Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Best Things I Learned in Photography Class

Top Ten {Tuesday}

I have been taking a lot of photography classes this year. In fact, I pretty much declared this the year that I learn how to use my cameras (though I pretty much learned that my point and shoot is a piece of junk and should be put out to pasture). I think I’m doing a pretty darned good job and I’m going to start posting some of the pictures I’ve been taking on Wednesdays, but for a Top Ten list, I thought I’d show what I’ve learned so far.

1. To turn off the LCD screen on my dSLR and use the viewfinder. My pictures improved almost 100% once I did that.

2. How to use aperture mode. If you have a camera with this option, aperture mode is the one that will let you get those shots of your children running around or swinging a bat or your dog chasing her ball. Those are the action shots that eluded me until I learned this.

3. How to set the white balance on my camera. I had no idea that it could make such a huge difference, but I almost don’t need my puffer now that I know how to do that.

4. To always ALWAYS have a camera on my person, even if it is my sucky (though expensive) point and shoot, which is now more of a glorified video camera than an actual camera.

5. To pay attention. I find things to photograph in the most unusual places. I was intrigued by the shape of my daughter’s bath “towel” hanging on a shower current rod and photographed it. I thought it turned out well.

6. To use post-processing. I’ve always fixed red-eye, but I didn’t think the rest of it mattered all that much. I’m learning (and still working on learning) that post-process can create an even more striking image than my original photograph.

7. How to photograph the girls. The worst part of this, for me, was the fact that I could never get a decent shot of my black dogs. They’re a huge part of my life and they always looked like black lumps in pictures. Now, they look like dogs.

8. To see the beauty in the everyday. I used to prize the formal shots and the ones that were posed, and I didn’t have a lot of use for nature photography. That’s really changed. I take pictures of messes and things that I would never have imagined that I could or would. And it’s fun.

9. To view myself as an artist. This is important. I make quilts, I knit, I cross-stitch, I take pictures but I never saw any of it as art. Now, I see that all of it is. And it’s beautiful.

10. And the silliest, but best fun. I learned how to make bokeh with my camera. Again, the logistics of this completely eluded me and I desperately wanted to do it because I think it’s so neat. And now? I know how.

If you’re interested in where I’ve been taking my classes, head over to Big Picture Classes. I’ve taken several classes with Tracey Clark and with Elisha Snow. Both are FABULOUS!!!!

Now that you’ve read my Top Ten list; head over to Amanda’s and check out all of the other cool top ten lists for this week.

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Best Things I Did For Myself in 2010

Top Ten {Tuesday}

1. I read the Bible in 90 days. Amy at Mom’s Toolbox ran this last January and I learned a lot about myself, my relationship to Christ, and my beliefs by doing this. It’s a worthwhile experience and if you’re interested in it another round starts on January 3rd.

2. Related to the first, I agreed to teach Sunday School at my church. While a lot of people would see this as something for someone else, I see it as for myself because it helps me to explain things better to my children and helps me see through the eyes of children. I think it also improves my patience with my son and with my students because it helps me see what other children/people are like and allows me to adjust my expectations a bit.

3. Discovered Big Picture Classes with much thanks to Christina @ thefairlyoddmother.com for raving about a photography class she was taking. I signed on late and didn’t quite get into it, but took another one and am taking another one now and taking three more classes through them in 2011. I think I’m getting to be a better photographer because of what I’m learning and I”m learning a bit about scrapbooking, too. Who would have thought that I would ever consider scrapbooking?

4. Discovered a planner that actually works for me without me having to bend it too far. They interviewed me about how I use the planner here if you’d like to see more of my thoughts on it. No, it isn’t cheap and yes, there are alternatives, but it makes sense for me at this time and I love using it.

5. Related to #4; discovered a homeschool planner that works for us. The Well-Planned Day is very Christian-oriented, so if you’re aggressively secular, you may not like it, but if you can either ignore the Christian elements or appreciate them in small doses, then it’s a great planner. I can see where, when Ben and/or Katie are ready for Confirmation that it will be helpful for them (assuming we’re still using it). I find it helpful to lay out where we’re going and Ben likes being able to see the check marks and know that we’re accomplishing stuff.

6. Related to #4 and $5, discovered Cozi. The wall calendar we use for family events is great, but it is really useless when P is out and about and needs to know what’s going on. If I’m not in front of it, I can’t tell him either. Cozi is my step toward solving that problem. Put the events in Cozi and then we’ll sort it out from there.

7. Related to #6, bought a smartphone. I finally bit the bullet and bought one. I have the Cozi app on it, so my calendar, to do lists, and shopping lists are right there. It’s really helpful. Now, to get P in on the revolution and maybe we can let the wall calendar go. We’ll see.

8. Begged for and received a Kindle and an iPad. You’d think I’d only need one. You haven’t met my family. The iPad gets near constant use for all family members. The Kindle is pretty much mine alone. So, I can read in peace while they play games on the iPad. Works out for everybody.

9. Bough two of Your Birthday Book: A Keepsake Journal one for each of my kids. I am never going to be a high-quality scrapbooker, and though I love the photo books I put together, I really want to record some of the things that they say and give them more memories of being kids. This book is about perfect in it’s design, execution, and layout. Ben’s starts late, so I’m having to fill things in for the first four years and there aren’t interviews during those years, but I have one from this year and it is hilarious. I love looking at my baby book and stuff, even though they’re not very complete, so I’m trying really, really hard to make sure my kids have complete things so that they have lots of mom’s thoughts about them as little kids.

10. Bought a membership to the Y. I haven’t used it as much as I thought I would. But I’ve been reasonably consistent over the last year, so we’re going to re-up for six more months and see how that goes. I like taking it six months at a time. I like being able to stop and reevaluate, and I love the kids’ programs. They’re good for my kids.

Now that you’ve read my Top Ten list; head over to Amanda’s and check out all of the other cool top ten lists for the last Tuesday of 2010.

Top Ten: B90Days So you’re behind, now what?

Top Ten {Tuesday}

I saw a lot of tweets during last night’s chat about being behind. Some are behind a day or so and some are a week or more behind. I am currently four days behind myself (last week was not a good week nor a kind one). So, what suggestions do I have about getting behind and catching up. Well here are ten of them:

1. Don’t panic. No matter how far behind you are, you can catch up. It is totally doable. Totally possible. DO NOT PANIC!

2. Look at the next few days and find some additional pockets of time and plan to read. If you have an even vaguely supportive spouse, talk to him (her) and ask if s/he can put the kids to bed or make dinner or something to give you additional time to read.

3. Be creative about your reading times and places. The bath tub? Your kid’s swim or soccer or other whatever practice? Riding in the car with your spouse/so as you’re going somewhere? The toilet? Seriously. Any and all of those will work as reading places/spaces and help you find time to read.

4. Figure out how far behind you are and then figure out how you can add an addition four or five pages to your reading each day. That’s about all you’d need to catch up in even the most dire of circumstances.

5. Play school with your kids. Or office. Or anything else where you can legitimately get away with sitting and reading while they’re doing their thing around you. Will you have perfect concentration? No. Will you still be able to read, yes. If you’re one of those people who needs perfect silence to read and the perfect environment, you probably won’t find this tip useful, but perhaps you should try learning to concentrate in different kinds of environments.

6. Take a break from your regular activities. Take the kids to a park or something like that in order to give them a place to play and you a place to read. No you can’t concentrate fully on the reading. Yes, you need to keep an eye on the kids, but most kids can play reasonably independently in a secure park.

7. Grab every free pocket of time that you can. Are you going to be waiting for pasta water to boil? Read. Rocking a baby, read (admittedly, works better with a digital version than with a hardcover book).

8. Get the kids involved. My son recently has become obsessed with responsibility charts. I’ve shown him my Bible in 90 Days book mark and he is all over me to get my boxes checked off. So, I’m reading and he’s making sure I read.

9. Let go of some other things. Use the DVR and get that show you wanted to watch (Rizzoli and Isles, I’m looking at you) for later. Admit that the 31 craft projects aren’t going to get done right now. Avoid taking on new responsibilities. Make this the priority for right now and accept what that means for the other things that you’re doing.

10. When all else fails, read. The more you read, the closer you’ll get to catching up. There are two grace days built into the program. If you’re determined, if you’ve committed, then you will finish.

Now, head on over to Amanda’s to see some great gift ideas and a bunch of other Top Ten lists that are probably not B90days focused.

Top Ten: B90Days Tips

Here are my reading “survival tips” from the last time I completed the Bible in 90 Days challenge:

1. Always, always have your Bible with you. You never know when you’ll have an open moment in your schedule for reading.

2. To facilitate #1, if you have the ability to have a Kindle app on your phone, get it, and buy the Bible in 90 Days for it. Easily the best investment I ever made.

3. Do not get caught up in the worry that you’re not absorbing everything or that you’re not meditating on the reading. That’s not the point. The point is to find the big picture; the over-arching themes.

4. Check in every Monday, without fail. Talk to your mentor if you’re struggling. Don’t let anxiety over not being caught up get to you. Everyone falls behind. You’ll catch up. You can make the time to read.

5. Children are not an excuse not to read. I homeschool my kids. I work from home. I have two demanding dogs. Three not well parents/inlaws and a health problem of my own that is just not getting worked out, even though we’re trying. More on that after Wednesday. My point is if you prioritize it, you can do it. But it means you won’t be doing everything.

6. Sign up for the emails. I found those the most useful thing in the world. I signed up about a week in last time and it frustrated me greatly that I didn’t have them earlier. This time. I’m signed up from the beginning.

7. Talk to your mentor. Ask for help and guidance. Ask her how she gets everything done and finds time to read. Remember, every one of the mentors has completed this challenge already. We know how hard some days can be and how easy it is to want to give up. We’re here for you, so please, talk to us!

8. Start planning your finish prize now. I don’t know what I’ll do this time. Last time, I ordered a beautiful cross charm for a favorite necklace of mine from: The Vintage Pearl. Her stuff is absolutely gorgeous and a good value. I love that they’re handmade as well. It feels like my gold medal for finishing a challenge I wasn’t sure I could complete. You can do it, too, just decide what you’re “medal” is going to be!

9. Twitter chats. Go to the Twitter chats. Use TweetChat or TweetGrid and follow along even if you don’t feel comfortable jumping into the discussion. Twitter Chats make this experience come alive. Every Monday, 8p-9p CT.

10. Don’t get caught up in the drama. There’s always going to be drama. In the first challenge, someone came in when we were at day 60 (or thereabouts) and said that the way we were reading wasn’t meaningful, that it had no value. She suggested that the only value was in slow, meditative reading or you shouldn’t bother to do it. Ironically, she wasn’t doing the challenge, just caught sight of the hashtag and had to create some drama I guess.

There are going to be days you think that you can’t do this. There are going to be days when you’d rather do anything than read another page of the Bible. We all have those days and it’s okay. Just read anyway. There will be times when someone says something disparaging about your efforts (see above) and you’ll want to quit. Don’t do it.

Final point, and one worth remembering for everybody, all kinds of people are doing this challenge. Do not make assumptions about the religiosity of anyone doing this. Do not assume that only a certain type of person or Christian would take this challenge. Part of the point of Cooper’s ministry is to meet people where they are, so don’t be the discourager for someone else. We’re here to encourage EVERYBODY regardless of their purpose or reasons for being here.

Now, head on over to Amanda’s blog where you’ll find a lot of Top Ten lists, most of which will have nothing to do with the Blogging the Bible in 90 Days challenge. If you’re interested in the challenge, check out the link.

Top Ten Tuesday: iPad Apps Edition

I should probably wait a week or two to write this since my iPad only just arrived yesterday, but I’m so excited by the possibilities with this little thing that I just can’t help but share the joy. I am an apps girl, and I read carefully to figure out what will work best with what I need. I should also point out that while the iPad is a fun thing, it’s main purpose for me is as a work thing to take some of the weight of my laptop. So, it’s for blogging, participating in discussions, and maybe some light grading, but we’ll have to see about that part as time goes by with it.

So, of course, like any good techie, I had a list of apps that I started with and one that I found trolling the app store, so, without further ado, ten must have apps for the iPad, in my opinion.

1. Pages: this is the streamlined version of the Apple word processor. It’s not as robust and it cannot add notes, meaning that the iPad will not likely be my go-to grading machine, but for things that I don’t use comments for it may be just the thing. Plus, if I’m really headed back to writing/revising my novel, I can do it on the iPad and possibly be more successful than I have been to date. (9.99)

2. iBooks. I know, it’s a free app. Heck, when I opened the app store for the first time, it asked me if I wanted iBooks before I could see anything. Of course I said yes. I have to say that it’s a nice ebook reader. I found the book that amazon cancelled on me two weeks ago and bought it. The prices are competitive with amazon, and the reading experience is good, so far. (free)

3. Kindle for the iPad. I know, the competition, but the reality is that I have a huge stack of Kindle books already, and I’m certainly not buying them twice. The interface is exactly what you’d expect from a Kindle app. If you’ve used it on the iPhone, you know what to do. They’re certainly not going to take advantage of the cool parts of the iPad at this point, but I figure they’re going to have to do something to compete. (free)

4. Evernote. The only surprise here is that I didn’t list it number 1. It is everything you’d expect from Evernote (except formatted notes, grrrr). My notebooks are easy to sort through and the notes in this larger real estate are so much easier to read. I can see setting this up in my cookbook stand with the splatter screen and using it just that easily. And, of course, as always with Evernote, the notes on the iPad are synced with the notes on my Mac and on the iPod, so I always have what I need. (free)

5. Tweetdeck for iPad. I love tweet deck even though it doesn’t always love my Mac, but it does love these little dedicated machines. I attended the monthly homeschool chat on twitter last night via Tweetdeck for the iPad, and I enjoyed it. I will consider this perfect once they have Facebook integration. (free)

6. Jumbo calculator. This is a really basic calculator, but it works consistently. It doesn’t lock up, and it lets me do what I need to do when I need to do it. (free)

7. Dragon Dictation. I was honestly surprised at how well this worked out of the gate. It can take down what you say with a good degree of accuracy (eliminate background noise for better accuracy), and you can use that text in other programs via copy/paste. (free)

8. GoodReader. A PDF reader that doesn’t crash and lets you read the pages the way they were intended to be read. There are too many PDF readers that strip out parts of the formatting or that strip out images, this one doesn’t do that. It’s not a free app, but it’s a steal for .99

9. WordPress. Um, yeah, so this blog is hosted on WordPress and an app that let’s me update the blog without going into Safari makes me very, very happy. It’s intuitive and just works. I like it when that happens. (free)

10. The Early Edition. I have a love/hate relationship with feed readers. Mostly, I hate them because they don’t update right or they don’t work the way that I wish they would. This app has a ton of potential. It does not currently sync with google reader, clearly a huge drawback, but I firmly believe it will and at that point it will be completely worth it.

There’s a lot of awesome to be had with the iPad. The one thing that makes me sad, though, is that the virtually indispensable Clock app on the iPhone/iPod Touch didn’t make the transition over to the iPad. I really miss it.

Now that you’ve checked out my top ten list, make sure you head over to Amanda’s blog to see all the other fabulous top ten lists for Top Ten Tuesday.

Top Ten Tuesday: Family Game Night

Next week is TV Turn Off week and I know that some people (maybe even us when the kids are awake) are going to participate. We’re also trying to institute Family Game Night and we have a lot of fun with it. Any way, these are the top ten games we liked to play.

1. ThinkFun Zingo This is like Bingo for the preschool set. The pieces are reasonably easy to keep track of and Ben really enjoys being the one to slide the tile holder back and forth. There are two levels of play. We tend to play the easier side right now because of frustration levels. He did try the harder side yesterday, but he was more stressed than he normally is.

2. ThinkFun Rush Hour Jr. Oh, what a brilliant find this was. We set the game up and then we take turns trying to solve the puzzle. This one is also great if Ben wants to play something by himself.

3. How Tall Am I Game This is a great game that encourages creativity, strategic thinking, and basic skills with a ruler. You try to build the tallest character you can by putting together the different parts of a person. You get to decide which parts based on a roll of the die. Ben has really enjoyed this one many, many times over.

4. Yahtzee Jr. Mickey Mouse Clubhouse This gets a little loud. Particularly with a young man who loves to rattle the dice. But, it’s a bit easier than traditional Yahtzee and helps him work on his counting skills.

5. Disney / Pixar Toy Story UNO Card Game We picked this up to help Ben with his colors and his numbers. It helps even more because it has the characters on it that he loves, so he can keep track of what’s going on even if he gets a little confused by the colors some times.

6. Family FLUXX Ever Changing Family Card Game This is a wild game. Ben has some trouble following some of the rule switches, but he enjoys trying the different cards and the way that the rules change to suit what’s best for each player. It can be a really fast game or a really slow one — depending on how the rules work out. (There’s also a more adult version of this game that, when the kids are older, we plan to shuffle into the family game: Fluxx 4.0).

7. Veggietales Jonah Fishin Card Game This is one of the first card games Ben received that he actually enjoyed and appreciated. He’ll dig out the cards all the time and ask to play a game. It’s lots of fun for all of us. And since he’s always had an ocean obsession, the cards are things he recognizes right away.

8. The Suitcase Detectives This is a neat game. You try to catch a thief by observing the objects that are in the suitcase and figuring out what’s missing. We haven’t had a lot of time to play with it, but we see it as a precursor to Clue, so we’re pleased about that.

9. Hi Ho Cherry-O It’s a classic and Ben is enjoying the counting aspects of it. There’s a cooperative level where the goal is to put together a bird puzzle and the classic competition version where you see who can pick their cherries the fastest. Great fun for all.

10. Memory Game – The Backyardigans Edition We also have the classic version, but this is one that Ben truly enjoys playing. We started out with smaller grids and have moved him slowly up to using more and more of the cards. He’ll be using all of the cards in the game very soon. It’s fun for everybody and builds on the matching stuff that he’s learned watching Nick Jr.

Just for fun here are a couple of bonus items I’m throwing in this week. Books are big source of creativity for me, so these are some things that help with planning our family nights or resources that we draw from for the kinds of play that we do.

11. Family Fun Night We’re just getting this one as we’re into theme nights and thought it might be fun to have some guidelines to help us develop some themes as we try to branch out on our own.

12. Unplugged Play: No Batteries. No Plugs. Pure Fun. This book is so creative and comes up with some fascinating ideas for kids and playtime. There are great games for kids to play (with and without adults) along with all kinds of pretend play and other fun stuff. Ben loves to have his imagination stretched, so this is super popular with him.

Now that you’ve found some new/interesting games, go on over to Amanda’s blog and check out the other top ten lists.

Top Ten: Things You Might Not Know About Me

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So, I’m not a big confessional type person. I talk a lot about my kids, some about my work, and some about myself. But there are a lot of things that most people don’t know about me, and today I feel like sharing.

1. I won first place in the 50 yard dash when I was in elementary school. I remember the day pretty clearly because my mother’s cousin, Pat, met us at the school in time for the awards ceremony. She was, to me, super glamorous, and I thought she was so neat. I had no idea. None.

2. I have a sister. I only rarely mention her because she does not have an online presence and would prefer not to have one. I can respect that, but I don’t think it violates her trust to say that she exists.

3. I can play the piano. Not super well, but I can play. One of my long range plans/dreams is to buy a piano.

4. I used to decorate cakes on a fairly regular basis for friends and events. I even made a wedding cake once. I would never (NEVER) do that again.

5. I cry at the drop of a freaking hat. Always have. Commercials. Sad stories. Happy stories.

6. I laugh at inappropriate times. Like, say, my grandmother’s funeral. Yeah, that was fun. Or my aunt’s funeral. The cousin I mentioned above was very mad at me because I sat with her dad and we told jokes during the viewing. I was probably 12 or 13.

7. I collect dolls. Specifically Madame Alexander dolls. I have, um, a large number of them. My grandmother started me collecting them when I was in third or fourth grade. I used to get two or three a year.

8. I have a horrific fear of drowning. To the point that I am now afraid to put my face in water. This makes swimming a bit of a challenge. I intend to take swimming lessons in May (even though I know how to swim; I have to overcome the fear, and I think that’s a safe way to do it).

9. I have a horrible track record for starting projects and not finishing them. I also buy more material than I could use in ten lifetimes. Stashes are a big thing for me and I have a lot of them.

10. I can keep an extremely calm head in a crisis for someone who cries as easily as I do. I can be perfectly calm and work through a whole list of things that need to be done, get through whatever has to be gotten through, and then fall apart later, sometimes much later.

And a bonus one:

11. If I could do anything in the world, I would take pictures and write stories.

Now that you know about me, go check out the other great posts at Amanda’s blog. There’s always a lot to learn and a lot to see there.