27 posts categorized "Black & White Wednesday"

May 08, 2011

Camping isn't for wimps

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After our 2001 wedding, Andrew and I did the usual combining of household items and marveled at the size of our our newly merged camping equipment collection.  So how is it possible that we never touched a single tent pole or propane lantern until last weekend?

Okay, it’s my fault.   For years, Andrew has repeatedly suggested that we simply toss a couple of sleeping bags and a tent into the back of the van and spend a leisurly night "at one" with nature but I dragged my feet because I know that camping with kids is anything but simple or leisurely.   There’s a LOT of planning that goes into a successful camping trip if one is to hope to emerge from the experience with anything but mosquito bites and nervous twitches.   

Certain questions have to be answered in advance:   Where will we sleep?  Will we be warm enough?  What will the kids do at the campsite for fun?  What will we eat and how will we prepare it?  What about lights and lamps?  What about bugs?  What about rain?  What about toilets and water and campfires and chairs and tarps and tent repair kits?  So much to do before we shed those annoying constraints of civilization to make our home with the vicious creatures and wild beasts that inhabit the woods just outside the limits of all cities.

But we finally did it and here’s the photographic proof:

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We arrived at our camp site (at Uvas Canyon County Park) and were immediately greeted by our closest camp-neighbors: three loudly barking dogs, six adults in various stages of early intoxication and two crying toddlers.  After completely unpacking and setting up camp, we headed out for our first hike where we encountered some of our more civilized neighbors who were quick to offer their condolences after hearing which site we reserved.   This inspired us to explore some alternatives so we were excited to see that there was a vacancy way down on the far end of the campground (closer to the creek and waterfall) so we hightailed it back to our van and loaded everything up and moved.  We didn’t break down the tents though.  Instead, Gwen and Maddy and Daddy and Mommy each grabbed a corner and we walked our erect tents down the long road to their new location.  

All settled for the 2nd time, we got down to the business of having fun!

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Above, Maddy and Gwen prepare for a potato-gun duel to the death.  What’s a potato gun, you ask?  It’s a surprisingly simple little toy that works like this: 

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First you load the gun by jabbing the barrel into a raw potato and gouging out a little spud-pellet that remains in the gun until it is eventually forced out at very low pressure when you pull the trigger.   It’s about as dangerous as booger throwing and almost as much fun.

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Our camp site was beautiful and well appointed with a fire ring, picnic table, large shade trees, flat surface for the tents and a medium sized creek and waterfall nearby.  One enormous plus of this particular site is the blissful “white noise” of the waterfall that masks the other camp sounds at night and makes it easier for this mom to sleep.    We went on several nature walks and found all sorts of interesting critters including a couple of yellow spotted millipedes (that Gwen insisted were caterpillars), the biggest banana slug we’ve ever seen, a really cool daddy-long-leg spider and even a small snake. 

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You may have guessed from the photo at the top of this post that Gwen and Maddy’s Daddy is somewhat excited about sharp shiny objects.  I’m sure I saw him gently caress the cool steel surface of his camping axe before unsheathing it and commencing a brutal assault on a totally innocent log.  It was too much for me so made a hasty retreat after taking a few pics (in case they were needed as evidence).  A little while later, he showed up at the fire pit with beads of sweat on his brow, a twinkle in his eye, and two large handfuls of kindling and in no time at all, he created this handsome fire!

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…. a very lovely fire where we lovingly placed our dinner of succulent sausages (packed full of sundried tomato and mozzarella) and almost immediately turned them into individual, foil-wrapped, servings of coal.   Crud.

Fortunately, I’m all about the contingency plan so there was plenty of yummy cup-o-noodles for everyone!   

And what camping trip would be complete without  hot chocolate and smores?   The girls loved toasting the marshmallows and building these fancy desserts but when it came time to actually eat them, they were mostly just interested in the sweet slab of Hershey’s chocolate in the middle.  Oh, but Mommy loved that toasty marshmallow!! blog smoresAfter several (not so) scary campfire stories, we finally settled down for the night.  Here’s a photo of the half of our tent where Gwen and Maddy slept on their much loved aerobeds.  And here’s a pic of our fresh-faced, well-rested girls the next morning!  Yes, that’s a bottle of pediasure with a nipple on top (gasp!).  I almost photoshopped it out to avoid grief from holier-than-thou commenters who might be unable to resist the urge to scold me for letting my 6 year old daughters consume their breakfast this way but I really don’t see how it’s that much different than a straw.   

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All things considered, the entire camping experience was positive but man am I sore and tired!  Next time I think I’ll bring warmer blankets so I can sleep more than two hours and I think we need to buy a new tent that is tall enough to stand up in (it’s hard to make beds and prepare the inside of a tent when you have to do everything hunched over!).    Camping in the summer might make a world of difference too since it was 47 degrees during the night and that’s pretty darn cold!  Still, it was FUN FUN FUN and we’ll definitely do it again now that we know the perfect camp site! 

Any local friends want to come with us?  Smile

November 09, 2010

Bye Bye Ear Tube!

After more than two years, Maddy's one remaining ear tube finally came out.  They're only supposed to last for 4 to 12 months but this one held on with annoying perseverence.  She's had lots of trouble with it because it makes her ear itch and her skinny little finger can easily fit much too deeply into her ear and she hurts herself when she tries to scratch the itch. 

Over the years, I've kept an eye on this ear and I could see that the tube was still in her ear drum.  But when I checked last week, I saw that it was in a different position so I suspected that it was out.  A quick Dr appointment confirmed that it wasn't in her ear drum any longer and they easily removed it from her ear.

Ear tube on needle cropped
I took it from the Dr and showed it to Maddy and she seemed confused.  All this time, I think she was imagining that it was more "tube" like.  She said she thought it would be long and thin - like a long skinny straw.  I think she was disappointed that it was only this teensy little white thing because it's been such a BIG annoyance for the last year or more.  I slipped it onto a sewing needle so you could see the size comparision.

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Maddy had a cleft palate and some recurring ear infections so we had the tubes put in when they did the cleft palate repair.  While they were in, they worked like a charm - no ear infections at all.    It's amazing to me that the ear drum repairs itself when the tube falls out and we're hopeful that we'll never have to get tubes again!     


For more Black & White Wednesday fun, check out The Long Road to China.
More of our Black & White Wednesday posts here:  Black & White Wednesday

November 02, 2010

B&W Wednesday: Renaissance Gwen

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You sure wouldn't know it from looking at this photo but our little Gwen is a major tomboy!  In fact, we joke that she's our 'other' son.  And would you ever guess from her utterly charming pose, above, that she loathed this dress? 

She was a Navi Princess (Avatar) for Halloween and that's the only thing she wanted to wear but we made her pose for some photos in this Renaissance style costume too.  After a minute or two of hysterically pathetic pouty poses, she got her groove back and let her real personality shine through.  Wanna see some of the color costume pics?  They're lovely and they're here.

Our Halloween over the years: 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010.


the long road


For more Black & White Wednesday fun, check out The Long Road to China.
More of our Black & White Wednesday posts here:  Black & White Wednesday

September 22, 2010

Black & White Wednesday: Treasure

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A few days ago, Gwen found some stray beer bottle caps in one of our kitchen drawers.  Not sure how they ended up in there but she couldn't have been happier with her find.  She put them in a plastic bag and brought them to me and said "I found treasure, Mommy!"

This morning, I was making up her bed and found her bag of treasure under her pillow. Weird.  Cute, but weird.  


For more Black & White Wednesday fun, check out The Long Road to China.
More of our Black & White Wednesday posts here:  Black & White Wednesday

September 14, 2010

Black & White Wednesday: Pearls

A few weeks ago, I bought a black shower curtain with the thought in mind that I'd use it as a backdrop for portraits.  I used thumb tacks to hang it on the wall in our guestroom. I also bought some inexpensive photography props - costume jewelry, colorful scarves, hair accessories, etc.  

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Maddy didn't have to ponder her choices for very long.  She absolutely wanted to wear these pearls.  When I fastened them around her neck, her entire demeanor changed.  She must have felt like a real princess!

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The black and white has a timeless, Kate Hepburn-esque, quality about it but I really I loved these in color.     

There's no story to tell here.  We took these photos specifically because I wanted to test out that black backdrop.  The lighting in the room left much to be desired so I dragged in one of my cheapo umbrella lights and flipped it around backwards so the light was diffused through the white umbrella.  I had to get it pretty close to her face and I still had trouble finding the right balance between aperture, shutter speed and exposure.  But, if your photo is well composed and in focus, you can fix just about everything else in Photoshop!

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Post processing makes such an amazing difference! After I 'fixed' the photos, I converted them to black and white using my favorite Florabella action "mink".  I always tweak it slightly and dial down the opacity.  You really need to do all of your edits before you convert to black and white.

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One of the best tips anyone ever gave me about editing my photos was to slightly lighten the face.  I use curves and a mask and a very soft brush - opacity set to about 25.  I lightly sweep it over the face and hair of my subject then I invert the mask and remove the lightness from the eyes and lips. 

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Another really valuable tip I got was to remember to wash my child's face before taking portraits.  It's so much faster and easier than trying to photoshop the mess off of their face later!  A little dab of lip gloss is essential too.  They hate it but it looks so pretty in the photos.  Especially since Gwen's lips are always chapped.

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My biggest challenge is getting natural smiles.  I think it's one of the hardest things about photographing people.  I'm always trying to get my kids into a silly mood so their expressions are more spontaneous and honest but I have to admit that I'm really not very good at doing this because I'm usually preoccupied with camera settings.  I tried telling Maddy some goofy kid jokes but she's six and still doesn't quite understand how jokes work or why they're funny.    I'd love to hear some of your tips and tricks.  How do other people get their kids to look natural in front of the camera? 



For more Black & White Wednesday fun, check out The Long Road to China.
More of our Black & White Wednesday posts here:  Black & White Wednesday
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