Wednesday, March 23, 2016

first shutterbug - u of m

Eileen and I signed up for a Shutterbug meetup in Ann Arbor. So after staying up til midnight the night before working on the double wedding ring quilt, we headed out the door at 6:45 to meet other camera enthusiasts to take pictures at the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor.

I watched the news for the weather and it would be in the mid 20's during the morning. Michigan weather had been quite nice the past week and I thought, "it'll be fine." I just grabbed my winter coat - no gloves or hat. Eileen ... was much smarter.

We met Patrick who was an very nice young man with 2 very impressive cameras. "Hey", he said. We'll take some pictures of the Angel building and then move over to the Nickels Arcade. Just set up your tripod and take pictures." So we did. 

Very quickly my hands became purple.

I was soooo cold.

Eileen and I longed for the coffee shop across the street for some hot chocolate and coffee.

Twilight was still in effect as we roamed the campus. I was using my kit lens to get a wider range.

We rounded the corner and I was met with a beautiful sky along with our flag (your welcome Julia!). I popped on my telephoto lens.

After a few more shots, we headed over to the coffee shop, Espresso Royale where we got a muffin and some hot liquids. F.i.n.a.l.l.y .... warmth.

After the feeling returned into my hands and the stinging left when I held the hot cup of coffee, I went outside for a few shots.

Patrick says that the sun rays will begin to hit Nickels Arcade soon and we should gather, we did.

The sun began to bounce off the walls of Nickels Arcade and lit up the archway.

I went further inside to get a shot from there. I watched the other photographers and looked at their pictures in their cameras realizing I was lacking in spotting great composition and use of filters. 

Patrick sauntered up and looked at the lens I had just popped on because ... was new. My new Rokinson, 85mm portrait lens. He began to get excited about the lens. "Oh I love Rokinon!", he exclaims. Then paused ..... "oh an 85mm. Portrait lens. Hm." and with that sauntered back away. Kind of felt a little stupid at that moment.

So I grabbed Eileen, huddled within her winter clothing and took a few shots of her.

As the group headed off to another architecture marvel in Ann Arbor - we decided to go home. It was just too cold. The experience was exhilarating and I would totally do it again (in warmer conditions). Matter of fact, I signed up for the next meetup.

We headed home to get ready for the wedding shower.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

double wedding ring quilt in 2 weeks

Burke's nephew Matthew was getting married. He's marrying a lovely young lady Ashley. I got the bridal shower invitation in the mail and put it in the back of my mind to think about what to get them for their shower. 

She was registered at Sears and Bed Bath and Beyond and looking over the list of items on the list, I wondered whether they would have any of these items on their 20th anniversary. I noticed they had a queen bed and it looks like their bedroom colors were a modern blue and rose. A double wedding ring quilt it is ...

So I text Burke, "we're making Matthew a double wedding ring quilt and it make it more special if you helped." "OK", he replied. He wanted to do something special for Matthew, his god son.

I had purchased the Simpli-EZ 8829419A Double Wedding Ring Quilting Tool last year and took it out. This would be my first double wedding ring quilt.

Burke had the job of cutting and I would sew. 

In the middle of making the quilt, I finally figured out that audible books were the best. You didn't have video to pay attention to - only audio. My first book was "Smarter Faster Better: The Power of Habit" by Charles Duhigg. Amazing book! I would highly recommend it. The audio book was over 10 hours. I finished that one and most of another before this quilt was done.

The double wedding ring quilt is made up of a bunch of small pieces which makes up these "footballs". 

Each circle has 3 footballs, connected to a center piece - with the exception of the first row, which has 4 footballs. Each football has 19 pieces of material.

So let's do the math. Our quilt was 6 circles wide, by 7 circles long for a total of 42 circles. The first row has 24 (4 footballs per circle x 6 circles wide) footballs (456 pieces of fabric). Each additional row has 18 footballs (342 pieces of fabric per row x 6 = 2052. 2052 + 456 (1 row with 4 footballs and 6 more with only 3 footballs/circle) = Grand Total of 2508 pieces of fabric. A lot of freaking cutting and sewing.

We worked in tandem with Burke cutting and me sewing. For hours .... many, many hours. We spent every free moment working. 12 hours straight days on the weekends. I even took a day off of work to complete. I had a schedule and I was trying to keep to it. 

We worked on it every night after dinner until 9-10:00 at night. I took the day off work and had my rows all joined together. My plan was to embroider a center piece with their names and date of the marriage. I also wanted to quilt our names on the back, when tragedy hit.

As I was setting up my embroidery machine, I set the date as 5/7/16 and then thought for a second and changed it to 2016. Yea, classier. 

I began embroidering and then I heard it - a loud grinding noise. NOOOOOOOOOOO! Just 2 letters left to go and it died.  The 16. If I had went with 16, it would have completed before grinding to a halt.

I spent the next 3 hours trying to figure out why my Brother PR600 wasn't making a full cycle.  I couldn't take the hoop out and I couldn't go any further.

Tears welled to my eyes. We had worked so hard... I called my sewing guy. Yep - I would have to bring it in. Yep, I had done everything I could to get it running.

Plan B had been to give the quilt to them as a wedding gift, 2 months later. But .... I really wanted to give it to them for their bridal shower where the family could enjoy seeing the quilt too. This would not stop me .... I took the hoop out and hand sewed the remaining 16 on the quilt. Totally ugly, but hand done. And ..... homemade quilts should have flaws.

So I went on....  Once the top was done, Eileen and I sandwiched the batting and back and topping and pinned away. Eileen had already completed transferring the hearts to the center pieces using a water solvable pen and a template. I had 3 evenings to complete the quilting. 

Staying up every night until 11PM - the quilting was finally done. 

On Burke's day off, he had gone to the store - bought more fabric for the binding and then made the binding himself. He did a great job and was so proud of himself when he was done. I showed him when I met him for lunch how to do it and it picked up the ball and ran with it. 

All that was left was the binding. That Friday after dinner, work and school - we had ourselves an old fashioned sewing circle. Me, Burke, Eileen, and Holly sat together in the living room from 7:30pm watching movies and making fun of each others stitches until after midnight, finally completing the quilt. The quilt .... was completed. 2 weeks....

Months earlier, Eileen and I had signed up for an early morning photo meetup group in Ann Arbor, so at 5:30 AM the next morning we set off. I threw the quilt into the washer before leaving. Once we returned at 9:30am, I dried it, created the card, wrapped it and was ready to go by noon. 

The card took the most time .... here's what I wrote, I emailed the words to Burke. He emailed back .... that brought tears to my eyes.

During the civil war through the Great Depression, the double wedding ring quilt was made by families in preparation of a celebrated wedding. It was a token of two people joining together to become one story even when gold rings were unavailable. The quilt was usually pieced together using old clothing of the couple and was considered to be good luck for the marriage.

In celebration of that idea, our family came together to create this quilt for you.

It comes with a story of its own creation. It has occupied our family time together, overcome challenges, has flaws, but is made from strong fibers and a solid base. It’s ready now to accept your story and the stories of your future generations.

Wishing you happiness and good luck in your new story!

So congratulations to the happy couple - here's wishing good luck in their marriage and many happy years together. They sure are cute ...

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

life in computer science

Our Girls Who Code club is humming along and when my brother in law offered to speak at an upcoming meeting, I jumped at the chance. I quickly scheduled a time in case he thought about changing his mind.

I put together this advertisement to promote the event. My intention was to invite as many kids as possible - girls and boys.

Steve Laatsch sent the promo to the entire Saline School district.

 Jamie Saville sent the invites to her U of M computer science girls and various other girls in computer science clubs.

Chuck drove all the way from Kalamazoo (2 hours each way) to do the talk. 

The girls were engaged as he talked about life developing online games and they asked a lot of questions.

Clearly these girls are interested in becoming developers in their lives and it was fun to see the excitement. Plus, it's always fun to speak geek with other nerds. It was a great talk, with some good questions, and discussions of  current and future tech gadgets. Well done Mr. Hess!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

eileen the winter queen

I was looking at pictures of my grandson that I took recently in my newly remodeled portrait studio and just was not completely happy with the sharpness. I've been eyeing the Samsung 85 mm lens for quite some time but just not ready to throw down $1000.

Every review I read said 85mm was the lens to have for portraits. I don't even know how I stumbled upon this lens, but I'm so glad I did.

I ended up buying a Rokinon 85mm f/1.4 Aspherical Fixed Lens for Samsung NX 85M-NX.

I have a SamSung NX30 and it works great. If you can handle manipulating the focus and aperture settings manually, then this lens is for you.

The lens retailed at $269.00 - but I found one through the Amazon warehouse with damaged packaging and got another $50 off.

So I spent $200 on the lens.

And I can't believe how sharp it is.

Once I figured things out - most of my pictures turned out great. I spent some time photographing my Santa figure and think I've got a good handle on how to use it. I still get some blur and sometimes it difficult for me to get the small aperture sliver on par. Most of these were shot at 2.8 aperture and ISO of 100.

I'm totally in love with this lens.