Thursday, August 28, 2014

Operation Underground Railroad, what it is and how you can help

Tonight I coached the Cam's soccer team.  It was their first game, and an awesome little girl named Aubrey led their team to its victory.

Although let's be honest it was mostly just a bunch of cute three and four year olds running around.  Like crazy children.

Then I came home, put the kids in bed, and sat down to read some of the blogs I like to read.

One of them is NieNie Dialogues.  

Her post was about an organization called the Operation Underground Railroad.  Well, one click led to another- as it often does- and I suddenly found myself reading about the story of a man named Timothy Ballard and his experience as he worked as a Special Agent Undercover Operative for the United States government.

Please click here to read his story.  Because I did.  And all I could think about as I read his experience were those cute little three and four year olds running around on the soccer field.  Beautiful, precious, and oh so innocent.  And I cried.  Hard.

Because if you let yourself stop and think about the horrible things that go on in this world, to beautiful and innocent children, all you can do is cry.  And pray.  And cry some more.  And hug your own children a little tighter and try to calm your heart.

But you can also help by donating to this organization. And by reminding yourself that despite all the horrible in the world, there IS good, too.

So if you can, please help..  Please visit their website.  You can read about their missions, their promise, and how they work within the law to rescue children from child slavery.  I hope that it touches your heart the way it did mine. 

Also, I was not compensated in any way for this post.  Except for that in writing this and maybe telling someone about this organization who didn't know about it, I feel like I'm doing something to help. 

Also here's a video you can watch about the organization:


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Synchronized swimming, because you're never too old for choreographed moves and super cool goggles

Sometimes it's completely necessary to make a synchronized swimming video.

Because you're never too old for choreographed moves and super cool goggles.

So what do ya think?  Are we cruising our way towards Olympic gold?  I'd like to think so.  And personally, my favorite move was the random desperate kicks that looked kind of like we were drowning.  Those took skill, I tell ya.

I also particularly enjoyed when the kids yelled at us from the deck that we were getting them wet.  That was all they seemed to care about.  

Seeing as how summer is heading towards being over, I guess we can't really challenge everyone to create their own synchronized swimming video. . . but I mean it's something you should think about.  Because I'm pretty sure all you moms out there have got some sweet moves, too. . .

And in case you want to see a still picture (which I'm mostly adding for technical bloggy reasons). . .

Oh those goggles :) 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Trick to Make Mealtime with Kids Magical

Breakfast… Lunch... Dinner...

Breakfast… Lunch... Dinner…

 "Mom, I need a drink."

"Mom, I'm hungry, can I have a snack?"

"Mooom, is it time to eat?"

I feel like my kids are constantly wanting to eat.

Until, of course, that moment we actually sit down to the table with a meal I have spent time preparing. 

Then, all of a sudden...


NO ONE is hungry anymore.

One evening as I had the table arranged with matching colorful plasticware, and the dinner spread down the middle, I called the kids to eat. Like a stampede of cows they came running and before they could even see what was in the pans the discouraging words started flying…

"Mom, I hate beef. It is so gross!"

"Mom, green food is for animals."

"I'm not going to eat any of this nasty food."

Then, all of a sudden….


These words came flying out of my mouth, with a big smile attached, and a sing songy tune…

"Eat what you don't like first!"

DUH! This is the same trick I use for myself.
Why not share my tricks with my kids.

Since that moment when I was literally hit over the head with a hammer, our mealtimes have gone smoothER (emphasis on the -er). That simple little trick that I shared with my kids that evening works.

It actually WORKS!

It works for breakfast.
It works for lunch.
And it works for dinner.

Lately at mealtimes instead of hearing what they don't like I hear what they do like.
What my kids are going to save to eat last.

So here it is.
Here is a song to share with your kids at dinner tonight…

Hold that last note out for a few extra beats and watch the amazement on your kid's faces as mealtime becomes magic time!

What are some tricks you have or could share with your kids to make every day moments go a little bit smoothER??!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Kids Academy Apps Review

The kids and I spent a lazy Saturday morning doing some learning.
We sat on the couch together, pulled out the iPad and learned while playing games.
I love when my kids learn without even knowing it!

We cuddled and played around with 3 new games:

This app helps kids recognize their letters with tracing and games. It allows you to chose which letters you want to work on, uppercase or lowercase. While working on the letters it tells you a word that starts with that letter and then helps the child trace the letter showing where to start and where to draw the line. Then it gives your child the opportunity to trace the letter on their own. 

My 19 month old loved having moms help with this game in guiding her finger as she traced the letters. She loved the sounds and pictures the app made as she traced the letters.

My 4 year old enjoyed tracing the letters too but she enjoyed playing the other games more. Her favorite game was helping the doggy get through the mazes.

This app is also great for my 6 year old. He can recognize and write his letters so it was good for him to play with the other games it offers. He liked playing the game where you help the dog match the rhyming words.

This app has fun graphics that kids love interacting with. Our only problem was tracing and keeping your finger right where they wanted it to be (in the maze games, especially). 

This was my 4 year old's favorite game. Being a bug lover she loved tracing the numbers and collecting a jar of lightning bugs. 

As mom I like how the app says the number before the kids trace with their finger, so they are hearing the number, seeing the number and using their finger to trace the number. This app allows you to trace the same number a few times before moving onto the next number. My daughter would say the number while tracing it. As mom I also liked how it didn't just let her sloppily rub her finger across the iPad, it held her accountable for staying within the lines and tracing the number correctly.

Excellent app for your preschooler learning their numbers.

This app has both of the previous games plus more.

My 4 year old enjoyed playing around with the alphabet game. It introduces the uppercase and lowercase letter and then has pictures that begin with that letter that your child can click on. This game allows your child to hear the sound of each letter many times.  

Just a Touch of Crazy was compensated for this review, but all opinions are my own.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Here's why PicMonkey is a blogger's best friend!

Jen from Jenerally Informed asked us to share a PicMonkey tutorial as part of the awesome blogging stay-cation she is a part of.  Be sure to head over there and check out her fabulous posts!  And this post, too, since we've shared it with her, and now we're publishing it here.  Because we didn't want to think of anything else to publish today.  Okay?  Okay. 

So what can you do with PicMonkey?


Okay, well not really anything.  But as far as graphics and editing pictures and making awesome buttons and headers and pinnable images. . . well ANYTHING!

So it's pretty understandable why PicMonkey is a blogger's best friend.  And one of the most fabulous things of all:  lots of the features are FREE.

And if they're not free, then they're a part of the Royale subscription, which is $33 a YEAR.  Not too shabby. 

So Jen asked us to share a PicMonkey tutorial, and the question was where to even start?  So I'll be including links to some of the tutorials we've done at Just a Touch of Crazy, plus also give you some pointers on the tools PicMonkey offers that I think are the best for bloggers.

PicMonkey is great for making printables.  And I love making printables.

Also you can play around with adding textures and images as the background for different prints.  Click here to see one of the most popular prints we've made with PicMonkey.   

Emily also shared this tutorial on making your own birthday invitation.  

You can use these techniques to make all sorts of different collages to display in your home or for images for your blog. 

Need some tips on editing photos for your blog to make them stand out?  Click on the image to check out these tutorials:

And I think the greatest tool that PicMonkey has for bloggers is the Overlay tool. 

There are quite a few free overlays you can add, or some that require the Royale membership.  Or you can add your own overlay.  Which is awesome.  That's basically just picking any image that you have on your computer and adding it to whatever image you're making on PicMonkey.  The possibilities with that tool are endless.

Once I made these images,

by opening up a blank image and adding the Jack as a  separate overlay.  Then I added the stick figure as another separate overlay.  I actually drew the stick figure on a piece of paper and the plan was to scan the image into the computer.  But my scanner was broken.  So I took a picture of my drawing and used that as my image instead.  The word bubble is a PicMonkey supplied overlay, as is the heart. 

To make this image:

 I drew that lovely mom in Paint (I know, aren't my art skills so wonderful?) and saved it as a JPEG.  Then I opened up a blank image, added the mom JPEG as an overlay, and added the words.

(You can read the Jack story here, and see what crazy things I say here)

You can also use the overlay to swap out heads and people or add people into scenes, all because the overlay tool has the ability to erase whatever part of the overlay you don't want.

Click here for a tutorial on how to do switch heads with PicMonkey, which can be applied to a lot of different kinds of images you might want to create. 

I used the overlay to make all of these:

Dora and me,

I was also once making this Father's Day print (here's just a part of it.  To see the full print in the post click here)

and I wanted some of the words to look like handwriting.  I couldn't quite find the font I wanted, so instead I hand wrote each word in Paint, saved each word as a JPEG and added them in as separate overlays.  Kind of time consuming, but it gave the print the look I was searching for. 

See what I mean about endless possibilities with the overlay tool?  I love it.  I might marry it :)

Okay, so I hope that some of the information has been helpful!  

Also we are affiliated with PicMonkey.  If you do decide to upgrade to Royale and use any of our links to get there, that would be pretty awesome. 

Happy blogging! 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

We're track stars! How to switch out heads on images with PicMonkey.

Emily and I are track stars. Perhaps that's a little something you didn't know about us.

Okay obviously not really.  Obviously that's just our heads on some girls who really are track stars.  These girls.

But with PicMonkey you can pretty much pretend you're a track star.  Or whatever else you want to be.  It's really easy.  Here's how you can use PicMonkey and the Overlay tool to add your head, or someone else's head. . . or feet or hands or anything, to an image. 

First I opened up the image I wanted to use.  The lovely track stars. Then I added a cropped image of just my head as an overlay.

Then I switched to the eraser option and started erasing away everything but my face.  And some of my hair.

Then I positioned my head into place.  You can even rotate your floating head.

Then I added Emily's head.  And erased all but her face and hair.

I used the sideways flip button thing (probably not what it's really called) to have her looking the other way.

Then I positioned her head and touched up with the eraser tool.

And then I saved this image:

Then I re-opened the saved image into PicMonkey and changed it into black and white so that the skin colors wouldn't be so obviously different.  And also cloned out some of "Emily's" brown hair so that just her blonde hair was showing.


We're track stars.  And you can be, too.

Also I used the same techniques when I put my face on the face of Lady Mary when I wrote about how you can pretend you live in Downton Abbey.

P.S.  This is a great way to switch out heads of uncooperative children who won't all smile at the same time in a family picture. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

How to add a splash of color to black and white photos using PicMonkey

picmonkey black and white

This is a fun little trick that I love to use.  And it's really really easy!  Which is definitely a plus. 

First head to PicMonkey and open up the picture you want to edit. 

In this example the picture that I've chosen to edit has already had some other things done to it, just FYI.  Anyway, if the picture is ready to be changed to black and white, click on the Effects tab, and all the wonderful PicMonkey effects will appear.

Click on Black and White, and the black and white tool box will open and another toolbox will appear by the image.  The paint tool box is what will allow you to change selected parts of the picture back to color.  See the two arrows I've drawn so beautifully below?  If the effect box is blue, you will be painting in with the black and white effect.  To make sure you will be painting with the original, make sure the original box is blue.

You can adjust the brush size as you see fit and also can zoom in using that little ball rolly thing on your mouse or if you look in the picture below you can see that little part I've circled.  Click on that and it will allow you to zoom in closer as well.   Also sorry I don't know the proper name for that little rolly thing on the mouse. . . do you?

Also see how I've made the brush bigger?  I can use the bigger brush as I'm painting in the middle of the flower, when I'm not worried about going out of the edges of the flower.  As I get closer to the outside of the flower, I'll make my brush smaller and also zoom in even more.

You can also adjust the brush hardness and the brush strength.  I usually just keep the hardness pretty close to the left and the brush strength at full strength.

If you accidentally mess up and paint some of the original where you still wanted it to be black and white, no worries.  Just change the paint tool box to have the effect part in blue, and then you will be painting with the effect.   So you can just paint back over where you messed up.

When you're satisfied with the look of your image, just hit apply.

Save your image (I always save it with a different name so I'll still have the original on my computer) and you're done!


 And yes I realize that her  face is out of focus and that the flower is in focus.  It was not on purpose.  But then I liked it :)

I've also used this trick for these pictures:

You can have a lot of fun with it!

Also, we are affiliates with PicMonkey, so if you happen to sign up for the Royale service using these links, well that would be pretty awesome.

And also I did these pictures while I was signed in to my Royale account, but the black and white feature on PicMonkey is FREE!  And another cool thing is that you can use these same techniques when you use most of the PicMonkey filters.  So head over there and play around!  Just make sure you have nothing else on the agenda for today. . . because you might get sucked in for hours. . .