“Everything is ceremony in the wild garden of childhood.”
― Pablo Neruda
olive | The Monarch butterfly on our front porch emerged from its chrysalis this week. We all gathered around watching it occasionally spread its wings to dry off. I had to keep reminding you to give it space and of course not to touch it–the hardest part for you all.
blythe | Your ballet recital was last weekend. We all piled in the car to watch your few minutes on the stage, floating and twirling, your eyes and mouth smiling wide. I love how your spirit comes alive in movement.
burke | You selected a book on baking from the library last week. You chose a recipe for banana creme pie, and we spent the afternoon rolling dough and browning butter for custard. It was both of our first times to bake a pie. Each Sunday morning, you and dad make pancakes for the rest of us. You love being in the kitchen, although not with a crowd.
liam | This week, I took you for a haircut, and suddenly, I couldn’t see the little boy any longer. You are almost as tall as I am.
I’m thrilled to announce I’ll be hosting an event at Madewell in Dallas, Texas, next Saturday evening to celebrate the beginning of summer. I’ve always appreciated the brand’s minimalist design and simple palettes–something that resonates with all aspects of our home and lifestyle–and this is such a wonderful way to meet some of you! Come join me for delicious cocktails and nibbles while we mingle and meet one another (or even hug the neck of long-time friends!), and of course for a little discount to enjoy in the shop, too. I will be hand-picking a few of my favorite summer pieces to share–which as you might know by now will include summer whites. (Wink.) I hope to see you there!
saturday, may 30 / 5-7pm
madewell northpark / 8687 north central expressway / dallas, texas 75225
The girls received beautiful play scarves from Shovava last week, and the timing could not have been better as it has rained almost every day of the last two weeks. We’ve had almost 30″ of rain since January. The boys keep joking that they almost played soccer this season–since they’ve had more games and practices canceled than they’ve actually played at this point. A soul-crushing reality for 10 and 11 year olds.
The kids have gone out to play in the rain several times lately, although I suppose they only want to be cold and wet for so long before they return to the porch or the indoors again. After our more formal studies are finished, our time indoors generally drifts toward art-work or books or various sorts of indoor play. The boys will sometimes play basketball in their room or build Legos across the floor. The girls tend more toward pretend play, sometimes mimicking everyday life like making food or taking care of babies, and other times living in stories as animals or fairies or queens. The scarves have added a fresh flavor for the girls’ daily pretend play. Roza, the owner/deisigner of the Australian-based shop, draws and paints the wing designs by hand before screen-printing, and the light and soft material gives the wings such presence and flight during play. This week they have worn them as wings and head wraps and neck scarves in almost every variety of role. It’s so amazing what a piece of cloth can inspire, yes?
My children play at home in quite creative, simple ways. I do allow them a bit of daily screen time, usually toward the dinner hour, and I’m not entirely rigid on this topic. Yet I learn so much about them during their play, whether the characters they become or the buildings they create. They also learn much about themselves, their dreams, their ingenuity. When they speak the word bored, I kindly remind them that boredom is their responsibility to resolve, but I usually offer them a few options to get their brains ticking. Our culture is full of passive entertainment with screens–and our family certainly enjoys that part, too–but as a parent, I want my children to begin learning now how to take responsibility for the way they live, even in small ways and at young ages. Life is something we choose, something we create daily. As adults, we choose daily how we spend our limited resources of time and money, and sometimes it requires great creativity and problem solving. These habits and lessons begin in our children in quite small, seemingly unimportant ways. Giving them space and time to create and play on their own seems small and trivial. However, it is teaching important skills necessary in adulthood, such as problem solving and decision-making, even lessons in compassion, empathy, and change of perspective.
We love reading books around here. And I particularly love books that celebrate imagination and ingenuity. Here’s a few of our favorites. If you have a few of your own to recommend, I would love to know so we can find them on our next library trip. Wink.
olive | You seem to be shifting daily, looking less and less little each day. You’ve been sleeping later this week, some days until mid-morning, an indication you might be growing or working harder to keep up with your older siblings.
blythe | Although you are maturing into older things and conversations, I’m so grateful you still love to play, to imagine. I hope that part of your spirit always remains alive.
burke | Your quiet disposition keeps me guessing as a parent more than any of the other kids, and you surprise me with the most thoughtful (and sometimes random) moments. Thank you.
liam | You helped clear another section of our yard last weekend, in a moment of rare sunshine. The next morning you woke up, your eyes sealed shut from an allergic reaction to poison ivy. Your face has now cleared, but was still puffy and patchy when I took this image of you. We’ll leave the details for our own privacy.
I like to think of editing less as a fix-it shop and more as the place where photos come to life, where the story or subject is emphasized. Honestly, there’s not an exact science to this process for me, and many of the skills I now use, I’ve learned over the years through observation and playing with settings and filters. There’s simply no substitute for practice when taking photos or editing. Generally, I prefer images with natural light, clean angles, a focused subject and muted tones. Perhaps your own style is similar, perhaps not. There are millions of different ways to edit a photo, but as I mentioned previously, this is simply my contribution to the conversation. I hope it inspires you.
edit with VSCO | There are several fantastic editing applications for phones these days. It can almost be overwhelming. Since each one works a little differently, it’s best to choose one or two and stick with them. I use the VSCO application (Visual Supply Co.) for all of my editing. I love its simple format, filter options and settings, and its ease for storing and sharing. There are several other high-quality editing applications, such as Afterlight and Pic-Tap-Go, even Instagram itself is offering more range these days, but for purposes of sharing my own tips and tricks here, this will be more specific to the VSCO application.
upload 1-3 images | VSCO organizes the photos in a grid gallery just like Instagram. As I mentioned earlier, I often take more than one image, often with different angles in mind, so I choose my top favorites and upload them into the VSCO app gallery. Sometimes I immediately have a favorite, even before editing, but usually I have more than one I like. I upload both or even three, edit, choose my favorite, and delete the other two from the VSCO.
crop + straighten | I always take images in full portrait or horizontal orientation. So the first thing I do in VSCO is crop to make a square image for Instagram. I then use the straightening tool to either turn the image completely–sometimes the aerial shots will turn out upside-down–or I simply straighten the existing lines, i.e. adjusting the horizon to be horizontal, or the fence, windows, or tree trunk in the background to be vertical.
exposure | If the image is a little dark, I might brighten the exposure a tad. If I’ve taken an image midday, I might lower the exposure a notch to make the color more rich.
filters | I don’t use the same filter for every image. I like to have a similar feel to all of my images, so I’ll use different filters based on the light conditions to create a similar style throughout my Instagram gallery. For bright light or white backgrounds, I generally use the “bright + clean” presets (favorite: S2) or the “aesthetic series” (favorites: A4 or A6). For moodier lighting (grey days, early mornings indoor, table scenes, etc.), I use the “minimalist collection” (favorites: A8, A9, J2, J5). Occasionally, I use other filters but the ones I listed are my regular go-to’s. Also, to note, I rarely use a filter at full strength. I usually knock it down to between 6 and 8 on the filter scale, and then I tweak individually using the settings.
temperature + tint | All of the filters have specific temperature (cooler blue tones or warmer red tones) and tint (green and purple). Sometimes after applying a filter, one of the two is a little off for matching my other images, so I tweak one a bit to balance the whites in my gallery.
contrast + saturation + sharpening | These are the final things I sometimes do to tweak after using the filter. I prefer less color-saturated images, so sometimes I knock the saturation down a notch to give a more muted feel. Or I boost the contrast or sharpen the image a tad to create a little less-muddled light or subject.
For the record, I don’t use every setting every time. Sometimes when the light and focus are perfect, I might barely tweak the image at all. Then again, some images need a little more time than others to bring life to the image’s story or the moment itself–whatever I had envisioned when I first pulled out my phone for the shot. My images aren’t perfect, and often I have to work really hard to let that perfectionism go. In the end, years from now looking back through these, I know I’ll want the memory and story more than the perfect shot. These are just helpful tips I use to make the best of it.
olive | For Mother’s Day, you hugged me and said, “mom, I love that you are always kind to me and never feist me.” “Do you mean fight?” I asked. “No,” you assured me. “I meant feist.” You hugged me again, and I knew it was straight from your heart.
blythe | You are maturing by the moment, it seems. Somedays you are by my side, a kindred sidekick, and other days, you seem vehemently opposed to me. You’re reaching the age of standing your ground, making your own place, and learning about authority even when you disagree. Such concentrated lessons and sharply contrasting moments we’re having right now. I’m glad to have plenty of laughs to balance the latter.
burke | You told me this week how grateful you are that I help you solve problems in math, and in life, and this brought some bit of new air to me. Being a parent is hard. Growing up is also hard. I’m glad we get to work through both together.
liam | You’re still my wanderer. In your school work. On an afternoon walk. In a conversation. I regularly catch you off the beaten path, not yet realizing your confident curiosity is a gift.
For the last year, I’ve intended to feature a little Instagram series here. I’m quite flattered when I receive questions on IG and in my inbox on how I use the app, especially when there are so many incredible people taking and sharing beautiful images out there. Naturally, there are several ways to take an image or edit and use it, but I thought it might be nice to finally contribute a little something of my own to the conversation. I began taking photos with my phone a few years ago after my first DSLR died. I found iPhone-ography simple and accessible. The finger tapping and swiping felt intuitive, making it easier for me to experiment with the art of photography, taking images and editing them (more on that later). Instagram’s simple platform made sharing these images equally easy, and over time, it has become somewhat of a microblog for me, for our family. Most questions I receive are about editing, but honestly, editing is easy and quick if you begin with a great image. So we’ll begin there. Here’s a few tips and tricks I use when framing or composing an image with my phone camera. I hope they inspire or help you in some way. (wink.)
use a camera app | I take most of my Instagram images using my iPhone 5 (over two years old), and have used either the Camera Sharp app or Camera+ app. Both apps give you far more control and creates sharper images overall than the iPhone camera, in my experience. Camera+ even has a macro lens option and manual control of exposure. After selecting and editing my image, I upload to Instagram. I’ll talk more about this process in a later post.
choose a clear subject | There’s always a reason you’re drawn to pull out your phone in a moment–a specific activity or interaction, a slice of nature, a beautiful meal, a proud moment of accomplishment. Draw your image to that subject. Sometimes that might mean a close detail shot, a tight image of your project or meal or child’s hands. Other times, it might mean pulling back, surveying a scene, the coastline, a silhouette in gorgeous light, people interacting. Direct your image to what subject you want to convey. When possible (or just to play around), take 2-3 perspectives of the moment: one more detailed and close; another more removed, surveying the scene; and possibly a third from a different angle entirely, like low to the ground or birds-eye. Which expresses the subject more clearly to you?
use natural light + exposure | The quality of all images begins with light. Take your phone images during the day. If you’re indoors, stay close to windows. Sometimes I scoot a table closer to the window or wait for one of my kids to move their activity to a well-lit area. In the morning, light is usually soft and muted. In the late afternoon, light is usually golden and full of contrasting shadow. Use exposure buttons on your camera app–usually by tapping the screen with two fingers at once. Move the ‘E’ circle or square around your screen to see how the shadows and highlights change on your screen. Light itself can sometimes become the subject. In those instances, I might expose to the light of a window, even though it darkens my children’s faces or what they’re doing to focus on the mood of the moment.
show scale | Everyone has had that moment of trying to explain how big the mountain actually was compared or how small your tiny your infant was at birth. I love scale for this purpose, especially with children. They’re little for such a short period of time, so make sure to show it. This might mean taking an image of tiny children in a tree or having your toddler standing between your legs or a close-up of them on your hip. The idea is to have some marker in your image to give scale to how large or small someone or something is.
find lines | Lines exist everywhere, in furniture, buildings, along our bodies and nature. Use these natural lines to align your subject. For instance, using the grid lines on your camera app or in Instagram, make sure your existing background lines–perhaps the horizon or the window frame or building edge or tree trunk–are parallel or perpendicular to your subject. How do they work together? You’ll notice it’s easier to keep your lines straight if you phone is parallel to the subject, instead of tilted. For example, a phone that is directly parallel over the table for your food or drink shot, opposed to tilted from above. Or an eye-level photo, rather than simply tilting the phone down at your child from your standing position.