Thursday, June 17, 2010

The 9th Judgement - Book Review

Sgt. Lindsey Boxer is deeply involved in one of the most heartwrenching cases of her career so that involves the cold-blooded murder of young children and their mothers.  I have trouble reading this kind of stuff (Lovely Bones was the toughest yet), so there were definitely times where I unrealistically wanted to hide my eyes and pretend that little children do not get shot by killers at point range in this world. 

At first it seems as if this case is really two cases, and I spent almost half the book wondering if Patterson was losing his touch.  He's not.  The pace picks up immensely once you make the connection between the characters.  At that point, the suspense rises until you can't stand's like being in the movie theatre rooting for the victim to turn around and see what's waiting in the shadows rather than be caught off guard right before your very eyes.While it was difficult to follow Lindsey's best friend Claire (also the coroner) as she made some way out there choices on this case, it made sense to me because as a mother, I share her emotion.  Claire's never been one to keep her opinions to herself, but this was the first time I remember her letting her personal feelings get in the way of judgement.

I'm so thankful that Lindsey and Joe have finally figured out a way to give their relationship a go.  As independent as she is, I think she needs Joe...and he needs her.  There was one point in this book, however, that Patterson teases the reader with Joe and Lindsey's relationship.  It only lasts for a few pages, but I was already vowing to be done reading the Women's Murder Club series if what I suspected had happened between them.  Thankfully, I was wrong...just another twist in the story.

I didn't like Lindsey's newspaper reporter friend Cindy much during this book...I'm not sure the others can trust her.  I don't think she's manipulative really;  she's a reporter...she gets a kick out of breaking a's who she is.  She's also jealous of Lindsey and Rich's professional partnership.  Get over it.  If she keeps being petty, I'm going to want her whiny butt out of the next book.

My daughters and a friend of theirs are reading the Women's Murder Club mysteries now.  I enjoy so much being able to talk about books with them while we are reading them together.  These books are also the first books my middle child has been interested in reading in a LOOOOOONNNNNGGGG time.  I've found through some of her questions that she spends a lot of time worry about details and vocabulary words she doesn't know than relaxing and enjoying the big picture.  I'd like to strangle some of her past teachers and I'd like to burn all copies of a particular brand of software called Accelerated Reader that our school system used INSTEAD of actually allowing the good teachers to teach reading.  
Don't get me started.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Coach Patti

I really didn't fall off the face of the earth last week.
I had to take a blogging sabbatical of sorts for a very good reason.
This is my story...
and I'm sticking to it.

Each summer my BFF Missie puts together a "Kids College" on our campus.
Because I'm her friend, I get to work too. 
Ain't that the way it always is?

Missie put me in charge of library last year...made sense to me...I'm a reader extraordinaire, teach reading and English, yada, yada, yada...
This year she put me in charge of PE.




Now, I do not have one athletic bone in my body.
Not one.

I was a cheerleader in high school during the days when all we had to do was look cute on the sidelines and yell cute chants.
There was no throwing people around or really even any gymnastics.
We did run in with the team at the beginning of the game...then, we drank a little water and smiled for all the pictures our moms took.

I also ran track one year for one day. :)
It was hot.
That's the extent of my athleticism. and my not one athletic bone did what Missie assigned us to do and taught P.E. all week.

Last week from 7:40 in the morning until 12:30 each day I shuffled little children (ages 1st grade - 6th grade) around the gym, blew the whistle quite often,

ran up and down the basketball court (I'm the one in the little black circle about to pass out),

took frequent water breaks, referred games, refereed arguments, took more water breaks, ate a snack pack of Nutter Butter cookies or Cheez Its for breakfast,

made up rules, broke rules, reminded kids about the rules,

blew the whistle some more, and most importantly (to the story I'm sticking to in this post) wore myself slap out.

Each day after clean up and a quick lunch with the children I gave birth to, my BFF Missie, and her kid, we had a couple of days of doctor's appointments (story for another day) and I worked hard to save my tomato plants.  We also had 3 extra kids at our house most of the week that my firstborn was babysitting and VBS at church from 5:30-8:00.

Lord, have mercy.

Suffice to say that by the end of each day last week, I was anxiously awaiting bedtime. 
And, when I say anxiousy awaiting, I mean standing by the window waiting for the sun to go down.
There was no more physical stamina for blogging.
There was no brain activity for blogging.
There was not even a real desire for blogging.
I just wanted my bed, some Ibuprofen and sleep.
Thank goodness I had already started some of the posts of the last few days or I would have never been able to catch up.

My entire body still aches.
I feel like someone (or a bunch of little someones) marched all over my body all week.

Particularly my knees.
It's official.
I'm old.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Photoshop Elements 7 for Dummy Beginners

As I've mentioned before, I've been taking pictures of all kinds for as long as I can remember.
My mom gave me my first "big time" film camera, the Canon Rebel, one Christmas many moons ago, replaced it with the digital version a few Christmases later and then upgraded me to a Canon Rebel XTi, Christmas 2007.
Thanks, Mom!

Um, Mom, the next Canon Rebel upgrade is called the T2i

I'm a hands on learner.  I learn best by trial and error.  Sometimes error after error after error :)
My photography has certainly progressed during the time that I've been actually taking pictures and publishing them in family books each year.  I can look back to the first family book I produced and almost cringe at some of the things I would do differently today that I simply didn't know then. 
Sounds like life, doesn't it?

I've never been a Photoshopper for a very simple reason.
I believe that a great photo starts out with a great photo. Period.
Somewhere along the line I picked up that mantra and have been preaching it ever since.
I also know some folks who photoshop the mess out of their photos...changing colors...painting on different backgrounds, much that you can tell the photo is photoshopped. Bleh!

Photoshop is like make-up to me.
What's underneath is the most impotant thing.
Photoshop should be used to enhance photos...not change them.

When I started blogging in January, I was introduced to some photo bloggers who do just that.
I'm blown away with PW's actions that turn great photos into pieces of art.  The ethereal feel of Country Girl's photos and the way her actions make me want to reach out and touch her Border Collie George are what made me go back and think about Photoshop again.

The final kicker for me was in January when my oldest was in the Junior Miss scholarship program.
I took an incredible picture of my firstborn on stage.
Problem was there was another pesky child standing in the background.  How dare she???
My friend Rebecca who runs our journalism program at school took the picture and completely removed the extraneous teenager from the photo.  Holy Smokes!!!!!!!

Since then I've been on a search...books, websites, blogs, anything and everything about Photoshop Elements.  I've skimmed etc. looking for that magic potion that would help me figure all this out.

This is a friend of mine's child, Sophie.
Don't you just love the name??
I took this picture at the dance recital a week or so ago.
I think it's a pretty good picture; you have to know this child...she is very serious.
How bout those curls??
They're natural.

Notice also the pesky little precious darling in the background.
She's someone's baby, I know, but I'd rather this be a picture of Sophie.
Here's what I was able to do with Photoshop:

No more pesky random kid!
Yay, me!!

Sophie's mom happens to be one of my firstborn's favorite teachers, so I showed this picture to my firstborn.
She said, "Mom, it's on a black background; how easy was that?"

Well, excuse me!!
I'm still proud!!

Here's another cute shot of Sophie with yet another extraneous on stage kid.

I used the Clone Stamp tool in Photoshop Elements 7.

Little Sophie in all her glory!

With the Clone Stamp tool, you are really "cloning" an area to copy and then "stamping" that area over the part of the photograph that you want gone...kinda like painting the kid (or whatever) out.  Obviously, as my firstborn was quick to point out, this task is easier when there's a simple background and would be much more tedious in a busier background.
I'm in no way ready to teach anyone else how to do this, but I will say that there are some fabulous tutorials on YouTube of all places.  I found these tutorials to be much more beginner friendly than any other resource that I could find.

I have tons of pictures to play with now that I've learned how to do this one thing with Photoshop Elements 7!
Next I want to learn how to change backgrounds and apply all those nifty actions the blogger professionals show off all the time.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Good News from the Garden

Sunday afternoon my youngest and I discovered something that lifted our spirits and made our hearts swell with pride...
We had 2 cucumbers that were ready to be picked!!!
Our first "harvest" :):)

Doesn't she look like a professional gardener?
She was very proud.

Those same cucumbers tasted delicious in tonight's salad!!!! 

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Garden Boo Boo

I messed up!

I tried to fix it!
But, I think I made it worse.

I love tomatoes.
Love them, love them, love them, love them.
I can eat them raw, no matter what size or variety, and there's no telling how much I used stewed, diced tomatoes in sauces or bases all year long.

As is true of my personality, when I like something, I tend to get crazy.
Or, as my kids would say, "Cray Cray" - (please please go see the MAD TV clip of Bon Qui Qui on YouTube and have a laugh on me).

I planted 25 tomato plants, people.
Think about that for a moment.
25 tomato plants in a 4 ft. square raised garden bed.
The little plants fit nicely...I left plenty of room in between so they could stretch out their little limbs and still be comfortable.

All was well.
Until I left for Destin and was gone for 7 days.
When we returned, my tomato bed looked more like a JUNGLE.

My father said, "Did you not pull off the "suckers" at the bottom?
My mother said, "You're supposed to pull off the "suckers" at the bottom?


First of all, when my dad first mentioned "suckers," I thought he was talking about some kind of horrible worm. 
My youngest and I were traumatized by tomato worms on our first tomato crop a couple of years ago.
Tomato worms are big fat worms that have horns and look like the devil himself implanted them in your garden.
I still have nightmares.

Now, I know that both of my parents were talking about the little plant shoots at the bottom of the tomato plant that will weigh the plant down as they grow horizontally instead of vertically.  Sure enough, the "suckers" sprouted out and up and out and up and out and up...each "sucker" sprouted its own shoot, and then those shoots sprouted more.

The individual plants (when you can finally decipher which limb goes with which plant) each actually remind me of a grammar diagram. Do you remember those?
I'm sorry. I'm an English teacher.

The following photo is one example of the tomato plants I have laying on their sides instead of climbing the nice little green stakes the Head of My Household put in for me.

I was too busy thinking about the hundreds of tomatoes I was going to grow to be worried about growing a forest in my garden beds :(


The Head of My Household said, "You mean both your parents told you to do the same thing and you STILL did it your way?"

It wasn't the first nor the last time I've been called hard-headed.
You'd think I'd learn.
My mom said, "you'll need to thin them out in order to save some of them."
Thin them out??
I want them all!!!
(See what I mean?)
Gettin' crazy again.

If I had to thin the tomato plants, I decided I didn't have anything to lose in trying to repot the ones I chose to thin out.  I found an unused paint bucket in our garage, a couple of older pots, and bought several cheap garbage cans.
I pulled off those "suckers" (I don't know what you call them once they've become big giant limbs) before I repotted the thinned tomato plants.  I even drilled holes in the bottom of the garbage cans and the paint bucket so that the water could drain.

In the heat of the day my little repotted tomatoes look pretty sad.

They actually do perk up when they are not in the direct sun.
I lined them up next to the rails on my patio so they would have plenty of support...My mom says they're probably in "shock" and I should take extra care of them for a while.
Just what I need...a sick bay in my backyard.

It was 94 degrees today with at least 194% humidity in Southern Mississippi.
Even my pool water was 92 degrees.

My little tomatoes will need all the help they can get.
I'm just hardheaded enough to try to save them all...