Monday, November 30, 2009

Scenes from Thanksgiving

We celebrated Thanksgiving in Minnesota this year, with Rob's family. It was a good time. Here are some photos. Note: I shot these with my old camera (an advanced point and shoot). A few days later, I got a new camera. I will tell you all about it later. Anyway this post is kind of a farewell to the old Panasonic. It served me well, and I swore I'd never sell it. But things change.

This is Sophie. She hosted the first Thanksgiving family gathering of the day:



Sophie had the rest of her family hard at work, making food. Here, Ellen is making gravy. She has the most important chef's tool (glass of wine) in hand:



Uncle Neal is carving turkey. Look at the determination on his face:



Wait, let's get a closer look at that pie...



Look at the steam coming off the gravy:



And check out this spread...



I know I probably should have taken the plastic wrap off the bowls for the picture, but I didn't want to ruin Thanksgiving dinner just for a blog photo. I'm not a food photographer. Or a food stylist. I don't know how these things work.



Nom nom nom... This is someone's plate, all loaded up:



Ellen has a turkey leg:



I liked the centerpiece:



And the pretty glasses:



Lola tried to pose as a human in order to trick us into serving her Thanksgiving dinner. It didn't work, but I did get some cute photos out of the deal:







Hey, it's not easy being a dog.

Driving to the next place, family gathering #2:



Lola... so.... sleeeeeepy:



Rob's mom's side of the family enjoyed a rousing game of poker, a Thanksgiving tradition (I think, but I could just be making that up). This dog wanted to play cards. He knows when to hold 'em, knows when to fold 'em, knows when to walk away....



Rob showed up late because he had to work. He quickly realized he had a rat on his shoulder.



Dogs playing cards, pirate/parrot rats on shoulders... Isn't Thanksgiving crazy!?

:)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Just a cute Lola picture

Now that I know my mother-in-law reads our blog, I am going to post this cutie picture of Lola, just for her.



Thanksgiving photos coming soon.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

We hustle hard for the Christmas tree

I'm a former Scrooge. A recovering Grinch. What can I say? I'm just not into Christmas very much.

Well, that's not true. I LOVE giving gifts, and I relish in that aspect of the holiday season. All year long, I take mental notes (and sometimes physical notes too, thanks to Google Docs) on things that my loved ones like. Buying and giving gifts brings me great joy. So why was I always so Scrooge-y? Well, you know... that tired old argument about Christmas being too commercialized. And I don't really like tacky holiday decorations. There, I said it. For one, I can't really see spending money on something that you only get to use for a few weeks out of the year. Plus you have to store those things during the off season, and I just hate having unnecessary clutter and stored items around the house.

As a small child, I implemented my own wrapping-paper ban, which spanned much of my life and only ended when I met Rob. I just didn't see the point of buying wrapping paper; it only gets worn up, destroyed, and discarded. It seemed like a waste of money and a lot of unnecessary waste. Since its purpose is to conceal, I was happy to use newspaper, paper bags, and masking tape instead. My mom retaliated by making me hide my presents behind the tree, so as not to wreck the nice holiday image of the other gifts and tree decoration. But I was a stubborn child. (Sorry, mom.) After moving out, I continued my ban of all Christmas propaganda. No tree. No lights. No wrapping paper. No decorations. No stockings hung with care. Total Scrooge.

When I met Rob, I softened. My husband gets impossibly cute around Christmas time. Very childlike. I'm powerless to resist. He inspired me to let go of my old stubbornness and think about the other people in my life. He said it's nice to look at a present that was carefully wrapped and looks pretty. It's fun to open them, and it's fun to see them sitting under the tree waiting for Christmas morning. I realized that I *can* participate in some moderate Christmas-like traditions. It won't kill me, and it definitely makes the holidays more enjoyable for my loved ones.

You can say that this Scrooge sold out, but I don't care. The Ice Queen has melted.

Proving my new-found xmas open-mindedness, we bought our first Christmas tree yesterday. In the Whitman tradition, we hustled and got it cheaper than retail. Allow me to explain. We had noticed this smallish, artificial tree at Target a few weeks ago. It was marked $49.99, not on sale but not bad. We were drawn to this one because its branches looked a tad more realistic than the other trees. Plus it was named "Finwood Cashmere" which sounds fancy and elegant (you know - for a plastic tree and all).



After a bit of thought, we decided to go back to Target and purchase the tree. We are some lucky ducks in that we live within 5 miles of 3 different Target stores, so we went to the nearest shop to get our tree. Upon arrival in the holiday section, we were shocked to see that the tree was now marked $69.99. Even worse, it had a "temporary price cut" sign next to it stating that the original price of the tree was $84.99. How can that be right? We checked the name, and it was the same tree.

Disillusioned, we headed over to the other Target, where we had first seen our Finwood Cashmere friend. We found a store clerk in the process of changing the price sign. He was on the phone with someone in customer service who was dealing with a customer who had also reported a cheaper price. He said that they would give that customer the original price, so we (assertively) asked for the same thing. The store clerk, who looked really tired and defeated, did not put up a fight.

$85? No way. $69? Nope. $49? Hell yeah!

But wait, it's even better. While cleaning recently, I found a Target gift card from last year. We still had some money left on the card. So we took home the Finwood Cashmere for only $29. Success.



This tree has built-in lights, a nice feature because we are lazy. We don't have any decorations yet, but I had an idea to only buy (or make) two ornaments a year, one for each of us. That way, when we're old and crotchety, it will be fun to pull out our box of ornaments each year and reminiscence about how we got each one. For this year, I picked up a little ceramic house, which I am going to paint like our house. I'll write the year on the back so we remember this was the first Christmas in our first house. We'll also probably get some sort of dog ornament and write Murphy's name on it since this is the year we brought him home.

Wow, I can't believe how corny I've become. I still blame Rob. Happy holidays, blog readers.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Cat models

It's the time of the year where we are encouraged to express thanks for what we have. I am grateful for photogenic cats.

I've been playing around with indoor shooting without flash or setting up lights. It's fun and challenging. The cats are quite helpful. Sometimes I wonder if they've been watching that Tyra Banks model show because they are pretty darn good at posing.

Clyde:



I told him to think like the cats in the magazines.





Embree prefers showing off her distinguished profile (she only tolerated one snap before getting stage fright and running away):



In case it's helpful, these were shot with my Panasonic dmc-fz50 in shutter-priority mode.
Exposure: 1/80
F3.2
ISO: 200

Did I just give you a cute attack? Oh, I'm sorry. You probably deserved it...

Monday, November 23, 2009

One room and a year's worth of redesigns

Last week, we set up the new guest bedroom. The challenge is that we didn't buy anything new for it. No bedding or accessories and the like. Even so, I think it's coming along nicely.

This room has gone through quite a bit of transformation since we moved in, mostly because I'd never decorated a house before and I'm still figuring out what I like and dislike (and having to deal with budget limitations like most new homeowners).

Here is the room when we first saw it, at the house inspection:





Obviously they had the room set up as a nursery. Since we don't plan on having any chill'ren in the near future, we decided to make this into an office/art studio/exercise space for me. Yes, I am spoiled.

When we moved in, we didn't have much furniture so the room was quite bare. I purchased a desk, inexpensive shelving unit, and rug. That's it. Here's my room with those things and the ugly curtains that the previous owner left:



Very sparse, which I suppose isn't a bad thing. I liked the space but wanted to play around with different color schemes.

For a while, I tried to be bold and do a brown and black design (inspired by some wedding gifts that we'd received). I made a little seating area by the window using a storage ottoman that we already had. I made some new art (for the shelf) to replace the older paintings I'd done since I wanted to do a more cohesive color scheme (or attempt at one anyway).



I re-arranged and brought in a black Ikea bookshelf that we already had back in the apartment. It provides a ton of useful storage for all my art supplies and computer books/magazines. Also, crazy cat eyes!



This setup worked for a while. Then for some reason, all the brown tones bothered me. I decided to scrap that idea and go for black and light neutral accents. I wanted to bring in some more textures and make it feel cozy.

I also decided that I needed a real sitting area for this room as I was spending a lot of time in there doing homework, painting, and exercising. I first attempted to dress up the ottoman with a fake sheepskin we had and some new blinds and breezy curtains for the window (this look totally inspired by YoungHouseLove, a now favorite blog that I had just discovered).



But THEN we found out about the super affordable Ikea Solsta bed. It's a cute little loveseat type couch that is perfect for smaller rooms and only $150. Bonus: It converts into a little bed. We love to host out-of-town guests so the possibility of having another sleeping space was too hard to pass up. We had to have it, of course.

So here's the room after the couch and after I painted a few accessories (the mirror, shelf, vases, and bulletin board), and brought in the new couch:





I fought with myself on whether I wanted to paint the walls and trim or just leave them the way they are. Rob is opposed to painting the trim white (he doesn't want it to be mis-matched since the rest of the house has brown trim), and I am admittedly pretty lazy when it comes to wall painting. So I left it like this:



For art, I framed some black and white photos that I took around our neighborhood for the gallery style wall:



We kept the room like this for the second part of the year. Then, as I mentioned earlier, we got the crazy idea to change everything, move our bedroom downstairs, and put a music and art studio upstairs. That said, this room is now our guest bedroom:





As I said earlier, we haven't bought anything new for this room. I used the throws and pillows that I had on the Solsta couch in the earlier pic and a black bedspread I had at the apartment.





We brought the bed in from our old guest bedroom. Everything else pretty much stayed the same. I'm sure I will tweak the art and accessories in the upcoming months. Once we finish our upstairs studio, I can move my art supplies out of this room and we can replace the bookshelf with a dresser.



With all the black in this room, it's clear that I will need to think about adding some pops of color, probably on the bed and walls. I did a purple and blue painting (shown here) but I think I need some more pieces to tie in with it:



Also the walls look more yellow now, and I don't think I want yellow walls. I may have to give in and actually paint the room. We'll see.

It's kinda crazy how one room can change so much in 11 months. I guess that's part of the fun of decorating a house. Soon, I'll post some pictures of the new master bedroom. Exciting stuff, I tell ya. Bye for now, Internets.

-------------------------------------------------
UPDATE: It was too black in this room, so I updated with an old beige comforter we had. Much better, I reckon. The walls even look less yellow and more neutral with the new bedspread color. Yeah, it's wrinkly. So what.



2ND UPDATE: This room has gone through an accessorizing overhaul. You can read about it here. The room now looks like this:





Ahhh, much better.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Clyde, surrounded by textures

Friday, November 13, 2009

Uptown lakes, Minneapolis 11.11.09

Wednesday, after I got off work, Rob and I rushed over to Uptown to try and get some nice pics as the sun was going down. Here's my favorite:



Gloomy, no? The same photo with a boost of contrast:



Kind of Tim Burton-esque...

I liked these geese:





I call this one ghost goose.



Only got about 5 minutes of shooting before the sun went down. I hate daylight savings time.

Goodnight, geese.

someone else's words

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



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