Friday, December 8, 2017

Perfect Your Christmas Light Photography With Great Tips from Expert Resources

Photo of a Christmas tree in the corner of a room from
It happens that I am one of those people. As the year winds down, as the final months flip away, I can barely contain my eagerness. Christmas is on its way and in the weeks leading up to it I'm keen every year to begin celebrating this wonderful season of peace, joy and goodwill.

Though I have disciplined myself to (when it comes to many aspects of the holiday) hold off until after the solemn observance of Remembrance Day,  the shopping is usually well under way by November.

And the rest, of course, follows soon after.

It is to me, such a beautiful celebration, from its message and music,  to its food and adornments, that it seems a shame to not get a good start on all of it. And I really do love to decorate for this festive season. A project that began with a tree in a cozy corner and a few garlands over doorways in my first year of marriage, has grown to encompass most of the house. There's something about the twinkling lights, the holly, the greenery and candles that makes a home so warm. 

Now my den is dedicated to snowmen, while a variety of Santas hold their place of honour in the living room. Both of these come together in the kitchen and bathroom, with a few favourites hanging out in the hallways. Welcoming guests as they enter my front door is an adorable elf. Finally, this year too, a long-awaited renovation has given me the 'cardinal' room, an homage to my late parents.

These decorations, to my mind, create a welcoming atmosphere in my home. Yet what appeals most to me are the garlands with strings of light that adorn the top of the hutch, kitchen and down the staircase.

There is something awfully peaceful about sitting in a room lit simply by a few shimmering lights snuggled amongst some greenery.  It begs for hot chocolate and a good book, quiet conversation over a glass of wine, or the closest of snuggles with a sweetie.

After a long day, my guy and I enjoy nothing more than to be greeted by the tree lights as we make our way up the street towards home.   Set to a timer they are the perfect welcome as we transition from work mode to our time.

Often I have tried to capture the beauty of Christmas lights in a photograph,  but it never quite lives up to the reality. Over the years I have been helped by some expert advice and continue to work towards a perfect photo memory we can draw on some winter night to brighten the cold dark season. If only for a brief moment.

If you too have struggled to get a picture of your Christmas tree or of sparkling lights throughout your house during the holidays here are some helpful hints:

Lightstalking shares some helpful tips on how to capture the magic of a beautifully sparkling Christmas tree.

Picture Correct takes it outside with these great tips for photographing Christmas lights.

wikiHow tackles the tricky obstacles one can face in getting great Christmas light photographs.

Shooting Christmas lights with your DSLR advice from the New York Institute of Photography.

Digital Photography School offers advice and examples to ramp up your bokeh Christmas light photography skills. 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Christmas Tree Images to Put the Festive in Your Seasonal Projects

Clipart image of children decorating a Christmas tree
It’s tragedy, drama and comedy rolled into one.  It’s the Agony and the Ecstasy. It’s War and Peace. What begins every year as A Fine Mess ends always, with certainty, as It’s a Wonderful Life.

Thus describes my annual tree trimming escapades.

Please forgive the literary and film references above, but when it comes to this seasonal ritual I've often felt that the trials and tribulations are too bizarre to be reality. Year in and year out  no matter how organized I might be, no matter how much time I allow,  decorating the tree is a painfully frustrating exercise.  A problem arises and I hopefully address it the next year, only to find another problem arising.

Yet, always, always, the end result is worth every miserable moment. There is such warmth to be found in the glow of a Christmas tree.  It's the beckoning light for family to gather around, for friends to be entertained by.

But first, the agony, the war and the mess. We've always had an artificial tree. For convenience I guess,  though that suggestion is rather laughable. The early ones were ridiculous imitations and a lot of work. Branches were stuck in individually by hand. The holes would split, the branches droop as a result.  Our modern version has far greater aesthetic appeal, but is cumbersome to put in place. Also, it came with pinecones and clumps of 'snow', that are the bane of my existence.  Not only do they fall and make a mess, but they're difficult to decorate around.

The real challenge, though, is the lighting. First it's the tangled strings, an issue we believe now to have resolved with improved storage.  Then it's the dead strings, which work fine when you check them but for unexplained reasons quit on the tree.  Progress is thus delayed until we can purchase new ones.

Over the decades the task has resulted in toppled trees, broken ornaments, mismatched lights and strings of off-colour words.

I took on this year's project early since I found myself with a Saturday to myself. Various, sadly- anticipated woes cropped up so that it took over four hours to complete.

The requisite useless strings of lights resulted in no less than three dismantles which occupied a fairly significant amount of time.  Each of these meant more weaving in and out along the branches, in my obsessive compulsive need to get them spaced nicely. This involved the requisite gnashing of teeth, tugging of cords and stomping of feet. Of course, none of this would be normal without, I'm ashamed to admit,  the accompaniment of some profanity to spice things up.
Clipart image of a Christmas tree

Finally,  just in time for a much-needed cocktail, the job was complete and my efforts had resulted in a vision of twinkling splendour. All the frustration eased away as I appreciated the beauty of this festive tradition.  Images of snuggling beside the tree on chilly winter nights, gently falling snow and  a room full of laughter and love soothed and comforted.  I had reached the joyful part of this seasonal tradition — the time to relax and enjoy the peace and pleasure of my wonderful life.

With just a few weeks left until Dec. 25, trimming the tree will be happening in homes everywhere, at various times, with varying degrees of success. But regardless of how smooth, or not so smooth, the process goes the end result is a welcome addition to our holidays. We celebrate here with delightful collections of Christmas tree clipart: Christmas Tree Illustrations Christmas Tree Illustrations

Friday, December 1, 2017

Discover the Magic of Children at Christmas in These Beautiful Photos from

Photo of three children with a Christmas giftIt really is the most wonderful time of the year. In general people seem happier, full of the spirit of the season. The business of Christmas is attacked with purpose, yet its peace and joy are felt within. The social calendar is full and tthe vast majority will be anticipated with a festive glee. Some more than others.

This weekend my guy and I are very happy to be heading out to a favourite destination of ours. The lovely Bavarian town of Frankenmuth, Michigan has been on the road trip list virtually every year for decades, going back to when my husband and I first met.

In those days, the charm and history were less an attraction than the annual summer beer festival. With the tunnel-vision of youth when the opportunity for a dash of fun presented itself, our focus was on socializing and partying. A group of us, numbering anywhere from a dozen to 20, headed out, the Friday morning of the second weekend in June,  some in tandem, others too eager to wait, leading the way.

From then until Sunday afternoon when the parade had finally passed us by, we ate, drank and made merry. There was a bit of shopping and a plethora of laughter. It was the best of times: Monday often the worst of times. But we were young, exuberant and healed quickly.  We would dissect the moments that stood out, rehash the events and think of more to come. Thoughts of the next year's visit were already taking shape.

Photo of a child and his father hanging an ornament on a Christmas tree branch
Then one year it struck someone among us that this architectural homage to Bavaria, with its quaint shops and welcoming atmosphere,  might interest our children too. And what began as a frivolous mini-break for lively 20-somethings transitioned into a family excursion, with a few adult diversions in the mix.

The revelation, of course, had proved accurate and the new generation enjoyed, not just the party, but the town.

Of particular interest was the gigantic Christmas store, Bronners. With wide-eyed wonder the little ones gazed at the animated displays that replicated everything from Santa's workshop to a winter wonderland.  If magic was anywhere it was in the air there as we grownups looked anew through the eyes of a child.  With sparkling stars dangling from above and cheery snowmen smiling a welcome,  the youngsters bedazzled.

The next inevitable conclusion then for my husband and me was that we must return for a weekend during the Christmas season. How much more perfect would it be to visit this fantastical place during the holidays.  So much more so that it eventually replaced the summer trip.  I recall one trip in particular, when a friend accompanied us in the hopes that her little one's growing disbelief in Santa would be assuaged by the enchantment.  And indeed it did. Old St. Nick worked his charm on the little sceptic, and let her hold on to the fantasy for a few more years.

There is nothing more marvelous than being with children at this time of year.  That's what makes this weekend's trip even more exciting. The tradition is now being introduced to a third generation, as our daughter and adorable grandchildren have been making the Christmas trip with us.  And the hope is for the rest of our family to jump on board in subsequent years.

With the beauty that is a child at Christmas in mind, please enjoy these wonderful pictures from Children at Christmas

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Reflections on a Christmas Tradition and Sharing 2 Amazing Snowman Clipart Collections

Clipart image of three hanging Christmas ornaments
"Christmas, my child, is love in action. Every time we love, every time we give, it's Christmas." — Dale Evans

There is a Christmas holiday tradition, a particular gift for my offspring that I've enjoyed seeking and giving every year since the birth of my oldest child. It started simply enough – a Santa tree ornament for his stocking. However, it struck me soon after that this would be a great idea for every year so he would have a nice collection by the time he was ready to decorate his own tree.

It was just one of those happy coincidences, though, that I selected a bauble the following year that also had Santa on it. Thus a theme had begun and a tradition was formed.

As each of his three siblings arrived I chose a theme for them too.  It continues now, even as they are adults, and such pleasure it brings to see these added to their festive decorations.  It was an obvious no-brainer then that I would continue the practice with the next generation.

Sixteen years ago, we welcomed our first grandchild, a boy.   He, like his father and aunt before him, arrived in December, an extra special gift for the holidays.

There's something really nice about a newborn at Christmas — a bundle of blue or pink to remind us of all the hope and joy there is in this world. And when that new bundle is the first in the family after a long drought it's beyond perfect.

We were fortunate to have this little man visit us often as he grew up, the preferred scenario for first-time grandparents.  He spent most weekends at our house and grew up thinking of it as his other home.  For my husband and me, being with this little dude was the best of gifts.

As sweet a child as you could find, he rarely fussed, demanded little and loved to snuggle. As his Grandma I took full advantage of that latter trait and rocked him for hours. Which by the way never seemed to cause any troubles with him. It sure did spoil me though.

Besides the fact that we fell madly in love with him from the moment he arrived, he also opened our eyes to things we'd taken for granted. We were reacquainted with the pleasures to be found in the world around us — in the wonder of everything.  Even snow.

I remember the first trip into the snow when he was old enough to be aware, the entertainment and giggles  he found in all of that white stuff lying around. I remember the look of delight on his face as he watched his Papa and me build a snowman for him.  These are memories that endure, especially this time of year.

And in building that snowman for him when he was barely a year old I decided on the Christmas ornament theme for him. That year and every year since I have added a snowman to the collection.

So with these memories and thoughts in mind I have found some wonderful sources for snowman clipart:

Clipart image of a snowman

Clipart image of a snowman

Friday, November 24, 2017

Make Your Messages More Fun for Loved Ones to See With Animated Sticker Packs

Animation of Father Time
There are times while looking at our children or grandchildren when we wish we could find a way to slow time's swift passage. Moments are fleeting, days are ephemeral and the years move along with an almost incredible rapidity. We give life to new beings and before we know it they are grown. And, as they say, it did all seem to happen in a heartbeat, in the blink of an eye.

My generation speaks of it often when we're together. Having experienced the phenomenon with our own kids, we find ourselves determinedly, albeit futilely trying to grab every instant and hold on for just a little longer with our grandchildren. When we get older, you see,  we know how precious this time with little ones can be. We know that there are very few jobs so important we can ignore the reaching out of a tiny hand, or the sweet request that asks only for us to stop for a bit, to just enjoy being with them.

Living a distance from all of my grandchildren, making these connections is even more important. Because of the miles between us, many of these visits have to be found and appreciated in whatever way we can.

Animation of a baby's face on a laptopThank goodness, then for today's technology. Years ago if distance separated us from loved ones, if responsibilities kept us from being where we wanted to be, we had the telephone to help us stay in touch. Today, programs such as FaceTime allow us to not just converse but to see those dear faces too. If you can't be in the same room, it's the next best thing.

The other evening, my daughter called to ask me if I would mind a FaceTime break with her babies since she was behind on her supper preparations and felt a distraction for them could help her out. That my supper preparations were in even worse shape held no significance in making a decision. This was one of those moments when my world needed to stop for something far more important.

What fun we had. The rambunctious pre-schooler bounced in and out of the frame, fetching items for his version of show and tell, while his big sister filled us in on the latest kindergarten news. Before my hubby and I knew it, 15 minutes had passed far too quickly and Mom, now with things under control, was calling them to the dinner table. Her thanks as we signed off was rather ironic since the gratitude was all ours.

Animation of a redheaded girl in pigtails textingEven if a visual glimpse isn't possible, technology has provided so many ways to keep in touch — from instant messaging to chats on Facebook, from emails to texting.

The latter is something the aforementioned granddaughter has latched on to with enthusiasm. Her version of texting is not exactly about conversation since, at five, her ability to spell and type is rather limited. But when I hear the ringtone, nothing makes my heart smile more than a message full of unicorn and rainbow emojis. It's enough to know that we are connecting.

And I love to imagine her giggles when I respond with some of the adorable Animation Factory sticker packs from Vital Imagery Ltd. Available on iTunes these fun animations, for iPhone and iPad, infuse humour and visual interest in mundane texts.  This one is sure to put the Merry in your Christmas messages:

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Gearing up for Bargain Hunting With These Awesome Black Friday Clipart Collections

Clipart image of a girl in red doing her Christmas shopping
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. And in my case that just might be because of a certain penchant I have for retail therapy. Imagine my delight then in the necessary pursuit of everybody's perfect gift.

We all have our weaknesses. And one of mine just happens to be that I am seriously fond of shopping. Actually, were I to be honest I might have to admit to being a bit of an 'aholic'. The temptation is always there. I would rarely turn down an invitation from a friend to go buying. A special occasion is always the perfect excuse to procure a new outfit. An outing with the grandchildren rarely ends without a purchase of one kind or another, be it a stuffy or a sweet treat.

The restraint, when  presented with the opportunity to indulge, is virtually non-existent. Take me to a mall, any time, any day, anywhere and I will shop until you drop.  I have exhausted many a novice and die-hard, even been asked by a much-younger someone if we could please be done. 

Within reason, I buy what I want when I want, I'm a sucker for the 'spend this much and get a free gift' pitch and I have never seen a bargain I could ignore.

That said, even I have my limits. There's one time of year when I strenuously avoid retail centres — the very time that most others fill them. No enticement or inducement is strong enough to lure me into the pre-Christmas rush. Or perhaps I should say crush.  

Instead, early in November, a friend and I head off to the big city for a two-day shopping binge. The Christmas list is attacked with extreme focus and items checked off with alacrity. And what doesn’t get done is quickly finished online.

Clipart image of Santa relaxing in a chair with a glass of wine
So now, as others are getting into the spirit of things, I have checked everyone off the list and am sipping wine by the twinkling lights of my tree while they are out fighing the bargain-hungry masses.

None of this is to say that my way is the best way. It’s simply the right way. For me.  I know plenty of people who actually prefer being out in the hustle and bustle of the last-minute shopping blitz. 

The end of this week is Black Friday, the day after the American Thanksgiving, when retailers inspire shoppers to come out in droves with tempting deals on everything. While you won't find me there, the craze  obviously holds huge appeal for many. Specials so incredible apparently make
Clipart image of a rush of shoppers
the challenge of spending time with the hordes of other people out to get the goods worth it. Friends and family of mine on this side of the border wouldn't miss making the trip to the States on the last Friday of November each year.

Those who share my aversion to crowded retail outlets need not miss out completely, though. The internet has given us the advantages of Black Friday from the comfort of our home.

So as we approach one of the most significant pre-holiday shopping extravaganzas  in western consumerism,  here are some Black Friday illustrations for use in business and retail from and

Friday, November 17, 2017

Improve Your Holiday Photos With These Helpful Photoshop Tutorials

Photo of a camera with a Santa hat on top
"Taking an image,  freezing a moment, reveals how rich reality truly is." — Anonymous

There are many instances over a lifetime when the notion of 'freezing a moment' is yearned for. Often, unfortunately, after the fact. There are those precious times with loved ones that we wish we could hold onto forever. There are those vacations we took, those events we attended that were so enjoyed we wished they could go on forever. The best we can hope for typically is that we have a camera with us to at least preserve the memory for posterity.

Thanks to technology many of those memories are safeguarded these days. With digital cameras, tablets and smartphones, there are a lot of snap happy people out there running around here and there, grabbing pictures of this and that along the way. So much so that in the extreme they are often too busy capturing the moment to realize they aren't actually enjoying it.

Having long ago recognized the value of picture taking, I've been known to be one of those aforementioned people. At family events I always seem to be on the move, trying to ensure I've taken at least one picture of everybody, and that I've managed to catch at least some of those wonderful candid moments to cherish in later years.

It was after hearing someone mention at a concert one night, though, that all of those people frantically snapping pictures  were missing a good show,  when I realized I maybe needed to rethink how I'm using my camera. Photographing everything that's happening so I can cherish the moment isn't really so good if I'm not actually part of any of it.

Given the time of year that's upon us, the opportunities for picture taking are plentiful. From the laden Thanksgiving table to the chaos around the Christmas tree,  the photo ops we can look forward to over the next few weeks are endless. And while you too have maybe decided to not spend quite as much time trying to get a picture of every treasured moment,  you will want to be sure that the pictures you take are worthy to be called a keepsake.  The quality needs to be there.
Photo of a family portrait taken by the Christmas tree

At a recent family gathering at our home, in keeping with my decision to cut back on my shutterbug role,  the plan was to opt for a few organized group photos. It seemed a brilliant idea at the time. We all know, however, how much fun it is to organize a group of kids into a portrait picture. When half of them are under six and dozens of adults are offering advice and instruction, the resulting melee was not conducive to art.

The subjects were beyond adorable but the results not so much. Impatient, energetic kids in constant motion tend to make for some interesting pictures. For that matter, the reluctant, truculent adults weren't a whole lot better when it was there turn either. Adding more to the mix was the fact that on this day the required lens decided to have an issue.

Thanks to digital photography, with no film to process and having the ability to see the picture you've just taken, photographers have more chances to get it right. They can take dozens of pictures of a group, and make adjustments to improve what they're seeing. That said, there are still times when the end result disappoints.

Fortunately, with today's image editing software many problems can be corrected. In a perfect world we'd all get the lighting and exposure right every time, but seizing a moment often means we take what we get with little time for adapting. These links will offer novices solutions on a number of common problems:

Enhance Colours With Photoshop Filters

How to Adjust Exposure

Fixing Brightness and Contrast

How to Fix a Blurry Photo

Photoshopping People from One Photo to Another

Swapping Heads in Photoshop