Tuesday, November 23, 2010

My Name is Mel, and I’m a Photoshop junkie…..

“JC, sit down! Honey, put your hands….  Wait… can you guys just look at me….ONCE?!?”

The time has come for the dreaded Christmas card photo.  I don’t stress anymore.  I used to obsess about the picture, getting everything just right.  Once I thought I had that shot, I would spend actual hours browsing store’s ready made cards to drop that perfect picture in.  Since I have fallen in love with Photoshop, and learned a few tricks, I will never again agonize over something I now find really fun!!

I want to share with you my 5 tips for editing and creating beautiful digital photo projects.  Specifically, lets talk Christmas cards.

1) So you didn’t get the perfect photo.  No prob.  Photoshop to the rescue.  If you are like me, a mama-razzi, you sit the kids down and take a bunch of photos.  You’re bound to get one of each of the kids looking the way you want, probably just not at the same time.  My problem area is the two-year-old.  Now dig out the photo you’re most happy with:


Almost what I wanted!  Go find the other photo, the one where Problem #1 is looking at you.  I chose this one…IMG_2127b

Get out your cool little lasso selection tool, and select that cute little face.  Don’t worry about grabbing a little of the background, too.  We’ll fix that.  Cut and paste that sweet little face into your new photo.  Use the right-click> Free Transform to make his big head fit that little body.  Use Ctrl to keep the proportions the same as you shrink it!  Grabbing a corner while you are in Free Transform mode will allow you to tilt, too, if your other head isn’t the same.  Once you are happy with the results, Elements has a green check mark to confirm.  I know you all can cut and paste.  My little secret is this…. eraser tool!  Use the eraser tool at about 35-40% opacity to smooth out the edges of the new head and blend it in with the photo behind it.  When you are happy, merge the layers. TA-DA!  Here’s mine:


2) Perfect photo complete, but there’s one more thing you need.  Well, I need anyway.  Amp up that color.  It’s an easy little thing to do.  You can see my first photo lacks a little vibrancy.  Use the “Adjust Hue/Saturation” to just give a little bump.  I took the greens and upped the saturation as well as the blue.  I like how a little tweak of color can really liven up the shot.

3) Now you’ve really got the perfect photo for your Christmas card.  Oh, you need a card.  You need a card that is all you, not just another drop-in template from the mall.  The very easiest way to start is get yourself a digital scrapbook paper kit.  Have your own scrap book paper?  Scan it in.  You can use your crop tool to make a card size you are happy with (I chose 4x8 here).  Let the fun begin!!  Add your perfect photo (you know, cut and paste!) to the paper you’ve chosen.  Your photo can even have a little shadow behind it.  Just click on the photo in the Layers box and select the effects you want.  Photoshop Elements has them all laid out for you to try.  I chose this polka dot paper:SampleChristmasCard1

4) Greeting time!  You may have found yourself browsing those templates at the mall.  When you found one you liked, perhaps the greeting was all wrong.  When you make your own card, you can say whatever is right for you.  Make it long, or short and sweet.  No one will charge per line!! You can add everyone’s names, ages, etc!
Because my paper is a little busy, I need a box to type in.  You can use the Custom Shape Tool to make a box in any color you choose to sit behind your text.  I went with green, and in the Layers area you can change the opacity.  This one is at 85%.  I love to play with the fonts and colors of the text, too.  SampleChristmasCard2

5) Last, but probably most fun, embellishments!  If you purchased a digital scrap book pack, chances are it came with some fun little pieces to add to your card.  Snowmen, snow flakes, christmas trees, candles, etc.  If not, don’t worry!  Elements has a cute selection of shapes from the Custom Shape menu.  Choose colors, choose shapes.  You’ll have a lot of fun coming up with a few last touches for your card:


That was fun, right!?  I love making our cards each year.  No longer is it the dreaded task it once was! I’d love to see what you come up with!!

I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and Adobe blogging program, making me eligible to receive a $50 gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

5 Favorite Family Time Ideas

Everyone should have some family time that includes the kids and adults doing something together.  Often we segregate ourselves and let the kids do one thing while we adults to others.  Its hard sometimes to find activities that keep both adults and kids entertained.  Here are a few of our favorites:

1) Family Movie Night:  This one is a no-brainer.  Pop some popcorn, clear the floor and spread out sleeping bags.  Choose a movie that the adults can handle and the kids will enjoy.  Sometimes its live action, sometimes cartoon.  Either way its one we all enjoy for some reason or another.  We usually reserve some special treat for the occasion, like soda or a special snack.  The kids even get a special later bedtime.


2) Family Game Time:  This is one we don’t get to do as often, but really fun when we can.  The kids are finally at an age where we can play games like Uno, Sorry, or even Pictionary.  They love interaction with the “big people” and the feeling of you being on their team while they test their skills or knowledge.  Game time is also a great time to be sneaky and work on learning.  Our kindergartener had just learned to read, by the end of the year we were able to use the Scrabble time pieces to make words.  That's all we did.  Who says you have to follow the rules?  Make up your own!

3) Family Drawing Time:  Ok, so we’re not all baseball players.  Daddy and I are avid artist and we encourage our kids to draw, paint and color as often as possible.  We love to sit around the table or living room drawing and coloring.  We have even purchased drawing sketch pads for the kids to draw on the go.  Take a look at each other’s are and encourage the best from your budding artists!!


4) Visit a Bookstore:  This for us is big time fun.  Each child is allowed a book and we have just as much fun choosing the books.  We wander, we sit, we read bits of books, when one has made a selection we help the next person.  Even a shopping trip can be family time as long as you do it together.

5) Family Dinner:  I know this one seems a bit silly, but there are plenty of families (including us at times!) that don’t really eat together.  Sit, eat, talk, laugh.  Its really an easy way to find out how everyone’s day went and talk about your upcoming plans.  Oh, and shut off the TV!  It’s difficult to talk over the sound of sitcoms and commercials!

There are tons of ways to have a bit of family time!  What are some of your family time favorites?

I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and LEGO blogging program, making me eligible to get a prize pack. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Smarty Rents educational video game rental giveaway!

Were you super excited to get video game systems for your child that were actually educational, only to be disappointed at the lack of variety of games, or the expense of purchasing additional games?? SmartyRents is your answer!!

image SmartyRents.com is a new educational online video game rental company, featuring LeapFrog
and VTech games. Rent games from eight game systems, including Little Leaps, Clickstart,
Leapster, Didj, V.Smile Baby, V.Smile, V.Motion, and V.Flash. All games are available to rent
including those no longer available on the market for purchase. Families can choose from one of
several SmartyRents rental packages to meet the individual needs of each child in their family.
"We at SmartyRents are proud to announce our new online educational video game rental
company that works similar to Netflix, in that, the customer's selected game titles are shipped
free, directly to their door and with no late fees."

No more buying games only to re-sell them once your kids have finished them or moved on to more advanced material!! They also carry games you can no longer find on the market. SmartyRents even offers gift certificates. What a perfect gift from parents and family!!

SmartyRents has offered our readers a promo code worth 1 FREE month of the 1 Game at a Time package or $9.99 towards the package of their choice!!

Promo Code: d1cbdd Expires: 8/31/10

ALSO SmartyRents is giving FIVE of our readers a THREE MONTH RENTAL package (worth $29.97) so you can rent all your favorite games!!

How can you win one of these awesome packages?
Here’s the rules:

First Entry:

  • Head over to www.SmartyRents.com and tell me your what games YOU would rent (this MUST be your first entry!)

Bonus Entries:

  • Follow this blog. Comment that you do!
  • Follow me on twitter (@Fraase) and tweet about this giveaway. Leave the permalink of your status update in your comment. For example: Win a 3 MONTH RENTAL of educational video games for your V.Tech & LeapFrog games courtesy of @SmartyRents & @Fraase http://bit.ly/drAQul (one tweet/entry daily)
  • “Like” SmartyRents on Facebook and let me know you did so!
  • Add my button to your blog sidebar. Leave a link to your blog in the comment.
  • For THREE extra entries, blog about this giveaway and include a link here. Leave your blog permalink in the comment.
  • For THREE extra entries start a rental plan at SmartyRents.com and let me know you did.
  • Leave a comment on a post in our Family Blog. Leave a comment here for each one. (limit 3 entries)

Giveaway ends August 31 and 11:59 pm. Winners will be chosen by Random.org and notified via email. Winners have 48 hours to respond or alternate winner will be chosen. Please make sure your email is available on your profile or in your comment so I can contact you!! Good Luck!!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Tips and Tricks for Back to School

Oh, yes, it’s already that time. I truly felt this summer had barely started and now its time to pack up those new school bags and lace up those new sneakers. It’s also time for a little peace and quiet around here, but I digress…

Even the seasoned pros need to prepare themselves for back to school. My kiddos are both in early elementary yet, so I speak from their standpoint. Here are a few of the things we do to prepare for the fall school routine:

1) GET TO SLEEP!! While I am really one who lives by our bed time routine, we relax quite a bit on the hour at which they actually climb into bed in the summer. Well, no more! At least a week or two before school begins we move back into the old routine. Earlier bed times and strict ones at that. They need time to adjust to going to bed on time, and getting up on time, too. Yes, that means YOU need to get up earlier too! Practice getting ready and having breakfast on time. Good sleep makes good students!

2) EAT A GREAT BREAKFAST! Our school, as well as many others offer a breakfast menu (if you can get there early enough). That isn’t always the most frugal option, but some days it makes the whole morning routine easier. Have a good selection of healthy-yet-quick breakfast options on hand. Pick things up with your school shopping that will be ready for the first day. I confess I just can’t get a full-on breakfast ready for them every morning. I rely heavily on hot and cold cereals and our toaster (with built in egg poacher!). Make sure that they have a cereal with some fiber and low sugar. Sugary cereals lead to practically lethargic kids by 10 am. Offer juices (real juice, not Kool-Aid!) to go along with their food. Occasionally I can get out some bacon and eggs before school and it’s a treat. Please don’t let your kiddos go to school hungry!

Muffins w/ Mom Day!

3) SHOP EARLY FOR SUPPLIES We tend to get our school supply list late. I have a pretty good idea of what’s on there now. By the time I got our first year’s supply list the stores were almost cleaned out of the items we needed. I ended up paying more for non-sale items! Buy a couple of everything, you know they’ll lose things, break things, or just plain use them up. Back to school sales, even when you buy extras, still saves you money rather than buying in December.

Still debating this one...

4) THEIR ENTIRE WARDROBE PROBABLY DOESN’T NEED REPLACING! I like to let my kids get a new outfit. They usually need a few pairs of jeans long enough to cover their recently exposed ankles. But often, much of their stuff will still work. Be frugal! Don’t replace perfectly good clothing just because they had it last year. I say if it fits and it still looks good, it works. Of course, the kids like to prove me wrong and grow out of everything they own!!

5) TALK ABOUT YOUR EXPECTATIONS The big kids know what to expect from school, and also what is expected from them. A little reminder never hurts. My new pre-schooler will have no idea what she’s in for. It won’t take long to let them know the kinds of things they will be expected to do. You know, line up, raising hands, asking for help, taking turns, all that stuff. I remember the concept of forming a line to be totally foreign to my little guy when he started. Give ‘em a heads up!!

Getting ready for preschool!

What do you do to prepare your children for school? Please leave a comment below and help add on to the list!!!

“I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms blogging program to be eligible to get a HarperCollins book set. For more information on how you can participate, click here.”

Monday, July 5, 2010

Like cloth diapers? Win one!

I have a cloth diaper giveaway running on my family site.  Since I purchased the products myself, I’m sending you over there for your entries!  Contest ends July 25, 2010 and 11:59 CST (Christmas in July!!).  There are tons of ways to enter.  Good luck!!

diapersClick here for the official contest site!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Encouraging Summer Reading

I came across a discussion page on TwitterMoms that posed this question:  How do you get your kids to embrace summer reading?  And I thought I’d like to weigh in.

The truth is, summer is break time and my kids know it!  They’ve thrown their backpacks by the way side and haven’t looked back.  But there’s no reason that their books need to go neglected all summer long. Let me share a few tips on keeping those books from getting dusty over the school break.

1) Make it mandatory.  This isn’t saying make reading a prison sentence, but I’ve said it before: turn off the TV!  Maybe half an hour before bed time, turn off the glowing screen and hand them a book.  Let them know (perhaps year round?) that 30 minute before bed time is reading time.   Give them a choice of what they want to read (I’ve let my son read a video game manual, hey, it’s reading, right??) and don’t be too picky.  Even reading books at or below their current level will reinforce fluency and speed.  Also, don’t be afraid to read to a child that already reads well themselves.  Your attention and interest will spark theirs.  Along those lines:

2) Be an example!  Don’t sneak off to the next room while the kids read to catch your TV show.  That’s what your DVR is for!  When you have some down time, get out your own book.  Involve your whole family, even grandparents and caretakers.  I saw my parents read all the time and I can tell you it really encouraged me to read more often, too!  At the pool?  Camping?  Bring books for the car, and for the times you want to relax.  No electricity required!!Have older siblings read to younger ones!

3) Speaking of electricity, don’t be to quick to dismiss audio books.  Our family lives just about an hour from the nearest large city, so we often listen to audio books on the drive!  Summer or winter, chances are you spend some time in the car.

4) Treat new books like new toys.  My husband and I decided a long time ago we would always feel OK saying “no” to a new toy when necessary.  We also decided we’d always say “yes” to books.  Our family routinely visits Barnes & Noble to treat ourselves to new books.  Be excited about it!  Help them choose an appropriate book and make it a fun time.  They will grow to love this shopping experience!So many choices!

5) The library is OPEN in the summer.  Your local library probably has a summer reading program.  Sign them up! They often offer certificates or even prizes for finishing!  If they don’t offer one, perhaps you could start your own family reading program.  Offer small incentives for meeting reading goals!

6) Variety is the spice of life.  Unless your reader is a toddler, they will want variation.  My one-year-old will have me read the same book 13 times…in a row.  Not so for older readers.  Have a ready supply of books.  Don’t be afraid to check out several from the library at once.  Trade with friends.  Visit yard sales.  It’s not hard to provide kids with new(-ish) books.  They will enjoy the choices, and if you are the reader, you’ll appreciate it, too!

7) Keep at it!  Its up to you as parents to remember to encourage your kids to read.  If you slack off, they will, too.  It only takes a little effort to encourage a lifelong good reading habit!Involve grandpa, too!

I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms blogging program to be eligible to get an "I Can Read!" book. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

Monday, June 14, 2010

And The $200 Winner Is….


The winner of the $200 gift card from Flip Video and BlogHer is… ((insert drum roll here))

Commentor #270 Pinching Abe!!  Her qualifying remark was that she wished she had a video camera when her son was born before schedule. 


I will be contacting you via email.  You have 48 hours to get back to me or I will have to select an alternate winner.  Don’t make me do that!!!!  Congrats!!