Project 365: Vintage week

The good thing is: I’m really not stressing over the 365 project this time around. The bad things is: I’m “settling” for a picture of the day a lot more.

Like this shot of the boys. It was 6:25 am when I shot it, and I was just on my way out the door to go to work when I noticed they were cuddled up together on the love seat watching TV. Lucas and Simon are like oil and water more often than not, so I grabbed my camera and clicked off one shot. It was adorable when I looked in the LED, and I didn’t take another picture all day, safe in the knowledge that I had a worthy picture of the day.

Then at the very end of the day I pulled the memory card out of my camera and got a good look at the picture in Lightroom and realized it’s horribly noisy because I was shooting at 1600 ISO to compensate for the fact that the sun hadn’t come up yet, and Lucas is just in front of the plane of focus, and the highlights on his hair are completely blown out. Oh well. It still makes me happy when I look at it.

63:365 Brothers

From a technical standpoint, this is a much better picture. It also makes me happy! This is Family Day, in the driveway.

60:365 Family Day winter fun

More Family Day fun – Lucas thinks he’s a zamboni on his tricycle!

60b:365 Zamboni trike rider

And Simon the future NHL star:

60d:365 He shoots, he -- covers the photographer in a spray of snow!

I kept hearing people rave about the iPhone camera app Hipstamatic, so I ponied up $1.99 to try it out. The lenses and effects are alright, similar to what I have in my other apps, but for this one you have to set your lens and film before you take the shot rather than in post-processing. And the viewfinder makes me a little crazy because it’s not like an SLR where you get an accurate picture, it’s like a point and shoot and they really exaggerate the effect. Meh, I’m not sure about this one. I tested it out on my old favourite, the Underwood typewriter.

61:365 Hipstamatic Underwood

Speaking of vintage and cameras, Lara and Angela have inspired me to take a few more self-portraits. Here’s vintage me with my Duaflex:

62:365 Duaflex selfie

This was a TtV self-portrait, but I almost deleted it. I really didn’t like the original composition, but with TtV you’re very much bound by what’s inside the viewfinder frame (unless you’re much better with photoshop than I am!) I cropped out the viewfinder and the right half of the frame and ended up loving how this one came out with a bit of a vintage vibe and those crazy roses that are now two weeks old and holding! (Note to self: time to clean the dust off the viewfinder. I know some people like their TtV gritty, but I prefer it clean.)

59:365 Roses and me TtV

And more vintage: this is one of the beauties from my camera collection. It’s a Kodak Brownie Starflex, and was manufactured some time between 1957 and 1964. I’d bought it for $20, hoping to use it for TtV, but I’m more partial to the Duaflex viewfinder. It’s still a lovely little camera, though! I ended up using this shot in the banner for my new photography site on a whim, and I think it works well with the typewriter font.

58:365 Brownie Starflex

See, even my photography is fixated on photography this week. I am truly an obsessive creature.

Oh really? She can blog about something other than pictures??

Each time I even think about writing a new blog post, a voice in my head says, “You’ve really got to blog about something other than photography. You may be obsessed, but you’re going to bore them to tears. For the love of all things holy, is there nothing else in your head except photo apps and web galleries and f-stops?”


Okay, so that’s not entirely true. There’s this really wicked cool thing happening next weekend — but I can’t talk to you about that yet. And there’s all sorts of another kind of crazy with my work, but I can never really blog about that. And — that’s about it. That’s all my brain has room for these days.

No wait, there is one other thing: we’re getting a new dishwasher today! That’s kind of exciting, in a mundanely domestic sort of way. You may remember that when we took possession of the house, the very first time we tried to use the dishwasher it stuttered to a stop about three minutes in to the first cycle. $150 and three days later, we had a switch replaced, but the thing has been dying a slow death ever since. It doesn’t clean very well, the door gets stuck on the countertop when you close it, and it sounds like a jumbo jet is taking off every time we run the damn thing.

So, a new dishwasher. We comparison-shopped for a while, waffling over name brands and features like a stainless steel interior (apparently not worth the money, even though it helps speed the drying when you refuse to use heat dry like I do) and water use (a huge issue with an aging septic system) and noise (an even bigger issue.) Everybody we spoke to recommended Bosch, but their tubs are smaller than industry standard and with a busy family of five, size matters.

We got a good deal on this one from GE and it seems to get above-average reviews. (Side note: I spent hours one Saturday trying to cross-reference model numbers from Corbeil and Sears to the last two Consumer Reports Buying Guides, and ended up with nothing but crossed eyes for my efforts. Once again, living in the shadow of the US adds a layer of complexity to life!)

The model we choise was on sale at both Sears and Corbeil but Corbeil has free delivery, so I went in and asked them to match the price. They started to argue that their price matching includes the delivery free so really was a better deal, but when I shrugged and said, “Well, if you want to lose the sale over $25, okay, I’ll go next door to Sears” they dropped the price to match. I’m getting good at this haggling thing!!

So we can now add to the ever-growing list of household investments and upgrades a new dishwasher. Let’s hope we can cross this one off the list of things to worry about for another five to ten years!

Some random thoughts on going “pro”

I‘ve been really shy about unveiling my Motherhip Photography site, and even more shy about taking on the label of “pro” photographer. I’ve got a huge insecurity complex and am so grateful that if any of you snorted with surprise and derision at the idea of me going pro then at least you had the decency to keep it to yourself. (Yeesh, needy much?)

Some of the things that make me hesitate to assume the mantle of “pro” photographer (see, I can’t even discuss it without the air quotes around the word “pro”) include the fact that I don’t have a huge amount of expensive gear, have very little interest in doing studio work, and don’t have any real plans to drop my day job for a career as a photographer. For those reasons, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to lose the self-conscious shrug and apologetic quotes every time I call myself a “pro”.

Technically, though, since I’ve received commissions and compensation for my work, I suppose I should just get over myself and own the word “pro”. It’s just a word!

The main reason I decided to put up a website and make things more official is simply because I love — really and truly love — photography and the idea of finding reasons to do it more often simply makes my heart soar with excitement. I love the idea of meeting new people and having the honour of capturing the things they value in life, preserving moments in imagery that they will hopefully treasure for years to come. It’s a very romantic notion, I know. It’s a damn good thing I’m not in this for the money!

And so when some casual conversations turned into queries about rates and packages, it seemed like a good idea to get it all out there in the open. But the more I looked into it, the more I realized that there is so much more to a photography business than I ever imagined. Contracts, packages, insurance, overhead, marketing, accounting… yikes! On the weekend I read a really excellent article that talks about the money side of professional wedding and portrait photography. My jaw dropped when I realized that on a $200 session fee, a photographer is really only pocketing $60 after taxes, equipment, overhead and other costs. When you figure there’s an hour or two for a shoot, not to mention travel time, another four to six obsessive hours to select, edit and process images, and who knows how long in meeting with clients, prepping and processing print orders and other tasks, it all breaks down to less than $10 an hour. It was a real eye-opener, and confirmed for me that I really am doing this for love and not money!

I’m lucky enough that I don’t need to do this, I want to do this, and that’s making a huge difference in how I’m valuing myself and my work. I don’t want to be popular, I want to be good. I don’t want to be rich, I want to be happy. And so I’ve decided that if I am going to do this, I will do it right: professional printing and packages, professional rates, professional contracts, professional behaviour, professional expectations, professional results. And I’ll consider the whole thing a huge success if I can book five or ten sessions this year.

In a roundabout way, this venture has reminded me how lucky I am. I’ve always been selective and particular about how I market and monetize the blog, and I’m choosing to approach the photography business in the same way. I’m just so incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to have so many things in my life that make me happy AND give me a few extra dollars for the boys’ future bail college funds on the side.


Project 365: Week of the Roses

This has been a really challenging week for my 365 project, mostly because I was embroiled with two sick kids, a sick caregiver, and a secret project that sucked up ALL my spare time (and more than a bit of my not-so-spare time as well!). More about the secret project later.

So here’s what caught my fancy this week!

Here’s your weekly dose of cuteness. He’s reading If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, one of our new favourite books.

56:365 If you give a mouse a cookie...

We’ve spent a lot of time haunting the Manotick branch of the public library lately. Conveniently, we moved into a house just around the corner from the library just about the same time as my mother, otherwise known as my main paperback supplier, bought herself a Kindle — and my stream of free paperbacks dried up overnight. This is the centre of the kids’ section of the Manotick library, where Lucas is “reading” a book about potty training to Tristan. The funky frame is courtesy of the Camera+ app on my iPhone. (I don’t know what I love more, the giant colourful sunburst, Lucas reading to Tristan, or the fact that the page he is reading is covered in underwear!)

51:365 At the library

From warm and fuzzy to cold and wet — I took this one from the narrow bridge on Jockvale near Stonebridge, but no matter how much I played with it, I couldn’t quite make it what I wanted of it. It’s one of those “good enough, and I’ve got nothing else for today” shots, I suppose.

50:365 Frozen Jock River

Speaking of good enough, this one is really a bit of a mulligan. I spent hours glued to my computer on Sunday working on that secret project I mentioned, and by the end of the day had nothing really to show for it — and no picture for the day, either. So I took this with my iPhone and called it “Time Sink” because that’s what the computer can be sometimes. Um, often.

52:365 Time sink

On Valentine’s Day, although Beloved and I had agreed not to get each other any gifts, I came home from work to a dozen of the most beautiful fresh red roses I’ve ever seen. (Good thing I’d picked some chocolates up for him, too!) And I’ve been loving those roses all week!

First, Valentine TtV roses:

53:365 Valentine rose TtV

Then, roses with a hint of cross-processing:

54:365 Rose again

Roses desaturated in black and white:

55:365 Rose revisited

And finally (for this week, at least, as they’re still going strong!!) roses with a hint of sunshine:

57:365 I am really digging these roses

I think they got better as the week progressed — that last one is definitely my favourite. 🙂

Oh, and did I mention my secret project? Yeah, it’s really not so secret since I outed myself last night on Twitter, and I’ve actually been screwing up my courage to tell you about it here all week.

A couple of weeks ago, I was at the schoolyard fence waiting for the boys and got to talking with some of the moms and dads, and one mentioned going to Sears to get portraits done and how she wasn’t really thrilled with the results. I mentioned that I really like to take family pictures, and we got to chatting. She asked me for my website, and I gave her this URL. A couple of days later, she came back and asked me where the information about my photography business was, and I hemmed and hawed a bit and said, “Well, that’s pretty much it.”

It got me thinking, though. I’ve been toying with the idea of putting up a separate photography blog ever since I started my first 365 back in January of 2009, and even toyed with a few themes and galleries, but nothing ever worked for me. I tried building a gallery with Lightroom, but the results were underwhelming.

Last week, with the help of a few friends on Twitter, I finally found a workable (and free!) WordPress theme and installed it. I spent WAY too much time sorting through some of my favourite pictures, and came up with a result that is not quite perfect, but at least worth sharing at this point.

With butterflies in my tummy, and wondering what the hell I am thinking, I am thrilled and terrified to pull back the curtain and show you my latest cockamamie scheme, Mothership Photography.


Hooray for Ottawa!

Here’s three great links for people who love Ottawa as much as I love Ottawa. (And for the record? I love Ottawa A LOT!)

First, mad props to the Ottawa Public Library. I love the library and I really love their website and new interactive features. I love the ease of popping over whenever the mood strikes me or a bit of information catches my attention and requesting a book online. If there’s no other requests, the book gets shipped to my local branch in Manotick within a couple of days, and I get an e-mail notification when it’s ready for pick-up. Even better, I get another e-mail two days before it’s due. This is a smashing good system.

You know what just made it even better? I can now do all this on my iPhone, thanks to a new Ottawa Public Library iPhone App. How awesome is that? And best of all? Totally free. I love this!!

Second, mad props to Ottawa Start and two excellent new resources they’ve published in the last couple of weeks. First, check out their wicked-cool Ultimate Guide to Tobogganing in Ottawa and Gatineau. Not only is it a map of all the best sledding hills in the city, but if you click on one it gives you information about the kind of hill, special features and any potential perils. Really, this is outstanding.

Shiverfest mascot sledding

Last but not least, also from Ottawa Start, here’s an update to their 2009 list of essential blogs in Ottawa. This year, they’ve listed 26 essential Ottawa blogs, and I’m very proud to see I’ve been included. (Thanks Glen!) Some of my favourite blogs are here, and a few I must now check out, but I really like this list because of its diversity — it has a little bit of blog for everyone who lives in or loves Ottawa.

Ottawa rocks! 🙂

Adventures in hiring a contractor and other housey updates

I dashed off this post on the weekend, and then I thought it was rather pointless and whiny and took it back down again, but apparently feedburner launched it into your feed-readers because a few of you took the time to e-mail me and commiserate and offer basement renovation advice and support — so I’ve reworked it to mitigate the whininess. A bit. Here’s the revised version!

I tell you, I’ve learned more about houses, structural issues, home repair and contractors in the last six months than I learned in the previous forty-one years! And this post has gotten so ridiculously long that I’ve tucked it beneath the fold. Settle in and grab a coffee if you want to stick around for the whole saga to date! Continue reading “Adventures in hiring a contractor and other housey updates”

Project 365: STOP winter now!

Gah, I am so. sick. of. winter. So sick of snow, cold, wind — and the forecast is calling for three dumps of snow in the next three days.

That’s what I had in mind when I took this picture — STOP winter NOW! (I like this because it’s selective colouring but without the post-processing. I didn’t do much to this image except to tweak the exposure a bit.)

46:365 STOP winter now!

On the opposite end of the spectrum, here’s some soft and fuzzy and fresh from a warm bath to warm you up!

44:365 After his bath

One of these days, I’m going to get around to writing the post that’s rattling around in my head about how we’ve started going to church now. Not every week, but every couple of weeks at least. I like our new church and Father Dan, and I really like these gorgeous sacred candles. I hope it wasn’t disrespectful of me to snap this, but I couldn’t resist the colours.

45:365 Light a candle

I took this one with my iPhone one night as the sun was setting (thus the bit of orangey-pink in the bottom right corner). I tweaked the colour of the sky to that turquoise colour with an app called FX Photo Studio. I wish I had a better telephoto to bring that crescent moon a little closer!

48:365 Moon shot

Yesterday was the 100th day of school, and the kids were doing special projects. Simon had the number 42 and was gluing 42 mini-marshmallows to it while I made Douglas Adams jokes that sailed clear over their heads. (Tell me somebody gets that reference?) Anyway, I loved the almost straight-on side light and the shadows, so I caught this picture.

49:365 Forty-two

Rather unfortunately, while I was busy uploading this to the computer, the toddler tyrant precocious preschooler got into it and ate his gluey way from 42 down to 37 marshmallows before anybody noticed!

And speaking of the precocious preschooler, here’s a couple of shots from his birthday last Tuesday.

47c:365 Scenes from a birthday 3

47:365 Scenes from a birthday (1 of 4)

Damn cute, isn’t he?

This is how they grow up, quietly and quickly and right under your watchful eye

I am standing at the fence as I do every day, waiting for the bell to ring and the tsunami of energetic children to come spilling out of the school. I brace myself, as I do every day, for Simon’s enthusiastic hug that will one day knock me clear off my feet. Tristan too still hugs me, but in a more reserved and shy way that leads me to believe that while third graders still bestow public hugs upon parents, I’d best be prepared in case fourth graders do not.

We’re headed toward the car together when Tristan stops. “Mom, can I walk home by myself?” he asks. We’ve talked about this a few times before. We live exactly 0.9 km away from the school, down one reasonably quiet and safe street with a sidewalk and two very quiet streets with no sidewalks. We’ve walked it together on many occasions, and I know Tristan prefers to walk. Most days, however, we have to drive as I make it to the school from work with barely a few minutes to spare, and we still have to drive over to pick up Lucas from daycare a couple of blocks in the opposite direction.

I take a searching look at his face, weighing in my mind the walk, the traffic, the buses, the snow, his relative trustworthiness, how long it will take me to pick up Lucas and make it home, and my mother’s reaction if and when she ever hears that I’d let him walk by himself. Another part of my mind is busy admiring the fat snowflakes caught in his gorgeous eyelashes and how his gray-green eyes mimic the stormy clouds above us. He looks so grown up to me in that heartbeat of a minute, pleading his case not with words but by simply returning my gaze. It’s the briefest of exchanges, and yet it resonates with me as a milestone in progress. I can trust him or not, trust the world or not. The choice is mine.

“Are you sure you know the way?” I ask. I make him describe it to me, each corner and turn. We’ve walked it a dozen times and driven it a hundred — I’m pretty sure we could both do it blindfolded. I briefly wonder if we should ponder this more, hold a family council and debate the pros and cons, but in this moment I trust my instincts and acquiesce.

“Okay, but you go straight home,” I tell him. “And if you get lost, I want you to step back from the road and just sit down on someone’s lawn, okay? No wandering around. If you make a wrong turn, stop moving and I will come and find you.” It’s less than a 10 minute walk with three intersections. There is really so little chance of him being lost that I can only laugh at myself and the lasting impressions of the time I got lost the first time I walked home by myself from a new school back in 1975. Remember that one, Mom?

As expected, Simon also wants a piece of the deal once it’s brokered, but I’m having none of that. First, being older must come with some privileges, and second, I think walking home is enough of a test without being responsible for minding your little brother at the same time. Simon, who generally prefers driving to school over walking anyway, is easily persuaded that walking alone is more of a second or third grade sort of activity.

As we pull out of the parking lot, I scan my rearview mirror for signs of Tristan and can see him bobbing along in the stream of children burbling down the sidewalk. It takes me only a few minutes to retrieve Lucas, and although respect all traffic laws regarding speed and full stops, I do forgo the usual end of day chat with his caregiver in my haste to pack him up and get him out.

We pass by the school, and I begin scanning the sidewalk and snowbanks for Tristan’s blue snowsuit and black watch cap. There’s no sign of him on the way home and as I pull in to the driveway I catch sight of him, swinging gently and patiently on the porch swing, with not even a self-satisfied grin on his face.

The next day when I meet them at the fence, I expect Tristan to ask to walk home by himself again. I’m secretly pleased when he does not. He may have trod a few more snowy footprints on the road to independence, but I’m glad he still knows I’ve got a warm car standing by for those most bitter and blustery days.

Four food-group meatloaf recipe

My friend Nancy sent me this recipe years ago, and I love it. LOVE it! It’s easy, it’s tasty, and it’s got all four food groups in it. What more could you ask of a humble meatloaf?

(I’ve become a bit of a snob about my ground beef lately, and have found that this dish tastes even better if you can get locally raised, sustainable and anti-antibiotic ground beef from your butcher, FWIW.)


Here’s what you need:

2 eggs
2/3 cup milk
3 slices bread
1/2 cup chopped onion (sweet is nice here)
1/2 cup shredded carrot
1 cup shredded cheddar
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 1/2 pounds (675 grams) ground beef
1/2 cup ketchup or chili sauce or salsa
1/4 cup brown sugar
squirt of mustard

Mix the eggs and the milk in a big bowl. Tear the bread into small pieces, and stir into the milk/egg mix, beating until the bread disintegrates. Add the onion, carrot, cheese and mix. Add in the beef and mix some more. Pack it into a 9 x 5 loaf pan (mine is pyrex).

In a measuring cup or small bowl, mix brown sugar and mustard with ketchup or chili sauce or salsa or BBQ sauce or some combination of all four. Quantities are not really important for this bit, just mix up a sauce that’s yummy to you. Spread half of it over the top of the meatloaf, and reserve the rest.

Bake for 1 hr 15 mins at 350F. Let stand another 10 minutes when complete. Serve with reserved sauce for dipping. Yum!! We make baked sweet potato fries and garlic balsamic green beans on the side, or baked beans with a leafy salad. Did I mention yum??

A love letter to Lucas, Age 3

My sweet and silly Lucas, happy birthday to you!

37:365 Shiverfest at Lucas

No longer the toddler tyrant my son, now you are a precocious and precious preschooler. Three years old! I can hardly believe it!

Lucas and me

You, my littlest one, are relentlessly curious and in that aggravating endearing phase of questioning everything. Everything. EV-ERY-THING. Who knew “why” could be a dirty word? And one question begets another begets another begets another. I would never have guessed that anyone could ever hope to challenge Simon as the most talkative member of our family! And you have learned, as Tristan observed just last weekend, that repetition is the key to attention. You have been known to ask the same question three, four, five times in a row, in the exact same tone and inflection, patiently waiting for someone to finally hear you and respond. Call it the curse of the third brother!

548:1000 Lucas and the packing peanuts - 2 of 6

You are finally a good sleeper, something I’m not sure I could say in your first or second birthday letters. And you are still, if not for much longer, sleeping in your crib! I’m sure your transition to a big-boy bed is mere weeks away, but congratulations to you for being the one who lasted longest of my three boys before achieving this milestone. I must admit, I will miss very much the sound of you calling out to me in your most sing-song voice when you wake up, “Mommy! Come and get me!” And I hope you never outgrow the ritual nighttime exchange with your Daddy, where on his way out the door he says, “Night-night Little One,” and you reply, “Night-night Big One.”

419:1000 Daddy kiss

Some of your favourite things are jigsaw puzzles, action figure toys like the Smurf village and Imaginext playsets, colouring and crafts, and anything your older brothers show the slightest interest in. Your favourite TV shows are, inexplicably, Max and Ruby, Caillou and In the Night Garden. And all three of you boys are deep in the midst of a Smurf obsession.

434:1000 Hello rock!

You are gradually overcoming your earlier shyness, and you show signs of a romantic and jealous heart. You have a sweet and obvious crush on the 13 year old daughter of your daycare provider, but I think it’s safe to say the feeling is mutual. (It’s okay, though, your father has a thing for older women as well.)

484b:1000 Lucas loves daisies

You were once a hearty eater, but toddlerhood has made you fickle. Your favourite foods are yougurt, toast, egg whites and most fruits and vegetables. You’re less fond of certain family favourites like pizza and guacamole, but there’s time to rectify that yet. One of your favourite dinnertime rituals is the daily questioning of each member of the family: “How was you day, Mommy?” “How was you day, Simon?” “How was you day, Tristan?” “How was you day, Daddy?” And of course, the conversation may not progress until someone has asked you the same in return.

25:365 One for you and one for me

You are smart beyond your years (observes your mother in a completely unbiased fashion). You have a wicked memory and can “read” board books to me verbatim after having heard them only a few times. You have also learned how to both entice your brothers to do your bidding and enrage them with just a few words or actions. I suppose that’s the nature of brothers!

449:1000 Yoshiback ride

You love music and you love to sing. Your favourite songs are Lukey’s Boat, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, You are my Sunshine, and K’naan’s Waving Flag. It’s beyond cute to hear you singing to yourself, as you play contentedly with your jigsaw puzzles or lie waiting for me to retrieve you from your crib, “When I get older, I will be stronger, they’ll call me freedom, just like a waving flag (And then it goes back, and then it goes back, and then it goes back, woa-oah-oh…).”

Into the ocean

Because you are the littlest, we tend to forget that you are, in fact, quite large for your age. While walking down the street one fine day last autumn, a stranger looked at you chasing your brothers and laughed. “He’s a big boy, that one,” said the stranger. “Better get him enrolled in football!” It’s only when we see you playing with other kids your age do we notice that you’re more the size of a four-year-old than a toddler — and you speak more clearly than some four-year-olds we know, too!

472:1000 Golden boy ttv

You are the child of a thousand nicknames: Lukey, Luke, Lukey-Lou, Pookie, Pook, and yes, even Poo. I’m sorry about that last one. It was your brothers’ idea. Speaking of brothers, you’ve finally learned the difference between the two of them, but it charms me every time you refer to them as “the brudders”, as in “Mommy! The brudders won’t let me play with them!” Or “No, I didn’t do it, the brudders did it.”

31:365 Lucas loves flowers

I could go on, my darling boy. You are funny, sweet, and altogether delightful. You love to joke and to indulge your old mum’s sense of humour. Our quiet Wednesdays together are one of the best days in my week. Could you please stay three forever?

499:1000 Watering Mad's flowers

Happy birthday, my handsome Lucas. I love you!