My New Toy

I thought about writing a post highlighting our Christmas activities, but realized it would be incomplete if I did it now because we have one last party to attend.  For several years now it's been our tradition to celebrate Christmas with Ken's family on New Year's Day.  So, the comprehensive Christmas post will have to wait another few days.

Instead, I thought I'd share some Nikon D5100 photos and, if Blogger will let me, maybe one of the first videos I shot with it.  We'll see.  Blogger doesn't always like me. 

The camera has a bunch of "Effect" settings.  These are too fun.  I really like the "selective color" mode.  I can tell the camera to capture up to three separate colors.  In the first picture, I selected green only.  While the tree is quite obvious, you can also see the frames on the wall have green mats as well.  


The red in the wreath is pretty.  I really liked this one.  

Luckily, my wonderful hubby had brought home some a Christmas bouquet, which was perfect for experimenting with this selective color feature.  I move from one color to two in the series.  Adding a third would have, in my opinion, created a full-color picture with no black & white features at all.  




Another feature I think is kind of cool is the "Color Sketch" effect.  This is the only sample I have so far.  This calls for more experimentation!


I don't have examples of all the in-camera effects I can select from, but if you're curious to know what else the camera can do, here's a link to Nikon's product page

Also, as promised, here's a short video I recorded. 



I'm very happy with the video quality, although I do wonder if there's a way to get the sound of the auto focus in the lens to not show up in the recording.  I somehow doubt it. 

To say the least, I am very, VERY happy with my new toy.  Now if I can just figure out how to work all the bells and whistles on the thing!


Day 9 - Decorated

Decorating the house for the holidays is both a pleasure and a pain.  I love the result.  The bright lights, the smell of the tree, the cutesy decorations scattered around the house.  What I don't love is the hassle of getting everything out of the attic.  (And let's not talk about clean up when Christmas has come and gone!)

Our 2012 Christmas Tree

Pictures with Santa

Day 8 - Shopping

I can't believe I'm about to type what you're about to read, but it's true!  I am done with my Christmas shopping!  There's only one major gift left to buy and Ken is in charge of getting that little bit of business taken care of...

So, my days are once again filled with shopping the Kindle freebies list....


I tend to visit the website about every third day.  On average I think I "buy" 7-10 freebies each visit.  As I don't want to fill up my Kindle with all those files, I send the majority to my cloud reader where they wait in a queue until I decide to read them.  Once I've selected one to read, I send it to my device.  Works like a charm!

Day 5 - Someone I Love


Not a very fancy picture, is it?  Instead, I give you a snapshot of our daily lives.  After a long day's work and some dinner, Ken looks pretty relaxed sitting in his recliner.  As he's got football and basketball alternating on the TV, I'm fairly certain he won't be moving far from that position until it's time for bed.

#iHeartFaces

Day 4 - Shadow Play

I had to recruit help for this daily challenge.  Luckily, the little man was up to the task. With a little help from Youtube, he was able to produce this poodle.  I think it's cute!


#iHeartFaces

Day 3 - What I'm Reading

This collection of short stories has kept me entertained for the last week or so. Hoping to finish it tonight or tomorrow night. Although, with anew episode of Bones waiting on the DVR, it's more likely that tonight will not be the night I finish it.

#iHeartFaces

Day 2 - Elves


So, I was supposed to take a picture of an elf today.  I thought I might be able to find a Christmas tree ornament on the tree, but it seems I'm not much of an elf collector.  So, I made my own little elves sit down and get their picture taken after they finished helping me with the holiday decorations.

I think these elves are so much cuter than any ornament could ever be.  :-)

#iHeartFaces

Day 1 - Me

I didn't forget to take a picture today. I was simply in a no cell phone coverage zone with maybe one bar and no wireless access. So...this is me. I took the picture at the extended family Christmas party. #iHeartFaces

Book(s) by Regina Sherman

I've gone back and forth on linking my real identity with my alter-ego's.  The reasons aren't complicated.  I'm afraid that my self-published titles could someday hinder my chances of selling to a traditional publisher. I'm also afraid that the types of books I've published under the pseudonym would be problematic when I get around to shopping out my fantasy novels; I fear being pigeon-holed.  

Okay, and if I'm being really honest, in the beginning I might have been afraid that the self-published book would get terrible reviews (paranoid much...yes), and those terrible reviews would further damage my future publishing chances. This fear has been lessened.  While not everyone has raved about the book, the response has been favorable.  Small in scale, but favorable.  As I write this post, Amazon shows 4.5 out of 5 stars; granted only five reviews account for this.  Yet, through Amazon's KDP program I've sold quite a few copies and gave away over 3000 freebies last January.  I'm still selling in small single digit numbers almost every month.  

The book also has a few reviews on Goodreads.  Over there it's getting 3.83 out of 5 stars.  Not quite as glowing as Amazon, but there are more people responding.  Not a lot of people, mind you.  Just a few.  Right now, I see a whopping twelve ratings and three reviews. 

I'm not surprised at the low numbers.  I can admit I'm a terrible self-promoter.  T-E-R-R-I-B-L-E!!

Not that I didn't try.  I created a blog, a new e-mail address, and a Facebook account for the pseudonym.  The problem is that I'm terrible about updating the social media sites and I'm even worse at checking the e-mail account. (I should probably do that today, now that I think about it.)

For this reason, I've decided it's really pointless for me to keep the two separate.  I can hardly keep my blog updated, let alone try to come up with content for another one.  Also, by separating the two and being focused on the alter-ego's next book, it doesn't give me a lot of opportunities to share my writing with this audience.  And this is where I have an audience, small as it may be. 

For all these reasons, let me officially introduce you to Regina Sherman and her first self-published book: 

Me & Dexter the Difficult
Amazon  |  Goodreads
Whew...

Writing...It's What I'd Like to Update You On

As quite a few of my previous posts have been about homework, it will probably come as no surprise that I haven't been working on Book #2.  I want to, though!  I'm really happy with the opening chapter, not because it's perfect and I won't end up changing a single thing - that never happens - but because it really does set up my heroine for her defining moment. As I usually tend to start my stories too early, I may need to scrap this chapter in the future, but for now it serves a purpose: it has given me direction. I know what needs to happen next!

I love this feeling.  I'm excited to get back to the writing. 

First, though, I need to get through the last couple weeks of the semester.  

The only other distraction I'm worried about is the holiday season itself.  It's crazy how busy we are this time of year.  This weekend we're going to try to pick out our Christmas tree on Saturday morning before we need to leave for my side of the family's Christmas party; this is the one with grandma, her kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids. The party is being held "up north", which is about a two hour drive from where we live.  Because the party starts at 1 PM, we need to leave our house by 11 AM.  This gives us exactly one hour to get our tree, bring it home, and get into the tree stand.  Yikes!

Maybe if I was more dedicated, I would write in the car.  A fully charged laptop battery can last for about an hour when I'm not doing anything more strenuous than word processing.  Hmm.  Could I give up reading in the car for writing in the car?  I'm not sure.  I suppose I could try it..


Willing to Play Along

Used with permission.  See #7. 
I'm not usually known for my "sticking-to-it-ness" .  In fact, I'm usually out of the game by day three or four because I forget I'm participating.  Yes, I'm that scatterbrained!  Let's just call it what it is - ADD - and move along.

In an effort to keep myself on task with this fun little photo challenge, I'm going to try something new.  A daily calendar reminder.  Here's Day 1.


Don't know if anyone else wants to play along, but if you do, let me know.  I want to follow your pictures!






Just a Few More Weeks..

I took next week off work, not so I could go on some fancy vacation, but to help me find the time to work on the last few major projects I need to complete before the end of December.  These projects don't fall in the home improvement or Christmas gifts categories.  Oh, no.  These projects are for school.  As the end of the semester winds ever closer, here's what I have left:

Linguistics Class:
  • Finish up the IPA translation of a recorded speech sample (this is 98% done, but I'm not confident in my translation abilities, which means I'll probably second guess myself a few dozen times before turning it in). 
  • Write a 2000-word report of the interview process, which should include some scholarly references to help support my interpretation of the findings. 
  • Compile the appendix and supporting documentation. 

College Comp Class:
  • Some reading (that's due by this Thursday)
  • Refine my Teaching Statement. 
  • Rework my Syllabus. 

Okay, seeing the items listed out like this makes me think it is possible to finish without going insane!  


Christmas Cards - Done!

Today we had our first real snow of the winter season. This, of course, meant that I forced my family to change out of their comfy clothes (sweatshirts and sweatpants) and into something a little more appropriate for a Christmas Card photo op.

Boy, do they love me!

I think the effort was well worth it, though.  Look how great our picture turned out!

Stationery card
View the entire collection of cards.

We Take A Break From Our Regular Programming

Don't tell my instructors, but I spent most of my weekend working on a photo book.

I figured homework could wait until Monday Night Football.  While the guys are doing their thing (a.k.a. falling asleep in their chairs), I can work the homework I should have been focusing on Saturday and Sunday.

Although, in my defense, this was a limited time offer!!


Stuff

If you're like me and you subscribe to more blogs than you possibly keep up with, you may not have noticed that I've been on hiatus.  Not intentionally, mind you.  I didn't plan to go a month or more between updates.  It just happened to work out that way.

Nothing earth-shattering or life-altering has occurred.  I've just been busy out there in the land of Real Life. 

  • School has started.  Not just for my kids, but for me, too.  This means most of my evenings are spent reading textbooks or articles, or working on assignments.  I have two classes this semester that require I pay close attention to due dates.  
    • American English
      • 10 response papers (3-5 pages on average).
      • Create and administer a survey.
      • Translate a recorded bit of speech into IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet). 
      • Major Project:  one-hour interview, analysis, and some translation (I think).  Details are supposed to be shared next week. 
    • Teaching College Comp
      • 10 annotated bibliographies. 
      • Create a writing assignment for a first year composition course.
      • Blackboard Discussions every other week.
      • Create a syllabus for a first year composition course.
      • Create a teaching philosophy statement. 
      • Grammar Spot (10 minutes of instruction on a grammar element of my choice). 
  • It's football season and both of my boys are playing.  The youngest has had a game every Saturday for the last three or four weeks; we have two more to go, I believe.  My oldest is playing for the JV team on Thursday nights; only one more game remains in his season. 
Youngest is #47

Oldest is #66
  • That pesky thing called work also eats up a great deal of time.  I'm definitely thinking a vacation may be in order soon, probably right around final project deadlines. 
  • I may have also hosted an online catalog party for Thirty-One so I could buy this:  


A Deal with the Universe

Near the beginning of last month I logged into my KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) account to check on my sales numbers.  Despite my complete lack of PR after my initial announcement, the book continues to sell in small quantities.  Small as in anywhere between 3-5 copies a month.  It doesn't sound like much, but every little sale makes my day and sends me scrambling to look for new reviews. 

So, anyhow, I logged in and found that the month of August was doing extremely well with six sales.  Considering how the previous months had gone, I felt confident enough to make a deal with myself.  Or the universe.  I'm not sure which. 

If I get seven sales before month end, I'll start writing the next book in the series.

The universe called my bluff.  I sold ten.

I'm not feeling book #2.  I'm not satisfied with what I've managed to come up with so far.  The whole thing feels off.  

But I had made a deal. 

So yesterday I sat down and wrote the opening.  It's terrible and likely won't survive revision.  The only thing it really has going for it so far is that it's a start.  I've got words on a page.  

Are you ready for some...schooling?

Hey, it can't all be just about the football!

We're mostly ready for the school year to begin.  The kids have their backpacks full of folders, notebook paper, and new pens and pencils.  New school apparel, including shoes, have been purchased and put away for the beginning of the school year.  We've attended the orientations and tested out the new locker combinations.  Heck, I've already ordered school pictures for the oldest child with the youngest child's soon to follow.  

Can you believe that?  School picture order forms were circulated at the orientations.  Crazy!!

So we're as ready as we can be in terms of physical preparedness, but mentally, I'm not so sure.  Unlike most parents, especially those who have been home all summer with the little darlings, I'm not ready for school to begin.  For us, life is so much easier when the kids are on summer break.  Once classes start the real work begins.  Monitoring grades and helping with homework is complicated by sports schedules and other obligations. 

It also means I go back to school.  Three more classes..three more classes...three more classes. 

Because I've only got three classes to go, I'm anxious to finish and graduate.  Registering for two classes, though, may not have been my best idea to date.  I'm sure I'll survive it, but I'm also fairly confident that I will  have to work my tail off.  I'll once again have to resort to closeting myself away in my basement craft area; it's quiet and the kids mostly stay upstairs where the television and PS3 are located. 

So, while I'm happy to see the three day Labor Day weekend approach, I'm afraid it will pass in a blur and school will be upon us before we're really, truly ready for it. 

Renaissance Festival 2012

Well, we made it to the Renaissance Festival once again.  I'm not sure I'll find time in my hectic fall schedule to visit the grounds again, so this was most likely my only visit this year. 

I was lucky enough to share the experience with these lovely ladies..


While most of us had been to the festival in years past, we had two newbies with us.  My Aunt Linda, pictured to the far left, and my former step-mom's new husband (not pictured).  The other ladies in the picture (you ma have noticed I colored my hair..red!) are my cousins, former step-mom, and my baby sister.   

Considering the 90+ degree weather we were experiencing, I was amazed at the number of visitors who still elected to wear their costumes.  Our group was too wimpy for corsets, skirts, and boots.  We opted for a more casual and cottony approach. 

The Planted Man

Reminded me of the Ents from LOTR.

There's really a man in there somewhere.
These sights were the among the first things to greet us this year.  I thought both were great, but I really have to give the Ent a special token of appreciation because his costume required stilts.

Of course, there were pirates and wenches, men in kilts, and knights to be found.



It's a Win!

Last night the JV football team played their first game of the year. I must admit the boys started out rough.  Halftime found them down 6-12.  Yet, after a few adjustments, the team began to show their true potential.  The final score 28-12.

Now, you may be wondering why I'm rambling on about the JV team when my boy is a freshman.  Well, after some careful consideration, the school decided it was too risky to have two small teams and moved all the freshman up to the JV team.  That happened Monday. Luckily, our boys had been practicing together so they weren't completely unfamiliar with each other.

My boy started out on kick-off. He's number 66.


Then he moved to defensive end.


That was just before he made his final move to the bench.


See the bag of ice there?  The team's trainer was concerned he had broken his thumb.  I tried really hard not to be "that" mom, but it's hard not to ask what's wrong when you're right there on the sideline with the boys.  A quick glance and I glimpsed a strange looking indent near the joint.  When the trainer stopped trying to wrap it and put together a bag of ice, I couldn't take it any more.  I had to ask.

So, big fat FAIL on not being "that" mom.

All I can do is hope the boy wasn't too terribly embarrassed.

On the bright side, x-rays showed no broken bones!  He should be back in business by Monday's practice.  



Football Pre-Season

I'm conflicted.  I'm not one of those women who looks forward to football season.  In fact, I find football season to be highly annoying when it begins to take over my television.  Even though the real games haven't started my husband is already claiming his Monday Night privileges.  I've had to reorganize my DVR list and cancel some of my recordings in order to accommodate his football addiction.

Considering how much I DVR and how often he's forced to watch my shows, I really shouldn't complain.  

But that's not why I'm conflicted.  I'm conflicted because while I really find professional football to be a huge annoyance, I'm more than a little bit excited that it's football season!  I've two very good reasons to feel that sense of anticipation.  

Here they are..



My little guy is in his second year of JV Youth football.  Strangely enough, he's one of the bigger kids on his team.  And he's not that big!    



Then there's this guy.  He's a freshman this year (insane!).  His team practices with the JV players; I think this is in part because there are going to be instances when the two teams are combined into one.  The merge is going to happen whenever there's a game scheduled at a school where their student body is too small to support a freshman team.  Whenever our school finds itself in that situation, the freshmen are going to be moved onto JV for the day.  

I didn't know they could do that, but I think it's cool that they can. 

So, yes, conflicted. I think that's the right word because I dread football on my television, but I'm very excited to watch my boys on the field. 

Childhood Memories

Okay, so this post is 100% inspired by Wil Wheaton's "Summer memories never fade" post.

The only house I really remember from my childhood is the one we moved into when I was three.  The trailer I lived in with my mom and dad prior to the house is kept alive in their memories, not mine.  I think I know what street our trailer was located on when we lived in Fostoria, but probably not.  No, the only house I called home during my formative years was the single story ranch with a full, unfinished basement.  The same house my dad still lives in. 

Growing up on that back country road, where the dirt often raised a plume of dust whenever a car or truck would venture by, I spent most of my time with my siblings.  While there were other families with kids on our hilly little road, all the girls were older than me.  Old enough to be my babysitter when a babysitter was still necessary.  It wasn't until my aunt and uncle built a house on the property next to us - property that had once been owned by my great-great grandmother - that I had another girl to play barbies with.  My cousin, Jessica, is a couple of years younger than me, but the age difference was never an issue.  Our interests always seemed to mesh. They still do. 

As I think back on childhood, my cousins were a huge part of it even before this particular set moved next door.  Before and after the divorce, my dad would pile us kids into the back his truck and head over to the next little town for a day of visiting.  This was a time when seat belts were optional and kids in the bed of a truck was a common sight.  Most often the journey would result in a visit with my aunt and uncle - my dad's only brother- or with his youngest sister and her family.  Sometimes, it would be a visit to Grandma's house, which burned down when I was maybe ten or eleven years old.  

I have so many memories of that little town where my grandmother, aunts, uncles, and cousins lived.  Visiting Mina's candy shop was almost sure thing.  The adults would give us a quarter each and send us through neighbor's backyards or down the dirt alleyway to buy an afternoon's worth of sugary sweetness.  Crossing "main street" could only be done if we were in the company of an older and more mature cousin. Luckily, my uncle's house sat on the same side of that main thoroughfare as Mina's and his house was the most often visited.  As I was often the oldest at those gatherings, the house's location made a huge difference. 

Also on his side of town, if you can call Fostoria a town when it's really not even a decent sized village, was the softball fields and the playground. As we got older, or when we traveled in a pack, we were allowed to go play there.  Of course, we were warned to stay away from the resident biker club, who coincidentally sponsored the youth sports program we participated in for many years.  WKRP was the acronym, if I remember correctly. I played softball for WKRP right there on those fields.  I was probably the worst player on my team, but I tried so that's okay. 

The kid's program also hosted a weekend festival with a teen dance.  I remember attending a few of those, too, but those memories are fuzzy.  One year it was a street dance, another year I think they used the old fire hall to host the event. 

On the opposite side of town, which spans maybe four blocks with "main street" smack dab in the middle, stood my aunt's house.  To this day I can't look at that house and not think of Greta.  Greta is the ghost my older cousin created to scare the bejeezus out of her sister and us younger kids.  Whenever I'd spend the night with them, she'd say things like "I heard Greta in the attic" or "Greta's watching you".  As the attic was easily accessible by a door and a set of stairs in the forward-facing bedroom where we often slept, this was terrifying. When we couldn't take the pressure any more, we'd beg to sleep in her room or convince our aunt to let us use the living room for our sleep-over. 

What a stinker! I can laugh about it now, but back then it was serious business. 

They were also the cousins with a pool and three-wheelers and quads and awesome cars.  Theirs was the house were I got ready for my first prom - my boyfriend lived across the street from them.  In fact, he wouldn't have been my boyfriend then and my husband now, if not for the match-making skills of the younger of the two sisters.  Ken and I shared our first double-date with her and the man she ended up marrying.  It wasn't our last double-date when them either.  In fact, every now and again, we still get together to go eat dough balls at the restaurant we had frequented as teenagers. 

Before we grew into lovesick teenagers, though, us girls would often get to spend time with Grandma.  She'd pack us up and head north to the family property in Baldwin.  I remember antics in the car that would elicit a laugh and a "oh, girls" or "now, you girls" from grandma.  She rarely got mad, but when she did, watch out!  Grandma might be a little bitty thing, but the woman is fierce when riled.  Not that we made her mad very often.  We really didn't.  For the most part, us girls all got along really well.

I'm the one hiding behind Grandma. 
Except that time at Smokerise.  I remember Grandma had taken us girls there to visit the beach.  I don't know if we were camping there or just visiting for the day.  What I do remember is losing my temper with my younger cousin and storming off to play by myself.  I don't think my snit lasted very long, but I remember the depth of my frustration.  I was so mad!

Strangely, for a group of kids that were around each other all the time, we rarely fought.  I think that's why that memory sticks out so much. 

I could go on, but this post is already incredibly long, so I'll stop now. 

Camping and Concerts

That pretty much sums up our summer so far.  It's been a lot of fun.   

I guess I'll start with camping. We've got one more trip planned before football season really starts.  We'll be heading back to the very first place we visited this summer.  It's a small, gated, private campground situated on a very picturesque river in mid-Michigan.  Amenities include a camp store, an in-ground heated pool, a hot tub, a pond, and the river, of course.  

Once again we'll be camping with friends and family.  We've camped with most of them in the past.  The only newbies to the camping group will be the friends who just purchased a new camper. The rest of the group includes my dad, our best friends and their two boys, and another family of friends (five kids!).  It should be fun.  Slightly chaotic at times, but fun. 

The other notable experiences include concerts, all of which occurred at DTE Music Theater. First, there was the Def Leppard, Poison and Leta Ford concert.  What can I say?  I'm old. Or, at the very least, a child of the 80s. 


You'll have to forgive the terrible quality; my iPhone4 camera is junk.  Never mind any drunken handshake issues that might have been involved as they are unimportant. 

Leta was okay (I only know two of her songs), Poison was great, but Def Leppard definitely stole the show.  Not that I expected anything less.  They always sound amazing.  

You may have noticed that the pictures above were taken from two different vantage points.  Our tickets were for the lawn, so the majority of the show was seen from a distance. At one point, though, we were lucky enough to slip down to about row 8 for a few minutes. 

 
So close!  The stage is right there.  In all my concert going adventures I've never been so close to the stage.  We managed to stay there for one song.  I was a nervous Nelly.  Not to mention I didn't want to leave my hubby up on the hill since - that wouldn't have been very nice. 

Such a good time! 

The next concert was a complete surprise for me.  My hubby, whose awesomeness really knows no bounds,  surprised me with Nickelback tickets for my birthday.  He didn't just take me, though.  He invited two of my best friends - paid for their tickets, their dinner, and their drinks. 


While we were there, we meant up with my sister who was there with her friends from work.  We chatted for a bit before she headed back to her section of the lawn. 


I really can't thank my hubby enough for this wonderful birthday present.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Engagement Pictures

This was a first for me.  I've shot weddings and senior pictures, but never an engagement session.  I was, as you may suspect, a bit nervous.  I was unfamiliar with the location and not quite sure about how to pose a couple.  Oh, sure, I had looked at (stalked) a few professional photographer's websites looking for ideas, but asking a couple to indulge in some PG-rated PDA is, well, a bit awkward. 

Lucky for me, Danielle and Shaun were fantastic!

We started our shoot at the restaurant where they not only had their first date, but also where he asked her to marry him.  If I have any complaints, its only that I wish my parents had blessed me with longer legs because my angle from beyond the hedge was not ideal.  Just a few inches more would have changed the perspective.  


This shot, on the other hand, is much better.  The color photo really didn't do anything for me, though, so I decided to apply some black and white filters. Much better! 

I also think the sidewalk cafe setting is simply adorable. 


After a delicious meal we tried a few poses in front of the logo.  I didn't even have to ask him to pose this way.  I think that makes this one of the best shots, because it was spontaneous and sweet.  Of course, because I'm not always confident that I actually captured the moment, I made him repeat this gesture a few times. 


On our way to the park we passed this lovely flower bed in someone's front yard.  Trespassing only slightly, I had them quickly pose.


At the park itself, we had a few "props" to play with.  First, the gazebo where they will be getting married.  Awww...



Then there was the rocks and the river and some trees...



The last few pictures were taken at yet another special spot.  According to them, they spent a couple hours talking on a park bench near this tennis court after that very special first date.


Oh, I almost forgot...the ring!



Before I hit the "publish" button, I just want to thank Danielle and Shaun for trusting me to take their engagement photos.  It was an honor.