Thursday, December 31, 2009

Resolution '10

I hope you didn't come here thinking I had a great self-improvement plan for the new year. You should look for a more promising post by some other blogger on my sidebar if you want such a thing. I'm sorry to say, resolutions like that are just a recipe for failure on my part.

I do actually have a goal for the new year, though. I want to work on figuring out Photoshop. I've been following I Heart Faces in 2009, and have worked on some of their challenges. Recently, I posted this photo to ask for some suggestions on how to fix the background.


Thanks to Susan Keller, my photography guru, I got brave with my clone tool and cleaned up the lines and extended the paneling to fill in the remaining space. I just needed a little kick in the pants.

So while we've been on the road over the holidays, I decided to spend some car time tackling one of my favorite old photos of Bethany.


I adore my nephew Kyle, but he did not exactly enhance this picture. I figured if I could clone paneling into the other photo, I could recreate this background too. Maybe.

Not bad. I totally surprised myself. I added a little vintage look since she looked kind of old fashioned.


Then I remembered the post Kate (a.k.a. Givinya de Elba) did where she linked to a Photoshop tutorial on layers. I thought if the background were blurred, it might make my little hack editing job less noticeable.



After messing around with the background, the blur, the color and the shadows, I can't quite figure out which I like best. Too much? Too little? What do you think?

I'm looking forward to getting more of this stuff figured out this year. Do you have a goal for 2010? Whatever your heart's desire, may you find yourself blessed by its fulfillment, or by something else you never dreamed of. Happy New Year!

P.S. Mama Kat has an assignment for Writer's Workshop about New Year's Resolutions. You should be able to find some over there!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Cut!

We were playing some fun games with the grandparents, and Ben won his. He wanted a picture of himself flexing his muscles. (No, he's not vain!) Bethany thought she should be in on the action and proceeded to keep her eyes closed to ruin the photos. I told Ben he looked great, and I told her she was fine because I could just crop her out.

Boy, did she shape up in a hurry.


Yeah, I like the first one better too.



Click the button to see some other funny photos this week!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Wrap-Up

Last year we spent the first Christmas that our kids were old enough to remember with their grandparents. There is really no telling who treasured it more. On the way home--two long days' journey--there was talk of next year. We decided that since each year will surely get more complicated, we would indeed take these eager grandkids to the land of their Christmas dreams once more.

One grandma has us to help her get everything ready, and one has us to help her take everything down. Both of them spoil us rotten. We love them. :-)


Thank you Lord, so very much, for grandmas and grandpas.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Reflections

"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor,
so that you through his poverty might become rich."
2 Corinthians 8:9


Reflecting on the beautiful truth that gives light to the world this season.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 18, 2009

How Great Our Joy!

This is my favorite Christmas picture ever. Ben and Bethany were playing and talking about the Christmas story and I got the bathrobe idea. The rest is history. I love the wonder in their eyes.

Here is the original:




I'm taking advantage of Constructive Feedback Friday at I Heart Faces today, and I would love some suggestions for making this original even better. It was shot with my first point and shoot digital (I am still point and shoot), and I would like help with some adjustments in Photoshop Elements, and any cropping and background suggestions. Thanks!

Hope your joy is great this season!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Cinnamon Chip Gems



You asked.  I deliver.  I'm such a pleaser.  But seriously, these are good.  You can see the process of making them in my last post, demonstrated by Bethany.  They are "puttsy"--having two of us really helped!!


Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
  • 2 packages (3 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup ground toasted almonds
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk(not evaporated milk)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-1/3 cups HERSHEY'S Cinnamon Chips, divided

Instructions:

1. Beat butter and cream cheese in large bowl until well blended; stir in flour, sugar and almonds. Cover; refrigerate about 1 hour.

2. Divide dough into 4 equal parts. Shape each part into 12 smooth balls. Place each ball in small muffin cup (1-3/4 inches in diameter); press evenly on bottom and up side of each cup.

3. Heat oven to 375°F. Beat eggs in small bowl. Add sweetened condensed milk and vanilla; mix well. Place 7 cinnamon chips in bottom of each cookie shell; fill a generous three-fourth full with sweetened condensed milk mixture.

4. Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until tops are puffed and just beginning to turn golden brown. Cool 3 minutes. Sprinkle about 15 chips on top of each cookie. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Remove from pan using small metal spatula or sharp knife. Store tightly covered at room temperature. About 4 dozen.



Notes:  I omitted the almonds, and still yielded four dozen.  The tool Bethany was using was a tart shaper.  She dipped it in powdered sugar to prevent sticking.  I bought mine from Pampered Chef  with my mini muffin pans.  I bought two more pans because of this recipe--they take a long time, and it's nice to be able to put the second pair of pans in right when the first two are done baking.  It was totally worth it, because this is Lee's all time favorite!


Cinnamon chips are not always easy to find.  They would be great with chocolate or butterscotch, too.


Bon appetit!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Christmas Nostalgia

We went downtown for the Holidazzle Parade again this year, and to the Macy's display. It's so much fun!  And of course, Macy's has this very handy Santa's workshop at the end to transport you back to your childhood when things were oh so much simpler.  You have to love the vintage toys.  What I love is taking them home with me for free.  On my camera.



Their cookies inspired me to get busy in the kitchen.  I seriously lucked out because we had a snow day this week and my baking partners were home to spend the day helping me.  I adore my baking partners.



The older one left for school this morning, whistling "O Come All Ye Faithful" as he headed out the door into the single digit temperatures.  Nothing a little cocoa after school won't fix.



Truly, it's the most wonderful time of the year.


Note:  If this makes you hungry for some cookies and you need a recipe, check out this link!  Also, my cookie exchange recipes from last year are here--although you now have to click an extra time to get to the links.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Flying South

Not us. Yet. But tons of birds got the memo last week that winter was indeed coming to the tundra, and decided they better get going. Bunches of them stopped in our yard for a snack. That very same day, some of the winter birds seemed to come out and bid them goodbye. Or were they reestablishing their domain? At any rate, here's what I saw:

Bye robin!

Hello, Ms. Cardinal!

Bye little black bird I've never seen before!

Bye woodpecker!

Well hello Mr. Bluejay! You know, you would look
STUNNING right here, mingling with the crabapples!
I'll wait....

What? You would rather go hang out in the neighbor's yard with Mr. Cardinal? Well, I won't be able to get a very great shot all the way over there!



OK, could you at least turn around?

What, you're mooning me now?

OK, so I realize I'm not in control, but at least I'm still young and idealistic.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Standing Room Only at the Inn

Bethany has always been my eager assistant when it comes to Christmas decorations. This year she was about ready to take it over. I was in the middle of something when she found the nativity set and proceeded to set it up on the mantle. It's pretty high off the ground, at about my eye level. From the next room, I told Bethany that she might want to put the taller figures in back and the shorter ones in front so everyone could see. Here is what I had in mind:


Here is Bethany's interpretation:


She put the smallest figures closest to Jesus, and the taller ones behind them, so they could all see the Guest of Honor. Good for her. It's not all about us anyway.

I wonder. Who else could we put ahead of ourselves, so they can get a closer look at Jesus?