The Stream

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

And on that street there was a...

There once was a city street in Harrisburg, PA


And on that street there are neighbors, particularly thick Greek accented ones named Mrs. Linges that will wave to you three times a day and scrounge up anything to give your children in exchange for a smile

And next to that neighbor, there is a little old farm house that opens its doors to all walks of life. It has detailed decorations for every season (some even expired), a kitchen foundation made of the Pilsbary Dough Boy figurines and 1 fluffy pink bathroom upstairs

And in that farm house lives a 5'3" little lady named Mary Jo, who giggles, is carefree, loves poached eggs and toast and has held each of my wee children when they were just days old.



And ever since then, my kids have put her in their hearts and always look forward to their time with Mary Jo, M. Juice, MJ, Crazy Lady, or the more recent, Grandma Jo. Thanks for wonderful memories and relief Mary Jo!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Cameras and how to get good pics

We have had lots of people ask what camera we use and how we get the pictures we get. So I thought I'd write about one of my favorite subjects. First of all, we are by no means experts on this subject, we just really enjoy taking photos and sharing them.

Duke Gardens

As far as our cameras, we have a digital SLR (Nikon D300) with an 18-200mm lens (with a few borrowed lenses thrown in occasionally) as well as a small Canon SD1100 IS that Micki carries in her purse. The sharpest, highest quality photos are mainly from the Nikon, although the Canon takes pretty good shots as well when the light is ideal.

Regardless of what camera you have, you can take good pictures or crappy pictures. We take our share of bad photos, but there are a few things we have learned from lots of reading that can make a difference between a boring photo and one people take notice of. Here are a few things to think about:

1. Use the rule of thirds: Placing your subject off center is more visually pleasing. Divide your scene up into thirds horizontally and vertically and place the most interesting objects at the junctions of these thirds. And by all means, don't shoot a group photo by placing your subjects heads dead center. This leaves you with a picture with the bottom half showing a few people and the top full of dead space. Put the heads in the upper third. Many cameras have guide lines in the view finder to help you out.

Walking the line

2. Shoot more interesting angles: Try and look at the world differently through your lens than you do with your eyes normally. Pictures that show the world in a different manner than you are accustomed to seeing (close-ups, sideways, bottom-up) can be more interesting.

Green eyes

3. When photographing kids, get down on their level: Don't shoot kids from your eye level, it makes them always have to look up at you, their heads look bigger, and they aren't in natural poses. When you get low you more naturally capture their world.

Gretchen leading the way

4. Use on camera flash sparingly: On camera flash gives harsh shadows and makes skin look shiny and pasty. We use a large flash mounted on the Nikon indoors in poor light which we point straight up to bounce of the ceiling. This diffuses the light, eliminating harsh shadows. If you only have an on-camera flash, you can diffuse it by covering it with a thin piece of white paper like a post-it note. Natural light coming in from a window or outside in the morning and evening is ideal.

5. Take time to crop and color correct your photos: It's great when you can perfectly frame each photo, but most photos can benefit from a little recomposing with some simple cropping to focus the picture on your subject. If you didn't follow the rule of thirds when you took the picture, you can fix that with a good crop. You can also correct white balance and color. Use Picasa or whatever photo editing software you have. We mainly use Photoshop and Lightroom. For free alternatives can use Photoshop Express online, Picnik (simpler online alternative), or download GIMP, which is a free Photoshop clone that is amazingly robust.

6. When you see a good photo, try to figure out why you like it: Chances are it is well composed with pleasing proportions and even lighting.

Duke Gardens

Ultimately, good photos are all in the photographer, not the gear. That doesn't mean we'll stop coveting better gear.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Spring Fling Thing

Feeling Springy? Here's some fun things to try with their reciepes

1. Bubbles: Water, dish soap, cup and a straw, then blow:

Making bubbles

Blowing bubbles
(Thanks Melanie Freeze)

2. Snow Day: Freeze snow from the winter months and bring it out on a warm day. Turn it into a science teaching moment (in my opinion, snow is more enjoyable in short sleeves).

Saved snow

Dining on snow

3. Kite: String, grocery bag, and running legs.

4. Windstorm: Blanket, ball, and blanket holders
(hope it's okay I posted your kid Rachel)

5. Twirl with Tulle: Tulle and kid

6. Goof off at Duke Gardens or Park: Good weather and silly moods.
Goofy kids

Thursday, March 19, 2009

No Madness, Just Peace and Belief

7:12AM I'm on my way to pick up this guy whose bike chain broke on his way to work

7:33AM As said biker was loading his bike into the car, I looked out the window and noticed there was stillness in the town of Chapel Hill. It was solemn, quiet and beautiful.

7:34AM And it was confident. Suckers! Go UNC! Let the March Madness begin.

3:29PM: Dedicated to my brother, Brian

Monday, March 16, 2009

Close Encounters of the Durham Kind

Shhh! I'm reporting about two strange curiosities around Durham that the Harris family have often wondered about. They're creepy and far-out (insert: ewwww eee ewwhoo noises). This is what I found, mums the word my good Watson!

The big, green, tower in the middle of no other big, green, towers or any towers for that matter is called University Tower. It stands alone behind a McDonalds and Super Target. We found out that this a building that supports many businesses Wachovia, Bank of America, AIG (for now) within its glass walls. We twisted the security guards arm (Jack Bauer style) into letting us take the tower to the top, but he said in his cute little African accent, "You won't be able to see anything from the top because the restaurant is closed." We went anyway just to satisfy ourselves. 17 floors later we walked out to locked doors and a ritzy menu. I asked if you could make reservations at the restaurant and Mr. Security Guard told me that only club members were invited. Becket asked, "What does being a member mean?" Simultaneously, Mat and I replied, "Rich people." Becket "Are we rich?" Simultaneously, Mat and I laughed.

Next on our field trip, the strange house thingys off of MLK (insert: wahoeee eewww ooo). We still don't know much about these houses after our investigation, except that they are octagon shaped, green friendly with their rain barrels and that the construction man liked Taco Bell.


That's all, continue on.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Goodbye Lorelai, Rory, Luke Daynes, and Friends

La, la, la la...La, la, la, la la ...this is the cheesey theme song that gets stuck in your head. I wonder what the La, la girls are doing for work?

You know how you finish a good book and you don't want to say goodbye to the characters in your life because they have been swimming around in your head as if they were real? I just finished watching 7th season of the Gilmore Girls (It's a great accomplishment that can only be done by a few that can endure that much TV time) and I LIKED it! I even loved how it ended. It all started when a gal kept comparing me to Lorelai on random occasions. Not knowing who this Lorelai was, I decided to investigate..."She's kind of carefree", "sleeps around" (What! Well Lorelai doesn't)" I really came to enjoy it with all of it's witty, quick, satire and awkward moments. Even Paul Anka, the dog, and I don't love in-house dogs. Mat even got involved in watching it which is cute, but not so cute when he has to actually work and read. I had to post-pone my fetish on several ocassions, but Mat and I got through this rocky time, just like Luke and Lorelai. There is nothing better than a good awkward relationship split over all the seasons. And, where is this diner? I would like some pancakes and pretend coffee (they talked up the coffee so much that it made you want to order some, especially during my cold winter months watching it on the couch) Make my order to go Cesar!

Probably my favorite character on the show. I laugh just even looking at Kirk.

and also this Emily and Lorelai reltionship, worked for me too:

Good bye house with the Pop Tarts, Luke's diner table and chairs and no cell phone sign, Stars Hollow Gazebo, Mrs. Kim's antique store, Sookie's kitchen, Michele's layered-thick accent, Kirk's 20,000 jobs, Sebastian Bach's parenting advice, and all of Lorelai's wardrobe.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Lately, this is the position Micah usually prefers when she eats her food:


Even on the table:

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


After watching many 3-5yrs old cruise around on their bikes (i.e. Spencer), we thought we would give it a try with Beck. He still has a little ways to go like looking forward and not forgetting what he's doing, oh and braking, and not being scared, and realizing that you're not riding your bike without training wheels, if the training wheels are still on....just a few items of business. Here's a clip:

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Home Again, Home Again Jiggity Jig

Thanks Mom and Dannielle for hosting us crazies. It was a lot of fun to be with you.



2 of 3 kids puked on the trip home and that equals nastified! We dosed them up with some Dramamine thinking that would help their woosies and we were also hoping sleepiness would take affect too...much to our surprise, they didn't fall asleep until 5 minutes before we landed. Ahh! Se la vita e'! Beck's actually asleep too...I wonder if these two were like this in heaven?