Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Villa Montalvo

This past Sunday when the weather broke and we had a little sunshine, Paul, Clara and I drove up to Villa Montalvo - a gorgeous mansion in Saratoga.  It was built in the early 1900's in an Italian Mediterranean style and has beautiful gardens and hiking trails around it.  I have a photo shoot there this weekend so we wandered around for a bit scoping out potential spots and just checking on what the lighting is like at that time of day.  Clara loves exploring and kept us running the entire time.  It was such a fun outing with gorgeous scenery, so I am going to let the pictures do the rest of the talking.



Saturday, November 17, 2012

Week in Review

Do you ever hit Saturday and wonder what just happened with the last seven days?  Because I totally feel that way this morning.

My mom came to visit for eight days and we shopped, shopped, and shopped some more.  We didn't actually buy a whole lot but it was fun to look at clothes and jewelry with my mom.  I have been really wanting to get some jewelry lately because I am constantly admiring my friends' cute styles and they seem to always have the most interesting and beautiful accessories but when I try on chunky necklaces or long necklaces I feel like I am a total fashion poser.  We also looked at all the sales at the kids stores for things for Clara and my nieces and admired the darling winter coats and boots and knit sweaters for toddlers.  Is it just me that wishes that Gymboree would make adult sizes of some of their lines? 

While my mom was visiting Clara fell completely in love.  It was grandma-this and grandma-that and when my mom got out of the car at the airport Clara starting crying and pleading "ma'am-ma! ma'am-ma!".  When she woke up from her nap the next day she wandered around the house asking for ma'am-ma again too.  So sad.  But she is also just loving saying names these days period.  She constantly repeats "mommee, daddee, clara" (but she has a hard time with the "l" in her name so it is a little more like "cyara").

My mom watched Clara for us a couple of times while she was here so that Paul and I could go to the temple, go see the new Bond film, go to a dinner party with some of Paul's colleagues from his firm, and so I could go to a sewing class while Paul was at bishopric meeting on Tuesday night.  Speaking of sewing, I had to buy a new sewing machine since my old one died.  I spent a couple of weeks looking online, tried to get my old one fixed, asked for advice on Facebook, and talked to a guy at a sewing machine store.  Ultimately I bought a Janome since I can't afford a Bernina and I have been loving having a machine with a lot more power than my old machine (which was a great little worker for me for probably six years but which I had kind of outgrown given the progress I have made in my sewing skills).  So I have been sewing like crazy making quilts and Christmas presents and experimenting with all the fun new stitches and techniques I am learning.  I will have to post pictures of some of my projects after Christmas since I wouldn't want to spoil any surprises. 

And that pretty much catches me up on this blog.  Paul is at a CPR training class this morning (our certificates expire this month and they have to be current for our adoption profile) and I have been sewing (of course) and contemplating rearranging furniture.  It is stormy and grey and I can hear the wind blowing outside.  I love Autumn. 

Oh, and I am obsessed with this song ("We All Need Saving" by Jon McLaughlin - has anyone else heard it?) these days:

Friday, November 9, 2012


I feel like I need to take a deep breath before posting this...

I don't know why I feel perhaps more than slightly embarassed to admit this, but I have started doing a little photography here and then.  I even started up a little photography blog.  I know, I know - not another blog.  But hang with me for a second whilst I explain...

A couple of months ago I showed up at a Toddler Time (just a little Monday morning get together for mom's with similarly aged children in our ward) and was approached by one of the other mom's asking me if I had ever considered taking family pictures for other people because she liked the photos I tend to post on our blog.  And once she spoke up, a number of the other moms chimed in that they agreed and would be interested in having me do their family photos as long as they could afford whatever I decided to charge if I even decided it was something I wanted to do.

And the thing is, I had thought of doing this for a long time before BUT it has always felt SOOOOO cliché.  Because it basically IS so cliché - the stay-at-home mormon mom gets a nice camera, starts up a little blog and voila, suddenly has her own little photography business.  And ugh, I am awfully uncomfortable with being cliché.  As a side-note, I am sure that there are plenty of other things about my life that I have probably documented on here that are also cliché and I may or may not also be embarassed about those things, but ho-hum, that's life, I guess. 

Anyway, after thinking it over for a bit I decided, you know, why not?  Besides, I thought, it would be a good way of saving money for our next adoption.  And that way I could tell these friends who had raised the concept that they could treat it more as a contribution to our adoption fund and pay what they felt they could afford and was appropriate for the product I could give them rather than me "charging" a set fee and feeling like I was gouging friends while I was gaining specific family photography experience (you know, as opposed to just everyday life photography like I typically engage in). 

I have had a few photo shoots in the past couple of months since that conversation with friends (and I have a few more sessions in the works before December!) and it has been really fun.  I certainly have been learning quite about and developing my skills with our camera and that feels good.  And it is nice to have a little bit more money in our adoption bank to help with travel expenses when they come up. 

And I am not as concerned about being cliché as I was at first.  I know that in Utah and Arizona and probably most places with a significant mormon population the mormon mommy photographer is a dime a dozen, but out here, I just don't know of a single one.  And sure, there are other photographers out here, but they seriously charge an arm and a leg and it is not surprising that people aren't too keen on paying that much for photos.  So there is a void and it looks like I can fill that void as a less expensive option for some families right now.  (As a side note, I would imagine that if any more established photographers are reading this post that I am driving them nuts because it is probably cheap mommy photographers who make their businesses that much harder.  Fortunately, I don't know any "real" photographers in my area so I am not too worried about this.) 

I've been trying hard to be very professional - scouting locations beforehand, studying up on posing and how to photograph young children, building up a website, improving my photo editing techniques, and making sure to deliver a good product as an end result with a labeled CD of 25-30 unique images.  And so far I think my "clients" (it still makes me squirm just a little to think of my friends who I have done photo shoots for in that way) have been pleased, I think. 

Well, anyway, that is what I have been spending quite a bit of my spare time doing these days and one of the reasons why my blog posts have been a little bit sparse (in my opinion) while I have been busy developing photos and setting up a little (and I do mean little at this point) business.

Oh, and if you would like to see some of the images I have taken, you can visit my still-in-progress photography blog at

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Playtime with Clara-girl

I have a number of random photos of Clara playing in the last month that I know I will forget about if I don't post them soon.  She LOVED playing with all the Halloween decorations, but particularly liked being chased by the giant hairy spider and shaking hands with the skeleton below (whose head is turned around making him even more creepy).  She also loved rearranging the pumpkins surrounding the fireplace (not real ones that would be too heavy for her to move).  I imagine that our Christmas tree will look funny this year with all the ornaments within her reach being constantly pulled from the branches.

A number of my friends with kids similar in age to Clara have talked about how they bought pom-poms from the dollar store and cut different size holes in the lid of a small container for their toddlers to play with.  I went out and did the same thing (since I feel like Clara doesn't have very many toys and the ones she has she is bored with but with Christmas so close around the corner I don't want to buy any new ones for her yet) and she loves it.  The pack of pom-poms I bought have a few sparkly ones and those are always the first ones Clara goes for.  She loves her bling.

Clara can now successfully blow bubbles so long as I am the one holding the bubble wand.  If she is holding it she usually gets it too close to her mouth (and okay, sometimes she just sticks it right in her mouth).  But when I hold it and she successfully blows a few bubbles she is excited and chases after them.  We blow bubbles a lot around here and almost everyday Clara runs up to the sliding glass door, points, and then begs "Out! Meesh!" so we can blow bubbles and she can play in her little Cozy Coupe.  Meesh is how she says please and I have got to get a video of her begging for something soon before she changes how she says it.  She is a very polite little gal and almost always says "meesh" for anything she wants.

She also loves drawing - much more than just coloring.  She is so happy when she has a pen and a piece of paper to scribble on. 

This is my new blue bench and I totally love it.  The bench was actually left behind by the previous owners and arm has always been broken and it was just raw gray wood that had been exposed to the elements for too long but Paul and I have used it that way the whole time we have lived here and talked about refinishing it someday.  So for my birthday present, Paul sanded it down really well and then asked me whether I wanted it stained or painted and I told him I wanted a dark blue bench.  Isn't it great?! 

Clara's hair has gotten long enough and thick enough that I can actually do full french braids, not just half ones at the top of her little noggin.  This was my first attempt and they were a little messy by the end of the day after nap time and playing outside and I ended up having to pin her bangs back since they escaped and kept bothering her by falling in her eyes.

This is her "blowing" face.

We also like to throw the ball around in the backyard or kick it and chase it.  I think we may need to upgrade to some little soccer ball or something instead of this tactile ball.

And Clara is such a big helper and enjoyed picking green tomatoes for me from the garden and trying to convince me they were apples (her word for apples is "App! App!") so that she could eat them.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Trick-or-Treating 2012

This was Clara's first year to really trick-or-treat.  I took her last year with my friend Dorothy and her daughter Summer who happened to be in town visiting, but since Clara was only five months old she didn't get to eat any of the spoils and didn't understand anything that was going on.  But this year, we had a blast.  Since the beginning of October Paul and I have been helping Little Miss to practice saying "trick-or-treat!" so she would be ready for the big night and she actually became fairly proficient at the phrase.  She could do all the syllables and got the right vowel sounds in there most of the time so that it usually sounded something like "dit-oo-deet".  So it wasn't perfect, but it still bagged her candy everywhere we went.
Clara wore her Halloween costume (Little Bo Peep since mom and dad didn't actually dress up with her for trick-or-treating) all day long since I took her over to Willow Glen for their toddler trick-or-treating event in the morning.  I loved Willow Glen's approach - they have the toddler-age crowd go from 11:00-12:30 down the quaint little street lined with bookstores, clothing boutiques, awesome restaurants (including our favorite Greek place - Opa!), and home decor stores.  Then the older kids get to go from 3:00-4:30 or something like that.  I left the stroller in the car and Clara walked by my side holding my hand nearly the entire time (and it is a long street!) and said "trick-or-treat" and "thank you" and "buh-bye" everytime she was prompted until she finally got the hang of it and would walk right up to the person with the basket of candy and meltingly squeak "dit-oo-deet", take the proferred candy, drop it in her plastic pumpkin bucket, and then move on to the next stop.  I was so proud.  And I know it is super prideful, but I loved having so many people gush over Clara's cuteness and ask me if I had made her costume myself. 

Paul made it home from work just in time to eat dinner with us (turkey meatloaf, pumpkin mashed potatoes and asparagus - so yummy!) and then we went around the corner to trick-or-treat with friends from church.  We started just as it was getting dark and spent an hour going up and down one street.     

Clara literally ran from house to house, knocked on doors all on her on, charmingly chirped "dit-oo-deet" and did super until someone gave her a purple lollipop that she just could not wait to eat. After that things went downhill pretty fast as she kept pulling the lolly from her bucket until I had Paul hide it in his jacket until we finally gave in and let her have it at which point she just wanted to be held and suck on the grape deliciousness which she periodically waved against my shoulder and hair in a rapture of candy-joy before sticking it back in her mouth. Ick. I took it away from her before she finished (because it was actually a quite large sucker anyway) and she wasn't as happy about trick-or-treating after that (and also, it was almost bedtime and she was way overstimulated and had too much sugar in her system).

Oh, and I think this old man's mask contributed to her rapidly deteriorating interest in knocking on doors.  He was actually such a nice old grandpa guy but wow, that mask was intense for Clara-girl and she was none too happy about the trick part of trick-or-treat and only wanted to be held from then on. 

When we got home we had a beastly time getting Clara down for the night.  She cried and cried (totally not normal) and ultimately didn't go to bed until two hours past her usual bedtime and even then we had to just let her cry herself to sleep because she was so exhausted, poor thing.  Or maybe she was just prescient enough to know that her daddy was sorting her candy and taking all the good stuff while she was in her crib. 
There is no more candy in the house now though.  What Paul we didn't eat last night was set out on the porch with the candy we were giving away and the bowl was empty when we went to bring it in last night at 9:30.  I feel like Clara has been having too much sugar lately anyway with pre-Halloween candy (which is why she knew what suckers were and why she obsessed over them when she got some) and Paul and I for sure have been having too much sugar so we are attempting to cut WAY back on sugar consumption for the month of November.  We'll see how that goes since we both have pretty fierce sweet tooths. 

It was a great Halloween and a great October.  As one final Halloween treat, here is a video of Clara trick-or-treating at a couple of doors last night.  If you watch and listen closely, at the second house you can see Clara say "trick-or-treat".

Happy Halloween!