52 Project, Week 20: Favorite Color

52 Project, Week 20: Favorite Color

My favorite color is purple.  It has been for as long as I can remember.  I’ve had rotating secondary favorite colors as well.  Pink, black, blue, green, deep turquoise blue, aqua blue.  I love jewel-toned colors, bright colors, earthy colors.  I love cream and brown in combination with any of my favorite colors.

Funnily enough, I also have a color that I extremely dislike, yellow.  I’m not a fan.  Yellow is one of those colors that make me grimace.  Strange right?  You’d think a color that seems sunshiney would be likable.

Now, I’m not going to go crazy and banish all yellow from my life.  I just won’t go out of my way to purchase or create something yellow.  Plus, yellow isn’t always awful, some flowers look lovely with a touch of yellow in their centers.  Sunflowers are incredibly beautiful and they are very yellow.  Yellow leaves in combination with reds, greens, and oranges in the fall are also pleasing to the eye.

When I was very young, I loved rainbows.  My whole room was done in the Rainbow Bright theme.  Color, and lots of it, was wonderful.  So although I love purple as my favorite color, truly, I love a wide range of the whole rainbow.  My house is filled with color.  My wardrobe is organized by rainbow in my closet.  Yes, I wear almost every color, except yellow!

Despite my love of a variety of colors, I always seem to pick purple flowers for my garden.  When the garden center is having a sale, I can’t be as picky with what I end up with.  By the time the sales roll around, most of the flowers have fallen off.  This ends up being exciting for me, seeing what colors will bloom when my plants are nursed back to health.

This year I got a fantastic find with a lovely purple datura.  I managed to get a large amount of purple alyssum, some more pastel, some a rich, darker purple.  I also got pinkish purple petunias and dark purple salvia.  Everything else was a surprise color.

It always amazes me how many different shades there are of one color.  I love seeing all of the beautiful variations in flowers.   I have only seen a small fraction of the flowers in the entire world!  I would love to see them all!  I can only imagine the joy that God had in making them.   I feel so thankful that he created this beauty for us to enjoy.

What is your favorite color? Join us in the photography challenge! We’d love to see your images!
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I Turned My Brown Thumb Into a Green Thumb

I Turned My Brown Thumb Into a Green Thumb

I have always joked about having a brown thumb instead of a green one.  I have good intentions with plants, but I usually kill most of them.  My problem was that I watered them too much.  For me, caring for a plant equaled watering it.  I literally loved them to death.

I did manage to keep hardy plants alive, to my great joy.  My brother got me a Philodendron as a gift when I was 13.  It’s the only plant that has survived this long.

My parents were great gardeners.  As a child, they had a huge garden in our yard.  I can remember working with them to weed, pick off pests, gather ripe plants and care for my own little garden plot. And occasionally, they had me get to lawn care and landscaping near me to make the garden more aesthetic-appealing. My favorites were the raspberries bordering 2 sides of the garage and the strawberries.

When I was given my own little corner plot, I planted Shasta daisies, echinacea, and zinnia among a few other flowers.  I loved flowers and the butterflies that they drew to our yard.  My Mother had flower gardens in raised planters that my Father built all over our property.

After my own children were born, I gave plants a renewed interest.  I tried a few easy house plants, a few palms, some morning glories outside during the warm months, hanging petunias or impatiens.  I tried peppers many times but they rarely produced peppers and if they did, were never large enough to eat.    I’ve overloved and killed many orchids over the years.

With the addition of extreme allergies to my life, I’ve had to learn to grow my own food.  Organic food from health food stores is usually incredibly expensive and is not always guaranteed to be corn free.  The safest option is home grown because I control all of the factors of what my food is exposed to.

When I first moved to this house, my Mom helped me plant a small outdoor garden.  The weeds overtook it to my great frustration.  Creeping Charlie choked out most of my plants.  I did get some tomatoes and small ears of corn (ironic, right? This was pre-corn allergy.). After that, I gave up planting in the ground.  Nate built me a planter around the mulberry tree in the backyard, which I grew flowers and hostas in, for an easy to maintain, decorative garden.

Inside, I grew potted plants.  I tried basil by the sink but I ended up overwatering it.  My next sink plant was rosemary, which, as it turns out, LOVES being overwatered.  In fact, if I don’t water it often, it starts to die.  I also grow potted plants on my porch and bring them inside over winter.  My theory was, if they die, that’s ok because they would have died if I had left them outside to die by frost.  If they live, I have another plant to enjoy.

This last year, my gardening skills have grown, as has the number of plants in and out.  I have several plants that live inside year round, Outside, on my porch, my number of potted plants has grown. After installing a critter fence, it was clear that the plants where staying healthier and growing faster. Those pesky critters can really make a dent in most plants. Those interested in the specific fence used, I found it here. I renewed my attempt for ground grown plants.  I planted several things around the porch outside and started a new side garden.  I’ve also planted raspberries and blueberries along the fence.

I am not an expert gardener.  I have, however, turned my brown thumb into a green one with persistence and determination.  I’ve never given up.  If my plants die, I try again.  I do more research. The best way I’ve learned is by experience and trial and error.

I recommend everyone give gardening a try.  It is so rewarding.  When I eat food from my own garden, I have a great pride and satisfaction that I have never gotten from bought food.

If you are afraid of killing plants, don’t let that deter you!  Keep trying!  Start with potted plants.  Try something easy to maintain, like impatiens, petunias, philodendrons, or palms like I did.  Otherwise, try checking out the end of the year plant sales that most greenhouses have.  You can usually get plants cheap or for free.  Use the mindset that if it dies, at least you tried.  Research what you can do differently next time.

Do you care for any plants?  What do you grow?  Have you also overcome a brown thumb or has gardening come naturally to you?

Check out my video for a tour of my garden!

52 Project, Week 14: Favorite Scripture

52 Project, Week 14: Favorite Scripture

This is my first chalkboard creation!  My daughter Cat usually makes me beautiful art on the chalkboard that Nate made for me.  Since this was my challenge, I thought I had better give it a try myself.  I didn’t think it was fair to give Cat such a complicated project.  (She insists she could have handled it.)

Drawing with chalk is a lot harder than it appears!  Chalk is thick and flattens with each use, The edges are unpredictable with swirls and curves, unlike using a pen or pencil.  I have to give Cat credit, she makes it look so easy!

Choosing my number one favorite scripture isn’t an easy task.  I have a variety of favorite scriptures.  Actually, I have a book of favorite scriptures!  Narrowing it down to my top two was a little easier.

When I was studying the bible with my mentor, she often helped me find scriptures for life’s problems or questions I had.  As we read through different topics, Isaiah 48:17 occasionally came up.  Karen always mentioned that it was her favorite scripture and it’s not hard to see why.  It’s a great reminder of what’s important in life.

Jehovah is teaching us to help ourselves through his inspired word in the Bible.  The Bible is our guide to life and it can help us with every situation in life.  With daily study and personal, heartfelt prayer, we’re developing a relationship with God and training our consciousness in the way we should walk.

I love that scripture, but I also love the one that follows.

17 This is what Jehovah says, your Repurchaser, the Holy One of Israel: “I, Jehovah, am your God, The One teaching you to benefit yourself, The One guiding you in the way you should walk. 18  If only you would pay attention to my commandments!  Then your peace would become just like a river And your righteousness like the waves of the sea.

I love the visual of peace and righteousness.  It soothes and comforts me.  By listening to God and applying his word, peace will be our reward.

Psalms 91:4 is my current favorite.  The wording is a little different, depending on which Bible you use.  My Bible has a more literal translation in an attempt for accuracy.
With his pinions, he will cover you, And under his wings, you will take refuge. His faithfulness will be a large shield and a protective wall.
Personally, I prefer the new international version, with the word feathers instead of pinions.  A Pinion is the outer section of a bird’s wings.  Although a pinion is very specific to what part of God’s wings will cover, pinion is not a regular part of my vocabulary.  

I love this scripture, because of the thought of being protected by God.  I love the visual of being safe, tucked under his wing, like a baby chick.  Conjuring this image in my mind brings tears to my eyes.  It’s like getting a hug from Jehovah.

Do you have a favorite scripture?

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52 Project, Week 13: Kindness

52 Project, Week 13: Kindness

I spent a lot of time reflecting on kindness.  It ended up leading me to do a few other kindness projects too.  For my challenge, I had a lot of ideas for what I could do, but ultimately decided on something that has really impacted my life.

I have always loved photography.  As a child, I would set up elaborate photo shoots with the neighborhood kids.  After we moved, I didn’t have any friends, so I set up photo shoots with my barbies.  As I got older, I eventually did make friends. Sometimes I would pose them for portraits or take fun candids of life.

It wasn’t until I gave birth to my first daughter that I finally pursued a career in photography.  I took the plunge and got a job at a local portrait studio.  There, I was thrown in the camera room without any training.  This was at the beginning of digital cameras and my studio was the first within that branch of the company and the country to transfer from film to digital.  All of the camera settings were exactly the same, so I didn’t have to worry about learning to master a digital pro camera yet.  The lighting consisted of lowering and raising a light attached to the ceiling, depending on the height of the subject.  The editing was a bit laughable and dated today, but it was also easy to use.  My daughter loves to joke with me about the garish vignettes, one of my pet peeves.    I also had the fun of working with different backgrounds and props.

My primary job was posing subjects and getting them to smile.  This was no small task.  I had to jump around, crawl on the floor, make crazy faces and silly noises.  I had to go from my usual quiet, shy self to someone bold.

I used Cat as my little model for practice.  As the years passed, not only did Cat grow, but so did my skills as a photographer.  I became confident in working with people.  I experimented with my own camera at home, learning settings and lighting.

Eventually, I quit working for someone else and started working for myself.  I started photographing sessions in my home and I loved it.  Picking up a camera is like stepping into a different world for me.  Everything else turns off, all of the worry and frustrations of the world, all of life’s anxieties melt away, the noise drowns out and my focus narrows down to me, my subject and my camera.  We make the three letter word “art” into a symphony of light, color, and emotion.

Once the session is over, I float on a satisfied high.  I load my images into my computer and edit them.  I love editing images.  True, sometimes editing can lag into the mundane and I need a bit of Netflix binging on the side to keep me going.  But there are times where I fall in love with an image or a session and I could get lost in it, working for hours before I come up for air.

Photography is so many things, composing an image, using appropriate lighting, knowing the settings on a camera and how to use them in different conditions, different lenses, varying heights, interacting with your subject, posing your subject, background, props, storytelling.  Behind the scenes, one must learn the business, photo editing software, image organizing, networking, social media, website creation, and management, staying up to date in education by learning new techniques in all of these areas.  It can take up a lot of time and it is a lot of work.

It’s hard to not become obsessed and spend all of my time doing this.  I have 5 other people in my life that I’m responsible for.  They need my time, love and attention.  This doesn’t mean they are a distraction from my work.  They are the important work.  I think if I were single, I would lose myself to work and I would end up hating it.

My family gives me inspiration.  They give me a constant source of people to photograph.  They give me a story to tell. They remind me to live and to get out in the world.  They help me not just capture other people’s memories, but to make and capture my own.

After I became pregnant with my youngest daughter, I started to have health problems.  I cut back more and more in my work until I started to turn away sessions.  I knew that I was not going to be able to photograph other people if I didn’t know if I was going to have a good day or a bad day.  I had to make a decision to focus on the more important things.

For me, my important things are God, family, and health.  Those three things take a lot of time and commitment.  For months, I mulled over closing my in-home studio.  It sat empty, making me sad.  Sure, I could use it just for my own children, but that’s a lot of space for a few family portraits.  In a house full of 6 people, space is limited.

Then something happened that made me move on my decision.  Cat became depressed.  She has always struggled with being positive, but there was a noticeable difference in her appearance and behavior.  She stopped caring about things that normally made her happy.  She looked like the life had been drained from her.  She lost all motivation to do anything. Worst of all, she admitted to me several times that she wanted to die and she had been seriously considering it.

I brought her in to be diagnosed with depression and to get a referral for a therapist.  Nate and I talked it over and decided to convert my studio into a bedroom for Cat.  We thought the extra space might give her a place of her own to create art and play her piano.  Nate offered to let her paint it whatever color she wanted.

This last bit was hard for me.  I loved the color of my studio.  Painting it made it seem real and final, there was no turning back.  I didn’t want to turn back, for so many reasons, but change is always difficult for me.

Having a project for Cat seemed like a great idea.  Painting her room was something that would keep her occupied and looking forward to the future.  However, as the weeks dragged on and turned into months, the painting became another burden for her.

So one week when she went to her Dad’s house, I chose an act of kindness and love.  I picked up the paint brush and finished her room.  I left only the top edges of the wall for her to finish.  Cat would also like me to add that she had painted most of the room before I got to it.  lol

As I painted and the walls changed from a deep turquoise blue to a pastel green, I could remember my own Mother’s act of kindness.  She had helped me paint my house when I first moved in.  So had my children and my sisters.  My heart was warmed by the memory of their love, helping make our house a home.

After she finished her room, I felt such relief and happiness.  My daughter was going to move out of her childhood room and into her own room as a teenager.  Already I could see a spark of excitement in Cat at the idea of having her own room.  It was real to her too.

Although getting her own room won’t solve all of her problems, it’s a step in the right direction.  Learning to live with depression is something she’ll have to work on for the rest of her life.  Hopefully, with the help of therapy, she’ll learn tools that will help her cope through the rough times.

As for having my own studio, maybe someday in the future, I’ll build my own studio.  Photography isn’t about having controlled lighting and a controlled environment.  The true test of a good photographer is if they can photograph in uncontrolled lighting and uncontrolled environments.  I can take portraits anywhere in the world.  The world is my studio and it is beautiful.

This paint can changed my life.  It also changed my daughter’s life.  She is learning to become an independent person.  She is learning to be an adult and slowly finding out how to survive in this world.  I am no longer photographing other families, I’m photographing my own.  I am fully immersed in my own story and that of my family.

Has anyone ever done something kind for you?  How did it impact your life?

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52 Project, Week 7: Blankets

52 Project, Week 7: Blankets

I was really looking forward to photographing blankets.  I love blankets.  I have a large variety of colors, textures, and sizes.  I knew exactly which colors I wanted and how I was going to photograph them.  I wanted a simple pile of blankets in one color.

I chose my cream blankets because cream is soothing and comforting.  It reminds me of vanilla, my favorite scent.  Cream goes well with every color.  I love the color combination of cream, brown and a bright color.  In my house, you’ll find many shades of each.

Since it gets pretty cold in our house, we have blankets in almost every room.  They’re great to snuggle under for a little extra warmth.  The kids love to make tents out of them.  I can remember making blanket forts as a child and listening to thunderstorms.  I always felt safe and happy in my little hideaway.

Both Nate and I still have our baby blankets.  They’re very worn.   I have a feeling they’ll be frayed and falling to pieces before long.  Every once and awhile we’ll find one of the children curled up in them.  It makes me happy knowing they’ve served their purpose, and wrapped our children in a bit of our love and our parent’s love.

Do you love blankets?  Share with us your favorite blanket!

52 Project, Week 7: Blankets
52 Project, Week 7: Blankets

52 Project, Week 7: Blankets

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We’re making progress but old houses are a lot of work!  Every spare moment is spent fixing, renovating, tearing out, painting, sanding, raking, weeding and washing.  At this point, the house is still not livable.  However, we’re always excited and happy to be here.  We love imaging what will go where.  I can’t wait to see the end result of our finished home.

As you can tell from the images, we are completely redoing the master bathroom.  The previous tenants used the tub as a shower, so there was a lot of mildew and black mold.  Yuck!  we’re going to retile the whole thing and add a bit to the elevated walls surrounding the tub.  We’re ripping out the floor and we’re going to replace it with tile.  We’re also going to put in floor warmers I’m scraping off the border that was glued to the wall so I can repaint.

Previous Post-Work Begins

Work Begins

We started working on our new home right away, in the dead of winter, still with no heat.  Our home had been winterized.  The heating system uses radiators and had been completely drained.  So until things thawed, we didn’t want to risk filling the system with water and springing a leak.  We put 2 space heaters in an upstairs bedroom for the children while we worked.  Whenever we got too cold, we would also go in there to thaw.

Working on the Exterior
Working on the Exterior

As the weather started to warm up, we were thrilled to get outside and work on the exterior.  The yard was filled with debris.  We were very fortunate that my parents were able to come help out often.

Unfortunately, it was still too cold to run water in the bathrooms.  We all had to take bathroom breaks at Walgreen’s up the road.  Sometimes we used bathroom breaks as as excuse to explore town.  We found a dairy co-op up the road that sells chocolate shakes for $1.00!  As fun as exploring was, we all looked forward to our friend Marco from AmarcoPlumbing.com helping us sort this and the day we could enjoy the convenience of indoor plumbing again.

Our New Home

We first viewed our new home in February 2011.  With no heat, it was a bit chilly at -15, even indoors.   Is it possible to fall in love with a building?  This old house has a bunch of little rooms, unlike modern open floor plans.  Although I love open floor plans, to me, this means a lot of wall space for hanging artwork!

I was a little nervous when we first considered moving to this town.  I had heard of it, but had never been here.  It seemed so far away compared to the cities.  How would I survive being so far away from everything?!  How could I cope being away from everyone I knew?

As it turns out, our town is a hidden city.  Quite the hidden gem.  The longer I’ve lived here, the more I’ve loved it.  We have all the local amenities with a lot of small town charm.  It’s great!  I’d say the only downfall is that we live off a highway, so it can get a bit noisy.

Here are some images of our first viewing!