March Read: “The Mistaken Wife”- finished!

Finished March’s Book of the Month- “The Mistaken Wife,” by Rose Melikan. If you like historical fiction that you can set down, go to the computer, brush up on your world history, then continue reading when you’ve satisfied your curiosity about the facts behind the fiction, this series is for you. None of that is necessary, of course, but sometimes you want a book that entertains and provides the opportunity to educate as well. The three books of this series are all packed with lots interesting sleuthing around, all based on historical facts of the period.

from http://rosemelikan.com/ click the photo to take you to her site- great background info to each book there!
Photo from http://rosemelikan.com/
click the photo to take you to her site- great background info to each book there!

In this third novel, Miss Mary Finch is recruited to carry out a mission to sabotage American and French relations during the close of the 18th Century. The author provides a very short, two page summary of international relations between France, England and America at the end of the book- I’d recommend reading that if you want a quick intro to Western history circa the Napoleonic era. No spoilers if you read these back-of-the-book pages, I promise.

This is not a steamy romance- next to none at all, it’s just not that kind of book… but we do see our heroine and hero headed at their own pace toward matrimony.

Like more historical fiction with a strong heroine, detailed events and accurate period culture? I’d also recommend the Lady Emily series by Tasha Alexader.

Why Challenge Yourself? (Book and Project of the Month Pep Talk)

March Read: The Mistaken Wife

March Project: 5K and The Only Two Reasons I Run

The month is halfway over. I am more than halfway through my book, but failing at this running challenge. I won’t give up, though. I have friends who have gone back to college and set far higher fitness goals than I have- out of respect for them, and myself, I’ll keep plugging away. They truly inspire me!

Need a reason to challenge yourself with new projects, plays, and books, recipes, etc.? Go online, look up “neural plasticity” and follow links on reputable websites. (here’s some!) Even better, enter “neural plasticity” into the search bar on Pinterest… now sit back, and start reading. In a nutshell: when you experience new things your brain is energized.

Doing something new every day and going out on a limb is my way to help get over years of anxiety.

If I also end up expanding my cognitive abilities, broaden my perspectives and become more creative, even better!

“Creativity is just connecting things.
When you ask creative people how they did something,
they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it,
they just saw something.
It seemed obvious to them after a while.
That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had
and synthesize new things.
And the reason they were able to do that was that
they’ve had more experiences
or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.
Unfortunately, that’s too rare a commodity.
A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences.
So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions
without a broad perspective on the problem.
The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.”
Steve Jobs

Read the whole WIRED interview here: http://archive.wired.com/wired/archive/4.02/jobs_pr.html

March Read: Abby Picks Historical Fiction…. “The Mistaken Wife” or “Hild”

It is time to choose a new Book of the Month! Today, Abby the Labby gets to pick, and she’s quite excited… because we are bribing her with a treat to keep her sitting down and posing for this photo. What’s it gonna be? She knows I don’t want another edjoo-ma-cative read after January’s “The Happiness Project” and  February’s “Nikon D3300 for Dummies.” She also knows that I am fond of historical fiction, and have picked up two recently.

Hild,” is book number one by Nicola Griffith, who, through much research created a novel about what 7th century Britain would be like for the woman who would be later known as Saint Hilda. This book came highly recommended by staff at a favorite small bookstore. Book number two is “The Mistaken Wife,” third in a series including “The Blackstone Key” and “The Counterfeit Guest,” all by Rose Melikan.

Abby during the discernment process:

Sure looks like she is leaning toward "Hild," and check out all the wine we won at the school's raffle! We've NEVER won anything like that, WOO HOO!!!
Sure looks like she is leaning toward “Hild,” and check out all the wine we won at the school’s raffle! We’ve NEVER won anything like that, WOO HOO!!
Is Abby choosing "Hild?" Is she in a 7th century Britain mood? Hmmm...
Is Abby choosing “Hild?” Is she in a 7th century Britain mood? Hmmm…

So what is Abby going to choose for me? It’s…

IT’S “THE MISTAKEN WIFE!” But, how do we know which one Abby chose? It came down to which book she drooled on, honestly. Remember, we had treats for her, and she was quite aware of it. Maybe she also knew that I already read Melikan’s first two stories about Mary Finch, reluctant heiress and even more reluctant spy during the close of the 1700’s. Either book presented a win-win situation for me- I’m a sucker for well researched historical fiction,  And Harry Potter. If you ever feel like discussing the minutiae of that universe, I’m your Potterverse Pal.

More Photography Lessons… (I need to take a class!)

Whew. Trying to figure out how to work the Christmas Camera is waaaaaay harder than I thought. I may have to completely throw in the towel and pop for a real class with a real instructor, ’cause I ain’t making any headway on my own.

Just when I thought I couldn’t combine this control with that option, I re-studied how to work with different aperture settings, and after about an hour of monkeying around, I think I get this one… (Thanks to my “Nikon D3300 For Dummies” book)

OK- here’s what I think is sticking in my brain:

  • close focus + small aperture setting = out of focus background and clear foreground, better for close-ups
  • zoomed out + larger aperture setting = larger depth of focus, better for outdoor and landscape shots
  • Less than 10 feet in the shot? Larger aperture settings just get blurry with a slower shutter speed.

So… The object of today’s practice was to see how the snacks, the cat and the rosemary outside the window would look at different settings:

Oops- forgot to bring in the focus, resulted in fuzzy pic- 26mm f/4
Oops- forgot to bring in the focus, resulted in fuzzy pic- 26mm f/4
18mm f/4.5
18mm f/4.5
55mm f/32 and a 3 sec. shutter... no wonder it is really blurry. I need a tripod.
55mm f/32 and a 3 sec. shutter… no wonder it is really blurry. I need a tripod.

Best three for explaining to myself what I’m doing:

18mm f5.6 clear cookies, fuzzy kitty (rosemary not even in the shot)
18mm f5.6 clear cookies, fuzzy kitty (rosemary not even in the shot)
26mm f/18 cookies in focus, kitty clearer
26mm f/18 cookies in focus, kitty clearer
26mm f/25 everything is fuzzy, not just the cat, do I need glasses? No, just a higher focus or lower aperture...
26mm f/25 everything is fuzzy, not just the cat, do I need glasses? No, just a higher focus or lower aperture, faster shutter… aieeee!!!

ANY AND ALL TIPS FROM EXPERIENCED PHOTOGRAPHERS WILL BE APPRECIATED. GREATLY!!!

Boring Post Alert! Learning Camera Controls (Unless You Dig Photos of Shrimp Salad and Freshly Baked Bread)

I played around with my Christmas camera tonight, trying to make some headway into my February project- learn how to operate my Nikon 3300. I swear, I’m going to figure out this piece of technology and I am paging my way through my “Nikon D3300 For Dummies” book to help. Tonight I learned about several different auto and semi-automatic controls, and that I can type the word “exposure” twenty-five times in 30 minutes, and spell it wrong each time. I’m pretty proud of the fact that I can’t spell in three- count ’em- THREE different languages. Go me.

First shot is in Manual Exposure Mode, and I have no idea what I am doing. This proves that the camera is way smarter than I am.

Shrimp Salad... better shot...
Shrimp Salad ingredients… decent shot…

This next one is too bright, but I think I am figuring out how to use the Exposure Compensation button:

Shrimp Salad ingredients, monkeying with the Exposure Compensation button
Shrimp Salad ingredients, monkeying with the Exposure Compensation button.

Hey, now it is getting better! I think I need a different lens for close up shots, yes?

Manual setting, Exposure Compensation brightening up things
Manual setting, Exposure Compensation brightening up things

This one I knocked the exposure down a tic or two. Next thing to learn is how to correctly use the technical language of photography… The daylight really looks nice here as opposed to the next few pictures of the bread.

Manual, less exposed with using the Exposure Compensation button...
Manual, less exposed with using the Exposure Compensation button…

On to the bread ingredients. OK, it’s even obvious to ME that the flash should not be used in this type of lighting (kitchen table overhead lighting, after sunset)

Flash with bread ingredients...
Flash with bread ingredients… bad.

All righty then! Not enough light in this, but not too shabby, either. I can’t seem to get the little stuff in focus- like the millet and bulgur wheat (two of the ingredients in the small bowl).

Fully auto focus. Pretty good! But it needs to be focused differently, maybe on the millet and bulgur?
Fully auto focus. Pretty good! But it needs to be focused differently, maybe on the millet and bulgur?

Switching back to the simple auto focus-

Auto Focus... (it smells as good as it looks)
Auto Focus… (it smells as good as it looks)

And with Aperture I got what I expected- better light but lost focus. Guess I need to learn how to compensate for this.

Aperture Priority auto-exposure- good lighting but bad focus?
Aperture Priority auto-exposure- good lighting but bad focus?

OK- if I use a better light source, is this the shot I wanted?

Shutter Priority auto-exposure. Too dark, good focus.
Shutter Priority auto-exposure. Too dark, good focus.

And here we have my standard favorite, my iPhone 5s. Notice the lighting is fine, the focus is fine… good depth of field, too, huh? You can clearly see the dirty napkins from tonight’s dinner:

iPhone 5s took the best shot, argh!!!
iPhone 5s took the best shot, argh!!!

Side by side- Nikon and iPhone:

Nikon- What napkins?
Nikon- What napkins?
iPhone- Those napkins, right there.
iPhone- Those napkins, right there.

So, there you have it. My iPhone and I have been doing a great job all along. I can really make it sing. This just makes me want to understand how to use the Big Person’s camera even more. I’m not (too) discouraged. Yet.