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About Me

Single tired mom of four. Lover of chocolate and coffee - not necessarily in that order. Lover of Jesus, photographer by trade, Photoshop junkie and crime TV watcher.


RSS Hallie Westcott Photography

Surgery Day Approaches

June 23, 2008


Tomorrow is the big day – the surgery day.  I am emotionally exhausted, but at peace.   My mom is is not worried at all.   There are blessings that come with a brain injury; this is one of them.   She truly lives in a world that has no worries.  We should all be so blessed.

I know it’s in God’s hands and there is no better place for it to be.  And thank you for all your prayers; they are greatly needed.


This is the view of a streetlight from a puddle in my driveway.

The Big Boy Takes on the Wagon

June 22, 2008


Thank you to all my friends for being so gracious after my meltdown yesterday.   It felt good just to be heard.  Sometimes and encouraging word is just enough to keep you going.   :)


Buying Your Homeschool Curriculum with Heart

June 21, 2008



Today I have an agenda.  Not just any agenda, but one very close to my heart.  Those of you who know me can attest to the fact that I rarely use my blog to complain, but I was out of phone numbers today and needed to blow off some steam so here it is.

You see, I spent all of today working.  I did not see the sunshine or my children at all.  From the time I woke up at 6:30 am, I have been busy running our family bookstore, Blue Thistle Books;  entering products, answering 2 bazillion emails, and trying to stretch an ordinary 24 hours into 72.  I also have the responsibility of caring for ailing parents.  My mother has a brain injury that left her without the ability to walk and talk for a very long time.  Now that she is better able to care for herself, she will reenter the hospital once again next week to have part of her esophagus removed.  This has left me with the big unanswered question, What will my life be like next week?  I guess I am part of what’s called “the squeeze generation,” and yet in this single parent home, there is only one person that is being squeezed. 

I battle constant stress, have terrible headaches, and constant burning in my abdomen, no doubt also from my hectic-no-room-for-fun-and-games life.  There is rarely a day that goes by that I don’t want to throw in the towel and call it quits because the knot in my throat is so large, it’s hard to swallow.

The reason I work at home, is so I, a single parent can homeschool my children.  I did not decide to homeschool because of a desire to give up every waking moment of my day, struggling with bad attitudes, or a fondness for lack of sleep and an empty wallet, but because we live in a very bad school system, where my children were in danger.  A school system where keeping order is the priority and education is a far second.  A school system where my 10th grade daughter was threatened with a gun and not a single phone call from the administration was made to inform me of the incident. 

Now, I don’t expect those of you who do not homeschool to care one way or the other about my personal choices or my lack of vitamin D.  However, for those of you that do homeschool and understand my heart felt decision to keep my children at home where they are safe and can be taught godly principles, you just might understand what I am about to say. 

When I started this business, it was my ultimate goal to provide excellent prices and excellent customer service and I feel we have done a great job in both those areas.   Since the beginning, every email that I have received has been answered in a timely manner with a smile…yes, you can read a smile.  Every phone call is returned promptly and courteously.  Every sales receipt is sent out with a handwritten thank you, including my customer’s first name because… I want each one of them to feel important.  Why? Because they are.  Without them, I would be working a full time job and my kids would not have a parent at home.  They would be part of the lost generation our country is raising.

Aside from those things, I deliver to my local customers, (all ten of them in CT – surprised? Me too,) despite the rising cost of fuel and I open my home to total strangers, just so they can see the curriculum before they purchase it. 

Now I am not trying in any way to toot my own horn.  My point in telling you all of this is, last week I opened my home to a customer – a customer driving a Lexus.  Before leaving, the customer placed a special order for a new product and when it arrived he decided he didn’t want it.  That product cost me $50.00 out of pocket to have him change his mind.  He then asked how much another book was that he special ordered, only to complain that it wasn’t as low as the BIG GUYS.  (This particular product was not one that we carried, I ordered it as a courtesy.)  The customer said, “Well, the BIG GUYS sell it for $9.99.”  The fact is, it cost me $10.16 wholesale just to buy it.  If I were to sell it at $9.99, I would be loosing money. I wish conversations like this were the exception and not the rule, but it’s a story that’s all too familiar.

Now I’m not condemning those of you that shop at the BIG GUY, I just want you to understand, that we little guys, do not buy books and curriculum in palettes, we buy a few of an item, so we don’t get BIG GUY discounts.  That being said, we are very close to the BIG GUYS on most items and on some, we are even lower.  How is that possible?  It is possible because I haven’t kept a 25% profit margin since we started,  and after marking every item down to try and compete with the BIG GUYS, we may not make it another year. 

Now beyond that, why should you shop at the little guy?  I’ll tell you why?  Because when you shop at the little guy, whether it be me or another small homeschool store, you are keeping a family alive.  You are supporting them, so they can homeschool and feed their children.  Isn’t that reason enough?

I know some of you are on a very tight budget, with only one income.  I know how that feels, believe me.  The only difference is, I don’t have someone to share the burden, yet I still make every effort to buy a gift or product at Etsy instead of the large department store down the street.  I know there is a mother with children on the other end of that purchase that may need the money.

The fact is, if we as homeschoolers don’t keep the little guy going, we will all be buying curriculum that is put out by companies like Alpha Omega and Bob Jones.  

Today, most curriculum is published by small family operations that are struggling to make ends meet.  They work tirelessly, running to conventions and giving of their time to bring us the curriculum we love.  And then there are the local homeschool stores that are scattered across the country.  How many people go into those stores to view the curriculum and then go home to order it online from the BIG GUY online for a lower price? 

Now I’m not saying there is any crime in looking for the best price,  I used to do the same thing, but I then read an article that had the same tone as this post and I suddenly saw things a little differently.  And now I am hoping that this post will cause you to feel the same way.  So please remember this the next time you are shopping for your curriculum.  And don’t worry about the BIG GUYS. They will do just fine without you.  And thank you to all our faithful customers.  You mean the world us.

Oh Sweet Pea!

June 20, 2008


If any child doesn’t like eating peas, I recommend growing them.  Eating them raw from the garden is such a treat.  They are so sweet and really cool to open!

Through the Lens: Assignment 1– Getting to Know Your Camera

If you are participating in this workshop, you are probably using a point and shoot camera or a Digital Single-Lens Reflex camera, otherwise known as a DSLR.

There are pros and cons to both types of cameras.  Point and shoot cameras are great for their small size and portability, their macro capabilities and lower price and yet they lag in image quality, speed and do not have interchangeable lenses.

DSLR’s are fabulous for image quality, speed and adaptability, but are not easy to carry if you want to capture photos on your next 4-mile hike up Mt. Monadnock and even though the prices are dropping drastically, you could easily go broke buying new lenses……ehem.

Regardless which type of camera you own, or hope to own, if you don’t know how to capture a good image, the type of camera won’t really matter.

During this workshop, it is my goal to help you learn to use your camera and show you how to take better pictures by gaining a clear understanding of how your camera works.  When we have learned all we can about taking good pictures, we will begin to focus on the creative side of photography, so whatever you are hoping to learn, if you stick around long enough, you just might pick up a thing or two.

You probably won’t leave this workshop as the next Jessica Claire, or maybe you will…who knows, but I hope you will find joy in the knowledge you learn and begin to apply it while capturing memories of the people or things you love.  So enough of my babbling, let’s get started.


Assignment 1:

I know we are all ready to dive in, but there are a few things we need to do before we can proceed to the next level.  Every good skill has a foundation and I wouldn’t expect you to learn Algebra before you master your multiplication tables, so with that in mind, your first part of the assignment is to go find your camera manual and get to know your camera, inside and out.  If you are like me, when you purchased your new camera, you tore open the box, found the quick start guide, tapped your foot waiting for the battery to charge, turned on that baby to auto and off you went.  Now that’s all fine and good, but not if we want to learn to use the manual settings and expand our skills.

Now that you are done reading, not skimming, your boring manual….(you did read didn’t you?)….we can get to the fun stuff.

You probably have discovered things you never knew about your camera, even though some of them seem to be written in a foreign language. Now make it your priority to get out and take the best picture you can for your first assignment.

If you are interested in nature photography, then shoot nature, if it’s children, use your own or borrow one, (it probably should be one you know.)  If it is architecture, go find a building.  Just photograph whatever makes your heart sing, process it however you like and then come back here to link up when you are finished.  You can link up any time between now and our next assignment and if your late, no sweat, take your time.  Do this at your own pace.  You can’t rush creativity.

If you’re not sure how to include your photo into a comment, just upload your photo to your photo host, then right click on it > choose properties to see your photo’s URL > Copy this URL and paste it into your comment.

And if you have any questions, I’m just an email away!

Because this is a very short assignment, our next assignment will be posted on July 4th.

Today’s Photo Inspiration:  Hoya carnosa flowers taken by Martin Heigan.  Go here to visit Martin’s photostream.

Cool Sites for more inspiration:

The Big Picture 
Smashing Magazine

Click to join ThroughTheLens-DigitalPhotography101


Down on the Farm

June 19, 2008


It’s that time again.  Yup, strawberry pickin’ time.  My favorite time of year; I just wish I had passed on the gene, but no chance.

We start off well, until one gets tired and the other complains of hives or some pesky allergy I think she makes up.  And yet even though there was the usual drama today, it actually went quite well.

Bella decided that she didn’t have to go very far to find a ripe strawberry; only as far as Kimmie’s flat.  She just about emptied her out and walked off with the stolen strawberry booty.  She came right over to me with all those big red beauties and said, “Here you go mama.”  Of course I told her to return them to their rightful owner and asked her to please pick her own.

She must have been pretty wiped out from all that berry swiping and needed to hitch a ride to the car with Pirate Jackie.

I need more days like these.




A Stroll through Elizabeth Park

June 18, 2008


This was taken at Elizabeth Park in Hartford, CT; one of the prettiest places around.  The grounds are covered roses of every variety.