Friday, May 30, 2008

Sticker Boy

Bryce LOVES Thomas the Tank Engine, and he also LOVES stickers. Combine the two and what do you get?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Game Master Todd

Okay, I can take a beating and still want to play, seriously. But there comes a point where it's just nice to win, right? Todd beats me in 8 games out of 10 at EVERY game we play. It all started with Skip-Bo almost four years ago. Then Phase 10. Then "Chicken Foot" Dominoes, etc. On and on it went. Don't get me started with Chess--he gets me 99% of the time, after all the thinking and effort I put into it!

So I begin to think, "What is the ONE game at which I could pulverize him?" Then it comes to me...Scrabble! I love love love words and sometimes just browse our unabridged dictionary for fun (hmmm...maybe I should leave that part out). So I figured there was no way he could outwit me in a game of Scrabble. So what happened? The picture speaks a thousand words....

So I thought maybe it was just time to move on to different games. We went out and got Sequence (which we used to play when we were first married) and Rummikub, which I had never played before.

Yes, from the poo-eating grin on his face, you can safely ascertain that Todd continually stomps me at these games, too. Curses! Will I never be victorious?!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Memorial Day in the Woods

For Memorial Day, we took a short trip up to Payson and stayed at Ponderosa Campground (actually east of Payson). It was so nice to be back in the forest, hiking and discovering the local flora.

The sites at the campground were enormous, which was great. We had room for our tent with plenty of room left over to put up the bad minton net. There was a fire pit and a picnic table. The site was so roomy we weren't right on top of the "neighbors." It was a fun time, but cold at night.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Todd Discovers New Talent

Allie bought some Spiker a couple weeks ago and she and Todd had fun testing it's possibilities!

Allie's 8th Grade Promotion

It was sooooooooo windy on Thursday, May 22nd, and quite cold the morning of the 8th grade promotion, but that didn't quell the excitement for Allie or any of her friends. They are all so excited to be starting high school this fall!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Equus Luminous

As you all know from my incessant whining, I've been wistful the last few...well, years, actually, about not having a good camera with which to satisfy my ever-present yearning to produce good photographs. My collection of 35 mm Contax cameras, along with their beautiful Zeiss lens accomplices, sit gathering dust mites on my high closet shelf. My ancient Mamiyaflex hasn't been handled in so long it's probably rusted.

And living in Arizona doesn't drive me to go out and shoot anyway, not the things I like to shoot...a fat, fuzzy bumblebee landing purposefully on an Echinacea flower, the soft, delicate shapes of the blooming dogwood flower or the blue-misted expanse of the Blueridge Mountains I miss so much in Virginia. My obsession with expensive German cameras hinders me; it's time to let go of that ideal and start saving for something more in my price and experience range.

Today I'm feeling a tad more realistic. I want to own a successful photography business. Until then, I will shoot simply for the joy it gives me to do so. And I will seek out and thoroughly enjoy the work of other fine photographers.

Which leads me to Equus Luminous (and it only took a day to get here!). I stumbled upon this website while looking at pictures from the San Tan Veterans' Memorial dedication. I clicked on the portrait gallery of people without horses first, since I'm not necessarily a horse lover (nor am I not; I'm just a casual admirer, I guess). These portraits speak from the page! They communicate feeling and depth and that's why I've never strived to be a portrait photographer; I can't achieve that! Surely Mel (Melanie) Levy is a photo genius!

So, fascinated with this gallery, I moved on to the next...and the next, and eventually looked at every picture on that website. And each one was more beautiful and spectacular than the previous one! I began to think, "If only I had the right camera, I could take pictures like this!"

And then I woke up this morning and drifted back to reality. I realized, of course, that it's not the camera. It's the talent that flows from the person behind the camera. Mel Levy's talent flows like Niagara (I'm not quite sure why this woman isn't shooting for National Geographic). Can I just hate her? No, I can't; she was kind enough to answer the email I sent inquiring about digital cameras and what she would suggest, which was really sweet of her and which has helped me focus in (no pun intended) on what cameras to consider.

Okay, enough melodrama for one day! Do yourself a favour and go browse Mel's galleries. ( <--click to go there!)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Diggin' on my Lumix camera

So I had my doubts when we bought the Panasonic Lumix F33 at Costco a couple weeks ago (when we thought Todd lost the old camera at Father/Son's campout; we found it, by the way). The name 'Panasonic' doesn't instill camera confidence in me, but the Leica lens mounted grandly on the front convinced me to give it a try. I'm glad I did. I really like this camera. It has no manual settings (a major bummer for me), but that's not really the purpose of a P&S (point & shoot) anyway. It does an okay job in macro mode (which is my favorite hobby--macro photography). The two pix of a parrot tulip (which my smoochable Todd got me for Mother's Day) below are about as close as the camera goes in macro--again, not too bad for a P&S. It also has an auto-bracketing function--LOVE THAT!

I LOVE this picture of Todd. We were weeding the front yard yesterday evening as the sun was just starting to go low. The Lumix has face detecting technology and an "Auto intelligence" mode which makes some pretty cool adjustments. It did a great job of keeping the light nice on Todd's face while the rest of him was in slight shadow. The wide angle lens (28 mm) gives you lots of options, too, with a nice zoom range.

And it took a nice portrait of Zane and Wuzzle. I like the color and the lens has nice contrast--not too harsh (like a Leica digital P&S I briefly owned several years ago--it was too contrasty for family snap shots, creating harsh lines).

Overall, I would recommend this camera to anyone looking for a new, inexpensive but great performing digital P&S. This was the least expensive camera in Costco at $199.95. It has a nice weight, attractive and sturdy body, beautiful Leica lens and fantastic functions. It's an 8.1 megapixel. **I checked out the Lumix 10 mp at Best Buy and the body was light-weight cheap plastic and didn't feel good in the hands. The 10 mp would have been nice, but I appreciate the better quality body of the Costco version, which also came with a case and photo viewing/editing software.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Happy Birthday Bryce!

Friday was Bryce's birthday! He's now 2 years old; I guess I should stop calling him my "baby." And I suppose weaning is in the very near future, although I don't think either one of us is completely ready for that. I did stop him from nursing at night; 2 years without a full night's sleep was making me a bit wonkier than usual.

Thursday night, we had a special task to accomplish. Todd had to put together a train table and I had to put the tracks together, all while keeping Bryce away from it.

Then Friday morning, Bryce helped me make cake batter. As you can see, he was the taste tester. He also cleaned the spatula for me, haha.

Once Allie, Zane and Todd were home Friday evening, we had a little family party for Bryce with yummy home-made pizza, cake and ice cream. Then Bryce got to open presents! We got him a couple of books (he looooves books, don't know where he gets that from, haha)... and a wooden puzzle with various modes of transportation (his favorite, trucks, airplanes, etc.).

Then it was time for the grand finale! Bryce was sort of dumb-struck when he walked into his room and saw a big wrapped up heap on the floor. He pulled the wrapping paper off and stared at the train table for a minute before starting to play. He's disassembled the tracks a couple times already, and it's not easy to get them to fit back together with the Knapford Station integrated in there. Lots of work for mom! But so fun to watch Bryce play with this; every time we go to Barnes & Noble or his doctor, both of which have the train set, it's hard to pull him away. Now he has his own! This morning when Todd took Bryce into his room to change his diaper (yes, he still sleeps with us; I know, we're the biggest push-overs in the Universe), Bryce looked at the train set and squeeled and started kicking as though he had forgotten it was could've all just been a really cool dream!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Pickin' Peaches

This morning, bright and early, Todd, Bryce and I went to Schnepf Farm to pick peaches. We got to go on a hayride to get to the peach orchard. This was Bryce's first hayride. He looks a little confused or disgruntled; not sure which.

Bryce got to pick some peaches, too!

And even try some in the orchard. Don't worry; they're organic.
A nice lady on the ride back took our picture...evidence that I really am at all these events with my family!

Allie's Orchestra Concert

Thursday night was Allie's final orchestra concert of the school year; can you believe school's out in a couple weeks?! I can't.

The concert was fun, but Todd & I spent most of the time chasing Bryce around. Okay, mostly it was Todd chasing Bryce around, but I got my turn, too.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Book Review, "Atonement" by Ian McEwan

I don't know how or where to begin with this book. If you're looking for something complicated with twists and unexpected turns that will leave you feeling emotionally exhausted afterward, this is the book for you. I really loved this book. It left me feeling melancholy and...what's the word...I can't quite find it. Plaintive, maybe. I wondered for a while where it was going, then suddenly I was so taken in, I couldn't wait to see what was in store. The characters are so skillfully crafted and realistic, I could imagine looking them up and finding them in London. I will definitely have to read more of Ian McEwan.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Allie's Celeb Look-a-Likes

This has got to be the most interesting one yet...!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Zane's Celeb Look-a-likes

This is just way too much fun...heheee...!

Okay, so they're mostly female, but hey, he's a cute kid :o)

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Scoop on Todd

Okay, my friend Linda in Chicago says there's not enough on my blog about Todd, so for my friends around the country who've never met him, heeeeeere's Todd...!

Todd is THE BEST! He's affectionate, kind, mischievous, funny, loving, realistic (well, most of the time), adventurous and level-headed--I've only seen him get a little upset twice in the four years I've known him. We don't fight or argue. He loves animals and his dream job would be working in the wildlife preservation field. Maybe after he retires from air never know! He's a very hard worker and works his butt off so we can have a house and I can stay home with the kids.

Todd loves to go hiking and camping (I would have put some pix on here of Todd and Zane camping last weekend with our Church Ward, but Todd lost the camera, LOL!). That was a blessing, though, because I hated that camera and it gave me an excuse to get a new point & shoot (still hoping for the manual camera for my birthday, hehe). Todd used to go regularly to camp at Havasupai (I don't know how to spell that properly) which is a very long hike in and's in the Grand Canyon and there's an "Indian" village down there, too.

Todd not only loves animals, he loves birds, bugs, reptiles, you name it. We found an old video tape of his a couple years ago. He made it when he was probably in his late teens. It was several minutes of some kind of bug going in and out of a hole. LOL!

Todd and I have so many things in common--just weird little quirky things that it amazes me how well-suited for each other we are. I definitely got the better end of the deal, though ;o) On our first date, we discovered that we like the same music, which is a lot of reggae, but pretty much anything strange, bizarre or unusual, too. He loves everything from the Pixies to Miles Davis to, of course, Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, Digable Planets, A Tribe Called Quest (he got me into them, and I got him into Jack Johnson, whom he really loves). We both kinda got into Jack Johnson together on our long drive across country when we moved from AZ to VA in late May of 2005. Good stuff. Todd plays acoustic guitar, too, but not very often. I love it when he does; he has big hands and thick fingers and it seems impossible that they should be able to play those thin strings, but he does.

Todd is very devoted to our Church and he and I teach the 6-7 year-old Primary class. We love the kids; he is far more patient with them than I am, although I'm learning from him. We've been in that class for almost a year now. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else; it's fun being with the kids and even more fun being with Todd. Todd served a mission in Guatemala around the same time I was stationed in the Air Force in Japan--which is where I joined the Church (early 90's).

Well, there are a million more things I could say about Todd, but I'll stop there with a promise to include him more in future posts.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Celeb Look-a-likes?

Rhianna?! LOL! I don't think so! Not even 15 years ago, unfortunately.

...and Bryce apparently resembles an Asian girl, and so did Zane. That's funny because people say my boys look like me and our nephew, Chris, calls me Lucy Lui (that's why my blog name is Lucy Liu). Haha!

and here's a more clear one of me...taken with the new camera...what a GREAT shows every freckle and rement of my pregnancy mask that won't go away! YIKES!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Book Review, "American Gods"

I finished American Gods yesterday and all I can say is WOW. If I could type fireworks and a huge parade, I would. I absolutely loved this book. I love Neil Gaiman and have loved him since the graphic novel days of The Sandman.

If you haven't read The Sandman series, go get it! You can buy the entire collection at a bookstore in one volume for like a bone. (That would be $100). It's worth every penny. The graphics are amazing, too. I have the separate galleries if you want to see them next time you're over.

American Gods is about mythological gods and one man's interaction with them. There is also some fact intertwined. The story takes place primarily in the U.S. and you'll get a nice literary view of America along the journey, including rural Virginia (my homeland!).

Neil Gaiman's writing is bound to become classic literature and part of college syllabi, if it's not already. His writing is so vivid and detailed. He has such an interesting and imaginative way of describing things. I often found myself, while reading this book, saying, "Why can't I write like that?!"

I read Neil's Anansi Boys last year and wish I read it after American Gods, so if you go out seeking his work, you might want to go in that order. It doesn't really matter, but I think I would've preferred that since one character from "Gods" appears in "Boys."