Thursday, February 25, 2010

squeeee!

I received this email from Lensbaby today:



Yay! Yayayayayay!!!

Today I also finally received the star filter and fisheye attachment I ordered a few weeks ago. (Almost a month...it felt like forever!!) I haven't had too much opportunity to test out the star filter yet, but it seems to be pretty good. I got a Hoya for $11, I really can't complain. :) The fisheye attachment is...well...really great - for $30. It has pretty extreme circular vignetting (the picture is a circle with black all around it), which is probably partially attributable to it being a 52mm attachment mounted to a 58mm lens (via an included step-down ring). The fisheye effect itself, though, isn't all that extreme, especially compared to what you would expect within this level of vignetting. Obviously the effect would be better with a wider-angle, 52mm-filter-size lens. (I'm using it with the wide end of my kit 14-42, 58mm filter size.) But honestly - who the hell makes an extreme-wide-angle-lens with a 42mm filter size? "I'm just not sure how well this plan was thought through," to quote a favorite movie in my house. It's fun, though, and I've gotten a couple of decent shots with it already. For example:

You can see how the bookshelf in the back, on the right, has a slight curve to it, but it isn't as obvious as I'd like. I still like this shot, though. :)

Shipping some time next week are my 50mm f/2.0 macro and my 25mm f/2.8 pancake. I'm a little annoyed that Amazon is shipping the lenses separately, since I had them shipped to my ShipitAPO address, which charges about $12 per package in addition to the USPS shipping costs. Although it's not quite as ridiculous when the items are expensive. Last time I had an Amazon order forwarded, it was $30 worth of kitchen equipment that shipped in two boxes. So, $30 worth of shipping/forwarding charges. For $30 worth of merchandise. Apple also just sent out our order in three boxes - MOFOS!! (I have a few choice words for Apple and their non-APO/FPO-shipping policy, btw. It's almost as irritating as Amazon's absolutely infuriating list of non-shippable items.) But again, it's easier to stomach the shipping/forwarding charges when they're a relatively small fraction of the total price.

I'm also still waiting for my Gary Fong Puffer Pop Up Flash Diffuser, which shipped First Class, which takes 6 weeks as opposed to 6 days for Priority (Grrrrrrrr), and my Lowepro SlingShot 100, which I had sent to my parents to avoid the forwarding fees. (Really, Amazon? You can't ship me a BACKPACK?? Really?)

And yes, I am pouring an awful lot of money into this camera. Hopefully this (very large) batch of lenses and accessories will be sufficient for a while. (Although I'm already well aware of what I'm going to want next...9-18mm ultra-wide, anyone? Maybe with a higher-quality fisheye attachment for said lens, for some extreme fisheye effects? Or maybe just a Lensbaby fisheye optic? Or how about higher-quality replacements for my kit lenses? Or a more versatile (albeit slower) zoom to take the place of both of them? And what about that ultrafast Leica? Or........)

Monday, February 15, 2010

vacations, camera lenses and a train cake

  • We've restructured our long-term vacation plan. Australia has been relocated to Christmas 2011; we figure an extra year to save up would be beneficial. I also think it would be a much better idea to take a really expensive vacation with a 3.5-year-old, rather than a 2.5-year-old. The terrible twos are hitting HARD. Tokyo Disney is still this summer and Kyoto next summer; China has been moved up to sometime this fall. (China is a much, much, MUCH less expensive trip than Australia.)
  • Since we won't have to put our ENTIRE tax refund towards the vacation fund this year, there will be money for other things. I'll give you an example. Me: "Well if we're going to China this year, then I'm going to be needing some better lenses before we go." Brian: "Well, yeah." Me (inner dialogue): Wooooooooooot!
  • I had my first "customer" come by and pick up a cake today. I got a call from an acquaintance last week; she was supposed to be making a cake for a friend today, and something had come up and she couldn't make the cake. I figured, well, here's my chance to put up or shut up. Pretty much every major thing that's ever happened in my life wasn't something that I had meticulously planned; an opportunity fell in my lap and I did my best to make the most of it. Besides, if I did this cake, I'd be helping someone out of a jam. So I said sure, I can do that.
    So here's a 10" round, yellow cake with buttercream icing (& filling), with a frozen buttercream transfer of Thomas the Tank Engine. I made the gray a little too dark, but it wasn't quite as dark as it looks in these pictures, I swear!

  • Wow, my new camera really picks up on all of the imperfections and really magnifies them, doesn't it? I think I'm going to go back to using my point & shoot to document my cakes. It takes good shots, has a great macro capability, and it just doesn't seem to highlight flaws quite as much. :) (Smooth icing: my new nemesis.) Although I must say, I do really like the bokeh (blurred background) on that last one.
    Well, the long and the short of it is that the "client" really liked it; and I'll be seeing the acquaintance who I was helping out tomorrow, when we will discuss my "donation".
  • Also, here's the giant candy heart that I made for the Valentine's Day potluck at Brandon's school. I'd never covered a shaped cake with fondant before, I've only done rounds. I thought it would be hard but it was so freaking easy. I had some serious cake mojo that night. It took me 20 minutes to cover and decorate this cake, and that's including the first time I rolled out the fondant and it stuck to the mat. (I am SO getting a big-ass silicone sheet. I've HAD IT with Wilton's crappy plastic mat.)

  • Did I mention that the Terrible Twos are hitting us hard? They really are. Holy crap.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

is this how we're teaching our boys to dress?



These are the "Dressy Styles" for Easter this year at Children's Place. Really? Distressed jeans? I'm slightly baffled as to why they sell distressed jeans for children in the first place...but to promote them as part of the "Dressy Styles" line? Really? I mean, I've put my kids in jeans for portraits, but that was in the full knowledge that this was a casual outfit. And they were new jeans, completely intact.

Do we really need to pre-distress children's clothes now? Are they that lazy nowadays that they don't even fall down and rip their jeans on their own anymore?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

taking the time to sit down and blog, to avoid doing the dishes

Holy crap, I'm a bad blogger. Here's a summary of what's been going on:
  • The boys and I were horribly ill last week. We're fairly certain that it was H1N1, as Brian was the only one who didn't get sick, and he was the only one who got the vaccine. I've never been so sick in my life, and that includes my bout with food poisoning a year ago. (I didn't go to the hospital for that, although I probably should have, so I don't know if it was salmonella or e.coli or something completely different, but I got it from a raw chicken and it was horrible.) That was intense and painful and drawn-out. This was intense and violent. We're talking, there was a burn in my esophagus from all the stomach acid, that made me feel like I was choking for almost a whole week before it healed. Jack finally started eating again - really eating - this Tuesday. We all got sick last Monday. Needless to say, he's lost some weight. :(
  • Brian's on the ship again. Two weeks this time, then two weeks home, then another two months out. Boo.
  • We're saving up for a trip to Australia next Christmas. It is stupidly expensive. It costs the same to fly from Tokyo to Sydney as it does to fly from New York to Sydney, despite being considerably closer. Somebody explain that one to me. The cost of our ENTIRE TRIP to the Big Island was less than the cost for ONE of us to fly to Sydney and back. And since I am NOT going to Australia without seeing the Great Barrier Reef, there's also the airfare from Sydney to Cairns and back. So I've had to find some room in the budget to put aside a significant amount of money every month - and I did. I cut our weekly grocery budget by 40% - yes, you read that right - simply by reestablishing my old practice of planning out the weekly meals, making a shopping list, and sticking to it. (Only going to the store once a week has helped a lot, too, as have simple tricks like buying frozen juice concentrate.) So either it really is that easy to shave $100 off of one's weekly grocery bill, or I was really being stupidly wasteful.
  • I got a new camera for Christmas. I've been slightly obsessive lately about researching lenses and accessories for it. In the process, I came across the micro 4/3 system. I was vaguely aware of it when I was shopping for my DSLR, but the least expensive one was $900 (most are over $1000) so they were pretty much off my radar. A new Olympus micro 4/3 came out available for pre-order this week for $599. And I WANT IT. This is my new obsession: I stare at pictures of it, and read and re-read the specs, and imagine traveling the world with this camera in my pocket. If we weren't already saving up for multiple vacations, culinary school, a new (used) car for Brian (when we get back to America), and (eventually) a down payment on a house, I'd put this on the "save up" list, but that list is already kind of over-saturated at the moment.
  • On the more realistic camera wishlist front, I really f'ing want a Lensbaby Composer. And a BUNCH of other lenses and filters and such.
  • Brandon is going to tap class now, and enjoying it very much more than ballet. He's also getting really good at making up songs, and he's really learning his letter sounds. A couple of weeks ago, he helped me roll croissants, and he was pretty good at it.
  • Jackson is talking, kind of. It's usually pretty easy to understand what he's trying to tell you, even though he uses the same five words to mean just about everything. He's in the stage of every little boy's development where they watch Pixar's Cars at least once a day. We're also really into Meet the Robinsons in our house lately.
  • Since I've also been really bad about uploading new pictures to Flickr, here's a few of my favorites from my new camera. (The ones without my kids in them, at least.)