Yesterday I was going through some old pictures trying to get a bit more organized with my photos and I came across these 2 pictures from last year. They were taking at one of my favorite places on not Disney...but my grandparents house in Avon Lake, Ohio. Their house backed up to a steep cliff that opened up to Lake Erie. I have so many memories from times spent there with my grandparents and my large extended family...holidays, swimming, honey nut Cheerios, piano playing, pitch black, the black swivel chair...I could go on for pages and pages! But in the last 2 or 3 years it has been a safe haven for many of us; a place for us to relax, recover, rejuvenate, reconnect! It was magical.

These 2 pictures of Cookie, my hilarious St. Bernard, were goofy, an oxymoron really...a giant snow dog at the beach...but every time I run across them they make me laugh out loud. When I took these it wasn't a super happy, laugh it up time for me. Although any images from that time sort of transport me back there a bit, these 2 have this wonderful way of making me see that there is humor every where as long as you are open to seeing it. And isn't that what we all love about photography anyway?? Their ability to transport us back to a moment or trigger a special memory?? That is what makes photography magical to me...

This past summer my grandparents house was sold. I was really sad to realize it wasn't going to be my place to escape anymore. I love that it was sold to a younger family, a doctor's family like my grandfather. I am sure they will have amazing times in what I have come to believe is a magical place. And I will continue to see these photos and the hundreds of others and be instantly transported back to the house on Lake Drive and the magic that was created there!
So it has been a few weeks since my last blog from the 30 day photographer challenge.  At the end of the 30 days I decided rather than jumping into another hard core daily commitment blog, I would try something a little looser and see if I didn't produce some more interesting photos with a bit more creativity.  My plan was to try and spend a weekend a month taking pictures - whether it be around town or on a road trip - just to try and get better at taking pictures.  

So this past weekend was my first photography weekend.  I spent the weekend in Beaver, Ohio - which is about 45 minutes southwest of Hocking Hills National Forest/State Park.  Hocking Hills for those of you that have never been is pretty amazing.  It has 6 or so defined areas that have these amazing sandstone caves and formations and waterfalls.  Every time I go I am mesmerized by how gorgeous the area is and frankly by how hilly it is.  I just always relate Ohio to flat farmland.  This shatters any notions you may have about flat land Ohio.  The hiking is really nice - not too crazy intense - but after a day of hiking several caves, hills and parks you definitely feel it.  

Hocking Hills is a "cabin in the woods" haven.  There are a bizillion businesses that rent cabins of all shapes and sizes and styles.  I spent a weekend there about 3 years ago and really loved the beauty of the area, and have been wanting to introduce Chris to it ever since he moved to Cincinnati in January.  So last weekend, very spur of the moment we found a place on line, booked it and were heading out there Friday afternoon.  We spent all day Saturday hiking and taking pictures.  I am not thrilled with my shots actually.  I played around with my camera a TON - so I am very pleased that I discovered some new tricks and definitely have a better understanding of my camera - but overall, from almost 400 photos - only the ones in the slideshow are even tolerable to me - and of those maybe 2 or 3 do I really like.  so less than 1%...not a great return on my investment! =)  

But the weather was perfect, and besides the ticks (which we discovered on a quick sunset hike up Big Rock which was in the backyard of our secluded cabin) and the bizarre array of knick-knacks that decorated our otherwise adorable cabin, we had a wonderful time.  

I know I have lots of Ohio relatives and folks that know way more about things to do and see in Ohio than I do - so PLEASE send any suggestions of places that we should check out.  We are always looking for fun places to go on these weekend excursions and if we can split the difference a bit between Cincy & Livonia that is even better.  Beaver, Ohio was definitely not a split time sort of trip (it took me 5 hours to get there!) but it was so worth the drive and the peace and quiet of a weekend without cell reception or Wi-Fi.  It was like being in another world.  

Until the next adventure....
So it is the last day of the photographer's challenge! Had a few missed days here at the end, but have managed to do all 30 photos!! As you can see today's pic is another self portrait. I knew that the last day was one of these and I honestly thought my psyche would be transformed over the last 30 days and I would become someone that lives to have their picture taken...nope...still hate it!!

I took this picture on our new iPad. Jack and I have been loving this thing. He has this cool dragon habitat game that he adores and another app that lets him create, animate and narrate his own cartoons. They are hilarious and totally awesome!!! He's a genius! :-)

I have been enjoying doing pretty much all the same things I love doing in my computer and iPhone but now it is bigger and still portable! I'm actually blogging from it for my final 30 day photo challenge huh?

Well all in all this 30 day challenge was pretty fun. It is fin to look at the pics and see all the stuff I did over the last month. Ive been in Cincinatti, Columbus, San Francisco and all over SE Michigan in the last 30 days. And even though the challenge is over I have really enjoyed taking he pics and if it is ok with all of you (my 3 loyal readers!! ) I think I will keep blogging about stuff. I'm still trying to find that balance hat makes a happy purposeful enjoyable you ever stop searching for that balance?? I am beginning to think not and maybe it is the search that makes life worth living?!?

To be continued... :-)
So I have missed a few days...I think I was actually supposed to be done with the challenge on Wednesday or Friday - but I was in Columbus for a few days for work and didn't have much of an opportunity to take pictures or write so I apologize for the delay - but we will definitely be wrapping up the 30 day challenge this weekend!  

This is an archived photo and for any of you that received a Christmas Card from Jack and I this year you probably recognize the picture.  I LOVE this picture.  I love that Cookie's head looks ginormous! I love the way they both have their heads resting on their hands.  I love that it is Christmas time (see the stockings?) and I love Jack's shaggy hair.  I do wish that we had a sheet on the hide-a-bed - but we were all so excited to get the new couch that we opened it up right away and tried it out.  

I really like black and white photos.  I hardly ever shoot in black and white mode on my camera - but I love converting pictures - especially pictures that maybe just need a bit of help on their clarity or to tone down the clutter - I have 2 huge flower photographs that I took a long time ago that we converted to black and white and hung up in the room in this picture.  I am definitely a fan!  

So on the 2nd to last day of the challenge I have to say I am SOO glad I did this.  Wish I really could have finished it in 30 days - but it has been a lot of fun.  I think that the last day is another self portrait...I don't really feel that much differently about having my picture taken than I did 35 days ago - but I will suck it up and hopefully take one today sometime.  However, I had my picture taken last night while at my friends house - and HOLY CRAP - you would have thought with all the pop I am not drinking and all the candy I am not ingesting that I would be at least a little bit smaller right?  Wow - I think it may be having the opposite effect...UNCOOL I say!  Hoping that the self portrait I take today will reflect otherwise!  
Day 28's topic is flowers.  As I have mentioned in a previous post, I probably have a million flower shots - close ups and grouping and still lifes, etc. that I have taken over the years  They are definitely a go to subject for me when I am looking to take pictures.  But since I am probably not going to have time to post over the next 3 days - heading into 3 days of sales training so I am just guessing there aren't going to be a lot of photo taking side trips - I thought I would at least take a picture today instead of pulling from my archives.  And then to mix it up even more, I decided to take a picture of a flower that Jack made for me last year that I have hanging up in my office instead of one of the bunches of flowers I have waiting to be planted or that are blooming in my yard.  Crazy huh? =)

The flower Jack made me is really delicate and made out of different colors of tissue paper.  And it has lots of streamers made out of curling ribbon so you can wear it as a wrist corsage.  I adore it and keep it up with a great Jack paper figure that his preschool teacher made of him where is he wearing his favorite motorcycle sweatshirt (I swear he wore that everyday that year) and his formal t-ball portrait where he looks really grown up and has a great grin on his face.  

When I was redecorating our living room about a year ago, I decided instead of printing pictures and trying to find artwork - I would frame some of my Jack favorites.  They are in simple white frames and they look awesome.  And since Jack LOVES to draw I am never at a loss for artwork to frame and dress up a room.  He comes home from school everyday with at least 2 drawings.  I don't save them all - I wouldn't have any idea where to store all that paper! - but I do keep my favorites - or his favorites and tuck them away for safe keeping.  This flower has always been a fav and is definitely a keeper!

I have 5 flats of annuals, a myriad of vegetable plants, and some really colorful flowering baskets in my yard right now. They are gorgeous and I can't wait to get them in the ground and watch them bloom all summer.  But my favorite flower is the one I get to look at everyday from my desk in my office - winter or summer, rain or shine - it is always stunning and one of the best gifts I have ever received.  
So "from a distance" is today's photo topic.  Jack is winding down for the day all snuggled up in the couch blanket taking care of the dinosaur eggs and habitats that he has going on some game on the iPad while sneaking glances at the t.v. which is quietly presenting the cartoon Johnny Test.  I am hiding behind my bedroom doorway sneaking the pictures.  

He looks so sweet and peaceful here.  The from a distance topic had me thinking a lot about Jack growing up.  Right now he wants me around, all the time.  It can actually be a bit overwhelming...and exhausting. I still get lots of kisses and hugs and "bunk-bed" time with hair petting.  He still insists that I lie down with him while he reads to me, then I sing to him and then he puts on his Star Wars music (which is actually a CD of a cassette recording of the original Star Wars movie - it is like listening to the radio shows of years gone by!) and wants me to stay just a few more minutes.  There are so many evenings, when I lie there and my head is full of lists and all the things I need to do before I can go to bed and I ALWAYS feel guilty walking down the steps from his bedroom because I have once again not lived in the moment and appreciated the closeness and together time that he craves.  Because truth be told, it won't be long before I am watching many aspects of Jack's life "from a distance".  One day he will not want to hug me in front of his friends (although I am still on my no sugar and no pop thing so I have every intention of being the MILF of Jack's grade so hopefully I will get lots of supplemental hugs from him because I am just so cool!) But one day he won't want me to sit and watch t.v. with him because I will be sitting there rolling my eyes and critiquing the insane shows he has selected to watch as a pre-teen.  Eventually the singing at night will be for babies! All of it is inevitable to some degree.  

So as I am nearing the end of my photographer challenge and still working to find that balance, I have a renewed focus on trying to savor all those special little moments with Jack - no matter how common they may be.  I read a while back about a dad that had created an email account for his unborn daughter and he would write her letters and notes and send them to the email account. Some were just quick notes about something funny she had done that day - some were more profound and marked milestones - first steps, birthdays, kindergarten graduation - but I love this idea.  I have also heard of people that write a letter to their child on their birthday each year and then they will have 18 letters (or more if you do it on other occasions) to read for their high school graduation.  I LOVE this idea too.  I feel like in the 7 years that I have known Jack that I have already forgotten so much.  I am hoping to figure out a way to start the letter writing soon that still makes it feel whole when I give it to him in 11 years.  Maybe an end of school letter?  I had a dear friend tell me recently that he had written a letter to his unborn son to open on his 18th birthday.  Sadly, the letter went missing in the craziness that is life and the son is now a 21 year old man. It breaks my heart to think that letter will go unread by his amazing son. I so want him to find it and be able to give it him.  What an amazing gift.  I remember being a senior in high school and going on our senior retreat.  It was essentially an overnight where everyone stayed at this cabin and we had a couple of talk about our feelings work shops.  One of the elements was that we were given a letter from our parents.  I was overwhelmed reading about what they were thinking about me being a senior and moving away and all that craziness before graduating from high school.  I still have the letter and read it occasionally when I just need a pick me up - a bit of the glory day nostalgia to make you feel better.  But I love the idea of Jack having all of these little glimpses into what I was thinking and remembering about him growing up.  I hope that he will kee

So I am off to snuggle with the Jack-man and savor a few minutes of bliss.  

Day 26's topic is "close up".  I probably have a ton of close up, abstract shots of flowers and things and would probably say that shooting in macro is probably my 2nd favorite - after portraits - but I decided since I used an archived photo yesterday that I should at least dust off my camera and take a few shots.  As I was walking out of my office fiddling with the camera I tripped over Cookie and figured it was a sign from God that I needed to photograph her.  Not sure how you miss a 150lb mostly white dog - but I did it...and do it on a regular basis.  

So this is Cookie's super-sized paw.  I wish I had a penny or something in the photo for perspective.  But essentially her paws are as big as the palm of my hand.  Occasionally when Jack and I are at the zoo, I think that Cookie is probably just as big as one of the least a lady lion...or possible a Detroit Lion wide receiver (aren't those the spry quick guys that are tiny? she is definitely as big as one of them) Anyway, it is goofy how perspective influences how we see the world.  I have friends that have a black lab.  He is probably 75-80lbs.  They think he is a HUGE dog! I tend to forget that Cookie is super-sized until I am around someone else's normal size dog...or until I have to try and hold her back and get her to stop barking at the roofers.  She was a nightmare on Saturday with the in her defense they were noisy but seriously she went bananas.  

I feel like I should have some profound things to chat about since it is Mother's Day...I got nothing! I think I posted yesterday most of my thoughts about the day.  It was a lovely Mother's Day - lazy morning with Jack playing on the iPad and making lemon buttercream frosting (freaking delicious by the way.  I can actually feel my arteries clogging up as I type this from the frosting inhaled in the name of taste testing!).  I got to spend some time in the yard digging in the dirt and planting things and we capped it off with my folks coming over for experimental dinner (experimental dinner is all new recipes that you are trying out for the first time - untested...I tend to do that a lot actually).  And surprise surprise dinner was not only edible, but my roasted tomatoes were really good and may stay in company dinner rotation for a while and my lemonade cake looked like the picture (will miracles ever cease to exist??) and was pretty tasty.  So I would say all in all a pretty freaking fantastic Mother's Day really.  Only problem is there are only 3 pieces eaten out of a cake that serves 18...I'm screwed! Oh well, tomorrow is a Monday the day for starting over - so back to watching what I eat thing.  Still candy free and pop free for several days...I'm thinking my lemon buttercream frosting probably shot the no sugar thing - and if not the sugar I am sure the 6 sticks of butter in that sucker are definitely not good. 
Wow I can't believe it is day 25 of the photographer's challenge!  I have to say this has been more fun than I thought it would be and only once or twice have I woken out of a cold sleep and realized - CRAP, I didn't post a picture today!  Just guessing that the 365 challenge might push me over the edge of insanity - but I am definitely still thinking about it!  

So this has been the start of a very nice weekend.  Oh and it's Mother's Day weekend! One of those holidays that sort of sneaks up on you - not as much propaganda and diamond commercials as Valentine's Day - a few more 1-800-Flowers commercials but that happens a few times a year.  It isn't until you get the amazing homemade card from your son or Jack brings home this hilarious newsletter where all of the kids in his class answer questions about their mom...hysterical.  Luckily Jack has me pretty well pegged - he did answer that I spend most of my free time looking at pictures on the computer.  Sort of makes it sound like I have a porn addiction.  I wondered why his teacher was looking at me a bit differently this week! =) 

But then I read an article via a friend's post on facebook.  I have no idea who this woman is and until I logged into facebook yesterday evening I didn't know anything about what I am sure will be the talk of the morning shows controversial TIME magazine cover (with the hot mom in skinny jeans breast feeding her very grown up son!) that sparked her post.  But the blog/post/article is GENIUS.  Check out the link here. This article is how I want to think every day on how I am raising Jack.  I could not have said it better.  Thank you Kara Baskin, mystery lady for enlightening the masses.  And if you haven't seen the TIME magazine cover go check it out - it is emotion provoking journalism to say the least.  

So my picture today is from my archive.  This is the first rose I grew...EVER! I love flowers and have tried to grow roses in the past with NO success - not even a bud.  But last year I decided to give it a try and bout 4 rose bushes - 2 pink and 2 white from the most amazing nursery ever called Blocks Greenhouse. They have a TON of plants and they are crazy inexpensive and they actually grow!  I know amazing right? Anyway, I planted them around the low deck in the backyard where we could protect them a bit from the Cookie Monster and enjoy them by the table and they were incredible.  All summer long they bloomed.  I made it to Blocks for my annual pilgrimage this past week.  It was busy - as it always is no matter what day or time you go - and is always a test of anyone's patience.  But after 2 truckloads I ended up with some amazing annuals, awesome looking vegetable plants and some beautiful hostas that I can't wait to get into the ground.  

So if I am ever able to pull myself away from looking at pictures on the computer maybe I will have some time to get my hands dirty out in the garden.  I LOVE this time of year! =) 


So Day 24's topic is animals...did you think I would post anything but a picture of Cookie? =)  This is actually yesterday's topic so late yesterday afternoon/early evening, Cookie and I had a little photo shoot.  So here is a sampling of some of her glamour shots.  

I usually give Cookie a pretty hard time - she was a crazy puppy, she has a fierce bark, she is a lousy company greeter and she has no idea that she is 150lbs! And when she first joined our family she had some super-sized doggie shoes to fill.  Our first dog, Harriet, was about as perfect a dog as you could have.  Another big dog, but she garnished attention simply because she was so sweet and had a great expressive face.  She was pre-Jack, so since I didn't have Jack to play with, the neighborhood kids in our Grand Rapids neighborhood would come over and ask to play with Harriet.  They loved to throw sticks for her and watch her chomp them up and she would lie on her back and let the kids rub her belly and poke their hands in her mouth and look in her ears. I always thought she would have been a great therapy dog visiting kids in hospitals and things.  She is still very missed in our house.  

So in comes the Cookie Monster, a super-sized puppy with very sharp puppy teeth and a will of her own.  She is so loving and loves her I type this she is sitting at my feet in my office.  She is usually very mellow.  She likes to "talk" with us doing some silly part growly, part howly, part barky thing that is hilarious.  And she is very sweet.  But with our 6 ft privacy fence on one side of the yard she isn't able to see who is walking or riding there. So all they hear is her ginormous bark and have dubbed us "the house with the big mean dog". What they can't see is that her tail is wagging like crazy and she is simply barking to just try and get them to come play with her (we have to work on her delivery!).  I feel bad for her when she turns from running the fence line with a totally defeated and broken hearted look on her face.  And she loves to bark at anyone that comes near the house, which although a bit annoying makes me feel crazy safe - no one is ever coming into this house when they hear her.  So that's a plus!

Jack and I recently bought a citronella spray collar for her to help curb the barking.  It actually works really well, but I need to continue to work with her when she has it on so that she doesn't just stop barking when she has the collar on.  My dad mentioned some crazy leash walking trainer that when the dog pulls gives off a high pitch dog whistle.  The harder they pull the louder the whistle.  That might be awesome because she is a terrible dog walker - for at least the first 30 minutes or so, anything after that she is crazy tired and doesn't have much spunk to get into mischief.  

Cookie is a great dog - Harriet was an amazing once in a lifetime dog - but Cookie is a great dog and Jack and I can't imagine life without her.  Kiss Kiss Cook! 
So Day 23's topic is to take a picture with a sunflare in it.  I am playing catch up today and already did one post today that should have gone up yesterday...and if you read that one you know I am just not very chatty and bloggy today.  But I didn't want to fall behind again and truthfully I LOVE taking pictures with sun effects.  I thought I had some good ones in my archive with a sunflare - I actually took a few this past weekend - but the flares just didn't look very impressive.  Then I stumbled across this photo - so yes, I understand the point of the challenge is to TAKE a picture for 30 days - but cut me some slack...

This picture is from a bike ride photography shoot that I took this past fall around Kensington Lake.  I managed to get up early and get some great shots of the sun coming up over a vacant lot that Jack and I pass each day on his way to school/summer camp.  For the past several weeks, the lot had been filled with ground fog when we drove by and I was constantly wishing I had my camera and a few minutes to shoot pics.  But as luck would have it, I woke up early to a clear day and hit the road.  After the vacant lot shots I headed to Kensington Metro Park.  I hadn't been taking many pictures last summer and I just wanted to take my camera out and try and get more familiar with it.  So I rode my bike around the lake and when I found something worth shooting, I would stop, remove my silly helmet, and hang out for a bit.  It was a great way to start the day and I got a few shots that have become favorites.  Actually the 2nd picture in my blog header of the orange fog was taken that morning at the vacant lot.  I really like this one because you can actually see the sunbeams (I know it isn't a flare but it will have to do).  

I think after this 30 day challenge is up, I may not jump right into the 365 thing - although I am very interested in giving it a try - but I think I might just try and do bi-weekly photo shoots - whether they are road trips, biking around a lake, walking around the block or sitting in my backyard.  I suspect the photo shoots might be a smidge easier to commit to - and if they can make me a better photographer, then I say go for it!