photo editing {burning tool}

OK, this is the last one. I need to go to bed so I'm not a zombie when Coleman (a.k.a. "Mr. I-don't-want-my-mommy-to-sleep-ever-again) gets up shortly. Another how-to article from ScrapJazz. Click here to view.
I'm very excited about this one. Using the "burn" tool, I was able to darken very specific areas of the photo that were too light. You can also use the "dodge" tool to lighten dark areas. I get these "super light" areas a lot so this will definitely come in handy. See the before and after below and note how bright the bib and highchair tray are in the first photo and they just look *normal* in the second :)

photo editing {darkening edges}

I'm completely obsessed with Photoshop Elements 7. I ran across some tutorials tonight and was just a fiddlin'. I found them at ScrapJazz under their Learning section.

This first one isn't that exciting, but just using the levels adjustment to improve the photograph. I actually think I pretty much had a good handle on this already. That article is here.

This was a bit more fun. This article taught how to darken or lighten the edges of a photograph, and then add a basic frame, if desired. Super simple, but creates a nice little something extra, don'tcha think???

thankful thursday {7.30}

today i am thankful for...

word warp on my iphone

dual action lysol wipes. the scrubby side is perfect for cleaning the high chair

that spencer's teacher from last year gave them a summer reading challenge

james patterson - one of my favorite authors
the family feud calendar on my desk at work - fun, fun.


photos {kings mountain}

On Sunday, the four of us went for a "hike" at Kings Mountain. Even though it's relatively close to home, we don't think to go there often. The 1.5 mile paved trail is perfect for us & the stroller. We took our time, reading the historical markers, and taking some off-road adventures with Spencer. Coleman was great - just hanging out in the stroller, taking it all in. It was toasty but we went early enough to miss the hottest part of the day. Too cool off, we stopped for ice cream on the way home. See the rest of the pictures here.

photos {coleman + spencer}

Seriously...how cute is this??? He looks like a little guy, not a baby...not sure I like that :) Spencer picked out this outfit and hat for Coleman the last time we were all at Babies R Us. This was the first time he wore it. The hat is still way too big for him. You can see the whole "photo shoot" here.

And once again...Matt impressed me by getting a couple of cute photos of the boys together.

couponing {my process}

I wrote this about a week ago and never finished it up to post...so, a little late, but here it is...

First, I'll post a warning - this will be a pictureless and wordy post! :) So, here is my process for couponing. It's

I go through a similar process on "ad days" - Wednesdays (grocery stores) and Sundays (everything else). First, I will casually browse the ads, just for fun. Then I will consult a website for each store. In the case of the grocery stores (Harris Teeter, Bi-Lo, and Food Lion), I only use
Southern Savers. On Sundays, this site covers the major drug stores (Walgreen's, CVS and Rite Aid). However she does not cover Wal-Mart or Target, so if I want to get detailed on those, I have to consult other sites. I also frequent Common Sense with Money.

I have an Excel spreadsheet that seems to keep growing and growing (see sample shot above). I know to some this may seem a bit "psycho", but let me clarify two things. First, I spend a LOT of time on the computer and it's just as easy (maybe easier) for me to compile something like this on there than to jot down a list. Secondly, my brain functions like a never-ending Excel spreadsheet. Thanks to my job, it just is what it is. If that makes me a freak to others, then so be it :)
One tab features my "weekly list". On the far left it includes two lists that are not store-related.

1) The first is the "Need List" which is anything I have to buy the next time I go to the grocery store, regardless of price.

2) The second is the "Watch List" which are items that we are either almost out of or that we are out but can do without for a bit. I watch for deals on these items, trying not to pay full price.

The rest of the sheet is divided into sections for each store mentioned above and a few others for rare occasions (like KMart, Staples, Babies R Us). Each store has three columns:

1) Item - contains any item information (in many cases, you need to be specific as to the size, brand, etc).

2) Coupons - here I note what coupon I should be using. I will put the dollar amount and note whether it will be doubled or if multiple quantities are required. For example: $1/2 means "one dollar off when you buy two" or $0.50 D means "fifty cent coupon that will be doubled".

3) Comments - this can be anything but in most cases it refers to a sale price or deal. If the item is on sale, I will include the sale price (if known), or I will not if it's a BOGO. In the case of the drug stores, I will note if there is an ECB, SCR or RR.

So, as I review the blog post for a particular store, when I see something that I need, I will enter that item's information into the proper store section of my spreadsheet. I will verify that I have the needed coupon (or go ahead and print it if that applies) and then I place the coupon into that store's envelope. As mentioned in my binder post earlier, I have an envelope labelled for each of the stores I've mentioned. If I have store-specific coupons, they go in the envelope. If I have ECBs or RRs for the drug stores, they go into those envelopes. Then, each week as I scope out the deals, the related coupons go into that envie as well.

Once I've completed my lists, I will then decide which stores I will actually visit. It's pretty easy for me to hit the drug stores on my lunch hour at work, so some weeks I may go to all three. But if the deals don't warrant it, I don't bother. In the case of the grocery stores, it varies. A lot of times it has as much to do with time availability than anything. Sometimes I'll take a big chunk of time on a weekend and hit a bunch of stores at once. Other weeks I will hit a store here and there as I have time on my lunch hour or after work.

My spreadsheet is formatted to print onto one sheet of paper. When I go to a store, I take that sheet and the appropriate store envelope of coupons. In the case of smaller stores, I will not take in my binder. However, when I grocery shop, I almost always take my whole binder in. This helps if I find a deal I wasn't expecting or something like that. At first, I was a tad embarrassed to carry in this binder, but I've gotten over it. I just don't care anymore :) I almost always get a comment (usually positive) about it.

couponing {my binder}

Well, if you read my blog you know I've jumped into this couponing thing big time. Being the anal personality that I am, I had to find the *perfect* way to organize everything. It's been a work in process for a couple of months now and I'm finally at a point where I'm about 90% happy with my system. It still could use some improvements, but it's functional.

In the spirit of saving money (that's the point, right???), I tried to spend as little as possible on creating the system. The basis for the coupon binder is a basic binder (which I already had, so it was free). I started with a smaller one (1", I think) and had to upgrade. I think the one I'm using is 1.5" (maybe 2").

The majority of the pages in the binder are baseball card page protectors (which I stole from Spencer - don't tell). These hold the actual coupons. I have to fold many of them to make them fit. If possible I try to fold them so that I can see the value, item, and expiration date without having to pull it out. This isn't always possible.

One of the recent improvements is this pencil pouch at the front of the binder (one of the main reasons I had to increase the size). I got it cheap with all the back to school sales going on. In the mesh pocket, you can see a small calculator that I purchased inexpensively and a pen. In the zippered pocket there is a small pair of scissors (free at CVS). I also have some rebate information & receipts in there. There are also slots on the backside where I keep a few other things tucked, such as an envelope of expired coupons (which I donate to overseas military).

The front pocket of the notebook contains envelopes - each labeled with a store name. I have one for every store I might visit: WalMart, Target, Bi Lo, Harris Teeter, Food Lion, Walgreen's, Rite Aid, and CVS. Please note I do NOT go to all these stores every week - that's craziness. I just have the envies if I need them. Once I use an envelope for the week, I move it to the back pocket of the binder.

Here's a shot of one of the pages. As you can see there are labeled tabs that divide the sections. I had these tabs on hand and used my label maker. But I ran out and had to buy a package of additional tabs. I'm about 75% happy with my categories. There are one or two that might be unnecessary or could be combined. And then there are another few that should probably be split up into more specific categories because they are too large.
Another recent improvement was adding "half index cards" to each pocket. I didn't even know these things existed but I read this tip online. It allows you to put a coupon on both sides of each pocket without it looking as messy. Love that. I need some more of these.

On the first page of every category (the page with the tab attached), I have a category marker as well. I printed these on my computer and cut them to fit into the baseball sheets. It has the category and some examples of what is in that section. Now that I've been using this for a bit, these are probably unnecessary.

I also have a few full sheet page protectors with various things in them... some reference sheets, Babies R Us ads/coupons, etc.

I'm going to post about my process separately...

wal-mart wednesday {7.29}

i went to wal-mart on my lunch hour today. i'd been collecting notes on using some coupons for good deals there, but i just don't go often. today's trip was definitely worth it!

Good deals included:
- Free 6pk Nestle Life Water = Priced at $1, Coupon for $1 (I almost didn't buy this because it was mispriced or in the wrong spot or something. But it came up $1 at the register, like it was supposed to).
- Pull-Ups flushable wipes (2 packs) for $0.14 each = Priced at $1.64, Coupon for $3 off 2
- 4pk White Cloud toilet paper for $1.00 = Priced at $2.00, Coupon for $1.00
- Free Softsoap hand soap (2) = Priced at $0.97 each, Coupon for $1 off 1 (had 2 coupons so I got 2 bottles)
- Wet Wipes canister for $0.97 = $1.97 + $1 coupon
- Eggo Bake Shop (2) for $0.94 each = $1.94 + $1 coupon (had 2 coupons, so I bought 2 boxes)

It seems one of the secrets to couponing at Wal-Mart is to watch for coupons that do not have size restrictions and then purchase the smaller item at WM, where the prices are usually the lowest. For instance...I had several toilet paper coupons, but all of them (except White Cloud) had a minimum size (usually 6, 8, or 12 rolls). Since this one didn't, I was able to use it on the cheapest size. Same with the Pull-Ups wipes...there were larger containers, but the coupon didn't specify a minimum.

Total @ full retail (pre-tax) = $23.02
Coupons = $14.00
Total Paid (post-tax) = 10.09
Saved 61%


two peas tuesday {7.28}

Summer (photo above) by KerryP - not a layout, but loved the shot so i had to share

Sunflower Purse by PaperPhenomenon - super cute!
Sunflower Teacher Appreciation by dancingpeardesigns - what a GREAT teacher gift idea. adorable.
God's Heart in a Garden by Melissa1872 - very pretty card. i love the colors.
Got You Some Flowers by mommy2tate - finally an actual layout :) i'm a huge fan of grid background paper (no clue why...maybe my lifelong obsession with office supplies???). and i really like the swirlies on this page.


layouts {baby rocker}

this "rocker baby" collection was another set of products for the oh scrap! store. FUN STUFF :)

this was the first layout i did. i totally confess to putting this outfit on coleman and having an impromptu photo shoot just for this product. i edited this photo using the techniques from my class and just love love love how well it matches the papers. used acrylic paint, if you can't tell. journaling says: rocker baby is the perfect nickname for you. at four months old you want to be everywhere - but your body just won't cooperate yet. you are so curious and adventurous!

this started out as a 12x12 page but i just was never happy with it. i finally figure out if i squished it down to an 11x8.5 page, it looked much better. the large title sticker is on pop dots but the dimension doesn't show well in the photo. the tab to the right of the photo pulls out to reveal journaling. this photo was not posed - it was from the beach and he just happened to have on "the outfit". i did some editing to it as well, but wasn't as pleased with the outcome.

i realized i had enough product leftover to make yet another page. i was flipping through my pictures (assuming i'd use another of coleman) and found this picture of me holding colton at the hospital. the colors worked perfectly. there is a sticker tag tucked behind the photo. i adhered it to some cardstock and journaled on the back.

and to use the leftovers...two cards. i hate that this picture came out so blurry because these are actually really cute! left card had some ribbon. and the sticker says "welcome to the jungle" so it'd make a good *new baby* card. the black stuff on the right card is actually two tassles. i like this because it's not baby-specific. both of these cards started out as monogram american crafts cards and i covered up the parts i didn't want and kept the ones i did.

Unrelated, but I also made this sympathy card for a co-worker of Matt's. Very simple, but I like how it turned out.

layouts {diva supplies}

first, a little background...

i contacted a new local scrapbook store about possibility teaching some classes. it looks like i will be doing that in the future (yay!). in the meantime, she gave me some supplies to use for sample layouts. the store is called oh scrap! and it's so flippin' cute!!! if you're in the charlotte area, you have to check it out. the owner, jen, is super nice (and she's at CHA right now so the store will be stocked full of new goodies soon).

this was the first collection. it was fun to work with girly stuff - because i don't get to do it often - but it was also tough to find pictures.

this was the first one i did...kind of cheesy, but the "one hot mama" title stickers inspired me to grab some photos of me as a brand new mama...trying to look cute with a baby attached - ha! The swirly paper is glittery and the photo doesn't do it justice (actually this photo in general really stinks - sorry about that). I also added a few black gemstones that you can't really see. Journaling reads: a little less time & energy to spend on hair & make up - can't quite squeeze into those old jeans - baby equipment is a permanent accessory... but despite it all, i'm still one hot mama"

I didn't want all these girl layouts to be about me, so I borrowed some pictures of my niece. I cut the glitter cardstock to a large 12" circle - very fun! More gemstones on this one. I am going to add some brief journaling on the transparencies.

Thi one is definitely *out there* and very different for me. But I think I like it!!! It all started with the title sticker - Many shades of Me. I measured it and realized I could easily create a grid of 8 photos around it. So, I sat down and started picking out photos that represent different parts of who I am. I learned to "colorize" in that photo editing class, so something made me think to turn the pictures pink to match the supplies. Voila! I digitally added the labels to each photo before printing.

i was determined to use all the supplies, so I made these cards with the leftovers. on the left card, I cut a circle out of the middle and place some glitter paper behind it. then i placed the flower journaling transparency over it and added "happy birthday" with some rubons. on the right card, i used more of the glittery swirl paper, mounted the "xoxo" title sticker on some cardstock. finishing touch of ribbon on both cards. super easy.

mosaic monday {

theme: sunflowers
i have always loved sunflowers...so happy & cheerful.

mishap monday {7.27}

today was a very disappointing lunch hour :(

i heard bloom was doing triple coupons so i jumped on the chance to go there on my lunch. since the mooresville store was doing it last time, i didn't verify their participation. so, i get to the register, after almost an hour in the store matching deals & coupons, to find that they were NOT doing triples. phooey. so i put a few things back, kept some things. spent $40 after saving $4.47 in sale savings and $2.60 in coupons savings. whoopity doo.

i went to cvs to see if i could get any of this week's free school supply items (these always run through tuesday only). they were out of everything. ugh. so, i got some free toothpaste, a tub of formula and some gas drops. spent $15.91 after I used a $5 off $25 coupon and all of my ECBs from last week. I only have $2ECBs now (and two $5/$25 coupons).

oh well.


xsdqqs@ CXgt4vvzxed4s


Coleman's first official blog post

{a few more photos}

I uploaded a few more pictures this morning - this has me officially caught up! Highlights are below. A few more can be seen in the July folder at Flickr.

Coleman's *serious* look - this was taken Friday when he was officially 5 months old.

I love this baseball sleeper. It's so cute! Matt & Spencer picked it out when I was pregnant. If you can't read it, it says "Daddy's All Star"

Drool, Drool Everywhere...all the time!
I just got him this toy recently and he really likes it - even when it's not making noises.


layout {a hoppy time}

a long, long, long time ago...i created this layout (without pictures) at a crop - it was a class included in the event. It was a pretty page with room for lots of photos, but it just sat... A good while ago I finally selected some photos and printed them. And they sat... FINALLY I put the pictures on the page, added a title, some journaling and called it DONE...finally! Photos are from Easter 2006.
Left page
right page (closed flat)
right page opens up in all sorts of crazy ways to show tons more photos!

{photo edit}

my friend tara and i were discussing how cool it would be to be able to do this "selective recoloring" to photos. this was just a couple of lessons into the class and i wasn't sure if we'd learn to do it or not. so, since we DID, i decided to do a picture of her son for her. i think it came out nifty!

i also made this for her. i downloaded a free digital quick page (note: i take no credit for this) and it immediately reminded me of her house because she has a lot of americana stuff. once i got this family picture of them, i knew i had to do something for her. it was a 12x12 page, so i just cut it down so i could print it in 5x7. hope she likes it.


{photo catchup}

I'm a month behind on uploading pictures...shame on me. So here's a very quick catch-up post. Anyone interested in seeing everything, click on the corresponding Flickr links.

A few new photos were added to the June 2009 set.
Coleman enjoying some yummy solids.

The men with the babies - aren't they handsome?

look at all the babies...

july 2009 - random photos
matt got a few super cute shots of spencer & coleman. i was so proud of him. love this shot of spencer!
and then if you're really bored - photos taken just for the 365 challenge
heading to arkansas...

frugal friday {7.24}

Made three stops today...

For those that are local to me, you know that I put my life on the line for a good deal. This place is sketchy with a capital "S" :)

What I bought: puzzle (birthday gift), small notebook, birthday gift for Spencer (buying ahead - yay me), Christmas gift for Spencer (yay me, again), Formula, big box o' diapers.

Deals: Huggies & Enfamil were supposed to be $19.99 each (formula actual rang up at $23.99 - a fine price, but not what it should've been). I had a $3 Huggies coupon. I had a $5 off $50 coupon. I saved one item to purchase on a second transaction because you get a $10 coupon for the Huggies/Enfamil combo (the reason I went to the sketchy locale anyway). I rarely go to KMart so I didn't want to hold on to a coupon that I'd likely forget to use.

Total @ Full Retail = $85.94
Coupons = $18.00 (21%)


I earned a $3 coupon on my next purchase by spending $10 on certain Conagra Foods, all of which I used coupons to purchase. I only paid $8.69 out of pocket, which is like $5.69 after the new coupon earned. No huge deals... Coke 18pks of cans were only $2.97.

Total @ Full Retail = $67.25
BonusCard Savings = $28.00
Coupons = $8.30
Total Savings = $36.30 (54%)
Out of Pocket = $30.95

Harris Teeter

Super Double Coupon Week -- woohoo!!!

Free Items:
- Borden Singles Sensations ($2.19)
- Aquafresh Advanced ($3.49)
- Kotex Pantyliners ($1.29)

Super Cheap (savings 50% or higher)
- Axe Shower Gel ($4.99) - Paid $0.99
- Dog Treats ($4.00) - Paid $0.50
- La Choy noodles ($1.49) - Paid $0.29
- Raid ($4.99) - Paid $0.99
- Kotex Pads ($3.35) - Paid $0.50
- Huggies Baby Wash ($3.17) - Paid $0.17
- Lysol Wipes ($7.18 for 2) - Paid $3.00 for 2
- Electrasol ($5.99) - Paid $1.49

Total @ Full Retail = $107.72
VIC Savings = $18.18
Coupons = $42.20
Total Savings = $60.38 (56%)
Out of Pocket = $47.34


Photo Editing Class {final project}

For our final project, Jessica just wanted us to do a few more things to the collage. We learned to change the hue/saturation on multiple photos at once. Then used selective recoloring, but with the paint bucket tool this time, to bring out the color in the middle photo. And finally, added a bit of type (I added "go cocks" to the center photo). Though I do like the look of this OK, I plan on printing the previous one, in full color.

I just have to say what an awesome experience this class was. I honestly can not believe that Jessica Sprague offered it for free. She also has a ton of free tutorials on her website, which I plan on making my way through as well! I learned SO MUCH and I'm definitely going to invest in Photoshop Elements 7.0 in the near future.


Photo Editing Class {lesson 13}

Lesson 13 was to create a 9-photo collage and add some brushes along the edge. I chose these gamecock football photos only to realize all the brushes I have are very feminine. So, I skipped the brush thing and decided to add some journaling and just make it a full digital layout. Simple, but captures lots of photos and journaling. The font I used is Ali's Writing (as in Ali Edwards) and I love it. It's one of my favorite fonts right now. Another is "Digs My Heart" (they are very similar, actually).


mediocre monday {7.20}

On my way home, I stopped at Harris Teeter. As cliche as it may be, we needed milk and bread. I had a short list of some deals I wanted to take advantage of, but it was too late in the week and everything good was gone. I spent $46.86, used no coupons and saved $13.27 - not exactly great.

What I missed: I had a combined coupon for Angel Soft and Sparkle - both of which were on sale at a good price - but they were out of Sparkle. Famous Amos cookies and Crisco oil were both on BOGO and I had coupons that would be doubled - they were out of both. Harris Teeter brand olive oil was Buy 2, Get 3 free - they had one bottle left. See my point?

Then I was going to take advantage of my free pint of Starbuck Ice Cream, so I got that and had some of it last night - delicious! Then I look at my receipt today to realize that I totally forgot to give the cashier the freakin' coupon so I paid the full $4.45 for a PINT of ice cream - which I would never do, even before I started couponing. UGH!

The only good thing was that I stocked up on ground beef which was $1.47/lb this week - a great price. And I got an extra 18pack of Miller Lite which was a good price ($9.99). I got a few other things that were on sale, but not super sale. And yes, I got bread and milk - at full price.


mosaic monday {7.20}

Random Note... I just realized that I hit the 1000th post over the weekend.

Spencer is doing a cartoonist camp this week so I thought I'd use that as the theme for this week's mosaic: 1. <3>, 2. Ascension of The Pencil Spirits, 3. Setik01 sketch + equipment, 4. Hommage to Escher's Drawing Hands (1989)