Friday, November 30, 2007

The Blurb Book

I ordered my book from on Saturday and had it on Tuesday. Amazing! I didn't realize they were just up the road in Tukwila.

I got the 8x10 softcover. Print-quality wise I would say it's fair, though it's kind of hard to tell. The pictures on the cover aren't great, and all the pictures inside are tiny thumbnails and too small to judge anyway.

I wasn't sure if there was a gutter allowance built into the template. There isn't. My inside photos are very nearly vanishing into the gutter. I'll know what to do about that next time. Overall, I'm pleased--as a printed record of contact sheets, it's perfectly adequate.

Now I just need to do more with these photos, besides just cataloging them.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Helena's ribbons go Brazilian

I got an email from a designer in Brazil who had used my red ribbons as a base for creating a ribbon-making action. She makes commercial use actions for other designers to use in creating products. Since she had used my ribbons, she wanted to make sure it was okay before she put the action up for sale. I'm still not entirely clear on why she thought it was a good idea to spend all that time working on them and then get permission, but, well, I thought the actions were very cool, so I agreed and sold her a commercial license after the fact. I would have no clue how to create actions like this. They're very complicated. I was impressed.

(Edit:) I must explain--an "action" in Photoshop is a recorded set of commands that produce a specific result. There are lots of photo actions out there, for giving your photo a soft dreamy look, or turning it sepia, or whatever. In this case it's an action that makes a ribbon. It makes a ribbon out of nothing, like magic, and you pick the color you want, or you can pick a digital paper for it to turn into a ribbon. These are a few examples that I tried out, with two of my papers, and one that's just a color (orange).

She doesn't have my cool shadows. But they look pretty good, don't you think? Her store is here. The ribbons are "My Ribbon Stuff" volumes one and two.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

This blows.

When I was less than two years old I stuck some corn up my nose. (Hmmmm... a familial fascination with corn, perhaps?) My mom called the emergency room to see what she should do, and they said, "Have her blow her nose." My mom said, "She's only sixteen months old!" (or however old I was at the time--somewhere around there.) The guy said, "Most children that age can blow their noses." and my mom asked, "Do you have children?"

I don't know when children usually learn the fine art of nose-blowing, but Kate's almost three and she can't do it. I've tried to demonstrate, but when she copies me she just kind of makes a coughing sound. Not happening. At least she doesn't have any corn up there that we're trying to get out.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Down time

I think it's hard for a lot of people to get back into the swing of things after a four-day weekend. (Or I guess some people even had five days off.) Doug went off this morning and left his phone and his PDA.

Kate's got a goopy nose. Doug stayed home with her on Sunday, while I went to church to help out in the nursery. I guess everyone was gone for the Thanksgiving weekend because we only had four kids. It was very low-key. (Normally we have about 8-12, and one week we had 17. Yikes.)

Kate has a new phrase--"you'd better keep looking!" but she doesn't have a context. She yells it when I'm chasing her down to wipe her nose. "Noooo! You'd better keep looking!" I'm baffled. I think she picked it up from a computer game or something.

Our apartment is cold. In our previous places we haven't had to run the heat much, so we went ahead and put bookcases over the vents in the living room and dining area, figuring that we just wouldn't turn the heat on out here. This apartment is on the end of the building, though, and I think it's just colder. I'm not sure what we're going to do about that. says my book has shipped already! That was fast.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

After the sorting

I finished up all the contact sheets for 2006! After blogging about my archiving system I went on a tear and have been doing little else for days. I still have lots of CDs to burn, but I've got the photos all sorted and the contact sheets all done. It was looking at that did it. Since I'd said that I wanted to get a book of the contact sheets printed, I was checking out their options and looking at examples of things other people had done, and thought, "Yeah! I want to get a book printed! Let's do it!"

I found their template interface a bit limiting, and I ended up having to put the file numbers on each page in Photoshop to get them exactly the way I wanted, but it was pretty easy. While Doug braved the early morning Black Friday crowds to hit the sale at Tandy Leather (everyone's favorite day-after-Thanksgiving shopping destination, of course), I was home designing a cover for my book. Here's a screen shot of the cover in blurb's "Booksmart" software:

It was so hard to pick out just a few photos for the cover. I wanted to keep it kind of minimalist--it's just the contact sheets, after all, it's not like I'm designing a coffee table book. Though I'd like to design a coffee table book. I'd like to make a big book of Betsey's pictures from Costa Rica and her hilarious emails. That would be fun.

This morning I went through and proofed all the pages (which was good, because I did have a few mistakes) and then uploaded and placed my order. Woo hoo! I'll post pictures when I get it.

We spent a quiet Thanksgiving day at home and then went over to Rebecca's house in the evening for leftovers and a vicious game of Settlers of Catan. Kate enjoyed hanging out with Glorie Jean while we played. We're not sure how Glorie Jean felt about it.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The gift of reading

Our neighbor Oleg turned ten earlier this month, and I got him a copy of The Indian in the Cupboard. He may have thought it was a rather lame present--his first language is Russian, and I don't think he's really a great reader, though he tells me he's doing well in his reading group at school--but I thought of it one day when he brought his army men outside, and I think he'll enjoy it.

This is a partial list of other books that I've given as presents:

The Happy Hocky Family, by Lane Smith
Lifter by Crawford Killian
Guards! Guards! (and other Discworld books) by Terry Pratchett
A two-volume set of Diana Wynne Jones's first four Chrestomanci novels
Cordelia's Honor and Young Miles, by Lois McMaster Bujold (to Tom; he hasn't read them yet)
The Bishop's Horse Race, by Blaine and Brenton Yorgason
Barnyard Dance, Doggies, and Hippos go Berserk, by Sandra Boynton

Then there was the year that Peter and I got each other Dirk Gentley's Holistic Detective Agency for Christmas, completely unplanned. That was a surprise.

I'm thankful for parents who raised me around lots of books, and I'm thankful to be able to share the love of reading with my daughter. Sometimes at night, after we've read a few of Kate's books, I'll read to her from whatever book I'm currently in the middle of. I have so many wonderful stories to share with her as she gets older.

I posted a children's book first line game on Two Peas, but haven't gotten anyone to play with me yet. Perhaps the ones I picked are too hard.

Monday, November 19, 2007


Years ago, my family adopted a pregnant cat that we named Fern. She had four kittens, named Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail, and Peter (after Peter Rabbit and his sisters). As it turned out they were all girls. Peter had the nicest personality so we kept her and found homes for the others. Having a female cat named Peter has occasionally caused some confusion, compounded by the fact that I also have a brother named Peter. We usually call her Petercat to differentiate.

Petercat likes to attack shoes. Or feet in shoes, perhaps. She bites at the laces and kicks her hind legs. The shoes are always easily defeated and she remains secure in her shoe-hunting prowess.

I was just working on archiving these photos today, and thought they could use a caption.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Brother Daddy

Kate has learned about playing hide and seek from a Max and Ruby game on We play at hiding a lot, but we'd never actually used the phrase "hide and seek." So now she knows that, and she's started using other phrases from the game too.

Max and Ruby, in case anyone doesn't know, are rabbits. Ruby is the older sister and tries to keep Max out of trouble. At the beginning of the game, Ruby says, "I'm Ruby, and I'm playing hide and seek with my brother, Max."

So yesterday, Kate gets Doug to play with her, and in the midst of the game announces happily, "I'm Katie! I'm playing hide and seek with my brother, Daddy!"

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The sorting gene

I like sorting. I can't really say why. I remember when I was little having great fun sorting my Halloween candy. I wasn't allowed to eat more than a piece or two (sugar problems), but Mom always let me play with it for a while. Certain activities seem to appeal to that part of my brain--"It's like sorting!" is something Doug has often heard me say when trying out a new computer game.

My sister Betsey also has the sorting gene. We were discussing this once, and she said, "Yeah, if somebody took a thirty-pound bag of beans and dumped them out and told me to sort them, I'd be perfectly happy." (At first I thought she'd said beads but later clarified that it was beans. Thirty pounds would be a lot of beads. Especially if they were those little seed beads.) Betsey has worked in jobs where she sorts and catalogs bees, and is apparently very good at it. I'm not really sure about the rest of my family (well, there's my dad, who is an engineer, as I have mentioned). I suspect most of them have sorting tendencies as well.

I don't know if the sorting gene and the do-it-the-hard-way gene are generally found together, but here's what can happen when they combine.

I take a lot of pictures. Quite a lot. The phrase "too many" has occasionally been uttered in connection with my picture-taking habits. I knew I was going to need a way to store and keep track of all these photos. I decided that I was not only going to burn my files onto CDs, but also make a contact sheet for each disk. It's a rather complicated process.

The first thing I have to do is get my photos into a group less than 700MB in size, for burning onto a CD. I'll take a quick run through and delete any obviously bad shots, like the ones that are really blurry, or the ones where I have my eyes half-closed and look like a doofus. I don't usually spend a lot of time picking out photos to delete, but it depends on what kind of mood I'm in. If time is money, I figure it's cheaper to just store them all than spend five minutes agonizing over which of the two microscopically-different pictures of Kate is cuter. If I have a bunch of pictures from one event and I'm just a few over 700MB, I'll often take the time to pick out a few to discard, but otherwise I don't worry about one event spilling over onto the next CD. I do all this in Digital Photo Professional, which came with my camera.

I shoot in RAW, so in order to make a contact sheet I have to convert the pictures to jpgs. A CD of RAW files tends to run between 85 and 95 pictures (it varies, I think, depending on the complexity of information captured in the image) and it takes a while to convert them all. I like to start a set converting while I go eat, or take a shower, or something. Then after I have all the jpgs in a folder, I go to Photoshop (under File > Automate) and make a contact sheet. This also takes a couple of minutes.

This is what the finished contact sheet looks like. Each sheet gets named according to the date of the first photo (Asian style, year-month-day). If I have more than one set from the same day, I'll use letters after the date. All the contact sheets are saved in a folder on my hard drive. Eventually I'd like to have a year's worth of sheets bound together in a book (probably somewhere like, but I haven't gotten that far yet.

When I burn the RAW files onto CD (this can be done before or after making the contact sheet), the CD also gets named with the date of the first photo, so it matches the contact sheet. On the disk I write the beginning and ending date, and the first and last image file numbers, and a brief description of the photos. I burn two copies, on two different brands of CD. (The backups should be stored at somebody else's house, but at the moment they are still here.)

This may seem like a cool system. It's also very time-consuming and you may notice that I'm a year and a half behind. I got a bit more done over the weekend, so I'm feeling like a good little photo-historian again. (Yay!)

None of this means that I'm an organized person, which you would know if you saw my house.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Boing! Boing!

Today we went to The Bouncy Place in Kent. One of Doug's co-workers told him about it recently, and we've been wanting to check it out. It's basically a warehouse of bouncy toys. Those big inflatable things. (We call them "The Bouncy Tottington Hall," after watching Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.) It was a hoot. Kate was a bit hesitant at first (she tends to be on the cautious side), but she had a blast. She especially liked the animals in the Baby Dino Lake. We also took her down the big slides (we had to hand her up the ladders to each other, since she couldn't get up them herself). She was a bit frightened by the biggest slide, which is very steep and fast, but then later she wanted to go down it again. She sat on Doug's lap and put her hands over her eyes. Wheee!

We were there for a one-hour drop in session. (Most of their business is party rentals, but they have drop in play times too.) It's $5.00 per child and parents are free. We got some good exercise, climbing around. I was feeling pretty hot and winded by the end.

We found a cool Vietnamese place where we had lunch, then came home and Kate and I crashed for a while. Now she's got Doug chasing her around the house, pretending to be an alligator.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

You've got mail

I used to be a really good letter writer. I wrote long, frequent letters to my friend Laura, wrote to my friends on missions, wrote to my family about our adventures in Korea. This was before the advent of the internet. Now my attention span is limited to dashing off a few sentences at a time, and I no longer eagerly await the arrival of the mail each day, knowing that there's probably nothing good in there anyway.

I had occasion to actually mail something today, and as I was stuffing the envelope I recalled that I used to know how many sheets of paper you could send for one stamp. I can't remember anymore. (Five? Eight?)

But hey, if I really needed to know, I suppose I could look it up online.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

In which we continue to do it the hard way

This is part of the mask for an extraction that I'm currently working on. Each one of those little edge hairs is traced in by hand, with a three-pixel brush. This is definitely a case where the tablet makes things much easier--I don't think I could do this with the mouse.

Doug says I'm a masochist. I'm finding it rather relaxing, so far.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Don't knock my smock

Back in September, I made some potato prints for Kate and we went out on the porch to play with paint. I put my painting shirt on her (pinned up with a chip clip in the back). She called it a smock. She learned the word "smock" from Blue's Clues, and apparently understood the context well enough that she was able to identify the smock-like function of this shirt.

We had a fun time painting, and didn't make too much of a mess. Kate turned out to be more interested in painting with the paintbrush than using the potato prints, but she liked those too. (I made her a fish, a turtle, and a crab. I keep meaning to make a layout with them, but haven't gotten to it yet.)

They're doing Savior of the World again at church, and I was called upon to do some touch-up painting on the sets and props. When Kate saw me wearing my painting shirt, she said, "You're wearing your smock!" I told her I was going to the church to do some painting. When I painted the set originally, two years ago, it took way longer than it should have and I had a really hard time finding people to watch Kate while I worked. This time, fortunately, there was a lot less to do and I was able to get it all finished in a few hours. We found somebody involved in the production to take Kate to McDonald's and the park with her granddaughter while I worked. Kate was a bit upset, though, that she didn't get to help paint. Poor kid.

I was sore for a few days afterwards, from bending over that big fake rock. The color didn't quite match the rest of the set, so they wanted it redone. Also, somebody had decided to stick a few clumps of wadded-up newspaper on it, apparently in an effort to make it look more rock-like. An effort which was somewhat less than successful. Wadded-up newspaper is not a great surface for painting. I'm sure it'll look fine under the stage lights, though. Somehow I felt much less invested in the whole thing this time around.

Of course, no discussion of smocks would complete without a Calvin and Hobbes reference. Actually, I just like to say smock. Smock smock smock.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Crashing and Goofing

I haven't been getting a lot done lately. This is partly due to an external hard drive crash which left me with a damaged partition and also left me unable to access most of my programs for a day or so, and also due to a vague unfocused feeling that has been lingering. I think I just burned myself out on designing for a bit, concentrating so much on it this past month. Or it could just be a seasonal malaise.

I've got lots of things I could be working on. Even things I should be working on. But mostly I've just been goofing around. The day that the hard drive crashed, in an effort to soothe my nerves till Doug got home, I got some friends from ndisb and digishoptalk to play iSketch with me (it's like online Pictionary). Here's my attempt to draw "mouthwash":

I also had some fascinating, frustrating fun with It's a word-defining game. After you answer a few questions it gives you a vocabulary level (40, if you don't miss any of the first words), and then after that you go up a level for every three words you get right, but down a level every time you miss one. I played it off and on for a good part of the day and finally got up to level 50 (the highest level).

It was interesting to see how many words I didn't know but was able to guess correctly, just from the way they sounded, or sometimes from the way the answers were worded. I also learned that a tartuffe is not a sea slug.

We got a new hard drive and were able to recover most of the data on the damaged partition with . Whew! I suppose I'll have to get back to work.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Digital Scrapbooking Day

I'm not exactly sure who decided that today was Digital Scrapbooking Day, but I am assured that it is. We're having a big 50% off sale at NDISB all weekend. I thought, in honor of the day, I'd post my interview from the October newsletter. (Theresa asked me the questions):

You once made a couple of fonts; one of your own handwriting. Did you enjoy making the fonts? Is this an area you would like to pursue further, or was the process so laboriously awful that you never want to do it again?

It was pretty laborious, actually. I was using Corel Draw, which works, but it's not really the best tool for that sort of thing. My handwriting font took me almost four days of pretty solid work. (This was before my daughter was born, I should add!) Mostly I just really wanted a font of my own handwriting. I'd been doing all my journaling by hand, and sometimes I was frustrated at not being to fit all that I wanted on the page.

You were a 2002 winner of Creating Keepsakes Hall of Fame. Have you ever submitted any of your digital layouts to magazines for publishing or for other contests?

I haven't! I went a long time without scrapping much (when my daughter was born), and these days I spend much more time designing than scrapping. I always admire people who seem able to do both. I think I'm just really slow.

Your style as a designer is amazingly realistic. Without divulging any secrets, do you feel you rely on your formal art education to create your pieces, the long way, or are you fond of some of the fantastic tools available to designers that offer a shortcut, but less ability to truly make it your own? Or do you find you use a variety of methods?

You know what--this is funny but I don't actually have a lot of formal art education. I was an English major in college. I did take a lot of art in high school, and then in college I took a few classes like watercolor, calligraphy, and bookbinding, just to keep things interesting. In my designing, I do a bit of everything--creating things from scratch, using actions, and also creating things physically and digitizing them. I've spent a lot of time playing with paint, carving and stamping with potatoes, tying ribbon, and tearing paper. I used some polymer clay in my "Bluebird" freebie. It's been a great way to feed my creative urge and have fun with a lot of different things. There's a bead store here that offers a lampwork class, and I've been thinking of taking that to see if I can incorporate glass into my designing somehow.

As a student of the arts, who are among your favorite artists? What period inspired you the most?

I think I'm drawn to illustration and design as much as fine art. I admire Greg Olsen's lighting, James Christensen's detail, Norman Rockwell's facial expressions. There are some amazing trompe l'oeil muralists out there that make me just drool with envy. Usually it's realism that catches my attention, but I'm also drawn to color and free, gestural lines. Recently I really enjoyed the stylized animation in the ending credits of Ratatouille. I'm not very good at that sort of thing but I'd like to try.

Your layered templates are among the most creative I've seen. Is this an area you are hoping to do more in (please oh please) or are you looking at diving into other areas of design and starting a new trend?

I do have some more Breakthrough templates on the to-do list. I know these have been really popular. I think people like tools that they can use to get an unusual and realistic effect, and customize it with their choice of papers. I've got a few more ideas for tools like this, but I think I'll be doing a lot of other things too.

Where do you find your color inspiration when you're designing?

I'd like to say it's intuitive, but I do spend a lot of time fussing and tweaking. I remember the first time I was trying to put together a kit--it was an Easter theme, and I had a terrible time finding a green that would go with the other colors. It took a while to get used to the way the colors interact on the screen. And I think I tend to gravitate toward using the same color and the same combinations over and over, so I have to push myself to try new things.

If you had one day where you could totally shadow any artist from any period of time, who would it be?

I'd like to watch Michelangelo painting that ceiling. Though I hear he was pretty crabby about it, so maybe that wouldn't be fun. But hey, if I get to go back in time, and if I can take my husband with me, then we'll just skip out on artist-shadowing and go see the sights.

Aside from your most adorable daughter and wonderful husband, what are your favorite subjects to scrap?

Probably nature, and places. My husband says we have way too many pictures of ducks and squirrels.

If you could return to Korea to live for a year, in a non-missionary capacity, where do you think you'd choose to spend that year? In one city, soaking in the local culture and getting to know your neighbors, or all over the country, trying to experience it all?

Some of both? I've been to Korea three times, for a total of about two-and-a-half years (as a missionary, for a summer internship at a publishing company, and teaching English with my husband). It's been over ten years now and I am just dying to go back. I just love the country, and the people, and the food, of course! What I really want to do is travel all over and visit lots of Buddhist temples, and take tons of pictures to make a coffee table book. The temples are often in gorgeous settings in the mountains, and they're just so picturesque.

What exciting things can we expect to look forward to from the amazing Helena Jole in the coming months?

I'd like to spend more time with Corel Painter and do some painting, probably of animals. I've used the program a little bit and loved it, but there's so much there that even just choosing what brush to use can be rather daunting. Beyond that, we'll see where inspiration strikes!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Halloween Party

We went to the Halloween party at the church last night. I dressed Kate up in this cute pink tutu that her Aunt Barb made. (Barb makes cool stuff!) Doug wore his Ravenclaw robe to his classes during the day, and then decided to wear his kendo gear to the party. I wore my Korean hanbok.

Kate enjoyed hotdogs and chips with Daddy. The hotdogs inspired a few pigeon quotes. ("Each morsel is a joy! A celebration in a bun!") They had a few different carnival-style games and activities set up in the gym, and trick-or-treating around the hall classrooms.

Kate was fascinated by my hanbok, especially the tassel. (She said, "Oh! You're wearing a pretty butterfly!") I can't remember the last time I wore it, but I know I haven't had it on since Kate was born. It's a bit rumpled and smells like storage, and it's rather awkward to wear, but it's fun. It's like being a big, rustly, Korean butterfly for a few hours.

I remember when I first got my hanbok, I was afraid that I wouldn't remember how to tie the bow. I got somebody to show me how to do it, and then I practiced on the ties on my bathrobe over and over. It is now firmly ingrained in my brain.

As Halloween was approaching, I got a few hits on my blog from people looking for a "Helena Douglas costume." Apparently Helena Douglas is a video game character. I had no idea.

Jack o' Lantern

Kate and I picked up this pumpkin at Tacoma Boys on Saturday. When I say "picked up," I use that purely in the colloquial sense. The thing weighed forty-three pounds, and it was also rather slippery, being dampish. I rolled it inside to pay for it, and then got someone to carry it out to the car for me.

We carved it out on the back porch. Kate was very interested in the process.

I asked Kate if she wanted a happy pumpkin or a scary pumpkin, and she said, "Scary!" I did my best. I suppose he looks a bit cross, at least.

The lighting:

That last picture is pretty blurry, but I thought it was cute!