The soundtrack has changed. The decorations are dusty. The Christmas rush has slowed down.
We had a wonderful Christmas and hope yours was just as grand. We're still celebrating the season with the family back in our hometown, however, anxious to get back to normal.
Six forty in the morning was our first wake up call. Hearing boy wonder cry out, "they're here!" is the best. You see we do not put out any gifts until the night before while they are asleep. One of the things that I look forward to is the wonder and excitement in the kids faces and this year's addition, Nina, was no disappointment. She had a great first Christmas.
Alas, this shall be the last of the holiday posts until next year.
ps...I wish someone could have told me to adjust my white balance. The pictures are so yellow.
Another birthday wish goes to my most loyal reader, my godmother Espi (on right). A classy lady who initiated the migration of my mother's family from Cuba. An ant-Castro, anti-revloutionary, anti-communist, elegant lady. Born in Havana, 1933.
She saw many changes in her country but most of all the fall of the golden age into a post revolutionary depression. My mother's family story is long. Documenting their journey to the states would fill a book. Esperperanza, or Espi, is the oldest of seven. Each brother and sister has their own perspective. Each illustrating their hardships, triumphs and assimiliation to a new culture.
So, let me start with her and give you a glimpse of what happened. She was the first one to leave with her husband, Jose, and his niece and nephew to Miami. All the while, persuading the rest of the family to begin the process to leave Cuba. Many were reluctant including my grandparents, so, sure that Castro was just a passing fad and that things would resume to normal. It wasn't until the tragic shooting of her brother that everyone decided to leave. Her tailoring skills paid their way out of the country also supporting her a wonderful life. She and my aunt Olga, also pictured, have influenced me in many ways. They gave me my first sewing kit, equipped with notions, leaving me to my imagination. She was also the first one to put a pair of knitting needles in my hands, a skill that I wish I never let go. Most, importantly she taught me loyalty to family and country as well as a good fashion sense and eye for design. We do love a fabulously designed and crafted piece of couture.
Happy Birthday Espi. Now, will you post a comment?!!!!!
The lines of communication have opened with the Navy detailer and that always leaves the household on hold for about six months. The negotiations can be exhausting and exhilarating, with the question of "where will we call home next?", looming over our heads. This is something that the military wife dreads and anticipates at the same time. However, if the move has to be made its always nice to choose "the road not taken."
Is all the running around making you want to scream? I challenged you to find out what makes the holiday season special for you and want to thank those who took the time to share. Would love to hear some more, so, keep them coming.
Well, watching Punchinello break free from himself made for a refreshing break of the usual holiday rush. Punchinello is a character out of the puppet show that Lucy and I went to see last night. The show was an adaptation of Max Lucado's, You Are Special. It's a great children's book about how to let go of the labels that people attach to you and how they can really wear you down and hold you back. Basically, make you believe that you are something you are not.
We witnessed this little guy's transformation from a beaten down little Wemmick to one who broke free from the labels and believed that he was special because, well, Eli the puppet maker thought he was special enough for him to be created. This play put a little of God back into the season for our little family. As I hope that in whatever holiday tradition you follow you put back its true meaning.
This little moment was too precious to keep from posting. Lucy meets Lucia the puppet and heroine of the story. She was enchanted.
My boys are out for their annual appearance. They never age. They did tell me that they wanted to add to the crew.
I must oblige!
If you have a special someone that loves books as gifts, check out my coupon from Barnes and Noble. It's a 10% savings and there's absolutely no harm in that. But hurry, the coupon is good on all orders made by December 18th. Happy shopping!
Abuela Katy turned 88 today. The picture was taken when she was sixteen. Now, t his is a life that is worth writing about. She started her life in Medellin, Colombia and because of a military coup that took over the airports, she was advised by her family to stay in the United States. She came here with money to buy inventory for a small retail store she was partnering and during that short time everything in Colombia was turned inside out. Her life took a turn. She was completely unprepared, the money was running out. If I remember correctly, she was doing business in Miami and soon thereafter had to find refuge. I can not imagine this kind of life change. She had no command of the English language and few acquaintances.
However, she moved forward, called a friend, explained the situation and was taken in right away. Katy accepted odd jobs to pay her boarder. Mostly, tailoring work, making the occasional alteration, dress or ensemble for the affluent on their summer breaks to Miami. The money that she earned not only supported her but my father and his older brothers. My dad was barely an adolescent who quickly became and orphan. Katy was also a widow. My uncles were a bit older, though, and did what they could to support themselves and their youngest brother.
Then her big break came. She was offered a job with steady pay, room and board. She became a nanny to two small girls for a mother in Connecticut. She talks about this woman fondly and remembers her good advice and kindness towards her. The girls were calling her mom at the end of her nearly two year commitment. She learned English quickly as the girls were being spoken to in Spanish. The unrest in Colombia lasted a while and by then her business was shut down and it only made sense to support her children from here. During the time spent in Connecticut, she was pursued by a good-looking Cuban...my Abuelo Carlos. He was infatuated by her at first sight, but she was very clear that she had no room or patience for games. If you ever have met my grandmother, she meant it. She is a woman that commands respect.
The road led back to Miami. She sent for my father, 14, and married Carlos shortly thereafter. Their life together lasted 25 plus years and sadly was widowed again. She never re-married, saying that he was the man that made her the happiest...her greatest love. I believe that, Abuelo Carlos was a great man, who was well respected within the community.
So, I write these few sentences to sum up just a fraction of her life in honor of her birthday. Eighty-eight years of living with few regrets and little complaints. May we be so lucky!
Feliz cumpleanos, Abuela...que cumples mucho mas! (happy birthday, grandma...and many more!)
A Christmas tradition for me was to shop at Bombay to add to my collection of european glass ornaments. Just one, maybe, two, but, alas, no longer...they're gone. I miss the Bombay Company. I'm suffering from ornament withdrawal this year.
They are so shiny and pretty. These are a few of my favorite things. Where can I find these again? Please help me somebody.
This is Dana. A tribute to my friend and neighbor, a Lutzite native. Our first year in Lutz, Dana had pointed out to me that about seven years ago our entire neighborhood, approximately 15 acres of land was a cow pasture. The whole area plus more was farmland. So, when I saw her (the cow ornament) at Bombay she was mine.
Oh, and let me introduce you to James her husband and another Tampa semi-native. They are the social couple of the community that are always getting people together and who invited me to the Guavaween Parade this year. They make a cute couple don't you think.
More holiday traditions are coming soon and maybe a few new ones.
Christmas time brings a sense of belief and wonder over everybody. Here's a good example.
Jasper the elf has come back to visit. He makes sure that Santa gets daily updates on the munchkin's behavior. Everybody is just a little nicer around this time of year because Jasper is watching and reporting. And the funny thing is that the kids believe. It's wonderful...the magic of Christmas.
The idea isn't original. I'm sure that you've seen the boxed set in your neighborhood Hallmark or Barnes & Noble. You should see me trying to divert the kids attention when we're out shopping. It's hilarious! Our Jasper is my own less expensive version of the boxed set bought at Michael's on sale about three years ago. But he works wonders.
Here's some more Christmas magic on Picnik. These are the steps I took to make Jasper feel at home.
1. (under edit tab) Boosted color saturation to about 15%, and lowever the temperature to -16.
I boosted the color to really bring out the reds. Then decreased the temperature to bring out the blues and greens in the image. This also makes your whites, whiter and brighter, while lowering the warmth of the image. So, play with the temperature a bit. If you go to the right and raise the temp, you'll be raising the yellow, red, and orange hues of an image while sliding to the left and lowering the temp will raise the blues and greens producing a colder or fresh look.
2. (under create tab) Added snow and faded the effect to 50.
The snow was a big thick. I wanted to make it look like a sprinkle of snow not a blizzard.
Okay, you know that I am a huge fan of the web based editing software Picnik. I can't rave about it anymore to my friends without sounding obnoxious. However, I love it! Here's a few shots that I took of the girls while at the zoo this week. They were okay shots but with a little creativity, something else was created. Here are a few before and after shots or after's and before's for you to preview.
Big difference don't you think. I'm trying to mimic some of my professional friends effects who use Photoshop. Not quite the same but really good nonetheless for an enthusiast on a budget and with time constraints. No two photographers will shoot the same thing. Photography is an art form, we all know that, as well as, editing and no two editing programs are the same. I promised you a breakdown of what I did on the first shot. Here are the steps.
Found under the Edit Tab. 1. Boosted the color saturation about 8%. 2. Increased the contrast to 10%. 3. Sharpened 10%.
Now, onto the effects. Let me remind you that some of the effects on Picnik are an upgrade to a premium package. However, they are only a few. There is still over 95% of really fantastic effects you can use with the basic (no fee) membership. Yea, free is for me! Okay, here are the next set of steps.
Found under the Create Tab. 1. Go to Sepia. First, you'll see your image to turn into hues of brown. I then faded the effect approximately 40% of it power to have some of the original colors bleed through and still gain a warm antique hue. 2. Click apply to save. 3. Then I applied the Orton-ish effect. This effect will apply a boost of color, bloom and brightness to your image. At first, it can be very drastic and you might like it. However, I lowered the bloom, brightness and fade to again 40%. 4. Click apply to save again.
Voila, your done. Now, the only downside to this editing tool is that you can't go back to each individual step to modify a "layer" like the Photoshop family. There is no layering involved in Picnik. After, you apply an effect or editing step you click apply and your done. At the very best you can undo to go back. However, that means that you undo each step until you get to the step you want to modify and reapply the consequent effects. The upside to this tool is that it is user friendly, basically dummy proof and fun. The staff is great and always adding to the effects tools, too.
Here's the same image with a double matted effect.
This was done very easily, again. I went to "frames" and applied the effect twice to create a double matted look. It was that easy.
Here are a few more.
This one is straight out of the camera or sooc. Hated it!. The white balance was off.
Now, here's the after.
To get to the black and white version, I did this...
1. Crop 2. (under create tab) Applied the black and white effect with a Tiffany Blue filter. 3. (under edit tab) Raised exposure to 25, contrast to 20 and brightness to a subtle 2. 4. (back to effect tab) Orton-ish and raised bloom to 100, brightness to 80 and faded it 50%. 5. Applied a vignette at size 45, strength 15 and faded it 10%.
The last set was changed slightly, however, the changes are noticeable.
I just applied a 10% Boost effect, as well as, a 10% boost to the sharpness.
Military man has sailed home. Everything is back to normal after an exciting surprise homecoming. He had no idea we were driving in this morning to meet him at his barracks. He was thrilled. We've just picked up where we left off. The kids laying around him doing their things and looking cute. He is nodding off, trying hard to catch up on weeks of lost sleep, Sponge Bob playing in the background and mom documenting it all.
There's nothing like a beautiful fall day. Cory ran his school's Peacock 1/2 mile Run and tied for second in the primary age group, as well as, finishing third overall. I'm beaming with pride...so is he.
The brown eyed-girls were playing this morning while i was getting ready for the day. These moments are so precious. Look at them. They're so cute. Look at lucy's hair. The bangs need a little trimming, don't you think?
"Oh, let me get my scissors", mom thought. "I'll save myself a trip to the kiddie salon and save a few dollars."
Snip, snip,"looks great," mom thought, again.
[mom leaves the room for a visit to the powder room. Mom re-enters and gasps]
quotes have been taken from their original context to continue inspire, encourage, humor and sometimes scare you. my original DON"T QUOTE ME quote changed, recently. it's amazing how much a person's perspective changes within a few months and from day to day. the original quote went like this...
"I alway knew i wanted to be somebody, now i know i should have been more specific." -- Lily Tomlin
i loved it and still do. it served it's purpose to reflect my quirky side, more relatable, less serious. i decided to change it because this is where i am now and it's more relevant to me after 14 years of service, second hand to the navy at military man's side. i'm still quirky and relatable, though.
in no particular order, my favorite naval quotes are...
"submariner wife, toughest job in the navy." -- anonymous
"I can imagine no more rewarding a career. And any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction: 'I served in the United States Navy.'" -- JFK
"The Navy has both a tradition and a future--and we look with pride and confidence in both directions." -- Admiral George Anderson, CNO, 1 August 1961.
"Damn the torpedoes, Full speed ahead!" -- Admiral David Glasgow Farragut c. 1864
"Don't give up the ship!" -- Captain James Lawrence c.1813
"Of all the branches of men in the forces there is none which shows more devotion and faces grimmer perils than the submariners." -- Sir Winston Churchill
"No one has done more to prevent conflict - no one has made a greater sacrifice for the cause for Peace - than you, America's proud missile submarine family. You stand tall among our heroes of the Cold War.” -- General Colin Powell
"In each submarine there are men who, in the hour of emergency or peril at sea, can turn to each other. These men are ultimately responsible to themselves and each other for all aspects of operation of their submarine. They are the crew. They are the ship." --The Submariner's Creed (Excerpt)
finally, this is in reference to a spouse and pertains to all branches...
"If they wanted you to have one, you would have been issued one." -- anonymous (you better believe no one wanted to claim this one. can you blame him?)
now, i've left you with some words to inspire, encourage, humor, and hopefully, enlighten you.
where else would a six year old boy want to go on his first date? Let me give you a hint. It's noisy, lots of fun for kids, games and many tickets earned.
after a tough day with his friends around the neighborhood,(kids can be so mean) i decided to cancel my plans and give cory much needed one on one time. i never knew being an active six year old boy could be so tough. however, i'm glad to have spent the time with him without the girls. don't think i didn't feel guilty, but they were sat by heather the wonder sitter and they could not have been happier. i grew up an only child, so, no matter how bad things turned into with my little friends, i knew that i could always go home and be spoiled by my abuela, tias and mami. cory has to do a lot of sharing these days, including me. but i know he loved being with just me. by sunday, i won the best mommy title again. yea, me!
since it was all about fun, the pictures were edited a little differently than usual. i used the HDR-ish effect on Picnik and raised the strength to 260%, left the radius alone, and faded them about 40%. the last picture i raised the colors just a bit and used the cinema scope effect with the letterbox. oh and i shot that night with my little kodak 12.0 point and shoot.
if you haven't figure it out, military man has been missing for some time now. i miss him like crazy. it's not that i miss him like "i miss an extra set of hands to help out with the kids kind of way". after a while you get into a groove and it becomes easier to do it alone. I wouldn't say that you get used to, however, it gets easier. the kids get familiar with doing it mom's way with little resistance and i get creative with daily routine and learn to be flexible. the void is there, though. we all feel it.
i miss him...miss him bugging me to make the bed because that's my least favorite thing to do, i miss him asking what's for dinner at noon shortly after having lunch, the snoring that serenades me five seconds his head hits the pillow, our daily routines. lastly, my most favorite, hearing the kids yell "daddy" and running to him as he opens the door after a long week of work. it's going to be a great homecoming.
As promised, here's the next batch of shots from our fun-filled October sans one member of the family...military man. WE MISS YOU! Mommy misses you like crazy. Not much longer, P...
Well, this is not such an exciting moment but I did get some cute pix of Nina. We were waiting for Cory outside of his CCD class. Lucy was sleeping and I was shutter happy.
Here's a few from a friends birthday party. Halloween inspired of course. It was a costume party...a blast was had!
The Pokemon trainer costume was still on the sewing table. So mama improvised! Count Cutie is getting his fortune told and showing his teeth. Not sure what that was about.
You're witnessing a milestone here. Nina was pulling herself up in her crib.
The girls and I decided to have some lunch in between getting last minute details and notions for the costumes. I had a sewer's block on where to start with the trainer and pikachu costumes. So was Lucy...
The treats and crafts were flowing...Yes, I know...I'm slightly OCD!!!!!
Spooky Messages sent from abroad...thank you, P!
Lucy's fall carnival was the cutest. But, the "horse" station was the funniest. There was someone hiding inside the stable with its hand in a red sock pretending to be horse's tongue. The kids fed it carrots and it would come back out with a prize. They were so confused but cracked all the parents up!
And here we are...the pokemon trainer, pikachu princess, the strawberry, and strawberry farmer. I really wish there were more pictures of trick or treating and the block party but my extra set of arms haven't grown in. You just had to see Lucy in the yellow crocs and tail waving behind her as she went from door to door. The kids had so much fun and Cory woke the next morning wishing that Halloween happened several times a year. Who wouldn't love unlimited candy all year long!