Saturday, January 31, 2009

January 2009 Round Up

Created using Big Huge Labs Mosaic Maker.
Click mosaic to bigify, or see my January 2009 Project 365 Posts.

What books and/or magazines did I read this month?
::Erin looks sheepishly down at her feet::

What movies and/or tv shows did I watch this month?
Nothing new, really. In other entertainment news, we actually decided *not* to watch the second season of Damages. The first several episodes of the first season were good, and then we just felt like it kept dragging on and on. Once I realized that I was sort of dreading watching the first episode of the second season (that had been sitting on our DVR for over 2 weeks), we just agreed to let it go. If we subsequently hear that it's that awesome, we can catch it on DVD. It's not like we're short on television shows to watch.

What special days did I celebrate and how?
MIL's birthday was early in the month. Other than cards, I'm really not sure what DH did for her! A t-shirt, I think. And we visited with my parents over MLK.

What gifts did I give and/or receive?
Was supposed to give a few, but they're not in the mail yet. (Sorry Charisse!) My parents also gave us a membership to Fernbank, along with a camera for Luke.

What illnesses or health concerns did I have?
Luke seemed to be running a low-grade fever Jan 30, but it was gone by morning. I had a little spell of just generic "not feeling well" earlier in the month, but nothing specific. Other than that, we were good this month!

What fun things did I do with my friends and/or family?
Went to Fernbank with my parents.

What new foods, recipes or restaurants did I try this month?
Well, I actually made Pizza Pasta Soup for the first time, instead of just consuming that made by others. Didn't turn out nearly as well as Mom's, and I'm not quite sure why. Used a different pizza sauce, which I think was some of it. I was also not impressed with the brand of italian sausage I used. And the pasta got mushy (should have undercooked it slightly, but I didn't think of it at the time). But other than that, it was fine! LOL

I also tried a new restaurant called Mo's Pizza and Sandwiches. It is near the office that is my "home office," and a group of us went out to eat after our training session at the office near the end of the month.

What special or unusual purchases did I make?
We joined Costco, thanks to a gift membership from my parents. Let me tell you, it takes stamina to get through that place, whew! We have to remember to go early in the morning, because Luke and I were just crashing after only half the store on our first visit. (Didn't help that I wasn't feeling well.) we also (finally) had Luke's 4 year portraits made.

What were this month's disappointments?
My grandmother is having back problems, and my father has to have knee surgery.

What were my accomplishments this month?
I will try to use this space to update my 101 Things progress each month, as well as anything else noteworthy (which, sadly, is rare). So, items completed:
* 35. List 101 things that make me happy.
* 58. Take Luke to the Fernbank Museum.

I am also participating in Project 365, where you take a photo every single day for a year. That's where the mosaic up at the top came from, created by Big Huge Labs Mosaic Maker, which I think I am now totally in love with! I know it says it is a Flickr tool, but you can use most any URL that goes straight to a JPG in there (that's what I did, inputting the URL from the folder where they are stored on my website).

I have also given up caloric drinks during the day. I can have one glass of milk during the day (usually in the morning, but not always), and that's it. No more Coke, no more sweet tea (ACK!!). Just water and milk. The main part of it is the calories, trying to lose a little weight, but I was also becoming more and more dependant on caffeine, which was affecting my sleep and causing heartburn. I had given it up for a few years, then it slowly crept back into my drinking habits. It actually wasn't as hard to stop as I thought it would be, though Golden Corral (the best sweet tea in Atlanta, IMO) and Mexican (I don't know if they serve Mexican Coke or what, but theirs is always great) just aren't quite the same.

What were Luke's accomplishments this month?

Also in conjunction with my 101 Things, I will be posting my weekly Luke photos in this section, both to keep me honest about whether or not I really did take a picture of him every week (item #52), and to fulfill the requirement to post at least one photo on each round up (item #92). I had not even considered doing Project 365 at the time I put either item on the list, nor had I considered posting the weekly photos to the round up (I was really doing it for more variety of photos for my annual CD calendar than anything!), but it does seem quite a natural fit.

In actual Luke news, he was having some behavior problems at school during the beginning of the month. I don't know what that was about (though I can hear my father whispering "testing boundaries" from 300 miles away), but it needs to stop! It's not serious per se; nothing physical, and nothing bad enough for them to call me at home (and I know they've done that to other kids), but still. To hear more days than not that he wasn't listening and/or was being defiant gets really old. It has seemed to be better for the last week or so.

Luke visited Fernbank Museum for the first time and seemed to really enjoy it. Our primary purpose for the visit was to see the two dinosaur sections of the exhibit, which he loved. We didn't think he was quite ready for an IMAX film yet, and we were short on time, so we'll hold off on that for a bit. There's always next time, especially considering that we are now contributing members and can visit whenever we like. Thanks Mom and Dad!

Also as mentioned above, Luke now has his first camera, and he is having an absolute ball! Here is a sample of some of his latest work (click to bigify):

Anything else noteworthy to record?
Whew! I think that's enough, don't you? LOL I feel like I'm forgetting something, but it has rolled over into February 1 as I was getting all this together (I'm going to backdate it so it shows up in the January archives), so I really need to go to bed. If it's that important, I'll remember and update.

Monthly Round Up courtesy of Katie the Scrapbook Lady.

Currently feeling: busy busy

Friday, January 30, 2009

Cool Nerd Queen

I know, another non-post. I'm sorry! Busy, but not really a lot to talk about, if that makes any sense.

Belinda scored way higher than I did, and I know I don't deserve to be in nearly the same nerdy class with her, but that's where it put me. I am honored to be in her category! LOL says I'm a Cool Nerd Queen. Click here to take the Nerd Test, get nerdy images and jokes, and talk to others on the nerd forum!

Currently feeling: royal

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

101 Things to Do in a Lifetime

Having a terrible week at work, and yes, it's only Tuesday. Last week, while not terrible, was just really busy. So when the going gets tough, the blog resorts to memes.

Instructions: Bold the items you have done. Italicize the ones you want to do.

1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band - it was marching band, but still
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea - watched one over the ocean from land, does that count?
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch - hardanger, not that I'm very good at it
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty - not sure this one should count, since you can't do it anymore
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Walked a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors - Assuming Arkansas and great-great-grandparents count
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant - more than once, actually
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person - I *will* do this
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie - Miracle on 34th Street remake; can't see us, though
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets, or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check - it was the bank's error, not mine
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone - just toes, but more than one, and more than once
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican - why would you visit The Vatican and not the Sistine Chapel (#49)?
82. Bought a brand new used car - not sure about this one; only bought 2 new cars, actually, never a used one so far
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous - guess it depends on your definition; I've met the lead singer of Rockapella at the airport more than once
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone - when was this thing written anyway?!
99. Been stung by a bee - well, been stung, but I think it was a wasp both times, not a bee
100. Read an entire book in one day - more than once
101. Seen a ghost

Currently feeling: like hiding

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Project 365

A few people have already been told about this, and for anyone who saw my mention of a "secret project" in Friday Confession a couple of weeks ago, this is it.

I have decided to attempt Project 365. Basically, you take a photo every single day for a year. Doesn't have to be a calendar year, just 365 (or 366) consecutive days. It is all the rage on the digital scrapping boards right now, but that's not why I decided to participate. I was inspired by two women who actually did it last year, Patti Blaine and Katie the Scrapbook Lady. Just looking at all of their photos all year long, I couldn't help but think "wow!" I hadn't actually considered doing it myself until Katie posted some tips for sticking with it. After reading them, I thought, "Hey, you know what, she's right. There is no Project 365 police, so if I miss a day (which was my biggest fear about beginning the project), it's not a big deal. Just keep going!" So what the heck, I decided to try it, but I didn't want to announce it until I had some proof that I was really keeping up with it.

Well, after 25 days, I have missed a day, but only one, and it has become almost natural for me to reach daily for a camera. It helps having two cameras, one I keep right next to my chair, and the other that I keep in "the basket" where the car keys and the cell phones and all of our other "giblets" are kept. The idea is that having it there will remind me to take it with me every time I leave the house. That isn't quite a habit like it should be yet, but I'm working on it. I can't say that all of my photos have been amazing. A couple are, maybe, and several are pretty good, but there are also a few that are (I'll admit) downright boring and uninspired, and not very good pictures to boot. But it has been a fun and interesting journey so far, and I can't wait to see where the year and the photos take me.

If you'd like to follow along with my Project 365 photos, here's the link: I will also be posting a summary mosaic of each month's photos in my monthly round-up. I don't necessarily download, resize, and upload the photos every single day, but I am snapping away every day, and more often than not I get a new one up daily. If anyone who reads my blog is participating or decides to participate, leave me a link in the comments. I'd love to watch your journey progress. Here's to a year in photos!

Currently feeling: what have I done?! LOL

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Luke Cam

One thing I didn't mention in my Fernbank recap was a small incident we had about the time we got to the 3rd floor of the museum. Luke got terribly frustrated that there were 4 cameras going at the museum (two of mine and two of Dad's), and he wasn't allowed to play with any of them. I had already been looking for the right camera for him to take to Disney in March (knowing that Mom and me each having a camera there and him not might cause this sort of problem), but his anguish over not being allowed to handle a camera that day increased the urgency. Dad and I agreed to look into it together that afternoon when we got home. In the meantime, we did briefly let Luke handle my smallest camera outside as we were leaving, and he really did quite well for a 4-year-old who's never held one before! See:

I was not holding the camera or helping him compose the shot or anything. That is all him! Once we got home, Dad and I got it all hashed out, and by Wednesday, this arrived: Canon PowerShot A470 in blue. I looked at all of the cameras designed for kids, but I really want the pictures that he takes to be usable and printable, and most of the ones I looked at didn't come close! The few that did only had like 800x600 resolution, took crummy photos, and cost $60+. For an extra $20, we could get him a reasonably good *real* camera. Yes, he may break it. That's why we didn't spend any more than we did! But it is designed to be a "stick it in your pocket" camera, so (I'm hoping) it has to be at least somewhat durable.

We waited until today to give it to him, so he would have plenty of time to play with it. Needless to say, he was *beyond* ecstatic! Only two questions remain: 1) How long will it last before it breaks? (He's been pretty gentle with it so far.) and 2) Will I ever again get a picture of him when he isn't holding his camera?! LOL (I'm guessing no.) Here are some shots of him playing with it:

And here are some of his photos with the new camera:

For his very first photo:

Okay, so he's not Annie Leibovitz. He's getting better, though, as this was his second photo:

At least there is something besides carpet. And then he decided to actually hold the camera up around eye level.

And *then,* he actually got one in focus!

Now it's time for a picture of something specific:

His current MegaBloks creation:

And like all artists eventually seem to do, his first self-portrait:

This is the first one where he took his time and seemed to be taking a deliberate picture. He stopped, held the camera still, moved it a little to change what was showing on the LCD, and then pressed the button. He's learning!

A picture of Daddy:

And turn-about is fair play. I was taking a cell picture to send to my parents (since my father bought the camera for him), and he decided to take a picture of me at the same time.

I'm sure you will be seeing more of his photos featured on the blog as soon as I am able to pry it out of his fingers. The only reason I have the ones above right now is because I forgot to change the card. I used the one that came with it to test it out and make sure it worked, but it is only 32MB, so it only held 15 photos. He was very distressed when it started beeping at him! LOL I was allowed to hold the camera long enough to swap cards (now has a 1GB; the 2GB cards I ordered were delayed for some reason), and that's about it.

I did set the "preview" (how long it stays on the screen after you take the photo) to last 4 seconds instead of 2, both so he would have longer to look at them right after they are taken, and to distract him a bit while allowing time for the camera to cycle and be ready for the next photo. It runs on 2 AA batteries, so it does take a little bit to cycle, though not as long as I thought it would (less time than my non-Elph PowerShot, that's for sure). He has also already learned how to switch back and forth from camera mode to photo review mode (something I was afraid might be difficult for him), and he does so frequently. We're definitely going to need more rechargeables! LOL (I'm kidding, I hope. I think we have 10 right now, which should be good enough for a while.)

I also used a different strap than the one it came with. My Elph, the oldest camera in the house I think, has a slide on the strap so I can cinch it up to my wrist and I don't have to worry about it falling off. Comes in a lot more handy than I would ever have guessed! But none of the newer Canons I have seen have them, including my non-Elph PowerShot. His came with just a plain strap, too, so I switched it for a Wii strap instead (you can order extras for $1 right from the Nintendo website). It has a locking slide, and it is something he is already accustomed to, since he plays the Wii. So far, it is working great! And so is the camera. He's already announced that he wants to take it to the museum and "picture" the dinosaur bones. Guess that Fernbank membership is going to get quite a workout!

Currently feeling: the birth of a shutterbug

Monday, January 19, 2009

Fernbank Museum

(I apologize in advance for all of the pictures! Some are mine and some are my father's.)

We are starting to introduce Luke to the wonders of museums. I have been a museum nut since I was a child, probably starting around his age, and I can only hope the same for him. As many of you know, one of the things on my 101 List was to take Luke to the Fernbank Museum. He's already been to Fernbank Science Center (it's free!), and it is the one I remember visiting when I was in Kindergarten or so. They even still have some of the same displays, though they are now in different places. I really miss their gem exhibit; I wonder what happened to it.

Anyway, the point being, I wanted to take Luke to the big museum to see the dinosaur bones and exhibit, I just wasn't sure when we would get around to it. As I mentioned in my previous post, Luke came home a couple of weeks ago telling us all about dinosaurs, which they were learning about in school. Now he was already somewhat familiar with dinosaurs from some books we have at home, but he was also talking about how you can see dinosaur bones at museums. They even did the cutest craft at school about dinosaur bones:

Deciding to take the cosmic hint that was being waved in my face, and definitely wanting to reinforce that things you learn about in school really are real and do relate to the real world, we made plans to visit Fernbank Museum. Upon learning that my parents would also be visiting last weekend, we invited them along. We even decided not to change plans, despite the fact that temps were only in the teens that morning. After doing the math at the ticket window, we became contributing members, so now we can go back all year! There are a couple of special exhibitions coming that I would really like to see, and they are free with membership.

Luke was appropriately awed when we walked in. You come in on the second level, literally about head high with a replica of the largest dinosaur skeleton ever found on earth. He waited on the second floor just long enough for me to take this picture:

And then he was ready to run down the spiral staircase, which lent itself beautifully to these two pictures, which I absolutely love:

Here are some other shots of the main atrium:

And we even ventured outside briefly (remember, temps below freezing, and Luke and I were not wearing coats inside) when I spotted the stegosaurus statue. Luke wasn't too sure about getting this close at first, but after I demonstrated that it was safe, he was okay.

Not much else to do down there when there is no special temporary exhibit on display and you're not going to see an IMAX film, so we headed back up to the second floor. (I love this shot; thanks Dad!)

While all of the exhibits are fairly interesting, we were mainly there for (what else) the dinosaurs. I knew there were some more hiding in the back of the Walk Through Time section on the second floor. Luke stopped here and there to look at some of the animals of the different regions on the way in. He particularly liked the birds, though he thought some of the bird sound effects were too loud. Then came the most awesome room ever!

And I do really want to mention this particular display. This is a giant sloth, or a model of what they think one looked like back when it roamed around Georgia. A near-complete skeleton was found in coastal Georgia in 1991. See:

But the really interesting thing? Those "divers" the sign mentions? I personally know the man who found it! He's a doctor by profession and does black water diving in the local rivers as a hobby. (He is also an avid windsurfer.) My mom has worked for him for years and years, and I think she was working for him at the time of the discovery (she would have been new then). The sign doesn't credit him specifically, so I would like to properly honor Dr. Rob Rittgers for his amazing find.

After that, it was up to the third and final floor. I caught the first shot when Luke wanted to look out on the dinos from way above. The third floor is mainly the kid's area. There is a small exhibit room at the top of the stairs, where I got this really cool shot of Luke's reflection by accident (using the DSLR that Dad let me play with a little).

There was also an interactive "hands on" area that is nearly as much fun for the grown-ups as the kids. Luke particularly enjoyed the bubbles, the triple color shadows, and the television weather map demos. And I didn't realize until we got up there that it looks out over the dinosaur area, so I got a great shot of Luke with is mostest favoritest dinosaur: the pterodactyl.

By this point, it was right at lunchtime, and Luke was starting to crash fast. Where better to eat when already practically downtown on Ponce? Zesto's! It's a family tradition dating back over 35 years, given that my parents used to go on dates there, and DH and I visited plenty of times for a quick dinner before the annual Fox Summer Film Fest (you know, back when we could attend those). So here we are, three generations, ready to enjoy burgers, dogs, tater tots, and the world's best soft serve at Zesto's. (Shame on me for forgetting my mini-tripod!) It was a truly great day!

Currently feeling: good to the bone