Monday, December 30, 2013

Bid Goodbye to 2013 with Gusto

Well, all the fun of Christmas is behind us and we now look ahead to another new year. 

The holidays for me were perfect; counting my blessings each day was easy as they were apparent at every turn.  Family surrounded me, a bounty of gifts spoiled me, the abundance of food and drink flowed. It was all a reminder of how fortunate I am to enjoy so much.

And there's more to come as the fun and infusion of a hectic social life is far from over. Tomorrow is New Year's Eve, a time to celebrate and reflect, positively.  What's the point of resolutions we have no intention or probability of keeping, thereby setting ourselves up to fail?  I try not to think on what I didn't accomplish, what goals I haven't met. Instead I let the fading of an old year into a new one be more about recalling all the good things that happened over the previous 12 months and anticipating more of the same for the next 12.

Sure, life can be a spoiler. We never know what tomorrow might throw our way. But the company of good friends to celebrate with ensures I ring out the old year with nothing but joy for what has been and hope for what will be.  Far better to assume the best and bid goodbye to 2013 with gusto. Just like the happy revellers in these festive photos:

iPHOTOS.com New Year's Party Photos

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Reason for the Season

It's the most wonderful time of the year as the popular Christmas song proclaims. And I love it all. Especially the busy weeks heading into the season when life is filled with baking, gift buying and wrapping, snowmen, Santas and holly.

These festive images are affecting, as is the holiday music. While the contemporary tunes, both new and old are always enjoyable, there's no question in my mind that the most beautiful songs though, are the carols which speak of that holy night and serve to remind the world exactly what this celebration is all about.

Amid the tinsel and lights, Santa and presents, turkey and pumpkin pie, it often seems that the reason for the season is lost. But when we hear the words and melodies of Silent Night, O' Holy Night or Joy to the World we are reminded in the most glorious of ways that this time of year Christians are celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. Born in a manager in the little village of Bethlehem, he was believed to have been conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin. This was the birth of the new Messiah.

For this day, therefore, the final one before Christmas, we shall share these illustrations in celebration of the true meaning of this religious holiday:

iCLIPART.com Religious Christmas Illustrations

Monday, December 23, 2013

Adorable Snowmen

After a 13-year hiatus, a new grandbaby arrived to join our family last year. Excited as we were for her first Christmas in 2012, she, at five months, was less than interested.

This year, however, things will be different. While she might not understand why it's all happening, the lights, the presents, all the fuss are things she's noticing and in which she's taking much delight.

For her grandfather and me the fun of once again seeing Christmas through the eyes of a child is enlivening.  Though we've always put a lot into the festive season at our house, this year there's no question we're throwing in a few bonus features as well.

For example, following a major ice storm in the area this past weekend, Papa and I, typically more inclined to spend a cold day tucked in with a good book, instead broke through the solid crust of snow and built a snowman to welcome our Little Missy on Christmas Day. Hopefully she finds him as adorable as the ones featured in these collections of illustrations:

iCLIPART.com Snowman Illustrations

Acclaim Images Snowmen

ClickArt Online Snowman Images

ClipartGuide Snowmen

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Favourite Christmas Knickknack

My Christmas shopping has been done for a while now, but it doesn't keep me from looking.

Last weekend we were visiting our daughter who lives across the road from the Dutch Mill Country Market, a wonderful place replete with gift ideas and items.

It also serves food, so after enjoying a delicious breakfast together, I had the chance to wander with my wee granddaughter while Grandpa paid the bill.  Browsing we discovered many lovely things, but it was a display of snow globes that really caught our eye.

You're never too old for snow globes. A delight for children, quality examples of these knickknacks are also popular with collectors. The charming scene and gently falling snow can be quite fascinating to look and play with, especially when it does double duty as a music box.

While you won't be able to hear any tunes from this collection it certainly does offer a variety of charming globes for your viewing pleasure:

iCLIPART.com Snow Globes

ClickArt Online Snow Globes

ClipartGuide Snow Globes

Christmas Baubles, Bells and Balls

Holiday decor is a true reflection of personal style. For some it's formal and Victorian, for others country kitsch, and for others it's keepsakes and homemade treasures. The centrepieces of it all of course is the Christmas tree adorned with lights, garlands and baubles.

Way back in the 1970s my husband and I were part of a yearly sojourn to Frankenmuth, MI each June with a group of friends. Young and with all the carefree irresponsibility that goes along with it, our sole purpose was to attend the annual Beer Festival.

But a visit to this charming Bavarian town would not have been complete without a trip to Bronner's Christmas wonderland.  At that time a decision was made by my guy and me to purchase a tree ornament with our names, and also to get one for the current year.  This tradition continued through the years and as our young family grew other names were added too.

Fast forward to the early 1990s, a family gathered around a tree on Christmas morning, a tree that for some reason seemed a little wobbly that year. Our eldest in the role of Santa was reaching beneath to dig out presents when over it went. Only one 'family' ornament was saved. The one that included my husband's and my names with the day we were married sailed through the air straight into our daughter's waiting hands.

Though rather sad, we have since then rebuilt the collection, including happy snowmen bearing the names of our family members. These are courtesy of that sure-handed daughter who felt a few years ago that it was time to bring us all back to the tree.

We have also ensured a solid foundation when the tree is put in its place every year.

And discovered some collection of baubles, bells and balls that are guaranteed unbreakable which you can see here:

iCLIPART.com Christmas Ornaments

Acclaim Images Christmas Ornaments

ClickArt Online Christmas Ornaments

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Tips to Improve Your Photoshop Skills

A quarter of a century ago, I made a career change to journalism.  It was then a dream come true. Words had always been my strength and being able to work at a job that needed me to use them was ideal. 

The other side of it, however, was that this was a small community newspaper which meant in addition to writing and editing I was also enlisted as a photographer.  Thus, with 35 mm in hand, and very little training,  I took my minimal skills and slightly above average creative ability to garden parties, hockey games and children's events.

I learned to develop film and print pictures and found myself enjoying a new interest. Taking a photo that was less than perfect, cropping it for greater impact, dodging and burning to improve quality was challenging and fun.  Taking the almost unusable and working enough magic to include in that week's edition was extremely satisfying.

And then came digital cameras and Photoshop.  With a quick PS 101 course as we transitioned, I learned the necessary basics. I also learned that I would have sat for hours and played with this new toy given the opportunity. Sadly, deadlines ensured I never got it.

I've promised myself in the four years since leaving the newspaper business, though,  that I would someday improve those skills.  Anyone interested in the same thing will enjoy these links I found enroute to fulfilling that goal:

Creative Bloq 30 Photoshop Secrets to Improve Skills

abduzeedo.com How to Improve Your Photoshop Skills

psd tuts+ Steps to Improving Your Photoshop Skills

DZine Blog 10 Clever Ways to Improve Your Photoshop Skills

92pixesl Photoshop Tutorials to Improve Your Skills

orphic pixel 7 Simple Steps to Enhance Your Photoshop Skills

Lightstalking Videos for Improving Photoshop Skills

Creative Overflow 20 Tutorials to Boost Your Photoshop Skills

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Adorable Pets Dressed for Christmas

So, in the absence of any twinkling lights at the office, I decided today to deck myself with, well, not boughs of holly, but some festive decorating nonetheless.  On a recent shopping trip with my daughter I picked up one of those kitschy flashing Christmas light necklaces. And today was the day to wear it. Some snowflake earrings finished my seasonal fashion statement.

When it comes to holiday chic it's strange how easy it is to throw good taste out the window. From tacky sweaters to well... flashing necklaces, style at this time of year often takes a back seat to the garish and gaudy. But why not. it's Christmas, the time of year to be merry and bright. Anything that might bring a smile to someone's face, whether faux antlers on the bank clerk or Rudolph's nose on the grocer, is just fine with me.

I do have some mixed feelings though when it comes to dressing up your pet for the season. There's something about the woebegone look on a gorgeous golden wearing a Santa cap that has me feeling a dash of pity. After all, unlike your Great-Uncle Irving and that tacky sweater with flashing lights and jingling bells he loves to wear, the pet has no say. 


There's no denying, however, that they do look rather adorable. So while I might not feel inclined to dress my pet in holiday apparel,  if others do .. well, why not?  It's not like it hurts anything.  Besides other than children what could possibly spread more holiday cheer than a pup or puss in wonderful tasteless holiday style? Any doubts just check out these sweet photo collections:

iPHOTOS.com Photos of Pets in Christmas Outfits

Huffington Post Pets in Christmas Costumes

Thumbpress Pets in Christmas Costume

Acclaim Images Pets in Christmas Costume

Monday, December 16, 2013

"Carolling, Carolling Now We Go.. "

What an awesome weekend this past one was. It was the perfect combination of music, fun and family,  just right for the final days heading up to Christmas.

It also included a couple of nice surprises.  One was seeing my son and his 14-year-old play together on a stage for the first time. The other was less personal but a real highlight nonetheless.

Walking to work each morning gives me lots of time for reflection and rumination, musing and pondering. During this physical and mental exercise one day last week, something dawned on me. There's been an element of Christmas that seems to be missing. It's been a long time since I've seen it, heard it or been part of it.  Then my husband mentioned it too as we were heading down to a concert on Friday night. What has happened to carolling?

Over my life I have taken part in this special way of sharing Christmas cheer many times through many different groups — from Sweet Adelines to church choirs. Seeing the smiles we brought was very rewarding.  And turnabout is nice too. I remember answering the door at my home several years ago to a group of joyful faces singing choruses of peace and goodwill while Christmas lights glistened off gently falling snowflakes.  It was a treat for eyes and ears.

It's been forever, but, life has a way of bringing us what we need. So it was Friday as we were grabbing a quick bite at a downtown café prior to our concert that we noticed four people in Victorian dress enter the building, then delighted in their 15-minute performance around our table. Beautiful voices singing some of the nicest music there is. What a lovely Christmas present.

So, while I might not be able to share the experience in song with you here,  I can offer some illustrations of one of Christmas's nicest traditions:

iCLIPART.com Carollers

Acclaim Images Carollers

Friday, December 13, 2013

Nothing But Trouble For Friday the 13th

Today is Friday the 13th. It's an event that often passes without me noticing a thing.  I don't recall any noteworthy bad luck confirming the superstition for me. It's generally just a typical day,  albeit often mixing the bad with the good not unlike many normal ones. Gosh knows, the hundreds of motorcyclists who have made it a tradition to converge on the charming Lake Erie community of Port Dover every possible Friday the 13th have no concerns either.

Yet, as there are people so crippled by fear of this day they avoid normal routines,  refuse to travel or in some cases even get out of bed, it got me thinking about the origins. Why when the 13th day of the month lands on a Friday are people expecting to be besieged and beleaguered by misfortune?

While there are apparently many theories, one simple one is that both the number 13 and Friday are each considered unlucky.  That, however, has never made sense to me. Thirteen is not a number that's struck fear in my heart or made me the least apprehensive. And as for Friday..  well, all I can say is it's my favourite day of the week.

But what would be the point of blathering on about Friday the 13th if the illustrations I chose to accompany it reflected my view that it's really just another day? No, the focus on this collection is all about bad luck and misfortune in honour of a date that possesses the power to send some people into hiding:

iCLIPART.com Bad Luck Illustrations

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Celebrating 'Birth' Days

With only two weeks of shopping days left, Christmas is, or should be, on everyone's mind.

At our house, however,  the gifts have been purchased, wrapped and under the tree for quite some time as we focus our fun on the birthday celebrants in the family.  Today marks our youngest child's birth,  followed four days later by his son's birthday,  then our older daughter's celebration the next.

With my babies no longer living under my roof, making the fuss I used to when they really were my babies can't happen. But I sure give it a good try, from the morning's Happy Birthday to You phone call, to emails, to a squeezed-in visit if I can manage it on the day or at some point on the weekend after.

It's always been important to me to acknowledge birthdays in a big way. There's no day that honours a person more than the one on which they came into this world.  We all know life should be celebrated. It just makes sense to me then that it be done well on the day that life first started.

Therefore, smack dab amidst the festive season celebrating one of the most important births there is,  we offer these collections of  charming illustrations to pay tribute to the excitement of 'birth' days:

iCLIPART.com Birth Illustrations

ClipartGuide Birth Illustrations

ClickArt Online Birth Images

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Illustrations for the Insomniac

I don't sleep. Well, not enough. It's sadly not a new condition, has been evident at least as long as I've been a mother, which has been a significant length of time.

Anyone who suffers from insomnia knows it's a frustrating condition. It's characterized by an inability to fall asleep, stay asleep or sleep long enough. Lucky me, I suffer from each of these at varying times.

Just when it seems I've mastered falling asleep with ease, I start rousing mid-sleep and toss and turn for hours. Knowing the morning comes at a set time adds to the frustration thereby making rest even more elusive.  Then there's the early waking, which I'm experiencing this week. The eyes are popping open a good hour before the alarm, and I, while exhausted can't seem to drift off for the extra snooze.

The variety makes it rather difficult to find solutions.  Following an evening ritual or reading before bed can help — then nights later, can't. A spritz of melatonin, an herbal tea or warm milk have been known to break a cycle of wakefulness, as have a massage and sauna. For a bit.  Exercise, yoga and deep breathing have all given me hope, which sadly soon fades away.  I have utilized a sleep mask and earplugs when the problem seems to be staying asleep, but alas, this too comes with no guarantee. Though I do look adorable.

This week has been a particularly rough one. When I mentioned to a colleague that I'm so tired I was having problems focussing on a blog topic she suggested counting sheep. Illustrations that is. Here then are some adorable collections of the long-touted insomniac's friend:

iCLIPART.com Sheep Illustrations

Acclaim Images Sheep

ClipartGuide Sheep Illustrations

ClickArt Online Sheep Illustrations

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Free Generally Comes at a Price

There is one seemingly innocuous word that will make me suspicious every time. Seriously, don't we all know by now, there's nothing in this world that's 'free'?

At risk of sounding cynical, experience has taught me well that free generally comes at a cost, such as loss of quality, the addition of a hidden agenda or trouble down the road.  This is no less true in the world of images.

When I first started searching for images for small projects, I soon discovered sources claiming to offer illustrations and photos that can be used for free.  While one might assume these fall under the realm of public domain, it made me wonder where those images originally came from and who was so nicely doing all the work just to give them away.

Then I noticed in teeny-tiny print at the bottom of the page that some of the images might be subject to copyright. A quick click on one of them proved this to be true as it took me to an online service offering royalty-free illustrations and photos with the purchase of a subscription.

The term royalty-free allows an individual who has purchased the right to use the image to do so without ever paying any additional costs down the road. This means that if you got an illustration to use in a greeting card today, you can put it on a flyer two years from now without paying again.

The message here is that had I just saved the image as it appeared I was permitted to do, without reading the fine print, I would have been using that image illegally, which could have resulted in legal woes and heavy fines.  How much? Well, here are a few enlightening blogs that offer some rather eye-opening insight:

Web Copy Plus

The Content Factory

Bubblews

It has become such a concern in the industry that there are lawyers now specializing in this particular type of theft.  And make no mistake. It is theft.

For me, considering the many safe resources out there for image needs with affordable options to meet every budget, the only way to go is by paying the money now. Accessing images online may not be free, but it can be care-free.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Riding Through Winter

It was October 1976 when I met my husband. Just a little over a month into autumn and already there was snow on the ground — a situation that sadly remained until spring.

Perhaps sadly wasn't quite the right thing to say. Back in those days, I somewhat looked forward to the snow and cold as my new guy was an avid snowmobiler and weekends meant lots of time on the trails with friends.

The sport was different then. Breakdowns happened frequently, extra fan belts were carried on the steering column as we were more shocked if one didn't break than if it did. Trails were usually blazed by the machines, rather than the fancy groomers of today, so riding was often rough and occasionally harrowing.

It was  a time when with a reckless lack of responsibility little thought was given to the consequences of drinking and operating motorized vehicles, so our outings were often like house parties in the snow. Large groups would travel out, stopping often for a break, before reaching some rustic pub for a quick warming and hot food.

They were fun times.  But as our family grew I spent less winter hours on the trails and more rocking babies.  As trail systems improved, my husband took great pleasure in swift and steady rides, logging kilometre after kilometre, rather than enjoying the halting progress we used to make.

It all came together to diminish my interest and it's probably been a decade since I've gone for a tour on those highways in the snow. I do somewhat miss the beauty of riding on a cool crisp winter day through quiet rural bushes and across spacious fields. But rather than face the cold these days,  I'll take my trip vicariously with these wonderful photos instead.

iPHOTOS.com Snowmobile Photos

Acclaim Images Snowmobile Pictures

Your Shot National Geographic Snowmobile Photos

Friday, December 6, 2013

On the First Day of Christmas...

"On the first day of Christmas..."

We can generally count on a lot more than a partridge in a pear tree.  The Twelve Days of Christmas begin Dec. 25 and end with Twelfth Night on Jan. 5. The Twelfth Day can precede this or come after depending on which Christian tradition is followed.  It is, however, the time when decorations should come down. Leaving them for later is considered bad luck.

While a few traditions may still remain, many for the Twelve Days of Christmas have been lost in western culture. Now, when one thinks of this it is the musical holiday favourite that tends to spring to mind.  An exercise in memory (Which comes first —  the drummers or the pipers and are there more maids a milking than there are lords a leaping?) it was always fun to sing at our annual school pageants.

Put into pictures, it can be equally entertaining as these illustrations show:

iCLIPART.com 12 Days of Christmas Illustrations

iCLIPART.com 12 Days of Christmas Cartoons

iCLIPART.com 12 Days of Christmas

iCLIPART.com 12 Days of Christmas Cartoons

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Create a Snowman in Photoshop

It's beginning to look a lot like.. well, spring.  After a day of warmer temperatures and rain yesterday, we awoke this morning to balmy temperatures and a world washed green. So it is this time of year in beautiful south-western Ontario, when the only type of weather we are promised is variable.

All of those wishing for a white Christmas should take heart, however. Tomorrow's forecast is for seasonal temperatures once again and while the closest forecast shows no hint of snow, there's little doubt in my mind that fluffy white blanket will soon cover our landscape.  Which is a good thing. Even I have to admit, it's the way the world should look this time of year.

And let's face it, whether you like it or not, snow can be a lot of fun. I am personally hoping for just enough of the good-packing kind so that we can have a snowman on the lawn to greet our granddaughter on Christmas Day.  Or maybe, if we don't get it done before, building one as a family would be a great way to wear off that turkey dinner.

If, however, you prefer not facing the elements when making a snowman, there are some nice tutorials for creating one in Photoshop. Here's a sampling:

10Steps Draw Your Snowman in Photoshop

TipsSquirrel.com Make a Photoshop Snowman

psd tuts+ Create a Snowman GIF Animation

WebDesign Draw Your Snowman in Photoshop

mfCreative Snowman Photoshop Tutorial

wikiHow Create a Snowman Using Photoshop

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A Seasonal Favourite

I'm in my happy place these days. While tap, tap, tapping away at work on my computer keyboard my ears are plugged in to seasonal music.

Being the type of person who starts thinking about all things Christmas in October, the dearth of holiday tunes on the radio these days typically frustrates me no end. The music is some of the nicest there is and the time for listening is limited, so I've never understood why more stations don't play it more.  The other day, however, a friend told me about one  that's on the festive bandwagon, playing nothing but seasonal favourites 24/7.  I am now their most faithful listener.

With earbuds firmly in place I Jingle Bells with Streisand, rock around the Christmas tree with Brenda Lee and despite the melting snow outside dream of a White Christmas with Bing.  As I sit here now writing this blog I'm enjoying a tune that's a particular favourite of children.

And with that as a perfect intro, here are some illustrations of Rudoph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, as plentiful and diverse as the musical artists who have sung his story for us this and past holiday seasons.

iCLIPART.com Rudolph Illustrations

ClickArt Online Rudolph Illustrations

ClipartGuide Rudolph Illustrations

Acclaim Images Rudolph Clipart

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Free Fantastic Fonts for Festive DIY Fun

Christmas is a holiday for the senses. The music we hear, the foods we taste, the hugs we feel, the aromas of roasting turkey, of cinnamon and of pine that delight our noses, plus the sight of all this and other good things, help create the atmosphere of home and goodwill we associate with this time of year.

I love it all. But it's probably the images of Christmas that mean the most to me. From the decorations, so bright and cheery, to family gathered around a laden table,  these are the things that I look forward to with childlike zeal.

Thus, when creating festive projects such as greeting cards or gift tags the search for the right image is an important part of the task. It needs to be not just something reflective of the season, but of the right mood, whether that of humour, warmth or religion.

And yet.. while the right picture means a lot, there's another element required to make it picture perfect. At work on my projects this year I found myself facing a bit of a challenge. Finding the right font to extend my messages of  "Merry Christmas",  "Season's Greetings" and "Happy Holidays", wasn't nearly as simple as finding the ideal image it seemed.

A trip to an iCLIPART.com Pinterest page ( Pinterest iCLIPART Free Photoshop Resources ) was just the answer for me though with a number of options for free seasonal fonts.  Here's a sampling of what I found:

We Lived Happily Ever After Festive and Free Fonts

Elegance and Enchangment Free Fonts for DIY Holiday Cards

Lia Griffith Favourite Fonts That Are Great for the Holidays

Monday, December 2, 2013

Say Merry Christmas With These Festive Illustrations

No need to spell it out — Christmas is on its way. 

Yesterday we flipped the page on the last month of the traditional 12-month calendar. Shopping malls are filling, with seasonal tunes piping the proper atmosphere throughout. The simple "Hello" has been exchanged for "Merry Christmas". Houses adorned with colourful lights warm the evening darkness while children's smiles are just a little brighter.

This past Saturday while visiting one of my girls I did a turn around the downtown core of the small city in which she lives.  It was a scene that said Christmas loud and clear as snowflakes floated gently down past shop windows adorned with fragrant pine and crimson bows. From the laughter of people in the coffee shop to the passing smiles from stranger to stranger, there was life and joy all around.

So no, there's no need to spell it out that Christmas is on its way. But if you do feel the need these collections of festive illustrations is surely the way to do it.

iCLIPART.com Festive Alphabet Illustrations

iCLIPART.com Gingerbread Alphabet

iCLIPART.com Christmas Alphabet and Numbers

Friday, November 29, 2013

Wrap Up Christmas With These Illustrations

Baking begun? Check. Decorating? Check. Tree? Check. Presents bought. Check. Presents wrapped? Not even close.

An early shopper I  completed our list a couple of weeks ago. There are a few odds and ends I can pick up some evening should I feel the need to experience the downtown holiday shopping atmosphere — snow gently falling, carols playing,  lights twinkling, cranky clerks and pushy customers.  But if it didn't happen, it wouldn't mean someone might feel deprived on  Christmas morning.

Yet I digress a bit. Arriving home from my shopping bender I dumped a trunk load of merchandise into one of our spare rooms, then dragged out the box of wrapping materials.  Sadly, though, the process has stalled as other elements of Christmas preparation were tended to.

Unable to tolerate the chaos in my makeshift wrapping room much longer  I have now, with the utmost conviction, set a goal – to have all of the presents under the tree by the middle of next week. Wish me luck.

So to keep bows and ribbons on the brain, it seemed appropriate to feature Christmas gifts in this collection of holiday illustrations.

iCLIPART.com Illustrations of Christmas Gifts

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Ideas for Taking Winter Family Portraits

Spring, summer and autumn are wonderful backdrops for outdoor family photos. The first offers a sense of freshness with all the vitality of a world in bloom. 

Summer is alive with foliage and space, providing opportunities galore for location, location, location — from sunny beaches and waterfalls, to woods and farmers' fields.  Autumn is riotous colour in the canopy above and the carpet below.

We shouldn't overlook winter, however. For fun, playfulness and the best backdrop for matching fashion tones in your family pictures, there's nothing like a day in the snow. 

It doesn't come without its challenges, of course.  Places you can get to without wading through a foot of fluffy flakes limits might be limited.  Keeping everyone warm and dry could also pose a problem.  Finding the right kind of clothing so shivering is kept to a minimum without being swaddled so well that everyone is unrecognizable can certainly be an issue. Also, you'll need to consider the ages in your group as the elements could be more than an elderly person or tiny tot can handle.

But if none of these make your nervous, if you're game for something different,  below are some informative links to help you get the job done efficiently. After all, the sooner you're back indoors for that hot chocolate, the better.

eHow Taking Family Portraits in the Snow

Picture Ideas Winter Family Photos

eHow Ideas for Family Portraits in Winter

McPactions Get Amazing Portraits in the Snow

Chris Watkins Winter Portraits

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Get Out and Have Fun This Winter

You might say it was a stormy beginning to a relationship.

My husband and I met mid-October of 1976. It had snowed a week earlier and didn't leave for the rest of the fall or winter. We joked about whether or not we were being sent a sign, as he would pick me up for our date with clear starry night skies overhead, only to find ourselves driving back home in a blizzard short hours later.

It was fortunate, therefore, that many of our dates took us off the roads and onto the trails. An avid snowmobiler, when it came to winter travel my guy preferred this option for getting around.  Which meant it's a good thing love is blind, because most of my weekends were spent in bulky clothes, sporting helmet hair and stinking of snowmobile exhaust.

Granted, they were good times back then. Hooking up with a large group of like-minded folks we'd take off across fields and down country lanes, finding refuge in quaint little inns for hearty fare and a pint or two, before setting out once more.  Arriving home, cheeks perfectly pink,  we'd settle our weary bodies, enjoying the deep sleep that comes after hours of time spent in the great outdoors — and let's be hones, a few brews.

Getting outside in the winter is undeniably exhilarating and there are plenty of options for kicking up the fitness level from extreme sports such as snowboarding to quiet walks in the country. These collections illustrate just some of them:

iCLIPART.com Illustrations of Winter Outdoor Activities

ClickArt Online Winter Activities Clipart

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Delightful Christmas Tree Illustrations

I shouldn't be panicking. I know there are many others who don't understand why I'm getting myself flustered. There's still plenty of time to complete all the things that need to be done, but I'm a person never content with knowing I must do. I settle down only when the do is done.

Over the course of the next few weeks, I need to spend evenings and weekends in pursuit of completing all things Christmas. There are tags to make, far too many gifts for wrapping. I must bake, and bake some more. Then let's not forget the housecleaning and organizing.

And while I do have all the decorations up, the tree has still not made it to its rightful place in front of the window.  Typically a task done by the end of November, I'm feeling the crunch of my personal deadline as I look at the busyness of the rest of this week and find myself wondering when, when, when will I find the time.

Calm down, you say. Again, there are those who will argue I have no need to rush. However as someone who enjoys the prelude to Christmas far more than the afterglow, my tree and decorations are back in the box before the new year. Thus it's important to me to have several weeks to enjoy it. As snow floats gently outside the window, there's nothing more warming to the indoors than the soft glow of Christmas tree lights. I'm eager to wrap myself up in a blanket and curl up, cocoa in hand, beside them.

In the meantime I'll just have to look at these delightful illustrations:

iCLIPART.com Christmas Tree Illustrations

Acclaim Images Christmas Tree Clipart

ClickArt Online Christmas Tree Illustrations

ClipartGuide Christmas Tree Illustrations

iPHOTOS.com Christmas Tree Clipart

Monday, November 25, 2013

Let it Snow. For Now.

Mother Nature decided to paint as pure and crisp a landscape as possible this past weekend.  From Friday night to Sunday night a mantle of snowy white fell across our area. Evenings we sat snuggled up in the warmth of our homes, while outside we saw snowflakes twinkle as they danced below the streetlights.

In the mornings folks dragged out shovels and blowers, pulled on snowsuits and mittens to work and play amid the fluffy blanket.

The first substantial snowfall of the winter can bring out the kid in most of us — even ones such as myself, who'd rather it was summer year round. Bundled up and heading outdoors we breathe in the exhilarating freshness. Our footprints and snow angels break the smooth, sparkling cover as we walk and cavort through it.

Yes, it can get tired pretty swiftly. By February, it will take a miracle for me to find any redeeming qualities in winter.  But Sunday, listening to my tiny granddaughter chatter merrily as we trundled slowly along the path Papa had cleared for us, sensing her enjoyment and wonder at this change that came overnight and unexpectedly to her world helped remind me how perfect everything is — even winter—  if you look at it from a child's viewpoint.

These photos show winter and all the fun stuff that goes with it:

iPHOTOS.com Winter Photos With People

Friday, November 22, 2013

Great Ideas for Christmas Photo Cards

The lights, the garlands, the joy and general goodwill make this season one of the greatest blessings of the year.

But while my love for Christmas borders on the fanatical, I can't honestly say that I love everything about the holiday.  When it comes to sending and receiving cards I am a complete Scrooge.  Preparing them for mailing I sit with doleful demeanour firing off a hasty greeting above the signature.  And the ones sent my way are,  with little guilt, given a perfunctory glance before I file them.

Perhaps I should back this up a bit though. While this was never one of my favourite Christmas tasks, I wasn't always so Bah Humbug about it. When my kids were little,  the cards were a family project with each and every person signing their name. Besides quality time together for us, it was a personal touch that friends and relatives seemed to like.

Something else I've noticed is that Christmas family photos are also appreciated. It's fun to see how children and families have grown.  But I often wonder what to do with all the ones I received over the years. Was I expected to keep them, to add them to my massive collection of photographs?

Well, once again today's technology created a solution. Begrudging the time spent signing cards and the money given to Canada Post for mailing them,  not wanting to send a photo that people feel obliged to hang on to,  yet wanting to involve myself in all aspects of the holiday season,  I decided last year to send an e-card. The money saved on stamps was then given to a local charity.

Brilliant, yes? No writer's cramp, no icky licking, no hoarding, no waste. The only thing needed is an adorable photo. Hopefully, inspiration can be found here:

Harvard Homemaker 100 Photos to Inspire Your Holiday Cards

Christmas Your Way Family Photo Ideas for Your Christmas Card

Lolly Jane 25 Cute Family Christmas Picture Ideas

Pleated Jeans Funny Family Christmas Card Ideas

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Change or Remove an Image Background

Finding, selecting and using images in your projects is much easier than it used to be. Take it from one who knows.

Not all that many years ago, while working as  editor of a community newspaper,  when a graphic element was required to dress up editorial content or design an ad, I ran to the good old cut-and-paste book then leafed through page after page, image after image to find just the right one.  The result was that many times I settled for an okay illustration because deadline was looming.

A digital catalogue of the images eventually went online a few years before my departure, enough time for me to know what a difference it made — in time and in creativity.

Today there are many sites providing affordable, convenient images to use in commercial projects — safely. Understanding and reading the terms of use for each guarantees that you are using the images legally. Just as any online purchase, it's one-stop shopping without leaving the comfort of your home.

However, while the range of images is incredible, there are times when the terms state a little alteration is necessary, even though you love the illustration you have. For example, some sites, such as iCLIPART.com ask that the images be edited for commercial purposes. Changing or removing a background will help to meet that requirement while leaving the primary subject as is. You can learn how and see some examples by checking out these sites:

Digital Arts Lab Quick Background Change

Exposure Guide Change the Background of a Photo

tipsquirrel Changing the Photo Background

Media Militia Removing a White Background

Graphics.com Mastering Photoshop's Background Eraser Tool

wikiHow Change the Background Colour in Illustrator

Digital Trends Two Foolproof Ways to Remove a Background

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Clipart Collection to Welcome Baby

At this time of year, everyone is busy thinking about the holiday season. The American Thanksgiving is on its way and Christmas shall follow close on its heels.  It means plenty of chatter and emails among family members, sharing gift ideas and planning busy schedules.

However, today I received a different email from my younger daughter. It was to tell me the date and details for a Jack-and-Jill baby shower she and her sister are hosting for their brother and his partner.  Happening in January it's the first of a few of these events. There are actually three babies my husband's and my babies are expecting early this spring.  It's a pretty exciting time for Grandma and Grandpa,  even better than Christmas.

So, in addition to all the tasks involved with the holiday season,  my daughter  has been  thinking about the invitations for the first of our parties, and emailed some of the graphics she's considering for my input.

We're lucky we have someone in the family who's a bit of a whiz with Photoshop.  Not everyone has the ability or creativity to design these kinds of projects. But fortunately, with the wonderful online resources for clipart,  it's not necessary.  Keeping  baby showers in mind here are some terrific images to illustrate what I mean. With the addition of  text, these are pretty much good to go.

iCLIPART.com Baby Shower Invitations

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Photoshop Tutorials for Your Christmas Projects

It might be weeks away yet, but at my house it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Compared to some people, I suppose my holiday decor isn't too over the top. However, as I like to put a little bit of seasonal cheer in most every room it does take some time. Thus, the goal this week is to chip away at the task a little each night  after work. Starting last night.

I've had many people say this is too early to be decorating and years ago I would have agreed. I typically started my Christmas projects around the end of November and was usually one of the first to do so. Then several years ago, I noticed more and more people getting a jump on the season, so I moved my timeline forward  a bit too. Then a few years ago I noticed more and more people getting a jump on the season so I moved my timeline forward a bit more.

Not that that's been a problem. I enjoy having the work done before the crazy busy of the holidays begin. While others rush around in the final weeks leading up to Christmas, I sit, wineglass in hand, snuggled cozily amidst twinkling lights and  flickering candles, listening to Bing and Bowie, watching Allen and Chase, my head filled with warm thoughts of this amazing time of peace and goodwill.

No matter what the project for Christmas, I'm a true believer in the benefits of wrapping it up as soon as possible. Even in the world of images. So for those of like mind, here are some great Christmas Photoshop tutorials to get you in the spirit.

Smashing Magazine 60 Christmas Photoshop Tutorials

Adobe Tutorials Create a Christmas Card in Photoshop

iCLIPART.com Fun Way to 'Tag' the Folks on Your Christmas List

benarent.co.uk Print Your Own Christmas Wrapping Paper

Monday, November 18, 2013

It's All About the Turkey

Let's talk turkey today. After all, in just over a week, tables in homes all over the United States will be laden with food, at the centre of which will be the succulent roast turkey.

Then a short time later turkey will once again be the centrepiece of the Christmas feast for many families.

I ordered my fresh turkey yesterday and can hardly wait for Christmas Day, when the mingling fragrances of sage, thyme and roasting bird will fill my home. 

While there are obviously alternatives — other meats beef up festive dining menus for other gatherings, too — for me it's all about the turkey.

Much like these collections of illustrations:

iCLIPART.com Turkey Illustrations

TOONClipart Turkey Cartoons

ClickArt Online Turkey Illustrations

iPHOTOS.com Turkey Illustrations

Friday, November 15, 2013

Let the Christmas Shopping Begin

"City sidewalks, busy sidewalks dressed in holiday style" is what I'll be walking this weekend as a friend and I start, and finish respectively, our Christmas shopping.

I know some people find it strange that by the first of December my gift purchases will be pretty much wrapped up. But I got in the habit a lifetime ago, while expecting my first Christmas baby.

There was extreme pleasure in the fact there was a dearth of like people hitting the malls with me.  On rare occasion I might pop in closer to the end of the shopping season and couldn't imagine why anyone would choose to  fight the masses.

Also, with so many other chores involved in Christmas preparations, it made sense that if there was something that could be gotten out of the way early,  I should get it done.

Apparently, it was a shining example to others, though, as while I mentioned before that some people find my early shopping strange, there are many more who have begun to follow my footsteps downtown and in malls.  Store promotions are well underway, and the line-ups have started.  "In the air there's a feeling of Christmas".

So let's get the my spending weekend underway with this fun collection of Christmas shopping  themed illustrations:

iCLIPART.com Christmas Shopping Illustrations

iPHOTOS.com Christmas Shopping Illustrations

ClipartGuide Christmas Shopping

ClickArt Online Christmas Shopping

TOONClipart Christmas Shopping Cartoons

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Celebrating Females on International Girls Day

Today is International Girls Day.

Information from the Just for Girls website explains that the event was created on behalf of the Confidence Coalition by Kappa Delta Sorority in 2010.  It celebrates girls and the spirit which lies uniquely within them. The intention is to encourage them to make their dreams a reality, to inspire them and to build confidence.

The blame that this was deemed necessary is put soundly on the media messages and cultural stereotypes that have instilled in young females a need to try to act and look a certain way.  That pressure is certainly unfair as there is no perfect one-size-fits-all reality.

If there are any words that I think should be part of every young (and older too for that matter) girl's mantra it is the chorus from Christina Aguilera's Beautiful:

I am beautiful no matter what they say.
Words can't bring me down.
I am beautiful in every single way.
Yes, words can't bring me down... Oh no,
So don't you bring me down today.

The reason? According to statistics from Just for Girls, 74 per cent of girls say they are under pressure to please everyone . Thirty-one per cent of the girls between the ages of 13-17 have starved themselves as a strategy to lose weight.Three out of four girls feel pressure to be "super girls". Sixty per cent of female teenagers make comparisons between their bodies and those of models. 

Those are just a few of the sad realities. It's imperative, therefore to help empower them to love themselves and each other.  We need to let them know that they are each and every one of them wonderfully and uniquely beautiful, no matter how they look, no matter what they like, no matter how they think.

These photos collections are intended therefore to pay tribute to all the great girls, and wonderful women, who are part of a very special sisterhood.



Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Add a Splash of Colour to Your Black and White Photos

Not to date myself or anything, but I grew up in a black and white world. As a wide-eyed, nine-year-old I developed my first crush after seeing The Beatles on a good old black-and-white TV.  Likewise, our old Brownie camera drained our technicolor world for posterity.

Then, colour was introduced. Television  presented life as we saw it. (Beatle Paul got even cuter) Photography captured images as they were intended to look.  And, of course, everyone turned their back on the monochromatic view

However, we are an easily bored society, and ultimately what is  passĂ© always has its day again. The same can be said about black and white photography.  Once boring, it's now a popular option as it offers a different way of looking at things. Black and white makes a statement, adding interest and drama to your pictures.

Also, though, thanks to image editing software, we aren't limited to one or the other.  Besides being an interesting effect, an infusion of colour into a black and white photo can highlight a point of interest. It's a relatively simple technique that can be done a few different ways. Here are some examples:

iCLIPART.com Highlight What Matters With a Splash of Colour

Digital Photography School Colour Effect in 5 Easy Steps

wikiHow Turn an Image Black and White Except for One Colour

photodoto Black and White With a Splash of Colour

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Cartoons to Put the Cheer in a Winter Day

This morning The Weather Network alerted us to the first snowsquall warning of the winter for our area.  Already a fresh blanket of snow lay clean and pure over the landscape and little bursts of fluffy flakes fought for dominance over spells of sparkling sunshine.

All in all, it was a prime example of taking the bad with the good when it comes to winter.  When you're tucked away all cosy in your den, wrapped in a plush afghan, hot cocoa in one hand, thrilling novel in another, there's probably not a prettier site than winter through a window. It can be quite romantic, really.

But when you're travelling or have loved ones on the road, it can prove a worrisome condition at best.

So it was with mixed feelings that I greeted this morning's snowfall. I appreciate, how very fortunate I am to live in an area where we are treated to four  distinct seasons and winter is one of the most beautiful.  But I dread the driving and suffer the shovelling.  I shiver and shake, throb and ache from the cold and damp. 

Yet one must focus on the positive, even when winter makes me feel most miserable. Which is why I opted to share this collection of illustrations today.  These cute cartoons are sure to put the cheer into a chilly winter day:

TOONClipart Winter Cartoons

Monday, November 11, 2013

Remembrance Day Photos

As I write this,  my work colleagues and I have just watched the Remembrance Day services on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  And as always I was moved by the stories of the First and Second World War veterans, by the site of those now aged faces wearing the countenance of sorrowful memories.

Where once their numbers were legion, today we notice their diminishing ranks.


From childhood we have remembered them and their sacrifice. Sadly today, those thoughts are now shared with the men and women still fighting to make this world safer.

For all of our veterans and those still in combat I share these meaningful  photos, "Lest We Forget".

iPHOTOS.com Remembrance Day Photos

iCLIPART.com Remembrance Day Photos

Friday, November 8, 2013

A Winter Wonderland of Illustrations

You don't have to like it, but you sure better learn to live with it. Where I come from, any time after the onset of of autumn, fluffy white stuff could arrive to blanket the landscape. It can make for a long, a very long, winter.

I have said it before and will say it probably once a week until April, I hate winter. However, this early in the year there is a spirit of optimism I harbour that doesn't ship out until late January. Yes, so far, when I look out the window to a world made pristine and pure by its snowy cover, I can turn my thoughts to an occasion that begs for a winter wonderland. 

This morning,  gazing out at the dazzling brightness of a space turned white overnight, thoughts of Santa and snowmen,  of  peace and goodwill sprang to my mind.  Until the first of January at least, I will accept the reality of snow as part of a necessary part of the Christmas spirit that  I love.  And, in keeping with that frame of mind I will let it snow with these collections of illustrations:

iCLIPART.com Snow Illustrations

Acclaim Images Snow

iPHOTOS.com Snow Illustrations

ClickArt Online Snow Illustrations

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Jumpstart Creativity With These Photography Tips

One of the things I promised myself when the kids bought me a nice, new digital camera a few years back was that I was going to spend some time learning my way around it.  While shooting on auto is terrific,  leaving the camera setting there and not seeing what results I could get with the other features seemed a bit like buying a fully-equipped vehicle and just, well, driving it.

Oh, I was very serious when I made this promise. I was going to pick a setting each week, do a little research and go take some pictures. I was going to get spectacular sports shots, fantastic nighttime photos and lovely daylight landscapes. I was going to use a tripod and experiment with lenses.

In short, I was going to do a lot of things. As yet, with the exception of moving back and forth between the portrait, landscape, sports and macro settings, however, I've done little.

Since the interest and desire are there, what seems to be the problem is a lack of organization and hours in my life. I simply can't seem to co-ordinate practice time with free time. When I do grab the camera it's usually for a particular event or spontaneous moment.

I've decided what I need, therefore, is some sort of plan. As a list person, it seemed to me that with an organized agenda laid out it might make the probability of follow through more certain. To that end I took a little tour around the web to see what help I might find. Here are the results:

Digital Camera World Creative Photo Ideas for November

Digital Photography School Photography Projects to Jumpstart Creativity

Improve Photography Best Do-it-Today Photo Ideas

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Computer Frustration

Computers are a wonderful thing — until they aren't. When everything is working fine, the world they have opened up for us is beyond belief, the possibilities equally so. 

Having a face-to-face chat with grandchildren on the other side of the globe, shopping for virtually anything without leaving home,  researching family history from the comfort of our chair, conducting international business... the list is endless.

Unlike my patience, when for one reason or another the technology at my fingertips turns rebel and refuses to follow my commands. This week I've been experiencing a number of glitches with my computer — not serious, but glitches nonetheless — from email access to strange messages.  When one thing appears to be resolved another pops up on its heels.

Now, I am a fairly structured person. When I have a routine I appreciate being able to follow through. When a task is planned I like to be able to get on it and complete it.

It's not that I can't go with the flow. It's just that as a Libra I tend to prefer order and control.  And, as we all know,   computer technology allows for none of that. Admittedly then my patience does tend to wear thin in times such as these.

Yet, I know that I'm not alone. A search on image sites proves it's a fairly common condition as typified by these collections of illustrations and photos:

iCLIPART.com Computer Frustration Illustrations

iPHOTOS.com Computer Frustration

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Photos of Smiling Children to Brighten Your November

The Weather Network is threatening rain for the next few days. Trees are bare, flowerbeds bedraggled and the world around us, in general, is just a tad dreary.  Must be November.

If we're to be honest it's a month that doesn't have a lot going for it. All the autumn beauty is behind us and Christmas with its lights, bells and bows is still a bit away.  Instead we have lawns to rake, early darkness and chill winds. 

Amidst it all, however, there are always things to perk us up. Some are surprises, such as a bright cheery day sandwiched in the middle of a rainy, grey week.  Others we  see regularly, such as the one I saw this morning. 

Walking along to work, feeling all of the effects of November on my spirits,  I came upon two small children waiting for the school bus. They too seemed little enthused for the day ahead, until I greeted them. With their response came smiles that brightened my day and the world around me. I could feel my shoulders lift and my steps quicken.  I doubt they realized how much change they affected with that simple dimpled gesture.

A smile from anyone has the ability to turn things around, even for a little bit.  Your smile doesn't just make others feel happy,  it can improve your mood as well.  Smiling doesn't just feel good, it also has the ability to de-stresses us. And let's face it, everyone looks better with a smile on their face.

When a child smiles, however, there is magic behind. It is the smile of innocence and wonder. It is pure and unaffected, genuine and unforced.  It is also hopelessly contagious. Try not to smile back when a little one grins your way.

So to spread a little sunshine our direction on a somewhat dismal autumn day, enjoy these beautiful photo collections of smiling tots:

iCLIPART.com Photos of Smiling Children

iPHOTOS.com Smiling Children

Acclaim Images Photos of Smiling Children