It Was a Dark and Stormy Night…

I love thunderstorms. I have so many memories of lying in bed at night after a steamy hot day in Melbourne, listening to the thunder and pelting rain while the temperature dropped 15 degrees celsius in 30 minutes.

Of course my children don’t have those memories so when a couple of rare thunderstorms hit our neighborhood over the weekend first there was a little bit of fear, followed by fascination and excitement and, finally, disinterest.

I did send Thomas out to rescue his soccer ball at one point. I think it’s important that he experience running through a downpour at least once in his life – assuming the thunder and lightening has passed, of course.

Our rain chains had trouble handling the deluge.

As did the gutters.

And we started filling a pool in our backyard.

Thomas recently borrowed a book from the library called “It was a Dark and Stormy Night” and saw this as the perfect opportunity for a reenactment. He cuddled up under a blanket in his bedroom to read a lego magazine.

Never the one to be left out, Samuel soon photo bombed the picture perfect moment.

Thankfully the house was still standing the next morning, although the same can’t be said for a massive elm tree branch up the street.

Feeling vindicated in the decision to cut down a 40 foot Doug Fir that towered over our house 6 years ago… Luckily the only victim this time was a rental truck.

A Stroll Through the NY Public Library

I took a lot of photos in NY (A LOT!), so expect them to appear here over the next few weeks.

I happened upon the gorgeous NY Public Library building quite by accident during my walk around midtown. While it was on my list of things to see during my visit to New York, I didn’t expect to bump into it while I walked blindly through the city on my first day. It was one of those wonderful discoveries that can creep up on you – one minute you’re navigating your way down streets lined with skyscrapers and then you turn a corner and happen upon park that covers two city blocks and, arguably, one of the most famous landmarks in the world (only partly due to Ghostbusters).

P.S. As  much as I enjoyed a peaceful walk through the library, a small part of me wishes I had the good fortune to visit on this day.

Celebrating Four With a Little Ninja Warrior Training

Sunday marked the final stretch of the Samuel birthday marathon. Apparently four is the age when children gain full understanding of the benefits of a birthday (presents! cake!). Samuel didn’t even notice that I was too busy to plan anything for him last year, but this year my Mummy guilt kicked in so we invited everyone from his daycare class and a few other friends for a couple of hours at The Playground Gym – we called it Ninja Warrior Training.

Side note: if you live in Portland and you’re looking for a big padded room where small children can run around and burn some energy, then you can’t go wrong with this place. The entire space is reserved for just your group and parents are free to stand around and chat while the kids have fun with free play and a few activities that are set up by the Gym’s “coaches”.

The party was great, with the only wet blanket coming courtesy of the birthday boy himself. Turns out that the only person he wants to play with is his big brother, so he spent a good portion of the party sulking and refusing to play after his friends arrived.

No one else seemed to notice, only his slightly mortified parents.

The coaches set up obstacle courses for the kids and then they were encourage to do the course over and over and over again. Awesome!

At one point Thomas declared the course to be too easy. I think he was looking for more of a Ninja Warrior challenge. Still, it didn’t stop him from doing the course over and over and over. Thomas also made it to the top of their wooden tree for the first time after many past attempts. He conquered a big fear.

We took a short break for birthday cake and snacks. I wasn’t able to get a photo of the candle because I was instructed (by a very bossy four-year-old) to stand right behind him as he blew it out.

And, no, of course I didn’t make the cupcakes. Helen Bernhard has been my dedicated birthday cupcake supplier for about six years. Samuel chose the vanilla cake with a Batman ring while Thomas went for chocolate and Superman.

Then it was back to playing. Thankfully, the birthday boy perked up. It might have been the sugar hit.

Oh, wait. Invasion of personal space alert!

These next couple of photos crack me up. I wish I knew what happened here to cause Samuel to make that face.

Thomas decided his obstacle of choice was the rope. He would have spent all day hanging on this thing if he could.

Finally, a genuine smile from the birthday boy. On the drive home he asked “how many days until my next birthday?” I think that means he had a good time.


Scenes from Weekends Past

Happy Friday! As we begin our well-deserved long weekend, I thought I’d share a few photographs from weekends past. Here’s what we’ve been doing between work and travel (I think they call it living).

1. The last piece of my birthday puzzle was a wonderful night out with my husband while the kids enjoyed a sleepover. We had delicious cocktails and enjoyed some live Jazz at The Secret Society while we waited 90 minutes for a table at Toro Bravo (totally worth the wait). Then we went to see the Avengers. We were running a little late so we sat in the front row which sometimes made for challenging viewing. There’s a lot of action in that movie. Well worth seeing though, even when sitting just a few feet from the screen.

The Bees Knees cocktail was…well…the bees knees. I may have had more than one.

2. The occasional sunny day has allowed us more time outside. A trip to the local farmer’s market means a side visit to the playground. Both of the boys are working on their Ninja Warrior training.

Don’t know who the other kids is in this picture. Friendships come and go quickly on the playground.

3. Speaking of Ninja Warriors, Thomas earned his yellow belt in Karate which is good for two reasons – yellow is his favorite color and a new belt equals renewed passion for Karate.

4. Practicing for a yellow belt has the side effect of little brother wanting to get in on the action.

5. Spring at a Japanese school means it’s time for Spring Festival. Thomas was joined by 109 of his Kindergaten classmates to sing about 20 songs (only a slight exaggeration) in English and Japanese. Thomas is the blurry one walking across stage in his blue Hapi coat – one of the few who dressed up for the festival. It apparently made him hot so he took it off before he even walked off stage.

I assure you that he was more excited than he looks in this picture.

With limited space, it’s a wonder no one lost an eye during this song.

Of course there are more photos – of neighborhood bike rides, jumping castles and dunking machines – but they will have to wait for another time. Right now, the weekend – and the sunshine – is calling my name.

Plans for this weekend include a few boring things like renewing car registrations and organizing my US residency paperwork. But thankfully also a ton a fun activities such a riding the “bat bike” (pictures of that impressive Kei creation coming soon!) and hosting about 15 four year olds at a Ninja Warrior birthday party.  Wish me luck with that one.

Signing off with one final picture of Batman/Ninja Warrior/Birthday Boy.

He’s Four!

My baby turned four on Saturday. FOUR!

I say this every single year, but I’m just not sure how this happened. How did that teeny tiny little boy turn into a four-year old?

We celebrated quietly with birthday cake, hot dogs (birthday boy’s choice for dinner) and, of course, a few presents which included a new backpack and a batman lunchbox that he’ll use when he starts Pre-K in September. We’re hosting a larger party with his friends next weekend.

At four, Samuel…

  • Still gives the best hugs and kisses on the planet (and becomes extremely upset if he doesn’t get a hug and kiss goodbye).
  • Can be the most stubborn person I know (wonder where he gets that from?…)
  • Is incredibly observant, pointing out almost everything he sees in the world around him – and has a million questions for us to answer.
  • Still wants to hold my hand.
  • Is currently all about the sounds that letters make and words that rhyme.
  • Is obsessed with ninjas, superheroes and pretty much anything that his big brother is interested in.
  • Would rather play with his brother than do just about anything else.
  • Is sweet, frustrating, loving, smart, wonderful, angry and happy – sometimes all within the same 5 minute period.

While I miss my baby, watching him grow up is a wonderful adventure.

Five Very Touristy Things I Did While In New York

If all goes well, I’ll be in flight and on my way back to the West Coast when this post goes live. I have had a wonderful, busy few days in New York City and, while I don’t like to think of myself as the typical “tourist”, I did manage to squeeze in a few very touristy adventures  between work and training commitments.

1. Walked Times Square
Thanks to the location of my hotel, I pretty much had to walk through Times Square any time I ventured outside. Of course I took WAY too many photos and was dying to escape the craziness after just a few minutes, but at least I managed to capture this shot of a very wet Times Square before I escaped for quieter corners of the city.

2. Visited Grand Central Station
This was high on my list of must do’s while I was in town. Conveniently, I had to walk past the station on my way down to visit one of my company’s offices so I was able to stop in and take a few photos. As a bonus, there was an award ceremony underway so my visit was accompanied by the sound of bagpipes. Pretty perfect.

3. Saw the Statue of Liberty (sort of)
Every time I talked to Thomas about my trip to New York he asked if I would see the Eiffel Tower. I think he was getting his cities mixed up so I made sure that I captured a (very distant) shot of the Statue of Liberty to help with his geography. I took this shot from the training room I spent the day in on Wednesday. You may have to squint to spot the Statue.

4. Rode the Subway
I have to admit that I was very nervous about jumping on the Subway. In fact I walked thirty blocks back from the East Village just to avoid it on Wednesday evening. I suppose I’m not as adventurous as I was when I traveled Europe on my own as a 20 year old. But on Thursday I bit the bullet, mainly because my feet really hurt from walking another 30 blocks downtown. And, you know what? It was very easy – especially with my cell phone to guide me.

5. Visited Carrie Bradshaw
I think you’ll agree that this is quite possibly the most dorky tourist adventure on the list.     I just couldn’t help myself, I HAD to see where Carrie lived. In the show, she apparently lived on the Upper East Side but the actual building where they filmed is in the East Village. And before you judge, let me just mention that I was NOT the only tourist visiting this sacred space – a fact that the current owners are trying to remedy with a “keep out” sign across their stoop.

Of course I did so much more not-so-touristy-things during my visit but those photos will have to wait for another post. I have a plane to catch so I can make it home in time for a very special 4th birthday on Saturday.

Bright Lights, Big City, Lots of Rain

I’m in New York City this week for work. The last (and only) time I was here was about 14 years ago over New Years Eve. It was before I had a husband or children and before I considered myself a photographer. It was also the pre-digital era which means I have no idea where my photos from that trip may be stored – likely in one of the boxes that take up (a tiny amount of ) space in my Parent’s garage.

So, between training courses and work, I plan to capture as much of the city as possible in my few hours of free time.

Right now, though, I’m just praying that the rain gods will give me a teeny tiny break.

This is the view from our NY office a couple of hours ago.


And now…


The Road to Portland: A Photobook

I want to share a little book that I created as an Anniversary present for Kei (well, it was actually for both of us). We celebrate 13 years of marriage this week and, because I’ll be in NY and was too excited to wait any longer, I gave it to him a little early.

The photos in this book were taken during our year-long journey from Hawaii to Portland almost 10 years ago. During that crazy 12 months we spent 7 months in Honolulu and five on the road. We walked over volcanic lava, saw the stars on Hollywood Boulevard, looked out over the Grand Canyon, toured Graceland, got wet at Niagra Falls, watched the Cubs win at Wrigley Field, ran bases on the field of dreams, took in the beauty of Yellowstone, saw some giant Presidents at Mt Rushmore and so much more. It was an amazing trip and I am so glad I was finally able to pull everything together into one book.

Thankfully, we took this trip in the early days of digital photography so I was spared the chore of scanning in the photos. And I was surprised at the quality of the photos that we got from such an old point and shoot camera (Samuel’s now using it). While the images weren’t big enough for full page spreads, they printed beautifully.

This was also my first time using the Lightroom book module for Blurb and it was fantastic. While it took a little time for me to get used to customizing the layout for text, etc., once I got the hang of it the book came together very quickly. I love that there was no need to export my files to a third party program and that I could easily add additional photos without having to click back into another program.

To begin, I decided on one big wrap around photo of the Waimea Canyon in Kauai for the cover. I like the simplicity of just one photo with a little bit of text.

The first inside page includes one of my favourite pictures of the two of us in Hawaii and a brief intro to the book. What strikes me is how relaxed and happy we look. Ahhh, life before children…

I also kept it simple inside the book with mostly plain white backgrounds and just a caption with the location every now and then. I also included a few section title pages to distinguish between our time in Hawaii, the cruise around the islands and our time on the road.

The rest of the book consists of a variety of multi and single photo pages with a few double-page spreads thrown in where the photo was big enough to span two pages. I put a maximum of four photos on a page to keep it simple and ensure none of the photos were hidden.

I repeated the cover image inside the book. This is one of the few photos that were large enough to fill a double page spread. While most of the pages were plain white, I placed a few with a dark grey background every now and then to make some of the images pop and add a little interest.

I had a vision for the “Road Trip” section title page for a long time. When I showed it to one of my friends at work she said that the Google map put the entire trip in perspective. For this image, I simply created a “my places” map on Google, added location pins for every step on the journey, made it as big as possible on my computer screen and then took a screenshot. Then, in Photoshop, I “drew” lines connecting the dots. I love how this page turned out.

I had to do a few Google searches to work out exactly where we were in some of the photographs – although Kei was very proud of the fact that he made us pose for a photo at the entry to every National Park. I have to admit that it was a huge help while I was pulling the book together to have a big sign spelling out the location.

We went to the actual Field of Dreams. It’s in middle-of-nowhere-Iowa and was well worth the detour.

I organized the book chronologically, except for the last few pages. A couple of months after we arrived in Portland we had to drive to San Francisco to return the rental car. I wanted to include our trip to San Francisco in the book but I also wanted to end the book with the Welcome to Oregon sign, even though we passed it a few months before our trip to San Francisco.

I cheated a little but I think it works better for the story. I love a good ending.

This project has inspired me to get more photos off of the computer and into books. The entire family loves looking through them and there’s really no better way to look at a photo than in print.

So, I’m on a quest to update our annual photo album library and create a few little mini books documenting our trips to Australia and Japan. Although I religiously create a photobook each year for the grandparents, the last one I did for our own bookcase was back in 2009. I best get started…