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I don’t see the point of penning letters to your 14-year-old self that you will never see. Writing myself a letter to be read on my 88th birthday seems more plausible. So today, my 44th birthday, I did just that.
TO DANA, ON HER 88TH BIRTHDAY
You are probably looking at this letter and trying desperately to recall why you chose age 88. It’s because you have an odd fondness for double digits and the way they roll off your tongue. Yes, you were always weird that way.
I’m certain that you are reading this letter using whatever is the latest technology. You are frustrated because your fingers don’t work as well as they used to and the swipe motions are a bit more complicated when arthritis has set in. The voice recognition works perfectly, but you refuse to use it because the nosy biddies at the retirement community are listening and are louder than you and that’s what your device will pick up anyways.
I wanted you to know that the year leading up to your 44th birthday was filled with transitions. You walked away from a long-term toxic relationship, which left plenty of room for people who love you and planted a permanent smile on your face. You realized that, yeah, you are a giving, forgiving and social person who spent too many years in self-doubt. When you severed the cord that was choking you, you were free to fly.
And did you ever. You started a new company; you spent more time appreciating your husband and boys. You acknowledged the things that had to change and let it be okay that you were not ready to change everything at once.
At 44, you felt really comfortable with who and where you are. You loved watching The Walking Dead as much as you loved Drop Dead Diva. Your best dishes were chicken schnitzel and chicken pot pie with homemade crust. You readily accepted new people into your circles and you were still a great hugger.
I’m sure not much has changed in your personality. You probably still come up with witty one-liners. You probably still laugh your ass off when one of your friends forgets about the Thursday morning yoga class and has beans for dinner on Wednesday night. I am certain that you still encourage your older friends to get off their rockers and walkers and shake their synthetic hips and saggy bottoms when you play Madonna’s Get into the Groove.
And that man sitting by the common room window and flirting with all the ladies? That is your husband. Before you get mad at him, let me remind you that despite his objections, he relented when you wanted to sell the condo and move into the complex. He supported every business venture, every menopausal mood swing, and every dream you chased. He was (and still is) a great father and friend and remains Viagra-free.
So let him flirt. He’ll be waiting for you later when you get home from bingo.
Happy Birthday you crazy broad!
It’s only February 3rd and I am already completely overwhelmed by the number of movies this family will be seeing over the next few months. Looks like we will be heading to Costco to take advantage of the savings offered on the Movie Night packages.
As a tech-loving/Marvel vs DC/action packed movie loving family, we are ridiculously excited about what is coming to screens. My 9-year-old has inherited his parents’ love for the movies and has marked everything in his calendar. In fact, at breakfast this morning, he told me exactly how our weekends are going to play out between now and the end of June. Thank him for this concise list.
February 7, 2014
THE LEGO MOVIE
March 21, 2014
MUPPETS MOST WANTED
April 4, 2014
CAPTAIN AMERICA: WINTER SOLDIER
April 11, 2014
May 2, 2014
THE AMAZING SPIDERMAN 2
June 13, 2014
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2
June 27, 2014
TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION
Also worth mentioning, but not on our playlist:
Godzilla (May 16); Maleficent (May 30); Planes: Fire & Rescue (July 18)
Did any of your new year resolutions include getting your photos and videos organized?
Or maybe that was last year, and now that your images are sorted, you are at a loss with what to do with them.
It’s time to start learning HOW TO MAKE MOVIES.
You do not have to be an editing professional to create great video slideshows. Today, there are many easy-to-use on-line programs that are simple drag-and-drop platforms (like Animoto) where you can create slick videos of your images complete with a soundtrack, transitions and layered textures and movements.
If you feel you want to do more,then simply turn to your own computer.All older systems came with video software installed (Windows Movie Maker for PC; iMovie for Mac), and basic video editing software is very affordable (less than $100) for newer systems. Apps are even available for tablets (Magisto).
Great movies starring your own family are always a treasure and a wonderful way to pass the time on a lazy afternoon. Twenty years from now, your children will not be noticing your editing skills, they will be enjoying the memories.
Here are tips to get you started.
KNOW THE MATH
The longest a picture needs to be on a screen is 4 seconds; any longer and the brain starts to wonder. Keep video clips short too: no one wants to watch the kids digging in the snow for 7 minutes and then plugging the hole with fake dynamite and running for cover. Try 15 seconds of digging, then cut to plugging the hole and running for cover.
We’ve got a saying in this house: If you’re going to picky, your going to be hungry. When it comes to creating movies. if you’re not going to be picky; you’re going to be boring. Pick the best photos and video clips, the ones that can tell a story without knowing the history.
LEARN THE LINGO
A transition is how you move from one image to another; a timeline is where all your pieces are laid in order; a track is a fancy way of saying music. If you are stuck – just google how to….
DECIDE YOUR ORDER
Will your movie be a chronological account of events? Will you bundle vacations together? How will you finish your movie?
Your favorite song may not be appropriate for your video. The profanity you forgot about, the subject matter of the song (like Coldplay’s Fix You), the tone of the video all need to be considered before you commit to a track.
DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE SOFTWARE
Most consumer level editing software is built specifically for people who have never edited before. Your photos and videos will not disappear forever. Play around with the software to test all the different features. That’s why we have the “undo” option.
Need a sample of where to start? Watch my family’s mini film of some 2013 highlights here.
If you need help getting started, want a private lesson on how to use your software, or just want some feedback, just click to send e-mail.
Change is good. Change is healthy. Change is not always easy, but it is always for the better.
I’m sure you’ve heard some variation of the saying. It’s not always easy to accept change that is forced on you, and it can be even more difficult to take the first step toward change. In early November, I was forced to face the change that needed to happen. I was not going to wait until the new year to make a resolution I would never keep. I was not going to put my feet up and “wait and see”. I was going to accept the change, then I was going to acknowledge the change was causing me anxiety, then I was going to embrace the change and share the news. I’ve already taken all those steps, but I wanted to explain more in this post.
Here is the change: Effective immediately, Digital Shoebox will no longer be offering video-to-DVD transfer service.
For the last 7 years, I have taken great care in transferring your precious memories from VHS, Beta, Video-8, Mini-DV, and Hi-8 to DVD. I have been privileged to see your lives unfold before my eyes. I have been privy to your family traditions: the Christmas PJ’s, the hunting trips, the family picnics, the school concerts. I have watched your children grow from sweet babies to awkward teens. I have seen your bad hair days, your teenage antics, your errors in judgement. I have seen your weddings, then your children’s weddings, then your retirement parties. I have seen 1,271 hours of life pass through my edit bay. The amounts to 53 years of unchecked laughter, reckless dancing, trampoline/skateboard/bicycle bloopers, and countless hugs, kisses and tears.
It sounds so lovely, doesn’t it? So why give it up?
The reasons are simple, really.
TIME. Video transfers in real time and renders in double time. That means a two hour tape requires 6 hours to process.
DEMAND. There is still demand for the service, but I am choosing to focus my energy on the demand for my editing skills to create wedding videos, baby’s first year and corporate editing projects.
INTEREST. Truthfully, transferring video does not foster my creative spirit in any way. It feels like a chore, and when I stop loving something, I just need to stop.
DIRECTION. My business life has veered of into a new direction – CHICFLICKS. That company is ready to grow and it needs my love, attention and creative direction in order to soar.
My change is already well under way, but I won’t leave anyone behind. The nice part of having lived in 3 provinces is that I built relationships with others in the industry. I have good people to recommend who will gladly take care of any of your video transfer needs.
Thank you for your continued support. I’m still working away on some fantastic projects, so feel free to check out the Facebook page and see what comes next.
At the height of my movie-going experience, I was going to the movies every weekend. Sometimes, I would have the good fortune to see two movies in a weekend. When I was a film reviewer, I would see at least 3 films a week, some of which never made it past a 1-week run at the theatre.
The movie-going experience has changed immensely over the years. At their very humble beginnings, the Nickelodeon movie theatre was the first type of indoor space dedicated to showing projected motion pictures. These small, independent, simple theaters charged five cents for admission and flourished from about 1905 to 1915. As the movie industry began to flourish, the rush was on to build lavish, enormous, elaborate theatres, also known as movie palaces. The multi- and mega-plexes started to appear in the 1950′s and that is the format we are most familiar with today.
MOVIE FACT YOU PROBABLY DIDN’T KNOW: Canada was the first country in the world to have a two-screen theater. The Elgin Theatre in Ottawa became the first venue to offer two film programs on different screens in 1957.
People often complain about the price of going to the movies. For a family of four, like mine, a trip to the theatre sets us back around $100, once you factor in tickets and snacks. With movies coming to DVD faster than ever, it seems hard to justify a trip to the multiplex, when $100 will cover a 1-year subscription to Netflix. But we still love going to the movies and we do. In fact, this weekend, we saw two movies and had snacks for less than $80. For two films. And snacks.
How is this possible?
The independent movie theatre. We have come full circle.
When we lived in BC, we frequently headed to the Hollywood 3 theatre in Surrey, BC, a.k.a the cheap theatre. It was a little run down, and sometimes a seat was broken, but the owner was almost always there and had built a solid reputation as a good samaritan. Here in Calgary, this family goes to Canyon Meadows Cinemas. The movies are second run (meaning they’ve run their course at the major cinemas), and because it is independently owned, the owners can decide what movies to show and for how long. (This Remembrance Day weekend there were 5 family-friendly movies available to choose from).
So if you have a large family, don’t write off the affordability of a night, or afternoon, at the movies. Find a local, independently owned theatre and sit back and enjoy the show.
As a parent of two very creative boys, I am always on the hunt for interesting and affordable art lessons. I have a painter (aged 8) and an illustrator/animator (aged 9) so finding classes that can interest them both is always a challenge. The painter has very little interest in anything technical; the animator refuses to pick up a paintbrush (despite my efforts to show him how Disney cells are created and probably because he saw this video).
When I finally do find something great, I have to share it and I have to be involved. I was a final signature away from owning my own 4Cats franchise, but other commitments got in my way, and then we moved from Ontario. Fortunately, there are 4Cats studios all over Canada – one of my favourites is right here in Calgary’s Inglewood.
I recently had the good fortune to meet Janet Pliszka-Hughes, an extraordinary photographer and the owner of Visual Hues Photography. Janet, and her co-photographer Amy Braithwaite are an amazing team. Their efforts and skill brought out the best in me, and I am proud to share my headshot with the world.
From that photo shoot emerged a great working relationship. At the time, ChicFlicks was just starting to emerge, and I was already having discussions with prospective clients about how I could fulfill their video needs. Janet was one of those discussions. After months of work and planning, an amazing video shoot, and a great deal of careful editing, I am thrilled to finally be able to share another artistic program I am excited about.
The Kids Photography Academy (KPA) is a series of online classes that teaches kids the art, science and fun of photography. I was thrilled when Janet hired ChicFlicks to not only shoot the KickStarter video, but also as the contracted videographer for all the lessons. From what I have learned during the shoots, I can tell you with complete honesty that these lessons are going to be great fun for any child. KPA has already started issuing challenges to kids over on their Facebook page, and my children are delighted to grab the camera and run outside to capture an appropriate image (bad mommy has yet to upload them all).
The really nice thing about the online courses that KPA is offering is the freedom to complete the lessons on your own terms. I know in my household, the boys will be gung-ho at the start and once the initial excitement wears off, I can park the lessons until a day comes when the kids are complaining about being bored. The first round of lessons should be ready by December, just in time to gift them to friends and to gift your own mini-photographer with a camera.
If you are interested, visit the Kickstarter page where a pledge of $35 will earn you the first three FUNdamentals video lessons.
I recently received a call from a high school friend who wanted a video for her brother’s birthday. It was the first birthday he would be celebrating without both parents and she wanted to present a one-of-a-kind tribute to her family.
As the photos stared coming in, I saw the family story emerge, and even though I’ve known the woman (who I’ll call Diana) for almost 30 years, I was experiencing the history of her life between high school and adulthood. It’s the most gratifying part of my job – being able to see what other people cannot see within their own circles, seeing the love, the closeness, the laughter that is continuous in every family’s history despite the arguments or the geography or the expansions.
What hit me right here was the audio clip Diana sent of a message her father left on her voicemail, wishing her a happy birthday in the unique style he reserved for his children. Since no child was named in the message, we are using it to open the video for her brother’s birthday.
And that is the message I want you to hear – but from your own grandparents/parents/cherished family members. My grandparents died long before smartphone video made recording life a commonplace habit. We have no video or audio recordings of the people who helped raise me, who entertained me every Shabbat (Friday) after school. I have memories of watching the Price is Right with my grandfather and watching The Overcooking of Steak with my grandmother (not a skilled cook, but I loved her!). But it would be so nice to be able to to hear their voices, or to see a video clip of me and my grandfather yelling out prices at the contestants on TV.
After my grandmother passed and I started cleaning out her condo, I came across some surprising photos that were atypical of the woman I knew. I also found photos that instantly threw me back to when I was 10 years old and hanging out in my grandparent’s variety store.
We now have the technology to preserve those voices, places and actions forever. Even if your relative is camera shy, capture that. I recently had the opportunity to record my children baking with their grandmother, and I know it’s a video they will cherish forever. There are many clips of their grandparents and lately I find myself stepping in front of the camera knowing that one day, they will watch these videos. When that day comes, it won’t matter how my hair looked or what I weighed or if I was in my pj’s . It will only matter that they can see and hear their mom.
I could almost hear the collective sigh as kids across the country returned to school. While I am sure there were also a lot of tears, I know there were a lot of excited faces and eager beavers. The kids were into it too.
Around here, summer is not over until the photo book is done.
With more than 800 photos from our Alaskan cruise, I knew it would not be an easy task to cull the best photos to create our summer vacation photo book. It was something I had to schedule in order to make sure I completed it. I took a few hours to select my photos, started the upload to the photo site I chose and walked away from it for the rest of the day.
The next day, I gave myself two hours to put the book together. Around here, with two boys who sometimes want my attention, two hours is generally spread out over the course of the whole day. For my work ethic, just having it on my weekly planner is enough of a nudge to complete my task.
When it was finally done, I had a 111-page photo book with almost 400 photos. It was a long, but wonderful process. I added captions and moved photos around. I deleted some photos, uploaded some others. When you’re trying to capture the best of your holiday, you have to be picky and you have to have patience. There are two online photo book creators that I use: one is a simple drag and drop; the other is fully customizable. For this project, I purposely chose the drag and drop (with the option to move photos around) because I was limited in my time. For my client projects, I always use the program that enables me to build each page individually.
I’ve been creating photo books for 5 years for myself and my clients. My favorite photo book was a recipe cookbook I created for a family whose Scottish matriarch took the time to write down her recipes in a coiled steno pad. I scanned the recipes, and integrated the recipe pages with old photos of the family. The client was stunned into silence when I presented her with a book filled with stained recipes and restored photos.
The client thanked me, paid me and walked away. My first thought was that she was unhappy with the book, but later that day, I received the following email: Dana, my apologies for leaving so quickly. I truly lost control of my emotions and I hope you did not see me crying in my car. I cannot express what a gift you have given me and my family and a wonderful tribute to my grandmother. Thanks again for all your work in crafting the recipe photobook! I just love how it turned out. It far exceeded my expectations!
Photo books are the perfect complement to the digital age. If you are not a scrapbooker, then a photo book is a wonderful way to create something special in a very short time period.
Here are 5 steps to help you create your Summer 2013 photo book.
1) Choose your platform. The two big players are Shutterfly and Blurb, but ElePhoto is a 100% Canadian company and they are producing some quality work. You have to first decide which platform will suit your needs: do you want to drag and drop or do you want a little more control over how the pages work?
2) Schedule your time to select your photos. If you can’t block off a large chunk of time and you have volumes of photos to sift through, plan to tackle a little every day.
3) Be ruthless in your selection. If it’s a little out of focus, dump it if there are others that are better. If you always have to point out that the tiny dots in the water are seals, then forget about including it in your book.
4) Speak to your audience. When you are writing your captions, think of some of the things that your audience would like to know. When I am captioning the book, I keep my kids in mind, so I like to add my thoughts and write with my voice. My hope is that when they look at these books long after I’m gone, they really will hear me speaking.
5) Change it up. Try turning some photos on an angle or creating a mirror image on an opposite page – a great way to fill a page instead of sifting through all your photos again.
Have fun with the project. When it feels like work, walk away from it until you are ready to try again. The nice thing about online photo book software is that you can save your project and come back to it later.
This is one project it’s okay to procrastinate about, since I truly believe that summer ain’t over ’til the photo book’s done.
Our third day on the Disney Wonder found us winding our way through the Stephens Passage on our way to Tracy Arm to see the Sawyer glaciers. The ride was smooth, but every time I looked up from my book, it seemed like we were taking another turn through scenery more gorgeous than the last corner. I’m going to let the photos tell the story, but I want to share a couple of key occurrences.
1) Naturalist Cindy, who was narrating from the bridge as we navigated through the passage, has been living in Alaska for 20 years and HAD NEVER SEEN A CLEAR DAY like the one we had that day. Alaska is normally cloudy and rainy and the views are usually obscured. She frequently had to stop her narration because she too was in awe.
2) If we needed further proof that we were having an unusual day, we only had to look around the deck. The ship’s staff were emerging from everywhere eagerly taking pictures of the Sawyer glaciers and very excited about what they were seeing.
NOTE: CLICK ON THE PHOTOS TO SEE THEM IN THEIR FULL GLORY!
UP NEXT: In Juneau, no one will hear you scream.
The first sleep on the ship was a surprise: we all slept like babies being gently rocked all night, but we felt no motion at all. When the boys woke the next morning, they quickly realized that we were out on the open seas and all three grabbed their binoculars and tried to find whales outside the porthole.
Shortly after breakfast, the boys were begging to investigate the Oceaneer’s Lab and the Oceaneer’s Club. We already knew about the glory of the clubs, having been brought to tears when we watched the DVD in 2007. The Oceaneer’s Club & Lab are for kids aged 3-10. I won’t bore you with the amazing activities that happen there every single day, but I will tell you what you, as a parent, really need know.
YOU CAN TAKE YOUR KIDS THERE AND LEAVE. UNTIL THEY WANT YOU TO COME GET THEM. WHICH IS NEVER.
(It’s okay to cry now)
At 7 and 8, our boys could check themselves in, and our eldest could check himself out. He met an awesome kid from Australia and together, the two of them went swimming, had ice cream for lunch and panini for dessert and popped into the ship’s movie theatre to watch the Avengers in 3D.
Don’t get me wrong, we thoroughly enjoyed every minute we spent with our boys. We had tons of fun just checking out the ship or swimming in the pool. But they had the freedom to do what they wanted and so did we. My husband and I enjoyed some brilliant adult time, just chatting and enjoying the ride.
Having some time away from the kids meant we could recharge our batteries and really let loose when they decided to grace us with their presence.
The views as we made our way north to Tracey Arm were absolutely stunning. Something went weird with my camera and I have some mysterious dark spots on some of these images, but you can see the spectacular scenery.
We capped off our first full day at sea with the formal dinner. On an 8-night cruise, you can expect at least one formal evening. Some people wore tuxedos and gowns, others wore suits and summer dresses. The boys were thrilled when we told them that yes, we packed their suits and ties and they too could dress for dinner. Our servers – Quacey and Sergio – were with us every night. They knew what we liked to drink and where we liked to sit. Most impressive of all, they knew exactly how to make this whole family smile.
Next time: The mind-blowing glacier and the naturalist whose mind was blown.
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