January 23, 2011

Sunday Morning at Cafe Green

photo by Jerry Sprouse

The family and I returned to Cafe Green in Albuquerque for the second week in a row. We made it in time for brunch this morning and were not disappointed.

I started off with a yummy coffee. No bad diner coffee here.

I was tempted by everything on the menu again, but ultimately I decided to go with the Crab Benedict. 2 crabcakes on English muffins topped with poached eggs, hollandaise sauce, and slivers of green onion. Jerry ordered La Croque Madame, one of his favorite brunch plates from The Grove. Cafe Green’s version includes ham, fontina cheese, a poached egg, and bechamel sauce on toast.

The plates were both beautiful and delicious again.

Crab Benedict


La Croque Madame, photo by Jerry Sprouse

I loved my Crab Benedict. The crab cakes were delicious and fresh; I only wish they used lump crab meat for a chunkier texture. I gave up on the English muffin after a while because it was a little too tough to cut easily with a wimpy butter knife. Jerry enjoyed his Madame, but the Grove‘s version remains his favorite.

We ended the meal with one of two desert crepes. Jerry chose the Banana Cajeta crepe because of little girl’s fondness for the fruit.

Banana Cajeta Crepe

The light crepe was stuffed with carmelized bananas and topped with goat milk caramel, vanilla ice cream, and powdered sugar. The bananas and ice cream were scrumptious, but I found the caramel a little too goaty for my tastes.

We enjoyed our second visit to Cafe Green, although service was slow for the second half of meal. Best of all–this gourmet brunch was inexpensive. Our bill was about $25 this morning. We’ll be back again to try some other dishes that have been calling to us. Maybe next time I’ll be able to resist the crab’s siren song.

January 22, 2011

Cloudy with a Chance of Smiles

Albuquerque has something like 300 sunny days per year and that’s usually a good thing. I love the sunshine and warmth…especially in the middle of winter.

Today, however, I learned to be thankful for the partly-cloudy sky. Jerry and I took our little girl around Corrales to enjoy the warm afternoon. The clouds provided an excellent filter for the usually harsh midday sun, and I got some beautiful shots.

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Little girl has on a cute vintage  hand-knit sweater. The hoodie zips up the back like a backwards cardigan. Jerry thought she looked a little goofy in it, but I love the neutral color and texture of the knit. Plus, I wore it when I was little, too.

As usual, I did most of my post-processing in Adobe Lightroom. I love that program! For this round of pics, I did some extra editing in Photoshop Elements to get rid of some milk that dried on her face while we drove around town.

January 17, 2011

Yumminess 7 Ways

1. Sleeping in until almost 10 am. Thank you, baby girl.


2. It was too late for breakfast by the time we headed out the door, so we had a delicious lunch at Cafe Green in downtown Albuquerque. Hello gouda soup. It is very nice to meet you. I think we should become best friends. (Is it okay to eat new best friends?)

3. Off to a hike at the Elena Gallegos Picnic Area. Yummy view #1 was the mountain with its cloak of moody clouds.


4. View #2 is even more yummy. My handsome husband.


5. The sharpness of the cactus spines. Okay, so this is probably the least tasty of all today’s yummy things. They would probably hurt quite a bit going down my throat. But, I still think this picture is pretty yummy.


6. The spicy aroma as I made Chai Tea Concentrate. Thank you to thecatnipcat via Tasty Kitchen.




7. Afternoon tea. I love afternoon tea. I like afternoon tea at The Bonbonnerie. I love afternoon tea in English novels. I love afternoon tea at home.


January 16, 2011

Sunday Slideshow: Just After Sunrise

I woke up just after 7 on Saturday morning and headed straight out the door with my camera. My hope was to follow-up on last week’s sunset slideshow with a sunrise slideshow. Well, the sun was a little too far ahead of me for that. So, I’ll share some just after sunrise pictures instead.

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I visited a farm not too far from my house. There was so much to see and photograph. I loved the variety of surfaces and back-drops that were aged in ways you can’t manufacture. In fact, I think this location would be great for portraits. And judging from the lovely, weathered yellow chair hanging out in the stables, I’m might not be the only person who thinks so.

Now, I just need to find the right subject for this wonderful back-drop. If you’re in the area and you think this might be the perfect setting to capture your lovely face or the lovely face of someone you know, leave a comment and I’ll be in touch with you.

January 15, 2011

Life is Messy, But Beautfiul

Somehow my daughter never seems to have a clean face. I hate trying to wrangle her into a still position to wipe her face and listen to her angry screams. Even my not-so-clean husband sometimes gets bothered by the ickiness before me. So, most of the time I let her run around with a food-slathered, somewhat crusty, dog-hair covered face. That sounds really gross. But, even really gross can be really beautiful.

I did some minor editing in Adobe Lightroom for this beauty. I changed the white balance to make the picture a touch warmer and softened her skin just a bit. I did not edit out the food on her face–she just wouldn’t be my daughter any longer if I did. If you look close enough, you might even be able to find a stray dog hair.

I’m loving how the pink in her shirt is picked up by the flowers on the silk pillowcase. Thanks mom for the gift from Singapore!

What’s messy but beautiful in your life?

January 11, 2011

Tutorial: Silhouettes in Adobe Photoshop Elements

Part 1: Extracting the Subject

I’ve seen silhouettes popping-up all over the place! I love the classic look that you can mix-up with modern backgrounds and colors to match your decor. Best part, it’s a quick and easy DIY project with no fancy scissor-wielding skills necessary.

It’s important to start with a clutter-free background for your picture. Ideally, your

subject will be backlight. You can expose for the background so that your subject appears dark. Of course, wrangling a 15-month old into just the right position is difficult. I settled for a profile shot of my baby girl with a solid background.

I imported my best profile shot into Adobe Photoshop Elements. Crop the image if your SOOC shot was not ideal. I needed to crop the corner of the futon out of my shot to simplify the image.

Then, open the Magic Extractor from the Image menu. The Magic Extractor isolates a subject from a background with a few simple steps. First, use the Foreground Brush tool to highlight your subject in red. You don’t have to fill the entire subject, just trace it roughly being sure not to go outside the lines. Did you know you only need kindergarten level color skills for this project?

Then, click on the Background Brush tool from the menu at the left. It looks like a highlighter with a negative sign. Click in several parts of the background to mark them with blue. Again, it’s not necessary to mark every portion. You can always refine the selection later if needed

Don’t worry if you’ve made a mistake. Click on the eraser to delete your foreground or background marks.

When you’ve marked the foreground and background, click the preview button to see the first rendering. Magically, the background disappears and most of your subject should be left on the screen. Now, you can refine the extraction. At this stage, I zoomed in to do some fine tuning, especially around her beautifully long eyelashes, hair fringe, and neckline.

As I worked, I found it helpful to switch back and forth between displaying the Selection Area and Original Photo using the drop down menu on the right.

When viewing the Selection Area, use the Add to or Remove from Selection tools to refine your selection. Changing the background to mask in the preview box helped me to see the isolated silhouette and identify areas that needed revision.

When you are satisfied with the extraction, click OK and the Magic Extractor window closes and your subject reappears in the Elements window on a transparent background.

At this point, you could simply add any background you choose to the image. Maybe my girl would like to visit the Eiffel Tower or relax on the beach? Nah, her new favorite activity is walking to the mail box and barking back to all the dogs along the way.

Next week, I’ll show you how to convert the extracted image to a silhouette for a more traditional application.

January 9, 2011

Slideshow Sunday: Warm Sunset

Sunset may be my new favorite time of day. The richness of the light was so incredible I could almost touch it. I love the depth and warmth the setting sun adds to these pictures. Jerry though I was crazy for taking so many of a rusted-out, shot-up sign. Maybe I am. Thanks honey for humoring me when I returned to the car with a bloody knuckle and fingers so cold they “burned”.

Excuse me while I warm my frozen fingers in front of these glowing pictures.

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January 8, 2011

Beautiful New Mexico Skies

When I moved to New Mexico, I was amazed by the wide open skies and views that extended more miles than I could fathom. Even after more than six years living here, I still don’t take these views for granted. Especially in the winter, when my work commutes are set to the backdrops of our beautiful sunrises and sunsets, I am awed.

The vibrant, constantly changing colors, however, sometimes appear lackluster when captured on camera.


Here’s a shot from this afternoon. The colors of the sky and landscape look washed out by the strong midday sunlight. The fluffy white clouds blend in too well against the light blue sky.

Luckily, Adobe Lightroom offers a simple tool to restore the vibrancy of the colors. In the Develop module, I selected the HSL panel. HSL stands for hue, saturation, and luminosity. Hue alters the color. Saturation alters the vividness of a color. Luminosity alters the lightness or darkness of a color.

There are sliders in the HSL panel that can be used to change the values. I prefer to use the targeted adjustment tool marked here by the red arrow.

To change the HSL of a color:

1. Select Hue, Saturation, or Luminance in the menu.

2. Click on the targeted adjustment tool.

3. Click and hold the mouse button down on an area in the photograph you would like to adjust.

4. Move your mouse up and down to adjust the level of your selection. You will see the slider(s) of the color you selected move up and down and the changes on your photograph.

5. Release the button, then click done.

For my photograph, first I adjusted the saturation of the blue in my sky. I increased the saturation by 85 to make the blue more vibrant. Then, I decreased the luminosity of the blue by 10 to increase the contrast between the sky and the clouds a little more.

I really love how these adjustments gave the sky more depth. I also increased the saturation of the orange in the landscape to combat the washed-out effect of the strong sunlight. Here’s a side by side comparison of the before and after so you can really see the difference.

One caveat to using the targeted adjustment tool, the color changes made are global. Meaning similar colors anywhere in your picture will also be adjusted. Making adjustments to red, orange, and yellows might affect skin tones in portrait photography, so be sure to watch those areas.

January 7, 2011

The Magic of Lightroom Presets

Have I told you yet how much I love Lightroom and its nondestructive editing capabilities? I spent some time this evening playing with the standard Lightroom presets using my teapot photograph from yesterday. Lightroom presets provide a quick, simple way to change the appearance of a photo. Changes vary from subtle to dramatic depending on the preset.

I love that I can how my photo will look with a preset by hovering over it with my cursor and watching the navigation menu. I was drawn towards more muted presets tonight–no crazy cross-processing for these babies.

As I “tried on” the various presets, I created virtual copies of my favorites to share here.

B&W Creative Look 1

B&W Creative Look 4

Color Creative Old Photo


Help me pick a preset so I can apply it to the two remaining images and print my triptych. My kitchen walls are desperate for some loving.


January 5, 2011

Kitchen Still Life

My husband has been asking me to hang more pictures in our house for ages. We have a large, blank wall in our kitchen. It wasn’t always blank, but my husband thought it would be fun to toss a heavy, rubber dog toy around the kitchen. After a few amazing bounces, he managed to knock down a framed picture hanging on the wall. The picture, one half of a diptych, broke. So I took the lonely, unscathed picture down and we’ve been staring at a blank wall since.

I have finally decided to create my own artwork to replace the damaged pictures. And no more bouncing dog toys or baby toys around the kitchen after I get these babies framed.

Tea Pot

white vase

white tea cup

I love the simplicity of the white ceramic pieces against the deep chocolate table. I initially planned to print these in 8 x 10 format, but looking back at the wide expanse of wall, I think I may go up to 11x 14. I plan to mat these on white matboard and coordinate the frame with the table color.

Chocolate? Did someone say chocolate? I better find some now.

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