Slightly altering reality

May 29, 2008 at 5:55 pm (Photoshop) ()

Yea!! I finally got the good Raleigh photos photoshopped over the weekend and I’ve sent them to you (Andrea, Mom and Dad), so look for them in the mail on Saturday. If you want jpegs of anything you see, let me know and I’ll send the hi-res versions. I had so. much. fun. doing these. I’m open to suggestions anyone has about the aesthetic qualities or other improvements as I now feel I will photoshop any portrait of myself or one I take of my loved ones. Call me vain, but I like the slightly fuzzy altered reality look. It’s better for my self-esteem.

I give you the Before and After:

Wow! Subtle, I hope, but a vast improvement. Want to know what I did?

  • Color balance the raw picture
  • Applied an Action Pack from Pioneer Woman and then toned it down
  • Applied a “twinkle” affect to the eyes to make them pop
  • Used a Healing Brush to remove blemishes from Andrea’s skin and repair some skin tone
  • Applied a skin softening affect to both mom and Andrea
  • Brightened Andrea’s teeth

Cool huh. I live the effect. It’s soft, but not too soft, and it smooths out some of the harsh lines, and let’s admit it, mom looks 5 years younger. Next….

Doesn’t this just look awesome? How pretty does mom look, with the sun hitting her just right? So pretty!

For this one, I used the same Action and skin smoothing technique, and then I cropped it quite creatively because in the original there was a trash can in a most unfortunate position. Also, the cars in the background were very distracting, so I applied a blur to the background, more heavily over the cars and less heavily on the grass behind mom. And I didn’t even notice the stone turtle until I cropped the photo. Overall, I’m pleased with this, and unlike many of the other pictures we took, this is the only one of this particular shot/location. Go me!

The next photo….

Again, this used similar techniques; I applied the Action, the skin softening, used a healing brush to touch up the dark circles under my eyes and put a little sparkle in our eyes.  Comparing the two, I don’t think I can look at myself without some “enhancement” ever again.  Check out another one of my favorite photos:

I played with the color on this a little more since there are some bright spots and some dark spots.  Additionally, once I got me and the dogs looking the way I wanted, the sand behind us was way too dark, so I selectively brightened that up.  I haven’t figured out how to ‘wash’ Lola, but I think this keeps it real.

And guess what…even though Casey did some work on my wedding photos, I managed to improve this one:

I softened the look a little, and then blurred the background a little so that it wasn’t so busy.  Then, in the original, there was a really, really distracting flash spot on Tom’s forehead and the tip of his nose, so I toned that down considerably.  Then I noticed a few beads of sweat on his upper lip, so I corrected that, along with some really dark purple circles under his eyes.  My makeup held up flawlessly.  I’m thinking the colors are too bold on this after I was done, but the advantage is that it also looks great as a black and white.  No shiny distracting spots!

I’m sure you think that with all my enthusiasm that I won’t welcome criticism, but I will!!  I really have to learn to pull back and let some things go because I’m working on a 19 inch monitor with excellent color.  I can see every pixel if I wanted.  Obviously, when it comes time to look at a 4×6, or even the size above, it’s all about the subtle tweaks to improve the image as a whole.  I think what I enjoy most is taking photos that have some meaning or are special and then making them look really memorable – something I can look at and it evokes the memories and feelings, instead of another “here’s me and the dogs on the beach” shot, and I think I can get that through vivid color (or lack thereof) and focusing through blurring and cropping.

That being said, I’ll continue to work on this stuff.  After going through my collection of photos, I realized I have very, very few of Tom that are in any way decent, so my goal is to get some good ones of him/me this summer.  That may be a difficult undertaking but I need to round out my collection.  And if anyone wants me to take a stab at their photos, I’m willing to give it a try.   The camera makes a huge difference, I was playing around with some taken with my old camera and while I was able to improve them some, nothing like what I did to these.

Permalink Leave a Comment

This is getting old….

May 28, 2008 at 9:05 pm (Dog Photo Story, Dog Update)

I’m getting really tired of seeing this when I come up the stairs.

No respect! None, what so ever! I may be pack leader, but when it comes to staking out the good napping spots, I apparently have no say in the matter. She doesn’t even wait for the car to pull out of the garage before she’s on the chair.

She acts like she owns the place.

Sure, I could probably give Spice a good beating and she’d learn her lesson, but how is it fair that I do that for the dog that will actually OBEY, and yet the other one, the one that constantly says “F-You” to every command I ask her to obey, well, she just gets to do whatever she wants and get on whatever she wants?? It’s not. So I think I’ll take the advice and remove the soft cushion on the back to protect it for as long as possible. I’ll just take it our and de-fur it for company.

But, as if sleeping on the living room couch wasn’t heartbreaking enough, how am I going to stop this?!?

Yes, that is Spice sleeping on the leather chair in the office where she is supossed to be sleeping on the nice fluffy dog cushion. I can’t patrol this! I put them in this room to sleep for the night and she starts the night on the floor, on the cushion, with Lola but within minutes she’s on this chair. At first she would hear me coming downstairs and jump off, the only evidence of being the rocking motion of the chair and some stray fur. But now, now she waits until I open the door and then she leisurely stretches ON THE CHAIR before hopping off.

Damn, this dog has got it good. And near as I can tell, she doesn’t share this chair with Lola. I think maybe in all her Chub-ness, she’s outgrown her small dog bed and likes the contors of the chairs. Something that she can really lean against, yet is soft and cozy. But they don’t make many soft dog beds with arms/sides for 50 pound dogs. They do make them of course, but they are really espensive. Then again, so are my chairs.

Sigh. What are you going to do? Maybe I’ll be like Nonno and put down blankets on all the furniture the dogs like.

*NOTE* – I know I said there would be a special post on Thursday, but I don’t have it done yet.  It will be up Thursday night, so check back in for some interesting stuff.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Weekend Review

May 27, 2008 at 10:06 pm (Movie Reviews, recipe review)

This weekend alone, I’ve managed to gain like 3.5 pounds!  And this might account for at least 2 of those pounds.

I got the recipe from this site and I appreciated all the user comments.  They truly were excellent.  Yes, I made cinnamon rolls from scratch – meaning my bread machine made the dough and then I rolled it out.  It’s progress for me, people.

Anyway, a few comments about these buns should you choose to try it for yourself (and the site has instructions for non-machine dough making).  First and foremost, they are really, really gooey.  When I first served them, they just slumped on the plate in a puddle of goodness.  Tom commented that they were too gooey and sweet (I disagreed, but then again, I welcome a good sugar coma every once in a while).  BUT!  The great thing was that these improved and firmed up the next day!  Most of the time, cinnamon buns become buns of brick the next day, but these were a pleasant firmness, and I just nuked for 15 seconds for a little warmth.

So, my suggestion is to go ahead and make the dough, roll and cut it out, and then go ahead and bake the night before serving.  Then, the next day you can ice them right before serving and as a bonus, your icing will look prettier after being applied to a cooler bun.  As for the icing, I used cream cheese icing because if you’re going to end up in a coma, might as well make it worth it.

Next suggestion – several of the viewers said that the recipe didn’t have enough filling and to 1.5 that amount.  I found 1.5 to be an adequate amount.  However, I found the application rather tricky.  I used softened butter and then creamed the sugar and cinnamon in, but it wasn’t pasty enough for me to easily spread about.  I think I would try to either use softer butter, or nuke the sugar/butter mixture until the point I could apply it thickly with a basting brush, that way I could get the edges better.

I will definitely make these again, but not until I have successfully waged war against my muffin top.  Down, damn you!!

It was also a movie watching weekend.  On Saturday, we watched Lions for Lambs.  This is a movie that you will either like or dislike with no middle ground.  I liked it, Tom did not.  But this is my blog, so you get to read my opinion.

The movie was directed/starred in by Robert Redford, a personal favorite, and Meryl Streep and Tom Cruise.  It’s a talking movie – meaning there are roughly 3 plot lines and they consist of people having deep conversations.  I found the movie interesting and thought provoking (but not too deep or anything).  It looks at the role of politics, media and higher education in relation to the recent wars.  You’ll either love it or hate it.

We also saw Before the Devil Knows Your Dead, with a whole slew of good actors.  It was a good movie and I liked the way the plot jumped back and forth in time and focused on the different perspectives of the main characters.  Also, it stars Marisa Tomie and she spends quite a bit of time topless.  In fact, the movie opens with her nekkid!!  Bonus for the guys, but damn, I can only hope to improve and look that good when I’m pushing 40!

Also saw Indy, but I won’t go into that.  It is what it is – if you liked the Indy movies and want a movie in the same vein, it doesn’t disappoint.  If you are a younger person *ahem* with some sort of unrealistic Indy expectation or want it radically updated to fit today’s action movie standards, you may be disappointed.  But I liked it.  And it wasn’t too long –  a big pet peeve I have with lots of action flicks.

Check back on Thursday for a very special post!

Permalink Leave a Comment

In the blink of any eye

May 26, 2008 at 6:51 pm (Dog Update)

On Friday, I made a rotisserie chicken with a garlic and mint paste/marinade. I used use the leftovers for a soup, but I didn’t want to give the dogs too much of the icky parts or skin because of all the garlic I used. Consequently, there weren’t much scraps. I had maybe a couple of ounces for each dog.

Put to bowls down. Finally, all of Lola’s plantive crying paid off. (In this respect, Lola and Spice are totally like the guinea pigs – Lola does all the frantic vocalizing while Spice plays it cool knowing eventually we’ll crack and then she’ll get something, all without the work.)

Mmm…chickeny goodness. And how does Spice like her’s?

She seems to be enjoying it. Lots less snuffing going on over here. I’ll zoom out for another shot…

Ahh, there we go. Spice is savoring her chicken. And how’s Lola doing? Pivot camera and….

IT’S GONE!! Holy crap! In the time it took to pivot and take two pictures, Lola has polished off her food! Amazing. I think she’s getting faster.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Lola Says HI!

May 21, 2008 at 4:47 pm (Uncategorized)

Lola wishes to send along her regards.

She knew I was posting and wanted to make sure I, along with all our neighbors, could hear. So she let it ring loud and clear.

Why can’t she be more like this more often?

What, is life not exciting enough for her?

Don’t disturb the peace, man!

Permalink Leave a Comment

Recipe Review: Peanut Sesame Noodles

May 20, 2008 at 8:18 pm (Recipes) (, , )

Today I’m going to shamelessly plagiarize from Smitten Kitten.  This is the recipe I found on her site and thought it looked easy enough and tasty.  Bear with me because I am actually recommending this recipe even though mine didn’t turn out nearly as pretty as hers.  I thought the flavor was good and it was something different.  Tom didn’t much care for it, so it’s officially Chick Food.

Peanut Sesame Noodles
Adapted from Gourmet, June 2002

Servings: Makes 6 side-dish or 4 vegetarian main-course servings.

For peanut dressing
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup warm water
1 tablespoon chopped peeled fresh ginger
1 medium garlic clove, chopped
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons Asian toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes or a splash of the hot sauce or chili paste of your choice

For noodles
3/4 lb dried soba nooodles (dried linguine fini or spaghetti will work in a pinch)
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/8-inch-thick strips
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into 1/8-inch-thick strips
Half a seedless cucumber, thinly sliced
1 cup firm or extra-firm tofu, cubed
3 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted

Purée dressing ingredients in a blender until smooth, about 2 minutes, then transfer to a large bowl.

Cook pasta in a 6- to 8-quart pot of boiling salted water until tender. Drain in a colander, then rinse well under cold water.

Add pasta, scallions, bell peppers, cucumber and tofu to dressing, tossing to combine. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and serve immediately.

Mmm….doesn’t that just look yummy?  Now I’ll tell you my experience.

First, I didn’t use tofu.  I’m not sure tofu is allowed in my house.  I used grilled chicken but shrimp sounds good too.  Secondly, I didn’t used cucumber.  Ech.  I had some asparagus, so I blanched the asparagus for 2 minutes (actually, I just threw it in with the noodles for the last two minutes of cooking time).  You could basically use any veggie combo your heart desired.  Snap peas, sweet peas…umm….out of ideas now.

This, however, is not how my dish looked.

I hate to type this, but my dish was kinda, um, dull colored and tacky looking.  And by tacky I mean sticky looking.  It didn’t have the smooth look like above.  It may have partly been due to the fact that my soba noodles, when I did find them (three grocery stores later!), were already a brown color like the color of wheat pasta.

Smitten’s soba noodles are white and that may help brighten the dish up considerably.  However, the soba noodles were tasty, regardless of their color, so if you can find them, try it.  They are shorter than spaghetti, about 6 inches, so it was easy to eat.

Also, I used tiny red and yellow peppers and sliced them very thin.  I would recommend using larger slices of the large size peppers, but the thought of spending almost $5 for TWO peppers broke my heart so I instead spent $5 on 5 tiny peppers and felt I got more bang for my buck.  It’s all psychological.

My sauce did look like hers though.  Maybe my peanut butter was extra creamy and that’s why my sauce really stuck to the noodles.

I used my Magic Bullet which was great, but a blender or even a stand mixer would probably be fine.

Smitten describes eating this cold.  I didn’t want to eat cold noodles, so mine was more of the warm/hot variety.  Obviously, I liked it hot.  I tried it the next day straight out of the fridge and wasn’t impressed, so I imagine that it might be good at room temp, but hey, do what you please.

Also, it seemed to make a lot.  You could try halving the recipe, or make some and freeze, or use for leftovers.

In all, I recommend trying this recipe, even if my dish turned out kinda gummy looking and rather colorless.  It tasted just fine.  I liked the peanuty flavor (um, who doesn’t) and it wasn’t too spicy for me, but you could kick it up if you wanted.  And if you make if for a guy, I would try to throw in some think flank steak or something to appease them.  Or do what I did and top it all off with extra cake for dessert!

Permalink Leave a Comment

I Spy Playtime

May 19, 2008 at 5:21 pm (Dog Photo Story, Playtime)

I caught Lola and Spice playing in the backyard the other day, so I used the opportunity to catch some shots using my zoom lens, but through the window, unfortunately.

Lola really wants to play. She’ll even through herself under Spice to get her attention.

Come on, Spice. Show Lola a little love.

So stoic is Spice, but she she can’t resist. Game on, Munchkin!

Look at that, Spice’s got Lola by the throat!

But Lola fights back with a vicious poke to the eye. Also, this is why Lola gets so dirty, look how much time she spends rolling in the grass on her back.

Oh, what’s this? Has the tide turned? Is Lola gaining the upper paw?

She’s got Spice by the ear! And folks, in case you haven’t played with Lola in a while, I don’t suggest you get into a biting game with her. She bites HARD. I don’t ever let her bite-play with me because she doesn’t understand that my hands are much more fragile than Spice. Frankly, I have a new found respect for Spice.

This is where I moved to the kitchen window and didn’t realize that I was shooting through a window screen. But I though you deserved to see how this ended, albeit it’s now in a fuzzy form. Look at those teeth. I guess neither dog pulls any punches.

In the end, it ended with puppy kisses. Aww. And then a leaf fell in the distance and Lola jumped off to go bark at it.

The end.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Sisterly Molestation

May 18, 2008 at 5:41 pm (My Daily Life)

I have no coherent story to go along with these photos. I thought I would just post them to show you truly how WEIRD we are. For the record, Andrea instigated all these, so maybe that makes her more weird. But then I was the one who spent a half hour photoshopping them and putting them on the web for the whole world to see, so maybe that makes me just as weird. Ok, maybe more.

Andrea began the day by trying to loosen me up by disrobing me. Is her hand acting independantly? I think not!

And how often does this happen to me that I just look down like “Whoa, where is my shirt going?”

Is this the effect I have on people?

God, Andrea looks like she could be in a Zombie movie. However, I look pretty decent. Got the good eyebrow thing going on.

But this, this is just inexcusable!

No words, no words.

This might have been the best shot of Andrea all day. I think her expression says “What? Don’t you stand around like this all day?”

But in the end, we had fun.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Not its intended purpose

May 15, 2008 at 9:35 am (Uncategorized)

Contrary to popular belief around here, I did not purchase my slightly used but still very serviceable living room furniture solely to provide comfort to the dogs. I’m getting sick and tired of coming up the stairs and seeing this…

I did not buy this furniture for you, dog. I did not travel into Minneapolis with a U-Haul and sit on the chair in the apartment of a very crunchy granola lady thinking “my, but wouldn’t this make the perfect bed for the dogs to enjoy their afternoon nap on”. No, I did not. I also was not thinking you would enjoy this chair as much as you obviously do when I drew blood on my hand maneuvering it into the U-Haul – the scar from which still hasn’t faded.

No, Lola, and you too Spice, the household furniture decisions to not turn on your comfort. You are ruining my new chair. My new chair that originally came from Crate & Barrel, making it one of the better pieces of furniture in the house. Could you have picked the $50 bed that “fell off a truck”? I realize that this chair is old and soft and therefore even more appealing, but I rather like it without the Lola-shaped dent in the cushion. And Spice, if you must climb all over it, could you please keep your fur attached to your body, it’s impossible to vacuum up.

Now that we’ve established this is unacceptable behaviour, would someone please tell me how to keep the dogs off the damn things?

Permalink Leave a Comment

Sadly, it was only a matter of time

May 14, 2008 at 3:35 pm (Dog Update) ()

Everyone, please take a moment to remember our friend in his passing.  He was loyal and faithful and he didn’t deserve such a death.

Squirrel, you didn’t deserve the horrors Lola inflicted on you in your final moments.

He is but a shell of his original self.  Literally and figuratively.  The humiliation of it all.  You were a sturdy pookie, properly sized and of good construction.  And you were treated badly, oh so very badly.

As if the desecration of all your vital stuffing wasn’t enough, Lola had to destroy your very essence, your unique squeak mechanism.  And why, oh why, did Lola choose to wound you in such an intimate location?

Lola evisercated Squirrel through his anus!  What is wrong with that dog?!  Why does she have so much rage?  Is it because she’s only 10 pounds?  Is it because she’s white, and a poodle to boot?  Or is it because she hates her new haircut and lack of eyebrows?

I’ll probably never know the answer to these questions, but what I do know is that Squirrel was a worthy advesary for nearly two months, far outliving most of her other toys.  Squirrel, you provided hours of amusement where others have lasted mere moments.  Sure, she’ll probably toss around your deflated carcass for a while, perhaps root around for more stuffing she missed, but the spark is gone.  The chase is over, the hunt is complete.  You put up a good fight, but in the end you were no match for 10 pounds of angry, tiny, poodle teeth.

You were a good pookie.  You shall be missed.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Next page »