Wednesday, May 29, 2013

That Time I Went Up the CN Tower

That Time I… was started by Alex from Let Life Be Like Music and Emily from Inhabit Your Moments, and is being used with their permission. Be sure to visit their blogs on Wednesdays to read their That Time I…

That time I....went up the CN Tower in Toronto

I only live two hours away from Toronto. I’ve been seeing the CN Tower my whole life, and I’ve always been fascinated by it. Even though I’ve been to Toronto countless times (my dad spent two years in and out of a cancer hospital in Toronto when I was little, plus it was a popular place for school trips, and I’ve seen plays, Stars on Ice, and concerts there), I never had a chance to actually go up the CN Tower. A friend and I went inside once and wandered around, but we didn’t have time to go up.

When I got tickets to see U2 in July 2011, I was determined that would be when I’d finally go up the CN Tower. Amanda (my sister-in-law) and I went to Toronto the day before the concert and played tourists. We went to the beach, drove around, wandered around, and I finally, finally, got my wish to go up in the CN Tower.

I bought the tickets as part of Amanda’s birthday gift (her birthday was a few days before and I’d given her a ‘coupon’ saying I’d buy her ticket…yes, I’m a nerd), and we went inside and wandered around for a bit while we worked up the courage to actually go up. I’m not really afraid of heights (it depends on the place and situation), but she is, so we took our time. After awhile we went through security (you have to step through this thing that blows air all over you - it scared the crap out of me, but I guess it’s to detect bomb residue or something?) and headed toward the elevator. 

We zoomed to the top in the crazy-fast elevator and headed for the windows to look out. It was incredible to see the whole city from that high up. It was really hot that day, so it was pretty smoggy, but we still had a good view.

Then we went to the glass floor. I had absolutely no intention of going on it (remember how I said I wasn't afraid of heights except in certain situations? Yeah, standing on a glass floor 1,000+ feet above the ground would be one of them), but then I realized the experience wouldn't be complete without doing it. It took me forever to work up the courage, but I held Amanda's hand and finally managed to step onto the glass. She had even less intention of getting on than I did, but I finally convinced her to do it. It was both terrifying and thrilling, and I felt good about myself for doing something so far outside my comfort zone. I even added a similar scene into my third novel where the main character and her boyfriend visit the CN Tower and step onto the glass together.

Top left: holding Amanda's hand while I stepped onto the glass and she took a picture; right: somehow I worked up the courage to sit down; bottom: my feet (notice my broken left sandal) and the view - insane!

I would love to go up in the CN Tower again someday. I think it'd be really fun to do with someone who's either never been to Toronto before, or never been up the tower.

Have you been in the CN Tower? Are you afraid of heights? What's something you've done that was outside your comfort zone?

Monday, May 27, 2013

DIY Maternity Pictures

A couple months before Logan was born, I bought a new camera. I've always loved taking pictures and I decided I should have a good camera to take pictures of the new baby. I wanted to test it out first and I thought it would be fun to do a maternity shoot with Amanda. She couldn't afford to have professional pictures done, so I figured it would serve us both - I could play with my new camera, build a portfolio of sorts, and she'd get pictures out of it.

The pictures turned out really well (even though I ended up hating that camera), and we had a lot of fun. The only thing that sucked was that it was January and we had to do pictures inside. We got my brother to move a bunch of furniture and we used a plain wall as a backdrop. I got Amanda to pose in different ways and we used props like flowers, baby shoes, and stuffed animals. Here are a few examples from that shoot:


You can see all the photos from this particular shoot in this album

I've learned a lot in the last 3+ years about lighting, angles, framing, etc. I've also got a much better camera (a Canon PowerShot A810 for anyone interested - nowhere near the professional type of camera I'd love to have someday, but for a point and shoot, plus a price you can't beat, I'm very pleased with it).

If you can't afford professional photography but want maternity pictures, it is possible. If you know someone who can work a camera and who's willing to take pictures of you, there are all kinds of ways you can do DIY maternity photos. Pinterest is a goldmine for ideas on poses and props. You can do themes, wear costumes,use props, or do things very simple and clean depending on your style and what's available to you.

My tips for DIY maternity photography:
  • Aim for natural lighting. If it's possible to do it outside, that would be your best bet unless you have professional equipment. If you have to do it inside, try to work near a source of natural light so you don't have to use your flash.  If you do have to use a flash, be aware of shadows and other lighting elements. 

  • Tell the mommy-to-be to relax and be as natural as possible. The focus should be on her natural beauty and the glow she's rocking from carrying a tiny person inside her! Work with that - she doesn't always have to be looking at the camera. Some of my favourite shots are when the mommy is looking at her belly or even looking away from the camera in contemplation. Give her some prompts to get a small, natural smile out of her - tell her to picture seeing her baby for the first time, holding it for the first time, seeing those tiny little fingers and toes. Or tell her to think of the immense power she has - she's created life, and that's an incredible thing. 

  • Outside shoots are not only fun, they're beautiful. Find an area that doesn't have a ton of people around, whether it's a forest, a field, an orchard, a beach, whatever (just make sure it's not private property!). 

  • Poses: there are endless possibilities here. You can have Mommy sitting, standing, lying down - just make sure she's comfortable, and make sure the belly is visible. You can do head-to-toe shots, shots from the waist up, or just focus on the belly. If you're somewhere scenic, try doing a few shots from far away so you get some of the scenery in the background. You can also have Mommy stay in one spot and have whoever's taking the pictures move around - squat, lie down, stand above her. Play with angles and light.

  • When working with kids...good luck! Seriously. But really, unless you have kids who will actually sit and pose, candid shots are likely your best bet. Get them talking and playing and then just snap away. You might get one good shot for every five, but hopefully there will be a few gems in there. When you're working with kids, I say don't be above bribery - promise them something in exchange for posing for a few minutes. Unless they enjoy posing and are working with you, keep their shots to a minimum or they'll get restless.  

  • As for editing, I recommend keeping it to a minimum - again, you want to let Mommy's inner beauty shine through and not get lost in the effects, filters, etc. I discovered this editing trick a few months ago and since then I've been using it on most of my photos. It's simple, it's clean, and it basically just makes the colours pop without being too much. Black and white or sepia are often nice for maternity shots too. Obviously it's your preference and what you think looks best, but these days I tend to like simple editing, or even no editing at all. Don't have editing software? Don't worry! There's absolutely nothing wrong with natural shots.


I wanted to do several other shots with Amanda this time around but it just didn't work out that way. These were impromptu - we were on family outings and decided we liked the scenery so we just went with it. These were taken two different days in two separate areas. Both shoots were done in the evening with softer light, and we ended up heading into sunset both times, which was really pretty. The silhouetted shots were just pure luck and ended up being among my favourites. 

Let me reiterate: I am not a professional photographer. I have a simple, inexpensive point and shoot camera. You do not have to be a professional, spend a fortune, or have a studio to get really lovely maternity shots.  




To see all the pictures from these two shoots, you can view the album here

Have you ever had a professional photo shoot done? If you have kids, did you have maternity pics done? Have you ever done a DIY photo shoot? Have any questions for me?

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Finding my place online

I started Lost and Found a year ago this month. I’d been book blogging for about a year, and I wanted a place where I could talk about things other than books and writing. I wanted to share bits of my life, my photography, my thoughts. I thought that maybe because I was already known in the blogging world, my friends and followers might be interested in my personal blog. I know that I love when my book blog friends share bits of their lives - it’s nice to know the person behind the computer, and learn about their other interests.

The thing is, I was wrong. Not only do most of my bookish friends not read this blog (except for Jessica and Patricia - I love you guys!), hardly anyone reads it. I’ve participated in blog hops to try to make friends, I visit other blogs and comment, I follow blogs that look interesting. But still this blog is a lonely little place. 

And I’ve just recently realized that it’s ok. I don’t have a very exciting life - it’s pretty monotonous and there’s not often much to talk about. If I were someone else, I probably wouldn’t want to read this blog either, so I can’t really blame people lol. But I enjoy sharing little bits of my life, as unexciting as they are, and all I can do is hope someday I’ll have more to talk about, more to share, more to draw people in and hold their interest.

I'm sure it sounds like I'm feeling sorry for myself, and I'm honestly not. I just hate that feeling of not belonging. I’ve felt it most of my life, and when I started book blogging, I finally felt like I found a community I belonged to. I fit in. I was able to be myself and share that geeky, fangirly side of myself that I’d kept hidden. Now that I’ve branched out, I’m not really sure where I fit in. There are so many ‘types’ of blogs, and I know which I don’t fit into better than which I do fit into. The most common types of blogs I’ve come across, which Lost and found is not:

  • I’m not a mommy blogger (although I do have two nephews that I talk about a lot and share pictures of…it’s not the same though)
  • I’m not a wifey blogger
  • I'm not a travel or ex-pat blogger (although I wish I were a travel blogger!)
  • I’m not a fashion blogger
  • I’m not a product review blogger
  • I’m not a Christian/Mormon/Jewish/insert religious affiliation here blogger
  • I’m not a pet blogger
  • I’m not a hobby blogger
  • I’m not a DIY blogger
So what am I? What is Lost and Found? I was going to add that I’m not a photography blogger, but the majority of what I share on here seems to be photography. I’m not a professional (I wish!), I just enjoy taking pictures and sharing them.

Maybe it’s ok not to fit into a certain mold. I’ve always done my own thing, so why should blogging be any different? If I want to show my inner nerd and talk about Doctor Who and Supernatural and other TV shows, why not? If I want to share funny littleanecdotes about my nephews, why not? If I want to talk about the future, or the past, or the little mundane things that make up my present, why not? And if nobody reads it? Well…*shrugs* That’s ok too, I guess. But this is my little space and I like the idea of getting to do and say whatever I want.   

Thursday, May 16, 2013

My best buddy

I used to hear mothers - particularly stay-at-home moms - say that their really young kids were their best friends. I always thought it was kind of sad - like, 'Don’t you have friends your own age?’ Or ‘You need to get out more if your baby/toddler is your best friend’. I never said anything of course, but I always thought it was an exaggeration or just a symptom of motherhood. A baby who can't talk or a toddler who talks nonsense couldn't possible be your best friend.

Then Logan came along. I’ve always been close with Noah and I feel like we have a really special bond, but it’s different with Logan. I think maybe it has something to do with being in the delivery room when he was born, seeing him draw his first breath, getting to hold him when he was just minutes old. I’ve also been fortunate enough to spend a lot more time with Logan than I ever did with Noah. While Amanda was taking courses and working, my mum and I watched Logan. I take partial credit for raising him, and I’m pretty damned pleased with the way he’s turning out.

The thing is…I’ve become one of those moms, except I’m not a mother yet, I’m an aunt. But Logan is my best buddy. When we had him here every day, it was one of the best times of my life. Getting to shape and mold him, see his personality develop, teach him things, and see so much of myself in him…it was amazing. Life changing. 

I’ve always seen a lot of myself in Noah, but again, it’s different with Logan. I feel like I get Logan. He’s so ridiculously smart, and so funny and unique. He blows my mind every minute I’m with him with the things he says and does. I’ve never met a kid like him, and I’ve been working with kids most of my life (first as a baby-sitter, then as a kindergarten teacher, then preschool teacher, and finally a nanny).

I’ve always said he’s like an adult trapped in a child’s body. Sometimes the way he looks at me makes my heart stop - he has the brightest, most intelligent eyes, and he looks at me like he can see into my soul. He’s always been that way. When he was a newborn, I’d be holding him and he’d stare at me like he could read my mind. He still does it. It's both unsettling and incredible. He’s very intense, but he’s also carefree and uninhibited. He’ll go from concentrating on something 100% to dancing around the house, singing, and laughing like a maniac.

And I talk to him like he’s an adult. I’ve never baby-talked to him and I don’t dumb things down. And he understands. It’s unreal. What really gets me is that he loves the same things I do - like, the weird little things that nobody ever understood. I’ve always been a closet geek (that’s actually something I’m going to talk about more later), and I’ve hidden that side of myself except with a select few people (except online, but again, I’ll talk about that another day). But Logan…I can tell he’s inherited my geek genes and I love it.

So when I let him choose whatever movie he wants and not just the Disney movies I’ve set aside for him and Noah, he picks things like Harry Potter and Phantom of the Opera. Did I mention he’s three years old? Seriously. And he WATCHES them. He’s absorbed in them like his life depends on it. And he’s not just zoning out, he keeps a running commentary and asks questions. Now you see why I say my mind is blown every second I’m with him. This tiny little person is a kindred spirit and I get him and he gets me. Yesterday I had him all day and he watched two Harry Potter movies and an episode and a half of Doctor Who. I kid you not. And this is all in between ‘normal’ kid things like kicking a ball around, playing with trucks, having a nap, helping me make dinner (ok, that might not be a normal kid thing, but he’s obsessed with helping). 

And he gives the best spontaneous hugs that melt my heart. We’ll be playing and all of sudden he just throws himself at me and wraps his arms around me and holds on tight. It makes me want to cry because it’s such pure love.

For all these reasons and a million tiny and huge other things, I’m not embarrassed to admit that a three-year-old is my best buddy. I hope it’s always this way and that eventually we can geek out together over things and that he’ll always get me and I’ll always get him. Everyone needs that in their lives. 


Sunday, May 12, 2013

A Mother's Day Tribute

Today I wanted to pay tribute to the two women who made me who I am today: my mum and my Grama. 

I'm going to be honest: growing up, I was a total Daddy's girl. I was his little buddy and I spent a lot more time with him than I did with my mum. When I was eight and my dad got sick, things started to change. He was away a lot in the hospital, and I had to become strong and brave and good for my mum. I tried not to make things more difficult for her because I knew how stressful it was for her working full-time, dealing with my dad's business, and taking care of me and my brother. When I was ten, my dad died, and then it was just me and my mum (my brother was 20 at the time and he sort of came and went). Slowly, my mum and I grew closer. At first it was out of necessity - we had to stick together during those dark days, but then I realized she was more than just a mother. She was a friend. By the time I hit my mid-teens, she was my best friend. We did things together, went places together, and I wasn't embarrassed to be seen with her the way a lot of my friends were with their mothers. 

My mum has gone above and beyond for my brother and me. She is the epitome of the selfless mother.
My mum is the strongest person I know. She's also the kindest, most thoughtful person I know. She's been there for me no matter what and has always supported me, encouraged me, and shown unconditional love. She's funny and smart and beautiful, and I don't know what I'd do without her.

My Grama was another of my best friends. She and I were kindred spirits. She was always interested in what I was doing, and I loved hearing about her life. I asked her a million questions and she never got tired of answering them. She was always involved in something - she learned how to use a computer when she was 88, and learned how to paint when she was in her 90s. She did knitting and tatting, loved crossword puzzles and sudoku, and loved to read. She also participated in all the activities at her nursing home. She was a lifelong learner and loved to figure out how things worked. She was fascinated with my cell phone and computer, and was always asking questions (guess I come by that curiosity naturally!). When I was 17 and emailed her from France, she couldn't get over the fact that I could send her a message from halfway across the world. She was my biggest fan, and like my mum, always showed support and encouragement. When she died, a little part of me died with her, and I don't think anything will ever fill the hole she left in my heart. Not a day goes by that I don't miss her, but I know she lived a long, happy life, and I know she'd be proud of what I'm doing with my own life.   


Both my mum and Grama are the type of people that everyone loves instantly. They have this inner light that shines through and people are attracted to that. They both make friends everywhere they go, and make people feel good about themselves. I hope someday to be that type of person. I hope people will see me as good and kind with an inner beauty that radiates like the sun, and I'll tell them I got that from my mum and my Grama. I hope to be as good a mother to my own children as my Grama was to my mum and as my mum is to me. If I can manage that, my kids will be pretty damn lucky.

The two women who made me the person I am today