Monday, June 25, 2012

Results Day....

Today is results day for my daughter....
My beautiful gorgeously wonderful daughter....

For the last 3 years she has been studying at the University of Warwick, which is one of the best Universities in the UK and is listed in the top 5 alongside Oxford and Cambridge, for a BA in Theatre & Performance Studies....

The beautiful A has known for a very long time what she wanted to do with her life. An avid lover of books and the theatre and writing, she had her first poetry published when she was 13, when she had 3 of her poems published in 3 separate poetry compilations, and was published as an adult not a child....

Since then she has continued to write and work on theatre projects with growing confidence... She has always worked hard at school, accomplishing fantastic GCSE results at 16 (7 A's and 5 A*'s), followed by fantastic A level and AS levels at 6th form college (2 A's & 2 B's at A level, 1 A & 1 C at AS)....

Competition to get onto her course at the University of Warwick was tough - there were over 3,000 applicants for only 40 places on the course, so getting accepted was a fantastic achievement in itself. Then the hard work really started, but my beautiful A is no stranger to hard work and she just seemed to take it all in her stride, never faltering or waivering - always determined to be the best that she could be....

Today, all of her hard work has culminated in her gaining a BA in Theatre & Performance Studies - and I just couldn't be prouder....so I am crowing again, and I make no apologies....

My daughter is a brilliant and bright shining light, who has brains as well as beauty, who is kind and wonderfully crazy, and who I am so so proud to be Mum to.

I love you A

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Road Trip....

We're on a road trip....
Not a huge road trip - only 380 miles.....
Yesterday we drove from our home in east LA to the wonderful (not really) town/city of Modesto, CA....
My wonderful S has business here today and tomorrow, so the boys and I get to amuse ourselves for today and most of tomorrow before we continue on our journey north to San Francisco where we will spend the weekend with my wonderful S's wonderful Pop and Step-Mom....

The drive up to Modesto was unexciting, and once you come through the mountains from LA to the San Joaquin valley it is just flat as flat can be. The San Joaquin valley is the centre for produce growing here, and apparently, according to S, and indeed Wikipedia, Gilroy, is the the 'Garlic Capital of the World'....We certainly saw and smelt a lot of garlic trucks on our drive up the I5 through the valley. We also saw acre upon acre of Pistachio trees, along with apple and orange trees, and what looked to be Oregano or Thyme...I suggested to S that it would make the trip far more educational if they put signs in the fields to tell you what the crop was - that way you could learn as you drove.....I don't think he appreciated my idea!

Anyway the further north we drove the hotter it got until we exited the I5 near Los Banos and were reliably informed by the car that the outside temp was a balmy 99F. Many moons ago S used to work for Indian Motorcycles, and lived in Los Banos while doing so. He said that there wasn't much in Los Banos except for THE best Mexican restaurant he had ever been fortunate enough to eat at. I took him at his word because having spent a number of years in Mexico as a child and again later as an adult, I reckon he had sampled quite a lot of Mexican fayre, he is certainly fluent in Spanish, although I don't suppose that has much bearing on his taste buds!

So, off the I5 we came and into Los Banos, where we stopped at, Espana's Southwest Bar & Grill. I have to admit that I am no connoisseur when it comes to traditional Mexican food, but this was wonderful. The boys both had burgers to be on the safe side, but S and I shared the Baja Shrimp Cocktail and then shared the Espana's Shredded Beef Enchiladas with rice. To drink I had a frozen Margarita with Cranberry's, el grande of course - I wasn't driving! As I said I am not connoisseur when it comes to Mexican food but this was so so good, and would recommend this place to anyone who finds themselves in the Los Banos area of the San Joaquin valley, California.

Once we were all fed and watered, we continued on our journey to Modesto, our home for the next 2 days. I have googled 'things to do in and around Modesto' and drawn a blank, so to make life easier, I have sent S off to do his consulting gig in the car, and said the boys and I will investigate the town by foot, and just hang by the pool. The only thing I have found thus far of the remotest interest is that the 1973 film 'American Graffiti' with Ron Howard and Richard Dreyfus was filmed here. Apparently there is some historic house you can visit, but teenage boys aren't really into historic houses, and apparently it is closed anyway due a fire that happened around Christmas last year! I am sure that we will be able to find a park or something where we can throw a frisbee or just chill out on the grass - and if all else fails, there is free internet here at the hotel, so the boys can just surf or watch TV if they don't want to float about in the pool...

Ah well better get myself motivated and go and find somewhere to get a decent breakfast. Roll on Friday afternoon when we hit the road again and carry on up to San Francisco. I'm sure we can keep the boys amused there!

Have a wonderful day!

Lou :-)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Silent Sunday.... Love you Dad!


Me (on the left) and my sister with my Dad - way back when he still had a reasonable amount of hair

My Dad now

My Dad and my baby H
Happy fathers Day, Dad

Love you
xxx

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Edit Me Challenge - Week 24....

OK guys so this is the 2nd week I am taking part in the Edit Me Challenge. In the last couple of days I have done a short online course on using curves in photoshop...Now curves are not a normal tool that I use when editing, but I have realised just how versatile they can be. So for this weeks edit I have used nothing other than curves to edit the photograph.

Here is the original:

And here is my edit. I have deliberately tried to keep the photograph looking as natural as possible, as I have been told I tend to over process my portraiture - see what you think....


So what have I done?
First of all I created a curves layer and selected just the lady, then I kept her dress exactly as it was but changed her skin tones to give her more of a tan...I live in Southern California, she needed a tan!
Then I created another curves layer and this time selected the background area. I kept the dark shadows as they were, but tried to give some light to the rocks on the right and to the wheat grass, and normal grasses throughout.
Then going back to the subject, I created yet another curves layer and this time zoomed right in and selected her eyes, which I then lightened, just to try and make them pop a little, because they were so dark.
Finally I created another layer, selected the background again and added a slight gaussian blur, just to keep the focus centred on the lady.

Et voila! my edit

Please don't forget to head over and check out everyone else's edits for this week too.

Edit Me


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Yesterday....

Yesterday was the culmination of everything that has gone on visa wise for the last 15 months....
Yesterday I was more nervous and tightly wound that a tightly wound thing has ever been wound before.... Yesterday my family were about ready to kill me because I was so wound up,I couldn't for love nor money get myself out of mega-bitch mode, and was starting to annoy myself....
Yesterday we got to the car park by the federal building in downtown LA only to discover that it was run by a total jobsworth who insisted we pay before we park rather than when we left, even though S explained that he actually had no cash and would find an ATM before coming back to the car....
Yesterday the aforementioned jobsworth - then told us there was an ATM just inside the Federal Building, but wouldn't even let S run over to it, leaving the boys and I in the car....
Yesterday the same jobsworth then stood waiting impatiently while we turned the car upside down and inside out, finding every single bit of loose change we could to make up the $8 parking charge - HA showed her, we did it with a whole 10c to spare (Stupid cow!)....
Yesterday - as you can tell, did not get off to a very good start!....
Yesterday - However - the very lovely, ISO A. Merto - the man from USCIS....
Well he said....

There are a couple of little formalities that we need to sort, like I have to get a form signed off to say that we have had all our vaccinations, and post it to ISO Merton at the Federal Building; and also G now has to have a background check done because he was foolish enough to turn 14 a couple of weeks ago. Apparently this means that he could have committed some dreadful crime that was previously hidden, when he had his other background check and was fingerprinted back in February...lol

But as I said these are only little formalities, and we are green lighted to receive our Green Cards. H and I should receive ours in 2 to 3 weeks and G will get his just as soon as the check is done! They may even come together we were told!

Our little Visa journey has come to a somewhat abrupt end it would seem - at least for the time being. Once the cards come through we will officially be classed as US Residents, and will remain as such for 3 years. Once the 3 years is up we apply for Permanent Right to Remain, or I can apply to become a Citizen. Either way the whole process will begin again in some form or another, although this stage was the real hurdle - I think we would have to do something really really bad for them to not renew our Residency after we have been here over 3 years, and I can't see any of us doing anything THAT bad.

So onto other news that has happened in the last week, that got sidelined because I was so wrapped up in the Visa thing again!

Firstly and most importantly - the gorgeous G has graduated from middle school with a GPA of 4.0 and as Valedictorian. Here he is being presented with his award by the school Principal and also one with me once we got back home.


As well as being Valedictorian, the gorgeous one was also given the English Language Arts Award and was congratulated by all his teachers on not only being top of his year and gaining perfect results in each of his subjects but for also doing so when he had quite literally been unceremoniously dropped from a great height into a totally different school system (it is vastly different to the UK), partway through the year. They said that he had set and achieved targets for himself that would have pushed top students who knew what was expected of them, and that they were positive that he would go on to achieve great things!

To say I am proud of my eldest son, and middle child, would be an underestimate. In truth I am always amazed by the fantastic achievements of all my children, but last Thursday was G's night, and I think the silly grin on my face in the photo says it all....

In a few short weeks, I will fly back to the UK so that I can go and watch my daughter, the beautiful A, graduate from the University of Warwick where she has been studying for a BA in Theatre & Performance Studies..No doubt I will be blubbering at that ceremony as I was as George's last week....

Because there is an 8 year age gap between my eldest and middle children, I spent a lot of years being told just how bright and intelligent my daughter was. A straight A student for all of her education years, it almost became old hat, to go to parent teacher meetings and hear yet again just how wonderful she was. Then as the younger 2 started at school, I began to hear similar things about all of my brood, and my pride has just grown and grown. A has always been a brightly shining star, as has H, my baby and maths genius, but G has always been the quiet one, who seemed content to just get on with things without any fuss - and truth be told, he still doesn't like any fuss, but he isn't hiding his light under a bushel any longer - he's thrown it out there and it is so bright it is almost blinding!

As parents, all we can ask of our children is that they do their very best. I am not a pushy parent, and never will be. When my children worry about tests and exams, they will all tell you "Mum, just says to do your very best and she will be happy". I believe that it is what gets instilled in their very being that will enable to achieve the best that they can. Forcing them to do something when they have no interest in doing it, only creates animosity and bad feelings - in my world, I try and let them find their own way as much as I can and make sure that I am always available to lend an ear offer advice, or even debate the subject if need be. My children are at different stages of learning that if you want to achieve great things, you really need to keep working the whole time. It doesn't matter if what you want to achieve doesn't appear very great - just make sure you work so that you can be the very best at whatever you do, be it doctor, bin man, teacher, pilot, astronaut or theatre director!

I usually try not to speak too much about my kids achievements. Over the years I have heard a lot of parents turn around and say "it's alright for you, you';re kids are clever!", and it has made me not want to appear as if I am bragging - but this week, I have realised something....

It's my right as a parent to feel proud of my kids, and I do feel amazingly proud of all 3 of them. If people don't like me saying how proud of my children I am, then that's their problem. Instead of feeling that I am bragging, maybe they should be questioning why they aren't - cos you know what! I am very lucky to be Mum to 3 clever kids, but I am also damned lucky to be Mum to 3 amazing and wonderful kids, who aside from intelligence, have good manners, are polite, speak properly, give respect to others, are kind to others, and are just nice children - and when push comes to shove, even if they weren't really 'clever' too, I'd still be clever enough to brag about the truly important thing - the only thing that really matters - and that is that they are good children, who will go on to be good adults - they could be dumb as a stump and I wouldn't care - I'd still brag about them, cos they are my children and I love them with all that I am and all that I can be - and that's something to be really proud of!

Have a wonderful day


Sunday, June 10, 2012

Tomorrow....

Today is the eve of our USCIS interviews.... Today my stomach is churning and I am starting to panic about how much info I have to take with us and whether it will be enough.... We have pulled the address up on Google maps, so we know where we need to go. We also know that there appears to be no parking in the immediate vicinity, so we are going to have to park at Union station, and trek across.... The boys, both have to have interviews - Can they do that? Interview a minor? I have no clue, and guess we will find out when we get there.... My passport still has not arrived and it is one of the things specifically asked for on the appointment letter...It says (quote)"All travel documents used to enter the United States, including Passports, Advance Parole documents and I-94's"...The I-94 was stapled into my old passport, so even if the new passport had arrived this document would be not now be included in it, as it is a single use document to allow me into the country for a 90 day period. That 90 days was up on the 29th January, so I think we may have overstayed slightly on that one! (the 90 days was the time period we were given in which to get married, which if course we did on the 25th November, so we haven't really overstayed...lol) I feel somewhat aggravated by the fact that we now have to go and prove that we are not only married, but are in a relationship....didn't we already do this once, before they issued our visa's...OK the marriage part I understand, but the relationship part? Do people really drag their kids halfway around the world just to lie about a relationship? I find that kind of hard to swallow, but I guess it must go on or there would be no need for an interview! So I wonder to myself - what will they ask? Will it be more like a casual chat or more like an interrogation? I am hoping for the former, especially for the boys, although I have told them to just tell the truth and keep it simple. The youngest gets a little shy with strangers and is likely to just look at them then and say "hmmmm...I don't know" - I don't suppose that kind of answer will get any of us very far! Oh well, what will be will be and the only thing I can count on for sure is that by this time tomorrow it will all be over, and hopefully we will have an answer - and hopefully a positive answer! Have a good day Lou :-)

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Edit Me Challenge - Week 23

OK folks - sorry to bore anyone not interested in photography, but here are the original and my edit for this weeks Edit Me Challenge.

The original looks like this:

And here is how it looks now I have finished 'playing' with it!


So what have I done to get from A to B
Firstly I very painstakingly captured the edge of the flower, and refined the edge to get it as I wanted it.
I then clarified and sharpened the flower.
I then inverted my selection to capture the background and blacked it out.
Finally I cropped down the image to what you see above you.

This is a technique I love using on photographs of my children, but usually in black and white because it is so so effective and dramatic!

Have a wonderful day and don't forget to click on the lin below to go and view everyone else's edits as well as mine.

      Edit Me

Friday, June 01, 2012

Flip Flop Edit....

Sorry folks, but now we have another photo edit...
This time it is the Flip Flop edit from Little Adventures


The remit was pretty simple as basically the same as the other one, edit the photo as I see fit.

There is the original:


And here is my edit:


To be perfectly honest all I have done here is used Photoshop CS5 to clarify, sharpen and boost the colour. I was tempted to crop down to the seagull that is coming into land, but thought that may actually lose something in the finished photograph.

I am really quite pleased with the final result.

Have a wonderful day

Little Adventures

Hey guys - look! I am so excited because I got a prize for this edit! How cool is that?
Little Adventures

Edit Me Challenge - Week 22...

Hey Folks  - as you all know I love my photography, and this week I found out about a new blog called 'Edit Me Challenge' via the wonderful Kelly Marie @ Our Footprints on the World.

This weeks challenge was to edit this photograph of a barn.


There were no specifics given on how to edit the barn - just to edit it, but give other viewers and followers and idea of what you did to the photo. So here is my finished edit


So what did I do to get from A to B as it were:

OK my editing software of choice is Photoshop CS5.
Firstly I made a duplicate background layer.
Then using a very fine clone brush, I took out the electricity wires that were running horizontally across the photo. Zoom way in and take you time - it's worth it :-)
Then I created a levels adjustment level, and made the shadows and highlights more how I thought they should be.
I also made a vibrancy and saturation level, and again played with the levels to improve the overall look of the photo.
I used the unsharp mask to sharpen everything up and played around with colour balance to try and bring out some more of the sky detail, and more details in the grass in the foreground.
Finally I used a black and white layer to remove the colour, but keep the effects of everything else.
et Voila - my finished edit.

Hope you like it - if you would like to see more of my photographic work, please feel free to take a gander at my Flickr Photostream.


Don't forget to head over to Edit Me Challenge and look at some of this weeks other entries.


OK folks - so not happy with edit 1 I decided to come back for another bite of the apple with edit 2 below... I used the sky from another photograph and cropped out the bits I didn't think were necessary. Then just played around with the colour balance and levels to get the final result - Which I think you will agree is much better than my first edit


Have a great day

Edit Me