Friday, December 29, 2017

Ring in the New Year with Fun Festive Photos from

Photo of a couple toasting with champagne for New Year's
"For last year's words belong to last year's language and next year's words await another voice." — T.S. Eliot

So we have unbelievably reached this point. Again. With amazing speed, like melting ice down a window in the sunshine, another year has passed. All the fun of Christmas is behind us, and we now look ahead to the promise of all the good things we hope for in 2018.

The festive holidays for me were perfect; counting my blessings each day was easy as they were apparent at every turn.

All of it began a few days before Christmas with an elegant feast hosted by a friend, followed by a relaxing bit of socializing. The next day we travelled to enjoy turkey dinner number one at our daughter's home with her in-laws. From there, it was the joy of having all I ever need under my roof. On Christmas Day, family surrounded me, a bounty of gifts spoiled me, the abundance of food and drink flowed. It was an excellent  reminder of how fortunate I am to enjoy so much.

Photo of a couple celebrating New Year's Eve
Of course, now there's more to come as the fun and infusion of a hectic social life is far from over. In a few days, New Year's Eve will be here. It's a time most considered for its revelry. It's a time to celebrate and reflect, positively.  It's also a time considered as opportune for new beginnings. 

Humorist Mark Twain once said that the new year is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions, followed by the week when you begin "paving hell with them as usual".

Having spent decades on this earth, I decided some time ago to forego the proverbial New Year's resolution. There is, after all, no need  to set myself up for failure. Given that I'm wise enough now to know that the probability of not keeping them is quite high, it seems somewhat foolish to go ahead and make one. Disappointment is never nice. It's especially unpleasant when it's a result of not achieving a goal you yourself have set.

Photo of a couple in Santa hats toasting in a New YearTypically it's better to not give a lot of thought to what hasn't been accomplished, or what goals haven't been met. So, instead of making resolutions,  I have come to think of the old year more as an opportunity for reflection and the new one as one of promise. Rather than take stock of what could be better about me I will let these final days in December be more about recalling all the good things that happened over the previous 12 months. If there is a resolution to be in there somewhere it will be that I spend the next 12 months continuing to remember these blessings.

Sure, life can be a spoiler. We never know what tomorrow might throw our way. But the company of friends, the memories of times past, will go a long way to ensure I'll be ringing 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 2017 with gusto. Just as I'm sure the folks in these festive photos have done: New Year's Party Photos

Friday, December 22, 2017

Ring in the New Year with Memories, Fun and Great Clipart from and

Clipart image of a clock holding gifts
The lights twinkle on the tree. Garlands and holly grace mantles and staircases. And Sir Paul McCartney melodically reminds that he's "simply having a wonderful Christmas time".

Today is Friday. But perhaps most significantly, it's the last Friday before Christmas. By the time I return to my station here next week, Dec. 25, 2017 will have found its place in the memory files. The bows and paper have been torn away and relegated to the refuse bin. The presents have been accepted, as cherished treasures or secretly set aside by re-gifters. Cooks are practising their culinary creativity as they look for new ways to dress up that leftover turkey.

And as we look ahead it will be to the end of 2017 and to the start of 2018. These are the days when we often find ourselves reflecting on the year soon passing. We think of the special events that brought us closer to the people we love. We remember moments that surprised us and filled our hearts. We look to the beautiful memories, to the blessings that came our way and our hearts are filled with gratitude.

It's a time too, to acknowledge the people who enrich our lives, the ones who have been with us through all of the years and those who entered our world just recently.  We also spend time reflecting on the ones we have cherished and lost.

Sadly, yes, not all of our 2017 memories will be perfect. There will be losses. There will be regrets over foolish fights, silly slights and overlooked opportunities. We might have spoken out of turn. We might have hurt someone who means the world to us.

Regardless of the memories, we are inspired at this time to year to think about who we are, who we want to be and what we can do to achieve that as the new year arrives. There will be resolutions made, some to be kept, most probably not. But at least we plant the seed,  and hope that some of the goals we set to make us more the kind of person we want to be, will be met in 2018.

Before then, though, there's a party to be had. New Year's Eve provides an opportunity to celebrate the promise of tomorrow with all the joy of living in the moment and no regrets over yesteryear. For decades my favourite date and I have celebrated the occasion with old, dear friends.

There was always music, noise and laughter. We counted on the consumption of food and drink with the same certainty we could count on midnight kisses. As reflected by time's passing only how much of all of those these changed.

Clipart image of a man wearing a party hat blowing a noisemaker for New Year's EveWhen we were young, with naivety and energy on our side, the gathering was a house party, a scene that suited us well since such exuberance as we displayed was best contained among close chums. The desire for fun was high; the interest in regret quite the opposite.

When we entered our 30s we came to the conclusion that we were probably civilized enough to take our show out in public and for several years spent New Year's Eve at a crowded dance. Gussied up and full of fun, we enjoyed sharing our circle with a wider group of acquaintances. While thoughts of yesterday and tomorrow were starting to get a little more attention, we didn't dwell on them either. There was far too much to enjoy in the present.

Eventually, lacking some of that youthful energy and morning after resilience, we found ourselves celebrating at house parties again. We had outgrown the noise and frenzy of a large gathering, complete with overly-friendly strangers. Though we still enjoyed a good time, there was no question we were a little more sedate. A contemplative atmosphere too, had settled over the notion of a new year, one that hadn't been there before. Time was spent on remembrance and reflection.

Then a few years ago, some of these old friends decided a nice dinner out was all we needed. However, there is apparently still a hint of those 20-year-olds in my guy and me. We were actually ready to put a little celebration back into the occasion. After dinner we headed out to a local nightclub where our son's band was playing for a night of music, noise and laughter once again. It was a grand time. So much so we plan to repeat it this year.

And with those expectations I've been inspired to share these fantastic collections of New Year's Eve clipart:

Happy New Year's Clipart from New Year's Eve Clipart

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Put the Personal Touch on Your Merry Christmas Greeting With a Custom Holiday Card

Clipart image of an elf painting
"I love Christmas, not just because of the presents, but because of all the decorations and lights and the warmth of the season." – Ashley Tisdale. 

Normally at this time of year I am well ahead of the season. The decorating was completed so long ago I can barely remember what the house looked like before. The presents have been bought, wrapped and placed under the tree. The baking is done and stacked away in the freezer. The turkey is ordered, the wine cellar stocked.

As of last week all that remained was the selection of an image to use for this year's festive eGreeting, which was completed efficiently after a perusal of

Yes, while others are tying up loose ends, completing their shopping amidst the busy whirl of seasonal commerce, I have been sipping pinot grigio,  warmed by the crackling fireplace and twinkling tree lights. While deep in the pages of a good book just the other day, however, it crossed my mind that Christmas cards are needed to accompany gifts for a few special friends. And then I thought, with all this extra time on my hands, why not try making them.

There's only one thing to stop me really.  I've never made a serious attempt at it before, and I don't easily jump into the unknown.

I guess some would say I'm a cautious person. And in all honesty I can't argue that assessment.  Where others will plunge fearlessly into new experiences, I sit back and consider the risks. While there are those for whom air travel is a common sense way to get around this world quickly, I  need a pretty darn good reason to get in a plane.

There are many for whom the daredevil curves and hair-raising plunges of a roller coaster are what amusement parks are all about.  Me?  I rather enjoy the carousel. I would never skydive, scale the side of a mountain or bungee jump. I don't mind staying close to home for my vacations and feel not the least bit regretful that I don't plan any trips to exotic, though occasionally volatile, destinations.

None of this troubles me or makes me feel inferior to people full of the spirit of adventure, though.  I am a homebody, content in the familiar, satisfied by what I have and  of my abilities. For this I make no apologies.

Yet, there is one aspect of this mild trepidation of mine that frustrates me — my reluctance to try new things, regardless of how mundane. I try to convince myself it's okay, because time is valuable,  I hate failure, so why subject myself to something I might not be able to do well and instead waste precious minutes that could be spent achieving other things.

The answer is, I constantly remind myself, because learning and experience are important. People never know what their capabilities and talents might be if they never try anything.  I'm too old and edgy to take up freestyle skiing, but there's no excuse for not opening up Photoshop and seeing what I can accomplish. Especially with Christmas to inspire me and the dozens of tutorials out there to guide me. Like these for example:

Make a Custom Holiday Photo Card With Photoshop Elements

Create a Christmas Tree Card

A Holiday Greeting Card Photo Border

Design Your Own Christmas Card

Create Custom Greeting Cards in 6 Steps

Design a Dazzling Holiday Card in Photoshop

Friday, December 15, 2017

Christmas – a Time for Traditions Including Hanging Those Stockings

Clipart Image of a family singing Christmas carols around a piano
It's true, Christmas can feel like a lot of work, particularly for mothers. But when you look back on all the Christmases in your life, you'll find you've created family traditions and lasting memories. Those memories, good and bad, are really what help to keep a family together over the long haul." — Caroline Kennedy.

When I look back on all of the Christmases in this life,  I'm blessed to be able to say that few of the memories are bad.  From the Sunday School concerts, followed by the drive to see the lights around town, to the presents under the tree and supper with the cousins at Grandma's and Grandpa's, the images of my childhood festive holidays are ones I hold dear. They do in fact bind me, with threads of sentimentality and love, to those with whom I share them.

Later, as a young mother of four beautiful children,  the memories created were often from the traditions that began with this new life my husband and I were beginning. There was nothing particularly original, no grand gesture. They are many things that others might not even consider traditions, more like rituals. But the simple things are often the best and remembered with fondness.

Clipart image of a flickering candleThere were the Christmas Eve dinners with good friends, after which we attended the candlelight service at our church with our young broods. The soft glow, the magnificent music filled the air while the meaningful message of peace and goodwill filled our souls. A more selfish bonus was that late hour ensured a slow start to the next morning's chaos for little ones.

To get the turkey stuffed  and in the oven in time for our dinner I, however, was up in the early morning stillness. It did afford me the pleasure of a few quiet hours to myself which fast became another tradition.  Snuggled in my chair by the twinkling lights of our tree, I savoured a nice smooth coffee, made even more so with a wee addition of Irish Cream.

Our eldest was usually the first to make his way downstairs and this time with him was special to both of us. As my first-born he had had my undivided attention for a couple of years. Now, with competition from three younger siblings,  that rarely happened and we enjoyed this time to reconnect.

We also came to anticipate the fun of dragging the younger girl and their father out of bed — the latter lagging about to play along, the former the best sleeper I'd ever known at the time. With tugging of blankets and pulling of legs we would finally manage to rouse her well past the time most kids her age would be playing with their new gifts. Or perhaps this was all a ploy to wear the Santa hat, traditionally bestowed on the last one awake.

Clipart image of Christmas stocking hanging on the fireplace
When we finally did get everyone organized around the tree, the mayhem that is youngsters and the discovery of gifts from Santa, was controlled somewhat by my insistence that presents would be unwrapped one person at a time. Including the stockings which were actually the highlight of each Christmas morning.

Without a fireplace from which to hang our stockings with care, they graced our staircase. Before they were opened,  the requisite photo was taken with our crew on the steps. Then with much delight time was taken to discover what hidden treats Santa had bestowed on them.

There were others traditions, of course, some grander, some that fizzled out. But even now, with grandchildren making our family all the more perfect, the stockings and the rituals that accompanied them are a big part of our festive gathering.

So as we head towards the final week before Christmas let's highlight this familiar holiday tradition with some super Christmas stocking clipart: Christmas Stocking Clipart Christmas Stocking Clipart

Friday, December 8, 2017

Perfect Your Christmas Light Photography With Great Tips from Expert Resources

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

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

And the rest, of course, follows soon after.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Christmas Tree Images to Put the Festive in Your Seasonal Projects

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

Thus describes my annual tree trimming escapades.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 1, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clipart image of a snowman

Clipart image of a snowman

Friday, November 24, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 17, 2017

Improve Your Holiday Photos With These Helpful Photoshop Tutorials

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enhance Colours With Photoshop Filters

How to Adjust Exposure

Fixing Brightness and Contrast

How to Fix a Blurry Photo

Photoshopping People from One Photo to Another

Swapping Heads in Photoshop

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Thanksgiving and the Season Begin with Wonderful Holiday Clipart

Clipart image of a Thanksgiving background with pumpkins and falling leaves
Little remains of the kaleidoscopic canopy that autumn created. The foliage began its slow fall weeks ago, littering the ground with colour and crunch. The days have shortened, the air is crisp and in this corner of the world we are anticipating snow's  appearance.

Now we can turn our minds to the special celebrations that will dominate life for the remainder of 2017.  There was an early start for my extended family this past weekend as we gathered for our annual 'Christmas' dinner. Too early? Maybe. But we have our reasons.

As time aged us, as it moved us along different paths, as work schedules became more complicated, as more people were added to the clan, my siblings and I, along with our now-grown children, found ourselves distanced by hundreds of miles in various directions as well as conflicting work schedules. The busyness of the traditional festive season makes it challenging enough to co-ordinate a special holiday time, let alone when you have to drive a couple of hours to get there or have people working shifts. We knew long ago,  if we wanted some time together we had to figure out a plan that would work for the majority.

Clipart image of a family saying grace at the Thanksgiving tableSo, we removed the 'hectic season' from the equation and found our solution in partying before the rush.  Some might argue it's too soon. We've maintained, however, that if this is the best we can manage then it's better than nothing. The main event might still be weeks away, but we've never had any difficulty getting into the spirit of the celebration. Especially since the unofficial kickoff is only a short time away.

Even on this side of the border it seems that once the American Thanksgiving is on the horizon, everything just starts feeling a bit more festive. It really isn't long now before folks in the United States will be taking time from their regular workday routines for this significant holiday. They will gather with friends and family to give thanks for their many blessings. And to watch football.

The occasion is held in recognition of the feast that followed the Pilgrims first harvest in the New World in 1621. Attendee Edward Winslow recorded that in addition to the 53 settlers,  90 Native Americans were also on hand. The day became a federal holiday in 1863 when President Lincoln called for a national day of thanksgiving and praise.

Clipart image of a Thanksgiving turkey carrying a footballWhile the holiday was founded as a religious observance, events today aren't restricted to the spiritual. New York City hosts its annual Thanksgiving Day parade for example. And while families gather to enjoy a feast of roast turkey and all the trimmings, pulling them away from the weekend's NFL and college games to partake of that meal can be
tough. American football is as much of part of the holiday as sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce.

With the holiday always marked on the fourth Thursday of November, people take advantage of an opportunity for an extra long holiday weekend with Black Friday. The inspiration to get that holiday shopping started, the day offers bargains and discounts guaranteed to entice massive hordes of people to retail outlets with the promise of helping them stretch their holiday gift-buying budget.

Clipart image of a Black Friday background
Between now and then, promos and advertisements will be letting everyone know about deals and discounts, events and celebrations all geared towards the holidays. So really, how can you not start feeling a little festive these days?

If you're preparing for Thanksgiving by creating invitations, flyers or retail promotions, you'll be looking for som great clipart to enhance them. Here are two excellent resources: American Thanksgiving Clipart Thanksgiving Clipart

Friday, November 10, 2017

As Thanksgiving Nears These Photos Remind There's No Greater Blessing Than Family

Photo of a family around the Thanksgiving table
There would be no argument from anyone these days that these are tumultuous, interesting and unquestionably scary times in the world. From the threat of nuclear war, to the political maelstrom swirling around the right and the left, to mass shootings and turbulent weather, there is unquestionable uncertainty and concern felt by many.

At the end of the month, however, residents of the United States will be celebrating their Thanksgiving. There is probably no better time to be reminded that despite the chaos there is still so much for which people can be thankful.

Always first on my list is family.  As we celebrated our Thanksgiving here last month (Canadians count their blessings in October) I looked around our dining table at my kids and the six beautiful grandchildren they have given me. The first of the latter came into our lives 18 years ago and it was like the already brilliant sun began to shine a little brighter. Becoming a grandparent was better than I could have imagined and I was eager for more little ones to join our family.

Our offspring, however,  were in no particular hurry it seemed. We waited almost 13 years before we were able to smile down on our second little sweetheart. Since then though our kids have stepped up their game and we are blessed to have six grandchildren in total now.

It is to them I go when life's miseries seem to be winning, when disasters and tragedies strive to engulf us. Only in a wonderful world, I remind myself,  could I be in a place where these little darlings are with me.

Photo of grandparents and grandchildren in the forest
Not that I don't have many things for which I'm grateful. I very much do. I live in one of the greatest countries with all the benefits that accompany that. I have health, employment and enough money. I have terrific friends, as well as supportive extended family members. And last, but most definitely not least, I have the pleasure of being married to one of the best guys I've ever known.

But, for me, and many others, all of that good can get weighted down from time to time. When a day is dark and dreary, when we've spent too much time listening to the headlines, when something nasty has come our way, we might need a lifeline to grab onto and stay positive. Thinking of my family and focussing on the endearing faces of my little grandchildren is sure to lift me. Every time.

On Nov. 23, Americans will have their turn to break from the regular workday routines and gather with family, to set aside woes and worries and celebrate the bounty that this life has brought.  In film the holiday is typically portrayed with people representing assorted relatives of diverse age as they prepare and descend upon the home of the family home. There is then, the house filled to the rafters with guests who congregate in the kitchen, around a laden dining table or in front of the television for football. The interactions are defined by teasing, laughter, love and, because it's Hollywood, some type of conflict.

Though the actual storyline might require a leap of faith, the message of this holiday is clear — surround yourself on this special season with the people who know you best and love you anyway. From them the inspiration to find, and focus on,  all of the blessings that come your way will thrive.

Since most would agree that family is the most important thing any time of year,  but certainly during the festive season,  we offer this collection of wonderful photos depicting that subject in all of its amazing  configurations: Pictures of Family

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

You're Sure to Love These 5 Collections Featuring This Week's Top Downloads from

Clipart image of a yin yang symbol featuring day and night
"I know there is strength in the differences between us. I know there is comfort where we overlap." Ani DiFranco

My husband and I enjoy many of the same things in life and most certainly share the same values.  We have a rather far-left view and can both be a little impatient with those who even tilt right. Compromise generally comes easily in decision making since we both recognize when it might be wise to concede on a particular issue.  And for both of us, family is always first.

However,  we do differ a bit in our interests. While we both love classic Mopars,   his passion for vintage snowmobiles is a wonder to me. I read books voraciously; for him it's newspapers and magazines.

We share a mutual love of music. However, what we want to listen to at any given time can be at opposite ends of the genre spectrum.  Though I tend to select a playlist to suit a mood or time of day; jazz for a quiet dinner, for example; he plays to suit his mood. AC DC blaring out of speakers on a gentle Sunday morning, early enough that I'm still  sporting bed head, is not unheard of.

There are elements of our personalities that differ too. Many, truth be told. He is yin to my yang, north to my south.

Entering a room full of strangers, my guy will walk in with confidence, making his way through the mass, making new friends along the way. I will stick to him like glue, quiet in the extreme. Where he seeks out that person with whom he might find something in common, I hope they find me.

He's never been to a party he wanted to leave; I would generally prefer to stay home. He's a touch bull-headed (he admits this) and will strike with passionate defence of his  perspective. I am a true Libra who wishes everyone would just get along. It all works, of course, because the differences support us as a couple.  For example, he is my comfort zone in social settings: I'm the one who reminds him the next day will come early and it's time to go home.

It's an individual's tastes and traits that make them the special person they are. We might be puzzled by another's choices but they're not ours to understand.

In business, too, polarity is obvious. For instance, putting together promotions with a team can be an interesting endeavour as complete consensus on what looks good is unlikely.

Also, working in the online clipart industry it can often be an eye-opener when my colleagues and I take a peek at the most popular downloads. Though there is likely to be a commonality in a theme,  the styles can differ significantly from what one of us might choose.

I thought it might be fun, therefore, to take a look at the five top downloads for clipart for this week from one of our websites, then share the collections of which they're a part. Below are the results.  The strength is in their differences, though the upcoming holiday season seems to be high on everybody's list.
Clipart image of a cartoon turkey wearing a Pilgrim hat for Thanksgiving


Clipart image of gold Christmas bells with holly

Clipart image of green holly swirls

Clipart image of a Christmas wreath

Friday, November 3, 2017

From Baseball to Hockey There's a Sport for Everybody in These Clipart Collections

Clipart image of a baseball player swinging the bat
The World Series concluded a couple of nights ago a way that even the most die-hard Dodger fan had to feel okay with. It took seven great games of baseball for the Houston Astros to defeat the LA team and in so doing take home the coveted title for the first time in franchise history.

While that's noteworthy, perhaps the real reason that so many had their hearts behind the Astros is that this victory has given  a city devastated by Hurricane Harvey in August something to celebrate.

North of the border we folks in Canada, with our Toronto Blue Jays trading bats for golf clubs weeks ago,  had the luxury of enjoying the games without the passion and occasional heartache that can accompany rooting for your own team. We could pick a side without really caring.

The majority of people I knew wanted this win for the Texas team for the aforementioned reasons.  The Dodgers, after all, have been World Series champs six times already and it's always nice to see an honour bestowed on someone for the first time, particularly when the playing field, so to speak, was pretty level. The teams were evenly matched and treated their fans to some excellent baseball. Then there was the more sentimental view that the Houston fans needed this victory.

Clipart image of a hockey player
However, while Canadians were interested in the outcome, many had most certainly given over their couch potato time to rinks rather than diamonds.  As I watched game seven of the World Series  I couldn't help noticing an 'alert' at the bottom of the screen reminding Canucks the channels on which we could find National Hockey League games. Most people in the true north strong and free are delighted to make their way to a cold arena any time of year. Now that fall is here, with the Jays over and out for another season, baseball, even championship, was bound to take second place.

Sports, whether you play or are content to just watch, is a broad subject comprised of diverse and plentiful sub-categories. It's certain that most everyone could pick a favourite.

My two sons loved sports of every kind. They'd watch them all and participate in many of them. The older was a standout in track's horizontal jumps while his younger brother could take on any position in baseball and do the job very well.

Clipart image of a swimmer in deep waterOur girls rarely watched sports, but played baseball and soccer. It was in the water, however, where they shone. Both parlayed a hobby into summer employment at the local pool throughout their teens. While the younger was an avid competitor on the swim team, her older sister still lives and breathes for a chance to do some laps or dive into the lake.  No body of water has ever been too cold, no sky too cloudy.

Though I enjoyed playing baseball as a kid, I am more of a sport appreciator. I used to love nights out with my guy watching him knock out some homers for his baseball team. Such pleasure I took in seeing my eldest soar in a triple jump or my youngest fire a rocket from behind home plate to take down a runner. Such pride I felt watching my girls gracefully slicing through the water, such admiration for the stamina and finesse.

Whether it's watching our kids or professional athletes, whether it's playing because we're good at it or just to have fun,  a love of sports is a big part of life.  These clipart collections include them all from football, baseball and hockey to track, snowmobiling and auto racing: Sports Clipart Sport Images

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Getting into the Holiday Spirit With Christmas Gift Clipart for Your Projects

Clipart image of a Christmas gift on a blue background
The insistent beep pierces the air, slicing through the gentle stillness, until a hand sweeps forward to silence it. The alarm has called, yet eyelids struggle from slumber to see nothing as grey still cloaks the sky. Dark, dreary dawn does little to inspire any energy for the day ahead.

It's a day shy of November as I write this. Following a glorious autumn, the weather now reflects what is expected of this time of year. Temperatures have taken a nose dive. Skies are often dull and thick, heavy rains fall with a driving persistence.  The S-word has been dropped from meteorologists on radio and television, and while we've avoided it to this point, it's just a matter of time before a good dumping of fluffy flakes buries our landscape in pristine white.

For a sun-loving, summer-savouring woman, who finds her little bit of heaven in long walks in the sand or lazy afternoons on the patio, the winds of seasonal change are tolerated not anticipated. It's the time of year when I look for ways to take my mind far away from talks of blizzards and whiteouts. Setting up dates to do things I enjoy with people I love goes a long way to making these next few months much shorter.

Clipart image of a woman shopping for Christmas
With that in mind, I'm looking forward excitedly to this upcoming weekend. A friend and I are getting a jump on our Christmas shopping with a two-day getaway in a nearby city. She and I met in elementary school and now, living two hours away from each other, times together are rare but always met with enthusiasm.  That we both are big fans of the holiday season and never passed a store we didn't enter makes this particular date perfect for us.

It was a few decades ago when,  expecting my second child, I found out how much I enjoyed being an early Christmas shopper.  Spreading out the purchasing over a few months put less stress on the limited budget and made attacking the long list less daunting.  It didn't take long to see the other benefits too — no crowds, no big lines and no last-minute panic to find that popular soldout toy.

Also, since my daughter arrived just days before Christmas it turned out to be a really good thing that the shopping was done and all the presents were wrapped and under the tree before she made her entrance.

Clipart image of a Christmas tree with presents beneath
While the latter reason was not the norm (though it did happen one other time before our family was complete) it was all enough to show me the wisdom in getting presents bought and wrapped ahead of the rush. Now, as others run hither and yon in the busy weeks preceding Dec. 25, I am nestled by the fireplace,  warmed by the twinkling lights on the tree, glass of wine in hand while letting the ambiance soothe me.

Of course, I'm not the only person who feels this way about the holiday shopping. There are increasingly more people in the malls and on the streets when I set out than there used to be. And to meet the demand merchants are on top of things already with areas of their businesses looking a lot like Christmas. Following the commemoration of Remembrance Day, every nook and cranny will be looking festive.  Decorations put us in the spirit and suggestions for everybody's wish list will be front and centre.

To get the inspiration going even more, including for those folks like my hubby who won't  think of shopping before mid-December, Christmas promotions will follow fast on the heels of Halloween. I can't wait. This season is the bright spot in what could otherwise be a dreary few months.

I can do my part also to get people in the mood,  with these collections of holiday gift images to guide your thoughts toward the task ahead and inspire your festive projects: Christmas Present Images Christmas Gift Images

Friday, October 27, 2017

Honouring Our Selfless Heroes With 2 Photo Collections for Remembrance Day

Photo of the unknown soldier
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

In 1914, as war had broken out in Europe, Laurence Binyon penned his For the Fallen while sitting atop a cliff on the north Cornish coastline. It is the stanza above, the fourth in the completed work, that was his starting point and that has become familiar from its use at Remembrance/Veterans Day services around the world.
Just a few months after Binyon's homage to fallen soldiers, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae composed his poem, In Flanders Fields on a Belgium battleground following the death of a close friend, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, killed by a German artillery shell. It is said that McCrae was asked to conduct a burial service as there was no chaplain and that evening he began writing what has become the most famous war memorial poem.

We are the dead: Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved: and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Each Nov. 11 we are called upon to honour the selfless men and women who fought for our democracy, who gave their lives so that we could enjoy the best of lives. Their sacrifices gifted us freedom and comfort. It is, therefore, not just an obvious, but a moral obligation to my mind, that our thoughts are given to them in return, that our silence is offered to memorialize them. 
This knowledge pushed its way into my consciousness when I was quite small. Attendance at annual Remembrance Day services was as much a part of school life as the Christmas pageant. Somehow, whether a result of the solemnity of the occasion, or the parade of dignified grownups in uniform or the weary sadness of the bugle's lament, my classmates and I, if we didn't exactly fully understand, appreciated that this day marked something significant.

Regardless of what affected us, we responded appropriately. The occasion was celebrated with as much dignity as childhood allows. The images of the students' orderly march to the cenotaph, of a large group of veterans with heads bowed, of the crowd standing in silent stillness in recognition of sacrifice and valour, are easily recalled in mind. Youngsters, even before fully comprehending the importance, took it all in as veterans placed their poppies on a wreath and saluted, their memories clearly visible in their expressions. And I along with many of my peers was moved, despite, especially in the earliest grades, not fully knowing why.

Photo of a senior United States veteran saluting
There have been changes to Remembrance Day services from my childhood. Most notably, the number of veterans on hand with each passing year. Also, no longer is my attendance mandatory, nor do I lack any understanding of why we are there. There is no question for us that this commemorative day is to recognize those who fought and and those who gave their lives for our freedom. What this means and how important that is means as much now as it ever did.  

Perhaps more these days.

The time for reflection will soon be upon us once again. As the final days of October fade away and we move forwards into November, enjoying with thankfulness the pleasures and freedoms of democracy, we offer this collection of photos to honour the fallen and acknowledge the sacrifices of so many brave men and women ... Lest We Forget.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Capture the Joy of Music With These Tips for Successful Concert Photography

Clipart images of a closeup black and white illustration of a woman taking a photo
"Photography for me is not looking, it's feeling. If you can't feel what you're looking at, then you're never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your pictures." — Don McCullin

From my side of the camera, at least when I'm taking pictures of my six grandchildren, there's plenty of feeling involved. This hobby began quite a while ago with our now teenage grandson and it has continued after a long dry spell with the bundle of adorable little ones who have most recently blessed our family. My ultimate hope has always been that their vibrant personalities are as evident in my photos of them as in real life.

Did the enigmatic gaze of our blue-eyed beauty shine through? Can people see the sense of fun and joy in the tow-headed charmer that is her brother? Are they compelled to smile at our dimpled sweetheart. Does my picture effectively show the gentle spirit of our tiny toddler, or the inquisitive nature of her baby brother? Is there a sense of the love that was there for me in capturing these images? With my heart so invested, I like to think that at least some of the time I meet with a level of success in that regard.

It is, however, when branching out to other types of photography that I'm less sure the feeling I have for a place or thing transfers through the camera lens.  In these the subjects are varied. There are my favourite places, landscapes that have become as familiar to me as the dearly-loved faces of family. There are, too,  the friends and acquaintances who have enriched my life.

And there is music.

I feel pretty fortunate to have grown up in the 1960s. It was an amazing, admittedly sometimes scary, time — a decade of growth and change.

A lot of that came from the music we listened to and the bands that created it.  They and the songs they gave us were our voice, speaking out politically and emotionally. They protested against violence, oppression and injustice. They praised love, freedom and unity. And we were thrilled to listen.

Concerts were big events for us as we took every opportunity and travelled any distance to see the groups we loved and hear the songs that moved us. Just as they are today these were chaotic places with wildly-excited youths crowded into darkened auditoriums. In our version of a mosh pit,  where fans, though loud and boisterous, were usually considerate of everyone's space,  we shouted and sang along to anthemic lyrics, gyrated and swayed to tunes that captured our souls.

What was significantly different than today, however, was the absence of cameras. They were not only too cumbersome, but not permitted. Now, we have the cellphone and  trying to stop people from taking pictures or shooting video is almost impossible, so we all have the potential to grab that "I was there" photo, once the exclusive right of professionals.

Not that they're usually any good.  Lighting conditions and sitting too far back in a room filled with other bodies don't contribute to award-winning pictures. Even if you're lucky enough to be at the front, it can still be a challenge. I know that any music photo I've ever taken hasn't been good, let alone conveying the feelings I had when taking it

This weekend, we're going to see our son's band play at a favourite venue. It's the perfect place for me to practise with a little help from these great resources:

DPG Photograph Rock Concerts

DPS Rock Concert Photography

Exposure Guide Concert Photography

Concert Photography Tips