Friday, January 13, 2017

Norman Rockwell holiday card behind the scenes

This year's holiday card was quite last minute, but ended up being a crowd pleaser for all ages (unlike last year that seemed to generally perplex the older generation). It started with an idea I had of  recreating a famous piece of art and ended up being an obscure piece of artwork from an well-known artist.

This is the original image, a Hallmark card from 1954 called Christmas Surprise. This artwork lent itself well to copying because our staircase is almost a perfect match. We it would be easy to add another kid to the picture. They couldn't be looking through the spindles though, because the space wouldn't allow you to see their faces. The walls weren't white, but I could either paint them temporarily or put up paper.

Here is the photo from which it was based.
 
So we had to quickly gather a few items – a Santa suit, a vintage dress, an apron and some lights because this area of the house is a bit dark. Neighbors really came to the rescue and helped us with all of these things.

This was our first attempt at it. Our next door neighbor helped us figure out placement and took the pictures, but after looking at it I knew thought we could do better. I got the dress from a coworker and it just wasn't quite right. Also, my vintage apron was too distracting. You can't see the menorah that we decided to add in as the Christmas surprise, Santa's belt isn't quite right and I am not quite looking in the right place. Eloise is a bit obscured too. Also I realized that the floor needed to be white.

By the next day, our neighbor Sarina had brought over the perfect vintage dress from her collection. Could not have been better. Our other neighbor Jonathan Chapman, who is a professional photographer, came over and took the pictures as a big favor. I told him to just send me the images untouched because I was going to work with them in photoshop to make them look like a painting.

I first used this tutorial. But it wasn't quite as helpful as this tutorial since this one has images to go along with it. It took me two nights to finally get it right. Without getting too shop talky, part of the tutorial is unable to be executed because of an update to Photoshop (figured this out after many perplexing hours plus internet research) and so I devised a workaround. When I finally got it to happen, I was euphoric.  

I created this overlay and then put it back into the file.

I finished it up by doing some work with a number of different Photoshop effects and brushes and voila!

Then I added an image of his signature that I found online. I deleted the woodwork at the top since it was too distracting, faded out the edges a bit and it was finished! It was very satisfying to do a lot of problem solving and have a finished product that looked exactly as I had envisioned.

The backside of the postcard was supposed to looked similar to a Saturday Evening Post front page.

Another holiday card complete, but next year's is always looming.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

November recap

November brought us lovely wamer-than-usual weather and we enjoyed it. November was basically a month of total depression due to the outcome of the election, but we did manage to carry on with life as best we could.

Eloise is no longer in her crib. We painted her room pink, at her request, and while we did that late at night, she slept in Harriet's room. They loved it.

Roasting marshmallows in the backyard without jackets on.
Harriet and I did a yarn bomb at the end of our block.

I went to a retreat up in at the Long Lake Conservation Center again, I had gone 4 years ago with the same group. I got a lot accomplished, including these fox pillows.

I was able to fully complete two of them.

I went on a few nature hikes.

While we were up there it was a super moon so I waited by the lake for it to come out. Love the reflection on the calm water.

While I was away, Steve and the girls ate out at Our Kitchen.

Eloise in her new bed, with a quilt I made her at my retreat. I finally got around to making her a baby quilt and it fits her small bed nicely. She loves it.

We went to a cool event one night with Harriet's friend's family at the Midtown Global Market. It was sponsored by a nonprofit called Doing Good Together. We decorated scarves for homeless people and put them in a care package with necessities, made cat toys for the Humane Society, made stress-relieving oobleck for the mentally ill, knotted blankets for the sick and a few other things. They did a great job of educating the kids and getting them involved to help others.

We went with my dad to see Rudolph at the Stages Theater.

And probably Harriet's favorite thing from the month, Ari brought over rainbow bagels New York.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Zion National Park trip

In October, I went with four friends to Zion National Park for five days away.  I had always wanted to go to Zion and jumped at the chance when my friend Elissa asked me if I would be interested. We planned it together and knew that our friend Sarah would come, but weren't sure if anyone else would join us. We got two more friends to join (one of them was Elissa's cousin) and so that made for five. A great number for the trip. 

We flew into Las Vegas and then drove to Utah. On the way there, we stopped at The Valley of Fire, a state park in Nevada which came recommended by a friendly Nevadan we met outside an iHop. It basically on our way and it was awesome.


The park is named for all of the red sandstone formations. Above- Sarah, Becca, Britta, Elissa and me on a hike.

The park is known for petroglyphs. We stayed for a few hours and then kept going to Utah.



We continued on and made it to Springdale, UT where we stayed in a hotel for a night and this was our view from the porch. 

Since we didn't plan this trip a year in advance, we read that we would have to stand in line to get a campsite in the park. So while Becca and I slept in and took a leisurely walk by these enormous grasses, the other three poor souls waited in line starting at 6am until about 11:30. For the record, they volunteered.
All that waiting paid off-- we got an amazing site.


We got started midafternoon and the lines for the shuttles were really long. We then learned that all Utah public schools were off for a long weekend. So we vowed to wake up early the next morning and get on the trails ahead of most people. 


After we got through the shuttle lines, we hiked to Emerald Pools and did one more hike before heading back to the campsite for the night. 

 
The next morning we were up early and ready for the hike we had been looking forward to the most, Angel's Landing, which ended up being one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. If I had read the sign above thoroughly, I would have learned that 6 people have died on this hike since 2004. Granted they were probably doing headstand selfies, but there was still some risk involved for experienced, alert hikers.
 
The hike is 1 mile round trip and took about an hour total. Almost the entire time we were holding onto these chains on the side of the mountain for dear life. I can see why we were advised to go early because the more people there are the longer you have to wait for people to slither past you on the chains, so it can take a while. 

Sarah stayed back, but the rest of us made it safely to the top.

Beautiful, but wouldn't be a pleasant trip down if you had a misstep and weren't holding on to the chains.

It is hard to describe, or even show in pictures, the beauty of this park.

On the shuttle we met this fellow, Rob, and after Angel's landing we hiked with him in the afternoon. He was traveling the US for 3 months and originally from England. We hiked for a few hours and then paired ways as we went back to our site to make some dinner.

The next morning we hiked The Narrows, which is a spectacular gorge in the Virgin River. Sixty percent of the hike was in the water so we rented special boots and neoprene booties and I also rented waterproof pants. It got very cold in the water and with the wind, even more frigid. The hike is 16 miles long total, but I would say maybe we did 6-8 miles of it total. I think all of us enjoyed this hike the most.

Sandstone formations on the walls of the canyon. 

While hiking, I slipped on a wet rock and fell right on my left thumb. I went to the doctor when I got home and it was injured, but not broken. It still hurts although I have been resting it as much as I can and also not knitting. 

A little lunch on a rock. 

In the afternoon we ventured outside of the most popular area of the park where we had been and drove about 40 minutes to the area of the park known as the Kolob Canyon. The landscape felt completely different even though there were still the same types of mountains everywhere. 

It felt like fall with deciduous trees changing colors. 

After passing over a creek about 250 times we finally arrived and what is called the Kolob Arch. It was kind of a giant amphitheater. Here's a shot from the top of it that Elissa took and you can see the rest of us as tiny specks below. We finished the hike as it was dusk and had hiked a total of about 15 miles on our last day here. A great way to end the trip, even if it was exhausting. We treated ourselves by going out to eat in town for our last dinner of the trip. We also went back to the hotel hot tub, which was an amazing perk!


Sunday we bid farewell to Zion, a park we have come to love and appreciate for its beauty and natural wonders. It was my first real trip away alone from my family and I missed them, but also really enjoyed my time away with friends. We had a wonderful time together and all seemed to be on the same page about how much we wanted to hike and what we wanted to do. Everyone was very agreeable and up for anything. In fact, we loved it so much that we would like to go on a trip like this each year together to a new national park. Looking forward to the next adventure.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

October update

October seems like forever ago, but here goes. We went to the arboretum for their fall festival. We first stopped by the Apple House and learned from an employee that we could just go out in the orchards and eat whatever we wanted and it was open to the public, so we did. It was a real treat.



They have these insect sculptures everywhere around in the gardens, loved the scale.

 Steve got a break and went to visit with friends in Milwaukee and then went to a Packer game.

The yarn bus project launched in October. A coworker who does social media made this happen and I helped in a few ways. I got her connected with the Knitting Guild (who did a bunch of machine knitting for the project), knit a flower and leaf, designed a poster that I forgot to take a picture of and also helped sew some items on the bus. The bus will run for 2 months and it has brought a lot of joy to people.

My mom and I went to my cousin Karina's Prince Fashion Show. She didn't win, but it was a nice event and she appreciated our support in attending.

The next day the winners were displayed at the Institute of Art and Harriet and I went for Family day so we checked it out. 

Steve volunteered at Harriet's school carnival and made cotton candy all night. A sticky job!

I took a trip with friends to Zion National Park, more on that in another post. 

Steve and I went to a halloween party as Bob Ross and Blossom (not a group costume). 

Halloween costumes. Harriet wanted to be a rainbow, which I made out of cardboard and then did a sandwich board type thing with it. Eloise wanted to be a pink puppy, which I made with some felt and a hot glue gun to clothes she already had.
We went out with school/neighborhood friends and had a great time. We ran into people we knew along the way and the group kept growing! Lots of fun.