Thursday, December 30, 2010

Baby Kate

During the last couple of days when I wasn't enjoying the company of our lovely houseguests Jake and Amber, I was busy editing the pictures from my first newborn photo session from earlier in the week. My friend Megan and her husband Chad had a beautiful baby girl a few days before Christmas, and since they hadn't scheduled any professional pictures of dear little Kate, I asked if I could come over and practice photographing their first born. Megan was kind enough to allow me to use her beautiful daughter as a guinea pig, since the few things I knew about infant sessions were from websites and not from actual experience!

Let me first just say that I have a whole new appreciation for the amazing talent of my friend Kelly--as if I didn't already idolize her photography skills. I mean just look at these pictures of newborns she's done. They're phenomenal, and I have no idea how she makes it look so easy. After looking back at her pictures, I don't necessarily feel great about my own, but hopefully my so-so pictures for Megan and Chad will still give them a little joy and give me a few shots for my practice portfolio!

The session didn't exactly go as I'd imagined, I guess because I thought Kate would be a lot more sleepy and posable than she actually was. She didn't really have an interest in being placed into strange and unusual places or positions, so we weren't able to be as creative as I'd hoped. Much of the time she literally had one eye open and on me, like she was very suspicious of what I was doing and why. It was too funny. She was so adorable and so alert and aware for only being 8 days old! It took a little more time and patience than I imagined, but we eventually got a few decent shots, although not in all of the outfits and poses we'd hoped for!

Before I share the full group of pictures from the session, I just have to share one small set that I just loved so much I turned them into an animated image. It's not so much that these were such terrific pictures of Kate, but I just loved the way she went from being clearly frustrated and uncomfortable to calm and peaceful in just seconds from the soothing touch and voice of her Momma. Megan is such a super mom already!

The full slideshow is probably entirely too long, I know, but I just have such a hard time deleting pictures after a session. I got this one down to about 65 pictures or so, which is pretty good considering I took over 200 pics and then edited those down to just over 100, including some copies with special Photoshop finishes that didn't make it into the slideshow. Many of those that did make it aren't really keepers, but I just thought some of the goofy and sad faces are just too precious not to share. She is an adorable little baby, although I'm sure my pictures don't really do her justice!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Picture Project

I mentioned earlier this month that I had an idea for a Christmas present for Chad's folks using the pictures I took of their farm back in September. With tons of help from my dear husband, I finally finished the project on Christmas Eve, just in time for us to take it to Salina on Christmas morning. Here's a shot of the finished project, which we hung on our wall briefly just to make sure the hanging apparatus functioned properly.

I'd originally planned on trying a fabric border around the edges, but after painting the wood base and mounting the pictures I thought it looked fine without one. I think it turned out okay for my first attempt at executing my idea, although next time I think I'll test out some slightly different materials. The pictures didn't have the textured look I was going for because the Mod Podge I originally tried didn't work with the texture of the chipboard that I wrapped the pictures around. Next time I'd like to try plywood instead of chipboard to see if that makes a difference. Speaking of wrapping the pictures, here are a few more pics so you can see the detail of my little pretend mini canvases.

I think it turned out kind of cool, and thankfully, I think my in-laws liked it too!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Griswold Christmas

The other night while we were out running the last of our holiday errands I asked Chad to drive us to view some crazy Christmas lights I'd seen on Youtube the day before. There were actually two different displays I wanted to go see and the first one was right near where we were, so my husband reluctantly agreed to make the detour. I loved the tradition of driving around to view Christmas lights as a child, so I was slightly more excited about the viewing than Chad was.

While I fully expected the display to be slightly cheesy and over-the-top based on what I saw on Youtube, I did not expect to actually enjoy it as much as I did! The music (on its own frequency of the radio) was pretty fun and the way it was programmed to the lights was pretty amazing. We stayed for about three different songs (much to Chad's chagrin) and I got a little video of one of them.

After leaving that house (which, by the way, has its own website called Light Up Lawrence), I kind of wanted to go to the other house just to see if it was any better. I'd only seen a tiny bit of this video of the display, and it looked like it had potential to be entertaining as well. We drove to the next neighborhood and the traffic was absolutely insane, with a line of about 5 cars waiting to get in front of the house for viewing. We waited for just a couple of minutes to see if the line was moving, but even from down the street we could see enough to know it wasn't worth waiting. While you could tell the programming was done in the same way and at least one of the songs was even the same, the lights were just so tacky. There was a huge light tree and just so much crap going every which way--it wasn't neat and orderly like the other house had been. It was just kind of a debacle, in my opinion!

Speaking of Christmas cheesiness, today I was singing the Christmas Cookies and Holiday Hearts song again, and I realized I should have looked for it on Youtube the other day so my post quoting the lyrics would have make more sense. So without further adieu and because I know you all were wondering, here's the aforementioned song, complete with the cover of the album (not the muppets, by the way) that I think we still possess somewhere in our basement!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Greetings 2010

For all those people who don't normally read my blog, who have been directed here via email, welcome to the official Luce Family Christmas Letter online! I hope you will enjoy this enhanced version of our Christmas letter and homemade Christmas card.

Warmest Christmas greetings, dear friends and family!

It's late in the afternoon on December 16, and I'm trying to get some inspiration for our Christmas letter by listening to Christmas music while sitting in front of the Christmas tree. I've had such a hard time getting started on our letter this year and I don't really know why! I think I always have a difficult time moving from Thanksgiving into Christmas because I'm so annoyed by Christmas items in the stores starting in October. I have managed to finish 99% of our Christmas shopping, so at least there's one thing I haven't procrastinated like this letter!

The biggest (maybe only) news in our life, although this isn't very chronological, is that I quit my job at KU Endowment last month! I'd been considering it for quite some time, and finally there were more reasons for leaving than for staying, so I resigned just a week after my 12-year anniversary. I am adjusting to being the primary housekeeper, cook, errand runner and dog walker in our home, and Chad is enjoying our more relaxing evenings and weekends as a result! I'm looking forward to having more time for hobbies (photography, blog writing, and other crafty stuff), volunteering at a local food pantry, and spending more time with my Mom in Topeka. While we're obviously tightening our purse strings a bit, we're very thankful for the opportunity and for the improved quality of life!

Chad is in his 7th year at Westar and spends quite a bit of his time traveling to meetings all over the eastern half of the state. Thankfully, he rarely has to spend the night and still has plenty of vacation time he can use for golfing, which is his primary hobby these days. He's also become quite the civic leader (not always by his own choice), serving on the Lawrence Sustainability Advisory Board and the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, to which he was just elected. Although he stays very busy, he somehow found the time to play on two softball teams all spring and summer and to go deer hunting earlier this month.

We also found a little time to travel this year, with the highlight being a trip to Los Angeles to surprise my brother on his 40th birthday. He's had a good year that included a commercial with Jerome Bettis, a small part on an episode of an NBC sitcom, and the release of a self-written web series called The Beta Test. Chad's brother also turned 40 this year, but thankfully we didn't have to travel across the country for his party!

In November we made a fun and fast trip to Nebraska to see our good friends Jake and Amber and to watch KU's last football game in Lincoln. We also took several trips back to Salina (which can hardly count as travel), the best ones being the trips for a Roger Daltrey concert and our 20th high school reunion in June. Sadly, one of our trips was for the funeral of Grandma Decker, who passed away in September at age 88. We were so saddened by her passing, but are so thankful that she is now running around with Jesus in heaven!

I also made a trip without Chad this year when I traveled to Washington, DC with my dad to walk in my fifth 60 mile, 3-Day walk to support Susan G. Komen for the Cure. There were lots of cool things to see in DC and it was a great city for the 3-Day walk, although next year I plan on participating somewhere else in the country. I was very proud of (though not surprised by) my father's commitment to raise money, train and then complete the 60 miles less than a month before his 70th birthday.

Speaking of birthdays, our oldest dog Celtic turned 13 years old this summer, and although he's gotten a little arthritic, he is still walking a half mile each day and even still sprints when he's super excited! Hope turned 10ish and stayed cancer-free this year (knock on wood), although she somehow went almost completely deaf in a matter of just a few months! Her deafness definitely adds a new dimension to her weirdness. Our little big man Fresco is as affectionate and loving as ever, and we are thankful that he is only 4 and will hopefully have many, many more years with us! We can't imagine our lives without our pups!

We are so very thankful for all we were blessed with in 2010 and hope it was a wonderful year for your family as well. We pray that your homes will be filled with immeasurable love, peace and hope this holiday season, and that you might know the true joy of Christmas—the miraculous birth of the Savior!!

Much love,
Kim (and Chad too!)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Cookies and Holiday Hearts...

"...that's the way the holiday starts!"

Does anyone besides me remember that song? Maybe from the John Denver and the Muppets Christmas album? Or maybe it was a different kids Christmas album? Anyone? Bueller?

Anyway, that song is about making cookies and treats for the holidays, which is actually what I've been doing in my free time the last few days. Check out all the goodies I've made in the last couple of days that I finally finished up tonight!

Peppermint Almond Bark, Chocolate Dipped Pretzels, and Chocolate Chip/Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

Peanut Butter Bon Bons and Chocolate Dipped Peppermints
(I had some chocolate left over and had to dip something!)


That last mystery "treat" is the remains of the two bon bons that fell apart in the chocolate while I was trying to dip them. I spread the chocolate with bon bon chunks onto wax paper, and then broke it up into "chocolate peanut butter bark" once it hardened. I'm hoping it will be tasty even though I know it looks like p**p smeared on waxed paper in this picture. You're welcome for planting that disgusting thought into your head if it wasn't already there. :)

"Goody goody yum yum yum!" Those are more lyrics to the aforementioned song in case you were wondering. You're welcome for getting that song stuck in your head if it's one you also know from your childhood.

On the agenda tomorrow: putting all this stuff on plates to take to friends and neighbors so that it won't be sitting around the house for me to eat!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Photo Adventure

Although I have yet to actually start making our Christmas cards, over the weekend we did actually manage to get our family Christmas photo taken. Let me just say that this was a bit of an adventure. A couple of times in the past we've had a friend come over to push the shutter release button for us because it's so hard to get the dogs to look at the camera when there's no one behind it. I think in the future we'll have to plan ahead a little more and hire someone to come over and help us, because Sunday's photo shoot was a bit of a disaster--albeit a hysterical one.

With the help of a remote and a tripod, I took 101 total pictures, starting with a few just of Chad where I was trying to get the exposure right using just the light from our window. Once we got the dogs (sort of) placed I just started holding down the remote button, instructing Chad to just keep smiling and hoping that eventually all of the dogs would at some point look at the camera. Although I never actually captured them looking at the exact same time, there were a few decent pics of each of them in the batch, so I was able to use Photoshop to edit together different dog heads/bodies/eyeballs to fabricate one coherent and acceptable picture. This is the final product with sort of an "antiqued" finish.

Overall I'm fairly happy with what I came up with, and I appreciate the end result even more because of what we went through to get it. It's pretty darn hysterical. Enjoy!!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Ahhhahhhh, Kansas!!

Does anyone else besides Chad and I remember those promotional ads for Kansas that were on the radio when we were kids back in the 80s? They are so ingrained in our brains. Whenever we think about what a terrible place Kansas is to visit we think of those ads, which I'm pretty sure is the opposite of the effect the ads were supposed to have. Regardless, that's where the title of this post came from. If you have no idea what I'm talking about or would like to hear one of those ads just for the sake of nostalgia, you can check one out here--although that's a total digression and not the original purpose of this post!

When I mentioned in my Friday blog entry that the weather was unseasonably warm and beautiful, I knew it was supposed to turn cold over the weekend. I did not, however, realize the severity of the swing in temperature and wind speed. Overnight on Friday, we started hearing the wind howl and also heard some precipitation at some point. We awoke to ice on the deck and wind chills of about 15 below. It was miserable out, and the weather got worse as the day went on. It started lightly snowing late in the afternoon and was blowing so hard it was hard to keep your car on the road. While it was painful to be outside in the cold, it was actually kind of beautiful to watch the snow blowing on the road--it looked like liquid flowing over the asphalt. I'd hoped to get some video of it, but when I went outside after we got home Saturday night, it was too dark to even see the road. You can sort of see the phenomenon in this video from the Journal-World though--it was kind of fascinating.

Although I couldn't get my own video of the blowing snow late last night, while I stood there on our porch freezing to death waiting for a car to drive by to light up the street, I did get a video that clearly displays the ferocious wind. Since you can see the blowing snow as well, you can probably imagine how miserable it was out there!

Ahhahh, Kansas! Gotta love it!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Jekyll & Hyde Bush

Today the weather in Lawrence was unseasonably beautiful—so much so that Chad took the day off work to play just one more round of golf for the year. I didn't spend as much time outside as he did, but I did take Fresco for an additional longer walk after dropping off his older siblings. It was so gorgeous out I ended up finishing our walk in a short sleeve shirt!

The weather today made me think of gardening, which is something I'm looking forward to doing more of when springtime rolls around. We have a big garden in the front of our house that appears to have been landscaped professionally, but the problem is that I really don't like many of the things that are planted there. There are all sorts of bushes and shrubs, as well as a huge evergreen tree, and I'm definitely more of a flower person. Last spring I was able to replace a couple of small shrubs with a couple of daylilies (my favorites) and other perennials, but it will still take a ton of work to replace all the stuff planted there that I don't like.

First on the list of things to replace is this bush.

Does anyone else think this thing is as hideous as I do? I have no idea what it is, but it looks like a huge weed to me. In fact, it looks so much like a huge weed that I didn't even realize that there actually was a huge weed growing right smack in the middle of it all summer. Take a closer look.

It's like some scary, freaky, evil tomato plant with spiderweb looking leaves. It's branches were full of stickers and it was a big pain in the rear to pull out. I couldn't believe how huge it was—here's one more picture so you can see the size (and overall ugliness) of the thing relative to my foot.

I seriously think that's the largest and scariest weed I'd ever pulled.

So anyway, there are actually three of these ugly bushes in our garden that I need to get rid of, and here's the only drawback about doing so. Just as I was wondering why in the world someone would ever plant that thing in the first place, fall rolled around and the bush changed color, and for a couple of months it actually looked like this.

Is that color not gorgeous? It's so pretty I almost considered keeping the bush around, but its summer appearance is just too darn ugly. Hopefully it won't be too difficult to dig up in the spring!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Good Jayhawks and Bad Jayhawks

Tonight we watched our awesome Jayhawks beat the Memphis Tigers in the Jimmy V. Classic, and although they were quite sloppy in the first half, it was a much better showing than our one point win over UCLA last Thursday. That one was slightly embarrassing, although a win is a win is a win and we're still undefeated.

Watching this game tonight made me think of the one and only game I've gotten to go to this year, which was thanks to my friend and former colleague Kevin, who provided me with tickets to the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi game so that Chad and I could take Eric to a game while he was here. We had SO much fun because the Jayhawks were absolutely astounding, but also because last year Eric wasn't home for basketball season and he hadn't been to a game since 2008 at least. It was a fantastic evening with my two best guys!

The great thing about the timing of Eric's visit last month was that he also got to go with us to a KU football game. Although our football team left a lot to be desired this year, it still was a fun day at the stadium with relatively good weather. In a surprise turn of events, we actually got to see a good first half of football too, which wasn't expected since we were playing the number 12 team in the nation--Oklahoma State. After scoring a couple of touchdowns in the first quarter and holding the Cowboys to just 20 points at halftime, our 'Hawks came unglued and completely derailed in the second half. We ended up getting slaughtered and leaving before the end of the game, but I was still glad Eric was able to see a tiny bit of good football and have the game day experience, even if it isn't the most spectacular of game day experiences! Maybe some day our program will get permanently turned around and it will be!

Sunday, December 05, 2010

The Farm

Back in September, when we were in Salina for the celebration of Grandma's life, I obviously spent a lot of time taking pictures of Chad's family. The pictures I forgot to share from that day were actually of the family farm--a beautiful 160 acres west of Salina where no farming is actually still done. This homestead was originally built by Chad's grandparents, but when Grandma Decker was widowed moved into town back in the late 80s, Chad and his family moved into the house and his parents have lived there ever since.

The farm is such a peaceful place and I love taking pictures of the landscapes whenever I get the chance. The day of Grandma's funeral, a big storm came rolling in late in the afternoon which made for some dramatic horizons. My pictures (especially resized for Picasa) don't really do the beauty of the place justice, but I was looking back at them this evening because I was thinking about using 6-8 of them for kind of an art project for Chad's parents for Christmas. I'm not sure if it will really turn out like I'm picturing it in my brain, but I'm going to attempt to make something interesting and attractive. The only reason I'm sharing that here is because Chad's parents don't have a computer and I'm 99.9% sure they won't ever read this!

Anyway, I put the pictures online so that I could compare them all and try to pick out the ones I want to use for my project. Let me know if there are any you absolutely love!

Friday, December 03, 2010

Infrequent But Funny

Wow. So that whole idea of me having more time to blog once I quit my job? Um, yeah--not so much. I can't believe I've actually averaged fewer posts per week than I did while I working! Clearly, I suck.

It sounds kind of crazy, but I've actually just been keeping really busy. I didn't really anticipate how much time it would take to become of the CEO of the Luce household. I've become quite the domestic goddess, whipping up creative yet tasty dinners from leftovers or whatever is left in the pantry. Chad has been quite impressed and also thankful that he's no longer required to be entirely involved in household chores like laundry, vacuuming, errand running and dog walking. Our evenings are super relaxing and couldn't love my new position as housewife any more, but I really need to figure out a way to work in some more blogging and other creative outlets!

Anyway, hopefully soon I'll find some time to work on some posts which are actually about something in particular, but for now I just have to share a funny video that I think is a keeper. You might have seen this already since over 3 million people have viewed it on Youtube, but our friends Cara and Beth shared this with us just a few weeks ago, so I guess we were a little slow to the party. Since then, I think I've watched this and the "sequel" like 15 times, at least. It makes us laugh so darn hard! After sharing it with some friends last night we've been singing different lines from the song all day--in fact, Chad is singing right next to me as I type! Just so you know, there's a bit of foul language included in this "hastily made Cleveland tourism video," but hopefully you can see past that to the humor!

While I think the above video is pretty hysterical, the follow up "2nd attempt" video is even funnier, so you have to check that one out here. Seriously. It's so offensive in many ways, but so flipping funny! If you share our sense of humor, you'll be singing "buy a house for the price of a VCR" in no time!