Sunday, April 26, 2015

Stepping Away

I am going to be stepping away from the blogging world during the month of May. I wished I had done that last year with all the craziness that May holds so I promised myself I would do it this year for sure.

You see, my beautiful girl is graduating with honors on Saturday. Woo Hoo! She has made it through four tough years of college. She has grown and grown up in so many ways. Being eight hours away from home for the past four years has helped shape her into the young woman she is today, one ready to take on the world.

If you read last week's Coffee Shop Chronicle, you will know that she and I were in our favorite northern town for a job interview for her a couple of weeks ago. She was offered that position earlier this week and... turned it down. She is moving back home!!! You can probably feel my joy through this computer screen. She had a phone interview on Friday with a local organization here at home that she would absolutely LOVE to work for. We are praying for the next step, a face to face interview.

So there will be a transition period as she settles back in at home, as we adjust to not being empty nesters any more.

We have a family vacation planned for mid-May, the first real family vacation since we went to Alaska four years ago for our 25th Anniversary and to celebrate Mallory's high school graduation. We are going to the Smoky Mountains for a week. We are staying in a lovely mountain cabin with no Wifi, which I did mostly on purpose. I am looking forward to disconnecting for a week, enjoying creating precious family memories, and of course, taking lots of pictures.  On our way home we are hoping to stop and see one of Mallory's friends that she spent five weeks with in Montana two years ago. We met this sweet girl as well when we picked Mallory up from that trip. Even though they were only together for five weeks, they have remained in weekly contact, and remain the best of friends. It is so cute, this sweet girl has a countdown going of how many days until she sees us. I would hate to disappoint her. Love you Ashley!

So many good things ahead this coming month, and I want to be fully present for all of them.

I do hope to post one more Friday Finds this week, but we will see how the week goes. I am working with a writing coach and my first piece for her to edit and give me feedback on is due on Wednesday. It is coming along nicely, but I have a feeling there are a few hours bent over the laptop keyboard yet before it is finished.

The one place I will still be present is Instagram. I am twenty days into a hundred day project on there called #100daysofleadinglines. Instagram is where I will be getting my daily creative fix.

I will be returning Thursday, May 28 to celebrate Paisley's 3rd Birthday. See you then.

Friday, April 24, 2015

5 Random Friday Finds

Find No. 1

I am taking Vivienne McMaster's Double Exposure Love class this week. I found I am in creative heaven at the moment. Something fun and different to learn. Mainly we are using the Diana Photo App which is available for iPhone and Android. This photo is actually triple exposed.

The base layer is this photo, taken at Lake Leelanau:

Then this texture of a wooden door at the Northern Michigan Asylum in Traverse City is exposed over top of it:

I then added one of the filters  in the Diana App and saved it:

Which is quite pretty just by itself, but then I brought that back into Diana as the base layer and  added this photo of my daughter, Mallory sitting on the rocks at Presque Isle Park in Marquette, over top of the base layer:

I added another filter and saved it, which gave me the finished creation of the first image.

Find No. 2

I am still working on my #the100daysproject #100daysofleadinglines on Instagram. This is my favorite so far this week.

Find No. 3

I found a new collar waiting for Scout on the front step the other day, sent with love from Mallory.

Find No. 4

I have found texting to be so handy for many things including sending your daughter a recipe for a snack bread that she wants to make while she is away at school. The beauty of technology, it does have its pluses. 

Find No. 5

I found an unused railroad track next to the cemetery, which will be ideal for doing some self-portraiture work, definitely won't be any gawkers there.

Joining Kim for Friday Finds

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Coffee Shop Chronicles - No. 29

You can learn a lot about a coffee shop when you spend four hours there. I wasn't supposed to be there for that long, that wasn't the plan at all.

The reason I was at the coffee shop in the first place was because of my daughter, Mallory. We were in our favorite northern town for a long weekend so that she could go to a couple of job interviews.  She was happy to have a weekend away from the pressures of the last few weeks of college life; to spend time with her momma and the bonus was that momma would pay for everything. Mallory had discovered this coffee shop from the photos of someone that she follows on Instagram. She loved the look of the place.

Of course I love new to me coffee shops, so I was more than willing to check this place out. The plan was, that I would write a Coffee Shop Chronicle and wait for her while she was at her interview. Once she got done with the interview she would come to the coffee shop, and we would discuss how it went over lattes. After that we would go back to the hotel so she could change out of her lovely interview dress and magical red sandals into warmer Northern Michigan clothes. From there we would go downtown to Bubba's for lunch, home of the best hamburgers in Traverse City.

What messed up the plan was the fact that the interview took two hours. I guess it went well. After the interview she still had a half hour drive back into town. She didn't arrive until after one.

I arrived at the coffee shop at twenty past ten.

As soon as I walked in the door, I knew what Mallory would love about this place, what had intrigued her from the photo she had seen on Instagram. Big, light filled open space with high industrial ceilings. This coffee shop is actually located in a converted warehouse filled with retail shops, and a paint-it-yourself ceramics studio.

There are large sliding glass windows at the front of the coffee shop that during nicer weather could slide fully open making it feel like an open air coffee shop. The color palette was soothing to the eye, white walls, black tables and chairs, with the accent color of greenery.

I received a friendly greeting the moment I walked through the door. A clearly defined order area was straight ahead. On their menu board was the listing "house-made" chai, always the best because they each have a unique flavor and I like the unexpected. I ordered the chai and a very healthy looking granola bar, since the bowl of Raisin Bran that I had in the breakfast room of the hotel that morning had long lost it's filling affect.

The pretty, dark-haired, fresh scrubbed order taker (she reminded me of someone who would be in a Dove Soap commercial) gave me my granola bar on a exquisite glass plate with a real metal fork. She told me she would bring out my chai as soon as she had it done.

All the little black two seater tables were currently full and the large natural wood farmhouse table in the middle of the seating area had a couple of wedding planners spread out on it. That left the long black counter along the front windows. I have grown very comfortable with sitting at these window counters. Ever the photographer, the draw of that natural window light on this rainy overcast day for the shots of my chai and granola bar sealed the deal.

Dove Soap girl soon brought over my chai and I set the pieces into place for my usual coffee shop chronicle shot. I absolutely loved the green cut glass dessert plate that my granola bar was on, that paired with the black coffee cup was a stunning combination. The cut glass plate reminded me of my grandma. She always said beautiful things were meant to be used and enjoyed, not just to be admired on the shelves of a china cabinet. Whenever we had our afternoon snack of buttered with real butter Saltines crackers and Ovaltine at her house, she always served the Saltines on clear cut glass dessert plates. She would have loved these green ones.

I realized after I settled in with my chai, granola bar, notebook and pen, and as I looked out the window at my car across the street, that I hadn't put any coins into the parking meter. That would be the one thing I find slightly annoying about this town; the parking meters. Especially since I come from a town where you can park anywhere for free. Still I knew that if I didn't go out and feed the meter I would somehow get a ticket. I looked around the coffee shop, nobody seemed perched on the edge of their seat waiting to steal my food and writing paraphernalia the second I stepped out the door. So I took a chance, grabbed my wallet and coat and went across the street to the meter. Four quarters equalled two hours, that should be enough, shouldn't it. If not at half past twelve I would go out and feed it some more change. I would rather go out more often than give it money for more time than I will use.

Back inside, nobody had made off with my food or my notebook. Finally I could eat my granola bar and start writing.

By the time I had finished my food and Dove Soap girl had taken my dishes away, the coffee shop was starting to empty out. A two seater table next to the window became available so I gathered my writing materials and moved other there. A much better vantage point to observe the goings on in the coffee shop.

I love watching the interaction between coffee shop employees and the regular customers. You can always tell which ones are the daily regulars, they sit at the counter next to the espresso machine, and they pick up the same conversation they were having there the day before.

Besides Dove Soap girl there was one other coffee shop employee, a bearded man with a voice that carried well over the noise of the coffee shop customers, a plus for some one like me who is trying to eavesdrop on their conversation.

At the counter sat two guys; one a dark haired guy probably close to my daughter's age, I hoped that she would come while he was still there, but that was not to be. The other guy, an older gentleman with the hippest silver framed glasses. Since he did not have a lot of hair they were a very predominant feature. I had seen this gentleman ride up on his bike and I gathered from listening to their conversations that he was an avid cyclist, and also a cancer survivor. He was quite excited to get his road bike out the next day since the forecast promised sunshine and temperatures in the fifties.

I gathered from listening to their conversations that this coffee shop was still fairly new and were still working out their hours and everyone's schedules. A good thing to master now before the summer season and all the tourists hit town. This place is a little off the beaten path, located on a side street a few blocks from the main downtown area. Most tourists never venture from the main street, goodness knows I never did for years either. Maybe I have finally moved from the status of tourist to status of occasional local.

Truly the best treasures are never located right under our noses. You have to search for them, but they are so worth finding.

Friday, April 17, 2015

5 Random Friday Finds

Find No. 1

I found beautiful diffused light and the perfect quote:

Courage doesn't always roar.
Sometimes courage is the quiet voice
at the end of the day saying
"I will try again tomorrow."
~Mary Anne Radmacher

Find No. 2

I found an adorable fellow Instagrammer while away for the weekend. I love my girl!! And yes that is still ice, and yes that really was just last weekend.

Find No. 3

I found some amazing Pulled Pork Tacos at a little Farm to Table restaurant in Traverse City.

Find No. 4

I found something interesting when looking through the hole in the glass block window at the Northern Michigan Asylum.

I want to go explore in there.

Find No. 5

I found some awesome Oolong tea at a new coffee shop. Coffee Shop Chronicle No. 29 coming on Sunday.

Joining Kim for Friday Finds

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Being Your Own Beloved

On February 14 - Valentine's Day - I started an on-line self-portraiture photography course that would forever change my photography and my life. The course, Be Your Own Beloved, is taught by the wonderful, kind and compassionate Vivienne McMaster.

Most women that sign up for the course do so because they have negative body and self esteem issues that they are trying desperately to conquer through the help of Vivienne's gentle guiding hand and self-portraiture photography. This is not the reason that I signed up for the class. Over the past two years I have done a ton of self-image work with the help of my personal trainer, and honestly I feel pretty about where I stand. There are always the little things that plague every woman; I would love to lose ten pounds along with most of the female population. I wish my hair would grow faster due to a correcting, super short hair cut I got in September to get rid of layers that are very bad for curly hair. Currently my hair seems to be growing at the pace of a snail, and every six weeks when I go, my stylist seems to cut more off than she leaves. We are still trying to get the shortest layer caught up with the rest of them. Aside from those little things I am in a good place. 

So if I didn't take Vivienne's class for self-image help, why did I take it. I needed a new photographic challenge. I needed to do something that was completely different and that would push me out of my comfort zone. February was a long, cold, snowy month here in Michigan. I had been working diligently on my new photography project "A Year Beside the Water" since the beginning of January, but honestly I was getting very tired of snow and ice being my only subjects in the photos. I needed a new and exciting subject, and I guess that new and exciting subject was going to be me. Adding myself to photos of ice and snow would definitely make them more visually interesting. 

Vivienne started us off slow and gentle, encouraging us to take a photo of our first step in the self-portraiture journey on Day One. From there we slowly progressed until we were willing to put our faces in the frame and then eventually our whole body, that task being the hardest for some of us. I am not new to self-portraiture. I took a couple of on-line classes a few years ago but I never seemed to progress beyond photos of my feet and the way lower half of my body. 

In Vivienne's class all that changed. Within the first week I was putting my face in the frame, even if it was uncomfortably placed there. 

After that first week though, after getting those head shots done, I fell head-over-heels in love with the creative process of self-portraiture. Everyday for 28 days Vivienne would send a creative self-portraiture prompt to my email inbox and my creative mind would immediately start churning out ideas. What could I do for that prompt that was fun, funny or different. 

My favorite prompt was "focus and blur". This is a technique that I will use many times over the coming days, months and years. I had an idea to use these shoes and this skirt for a shot, but it wasn't until the focus and blur prompt that the shot became crystal clear. I still want to tweak this one a little but overall I am very happy with how it turned out. 

Self-portraiture work has greatly enhanced my photography skills. It forces me to find the best light, the right angles, sharp focus, but it has also made me think to put on foundation before I go out of the house, to wear some of the cute clothes in my closet, to actually style my hair into more than the scrunched curls look. It forces me to practice and to be patient, to problem solve and come up with creative solutions. I learned to enjoy the process and to have fun. For all my work I have collected some pretty good photos of myself. Photos that I can use to add to my blog, update my social media profile pictures and to share with class in our Flickr group.

Even though class is over, my self-potraiture work has only begun. I love being able to finally include myself in my stories. The human element speaks volumes. 

I have a long list of creative self-portraiture shots that I want to tackle over the coming months.

I would highly encourage anyone interested in self-portraiture or someone who needs to work on some self love to check out Vivienne's class. The next round starts June 1st. You will be greatly blessed by the openness of the other class participants, and by starting to see yourself with love. Or like me, find all those things plus a great creative challenge that will carry on long past your time in class, and you will finally start including yourself in your story. 

Friday, April 10, 2015

5 Random Friday Finds

Find No. 1

On Monday I started a new photography project, The 100 Day Project. Of course I also only found the project on Monday, so I had to make a decision quickly about what my project was going to be. I thought about what I like to take photos of, narrowing it down as I went. Then I came up with it - paths. I love paths and now that the snow is gone I can actually see the path. Two days into the project, I realized that I hadn't narrowed it down quite far enough. While I love paths, what I am really drawn to are the leading lines. So...slight modification...the project is now officially established as 100 days of leading lines, or #100daysofleadinglines if you want to follow my project on Instagram.

Find No. 2

Last Friday I took my vintage binoculars I got last fall, out for a photo shoot. I love how this one turned out.

Find No. 3

The path I could have chosen for my 100 day project.

Find No. 4

Self-portrait of the week. I rarely do black and white work, but I thought the contrast in this one was quite lovely, so worth a try. I used the front facing camera on this and am pleased how it turned out, sometimes the quality is quite questionable. It is amazing what better eye contact you have when you look at the camera lens as opposed to the viewing screen. *Hint the camera lens is located ABOVE the viewing screen :) If you are curious about why I have fallen in love with self-portrait work come back here on Sunday to read the story.

Find No. 5

I found this amazing tree reflection in the water on Monday when I was out on a photo walk with a friend.

So many fun processing options with this shot as well. I may have had a little too much fun with that.

Joining Kim for Friday Finds

Friday, April 3, 2015

5 Random Friday Finds

Find No. 1

I found a great use for an empty whisky bottle.

Find No. 2

I found my way up a lot of stairs. A great cardio workout. Twenty minutes of steps burns 200 calories.

Find No. 3

I found a friendly shadow.

Find No. 4

I found a sad dog who thought if he laid on my lap I wouldn't leave him to go out of town. Sorry Scout it didn't work but you got to play with your friend Trevor instead.

Find No. 5

Photo Credit: Glen Huizenga

I found a girl on the edge of an exciting new adventure.

Joining Nancy for Random 5 Friday
Joining Kim for Friday Finds