Thankful Thursday

It’s been awhile since I did Thankful Thursday, hasn’t it? Or maybe my memory is failing me yet again. Anyway, here goes…

1. Getting organized. Lately I’ve had sudden bursts of motivation to clean and organize, and I’ve made pretty good progress on some things I had been neglecting. Like going through the Old Electronics and Cables Basket that has sat untouched for years, and bringing boxes for Goodwill down to my car.

2. Early productivity. Along the same lines, the other morning I woke up much earlier than necessary and suddenly found the energy to do some chores before work. (If you knew me, you’d know this is a miracle. I’m NOT a morning person.) It felt so awesome to come home to a very clean kitchen, freshly brewed iced tea and even a clean shower curtain.

3. Car cleanliness. I’m on a roll with these cleaning thankfuls! Recently I had the car wash do a little detailing on the front end that I had put off for years, thinking it would be too expensive. I won’t explain it all, as it’s kind of boring in text, but I’ll just say it was a huge relief to take care of this aspect of my car that has bothered me so long.

4. Birds! I put this birdseed thingy out on my deck like a week or two ago, but it had received no attention. Then the other day I noticed a chickadee eating away, and since then I have seen one there almost every time I look! They are so cute, and not really bothered by me standing at the door taking pictures. BONUS: Morning sun and a spider web!

5. Spring. It’s raining a lot, but we’ve had moments of sun and lots of birds and new things blooming all the time.

6. Trying new things. I successfully cooked steel-cut oats in the crockpot last night. I’ve never had steel-cut oatmeal, and I’ve never cooked any sort of oatmeal in my crockpot, but it worked to just cook it on the warm setting (as opposed to high or low) overnight. Oh and in case it’s not clear, that’s brown sugar in the shape of my heart teaspoon on top. (NOTE: I am not actually a big oatmeal fan, but I try it from time to time to check in with my taste buds. It doesn’t make me gag or anything, but it’s not my favorite breakfast.)

7. I have also managed to hard-boil eggs successfully. They are something I kind of forget about, but it’s been handy having them available for breakfasts, snacks and salads. (I feel like I should explain that the egg photo was taken with my cell phone.)

8. Taking pictures. It’s fun! The other night I had to take some for work, and I was happy to be there after hours and take advantage of having my camera on a tripod (I so rarely use one because they’re inconvenient for me). I need to do that more.

9. DrawSomething. Now, in addition to Words With Friends, I’m playing DrawSomething with several friends. Do you play?

10. Insight. I feel like I’ve gained a little on some faith-related matters, lately.

Birds are adorable.


Birds and snow

Here’s part two of my snow photos. Most of these aren’t really about the snow except that when the sun came out the day after it had snowed all day, it brought with it lots of birds and activity. It was so fun to take half an hour outside to enjoy them.

How adorable is it to see duck and bird tracks in the snow?!

This photo is here mostly for my amusement.

This was pretty exciting. Remember how these Violet-Green Swallows circle the lake, but it’s hard to catch them actually perching. Well, there was a branch extended over the water, and they kept resting there in my perfect view for lots of photos. I love these birds!

Unfortunately this little guy seemed hurt. 😦 He kept jumping and flying a few feet only to land again. He was on the other side of the fence. I made up a story, to console myself, where someone found him and took him in until he heals and then flies free again. 😀 Let’s pretend that’s what happened.

LOVE the little buggy eyes of the one on the right.

Just a funny catch that I thought I’d include.

This couple was quacking up a storm, suddenly, and then flew off frantically as another one was landing. Must’ve been a bully.

I’m hoping to do another redesign soon. I’ve been kind of sick this weekend and haven’t felt like working on it. Anyway, have a great week! I think I need some caffeine now.

Project 52 (36 and 37)

36 – Three vultures sat on a tree across the lake the other day.

37 – Snow shoveling at work.

Bonus – Some interesting clouds the other day.

Sorry I’m not more chatty. Have a great weekend!

Snow in the spring

Yesterday it was snowing steadily from before I woke up until after I went to bed. I think we got somewhere over 7 inches of snow, but I never saw the final measurement. I’ve only lived in Oregon for 6 years, but I don’t think this much snow after the first of spring is very common in the Willamette Valley!

I can’t say I minded this weather, even though it’s almost April. It seems everything is still blooming on schedule, so I welcome a change of scenery for photography and general enjoyment. 🙂 Plus, at work we always need more snow photos, so it gave me a chance to add to the archives.

I have some photos from today that I’ll post later. Have a great Friday!

Portraits – Miriam

Just a few photos from a work-related shoot I did the other day. It was very brief (it was cold and raining!) and I had to fill a vertical space. (Otherwise, I really like doing horizontal/landscape photos when I can.) Miriam is very nice and pretty (obviously), and fun to work with. This was the second time I’ve photographed her (see first time here) and I’d love to photograph her again sometime!

Graphic Redesign: PowerPoint Slide

I’m back with another redesign! Thanks so much to all who commented (whether on the blog, in email, or otherwise) with nice words. I’m really happy you liked the information!

You can read my disclaimers about this type of post here.

Today I have another PowerPoint slide from M. My last post was also for a PowerPoint slide, if you missed it. Heeeeeeere we go!



I’m going to touch on some of my changes but not overwhelm you, so please feel free to ask if I don’t explain something you’re wondering about.

1. There are several directions one can take with the background and design. For simplicity, and to better show the differences, I stuck with basically the same background graphic again. I did some Photoshop things to it in order to resize it for PowerPoint (7.5″ x 10″), and I also changed the hue. I felt the blue was a little sterile and uninviting. Since the slide is aimed at people who aren’t very computer savvy, I wanted to be sure there was some warmth in the slide so it would create a more cheery and fun association with something they might currently feel is frustrating or dull.

(If I were to spend more time on it and change it more dramatically, I might incorporate a photo with happy adults using a computer in order to give it a more personal and human feel.)

2. I also faded the background a bit and toned down the corner decorations so they wouldn’t be stealing attention away from the message.

3. Again, I emphasized the main message of the slide, which is that there are computer classes. I also moved it down because I think it’s more comfortable for the viewer when the main point is located closer to just above the middle of the page. (This is something I do subconsciously and never really thought about, but I noticed recently that it’s one of my habits with certain pieces. I have a theory on why, but won’t overload this post with it.)

5. I put the courses in a setup that more resembles a class schedule, since that’s essentially what it is. I think it makes it a little easier to read and understand. One of my main goals in design is to make something easy to understand.

6. Changing the times (2:00-3:00, etc.) to have additional zeroes was mostly to help distinguished them from the dates above. There are times I wouldn’t use the zeroes, so it’s not about right or wrong. It really depends on the piece.

7. I used gray instead of black because the black seemed too harsh with the soft shades of orange.

8. I made the bottom line in the same orange font as the title mostly to help balance out the slide.

I think those are my main changes. Any questions?

If you have a piece you’d like to submit for me to possibly makeover, please email it to me at jessica @ Thanks!

Some ducks

I thought I’d post a few photos from the past week or so. It’s been very ducky out in the lake!

For instance, there are many wood ducks, and they’re even swimming closer and not as skittish as usual! So I’ve gotten some decent shots.

Married ducks.

Talking duck.

A couple of Common Mergansers in front of wood ducks.

I even saw this female Hooded Merganser the other day! That’s only the second time I’ve seen this type. I’ve never seen them put their hood up, though. (Sorry that photo is horrid.)

Don’t forget about the mallards! Actually, last week I saw two males that were somehow attached.. I don’t know if there was a string, or what, but they couldn’t swim farther than about one foot apart. It was sad. These are NOT those ducks, but at first I thought maybe they were.

A ring-necked duck that came nice and close for me.

Also, the violet-green swallows are back. They rarely perch, and you have to be quick to catch them. Later I’ll get closer photos.

The cormorants still hang out on this tree. One or two of them at a time.

And even though it snowed (!) again yesterday, spring is coming.

And I still cook things, and sometimes take food photos. This was a hot bean dip that I got from Kathy’s blog. I made a half-batch and used it as a burrito filling and sometimes on rice (it lasted several meals, obviously!). It was delish! Though I forgot the olives.

Then I baked some snickerdoodles.
Have you made any delicious recipes lately? Seen any interesting birds? Those two topics go together so well.. maybe if you made a duck dish, it would be perfect. (And kind of sad.. don’t cook wood ducks. :()

Graphic Redesign: PowerPoint Slide

The other day I was giving a friend a few suggestions for something she had designed, and an idea came to me: what if I did quick redesigns on amateur work and gave design/layout tips in the process? Most people encounter graphic design projects, both at work and in their personal lives, in the form of invitations, signs, cards, banners, etc. The tips I will discuss are mainly for beginners, and can be applied to many types of software (or even markers and posterboard).

So as not to overload this post, I have started a disclaimers page in case I decide to make this a regular feature. Have a look. Now let’s dive in to this first design!

A friend of mine graciously volunteered this PowerPoint slide that she made for work. Like many people, she has ended up in charge of creating slides and other publicity pieces in her job even though she’s not a designer. I think this is a common situation. Thank you, M, for letting me make a few changes to your slide!

[ETA: I forgot to mention that I did not design this in PowerPoint–generally I design slides in another program (like InDesign or PhotoShop) so I have control over how they show up on other computers. If I want some text editable to anyone with PowerPoint, I’ll just add that after designing the more permanent parts.]



Okay, I’ll just point out some of the main changes and why I did them.

1. An important part of design is to grab the viewers attention with something that’ll keep them reading. The most interesting thing this slide has to say is that there is a game night. The rest of the details, important as they are, are secondary, and shouldn’t steal the show. They only matter to people who actually have an interest in that sort of event. Therefore, I let “Game Night” be large and central enough to draw the eye first.

2. In this particular case it was simple for me to use the same slide background, so I did so for the sake of easy comparison. (In some makeovers I might have to change the pictures used.) Any number of designs and colors would work on such a slide, and this one works fine. But if I were going to be spending more time on it, I’d possibly find a background that was more game-related.

3. I flipped the background to be a mirror image of itself. Why? This might just be preference, but I tend to think a border design like this works better on the left. I think one reason is because we all start reading on the left, and it helps comfortably guide the eye instead of drawing it over past the wording and then making it backtrack.

4. Choosing a font can be a huge task. My coworkers and I often lament what a pain it is to find exactly what we’re looking for. It’s easy to spend too much time on it, but there are definitely things to consider in choosing an appropriate font. That information could be a post (or book) on its own, so for now I’ll just say that I went with something very basic and clean here, and I chose something with a round feel to reflect the roundness of the polka dot design.

5. I removed unnecessary text. I only include things like “when” and “where” when it’s adding to the design or if the information is confusing without the labels.

6. I added a few dots to the right to give it balance and frame the message. It felt a little heavy on the left, so this particular background was simple enough that I could add some circles on the right in the same color. The large green dot to the right of “Game” attracts the eye to the title more than itself, which is handy.

Okay, so those are the basic changes. Any questions? I tried to stay concise, though I don’t know if I succeeded. 🙂

If you have a piece you’d like to submit for me to possibly makeover, please email it to me at jessica @ Thanks!

Project 52 (35)

My coworker recently started a recipe blog, and yesterday she brought in these Peanut Butter & Apple Bars and let me photograph them for her post! She also let me try them. 🙂 Click on the image to see the recipe.

It’s dreary out, but somehow I need to find motivation so I can be productive today instead of just sitting around refreshing my email and playing Words With Friends. I might try listening to an audiobook while I clean up. Do any of you do that? I have generally found that audiobooks are only for when I’m driving, but I’m not sure I’ve actually tried to listen while folding laundry or doing the dishes. I often put on music, but lately I’m really picky about it, and I spend more time clicking “next” on my iPod than actually listening to anything.

Happy Saturday, and remember to turn your clocks forward tonight! It’s exciting how we get to lose an hour of sleep, don’t you think?

NM Trip

Here’s a smattering of NM trip photos. I took several others, but not many were very blog-worthy.

Nieces! Yes, I have beautiful nieces.

N made “chocolate pie” for my pretend birthday. Here she’s blowing out a candle.

My mom patched up these pants for her and they’re adorable!

Some of us headed down to Bosque del Apache one evening to see the cranes. Unfortunately, we were a bit late and there were no cranes this trip (my sister has photographed them on previous trips–R, if you had a post about them, I’d link to it!), but I still enjoyed the scenery.

Some cormorants gathered on a branch. With the reflection, it looked like a nice sculpture.

I still had the lens I rented for the wedding–a Canon 17-55/2.8 from LensGiant (I had a good experience with them)–and was able to test it out for landscapes. I think I was more impressed in this setting than at the wedding. Check out how sharp it is on the edges where it normally blurs a bit on cheaper lenses. (Still, I wasn’t super crazy about the lens overall, but it served its purpose.)

After the refuge, we ate at Buckhorn to try out their famous Green Chile Cheeseburger. Here’s C waiting for his dinner. The burger was good, but I wouldn’t say it was incredible or worthy of winning a Throwdown, necessarily (not that I’ve ever seen that show). But I’m glad we went!

Before dropping me off at the airport the next day, I had the nephieces gather up for a photo (outside of Taco Bell–great place for portraits!). This is all but one. Aren’t they cute? Cousins! I was really sad to leave them.

From the plane window on the way home.

It was a great trip. Now it feels like forever ago, though.