Saturday, February 21, 2015

Western Reserve Historical Society

My photography class recently took a field trip to the Western Reserve Historical Society.  Founded in 1867, the WRHS is the oldest cultural institution in Cleveland and is home to a variety of artifacts and archives chronicling the history of Cleveland, Akron and Northeast Ohio more broadly.

The Society was kind enough to open several exhibits for us outside of normal operating hours so that our crew of budding photographers could set up tripods and practice our skills.

One of the highlights for me was getting to photograph the colorful, hand-carved wooden horses of the Euclid Beach Park Grand Carousel, once located on Cleveland's lakefront. We were given access to the pavilion that houses the carousel so we could photograph it before it started operating for the day.

The rest of the morning was spent exploring the Crawford Auto Aviation Collection. I was really drawn to the classic details on the cars so I focused my energy on capturing images of antique lights and hood ornaments. I couldn't tell you the make or model of any of these cars so apologies in advance to any aficionados who might be wondering!

Indoor lighting conditions can be somewhat challenging so it was a good experience to have the camera in manual mode while trying to accommodate glare and use the light to my advantage. I feel like I'm making progress even though I don't get quite as much as time to practice as I'd like!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


The temperatures have been dropping and we're buried in snow. With cabin fever looming, Brian built the kids an igloo!

How cool is that? There should really be some sort of Dad Scouts badge for igloo building!

Sunday, February 15, 2015


Last weekend, I spent an afternoon doing a photo shoot with my niece, Sophia. I reviewed some websites on infant photography and had some ideas in mind of images I'd like to capture. Well it turns out that photographing babies is much harder than it might seem! They squirm, they get hungry, they wake up, they leak on beds, blankets and pillows, and they make all sorts of crazy faces! That said, I think we captured a little bit of two week old personality and I loved playing with light and teeny baby hats (made with love by Auntie Heather). These are my favorites.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sophia Hope McMillin

My niece has arrived!

Welcome darling Sophia! May you long know the joys of laughter, love, life and family. And when you're a teenager and your parents are driving you crazy, know your Auntie will welcome you with open arms and listening ears ;)

Congratulations Liz, Keith, Gavin and Edward! Now you are five!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Baby McBelly

My sister-in-law, Liz, is expecting a baby any day now and I'm very excited to add a second niece to the posse!

The other day we stole a couple hours to capture some photos of the family and her baby belly. Here are my favorites.

Aren't they gorgeous?

In other news, I've just begun a twelve week photography course that has me giddy with excitement! My photos are already reasonably decent but with more technical knowledge under my belt and a better understanding of how to use the exceptionally powerful tool that is my camera, I expect my photos to rise to a new level. So in just a few more weeks these photos would be even better but this little lady is due to arrive in about a week so these will have to suffice! And of course I'll have plenty of cuteness to practice on in the coming months!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015


I ended the final post of 2014 by saying that I hoped 2015 would lead to us feeling more settled than we have in a long time. I'm pleased to announce that we've made some major strides in that general direction as we are now homeowners!

After spending many months looking at properties all over town, we were starting to feel somewhat discouraged. Our criteria were all over the place and essentially impossible to fulfill - walkable, close to family, a bit of land, near good schools, near parks, in a safe neighborhood, new-ish and reasonably nice or maybe older with a bit of character but not in need of major renovations - you get the idea. We even considered buying a bus and traveling around the US for a while but the whole starting a business thing won out for now :)

In the end we got several of the things on our wishlist. This house sits on a quiet cul-de-sac street and is in a good school district, is near both the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and the Cleveland Metroparks, borders a wooded lot, has about half an acre of usable land and is very near the homes of both Brian's parents and his brother.

Once upon a time ago, Brian and I proposed the idea of a McMillin Ranch where we'd all buy a plot of land and build our own homes in our own little corners of the property. We envisioned common areas, local and low carbon energy sources, gardens, etc. but the logistics of bringing four families together in this way proved to be insurmountable for now. So we figure this new arrangement is a close second! (Some of you might be cringing at the thought of living so close to the in-laws but I can assure you, as many of you will know firsthand, that the McMillins are a pretty awesome bunch).

What's interesting about this house is that it never even went onto the market. Carl mentioned to some of the neighbors that we were looking to buy and one mentioned that he was thinking of listing his house in the spring, about the time his son would graduate from high school. He invited us over to have a look and we liked it right away. So we managed the negotiations and closing all without a realtor and everyone was happy!

The house is in very good condition but we're considering some upgrades to the kitchen and master bathroom before we move in along with a few coats of paint here and there. I'll be sure to keep you posted and I might even take you along on our renovation journey (which I have a sneaking suspicion may evolve into a creative do-it-yourself endeavor).

Little by little, bits fall into place. We just hope they're in the right places! One thing is for sure, the kids are elated to live within a stone's throw of their grandparent's and cousin's homes. We figure that after being away for most of a decade and deciding to return home to be near family, that it makes good sense to go ahead and be near family!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Three American Seasons

It's been six months already since we arrived back in the US!

The other day I took some time to back up all of our photos from various devices and it was fun to peruse the slideshow of our lives from the last six months. Then I realized that many of the photos from my phone made appearances on Facebook but never made it to the blog. So, I've compiled this collection which nicely captures the transition from summer to autumn to winter that we've experienced since our arrival in North America.

 Riker at the lovely Chagrin Falls.

 This coffee shop in Rocky River kindly provided a bicycle rack out front in each boy's favorite color.

 At a family event at Riker's school, Ari lands on Ohio!

 The little train conductor.

Muddy fun in the Metroparks with cousins. 

Hummingbird sculpture behind the CanalWay visitor center where I used to work in the Cleveland Metroparks.

Leaving the park, we spotted this huge praying mantis making it's way across the pavement!

 Riker genuinely loves to wash dishes!

 Gluing leaves on a sheet of paper makes for a great (and easy) autumn craft.

 Proud of the finished product.

 Uncle Keith takes Riker to his first football game.

 At one of many terrific playgrounds in suburban Cleveland.

 The draw of a shallow creek pulls Edward, Ari, Gavin and Riker away from the play equipment.

 One of these sleepyheads looks more comfortable than the other.

Riker's first experience with snow!

Auntie Jenn sends the crew down a hill in the neighborhood.

At our Australian farewell party, friends gave the kids cookie cutters in the shape of Aussie animals. Riker is proud of his koala shortbread biscuit that he helped to make!

Uncle Keith reads to Ari.

Riker meets a turtle at a science discovery day in his elementary school. (Photo from the parent organization's Facebook page.)

Riker's kindergarten class pajama day. (Photo from the school district's Facebook page).

Despite freezing temperatures, the boys plant themselves in the front doorway to wait for a much anticipated parcel - a new train set that Riker bought with his savings.

Riker loves to write and send cards. In this envelope, he's generously place fifty cents to gift to Cael on his return from a Disney World holiday.

Our family loves maps!

Ari watches the deer in the backyard from a comfortable perch on the couch.

Some days, I feel that we've accomplished very little towards our big picture goals in this country and other days I'm reminded just how many tasks we've completed. The photos above remind me that time has flown past but we have some fun experiences to show for it!

The past year has been a big one for our family - full of major decisions, an epic move and an ongoing series of transitions. I'm still processing all of it but I have high hopes for 2015 as the year our family feels truly settled for the first time, well, ever!