Last week I stumbled on a blogger with a fun way to link up photos on Fridays that fits right in with one of my RENEW goals for 2012 — using my cameras more thoughtfully and intentionally. The challenge is to photograph the week using only the camera on my phone. And yes, I know it’s Saturday.

Normally I’m not a late starter, but with spring break and all, it took me a while to get into the groove, so I didn’t actually take my first photo until Monday. The re-entry back into my real life as a teacher and the inevitable early morning wake up was hard, very hard.

On my arrival at school, I discovered that my promised laptop had not been delivered over spring break. I have mixed feelings about it anyway, so I wasn’t heartbroken.

On Tuesday, one of my students was playing with this mirrored Rubik’s Cube. He said he needed a greater challenge… and then showed us that he marked up one side with dots to help him solve it. 🙂

Since it was grades week and I was feverishly trying to get everything done before the Friday holiday from school, I didn’t do much photography. On Friday, we met out-of-town family members for museum-ing. I took this photo from the window of the Chicago Cultural Center because I have never seen the Bean (Cloud Gate) from this vantage point. The yellow tint comes from the protective film in the windows.

I also took this photo of the stained glass dome in the Chicago Cultural Center. I know it’s not perfect — I took it with my iPhone, for goodness sake — but it gives an idea of the beauty of this often overlooked building among Chicago’s museums. The web site says it’s the tenth most popular museum, but in a city of museums, how many people actually get to the tenth one?

I didn’t take this photo, but I thought you might want to see a well-photographed picture of the Tiffany glass dome that is also in the Cultural Center.

Lest you think I’m trying to cheat on the InstaFriday challenge, here’s my photo of the Tiffany Dome.

I couldn’t resist taking a photo of this quote in the new modern wing of the Art Institute of Chicago.  When I looked up the attribution, I found that it was actually supposed to be a work of art. Silly me, I thought it was just an interesting quote on the wall.

It turned out to be one of those beautiful Chicago spring days — crisp and sunny. On such a day, it’s impossible to take a bad picture of the skyline, even on a smart phone.

If it’s Friday, it’s pizza day. We also had the double whammy of entertaining out-of-town guests, so it had to be a Chicago pizza day. We found a pizza place by the Art Institute that we’ve never been to and were happily surprised by both the food and the service.

A week that started pretty slowly ended up with a warm gush of family togetherness and yummy wine and pizza. It was another hot time in Chi-town after all!

Please stop by Life Rearranged and meet some new blogging friends. Everyone appreciates a little comment love.

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Terrible Ideas

If you’ve known me for any length of time, either personally or social-networkily, you probably also know that I’m a Frances Mayes stalker. Trust me, if I ever get to Tuscany, the first place I’m going is Cortona and you’ll see my photo standing in front of Bramasole all over Facebook and my blog.  I know she doesn’t live there anymore, but maybe she’ll come back to check on it and come out to say hello to me. One can only hope.

Image via

Katherine: It’s a nice little villa. Rather run down, but redeemable… Are you going to buy it?
Frances: The way my life is currently going, that would be a terrible idea.
Katherine: Mm, terrible idea… Don’t you just love those?

There are many memorable quotes from my all-time favorite movie, Under the Tuscan Sun (see my review here), but this one is probably my favorite, because my life is full of terrible ideas. And I love them — most of the time.

So how does this relate to my blog? If you were sitting here in my office with me, I’d invite you to check out my Drafts folder in WordPress. Over the last 2 1/2 years, I’ve published 219 posts — averaging about twice a week. That’s not so bad, considering I have a full-time teaching job. But wait. I also have 77 unpublished drafts in there. That’s an average of 2.56 per month that I DIDN”T publish. Why not? Were my ideas so terrible that they weren’t worth the light of day?

The oldest draft is from October, 2010, and the title speaks for itself. “Things I Love: Free Time” — there’s nothing written in that draft beyond a cute topic sentence. I wish I had made time to write that one; it would be interesting to read what I was worried about at that point in my life. I’m still looking for free time.

Recently I started going through old recipes boxes that we got from my husband’s aunt. She’s almost 103 years old, and I was going to do a recipe series where I cooked her “receipts.” I actually made Golden Shrimp Casserole and photographed the process. I never published that draft because the casserole was TERRIBLE. I think we finally threw out the last of it after we tried to cover it up with cheese to make it palatable. So much for “Aunt Rachel’s Recipes” from January 8, 2012. Trust me, I’ll never publish that one.

Then there was last week’s unpublishable rant about something at school. Let’s just say I thought better about publishing it — maybe I’ll put it in my book about 100 Things I Never Want to Do Again when I retire. It was definitely a terrible idea to publish it, but at least I got it off my chest and it’s safe in my computer. Or is it…?

The good news, for those of you that enjoy my book reviews, is that there are four GOOD ideas waiting to be finished up and published. I think you will love reading about The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted — a very good book. Interestingly, the premise of that book is a terrible idea that turns into love and happiness for the characters. 🙂

Image via

P.S. I’m pretty sure I AM going to publish my rant about who put Adele in this ugly dress when her amazing talent deserves a truly amazing dress. Did they think we couldn’t see the grandma underslip she was wearing, apparently so she could wear the support bra she definitely needs? I mean, really. More on little black dresses that WORK on another day.

P.P.S. Thanks for staying with me. I made a goal to try to keep my posts under 500 words, but this one slipped over the edge. I hope it was worth your time.

Leap Day — An Opportunity to Reflect and Renew

Leap Day - February 29th

Leap Day - February 29th (Photo credit: Cameron Maddux)

It’s Leap Day, a day that only occurs once every four years. In addition to being an indicator of the ridiculousness of our calendar, it also seems a good time to take stock of the cycles of our lives.

Where was I four years ago?

I had good relationships with my husband and adult children.

I was at the same job.

I weighed about the same.

I lived in the same house.

I went to the same church.

I had mostly the same friends.

Come to think of it, I had pretty much the same wonderful life that I have now.

With the exception of  the issues with “stuff” management and my constant battle with weight, I’m pretty happy with my life. And then there’s the problem with being a teacher in this crazy world-turned-upside-down-hate-the-teachers environment, but that will pass.

And how is my world different?

We lost four parents and that’s a pothole I can’t fix come spring.

I’ve been to England three times and France once in the last four years. I’ve been waiting my whole life for my shot at Europe.

I am truly leaps and bounds beyond where I was in social media four years ago. And technology — how did I ever live without my smart phone?

The older we get the better we are — isn’t that conventional wisdom?

Despite the outward appearance of a static life, in reality I’m a changed person. I hope 2016 finds me even healthier, wiser, and is it too much to ask to also be wealthier? And by that I mean real money — dollars — dinero — Euros. I’ll take it all.

The End. Happy Leap Day to you! I hope that Google doesn’t arrest me for copyright infringement, but I’m not selling anything and it was just so darn cute.

Image credit: Google

Wordless Wednesday: Playing with My iPhone Camera

What did I learn about using HDR Pro after my iPhone camera class on Saturday? One needs to have a steady hand — and apparently I don’t. When the two photos merge together the edges need to match. If your hands shake, you get shaky edges. You can see them in the original photo I took. I chose this one because of the cute little snow nipple. 🙂

The other thing I learned at class is that if I take a shaky photo, I can tart it up with effects. Using Picnik, I added the Heat Map 2.0 effect. It certainly takes your mind off of my shaky edges and gives a whole new dimension to the snow nipple!

And I’m heartbroken that Picnik is “merging” with Google. I tried it, and it doesn’t have the effects and framing capabilities that the original Picnik does. Picnik was just so darn easy — who’s got a recommendation for a busy teacher?

This post is linked up to Wordless Wednesday at Project Alicia, Angry Julie Monday, Live and Love Out Loud, Naptime Momtog, and And Then She Snapped.

RENEWing My Photography

It’s a good day when I can learn something new. When we go to teacher’s in-service presentations and courses, we demand a “take-away” — something that we can go back to our classrooms and use the next day. Today I learned a lot about the capabilities of my iPhone and its camera. I’ll give you a little teaser, but there will be more in upcoming posts.

Armed with my new app, HDR Pro, I took my trusty iPhone to the floral section at Costco. HDR Pro tells my camera to take two pictures, then merges them together. My only problem is holding still so that there are crisp edges on the merged photos. At home, I loaded up the photo to Picasa, used the HRDish function, the fade function, and the vignette function to get rid of the edges. I don’t like Picasa’s fonts because my favorite’s not there, but this will do for the purposes of copyrighting this photo. The color in these chrysanthemums just knocks my socks off and warms my heart on this snowy Chicago weekend.

And look what a double dose of HDR did for my trellis!

Thanks for joining me as I RENEW my life.

Wordless Wednesday

One of my RENEW goals for 2012 is to be more intentional about my photography, and my friend Jerry is an inspiration for better pics. He’s doing a class in photography using the iPhone on Saturday, and I’m really pumped to learn more about what my phone can do!

I decided to go to Trader Joes and take some pictures with my phone, so here’s some spring for Wordless Wednesday on this gloomy winter day.

And just in case you didn’t see it, this is why I love Glee.

Image via Fox TV

Image via

This post is linked up to Wordless Wednesday at Project Alicia, Angry Julie Monday, Live and Love Out Loud, Naptime Momtog, and And Then She Snapped.

RENEW 2012: I Dream a Dream

With all due respect to Martin Luther King, Jr. and Alain Boublil, I am dreaming of some different kinds of things this winter. In the spirit of RENEWing my life in 2012, here’s my top ten list. Some will happen this year and some will probably have to wait, but I’m remaining optimistic for the future.

  1. I dream of leisurely having my healthy breakfast and coffee and then taking an exercise walk with my camera to see what’s going on in the world.
  2. I dream of learning how to use my camera and not just hoping for the best.
  3. I dream of darling husband’s not having to get the snow thrower out at 4:30 am, waking up all the neighbors and garnering ill will, just so that I can get my car out of the driveway to get to school.
  4. I dream of a day that allows me to read an entire book while lounging on my couch.
  5. I dream of kitchen drawers that don’t have little crumbs in the corners.
  6. I dream of planning, shopping for, and cooking delightful, healthy meals for darling husband and myself on a daily basis instead of “when I have time.”
  7. I dream of having a clean dining room table every day, not just when company is coming over.
  8. I dream of having time to actually write that book.
  9. I dream of having my crafts — sewing, jewelry-making, scrapbooking — organized and easy to use.
  10. I dream of a day without crabbiness, snarkiness, or general disappointment with my world.

And some days I wish I could go back in time and be Lea Michele or Idina Menzel. Unfortunately, I think that ship has sailed.

I’m linked up to Top Ten Tuesday at Oh Amanda — please be sure to stop by and say hi to a few new friends!

2012 One Little Word: RENEW

While hanging around my computer last weekend looking for something to do where it wouldn’t matter if I had a coughing fit, I met a new reader who introduced me to the One Little Word family — thanks, Merrick — and I have chosen RENEW for my 2012 word. There’s a lot about my life to renew, and this is the year to do it.

One of my goals for the year is to learn how to photograph intentionally rather than haphazardly, and I’m looking forward to help from my friends Ken and Kelly as well as darling husband on this path to renew my love of photography. I’m open to suggestions, if you want to chime in.

Since one of the rules of engagement if you really want to change something is to make a stand in public, I’m going to share with you the reason why I need help with photography. I have an eye, but no craft. These photos are proof of that.

I tried tomatoes.

I love my amaryllis blooming in the window by the Christmas tree. Could I get an artful photo? Not so much.

When I went to make the coffee later in the day, I saw the amaryllis with the light from the window shining through the petals and the green stem of the next one to bloom sticking its sturdy stalk up in the air. It was so beautiful that I thought I would try again. This one’s not bad, but I have no idea how I made this happen other than just catching the light at the right time of day.

These aren’t bad either, but they don’t tell the stories that go with them. They seem static to me, and the magnolia blossom’s not actually in focus.

Ali and Merrick both scrapbook their way through the One Little Word challenge. I’m probably not going to do that, although I do have masses of scrapbooking stuff in my closet. I am going to choose some renewable resources that lie dormant in me and blog about them throughout the year. Just writing this down has made me feel better today and I hope it’s stirred up some achievable goals for 2012 for you. I’d love to hear about them and please, don’t be afraid to comment on my photography. I can take constructive criticism… if it’s delivered with love. Just remember I’m still sick. 🙂

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