Monday, September 28, 2009

It's Fall and It's HOT!

Chloe gives me this irrisistable smile just as she jumps in the inflatable waterslide pool

I hope this is the last time I write this, at least for this year. IT WAS HOT!!!

We had a nice weekend at home. Saturday was filled with running errands and shopping. Dad took Pearl to see that meatball movie. Chloe didn't want to go (huh?), so she stayed home with me.

The weather was hot Saturday, but Sunday really topped our fears expectations as the thermometer climbed to 107 degrees! Ouch! That's hot even for Bakersfield in September. My girls are quickly outgrowing their summer dresses and shorts and I really don't want to buy more until next Spring. Of course, Sunday was the day we had planned to attend an outdoor birthday party. At least it was in the morning. I think the temperature was only 104 during the party.

There was an inflatable waterslide pool and the kids just loved it. There was also a real fire engine with horns and sirens and a 100' ladder. For some reason, the boys seemed to enjoy this feature a little more than the girls. I blame the heat.

If it weren't for my addiction to photography, I might have considered this day a drudge rather than a positive. I had so much fun taking pictures and the birthday boy was so darn photogenic, it was hard to leave. But then, we had to head out a bit early to whisk the girls off to Chinese school. What did we do before kids?

Actually, I think it was a pretty good weekend. Now let's do something about the weather!

Cousin Quinny gives Nathan a big birthday hug!

Quinny enjoys a swim in the pool! At least somebody's keeping cool today.

This picture cracks me up. The girls were asked to leave the pool so they could await the arrival of the fire engine. I think the boys were a little more excited about this prospect.

It's here! Doesn't Addison have cool shades?

Nathan looks on with wonder as the giant ladder truck backs up into his driveway.

Nathan gets to try on the firefighter gear. Doesn't he look handsome?

Nathan and the other boys climb up into the cab. They repeatedly play with the horns and sirens and use the bullhorn to assault cars driving by, telling them to slow down.

Cousin Miranda tries on the gear as well.

Looks like somebody left something behind.

Nathan's mom climbs the ladder on the fire engine.

Even Nathan's baby sister Morgan enjoys the activity.

Happy third birthday Nathan!!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Fix It Friday #30

Today's challenge was definitely challenging. I tried to used Flickr, but couldn't get the right link, so I am trying it again here on my blog. Here is my edited version. I used Lightroom to lighten, crop and adjust colors. Then I opened it in Photoshop CS4 to lighten and sharpen the eyes. I added catchlights and used Topaz Denoise on extreme to remove the noise and grain. I increased the resolution and then finally, layered a french canvas texture to give it an aged look and to lighten the background.

Fix-it Friday 30

Here is the original

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to see other entries.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Something Gained and Something Lost

First, SOMETHING GAINED...........can you tell why?


Pearl had her first visit from the Tooth Fairy last night. I really try not to perpetuate stories about tooth fairies and Santa Claus, but this time, the girls wanted to play along. I remember how I did too when I was their age and I always wondered how Mom and Dad got under my pillow while I was sleeping. Well, now I can officially say I know how [wink wink].

And finally, of course, I couldn't let all these natural-looking pictures be posted without playing with one of them in Photoshop, tints, colors, textures and all! For this last shot, I played with the colors tinting the highlights purple and the shadows gold (or visa versa..I cannot recall). Then I added a Florabella texture called "Nostalgia" and finally, I used my favorite brushed copper texture from Boccacino.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Another Weekend Down

Baby Morgan

I have been wanting to take pictures of anything and everything despite the fact that I am still ill with some sort of respiratory condition (going on 6 weeks). I know this blog is supposed to be about Chloe and Pearl, but tonight I feel like posting some of my recent pictures, and the girls aren't in any of them!

Saturday afternoon we went over to our friend Carmen's house. She just gave birth to a baby girl 13 days ago. Her name is Morgan. I had never photographed an infant before, let alone a newborn, so I was eager to pop in and start shooting. If Carmen ever lets me come back, I will bring props the next time. It was so much fun.

The other pictures are just random photos from today. Enjoy!

Here are some apples from our tree!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Challenges Unique to International Adoption

When we decided that we wanted to adopt our two daughters from China, we took it for granted that we needed to embrace and learn about their heritage and Chinese culture. We did this, all the while knowing, that we ourselves do not know much about being Chinese and we live in a community with only one other Chinese-American family (actually they are half Thai).

From my perspective, my girls are really only Chinese in their appearance and in their ancestry. They are not even Chinese-American in the sense that most Chinese-Americans either embrace both cultures, speak both languages, or are raised by Chinese and/or Chinese-Americans. How do I instill pride in their Chinese-ness when I am not an authority on this myself? Well, I do all I can to encourage and share in my daughters' enthusiasm for anything Chinese.

We try to associate with other Chinese families and other adoptive Chinese families as much as we can. Our girls have always had a Chinese doctor. We enjoy Chinese children's videos and movies. We celebrate Chinese holidays with Chinese American families. We have hosted two Chinese girls to live with us and attend the local high school. These two girls have become like sisters to our girls. Yet still, this just doesn't feel like enough education or exposure for my girls.

I am not in a position to move them to a different community where there will be lots of other faces like theirs, but we do have a couple of new opportunities knocking on our doorstep at this time.

There is a larger city to the south of us and the local Chinese community is offering Chinese language (and culture) lessons. Another lady will be offering Chinese traditional dance lessons. I hate making commitments, but these opportunities to learn and understand are way too important for me to pass them by. Ultimately, my girls will form their own opinions about who they are and how being of Chinese descent factors into that identity. But for now, I wish for them every opportunity to learn and appreciate this wonderful culture. After all, the more information they have, the better able they will be to form their own opinions.

Last Sunday was the first day of class and it will follow the regular school year. I took these pictures of the girls during the break in class.

Fix It Friday #29

Well, I haven't been blogging lately or feeling well, but I was still looking forward to this week's editing challenge. I was pleasantly surprised to see the very familiar and beautiful face of the daughter of the Animator's Wife.

Click on any of the images to see a larger view.


I think this shot is great, not really much to work on. First, I rendered a spotlight filter to cast light on her face. Then I lightened (with curves) and sharpened her eyes (unsharp mask). I also lightened her teeth just a tad. I wanted to do something a little more dramatic, so I used my favorite software bundle "Topaz". I detailed the whole picture, except for the face and hands, which I softened a bit. I like to see the detail in her hair.


Not wanting to stop, I decided to play around with textures and I added a couple here in the second try. I emphasized the color of her hair by using a heavy brushed copper texture overlay.


For my last version, I really wanted to give it a painterly effect. It took a lot of tweaking to keep this from looking scary. I finally reduced it to 68% on a separate filter. The software used for this was Topaz Simplify, which will plug directly into CS4. Topaz has several inexpensive software packages that are totally addictive.

AFTER 3 (best viewed large--click on picture)

To go directly to the other edits, click here

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Fixit Friday #28


AFTER (click on picture for a larger view)

This is another fun editing exercise from I ♥ faces.

Well, I am a day late working on this edit exercise, but this little baby was so adorable, that when I laid eyes upon her on Saturday, I had to give it a go anyway. I used Photoshop CS4 for the entire operation. First, I used Curves to lighten up the eyes and darken the lips. I sharpened the eyes, lightened the exposure of the eye shadows and cleaned up some of the food on baby's face. Next I used a plug-in called Topaz Adjust to smooth the skin. I know they say not to smooth baby's or young children's skin, but I just love this effect and do it anyway. After that, I used a couple Florabella textures on very low opacity, Chocolate milk at 14% and another one (I forgot which) at about 30% opacity. I usually like to crop, but I thought the angle and framing of this one were already perfect to begin with.

I don't know how to do frames yet, but I would love to put this in a swirly frame with some lovely flourishes. Maybe next time. For other clever editing ideas click on the button below.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

At the Grocery Store

We left for vacation in such a hurry that I forgot to pack all of the pieces for Chloe's vision therapy, which we do every day. We are training her eyes to work together and improving her tracking and focusing abilities. Hopefully, all this work will correct her lazy eye (intermittent exotropia) over the next 9 months.

Not wanting Chloe to be penalized for not doing her homework, we decided we could make temporary vision tools for therapy. One segment of this training uses popsicle sticks with stickers on the end that we pop up quickly in front of her eyes. She has to focus rapidly on the picture at the tip while it is less than 2" from her face.

While in the aisle at the grocery store, I asked Chloe if she saw any popsicle sticks, to which she replied, "What? Mom, do you mean tongue depressors?" Oh yeah.....well, excuse me. I thought that was quite a mouthful from a five year old, especially one who still mixes up "Y"s and "V"s. She always keeps me laughing.

After a trip to both the supermarket and a drug store we were able to collect all the supplies needed to re-create our homework (except for the 3D part).
Chloe at the Shore

Having Fun in Monterey

Chloe and Pearl Sitting in a Tree
This has been a very fun low-key holiday weekend with just the four of us. We have quite a few friends and family in the area, but since I am not feeling all that well, we have decided to just hang out with each other. Saturday morning Dad took the girls swimming in the hotel pool while I slept in. Next we took the girls shopping for shoes because Chloe's tennis shoes were too small. Later on we went to Dennis the Mennace Playground in Monterey. It is very large with lots of fun apparatus and it was packed full of kids and parents. Even though I hate crowds, this place was still a lot of fun. They have a full-sized retired train engine that kids can climb on (with parental supervision).

After the trip to the playground, we were still ready for more fun, so we headed out to the beach. We decided to avoid the crowds at the sandier locations and opted for a small private spot with a rocky shore. Dad and I relaxed in our lounge chairs while the girls collected hermit crabs, over 23. Before we left, we carefully returned the little guys to where they came from. After that, we ended up dining at a fancy restaurant (a little underdressed), The Whaling Station in Monterey. It was a perfect day.
Train Window
Retired Train
Bumpy Slide
Chloe on a Wavy Slide
Sailing the Bay
What's in the Bucket?
Admiring their hermit crabs
Hunting for Hermit CrabsHunting for more hermit crabs

Friday, September 04, 2009

Back in Monterey

At the last minute, we decided to sneak a trip in to Monterey. I haven't been feeling well. I have bronchitis and have been coughing for a month. I decided I could lay around the hotel room just as easy as laying around my house all weekend. So here we are enjoying the clean air, sunshine, cool weather and beautiful skies. I am so glad we made it and the girls are having a blast.
I took a few pictures of Fisherman's Wharf, but I only had time/energy to edit one. We didn't go whale watching, but we did explore the whole wharf.