Week 4's Photo Challenge was to take a self-portrait.  I was really not looking forward to this week's challenge as I really hate taking photos.  After all, we are our own worst critic.

Even though I was not looking forward to this weekly photo challenge I definitely knew how I wanted to photography myself.  I got married a year and a half ago and fell in love with my wedding dress.  Such a shame us girls rarely get the opportunity to wear it again.  There's isn't much to the dress.  Just a simple off white sweetheart neckline dress from Nicole Miller.  It was perfect for our beautiful outdoor wedding we had in July.  It has been sitting in our guest room closet since I got back from the cleaners and I have been dying for an excuse to put it on again.  This week's photo challenge gave me that excuse I have been looking for:

Yes, I know it's blurry and has some ghosting.  I'd even say it's a little overexposed but that is why I like this photo.  Adds a dream-like quality to it.  The fact you really cannot see my face (because it is blurry) is just an added bonus!  

Hope everyone had a great weekend.  Cheers to yet another week!


Christmas in STL

I know, I know... it's been more than a month since Christmas but wanted to share our Christmas in St. Louis at my parents before it really did become too late.  For those of you who do not know me well, my parents moved to St. Louis, MO in June of 2006 leaving me behind to fend for myself in the 'burbs of Pittsburgh.  Don't worry, I have since forgiven them.

Last year, Chris and I since decided to spend our first Christmas together in Pittsburgh.  I am very fortunate to have married into such a wonderful family who has welcomed me with open arms from the very beginning.  I am not sure about the rest of you but I look forward to seeing others' Christmas traditions and sharing it with them.  As such, I was very excited to spend Christmas for the first time (in the 5 years we have been together) together in our new home starting our own traditions.  And I loved every minute of it.

Since my parents do not live in the Pittsburgh, we decided from the beginning we would switch off each year between our two families.  Thanksgiving with my parents in STL and Christmas in Pgh then Thanksgiving in Pgh and Christmas in STL.  This year I was just as excited to show Chris what the Brantley Christmas traditions are as I was to see what his family's traditions were the previous year.  I asked him one day "Are you excited for Christmas in STL with my family?"  He responded "Yeah.  What, we'll probably just play cards and drink right?"  And that is what we did, starting our afternoons with Mimosas or Bloody Marys and enjoying dinner with wine all while playing Phase10, Rummy 500 and Mexican Train.

As much as I loved spending Christmas last year with the Cornmans there really is nothing more comforting than being with your parents, your family, and your traditions on Christmas.

My dad, the one hiding behind those wide size 8s, got me my frist DSLR for Christmas in 2009.  I have since upgraded but am forever grateful to him for seeing something in my passion for photography and surprising me with such a great gift.  As you can tell, he does not like to be photographed.  

I have been kinda obsessed with Bokeh Photography.  Okay, okay... not kinda.  I was so excited (yes, excited) to photograph my parents Christmas Tree in Bokeh!  Would have been a lot cooler if the lights on the tree were color.  Oh well.  

Yes, this is me.  Circa 1993/1994.  I know exactly where this photo was taken, ice skating at the Mall of Memphis.  Don't you love my big bow and bangs?  And look at those teeth.  They're still just as big but I think/hope I have grown into them.  I love ornaments with pictures.  Always good for a laugh :)

Melissa picking her nose for the camer

This was taken inside the City Museum.  One of the coolest museums I have ever been to!  If you are ever in the St. Louis area I highly recommend going.  Chris who doesn't like museums fell in the love with this place.  Inside and outside are mazes/tunnel like things to climb through for both adults and children.  Seriously, the coolest place ever!  

Watching the neighborhood
Hi eyes say, "Will you just leave me alone already.  I'm trying to rest here." 

Christmas this year had it's bittersweet moments.  Here is Rudy, my family's Golden Retriever for 12 years.  He hadn't been himself for sometime but appeared to be declining quickly while we were there. When I left I knew it would be the last time I would see him.  He passed away on New Year's Eve.  Even though I expected "the phone" call any moment it didn't make it any easier when it actually came.  As silly as it seems, you just kinda start to think/believe when someone/something has been around for as long as they had been they would be around forever.  I am just so grateful I was able to spend some of his last days with him and was able to capture those photos.  

And this is what Christmas at the Brantleys does to Chris (and apparently Melissa).  


And before I forget, here is this week's Photo Dump:

Have a great weekend!

The End. 


Just another App to take up space on my phone but totally worth it

I was recently introduced to this new app for my iPhone called Red Stamp while reading The Kubeczka Family's blog.  Have you heard of it?  First one of it's kind that I have been made aware and it's F-R-E-E.  You can make your own greeting cards, thank yous, wedding/engagement/birth announcements, etc all from your phone!  Pretty cool, huh?  

I tried it yesterday to see if it really was as neat as it promised to be and I was very pleased with the results.  Here is what I created:    

cute, huh?  
I hope everyone had a great week!



I am such a sucker for a good quote.  And it seems that quote appears when I need it the most to encourage me to keep going, remind me there is hope and I have a lot to be grateful for when I'm just having one of those days.  Today was one of those days.  Starting to feel discouraged again and letting those no good, very bad negative thoughts cloud my thinking.  

This morning I was reading through my Twitter feed and KEV!NOU's tweet (is that what you call them) caught my attention:

Just what I needed to see/hear today.  Does anyone else find that to be true?  You read or hear something that you just really needed?

I have been a collector of quotes since I was probably 12 years old.  I have three or four diaries (yes, diaries - even ones with a key) full of quotes (and the occasional rant).  I'm hoping my mom has them somewhere in St. Louis because I would be curious to look through those now.  

Anyway, what are your favorite quotes?  I have SO many but here are two of my all time favorites:

"... but it's hard to stay mad, when there's so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I'm seeing it all at once, and it's too much, my heart fills up like a balloon that's about to burst... And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can't feel anything but gratitude..." 
- American Beauty - 

"I would rather live in a world where my life is surrounded by mystery than live in a world so small that my mind could comprehend it." 
- Harry Emerson Fosdick -

I would love to hear from you, who ever you are, on quotes and what they mean/say to you.  Look forward to hearing from you!

Happy Hump Day:):):)


My Favorite Thing

Week 3 of 2012 has come and gone.  I'm not sure about the rest of y'all but January just isn't going fast enough for me.  Must. Remind. Self. to just breathe and take one moment/day at a time... ahhh Zen. 

Okay, with that off my chest; this week's Weekly Photo Challenge is "Your Favorite Thing."  I have loads of favorite things.  I love to spend time with Chris, family and friends, listen to great music, read with a glass of red wine next to me, soak in a warm bath, be outside, photograph, spooning first thing in the morning, etc.  It was really hard to choose just one thing.  To be honest, I'm not really sure if we were only supposed to choose just one thing but I knew I wouldn't be able to fit all of my favorite things into one photograph.  Just wouldn't happen.  

As I was making a mental list of my favorite things and it got to reading's turn I immediately thought of Harry Potter.  Anyone who knows me should not be surprised by this.  I seem to never get sick of reading/watching/talking Harry Potter.  I have re-read the series a couple of times and it never gets old (mainly because I don't remember it all).  I love to spend rainy afternoons crocheting while watching one of the movies.  I often get teased a lot for this "little" obsession by coworkers, friends and family members who are always reminding (jokingly I promise) me he is isn't real.  

YES! I have a Gryffindor tie and scarf and the Elder Wand.  
I didn't get into the series right away.  In fact, I actually remembering laughing at my sister, Melissa, for reading it.  It wasn't until I nannied for a family for a summer in 2003/2004 (6-7 years after the first book came out).  They older boys were really into the books and had a Harry Potter board game.  In order for me to play the game with them (and lets be honest; win) I borrowed the books from them and have been hooked ever since.  

I went to pick up Deathly Hallows (the last book) at midnight with Chris, Melissa and two of her good college friends, have been to a few midnight releases of the movies and may or may not have dressed up (my catholic high school uniform skirt as come in good use the past few years) for the Deathly Hallows' Part 1 and 2's midnight showing.  I look forward to sharing the wonderful world of Harry Potter with my kids one day.  

Okay, now that I have shared my nerdiness with everyone what is your favorite thing?  Are you a Harry Potter fan?  If you had to choose just ONE favorite thing, what would it be?  


Friday Photo Dump

A few weeks ago I was reading the different blogs I follow and found a nice idea to get rid of photos from my iPhone:  Friday Photo Dump.  I first saw it on Our Life In A Click's blog and fell in love with the idea.  I take SO many photos and videos with my phone and have been needing a reason to delete them from phone.  I am so sick of getting that annoying "there is no more space on your phone for ANOTHER photo" message when I go to take a photo that I am so sure, at least in that moment, I will never get another chance to capture.  Sound familiar?

Here's this week's Friday Photo Dump:

I used Picnik to make this collage.  

Happy Friday everyone!  Any fun plans this weekend?  For those of you who are in the part of the country that have gotten, or are predicted to get, snow you should bundle up, go outside and take some photos of what you see!  Snowy scenes are one of my favorite things to photograph.  Just sayin' ;)


Weekly Photo Challenge

As you know, I love taking photos.  Of anything and EVERYTHING.  Towards the end of 2011 I was starting to get a little discouraged as I wasn't getting too many phone calls for photo shoots and wasn't feeling too motivated to just go out and shoot.  On my twitter feed I stumbled upon a few articles on how to improve your photography and get out of that "photography rut."  

One was to partake in a weekly and/or 365 photo challenge.  I am already doing my own 365 photo challenge (which I will talk about in a later post) so I decided to find myself a weekly photo challenge.  To be honest I am not quite sure where I heard of LensProToGo's weekly photo challenge but it was the first one I read about that sends you an email each month with a photo category for each week of that month.

And with only two weeks in 2012 so far, I have participated in all of them. ;)  

The first challenge was a "A Self Portrait Without You In It."  When I first read this, I was like "whaaaaaaaaaat?!"  How is it supposed to be a self portrait if I'm not in it?  Since I was confused I look at the LensProToGo's 52 Week Photo Project group on Flickr (where participants upload their entries each week) to see what others had photographed.  AHA!  They are asking me to photograph something that represents who I am.  Got it!  

The next challenge was finding something that represents who I am.  I was sitting in my office after a busy Wednesday morning/afternoon and happened to look up and see a magnet that I have had on my filing cabinets since I've been there.  On the magnet are different cartoon-ish faces with different feelings (i.e. angry, frustrated, tired, sad, happy, etc) written under each face.  Another magnet comes with it that looks like a frame that says "Today I feel."  You then take the frame magnet and put it over what ever face/feeling you are feeling that day.  Do you know what I'm talking about?  No?  

Does this help? Anyway, my motto for about a year now has been to find the positive in any situation and always remain hopeful. Since I have made a conscious effort do this I feel my new outlook on life has brought me more opportunities and every day looks a little brighter.  I know it sounds cheesy but it has so far been true for me.  Isn't the face kinda cute?

Week 2's photo challenge was a photo of "Your Front Door."  I thought to myself; "Well, this'll be easy."  However, I was wrong.  Our front door is rather boring.  Not much to it.  It's just a front door.  How could I get creative with a boring front door?  I had an idea in mind that I was so sure would work. Wrong.  Starting to get discouraged as the week was coming to an end (your photo has to be submitted to LensProToGo 52 Week Photo Project's Flickr group by Sunday night).  

As luck would have it, it snowed most of the day Friday (although not enough for work to call us off - boo!).  A lot of snow blew on our front porch covering our doormat.  As I walked up our front steps I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to shoot the front door.  

See, told you my front door is kinda boring.  And as you can see we still haven't taken our Christmas decoration (only thing we put up this year) yet.  I first wanted to photograph my footprints on the doormat but noticed they just kinda looked like round blobs (was wearing Ugg knockoffs) and was not about to put my bare feet on a cold snow covered doormat even for photography's sake.  I then noticed some of the "Welcome" had been brushed away so I brushed snow off the rest of the "Welcome."  To me that has a lot of meaning. Although, our front door may be boring, our home is always open to friends and family and what is inside once you open the door is what really matters.  

What would your photo look like for each theme?  What would you take a picture of for a self-portrait without you in it?  How would you shoot your front door?  

I look forward to this week's challenge: "Your Favorite Thing" (secretly hoping we can pick more than just one) and sharing it with y'all.  

What about you?  Have you decided to partake in any photography projects for 2012?

Hope everyone had a great weekend and not to stressful Monday (if you had to work)!


Alyson Time

Who doesn't enjoy a little alone time?  I love myself some, what I've come to call, "Alyson time!"  I am able to enjoy a few hours to myself every day after work (I get home around 3:45) since Chris doesn't get home from work until 6ish but I spend those few hours checking my twitter feed and/or reading photography related articles.  As much as I do enjoy learning about photography, those few hours aren't really spent doing something I want to do.

Since Chris started massage therapy school in July I have had more chances to really enjoy "Alyson time." Thursdays have become the afternoons where I put everything aside and really enjoy me time.  This past Thursday I documented some of the things I "get to do" when Chris is around.  When the cat's away, the mice come out to play!  Right?

I started my night with my new library book.  No interruptions. 
I read my book while soaking in a warm bath after an hour long run with a friend.  Again, no interruptions.  
 I was able to spend as much time on Twitter I wanted without because asked to get off because "you spend way too much time on that phone" (even though I know I do). 
 Watched the first episode of the first season of 24 on our new TV.  Jack Bauer, oh how I've missed you. 
 I had a milkshake for dinner.  
 Watched the Special Features from Moneyball.  I needed some Brad in my life and new I should wait for Chris to watch the movie.  

I then watched my favorite Thursday TV line-up; Person of Interest and The Mentalist while I waited, like the good wife I am, for Chris to get home from his class around 11ish.  

Please don't get me wrong, I do LOVE spending time with Chris and look forward to seeing him when he gets home every day.  I just hate it for him that he has to be in class until late after working a full day and then doing the same thing again the next day.  But if I'm going to have a few extra hours in my afternoon to myself I might as well enjoy them, right?  Always look for the positive <---has become my motto.  

How do you spend "you time"? 

Have a great weekend everyone and stay warm!


50s? In January? In Pittsburgh?

Friday was a very rare day in Pittsburgh.  The temperatures got up to the mid to uppers 50s.  Virtually unheard of in this area in January.  After spending the first 8 hours of my day in the "Lower Level" (aka basement/dungeon as my coworkers and I like to call it) at work I decided to head out for some fresh air around my neighborhood.  There is a trail about two blocks from house that I thought would be a nice place to get a small hike in and to get the blood flowing while taking photos.  

Here are some of the photos I captured on my walk:  

As much as I do love having unseasonably warm weather in January, I do not particularly care for the bare tree branches that are a result of the warmer weather.  They are much prettier covered with colorful leaves or snow. 

These two were my favorites of the afternoon!  I love the sun shining through these little flowers.  Does anyone know what these plants/flowers/buds are called?  Unlike my Dad, I am not familiar with my plants. 

As I was heading back home, started to get a little chilly, I cam across a play ground.   And I couldn't resist playing a little.  

Yes, I went down the slide.  And as you can tell, doesn't look like I had the smoothest of landings...  

Winter here in the Pittsburgh area has been pretty mild with not many consistently cold days thus far.  Although you won't often get complaints from me about the weather being too warm I do find it hard to really enjoy these days knowing in the back of my mind 1) it won't be lasting much longer and 2) we have another 3 to 4 or 5 long months until the warm weather gets here and stays.  

I hope everyone had a great weekend and good Monday.  I know for many of you, like me, this is your first full week in a while.  I hope it isn't too painful!:)



New Year Resolutions


As with every New Year, I make a list of resolutions I would like to make in the coming year in my head.  As with every New Year, the resolutions never stick.  I got to thinking the other day (way back in 2011) why are resolutions so hard to keep?  Are they unrealistic?  Am I not motivated enough?  Am I not focused (most likely - haha)?  Lack belief in myself?  The answer to all these questions are "yes."

As with every question I ask myself, I turned to the internet for some answers.  During the day I work as a psychiatric rehabilitation worker in Psychiatric Rehabilitation in Beaver, PA.  I teach psychoeducation classes to consumers who attend our facility.  The type of consumers we serve are individuals who live with mental illnesses such as Anxiety, Depression, Schizophrenia and Bipolar.  I lead group discussions on such topics.  As it is home I often turn to the internet for information to have in groups.  When looking up ways to cope with anxiety/depression/anger/stress one of the most common is making goals for yourself.  Consequently, this led to me discussing New Year Resolutions in my Coping with Depression group last week.

I wikipedia-ed (is this even a word?) New Year Resolutions.  I found interesting statistics, although not surprising, from a 2007 study from the University of Bristol by Richard Wiseman that showed 52%, of the 3000 participants in the study, felt confident they would be able to achieve their goals but only 12% of those confident individuals actually succeeded.  Wiseman found a few common denominators in what helped those who did succeed.  Wiseman found men to be more successful when they either made goal setting (i.e. lose one pound per week) or rewarded themselves once they achieved their goals.  He found women were more successful when they told friends or families of their goals.  Here is a link to the article, that also discusses Wiseman's study, that lists ways to keep your New Year Resolutions.

Pretty interesting stuff, huh?  

For the first time I actually wrote down, via my iPhone, my goals for 2012.  Here are some of them (in no specific order):

  • learn how to read crochet patterns
  • build a studio
  • shoot a wedding on my own
  • continue to photograph something a day I am grateful for 
  • participate in a weekly photography project
  • blog more
  • be more active
  • study American Sign Language and German
  • keep our house clean
  • stay on top of laundry
  • eat better
  • continue to be more positive

What are your New Year resolutions for 2012?  As we said good-bye to 2011 and hello 2012, what were you most looking forward to saying good-bye to?  What are you looking most forward to in 2012?

May 2012 be a year filled with love and laughter for you!