American Girl

Last Christmas Miss J received her first American Girl doll last Christmas from grandma and grandpa. That's when the trouble started! She was hooked. This Christmas she received her second doll. She now pours over the AG catalogs that stealthily arrive in mail box every month. She circles items, dog ears pages, and counts her money to see if she has enough to order a new piece of the collection.

Last weekend we kept our promise to take her to the AG store at the Mall of America. She was in awe! The items were beautifully displayed and the choices seemed endless.


Kitty's Day Off....

I almost fell off my chair when I saw this video! This feline bears a striking resemblance to our very own Crazy Canadian Kramer. Not only does this kitty look like CCK, his behavior is right in line with CCK's.

Now here is our Crazy Canadian Kramer.

What do you think? Siblings separated at birth??


Crowley's Winter Challenge

Meet numeral two down. 900+ miles traveled so far. Approximately 1660 miles left to travel this season for a grand total of 2575 miles. WOW! Just for the record, it is 2700 miles to Fairbanks, AK! (Yes, I looked it up. Yes, I'm a nerd like that!)

Miss J did well. Quite well considering that 2/3 of the 92 girls in her session were 11+ years old. Judging in this district is tough as well and Miss J scored higher than average. Bars in particular has become one of her strongest events as well as one of her favorites. We're always proud of her as long as she works hard and does her best.


Snow Day and Taco Soup

Driving clear across the state for a gymnastics meet, we narrowly avoided a blizzard that blew through most of Minnesota on Sunday night. The winds continued to howl most of yesterday, and as a result schools, including the university, highways and interstates were closed. Which meant no work and no school.

I was grateful for the extended weekend. My house was cleaned, clothes were washed, and I threw together a soup for dinner. Because we've been on the road two weekends in a row, my pantry was a bit bare. I had to get creative with my ingredients for this soup and I must say, it turned out super (pardon the pun!). I have agreed to share the recipe as long as no one pokes fun at my use of ingredients!

1 lb ground beef (I used ground venison)
1 medium onion
1 15 oz can Hormel No Bean Chili
1 15 oz can black beans
1 14.75 oz can cream style corn
1 C frozen corn
1 10 oz can Rotel tomatoes and green chilis
1 6 oz can tomato sauce
2 14.5 oz cans of tomatoes (whole, crushed, or diced)
1 9 oz package of taco seasoning mix
1 teas. ground cumin
1/2 teas. crushed red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste

Brown the beef with onion, salt and pepper to taste. Drain beef mixture. Add Hormel Chili, taco seasoning mix, cumin, and red pepper flakes, mix well. Transfer meat and seasoning mixture to crock pot (I used my 5 qt pot). Add remaining ingredients along with additional salt and pepper to taste. Cook on low for 8 hours. Serve with choice of condiments; cheese, sour cream, corn chips, etc.

Cream style corn and Hormel Chili???? Really??? I know it sounds strange, but I found that the cream style corn and hormel chili helped to provide some body to the soup and kept it from becoming too running as it cooked. In addition any type of bean could be substituted for the black beans. I just happen to be partial to black beans. Try it! I promise you'll like it!


Photoshop 411

Layers and Other Basic Operations

Arizona Mom recently asked in her BlogFrog Community whether someone would be willing to put together a Photoshop tutorial, and I was happy and excited to oblige. This tutorial should be helpful across the board; no matter if you are using Photoshop Elements, Photoshop CS3 or CS4. Just for the record I am using Photoshop CS3.

Layers are without a doubt the single most important feature of Photoshop, so important that they have their own layers palette in the lower right hand corner of the screen. Layers also have their own menu at the top of the screen. You can add layers, delete layers, duplicate layers, add effects to layers, and other infinite possibilities that I can’t even wrap my mind around. To put it simply, layers are objects (photos, shapes, text, brushstrokes) stacked one on top of another.

Let’s get started by opening a new document. Under the file menu select New.

A box will pop up for you to choose the dimensions of your document. For our purposes here today I have chosen a standard 8.5x11 size. Note: My resolution is set to a very high 600. It is not necessary to create all documents with this high of a resolution, 200 to 300 in adequate in most situations, but that is just how I roll!

After choosing your document size and clicking
OK, your screen should look like this.

To the right is layers palette, which you will begin to see is indispensable. At the top is the layers menu. I will admit that I don’t use the layers menu too often. I am more likely to use keyboard shortcuts and the commands on the layers palette to accomplish the same tasks that are available under the layers menu. The background layer is automatically added upon creation of your document.

Now let’s add a photo to the document. Under the file menu select Place and select the photo you wish to use in the document.

As you can see in the layers palette a new layer, your photo, has been added and is highlighted because it is the active layer. Use the handlebars to resize you photo as desired.

How about some text? Why not?! Click on the T button on the left hand tool bar to create a text box. Drag box to desired size and type in text. Again a layer has been added to the layer palette.

The document now has a background layer and two other layers. I am a slave to layer effects, so let’s add a drop shadow to our text layer. Make sure your text layer is highlighted and click on the
fx button on the bottom of the layers palette, choose drop shadow and click OK.

The order that your layers are listed on your layers palette is important. Whatever layer listed first, is the top layer and so on. Look what happens when I switch around my text layer and photo layer.

Which I’ll now switch back because it wouldn’t make any sense to keep it that way!

A layer also is not active if it is not highlighted, meaning it can’t be moved or modified. To activate a layer simply click on it in the layers palette.

There you have it, the 411 on Photoshop layers. I am from the school that believes every element in your design should have it’s own layer. It makes for much easier modification down the road. Too many layers? Never! Once you learn to use them, you’ll see that layers are your friends!


Shivers at Three Rivers...

was the first gymnastics meet of the season. The Three River's gym is a cozy one, but a great place for the spectator. All of the action is close at hand.

My grandma joined us. It was the first time she had ever seen Miss J compete. Grandma herself has always been a very competitive lady. She was a competitive curler, bowler and a card shark. Although she has been out of the sport of curling for quite some years, at 83 she still bowls league and plays cards any chance she gets.

Like my grandmother, I too have a competitive spirit. Like mother, like daughter (and apparently like grandmother, like granddaughter) Miss J embodies that spirit as well. She becomes a different person while competing; strong, focused, and graceful. I love watching her, even though it elicits more stress than I have ever experienced before!

Miss J came into the season with a bang winning 1st place all around in her age group and surprising all of us with her performance. In fact, all of the RRVG girls did a great job. They took 2nd place in the team portion of the competition.


Longing for Summer

Maybe it is just because of the warm weather gracing our fair city these past few days. Or, maybe it's because I have been posting too many photos of snow and snow storms! It could also quite possibly be that we didn't really have a summer in 2009, rather a cool and rainy lake season. But, recently I have been longing for a warm summer day at the lake. We're about to plunge head first into another gymnastics season on the road which should fly us through March. Lake season may be here sooner than we think!


Stream of Consciousness....

Taking a few other's leads, I have decided to write a stream of consciousness post. Just writing my thoughts with no editing, no research....just my simple thoughts. Or should that be simply my thoughts? Whichever....many of my thoughts are just that...simple.

I love the Beatles! Listining to them always changes my mood. Which, by the way, has been at a bit of a lul. I've been shocked by the images flowing out of words can describe.

I'm getting nervous for Miss J's first gymnastics meet this weekend. Is that normal? I hate feeling the fluttering sickness in my stomach. I recently asked an older gymnast's mother if I will ever stop feeling sick in the pit of my stomach....she assured me that I won't. AWESOME! Gymnastics is a sport of hurry up and wait. Hurry through your warm-ups on one aparatis to hurry to another, only to wait for your turn. Hurry from rotation to rotation, but wait and wait for your turn to go, and then wait some more while the rest of your group competes. During all of those waiting periods I am as a cucumber (well maybe not that cool, but close), but for those 30 seconds to 3.5 minutes that Miss J is competing,! Having my eye behind the lens of my camera helps the nerves to some extent. Which reminds me...I need not forget my new monopod I recently purchased.

The weather has been unseasonably warm. Nice for being outdoors, but making a mess all over the sidewalks and streets. I'm wondering if the street department will ever swing by to attempt to clean the slushy mess that is being created before it refreezes and forever is ice. The answer to that is probably no.....they won't be by until the next storm dumps 2 or 3 more feet of snow on top of that slush that will surely then be ice.

My Grandmother is going to join us for Miss J's meet this weekend. I was pleasantly surprised when she accepted our invitation. After all she wouldn't get home until after dark. What is it about after dark that makes being away from home unacceptable? My Grandmother is 83, still drives, still bowls in a league, and is an all around fab lady. I guess she's earned the right to live life as she sees fit. She's always done it that way anyway!

Ok, I know I said that I love the Beatles, but a hour later, Paul McCartney's voice is getting on my nerves. Time to switch tunes....Bread seems just about right. I love their mellow tunes. And just because I like to be rebellious, maybe Nickelback should be next! HA! How about that for variety!?

I'm out..........


Blog Hop

I have entered my photos I posted yesterday in a blog hop, for winter themed photographs. I shot my photos with my Nikon D50 SLR camera with a 50 mm prime lens, ISO: 200, aperture: f 1.8, exposure: 1/4000, shot in A (aperture) priority.

Manic Mother


Ahhh...the quiet...

We had one blissful weekend at home before we begin a long stretch of traveling to gymnastics meets. Thankfully the temperatures climbed from the negative digits we were experiencing last week. Miss J used her free time to climb the snow drifts in the yard. I, shamefully, finally took down the Christmas decorations and the house is almost back to it's pre-holiday self. I must admit, it looks a little bare.


Seriously people????

Am I going to have to post this every time it snows? Really? Get a's winter, it snows, it is not, however, the apocalypse!!


Dear Old Man Winter,

Enough already! Our fair city already has the appearance of the North Pole and my yard looks like a virtual sea of snow and drifts. Now, we are in a winter weather advisory and are expecting more snow and blowing snow!? Goodie! Can't wait!



this girl's got it!


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