Photo Essay: What I Did On My Summer Vacation

Alrighty peeps. Yes, I know I have been away for a bit, but we went on vacation to NS. And I couldn’t very well post about it, because it would be all OHAI THERE INTERNETS WE WENT ON HOLIDAY NOBODY IS HOME COME AND ROB US BLIND.

But we are home NOW, and just in time for a Saturday photo post… which is brought to you today by Stinkerbelle and her LeapPad camera!

We drove down to NS, and on the ride, That Girl used her LeapPad to take pictures. OH YES SHE DID. OVER 2000 OF THEM. We took a look at them once we got home and OMG LAUGHED OUR ASSES OFF.

And so, I decided to give you a sampling for your viewing pleasure! YOU’RE WELCOME.

Now, of course we went to visit Grammy and Grandad…

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And to hang out on the deck and swim in the pool…

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But the journey is half the fun! And there was so much to see, and so we let Stinkerbelle document it all.

As one would expect, there were some picturesque shots of scenery:

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But unfortunately, she couldn’t remember a lot of the time to lift up the LeapPad to be sure she was pointing it out the window completely…

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…until the scenery became mostly shots of clouds and the tops of trees…

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…or, fairly frequently, bits of the car interior.

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Or, sometimes, her left foot…

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…and for a little variety… her right foot.

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But never mind! There were things to see, so many exciting things! Like, SIGNS!

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LOTS AND LOTS OF SIGNS.

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And, occasionally, the backs of signs.

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This particular sign apparently required a 25-plus-shot pictorial essay.

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(I’m assuming you can get the gist of it from this one shot.)

But there were so many more things besides signs to see on this trip!

Like… Gas stations!

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Gas pumps! FRENCH gas pumps! MON DIEU!

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Overpasses!

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Street lights! Also French!

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MIscellaneous cars!

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The backs of trucks!

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Construction cones!

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Hydro wires!

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Miscellaneous unidentifiable but apparently very close things!

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And, we couldn’t quite get her to understand that you have to hold the camera STILL until AFTER it clicks. So we got a lot of blurs. But occasionally, some strangely bendy things:

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And, when all else failed, she contented herself with taking selfies:

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Or creating art:

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(I have no explanation for that last one. I call it “Darth Duck”.)

Hope your summer is going this well! And, perhaps slightly less blurry and bendy and with less car interior.

Squirrelapalooza, Exposed

Inspired by others doing their NaBloPoMo posts, I realized that it has been a very long time since I got out our digital SLR camera and took some photos. Well over a year, probably.

For awhile there, I was determined to learn what I could about the camera, about different aspects of taking pictures, and to try to make myself a better photographer. And I really enjoyed it, and thought I was improving.

But, life being as it is, I couldn’t keep at it. So I thought to myself that maybe it was time to start again.

Yesterday I grabbed the camera and decided to just start firing off some pics and get a feel for things again. Which is why I decided to get some pictures of Squirrelpalooza. Despite having to take a lot of shots through the screen and the glass, it gave me a lot of variety of things to capture. So I shut off the flash, put it on auto, and started clicking.

Most mornings, I feed the local yokels, putting out bird seed and peanuts. Normally, this means we’re inundated with squirrels.

Some days, a jay or two will come and hoot and whistle and call and let the others know that dinner’s on.

But mostly, it’s the squirrels.

I’m getting to know them all pretty well now, on sight or by personality. There are two or three very chubby little gray fellows who come and eat like frat boys at a buffet.

There are a couple of little, very saucy black fellows, who I think may be this year’s models, who are bold enough to raid the bird feeder the second my back is turned, even if they’ve been chased off moments before.

I love this little guy, despite him being the sauciest of the bunch. He’s got tufty white ear hair like a little old man.

And then, there’s Little Mama.

Little Mama has been coming to feed for a couple of years now, tired and fat and pregnant in the spring, big boobies in the summertime — and I always make sure she gets something special.

I know it is her by the freckle on her nose, and one between her shoulderblades. And, because she comes and knocks on the window and peers in at eye level until someone notices her.

And now the entire world can see just how dirty our patio window is. Ahem.

Mama knows me on sight, and by the sound of my voice. She will be 100 feet away in the conservation area, but if she sees me at a window, she will come running.

All the others (except our chipmunk friend Pip, who is hibernating now) eat out in the yard. Mama’s the only one who gets her own little pile of peanuts on the top step.

I try to make sure all our little friends have food for the winter, but Little Mama especially. (And the little guy with the tufty ear hair, who looks enough like her that he may even be one of her babies.) I enjoy doing it, my daughter enjoys it, and all this excitement out in the yard is like endless Cat TV for the resident felines.

And I haven’t even mentioned some of our bigger friends, who stay beyond the fence.

They’re for another day. Preferably one where I have the zoom lens.

Welcome, New Year.

It’s a new year, in case you’ve been sleeping or, say, time travelling these past few days.

The whole New Year thing has lost its magic for me in recent years. Nobody is ever transformed instantly with the stroke of 12 and the dawn of a new day, but as you grow up, you wait for that click-over and think “now things will be DIFFERENT”. They never are, and as you grow older, you begin to come to terms with that. So we have stopped with the hoopla of New Years Eve and just get on with it.

That’s not to say we don’t do anything to mark the beginning of a new year. It’s just that we’re no longer about dressing up and going out and drinking and partying and all that. We prefer to spend our New Year’s Eve/Day much more quietly. Some years we watch a movie and eat tasty noms. Some years we go to bed early but make a big meal for New Year’s Day. This year, we spent a very relaxed evening with Janna and Andrew, with way more food than should be allowed by law. And that was nice. So much so, we’re already all WE SHOULD DO THIS AGAIN NEXT YEAR.

I’m also finding, as I grow older, that I no longer feel compelled to make New Year’s Resolutions. Mostly this is because they almost always set you up to fail. Like I said, nobody can change overnight, and I think people make these grand resolutions in the hazy light of a dying year with the hope that some magic will make things different come the dawn. And it never works that way.

Instead, I find myself using the new year as a first step on a road to making some changes in my life, but changes that usually take much more planning or much more deliberately slow progress than a grand pronouncement will allow. I set myself off on the path to making something different. Usually, the path has a number of steps. The change is incremental.  And I find that makes it much, much easier to succeed.

That’s the thing about goals: they need to measurable and achievable.

When I was a teacher, I learned to set people up to succeed, even if it was simply in small ways to begin with. People like to succeed, and it’s good for your progress if you do every now and again. So I try now to build that “need to succeed” into these goals for myself. I try to set myself smaller goals, sometimes as a way to make larger goals happen, but sometimes not. Sometimes the smaller goals are enough. I set myself some challenges, usually incremental things that I can do maybe weekly or monthly, so that each increment competed is a success.

So, what am I going to do this year to make some changes in my life, or in the lives of others, or both?

  • Photos: In 2010, I did a Project 365, taking a photo each day for a year. That was a really challenging one, and I kind of failed at it. I probably managed a photo on, say, 325 days of the 365. More than A photo, more like 10 or 50 or 100 photos each day I managed to get a camera out. So while I failed at the 365 challenge, where I succeeded was to have an enormous treasure trove of photos of the year and, more specifically, photos of Stinkerbelle. And this past year, 2011, I really noticed the lack of photos to mark her growth and change. So this year, I’m kind of modifying my challenge to myself. I’m going to aim for taking a picture for as many days as I can, but my actual goal is to make sure I have photos for each week. 52 storage folders on our hard drive, each one filled with as many photos as I can manage that week.
  • Exercise: This one is hard. Lifestyle change goals are almost impossible to meet unless you make them realistic. I know I need more exercise in my life, but I also know that whatever I do, it has to be adaptable. A couple of years ago, BDH and I used to do 100-Day Exercise Challenges and the like, to push each other to exercise on a regular basis. And we’re competitive, so there was someone to push you to get ‘er done. But with a Stinkerbelle and our busy lives, something that long and hard is not always that easy, nor are we always able to do things at the same time. So I am going to set myself monthly challenges of things to do, and re-evaluate every month how it’s going. Maybe I will try to do yoga every day one month. Maybe I’ll get up early each workday and ride the recumbent bike in another month. Maybe I’ll get out and walk every day once the weather is fine. But in small, interesting, motivating blocks of time, I can fit in exercise AND make it a change that is easy to continue with.
  • 12 knitting projects in 2012: Last year I did an “11 in 2011” knitting challenge in my online knitting community, and had to get 11 projects done over the course of the year. And I did it, which was a great feeling of accomplishment. I’m doing another one this year, but this time it’s “12 in 2012”. Dog help me. But I learned that not all projects have to be OMG GIANT PROJECTS  like blankets and such, and that it was good to push myself to get some things done. I got two blankets, a scarf, and a bunch of little things done, as well as some charity squares and things that didn’t even go into the challenge. This year, I have a blanket for Stinkerbelle to finish, some charity squares I want to get done and sent, as well as some small household projects, and some new things I’d like to try. There’s no shortage of things to knit, certainly.
  • 12 knitted hats in 2012: This one is similar to the knitting challenge above. Signing up for the challenge keeps me on track and accountable, and after finding a 12 in 12 challenge specific to hats, I knew exactly what I would do. After reading on her blog about herd boys in Lesotho and the deplorable conditions that they live in, I promised Melissa that I would make 15 hats for her to take when she travels to contribute to improving the lots of these boys.

We’ve also got some Very Important Life Stuff to get done, and some other little changes we’d like to make around here, so we need to set out some goals and plans and get them done.

OMG YOU KNOW WHAT THIS MEANS??? MORE LISTS! ::happy clap!::

I am sure there are other things to try to do, things I have forgotten. But that’s a good start. A good start and a good plan for what I hope will be a good year.

Write ALL the Things?

It has been a hot humid week. It saps your energy. Who am I kidding? It saps your will to live, as the sweat forms in places it should not, pooling up under your boobs and then running in rivulets down your belly whenever you shift your gift. Ugh. It is NO GOOD NO.

But we woke this morning to rain, and this is good. And it is Friday, which is always good. So, we have good plus good. I suppose that’s all one can hope for in a day, huh.

So I was determined to sit down and write something. But it is still too hot and humid to write ALL the things. So here are SOME things, at least THREE things. Just some randomness to keep you amused as we head into the weekend.

  • It is raining. It rained, quite heavily in fact, for a lot of the morning. It’s still as humid as the asscrack of Satan, but at least the gardens got some water. So this means that I don’t have to spend an hour trucking bucketloads of water from That Baby’s paddling pool to each garden individually at the end of the day, back and forth, back and forth, in an effort to keep the plants from suffering as well as trying to be environmentally friendly and not waste water. Now I can just dump it out and go “Here you go, lawn! Drink up!”
  • I have almost completed our first yearly report as required for our adoption. I know there are parents out there who are refusing to do them — no reason in the world justifies not doing these reports, none at all, as far as I am concerned — but that is not something that will be discussed here. And having done my first one all alone, which took all of, what, an hour? It was easy peasy. And it was great fun to look back on the last year and chronicle all of the things Stinkerbelle has been doing and learning and being.
  • Okay, I lied just there. It has actually taken me more than an hour, because OHMYDOG THE PHOTOS. I have been taking photos every day as part of my Project 365 — yes I know, I have not updated the page in forever, I AM BUSY CLEANING ALL THE THINGS AND GOING TO THE BANK LIKE AN ADULT WHAT AM I SOME KIND OF WIZARD?? — so while the report took no time at all to write up, it took forever to actually decide out of those thousands of photos which ones I wanted to use. I started with NINE PAGES OF PICTURES. NINE!! Nobody needs to see that many photos of my kid, right? It was a challenge, but I pared it down to five pages. I have to be honest — I LOVE this part of the paperwork.
  • That Baby is talking. Half the time I have no freaking clue what she’s saying, but it is RIVETING. She’s all babbling and shouting and pointing and gesturing and I have absolutely no idea about what, but IT IS SOME TALKING RIGHT THERE. When she does come out with words, YAY. We are encouraging this, because a) communication is good, and 2) it’s nice to know what the heck she’s on about. And sometimes it is random, but random can be good. She will walk over to me and say “Caribou!” or whatever, and then go about her business. Alrighty then. Works for me. And when it’s not random, when she says something that she’s just picked up somewhere, it’s awesome. Yesterday, she pointed and said “guitar” and I looked to see she was pointing out a guitar on the wall. Today it was “light on”. Cool, man.
  • I’ve been knitting a lot. Knitting, knitting, knitting. Baby blankets being finished and started. A scarf that has been patiently waiting to be picked up again. Squares for charity. A bib or two. But oh holy hell, sitting with knitting on your lap in this weather is not very bright. I am also determined to work my way through my stash before I allow myself to buy more yarn. At least, that is the theory. I’m a magpie about yarn. OOH! SHINY! LOOKIT THE BRIGHT COLOURS! OOH! And sales, too. Oh my doG do not TELL me there’s yarn on sale somewhere.
  • My clothesline experiment has gone mostly okay. Our laundry no longer smells like rubbery farts, so that is PROGRESS. But today I went grocery shopping, and had to buy more laundry soap. I bought just regular soap, without fabric softener in it. Because last time, I bought a whole (what is the correct collective noun for fabric softener? Bucket? Loaf? Assload?) of fabric softener. And I came home and read the instructions. It said, “put the fabric softener into the dispenser in your machine”. Okay, my washer is over 10 years old, and it is CHEAP ASS. It does not HAVE a dispenser. So then it said, “Or put it in a Downy ball”. Well we looked everywhere, and I am here to tell you that they do not MAKE Downy Balls anymore. So then it said, “Or put it in the rinse cycle”. So you want me to run for the washer, toddler in tow, to put this in the rinse cycle? From wherever I am with my goldfish-encrusted, Sesame-Street-addicted, spinning-and-dancing toddler, up the stairs, at some magical appointed time? Do I even KNOW when the rinse cycle IS? But “lazy” and “inept” is trumped by “cheap”, and since the regular joe soap was on sale, and we already HAVE the bucket o’ fabric softener… Looks like I’m going to learn to start running up stairs with a flailing toddler. DAMN YOU, CLOTHESLINE! YOU’VE BESTED ME AGAIN!!

Tuesday Tidbits

It’s Tuesday, right? Isn’t it? We used to have swimming lessons on Tuesday mornings but now that they are finished, I have nothing regularly scheduled in my week until Wednesdays to tell me what day it is. Some days feel like two days crammed into one; others whiz by and you’re not sure what just happened.

So here are some of the things happening in our world today.

  • NEW!! Now With More COOL!!: That Baby now has FIVE –  count ’em, FIVE!! — pairs of sunglasses. Well, she loves her shades, and for $3 a pair, why not have a spare pair or four?
  • Routine return: Well, we have some sort of routine in our days, anyway. Although it is optimistic to call it “napping”, That Baby DOES have “naptime” — in which time is spent in one’s crib, and playing, talking, singing, napping, and hair pulling may all be done at one’s leisure. She actually goes in quite willingly, and seems to enjoy her two hours of quiet time. And goodness knows, I enjoy the opportunity to exercise and shower and throw some laundry in and tidy up here and there.
  • May I Have Your Attention Please: That Baby is ALL ABOUT THE TALKING these days. Gab gab gab, talk talk talk. She’s not saying a lot of actual words, necessarily, during these conversational eruptions, but boy howdy is there INTONATION. And EMPHASIS. And volume modulation. She talks non-stop sometimes. And what is fun, and admittedly sometimes as annoying as heck, is when she fixes on a word and repeats it over and over and over again because WE ARE COMMUNICATING! Today at lunchtime, I put on an episode of Sarah Jane Adventures, which Stinkerbelle calls “Doctor”. And so, she would look me right in the eyes and with a big grin, repeat, “UH OH DOCTOR! UH OH DOCTOR!” over and over again. And then look at the screen and back into my eyes: “UH OH DOCTOR! UH OH DOCTOR!” She was delighted to be “talking” about something with me. It was adorable, albeit sometimes loud, and after about 5 minutes of continual “UH OH DOCTOR! UH OH DOCTOR!”, a little annoying.
  • Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures: In an effort to thwart the hair-pulling, and cover over the thinning patch up front where she tends to pull most often, I bit the bullet today and braided That Baby’s hair. I put in about a dozen little braids and clips. It’s not the best braiding job I have ever done on a head of hair, but it’s fine. It took a ridiculously long time — an hour is too long for a two year old to sit still, but she was a trooper. And she looks adorable. I won’t do it all the time, but if it works, it might be another way to discourage her from pulling her hair out.
  • Knit Wit: Another reason I’ve been loving the observed “nap time” is because it frees up time in my evenings. And you know what I do? I pop a series on DVD in the machine and I knit. I have so many patterns and projects queued up, it makes me clap my hands like a giddy schoolgirl. And the yarn sales recently have been like crack.
  • Smile, You’re on Not-So-Candid Camera!: I am slowly getting through my backlog of Project 365 photos, and posting them equally slowly. I am determined to get all caught up by the end of the month… hardware permitting. Meh, who am I kidding. Fred has been working like a trooper, thanks to the efforts of the lovely and talented BDH. It’s MY EYES that are letting me down. I can’t help it — looking through and working with a couple hundred digital photos of an evening makes my eyeballs spin around in their sockets and then run shrieking from the room. I need a date with an eye doctor and a new pair of glasses.
  • Rolling in Dough: I don’t want to alarm anyone but I feel baked goods are in my future. Now NOBODY PANIC! I’m just thinking muffins and scones and cookies. I will stay away from bread. THE WORLD IS SAFE. FOR NOW.

It Was Inevitable

It was bound to happen. Our hard-done-by old machine, Fred, cacked again on Friday. The poor bastard is on his last legs, but he keeps chugging along. Anyway, when he died on Friday (actually it was overnight Thursday) BDH had to do some quick ‘n’ dirty repairs — he works again, but at this point, we can’t access some data. And in particular, we can’t get to our photos.

What that means is… if you are looking for some recent photo postings in my Project 365 (or, Grammy, in the 365 we are doing of That Baby), you’re going to have to wait awhile. It will take some time for BDH to work his magic and make all our data accessible again.

But I tell you what — we are SO saving up to buy a new computer. And we’ll give Fred a decent burial when we do. Poor old bastard.

RTFM

Three days into my Project 365 challenge, and I am learning already. It hasn’t been much, but I am picking up the odd thing here and there. And the camera I am using is one that BDH bought and learned to use well over a year ago, so he has been giving me tips and teaching me a few things as I go along. That’s been nice because reading the manual? Not my best thing.

(Yes, I was a writer of manuals in the past. And I complained that users never RTFM — “read the f—ing manual”. Yes, I see the irony. Shut up.)

So I have been tinkering and trying things. Some successes, and some epic fails. But it has been fun.

Here’s what I have learned so far.

    • Holy hell, I am slow. I am going to have to get faster at getting the shot. I see things with my eyes, only I never have the camera in hand or if I do, I am too slow moving into position to get the shot, and by then it is gone. So I have to work on that.
      • The shot I tend to like best is usually one of the very first shots I take, or occasionally one of the last. I don’t know what that says about me.
        • I am learning about how NOT to use the flash, using faster shutter speeds and adjusting the aperture. (I just had to ask BDH what that means. See? Still a lot to learn. However, we’ve ordered a book to help us.) But I am also learning that sometimes, this just makes for dull photos, or photos in which nearby artificial light sources become intrusive. And I am learning that sometimes? It’s good to use a flash. One of the big things I want to sort out is how to choose what to do when.

          It has been a good experience so far. I like taking pictures, although so far they’ve all been things in my immediate sphere of daily life. I know that one day I am going to have to branch out and try taking pictures Out There In The World.

          But Out There In The World will have to wait until I am more confident. And when I don’t have Stinkerbelle on the loose. And also when it’s not so frigging cold out there.

          I don’t mind staying in and taking pictures of the things around me. It’ll be a bit boring after a while, perhaps. But at least it will be warm.

          And it will give me time to RTFM — read the f—ing manual.