hated the thought of having a carpet with 50 urine stains all over, making people barf over their turkey, when I have 27 people in my house for Thanksgiving.

Did I mention that I'm having 27 people in my house for Thanksgiving?

Now I need to invest in a couple more gates because I refuse to let the dog in the den and dining room areas now. Luckily the living room has french doors so it's pretty easy to keep her out of there.

I got a slipcover for our horribly beat up sofa today. I debated for a long time over whether or not to get one because I think just covering up the problem with a giant cloth doesn't really make it look any better. It might even make it look worse. But maybe not, I mean there was fingernail polish all over the cushions, the dog chewed a big hole in it and it was just looking very worn.

I don't know, what do you think?

That is the sofa in our den with the faux suede slipcover. Keep it?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Christmas Photo

Did I mention that we took our family Christmas photo a couple weekends ago? It went really well actually. I have a tripod now so we don't need no stinking photographer ;)

The weather was beautiful so we decided to head outdoors for the picture.

I thought it was going smoothly until I decided to look at the previous pictures I had taken to see how I liked the pose and so on. This is what I discovered:

Eden.....really? You knew we were taking photos for our Christmas card, right?

I personally wanted to go with the one where her tongue was hanging out, but I couldn't get Andreas to agree.

This next one is just a random shot I took while setting up. I love the light.

This one on the bridge is blurry but it's still cool.

Emma and Eden watching some kids fishing.

I am sending our photo with the annual holiday letter so I won't be posting it. And fyi, there is no bridge in the background ;)

Monday, November 15, 2010


I was starting to think I had super human immunity. Everyone around me is getting sick, and I see on FB that a lot of people are talking about being sick, all the while I was in good health.

But the last couple of days I've been so tired and have a really scratchy throat. I've been drinking up the vitamin C since the second I felt a tickle in my throat, so hopefully it won't progress into anything worse. I still feel like I have super human ability to stay healthy while everyone else is sniffling and sneezing and aching. As long as I think it, I can make it happen, right?

Well, I had a fabulous birthday weekend. Got some great gifts that I didn't deserve once again. Had some visitors, which I LOVE. And got to relax with my hubs and the wee one while the older two were away.

Friday night, Andreas took me to one of my favorite restaurants, WF Maxwell's in West Fargo (formerly Littlefields). I love that place because when we were dating, he took me there and I was so overwhelmed by the prices that I just ordered a side salad. I look back on that now and think how stupid I must have looked! But despite that pricey menu, it's very much worth it. They reeeeeallly know how to cook and the presentation is always so beautiful. It makes me feel like an Iron Chef judge.

Then, the Jeffrex's were in town Saturday and we showed them the Kinect. We were bowling, boxing, river rafting, playing volleyball, boxing, racing cars, doing track & field....it was so fun. Andreas got me a fitness game for my b-day and it is unbelievable. I think I could literally do it for hours without tiring of it. It tracks everything. First it measures you (limbs and all) and based on that information and your weight, it tracks you calorie burn. I'm assuming that's gotta be pretty accurate. You know, the treadmill tracks calories too but I'm pretty sure it's based on an "average" weighted person (whatever that is) so it isn't very accurate. Anyway, it's very cool.

On a little side note, if anyone is wondering who the heck the Jeffrex's are, I'll fill you in. Jeff is my brother. Full name; Jeffrey. One time, at his house, we were looking through one of his old childhood books and found a page in the back where he wrote his name. The Y at the end of Jeffrey looked more like an X....hence, Jeffrex was born. But it's ok, I've had more nicknames concocted by my brothers than I can count. At one time we were CB, DB & GB (or Ceebs, Deebs and Geebs), then there was C-weed, Chuck, Chuckles, Chucky, Chu, Chubaka, Mooseface, Sawit...the list could go on forever. Not sure I can remember the last time I was called by my real name. Ah, a person with many nicknames is very much loved though, isn't that how it goes?

I like to think so.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Holy crap! 4 more years 'til 40

How did that happen? Wasn't I just 16 yesterday?

It's been a great couple of days. Yesterday, I had sushi with my sista! And the girls had a sleepover at Gram's house so Bigs and I had the house all to ourselves. It was peaceful and wonderful.

This morning, I woke up to the sweet little voices of my children singing me happy birthday, and my beloved brought me breakfast in bed. Could a day start out any more perfect???? Doubt it. Then he went to work and I took Lizzy for a walk. We both really enjoyed the crisp morning air.

And here I am, by myself, nothing to do but whatever I want! Kids are still at Gram's and it's quiet. I guess I'll do what I always do when I'm alone.....crank up iTunes and bust a move! I can't sing or dance to save my soul but you should see me when no one is around! It would probably scar me for life if anyone were to walk in and witness it!

Anyway, I'm 36 today and I feel better than I did at 26! I love my life. I'm happier than ever. I'm grateful that I can say this! And since it's my birthday, I thought I would share MY favorite things! Hey, Oprah does it all the time, like she's so special and everyone cares, I want to be special too!

#1...Let's just get the obvious out there, my family! My husband, kids, mother, sibs, and all the crazy funny loving people that are related to me. You are my favorite!

#2...Canon Rebel T1i. I got you exactly one year ago and love you more every day. You are my favorite!

#3...Plants. Nothing pulls a home together like plants. They give off such a happy cozy vibe. You are my favorite!

#4...Snickers. Of all the chocolate and candy that I've tasted from around the world, you are STILL my favorite!

#5...Weight Training. Another obvious. I'm such an advocate for lifting; it's my passion. Give me a weight bench and 45 minutes and I'm a happy girl. You are my favorite!

#6...Going out for dinner. I love the ambiance of a cozy Italian restaurant, a big glass of red wine and some lobster ravioli (for example). You are my favorite!

#7...Jeggings. I probably shouldn't wear them, but I do. I love the way I feel when I'm in them. You are my favorite!

#8...Christmas. Deorations, cookies, gifts, music, lights, movies, and literally everything festive and cozy. You are my favorite!

#9...Wine. Red. Merlot. Yum. You are my favorite!

#10...iPod. My husband gave one to me the day after I gave birth to Emma. I love it. I use it every day. He keeps asking me if I want an "upgrade" but it's so special to me that I will use it until it craps out. You are my favorite!

#11...Sleeping on freshly washed sheets. Favorite!

#12...Coffee. Favorite!

#13...Playing Pool. I used to be pretty dang good once upon a time. You are my favorite!

#14...Balderdash. Playing this game with my family (especially Jeff) is the funnest thing ever. We laugh so hard we cry! You are my favorite!

#15...Dressing up for Halloween. Favorite!

#16...Slalom water skiing. Favorite!

#17...Dancing at Mr. G's. I miss the days when Amanda and I used to go there. I'd have a couple martinis (cuz I needed that liquid courage) and then dance 'til 2am. I love the music, I love the atmosphere. You are my favorite!

#18...Cooking, cleaning and all those house-wife-y chores. I don't care what people think of it. I like it. Sure, sometimes I wish I were a strong career woman, but at the end of the day, I'd just have to come home to all the house-wife-y chores anyway. Being lucky enough to enjoy the life of a stay-at-home mom...favorite!

#19...My house. It's pretty traditional and there are just a few minor things I would change if I could, but I really love it. I knew the second I stepped through the front door that it was meant for us. You are my favorite!

#20...Rollerskating at Skateland. Because it makes me feel like a kid again. Favorite!

And those are some of my favorite things!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Beautiful Sad Eyes

My pretty little baby frizzly bear. She's in puppy school now ya know. Has a couple of friends, one of which tries to hump her every time they are together. Buddy is his name. Lizzy is quite a bit bigger than he is. She just sort of sits down and looks at us like, "Is this guy for real??".

It's interesting to see them interact with each other in this little corral thinger inside the store. They just sort of run around in circles, the bigger two trying to show domination and the little one just getting stepped on. Poor Leo.

There is a lot of fur flying, a lot of barking, a lot of snot (all Lizzy of course). I'm not sure how different her behavior will be after these 8 weeks of school are over. It all depends on how good we are at being consistent with the techniques we've learned. It's a job that really requires patience and persistence.

This morning, she chewed a bill that was destined for the mailbox. Usually she destroys something every day. Anything left in the sink, on the counter, hanging over a chair...is up for grabs. It's our own fault, really. Sometimes we get lazy or forgetful. And I'm supposed to put her in a "puppy timeout" every time she does something undesirable. Seriously? I would do nothing else all day! I'm hoping we'll be able to trust her to be out overnight by the time winter is here, so she can lay by the front door and stop the draft from coming in. But I'm not getting my hopes up.

It's all good though. I love my frizzly bear and I'm thankful for her company. She really is a sweet girl. Come on over and see her sometime. She LOVES guests ;)