Friday, March 28, 2014

Franco Fridays: Honfleur

The second day of our anniversary jaunt happened to be the Sunday of Mother's Day.  Besides the fact that I didn't get to see my babies on the day honoring mothers, it was a really beautiful and relaxing day, starting with a drive over the longest suspension bridge in the world.

I posted a few more pictures of it in my post written from France.

Our first goal for the day was the little town of Honfleur, not to be confused with last week's Harfleur.  It was an absolutely gorgeous day, and Honfleur was enchanting.

Honfleur was another one of those places I found while searching the internet via blogs and Pinterest for places we might want to see.  Who knew Pinterest could be such a useful vacation-planning tool?

I love that man, and I really liked all the geraniums in the windows.

We wandered around for a little while, ate lunch, wandered around some more.  There were a lot of little shops to pop inside.  I bought a scarf, and KJ bought a watercolor print.  He's started a new tradition of collecting little bits of art from the places we go.

There was a plaque dedicated to Samuel de Champlain, who I had vague memories of as an explorer and colonist from history.  He set off for St. Lawerence from Honfleur.

I love the English language, but I'll admit that French words do have a way of sounding more sophisticated.  Adventura.  It makes you want to go on one, right?

I'm not sure if this is an example of French opportunism or just taking advantage of tourists, but I have a funny story from Honfleur.  Not far from where we parked there was a public toilet.  Sitting right outside of it was a man and woman at a table.  I didn't really pay any attention to them until after I finished and washed my hands.  At that point, standing in front of an electric hand dryer that was obviously broken..."Mademoiselle!"  The man from outside the door waved a paper towel in my direction, and then I understood.  For a small donation, he would hand you a paper towel, and standing there with sopping wet hands, you really didn't have much of a choice.  In fact, you really felt like he was rescuing you from a predicament, and you felt oddly grateful.  It was a genius scheme, for which I was happy to reward him with un euro.

You were quite pleasant, Honfleur.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Jump! Jump!

I had one more group of pictures from our wonderful visit with cousins last week.  After their cousin photoshoot, the kids  burned off some energy on the trampoline.  I mainly wanted to share these pictures because I think it was Haddon's first time to feel the lightness of jumping on the trampoline, and the joy on his face is too cute.

Ella took on the job of making sure he didn't go tumbling off the sides.

I really like that those Pugh boys share the same initials.  It's kind of fun.  They look like distinguished initials, I think.  I wonder what the future holds for the next generation of Pugh boys.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Dynamics of a Group Portrait

Since it's not every week that all seven grandchildren are in the same place, KJ's mom wanted a group picture of all these beautiful cousins.

It can be a challenge to get a natural-looking picture of even just one child but times seven is even harder.  I was trying to think of any tips I might have, and my number one tip is, if you have a DSLR camera, find the mode that allows you to take multiple shots at a time when you leave your finger on the shutter button.  Being able to take pictures in a quick sequence can be the difference in a grimace and a pleasant expression, or a hand covering the face and being pulled back down.  Now, this can also leave you with way more pictures than you need, but you can always keep your money shot and delete the rest.  I find this tip indispensable for taking pictures of children.

After spending a lot of time trying to find the best expressions on each of these kids, I thought of a helpful tip that might have resulted in more eyes looking at me.  Only have two other people at most trying to entertain your group, and make sure they're standing on either side of you.  I think this would get more eyes looking toward the camera.  In our case we had 6 adults staggered across the front of the blanket, all coaxing for smiles, so we ended up with eyes looking in all directions.  Those kids think we're nuts sometimes, I'm sure.

If you have photo software that will let you switch faces around and try to get the best possible expression of each kid, it can be pretty helpful.  It takes some time, and it doesn't always work, but it's really nice to be able to pull that trick out of the bag when you have one child who is looking right at you with a great expression while some are in not-so-flattering states.  Like this shot, for instance:

John David, James, and Claire are looking fab, but I caught Haddon in a blink.  You do, however, have to be careful when your software is trying to match up pixels from two different shots.  If you don't zoom in and pay attention to detail you can end up with an extra limb or something crazy.  In fact, I just noticed that this shot where I must have switched a face of James didn't do a good job with his collar.

See how his collar is just kind of floating away from his face.  Whoops.  So, face-switching is helpful, but it can be tricky.  I'm going to have to try and fix that.

By the time we tried to add the grandparents to the shot, some of our crew was getting a little antsy.  This shot is a combining of about 4 pictures.  I try to start with the picture that has the most people looking great and then slowly work on the rest.  It just occurred to me that maybe I should try to take out the truck I gave to Big Daddy to distract Haddon with, but you know, there comes a point where you just need to stop fiddling in Photoshop and start school.  (Though those kids are reading books together, so I don't know if I should stop a good thing.)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Rock Awards and Other Cousin Antics

We had a mini-family reunion last week with lots of cousins in town.  Our kids love it when that happens.  They sure do love their cousins, or "that guy in the green shirt"/"that friend," to James, because he has a hard time remembering names sometimes, even the names of his favorite little people.

They spent time watching the same movie that every other kid in America watched over and over last week, as well as a little Baby Einstein for the smaller ones.

When James saw the above picture on my phone he said, "I love this picture!"  

An unexpected super-exciting past-time the kids decided to take up was hunting for "rare" rocks.  Ella and Claire quickly dubbed themselves geologists and named each of the rocks they found.  The other kids joined in by the end of the day, each taking a bag out in the back and filling it up with every rock they could find. It was dirty and fun, and it gave us the ability to sit in the backyard enjoying the Spring day.

She calls these "the multi-colored rock" and "the shiny pink."

Aunt Katie held the "Rock Awards," and each participant picked a favorite rock to tell us about.  I'm afraid they might have wreaked havoc on the landscaping, but I suppose their grandparents won't mind.

The one-year-old set really loved venturing behind the bars.

Sweet little Karis Anne.  She's so precious.

After a suspicious quiet fell upon the house one day I went in search of the big boys.  It was sweet to find them playing together with some of KJ's old Transformers.

My kids would be really happy if every week contained two days of formal schooling and three days of informal fun activity with their cousins.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Franco Fridays: Harfleur

KJ had one last stop planned for us before we stopped for our first night on the road in Normandy.  I'm afraid that I ruined it for him, poor man.  I'm not usually much of a napper, but I guess the busy week caught up with me, and when we got back in the car and left the cliffs of Etratat I promptly fell back into a deep sleep.  So when KJ pulled into a parking lot, I was feeling really grumpy.  "Where are we?  Why are we stopping here?"  That's all I could say.

We're in Harfleur.  Take my picture! 

What is there to see here? 

You know, Henry V... "I will not leave the half-achieved Harfleur, till in her ashes she lie buried."
It's a really cute town, but I'm sorry.  I'm so tired.
Just smile, and we'll remember how happy you were here.
Pictures can lie.  Can we please go back to the car?  I just need a bed and a Bible.
Yes, let's go.  "Therefore, you men of Harfleur, take pity of your town and of your people."

And that is the story of how my husband just wanted to quote Shakespeare, and I just wanted to be put to bed.  All pictures are courtesy of his iPhone, because I was too tired to care.  It's a travesty.  He took me to l'hotel and then went out to pick up dinner, which ended up taking an inordinate amount of time because of traffic, causing me to question the judgment of being apart from him in a foreign country with no way to communicate.  But to quote Shakespeare again, "All's Well that Ends Well."

Friday, March 14, 2014

Franco Fridays: The Cliffs at Etretat

After leaving Monet's garden, KJ and I continued our journey through a beautiful Normandy Spring.

Besides the fields of gold, the apple orchards were all in bloom.  

I was so very tired from having not much sleep the night before that I fell asleep to the tune of our France playlist we made before we left; KJ had to wake me up so I could stumble sleepily from the car to this amazing sight.

 I know.  It's breathtaking.  It was also very cold and extremely windy.  

Before our trip, not really knowing what I would want to see in France, I perused Pinterest for pictures of beautiful places.  I found a picture of this place, and with the help of Google Maps, KJ found it for me.  It felt like a special gift.

Looking at that picture almost makes me feel like I'm falling.

There's a nice little chapel looking over the English Channel here.  I was a little bummed that England was so close yet still beyond my reach. ;)

My yellow sweater hood looks pretty ridiculous, but here's what happened without it.

I believe there is a golf course near here; I can only hope the wind doesn't blow quite so hard there?  Also, for those used to their grass dying in the summer and winter, nothing equals the grass in this climate.

This is the kind of place you'd want to stay for hours just soaking in its beauty...but it really was quite cold.

I liked seeing the birds sheltering from the wind in the cleft of the rock.  It reminds me of Moses and the old hymn, "He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock."

"A wonderful Savior is Jesus my Lord,
He taketh my burden away,
He holdeth me up and I shall not be moved,
He giveth me strength as my day."