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Sunday, December 30, 2012

finding the light in darkness

I have had an email notification in my inbox for a couple weeks now, the latest newsletter from Kat Eye Studio, with an invitation to join in Kat's Exploring with a Camera series.

I love Kat's insights on photography, creativity, and life. With the extra busy-ness of the Christmas holiday season, I didn't really have time to do much with it...until now. This is the first time I've participated in one of Kat's challenges. TBQH, it's partly because I already had a couple decent shots that would fit the bill. But, more importantly, the title "Find the Light in Darkness" has been whispering quietly to me from the shadows, calling to mind the words from a favorite Advent hymn, A Season of Light. When I googled the hymn, searching for lyrics to share, I found this wonderful post.


In photography, it's all about the light. And in night photography, that light is all the more precious -  and elusive with a camera.

This is a shot of my brother Greg's home, where our extended family gathered for Christmas Eve. When we drove up, my nephews, Danny and Joey, were busy setting up luminaria (see my previous post). I quickly darted out into the cold night to try and capture the beautiful effect. Just my handheld camera + my 50mm lens, set to Aperture Priority. These images speak to me of the hospitality and warmth of the Christmas season...if you look closely you can peer into the windows where everyone was having a good time!

I quickly arranged the two best shots into a Lightroom layout (thank you again Kim Klassen) and here we are...these shots are SOOC (Straight Out Of Camera).

God of all power
You kindle the stars
spark in your people
spark in us a season of light


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

una tradizione di famiglia Notarianni

Translation: "a Notarianni family tradition."

Like any tradition, it is difficult to pinpoint exactly when/how this all started. It seems to have evolved over the years until it became a formula of sorts. Several years ago my mother, aka Grandma, thought it would be fun to teach her seven grandkids how to make pasta, as taught to her by her father-in-law, Gregorio Notarianni, who was taught by his wife, Della.

You know, I do remember making pasta with our Grandpa when we were kids. Specifically ravioli and gnocchi. He even taught us how to make ricotta cheese.

Greg, Cindy, Adrienne, Lissa
making ravioli with our Grandpa
November 1969

We seemed to settle on gnocchi, probably because it is a bit more practical to make by and for large crowds. Gnocchi - pronounced nyocky - is made with mashed potatoes kneaded into the pasta dough, which is then cut into little pieces and rolled on the gnocchi board to get the ridged texture.

Erin and Kelly
making gnocchi with Grandma
December 1999
(same kitchen, same table....30 years later)

In recent years, more than one grandkid has been heard asking if/when we were going to be making pasta for Christmas Eve - as early as mid-October.

Then we would all gather on Christmas Eve at Grandma and Grandpa's house to feast on the fruits of our labor, topped with homemade sauce: ragu - pronounced rah-ooh in our family's own dialect, and served with homemade bracciole - bra-jhole -, meatballs and sausage. Let me tell you: it's heaven on earth.

This year, Grandma decided it was time to "pass the torch" and let us kids and grandkids take over everything, from making the ragu to hosting the dinner. Kelly and Aaron offered to make the ragu and bracciole at their place a few weeks ago. I hosted the gnocchi-making party at my place a week before Christmas...you gotta let the pasta air-dry for a few days, then freeze it (my sister Adrienne was in charge of that part).

Wisely, Grandma stepped back and only offered input when called upon for clarification, like "Do we add the potatoes to the flour "volcano" before or after we fill it with the beaten eggs?" (there was a serious debate going on here); she was also called upon to poke her finger into the dough to determine if we had kneaded enough flour into it.

Aaron and Kelly offered to make the ragu and bracciole at their place a few weeks ago. I hosted the gnocchi-making party at my place a week before Christmas...you gotta let the pasta air-dry for a few days, then freeze it (my sister Adrienne was in charge of that part).

MAKING CHRISTMAS DINNER from Cindy Swainson on Vimeo.

My brother Greg and his wife Lynn hosted dinner for 17 people on Christmas Eve, complete with dozens of luminaria (Lynn hails from Albuquerque) and a White Elephant gift exchange.

This year's celebration was extra special because everyone was home for Christmas, so Grandma had all her children and grandchildren gathered around her.

CHRISTMAS EVE from Cindy Swainson on Vimeo.

Buon Natale!

Monday, December 24, 2012

what Christmas is all about

'And there were in the same country
shepherds abiding in the field,
keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them,
and the glory of the Lord shone round about them:
and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them,
Fear not; for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy,
which shall be to all people. 

For unto you is born this day in the city of David
a Savior,
which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you:
Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes,
lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel
a multitude of the heavenly host praising God,
and saying,
Glory to God in the highest,

and on earth peace and goodwill towards men.'

Luke 2:8-14

In the immortal words of Linus, "...That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."


Merry Christmas!


Sunday, December 9, 2012


From a very early age it was understood that my husband Bob (RW) would follow in his father's footsteps and become a police officer. For over 28 years he honourably "served and protected" his fellow citizens, first in Toronto and later here in Lakewood, Colorado. He loved being a street cop.

Sgt 523
Metro Toronto Police

Early in his career he took up competitive shooting in order that he might be well-trained in the use of his sidearm: the one tool on which his life might depend. Bob's enjoyment of the shooting sports quickly grew into a passion for weapons training, which he in turn shared with his fellow officers. For 25 years he trained fellow officers in firearms proficiency and tactical safety. He eventually specialized in Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT).

MetroToronto's Emergency Task Force (ETF)
Team 6 Leader

Since his retirement in 2009, he has built his own business, RW Firearms Training. To say that it is his pride and joy is an understatement.

photo courtesy of Grant Leighton

But it's not just about the guns. Widely known in shooting circles as RW (Robert William) - Bob is definitely a people person. Remember the bit about his sidearm being the one tool on which his life might depend? Well, before he would ever allow himself to draw his weapon in any given situation, he made sure that he had exhausted all other options. In SWAT circles, it is known as the Three T's: Time, Talk, Tactics. In other words, a police officer needs to rely on his people skills to do his job well. In Bob's case, that includes a wicked sense of humour. They still talk about Bob's many witty "Swainsonisms" at Lakewood.

And, by the way, just because you have a skill doesn't mean you can teach it. Just ask his many clients, students, and fellow officers over the years if RW has taught them well. He is truly a gifted teacher. And he manages to make it fun, too. Bob counts many of his clients among his closest friends.

Running your own business is hard work, but we both acknowledge how truly blessed he is to be doing what he loves. And, as he likes to say, "I get to sleep with the boss's wife." LOL.

Enjoy this short video, borrowed from Bob's website and produced by his good friend and colleague Chris Mailliard, President and CEO of Fusion Preparedness.

Happy Birthday Bob!

May you continue to enjoy
the fruits of your labour
for years to come.


For all you photographers and fellow bloggers, I used one of Kim Klassen's storyboard templates for Photoshop. I scanned the old snapshots, then did some adjusting to even out the varied color tones among the group. I dropped them into the storyboard file, then layered a couple textures, including one of my own scans of a bit of textured fabric to convey the nostalgic/childhood/home feel I get whenever I look at old snapshots.