08 April 2014

The Tiny Footprints Project

I was recently accepted as a photographer for The Tiny Footprints Project.  

The Tiny Footprints Project is a group of photographers who are  matched with local families to offer their services free of charge to parents of premature babies living in the NICU. 

The photographers capture the newborns earliest moments and are a part of the families precious beginnings.

Please share this information with friends and family to help spread the word so that we can make sure all babies that stay in the NICU (premie or not) have a chance to get professional photos taken.  

See the flier below for information on how to request your TTFP session.  

06 March 2014

Grilled Chicken Marinade

In our attempts to recreate The Gyro House chicken for gyros at home (to save time and money of going there) we stumbled on our new go-to marinade for grilled chicken. It not only works for gyros, but for salads and wraps, and with many side dishes.  It's a combination of probably 6 or 7 different recipes I found online, some advice from a friend, and some trial and error but I think I have it to the point where I can share it.

Getting ready to make the marinade with the new measuring cups my mother-in-law bought me.  I normally just eyeball a LOT of my homemade recipes so I started with the low end measurement of what I thought I usually used and added up.  Good news is, I guessed the measurement right on most of the ingredients.  Score!

Grilled Chicken Marinade

3-4 Boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in half width-wise* (or butterfly them)
1/4 c. Olive oil
2 tbsp Lemon juice
1 tbsp Minced garlic (5-6 cloves)
1 tbsp Tahini
1 tbsp Red wine vinegar
1 tbsp Brown sugar
1/2 tsp Curry**
1/4 tsp Mustard powder
1/2 tsp Coarse ground pepper

Mix the marinade ingredients together well and then add chicken breasts making sure they're coated.

Place all of the ingredients in a plastic freezer bag and remove as much air as possible when closing the bag. Alternatively, leave all the ingredients in the bowl and then cover with plastic wrap, making sure that the plastic wrap touches the chicken.  Just pull off a piece of plastic a bit larger than you'd need and press it down on the chicken starting in the middle and working to the sides.  Tuck it into the side a bit.  You can cover the bowl with a second piece of plastic wrap if you'd like.  Having it touch the chicken removes the air and allows them to marinade better. (I've tested this so trust me.)

*Cut the chicken by placing your hand on top of the breast and carefully cutting the breast in half like you are going to butterfly them, but you just cut all the way through.  Hey look, YouTube link on how to butterfly a chicken breast.

**Even if you don't like curry, put the curry in.  Trust me.  You can cut the amount down, but DO NOT cut it by more than half (1/4 tsp curry).  Robert is not a fan of curry.  In fact, he has often proclaimed loudly how much he HATES it - but he keeps telling me to put more curry into the marinade. So really, trust me. I've tested this out too.

26 February 2014

Adam's story

Adam recently had to do a writing assignment for school.

And he let me read the story, and I liked it.  It's supposed to be a short story and he said he gave it a final ending, but I think maybe it could be expanded on if he wanted.

I told him that I liked it so much that I wanted to post it on the blog - and he let me.

Please comment or email me with feedback for him, especially if you like it.  It's like, 'yeah yeah mom likes it, she has to cause she's mom'. So if it came from someone else it might be more internalized.

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John sat up in bed, startled by the sudden howl-like sound that pierced the pounding of the rain. After a few seconds, the sound stopped and faded into the rhythmic patter of the rain. He lay back down, hoping that he would be able to get a few more hours of sleep tonight. It felt as though he was asleep for only few seconds when the sound came back, but closer.

“What is making that noise?” he said, getting out of bed. “Whatever it is, it has kept me from sleeping for weeks.” He got up and grabbed a flashlight on his way downstairs.  He went for the phone in the living room. He picked it up and dialed the animal control number.  He stood there, tapping his foot impatiently while waiting for somebody to pick up. He only got static.

“Storm must have knocked out the lines.” He checked his cell phone with the dim hope that he had at least one bar. “Blast, not even an emergency line,” he tossed his phone down to the table.

“Well, there’s nothing else to do but find what it is myself ," he said as he got dressed, grabbed a coat and a flashlight, and headed out the door. The night was dark without the moon overhead, and the rain was a constant companion as John walked around his house, shining the light under bushes and over hedges. He was behind his house when he heard it again, this time in a different direction than before. He followed the sound down the street until he came to the park, the swings drifting back and forth in the wind. The sound rang out again, clearer and closer, sounding more and more like the howl of a wolf.

John followed it to the edge of the playground part of the park, where the hiking trail began. He never went down them, not having time for it, but he knew that the paths were narrow and winding, and a person should be careful wandering them, especially at night. He shined his light down the nearest path, seeing nothing but tree trunks and rain. He jumped as an especially loud howl rang out, sounding as if it were calling out to others. He stood there, trying to decide if he should find out more about the sound, or if he should go back to the warm, dry bed that was calling him. In the end, he decided to go down the path for a little bit. “It’s not like the paths split or are overgrown or anything,” he said, trying to reason with himself.

He walked for a while, glad for the cover the trees provided from the cold wind and rain. The light went back and forth along the path, finding the fallen leaves and broken branches and chasing the shadows away, only for them to dart back when it moved on. He followed the path for five minutes, then ten, then fifteen, with the only change being less rain falling through the canopy above and new trees to make shadows to scare him. He kept seeing shadows, that seemed to be following him, taunting him by just being beyond sight, but when he shone his light towards them, they always darted away, seeming to laugh at his attempts to see them. After a while, he forgot them as he continued further into the depths of the forest.

Minutes later, he came to a crossroads between two paths. As he stood there, trying to decide whether or not he should go back or keep going forward, the sound came out of the shadows of one of the paths, loud enough to be feet away. John nearly dropped the light with fright as he turned and ran down the other path, deeper into the forest. He ran and ran; hoping whatever made the noise wasn't behind him. He kept thinking that he could feel the hot breath of some monster breathing down his neck or at his heels, and the claws or fangs were but inches from his throat. Fear fueled by his imagination propelled him to the fastest he has probably ever run. He ran with the branches whipping out of the darkness, roots reaching up to trip him. He stumbled into a clearing, falling face first into the tall grass. He quickly turned on his back and threw his hands up to stop the thing from getting directly to his throat or face. The only sound in the clearing was the wind moving grass and leaves, and the harsh sound of his breathing. He sat up, putting his arms down, and looked around the clearing. There were several paths going into and out of the clearing, and there was trash around as well, probably the remains of high school parties. He stood up, and looked for his flashlight. He found it with the light flickering, the battery almost dead from the nights' adventures. He grabbed and tapped it against his hand to try to get it to stop flickering. It did, but only for a bit.

He walked over to the other side of the clearing, putting as much distance as possible between him and whatever made that noise. At the far end, he found a few more paths, with one set a little further back than the others, almost hidden by the bushes that ringed the clearing. The entrance was marked by an arch, weather beaten, covered in ivy and nearly broken. He moved closer, inspecting the arch, and was surprised to find that there was letters carved into it, faded by time, much of it incomprehensible, but enough was there to be read. His sputtering light focused on the only part that could still be seen, and as he pulled away ivy, he saw the words “…mors expectet omnibus vobis …” John didn't know what language it was in, but he figured it wasn't a “hello, how are you?” sort of message.  A threat from a many year old piece of rock was preferable to whatever was back there, so he continued, passing through the arch and continuing on his escape from the thing. He didn't run, all that would accomplish would be him on his face again, but he didn't walk either. He wanted to get as much distance as possible from that thing. As he moved down the path, the flashlight flickered more and more and got dimmer and dimmer. He was worried that he might be left alone in the dark with whatever there was on the path.

The path was much more twisting and narrower than the other one, as if it was forgotten. The branches of trees and bushes kept leaning out of the shadows to hit him in the face. He kept moving, fear overriding his exhaustion, forcing him to keep going and get as much distance as he could from the thing. The flickering shadows thrown in front of him by his dying flashlight made him jump, looking like a hand, or claw, was reaching out to trip him.

After an hour of jumping at shadows and looking over his shoulder, John reached an end to the path. It was another clearing; it was near the oldest part of the forest, the trees much taller and much thicker than the others. The clearing was similar to the one before, but much smaller. The storm, getting stronger, whipped the tall grass and tree branches back and forth, and was tossing rain nearly horizontal through the air, blurring the trees and leaves. On the far side of the clearing, there was an outcrop of stone, as tall as some of the nearby trees.

He moved towards the center, trying to see if it was possible to climb the stone to get a view of the area. Hopefully, he would be close enough to the edge of the forest to find a way out. But as he reached the center, he heard a growling noise behind him. Not even turning to see what it was, he bolted for the rock, hoping that whatever the thing was, it couldn't climb. But as he reached up for a handhold, there was more growling, this time, to his left and right. The thought that there was more sent a burst of adrenaline through his system, and he climbed like an experienced mountaineer. He stopped on a ledge about twenty feet up. He sat down, trying to catch his breath, and with the last of the flashlights feeble rays, he saw what was chasing him all through the night.

They were wolves, but not the normal kind. These things were easily twice the size of a normal wolf. If he were to stand next to one, its shoulder would probably come up to his elbow. Their fur was a dark grey, almost black. Even as high up as he was, he could see the fangs, each longer than his finger, each eager to rip into his flesh. They were crowding at the bottom of the rock, staring straight at him, growling and baring their fangs. Then one howled. It was the same sound he had been hearing for the past few weeks. The howl was loud enough to be heard easily over the sound of the rising storm. The other two joined in, creating a sound that would be beautiful if it wasn't coming from beasts that are trying to eat him. Then, in the distance, there was an answering call. It didn't sound like the others did, they sounded sad and lonely. This one sounded excited, like it knew there was fresh meat nearby.

Then the wolves below him started to jump, each leaping ten feet into the air. They started hopping up ledges, getting closer and closer. John immediately turned and continued his climb up the rock, going higher and higher to escape the wolves below, getting closer and closer. Nearly half way up, he came to another ledge; this one was much larger and seemed to go all the way around the rock. He thought he saw a cave in the side of a steep part of the outcrop, but the wind and rained blurred everything until he could only see what was in front of him. He continued up, going and going until he could go no further. There was only a little bit left above him, not even climbable.

John then turned, hoping that the wolves couldn't climb this high. There were more wolves on the second ledge, many more than there were at the bottom, and he could see more coming. They leapt and leapt, but they could not get a grip on the rain slicked rock and there was no ledges close enough. So they just gathered and gathered, until there was probably thirty of them, waiting, jumping, howling. The flashlight then died, and left him in the dark, with nothing but the wind, rain, and the sound of a pack of blood-thirsty wolves below him.

He sat there for hours, terrified that one wolf would have found a way up and would be sneaking out of the darkness, about to leap at him and throw him into the pack below. The storm continued to rage on, sending more wind and rain. At what must have been the hour just before dawn, he heard a voice right beside him.

“What are you doing here?” it came out through the sound of the wind. “Why are you here?”

“I d-don’t know”

“Do you realize what you have done?” it hissed out, sounding annoyed, but not scared.

“How d-did you g-get up here without those things knowing about it?”

“They know”

John started to back away, “W-what do you mean ‘They know’?” He realized that as soon as the voice started to speak, the wolves didn't howl, growl or bark. They stopped jumping, and seemed to be just sitting there, watching, and waiting. Even the wind seemed to get quieter. “Who are you?”

A grin seemed to loom out of the darkness, bringing with it a man. He was tall and skinny, with hair that grew past his shoulders, but no beard. He wore rags; all in black, making it seem as if his head was floating in the darkness. The smile had no warmth to it, it was the smile a hunter would give to prey it had spent a while hunting. It was the smile of a wolf.

The man came towards John, picking him up as if he weighed nothing. “My name is Lupus, and my children are hungry,” and he threw John off the ledge and towards the base of the rock. The pack gathered there, some leaping up to get the first bite. As he landed, the pack descended.

25 February 2014

Themed photoshoots

This year I want to do quite a few themed photoshoots.  I've got at least 4 ideas rolling around in my head.

After admiring some hoarfrost we had a few weeks ago I started thinking about an ice princess shoot with Carus and started planning that out - making the costume and figuring out hair and makeup. Our final costume fitting on Friday night changed it from just Ice Princess to Ice Fairy Princess as the fabric I got for a cape worked better as light wings.

The next day, Carus and I got up early, did her hair and makeup and went out in the cold for a few pictures at sunrise.  She was a very good sport as it was Saturday morning and about 27 degrees.  Even though we took a few huddle-under-a-blanket breaks, she did get a bit chilled.  The whole shoot only lasted about 30 minutes.

Good day for a photoshoot. The weather isn't doing what I want it to do but I'll work with it.

All the tools to get ready laid out on the table.  I was thinking the weather wasn't doing what I wanted it too - I was hoping for a hoarfrost - but the amount of frost wasn't bad after all and it was bright and sunny so that was great.

Ice Fairy Princess

It didn't work out exactly like I had in my head, but honestly it never does.  Perhaps that's how it is supposed to go.  You get an idea, think you have it figured out how it all will turn out, but the final results are always beautifully, and maybe a bit surprisingly, different.

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The dress is mine.  I wore it to a dance in 8th or 9th grade. I got it from Gramma, and the little matching cape that goes with it was adjusted and tied around Carus's waist to give the skirt more oomph.


Carus didn't like the (faux) fur muff I made but when it came down to it she didn't want to take her hands out of it.


I made the crown myself using hot glue to shape the points and the band they are attached to.  I then painted it and put on a little glitter.


26 January 2014

The Great Mouse Saga, Part 3 -- The End of the Story (Hopefully)

Read Part 1 and Part 2.

We ended last time with The Great Mouse chase through the house and thought we might be lucky enough to have only been dealing with the one mouse.  We still couldn't figure out how he got in the house, but we had some ideas.  Maybe Simba brought him in and he got away and went into the heater vent to escape.  That would explain the scratching and the poo in one of those vents.  And he came up from the vent under my desk because the heater was on that morning and it got too hot for him.

Yeah.  That's it.  It's a theory and if you have one better, let's hear it.

There were no more mice as there were no more evidence of mice.

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A few days later there was scratching and squeaking coming from the corner of the office/craft room and Leia was loosing her shit over it.  I thought another mouse got into the house and this time got himself behind all the totes full of fabric I have in the corner.  So I moved them all out. All 6 of them - most of which are a bit heavy.  I grabbed a flashlight to look behind the craft shelves and was able to finally determine that the squeaking and scratching was coming from inside the wall.  



Have you met my dog chicken, Leia?  That dog freaks out over crumbled paper and electrical cords - can you imagine her reaction to the scratching and squeaking in the wall?! Great. Now, take what you are imagining and multiple it by at least two more levels of her freaking the frick out. 

She would slowly stalk up to the wall, low growling with her hackles raised and tensed for immediate flight if The Noise fought back when an extra loud scratch or squeak would come and she'd bark like mad while running to hide behind me with her tail between her legs.

The poor, poor silly thing. 

Those squeaks were LOUD! Like maybe the mouse was stuck or hurt, or drunk and calling all his friends over for a party. I don't know.  All I know is I couldn't get the dog to stop barking at the wall and the Goddamn cats were nowhere to be found.  Lazy Bastards.

I eventually found Timmy and woke his majesty from his slumber to put him on guard patrol just in case I was wrong and the mouse was in the house.  He sniffed at the wall and batted at it a few times so I took that as confirmation of the mouse in the wall.

On the other side of the "mouse wall" is the kitchen and the dishwasher.  Robert pulled the dishwasher out in case the mouse was behind that instead of in the wall.  It wasn't. Good news, aside from a rather small amount of dust and dog hair considering what I was expecting to be behind the dishwasher, it was relatively clean back there and I vacuumed what was there out so...positive.
Deciding there was no more procrastination to be had, Robert finally went under the house. He didn't want to (and I don't blame him) and was avoiding it.  He didn't see the mouse, nor mouse poos under the house and the squeaking soon stopped.  Maybe the mouse got unstuck or moved on or died in the wall.  We don't have a stink coming in so I'm going with the belief it went away.

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Leia likes to follow us into the garage.  In the spring and summer we go out that way to get tools for working in the yard and working in the yard leads to playing with Leia.  In the winter, she runs around the garage while we get what we need from the freezer or pantry shelves and then bounces back up the stairs into the house all happy she got to do something and was helpful to us.

She followed me out to the garage one day and instead of bouncing around she went straight for the pantry shelves and started sniffing around.  I moved a pet food bag on the bottom shelf (which is about 3/4-inch from the floor) and swore I heard a squeak.  I took her inside, grabbed Robert, a flashlight and Simba (for mouse retrieval) and went after the mouse I thought was there.

We found mouse poos and found a hole in the bottom of the cat food bag - but no mouse.  Simba didn't spend much time sniffing around so we figured the mouse got away or was long gone.  We opened the food bag, determined it wasn't contaminated and sealed it up - the pet food now goes on the top pantry shelf.  We did find an area behind the furnace that is a small hole that could lead to the crawl space under the house and that could be an entry point for a mouse, so we went and got a few mouse traps and set them around the garage.

The mouse traps are still out there, unused and untriggered in the slightest - just waiting for any mice to return.

It's been a bit over a month now since our last mouse-related incident, and so hopefully it truly is the end of the story. . .

19 January 2014

The Great Mouse Saga, Part 2

Read Part 1.

We left off with Robert deciding to take a look under the house for mouse entry points into the house and/or heater vent system.

But before he could get around to it, Simba had a little adventure.
I was working away one morning, tapping along on the keyboard. Simba kept annoying me by trying to get behind my desk and sort of in a corner next to the desk.  I thought he brought a snake in the house again (though it was late in the year for snakes) so I went to do a catch and release.

It was a mouse.

I squeaked as it ran at me.  I was not afraid of the mouse; it startled me. And the kids came running to see what the commotion was about.  My squeaking over a mouse amused them.

Simba grabbed it and started to wander off down the hall.  Adam and I tried to get Simba outside with his prize because I didn't want a half-eaten mouse hidden somewhere in the house for me to play "find the stink" with.  He then dropped the mouse on his way outside and Leia dove after it as it ran under the bench in the entry way.  The mouse ran away from her and was quickly caught by Simba and almost as quickly dropped again.  Mousie then ran under the couch.  I lifted the couch and the cat caught it again and ran to the kitchen and dropped it by the pet food dishes.  The mouse stopped moving so the cat lost the last bit of interest he had and was starting to walk away. I thought the mouse was dead and I grabbed a paper towel (to minimize germs) and I went to pick the mouse up to toss.

It was not dead and moved when I touched it.  I squeaked again.  Again, from surprise.  But again, this amused my children to no end.

Mouse jumped into Yoda's food bowl and held still.  I took bowl, mouse, and cat outside and released the mouse on the porch for Simba to finally finish his meal game in peace.

Simba wandered off . . .

I thought - whatever, the damn thing is outside and I have to go back to work and left it at that.  

Robert then finally emerges from his room.  After I explained what the kids were trying to tell him all at once - with the main point of their story being "and mom squeaked!" - he checked the porch and found Simba with his paw in one of my outside shoes (that were left on the porch covered in mud from the barn) and in the toe of that shoe - the mouse.  

He humanely took care of that mouse who probably would have passed anyways being he had ran all over and been in a cat's mouth at least 4 times that morning.

To be continued . . . . 

15 January 2014

More Hummingbird Photos

Just because they're cute and I'm pretty happy with them.  Especially this poofy little guy.

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