Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Weeks 23-27/52

(Disclaimer: this post has lots of pictures, and is therefore very long.)

Oh, Project 52. You just never end. And you keep going even when I am too busy to care about you.

Oh well. Here is the first of a couple of catch ups, because I know you have all been waiting on tenterhooks for these pictures.

Week 23
Theme: Enchantment

Dear old, blue and white, turn-of-the-century building that we used to live by. You are derelict and uncared for, and you seem to have some nasty bug infestations, but you are beautiful, and I love you. And I wish that I could buy you since you just came on the market.
I love old, charming, grand houses, and I love daydreaming about getting a decrepit house like this one (which incidentally used to belong to George Taylor Jr) and gutting the whole thing (or Evan gutting the whole thing) and redoing it all in a mix of traditional and contemporary styles. And while I am dreaming,  I want a pony. Sigh. Maybe one day.

Others from week 23:

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Week 24
Theme: Make It Tasty

OK, I am actually really proud of this picture. I used my Lensbaby and the macro filter kit, and I rigged up a pseudo-studio with some books, some white paper, and the light from our kitchen window--the first time I have tried anything like that. It was also the first time that I have really attempted food photography. I love the macro filter kit, but using it is difficult since I don't have a tripod, and getting enough light in the camera that is handheld requires that I have the lowest F/stop possible (to enable the shutter speed to be fast... no motion blur), and therefore the smallest depth of field and the smallest focusing area. As you can see from the cereal pieces the area of focus that I was working with was about a centimetre. Getting enough light in was important because I a) didn't have an extra light source, and b) because I really wanted the cereal to be light and whimsical. Anyway, this is what I ended up with. That, and a couple of kids who thought the idea of stealing cereal pieces that I was trying to focus on was hilarious. 

Can I also just say that stacking minute Chex pieces is a lot more difficult than it might seem. The stacks always seemed to fall over just when I was about to take the picture. Grumble, grumble.

I think I am going to print this and put it up in Lena's room.

Others from week 24:

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Week 25
Theme: Craving

This theme was a theme that was appropriate for me that week. Summer means a lot of things, but it especially means good old English strawberries and cream. Or, as it was in our household, Eton Mess. Which is what I was craving right then and there. So this was heaven-sent... I could finally justify getting all the ingredients because the Project 52 people made me.

Eton Mess is divine. And easy. Here's the recipe:

Plain/vanilla meringues, lots of them. (Don't both making them unless you are a saint. Just buy them.)
Heavy cream, not from a can, lots of it.
Frozen or fresh mixed berries, lots of them.

(You will need lots of them because everyone will want to have multiple servings.)

Whip the cream. Crush the meringues. Add the meringues to the cream. Add the berries to the cream. Stir gently. Eat right away.

There is no set ratio for the ingredients by the way, just more or less equal parts is usually what I do. The meringues make everything sweet, so do not add sugar. Oh, and I wasn't kidding about eating right away. If you don't, the meringues go soggy and goopy. It still tastes wonderful, but you just don't get the meringue texture.

Anyway, I thought I would be clever and 'deconstruct' the Eton Mess for the pictures, but then I realized that it just looked like a plain old berry meringue, which it most certainly was not. So thats why there are the two pictures. Again.

Also, food photography is really hard.

Others from week 25:

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Week 26
Theme: Hidden Object

Not very creative here... just some mushrooms I found camped out under a tree trunk. Do I need to explain further? No, I think not.

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Week 27
Theme: Nature's Finest

Now, this is the kind of theme that I just hate, and mainly because it is embroiled in semantics. What exactly does "Nature's finest" mean? Because searching for Nature's absolute finest thing would take forever. And then it is totally debatable, because it is based on perception. So, we are back to square one. The theme really should have been "something that you think is really cool from nature", but that just doesn't sounds as spiffy. It really bugs me that I 'had to' title this "Nature's Finest", because I don't think it is Nature's finest. Do I like forget-me-nots? Yes. Was it kind of cool to come across patches of these flowers on our hike? Yes. Do I like the bokeh in this picture? Yes. But do I think it's Nature's finest? Um, no, not so much. But, the picture. I took it, and got over myself and submitted it. Actually,I prefer some of the others ones I took, now that I think on it.

Others from week 27:

And that's it for now. I promise the next post will not be nearly as long.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Aaaaaaaand... We're Back

Where to begin?

We made the big move from good ol' Utah to Arizona. (Have I mentioned I hate moving? Because, it pretty much blows.) Realizing how little we would have per month on a student budget when we got to AZ, we elected to buy a house. Huh? Yup. It is officially cheaper to buy than to rent in Phoenix (by a lot, thank you crazy housing market), so we took advantage of the economic downturn, and an old man with Alzheimer's, and signed our life away.

(As a major side note, there is nothing like stress to sap you of any desire to pick up a camera and be creative, let alone to document stuff. Sorry, Mum.)

We scored a moderate fixer... enough work that it was kind of a pain (also read "ugly"), but enough work that it feels like ours and we can continue to make it our own, and we got a good deal. There enough room for us, and a backyard. We also got into a nice quiet area with good neighbours, and a very good school district, and we are also easy biking distance from campus for Evan. Plus, we have loads of grocery stores nearby (including Whole Foods!), malls, Lowes, Home Depot, Ikea, Costco, pools, parks, Jimmy Johns, Chipotle, and practically everything we would ever need in about a 4 mile radius, which we are coming to find in Phoenix means really, really close. (The stars aligned.)

I will post later about the remodel, but for now here is a picture of the outside that we took when we first looked at the place in July. Word of warning: we did not pick the house colours. And we obviously have not done a thing to it since. One day we will repaint, but not anytime soon, that is for sure. We have to finish painting inside first, at least.

Wow, that tree looked so much greener than it is now. Hmm... we should probably do something about that before it falls on our roof.
Oh, and obviously, we will put in plants to brighten things up one day too.

I don't know if you noticed, but, yes, there is a barrel cactus planted in the middle of a stone circle, with boulders placed at the cardinal points in the front yard. I think, judging from the rest of the house, that was the old dude's attempt at decorating. But, Evan and I had a good laugh about pagan rituals, Wiccans, and sacrificial offerings when we first saw it.

Free to a good home: barrel cactus in good condition and four matching boulders.

So anyway, between closing and remodelling and packing we spent an awful lot of the last 2-3 months in our car driving between Utah, California, and Arizona. (CA was mainly so we could drop off kids with grandparents, while we did house things.)

Speaking of driving, I am sure I have griped to some of you, but we made a trip from CA to AZ and back in July in a truck with no airconditioning. You can't claim to be hardcore until you've sweated out that trip in 100+-heat-by-10-AM. We survived by getting bags of ice in Yuma, and holding on to them for dear life. On the way back we figured out that double bagging the ice in two trash bags prevented most, if not all of the ice-cold drenchings we were subjected to if we made a wrong move. I would have taken pictures to document, but you know, it was too hot to think.

We also celebrated out 5th anniversary. We went out with our kids to Pizzaria 712... we didn't want to leave them behind. My most favourite restaurant in the whole wide world. I have never had anything from there that was not astonishingly good. And, as a side note, I love that we can take our kids to that kind of restaurant and they will gladly eat whatever we are eating.

That is Ollie tucking his napkin into his shirt, which ended up being all the way in his shirt and then out the bottom.

See? They ate *our* food. (Brag, brag, brag.)

Then we took the kids to the moonlight ski-lift ride at Sundance. We have been wanting to do that ever since we first got to Utah, and just never found the time. But I am glad we made time for it. It was a great way to go out. And to prove that we were there we had this taken afterwards.

And then, of course, before we knew it, the summer was almost over, and our moving truck was picked up, and we had barely packed (even though I spent weeks carefully packing beforehand). Not to mention, it was time for us to go before we got to put even a scratch in our Utah Bucket List. (That is for another time, but most of it is some form of hiking or some form of eating. Probably best in that order, too.) Did I mention I hate packing? Did I also mention I hate packing a truck when we are supposed to be on a tight schedule, and we have to wait for 6 hours for the piano movers to get the bloody piano in the truck before we can do anything? We finally finished out about 12 hours after we had planned (although we had kind of planned that we would not run on schedule, so I guess it was planned), and I was so ready to get on the road and get the heck out that I didn't even take a picture of the truck. Sad day (*fake tear*). It was a thing of beauty, too: Evan masterfully packed it to the brim like Tetris. And we didn't even have any casualties on the other end.

I also hit a new milestone, which was travelling in the car with the kids by myself for a very long road trip. In fact, doing a whole road trip by myself was a first, too. Here are pictures of the kids, with Alena looking deceptively happy, on our way down that mesa right after Lake Powell, after the world's-worst-two-hour-nap... I'm actually not kidding.

Here Oliver is actually telling you what will happen to your body if you fall over the side of the railing... "...you will go down, down, and squish like this..."

Oh, and one of Evan, who got to drive the rental truck with the dog, whilst caravaning behind me. Lucky, lucky.

I conveniently did not get any pictures of myself.

And then after we finally (finally!) arrived (13 hours late) at our new home, and unpacked the truck in record time (an hour) so that the (2 hours early) piano movers could get to my dear musical instrument strapped at the absolute back of the vehicle, we spent a couple of days doing this:

And "this", of course, is sleeping, but more specifically, sleeping on mattresses on the floor with only the  most essential of mismatched bedsheets, while our bedframes lay propped against walls because it was too much darn work to put them together.

That's it for now. And if you made it this far you win the prize of me being the most impressed by your perseverance.

P.S. Evan started his Marriage Break-up Association a few weeks ago, and is doing well so far. And thanks to our ridiculous school + two jobs + me in school too schedule over the last year, I am coping with him being away from home for at least 12 hours a day much better than most other partners. Yay.