Friday, July 31, 2009

Canon Rebel: The Results

Well I think it went well, all things considered. All things being that I'm not a professional photographer. I didn't expect much of myself and the session and I was pleasantly surprised. That camera is magic. I absolutely hated to give it back this week.
After Sonora was born Jon and Lisa decided that instead of buying one fancy portrait session they would buy a fancy camera to take those portraits themselves (or have a friend do it). I think that is such a good idea. I'm totally doing that when we have kids. Or sooner. Like this Christmas (Zeb? You listening?)

This girl. This girl is pure sunshine.

Lisa is due August 28, but since she's got twin (girls) in there she really expects them any day. Sonora is so excited about her sisters.

Jon is perhaps my oldest friend. When I was an infant through toddler his family and mine lived together and Jon and I shared a room. We walked down the aisle first with each other (that was even a trivia question at his wedding - so funny!) as flower girl and ring boy for Aunt Amy and Uncle Tim's wedding. I tried to set him up with all my close friends. He reciprocated with his friends (neither worked). I was Jon's date to his Air Force Academy Graduation Ball. We were bridesmaid/bridesman in each other's weddings. And now, through a wonderful twist of fate and FBI bureaucracy, we live 20 minutes away from each other.

Jon went and married this incredible girl. She's a down to earth southern belle if there ever was one. The first time I met Lisa, when I flew out to be her bridesmaid, I didn't realize that if you're in the South it's a huge faux pas to not paint your toenails. Mine were all raggedy and gross and I thought she must think I'm an idiot. Turns out she couldn't care less about my toenails and now we're fast friends.

Together they produced the most freaking adorable and sweet little girl - a little girl who, at 2, is distraught when she sees anyone else crying, and who thinks ice cream makes the world go round, and who wants only her Uncle Beb to read books to her. She has my heart completely.

I don't even know if I can handle two more if they're half as wonderful as Sonora, and I'm pretty sure they will be.

Jon and Lisa have chosen, this time, to have a natural birth with a midwife, a decision that I've loved to hear them processing. Most midwives will not do multiple births, but Lisa found the one in Maryland who will and after a lot of thought and research she's determined that to be the healthiest option for her babies. I can hardly wait.

Back to the photos: I love what the camera allowed me to do. I was surprised, though, to see how all over the map my editing is. I use both Photoshop and GIMP, and actually I'm a bit more impressed with the free GIMP than the spendy Photoshop at this point. Though really both are so user friendly that it's just a matter of my consistency. My aesthetic mood seems to change day to day and I warm or cool photos, contrast or overexpose them accordingly.

I love love love editing photos, but I was extremely frustrated today as I opened photos in several different programs or viewers, or on different computers and found that the perfect white balance I'd achieved on my home computer looked completely sallow/yellow on my work computer or vice versa. I'm not quite sure how to resolve all that yet but I'll definitely be working on it.

At any rate, though, I'm still overwhelmed by the results - far from professional but so far above what I'm used to.

This family, in this narrow sliver of time, is something beautiful to watch and capture. But still, I can't wait for the next phase.

Friday, July 24, 2009

A Canon Rebel XTi

A few days ago my cousin handed me his Canon SLR camera with an array of lenses, gave me a crash course in how to take pictures in any mode other than 'Auto' and told me he'd be back this Sunday for a portrait session with his wife and daughter. I have never before used an SLR. I have heard the terms 'aperture' and 'shutter speed,' but I had no idea how they work together. My work is cut out for me. I wish all work were this fun. This camera is pure bliss. I have no idea what I'm doing and these pictures still look a hundred times better than what my little fully auto camera can produce. They're so good (to me) I'm not even tempted to tweak the tiniest thing in Photoshop yet, just marveling at their raw quality.

I've been picking Summer's brain with stupid questions like 'What shutter speed should I be trying for?' since those are all things I would get a feel for with time, but right now I don't have time. I need all of her expertise as quickly as she can email it to me, especially since these inanimate objects are nothing compared to the active toddler I'll be trying to capture in a few days.
Cantaloupe salsa for tomorrow's baby shower...doesn't that look like Bon Appetit?!!! I think I know what I'm requesting for Christmas.

Even the gross grout on my kitchen sink looks dreamy with this camera!

Or maybe in the camera love rush I've lost all perspective. Probably that.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Last Weekend

I seem to be perpetually a week behind lately. A few highlights from last weekend - Val, Z and I met the Julians at the halfway point between our homes - New York City.

The point of the trip was to snag tickets to Shakespeare In The Park. This year's show was a modern Twelfth Night starring Anne Hathaway with an original score by Hem. Tickets are free for this event but that means you have to line up early, we heard around 6 am to receive tickets at 1 pm. It was closing weekend so to play it safe we woke up at 3:45, were in line by 4:30 am and we still missed it by a long shot. Around 6:30 they told us that we didn't have a chance and to go home. The first people in line had brought air mattresses and started camping out at 8 the night before. We would have gladly camped out in Central Park and saved the price of the hostel, but we did not know that was legal. Next year that'll be our tactic.

(Central Park at sunrise)

We were very disappointed, but we quickly readjusted and started on a grand tour of the city.

Meatpacking District early in the morning.

A fountain in Greenwich Village

Subway on Broadway (we saw a huge rat!)


Chelsea Market before hours.

Ground Zero

The Flat Iron Building

Unfortunately all my pictures of Mel and Brian are blurry. But they were there too, trooper traveling companions. The Maryland group had never been to NYC before - shameful, really, considering how long we've lived here and how close it is. We found the city wonderfully easy to navigate and we have never, ever met more friendly people. Every single time we stopped to pull out a map at least one, maybe two people would stop and ask if they could help us find something. Every single time. We walked until our feet were so sore we wanted to cry, and we think we saw about half of Manhattan. So...only nine more trips and we'll know New York, right?

Monday, July 13, 2009

How To Get Shot By The Sartorialist

Returning last night from a weekend in NYC I found this clever flowchart by Refinery 29 absolutely hilarious and true. What does it take to get The Sartorialist to notice you? In my travel clothes and clunky walking sandals I knew I didn't stand a chance (or really any time for that matter), but I can't say it didn't cross my mind as we walked through Greenwich Village. (Click to enlarge)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Oil Cleanse Method

Skin care regimes, I've found, can be quite tyrannizing. From childhood through college I used to just wash with water and from time to time dab lotion on my face. About the time I decided to start shaving my legs (yes, after college) I figured I should start paying attention to my skin. It seemed like part of growing up. But really it was downhill from there (not the legs part - that was a good decision). Trying to find just the right combination of cleansing, toning, exfoliating, replenishing, and moisturizing lands you with a cabinet full of marginally satisfying products. Not only is this expensive, but it's confusing and complicated. And my skin never achieved the Cate Blanchett dewy flawlessness no matter what product I used.

A little over a month ago, on a morning when I was already researching making my own deodorant (more on that later) Melanie fortuitously emailed me a link to The Oil Cleanse Method. The premise intrigued me, I tried it that night, and I might, I'm not promising, but I might never go back to traditional skin care products.

The oil cleanse method is what it sounds like - you wash your face with oil. It's so counter intuitive, I know. I was terrified the first night I smeared oil on my face. But there are some basic principles behind it that make a lot of sense to me:
* Oil dissolves oil. Apparently that's something you're supposed to learn in science class? I don't know the why and how, but I remember when I was little and we would put that heavy white clown makeup all over our faces or stage makeup for shows we cleaned it off with mineral oil. That mineral oil dissolved the makeup and cleansed our skin somehow.
* Many people experiment with different oils but it seems that the most successful combination is some sort of drawing oil (googling 'drawing oil' always leads to Castor Oil) with a carrying oil (olive oil, coconut oil, grapeseed, jojoba etc.). Castor oil is a deep cleanser with slightly disinfectant and healing properties, and is actually a bit drying. It is supposed to draw dirt and clogged oil to the surface of the pore where you massage it out and away with your fingertips and a warm cloth. Whatever oil you pair it with will provide moisture and vitamins to your skin during that deep cleanse.
* So many of the vitamins and antioxidants they tell you are essential in a skin care product occur naturally in fruit and nut oils or juices/vinegars or herbs. I noticed as I searched Sephora for 'the perfect product' that I was drawn to adverts like 'A moisturizer with antioxidants derived from pomegranate juice' or a toner with 'Organic vinegar that will flake off dead skin cells.' In other words I was more willing to trust the product the more raw natural stuff it had in it. It dawned on me that I could eliminate the middle man (and maybe some harmful chemicals) by going right to that pure good vitamin packed stuff, the straight oils (and vinegars and herbs).
* The Oil Cleanse Method (in various forms) is recommended on many acne treatment sites as the best cure for regular and cystic acne (those white raised bumps beneath the skin that never erupt into a pimple - I realized I have that), for smoothing out age spots and uneven skin, and for gently cleansing sensitive, dry or aged skin. It truly is an all skin types system.
* It's cheap!!!!

My method:
I started with fifty/fifty Castor and olive oil. After about a week I noticed drying spots even after toning and moisturizing. I switched to one third Castor and two thirds olive oil with a few drops of tea tree oil (a disinfecting oil to help with those cystic acne bumps). That combination seems to work perfectly for me. I gently massage the oil around (on dry skin! If you wet your skin first it will repel the oil), press a hot wet cloth to my face for a little bit to open the pores to the oil, then gently wipe it off.
I happened, at the same time, to switch to using a mixture of unfiltered apple cider vinegar, green tea, and water as a toner. Many sites recommended that combination and I remembered that, as I mentioned above, what drew me to the pricey Origins toner I'd been using was their 'Made with Organic Vinegar' advert. I consider the toner a beneficial extra step because with it I feel confident that I remove any last traces of oil. Also, vinegar is supposedly very exfoliating and softening to the skin. Many people say that with the Oil Cleanse Method toner is unnecessary and that might be true. I'm just more comfortable using it.

My verdict: I'm not going to lie - my skin still doesn't look like Cate Blanchett's. But I've accepted that I have pores and it's OK if you can see them. I could be imagining it, but I think you can see them less now. I don't think I'm imagining that. At any rate my skin is incredibly soft. I never need to use an exfoliating scrub. My skin feels lightly moisturized right after I wash it, and it's no greasier twelve hours later - it feels balanced all day. It's easy, cheap, and I think it's working as well or better than anything else I've tried so I'm sticking to it for now.
A few more notes: I found my Castor oil at Rite Aid on the bottom shelf below the laxatives. Finding organic Castor oil would be preferable but if you just want to test it with cheap Castor oil check a drugstore.
It seems that everyone needs a different proportion of oils. It might not work the first time but hopefully with some adjustments anyone could find combination they like.
Some people recommend the OCM as a deep cleanse once a week, I do it every night but I don't do the long steam every night, just depends on what I have time for.
There are a lot of articles, forums and blog posts devoted to The Oil Cleanse Method. They explain it much better than I did. If you care so much about skin that you're still reading this post you should read other more informative posts as well.
I know at least two of the people reading this have also switched to The Oil Cleanse Method. I hope they share their thoughts as well.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Vacay - The Result

Home now. Eleven days held almost more vacation than we could handle and we're still sleeping ten hour nights in recovery. I know how much fun I had by the lack of pictures. Here are all six (only showing a fraction of the people we saw and things we did).

We hung out with tons of cousins on both sides. We love how our cousins remain some of our closest friends as we grow older - our lives, goals, and interests still seem to match and intersect.

We stopped in for a quick cocktail at the Hotel Lucia where we spent our wedding night so I had to take a picture in remembrance.

My brother in law Daniel just moved into a concrete dome in the Oregon hills, everyone appropriately calls it 'The Hobbit Hole'. He'd been telling us about his 'dome' but we had no idea how awesome it was until we saw it.

Living room with sleeping loft above and kitchen through the arch.

View from the living room - and above those windows is a rooftop porch. Head up there on a cool evening with a glass of Daniel's home-brewed Kolsch and watch the meadow views. It's absolutely perfect.

After the Eugene weekend we spent four days with Zeb's family at Black Butte Ranch. I got two pictures - tennis at twilight...

And wonderful Em reading to the freakin adorable kids.
The next weekend in Boise we said goodbye to the 'Little Wierenga's' who are moving to Illinois, we saw Joe and Lauryn get married, we stayed at my parents luxe new house, and we saw a bit of the better side of Boise. There's quite a bit more there than I remembered. It probably helps that I'm over 21 and have a driver's license.
It was wonderful and a whirlwind. We loved every minute but we're a bit glad that we're home again. I guess that's just about right.