Friday, April 29, 2011

MilSpouse Friday Fill-In

Join in over at Wife of a Sailor!

1.Have you and your spouse agreed to live in separate locations (a geographical bachelor tour) knowing that the short-term inconvenience would have long-term benefits for your family? How did it work for you?
Well, when we first got married I was still living in Oklahoma and finishing out a job contract that would allow me to pay off a large chunk of my student loans. Sean was in Louisiana at the time, so we spent the first five months of being married, living apart. It was hard and if I could do it over, I'm not sure I'd live apart again.

2.What is your favorite thing about being a MilSpouse?
The travel and exploring new places. I could never have seen all I have or had the experiences I've had, without Sean being in the military.

3.If you could still have your spouse/significant other and your family, but take the military life out of it…would you?
I'm iffy on this. I love certain parts of the military life and yet I hate parts of it too. The military doesn't define us, but it has made us grow as a couple. I wonder how we'd be if the military had never been a factor.

4.What have your homecoming experiences been like after a year long tour of separation?
Although Sean was slated for a 12 month deployment, he was hurt and only ended up being away for six months. I won't lie...our reunion was not a joyous, happy occasion. I was happy to see him, but we'd had a very difficult R&R just a month prior to him coming home, so we were still dealing with that.

5.If you have a child(ren) why you chose their name(s)? If not, why you would name your child something?
I've had my (future) children's names picked out for a long time. Then I got married and Sean hated every, single name that I had picked out. I still have no idea what we will name our children because we can't agree on a single name.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Question of the Day

Today's question is inspired by a piece I recently saw on competitive cheer teams for girls 10 and under.

What do you think about little girls in pageants or little girls on competitive cheer or dance teams who are dressing in things like booty shorts, midriff tops and wearing tons of make-up?

Do you think it is something that helps them in life? As in confidence or teamwork? Or do you think in some cases it's parents pushing little girls to grow up too soon?

As I know this can be a sensitive subject with strong opinions, please respect your fellow commenters!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Fun With Photography: Tips and Tutorials

Now that I've discussed my camera and equipment, I thought it was time to give you guys a few tips (that you may or may not know) and some links to some great sites for photography tutorials.

Tip Number 1:
Ask lots of questions. Find a photographer who's work you love, either in real life, on a blog or on Flickr. Ask them questions about what equipment they use, what tips they have for photography in general and how they produce some of their shots. I know there are some people out there that don't like to share all their secrets, but I've found most photographers like to talk about their work and how they acheived their shots.

Tip Number 2:
Don't shoot in auto mode. Seriously, put your camera on another mode, like Program mode (P on Canon), Aperture Priority mode (Av on Canon), Shutter Priorty mode (Tv on Canon). More on these modes later.

Tip Number 3:
Don't use your flash. Just don't. I can count on one hand the amount of times I've used flash in the last year. Mostly those happen to be inside candid shots that I'm not trying to really get a fantastic picture. I hate looking at pictures that someone has used flash in. It really takes away from the picture, especially if the picture is of people. If I'm taking pictures inside I try to use my 50mm, just because it lets lots of light in and I don't need to use a flash.

Tip Number 4:
Practice. A lot. I recommend doing something like a 365 or 52 project to help you practice. That means you're either taking a picture a day or a picture a week and if you try different things with your camera, then you're going to get better. Get out there and shoot. Sometimes I take pictures of my dog, what I'm eating for dinner or myself. It's just fun and it makes for better photography.

Tip Number 5:
Educate yourself. If I had the chance, I'd take a photography class, but I haven't had that option to date. If you can't get to a photography class like myself, there are tons of online workshops from some great photographers and usually there are all different price ranges and it can help your skills. Also check out photography blogs and digital photography forums. I'm going to list some of my favorite websites below.

Digital Photography School ForumsThis site has tons of great tutorials for all kinds of photography (portrait, landscape, etc) and the forums are invaluable. I often use the forums for questions I have or to get critiques on my photography. Sometimes the feedback I get really helps.

Adventures of an American MumSeveral years ago Rachel did a series of tutorials called "Get Your Click On". She covers things like aperture, shutter speed, ect and explains it way better than I ever could. I have several of her posts bookmarked and refer often to them. She's super talented and I believe is a contributor at I Heart Faces.

The Pioneer WomanI'm sure many of you are familiar with the Pioneer Woman, but aside from cooking she also has some great tutorials on her blog. Check out the Photography Section of her blog!

MCP ActionsI used this blog for my newborn shoot because there were some great, in-depth tutorials on that subject. There are also other tutorials about other sorts of landscape and portrait subjects, as well as Photoshop and Photoshop Elements Tutorials.

The CoffeeShop Blog
Rita is a very-talented and very generous maker of actions for all Adobe editing programs. She also has great tutorials and links to other great blogs. All of her actions are FREE and I use them a ton when I edit my pictures.

These are just a handful of the photography blogs that I frequent, there are many, many others out there and they all are helpful in their own way. If you have any suggestions of other photography blogs that we should check out, feel free to leave it in the comments. As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to email me!

Friday, April 22, 2011

MilSpouse Friday Fill-IN

Join in over at Wife of a Sailor!

1.How many pets do you have? And what type?
We just have one dog, Boomer who happens to be the most spoiled and naughtiest Min-Pin alive. Sean and I treat him like he's a person, which is probably why he is so naughty. Seriously though, he makes me laugh every single day with some hilarious antic of his. I'm so glad I picked him at the shelter that day!

See? He even sits like he's a person.

2.What are your favorite projects to do while hubby is away?
Photography and scrapbook projects and basically anything that I pick as a goal while he's gone.

3.What are the must-haves in your deployment care packages?
Sean really isn't too picky about what he wants in his care-packages. I usally try to include a card, books I think he'd like and soup. He's a sucker for soup.

4.If you could star in any TV show, which would it be?
Can I go back in time and pick one? Because I'd pick I Dream of Jeannie. Hello? She was a genie, Major Nelson was hot and she wore the cutest outfit ever. What's not to like?

5.What was the biggest hurdle that you faced during your/your significant other’s first deployment?
Arguing about small stuff. Sean got super sensitive about the little things (like the quickness of his care packages getting to him) and it nearly drove me nuts. Next time we both need a reminder not to sweat the small stuff.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Rome: Pics and Commentary

Our last stop for our vacation was Rome. I've been to Rome once before and loved it. Unfortunately the last time I was there we were only there for a day and a half and half my pictures got corrupted on my computer. So..this time around I was determined to see more of Rome.

We stayed in a hostel in Rome and I would not recommend the place we stayed. It was called the Funny Palace Hostel. Although the owner was nice, he gave off a very shady vibe and the room we stayed in was badly in need of a coat of paint. On the postive side it was very close to Termini Train Station, so we were close to the metro as well as the bus.

One of my main tips for Rome (if you're going to be there for more than a day) is to buy the Roma Pass. They cost 25 Euro and you get in the first two sights for free and get to skip the line and the other sights you go to (that are covered by the card) are discounted. It's also good for 3 days of transportation which includes both the metro and the bus. It's worth it just to skip the line for the Coliseum. Trust me.

The first day we were in Rome we visited the National Museum.

One of the many statues at the National Museum

Some old Roman coins in the National Museum. They literally had tons of coins from almost every era, they were amazing!

Inside the Pantheon. I missed seeing it on my last trip and so I was determined to see it this trip. I was not disappointed!

Down below the bridge in Trastevere. Trastevere is more the working class section of Rome. There are some great family-owned restaurants there and we had a few drinks in one of the bars. The little family restaurant we ate at was AMAZING. I've eaten a lot of Italian food in the last two years and this was probably the best I've ever eaten. It was so simple, yet so delicious. I had Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe (pasta with cheese and pepper) So, so good!

Afterwards we stopped to take some pictures from the bridge of St. Peter's Basillica dome and the Tiber River

The next day we decided to do the ancient sites of Rome. I do have copious amounts of pictures of the Coliseum, but my night pictures are much better. So I'm going to skip the day pics I took. Instead, I'm including a picture of the Arch of Constantine, which is located right next to the Coliseum.

Palantine Hill was our next stop, which is where the Emperor's are thought to have lived. Pictured above are the frescos in what is thought to have been Emperor Octavian Augustus' home.

Blooms on Palantine Hill

Looking at the Arch of Titus from inside the Roman Forum

Next up was the Vatican. Specifically the Basilica, as I'd already seen the Vatican Museum and Sean wasn't interested in touring it.

One of the guards. Love their outfits!

The infamous, Pieta.

At this time of day, with the sunlight coming in the basilica, it was just gorgeous!

On Valentine's Day, Sean and I took a night walk around Rome. The main purpose was to get night shots of some of the fountains and sights of Rome.

The Spanish Steps

The outside of the Pantheon at night. Complete with full moon.

The Fountain of Four Rivers. Probably my favorite fountain in Rome.

Day 3 was spent looking for the ancient aqueducts, which we finally found (with no help from Rick Steves)

We also walked part of the Appian Way and stopped in the Catacombs of San Sebastian. Unfortunately we couldn't take pictures in the catacombs, but they were incredibly cool. If you get a chance, take a tour of one of the catacombs in Rome.

This was a hand-carved wooden ceiling in the chapel over the catacombs. It was breathtaking.

That night I was determined to get a few night shots of the Coliseum. They turned out to be my favorite shots of Rome and perhaps the entire trip!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Question of the Day

What is the song that best describes you? It can be the title of the song or the actual lyrics.

I have a couple that I like.

1. Bill Withers "Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone"

2. The Allman Brothers Band "Sweet Melissa"

Friday, April 15, 2011

MilSpouse Friday Fill-In

Join in over at Wife of a Sailor!

1.With PCS moves happening every few years, do you take the time to paint and decorate your home?
 I haven't yet. Our landlord here wasn't too keen on painting and quite frankly the make-up of the walls here is craptastic so I haven't even tried. I'm excited to paint and decorate at our next place though!

2.If you could live in any home on a television series, what would it be?
Carrie Bradshaw's apartment on Sex and the City. I loved it, plus it was rent-controlled. What's not to like?

3.What inspired you to start your blog?
I wrote in a journal for most of my teen years and then had blogs on Xanga and MySpace. Once I married Sean I wanted a new blog for my new chapter in life.

4.What is the weirdest thing you’ve ever seen on base?
Besides the crazy get-ups that some wives/girlfriends wear? Probably the wild pigs that live on Fort Polk. Thank God I never ran into them out of my car. Those things are mean!

5.Which historical figure (politician, writer, artist, scientist, actor, etc…) would you like to have dinner with?Ansel Adams. I find his work spectacular and amazing. I'd love to talk to him about his inspiration for the photos and how he captured America in such an amazing way.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Fun With Photography: My Equipment

I get asked a lot what kind of camera I have and what equipment I use. First of all, let me just say that a great camera does not make for a great photographer. That being said, it is helpful to have a nicer camera and different lenses because you can do more with them.

My camera is a Canon Rebel XSI aka the Canon 450D

One of these days I hope to upgrade to a Canon 5D Mark II, but as it's a bit pricey, that's going to take awhile.

I have 4 lenses that I shoot with. Some I use more than others and there are different circumstances where I'll use one lens over another.

First lens is my kit lens, or the lens that came with my camera. It's a 18-55m. Nothing special, but for basic shots and some macro it works well.

Next is my 70-300mm zoom lens. It's also known as a telephoto. It's great for zooming in from far away at flowers, animals and some landscape details. This picture of Big Ben was taken with my telephoto.

Because the telephoto zooms out so far, it's pretty important to have a lens hood on it to prevent your pictures from being blown out or getting too much sun flare in your lens. I don't always shoot with mine on, but my pictures usually turn out better when I do.

Next is my 50mm f 1.8 lens. It's a prime lens, meaning it doesn't zoom in or out, it's a fixed lens so no movement. I use it a lot more than I use to. It's awesome for portraits, close-ups and even works well for some landscape shots. It also creates great bokeh. A lot of my 365 Project photos are taken with my 50mm lens.

Last, but not least is my 10-22mm lens. It's a wide-angle lens and in my opinion works best for landscapes or if you are in a room and are wanting to capture a large number of people or details in the room.

This photograph is an example of the wide angles capabilities.

Another piece of equipment I use is a tripod. I have a cheap Wal-Mart quality tripod right now, but it's on my list of things to upgrade. Tripods are great for night shots. with a tripod you aren't getting any camera shake and it truly can take your night shots to the next level. Almost all of my night shots that were taken on our last vacation were taken with a tripod.

Some people are fine with just taking pictures and not doing any sort of post-processing on them. Since I'm aiming to be a professional photographer and because I like the look of my pictures more after they are processed, I purchased a photo-editing program.

I own Adobe Photoshop Elements 8. With photo editing programs you have several choices. Rita over at the CoffeeShop Blog wrote a great post about the three most popular programs on her blog just a few weeks ago. Check it out here.

I will say though, if you're going to get a photo editing program, you really need to get a book that teaches you how to use it. It's not a program that you can just figure out for yourself right off the bat. I recommend Scott Kelby's book, The Photoshop Elements Book for Digital Photographers. I seriously call it my bible, because it's so amazing and very helpful when you're first starting out.

If you have any questions about my camera, lenses or photography, feel free to email me. I'll do my best to answer your question!

Monday, April 11, 2011

In Love With Lemons

Ever since I was a kid I've loved lemonade. Sometimes I'll suck on a half of lemon just because I think it's tasty. In fact, about a month ago I had a dream in which I was ridiculously thirsty for lemonade and all throughout the dream I thought about how I could get my hands on some lemonade. I also enjoyed some lemon gelato today at lunch, which of course is my favorite flavor of gelato. To say I'm obsessed with lemons/lemonade is putting it mildly.

I've found some recipes that involve lemonds/lemonade and with spring here and summer around the corner, I can't wait to try them!

First up, the Neelys Frozen Lemonade Pie

Champagne Lemonade

Emeril's Strawberry Lemonade

Anyone have any other lemon/lemonade recipes they'd like to share?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Sicily: Pics and Commentary

I'll be honest. Sicily was my least favorite part of the trip that Sean and I took. It started out promising.On the flight into Palermo, what I could see of the island was gorgeous.

Then we drove into Palermo and my mind was quickly changed. Previous to the trip I'd heard how crazy the traffice was in Palermo, but still I wasn't prepared for what it was actually like. Basically there are no rules, no lanes and anything goes. Italian drivers are pretty crazy anyway, here in Sicily they are insane. I'll give kudos to Sean though, because he didn't once lose his cool driving in the crazy traffic we encountered on the three days we stayed in Sicily.

Other than the driving, what I found most disappointing was the trash. I've never seen so much trash in my life. It was everywhere! Not only in the city, but in the countryside of Sicily. What could and should be a beautiful island is sadly marred by massive amounts of trash almost everywhere you look.

That aside there were good things about our visit to Sicily. We stayed in a nice Bed and Breakfast that I found on bedandbreakfast.comWe stayed with a young Sicilian couple and their little girl? boy? Honestly I couldn't tell. It was still a baby and didn't have any features or clothes that gave any clues to what gender it was. Anyway, our hostess prepared amazing breakfasts for us each morning with fresh coffee, juice, crepes with nutella and various pastries. So delish!

Our first full day in Sicily we decided to check out Mt. Etna. It took us about two hours to get there, since Mt. Etna was on the opposite side of the island, but I thought it was worth it.

On the way to Etna.

Driving up Etna was interesting. You could see smoke coming out the top of it and as we drove higher and higher the snow kept getting deeper. At one point I couldn't even look out the window of the car because we were above the clouds. Quite a freaky feeling.

As you can see the clouds are below us.

Me on the South Side of Etna. Note the smoke coming out the top and the fact people are skiing down the side of Etna. Yeah...not for me.

Sean thought it would be funny to throw snowballs at me

On this side of the island there were groves of orange trees everywhere. I finally convinced Sean to stop so I could take a picture of them.

This is the only picture I got of Etna that wasn't close-up. It's not the best or what I wanted to be my only far-away pic of Etna.

Back in Palermo, Sean and I decided to walk around the neighborhoods close to where we were staying. I didn't take my camera, as it was night and in that city I really didn't feel comfortable taking my camera out with me, but there were a couple of things I wish I'd gotten a picture of.

1. The giant swordfish that they had hanging up at the fish market
2. The rooster that was hanging outside the door of the Internet Cafe we checked our mail at. It was so random and so hilarious!

We also stopped in a pasticeria and bought a couple of delish goodies to snack on. My picks ended up tasting way better than Sean's. His had some sort of liquor in it that was overpowering.

The second full day we were in Sicily we opted to go on a trip to Agrigento to see the Greek temples that were built there. On the way we passed this Telecom phonebooth in the middle of nowhere, which made me think about the movie The American.

While we were in Agrigento the almond trees were blooming. It made for some very picturesque views among the temples.

This is the Temple of Concord, probably the best known out of the temples that are located in Agrigento.

This is the temple of Juno. Not as intact as the Temple of Concord, but still awesome to see.

Because we did road trips on the two full days we were there we missed out on seeing a couple of things I wanted to see in Palermo like the Capucin Crypt and Monreale, however we did drive over a ton of the island so I feel like I got to see a lot of what Sicily looks like. I'm just not sure I ever want to go back!