Actions & Fun – DSD 2013

roach tiramisu web(Yes, scrapbookers, you ARE in the right place!  Information on the P&Co. blog hop is included along with a diverting treatise on the world’s most durable bug.)

Do you like cockroaches?  I know that people eat them in parts of the world, even here in the continental United States.  In fact, according to filmmaker Justin Fornal, the middle of a roasted cockroach is “creamy like tiramisu” once you get “past the crunch.”  And my engineering friend Meredith  told me that once, on a trip to rural China, she was served a HUGE PLATTER OF BOILED COCKROACHES and urged to take the biggest, juiciest ones, since she was the guest of honor.

I ate a chocolate-covered cricket one time, but the cricket was deep fried and crispy, and you couldn’t even tell that it was in the chocolate. And as for roaches,  for most of my life I’ve tended to run screaming from them.

Here’s an example.  A friend of mine, who often posts inspirational messages on Facebook, wrote:  “”Most fears cannot withstand the test of careful scrutiny and analysis. When we expose our fears to the light of thoughtful examination they usually just evaporate. – Jack Canfield”

And I thought for a moment, and felt inspired to write this:

“I bet, though? That Jack Canfield never saw the size of the roaches that lived in the Foxfire Apt. complex in Tempe, one of which once forced me to hide in my bathroom for 45 minutes because I COULD HEAR IT WALKING AROUND ON MY DRESSER, and because of which I was consequently late to work. True story.”

And also this:

“It didn’t evaporate. I had to get brave and spray an entire can of Raid behind my Ikea futon and make my boyfriend remove it later on. Fun times.”

So what you can see from MY posts, apart from the fact that I’m a disrespectful smart-ass, is that I REALLY DON’T LIKE ROACHES.

You may be wondering why roaches are on my mind right now, and it’s a reasonable question. I was sitting in the local Paradise Bakery having coffee, and thinking about what to write in this very blog post, when a gigantic roach started running around and scared a lady sitting by in a window table with friends.

paradise 1 web

An affable, friendly busboy came with a broom and dustpan, looking for it, joking with the people who looked up.  One man pointed from his laptop:  “There! At the base of that table!”  –But it wasn’t; it was already long-gone, or recently-gone, but anyway: GONE, and the careful tilting up of three adjacent tables likewise revealed nothing.  So now, somewhat paranoid about my bare-sandaled toes under MY table, I kept checking the ground, because MY table was rather close to the original Table O’ Suspicion.

And THAT made me think about some of my memorable Roach Experiences.  My best friend from college, Jennifer T. (who is now a doctor in NYC) and I used to love going out for Chinese near Columbia U, and we had a favorite restaurant on B’way.  One time we had to alert the waiter to the fact that a half-dead roach was squashed to the side of a plate of noodle-crisps and duck sauce, legs still wriggling.  The waiter didn’t hesitate; he whipped off his waist-towel and wiped the roach to the floor, then put the bowl back onto our table with a smile. (We asked for and got a new bowl, but both suspected he’d just gone back into the kitchen and came back out with the very same bowl.) We ate it anyway and came back another time, because, hey, no big deal, not really…and it WAS our fave Chinese place!

And then there was the time in Rocky Point with my sister Erica, my BFF Lisa, and some other friends, when roaches literally AS BIG AS CATS were all over in her friend’s beach-front house, in the patio and in the bathroom and on the flat roof where we had to sleep to beat the heat, skittering around here and there, and we all just HAD TO DEAL because there was no other option.  Well, we were also drunk, and that helped me to deal, definitely, because otherwise I might have needed to have a heart attack.  [During one drinking game we had to tell Two Truths and One Lie and see if people could guess the lie, and my sister Erica came out of the bathroom and said:  "Ok, my turn.  In the bathroom are two big roaches as long as my hand. They are eating a third, dead roach and they are not afraid of me.  I stepped on them."  And as it was obvious that sentence #3 was the only lie,  because clearly she did not want to ruin her cool sandals with the squishy tiramisu-guts of these colossal creatures,  we all laughed like hyenas, and then we drank some more.]

And roaches showed themselves at  a funeral in Nogales, Mexico. The funeral parlor was in a busy area; the streets were hot, dirty, polluted. I stayed with my daughter in the long, narrow front room instead of in the room with coffins and pews.  When I went to check out the tray of pan dulces by the window, I saw a medium-sized bold roach walking under and over the pastries.  The plate soon emptied; other guests – in an air of general complacence (just the way it is?) did not comment, complain, or even seem to notice. Later on I saw two more roaches in there, and another one investigating the sugar bowl for coffee.

I did not, myself, bring attention to the roaches by exclaiming or commenting or even trying to kill them (which would have been a moderately noticeable production) and might have messed up some pastries.  This was due to a general respect for the situation and the way of life, like: Hey, so roaches are all over here, and people just DEAL with it; there are bigger issues to squeal over, and anyway, who am I to be too good for some Roach-Pastry? What am I, some Big Fart From Chicago? Not that people LOVE roaches on the pastries, they just — ignored them…and, it turned out, so could I. At least on the outside.

So…roaches.  Whether you eat them,  eat despite them, or run from them, they are all around us.  Perhaps I can make up my own inspirational quote using my roach experiences:  “  ”

OK, no, I can’t do that.  But what I DO know is that I’ve become braver over the years, and more capable of saying: “Roach on my pastry? Aaah – no big deal.  Roach on the side of the bowl? Sure, just wipe it off.”  Maybe it’s a way of recognizing that there are bigger issues in life to be afraid of, better places to expend energy, and that some  fears CAN be made invisible if you look at them head-on and suddenly find that you are completely able to handle them, and with grace, too.

So – I hope you can all go out and squash the roaches that are stuck to YOUR pastry or running around under YOUR table. Be brave! Be bold! I’m trying it, too.

Although I’m not sure I’ll ever look at tiramisu quite the same way again.

cake pic 2


If you’re reading this to get a letter for the Pixels & Co. Blog Hop, thanks for making it to the end. Whew! You ARE patient.

This is the kit, Piccadilly, that you’re going to get for FREE once you obtain all of your letters to use as the coupon code.You need to go through all of the blogs in order to get all 20 letters/numbers to get the full coupon code, which needs to be entered at checkout. My letter is P.


  • Shen
  • Tiffany
  • Deena
  • Laura
  • Shannon
  • Jennifer – P     <———– THIS IS ME!
  • Sabrina
  • Kelleigh
  • Crystal
  • Robyn
  • Leah
  • Dawn
  • Celeste
  • Karla
  • Shirley
  • Mye
  • Audrey
  • Anita
  • Ya Yeah
  • Gennifer

Once again, my letter is:

the letter P webNow that you’ve got my letter, please proceed to the next blog to keep collecting. Next is Sabrina’s Creations  -Sabrina at her blog.

Missed one? Here’s the full list of ALL the blogs to visit:

Simply Tiffany Studios
Deena Rutter
Laura Passage
Scotty Girl Design
Jennifer Valencia Photography
Sabrina’s Creations
Kelleigh Ratzlaff Designs
Crystal Livesay
Robyn Meierotto
Dawn by Design
Celeste Knight
Karla Dudley
Wild Blueberry Ink
Mye De Leon
Audacious Designs
Anita Designs
Ya Yeah Designs
Gennifer Bursett

My part of the Piccadilly collection is the sepia action for Photoshop CS4+ and Photoshop Elements 11+ — the action takes your color photograph and gives it a sepia tint. The layers from the action are fully editable so you can tailor the results and make the sepia tone lighter, darker, or more contrasty.  A pdf manual is included that explains how to install and run the action, and of course, you can contact me here at my blog or on the Pixels & Co. site if you have questions or need help. I hope you enjoy the action!

Sepia Action Preview Page

And please allow me to show you some other awesome actions that you may wish to purchase – these are actions I use while editing my professional photographs, and they each come with instructions on how to use them.

Skin Softening Valencia  previewMy favorite black and white actions:

high key bw valencia previewMy awesome Pink Frost (I LOVE this one!)

Pink Frost Preview Page webMy Color Pop Action, which defogs and cleans up images, as well as brightening colors:

Color Pop Action Template 600I also have inspirational journaling cards and flair using my own photography (always my own, never CU! — so you won’t see these photos anywhere else!)

photo journal card templateAnd more journaling cards:

photo journal card template2And this set…

photo journal card template3web

If you want to hear more stories, here are a few of my personal faves:

Dog Analysis For Beginners (or how to give your dog a whole pizza)

How To Whiten Your Teeth And Scare The Fex-Ex Guy

What To Do When You Get The Sexy Wolf And Red Riding Hood Costumes By Accident

Memorizing Claudia Schiffer in Cottage Cheese

Thanks for reading!  I hope I gave you a smile, and maybe the desire for a sweet Italian dessert. (Which may be as close as your very own backyard!)




Pixels & Co iNSD Blog Hop!

Hello, everyone, it’s Jennifer Valencia here, and  I’m excited to be part of the Pixels & Co.  iNSD DESIGNER blog hop!

How this works:  Visit each of the 19 Pixels & Co. designer blogs in order, and collect the special letter or number from each blog.  Once you have all the pieces, return to the main Pixels & Co. site and use the letters/numbers in the order they were collected as a coupon code to download the blog hop kit for FREE.  Keep reading to find my letter at the end of this blog post, and a link to your next site. Here’s a preview of the kit!

*Pixels & Co. is zooming with traffic and customers. The owner is aware of the site slowdown and the team is working hard to increase server response. Please try back if you can’t get on right away. It’s a great kit, and we definitely want you to have it!  *


A bit about me: I write actions and photography eBooks for Pixels & Co.   I love using actions because they make my work quicker and easier.  Some of my favorite actions are the High Key Black and White  and the Black and White Beautiful because my clients love the clean timeless look of black and white, and I love b/w too (especially when I want to use a specific kit that I LOVE but my photos clash!)


In this post I want to cover two topics. First is how to use my part of the free kit. And second, I want to talk a bit about aperture — it’s one of the most common questions I get about photography.

How To Use The Action Set: Retro Postcards

My part of the free kit is an  action set for you called Retro Postcards, which runs in Adobe CS4+ and Elements 11.  These actions give a vintage, retro feel to a photo.

Retro Action Valencia Template

I love this orange chair at my parents’ home in Chicago – and I adore how the kids are  nestled together. I wanted to try a retro/vintage look  for fun, and then I wanted to erase the “retro-ness” on their faces –  b/c kids’ faces are just not meant to be retro, am I right? Here’s how I did it.


First I started with a photograph in CS4.  I made sure that my photograph file consisted of just one layer called Background. (That’s what your layer is always called, unless you change it deliberately.)  My actions are designed to run with Background as the starting layer.

I ran the Basic Retro action and ended up with these layers on top of my background. Note: I usually write my actions to be non-destructive (the background layer is still there), and I make the color layers editable. Although it may look daunting to see a big stack of layers there, I do this because it gives you more options to tailor and tweak the action. I just hate it when I run an action that merges all the layers down so I can’t tweak them — if I don’t like the results, I have no options! I spend a lot of time writing the actions, and I want you to be able to use them as effectively as I do on my own photos.


As you can see, there is a stack of layers, some visible and some invisible. Again, I do this to give you OPTIONS and hopefully make it very easy for you to use the action. Here’s an example of what to do with all of these layers!

retro-sample-5For these pictures, I merged all of the adjustment layers into one, and added a layer mask. Then I painted over their faces to let the background show from below. Voila! Vintage postcard with natural skin – just what I wanted.


You can change the look of the photo by adjusting opacity of the layers, or editing them directly. Here’s an example using the Retro Bold Action on a skyline in Vancouver:

retro-bold-sample-1Here’s the way to tweak the Retro Bold Action results.  (If you’re wondering: The reason I didn’t officially “group” the results is because I wrote the action to run in either Photoshop OR Elements, and the groupings are hard to ungroup in Elements.  Sometimes I write separate actions for Photoshop & Elements, but in this case, it’s just the same action that works in both programs.)


Some information about aperture.

I wrote a post about depth of field at the Pixels & Co. blog, which I hope you get a chance to read.  I’ve also put some excerpts from my eBook Captivating Candids here to help explain the basics of aperture. Please feel free to stop by the Pixels & Co. forums to ask any questions you have about photography or scrapping!



candids-section-10-apertureI hope that brief overview of aperture helped explain the concepts. And I hope that you try out my action that comes with the free kit!


 And now for the blog hop specific information:

My letter  is:  G

The next site you need to visit is Tiffany’s, at her site Simply Tiffany Studios.


Here is the entire list of blogs in order. Have fun!

Start Here
Jennifer Valencia Photography  <—  This is ME!  My letter is G.
Simply Tiffany Studios
The Queen of Quirk
Mye De Leon
Dawn by Design
The Ardent Sparrow
Robyn Meierotto
Karen Funk
Crystal Livesay
Scotty Girl Design
Karla Dudley
Wild Blueberry Ink
Deena Rutter
Celeste Knight
Jeryn Carlisi
Gennifer Bursett