Friday, June 11, 2010


I'm in love with building things, and I've made the best discovery. I was searching for recycled or reclaimed wood, and I came across a recycling store. It is like the Goodwill of home improvement stores. I found some scrap wood for a good deal, and I made this, an outdoor storage bench. It's not completely recycled wood. They didn't have all right sizes, but it still brought the cost down a lot.

My next project cost me about $6. I found a shipping pallet on craigslist. I did by two new 2x4s, but it's mainly free recycled wood. I followed these basic plans, but I altered quite a bit to minimize the tearing down of the pallet.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

My other projects

Here is the twin bed my husband and I made.

Here is the toddler bed after I distressed it. The pictures don't do the bed justice. It looks a lot amazing in person. It has an old/new looking finish.


These pictures aren't very good. I forgot to adjust the white balance, so the bed looks a different color in evey picture. :)

Little Bed. Big Bed.

My newest project. An outdoor storage bench.
I'll probably make another post about it when it's finished.
I'm pretty excited about it. It's made partly out of recycled wood from a local recycling center.

Here is the twin before staining.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Knock-Off Wood is my new favorite site!

I keep forgetting to update my learning blog. I've been learning a lot lately! My newest thing is building furniture!

It all started when my son's crib got recalled. At 15 months old, I wasn't wanting to buy a new crib.

The next day I saw the cutest pink toddler bed on It sounded like a fun project, and it was only going to cost us about $60.

We made it the next weekend. I had so much fun making it. I think I'm addicted to building now. I'm currently on my 3rd project right now.

Anyway, here is the toddler bed...

I did a little more work on it this past week. I decided to give it a little more distressed look and add a clear finish. It's beautiful. I love it. I'll have to take more pictures of it.

I posted these pictures on my baby blog, and I got a request for measurements. Ana over at knock-off wood did a great job designing the plans for this toddler version of her farmhouse bed, but her design made a bed that was only 26" wide (which is a problem because our mattress is just under 28" wide). I also wanted to make the bed as close as possible to that adorable pink bed without painting it pink.

Here are my measurements...

Cut List for the Headboard

A) 8 - 1x4 @ 19" (Center Panel)

B) 2 - 1x3 @ 18 1/2" (Side Pieces for Center Panel)

C) 2 - 1x3 @ 28" (Cut to measurement, headboard trim - cut 2 if you do not want a arch)

D) 1 - 1x6 @ 26" (Cut to measurement, headboard header, use 1x2 if you do not want arch)

E) 2 - 1x2 @ 19" (Inside Leg Pieces)

F) 2 - 1x2 @ 30 1/2" (Full Legs)

G) 1 - 2x3 @ 31" (Top of Panel and Legs) Measure before cutting!

H) 1- 1x4 @ 33" (Top of Headboard)

I) 2 - 1x2 @ 6" (Cut to measure, Inside bottom Leg Pieces)

Cut List for Footboard

J) 8 - 1x4 @ 9 1/2" (Center Panel)

K) 2 - 1x3 @ 9" (Side Pieces of Center Panel)

L) 2 - 1x3 @ 28" (Trim for the center panel, cut to measure)

M) 4 - 1x2 @ 15 1/2" (Legs)

N) 1 - 2x3 @ 31" (Top of the Panel and Legs) Measure before cutting!

O) 1 - 1x4 @ 33" (Top of the Footboard)

Bed Frame

P) 2 - 1x6 @ 54 1/2" ( Side Rails)

Q) 1- 1x6 @ 28" (Endplate)

R) 2 - 1x2 @ 53 1/2" (Cleats)

S) 18+ - 1x2 @ 28" (Slats) Measure before cutting!

I highlighted the numbers that I changed. I made the bed 2" wider, so I decided to make it an inch taller as well. I also used the boards pictured in the pink bed (1x3 for trim instead of 1x2. 2x3 for the top of the panel and legs instead of the 1x2).

The bed is currently at my in-laws house drying, so these measurements were all from memory. I believe the measurements are accurate, but I make no promises. I will measure everything later in the week.

I do know that I used 8 1x4s for the panel, and that it is 28" total. The 1x4 are 3.5" wide... in case you were wondering. I also know that I added an inch to the height. After you cut the 8 panel pieces, the inside leg and the outside leg, lay everything out an measure for the trim and top pieces. It will give everything a perfect fit, and it will make sure the numbers I gave are right.

I also didn't have a a brads nailer (but I do now!), so we screwed everything instead. Okay, I lied. I didn't screw in the slats. I old fashioned hand nailed those. A brad nailer will give the trim a cleaner look, but I still like how the screws are visible.

Let me know if you have any questions!

I might post pictures soon, but I just finished a twin version of this bed! The plans our found here. The measurements were great, but I made legs shorter because the bed isn't going to have a boxspring. This (an outdoor storage bench) is my current project.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Tips to Freezing a Layered Casserole

1. Double, triple, or quadruple the recipe. Lasagna always seems like such a long process. When I double the recipe, it makes twice the food with about the same amount of effort and time.

2. For my small family, I cut the recipe in half. Instead of making a 9x13 lasagna, I make two 8x8.

3. Before filling the casserole dish, line the dish with plastic wrap. You could also use foil or wax paper, but just remember that foil can sometimes tear easily.

4. Cool the dish in the refrigerator before freezing. It will help the dish freeze faster and keep the food fresh. Although, I sometimes skip this step if the food is already room temperature.

5. After the casserole is frozen solid, remove it from the glass and plastic. This will free up your dishes, and I also like making sure the plastic isn't frozen into the food.

6. Wrap the casserole with plastic wrap. Make sure you wrap it tightly and label it (what it is, the date, and baking instructions).

Last night I made lasagna. I used this recipe, and I also added pepperoni to the sauce (because that is what my mom does). I doubled the recipe and then divided it by 4.

I lined the 8x8 glass dishes with plastic wrap.

I layered in the lasagna.

I froze the lasagna in the glass dish.

I removed the glass and plastic before wrapping the lasagna.

I wrapped and labeled the lasagna.

Here are some other good layered dishes.

Baked Ziti

Layered Enchalada

Sunday, March 28, 2010

I have not forgotten!

I know. I haven't updated in forever. I stopped midway through the 12 weeks to better pictures. I still need to finish that. The next lesson is outdoors, and I believe the challenge picture is a macro one. I was waiting for the weather to get better... then I went out of town... then my son turned one... now he's faster than me, and I'm just trying to catch up! I'm hoping to get back to learning and blogging about photography soon.

Right now, I'm learning about cooking and eating healthier. We just bought a chest freezer, and I already have over 15 homemade meals in the freezer waiting. I'm even debating adding this to my "learning as I go" things to blog about.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Lesson 6: Shooting Indoors

Lesson 6: Shooting Indoors (.pdf)

This lesson was mainly about using available light without the flash indoors.

When taking pictures inside my house (especially in the winter), I almost always have to sacrifice my ISO, shutter speed, or depth of field (and sometimes all three).

When ISO gets sacrificed, the pictures get "noisy" and grainy.

When shutter speed is too low, there is often camera shake or motion blur.

I usually sacrifice my DOF first, but the smaller the DOF the harder it is to keep a mobile baby in focus. It's also hard to sacrifice your DOF when your lens doesn't let you! The Canon Rebel kit lens only goes down to f/3.5 when zoomed all the way out.

I love my 50mm f/1.8 because it gives me more flexibility indoors.

When shooting indoors you want to find and use as much natural light as you can. Open those windows!

Here I was trying to get a glow on my son's face by having him parallel to the window.
(He decided to get as close as possible.)
(ISO 1600, SS 1/80, f/2.2 in AV)

I was trying to catch catchlights in these next few.
(ISO 800, SS 1/125, f/2.2 in AV)

(ISO 800, SS 1/125, f/2.5 in AV)

(ISO 800, SS 1/100, f/2.5 in AV)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Lesson 5: Composition

Lesson 5 is more about the artistic aspect of photography. I'm more left brained, so I prefer the technical aspect of photography more than the artistic composition of photography. Luckily, there are some tips, rules, and guidelines to help make a picture more appealing.

Tip #1 -- Keep it Simple.

Tip #2 -- Apply the Rule of Thirds

Tip #3 -- Keep an Eye on the Horizon

Tip #4 -- Frame your Subject

Tip #5 -- Fill the Frame

Tip #6 -- Try a New Perspective

And remember beauty is in the eye of the beholder and rules are made to be broken!

And this weeks challenge was to consider one or more of the following as you compose your photo(s).

Here are some of my attempts at art... don't laugh.

Fill the Frame

Does this count as "Frame you Subject"?
Keep it Simple
Try a New Perspective (Do they each tell a different story?)

Rule of Thirds and Frame your Subject

Rule of Thirds

Fill the Frame

Frame your Subject and Rule of Thirds

This is a what NOT to do. Don't have random trees growing out of your subjects head. Someone might think the branches are long strangely hairs.

Here are some more composition tips!

I guess I should do an introduction.

Hi. My name is Janae, and I am currently a stay at home mom to my almost 11 month old son. I got a new dslr camera in late October of 2009. It was an early Christmas present. Now, I'm determined to learn how to use it. I learn best by thinking out loud, hands on experiments, and outlining what I've read. My baby blog was beginning to turn into a photography blog, so I decided to make a separate blog for my photography posts! (The first couple of posts here were copied straight from my baby blog.) Feel free to follow my journey of learning my dslr.

In my camera bag, I have a Canon Rebel XSi, Canon 50mm f/1.8, Canon Speedlite 430EX II, and the basic Rebel kit lens.

If anyone has any questions, tips, or comments feel free to leave a comment. Even if you have a question that I don't have an answer to, I would love to find and answer and learn along with you.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Trying fill flash again...

I feel like I have a better grasp on how to use fill flash, but I still need to practice more. It even harder trying to take before and after. The fastest my ss (shutter speed) will go is 1/200 when my flash is on. I'm guessing my flash won't fire any faster. I always like my f/stop low, but it doesn't exactly work with a ss of 1/200 on a sunny day. Fill flash is definitely taking me out of my comfort zone.

Here are my SOOC pictures. They are in order of no flash, flash, no flash, flash....

I'm not pleased with the wb, but I wanted to share the SOOC pictures. I was to busy thinking about the flash to remember to incorporate the other lessons. woops.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Lesson 4: Flash

Lesson 4: Flash

I am not a fan of the flash. Before I got my external flash, I tried to avoid the flash all together. However, there are times when the flash is unavoidable!

Most cameras come with a built in flash. This is called an internal flash. You can also get a flash that attaches to the camera. This is called an external flash. For this lesson, I acted as if I only had an internal flash.

Here are some purposefully bad pictures that were taken with the flash.

Basically, if the camera is to close to the subject, the subject will become shiny and/or washed out, and if the subject is too close to a wall, it can create harsh shadows. You want to move away from your subject (the lesson suggests at least 5-6 feet away), and you want to move your subject away from the wall (at least 5-6 feet away).

Another thing to consider when using the flash is glare! I've noticed in pictures of my son that his lips and drool sometimes creates a strong glare. My husbands glasses also create a glare. The lesson had tips to get rid of eyeglasses glare and red eye! You'll have to read the lesson on your own to get those tips. :)

You can even use your flash for good outdoors by using fill flash. "Basically, a fill flash is your normal flash. But in scenarios where you already have ambient light, your flash is merely 'filling in' the areas of your photo that may be shadowed or poorly lit. Here's the important part -- not only is a fill flash helpful on bright, sunny days where your subject is back lit, but it can help 'pop' your colors on gray, overcast winter days."

I've tried practicing fill flash a few times and failed miserably. My "no flash" pictures always look better. A couple times I think I was trying to force a fill flash where one wasn't needed, and other times I was rushed by my husband or son. I am determined to get a good example of fill flash someday.

This weeks challenge was actually to take pictures using fill flash.

1. Use fill flash to "pop" colors on a gray day.

2. Use fill flash to eliminate dark shadows on the face on a bright day.

3. Use fill flash to combat backlighting on a shadowed subject.

I think I succeeded in "popping" the colors, but I'm not sure if I like that picture better.

no flash

fill flash

Here is a little bonus tip/trick/lesson that I picked up from another blog...

One of the benefits of an external flash is the ability to bounce the flash! BUT this can also be done with an internal flash. You could spend $20 and by something called a lightscope, OR you could use a little aluminum foil.

I took a little card that I got in my junk mail from netflix (a credit card or gift card would also work), I wrapped it in aluminum foil, and I held it at an angle in front of my flash. This directs the flash up to to bounce of the ceiling.

I took these next two pictures in a hurry. I think the camera was in portrait mode. The first picture was with the flash, and the second picture was with the flash AND my foil card sending the flash up. Which do you think looks better?

These next three pictures were taken in manual (ISO 800, f/2.2, 1/100).

no flash

flash (-2/3)

flash (-2/3) w/ foil card

ETA: This is what my foil card looks like.