Thursday, September 26, 2013

Five years later

It's our 5 year anniversary of being married! I can hardly believe it. I still feel very much like a newlywed, but I won't get too sappy with this one. Instead here's a fun nugget that I dug up earlier this year. At my bridal shower, all the guests wrote their relationship advice on an index card, and the cards were put into a book that was given to me at my wedding. My friend Layla's daughter shared these wise words:

"happy wedding! Tip for rob - always Belive in Kristy. She is pretty much always right. Tip for Kristy - Boys are master tricksters. you can't always belive in 'em."

Happy anniversary, Mr. Whitman. I love you.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Front yard landscaping project complete!

I detailed the start of our front yard landscaping project back in October. Rob and I are great at starting projects, but sometimes we lose steam before it's finished. That's why I'm thrilled to share the completed photos of this project. We finally finished it! And it's looking a lot better.

Before and afters:

We still need a few most hostas plants, but it's coming along. Summary of what we did: Removed all of the unkempt bushes along the front of the house, dug out the grass along the sidewalk, put down lawn fabric and edging, filled in the area with red mulch, and planted a lilac bush at each front corner of the house.

We had originally thought we'd put river rock in the front. After some thought, we decided to go with mulch instead. It was lighter and cheaper, and we like the look.

This project falls into the category of "Why didn't we do this sooner?!" The fresh mulch really completed the look and improved our curb appeal ten fold.

Now onto the back yard...

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Don't buy the cheap lawn fabric

Hey Internet, sometimes you benefit from my mistakes. Like recently, I learned that you should never buy cheap lawn fabric. Sure, it looks to be decent quality, and it costs significantly less than the premium fabrics. But think of the long term and how it will hold up.

We put down some lawn fabric in our front yard, and we didn't get around to covering it with mulch right away. Look at all the grass and weeds popping through.

Comparatively, here's the premium fabric that we put down around our pine tree. As you can see, it's still going strong with no weeds popping through. 

Here's the exact fabric that we used around the tree: Landmaster Commercial Weed Control Fabric. It's spendy ($49 per roll), but at least you know you won't be replacing it after just a couple of months.

Live and learn. Then share it with the Internet. That's what I always say.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Still here, still Rob and Kristi

Here's a pic of us from a recent wedding that we photographed. Rob was second shooter.

Other things that are happening:

  • I started a new job back in March. Same company, new role. My title is now Manager of Web Operations. After a two-year absence to do project management, I am back to working on websites again. I feel like I've gone home. I love it. 
  • With new website-related job comes a renewed interest in cultivating a web presence. You can expect more frequent blogging, and I will also be launching (that sounds official) a new photography portfolio site soon. 
  • I'm much more active on Instagram than any other social media. I really like Instagram. I find it's one of the easiest apps for quickly taking and sharing photos online, and it's good incentive to document daily life. I love browsing through the news feed and seeing what my friends are doing too. If you're on Instagram, leave your handle in the comments, and I'll check it out. Mine: @kristiwhitman
  • We've only been canoeing twice this season, and that is a shame. Minnesota had a ridiculously long winter, and I think it bruised my soul. I prefer sunshine and warmth, thank you very much.
  • I have been using Blogger since 2001, but I really dislike the current posting interface. I'm thinking of switching to Wordpress. I'm a big fan of Wordpress. But I'm nervous about migrating this entire blog to a new format. Has anyone done it? Advice? 
  • End of list. See ya later.

Friday, July 5, 2013

His name is Murphy

And I love him.

I've had a lot of changes in the camera line-up in recent months. I sold my full frame camera (Sony a850) and purchased a compact mirrorless system (Sony Nex 6). It's exciting and new, and I feel like I am rediscovering my passion for photography with this little camera's unique capabilities.

I don't doubt that I will own another full-frame camera at some point. There are rumors that Sony will put out a full-frame compact mirrorless system. They've already done the full-frame sensor on a compact camera with their RX1, but that camera has a fixed lens. I'll be crossing my fingers (and saving my money) for an interchangeable lens compact mirrorless camera.

I've also been shooting a lot with my advanced point and shoot. The photo of Murphy shown above was taken with my Sony RX100. It was very dark in the kitchen, so I can't believe I even attempted it, but settings are f1.8, 1/30, ISO 1600. 10mm focal length, which is why it's slightly distorted.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Holiday decor, after the fact

Once again, I'm a little behind with this post since it's now New Year's Day. But you know what? I did some Christmas decorating this year... for the first time ever. And I took photos, so I'm going to blog it, by golly. Gosh darn it. Gee willikers. Ok, I'll stop. Here are the photos:

That was the extent of my holiday decorating, but it's a big step for me. I am not a big fan of any type of seasonal decorating. I hate spending money on things that are only used for a few weeks a year, and I dislike having to store said items. 

I still think I'm more Scrooge than Santa sympathizer, but I was inspired to spread some holiday cheer this year in honor of my grandmother Eileen. Unfortunately for the many who loved her deeply, Eileen left the earth earlier this year. I was close with my grandma, and she loved Christmas more than anyone I've ever met. My mom told me I should honor my grandma by trying to enjoy the things that she enjoyed. 

So I did. I really like these simple decorative elements, and I like that they remind me of my grandmother.

Details on 'the stuff' for anyone interested:
That's all. Merry Christmas from the Whitmans!

Monday, December 3, 2012

The perfect gift idea for your blogging friends

The majority of my readers are also fellow bloggers. Hence I have to share this recent discovery. This would make a great gift for any blogger or avid social media user, and I wish I had purchased one sooner.

It's the Eye-Fi wireless SD card:

Why is it so great?

It's useful and convenient. You load it in your camera in place of a normal SD card, then take your pics. The photos will automatically be sent to your computer, tablet, or phone (you determine where it goes when you set it up). You can then do your editing, if you want to, and upload to your blog or social media profiles. It's so quick and so easy. If you do a lot of blogging, this saves a lot of time. I am all about being more efficient.

For me, it feels luxurious to not have to bother with card readers or transfer cables. My most-used camera at the moment is my Sony RX100, which has an old school leather case (see pic below). Any time I need to remove my card, I need to unscrew the leather case. It's an annoying step if I just need to get 1-2 photos off the card.

Note - you can also have it auto send to Facebook or other social media options. I don't use this feature because you can't choose which photos post to Facebook. It would automatically post everything, and I didn't like that.

I also dig the way the Eye-Fi keeps me organized. After the files automatically transfer to my computer, they are saved in a new folder named with the current date. I love that.

In case you were wondering, it's very easy to set it up. If you're not tech savvy, don't worry about it. The directions are fool proof. Insert the included USB drive and follow the prompts. You will be up and running in no time. I love to critique user experience design, and I found the entire experience quick, straight-forward, and enjoyable.

But this product is not perfect. Here are a few points to consider before you buy one:

  • The cards themselves are pricey. A four-gb card is around $35, which is around 6-7 times the cost of a regular 4 gb card. The theory is that you won't need to spend as much as many cards since you are already backing up the photos as you take them (so you can delete as you go). I'm not quite trusting enough to rely on that method. I had a $30 Best Buy gift card, so I only spent a few bucks on mine. Even so, I love it enough that I would buy one at full price just to continue living with these convenience.
  • These cards work well for taking a few shots (or even a few dozen) for your blog, but I wouldn't recommend trying it on a professional photo shoot. Though it hasn't happened to me, I read that a few people had their cards freeze up, and this resulted in lost images. A Best Buy rep told me this is rare and that it usually happens when people are shooting longer video (the card can't keep up with the recording and wi-fi transferring). I have not had any problems, but I am not ready to risk it on an actual paid or important photo shoot. Yet. 
Summary: If you are a blogger or just a person who shares a lot of non-phone pics on the Internet, this is a must-have. You will love the ease of use and saved time.

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Eye-Fi nor am I being compensated in any way. I just like the products.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Printing on canvas - updated review for Easy Print Canvases

A while back, I wrote a review of Easy Print Canvases. You may recall that my print didn't quite turn out the way I had planned:

To summarize, although the print was delivered quickly and packaged well, I wasn't sure why the horse on the left was cut off when I was careful with my image cropping. I really didn't think it was too big of a deal since I had received the canvas free of charge in exchange for reviewing their service on this blog. I wrote my review and moved on.

I didn't share the link to my review with the company, since it wasn't the most positive assessment. So I was surprised when I received a call from the company, stating that they had seen my review and were very regretful that the print hadn't came out right. The woman I spoke with said they had some (presumably temporary) production issues with the "mirror side" option, and she said they'd like to make things right by trying again. They asked if I would accept a re-print of my canvas. Of course!

This time, we opted to go with a solid color on the side.

And this time, the print came out perfectly:

Now we just need to decide where to hang it. For now, it lives on the book shelf in the dining room.

I was impressed with how Easy Print Canvas's customer service handled this situation. They never asked me to remove my initial, negative review or seemed upset that I had been honest in my assessment. But they did seem sincere in wanting to understand what went wrong (so they can prevent it from happening with future orders) and then rectify the situation. What more could you ask? I'm satisfied with how they handled things.

I'll be the first to go on record saying that customer service nowadays is often more disappointing than helpful. So I found the service from this company impressive, and I feel they have redeemed themselves in my book.

I've been meaning to write an update on this situation for some time, and I regret that I didn't get around to it until now. Better late than never? Actually this is probably a good time to share since this company has some of the best prices on canvas prints that I've seen (plus they have sales and discount codes if you sign up for emails), and canvas prints make a great gift if you are looking for ideas this holiday season. Also I am a fan of creating your own wall art, and printing a photo on canvas is an easy way to make striking and personalized artwork. Let me know if you have any questions or if I can help in any way.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Enjoying fall while it's still here (and a before-and-after photo edit)

I've got some house and decor related posts planned for the next couple days/weeks. I'm also going to be making some design changes to the blog. It's feeling a little stale. In the meantime, let's just enjoy fall while it's here. In Minnesota, we don't have long before bitter winter creeps in.

For the photo people:
These  photos taken with Sony a65 camera and borrowed Sigma 105mm lens.

Same settings for each pic:
ISO 100

Interesting to note that you can get beautiful bokeh backgrounds at f3.5

For processing, I used the exact technique that I wrote about in this post: Fast and subtle editing technique step-by-step

And here is a before-and-after to demonstrate the processing. First pic is straight out of camera. Second is after editing in Photoshop. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Some landscaping

Now that there's snow on the ground in Minnesota, I am completely aware of how outdated this post will be. I decided to share it anyway. It's better late than never?

Let's talk about home ownership. I have ideas. Many ideas.

Ideas often require money and time. Lots of time. Sometimes lots of money. And sweat! These things are not quite in abundance around these parts (well, except for the sweat part). And as I wrote previously, we struggle with how much money we’re willing to put into a home nestled in an area of depreciating properties and foreclosures.

This is the plight of the home blogger.

We have resigned to the fact that we are stuck in our current home for at least several more years. Maybe indefinitely? When we bought in 2008, we intended for the Chateau to be a starter home. I think a lot of people plan a similar path. But the housing market has not rebounded in Minneapolis, and no one is really sure how long it’s going to take for things to get better. And that’s ok. Truth be told, I love this house and am happy to live here. I shouldn't stay that we are stuck here. We’re privileged to have this home and live here. I think it has plenty of livable space despite its modest footprint. We are not extravagant people, and I love that our home reflects this.

But Rob and I are both committed to making our home environment a peaceful and enjoyable sanctuary. We spend a great deal of our time here, and so I feel justified in making some changes that will provide immediate enjoyment (or convenience or function - all good things). We may not receive a measurable return on investment for every project we complete, but that doesn't mean it’s not worth doing. Surely, we can work to strike a balance between our desired improvements, a realistic budget, and the housing market situation. Right?

That flowery intro is a lead-in to our latest project(s). We’re finally tackling the landscaping problem.

The landscaping problem. Where do I begin? For starters, the front yard was lacking that HGTV buzz word, curb appeal. Here are some before pics:

Note the overgrown bushes and lack of symmetry. Pretty ugly.

If money were no object and time was unlimited, we’d make big changes. Wrap-around porch! New sidewalk! Outdoor hot tub! Screened three season porch! Lush sod to cushion our feet! Obviously right now, none of those things will be happening. 

But we can still make it look somewhat pretty.

Step one: Fix the overgrown bush issue in the front yard. One day last summer while I was at work, Rob spent the better part of a day clearing out the existing bushes and trees. It was a lot of hard work, and we have the broken shovel to prove it.

But Rob’s hard work paid off. I think it looks a lot more clean and streamlined now.

Next, we decided to make a rock-filled border along the steps. This required cutting out the grass around the steps.

We decided to make the rock border curve outward on the right side to go around the pine tree in the front yard. The pine tree prevents grass from growing in that area anyway. Next, we put down some yard edging.

And finally, we pinned down some yard fabric to prevent weeds from growing through the future rock border.

Our neighbor offered up some free hostas plants. Hostas are great because they look nice (leafy and green but never stringy or straggly), are hardy, and come back each year. Perfect.

I would also like to add some tulip bulbs. My sister and I both love tulips, probably because they grew abundantly at our grandma’s house and were a consistent spring staple of our youth.

Rob also trimmed up our giant pine tree.  Its straggly lower branches nearly touched the ground, hiding the house and making the yard look smaller and more closed off.

When it was all done, we created a lot of yard waste:

Here's the truck (later in the year), filled with all of the yard debris from this project plus a few larger branches that broke during summer storms.

And here is a progress photo.

Next on the agenda for the front yard: We need to add the rocks and plant some more plants.  Eventually we will need to build a new porch and possibly paint the wood fence. I'm tired just thinking about it. But that’s a post for another day. And now we will probably wait until spring to finish these projects. In the meantime, imagine something like this:


That's all for now.

someone else's words

"Happiness comes when your work and words are of benefit to yourself and others." - Buddha

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