We’ve been trying to make a point of getting out and about more frequently – short day trips for now.  On this particular Saturday, we packed up the van and headed to Ekotepe, an organic farm offering a breakfast brunch buffet and sweeping views of the hillside.  We enjoyed the farm for a couple of hours then continued our journey to find the James Bond Bridge (used in the filming of Skyfall).  I kept waiting to drive around a corner and see the expansive structure, but as we went further up the mountain and the road kept narrowing, I began to worry that we’d made a wrong turn.  Finally, we rounded a curve, we saw it, and while impressive it was, the movie had made it seem much longer.  Regardless, it was a fun day away from the base.

This was a “STOP THE VAN!” shot; I set up my tripod and wished for a wider angle lens.


Waiting for a train!


The impressiveness of the bridge’s height inspired more awe than the width.


Organic Farm


The outdoor eating area was serene and peaceful and a peacock even strolled through the garden.


Olives are one of Ekotepe’s products. The trees are lined in orchards.


Another great view from the hill



I had to smell the roses!


Keep checking back for more photos from our Turkish Adventure!


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Sabanci Merkez Camii

by Becky on October 24, 2013

This mosque is the symbol of downtown Adana.  Set in the middle of the city, surrounded by run down buildings, multi-story apartment buildings, and shopping malls, it is strikingly out of place.  When we were itching to get off base a few weeks ago, I declared it was “Take Photos of the Mosque” Day, and we set out in the scorching sun to walk the acres of beautiful park hosting the mosque.  Of course, as is always the case with me, I arrived at entirely the wrong time of day, so quality images were difficult to capture, and I knew as we were pulling away that I needed to return at night to capture the stunning gem set against the Adana sky.  We had a sitter last Friday, and Ryan was my body guard as I set up my equipment on the dark, empty Roman Bridge.  Fifteen minutes later, I breathed a refreshed breath as we put everything back in the van and returned home knowing I had created my envisioned image.



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It may seem early for this post, but I had time to write it and was inspired!  Enjoy!

Set Up for DIY Christmas Photos

Okay, so you didn’t learn your lesson from my do it yourself family photo debacle, and you’re determined to do your family’s Christmas card photos.  It’s ridiculous, you say, to spend $1500 on a photo shoot, you have a nice camera, and it’s decided; there’s no talking you out of it!  Well, lucky for you, I understand!  With all of the other holiday hub-bub, it’s difficult to remember to get your family portrait session scheduled.  Most professionals are doing Christmas photos in October or early November and you can’t squeeze it in, or maybe there’s just not a professional in your area you trust.  Whatever the reason, Becky is here to save the day with some more INCREDIBLE photo tips!

I know you’re going to think I’m a lush, but because this does involve the whole family – you’ll NEED a glass of wine.

Normally, I would suggest setting everything up and then, when your scene is perfect, inviting your family into the set.  However, we’re going in a whole new direction this time.  The first item on your checklist is to set a day and put it on the calendar.  Announce the date to your family; might I suggest the following, “Family, I have decided that Saturday hence will be Christmas Card Photo Day!”  (It’s much more effective when spoken in a British accent!)  Immediately after the announcement, take the family shopping.  Buy festive (inexpensive) shirts, garland, lights, tinsel, fun ornaments – anything that will add to the spirit!

Before the photo day arrives,  do a Google search to find a wireless remote that is compatible with your camera.  Most Canon and Nikon DSLRs have one available for around $20.  You might also be able to find one in your local camera store.  A wireless remote is almost a necessity.

The day before the shoot, charge your camera’s battery, make sure there is empty space on your memory card, and be sure you can attach the camera to the tripod (for some reason, I always lose the screw piece for this step).  If possible, ensure the whole family eats a healthy diet and gets a good night’s sleep.  Seriously.

Alright, the day is here!  I can feel your enthusiasm from across the web!  This is going to be the pinnacle of your acquaintances’ card collection – you just KNOW everything is going to be PERFECT!  Go drink that glass of wine.  Now.  With your tempered excitement, comment throughout the day about how much fun the photo shoot is going to be!  You really want to hype this up, we’re going to make it a blast.  Start singing Christmas carols!  About an hour before you’re ready to photograph, after you’ve all donned your holiday gear, set up your camera.  Start with the backdrop, you can use a wall, a large piece of fabric, or go crazy and build a set.  Invite the family to help you.  If you’re using natural light, you’ll want your family to stand just at the edge of the window, so your backdrop will need to be behind this area by at least two or three feet.  Next, put your camera on the tripod and get the settings dialed in.  Start with your white balance.  Try setting on ‘shade’, ‘cloudy’, and ‘daylight’ to see which you prefer.  Next, you’ll adjust your aperture.  If there are four people in your family, set the aperture to 4.0.  If there are five people in your family, set the aperture to 5.6.  If there are six, seven or eight people in your family, set the aperture to 8.0. The shutter speed should be set on 1/100th of a second (may display as only 100 on your camera).  Now, get your exposure to “correct” by adjusting your ISO – you’ll probably need a pretty high setting: 800 or even 1600. Ask one of the kids to stand in as a test subject, and make sure you like what you’re seeing on the back of your camera.  Because we are working with pretty small apertures  you *might* have to pop up a flash :(   If you do, manually adjust it so that it’s at half or even 1/4 power (use your camera’s manual to find out how).  You’re window is the main light, so you’ll just use the flash for fill light ( I know, that’s a pretty techie word, please forgive me!)  Look through the viewfinder and put some markers on the floor using tape showing what your camera sees.  This is just to give you some boundaries – everyone will know to stay between the tapes to ensure they are in the frame.  When you’re ready, turn up the Christmas music and place your family.

Wrap each other in lights and garland. Play, laugh, tell jokes, whatever needs to happen to make it fun!  And, while you’re having fun, point the remote at the camera every few seconds and capture the memories!  Ta da!  After the session, make some cookies and hot chocolate and put on a Christmas movie.  Maybe this could be a new holiday tradition!



I didn’t follow all of my own advice in the following photos (I left out the wine and the relax parts), but it was the most fun we’ve had with a DIY photo shoot thus far!  Also, I was using my studio lights rather than window lighting.  

Watch the little ones – they’re climbers!


My daughter is a fan of crazy faces!




…and the cat joined us!


One of my faves!


She had the remote and was so proud of herself!


A true smile on my face!


They are NOT going anywhere!! (I was handholding the camera for this one)


Bringing it all together for the Christmas card!


Merry Christmas!


Was this helpful?  Let me know in the comments!


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At Least Give Me a Warning!

by Becky on October 1, 2013

A long-standing tradition in the Hays family has been to have a Practice Thanksgiving.  Lest we should get to the actual Thanksgiving Day and realize that we made some horrible mistake with the dishes we’ve been preparing for years, we find it a pragmatic and sensible idea to do an audition.  To an outsider it may seem as though we’re just trying to double up on the mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie, but I assure you, Practice Thanksgiving has real value.  This year, the family schedule was so busy that the Hays family gathered in Kenton for Practice Thanksgiving this past weekend.  My heart was breaking over here in Turkey, while they were about to begin eating their turkey.  Ha ha ha!

Skype to the rescue!  It was about 10:30pm here when they were sitting down to feast.  I was in my jammies, sipping tea at the dining room table and my sister Skyped me.  My mom and dad were the first ones to pop on the screen!  Then my mom walked the laptop around the room and my joy soared higher and higher, and I became more animated – almost to the point of tears – as each new relative floated past on my iPad screen; my boys!  my sisters!  my nieces!  my nephews! my…ex and his wife!?  WTF?

New Hays family rule, when I’m about to act like a blubbering fool on Skype, at least hold up a sign:  “YOUR EX IS HERE!” Or, make some kind of jerky head motion with a subtle finger point.  Or, put a bag over his head.  Something.  :-D

My Mommy and Daddy! Isn’t it amazing that I could join my family for Practice Thanksgiving?


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Homeschool Mission Statement

by Becky on September 26, 2013

Today, as I was sipping my coffee (which I’m supposed to have given up) and scrolling through emails, Abigail came up to me.  “I’m ready to do my listening!”  she announced.  Listening is one of the five activities she has to do each day as her “lessons”, and today she wanted to fly through.  Yesterday, she didn’t start until 4pm, but she finished them all:  Listening, Reading, Key Word Outline, Writing, and Math.

It’s taken me many years of heartache, failed plans, curricula testing, tears, and frustration to get to where I am emotionally in my homeschool.  Just a few years ago if you’d peeked through the window during my homeschooling day, you’d find me yelling, pointing to a checklist in frustration, saying, “Just get it done!” and “No, it’s your work, I can’t do it for you.”  or “We’re already three days behind!”  Then, two years ago, I had my first encounter with Andrew Pudewa, and after hearing him speak, I went home and wrote a mission statement.  I talked to Ryan about what we wanted to accomplish with our homeschool and what we wanted our kids to be at the end of their home high school, and I wrote it down.  Having a mission statement for my homeschool gives me a destination; it clears a path and eliminates static.  When I start to listen to outside influence, my mission statement gives me a “true north”.  I know that if what I’m doing isn’t helping me accomplish my end goal, then it doesn’t need to happen.

School at home is not my purpose.   My children are being educated at home.  Their education is not on the public school timeline, schedule, or standards.  Therefore, you might see them doing their lessons outside; in fact, if you walk by the back fence in the early afternoon, you’ll likely hear me reading a classic.  Sometimes, you’ll come to visit me at 2pm and when you ask the kids how their school work went that day, they’ll announce they’ve not yet done any.   We might not do science for three weeks.  But we write.  We think.  We ask questions.  We listen.  Everyday we are building a foundation upon which our legacy will stand, and that is not a duty I take lightly.  Even before I’ve finished my coffee or checked my email.

“I’m ready to listen.” she repeated, and waited patiently for me to close my iPad and walk into the living room,  where I picked up “Anne of Green Gables” and started reading aloud, and they listened.

To raise college-ready kids who can articulate in writing and in speech their thoughts, values and morals.

Does your homeschool have a mission statement? Let me know in a comment!  :)


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