Friday, December 11, 2015

Create Personalized Christmas Tags in Photoshop

There's a Christmas project that has become a favourite of mine.  It takes a little effort but it adds such a nice personal touch to gift giving I think it's well worth it.

A couple of years ago I came up with the idea of creating specialized tags for each person on my list. From one of my favourite resources for online images, I selected an illustration that in some way represented the giftee.

For example, my cat-loving daughter had just become a mother for the first time, so  #1088038 seemed just perfect for her.

The tags all said who the gifts were from,  but the images stood on their own as representations of the person to whom the gift would be going.  As everyone gets something  they need, something they want and something to read,  I chose a different image for each present.  It was such fun Christmas morning watching as everyone determined who each tag represented.

Granted, it's a busy time of year for sure. Adding something extra to the workload might not be of interest.  But it can make something special even more so when  that personal touch is added.

If you do feel like taking on this little project,  then,  here are the steps to show you how to create these fun Christmas tags:

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

3 Cute Christmas Cat Clipart Collections

One of my favourite Christmas gift shopping searches is part of a family tradition. With the arrival of each of my children and grandchildren I have selected a theme and purchased a tree ornament to match. The collection grows with the passing of time.

It can be fun to pick for a new arrival to the family, given that personality and preferences for an infant are unknown.  Inspiration, therefore, often comes from what I do know.

Despite growing up in a canine-obsessed family, our younger daughter has always been a little apprehensive around dogs. The adoption of a kitten from a shelter after moving away from home effectively completed the transition to cat person for her.

When I was looking to begin her little girl's ornament collection I spied  an adorable one that just happened to be of a kitty decked out for Christmas. The decision to purchase it was based primarily on the fact that like her, it was pretty darn cute. Another factor though, was the fact that her mother really likes cats.

Interestingly, it has been rather a nice fit for our darling Bean. A sweetie with big dimples and hazel eyes, she is as cuddly, playful and cute as a kitten, with, however,  the same fierce independence and attitude.

Like a cat, when she snuggles it's with all the love she's got.  Yet, while these sweet squeezes are typically given generously, you can bank on the fact that they only happen because she wants them to.

So, for our dear Bean, and in the spirit of the season, here are some super cute Christmas cat clipart:

ClickArt Online

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

1,500 Adorable Images of Elves

He looks at his Papa with a smile to melt the coldest heart. Though barely two, he is the quintessential little boy — fascinated by machines,  hammering on things and being on the go.

He's also got a sensitive side, though. He loves to snuggle with a cuddly baby doll or nestle quietly against you while you read him a story.

He is our 'Sir Lash-a-lot', a tow-headed sweetheart with eyelashes like palm fronds.  The third grandchild for us, this delightful toddler looks at us with a sparkle in his baby blues and more times than not graces the world with an award-winning smile.

That I made the decision last Christmas to start an elf ornament collection for him was one of my better choices in this family tradition. These mythical creatures suit him. He is quite frankly a merry little charmer who always seems to be hiding some private joke.  When I think of elves or look at him the word that comes to mind is impish.

At this time of year, the image of an elf is as magical as the season itself.  Their world is a mythical wonderland where dreams and wishes come true. These clipart collections celebrate the fantasy and fun of Santa's little helpers:

ClickArt Online


Monday, December 7, 2015

5 Great Collections of Awesome Christmas Tree Clipart

Having been a little under the weather and out of the office for a few days, it was nice to be welcomed back by the twinkling lights of the Christmas tree, which colleagues had erected and decorated in my absence.  What had started as a dreary Monday morning, suddenly seemed a little brighter.

A favourite Pat Boone carol speaks to the warmth of this holiday tradition:

"Isn't it strange, how a little green tree,
Can light up a cold, lonely room?
The glow of its light, can warm up the night
And melt away sadness and gloom .

The beauty of this holiday tradition was the theme I selected for our granddaughter's Christmas ornament collection from her Papa and me. It seemed the perfect choice for her.

From the time she could focus she seemed to have an interesting fascination with trees of all kinds. Her mother once sent me a picture of our precious Little Missy sitting in her stroller staring at the huge ficus in the corner of their dining room — a distraction that had apparently snapped her out of a fussy mood and held her attention for an incredible half hour.

On our many trips with her to Northern Ontario it has been intriguing to note her enchantment with all things green, from the leaves on a short shrub to the spiky needles of a majestic pine.

So, for the sweetest of all nature lovers, and with the warmth of all the little green trees brightening the holiday season,  here are some clipart collections celebrating a festive favourite:

Acclaim Images

ClickArt Online


Friday, November 27, 2015

5 Collections of Music Images

The youngest in our family of four kids brought entertainment to our home. On so many levels. 

From the time he arrived in the family he was a charismatic little dude. Boasting the same gorgeous baby blues as his father, an easy and frequent smile, he was pretty much everyone's darling. His siblings adored him, including the one who was only 14 months older than he was.

A happy-go-lucky little fellow, for  his part he was content to sit and enjoy the attention. By the time he was two, there was a tiny hint of mischief hiding behind that charm, though.  We began to get a glimpse of who he would become.

That, as the years proved was a real boy, who never missed an opportunity to skin a knee or take a dare, yet had an early inclination for cultural pursuits. When he wasn't outdoors throwing a baseball, he was inside listening to music. He enjoyed live theatre as much as he delighted in tormenting his sister.

Though he never developed the Canadian desire to play hockey he was a dynamo on a ball field, with an arm like a rocket and a consistency at the plate.  He threw himself into the sport as he did everything he enjoyed. Until the age of 13 that is, when he bought a guitar.

From then none of us doubted he'd be a musician. His talent was evident the first week. He picked it up quickly and there was never a moment of spare time  thereafter when the guitar wasn't in his hands.

So, when it came to picking a theme for a tree ornament set for him, music might not have been the first choice but it soon became the perfect one.  Just as it is today for these clipart collections:

Acclaim Images

ClickArt Online


Thursday, November 26, 2015

6 Collections of Dance Clipart

She was, in her epic toddler translation of a Tina Turner classic, "A tiny dancer, a dancer for Mommy."

Our third child was a force from day one. Fiercely independent, this chatterbox was speaking intelligibly by 14 months. She walked at nine months and was on the go from morning until crashing at night, finding magic and enchantment in the old as well as the new. Sugar with more than a hint of spice, she was a tiny bundle of energy and strong will.

Music, from the time she was an infant, captivated her, and as a toddler she pirouetted her way through every day. She flitted and twirled in perpetual motion into preschool and, to the chagrin of her siblings, beyond.

Of course, dancing lessons would have to happen; first ballet and later jazz.

Now a young mother of a toddler herself, not much has changed, You can still find her dancing alone in the kitchen or in the living room with her little girl. Dance as if no one's watching? That has most certainly never mattered to her.

And that fact about her gives me such joy.

Years ago when a choice was made as to what themed Christmas decoration she would receive from my husband and me each year, it had to be dancer.  In tribute then to my "tiny dancer" and to the holiday season, here are some collections of dance clipart:

Acclaim Images

ClickArt Online



Wednesday, November 25, 2015

5 Collections of Angel Illustrations

Every holiday season I purchase a Christmas tree ornament for my children. From the first one at the year of their birth until now, they have received a new one to add to their collections, each with its own theme.

The tradition began with Santa decorations for our eldest, a boy. When a sweet baby girl entered our lives two years later,  just a week before Christmas, angels seemed the perfect choice for her.

Whether you are a person of faith or not, there is no denying the mystique and appeal of these spiritual beings. They are our guardians and guides when  we encounter obstacles and challenges. When we hurt or grieve, even the idea of their presence can comfort and bring solace. 

By its definition of exceptional beauty, innocence or kindness, there's nothing that fits in our earthly world better than a newborn child. So, as I searched for the 'theme' to start my new baby girl's annual tradition, it was the angelic that caught my eye.

For today then, with the Christmas season nearing,  I have focussed my clipart search too on angels:


ClickArt Online


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

6,000 Plus Santa Illustrations

When my children were born I made a purchase for  their first Christmas that became a tradition. In addition to the typical gifts of toys, books and clothes, that very first holiday season was commemorated with a tree ornament.

Things got started with an adorable Mr. Claus bauble for our eldest and continued when I found him a second sweet Santa decoration for the next year.

By his third Christmas he was getting a nice little collection and with the arrival of a new baby sister and the purchase of an angel ornament for her I decided that a ritual had begun.

Different themes were eventually chosen for the next two babies, as well as for the grandchildren who have followed.  Meaning that each year during the holiday shopping bustle, I'm hustling from store to store in search of Santa, angel, dancing, music, snowman, tree, elf and kitten ornaments to complete the list.

This year,  we were able to find time for a visit to a grand Christmas store several hours and across a border from home. A long drive, but it ensured I was able to find everything I needed all in one place. 

Now that that's done, since  the theme of this blog is about images I thought it might fun to see what illustrations I can find for each of the themes. Starting today with Santa.

Acclaim Images

ClickArt Online

Friday, November 20, 2015

Gorgeous Winter Photos

Apparently it could be an interesting trip this weekend.  Especially given that the universe appears to be conspiring against us.

My husband and I, along with our daughter and two grandbabies, are setting out tomorrow for a little mini vacation. For a couple of days earlier this week we worried that we might have to cancel as our little granddaughter appeared to have contracted some kind of bug and was really under the weather. Fortunately, she rallied so all systems seemed to be go again.

Then a quick check of the weather for our travel day threw us another curve. Apparently, after a glorious autumn of unseasonably nice temperatures, there's a winter storm watch.  As we're seasoned Snowbelt natives, the threat of snow doesn't generally concern us overmuch; my husband's comment when told the forecast was that he better put the snow tires on after all.

This is not to say that we don't take it seriously, just that given our Canadian winters, particularly as we live right in the path of any lake effect snow off the Great Lakes, we have had to learn to cope.

When the force of winter hits, though, we treat it with respect.  We intend to make our trip as planned, but we will be monitoring the weather and making whatever adjustments to our schedule and itinerary are necessary.

As we make our progress,  possibly through all of the ugly that winter can throw at us, we will do our best to stay positive. Perhaps even focus on the season's beauty too. Maybe these gorgeous photos will help us to put things into perspective: Winter Winter Patterns Winter Sunrises/Sunsets Winter Landscapes

Acclaim Images Winter Scenes

National Geographic Winter Landscapes

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Tips for Taking Better Vacation Photos

One shouldn't wish one's life away, but I really can't hardly wait for this weekend.

A month or so ago, our daughter asked me if her father and I would be interested in going away for a couple of days before Christmas with her and the babies.  Her husband works a lot of weekends, and she operates a home day care during the week, so she thought it might be nice to go do something fun.

And, of course, what could be more fun than going away with Grandma and Papa?

The choice of where was a no-brainer. A short-drive from home is Frankenmuth, Michigan.  This pretty Bavarian town has long been a family favourite, starting when my husband and I were dating and with friends attended the annual beer festival in June, then later with our own kids where the focus switched to the Christmas wonderland that is Bronner's.

We all agree it has been the perfect mini-vacation destination.

As expected there have been many photos taken over the years of these frequent sojourns. I captured dozens of moments from our group of 20-somethings party visits. There are equally as many in our albums of our little ones posing with Santa, enjoying the hotel's amenities or posing next to unique landmarks. 

This will be the first visit for these particular grandchildren, though. Snce the bar has been raised on my photography standards of late, I'm hoping to capture some great pictorial memories of this milestone. 

Though I generally have a pretty good eye for a nice shot, it never hurts to see what suggestions the experts might have. Here are some tips I found for capturing great vacation photos:

Digital Photography School's Tips for Better Travel Pictures

iPhone Photography School's Vacation Photo Tips

Mashable's Tips for Great Vacation Photos

First Photography Tips: How to Take Candid Vacation Photos

Nikon's Better Vacation Photo Tips

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

3 Photo Collections of Christmas Presents

"Every gift from a friend is a wish for  your happiness." — Richard Bach

Let's face it, if most of us are to be honest we'd admit we love getting presents.  Knowing that someone took time from his or her busy life to find that perfect gift for you is a pretty special bit of information to have. 

Also, the suspense before the opening, that moment of surprise when you finally open it are rare moments in a life typically dedicated to thinking of others before oneself.

I'll be truthful. I don't expect gifts on my birthday, anniversary or Mother's Day. If they arrive, however, I'm as gleeful as a child on Christmas morning.

Which is the perfect segue to my next point. Dec. 25 is the one time I care less about receiving and am simply thrilled to watch everyone open the gifts I have given them. When it comes to the spirit of giving during the holiday season, it gives me the purest joy.  

So much so that I do get a little carried away. To the point where a few years ago my children told me it had to stop, that a four-hour marathon of unwrapping was just not fun any more.  I've done my best to listen, but the mountain of purchases now waiting for me to get them Christmas morning ready, with more yet to come, might suggest there's still a little way to go.

Pretty sure I'm not going to get there just yet, though. The day might come when for monetary or physical reasons I can't handle it, but for now, shopping for Christmas presents for my hubby, our kids, and their babies gives me great pleasure.  And I'm a firm believer in doing what makes one happy.

Thus, as we look ahead to the season of giving,  here are some terrific photos of holiday gifts and the accoutrements that enhance them: Christmas Presents

Acclaim Images

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

7 InDesign Tutorials for Creating Ads

No matter what the season, somebody's always trying to sell something. Whether it's bathing suits in summer or hockey skates in winter, back to school fashions in August or rain boots in April,  there are plenty of businesses wanting your business.

However, there's probably never more commercial enterprises letting you in on what they have to offer and at what kind of deal they're willing to offer it, than now.  Every store in every town, every shop on every corner has a reason to entice you through their doors for your Christmas shopping.

Competition is high, therefore. Creating the right promotion can make a big difference on whether or not people choose to spend their money with you.   Whether it's an excellent marketing strategy or catchy theme, whether it's a better discount or a promise of something extra, shoppers are drawn to anything that gives them that little extra.

The advertisements you use also need to attract attention. Designing one that catches the eye and interest of potential customers is imperative to success.  In my years at a community newspaper I was often surprised by how reluctant business owners could be in parting with dollars for advertising. To me it's the wisest investment in your enterprise you can make. Advertising is your introduction to the masses. It says who you are, what you can offer and what you do. Thinking that people will find you, or remember you, without it is short sighted.

If you're in the business of designing ads you've probably learned the benefits of InDesign for creating your projects. If you're an entrepreneur who likes to have control of the process from start to finish here are some great InDesign tutorials for creating ads:

Design a Print-Ready Ad in InDesign

Creating an Ad In InDesign CS5 Part 1

Creating an Ad in InDesign CS5 Part 2

Creating an Ad in InDesign CS5 Part 3

 Creating an Ad in InDesign CS5 Part 4

Speed Art: Full Page Ad in InDesign CS6

Create a Magazine Ad With InDesign

Monday, November 16, 2015

Perfect Illustrations for Retail Promotions

When I think about the type of clipart people might be searching for these days, what comes to mind are illustrations for discount and sale promotions.  Everyone's looking for a bargain. With Black Friday less than two weeks away and Christmas just around the corner,  the time to let them know about any is now.

I spent this past weekend getting a jump start on my shopping. Most of the stores were already offering various specials and discounts, in order to provide as many temptations as possible.

Obviously, it's pleasant to see something you like discounted. It won't, however, entice me to buy it if I wasn't looking for it. No, I tend to be a sucker for the 'buy one, get something'  kind of deal.  I can't tell you how many, soft cuddly throws I've bought because a particular retailer each year offers them at a highly-discounted price if you spend $50.

I might only be searching for one pair of earrings, but gosh if they're going to offer another free if I buy two, well, how can I possibly resist?  Purchase one sweater, get another for half price.  Yet another no-brainer.

Until I leave the store and the spell breaks. No longer bewitched by the power of retail and a fondness for fashion,  my mind clears and I am left with the fact that since I didn't need another throw, another pair of earrings, another sweater, these deals had actually cost me money.

It's smart marketing, this strategy to convince people to buy more than they want and think they are getting a bargain in doing so.  Otherwise, I have to admit instead to a vulnerability, an addiction, or plain stupidity on my part.

There's comfort in knowing many are like me.  The words bargain, deal, offer, sale, discount will reel us in every time. Here they are in illustrations perfect for promotional artwork:

Friday, November 13, 2015

A Clipart Collection of Superstitions for Friday the 13th

Today is Friday the 13th.  Scary for some I suppose, but it's never really been something I worry about. 

Discussing this with an acquaintance recently, I mentioned that I was not really the superstitious type.  It dawned on me, though,  that I been raised by a woman who would say the same.

After, that is, she had already knocked on wood a few times, fretted over the bird that hit the window and threw some salt over her shoulder. She wouldn't pass another person on a staircase, would refuse to sit down to a meal with 13 at the table and always left a home by the same door she entered it.

Strangely,  Mom had been doing all these things for so long she was completely unaware.

This reflection gave me pause. Was I really as unaffected by superstition then as I originally thought?  No black cat or ladder has taken me off my planned course. Neither have I sweated over a broken mirror. I've both accepted and returned empty dishes which used to contain food, given and received empty purses and wallets as gifts. When I spill the salt I clean it up, not toss more.  And when a bird hits my window I check to make sure it's okay, not fret that someone I know isn't going to be.

However, in my considerations it came to mind  that I too knock on my fair share of wood,  not because I actually believe it helps, but because I want to cover my bases in the event it does. There was not a chance that my daughters wouldn't be wearing something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue for their weddings, not because I believe, but when it comes to my kids' happiness and health, I don't take chances.

I used to tease my mother about her superstitions, asking her what happens to all the people who don't know them. Because while some have notoriety, there are plenty of lesser-known old-beliefs.

Such as the one that I (See, guilty again)  shared with my young grandson a while back. When walking over a railroad track never cross it at the same time a vehicle does, I told him. Asked why, I told him it was bad luck. Asked how I knew that, I told him I had absolutely no idea.

But, it would seem that just like my mother I too am 'not superstitious'.

In celebration of Friday the 13th, as well as all the other myths, old-wives tales and beliefs, here's a selection of clipart for superstitious minds. Some are well-known, some less so. See how many you recognize:

Thursday, November 12, 2015

700 Photos of Friends Shopping

I have to do it. I have honoured Remembrance Day and now my mind fills with what's to come.

You don't love Christmas the way that I do and not be starting to get excited. There are 42 shopping days before Dec. 25 so I'm on the mark and ready to go this weekend to get it done.

Well, most of it. It's always nice to leave a few things for the last week, particularly if you can pick them up downtown on a still winter's night,  lights twinkling, snow gently falling, carols pouring from outdoor speakers.

For now though, I'm focussed on this Saturday and an annual outing with a girlfriend. On a November weekend before the rush, we have traditionally booked a room in a nearby city, a place with speciality stores offering unique inventories.

While shopping alone is a favourite pastime of mine, when you shop with the right person it's the best.  My friend and I  bounce ideas off each other.  My if-you-love-it-buy-it attitude complements her pragmatic approach to purchasing.  Presented with two options she can guide my decision in a manner that leaves me thinking it was all mine and I can push her reluctance when it's needed.

Of course, it's not all about shopping. After a long day of checking off the Christmas list, we find our way to the hotel, exhausted but satisfied. Following a restorative glass of wine or two, and a recap of the day's acquisitions, we dine then search out some music at a local pub.

It is, without question, one of the most anticipated outings of the year for me.

So, as we look ahead to the holiday season, to promotional materials and advertisements,  here are some wonderful photographs with the focus on friends shopping:

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Thousands of Beautiful Photos of Canada

It's another beautiful morning for this Remembrance Day in my community.  The weather that has been part of this significant occasion over the years has exemplified what we've come to expect in November in Southwestern Ontario, Canada. It's a mix of some good, mostly bad and what can be truly ugly.   Canadians have paid their respects at services across the country, standing in bitter cold, snowstorms and chilling rain.

This year, however, conditions will not distract those in this pocket of the country from the occasion's solemnity as we are blessed with balmy temperatures and a cloudless sky.   We can stand with bowed heads in silence, reflecting on the sacrifices of others without trying not to think about frozen fingers and toes.  We can remember and we can also think about what we have gained by others' losses.

Always on Remembrance Day I'm also given to reflect on the good fortune of being born in Canada. I'm proud of the country in which I live, yes. There is much to be proud of. However, in that pride I am able to find so much to appreciate about life here, from north to south, sea to sea. I have listed them before and a Google search would turn up most of the reasons anyway, so I will refrain from unnecessary repetition.

What I will say though, is like the weather here we are a country of endless variety and surprises.

So as I prepare to attend this Remembrance Day service, I think of the country I have been blessed to live in and offer these photos of her beauty: Canada Pictures Photos of Canada

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

6 Collections of Weather-Themed Illustrations

I live in Canada — the true north strong and free, a nation of 'nice' people, of wide open spaces, abundant resources and the strangest mess of weather you can find.

In my corner of the country, we have so far revelled in an unseasonably lovely autumn. Temperatures have been pleasing, on some days even balmy.  Leaf raking has been done in t-shirts and there was even a late October campfire with the neighbours.

The urgency that typically happens as we try to put away the outdoor furniture and batten down the hatches for winter to blow in, just hasn't been there.  Though there was a tiny trace of snow a few weeks ago,  it soon disappeared and a calm complacency has settled instead.

Not to be confused with denial, of course. In Canada we know that the weather changes in a heartbeat. If it rained yesterday, it might snow today and tomorrow could promise sunshine and warmth.  Clouds can scurry overhead, ominous predictors of inclement changes,  while a mile or two out of town the sun is blazing, the sky clear.

When it comes to weather, variety is the word that comes to mind. No more so than in this country.  We can live in the deep freeze of winter for six months some years, four another. Our world can turn milk bottle white with blizzard after blizzard, or we can enjoy my favourite — an open winter.

Spring can be wet and late, or arrive full of life right on cue. Summer brings the best and the worst with sunshine and intense heat,  gentle showers and frightening storms. Autumn can be as sparkling as the sun on a dewdrop, or as bleakly depressing as missing the lottery by one number.

This all kind of gets me thinking about a quote I once heard, something about if you're not liking the weather, just wait a minute or two and it will change.  No matter what you might be looking for, though,  you can find it in these terrific collections of weather clipart:

Acclaim Images


ClickArt Online


Friday, November 6, 2015

2 Photo Collections of Family

For me the process has begun. Discreetly, yet underway.

Christmas may still be a speck on the horizon; there are still days of remembering and Thanksgiving  between then and now. Yet, the signs are here.  Retailers have stocked their shelves with festive items while promotions for the holiday season are underway.

When it comes to Christmas preparation one word typically has applied to me. That would be 'early'. Though I wait to decorate until after Remembrance Day, I do like to transform my home into a place of snowmen and Santas soon after.

As well, I like to start shopping months ahead of most other folks,  a practice I began decades ago.  Initially the reason was financial. As a young married with small children I found it put far less strain on my limited budget if I whittled away at the list, rather than try to purchase it all in one or two outings closer to Christmas.  I continued to do so later as I found it appealed to my need for a de-cluttered mind, as names were checked off.

Another early jump on the holidays is my family celebration. Several years ago, my siblings and I recognized that the festive season is busy enough with commitments and parties. We acknowledged that the really important thing is to get together, not the when. We opted for an early November gathering, which this year is this weekend.

I applaud my brother, sister and their spouses for agreeing that this is the way to do it. With hours of driving separating us and our children,  with so many other demands on personal time during the busy days in December, it's nice to know that we have found a way to bring as many of us together as possible for a day. 

To paraphrase the late American psychologist Joyce Brothers, some of the greatest happinesses in life have been family happinesses. We are rooted in, and root for, family. They rally support when you need it, circle the wagons to protect you.  When you are distressed, you can  find comfort in the open arms of family.

So as I look ahead to a weekend with the people whose tie to me is stronger than water, as we all think of the holidays, I hope you enjoy these collections of family-themed photos

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Thousands of Thirsty Thursday Illustrations

Today, as it has become known in social media, is Thirsty Thursday. Its popularity is typically with college and business students who,  either having no classes or a light schedule on Friday, want to get a jump on an intoxicating weekend of partying.

And then there are people like me. They'll take the excuse provided by the idea of a Thirsty Thursday to sit down after a long day at the office and have a couple glasses of wine before dinner instead of finding more work at home.  It's not exactly taking it to the extreme that the name would indicate, but simply a reason to divert from the merciless end of responsibilities and chores that find us in the real world.

Let me say first, promoting the consumption of alcohol is not the point here. At least not to the extreme.  I'm an advocate of moderation and common sense.

However, if a little tipple is what's necessary to get us to slow down once in a while, why not.  If it means spending time out with friends instead of sitting in front of the television alone it can't be all bad. 

I come from a family where a cocktail was offered to each and every guest who stopped by, invited or not. For my parents it was about being gracious hosts. It was viewed as a welcome and no one was encouraged with a bottomless supply of gin to overstay it.   That to me, was the way life was lived.

So  tonight, I look forward to my well broken-in corner of the couch, where I will settle,  pinot grigio in hand to catch up on the week with my guy.  And in honour of everyone who will be raising a glass or bottle this Thirsty Thursday, here are some drinks of the clipart variety, perfect for promotions and fun projects:

Acclaim Images

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

37 Nov. 11 Animations

One week from today is Remembrance Day, Armistice Day and/or Veterans Day depending on where you live. The sentiment of all are the same, however.

"They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary then, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them."
— For the Fallen, Robert Laurence Binyon, The Times, September, 1914

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month  thoughts and prayers are centred around the brave men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms.  There will be solemn services in communities across the country, at cenotaphs, memorials and churches.

Until that time, we wear a poppy as a united display of gratitude and of our commitment to never forget. We will consider at times the loss of loved ones and the blessings that their valiant fight have given us.

And we will feel pride for the country in which we live, knowing that we are fortunate to be in a nation that values democracy.

As we will spend moments over the course of the next week in contemplation of the significance of this event,  here is a wonderful collection of Nov. 11-themed images from Animation Factory

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Tips for Photographing Tots, Toddlers and Teens

Yesterday, Facebook reminded me about a post on my timeline from two years ago. It was a four-generation picture taken with my mother, daughter and granddaughter at our annual family pre-Christmas gathering.

Even though it was from the recent past, it was enough to set me on a little nostalgic wandering through the photo album created of that event.  It proved to be a great reminder of why I photographically chronicle events and get-togethers.  Obsessively some might say.  But seeing the images of my father, whom we lost just half a year later, was all the proof I needed.

However,  it was also fun to see the changes in everyone, especially the children, who grow up far too quickly.  Of these subjects there were many pictures as they are without question the most photogenic.

Getting them to co-operate isn't always that easy, though.  Also, being ready for the many opportunities they present for candid shots can be challenging when you're trying to visit with the adults in the group.

So, since I've been doing this for a long time and thought maybe a little advice might help me get the best from my camera as well as freshen my perspective,  here are some helpful tips for photographing little ones:

Digital Photography School Photographing Tots and Toddlers

Techlicious 10 Tips for Better Baby and Toddler Photos

It'sAlwaysAutumn Photographing Toddlers

100 Toddler Shots to Improve Your Photography

Photographer Moms Share Secret

Photographers' Favourite Candid Kids Photos

Digital Camera World 13 Tips for Better Pictures of Babies, Toddlers and Teens

18 Tips from Anne Geddes for Taking Great Photos

14 Tips for Incredible iPhone Photos of Children

wikiHow Photograph Children

Monday, November 2, 2015

2 Collections of Poppy Illustrations

This Saturday morning, while packing to head off for a night of trick or treating with our grandbabies,  my task was interrupted by a knock on my door. My head caught up in the whole celebration that is Halloween, I was somewhat nonplussed when I first saw who was standing on my porch.  It was a young person dressed in uniform,  a local Cadet.

It took me just a half second, of course, to swing my thinking around  recognize that Remembrance Day, the time to remember the heroes who have fought for our freedom,  wasn't that far off and the annual poppy canvass was under way.

Sporting a poppy over our heart is the very least we can do to never forget them.  Having made my donation, I stuck it on my jacket, where it will remain until the Nov. 11 service at our cenotaph,  then headed back to the task at hand.

Later, that evening as I was getting my three-year-old granddaughter bundled up for our official Halloween start she noticed the pretty red flower pinned on my jacket. It was, I explained, a poppy. Her tender years precluded her from understanding any significance other than it was "So beautiful."

Some day, however, in the not-do-distant future, she will sadly come to understand that the world isn't a perfect place, that people have fought and died so that she can enjoy all the wonderful pleasures she has. Including, I suppose,  the fun of Halloween.

In recognition of the sacrifices, the selflessness.  I have included here some collections of poppy clipart:

Friday, October 30, 2015

A Collection of Photos of People in Costume

Among my colleagues are some young women. The rest are very young-at-heart. In addition to typical entertainment the group of them, individually and together, enjoy the little simplicities that some might view as a tad corny.  Among these is dressing up  for Halloween.

That particular ritual I can take or leave. Once I reached my 30s, the idea of paying for or putting together some kind of costume really didn't seem like that much fun any more. That said, I also acknowledge that it didn't hurt to do it if someone asked me to participate.

With Halloween falling on a Saturday this year though,  I had hoped I was off the hook. Not the case, however, as the eager beavers at the desks around me made the decision  we would just shift the celebration a day ahead for the office.

Unlike my co-workers, my vivid imagination doesn't translate well in trying to come up with the ideal outfit.  With a house now devoid of all the sundry junk there when the kids lived with us,  the makings of a costume, especially when my mind just can't seem to reach the necessary creative heights,  are slim.  So I called on friends, scrounged my house for the appropriate accessories and caked on the makeup to achieve my transformation.

It will do.

The costumes around me are fun and we are certainly an extraordinary assortment of characters in this office on this day.  Just like all of the dressed-up adults in this collection of photos, perfect for the day before Halloween:

Thursday, October 29, 2015

2 Photo Collections to Take You Out in the Country

"Whenever I need to leave it all behind
Or feel the need to get away.
I find a quiet place, far from the human race
Out in the country." 
— Roger S. Nichols, Paul H Williams

It was one of those days — far too many demands, far too little time to deal with them all.  When it all finally got to be too much,  it became imperative that a few minutes to step away and breathe were necessary.  Finding a quiet corner, taking a few deep gulps and visualizing a happy place went a long way to putting life back in order.

My happy place, of course, had nothing to do with bricks and mortar. It certainly didn't take me into the heart of the city; I wasn't thinking about towering skyscrapers, or hearing the busy sounds of traffic.  Nor was I sitting in the relative quiet of my backyard, where neighbours are mowing their lawns and raising their hands in greeting.

No, when I needed to get away it was into the pastoral countryside, where woodlots rise up beside wide, open spaces, where the quiet babble of a brook competes only with the gentle rustle of trees or the sweet trill of songbirds.

Whether I head to the beautiful north country of French River or take a walk on the trail that runs through my daughter's rural property, the life I'm living changes. My head clears, my lungs fill; my pace slows, my heart quickens. I actually look and see, listen and hear.

But you can't always be where you need to be. Thankfully, even visualizing or seeing a picture of a peaceful rural landscape can be as calming as  a deep breath.  Here then are some lovely photo collections to take you out in the country:

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A Charming Country Clipart Collection

When it comes to home decor I'm really not much for the country kitsch style of design. My desire and need for order and openness,  precludes the type of cosy clutter that exemplifies this trend.

It is with some irony then, that I acknowledge how much I like it in someone else's house. My sister-in-law's place, for example, is full of folksy charm and I find every homey corner aesthetically pleasing.

What can I say? I'm a complicated gal.

I know it's strange,  given my desire for a more traditional home interior that I find the country look so appealing. But I really do.  The rustic plaques and adorable objects scattered throughout a room have an undefined allure for me. Perhaps it's the reflection of simpler lifestyles that pulls me in. Maybe it's the innocence of the images. Or possibly it's because they are, quite frankly, darn cute.

The look goes beyond (other people's)  home interior too.  I am often drawn to artwork that has a pastoral quality — the quiet snowy landscape, the softly-lit Victorian,  a sweet log cabin at the edge of the woods.

And, if darling is the requirement when looking for an image for a project, my eye is typically drawn to those with adorable animals, sunflowers and wooden fences.

Much like those in this favourite clipart collection:

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

5 Collections of Clipart Favourites

"Age is not important unless you're a cheese."

This view on ageing from the "First Lady of American Theatre" — the incomparable Helen Hayes,  sums up the topic nicely and succinctly.  Age is only what we let it be. And I, having begun the trek down the hill,  am letting it be no big deal.

I  look around me and see a lot of young people who are in worse physical shape than I am.  I know 'youngsters' who dodder around like  stereotypical old ladies.   I, on the other hand,  still like my music loud, my nights late and my wine plentiful.

Certainly there are times when I feel every one of my several decades. For the most part though I refuse to accept that what my mind feels isn't what my body might be able to handle. I'm not ready to settle in to a rocker just yet.

Keeping this perspective can be interesting working in the  environment I do.  There are five women in our office, our birth years representing five different decades. For the most part, the traits of our gender bring the disparity of experience closer. But, the fact that I remember Trudeaumania, the Kennedys and Camelot, Vietnam, Charles Manson and the British Invasion, that I could care less about electronic music,  Game of Thrones,  and a bunch of other things I don't listen to when discussed here,  imposes a gap I can't ignore.

It got me wondering one day how far apart our tastes might be. Since we work in the business of images, I thought it might be fun for each of us to come up with a few of our favourites to see how they might differ. Here are the results:

Born 1992

Born 1980

Born 1974

Born 1964

Born 1954

Monday, October 26, 2015

Create Ghostly Photos in Photoshop

Do you believe in ghosts?

It's a question I've been asked several times. And to be perfectly honest I really don't know what to answer.

I know there was an experience several years ago that had me thinking with a certainty that spirits are with us. Though I still waffle, time and the wisdom of age, however, have me second guessing what I was so sure I'd seen then.

But then there are the friends and family members,  intelligent, logical people,  with stories of their own. For example, my brother-in-law, a retired police inspector and one of the most literal guys I know,  tells a tale of murder and a chilling experience. Literally. At the home of a victim, while standing in the hallway where the body had been found, he felt a drastic, sudden drop in temperature, and the hairs on the back of his neck stood up. 

A little spooked so to speak, he returned to the detachment where he started to tell another officer about the experience.  Before he got too far, though, his colleague described in detail what my brother-in-law had felt, adding that it had happened to him earlier in the day in the same spot. Two jaded cops believing they shared an experience with, if not the supernatural, then something unexplained.

Halloween is the perfect time for these stories and for eerie pictures of apparitions. Let's face it, though. Ghosts don't appear just because we want them to. If it's a spooky picture you're looking for you just can't count on a spectre showing up, even if you are visiting a house that's apparently haunted.

Even those who say they succeeded in capturing a phantom on film are suspect as double exposure photography can create the illusion.  And today with image editing software you can really create mystery.  Here are some tutorials explaining how:

Design a Spectral Photo Manipulation

Create a Ghost Effect in Photoshop

Create a Ghost in Photos

Add a Ghost to Photos

Ghosting an Image in Photoshop

Create Ghostly Photo

Adding a Ghostly Image to a Photo

Create Ghostly Composites

Haunting Family Ghost Photos

Friday, October 23, 2015

Creepy Halloween Photos

One of the rituals to get me in the zone for work, particularly for my fuzzy-headed, easily distracted morning brain, is to plug in the ear buds and crank the tunes. And by tunes, I mean the noisier and louder the better. 

When it comes to music I enjoy a lot of genres. Yet, while maintaining concentration amidst  office chatter is impossible for me,  there's something about good metal or guitar-heavy classic rock invading the senses that blocks out extraneous thoughts. It allows me to focus on the words and the task at hand.

A fairly quiet boomer nearing the age of retirement,  I'm apparently a bit of a surprise among my colleagues for this choice of music.  Yet  with hands poised over the keyboard,   it took Pantera's Cowboys from Hell to get my day underway.  Full of growling vocals and the complex metal groove of the late Dimebag Darrell's guitar,  it not only got me into the groove too it inspired a topic.

Heavy metal plays to the imagination. It conjures images of a darker realm. Maybe not the underworld, but there's a sinister vibe to it for sure.

Also, where jazz, blues or oldies will slide into the psyche, metal is in your face. These aren't ditties to be played at dinner after all.  They are instead the soundtrack for Halloween.

So as I listened to the words of Cowboys from Hell, Megadeth's Symphony of Destruction, etc.,  as I remembered that the night when devils roam is just a few days away, it seemed that the time to share this creepy photo collection was now:

iPHOTOS Halloween Pictures

Thursday, October 22, 2015

How to Take Double Exposure Photos In-Camera

A strange thing happened when I was taking pictures this past Thanksgiving. Eerie really.

It began with my 94-year-old mother's turn to tell us what she was grateful for. Having lost my father last year, shortly after their 70th anniversary,  her response was not unexpected. "I am so thankful to have had the most wonderful husband. I miss him and wish he was here."

After the rest of us had finished listing our blessings, I decided the time had come to take a picture. Amidst the grumblings of hungry diners I took a quick shot, then checked to see if it was good enough to let people get back to the business of eating. What I saw, however, set us back a little. At the end of the table, closest to my mother, was a tall shadow.

While the logical side of the brain searched for a technical answer as to what had caused the anomaly, the imagination was happy that there didn't appear to be one. Instead, it could join with my heart in what I wanted to think I was seeing.

Though it wasn't the case this time, (and my mind still searches for what did happen) a similar result was something that can be achieved with double exposure photography. And it has done in my fake ghost photos. The spooky apparition, the shadowy figure seen behind another person can turn an ordinary picture into something mysterious.

As we approach Halloween,  you might want to have a little fun with double exposure photography. If you haven't tried here are a few tutorials:

Shoot an In-Camera Double Exposure Photo

Shoot Ghostly Halloween Photos In-Camera

Double Exposure Photography Examples and Tutorials

How to Shoot Dreamy Double Exposure Portraits

How to Create Spooky in Camera Double Expostures

How to Take Double Exposure Pictures

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Create a Halloween Invitation

Halloween will be here in just over a week. As it falls on a Saturday this year,  it makes it much easier to take full advantage of the celebration.

Typically, Mom and Dad rush home from work and shovel in supper. The kids are transformed into superheros,  fairytale characters and spooky creatures.  After they spend a few hours begging goodies from the neighbours, the candy is sorted, the sugar influx monitored and it's off to bed. 

On a Saturday, however, there can be parties too. For young and old.

I  remember being invited to my first adult Halloween party. I was in my 30s and thought that donning a costume, something I hadn't done for probably 15 years, seemed like a lot of fun. Trying to get my husband to agree, however, proved to be a bigger challenge than determining what I was going to wear. 

I did manage to convince him and our last-minute scrambling had us attending as a bobbysoxer and greaser — me in a poodle skirt and saddle shoes, him in denim, leather and Brylcream.   Turned out that adopting a new persona was as much fun then as it was as a child.

There is a freedom to being 'in character' that eclipsed my natural shyness.  So much so, that I have taken advantage of the opportunity to dress up many times in the years since.  I suppose it could be argued that at this age I should be past such nonsense, but my reticence remains and I still rather welcome the chance to become someone else.

Saturday, Oct. 31 will be a good time then for people to channel an inner Superman, to remember the glory days of the 60s or to show they've still got it in a sultry witch's costume.  And whether you are young or young at heart, parties are a perfect way to extend the fun.

Set the perfect tone by creating  your own Halloween invitations using these helpful tutorials:

How to Design a Halloween Party Invitation in Adobe

Create a Halloween Party Invitation

Make Your Own Spooky Halloween Invitations

Design a Halloween Invitation With InDesign

Monday, October 19, 2015

1,000 Halloween Colouring Pages

It was one of those completely exhausting weekends that I enjoy more than those relaxing, rejuvenating ones. Our daughter's two little ones came to stay and for two days from the dawning hours until twilight Papa and I were on the go.

In a house long past its baby days, finding ways to entertain a pre-schooler and toddler for lengthy hours can be a bit of a challenge.  Certainly, once the grandchildren started to arrive in our lives,  I toured mom sales and yard sales to restock on toys and games.  But given that these two live in a home established as a daycare, the inventory at Grandma's falls a little short.

So in addition to the physical running around after two energetic youngsters, my brain is also kept busy thinking of innovative and favourite ways to entertain them. We have finger painted with pudding,  opened a restaurant in the playhouse, baked a pie and read lots and lots of stories.

Another favourite quiet pastime is colouring. This weekend, though,  there was a moment of panic when I realized that every page in the book had been scribbled on.  Gratefully, a subscription to an online clipart service allowed me the advantage of printing off some terrific colouring pages.

There are endless options appropriate for most ages. With Halloween around the corner that theme seemed to be just the right lead-in to show you some of what's available:

Friday, October 16, 2015

How to Create Fantasy Art

Halloween is just two weeks away. It's the time for imagination to soar, for myth and fantasy to take hold,  for young and young-at-heart to transform themselves into ghosts, ghouls and goblins.  If you've always felt like a superhero, this is the time to dress the part.

Oddly,  while Halloween has never been a favourite holiday of mine, I'm a huge fan of fantasy and make believe. Since childhood,  my vivid imagination has taken the common place in some strange directions.  I have been able to take 'what ifs' in life and paint them into pictures with a fantastical brush, an art I honed as a youngster. 

Also, while my childhood peers were content to play out their fanciful adventures, I loved to put them to paper.  I penned tales of love, romance and dastardly deeds. Now, when my husband is a few minutes late coming home, my mind envisions a reason worthy of a Dean Koontz novel.

Reading the aforementioned author, a favourite of mine,  I'm able to accept the stories he weaves no matter how fanciful they might be. My fascination with possibilities overrides improbabilities.

Watching movies, I have no problem checking common sense at the door as I enter a world far from any known reality.

Why not, then, take that fantasy into the already imaginative world of art and illustration? I have scoped out some terrific tutorials to do just that:

Create Fantasy Art

Fantasy Art Tips

Fantasy Effect

50 Imaginative Fantasy Art Photoshop Tutorials

Dreamy Fantasy Art Photoshop Tutorials

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Celebrating the Blue Jays With Baseball Clipart

Go Jays! What a night it was for Canadians. After a 22-year drought, our only Major League Baseball team, the Toronto Blue Jays,  will be playing for the American League Championship as a result of defeating the Texas Rangers in a nail-biting contest last night.

It had been an interesting best-of-five series, beginning with the local boys losing the first two games at home, one of which many believe came as a result of some bad calls from the home plate umpire.

Then, the team returned the favour in Texas to tie it and bring the series clincher back to home field.  The fifth match-up was one of the most intense, highlighted by a wild seventh inning, that involved a controversial call against Toronto, followed by three errors from the Rangers and a three-run homer by Jose Bautista to give the Jays a solid lead.

Given that in this country we are currently in the middle of a federal election campaign which isn't making anyone feel warm and fuzzy, it's nice to get behind something exciting, positive and unifying. Right now, from coast to coast, Canadians have come together to root, root, root for the home team.

And it's awesome.

So with a brain still full of images from last night's game, the only direction I could take here when thinking about clipart was toward baseball illustrations. Here are some terrific collections from :

Baseball Logos

Baseball Cartoons

Baseball Babies

Baseball Players and Elements

Baseball-Themed Illustrations

Humorous Baseball Cartoons

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

How To Get Good Contrast in Photography

For a long time I saw the world in black and white. A pixelated version perhaps, but monochromatic all the way.

As editor of a community newspaper, I oversaw the selection of photos for the week's issue.  What I discovered early was how important good contrast was for impact.  Without the mix of colour to add appeal  (seldom money in the budget for that)  it was easy to see how even a good shot could be lifeless if the contrast wasn't there. 

As it is with a landscape, flat is boring. You need the depth, the highs and lows to create interest and pull people in.

How to achieve this without spending a good deal of time in processing though, was often a challenge for staff.  The budget of a small weekly meant that journalists were typically writers, forced by necessity into the position of photographer too.  Post-secondary education had included courses on using a camera, but the people we hired as reporters were often more intent on perfecting their writing, rather than their photography.

The 'fun' was always the many times we got that awesome photo that sadly had no quality. So we flashed, dodged and burned in the dark room, then later with the introduction of digital technology, puttered away in Photoshop to bring the greatness to life.  All the while thinking it would sure be nice if we had managed this from the beginning.

With that career behind me, and my interest in photography as a hobby growing, I've decided to change thought to action. These great tutorials should get that process started:

Digital Photography School Get Better Contrast in Your Photography

Get Great Contrast in Photography

Handling High Contrast

Understanding Contrast in Photography

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

How to Improve and Enhance Photos in Photoshop

Well the final long weekend of the year has passed in Canada.  From Saturday until Monday as we enjoyed glorious autumn weather, families counted their blessings and expressed gratitude for them all as we celebrated Thanksgiving.

At our home, the gathering was on Sunday, giving me the next day to recover from  all of the busyness. With the exception of doing a few loads of laundry, I spent most of the day recharging my batteries, snuggled  in a chair on the deck to read a book, then later on a couch to watch the Toronto Blue Jays defeat the Texas Rangers. 

In between, however, I also took some time to go through the photos I took on Sunday. Covering everything from mealtime to the fun and games afterwards I did my best to record the time for present loved ones and posterity.   There was the family at the dinner table, the candid shots of besotted adults cuddling  babies,  father and son playing catch,  and the card game finale.

For the most part the results were fine, not works of art perhaps, but adequate.  With some lighting issues, a few, however, failed to make the grade.

Fortunately,  image editing programs can improve many mistakes.  Here are a few tutorials on enhancing and retouching photos in Photoshop:

How to Enhance and Retouch

Enhance Colours With Photoshop's Photo Filter

Improve a Photo in 2 Steps with Screen Mode

Easily Enhance an Image

Fixing Exposure With Shadow/Highlight

Darken Overexposed Photos With Multiply Blend Mode

Add Contrast

Enhance Contrast

Friday, October 9, 2015

3 Sources for Fun Thanksgiving Cartoons

It's Friday. Be honest. While you might still be the dedicated employee you always are, there's a little corner of the mind reflecting on fun and relaxation.

This is even harder to avoid in Canada today as we head into a long weekend. Our thoughts of an entertaining Saturday and Sunday also include Monday as we prepare to celebrate our Thanksgiving.

So, yes, sitting at my desk, focussing on the work before me, my mind does periodically stray to the huge to-do lists at home.

There is a massive one for the grocery and liquor stores. Then the list of reminders. There is the fresh turkey to pick up. There is cleaning and laundry to be done. There is a myriad of tiny details, from decorating the table to making the deck presentable again as the weather is supposed to be perfect, to be completed. And of course, there is a meal to get ready.

But my mind also reflects on the anticipated fun. I look forward to watching the camaraderie among my kids. I can hardly wait for the snuggles with my grandchildren. Given the weather forecast there will be outdoor games and amusements.  It is, quite frankly, looking like the perfect time to be thankful for one's blessings.

So as my mind thinks ahead to the special days before me,  I decided that today's collections of clipart should reflect the fun. These links will take you to  some wonderful Thanksgiving cartoon images:

Thursday, October 8, 2015

164 Thanksgiving-Themed Animations

In just a few days,  our family, along with other Canadians, will be celebrating Thanksgiving. This means a busy time of preparation ahead for me, with a house to clean, errands to run, groceries to buy and food to prepare.

Beneath all of the busyness, however, is a barely-contained excitement. For one whole day, all of my children will be under my roof again, bringing with them their partners and my grandbabies. This year too we are blessed to have my 94-year-old mother joining us as well as my daughter's mother-in-law, who would otherwise have been spending the day alone. It will be a full house and I couldn't be more thrilled.

It's what the day is meant to be —  happiness in being with family,  gratitude in having mom still with us, and the pleasure in sharing our blessings with another.

I don't remember childhood Thanksgivings the way I remember those Christmases. My maternal grandmother really enjoyed the latter and her attitude left an indelible memory. The former consequently always seemed to be little more than a practice run for the Dec. 25  menu.  That sense carried through for me into my adult years.

There has, however, been a recent shift. With Christmas so busy there's little time to really enjoy the day with my loved ones as we constantly seem to be in a rush. Thanksgiving then has become the relaxed version, when the pleasure in counting one's blessings, is coupled with the ability to actually enjoy them for a bit.

In keeping with the delight that will be building over the next couple of days, posting collections of static images just didn't seem quite the right fit. Enjoy then these terrific Thanksgiving-themed animations: