Mar 222015
 

You can do some amazing stuff in Photoshop Elements, including creating “Oil Paintings”.  I absolutely love dabbling in PhotoShop Elements  (PSE) and the things you can do with are endless.   I am totally self taught but I own numerous how-to books and have sat through many many how-to videos.   I have tried so many things but to be honest, when you are not immersed in it, you can easily forget the steps. 

About 7 years ago, when my daughter was very involved in a competitive dance program, I started a little “business”.  I should really call it a labour of love of dance because there was no profit.   When there were studio performances where I could take photos, I rented a long, fast lens.   At most competitions, we were not allowed to photograph performances but we could purchase the photos on CD.  In both cases, I used my Photoshop skills to create unique collages or clean up photos for myself and other parents.  Although I made no profit,  I made many a dance mom happy with my creations.

Today I want to share one of my most treasured creations using PSE.  The original photo was purchased on CD at one of the competitions.  In a group ballet picture, my daughter commented to me “Look Mom, I am doing a perfect arabesque!” For her to actually say something positive about a dance photo was pretty rare so I thought I would take a stab at seeing what I could do with it.  She is one of many and I knew  if I “extracted” her from the photo, it would be grainy but  I decided to work on it anyway, just for fun.

Here is the original photo:

Ballet_background copy

There’s Miss Nice in the middle doing a “perfect arabesque” (apparently)

 

Using the tools in PSE, I “extracted” her to a new file.  First, I made a rough selection, similar to the one above and erased all the other dancers.  I then further defined the selection by using the following tools

  • Magic Wand
  • Quick Selection
  • Magnetic Lasso
  • Zoom

Once I had the “cutout”  I was sure to SAVE the selection.  It can be a tedious process to have to re-do.  Trust me I have forgotten to save selections many times.

Because everything in PSE is in layers, I was then able to make copies of the cutout and apply filters as well as experiment with adding various backgrounds.  I must admit, I am far from being an  EXPERT but the more you read up on techniques and experiment, the more you learn. 

A Simple Preliminary Version

The photo below is a simple, preliminary version using a background created using a cloud pattern found in PSE and a fill colour layer.

Paint effect with a cloud background created in Photoshop

 

Screen shot of the layers used.

 

 

Final Version

At the time, I was editing dozens of dance photos for dance parents and I had purchased some interesting backgrounds.  Using the same picture, and a purchased background, I came up with this final version.

Final version printed on canvas

 

The various layers used

 

  In the photo above,

  • Layer 3 is the purchased background. 
  • The layer “Floor” is a copy of the floor from the original picture set at an opacity of 50%.  This allows the reflection on the floor to show through.
  • “Merged layers”  is just that, a layer of all the layers below merged together.  I then made copies of the merged layer to apply various artistic effects.  By making copies, you never ruin or lose your work.
  • For this print, I only used a filter called “Dry Brush”.  I also tried “Underpainting” but as you can see there is no eye symbol next to it so it is not visible.

Before and After Comparison

Below is a comparison of the original and the final with the adjustments made.  The look is very subtle but it looks smooth and not grainy.

A close-up cropped from the original photo: grainy

 

A close up of the finished photo with background removed and “oil paint” filter applied. Hides the graininess.

Once finished, I dropped it off at Costco to be printed on a stretched 12″ x 18″canvas.  I also had it framed with a simple narrow black frame.  It hangs in the hallway next to the guest bath where it often admired by all who see it. 

My Beautiful Ballerina

 

 

I too stop and admire it often. 

Not only am I proud of my work, I am proud of my beautiful daughter who was all of 12 years old at the time.  I have many, many other “creations” of photos taken of various  routines but for some reason, this one really touches my heart.  Even though ballet was not her favourite dance style, she still loved it.   For me this creation really portrays the joy dance gives her.  I will treasure it forever.

Now Miss Nice is at university and still takes dance classes and finds opportunities to perform but it is a far cry from the hours she put in during those 12 years of competitive dance.  April is the beginning of dance competition season.  I don’t miss the craziness of it all but I do miss watching her perform. 

So for now, I will stop in front of this “painting” and reminisce.  

Have you dabbled in Photoshop? 

Photoshop Elements is relatively inexpensive compared to the full version.  There are so many great “how-to” books out there.  I usually get mine from the library.  Toronto has an amazing library system.  Some of the books are even available on line, for free,  from the library.  If I really like the book, I may purchase it and add it to my reference library.

So many effects can be created in Photoshop. 
What have you tried? 
I would love to here about your experiments.

 

Joan

Feb 272015
 

Avoiding the Empty Nest Syndrome is not something you can accomplish in a week.  I believe the process covers a long span of time and depends on so many factors.  It will be different for every family.  We are not psychiatrists or social workers and by no means “perfect” parents. We are just a little family who have seemed to have survived the transition.  I thought I would share my reflection on how we seemed to have avoided the “syndrome”.

To begin,  in September 2014, our one and only child moved away to attend Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.   It is only a 2 1/2 hour drive from our home in Toronto but it is far enough away that we don’t drive there to have lunch, for example.

So many friends and relatives ask us how we are doing as “empty-nesters”.   I must admit the transition has not been at all troubling.  Believe me, this is not to say we do not miss our baby because we do ever so much.  However, the missing has not been overwhelming or debilitating. 

Last week, Miss Nice was home for her “Reading Week” and it was so wonderful to have her here even though she was … well … reading, beginning her search for summer employment and catching up with friends.  However, when I dropped her off at the bus station on Sunday night, I felt a real pang of “missing” I had not really felt before.  This pang made me think about what we have done to ensure the “pang” is just that and not a relationship ruining syndrome.


Empty nest syndrome

After some reflection, here are my thoughts:

  • Firstly, let’s go WAY back… Marry your best friend!  As a young professional, I was very independent and somewhat particular about who I got involved with.  Then, when I was 26, in walks a recent British immigrant, wooed to Canada by an international Accounting firm.  What can I say!  We became BEST FRIENDS!  We shared and continue share,  so many interests.

    Empty nest syndrome

     
  • Expose your child to all kinds of activities.   Even for a brief time just to find out what activity could be “their thing”.  As a college professor, I was fortunate to have flexible hours enabling us to introduce her in many after school activities over the years.  We tried to focus on lifelong skills like skating, swimming and skiing.  I must confess sitting on VERY cold bleachers watching her learn to skate or standing on the sidelines watching a very disinterested soccer star, was not easy.   But it was still fun and we all learned from it.  We learned she was not a “jock”.  She too knew she was not “good” but we downplayed the being “good” to just being able to do it and enjoy it.
    M_Skiing_Mar02

    Miss Nice skiing at 6 years old…

     

  • Encourage them be independent.  This can be so difficult.  In some ways we failed and in others we did well.   Eventually, Miss Nice began to participate in competitive dance at an early age. In reality she is a bit of a “triple threat”, as in singing, dancing and acting.  We supported her dreams wherever we could and beyond the studio’s program.  BUT we were realistic and made sure she was too.  Through the time consuming (and expensive endeavor) of Competitive Dance, she gained much confidence.   She was never an “in-your-face”  child.  I can proudly say to this day, she carries herself with a quiet self confidence.
     
    Independence really took hold at 13 when she asked to go on a French exchange program FOR A MONTH!!!   TO FRANCE!!!  The family took her to their summer lakeside home with NO INTERNET so contact with us was not available.  She survived.  She learned much about relationships too with this great experience.  While she was away, we travelled to Portugal to indulge ourselves in our love of travel and exploring countries on the road… Just the two of us… Magic.

When I review this post, it may sound as if we were selfish parents who sent our kid away a lot.  Perhaps we did, but mostly at her request.  When it counted, we were always there.   In 12 years  of competitive dance, and over 100s of performances, I think I missed TWO routines!  and those were for work commitments.  My husband who runs a busy business was also there for far more than many dads.  We tried very hard to not “helicopter” but we tried hard to be there to celebrate her achievements.

You must be asking “So what are you trying to say? What is your point?”

I think I am talking about “Parenting 101” …

  • expose
  • support / be there
  • encourage

And lastly, remember being a parent is about them but sometimes, it needs to be about YOU!

Back to the “Empty Nest Syndrome”

All the while we were supporting her, doting on her, driving her, etc. we never gave up our own interests. 

  • Cut back? Yes. 
  • Try to include her in our interests in tennis and golf, etc.  Yes. 
  • Sacrifice everything so she could do all the things she wanted.  NO!

We continued to squeeze in time for ourselves so we could golf, play tennis, go to yoga, start a book club, have date nights and entertain OUR friends when we could.  Miss Nice was told often how important she was to us but we also reminded her, we were important too.  And she seemed to grasp that early on. 

Her activities were a privilege NOT a right!

We love golf and for YEARS wanted to join a golf club … together.  Knowing she was leaving for university made us realize this was the time.  We joined a club in May.  Then in September we joined their curling program.  Never curled before and we a loving it.  We are planning a summer holiday that may or may not include Miss Nice.  She has travelled with us quite a bit  and has announced she  is “tired of old cities and history”.  I’m thinking Ireland … without her.

Regardless, Mr. Nice and I will do it TOGETHER.  Because we are back to being TWO best friends who can focus on the wonders of each other.  No longer distracted by every day parenting duties and … car pooling.

In conclusion, I must admit we have been blessed with a great kid.  Who is now grown.  Who has entered adulthood.

So my advice to avoid emply nest syndrome is:

  • work hard to encourage your child to be independent
  • do not completely give up your interests for the interests of your child
  • remind your child they were a very welcomed addtion into an existing family… two best friends or two best friends with other children. 

I hope this will give some of my younger parent readers something to think about.

What tips do you have on how to avoid
the “Empty Nest Syndrome”?

Are you an empty nester and how is it going?

Love to hear from you!  Makes my day!

 

Joan

 

May 262014
 

Twenty years ago, Mr. Nice and I moved into what we were certain would be a forever home.  We were a couple of DINKs at the time (Double Income No Kids) and wanted a special home with character, entertainment space and perhaps a ravine lot.  When we walked through this house with the realtor, we were not impressed with the decor but we sure were impressed with the lot, the layout and of course the full sized snooker table in the large family room on the lower walkout level.  I often joke,”We bought a snooker table and the house came with it!”  LOL. 

Move ahead a few years and my company down-sized, I took a severence package and took some time to re-think my life.  During this time, although we were in our late thirties, we decided to have a baby.  In 1996, we were blessed with a beautiful and tiny baby girl.  Here comes the fun part.  One of my neighbours announced she too was pregnant and a few months later, a new family moved in and they too were expecting a baby.  So in the summer of 1996, on a court of only 7 houses, THREE babies were born, our daughter and two boys.   The other families also had daughters a couple years older than the babies so we had 5 young children.   Needless to say, we all became great friends.  We used to pull up our lawn chairs in the street and watch the kids on their trikes and wagons and bikes and roller blades.

Tredvalley_gang_May97 2

Our motley crew in May 1997.
( I never said all the pictures were “good”)

 All three girls ended up dancing at the same dance studio. Car-pooling was a breeze!   The girls continued with dance for many years and the boys moved on to hockey. 

I have always enjoyed photography and have dozens of photo albums to prove it.  So it just seemed natural that I became the Memory Keeper.  I always had my camera or our video camera on hand for every get-togther.  The everyday stuff and the special day stuff too.    The little dancers were always putting on “shows” for us which sometimes involved lipstick and tutus on everyone…. including the boys.  My photos and footage have been useful in marking more recent events like significant birthdays and graduation.

Interestingly, the three 1996 babies never went to the same school. For elementary one Roman Catholic, one public and one French Immersion.  The same happened when they entered high school. 

Roll ahead to 2014… as a result of invitations by local friends, they ALL went to the same prom!  I think the families were more excited about this fact than the kids were!   And of course there had to be a photo session and in front of our fireplace was the spot.  You see EVERY year on Halloween, prior to the dads taking them Trick or Treating, we met in our home and took their picture in front of our fireplace.

This was one of the "dark" years.  2002

This was one of the “dark” years. 2002

Now back to Prom Night…

THAT WAS THEN

FB_1997
And
THIS IS NOW

FB_all3

WHAT A GOOD LOOKING GROUP!

IMG_1746

…and Miss Nice still thinks they’re crazy!

I fear in the age of digital photography with phones, the role of “Memory Keeper” will be lost. 
I wish more people would take the time to sort and store and PRINT!

So many people snap and share and then move on. 

Mr. Nice and I and the other two sets of parents treasure all the pictures we have taken and shared. 

Those five kids believe they grew up on the best street ever!
And now they love to sit and watch the crazy videos we took of them. 
Many are hysterical!

Do you have a Memory Keeper in your life?

“Beautiful hours move so quickly.”
― Irene Hunt, Up a Road Slowly  

Time is so fleeting!

 

Feb 132014
 

With Valentine’s day on the horizon, I just had to share a bit of personal stuff about my daughter Little Miss Nice.

She is 17 years old and in her senior year of high school. She is rather artsy as in the performing arts sort of way and has been attending a school for the arts for the past 5 1/2 years. Sadly this school is a significant commute from our home. Fortunately, a few summers ago, she was able to connect with a great group of kids from the local (as in 500 yards from our home) high school. Before Christmas, she and one of the lovely young men in the group began dating.

On the surface, one would think they are so totally different:

  • she’s a musical theatre fanatic and he’s into country music
  • she’s very scholastic and he’s a bright kid who loves to work with his hands
  • She’s traveled extensively and he doesn’t have a passport

Little Miss Nice is lucky because her mom and dad don’t dwell on such things and can look past all the differences.  Besides, he is the sweetest guy EVER!  He truly is a real ROMEO!

For Christmas, he MADE her a ROSE in shop class and at home.

CAM00314

It is made of metal and weight about 8 ounces!

CAM00315

It was welded and painted. How adorable is that?

CAM00316

As a DIYer, this is AWESOME!!!

 Is that not the most romantic and clever gift ever! 
 Little Miss Nice LOVES it, and knowing the effort and thought that went into it just warms her heart.

With Valentine’s Day only 2 days away, Miss Nice decided she needed to get her act together and do something creative for her ROMEO.

Have you noticed I keep referring to him as her “ROMEO”???

Well, that is his name!

ROMEO!

I know it makes people chuckle a little but it is actually a popular French Canadian name.
And one to be proud of if you know anything about
Romeo Dallaire
If you do not know about this former Canadian Armed Forces General,
please follow the link and find out more.

Little Miss Nice checked out Pinterest and this is what she came up with:

CAM00307

She followed a PUN theme… The item at the front is a candy car…

 

CAM00312

How cute it this…

CAM00311

He’s going to love it!

  Her puns are:

  • “You Stole a Piece of my Heart”  with a stash of Reese’s Pieces
  • “I’m a Sucker for You” with a stash of suckers
  • “I’m hooked on You” with a stash of gummy worms
  • “I Love Your Hugs and …” with a stash of Hershey’s Kisses
  • and the candy car with “You’re Wheelie Sweet”

Tonight, is the semi-formal at  Romeo’s school.  As a non-student, attending the event, my baby is nervous but she will look great!

Do you have teens at home? 

If you do, what a journey it is!

Young love is not always easy but when it is going well, your heart could burst!

I would love to hear your experiences with your teens, male and female!

In the meantime,

I hope you have a special ROMEO in your life!

Joan

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Dec 312013
 

Today is New Years Eve!  Wow!  Another year has passed and so quickly. 

When I look back, I realize how blessed I am.  I have a loving patient husband and a beautiful 17 year old daughter who never ceases to amaze me.  She is bright, talented, kind and mature beyond her years.  This time next year, she will be away at university and this house will never be the same.  We have always treasured every moment with her but as she matures our moments are not always as frequent as they used to be.

Last year, I introduced a “Smile Jar” to our kitchen counter. 

It’s not much to look at. 

Just a boring old Mason Jar.

No label. No fancy lid. 

Just a jar.

It’s what’s inside the jar that is precious.

2013 Smile Jar

2013 Smile Jar

You see, the purpose of a smile jar is  to collect all the moments that made us smile throughout the year. 

To be honest, the jar should be much fuller because 2013 was a joyous year.

I guess that just shows us how much we take our happiness for granted. 

Tonight over dinner, we will open the jar and take out all the little moments and read them out.

I can’t wait!

Have a very happy and safe New Year’s Eve
and a
happy and healthy 2014.


Joan

 

Oct 282013
 
Cody

My dog’s idea of keeping me company while I work!

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Okay, I admit it.  I pick up other people’s trash.
It started a year ago.
Now it’s an addiction.
When walking the dog or driving, I’m on the look out.
I make U-turns.  I scurry back to the site.
What can I say?

Last year, while walking my dog on trash day, I spotted a beat up but very solid wooden parson’s table.  It had apparently been used  as a play / colouring table for kids because it was a mess of paints, crayons and gouges.  But it was solid,  nothing sanding and paint would not fix.  I zoomed over later with my car and brought it home.

Sadly I don’t have a true before picture but let me say, this little table has become a very useful practice piece for me.

Life #1:  It was  sanded down and spray painted with a metallic paint.  Sadly, the top was not sanded smooth enough to look good.

Life #2: The top was  re-sanded, removing the paint.  I decided I didn’t want it to be metallic so I just left it and used it as a low work table.

Life #3:  It became a test piece for transferring graphics with Citra-Solve and Mod Podge

So here it is in it’s hodge podge state of metallic paint, a bit of primer and graphics transfer samples.

LEGO_04

LEGO_07

Life #4  for this table was inspired by Beckie at Infarrantly Creative.
Using an 80’s style coffee table., Beckie created an ingenious LEGO TABLE for her kids.
Her table is GORGEOUS!  She really had a great vision!  I think she should patent those plans!

My idea for this table was to NOT make it cute or perfect.  This little table is my second Great Aunt project and will be used by three little boys.  Repeat: THREE boys!  So as a play table, it should be capable of taking some abuse.

Using left over ivory homemade chalk paint, I painted the frame with one coat then lightly distressed it, allowing the grey metallic paint to show through.  I reversed printed a CONSTRUCTION COMPANY SIGN using their last name on two sides and a shorted version on the other two sides.  I applied the words using the Modge Podge method I used here.

Since the Mod Podge needs to thoroughly dry, I moved on to a chair I was painting black.  Every time I looked over at the little table I thought it just looked too…

CLEAN and WHITE.

Especially for a “construction crew”.

LEGO_10

LEGO_12

On my way to wash the black paint out of my brush, I took a chance and

DRY BRUSHED the table with BLACK.
YES!!! A grunge look!

Grunge! That’s more like it!

 

LEGO_23

The Mod Podge transfer worked very well.
Now for the Lego Plates.

I used a carpenter square to make sure the Lego Building Plates were level with each other and Weldbond glue.  I placed a large heavy book and a weight on them and waited for them to dry.

DSCN1626

DSCN1627

DSCN1632

A large Rubbermaid bin fits under it!
(NO they do not have that much Lego! LOL)

I love how it turned out.   It definitely has a “masculine” look about it.
I am not going to wax or apply Varathane either.
I would say it’s rough and ready for building!

I’d say it’s definitely

“Nicer Than New”

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You may find me linking at these great parties.
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Oct 232013
 

The prospect of becoming a Grandmother is many years off in my future.  However, I have had the privilege of being a Great-Aunt many times over.  Of late, I seem to have an urge to practice the grandmother role and my niece’s adorable little boys have been my target.  There are THREE of them ages 7 and under!  I love reading her Facebook posts of a life with boys.  Having had only one child, a daughter, I can only imagine her life with three boys.

One of my current painting projects is a cool little something for the  little guys.  I’m loving how it is coming along but it’s not quite done.  In the meantime, I thought I would share the bedroom furniture I finished last summer for Xander, the 7 year old.

In the spring,  I scored a free vintage children’s desk and dresser.  It’s just too difficult to turn down decent FREE furniture…even when you have absolutely no use for it!  So I offered to paint them for Xander’s room.   He happens to LOVE ORANGE.  To tame the orange theme, my niece also selected a grey and blue.  Perhaps I need to qualify the last sentence … My niece and her certified interior designer sister selected the colours.  They are all from all Benjamin Moore:

My nieces live in another city so we used Pinterest to gather and share ideas on a shared board.  Pinterest was the perfect tool for collaborating on this project.  However, there were so many options and super creative ideas out there, I just couldn’t decide for the longest time.  In the end, I chose to paint stripes and I am happy I did!

This project was pre-blogging but I always tried to take pictures of my projects.  (Perhaps I foresaw my blogging future?)
I LOVE how the pieces turned out.  The stripes remind me of race cars!

Xander chair copy

Cleaning and prepping in the sun

desk and chair copy

I love the orange and grey combo!

Done cropped copy

If I were a 7 year old boy, I think I would love it!

I spray painted the knobs in Rustoleum’s Brushed Nickel and replaced the more ornate pulls with simple ones from Home Depot, so to not distract from the clean lines.

The chair in the pictures was a Goodwill find and the local Fabricland had the perfect orange upholstery fabric in the remnants bin.

These may not be to my personal taste but I love how it all came together
and  Xander now has a very cool big boy room!

These pieces are so unique and much

“Nicer Than New”!

Be sure to come back and see my next Great Aunt project.

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