Friday, July 31, 2009

The First Fruits of My Labor

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Truthfully though, it wasn't much labor. It's true what they say about Iowa dirt! So these (however out of focus they may be) were the first three tomatoes picked from my garden. These were picked a little over a week ago. Since then we have picked what has averaged to about a tomato a day. All little cherry tomatoes, but oh man. There is nothing like warm tomatoes eaten fresh off the vine. Although Israel loves them as much as I do so I have to fight for them. I imagine pretty soon we will have more than enough for both us though. I am going to have a hundred tomatoes I think. I planted 3 plants and there are dozens of tomatoes on each plant. I need to learn how to can salsa and spaghetti sauce I think. I can't wait! I've also got a couple of cucumbers that look like they will be ready this week. No peppers or squash yet though. Although I saw lot's of peppers and squash at the Farmer's Market this week and they were pretty cheap - so that will be good enough if I don't get any. I can't imagine though.

Hugs & Kisses from Charmaine

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Happy Birthday Mommy!!

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Today is my mom's birthday. She's 22 years older than me. By the time she was my age she had 5 kids. But I digress. It is a tradition in my family that on our birthdays everyone gets to say something they like about the birthday person. Usually we are all gathered for dinner or family night, but seeing as I am exactly 1,600 miles away (I'm not kidding either EXACTLY 1,600), I won't get to participate in person. Even my sister who lives in San Diego will get to be there in AZ for the weekend. So, I thought I would share with you some fun memories I have of my "Mommy" growing up.

First. Mommy. My mother always insisted that we call her Mommy. It was fun during my junior high and high school years. Mostly during junior high - by high school pretty much everyone was used to us. But when I was 12 and 13 I would call home and ask for "Mother" or "Mom" and whoever would answer would ask, "Who?" and continue asking and not getting our mom until we used her correct name, "Mommy." I think you can all imagine what fun that was for a 13 year old. Now it's funny - really funny - back then, not so much.

My mom has a great sense of humor. Mostly she knows how to laugh at herself and at us naughty children. When I was about 14 I had surgery on my jaw and was out of school for a month and eventually taken out to be home schooled. I remember one morning laying on my parents' floor watching a morning show with them and saying, "Bite me." Instead of getting grounded or my mouth washed out with soap, my mom told me if I said it anymore she was going to put me out with the garbage and that the garbage man was going to come and pick me up and did I know what he was going to say?! To which I replied, "Yes, he's going to say, 'Hey Charmaine! What are you doing out here?' To which I would reply, 'My parents think I have a garbage mouth, but what the hell do they know?'" Luckily, my mom laughed. Hard.

She also had a pretty sick sense of humor. This one might embarrass her too much, but it's too good a story not to tell. It's another that involved my crude teenager language. We were walking around Wal-Mart (I cannot tell you how many hilarious or embarrassing stories start with that line), and I kept saying, "When monkeys fly outta my butt!" In that super pleasant and not sarcastic at all way that teenagers talk. My mom kept telling me to stop or it might actually happen. I think you all know where this is going. The next time I said it, she stopped and got real quiet and said, "Charmaine, do hear that? Do you hear that? It's the monkeys." And then farted. Loud. And blamed it on me. Touche, Mommy.

My mom is very pretty - and she has been aging way better than me. That picture up at the top, it was taken less than a year ago when Elijah was born. She could be his mother! Anyhow, I always looked mature for my age (decolletage will do that) and she always looked young. I can't tell you how many times I heard, "Are you sisters?" "You can't be her mother!" And any variation. But my favorite is, "Your mom is so pretty. You don't look a thing like her." I'm not kidding either. It's true though. I look more like my Aunt Patsy (who is also very pretty I might add and I don't mind looking like her at all), and her daughter Dawn, looks more like my mom. Ironically, Dawn and I are only a few a months apart. Yeah, Mommy has fewer gray hairs than me also. I got my dad's genes on that one - and ironically, my Aunt Patsy's too.

My mom has always encouraged my creativity - for this I will be eternally grateful. When I was 6 years old she helped me paint my first oil painting. She even helped me enter it in the State Fair. I got a blue ribbon. It was awesome.

My Mommy is the most talented, cleanest most organized, most supportive mom there is.

Happy Birthday Mommy!

Hugs & Kisses from Charmaine

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Was It Worth It: Farmhouse Vintage II

I totally planned on posting this on Sunday, like usual, but Elijah is getting 4 teeth! Needless to say it's been a hard week. Anyhow, Farmhouse Vintage was open again this weekend. I seriously love this place. So I called Deborah up and asked if she wanted to go with me. After Farmhouse Vintage, it was still pretty early so we headed up to Gilbert to check out JB Knacker, a store I have been meaning to check out and now is quite possibly my favorite store ever. In fact, Brenda is having a class for making soldered charms tonight. I am still hoping that the stars align and that I am able to make it up there, but I'm thinking it's going to be a no go. Next time!!
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Another quilt. This time red. I can't help it. Vintage quilts are like kryptonite to me. They sap all my power to say "NO!" I think I need to start sending them as gifts to people. Hmmm.... who has a birthday coming up?

And this pretty pretty mirror. I have three vanity mirrors now - a collection! So I am going to gather them on my guest bathroom counter. My brain has been thinking in collections lately: mirrors, vintage quils, vintage lace, typesetting pieces, vintage cameras, etc., etc.
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I also got these fun things. The cards and little story booklet will be scanned and used for collages and ATCs. I really loved the illustrations in the story. I might make some tags with them.
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And some more vintage hankies. I got a some white ones to give as gifts when friends get married. I thought that would be a sweet and thoughtful gift, and one that I could send in the mail easily. I think I'm going to keep that lace one in the front for myself though. It spoke to me.

Hugs & Kisses from Charmaine

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Where Bloggers Create

On Thursday, Karen of My Lovely Desert Cottage threw a party to show off the places where we create. Well, I'm two days late (three if you aren't up at 11:30 at night on Saturday). But I'm here!! I've seen some other blogger's creative spaces and I love them!

Where Bloggers Create

So, without further ado, I present a tiny bit of my creative space.
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Of course, all of the actual work occurs here at my computer and my desk. If I'm working at my desk, my computer ends up looking like this, although usually I keep my screen cleaner. And when I am working on my computer, the stacks get moved to my desk.
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I don't actually have a real desk though. It's a table that I painted brown to match my bedroom furniture when Randal's computer was in our bedroom (during those 3 months of medical school). If I had it my way, I would have one of those big wooden vintage monsters. I saw on at Goodwill a couple of months ago. I was seriously wanting it, but Randal won't let me anything big like that until I have a garage sale and get rid of stuff. That's probably a good idea. Anyhow, so without a desk with drawers, most stuff ends up in different bowls, jars, and tins all over my table. Like my paint brushes, vintage quills (which I found today while junking!), and vintage lace. The lace is in a really pretty milk glass urn.
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I've been using Happy Tape a lot lately. That stuff is so dang fun. I have little crowns and tiaras all over the place - all over my whole house really. And those are the inkwell for the quills. Yes, I actually use them. I've had a new one that I bought before I got married that I've used on many special letters and invitations.
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Another crown filled with tools - scissors, glue, pliers, a letter opener (vintage - belonged to my grandparents), tape, and exacto knife, and other odds and ends. A pretty ATC card on a silver fork easel a red glass compote and some buttons rings I need to list in Etsy shop make this shelf pretty - and make me smile. Oh and I love that vintage tin of water colors. I don't know what exactly I'm doing with it. But it's cute.
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The cubby holes under the shelf are filled with ink pads, colored aluminum bowls, pictures and other random stuff. And of course, my rubber cement. I use that all the time.
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If you noticed the green metal feet on the shelf in the two pictures of above - those hold up another sehlf which holds another crown bowl and this pretty glass jar filled with colorful ribbon. And behind that is the window sill which has glass jars filled with all sorts of stuff lined up on it.
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The big picture. It's a little overwhelming - even to me. But the truth is, although this is where the work happens, the creativity happens all over the place: in the garden, when Israel and I split a tomato fresh off the vine, or in my lovely guest room while I'm putting away my treasures, or late at night when I'm lying in bed almost asleep and dreaming begins, or when I'm sitting on my couch Skyping with my sister while she's creating. That's a whole lot more pictures though, and a whole other post too.

Hugs & Kisses from Charmaine

Monday, July 20, 2009

Here's an Idea of What Photoshop Can Do

I often get asked Photoshop questions - or how I learned to use Photoshop. While I did take a college class or two about it, one class used the Adobe Classroom in a Book for Photoshop as it's cirruculum, and the other was over ten years ago. Really and honestly, 90% of what I know how to do on Photoshop is something I've discovered on my own or that I've learned for free from blogs or online tutorials. It's seems that about once a week I discover something new that Photoshop can do (as I really don't know how to do all that much!). Seriously though, I love this program! So I thought I would give you an idea of what Photoshop can do for your pictures. Now I need to say this though - I use the full version of Photoshop, not Photoshop Elements. I know that there are a lot of things that Elements can do, but it does not have a Camera RAW editor (as far as I know), and the RAW editor is probably the coolest thing that I've discovered in the last little while. When using my SLR, I shoot exclusively in RAW format.

You'll recognize these pictures from the Photowalk, I got to thinking about them and decided that I needed to do something about the sky in a couple of them. It was really blown out and I knew that somehow Photoshop could help me. So I played around a little bit and discovered something new the RAW editor could do. This could also be a lesson about why to read the manual - I probably should have known this. Little side note, I did not use any brushes on these pictures.

Before Photoshop (SOOC=Straight Out Of Camera):
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You'll notice the picture is kind of dull - in that the colors and lines aren't as crisp as they could be. And the grass is too dark, but the sky is blown out. If your camera is equipped with it, you could shoot AEB to get an HDR image - which means that you set your camera on a tripod, push a few buttons and your camera takes 3-9 pictures (depending on the settings) all in different exposures. Then you use a program (like Photoshop) to combine the images into one image. That way, your sky shows up and the detail in the shadows shows up also. But then you've got to lug around a tripod with you. I prefer to shoot in RAW format and use my RAW editor.

After Photoshop:
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I used the RAW editor to bring up the lowlights and the blacks. This brought out details in the shadowed part and made my colors and lines crisper. Then I changed the exposure on the sky and the wall where the sun was shining, and the rest of the picture to get it more even and detailed. After all that, I opened it in the regular Photoshop and ran an action on it to give it some boost.

Next photo... This is the one that was really feeling unfinished. The sky was really so beautiful when I was shooting this - they clouds looked so cool and I wanted to see if any of that was still there.

Before Photoshop (SOOC):
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After Photoshop:
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This is the great thing about shooting RAW - I don't know how it does it; I could go look it up, but it doesn't really matter to me - all the information is there. Even though the sky looked like it had been totally overexposed, somehow, the file contained the information. I have no words to describe how wonderful this is.

Great photography blogs:
Pioneer Woman Photography
Momtog Blog
mcp actions

As for tutorials:
Google and YouTube are the only way to go here. Just search for what you want to do and add the words: "free photoshop tutorial" and you'll get tons of hits!

If you've got any other great resources out there for photography or Photoshop, please leave a comment and share!! And if you like the pictures pre-editing better, feel free to share that too.

Hugs & Kisses from Charmaine

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Worldwide Photowalk: Ames, IA

So this is what I got up this morning and did instead of garage sale-ing. I walked through a park, down Main Street, an alley and the street just north of Main Street here in Ames, IA as part of Scott Kelby's second annual worldwide photowalk. I loved it! I've been meaning to walk down Main Street and get some pictures and this was the perfect opportunity. I took around 500 pictures and narrowed it down to my top 21. You can find them here. The following are a small sampling of those 21. I don't know if this is my top 6 photos though. Anyhow, I need to choose one or two to submit for the contest. HELP ME!! I can't choose!
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It was a great morning to be walking outside. We've had freakishly cool weather - like in the 60's and 70's and although it was overcast when we started, after only about 30 minutes the sun started coming out and the cloud were really cool.
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This is down the alley behind Main Street. I love the brick. I think most of my favorite shots were from that Alley.
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I love the texture and color of this one. In the set on flickr there is another shot of this that I edited for black and white, also very cool, but then we miss that great rust color.
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There were a couple of buildings with ivy growing up the back - all were so interesting, but I especially liked this one for the rusty steps and the moss growing on the asphalt.
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I think of my top 21 pictures, 8 are of this fountain. What can I say? I was drawn by the oxidized colors and textures.
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Plus I just love the statue on top. It spoke to me.
Hugs & Kisses from Charmaine

Friday, July 17, 2009

Was It Worth It Find of the Year!

I'm posting this today because tomorrow (Saturday when I'm writing this) I'm doing the Ames Photowalk and therefor, will not be doing any bargain hunting and also because I am just too excited about my super find to wait until Sunday. But...

I'm going to make you wait for the super find. First I'll show you some of the other things I got.
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Like this big lot of vintage and antique lace, ric-rac (I have no idea how to spell that one), bias tape, embroidery floss, thread, and ribbon. I actually found this at my Main Street Antique Mall though. But it was a super find! All of this stuff was 40%-75% off. I got a ton of stuff for really cheap. The bag of bias tape will be sent to my sister Chantal though - cause she's the only person I know who actually knows how to use it. There are also some vintage patterns in there. I got those at an estate sale today. They aren't anything fun, but they were only 25 cents each, so I'll use them for collages and wrapping paper.
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Here's a close up of the thread - some super saturated beautiful colors - all on wooden spools! How fun!
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I got these at a different garage sale. It's a bag of these vintage price tags and a few milk bottle tops thrown in also. I'm pretty sure these tags are from Fareway - they look like the Fareway sheild kind of. Anyway, I'll use these for ATCs and collages and I'll send a few to my sister Jenny because she's gotten into ATCs also.
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And finally... the super find! This spectacular red skirt. It's vintage. I'm pretty sure it's actually a tutu. And it was only $2. While buying it I had the following conversation with another lady shopping:
Lady: "What are you going to do with it?"
Me: "Wear it!"
Lady: "Where?" (asked a little incredulously)
Me: "Everywhere."
(And pardon the blurry picture and fat fingers - Israel took the picture and I'm pretty sure he somehow turned my long beautiful fingers into these short stubby ones. And I swear my floor was spotless in all the pictures I took.)

Hugs & Kisses from Charmaine

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Another Was it Worth It Weekend

I think I may have overpaid for some of this weeks items, but I did talk the seller down to just two thirds of her asking price, but she was really really overpriced for a garage sale.
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Packs of cards - one is photographs of a Dutch town - all black and whites. The others are prints of what I think may have originally been watercolors of St. Augstine, Florida - "The oldest city in the United States."
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Antique printing press letters. I've been seeing a lot of these around. I've decided I'm going to start collecting them and put them in a big glass jar. I can't wait! (Feel free to send me any you have and don't want!)
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A vintage tin snail. I had Israel with me and he wanted a toy and this little guy was so cute, I couldn't resist. I told Israel that he was very very old and that he needed to be careful with him so he didnt' break. Israel came home and told Randal, "This is very very old, you need to be careful so it won't break." It was pretty cute. All of that was $20, talked down from $30. Overpriced for a garage sale, but I felt like it was still a pretty good deal.
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At another garage sale I found this antique book. I'm a sucker for an old book. The inside is full of poems and some neat pictures.
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I especially love the inside covers. It's a very pretty design.
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A vintage clutch and scarf. I really love the clutch - I used it tonight for a gathering of Randal's colleagues from school. And the scarf just says "The Pink Ladies" to me. The book and these two were a total of $5. This garage sale was much better priced.
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And finally this cocktail ring, which reminds me of my Grammy (my dad's mom) and my mom at the same time. Grammy because her wedding ring is similar to this. And her's has a sweet story: For years my Grammy wore a piece of costume jewelry like this one as her wedding ring - I don't think her's was quite as gaudy, but the overall design was the same. Anyhow, one day she couldn't find it and was very upset. A few days later my Grandaddy (her honey) gave her a ring to replace the one she lost - only that he had actually taken her ring to a jeweler and had it replicated in platinum and diamonds! It's a gorgeous ring and I really really love it. So when I saw this one, I had to have it!
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And it reminds me of my mom because it has little heart on either side of it and my mom loves hearts and looks for them everywhere. So at only a dollar it was a super find for me and my favorite piece of the weekend!

Hugs & Kisses from Charmaine

Thursday, July 09, 2009

I Love Days Like This

Yesterday I got most of my house all clean! Hooray for me! (I HATE cleaning!) So I'm sitting here in my living room looking out my windows (it's a beautiful view) and enjoying my clean room and my wonderful weather. It's overcast and windy and rainy and there's lightening and thunder. I love a storm! Just thought I'd share.

Hugs & Kisses from Charmaine

Monday, July 06, 2009

"Easy Mount Scrapbook"

I found this scrapbook at a garage sale. I was attracted by the magazine images and headlines. Then last week, I sat down with it and actually read through it - it's pretty funny. So enjoy...
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Hugs & Kisses from Charmaine