Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Picture This

This week's theme with Patty Wysong's Meme is  related to NewYears - Celebration, Traditions, Resolutions, etc...

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For years, I’ve had a minor interest in photography and often declared that someday I would get an expensive camera and take a photography class.

Well, that someday has come and it's  my New Year's resolution to learn more about photography. I purchased a “big girl” camera this past September- a Canon  EOS Rebel T3 and have been studying online on how to use the settings. It’s been an interesting journey over the past year, and I thank the social media for directing me to special blogs and websites that encourage picture taking.

Over the last few months, I’ve developed a greater interest in photography, as my interest for writing waned. I do digital scrapbooking through the Creative Memories Company:  http://www.creativememories.com/
and it was through them, that I learned about Nick Kelsh and his “How to Photograph your Baby” site on Facebook.   http://www.facebook.com/how.to.photograph.your.baby

This site is far more than pictures of kids, which I have none, but is open to everything! It’s a social site where one can post photos and get feedback. It also provides tutorials. The site is soon becoming a webpage, so even greater interactions will occur. I began posting some of my favorite photos from my simple Point and Shoot cameras and was getting positive feedback. Facebook friends are telling me that I have “an eye” for picture taking. I don’t know about that, but I enjoy it!

I also found another photographic site that is a blog and it happens to belong to Patty’ Wysong’s sister, Cheryl.   http://www.sealevel320.com/

She posts beautiful photos and blogs on the feelings the pictures bring out. It was through Cheryl’s blog that I discovered yet another blog from Kat Sloma   http://kateyestudio.com/   Her photos are unique.
Cheryl was taking an on-line course from Kat, and posting some photos on her blog. Kat offers on-line courses, tutorials and challenges and when I saw what Cheryl was learning, I wanted to take that course too!

So, beginning on January 7, 2012, I will begin an online course on “Finding your Eye”
 Kat wants participants to create a photo journal. We will be given photo prompts, and upon posting a photo, write about the photo- responses, experiences, feelings and emotions involved. Other participants in the course will be interacting on each other’s photo journals. This helps to obtain insight into ourselves and to  help isolate our special "eye" of creativity. I am going to use my blog as my photo journal.

Photography has become a passion, whereas, I did not experience that strong desire with writing. Writing seemed more of a chore and I did not feel competent in it. Photography is fun, and I’m constantly seeing potential photo ops everywhere I go! It could easily turn into an obsession! I carry cheaper point and shoot cameras in my car for those times. I see so many interesting things to photograph when driving but rarely stop and follow through. Perhaps this course will nudge me to go for it!

I invite you to check in here when you have a chance and observe my progress - I welcome your thoughts and interactions!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

It was a Holy Night

This week's theme with Patty Wysong's Meme is a church related activity or event. Click below for more stories or  to join in on the fun! http://www.pattywysong.com/2011/11/jollydaze-4-n-me-meme.html

                                   “Oh Holy night, the stars are brightly shining…”
This beautiful song always evokes a memory of a very special time when as a teen-ager, I spent Christmas Eve with the homeless on Skid Row. Although frightened at first, I acclimated to the environment, and  soon shared in the Spirit of Christmas during this eye-opening experience.

As part of their monthly ministry, the church  I attended at the time provided a worship service at a rescue mission in Los Angeles for all who wanted to come. Congregants of all ages met at the church and traveled the 25 mile distance to sing, share testimonies, and give a short sermon. This particular year, the date fell on Christmas Eve so there was a smaller turnout; however, my parents and boyfriend joined in the adventure

Meeting at our church on that chilly afternoon, we loaded up the rickety old church bus and inched our way through heavy traffic and into the skid row area of Downtown. Darkness arrived the same time we did. Unkempt men sat against the wall off the building and dully watched as we unload the sound equipment. Being young and immature, I felt vulnerable around the disheveled men. I was fearful of what a drunken man might do, so clustered with my friends.

After a meal was served, time came for the program to start, I noticed that the building was nearly full and that some men were asleep in their seats. However, most of the attendees just sat staring us as we filled up the stage. We all joined together singing Christmas carols and the pastor told the story of the first Christmas. As I listened and observed the congregation from my seat in the choir loft, my heart started breaking for those men who had no one. I wondered what had happened in their lives that had led to them to be here. As I was only a teenager, I did not know what I could do to help make their life a bit better.

The highlight of the service occurred when my boyfriend played a heavenly-sounding solo on his guitar: “Oh Holy Night.” I could see tears in the eyes of some of the scruffy men and others were outright sobbing. I could sense the power of Christmas in that room, as well as in my own heart.

Following the program, several families gathered at one of our member’s home for food and fellowship. The nice warm home, decorated so lovely, and  with an abundance of delicious food seemed so anti-climatic to what we had just experienced. I realized that I was blessed to have friends and family that I could be with, unlike the broken men we’d just left behind. I prayed that our time there had put a little light and love into their bleak lives.

To this day, I think back to that poignant night and feel sad because broken and homeless people are even greater now, and include whole families. And yet, I feel a warm glow because we brought the “good news” to the people and were able to share our love in a tangible manner. That  truly is the spirit of Christmas!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas Cookies: Past and Present

This week's theme with Patty Wysong's Meme is    A Baking Memory 
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I was thirteen at Christmas, 1968, and Mom had been very ill with the Hong Kong flu. To cheer her up, I decided to make the delicious molasses cookies from the recipe in our well-worn Betty Crocker Cookbook. I doubled the batch so that we would have plenty of the  Christmas shaped cookies, but when we went to eat them they were very dry. It  was determined that I'd failed to double the amount of molasses! 
We ate them anyway.


My favorite cookie recipe is for ETHEL'S SUGAR COOKIES, which is also found in my Betty Crocker cookbook. These cookies are  adaptable and can be rolled into any shape for any season or event.

For  Christmas, I use cookie cutters to create stars, bells, wreaths, and trees, then frost with colored icing. A dusting of candy sprinkles adds to the appeal of these cookies, but they are still yummy unadorned!

            Do you have a favorite Christmas cookie?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Handcrafting Childhood Memories

This week's theme with Patty Wysong's  Holiday Meme is Christmas Decorations. Click below for more stories or to join in on the fun!     http://www.pattywysong.com/2011/11/jollydaze-4-n-me-meme.html

Did you  ever make a  tissue paper wreath? I remember creating my first one when I was a Brownie Girl Scout, and have made several over the years. 
A wire coat hanger is bent  to form an oval, then pre-cut strips of tissue paper are twisted around the hanger. 
  For extra embellishment, different colors of tissue or baubles can be added to the completed wreath. The hook part of the hanger functions as the hanger-of course!
 It is tedious and time-consuming, but easy enough for even the most uncrafty person to make. I've made them with clear plastic, but they're not as pretty as the one made with green tissue paper.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Another oldie craft I remember making when I was a kid was  a Christmas tree formed from folding over a Reader's Digest magazine or phone book.  Each page was folded partway down from the top leaving the bottom space as the base of the tree. When all pages were completed, the book was fanned out  and stapled together. A coating of spray paint in green, red or gold and a sprinkling of glitter made the folded pages resemble a Christmas tree!

 I don't recall making gingerbread houses as a child, but I did get the opportunity to assist in decorating one when my grand-niece, Sammi, was 4 years old. I stayed with her in December of  2009 when her mother, Stephanie, was going in to have her second daughter.  Stephanie had planned ahead, and purchased a pre-made gingerbread kit. On the morning  of  December 3rd, after mom and dad left for the hospital, we cleared the kitchen table and began our project.
We placed the candy decorations in dishes, and I assisted Sammi in  making  the frosting and putting it in the tube.  I let her do all the piping of the frosting and she had a ball!  (I know her mama would have freaked out at the mess we were making, but oh well it was cleaned up!) Sammi did the placement of the gumdrops and candy balls too. She was quite pleased with her creation! 


I'm not sure if Sammi recalls making the gingerbread house, but I will always cherish the precious memory of that morning.

            The stores are full of beautiful Christmas ornaments and decorations, but for me, handmade ones seem the most memorable. What are some of your favorite handcrafted Christmas decorations?