Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Something More Than Babysitting

Yes, the child is out of focus here and below. 
He was moving more than you might imagine to look 
at this, and it turns out I'm not so good at catching 
fast-moving kidlets with my phone camera. 

Last night, Lis and Troy both had work-related commitments, so I’d eagerly agreed to spend a few hours hanging out with Penn.

After dinner, we gathered up some plastic bunnies with parachutes and set off for the park with them. Penn explained to me in great detail how you have to climb to the very highest point on the play structure, and then drop the bunnies just so, allowing their parachutes to fill with air and ensuring a good jump. He decided we should take not only his bunny, but the second one—the one his mom and dad use—because it’s better to have a second one, in case one person wants more turns. Because sometimes, sharing just isn’t the most fun you can have, you know?

He asked me if we could stop by his friend’s house to see if she could go to the park with us. So we wandered down to the co-housing community where she lives, the community that Lis and Troy and Penn are also a part of, though they don’t technically live in the community.

Of course, it didn’t take us long to run into someone we know. Because Lis often invites me to join community meals at the common house (and because it’s the kind of place where everyone and their goldfish belongs to the food co-op Lis and I both work for), I’m familiar to many of the members. And Penn, of course, is well known and loved.

So we stopped and chatted. And then we went and knocked on Tatum’s door. It was close to bedtime for her, but she and her mom came outside to spend a few minutes with us before Penn and I walked on to the park. Brie and I chatted and the kids ran around, giggling madly as they pretended to sneak up on us and poke us in our backs. We would break the conversation to feign shock, the kids would run away, and we’d go right back to the conversation.

Once we’d walked our friends back to their house to get ready for bed, we turned around to see another friend, Amy, across the walkway, going to visit Holly at her house. We all greeted one another warmly, and as we chatted, Holly heard us and called hello to us out her kitchen window.

It was pretty much exactly as blissfully warm and community spirited as it sounds, and what really struck me was this: Not one person even asked why Penn and I were hanging out, or where Lis and Troy were that evening. It seemed as if everyone found it entirely normal that a loving, non-parental grown-up would be out and about in the neighborhood with her four-year-old friend on a spring evening.

Eventually, Penn and I wandered on. We climbed the play structure exactly as Penn had described to me, and we dropped the bunnies from the great height, and their parachutes filled with air to help them land safely. 

And then it was getting later, and Penn was yawning, and a tired-whiny note was starting to enter his voice. And I knew just how he felt, so I picked him up to carry him home. The night air was cooling, and his little body was warm and solid as he leaned into me and put his head on my shoulder. We walked several blocks that way, in silence, until my arms couldn’t take it anymore, and I put him down and we held hands the rest of the way home, through a neighborhood where everyone knows us.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

•clean carpet•

"You have never experienced anything like butter that a dog has eaten and barfed up."
Amy has a new steam cleaner.  Her floors sparkle.
One pound of butter, in the box.


Thursday, April 19, 2012


What are you strangely compelled to photograph these days?  xox

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

What Matters

Up late working to the sound of crickets, frogs, and the night breeze, and I suddenly felt the need to note it here. Just to document the moment, the loveliness, the gratitude I feel for it, though my body hurts, and the week's been hard, and I'm way behind on way too many things.

But none of the hard stuff really matters.

I have a screen door that leads to a world of nighttime spring breezes, the sounds of crickets and frogs. Tonight, when I was unable to concentrate (for the quadrillionth time of late), I got up and spent a few hours making myself food for the week: I washed and dried two heads of lettuce so it would be ready for salads. I hard boiled eggs and baked some chicken. I roasted tiny new potatoes with carrot chunks and cauliflower, salt and olive oil. I made tomato-y curried lentils to eat with toasted cashews and yogurt and chutney. I cut up three apples and doused them with lemon to keep them from browning. I talked on the phone with one of my most beloved people, and it was more like having her in the kitchen with me while I worked--sometimes, we were just there, on the phone, not talking, each absorbed in our own moment, but present with one another nonetheless. There I was, nourished in all ways.

My dogs had a good day. This afternoon, I set up an extension cord and took my computer to the little table on the back patio, where I sat and worked for several hours while my dogs ran around the enormous yard with my landlords' two dogs. They're the best of friends now; they all get excited when my dogs arrive each Monday morning--quivery doggie play-date joy. Today, one dog went to the water bowl and the rest followed, and then each dog drank from the bowl in turn, while the other three stood around politely waiting their turns--they almost queued up; it was hilarious.

One of my landlords just cleared an enormous space out back so that I can start a garden--he's planning to have it tilled for me when the ground is dry enough. My other landlord, his wife, is planning to grow a couple of tomato plants out there too, but mainly, the space will be mine this summer, and I hope I can grow enough to supply them with plenty of produce all season long (not really much of a challenge around these parts, where everything grows like weeds).

My life is filled with small joys that are actually enormous, and I'm surrounded by beauty all the time. I have good work to do, and people who love me with all their hearts. And people I love with all my heart. And the hard stuff is hard, and it makes me tired, and my body often hurts.

And none of the hard stuff really matters.

The lizard who indulged me by sitting quite still
for a portrait session for quite a long time.

Bunny (baby? it was very small) in the front yard late yesterday
afternoon. Edited all soft and romantic-like, because...BUNNY.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Starry, Starry...Well, Everything, Just Now...

This week in Swan Dive, we've been creating texture photos to use for layering. Below is a texture I painted last fall (when I took the class for the first time). It's sort of texturally interesting, but so far I've found that it's not entirely well suited to my photos.

A bit of playing around with it in PicMonkey and Pixlr Express, however, and I got this:

Specifically, I softened and intensified the original a bit (using the Orton effect in PicMonkey), then I took it over to Pixlr and layered on one of their star overlays two times at full strength. And now I can't stop layering it over my photos. For example:

Or this, originally seen edited completely differently here:

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Fairy Tale Photo Edits for Today

All played with, as that's my M.O. for this month.

I often have mixed feelings about doing this to photos--it's really fun to do, and I can get really into the experimentation. But I'm not always sure I like the results. The beauty of being able to play with them like this? The two below weren't very good photos to begin with, and now they're at least interesting to look at--see the before and after.

Before: Booooring

After. "Who's that trip-trapping across my bridge?"
All edits and textures from PicMonkey and Pixlr Express


After--texture can be found here

So...definitely more interesting than the originals. Definitely a lot of fun to make. But they're not really anything more than pretty, you know? Not that there's anything wrong with pretty, but apparently I have a complicated relationship with making things that are just pretty.

But I don't always feel this way about editing heavily. Sometimes, it's precisely, exactly what a photo needs to become precisely, exactly what it's meant to become. Below, for instance, is my favorite self portrait so far. In altering the image's texture and color
, I turned it into something that has less to do with what I look like, and more to do with being...I'm not really sure how to put it. But it became something outside of myself, something that has a deeper story, and something I hope is more than merely pretty. And I love that.

Also interesting--the texture on the self portrait is the very same texture I used on the orchard photo above. It works well on both, but it's astonishing how vastly different the total effect is, no?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Sunday Drive

I got in my car this afternoon with my camera and no particular plan except to get a cup of coffee and go somewhere beautiful to take some pictures for class. So, coffee in hand, I took off toward those hills I love, thinking I'd probably wind up at Cold Canyon to walk along the creek for a while. But once I got to the turnout where everyone parks to access the hiking trails, it was completely packed with cars.

So I just kept driving--up around Monticello Dam, where Lake Berryessa begins, and really into the hills. And when the road split into 128 and 121, I took 128 toward Napa. I've known for a long time that you can get to Napa that way, of course, but I've never driven the route--I thought it would take a lot longer than it actually does. Frankly, it can't be much more than half an hour longer than taking the highway, and it's about a thousand times more beautiful. I stopped a lot to take pictures.

(Photos are clickable for enlargification-type purposes.)

You're Welcome Here, and If I Didn't Want to Write Something In Public, I Certainly Wouldn't Put it Up on a Publicly Accessible Blog on the Internet

I just read a comment on another blog, and it's not the first time I've read pretty much this precise comment. It's goes more or less like this: "I just have to comment on this--I don't normally comment here, because I feel weird reading your blog when I don't know you..."

PEOPLE. Blogs are PUBLIC! They are out there on the Interwebs for all to read.

Maybe people honestly don't realize this, but if bloggers don't want you to read their blogs they can keep them private, unsearchable by Google, and essentially unfindable by you. That's right! It's totally possible to blog away in a hidden corner of the Internet only the blogger (and any friends and family to whom they have given their URL) can find. Similarly, if bloggers don't want you to comment on their blogs, they can disable the commenting function. True story!

Thus you may assume that if you have somehow stumbled on a blog, you are very much invited to the party. If the comments are enabled, you're not only invited to be present, you're welcome to join in the conversation. Encouraged to do so, even. Bloggers love having readers, and they also love getting comments. Comments are part of the point of blogs.

That doesn't mean, by the way, that you should ever feel weird about not commenting if you don't want to (though I've seen posts by bloggers that might lead you to believe otherwise, and that just annoys me--you're not obligated to comment on a blog simply because the blogger has put their writing out in public and you've chosen to read it).

You are welcome here (and on any public blog) and you are welcome to speak up and make yourself known and interact with us if you feel moved to do so. I think I can speak for Lis too when I say that here at Half-Assed Mama, we pretty much love hearing from people, making new friends, discovering their blogs. But you are also most welcome to stop by this space and read and remain quiet if that's more comfortable.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Caution: Hyper Edited Photos Ahead!

Since playful post-processing in the service of freeing one's creative intuition and discovering one's visual voice is sort of the point of the class, a little bit of hyper editing is a very good thing. (Also: Yet another free online photo editing program!)

And yes, I'm posting photos rather than writing anything real. It's a tiny door back into the blog--say, one of those cat doors you stick in your sliding glass door--but at least I'm crawling through it.

Without further ado, I present to you three takes on some nectarine blossoms. (So my landlord tells me, and she's someone I have reason to trust about plants...though, even she seemed maybe not 100 percent sure? So you know, whatever. Oooh, look! Pretty flowers!)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


Today, I watched a sixth grader raise her hand and speak these words in front of her entire class: "You know those forks the Co-op makes out of corn? Well I put one in my yard, in the sun, and after a while it turned into cornstarch.  I used it in baking."  xox

Just a Photograph, Plus Some Online Photo Editing Options

I've been silent lately, mostly out of exhaustion. I miss it here, though, and I'm hoping to come back soon. Meanwhile, I've just started another class with the lovely Vivienne McMaster. (And there may still be time to join, if anyone out there is interested! You all know I can't say enough about how much I love Viv and her online photography classes, right?)

Anyway, this is a photo I took a week or so ago, but just got around to editing today--in the playful, and hopefully messy, manner of our current assignment. Which is to say--a bit on the over edited side, but totally fun in its over-the-topness!

The dip in the hills (also seen at a distance here) is called the Berryessa Gap. Through it and into the hills a bit lies Lake Berryessa, and around the lake and over the hills and some very beautiful and windy roads you eventually get to Napa and Sonoma, set in their own little valleys in the hills. It's a beautiful place, this place I live.

For those of you who are concerned about Picnik closing this month, do you know about PicMonkey, Pixlr, and Pixlr Express? PicMonkey is the most like Picnik, which makes sense, as it seems to have been developed by the same folks. Pixlr Express is easy and straightforward--I'm having some trouble understanding the main Pixlr program, which is apparently a bit more like Photoshop? Which would explain my confusion. But they're all very, very useful to know about as free online photo editing options. That don't force you to join Google+.

UPDATE: After I posted this, I found this incredibly helpful link to a (rather large) collection of short, easy to follow videos all about using Pixlr! It's a wonderful resource--many, many thanks to whoever is behind this little labor of love.