Sunday, April 30, 2006


I spent a couple weeks in northern Illinois where I grew up. My dad is selling the house I grew up in - a house that holds so many memories. It will probably take some time to sell; it is quite a unique property (old, historical, huge). I never imagined it would be sold; I pictured it in our family forever. Indeed; that is what my dad thought too.

But he fell in love with some wooded river-front land he purchased with his wife last year. So he has a new dream, a dream that includes bird-watching, wild turkeys, and midnight soaks in the steamy jacuzzi, watching the stars shine through the dark of night. Have you ever been out in the country, away from the bright city lights, looking up into a dark sky flecked with stars? Awe-inspiring, and it makes me yearn to be back in the country, breathing in the fresh air, feeling the peace that inevitably follows. So how can I begrudge a new dream?

When we first moved into that big old house, it wasn't in the best shape. Sidewalks were cracked, the yard was a mess. Porches were falling apart. But we all wanted that house. My mom and dad for the history - they loved antique-collecting, and were always re-finishing or re-upholstering some fabulous auction find. For me, simply because it was so big! I imagined the fun of running up the front staircase and down the back, and of the challenge of hide-and-seek. And I had my own room, a big room, with my own fireplace. I thought that was the coolest thing ever. After moving in, we refinished all the wood floors by hand. I loved working side by side with my mom and dad. We removed the "exit" signs from the upstairs staircases (the house was a boarding house at one point), and polished brass lighting fixtures on an antique electric polishing wheel that my dad picked up at some auction along the way. I remember working the leaking hot-water steamer next to my mom, holding the machine up long enough to soften the layers upon layers of wallpaper that she would then push away in what would soon become my little brother's bedroom. I remember using a sledgehammer to break through a front parlor wall that was hiding an original sliding door.

Work has never stopped on the house, although the house has been restored. The original porches have been re-created to match the original house photographs, gardens put in, sidewalks re-poured. It's such a beautiful house now. But I was always proud to live there, even when I would trip on the loose upstairs carpeting, or had to pull my door shut with a rag. Because my mom and dad were there with me. And because my house had personality and I admired it.

The house has come a long way to be certain. I'd like to think we grew up together.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Photo birth announcement for Grey

Here is a birth announcement design I just completed for the Davis family. I enhanced the image, removing unwanted shadows & blemishes and "removing" stray threads on her outfit. Then I made the image black and white and colored her dress (and the stuffed animal) light pink. Simple birth details highlight this sweet photo.

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Sunday, April 02, 2006

Photo birth announcement for Nicholas

This is a recent photo birth announcement design I created. I receive lots of requests to include siblings in new baby announcements - many even make the introduction themselves.

For this design, I decided to create a very classic look by darkening the background of the main photo. I was able to do this because the original photo wasn't light to begin with. I don't cut out the image from the background as this usually doesn't give the most natural appearance.

My goal is always to make the photo look like it could have been taken by a professional photographer in a controlled environment, even if it was really taken in the kitchen, while trying to make dinner, answer the phone, and pick up the pacifier that just flew to the floor!

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Improving a photograph

I feel like the luckiest girl being allowed to work with sweet baby photos all day! It is so rewarding to create a unique design for each baby. And I love making the photographs look even more amazing.

To me, it's fun to "perfect" an image, and my customers receive free professional photo enhancement with every order. What I do to a photo often goes beyond the definition of an enhancement. While of course I color-correct, balance-correct, light-correct, and make skin look smooth and perfect, I also frequently create things that aren't there in order to get the perfect crop. Every day I add more background to images so I can put the photo into the design the best way possible. I never limit myself to the edges of the photograph. I really want you to say "Wow!" when you see how I have transformed your photograph, and how I have added the details so everything still manages to be balanced, and beautiful. This part of the photo announcement service I offer stems from a photo restoration service I began offering on my website in 2001.

Although I don't advertise this service anymore, it is this skill that I apply towards every photo birth announcement order, and any other design I create. One of the most challenging restorations I did was for a local woman. She only had one photo of her grandfather when he was young. The photo had been torn in half, and taped together with scotch tape. And since the photo was glued to a thick back-board, the tear was not a clean one. There were also spots of the image that were missing. Enjoying challenges, this work was so much fun!

Here is the original photo - you can see the tear (and the missing spots in the middle due to the tear), the ink spots and stains, and how faded and dis-colored the image was. Below, the restoration I did. Dianne, the owner of the photo, was thrilled to have this memory restored.

I have restored hundreds of heirloom photographs. Many of my own family photos, as well. I have created photograph montages using my own restored photographs --- see one below! These montages are my favorite pieces of art hanging in my home!

Make sure to take care of your old (and newer, pre-digital camera) photographs. Store them in acid-free boxes and albums. This will keep them around much longer. Start scanning them into digital files. It is a big project, I know! Try to scan 10 photos a day. That makes the task seem more "do-able". Once you have your photos scanned, burn a CD/DVD, and make many copies. Keep one set in a fire-proof safe or safety deposit box. And you don't have to limit yourself to simply storing the photos on a disc; you can create slideshows, or even movies (with audio!) using your photographs. And the best part - now everyone in the family can see and enjoy them.

Here is a photo montage I created for my mom for Mother's Day several years ago. It includes my mother, grandmother, great-grandmothers, and great-great-grandmother.


Saturday, April 01, 2006

Adoption Announcement

Today I'll share an adoption announcement design with you.

This was done for a wonderful family in Texas. They adopted this gorgeous little boy from Guatemala City, Guatemala. The mother took a photo of a Guatemalan blanket they brought back with them. I came up with a way to incorporate the blanket into the adoption design.

First, I corrected the perspective on the blanket so the corners were square. Then, on the front of the card, I used the blanket, in black and white, for the background. And in the main photo, I corrected the color, made the image black and white, and blurred the background. Then I took the details the family wanted included in their announcement, and made them work with the photograph. On the inside of the card, I cropped another photo that I first enhanced. I added the strips of blanket on the top and bottom, and added the requested wording. For the back of the card, (not shown here) we put three additional photos, plus more of the blanket. The finished result was stunning. My hope in sharing this design is to encourage future customers to also think of ways to personalize their designs even more.

Adoption Announcement for Lucas:



It's gorgeous here today. The Dogwood trees are blooming; it's sunny and about 83 degrees. Have you ever seen a Dogwood? Growing up in Northern Illinois, I didn't see one until I moved to Georgia almost ten years ago. I've seen all kinds of new plants down here --- although being a very green gardener, I don't have the knowledge or experience to name most of them. Oh who am I kidding, I probably never will!

Spring started early due to warm weather. The colors are inspiring. Our Bradford pear tree started flowering, eventually becoming a gorgeous white -- and just before all the flowers bloomed, the pale green of the leaves started to appear. Flowers started blooming in February, popping up purples and yellows in unexpected parts of our yard. Every week I see something new in bloom around the city: a bright purple pom-poms on a shrub; a mass of yellow flowers tangled in vines. Azaleas are out in full force - coloring the landscape with bright purple, white and pink. I can't wait for the hydrangea. They are a stunning shade of blue-purple.

Hydrangea are my most favorite flower. I first discovered them living in France. There was a flower shop I would visit, simply to look at flowers. I remember the florist was Izabella Minini. The store was so artfully put together. Every flower was displayed to its best advantage. I would ask the owner in my "American-accent" French if I could just look...and take photos. They were kind and gave me permission. I could have spent hours there. I also found my first lavender rose at that charming shop. And promptly purchased it, took it back to our little apartment just off the place de la Republique, and photographed it from every angle. I even drew a still life! Yes, flowers inspire me.