Thursday, February 26, 2009

silhouette me


Silhouettes were all the rage back in the 1800's and I've noticed lately that they are back. Aside from them being the latest craze, I just like them. I've always liked them. I've always envied the portrait silhouettes that my aunt displayed of her and her daughter done some 30 years ago at Disneyland. So, yesterday when Jake & I were at Disneyland, we decided to check out that very "Silhouette Studio" on Main Street where my aunt and cousin got theirs. When I walked in, I fully expected the woman cutting out the silhouettes to tell me to come back several hours later for the finished work of art. Instead, she sat me right down with Jake on my lap and cut both our portraits in less than a minute. It was so affordable ($10 a pop) and painless that next time I'm going to make sure to get Chloe and Jonathan's done as well. If you can't make it to Disneyland any time soon but you want to have yours done, there are a few places like here & here you can send in a photo of yourself and $25 - 70 later have your silhouette.

If you don't feel like spending some serious dough, you can always DIY. It's really not that difficult and I think theses make really nice & inexpensive gift ideas.


Here is a step by step tutorial on how to use photoshop to make silhouette portraits.

Using a digital camera, photograph your subject from the side. It's best to shoot against a white wall or a white posterboard to make it easier to digitally remove the background during the next step.

Open the picture in Photoshop. Use the Magic Wand tool to select the background for removal. Once clicked, the background will be outlined and highlighted. Go to 'edit' and click 'cut.' The background will disappear.

Now go to 'image' and click 'adjustments.' Select 'desaturate
' to remove all color.

In 'adjustments,' select 'brightness/contrast.' Lower the brightness and increase the contrast until your image takes the form of a silhouette.

If the image isn't completely silhouetted, use the Paintbucket
tool (with black as the color selection) to fill in as needed, placing the cursor dead center and clicking until your desired effect is achieved.

Using the Image tool, select 'image size' to set your desired dimensions.

Save your silhouette as a JPEG

You can then either print it or burn the file to a CD and take it to your favorite photo-printing or copy shop (or simply use on online printing service like
Shutterfly or Kodak Gallery), printing it on whatever paper or card stock you choose.

If you want greater depth or thickness or a different background color, augment the printed image with paint.


Or you could just do it the old fashion way....

Simply choose a photo that is simple, preferably with a profile view of a person or object.

Using scissors and/or a utility knife, cut around the shape of the subject in the photograph; this shape creates a template.

Trace the template onto the black paper (tracing on the back of the paper will keep pencil marks from showing).

Use scissors or a utility knife to cut out the traced shape. If you want details like stray hairs and eye lashes remember to include those.

Apply glue to the back of the image, mount the image on background paper and place in a frame. voila!

In case you want a large silhouette of a rooster above your head as you sleep (and who doesn't), there are DIY instructions for silhouette wallpaper at Apartment Therapy Ohdeedoh. If a vase carved in your likeness is more up your alley, you can even have your Pirolette made at this Etsy shop which I think are just amazing. I want one.

Can't get enough of these here papercuts? Resurrection Fern took pictures of the paper cuts at the Musee des Miniatures in Lyon which are mind blowing. Apparently some of these paper cuts were no larger than postage stamps. Another great site for papercuts is elsita. She shares how to tutorials if you care to take it to the next level.

By the way, that really fun thing that this font is doing here is in no way intentional. The HTML's are beyond rescue. Hope you enjoyed it and hopefully it'll stop by the next post.

Image credits (1, 2 & 3)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Here's a Hot Button

For those of you that know me well, you probably know how reluctant I am on giving my kids the full recommended vaccine regimen, especially when it comes to the MMR, otherwise known as the Measles-Mumps-Rubella vaccine. I just read a very interesting article that is, well, adding to that reluctance. Apparently, the "Vaccine Court" recently ruled against 3 cases claiming there is any relation between the vaccine, thermasol and Autism. Yet separately, they're willing to award damages to other families of children who have suffered an interesting reaction to the vaccine, Encephalopathy/encephalitis (brain inflammation) or "seizure disorders". Conditions known to cause autism-like symptoms.

In this article, it states how these courts have rationalized their rulings on these cases,

"Medical records associated with these proceedings clearly tell the tale. In perhaps hundreds of these cases, the children have all the classic symptoms of regressive autism; following vaccination a perfectly healthy child experiences high fever, seizures, and other illnesses, then gradually, over about three months, loses language, the ability to make eye contact, becomes "over-focused" and engages in stereotypical head banging and screaming and then suffers developmental delays characteristic of autism. Many of these children had received the autism diagnosis. Yet the radioactive word "autism" appears nowhere in the decision."

So basically, the vaccine may cause severe brain damage, but NOT autism.... Oh, well OK, I feel better now. Don't you?

You can read the rest of this article here which I highly recommend doing especially if you are a parent:

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A Guide to Using the Potty Properly

Jake has just completed week one of operation cold turkey - no diapers (except during bedtime because I'm not insane) and has put together a helpful instructional series for those interested in doing the same. He's very proud of his new big boy status as he gets to wear big boy underpants (on head & bottom).

Step 1: Remove underpants (not panties as Grandma likes to call them)

Step 2: Put underpants on head and grab a book and/or snack (optional)

Step 3: have a seat, wait and make deposit in potty receptacle.

Step 4: Wait some more. Deposits can take some time.

Step 5: get up, check for deposit and make sure to scream, "I MADE PEE PEE", every time whether or not a deposit has actually been made.

Step 6: deposit deposit into nearby toilet and flush

Step 7: repeatedly ask for an M&M since your mother or father was foolish enough to offer it once which is, of course, a binding agreement.

Step 8: insert M&M into mouth

Step 9: get a sticker

Step 10: apply sticker to potty chart

Step 11: admire the rewards for a job well done and immediately repeat the above steps because you reserved some of your last deposit for a second deposit. More deposits = more M& M's and stickers.

Jake gets a matchbox car every time he gets 7 stickers on his chart. He receives a little wind up toy if he deposits #2 or if he makes it through a day with out an accident. He has not received a windup toy yet. He also looses a car if he has an accident but gets it back the next time he successfully makes a deposit in the potty.
As hard as this week has been, there's no turning back now. Jake does seem into it, most of the time, so I've got high hopes that this won't take too long. As long as the M&M's, matchbox cars and other unmentionable threats and bribery keep flowing, he's on board.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

give your kids plenty of attention...

...Or else they'll pay you back later by seeking it in other ways kinda like this fellow. Dutch artist Benjamin Verdonck constructed a human-size nest on the side of a building in Rotterdam out of "the crowns of twenty-three silver birches, one birch, one willow, two straw bales, one bucket of spit, three bags of sand, twelve buckets of glue, and nineteen cans of polyurethane foam." Yes, a bucket of spit. I don't even know where to begin with that. how? why? He's Dutch, I guess that explains a lot.

So, I guess the question I have is, if I don't throw Chloe a 1st birthday party, will she end up building a nest on the side of a building later? Did this guy not get a 1st birthday party? This whole nest thing just strikes me as a serious cry for attention. It's kind of sad.... no? So, I've been struggling with whether or not to do a big blowout like the one I did for Jake this past week. I went kind of nuts with Jake's 1st birthday and I feel like I owe the same to Chloe. I know, she won't remember, right? BUT THERE WILL BE PHOTOS and she'll then see she didn't have any friends because her mother was too lazy to invite a bunch of people with babies that we didn't really know and how the 2nd child always gets the shaft. Later in life, she'll thank me for the endless hours of therapy, muddling over how her mom didn't care enough to throw her a party then, of course, she'll have to build a nest on the side of a building.

At first, I had all sorts of wild ideas like how fun it would be to have a party with a bunch of complete strangers with babies, and how I wouldn't want to die at all. I fantasize about balloons and streamers and a bunch of festive shit like that. Oh, it would be grand. I've even purchased a ridiculously expensive and poofy party dress for Chloe and printed invitations. But now, I've completely lost steam on the whole endeavor and would really prefer to just have a small family party which I know is JUST FINE. Just fine if you're not clinically insane like I am.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentines Day

Saw this video a while back and have since become obsessed with the song... It's kinda romantic and sweet, just like today.

Friday, February 13, 2009

speaking of makeover....

the "Michelle"

In the spirit of reinventing fresh new looks, I had WAY too much fun reinventing Chloe's look.

No, actually, I don't get out much. Why do you ask?

the "Ivana"

the "Hilary"

"the other Vontrap kid"

the "hipster shag"
what's that you say? Give me more? You ask, I give. That's just how I roll people.

the "helicopter moose hunter"

the "Suri"

the "Farrah"
cue fan and sportscar

the "loopy actress"

well, that was fun.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


A fellow blogger friend, whom I've never actually met in person but have gotten to know via her blog, recently posted about the bond her two kids are forming. I myself can also attest to this close bond when I watch Jake and Chloe. 

Jonathan & I always knew we never wanted Jake to be an only child. Quite frankly, I'd never want my child to have that loneliness that I felt growing up. I'm not saying that I didn't get attention from my parents, quite the contrary, I got 100% of the attention 100% of the time. It was too much and I’ve noticed that most onlies have that issue. The proverbial umbilical cord is never quite cut and most try desperately to push away. All in vain usually as the tripod type relationship of the child and two parents tends to be codependent all through life. The parents cling and the child clings back, sometimes never knowing how to separate from their parents doting clutches. I know, you can't win can you. As great as the attention from my parents was, I always just craved that camaraderie and closeness that I observed of friends with their siblings. I know not all people with siblings have that Norman Rockwell experience. I'm well aware that some don't even talk to their sibling. You really don't know if your kids will be close or if they won't stand to be in the same room, it’s all a crapshoot. Still, I just knew that we'd have to take that gamble. That said, I draw the limit at 2-3, there will never be octuplets in my future. I DO NOT need a t.v. show. 

As a child, I remember begging my parents to give me a brother or sister, but that just wasn't in the cards. My mom, like more and more moms today, was considered to be at advanced maternal age. She was 36 when she had me and having a baby back then at that age was risky business. I’m sure my toddler years were great. I mean, what toddler wants to share, but about the time I started to play board games, I started to find myself at odds. To help alleviate my loneliness and boredom, my parents got me a cat for a "playmate". About the only thing I could come up with to do with this cat was to dress it up in baby clothes, including bonnets, and stuff it into a stroller for endless walks around the house, hence my fondness for dressing up my cats to this day. That cat, perhaps not as fond of being dressed up, took out her resentment by urinating in my drawers. As like most cats with “issues” of that nature, she soon found a “special home on a farm”. Eventually, she was replaced with a sweet little orange tabby. As adoring and patient as Tuffy was, he wasn’t the companion I craved. Have you ever tried playing hide and seek or Chutes and Ladders with a cat? The holidays were tough because all of my cousins were adults. When going on vacations, I didn't have someone to poke on long car rides. I lived like a little adult, having the same interest, watching the same endless hours of t.v. and the same conversations as my parents. If I had cousins closer in age, maybe it would have been a very different experience. I do actually have a sister who is 16 years my senior, but as great as that is now, she wasn’t really around much in my formidable years. We’ll never have those memories from growing up together. It’s just different. We only recently found common ground as adults.

With Jake, since there is little to no chance for cousins, we knew if we didn't step up and give him a sibling he would possibly have to deal with the same issues I did. So, when I got pregnant with Chloe, we were ecstatic. The holidays and other such events would now forever be different. And as much work as it is right now, I have absolutely no regrets. It's so awesome to see the close bond developing between Jake and Chloe.  They both will have someone to commiserate with on how nutty their parents are all through out life. Chloe will have a big brother to look up to which I already see happening. Jake is simply the bees knees to her. And Jake has proudly taken on that role. He's always quick to show her how to use a toy "correctly" and when she upset, his sole mission is to make her smile. I'm well aware that there will be quibbles but with that they will also learn a lot of important lessons. When Jake was "dethroned" as the sole receiver of our affections and attention, he also learned another life lesson, that he's not the center of all things & hopefully lost the all too horrible sense of entitlement that only children can have. As siblings, they'll learn how resolve conflicts & how life isn't always fair. Most only children have difficulties in their adult relationships because they are not used to the give and take required. Jon & I get along really great which is probably owed to the commonality we share as only children who tend to be, dare I say, selfish?

And at the end of the day, when Jon & I are old and need someone to change our diapers and give us formula, they'll have each other to share that burden with. Maybe this is all wishful thinking. I know many people that will argue that their sibling ended up being an unreliable heroin addict or the Unabomber, incapable of sharing any type of burden or enjoying any type of relationship with. Still, I have my hopes that we did the right thing for us.

Here is a fine example of brotherly love.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

A Special Place in Heaven

Meet Oliver. I probably have mentioned him in prior post but I think it is time for him to be properly introduced. Let's just start by saying, he's one hell of a cat. While I think every animal is amazing and special, Oliver is really special. The abuse he endures, and maybe, secretly enjoys is beyond what any animal should have to. He allows Jake and Chloe to use him as a pillow or teething toy and allows me to dress him up for my own amusement. On a regular basis. I know, I'm a cruel, cruel woman. As far as cats go, he's a dog. He lives for our ultimate happiness and to do figure eights through our legs as we walk with hot coffee. The only way he could be more perfect is if he could balance a pitcher of beer between his ears and pick up socks around the house. That would be awesome.

Life with Oliver all sort of started out unexpectedly. It was the day we got the keys to our first house which also happened to be my birthday. There he was, all alone and tiny in our newly acquired rose bushes. I already had two 1/2 cats (Clarence was 1 1/2) and really didn't have any desire for more. Plus, Jon hadn't had any pets or girlfriends living with him before that day so it was like going from 0-100 already. On top of the obvious weirdness of house + cat + birthday, my grandma passed away a few months before, and sadly, we had not exactly left things on the best of terms... long story. Anyway, she always had a penchant for orange strays. She sort of collected them and I've always liked to believe that Oliver was a peace offering from heaven. I don't believe in coincidences & there was just something a little odd about the timing of all this. I like to say that I'm a believer in miracles and that this qualifies as one and while that might categorize me as a total nutjob in some eyes, there are many other reasons I could fall into that category so lets not even go there. I'm happy with my little notions so just deal with it.

So, as I was saying, when I found him he was just sitting there in our rose bushes all alone, only 2 weeks old and crying his little kitty head off, it was a done deal. He stole my silly fool heart and immediately became a part of our family. With that decision, we got our first taste of life with a newborn. For the first few weeks, we had to bottle feed him every 2-3 hrs. and wipe his butthole to make him poop. Yep internet, I made the same face you're making when the vet told me I had to do that or he'd DIE. I guess mama cats lick, well, you know. ANYWAY, I remember doing that on the bathroom counter in the office I used to work at and a woman asked me once incredulously, "what are you doing to that poor kitten.", as if I was violating him in some way. Most of the time I just got strange looks but I didn't care. I was his mama and it's just one of those things you'd do for someone or something you love. I guess that's why he's such an amazing cat. He's always been so loved.

Would it be a stretch to call him a miracle? Maybe. Probably. If you would have ask me about that this morning while he was puking up my new house plant in the one room of the house with white carpet, I probably wouldn't have chosen to call him that. It was really a miracle that I didn't drop kick him out the back door. As naughty as that darn cat can be, there is going to be a special place in heaven for him.