Ready for winter!

Hi Everyone,

Jan. 7, 2012 — If you’ve dropped by recently, you probably noticed that I took a break. I did some appropriate celebrating, visited family, toasted 2012, and all that. Now, I’m back and intend to keep rolling here through the coming year.  Before I look ahead, I need to revisit a topic I posted about last month — the doggie jackets.

We love our new coats!

I sewed these little coats for my brother’s pups for Christmas. That’s Hugo on the left and Coco in the pink jacket. I know I risk sounding like a little old lady who dotes on her pets, but the doggie jacket project was hard to resist. I think I hit the right note on cuteness here. Besides, I love dogs but don’t have any of my own. The good thing is that the little quilted flannel jackets fit. When it turns cold here in the mid-Atlantic, as it most certainly will, they’ll be warm on their walks. Today, all anyone needed was a light jacket. It was over 60.

While, I was sewing for David’s dogs, he was busy creating a unique gift for me and other members of our family. He calls it a food porn calendar. He and his partner took a trip to Paris last fall to celebrate a milestone birthday. They must have stopped in every pastry shop and cafe they found, taking pictures of everything they ate. The January photos are of a pastry shop window full of fruit tarts and chocolate cakes. He really did a good job with the calendar and found a unique way to share memories of his trip with the family.

More to tell, but I’ll save some new projects for future posts. Next one will be on our soon-to-open camera club exhibit.

Wishing you all a happy, healthy, and creative 2012!



Top 10 Reasons to Join a Camera Club

A long time ago, a teacher told me that if I wanted to get better at tennis, I’d have to play with people who are better than me. Substitute just about any other sport, hobby, or craft for tennis, and this advice holds true. I’ve been playing around with photography since college. For years, I felt my skill level was sufficient for what I wanted to do. I love shooting. You can lose yourself in looking through the lens, becoming singly focused on composing a scene, finding a unique perspective. It’s a way to find beauty in the world and to take a deep drink of it. I used to shoot and just save my favorite photos in a box. Gradually, I discovered ways to share my best pictures — creating cards, calendars, and framed prints. I give them as gifts or donate them for fund-raising auctions. More recently, I decided that it’s time to get serious about upping my game. I want to discover how good a photographer I can become. Just playing around isn’t enough anymore. So, about three years ago, I started playing with people who are better than me. How does an aspiring photographer find such people? Join a local camera club! I belong to the Gaithersburg Camera Club, one of hundreds of local clubs under the umbrella of the Photographic Society of America.

If you want to shoot better pictures, I highly recommend joining a local camera club. Here are my top 10 reasons why:

1. The people. Photography can tend to be a solo activity, but a club will connect you with other people who like to tramp around with camera gear in search of great images. And they’ll know where the best local photo ops are.

2. Goals. Whether it’s earning points in a competition or learning how to shoot a different style — still life, portrait, action, or macro — you can choose goals and get support and advice from other club members on how to accomplish them.

3. Speakers. Each month, we invite experts, usually a local professional photographer and sometimes an advanced club member, to talk on his or her area of specialization. Attending these talks is a great way to learn. I find they often spark ideas for things I’d like to try.

4. Competitions. We also have a competition every month. Some have a theme (long exposure, emotion, shadows, for example), and some are open to any photo you’ve taken in the past 12 months. A judge from outside our club gives a mini-critique of each photo entered and awards 1st, 2nd, 3rd or honorable mention to the best. These are also great learning experiences — not just for how to improve your work, but to see the different criteria that judges apply. Photography is subjective after all. Don’t fret if your photo does not place. Just take what you’ve learned and keep trying. I’m still trying to get a 1st place in one of our competitions.

5. Tech Talk. Digital technology has completely reshaped photography over the past decade. It’s pretty hard to keep up with all the advances, but a camera club gives you a place to share what you collectively know about new gear. We have a library of books and instructional DVDs that members can check out. We get camera club member discounts from a couple of vendors too.

6. Tutorials. Some of our advanced members occasionally lead a tutorial on a new software package or how to use lighting. Another avenue to learn and practice.

7. Field trips. Not only are these great fun, they’re a great way to learn from other camera club members shooting alongside you. You can mull over exposure settings and composition. It’s also instructive to see how different people select subjects to focus on.

8. Information on local events. Most camera clubs maintain a calendar of local photography events and classes. You can find a wealth of information on their websites and in their newsletters.

9. Participate in an exhibit. Many clubs put on an exhibit or two every year in a local community center, museum or arts center. Get an idea about how these work by submitting an entry to be included in an exhibit. You’ll get to attend an opening reception, and you might sell a photograph! Sometimes two or three members in my club will put on an exhibit together where they each can show a dozen photos.

10. Inspiration. Our advanced club members do some amazing work. Just look at our Flickr site. Seeing all the talent in my club, inspires me to stretch my photographic skills and to keep seeing the beauty around me.

I am not yet as good at the art of photography as I hope to become, but I have learned a lot about photography and have made some good new friends.

Happy Shooting,


I’m a rebel

Yup, instead of shopping for Christmas gifts, looks like I’m making most of mine! I didn’t plan it this way, but something must be stoking my desire to make things. Since my brother’s dogs don’t follow my blog, it’s safe to write about their Christmas gifts here. Hugo and Coco are chihuahuas. Adorable, aren’t they?

They weigh about 5 and 3 pounds, respectively, and need coats when they go out on winter walks. On a recent visit to the fabric store (just to look for material for curtains), I happened to find a pattern for doggie coats. Does that ever happen to you? You set out on one mission, and suddenly another idea taps you on the shoulder? Over here! Look at these cute doggie jacket patterns, the other idea beckons. So, I left the fabric store with fabric for an apron and patterns for the apron, curtains (I didn’t forget my original idea), doggie jackets, and a sewing machine cover. The apron is finished. So is my sewing machine cover. And now so is one of the dog jackets.

The wide part closes around the dog’s torso and fastens with velcro. The curved straps go between the dog’s neck and front legs and also fasten with velcro. There’s a little ring on the back you can hook a leash to. Made it with flannel — two pieces with fleece quilted between them. This tan jacket is for Hugo. I have some pink flannel for Coco’s jacket. Planning to get started on that pretty soon. The holidays do tend to impose deadlines on these creative gift projects. I have completed the Christmas cards I posted about week before last.

What’s next? Some photo projects, I think. A young woman at work asked if I would donate a photo for her group’s holiday party raffle. It’s an environmental group, so she was interested in a nature photo. I matted this one for her.

Naturally, that project sparked more ideas about incorporating photos into gifts. It sure is a busy time of year, but if we’re going to immerse ourselves in the gift frenzy, might as well give gifts we enjoy making!

Here’s hoping you can enjoy making some gifts!

Christmas cards

I’m sitting here at my computer in my kitchen with a cup of coffee feeding 7 x 10 scored card stock paper through my printer. I’m making my own Christmas cards this year. I’ve got to admit that I have a problem with Christmas, not the holiday itself as much as the commercial frenzy we’ve made of it. The Black Friday hysteria. The expectation that we need to spend lots of money on the perfect gifts.  The stores decorated since Halloween. I do what I can to ignore all that. I tune out commercial TV and radio and all the ads. Pandora internet radio and streaming shows on Netflix are great commercial free alternatives. I shop online and avoid the shopping mall circus, but I do that year round anyway. Sorry,  I’m getting off topic.

Sending (and receiving) cards is one of the best things about Christmas. Who doesn’t love getting a card? They’re sweet “I’m thinking about you” messages. They bring some peace into the season. They make a great holiday display too, arrayed on a table or taped onto a banister.

Last December I went on a field trip with my camera club to Antietam National Battlefield to shoot the annual luminary lighting. Volunteers place 26,000 luminaries on the battlefield, one for each fallen or wounded soldier in the bloodiest single battle of the Civil War. It’s beautiful and solemn. I’m using one of my photos from that trip on the front of my Christmas card. Not this one. I want to surprise those of you on my card list, but here’s a view of the event.


Luminary lighting at Antietam National Battlefield, Dec. 4, 2010

I used a program called Pages on my Mac to design my card. It’s not exactly a traditional card. It’s dark, like winter, and more than hints at the sacrifices made to keep our country together. But it also has light shining into the darkness, and that’s really what Christmas is about. Under the photo, I put “Wishing you peace and joy” in a font called Zapfino. It took a bit of time and patience to get my printer to handle the card properly, but I think I’m pleased with the result. It is pretty amazing that I can do this right here in my kitchen!

Wishing you peace and joy,



The pink apron, top center, is the one I'm making. Mine will be purple!

It’s a crisp November Saturday, and I’m rediscovering the art of sewing. My mother sewed, and between her and my junior high home ec teachers, I learned this immensely practical and creative skill. When I graduated from college, I needed some career clothes but couldn’t afford much. So, I sewed. I made dresses, skirts, jackets, pants, and blouses. Practical as that was, it was also pretty satisfying. I was proud of what I could create. Eventually, I earned enough to buy more of the clothes I wanted. And I started filling up my time with other activities. My patterns, pin cushion, and sewing basket went to the back of the closet.

How about a purple apron!

I recently painted my bedroom and decided that I need new curtains to complement the new gray-green wall color. I also had some skirts and dresses to hem. Why not get a new sewing

machine and get these projects going? If I make the curtains myself, I can get exactly what I have in mind — a contemporary print in the sizes I need for two bedroom windows.  Imaging the possibilities, I ordered a new machine from Amazon. The day after it arrived, I trotted over to a local fabric store. Once there, ideas just started popping. I opened the pattern books and started thinking about all the things I could make. A hat and scarf for winter. New skirts, pants. Dare I try a jacket? It’s been a long time since I’ve done this. I decided to start small and left the fabric store with patterns for my curtains, an apron, doggie jackets, and a sewing machine cover. Got a bit of fabric and thread too.

I like to cook and bake — and tend to get batter and sauces all over myself when I do. That’s why I’m working on the apron now. It’s a good practice project too as it will test my ability to sew straight and curved seams. It’s not something I’ll be wearing out of my kitchen either, so it’s not critical that it be perfect. It this goes well, I’ll progress to the curtains.

Back to work!

Laying out my apron pattern pieces

Gettin’ Started

Hi Everyone,

Setting out on a new adventure here, and I welcome you to read along. What brings me here? The big boss at work wants our organization to have a blog, a set of blogs on different topics really, and he’s asked me to lead the effort. I’m excited, but a little unsure because I’ve never really been a blogger. I’m reading a lot about what makes a blog successful and talking to people who’ve done it. Of course, the best way to learn is by doing. So, here I am!

And what do I intend to blog about? Photography, writing, cooking, renovating and redecorating my house, maybe even sewing. The common theme is creativity — imagining what’s possible and taking the steps to make it happen whether it’s capturing a beautiful image or seeing the potential in an old, ugly wallpapered room.

Why would you want to read this? To explore the creative process — the technical side and the artistic vision. I plan to write at least once a week. Forgive me, if I slip up on that commitment in hectic times. I’ll come back. And I’ll try to use some good visuals. too. Photos from my Flickr site are over on the right side. Enjoy those!

More later,