With Any Luck I’ll Get Accused of Copying Dooce And My Stats Will Go Up.

So there seems to be a lot of DRAMA floating around these days about who’s blog is copying whose. I think I read everyone who is supposed to lifting from everyone and it amuses me that I never realized I was consuming all these blogs twice. Why the hate people? Really, things don’t usually get this snarky until AFTER Blogher. Looks like this year folks are trying to get a jump on things.

So after I read all silliness I cruised over the Dooce and saw something I didn’t expect. A contest – OMG now Dooce is copying Pioneer Woman! <You all get that that’s a joke right?> She’s giving away some Wiis and showing pictures from her Wii Fit party.

Then I realized that I’ve been meaning to write a post about how much we love our Wii Fit. And how much fun we’ve had it with it. But our Wii Fit parties look a bit different than super cool Utah parties.

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They involve a lot of short people. And umm evidently Mommy drinks a little wine.

Seriously though we love our Wii. And this comes from someone who well, hates video games. But after all the raves I decided to give this one a try and it’s been great. It’s even gotten my 70 year-old mother up off the couch and moving around which is something to say. She’s addicted to bowling.

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I stood in line and got a Fit board the day they went on sale because I knew they would be impossible to find afterwards. We brought it home and have been addicted to the darn thing since then. I started out with a Wii Fit age of something like 43 (I’m 41) and now I’m down to 35. And you know what I’m feeling it.

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I’m not going to claim that it’s the same thing as going to the gym and doing some well rounded workout but let me tell you after playing the games for 30 minutes you feel it. Don’t believe me, try keeping 5 hula hoops in the air for 3 minutes   – 400 spins both ways baby!!

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Even our just turned three year old gets into it. Her favorite is the run because it doesn’t require her to run on the board. She can just carry the controller and that little stinker is fast!

So here is what I’m saying – If you don’t have one of these things, get your butt over to Dooce and leave a comment so you have a chance of winning one. If that fails then download the Sunday flyers early, find out who’s going to have them on Sunday and get in line the first chance you get. It if worth every penny. It has amused every person who has played it from 2 year olds to 73 year olds.

This coming from a Mom who would rather do this with her family than anything else.

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Ahh crap, Dooce posted pictures of the beach last week didn’t she?

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Trying To Remember Normal

Since the first of the month either the girls haven’t been here, or I haven’t been here, or there have been extra people here. But today, we are all back in the right places. And soon we should return from normal, just after I can re-program my children from 3 weeks of continuous grandparent exposure.

In the meantime here are some pretty shots from Chicago trip. My first trip there and it lived up to all the hype.

First we toured the town in a double-decker bus

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Then we arrived for our concert at the Lincoln Park Zoo

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And we could have been this close to the stage for the Maroon 5 concert.

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But because S and I are 40 had VIP bands we decided to watch from up here.

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And Maroon 5 was amazingly rock-ish in concert… not at all the whiny boys they sound like on the new CD. Maybe I need to give it another listen.

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See those lights in the crowd – those kids today and their cell phones, posting to Facebook. I swear they didn’t dance or sing, they just took pictures and texted. It was kind of sad.

The next night we went to the Cubs game pictures of that tomorrow.

Good Morning Chicago

Still haven’t written a post about last night which I need to do but just thought I’d share the view from my window this morning.

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So far Chicago is pretty cool. Of course when the the hell isn’t it cool to be totally catered to and treated like a VIP?

Today I hoping that listening to the Facebook dude will help me understand why I can’t get my mind around his product.

Melizzard Review of Aquatica

We’re back from our relaxing parents get-away weekend. Here I am relaxing in our private cabana at Aquatica, Sea World’s newest park.

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Since it’s so new and there is not a lot of information about it online yet I thought I’d tell you my two cents about what we thought of the park and give any hints that we found along the way.

First off.. if you’re going, plan on going early. By early I mean 8:00 AM. We got there at 9:00 and it was already pretty packed. The gates open at 8:00 if you’ve purchased your admission online and when we got there an hour later the parking lot was about 2/3 full. The little fellow who walked us to our cabana said that they usually are full by 10:00 and close for admission until after 4:00 when things start thinning out.

If you want to get a chair in the spot you want.. you’ll need to get there early.

We decided to spend the money and reserve a cabana. There are only 16 of them so they go fast. We reserved it a month in advance. Since it’s high season for water parks it was full price at $175.00. For this price you get a private cabana with a ceiling fan and a refrigerator stocked with 16 drinks. They break it up into water, soda, and sports drinks but you can switch them out for whatever you want. You also get 4 towels and can ask for more. There is a service person who will take food/drink order and bring them to you cabana as well. You also get a large sized locker to secure your valuables and a coupon for 20% off food and merchandise all day. To me, one of the best parts was that the cabana area is secluded off from the rest of the park so the only people in that section are other cabana guests.

We were the first guests to arrive so we got to pick which one we wanted. They are assigned as you come in. We choose the one overlooking the wave pool.

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My opinion was that it was totally worth the money. We were two couples so split between us it was $75 each for privacy and seclusion and shade. And here was the big kicker. As is typical in Florida this time of year there was a mid-day thundershower. There was lightening close enough (within 15 miles) to shut down the slides. When this happens they make all guests take cover. And there is not a lot of cover. We were allowed to stay in our cabana and with the sides down it was completely rain-proof. All our stuff stayed dry.

During this time I had to go to restroom and let me tell you it was like visiting the steerage level on the Titanic. Women and children were crammed into the bathroom to stay out of the storm and it was nuts. I had to fight my way in and go and fight my way out. Many people choose to leave the park rather than deal with it.

We spent the money for the guaranteed shade but turned out the value was in the shelter from the storm.

Now onto the slides…

Dolphin Plunge

The marquee slide is the slide that goes through the dolphin pool with a clear tube. It has the longest line and there is no other thing to say except skip it. The slide is a closed tube and you are totally in the dark until  you hit the clear tube at which point you shoot through the dolphin pool for about 1.5 seconds and if you blink you’ll miss it. A total and complete disappointment. Not worth the time you spend in line at all.

Whanau Way

These are four slides (two mirror images) that you use a tube to go down in. They were fun. I had a better time going down with two of us on the float – I just have more fun with a partner. We went down all four and they are very similar and worth the climb. Later in the day the link for these became really short which is good but that meant you had to climb the tower almost all at once which was embarrassingly winding for my 41 year old self.

Tassie’s Twiters

Or as we called them the toilet bowls.. ’cause that’s what they look like. First off don’t be total dorks like we were and walk all over the place looking for how to get in line. You have to get in the Loggerhead Lane current and walk or float through the water to get to the start of the line. After that you take either a single or a double float up with you and there are two to choose from. We rode both, the blue was better. Everyone seems to get stuck on the bottom of the green before going down the second tube.  Here is video of other people doing the green

 

And here is even more video of us going down the green one – please ignore my big ol white thighs.

Walhalla Wave

This is one of the two that are done on actual rafts (they haul the rafts up there for you). You can have up to 4 people in the raft but th
e max weight is 600 lbs. We quickly did the match and decided that 200 each for the men and 100 each for the ladies left very few adults that were going to go in 4s. We went in couples. I have video of this but it didn’t upload to Flickr correctly so if you really want to see it check back on Flickr page soon.

Hoo Roo Run

This is the second raft slide. Max of three people on this one. Again we went in couples. It’s basically a straight run with three levels. You feel like your catching air on each bump. I was completely backwards the whole time so this video is essentially my husband screaming like a little girl while I tape his toe.

Taumata Racer

Hands down the best slide and the line moves really fast since 8 racers go at a time. Try all 4 color tubes since each one is a little different in the curve. We repeated this one the most.

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Here’s another

Big Surf Shores and Cut Back Cove

These are the two wave pools. We didn’t realize until later in the day that they are two different levels of wave. I kind of thought the one outside our cabana was sort of wimpy which made sense after we found the other one was more active. The calmer one would be great for smaller kids who would get overwelmed by actual waves as it just sort of creates swells.

Here’s some video of the bigger waves.

Roa’s Rapids

I saved the best for last… This was absolutely our favorite part. It’s your basic lazy river kicked up to a strong current. An adult can stand in it but it takes effort. A child could not stand in it. They have life vests of all sizes and you put on on and let the current take you for a ride. It’s awesome.

I laughed my hinny off the first time or two around because it was just so fun. Probably as close to the feeling weightless as you can get here down on earth.

 

 

Okay now for the Parent View

We didn’t take the kids with us because frankly my kids aren’t ready for a water park with this much challenge. But here’s a couple of pictures of the kids sections. One thing I would say is that if you have kids that you need to keep an eye on, forget the cabanas – they are no where near the kid area and if you are going to have to keep your children in your sites you’ll never sit in it. There are some very nice shady areas near the kid area but you’d need to get there very early to get those chairs.

 

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There is also a smaller kid area for the toddler types

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Perfect Camera for Summer

Last year I bought a new “purse” camera to bring along with me on a daily basis because bringing the big Nikon DSLR just doesn’t make sense all the time. I bought a Casio Exilim EX-Z77 and ended up being pretty disappointed. I never loved it but I chalked that up to being spoiled by my D50. As time went by I noticed the pictures were getting less and less sharp until finally this spring it got to where I might has well have been using a disposal camera from the drug store.

I plan on calling Casio and seeing if they will do something to make it right since I’ve had it less than a year but frankly I’m not holding out a lot of hope and have decided to move on.

Last year at Disney we noticed a lady in the pool with a waterproof digital camera and the idea has been sticking with me since then. We are in and out of pools and beaches and all kinds of wet situations so I thought it might be worth looking into.  After doing a little research we decided to go for the Olympus Stylus 790SW 7.1MP Waterproof Digital Camera and boy is this baby sweet!

It’s waterproof, shockproof, freeze proof, dust proof, sand proof, worry proof. After reading the reviews on Amazon I was excited about the idea that not only did I not have to worry about the kids dropping it if they tried to use it.

After giving it a test run today I’m pretty excited about it. We took all kinds of fun pictures while in the pool. And I have to say that it’s incredibly fun to be able to have the camera in the pool with you and not sweat getting splashed.

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And maybe the best part is the ability to take underwater video. How fun is that!! Check this out:

 

Look for more water shots as the summer goes on.

Why You Don’t Need Photoshop

Don’t get me wrong I love Photoshop. I’ve used it for years both at work and at home. I love it. But it’s complicated and it’s expensive and let’s face.. not that easy to learn unless you’re willing to sit down and spend a lot of time with it. As the guy who does the You Suck At Photoshop videos likes to say “You’re only using about $70.00 worth of Photoshop” if you’re the average Joe.

I also have Photoshop Elements which is the scaled down, less expensive version. And I like it too. I especially love the drag and drop photo tagging feature. And it’s ability to organize your tags into groups is awesome. That right there was worth the price of admission for me. But I still used Photoshop proper for editing my actual photos because I felt like Elements was a little limiting when I had the full deal at my disposal.

Then I discovered Microsoft’s Live Photo Gallery and I’ve found myself converted. First off the best part was that it’s FREE. Free. No Money. Nada. Zero.

At first I just looked at it as a possible alternative to Elements for organizing and tagging. In that arena it stood up okay, not great but okay. You drag and drop but in the opposite direction (photo to tag rather than tag to photo) so that was just something that took a little getting used to. A big drawback was that you can’t organize the tags and I use ALOT of tags. Again something I had to get used to.

But it did do something things better like navigation and the fact that it writes the tags to the file automatically where as you have to remember to do that as an extra step in Elements. In the end I found myself using it more and more rather than opening Elements. But I was still cleaning up my photos in Photoshop.

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Then one day I just needed to correct a quick red-eye issue in a photo that I wanted to quickly email and I had Photo Gallery already open. I thought to myself.. “I bet there is a quick red-eye tool here somewhere let me look”.. and for the first time I clicked on the “Fix” button.

A handy little menu opened up on the right and I’ve been giggling every since. See I’m a mom, and I have a fancy Nikon D50 with lots of fancy options that I never use because well I’m a mom. And my kids don’t stand still long enough for me to tinker with exposure and shutter speed and what not. If I did that I’d miss the shot. I leave it on Automatic and hope for the best. I depend on Photoshop or something like it to correct lighting, exposure, red eye and a whole host of other sins in post production.

So I’m pretty good at Photoshop, I’ve taken classes and I have lots of fancy Actions that help me along the way. But what I found in Photo Gallery has kept me from having to even open Photoshop unless I’m just in the mood to play around.

Check this out. It has Exposure and Histogram adjustments controlled by little sliders right there on the screens so you can adjust the Brightness, Contrast, Shadows, and Highlights with just the click and wiggle of the mouse. So Before SOOC:

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After: All I had to do was move the sliders on the Histogram (minus the 6 or 7 clicks this would have taken in Photoshop and viola – way better shot of the butterflies in the cage. AND.. this is HUGE to me .. you can set it to so that once you’re done playing it will automatically saves your changes when you click over to the next picture. Gone of the dozen freaking steps/clicks it takes Photoshop to save the changes you’ve made. WHOOT!!

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Let’s try it again of a different photo
Before SOOC – dark and yucky right..

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Blam – without extraneous menu selections .. ON ONE SCREEN I’ve just adjusted the histogram and also opened the detail option and increased the sharpness with a little slider as well.

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There is also a color correction tool, a cropping tool, and a red eye tool all right there in one place. Easy to use and requires very little experience to master. And remember it’s free. And I love the fact that you can move from picture to picture with just a click of the arrows at the bottom.

Can I erase the bruises on her arm? No. If I wanted to do that I’d need to go over to Photoshop but you know what. Those bruises are part of her charm, Pudd is always banged up from play, and I do stuff like that about 2% of the time. (Generally it’s a snot issue with the 2 year old)

So I’ve now found my routine is to dump my card into the computer into the appropriate folder (I organize by year and month) and then do a quick run through with Live Photo Gallery of each photo tagging and making orientation, exposure and other adjustments quickly on the fly. I can do 50 pictures in just a few minutes versus the hour or more it would have taken with Photoshop. Let’s face as Mom’s we just don’t have that kind of time.

Do I still open some up on Photoshop and do fun things… absolutely. But that just it, it’s now for fun. I don’t “need” it for average everyday edit and correction. And that makes it all the more fun to play with when I have time to sit down and use it to it’s fullest.

So yes for Snot Removal you need Photoshop but for average everyday pump up the volume make my pictures look better editing…. Live Photo Gallery rocks.