Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Three Quick Questions

One of my favorite things about blogging is visiting all the other talented and fun people out there and seeing a glimpse of their personal side. I came up with the idea of asking 3 quick questions. Nothing complicated or personal, just a couple little things that I think you'd feel comfortable sharing.  So here goes:

1. What is on your desktop?
Mine as you can see is a cat. It's my son's cat, Mr. Patches. He lives with my son now but he spent his first 5 years with me. This is my favorite picture of him. However, I change my backgrounds about every week or so.

2. What's the last CD you listened to?
For me it was The Best of Etta James. I love her! She has the voice of an angel.

3. What's the last craft project you finished (for personal or business)?
I made some napkin rings for myself.

So what about you?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hiking at Starved Rock & Matthiessen State Park

We woke up Saturday morning and took a two hour drive west. We went hiking (we LOVE hiking) at Starved Rock & Matthiessen State Park. Both parks were beautiful and nothing like hiking the sand dunes that we are used to. Between the two, we really liked Matthiesson much better. Some of trails were quite rugged in my opinion. There were a few other things I wanted to share about this trip but I'll save that for another time.

First we went to Starved Rock and hiked about 2 miles, which a good part of was up! Then we found an awesome picnic table under a huge shade tree where we ate our picnic lunch. I marinated and grilled some chicken breasts the night before and sliced them really thin and piled on some delicious bread, some fruit, and iced tea. The best lunch I've had in a long time.


We got to enjoy this beautiful view after hiking up the giant rock. So worth it!

 This was down in one of the canyons. I thought it would be nice and cool down there but we were amazed at how humid it was. All the moisture just gets trapped down in the canyon. We were sweaty from head to toe!

 OK, so I searched for mushrooms too. Well, you knew I would!


This was down in the lower dells (that's what they called it there). We felt so little, and so sweaty again!

This was one of the waterfalls we walked to. It was quite challenging at some spots but it was fun! There were people on horseback on the trails above the fall.

 These were tree roots that were growing down the side of the canyon. I wish I could have gotten a better picture but it was so humid down there I seemed get a grey tint since I was so close. Brian loved this part and wanted to make sure I got a picture.

So that was our awesome day trip. Next time we'd like to stay in one of the lodges and make a weekend of it. We got a KILLER workout and a had great time.

So to my beautiful daughter: If you are reading this, I'll be working out and getting in shape because by the time spring break arrives, we are going to dominate our very own Trail 8!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Adding Meta Tags to Blogger

UPDATE: Blogger has changed a bit since this link was posted. I found a new and updated way to add the meta tags. If you follow the original link, it may be confusing because the way of getting to the "edit html" has changed. So if you are having trouble finding that location, check the new link. Sorry for any confusion.

There are many ways to get lots of traffic to your blog. Most people already know about joining blogging communities, visiting and commenting on other blogs, and providing links in emails & forums, just to name a few.

Another excellent way is very simple and not everyone knows about it. I'm sure you've all heard by now of SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Yes, keywords and titles are very important but there is one more step to take it to the next level. Add meta tags to your blog. I just did this a couple months ago and what a difference it has made! When I see where my traffic comes from, I see that a lot of it comes from Google. I'm also noticing that many of the visitors are coming from google images. So there's another tip, add images and be sure to use names and descriptions with them as well.

Example: I did a search on Google typing in the following phrases and I was on the first page for all of them:

make owl napkin rings
snackwell's 130 calorie pack
pink lemonade cookies
m & m trifle

Remember though that your titles, description, and keywords are very important so choose them carefully.
The following link will give very easy instructions. This is for Blogger.

Photo Above: A delicious and refreshing Champagne Punch we had at a family party recently. Thought it would make a pretty sight for the end of the hot summer season.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Photo Wall

Since yesterday's post I've had a couple people ask about my photo wall so I decided that I'd make that my next post before you all forget about it. I think it's a cool idea and can be as expensive or as inexpensive as you want to make it. The photos were uploaded to WalMart for $3 a piece so I had $36 in photos. As for the frames and mats, you can choose to your creative heart's content!

We chose the black mats with the black frames because we have a lot of black in the house as we have more of a contemporary look. This one measures about 34" x 55" and if fits perfectly in this space. If you don't want to make it as big, you can make it to any size you want. You can even find some awesome collage frames that holds several 5 x 7 or 4 x 6 sized pictures and you can set the theme on those.

We obviously chose a nature theme for this room but after 2 years we've become tired of these images. We're thinking it's time to change the pictures. I'm thinking maybe the next theme will be structures and architecture, or bridges, or beach scenes, or Yosemite, oh heck, I can't decide!

A photo grouping would also be cute in a kitchen or dining room and you can use a cooking and food theme.....

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Photos, Photos, Everywhere!

If you are anything like me, you have thousands of pictures you've taken with your digital camera. Oh how photography has changed through the years. Now you can go to google and find an image on absolutely anything, in fact, you can find thousands of images for what you are looking for!

Exactly what do you do with all those pictures you take? Do you print them out on your home printer or do you upload them to your photo department at your favorite store? Do you look at them on your computer, on your big screen TV, or do you put them in a "physical" album? Do you scrapbook with them, turn them into computer backgrounds? Do you make enlargements and decorate your walls or just put a few favorites out on your tables? And where do you store them? And I'm most curious as to how you organize them all?

I do all the above. I don't print them out so much anymore unless I'm sending them off to my daughter. I mostly view mine on my computer or our TV which is connected to the Internet and I can view my Picasa web albums through there. As for organizing them, I find that the best way for me is to put them in folders according to the year. In each year are folders with the events that they were taken. For those odd ball photos that aren't from any special event, they are in a folder marked for that Season.

I also have an awesome photo wall in my living room with pictures from nature which I'll show you all another time.

I'm anxious to hear how the other photo-geeks like myself use and organize their pictures.

UPDATE: Our chair did not win the contest (the post below this one). But the chair that did win (Wagner's Ribs) was painted with a beach scene and I can honestly say that it deserved to win. It was beautifully done. You can see it in the picture (post below) on the upper left corner.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Chairs for a Cause

The place where I work is just steps away from the Indiana Dunes State Park. Last night we participated in an event to help raise funds to promote tourism for the Dunes. The local businesses who wanted to participate purchased an Adirondack chair to decorate any way they wanted. The chairs were then displayed at the event where the residents could come and vote for their favorite. They also had food, drinks, and a dunk tank. I don't know who was getting dunked though.

They had a total of 16 chairs (our town is VERY small) and above is a representation of my favorites. Our chair is front and center. I personally think it's the best one of all. One of our tech's father in law painted it for us. Notice Howard in the upper left corner of our chair?

Our chair also has:
Coaltrain (our very own macaw)
The lizard to represent "Gates" our alligator that just passed away :(
2 hawks, we rescue lots of them
A deer, we have 5 fawns we're playing mommy to right now
A dog & cat because well, we do see those too
A snake, we have over 65, most non-poisonous
A horse, we don't see horses ???
And various ground animals

As of the time of this posting I don't know who won. I'll keep you posted.

Click the picture to see it bigger

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Early Fall Colors

Would anyone care to explain to this tree that it's only August 18th? I noticed these bright red leaves today while I was laying on a raft in my pool. Can it be an early sign of spring or do you think someone climbed a ladder and painted that section of leaves just to confuse me?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

No Bake Cookies

I made up a batch of these for my niece's baby shower a couple weeks ago and as always, they were a huge hit. They are nice to make in the summer when you don't want to heat up the house with your oven. They taste very similar to "Buckeyes" but the textures isn't as creamy because you have the Rice Krispie Cereal to give it some snap. They are delicious!

No Bake Cookies
1 stick butter, room temp
2 cups peanut butter
1# powdered sugar
3 cups Rice Krispies Cereal
Chocolate, melted:
use dipping chocolate or 8 oz hershey bar and 12 oz choc chips
(I used the chocolate almond bark 24 oz size)
Using hands, work dough til soft and smooth. Form into 1" balls. With tooth pic, dip into melted chocolate. Set on wax paper then refrigerate.

And if my son is reading this post, I still have some safely stashed in the freezer just for you!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Playing with Textures & Layers

 I was as looking through all my photos and decided it was time to share some of my favorites with you again. I'll be doing that from time to time. Once again I'm in the mood to play with textures and layers. I still have so much to learn in this department but I'll get there.

This first photo is an owl statue we saw at Brookfield Zoo. As many of you know, I love owls, so naturally this is one of my favorites. For those of you who don't know how I started with my owl fascination, just click HERE or you can scroll to the bottom of the page and see the little video I have of our rehab owl Howard.

This next picture is the lighthouse in St. Joseph, Michigan. Brian and I like to take the 30 minute drive there a few times a year. It's a great place to get out and walk around. There's a charming little downtown with old and new buildings, and the lakefront is just beautiful! I really like the layer I used in this picture. I think it's my favorite.

Below is a hiking trail at Ludington State Park. Brian has family near there and we like to stop for some exercise when we are there. I just loved this trail with the dried up pine needles on the ground and the tree roots exposed. Just beautiful!

If anyone knows their way around PhotoShop, I suggest stopping by this great blog I just found! It's called ShadowHouse Creations and this guy is so talented and so generous to share his work with us. He also has some super helpful tutorials so you can learn how to turn your photos into artwork.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Look at My July Challenges

In early July I posted challenges for myself and things got a wee bit messed up because it was a stressful month in my personal and work life. I didn't do so well on the crafting and graphics designing but I did MUCH better on the new healthy me.

Another reason I didn't do so well on the crafting and designing is because the weather has been so perfect for enjoying the summer. There will be plenty of time to do "inside" projects soon enough.

As for the new healthy me goal. I didn't lose the 7 pounds I was hoping for because I got a late start (more like the middle of the month) but what's important is that I'm on the right track! I decided to start slowly so I don't overwhelm myself. I am using my elliptical and have cut way back on the junk food and am making healthier choices in general. I'm not one that likes to be restricted as far as eating so that works best for me. I'll keep you all posted!

Now I think I'll begin my fall challenge & project list.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

My Pan Digital Novel

Time to post another favorite and this time I chose my Pan Digital Novel. Man do I love this thing! It has WiFi so I can access the Internet with a pretty nice browser anywhere I can get a connection. It's nice for in the house because if I'm reading and I get an email or want to look up a word or information, I can just hop on-line. It's great for when I'm on the elliptical because I can adjust my text nice and big and I can actually read a book without putting on my reading glasses. You can also download some pretty cool apps from Android. They have an app for everything from notepads to party planning apps!

My favorite three things about this reader are:

1. The ability to download and read e-books which are organized the way I like them. Duh! Isn't that what you buy an e-reader for?

2. The ability to read and edit word documents. This is so cool because I keep my favorite recipes in word documents so that I can access them on this, make the text nice and big, and read the recipe straight from this on my counter top. No more printing them out and wasting paper.

3. My photos and favorite scrap pages! I can organize them (on my SD card) into folders and they can be with me anywhere I go. Right now I have about 1200 images and since I can organize them I can find what I'm looking for quickly. They are viewed on a decent sized screen which makes them nice when I want to see them or show them off.

This particular reader has a 7 inch screen which is nice for viewing reading material and photos (video too) and fits nicely in my purse on those occasions I want to take it with me. I store all my personal stuff on an SD card (which is backed up on my computer) so if this thing ever broke, my stuff is still nice and safe.

Do you have an e-reader that you just love?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Moving On....

It's a bittersweet time here at my house. My 25 year old daughter Elyse and her husband Mike packed up their U-Haul and headed to Delaware. That is so far from Indiana. I've been hijacking her Facebook posts with sad faces for the past 24 hours.

They stayed here with us the last couple nights while they were packing up their apartment. It's such a sad moment for a mom to watch her baby get into her car for a 12 hour drive away from home, or her now former home.

There is a silver lining to my very dark cloud though. The reason they have chosen Delaware to make their new home is because she received a full schoarlship to grad school at the University of Delaware. How can you say no to a full scholarship? She's so smart and beautiful and I will miss her :(

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Baby Squirrel

Today I have a picture of a baby of another kind. It's usually Spring that we are overcrowded with wildlife babies who have been injured or orphaned but last week we got two baby squirrels in that are so very tiny. So far they are doing well and getting stronger everyday. Hopefully we can get them big and strong so they can be released back where they can begin their lives climbing trees and stealing from bird feeders.

See how tiny he is!

Monday, August 8, 2011

We're Gonna Have a Baby!

No, not me. My beautiful niece Amy will be making me a great aunt in one month. Ewww, I'm too young to be a "great" aunt! But it is what it is. We had her baby shower Sunday and it was so fun to see family and friends that we haven't seen in a long time. Of course we had some good food as well. Above is a sampling of some of the decorations. We had lots more but I didn't want to bore you with endless pictures of favors, decorations, and people most of you don't know. For those family and friends who are interested, I'll be posting the pictures of the shower in my Picasa album soon and send you all a link.

We know it will be a girl so the colors were pink and lavender. The mom-to-be looked absolutely beautiful.

Hope you all had a great weekend.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Growing Up in the 60's & 70's

I was visiting blogs today and I came across a post about the old drive-in movie theaters and it took me on a fun, and quite comical trip down memory lane. I was a child in the 60's and a teenager in the 70's. Funny when I think of the differences of today and back then.

I listened to my music on 45's. They were under a buck a piece and they would have a good song on one side and a not so popular song on the "flip-side." In case the younger generation wonders where the term "on the flip-side" comes from. Hey...remember Wolfman Jack?

We had no electronics of any kind. Our version of the MP3 player was a transistor radio and a record player. And our TV....was black and white in my earlier years. No HD in my home!

Our photos were taken on a Kodak Instamatic and we had to wait DAYS, nearly a week to get our pictures back from the drugstore.

My sister and I made all our Barbie furniture because you couldn't buy it yet. I think Barbie got her corvette and a horse when I was about 12.

Drive in movies were the best! When we were really young we'd go with our parents and we'd wear our jammies and take our pillows and blankets. We'd take our own snacks and bought pops at the concession stand. We'd get there early so we could play at the kiddieland for a while until they started showing the cartoons. When we were teenagers we'd go with carfuls and stay there through all the movies shown. It was also a popular place to go on dates.

Our "dreamsicles" were soft and smooth, no hard shell; and our hot cocoa was made on the stovetop with milk, cocoa, and sugar. Today they're made in a microwave with water and a packet of mix.

One of my all time funniest memories was when my sister and had chores to do. After we would vacuum we would have to RAKE the carpeting! Yep, it was shag carpeting and to make it all stick up, we'd use this plastic rake. So funny!

Oh yah! Our teachers were allowed to give us swats, a.k.a. spankings!

So do you have any fun memories that come to mind when reading this? I'd love to hear them!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Mushroom Hunting and a New Banner

Thought it was time for a change so I created a new banner today. I've been looking forward to doing some mushroom hunting next month so I figured I'd put some pictures of mushrooms on my new banner.

My favorite mushrooms (the biggest and most beautiful) will be found in late September or early October. All the mushrooms above were photographed in late September.

The two mushrooms on the outer pictures were found on trees on my own property. I was more fascinated with the underside than the tops.

The bright orange and yellow one at the top is a "Chicken of the Woods" and was photographed at the Indiana Dunes State Park in 2004. Last year though I did find one of those, not as big or as bright as the one above, in my own yard as well.

So my new Fall tradition will be mushroom hunting. Anyone else have a tradition they do or a new one they'd like to start for the Fall?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Seasons

We ran into WalMart over the weekend to pick up some citronella candles and I thought for sure they'd be in the seasonal aisle but I was wrong. They were hidden in the back of the garden center because the seasonal aisle now contained back to school supplies. They could have at least slashed the price!

Then it got me thinking...in a couple more weeks those aisles will be taken over by black cats, pumpkins, and spiders. I'll bet Halloween won't be here yet before we see Christmas decorations! How fast does time fly?

It also got me thinking about the seasons and what I like (and dislike) about all of them. So here goes:

Winter - The snow sure is pretty but I hate driving in it. Christmas is a great time and so festive, but then there's that great big dead space between January and early April. I think Winter is my least favorite.

Spring - Gotta love Spring! It lets you know that nice weather is just around the corner and you get that feeling where you want to get out and enjoy life! The bad side of spring, I can't think of one.

Summer - Summer is awesome with it's farmer's markets, festivals, and other various activities. The downside, the high heat and humidity. The up side of that....I can jump in my pool to cool off!

Fall - Oh yes! My favorite season of all! The air is crisp and the colors take my breath away. The best mushrooms can be found and this is my favorite season for hiking. I just LOVE FALL!

So, do you have a favorite season and why?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Pumpkin's Favorite Cat Toy

For some people the rubber hairbands are to be used to put one's hair up into a ponytail. For my Pumpkin, it's her favorite cat toy. We have a ritual every morning. She waits for me right outside the shower. When I'm finished I turn on the water faucet for a slow stream so she can take a drink. She likes that too. Then I go to the doorknob where I have about a half dozen hanging and I give her one to play with. She plays all morning with that until I leave for work and I put it away. The reason I don't leave her with it is because she likes to eat weird things like rubber bands and plastic grocery bags. She's never tried to eat the hair bands but you just never know when you have a strange little cat.

Back when I had three cats living with me I went out and bought a kitty condo. You've seen them, they are covered with carpet and have little "rooms" inside for them to go in and out of and are in a tubular shape. Well, that thing sat there untouched until I sold it at a garage sale a couple years later. But that said, if I was to empty a case of pop or a paper grocery bag (you remember those, I know you do), they'd play and go in and out for hours!

Cats are so entertaining!
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