Immediate Gratification Victim

One of my secret not-so-secret addictions is free stuff for Photoshop. So when I started working on my little Thanksgiving image from a couple of posts ago, I was looking for some interesting fall-y layer styles to use for my background. I found a promising one at Adobe Exchange and immediately downloaded it. I have become quite proficient at adding new brush sets to Photoshop, so it never occurred to me that adding a layer style would be any more difficult. I unzipped that puppy into the Styles folder of the Presets menu and thought I was ready to go.


Well, okay. I would just make a call to the Computer Guru (aka: Daddy) and fix that right up. Nope. Turns out that Photoshop is like the only place in cyberspace where I know more than he does. Rats!

No problem! There is always the University of Google, right? And there was. Lots and lots of info on loading layer styles into Photoshop Elements 6 and 7. I use PSE 5. Arg! After wading through countless tutorials on the convoluted process of adding layer styles in XP vs. Vista/creating XML files for ASL files so that they would show up in drop down menus and special effect palettes/deleting db3 files to force the rebuilding of databases and following them meticulously, I still didn't manage to make them appear in Photoshop.

Finally, I stumbled upon a review of PSE 8 that said it was more forgiving of adding new stuff. Fine. Happy birthday to me. I downloaded PSE 8. It was on sale for a steal, so I was totally patting myself on the back. Until I tried to load the layer styles. Still no love.

After briefly beating my head on my keyboard, I waded back into the tutorials and found a little hiccup in my previous interpretation of the instructions. They all warn that you have to be careful what you mess with or you could completely screw up your Photoshop, so I gave the new instructions a whirl in PSE 5. Success! Huzzah!

So I trotted my new technique over to PSE 8. Just. kill. me. now. It still didn't work. I could get bits and pieces to show up, but not in the right drop down menu and you had to jump through an inordinate number of hoops to get there. I finally broke down and purchased/downloaded a cool little gadget called Add-O-Matic that promised to load everything into the right directories in PSE 6, 7, and 8 with very little effort on my part. And once I worked out the kinks it did.

I also found that in the three days since I had purchased the new version of PSE, they had re-released the Add-O-Matic for PSE 5. If I had just waited a few more days, I could have just coughed up the $11 bucks for that instead of the significantly more for PSE 8. Sigh. I know I would have upgraded eventually, but I just hate that I did it before I had to.

Darn instant gratification got me again.


An Embarrassment of Riches

On this Thanksgiving I am thankful for:
  • my husband who loves me through thick and thin (literally!)
  • my children who are the most beautiful creatures I have ever met - even if they do occasionally make me nuts
  • T's job, which provides for us, but more importantly makes him happy
  • friends, old and new
  • family, near and far
  • having family close enough to celebrate the holiday together
  • not having to clean my house for company!
Hope your day was lovely, too!

Gobble, Gobble!


Ah, San Diego

I don't know what has gotten into me lately. It is like I have a mental block about writing about my trip. Maybe because writing about it will just remind me that I don't get to go for another year? Or maybe because all the relaxation of my day at the spa vanished when my husband left for hunting and training and the kids and I got food poisoning? Good times. The most likely candidate in the Why Isn't Rae Ann Writing competition? The time-sucking vortex called Kindle. (But I've read at least 10 books in the last month!)

The really good times were to be had on my trip! Which was awesome! And filled with all things girl-y and sister-y. Considering that I had to be at the airport so early - we left the house at 6:30 a.m.! Blech! - the flight was really quite pleasant. Since cheapo US Airways charges for bags, everyone on the plane was trying to cram their weekend into a carry-on. The up side of being in the fourth/last boarding group? They gate checked my bag all the way to San Diego, so I didn't have to lug it around my layover! Oh, and my Kindle? To DIE for on the plane. Man, I love that thing. Best. present. ever.

I arrived in sunny California starving (again, cheap airline = no peanuts), so Sister K and I decided to go find some bait sushi. Picky T would never eat anything so exotic - if Wester even has a sushi place! - so this was a real treat. We went to Sushi Itto, which had a totally cool Asian/modern vibe. We got the rainbow rolls and the dot com rolls. The dot coms were the winner. Amazing!

Our next adventure was to go see Chris Rock's documentary Good Hair. Sister K is an Oprah addict, so she was interested from what she saw there. I worked for a long time in an all African-American elementary school, so I knew more about black hair than Sister K, but the movie was still eye-opening. I guess it must have been a good movie because we kept talking about it for my whole visit. We were disappointed that there wasn't a stop-action-animation of someone getting a weave so we could see what all went into that.

After the movie, we finally went back to Sister K's house. She had just completed a remodel that was supposed to be finished in time for my visit last year. The anticipation was killing me! Oh, my. It is GORGEOUS! It looks like something out of a magazine. Just wow. The really amazing part is just how different it is from its previous incarnation. Every surface had changed: walls, floors, counters, cabinets. The transformations was nothing short of amazing. Maybe someday I will have a house that is all grown up, too!

That night Mr. B cooked dinner for us out on the (new) built-in barbecue. Sister K and I enjoyed sitting by the fire pit and getting waited on!

No trip to San Diego would be complete without a trip to the zoo. This year, we went to the Wild Animal Park. I just can't get enough of that place! Our big adventure this year was the zip-line tour. Called the Flightline, it is supposed to mimic the flight of a California Condor. So. very. cool. I wish we had gotten some pictures of us in the harnesses - they were quite the contraptions. We got up to speeds of 60 mph as we flew across the savanna; picture cheeks flapping like you see in cartoons. We were both really glad we were wearing sun glasses! We also had a great time with the lorikeets. We purchased nectar and they ate right out of our hands! It was kind of like the pigeons in St. Peter's square, but not so overwhelming or flying-rat-y. Check the little-old-Asian-lady visor. I am one good looking woman.

Saturday was a relaxed girlie day. We went to brunch. We did a little shopping. We saw a movie. (Two in one weekend! Will the wonders never cease?) We went to see Julie and Julia. We thought we were going to be the only ones in the theater, but it got a respectable crowd. I enjoyed it, but was disappointed to find out that Julie divorced her husband in real life. Humph. That night we went to dinner at my fave Italian restaurant, Cafe Luna. As ever, it was delicious!

On Sunday we went to brunch (along with the entire population of San Diego) at the Hash House a Go Go. With a name like that, how could it help but be good? The restaurant is right in the middle of the arts district, so the people watching was primo. And the food? Holy moly, I might need a moment alone before I can even describe it. First off, it comes on plates big enough to sleep on. Sister K and I split two items and left as much food as we ate: banana cream dipped french toast; farm scramble with bacon and avocado; a biscuit the size of your head with homemade jam; bananas foster frozen latte. Heavenly.

Adventure-wise, Sunday afternoon was the highlight of the trip. We went on a guided Segway tour of the Gaslamp District in downtown San Diego. When we got there, we had to watch a safety video and sign the I-won't-sue-you-if-I'm-a-dumbass-and-fall-off waiver. The video was a RIOT. It was narrated by the Seguay inventor dude in a super thick Boston accident. He said things like, "If your Segway does blah, blah, step off and calm the hell down." and "If you do blah, blah you could get hurt wicked bad." We laughed the whole way through it.

Next we had a quick lesson on how to use a real Segway. They are amazing machines, but not quite as step-on-and-away-we-go as you might think. You do most of the controlling with your feet. About ten minutes in, I had what felt like shin splints on the soles of my feet. I was thinking, "Two hours of this? Oh, noes!" But after I stepped off and calmed the hell down (read: relaxed), all was well. We rode around downtown and got a bit of history/local color from our superlative guide, Ike. He was totally cool and super interesting in his own right (he'd lived a bunch of places and done a bunch of cool jobs), as well as being a fun guide. We buzzed down to the harbor then up the hill to Balboa Park. Too fun!

The piece de resistance of the visit was the trip to the spa. Each year we try a different spa. This year it was The Spa at Rancho Bernardo Inn. Love! We started out with facials. Lots of calming rose products. Ironically, my favorite part of this facial was the hand massage. Mmmm. Then, we had lunch movie star-style in a cabana by the pool. Ahi tuna sandwich with sweet potato fries? OMG. Best sandwich ever.

Next, we had 80-minute(!) massages. Sister K had the hot stone massage and I had an outdoor relaxation massage. I was in a private outdoor room, surrounded by trees and the sound of running water. It was, bar none, the best massage I have ever had. I was so relaxed that I think I dissolved into the table. I may or may not have passed out for the last 20 minutes of it. I love it when all the knots in my shoulders are gone!

We finished off our day sitting in the outdoor waterfall whirlpool. The water is saline instead of chlorinated, so it isn't bad for your hair and didn't leave you smelling like Clorox. Such a great day. All of that relaxing must have been hard work, because we could barely keep our eyes open through Dancing with the Stars. We were in bed, sound asleep by 9:00! Which was a good thing, as I had a 7:30 plane to catch the next morning.

And just like that (snap) my visit to California was over. No matter how long I stay, it isn't long enough. Thanks, Sister K, for my wonderful birthday visit. You are the best! I love you! I am counting the days until next year!


How to Hug a Baby*

Instructions for properly hugging a baby:

1. First, spy a baby.

2. Second, be sure that the object you spied was indeed a baby
by employing classic
sniffing techniques --
if you smell baby powder and the
wonderful aroma of wet nappies this is, indeed, a baby.

3. Next you will need to flatten the baby before actually beginning the hugging process.

**Note: The added slobber should help in future steps by making the 'paw slide' easier.**

4. The 'Paw Slide': Simply slide paws around baby and prepare for possible close-up.

5. Finally, if a camera is present, you will need to execute the difficult and patented
'Hug, Smile, and Lean' so as to achieve the best photo opportunity.


*Thanks to Chica for sending this to me.
This is not my baby, but I am confident no babies were injured in the production of the above cuteness.


Still Not Dead

Got the dreaded voice mail from Chica today:

"Hey, Rae Ann! You haven't blogged since November 12, so I'm just calling to make sure everything is okay. Everything is okay, right?"

Everything is okay. I am just swamped. Observe:
  • T is in Austin at (yet another) training.
  • Z and I got food poisoning/stomach flu (who can tell the diff?).
  • I am making a Herculean effort to get the main living areas all gorgeous (or as gorgeous as they can be with a serious layer of dog fur on them) before T gets back from the aforementioned training. This involves sewing curtains and hanging (A LOT) of pictures, as well as the expected box hauling and trash collecting.
  • I have caught up on the appalling backlog of design work from when my computer died. (Sincerest apologies to Laura and Katie! Again!)
  • I MADE A FRIEND TODAY!!! Which is to say that the MeetUp group that I started finally had someone besides me in attendance. And she brought a friend! Maybe I can stop wearing my 'Will You Be My Friend?' t-shirt. It is getting tattered.
Actually, I have tons to blog about - I still need to recap my fab trip to San Diego! - I just am not managing my time well enough to do it! Soon, Chica. Soon.


Kid? What Kid?

I guess I'm having a bit of trouble getting back into the parenting groove after my AMAZING trip to California. I managed to pick Z up on time, but after lunch, I got caught up in an internet research project for the hubs...

I was watching the clock like a hawk and it seemed to be going very slowly. Then I hit pay dirt and was finding the info T wanted. I looked at the clock and it was holy-crap-I'm-late-o'clock - otherwise known as 2:04 when I am supposed to pick up the boy child at 2:00. Yikes!

Luckily we literally live on the same street as Q's school. I broke all land speed records to get there. He was the last one there. Again.

I am so awesome.


Number 39

Nuh, nuh, nuh, nuh, nuh! You say it's your birthday?
Nuh, nuh, nuh, nuh, nuh! It's my birthday, too, yeah!

Well, the 10th anniversary of my 29th birthday passed quietly and without fanfare. I got my (awesome) present last week and my party the week before. But it was a very nice day. The kids were both in school, so I had some blessed time to myself. Which I used to renew my driver's license (probably time I took care of that since I'm married to a trooper and I have been illegal since 30 days after I moved here. Whoops!), drop off my sewing machine to get repaired and a quick trip to Target (where I left with only a toilet seat and a curtain rod. Such restraint!)

T left a bouquet of flowers and birthday cards for me to find when I got up. There was one from the dogs, one from the kids on which Z had laboriously written 'happy birthday' and a silly one from T that he wrote enough mushy stuff on to make my cry. The kids were relatively well behaved all day, so that was nice, too.

Our sitter fell through, so instead of going out, T made dinner for me. Funny how when he 'makes dinner' all he has to do is cook meat over flames. I still set the table, make the sides, fix the drinks, clear the table and do the dishes. Oh, well, I'll take what I can get!

This is the first year since we have been together that my birthday wasn't on the opening weekend of deer season. Since I had the audacity to be born in early November, I am usually competing with a mythical 40-point buck for my husband's attention. This is the first birthday in YEARS that I have actually spent with my husband/family. Usually, I am in California enjoying the tender ministrations of Sister K while my hubs is out hunting for mean/giant deer.

This year, I get the best of both worlds! I am leaving today for Ginormousville where I will drop the kids off at Grandma's. I leave for CA waaaaay too early tomorrow morning. It is the only time in recent memory that I have been excited about getting up early! I get back next Wednesday. I am sure I will be full of stories!


Rottin' Luck

No, that isn't a misspelling in the title. I am referring my great compost experiment. In our new yard, we have a little fenced area that the previous owners had used for a garden. I thought it would be fun/educational for the kids if we planted a garden, too. In all the craziness of the summer, we didn't manage to grow anything but a particularly lush patch of weeds and stickers.

What I did manage to accomplish was starting a compost project. I have a little scrap crock that I keep by the sink and about once per week the kids and I dump it into the bin. I was a little worried that my ratio of green (wet food scraps) to brown (dry leaves and grass) was skewed and the magic of composting wasn't going to happen - or at the very least, would be slowed WAAAAAY down. But when I went out to deposit this week's collection of food scraps, my compost bin was generating its own heat. Whee!

By spring I may have enough for a tiny corner of my garden! Sigh. I never said I was efficient!


Halloween Recap

Happy Halloween!
We had a great Halloween. It was the first event that Z and Q got to do with their cousins. We started out at my aunt's house for chocolate and photo ops. Q fell asleep in the car on the way over, so he was a bit of a grump. But chocolate soothes the savage beast and soon he was having a ball. Our next stop was a Halloween block party. There must have been 100 kids and their parents there. We ate hot dogs and too much candy sitting on the lawn.

Half the time we couldn't see where our kids were, but the cool part was that my cousins knew everyone there so we didn't have to worry.

Q stole his baby cousin's sword and was the happiest flying monkey on the block. Here he is running away from Mama and her pesty camera. He absolutely refused to put his hood up and look monkey like. You'd think he was two or something. Oh, yeah - he is!

Z's cousin asked her if she was the Wicked Witch of the West (she was). Her response? No, I'm the Wicked Witch of ALL the Directions!

Here he is with his hood up! This trick-or-treating is serious business!

We had a great time and were exhausted by the end of the night. I was hoping the munchkins would have a sugar crash on the way home, but we had no such luck.