Saturday, July 27, 2019

SPSH 2019 | Reunion Tower

Our friends LeAnne & Bill and their two boys, Aiden & Logan, were here for a visit over the July Fourth holiday weekend. We headed in to Dallas to do some sightseeing one day, and I teamed up with Logan to see if we could find any of the items on this year's Summer Photo Scavenger Hunt (hosted by Mary-Lou of the Patio Postcards blog). LeAnne teamed up with Aiden, and the hunt added some extra FUN to our visit to the Reunion Tower GeO-Deck, Dealey Plaza, and The Old Red Museum.

Logan and I found eleven items! (I think LeAnne and Aiden found about the same amount.) Many of the photos were taken from 470 feet high, looking down from the Reunion Tower GeO-Deck. 

1. An Outdoor Clock
Looking at the Old Red Museum from Dealey Plaza.

2. Single & Pretty
Hotel driveway near Reunion Tower.

3. Repetition
Parking lot across the freeway from Reunion Tower.

4. Blurred Vision
While we were enjoying a light lunch at Cloud Nine, the casual Reunion Tower revolving restaurant, Logan noticed a small section of condensation on the window where he was able to capture this blurred view.

5. The Word Summer

7. A Curving Path

9. A Bridge

10. Something Made of Stone
This huge stone made a perfect seat for the boys!

12. Something Crooked

13. Two Colors of The Rainbow in Any Combination

18. Something That Should Be Found In Pairs

[Is it obvious I'm enjoying this year's hunt? So far, Robbie and I found all the items on our trip to Ohio, the twins and I found 20 items at the library, my buddy Logan and I found these 11 items, my oldest niece and I found a few on our 10K walk (photos coming soon) ... and I'll be searching for them all again on our next trip. :)]

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 | Improve Photo Editing Skills

One of the goals on my 50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 List is to improve my photo editing skills. I've been using Photoshop Elements for ten years now and have definitely improved my skills during that time, especially in the past few years (although it seems there's always more to learn). Along with learning from materials in online classes, I've often searched for ideas or tried out editing tweaks I've read about on other blogs.

When I first started blogging, I simply resized and uploaded photos (like this FUN photo from my nieces' visit earlier this summer).

However, I learned that when I resize it, the photo will appear clearer if I select the right "bicubic" option (in this case bicubic sharpener). It's often just a subtle difference.

My favorite edits include cropping (to remove distracting elements) and adjusting levels and shadows (to correct color and brighten).

I've also learned to play with the various options when converting a photo to black & white. The "newspaper" option keeps my photo bright and happy.

I've even experimented with some of the FUN guided options available in Photoshop Elements, Pop Art being my favorite.

Over the past several years, I've also learned more about editing photos on my iPhone, using the tools available to crop photos, adjust the color or lighting, and/or apply filters. I've used Canva to create photo collages. I've even used the editing feature in Facebook to improve photos before posting. So, I feel I can confidently mark this item as done on my 50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 List!

Thursday, July 18, 2019

50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 | Review All Paid For Scrapbook Classes

Over the five years before my 45th birthday (when I created my list of 50 Things To Do Before I'm 50), I'd enrolled in over 120 classes online at a variety of sites including Big Picture Classes,, and I'd actually worked through all the materials in some of them, others I'd done some work in, and a very few I hadn't really even looked at. Once I set the goal to review all the classes I'd paid for, I made a list of the classes and began reviewing them.

At various times over these past five years, I have successfully reviewed all those classes - some of them I worked through the materials, others I read through for inspiration, and some I simply reviewed and saved the materials I wanted to keep. I also posted updates on this goal HERE and HERE and have shared layouts, projects, and inspiration from these classes in various blog posts. During this time, I only signed up for a few additional classes since I was working on this goal. However, as I check this item completed, I am looking forward to finding a class or two to enjoy in the coming months. 

(Please share your favorite sites for online classes these days in the comments.)

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

SPSH 2019 | At the Library

Last week my 14-year-old twin nieces were here for their summer visit. During one of our visits to the library, we decided to see if we could find book covers to represent the items on this year's Summer Photo Scavenger Hunt.

We wandered through the aisles of books, not paying attention to the titles or topics, but simply searching for pictures or words that matched one of the items. Laurie kept track as we found them, consolidated the photos on her phone, and then air-dropped them to me so I could share our finds here. Between the three of us, we found 18 of the 20 items, plus both alternates ... so a total success! 

1. An Outdoor Clock

2. Single & Pretty

3. Repetition

4. Blurred Vision

5. The Word Summer

6. An Umbrella, open or closed

7. A Curving Path

8. Shells

9. A Bridge

10. Something Made of Stone

11. Fish

12. Something Crooked

13. Two Colors of The Rainbow in Any Combination

14. A Handwritten Sign

15. A Broken Chair/Bench/Stool

16. An Out of Season Treat Being Enjoyed
(Laurie was determined to find this one, so she headed to the children's section and the Christmas picture storybooks. There wasn't a single book with someone drinking hot chocolate on the cover, so she opted for an out of season gingerbread cookie. I think it's a perfect fit!)

17. A Sail

18. Something That Should Be Found In Pairs
(Paige decided right away that we had to find something with twins on it for this prompt. It took a while, but she finally discovered this book that actually has two sets of twins in the story!)

19. A Funny or Meaningful Bumper Sticker

20. A Favorite Seasonal Scent

A: Bird or Bee House
(After we got home, the girls decided the cover from one of the free Advanced Reader Copies we received at the library Book Buzz event would work for this prompt. No house, but at least it's a bird!)

B: Fresh Local Produce

This was such a FUN activity - we all enjoyed it! In fact, now that the girls are back home, we are each working through the list again and posting our finds to a Pinterest board. Paige even made us a cute image for the list.

[Sending a huge thanks to Mary-Lou of the Patio Postcards blog for hosting this seasonal scavenger hunt. I'm thoroughly enjoying the hunt, even more so now that it also helps me keep in touch with the girls in such a FUN way this summer!]

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 | Complete 10 scrapbook projects

I didn't have an exact  list of projects when I added the goal to complete 10 scrapbook projects to my 50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 List; however, I had lots of ideas and projects in progress.

My list of completions includes a variety of items - theme albums, chronological albums, photobooks, notebooks, and a collection of pages. In reality, I've probably completed several more projects over the past five years, but here are the ten that I'm counting toward this goal.

1 10th Anniversary Cruise albums
2 Summertime Scavenger Hunt photos
3 2011 Visits Photo Album Scrapbook
4 Gross Family 2014 Vacations & Visits Photobook
5 2015 Texas Spring Break Vacation Photobook
6 2014 FUN One Little Word Notebook
7 2015 INSPIRATION Notebook
8 2017 ACTIVE OLW Notebook
9 2011 Chronological Albums
10 10K Walks Theme Album

In addition to these items, I completed eight scrapbook-for-hire albums as well as numerous layouts (traditional, pocket page & digital) for my in-progress chronological albums.

To complete the page in my 50 Things mini-album, I created a collage of some of the finished projects.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 | Read all the Pulitzer Prize Winners in Fiction (1948-2018)

I am so excited to say that I've just completed the last of the Fiction Pulitzer Prize Winners, all 64 books from 1948 (when the novel category was changed to fiction) through last year's winner! I have to admit that I'm pretty proud of myself for sticking with this goal and actually reading all these books. While I'm an avid reader, I discovered that many of these prize winners are out of my comfort zone or contain boring (or no definitive) storylines.

The final book I read was the 1,106-page Executioner's Song by Norman Mailer. This huge tome is a very well-researched fictionalized account of the life and crimes of Gary Gilmore, including his execution in the state of Utah in 1977. The book is divided into two sections: Part One follows the story of Gary Gilmore from the time he is released from prison until he is returned to prison a few months later after he commits two cold-blooded murders; Part Two of the book introduces a host of additional characters from the court-appointed attorneys to the prison warden to other convicts as they debate the merits of execution and Gary Gilmore's adamant desire to be executed (by firing squad) rather than live out his life in prison.

Despite the abundance of sexually explicit scenes and strings of profanity, part one of the book was interesting and moved along quickly. However, the second part of the book drug along and seemed never ending as attorneys rushed to appeal the sentencing despite the convict's stated desire not to appeal! It was somewhat of a relief when he was finally executed. The story wrapped up with a quick review of where the other main characters ended up ... although there wasn't much to tell since this book was written within three years of the execution. This is not a book I would recommend unless you're researching prison life and legal executions.

As I check this item off my list of 50 Things To Do Before I'm 50, there's the short list of books below that I truly enjoyed and would consider reading again (click any title to read my review or click HERE to see my review of all the books I read to complete this goal). 

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
The Way West by A.B. Guthrie
The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 | Make Mama's Biscuits

Mama's biscuits are one of my very favorite foods, a comfort food that can fix almost anything. However, I've never learned to make them really well. In fact, I debated putting this item on my 50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 List because part of the appeal of the biscuits (besides their absolute yummy-ness) is the fact that I don't make them for myself. Either Mama or Robbie (or my sister Brenda on occasion) makes them for me. I've always known that if I started making them for myself, they might not be quite as willing to make them for me. (big grin)

In reality, I've tried making these biscuits before with some limited success - because following Mama's "recipe" is simple yet complex.

*Sift some self-rising flour into a large mixing bowl.
*Make a hole in the middle of the flour & add a dollop of Crisco (shortening).
*Pour in some cold water.
*Mix together, adding in flour until it's all the right consistency (!!??!!).
*Form biscuits & place in iron skillet.
*Bake at 425 degrees until done.

Years ago Mama taught my friend Elinor how to make the biscuits ... and you can tell by this photo that finding the "right consistency" is the trick!

When Robbie and I became engaged and I was going to move away from my family for the first time, my sister told him he better learn how to make Mama's biscuits. Once he got the gist of it, he actually created a little more defined recipe that he follows.

*Sift 2 cups self-rising flour & 1 tablespoon baking powder into a large mixing bowl.
*Cut in 1/4 Crisco & stir in 3/4 cup cold water. (Add more water if needed to make dough stick together.)
*Knead a bit, but not too much.
*Make biscuits.
*Bake at 425 degrees for 20-22 minutes.

I decided to take a hybrid approach by using Robbie's measurements (without the baking powder), making the hole in the flour (like Mama) and working toward finding just the right consistency. For my first attempt, I created a half batch and baked them in the small iron skillet. They tasted just right, although they were not quite as fluffy as Mama's.

Mama said I needed a little more water and maybe a little more Crisco, and my next batch came out perfect!

They were fluffy and yummy ... although they didn't have the "extra special ingredient" that Mama and Robbie put in when they make them just for me!  However, they certainly tasted good with a dab of butter!

Of course, I want to make it clear that while I now know that I can get them just right, I will always enjoy them more when someone else makes them! But I am thrilled to check another item on my 50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 List completed!