Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Have you discovered the use of textues in Photoshop Elements? I've seen photos on other blogs where textures have been used to change/improve the look of a photo, but I really haven't played around with them until this past week. Kim Klassen provided several free textures and tutorials in her free Photoshop Skinny Mini eCourse, and I have had a blast trying them out with different blending modes and adjustment layers.

These before and after photos show the effects of my efforts. I actually tried several different textures  on this photo of my swing and settled on one from Jessica Sprague (the only one in my digital supply "stash" before the Skinny Mini e-course).

I had a blast cropping and changing the look of these roses. I used the greyday vintage and the februarymagic textures from the eCourse. I think it makes the photo look like a painting.

And lastly, my favorite - I took this photo back in March. This is the first church I remember attending as a toddler and pre-schooler. I took this photo thinking I might use it on a scrapbook page about the beginning of my faith. I absolutely love the way the Paper Stained Light texture makes this photo look! Now, if I can find time, maybe I can at least write the journaling about it for Sian's upcoming Storytelling Sunday.

I am definitely going to be using textures more on my photos. Kim Klassen offers free textures when you sign up for her Texture Lovin' List, which I promptly did and have already added several more textures to my "stash."

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Lighten Up Blog Hop - May 2011

Welcome to this month's Lighten Up Blog Hop! When Beverly emailed that this month's theme would be picnic foods, I emailed back right away to say I would definitely be participating and would share our Grilled Vegetable Kabob recipe. Then I laughed right out loud at myself because I realized that once again, this is something we make often but don't have a recipe written down anywhere. Basically we just cut the veggies, skewer the veggies, season the veggies, grill the veggies, and eat the veggies. (Don't worry, though, I provide a little more detail & some photos below.) Then, I read Beverly's note about having the nutrition information with our recipe. So, I have been hard at work to bring you our version of Grilled Vegetable Kabobs!

1 medium yellow squash
1 medium zucchini
1/2 large green bell pepper
1/2 large red bell pepper
1/2 red onion
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
seasonings to taste - we use Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning 
Four servings, approximately 75 calories per serving.

1. Cut the veggies - cut all the vegetables into approximately 1 inch pieces, 1/4 to 1/2 inches in thickness.

2. Skewer the veggies - we typcially use these long skewers, but we also have some shorter ones that work great for individual servings.

3. Season the veggies - drizzle or brush the olive oil over the vegetables, then add seasonings to taste. We use Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning, but the options for seasonings are unlimited.

4. Grill the veggies - wrap the skewers in tin foil with a few ice cubes inside and place on heated grill. The ice cubes will melt and the steam will begin to cook the vegetables. Cook approximately ten minutes, then open the tin foil (but leave it underneath the skewers to the veggies won't stick) and grill until vegetables are at desired tenderness. (I tend to like my veggies more cooked than crisp.) CAREFULLY remove the skewers from grill, remembering that the metal skewers will be VERY hot. (Don't ask how we know this so well.)

5. Eat the veggies - my very favorite part.

Be sure to hop around and check out the full May Menu!
French Roasted Vegetable Sandwich  (Beverly)
http://www.melissagross.blogspot.com/  - you are here!
Grilled Vegetable Kabobs   (Melissa)
Pasta with Spinach and Feta  (Rachel)

The question for this month's prize is... If you had one serving of each of these dishes at your picnic how many calories would you consume? Email your answer to neusebrats{at}aol{dot}com for a chance to win this month's prize.

Since we have readers from all over the world, we want you to be able to easily convert measurements as needed. These links take you to conversion charts. We hope you find them helpful.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Healthy Living Weekly Post: June Plans

Is it just me, or does it seem like the month of May flew by? With Memorial Day weekend upon us, I am looking ahead to my plans for June. It is going to be a busy, fun-filled month with a trip to see three of my nieces in their dance recital, a visit from the twins and then possibly one from Pun'kin Natashia (she's still working out her summer schedule, I think). I'll also be coaching in the Finding Photo Freedom workshops (the new students' classroom as well as the alumni classroom), meeting with the Ladies' Ministry Leadership Team at our church as we make plans for the summer and fall (I've recently been asked to join the team!), tutoring a young lady in math one day a week, and scrapping every chance I get.

Here's how I did on my goals this past week:
*Ride the exercise bike for 30 minutes at least three times.
  YES - 3 times
*30 minute strength training routine at least three times.
  YES - 3 times
*Complete stability exercises at least once.
  YES - 1 time
*Drink at least 64 ounces of water each day.
  OK - 2 days, at least 48 ounces all other days
*Drink no more than one 12 ounce Coca-Cola per day.
  OK - 2 days, only 2 cokes the other days

I was thrilled with my exercise routine this past week (3 days of riding the stationary bike, 3 days of strength training, and 1 day of stability exercises), so I am planning to stick with that routine throughout the month of June. I'll continue with my weekly healthy living post, however, rather than a weekly update on my personal goals, I'll be writing on various healthy living topics and books. Next week I'll be sharing some insights from the 21 Days to Better Fitness book I'm currently reading.

Anyone else looking forward to a busy, fun-filled June?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Five Things That Made Me Smile

Inspired by Amy's challenge to scrap something about the everyday, last Sunday I grabbed my camera and took photos of five things that made me smile that day. I had every intention of creating a scrapbook page with those photos, but the week is nearly gone and I haven't done so. However, today Amy issued a new challenge to "grab your camera and take five photos ... of things that you know won't be around in another five years time." Yeah me - I'm ready this time - I'll simply share my photos from last Sunday here on my blog. You see, I believe this blog is just like one of my scrapbooks, a place to record the events and memories of our lives (especially the everyday things). So, without further ado, here are five things that made me smile on Sunday, May 22.

1. A new light pink shirt - Mama always said this was my best color, although I'm not sure this quick photo does it justice.

2. Yellow roses - the fact that Robbie still brings/sends me flowers every week going on ten years still makes me smile! (See the story behind this tradition here.)

3. Good reading/browsing material - perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon.

4. An Un-Birthday Gift from my secret sister at church - since we choose secret sisters for five months at a time, we are encourage to give our sister an un-birthday gift if her birthday falls outside of that five months. Isn't this a wonderful summer time gift?

5. Supper lovingly prepared and served by the Love of my Life!

There now, I've recorded five little bits of my life right NOW! What's happening in your life this week that you need to record?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Photoshop Skinny Mini eCourse from Kim Klassen

While I have been using Photoshop Elements 7 for about a year and a half now, I still consider myself a beginner. I am using the PSE Organizer to rate and tag my photos and have used the PSE Editor to edit photos and create digital layouts. However, I know there is much I have to learn and was delighted to learn about Kim Klassen's free 10-day course which started last week.

The first lesson involved cropping photos and adding text. I had fun playing with a couple of photos and choosing a color from the photo for my text.

Then we learned about blend modes, opacity, and adjustment layers. I've played around a little with the levels adjustment, but I was thrilled to learn more about it and how to make my photos better. Here are two photos that I edited - first, the original photo, then my edited version.

I am especially pleased with this last photo because my first impression of the Bow River in the summer time was how green it was. I'd only ever seen the river frozen until last summer and the color was a pleasant shock to me. This photo truly brings out my first glimpse of the river.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?

Seth Godin's book Linchpin asks the question, "Are You Indispensable?" Quite a thought provoking question! I first heard about this book on a Paperclipping Roundtable episode. (The episode was from May 2010, but I probably listened to it sometime last fall.) This book was Stacy Julian's pick of the week.

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?
I have to admit that it took me a while to get into the book because it seemed that Godin continually repeated the same information for the first half of the book (using different words and examples, of course). Godin's basic premise is that everyone is an artist and creating art can make an employee an indispensable linchpin. He defines an artist as someone "with a genius for finding a new answer, a new connection, or a new way of getting things done" and states that "every organization needs a linchpin, the one person who can bring it together and make a difference." He goes on to discuss how you must do the emotional work that only you can do and how your lizard brain will put up resistance when you attempt to do things differently.

After my initial reaction of "ok, I get this idea, now what" I really enjoyed the book. I like the definition of "art" as "a personal gift that changes the recipient" and the entire chapter devoted to the fact that art must be given away. If you have invested emotional energy into creating art, you must give it away without strings attached to become successful. Another thought provoking idea!

Godin injects some humor throughout the book as he points out that the lowest cost and most efficient methods are not always the best in terms of customer service and employee satisfaction. One of my favorite examples is this comment about Wal-Mart: "There's plenty of research that indicates every time Wal-Mart enters a community, jobs disappear, businesses close, and the base of the town decays. That's okay, though, because you can get a jar of pickles the size of a Volkswagen for three dollars."

Since I enjoyed the book and believe I understood and agreed with his idea that anyone willing to invest the emotional work can become a linchpin, I had to laugh every time he indicated that many MBAs would be resistant to the work necessary to become a linchpin. Maybe I found it funny because I would never call myself an "MBA" even though I have one of those hanging on my wall (and now Robbie does too!). Mine is beautifully framed and watches over me as I scrapbook, blog, and try out other crafty endeavours.

If you've read this book, I'd love for you to share your thoughts in the comments. If you haven't read it, I definitely recommend it as a very thought provoking (and possibly life changing) book.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

May Pinks

Is it just me, or does it seem there has been an extremely large amount of scrapbooking inspiration floating around on the Internet this month? Now, if I could only find an extremely large amount of time to go along with all that inspiration!

I do have two new layouts to share today, both using the color pink because my sister Brenda should be would like to be quilting with pinks this month for the Rainbow Scrap Challenge. (However, with three girls and their end of school schedules and dance classes and altering recital costumes, and completing graduation quilts and feeling a little under the weather, she has not yet touched her pink scraps.)

Challenge #10 at the BPC Creative Crop was a sketch by Lisa Day. I did not get to this challenge on NSD but knew I wanted to try this sketch. I started with a pink plaid patterned paper from The Paper Studio and three cute photos of Brenda's twins baking cookies here last year.

Continuing my effort to use my stash, I pulled several dimensional stickers that I've had for a year or so and die-cut measuring spoons that have been living with my stash for much longer to use as embellishments.

The thickers I used for the title are the newest addition to my stash - found last weekend at Big Lots for only $2 a pack!

And then, of course, some inspiration from Shimelle. She posted a layout using an old Polaroid photo of her first birthday. I was inspired to look through my oldest storage binder (which houses the photos of my growing up years) and found a photo of me on my first bicycle, which was pink!

I didn't want this smaller photo to get lost in a large layout with so much color, so I popped it up by mounting it on a piece of foam, then matting that with pink cardstock to match the base of the layout.
This photo resided in my old acidic scrapbook for many years before I rescued it last year, however I wanted to keep some of my Mama's notes from that scrapbook. I included her note with the embellishment cluster at the top of the layout. I love that this photo is out of the old scrapbook, that I have recorded my thoughts about the photo, and that the layout still contains Mama's handwritting.

Anyone else agree that this month has been overflowing with inspiration?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Healthy Living Weekly Post

It's been a fairly good week here, a little different as we adjust to Robbie's new work schedule. After 12 months of not having any real schedule, I am having to get used to waking up earlier so I can make Robbie's breakfast and see him off to work. I've taken advantage of this early morning time and ridden the exercise bike right after he leaves several times. It really feels good to get my exercise done earlier in the day before I have time to get too busy or talk myself out of it! We also celebrated Robbie's MBA graduation last weekend, so it was pretty busy as well.

Here's how I did on my goals for this past week:
*Ride the exercise bike for 30 minutes at least four times.
   YES! 4 times
*Complete a 30 minute strength training routine at least twice.
   ok - 1 time
*Complete stability exercises at least once.
*Drink at least 48 ounces of water each day.
   ok - 4 days
*Begin a new book on healthy living.
   YES - began reading 21 Days to Better Fitness by Maggie Greenwood-Robinson
*Add one lifestyle activity at least four days this week.
   ok - walked around outdoor trade days one day

My Goals for the Coming Week
*Ride the exercise bike for 30 minutes at least three times.
*30 minute strength training routine at least three times.
*Complete stability exercises at least once.
*Drink at least 64 ounces of water each day.
*Drink no more than one 12 ounce Coca-Cola per day.

I tried a couple of new recipes last week, both from the April 30 Lighten Up Blog Hop. First, Beverly's Individual Salsa Meatloaves were delicious. I really liked the addition of salsa to the meatloaf as well as creating individual loaves. The recipe makes four small loaves, so Robbie and I had these for supper two nights last week, with different sides each evening so it seemed like two different meals. Second, I tried Ginger's Mexican Lasagna - YUM! Her recipe called for ground chicken, but our grocery store didn't have any the day we went shopping, so I used ground turkey instead. Since we like Mexican food, I was delighted that the turkey tasted great (and with less fat & calories than beef). Beverly is organizing the next Lighten Up Blog Hop for May 30, so be sure to check back then for light picnic food recipes.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Book Reviews - Mockingjay, Bad Beginning

Mockingjay (The Final Book of The Hunger Games)
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins is the third book in The Hunger Games trilogy. (Click to see my review of book one and book two.) This book picks up a short time after the end of book two and finds Katniss and her family underground in District 13. The districts revolt against the Capital and Katniss, Peeta & Gale are all involved in the revolution. Once again, this book is a page-turner and well-paced. After having enjoyed all three books, I was a little disappointed in the ending and the implication that after a war nothing really changes. I did, however, like the way she resolved the love triangle aspect of the story. I would definintely recommend this triology, however be forewarned that people are killed (often in heinous ways) and it's not always fair (as is typical in a wartime environment).

The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book the First)
Robbie and I enjoy listening to audio books when we are in the car for long stretches of time, like the hour it takes to drive to my parent's home or on a road trip. We recently listened to The Bad Beginning, the first book in the series A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. Robbie has read all the books in the series and I've read the first three. Even though the books contain many unfortunate events, we both like them because they are written so differently than your typical fairy tale "once upon a time" and "everyone lived happily ever after" books.

However, we both agree that listening to the audio book was tedious and often boring. I think there were two reasons for this assessment. First, it was read aloud much slower than we could read it ourselves and it felt like the story dragged along. Robbie could probably finish reading one of these books in an hour while the audio was over three hours long. Second, the cute little definitions that the author using as parenthetical inserts throughout the book seemed to interupt the flow of the reading of the book. I guess we are used to parenthetical inserts when we are reading but not so much when we are talking. I recommend the books for some easy reading, but don't suggest the audio book unless you enjoy slow stories.

I'm working my through six books right now - you can check out my list in the sidebar. Anyone else enjoy reading several books at a time?

(For a complete list of books I've read this year and to see my reviews, click here.)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Happy Mail from Cheri, Stacy & Mel

Remember my post about joyful mail earlier this month? A few hours after publishing that post, my mail arrived and I found a very happy envelope from Cheri waiting for me. Inside I discovered an amazing bookmark. I was not expecting anything in the mail that day, so this certainly made me smile! Thank you Cheri!
Then last week, I pulled a large envelope out of the mailbox and it was NOISY - yes, noisy. It sounded like there were a bunch of little rocks rattling around inside when I moved it. There was no return address and once again I wasn't expecting anything, so my curiosity was definitely peeked.

It turns out the noisy items were jelly beans in a variety of flavors including popcorn, coconut, cinammon, and cherry. This delightful package came my way from Stacy Julian with a cute little clipboard ready for use in the upcoming Finding Photo Freedom workshop. A 6x9 clipboard is one of the optional items on the supply list for the workshop which starts June 2nd. This clipboard will hold the weekly task lists that will serve as a checklist of things-to-do each week.

And then just two days ago, I pulled yet another package out of my mailbox! This one had traveled all the way from the UK carrying Where Women Create, another Pass the Book (courtesy of Sian). The book came from Mel and contained a cute handmade card and note. I am already enjoying this book and looking forward to some inspiration. (Now, some of you may have seen Mel's inspiration posts from this book, the ones where she showcased the 34 projects she was inspired to create! Really, no pressure for me, right? LOL)

Here's hoping that you find something lovely in your mailbox today!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

BPC Creative Crop part 2

(See part 1 of my BPC Creative Crop accomplishments here.)

Challenge #4 issued by Cindy Tobey from CK magazine was to use wood or wood grain on a scrapbook page or project. I had a leftover scrap of wood grain paper from when I created a layout about my compost bin, so I decided to incorporate that into a layout featuring a photo of me on my wooden swing.

I placed the wood grain strip to the right of the photo and used some word stickers that have been in my stash for several years to describe my feelings of contentment.

Challenge # 6 (yes, I skipped #5) issued by Tami Morrison was to think outside the box. She gave several examples of layouts where some element extended outside the dimensions of the page. I created this 8 1/2 x 11 layout with the road extending past the right edge of the page.

I will be including this layout in my LOM Things That Matter 12x12 album. I cut a small slit in an 8 1/2x11 page protector so that the road could extend outside. I really like the way this little element sticks out and adds some interest in my album.

There are still seven Creative Crop challenges that I did not complete on NSD - I have one almost done on my craft table and am planning to look back over the other challenges for inspiration for more layouts later this week. Anyone else participate in the Creative Crop on NSD? I would love to see your layouts - please leave a link to your gallery or blog in the comments.

Monday, May 16, 2011

BPC Creative Crop

BPC's Free 12 hour Creative Crop on National Scrapbooking Day provided tons of inspiration and 12 challenges, one each hour throughout the day. I completed five of those challenges that Saturday.

Challenge #1 issued by Claudine Hellmuth was to create a layout or project using text. (See my page here.)

Challenge #2 issued by Stacy Julian was to scrapbook a photo of someone you love with TEN products, TEN techniques and TEN words. This was a true challenge for me when it came to techniques. I chose photos of my great-nephew riding falling off of Robbie's wooden rocking horse.

10 products – cardstock, patterned paper, yellow border strips, black border strip, playing card, black foam letters, horseshoe die cut, journal tag, help sticker, What’s Up bubble sticker
10 techniques – distressing, inking, tearing, hand drawn stitching, clustering, matting photos, layering, punching, hand journaling, intentional imperfection (this is a term Stacy used for her technique of making something not perfect on purpose)
10 words - Andrew tries out Uncle Robbie's wooden rocking horse. Aug 2008

Challenge #3 issued by Megan Hoeppner from CK magazine was to spend a few minutes organizing your space. Since I've recently organized most of my supplies, I chose two shelves that needed to be straightened because I'd piled items on top of the boxes instead of putting them away.
Tomorrow I'll share my layouts from the other two challenges I completed.