Saturday, February 26, 2011

Canon PowerShot S95

Canon PowerShot S95Test Shot
The Canon PowerShot S95: Great Low-light, Close-Up Camera
My new camera, a Canon PowerShot S95, just arrived. It is a birthday present from my husband, but there was no way I was going to wait a whole week to try it out.

Good for Product Shots
With my old point-and-shoot, I could take 30+ shots to get a passable product shot if I didn't have good outdoor shooting conditions. If I tried to shoot at night indoors, even with a lightbox, I could forget it!

I knew it was time to step up to a better camera, yet skill-wise, I'm not ready for a DSLR, so I've been exploring advanced compact digital cameras.  These cameras function as point-and shoots, but they also have more manual features to let you grow your skills.

I was looking for something that would do a better job with my product shots--something that could take good close-up photos in low-light conditions. The Canon PowerShot S95 does just that. I captured the photos of apples in a glass bowl in my kitchen last night with only the overhead light on. I used the "Auto" setting and got it on the first try. What you see is totally unedited.

Zoom/Low-Light Setting
For this shot of my cat Tucker, I used the low-light setting, and zoomed in on him so I wouldn't distract him. It is also totally unedited. There is no way I could get this picture with my old camera. I would have to choose between a no-flash blurry shot with accurate color or a washed out flash shot with serious cat red-eye.

Big Things in a Small Package
I love a small camera that doesn't bog me down when traveling, but I figured I would have to get something bigger to get better photos. So NOT TRUE! This camera is SHOCKINGLY SMALL.If you have large hands that might be a drawback, but once I got used to the feel, I found it very comfortable to hold.

Bonus Features
Right now I am only playing around with the automatic functions. This camera has a lot of manual features and is considered a bridge camera between basic compact digital cameras and more-advanced DSLRs. The other feature I really like is that you can save shots as JPEGs or RAW files. JPEGs loose image-quality which can be a real problem if you want to use large versions of your photos in printed pieces. I edit a magazine at Saint Francis University, and I would like to have the option to have RAW files for that.

Yes, it is cute and small. No, it is not cheap. This is a high-quality camera, and the price reflects that. It ranges from $369 to $399.

Giving Credit
I have to give credit where credit is due. The camera search overwhelmed me so I turned to my two favorite photographer friends Trish and Tara, for advice. They are both advanced users who prefer the artistic creativity a true DSLR provides, but they understood that I had different needs and sent me down this path.

Trish's husband Jay was looking to trade his advanced camera for something more portable that he would use more often, and he had done a lot of research on the topic. He a seriously analytical banker guy so I knew the research would be thorough. Thank you guys for taking the stress away from the camera buying process!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Taking Back Lunch

Hello Kitty bento box lunch
I'm feeling stressed, and I need to do something about it. Something like take back my lunch.

Overall things are going great. I've been in my new job as marketing director at Saint Francis University for a little over a month now. In that time span, I went from lost newbie on the first day to an almost fully functioning employee.

I can see great progress. We wrapped up an issue of the magazine, and we are well on our way to redesigning the website. I even managed to still finish a couple of small polymer clay projects for my Young Creative store. I feel more alive than I have for years. Yet, I am also more stressed than I have been in years.

Looking back I can see that my stress levels had fallen dramatically in my old job as I stopped caring as much about my work. In this new setting, my achiever mind translates all of the "new possibilities"  into "things you must to NOW." 

Stress tells me to do things in unhealthy ways. It whispers, "work through lunch to catch up." It makes me reach for a third cup of coffee. It says,  "don't bother to smell the roses when you could try to finish a year's worth of work today instead." 

This is the point where I need to be stronger than the stress. I know from past experience that trying to change everything at once doesn't work. So this week I have one goal. I am going to reclaim my lunch hour.

Wish me luck.

About the photo: This is a lovely Hello Kitty bento box created by modeS. You can read about it and buy the boxes on the company's blog. I also love this one with the three little pigs.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Reversible Pendant

Reversible Polymer Clay Pendant available at Young Creative
The gifted artists that I have met through the Polymer Clay Artists Guild of Etsy are amazingly detail-oriented women, many of whom believe in making the back of a piece as beautiful as the front.

They have inspired me to up my game on the back of my pieces. This is one of my new pendants that is finished enough on the back that you could wear either side, so I decided to market it as a reversible pendant.

One side features an elegant black and white mokume gane pattern. The other has a stamped swirl that I highlighted with purple pearl powder. The pendant is topped with a wire-wrapped, black and white swirled glass bead. It is strung on a gunmetal black oval link chain. The buyer can customize the chain length.

It is available now at Young Creative.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Zombie Romance

printable card from Pretty Messes

When I got my e-newletter from Amanda at  Kind Over Matter a few weeks ago, it had the subject line: Open at Your Own Risk (Mature Content). Not something you usually see from Kind Over Matter, so my curiosity was piqued and  I opened it.

Once there, I found an ad for the shop that showcases Amanda's other side called Pretty Messes. Like me, Amanda has a complex personality, an odd juxtaposition of super sweet and not-so-sweet.

It is in her Pretty Messes shop where I found this great printable that I turned into my husband's Valentine's Day card. One of  my favorite activities with my husband is watching the Walking Dead and discussing how we would survive a zombie apocalypse, so this card seemed perfect.

Amanda's Pretty Messes shop is, self-described as "off-color" so if you visit, be forewarned. So if you'd prefer to stick to her sweet side, try Kind Over Matter.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Peppermint and Lemon Pick-Me-Up

Peppermint and lemon pair perfectly as a pick-me-up.
There are some things that make me super happy when I inhale them. Peppermint and lemon oil  are at the top of my list.

When the afternoon slump closes in on me, I usually break out the peppermint oil. Lemon oil has a similar kick for me. And the two blend beautifully.

A little sniff works wonders. I like to add a few drops one or both oils to my shower in the morning. When I get to work, I add a few more drops to a small bowl of water, letting the gentle aroma drift through my office. I also love to clean with them.

Sometimes, when I'm really stressed, I take a big, deep inhale straight from the bottle. My coworkers see that and joke, "Oh no, Marie has the peppermint out."

My oil stash was low so I recently placed an order with my friend Liz for my two favorites. These beautiful babies arrived just in time. She even included an inhaler and a recipe blend to use in it. I keep it tucked in my purse.

Liz has a blog called The Fragrant Muse where she shares helpful information on using oils. You can also buy high-quality oils and accessories through her online store, Liz's Garden Aromatherapy

Monday, February 7, 2011

How to Make a Star Wars Cake

Duel on Mustafar
My niece and nephew both have February birthdays so my sister always throws a joint party for them. Amazingly enough she managed to get the soon-to-be 5-year-old boy and the soon-to-be 8-year-old girl to agree on this year's theme of Star Wars.

I was in charge of the cake. My husband, thrilled with the kids' choice, immediately went to work "researching" the theme for me. About midnight one night, we settled on a scene from the Return of the Sith, the Duel on Mustafar, with the agreement that he would "art direct." I'm happy to report that it turned out great and we are still happily married.

Want to try your own version? Here's what you need:
2 square cakes with the smaller one cut on an angle
icing (chocolate and two tones of orange)
gel icing (2 small tubes in red and orange)
Rice Krispy treat ingredients
dark and milk chocolate melts
Obi-wan Kenobi and Anakin figures

Cake layers: For the base I baked two square cakes: one 12" x12" and one 10" x 10". I frosted the bottom layer with chocolate icing. Then I cut the smaller square cake on an angle to serve as the volcano base, placing the triangle in the corner of the larger square and frosting it also.

For more dimension, I mixed a basic store-bought chocolate frosting with black food coloring and streaked it over the base coat of plain store-bought frosting. I used a small icing knife to make some indents in the frosting for the lava rivers

Volcano: My husband was in charge of the volcano. He prepared the Rice Krispy treats according to the directions on the box. Then he spooned the hot mixture into a small greased bowl. Once it cooled, he unmolded it, carved out the center and made some small gouges in the side where the "lava" would flow.

He coated the volcano shape with melted chocolate and once it hardened, he transferred the volcano onto the cake triangle wedge and poured more chocolate over the volcano to set it in place.

Lava: I mixed two shades of orange icing; light and dark. I used my mom's icing recipe. I started by piping on the lighter shade with a star tip and then smoothing that slightly with a cake knife. I added the darker orange in patches with the cake knife.Then I blended in the red and orange gels to give it more depth. I finished it off with some crushed cinnamon sprinkles.

Figures: Rob melted some chocolate slabs and placed the figures in the chocolate.Once the chocolate was set, he placed them on the cake and I streamed some lava around the chocolate to blend it in.

Don't forget to send me pictures if you give it a try! I'll leave you with a few more scenes from the party, including the adorable Yoda pinata that my sister made.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Punxsutawney Phil Pancakes

Punxsutawney Phil Pancake
These are Punxsutawney Phil pancakes that my sister Marcie made for her kids in honor of Ground Hog Day. I thought they were so adorable. It sure beats the yogurt I had for breakfast yesterday.

When you live in a snowy state you celebrate any sign of spring--no matter how small or how weird it may seem. Here in Pennsylvania we embrace the weather forecasting expertise of a ground hog named Phil. Yesterday he popped out of his hole and found himself shadow free! Yes, it's true. Phil didn't see his shadow so we are going to have an early spring.

Phil has become a national phenomenon, but if you have no idea what I'm talking about, or just want to know more about Phil, you can visit the Official Website of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Impressions of a Peacock

Time to vote people! This is my entry in the February PCAGOE challenge: Critters/Wings. Vote at through Feb 7. Five lucky voters will win a prize!

"Impressions of a Peacock"
These impressionistic peacock feathers grace the back of a hand-held mirror for my newly decorated 1940s style bathroom. They are made from almost entirely from polymer clay, no paint was used. I glazed Mokume Gane sheets that were applied to a matte black background. The stones are aquamarine-my birthstone.

This month's prizes:

1st Row, L-R: NKDesigns ; BeadElz ; jkollmann ; PolymerClayCreations 2nd Row, L-R: ElPasoClayNation; MarciaPalmer; DebbieCrothers 3rd Row, L-R: WiredOrchid; RozPetalzStudio; PipsJewellery; CreateMyWorld


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