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Sunday, January 31, 2010

I ♥ Faces - Fix It Friday

Ok...so today is Sunday which means I'm a little late. I had my hands full the past couple of days though, but I made it finally. Doesn't that count for something? I mentioned in a previous blog that I found a great site I ♥ Faces, and I participated in the weekly challenge. (I didn't get picked as a top 10, but that's ok, cause I plan to keep entering anyway.) Well every Friday, the people at I ♥ Faces chooses a photo to be 'fixed'. It doesn't mean that there is anything wrong with the original image, it just means that there is so many artistic things that can be done to it if you have the inclination. Altering photographs is one of my favorite things so of course I am up for the challenge. Here is the image that we were given this Friday to 'fix'.

This is a beautiful image in and of itself, but it is also a great image ripe for 'fixing'. I decided I would give it my best shot and here is what I came up with for this week.

The challenge this week was texture, and we were given the suggestion to use texture to 'fix' the image to keep with the theme. While I don't think that was mandatory, I decided to add some texture anyway. Only, I'm not as good at adding texture as some of the other people I've seen. I haven't quite figured out how to get it to look just right. I did add my own sort of texture though, and I hope it's deemed passable by the 'pros' of texture.

Here's what I did:

First, I use Ulead PhotoImpact for my picture editing. I opened the image and using the object extract, I cut the adorable little girl from the photo. I pasted her on a seperate image for the time being and began working with the original. Now there was still an image of the girl on the original, but I started by increasing the contrast to bring out the snow drifts behind her. Then I increased the saturation to get that pretty blue color. I used my clone pen to remove the original girl from the now background image and used Oil Paint tool and Impressionist tool to add color and texture to the background. After I was satisfied with the background and the nice vibrant colors, I took the cut out of the girl and replaced her on the new background. I added a shadow behind her and merged the objects. Next I used the Diffuse Glow tool to give the image a nice glowy look. It softens and enhances the light areas and I really like the effect. I used the Edge Preset frames to create the distressed/scratchy look and cut that off the base image. I then used a gradient fill of pastel colors to fill the base image and pasted the distressed/scratchy image back on the base. Once again I merged the objects. Last, I added the Lighting with a spotlight effect which created the dark edges and light center. All in all I think it turned out pretty well. Not your standard texture technique, but it works for me. I can't wait to go take a look at everyone else's 'fixes' now. You can too, just click on the link below!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

She May Not Have A Crown Of Diamonds

but she has a heart of GOLD!

Amy had her pageant tonight, and I'm sorry to say that she did not place at all. This is a first for her in the pageant scene. She looked beautiful and did wonderfully, though. That's all I can ask. And at the end of the day she had a smile on her face. She was overheard telling her friend as we arrived at the pageant:
     "Do you see that girl there? I love her dress and she's really nice. I hope she wins."
The girl she was talking about was one in her category and turns out, the one that was crowned at the end of the night. As she was changing back into her jeans and shirt, we saw a couple of other girls crying and who were very upset. Amy was more interested in getting one of the balloons they had for decoration. I'm sure she was disappointed to not have won anything, but I'll let her tell you in her own words.

How long have you been doing pageants?
I have been doing pageants since I was in kindergarten so about 7 years.

Why do you do the pageants?
Because they are fun and allow me to be myself on stage and during interview. Also, I get to be with my friends from the pageant last year and other pageants.

Are you dissappointed that you haven't won?
Yes and no, because my friends or girls that really should win always become queen.

What do you think the most important thing is that a crowned queen should have?
I think they sould have patience and intelligence to be queen. You need patience for the younger queens and to get ready.You need intelligence to talk to people and understand what the older people are saying.

There you have it. Unfortunately the judges didn't ask her these questions so they have no idea what a sweet and wonderful girl they passed over. That's ok, there's always next year.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


Only a few days left to enter my giveaway for two 4X6 prints of you choice of my photograhy. Click HERE to go enter!

The Post About Nothing

I missed getting on here yesterday, I got caught up chatting online with an old high school friend that found me on Facebook not too long ago. I would have skipped posting tonight out of sheer exhaustion, but felt I should at least let anyone who reads this know that I have not abandoned my blog. I have just been so busy the past couple of days, at work and at home, that it is beginning to take it's toll on me. I am so very tired. I took a nap on the couch when I got home from work, and I just didn't have the energy to get online when I woke up. I will get back to reading everyone's posts soon. I have been bombarded with actual work to do at work and haven't had any time hardly to get on my phone to read blogs like I was. Not that I mind the work, it keeps me busy and makes the day go by quicker.

My back has started acting up on me again. For those who don't know, a little over a year ago I had an MRI done due to severe pain in my lower back and a numbing, painful, tingly sensation down my right leg if I sat for more than a few minutes at a time. The MRI showed that I had a ruptured disk inbetween the L5 and S1 (or the area I colored red on the above picture). I went to a specialist and even had surgery scheduled. I was taking 3 or 4 Darvocet a day plus ibuprofen and a muscle relaxer to get through my day at work. I was then told that I'd need a minumum of $5000 down to have the surgery done. Now some people may have that just laying around, but me, not a chance. I had to cancel the surgery. I didn't know what I was going to do, because I knew I wouldn't be able to last much longer in that kind of pain. My dad put me on a whole lot of prayer lists and then suddenly I didn't need the pain meds anymore and I wasn't in nearly as much pain. I can't explain what happened, it just stopped hurting me. I haven't been back to the doctor since about my back, except to ask for some muscle relaxers a few months ago because my sciatica was giving me problems. I knew this wasn't the return of my back pains because the sciatica hits my left side and the ruptured disk was pressing into the nerves on my right side. Anyway, now over a year later, I am having some pain in my lower back again. It hasn't started creeping down my leg again yet, so I'm hoping it's just a flare up from the weather changes we've been having lately.

The back pain, on top of general aches and pains from the strenuous activities I've been having to do at work have worn me down. I am tired all the time (moreso than usual) and I have no energy. It takes everything I have to get myself out of bed every morning to go to work. I am supposed to be at my store by 5:00am to get paperwork started and begin getting things ready to open at 6:00am. I have 2 alarms that go off on my phone. The first is at 4:15, and the second backup is at 4:45. It only takes me a few minutes to get ready in the morning (if you don't count the amount of time it takes for me to drag my ass out of bed) so I usually end up at work right around 5 or a little after. Then there are some mornings that I don't hear either alarm and end up waking at 5:30 in a panic. I am ready for a new job, but not hopeful about finding one with the same pay I get at this one.

Sorry, I am rambling. I am tired now and must get myself in bed to get some sleep. With any luck I won't be too late to work in the morning. At least tomorrow is Friday!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

And I Did It ALL BY MYSELF.....

The very first year I worked, back in 1994, I lived in New York with my dad. When they handed me my paycheck and a W2, I was confused and had no idea what I was supposed to do with it. So I brought it home to my dad and he stopped somewhere and picked me up a 1040EZ with the booklet to do my taxes with. I COULD NOT FIGURE OUT HOW TO DO IT! Ok, well most of it I could, but there was one part that made no sense at all and I couldn't understand it no matter how many times I read the instructions in the book. That was the first and last time I ever tried to do my taxes myself....until this year.

I had my mother do my taxes for the first few years I was back in Texas, then I started going to tax preparers to do it when I got married. The past 6 years I have been going to H&R Block. I always thought they did a great job and I was reasonably satisfied with my return (not counting the fact that I never once got my entire return due to my ex-husband's debts). Last year when I filed, my husband and I had just seperated so we still filed jointly. Turns out he owed quite a bit of money that had been reported to the IRS and they took the ENTIRE thing. I ended up filing an injured spouse after the fact and got some of it back after all. However, since no money ever went through H&R Block, the fees for them filing the taxes last year never got paid. Since the yanking of the entire return was not my fault, I don't feel I should be required to pay them. That is why this year I decided I'd try to do my taxes myself. My good friend over at Crazed Mind told me that she knows squat about filing, but uses a FREE online e-filing service and it completely walks her through the process. Therefore I took a look online and ended up going to TurboTax Depending on how you file, you can qualify to use their free e-filing service, and I qualified.

Now a couple of months ago I searched online to see if I could estimate about how much I would be getting in return this year. I'm excited because I will be able to actually get my entire return and not have to worry about my ex-husband's debts. I looked at how much taxes I'd paid in for the year on my check stub, and looked up the EIC amount for my yearly income. I was looking at a pretty decent amount of a return, more than I'd seen in a LONG time. I got my first W2 yesterday (I have a second one this year from when my mother was living with me temporarily...I won't go into that drama right now...say thank you) so I plugged in all my numbers and at first I was mildly disappointed that it was showing me a little less than I had estimated. What I did not know until later was that the EIC hadn't even been added to that yet, so I'm now looking at a VERY nice return. I have been going over in my head what all I HAVE to pay with this money, then the stuff I want that would be very useful and handy, then finally (if there's anything left) the stuff I want just because I want it. I still can't get over how easy it was for me to do this on my own, and how they walk you through step by step to make sure you get all that you are entitled to. I had mentioned in a questionarre at the beginning that I am buying my house and when I didn't enter an amount for home taxes paid it stopped me and asked if I wanted to do that. How awesome is that.

So in conclusion, I am getting back a much larger return than I have seen in quite a while, I filed my taxes myself so I don't have to pay all sorts of crazy fees for someone else to do it, and I e-filed which means I should have my money direct deposited in the next 8-10 days! Not bad for a Tuesday afternoon!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Texture Photo Challenge

So I'm doing my bloggy thing and I stop by SITS to check out the Featured Blogger for today. After visiting the FB, I leave my comment and decide I should scroll up a little ways and see if there's any interesting Last Post titles to check out. This is where I ran across Chalk It Up! and through that blog dicover I ♥ Faces. Now if you haven't been to my blog before, then you don't know that I LOVE to take pictures and would like to one day call myself a professional photographer and make a living doing what I love. If you have been to my blog before and don't know this, then I need to make myself more clear. I find that I have a bad habit of assuming everyone can infer what I mean when I say something so, sorry.

Anyway, I found I ♥ Faces and they have a weekly challenge. So this will be my first entry into the challenge.

My family went to the park last week to take some photos, mainly because I needed a good Photogenic picture for my daughter's upcoming pageant. However, I like to get good pictures of my kids every chance that comes available. I chose one of my son for this challenge for a few different reasons.
     1- Amy gets to be in pageants and so forth and my poor Ashe doesn't get as much attention some times.
     2- Because I got this REALLY great shot of him smiling while not being goofy like he usually is
     3- Because the interesting rocks/concrete and tree brances in the background make a great texture study

I am not allowed to post more than one image if I want this post/image to be eligible for the contest, but I will have to add another post just to show you all how silly my son can be when I'm trying to take pictures, and why this one really good shot is simply amazing!

To learn more about I ♥ Faces check out their site!

Have a great day everyone and keep making great photos!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

This Week's Featured Image - Week 6

The featured image this week is a tree from my local park. When I took the picture it was the height of summer so there wasn't, unfortunately, all this green there. I increased the amount of green in the image (a lot) and brightened it up a lot. I then used a cartoon or watercolor tool to make it look more like a drawing or painting. I think the way this tree looks, I should be seeing fairies and unicorns running around it. Here is the original image.

Also, if you haven't visited Jayde's Little Corner Shop be sure to stop over and look around. I have this image, and many others that you can purchase prints of. Don't forget about my Double~Double Giveaway for two free 4X6 prints of any of the images at my shop. Have a great day!

Friday, January 22, 2010

My Beautiful Pageant Girl

My daughter has been participating in pageants for quite a few years now. Her dance teacher talked us in to her first one and she loved it so much I couldn't tell her no to the other years. She has never been crowned queen, but she has been 1st runner up, 2nd runner up, and Most Photogenic. She has never left a pageant without some sort of award or prize of one of those three. She enjoys wearing pretty dresses and getting up on stage and she doesn't mind letting me take lots of pictures of her for photogenic contests. This is her dress this year (I didn't make this one, I'm not THAT good at sewing).
So the pic is a little blurry...sorry. I'll have better ones the day of pageant when her hair is all done and stuff too. This year the local pageant is offering the Photogenic and Best Party Dress optional awards and I signed her up for both. She is very excited about the pageant and has been selling her tickets like crazy. (She is required to sell $40 worth of tickets to participate.) I have told her from the very first pageant she entered that whenever she didn't want to do it anymore then she didn't have to. Take a look at her Photogenic pic that we took yesterday!

Isn't she just gorgeous! I'll be sure to post after the pageant to let everyone know how she did!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

10 Things You Can Do To Alleviate Boredom

Not that many of us have the time to be bored, but in case you do here is my list of 10 things to do if you are bored:

1: Gather up some friends and play D&D. It's a super fun game that takes a lot of thought, imagination, and creativity.

2: Take some pictures! Grab your kids, your pets, go to the park, even your back yard and take some photos, you'd be suprised what beauty you can find in the world with photos.

3: Play with your photos! You can find picture editing software all over the place now. You don't have to go to school to start playing with them either. Everything I do I learned myself (or through free tutorials found online or in the program itself). You can create some super stunning images just by playing around!

To see more of my digital art, go to Jayde's Little Corner Shop.

4: Browse the internet and look for interesting blogs. I've found some great blogs just in the past couple of days by browsing around.

5: Read a good book. I don't take time much anymore to read and I should. I love to read and so does the rest of my family. It's a great pasttime!

6: Make something! Grab a piece of wood and create a piece of art from it. To see how I did it go here (Part 1), here (Part 2), and here (Part 3).

7: Feed your snakes! I always find it fascinating to feed my snakes (I do not feed live animals to my snakes). It is so interesting to watch how a snake can eat something bigger than it's own head, with no hands. Really!

8: Start a blog....or if you already have one, WRITE!! If you have writer's block, try going to MamaKat's Writer's Workshop.

9: Bake a cake. (I don't bake, but I know people who do!) Or better yet...EAT the cake!!!

10: Sew... I haven't had the chance to sew lately, but I really enjoy it when I can. Here is the dress I made my daughter for pageant last year.

Thanks for stopping by, hope you don't get bored, but if you do...well at least you have some ideas of things to do.

This post was written for MamaKat's Writer's Workshop. Feel free to join in on the fun!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

What I Saw Today...part 6

My son stays after school most days for off-season workouts. Usually around 4:30 he calls to tell me that he's ready to be picked up. I head over there using 'backroads' as some would call it, rather than the main road through town, because it's quicker and easier. I drove right by this spot on the way to the school and saw nothing (maybe I just didn't notice the HUGE steer standing at the corner!) After picking Ashe up from the school we head back to the house using the same 'backroads' I drove getting there and suddenly I spot this thing. I said something along the lines of "Holy Shit!" (pardon my language). My son looks up and says "That almost looks real." to which I laugh because IT IS REAL! There, right smack dab in the middle of my small little town in Texas. I shouldn't be too shocked, heck, there were a bunch of sheep across the street from this guy and I drive by a few horses on my way to work every morning, just a block or so from my house. So no this didn't really suprise me. My son's comment was funny so I thought I should share that of course.

No, what really gets me thinking when I see something like this is a couple of questions. Do you see the HUGE steer? Now, do you see the simple wooden fence? Don't you think that HUGE steer could tear that piddly little fence apart in about a half a second is he was smart of enough to realize that? Or do you think the cow is just happy to be where he is, that he is well treated and is perfectly content to stay where he is?

Just food for thought.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Double ~ Double Giveaway

Free things are good, and double free is even better! Right?! I am starting to try to sell my images to make a little extra cash. I would love to be able at some point to do this for a living, but for now, I'm happy just to know that people like what I do.

So now you are wondering what the giveaway is right? I am offering 2 winners to receive 2 free 4X6 prints of any of the images I have on Jayde's Little Corner Shop . One is for the winner to keep and the other is for the winner to host their own giveaway. (Note: each of the two winners will be able to select their choice of images from Jayde's Little Corner Shop. The image you list in the original entry does not have to be the one you choose in the end as I am continuously adding new images. Only one image may be selected per winner.) I will keep this giveaway open until January 31st.

First, and mandatory, visit Jayde's Little Corner Shop and tell me which image you would choose if you won the free 4X6 prints. (FYI- after the winners are announced I will allow up to 2 full days for them to get me their mailing information. Once mailing information is recieved I will have the two free 4X6 prints shipped to the two winners. It will be your responsiblility to mail the second 4X6 to your own giveaway winners. It should only take a large greeting card and a single stamp.)

Additional entries: (Please leave separate comments for each additional entry.)
Follow my blog.
Follow Jayde's Little Corner Shop blog.
Follow me on twitter.
Follow me on facebook.
Refer a friend. (They must post that you referred them.)
Put a listing, widget, post on your blog linking back to this giveaway, leave a link.

This Week's Featured Image - Week 5

This Week's Featured Image was of a Rose of Sharon tree that I have in my back yard. I have always loved the beauty of these flowers and the alteration was to add saturation, I then extracted the flower from the image, and used the colored pen technique for the background. I then replaced the flower and adjusted the lighting on it. Hope you enjoyed my flower image.
Here is the image before I altered it.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Only 11

I did really well today/yesterday. Since I am about to lay down and sleep the rest of the night and most people won't read this til tomorrow I figure it could go either way. I think I'll drop my 'allowance' down to 12 for the next couple of days.

If you look at how much I was smoking, a pack or more a day (20+ cigarettes) I am almost halfway to my goal of none!

I'm getting closer!!!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

5...4...3...2...1 Countdown to Being Smokefree

UPDATE: 1/14/10 I decreased my daily alotment to -

So I am attempting to quit smoking. It's bad for me, and it costs entirely too much money. I have tried before to no avail, but I am going to attempt to slowly wean myself down to nothing. I will have a widget posted to the left side of my blog with my total cigarettes smoked for the previous day. I welcome any and all suggestions as to how to accomplish my goal.

My starting goal is to limit myself to no more than 15 cigarettes a day. That may seem like a lot, but I normally smoke a full pack or more daily (20+ for those that don't know). I will plan to lower my daily allotment gradually, week by week. If I can accomplish this, then in a few months I will be smoke free.

This is my goal!!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Jayde's Little Corner Shop

I have gotten some pretty good remarks on the few Featured Images I have put up so far, so I decided to set up a seperate blog to offer the images for sale. I will continue to add images, also please feel free to contact me if you have something special in mind that you would like to see.


Go take a look and see if there's anything you would like to have on your walls!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

This Week's Featured Image - Week 4

Last week's featured image is one I took a good while back with my Canon RebelX. I lost that camera in a move and I miss it terribly. I have to confess that the flower was not growing in between the rocks. I plucked it and set the stem inbetween the rocks because I thought it would make a good picture. The only alteration I did to this image was to remove the color from the rocks and leave the flower yellow. I have a print of this picture hanging on my living room wall.

I hope everyone has a great week!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

If Only...

If I had the power to change myself to be whoever I thought I should be or just to change something about myself, I think first and foremost I'd like to not be so forgetful. I forget everything, little things, big things, important things, unimportant things. It's really awful sometimes. I have walked into a room to look for something only to forget what I was looking for the second I get in the room. I can't remember appointments, I never remember to take medicine (which is why it's a good thing I'm not prescribed to take anything....yet.) It is very frustrating sometimes, wishing I could remember to do all the things I am supposed to do.

Then I would like to be able to grow things. I have a terribly black thumb and as much as I love trees and flowers and plants, I cannot seem to be able to keep them alive. I tried growing a garden once and I was so excited when I had seeds actually starting to bud and turn into little baby plants. Then I would plant them in the garden where I would promptly forget to tend them. There is my forgetfulness once again. I love plants and I am very grateful that my boyfriend seems to be very good with them. That and the house I'm buying had some very well-established rose bushed and trees that don't require my attention to continue to thrive.

I would also like to be able to help people more. Not all people, mind you, but those that really need it. I know many people that want help and don't need it and many that need it and don't want it, and even a few that need it, want it, but can't get it. I would like to have the ability to help those truly in need. To assist the friends and family and even aquaintances that are in true need of help.

There are many things about myself that I would love to change, to make different, better. I have tried to make myself a better person, and who's to say whether or not I've succeeded? Who has the ability to look at me and say, you really are a good person? What it the definition of a good person and who decided that was the definition? I guess I will just ahve to be satisfied with who I am at the present, and continue to work to make myself into a better person by my own standards.

This post was written for the Writer's Workshop hosted by MamaKatsLosinIt.

Disclaimer on the pictures:
With the exception of the logo directly above, all images are of me, myself and I. The first image was taken at the birthday party of my friend's daughter who just turned 3. That is why I have a rainbow slinky on my head and shiny star shaped sunglasses.
The second image was taken at the small get-together we had for my boyfriend's birthday. He was doing something that required threatening with a knife.
The third image is from Halloween. Don't ask me what I went as (a lot of people did ask "What are you supposed to be?") I'm a freak and it's acceptable to let it show on Halloween so deal with it!
The fourth image was taken while I was finishing up getting ready to go....ummm...somewhere. I forgot where we were going. (See first paragraph of this blog!)
For those of you who know me...enjoy the pictures of me, cause these will possibly be the last images of myself that I post to my blog. :)