Project Life by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)

Friends, what a difference two weeks make! When I wrote this post, I was well and truly despairing whether I would ever find my Project Life mojo again. I couldn’t envision what my spreads would look like, I kept questioning whether I should change over to monthly spreads instead of weekly spreads, and I felt completely overwhelmed at the thought of falling more than five weeks behind.

In the end, it came down to two things. First, I simply got over the fact that my photography style was changing and that my photos would no longer look the same as they did before. I stopped doubting and embraced my new visual voice. The ironic thing is that I’ve always known this to be true since it’s happened before, and I even wrote about it in this post. However, this latest shift has been the hardest for me to come to terms with because I had grown so very comfortable with what I was doing before. It worked extremely well for me, and it was hard to open up my mind to the possibility that something else might work just as well – or even better. I’ll touch on this more in another photography post, but at the end of the day, I just had to go with the flow.

My other ‘ah ha’ realisation was this: just because everyone else around me was seemingly shaking things up and changing the way they were approaching their Project Life album this year, it didn’t mean that I had to as well. I love my weekly spreads and all the templates I’ve set up work really well for me, so why change it just for the sake of changing? Given that my photography was already changing, it eventually dawned that it would actually be a good thing to maintain the same approach to my design and layouts.

And so, over the course of a few days, I finally broke down the wall and managed to create four weeks worth of spreads and inserts. I couldn’t be more stoked. Today, I’m sharing Week 6 with you all, and I hope to post more in the coming weeks and months.

Project Life by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)

What happened in Week 6?
We saw my parents for the first time since they returned from their six-week trip to Hong Kong. They were pretty psyched to see the boys again, and vice versa. I made roast chicken for the first time, Edward started to grow hair in a big way, and I gave Jamie a haircut which Rick did not like. He thought it made Jamie look too much like a girl. Needless to say, I responded rather defensively until I realised it was exactly the same haircut that my own mum used to give me when I was little. (Woops.)

How were the photos taken and processed?
All photos were taken with my Fujifilm X100S and edited using VSCO Film in Aperture.

Favourite photos from Week 6?
All the photos of the children are lovely, but my favourite is actually the one of the cup of Milo on the windowsill. Milo is one of my ‘comfort drinks’ and I remember it was cold and rainy that day, so looking at the photo makes me feel all warm and cosy inside.

Number of pages and inserts?
I had three 8×10 inserts and one 8×8 insert.

Overall thoughts?
I love how all the colours and tones in the first page blend together so well. It’s one of my favourite pages in our 2014 album to date.

Supplies used?
Becky Higgins Design A page protector; Kodak 210gsm glossy premium photo paper. All photos printed on the Canon MG6360 Pixma using genuine Canon ink.

How is your Project Life coming along this year?

* * *

Other posts you might be interested in reading:
My weekly Project Life process from beginning to end
Tips on taking photos for Project Life
What you need to get started with Project Life

You can read all my Project Life posts here.

These days…

Photography by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)Photography by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)Photography by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)

…it has been warm and humid. Every night, I open all our bedroom windows in desperate hopes for a cool breeze to replace the mugginess. The boys have all been sleeping well, which has been an immense blessing and provision. They are all sporting short haircuts and getting taller every single day. As a family, we have more or less settled into a weekly rhythm of ‘the school days’ and by the weekends, everybody is exhausted. We have been cooking more at home and eating out less. During the daytime when I find myself craving a hot lunch, I have been eating organic soba with seaweed and a soft-boiled egg. It is delicious, satisfying, and oh-so-healthy. Bear is constantly amusing us with his mobile antics: he is always crawling, always standing, and always going somewhere. He may be a few years younger, but he is never far behind his brothers. Together, we are looking forward to the upcoming school holidays (only four more weeks now) when we can hopefully go on road trips once more and do some exploring together…

Happy weekend, my friends! Are you doing anything special?

(Linking up with Em.)

Photography by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)Photography by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)

At the beginning of each season, I develop a sudden, deep need to spring clean our home: to de-clutter, to purge, to refresh our systems, and to establish a new order with less things.

Every cupboard, every drawer, every nook, every cranny is overturned, and bags of stuff inevitably end up leaving our house. The process is overwhelming and intense, but once completed, I feel refreshed, relaxed and rejuvenated.

It’s like I can breathe again.

Last week, I worked through our living areas, our kitchen, the boys’ room, our bathrooms, and our bedroom. Today, I’ve been turning my studio inside out and I’m incredibly happy with what I’ve been able to achieve. My heart literally feels lighter, knowing that I am no longer surrounded by things that I don’t require.

With the clutter gone, there is once again space.

And with space, I can once again create.

Have you done any de-cluttering or spring cleaning recently?

(Thank you all for your lovely response to my last post. I’m going to have a think about how we can embark on this challenge together. Maybe I can post some ideas, and we can all link up at the beginning of the month – or something along those lines?)

Self portraiture by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)Self portraiture by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)Self portraiture by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)Self portraiture by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)

Inspired by my photos from this post, I have set myself a challenge of learning (and hopefully mastering) the art of self portraiture.

My goals for this personal challenge are four-fold:

  • I hope to become more comfortable in front of the camera. (This is because I am the most unnatural person in front of the camera whom you will ever encounter.)
  • I hope to have more photos of myself as a result of it, as this is one area that my memory keeping seriously lacks: photos of self.
  • I hope to become more proficient at using my Fujifilm X100S.
  • I hope to become a better overall photographer as a result.

I plan to share my thoughts as I go, but for now, all I have is this: Man, it’s hard!

How about you? Would you be up for this challenge?

Photography by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)Photography by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)Photography by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)Photography by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)Photography by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)

Tonight I cooked up a roast chicken, which is fast becoming a Friday ritual for our family. While I baste the chicken in its juices for the last time before popping it back into the oven, Rick takes all the boys upstairs for their bath. Listening to the shouts, giggles and laughter drifting down the stairs, I bustle about setting the table and getting everybody’s drinks ready. (Lately, we’ve been letting the boys drink a bit of ginger ale with our roast chicken dinners, much to their delight.) Once the chicken is done and the gravy is poured, we all sit down to the table in varying degrees of dress: the boys wear their pyjamas, Rick usually has his top off (he is always working up a sweat, it seems), and I like to keep my apron on just for the sake of it. Despite the constant chorus of “Can I have more crispy skin?” and “I didn’t want the sauce on my potato!”, it is a beautiful, fun way of spending our Friday evenings together, especially when it’s cold and wet outside. I’m excited about keeping up with this as the boys get older, though I suspect I may have to work out a way of roasting more than one chicken at a time – eek!

* * *

We went exploring yesterday and discovered a lovely park near the water where the ground was covered with a living vine. While Rick took the boys to the playground, I enjoyed about ten to fifteen minutes on my own with my Fujifilm X100S in hand, attempting to photograph the natural beauty before me. Usually, I shy away from taking photos in the bright afternoon sun but I was keen to try something outside of my comfort zone. The first photo is my favourite, as it looks like it was taken in some magical land, far, far away.

And yes, Autumn has definitely arrived…

How was your week been, my friends?

(Linking up with Em.)

Photography by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)Photography by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)Photography by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)Photography by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)Photography by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)

The last time I did one of these posts was when Bear was six months old. Now he’s ten and a half months. Which means he’s turning one in just over a month’s time… what?!

Somebody, please, hold me.

I honestly cannot grasp how my newborn is suddenly almost a toddler.

This little boy – I love him so much.

For sure, we have been pushed to the limit (and back again) these last ten and a half months, but I honestly cannot imagine life without this son of ours. Every day, my heart does countless happy dances (in between the tears and meltdowns – mine, not theirs) because of him.

These photos do him good justice: he is always laughing, always smiling, always hanging out with his brothers, always crawling, always trying to stand, always licking whatever is put before him (it matters not whether it is food, cardboard, or a table). And he finally has hair. (Woohoo!) It’s funny how each little guy is fairer than the brother before him – so much for the dominant Asian gene, right? Our long-standing family joke is that I’m running out of toner – and so far, this has definitely been the case. In fact, Bear has ginger tones in his hair. Who would’ve thought?

It’s been so funny and entertaining (and nerve-wracking) watching Bear crawl everywhere. All the other boys waited till they were close to one before they showed any signs of being mobile, but this Bear has been moving about since he was eight months. And gosh he’s speedy! We only have to turn around for two seconds and he’s already disappeared to the other side of the room where the pasture is definitely greener with power points, electrical cords, and Lego pieces. Like I said – funny and nerve-wracking all at once.

And just out of interest – does every other mum like to smell their baby as much as I do? I’m seriously obsessed. No matter how exhausted, frazzled and ‘over it’ I am, as soon as I smell my Bear (sans dirty nappy), something inside me starts to recharge itself. It’s like fuel for the burnt out mother.

To my “Bear Bear,” thank you for being a part of our lives.

You have no idea how happy you make me.

* * *

For the longest time, I have been thinking of writing a short series on my journey to motherhood: getting married, falling pregnant, carrying Cameron to full-term, losing him at the very end, grieving madly, starting over again (with immense trepidation), birthing Angus, bringing him home, becoming a first-time parent to our second child, trying to breastfeed, not breastfeeding, learning to express, coping with guilt, surviving the first year, and then going from one to two to three to four boys within five years – all the while knowing that one boy is always missing.

This will be my way of sharing my personal experience of motherhood and parenting in a ‘big picture’ sort of way, and hopefully it will answer certain questions that many people have asked me along the way. But most importantly, I hope to document this for myself and for our family, and I’m planning to start writing when Bear turns one.

Who knows? Maybe a grand-daughter will one day read it and think to herself, “Oh, so that’s the breast pump that Grandma Ronnie used back in those days…”

Twilight, lately

Photography by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)Photography by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)Photography by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)Photography by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)

I have always found the twilight hour to be rich with beauty, mystery and allure.

It is the hour the boys fall asleep. Calmness descends and the quiet I have been craving all day is finally granted.

The other evening, once all was quiet, I slipped out onto our patio, pulled on Rick’s gardening boots, and trudged up the driveway.

I smelt the fresh air. I surveyed the weeds, the bush, and the pebbles. I watched as cars drifted up and down the road, creating their own dancing pattern of bokeh and light.

Soon, the last light faded and the night grew dark. I pulled off the oversized boots and stepped back inside.

Turning around, I saw my husband emerge from the dark corridor, smiling and holding out his arms towards me…

* * *

Thank you, thank you, for all your gentle words of encouragement. You guys are all amazing. I am certainly aware that this wall I’ve hit is simply part of the ebb and flow of life. I am not too anxious about it – I’m simply hoping to fumble my way through it.

Eventually. When the time is right.

In the meantime, I am planning to keep it simple here on the blog, rest whenever I can, go for morning walks around the neighbourhood, and hopefully set up a system to help me keep on top of the influx of school paperwork…

(Linking up with Em)

Where I’m at right now

Photography by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)Photography by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)Photography by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)Photography by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)Photography by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)Photography by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)

I’ve hit a wall.

With my writing, with my blogging, and with my memory keeping.

I feel flat. I feel lost.

It’s not that I’m uninspired. After all, there is inspiration everywhere.

I think a lot of this has to do with exhaustion. This first month of Angus starting school has been a huge adjustment for our family (in a good way), taking a much bigger toll on my energy levels than I’d anticipated. And while Bear is now sleeping through the night, Jamie has been waking up a couple of times each night due to the fact that he now knows to use the toilet rather than his nappy. Not to mention, the focus required to prepare for the Lens & Layout workshop last week was intense. Needless to say, I’ve spent the last week walking around like a zombie.

Getting used to a new camera has also thrown me. Utterly. Completely. It’s not that I don’t love the new camera. I do, and I’m so excited for all the future possibilities. But for now, I’m in limbo. I’m still trying to find my way. I’m still trying to work out what my images should look and feel like. I’m still searching (so very fervently) for my visual voice.

And the entire time – there’s this other voice inside my head, whispering to me, tempting me with the thought, that maybe, just maybe, I should go back to what I know. That perhaps change is not a good thing. That perhaps I shouldn’t bother challenging or extending myself…

This voice is cunning, and wicked, and oh so very good at making me doubt everything that I’m doing, or trying to do.

As a result, my writing is suffering, because my brain is too muddled to get words out. My blog is suffering because I no longer know what I want to be blogging about, since blogging itself relies totally on my writing and my images. My memory keeping (in particular, our Project Life family album) is suffering since my memory keeping style is heavily determined by my images. (In fact, I’m so confused that I’ve started to question whether I should do Project Life at all this year. Now, that’s saying a lot.)

Honestly, it feels like I’ve lost my creative direction in every possible way right now.

And even though it sounds overly dramatic, I actually shed tears over this last night as I attempted to dissect my feelings while my very patient and attentive husband listened on. (So much for our plans to watch a fun movie together.)

I almost feel embarrassed sharing this with you all, because seriously, in the big scheme of things, I know that this is not actually a big deal.

I have family, I have friends, I have a roof over my head, I have clothes on my back, I have food on my table.

My life is not lacking in any way whatsoever.

But I am sharing this with you, just so you all know where I’m at.

I’ve always wanted my blog to be authentic and real, and if nothing else, I can do that.

Thank you, friends, for continuing to read here.

* * *

Rick’s mum gave me these red roses a few days ago. They were from her father’s funeral earlier this week. He was ninety-nine when he died, and he had lived a beautiful, long and faithful life in the Lord. I am thankful I got to know him these last ten years, but I am even more thankful that he is now in glory.

(More flora here.)

Photography by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)Photography by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)Photography by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)

After a somewhat hot and sweltering week, it’s suddenly cooled down here in Sydney with plenty of rain and lovely cool breezes. It’s strange to think that by the end of this week, it will be Autumn here. Thank goodness I can start wearing layers again…

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about my Fujifilm x100s, so I’ve decided to share my thoughts on the camera as part of my new series.

Let me say first up that I am no guru when it comes to this camera. I’ve only had it for just over a month, and I’m still learning new things about it every day.

In short, it is not a perfect camera, but it is an incredible camera.

More importantly, it is the perfect camera for me right now.

Many of you will know that for the longest time, I took most of my photos on my iPhone 4S. Occasionally, I would pull out our Canon EOS 40D for some nice close-up portraits of the family. I was totally okay with this arrangement, until one day, I woke up and realised that I was completely uninspired by the photos I was taking on the 40D. Sure, the photos were nice, and I’m really thankful that I have all these portraits of the boys documented and ready to go into photo books, but I never felt inspired to pick up the 40D to take more – dare I say – ‘artistic’ photos. In contrast, I was able to capture light and shade the way I liked on my iPhone. It worked for me, so I kept using it.

It got to the point, however, when I realised that I needed to push myself a bit further than relying on my iPhone to take all my photos. I needed something ‘new’ but I had no idea what that ‘new’ thing would be. Naturally, I considered the possibility of investing in a Canon 5D Mark II. I even raised it with Rick one evening. The price, however, was our biggest stumbling block. We didn’t exactly have three thousand dollars or so to spare.

Then one day, a week into the new year, a couple of my uni friends paid us a visit at home. They were back from New York for a couple of weeks, and they were keen to catch up with us and the boys. Soon after we poured out drinks for everybody, Patricia pulled out these two gorgeous looking cameras: the Fujifilm FinePix X100S and X-E1. I had never heard of either of the cameras but boy were they nice to look at! I was immediately won over by their gorgeous retro good looks, especially all the manual dials for aperture and shutter speed. I was intrigued to say the least, especially when I found out that Patricia was now using these Fuji mirrorless cameras exclusively for her professional photography work.

Still, I didn’t really give it much thought until a couple of days later when we met up again for dinner and I saw the photos that Patricia had taken of the boys during their visit. They were absolutely stunning. (And I hadn’t even noticed her taking the photos!)

Obviously I knew that Patricia’s skills played a large part in how good the photos looked, but suddenly, I saw that there was an alternative to a traditional DSLR.

After getting home that evening, I spent the entire night (and then some) researching the Fujifilm cameras. I read every possible review that I could get my hands on, and spent the next week pouring through all the information. I won’t list all the articles I read but there were three posts in particular that convinced me the X100S was an awesome camera from a technical perspective: this one by Zack Arias, this one by David Hobby, and this one by Ken Rockwell. In fact, if you actually read up on all three posts, you’ll notice that they all pretty much claim that the X100S is the nearest thing to the best digital camera out there. Now, this is a huge call, and I’m not going to say whether or not it is as I’m not qualified to, but for me, it was enough to know that these reputable photographers thought so highly of the camera. In fact, Zack’s whole post is about life without DSLRs – definitely worth a read if you want something to think about.

So on paper, the X100S’ technical abilities were looking great. I also liked the fact that the 23mm prime lines were equivalent to a 35mm lens. And at $1299, the price tag was much more affordable for us than a Canon 5D. Plus, the camera looked amazing and it was compact.

By this point, I was pretty much sold (especially as the shutter dial on our Canon unexpectedly died around this time) but I wanted to know one more thing: could the camera take the type of ‘artistic’ images that I aspired to take? I did some more Googling and landed on Danny Bligh’s blog. Wow. Every frame told a beautiful story of light and shade. Exactly the sort of images that I love. (Unfortunately his site is currently closed, but trust me when I say that his photography is stunning.) I asked him on Twitter if all those photos were taken on the X100S, and he confirmed that they were.

Awesome.

Two days later, Rick had called up a camera store and put a Fujifilm X100S on hold for me, and the four boys and I made the hike out to buy it.

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The Amateur Baker series, by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)The Amateur Baker series, by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)

I can’t quite remember when exactly I realised that Pete’s birthday was the day before our Lens & Layout workshop, but it sure sent me into a mild panic attack. I quickly dismissed any notion of organising a big birthday party. Instead, I would bake a cake and we would go somewhere special together as a family on the weekend. Which is pretty much what we did for Angus’ birthday last October. And if I had my way, that’s how all birthdays should be celebrated. No frills, no fuss. Stripping it back to what matters the most.

By some miraculous turn of events, I actually managed to finish my workshop prep on Wednesday. Which gave us all of Thursday while Pete was at preschool to get everything ready. And by ‘everything,’ I mean everything. We had to decide on a cake, buy ingredients for said cake, buy packet mix for cupcakes, bake said cupcakes and drop them off at preschool for Pete to enjoy with his friends (something we’ve never done before but this year, we were determined to make it happen since we weren’t doing a party for him), find presents, buy presents, find and buy a (Lightning McQueen) card, wrap presents, write in card, buy and install a booster seat for the big boy, bake cake, ice cake, and organise for grandparents to come over. And of course, there were the usual drop-offs and pick-ups to be done, as well as two other little boys to be looked after. I literally had to plan our entire day down to 15 minute intervals. It was that tight. Thankfully, it was Rick’s day off so it was Team Rick and Ronnie all the way. And you know what? Somehow, together, we pulled it off. Well, almost. There was just one tiny glitch. Actually, no, make that two. But more about that later…

So, I baked a banana cake. And it was pretty awesome. I used a recipe from Family Circle’s Cooking: A Commonsense Guide – which incidentally was a gift from Rick’s mum the Christmas before we got engaged (she must’ve sensed something was in the air). The entire recipe is here if you’re interested.

Due to our serious time constraints, I decided I had to be really organised with this cake. As soon as I put Edward down for his afternoon nap (Rick was out with Jamie doing the pick-ups), I measured out all the ingredients and had them neatly lined up on the bench in lovely white crockery. I felt like such a pro. Except that it took me almost half an hour to measure out all the ingredients. Clearly, I am never going to audition for Masterchef.

Preheat oven to 180c.

This seemed simple enough.

Grease a 20cm round cake tin and line the base with baking paper.

Yet another straightforward step. Except that your baking paper won’t be wide enough to cover the entire tin. So you need to cover it using two separate pieces of baking paper. This took me at least five minutes to figure out. This had me thinking… maybe I missed some basic life skills class back in school?

Using beaters or food processor beat the butter and sugar in a small mixing bowl until light and creamy.

I was feeling soooo confident about this after my last experience with electric beaters. Oh, but guess what? The butter and sugar ends up flying everywhere if you’re not that great at using electric beaters. That would be me. My tip: Use a bigger mixing bowl. It took me several mop-ups to realise this, but it sure solved the problem. That and not waving your electric beaters around in the air while they’re still on. (Woops.)

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