Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Making Time For Creativity

So often I find myself thinking how much I miss just picking up my sketch pad and drawing something just for the fun of drawing. With modern technology I find myself drawing more and more digitally while my sketch pad collects dust.

Of course there are many advantages to drawing digitally; it is so much easier to erase; no clean up needs to be done in order to use as line art in digital projects and the list goes on.

However, the satisfaction one feels as the lines on the paper begin to form the image one wishes to draw seems so much more personal than when drawing digitally. Similar to the difference between turning the pages of a book while curled up in an overstuffed easy chair and scrolling through a digital book.

As I am sure others experience with life's hectic pace it is easy to put off things that don't seem to be all that important. So instead of just waiting till I have some free time to pull out the sketch pad I have decided to make time for this type of creativity and have arranged for my youngest daughter and I to meet with a friend each week on Friday for a few hours of fun and creativity. Last Friday was our first art date and this sketch. I did this sketch of our friend during the time we were drawing with our friend last Friday.
Do you schedule a special time for fun creative activities?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Who We Are

Val just finished creating this short video to tell people a little about our company.
 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Making the best of a winter cold

While I am not real fond of freezing cold winds or blinding blizzards I do love winter. The clean crisp air fills me with excitement and anticipation. With the holidays approaching there is always a great deal of work to do and so many exciting and memorable times to preserve, so there is no time to become ill. Yet that is exactly where I found myself this week. Stuck indoors with a nasty bug.

To me it was obvious this was the perfect time for me to review our company's Cafepress shop and how it might better serve our customers. I am very excited with the changes to the shop.

Our shop now contains the following:

Seasonal Items Section:
Here you can find ornaments, postcards, calendars and so many different gift items all featuring beautiful seasonal photographic designs.


Regional Items Section:
 The Regional Section offers Mid-West themed prints and products with designs featuring regional photography and artwork that captures the spirit of the region.







Art & Photography Sections:
This section is still under construction, but will soon include many beautiful photographic and traditional hand drawn designs. We will also be including a section offering many of the motivational and inspirational designs shared here digitally in poster or framed prints.


I invite you to stop in to our shop and look around. To make it easy for you to find our shop I have added a link to the shop here on the left side bar in the Contact Me section. What do you like to do when you are stuck indoors because of winter flu bug?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Holiday Greetings

With the holidays upon us it is too easy to get all tangled up in the preparations and forget to embrace the joy, love and laughter that can fill our hearts and homes and make for wonderful memories. This year I am trying to avoid those old traps by spending more time experiencing many of the fun memorable events hosted by our community.

Last night was the kick off of the season with our city's annual Parade of lights. It was a wonderful parade and filled my heart to see so many families with young ones smiling and laughing.  After going through the many photos I took I decided this one was perfect for a fun Holiday Greeting card.

As my gift to all my wonderful world wide web friends I would like to personalize  this Holiday Greeting for you to use digitally, just comment on this post and let me know what you would like written in the text block.

example of personalization:

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sweet Liana: Photo Session

Just the other afternoon I had the privilege of photographing this lovely young woman. Although she is rather shy and felt a bit awkward at first she soon relaxed and had fun.




After the photo session we discussed options for a photo collage. She picked a number of photos and asked if I could create a background that was black with butterflies and stars scattered across the background. Here is the design I came up with for her.
This background was so much fun to create I do believe I will play with the idea a bit more to see what I come up with.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Poetry: Lions Love

I just discovered that my inspiration for this art piece passed away a while back.
This post is dedicated to my dear friend.
 
 
Lions' Love

As the lion slumbers
the little girl plays.
He will protect her
All through the days.

On the sand near the ocean
where they laughed with delight.
On the sand near the ocean
where love grew every night.

As the waves crash the shore
the young woman cries.
Who will protect her
now the lion has gone.

On the sand near the Ocean
where he gave his last fight.
On the sand near the ocean
where she dreamt every night.

As the carnation withers
the old woman cried.
Her dreams can't protect her
now the lion has died.

On the sand near the ocean
in the golden sun shine.
On the sand near the ocean
where her memories entwine.

As the memories unveil
with each smile relived.
Her memories protect her
because the lion lived.

Nita Davis Nov. 4, 2011
In loving memory RIP MRB

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Website Remodel

I hope everyone had a fantastic Halloween and got tons of photos to remember all the fun. Before I get into all the excitement I have had recently I want to let you know that now through midnight Friday Nov. 4th  Artistix Network LLC is running a Halloween costume contest on our Facebook page, come join in the fun for a chance to win a beautiful memory photo. 

Now about the last two weeks. They have been really wild and exciting for me. In addition to having one of my photographs used as an audio book cover photo by a best selling author! Read about it here. And preparing six art pieces for the Mayors' Art show! Read about that here. I finally managed to figure out how to relaunch Artistix Network LLC's new improved website!

I have a new found appreciation for web page design. Designing the site was actually fun and enjoyable, it was figuring out how to publish the site to the web that really sent me in circles. I am so happy I finally got Dreamweaver synced to my web server. Now I can focus on creating photographic art, although I do still need to add more samples and the large views of the samples to the site. Now that I have it set up it shouldn't be a difficult task at all.

I would love to hear your opinion of our new website, so please pop on over and check it out.  With the the launch of the new site and the busy Holiday season rapidly approaching we are making plans for some great specials at Artistix Network LLC.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Fantasy Art: Woodland Fantasy

I completed the first composite art piece in my Woodland Fantasy Series. This piece is titled 'The Summons'. I chose this name because Mother Nature is calling her sprites, Autumn, Summer and Spring to join her in awaiting the coming of Winter. This art piece combines four different photographs. Because this artwork will be printed in an 11x14 print I am showing both the full image and a zoom so you can get a better idea how it will look printed. When you click on each they will show larger and the zooms will show as they will print.

The Summons 1
Original composite photograph no special image or digital effects added.
Photographic Print with no special effects
Zoom of center section so you can see what it will look like printed.
Although I do love the way it turned out, I couldn't resist adding a few special effects. The only problem is now I am not sure which I want to print first.

The Summons 2
For this one I applied special effects to deepen the tone and give it more of a painted look.
Full image

Zoom of The Summons 2

The Summons 3
 Here I was going for an even greater fantasy feel.
It is really hard to see the beauty of this one at such a reduced size.

Zoom of The Summons 3, click to enlarge and see this as it will appear printed.

I would love to hear what you think of this art piece and which you like best.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Art, Improving the Quality of Life

I am sharing this post both here and on my Sioux Falls Photo blog.

It is widely accepted that art enriches both the lives of the artist and the lives of those that are exposed to the art.
  • Imagine if you would slipping away from the noise of the city and the demands of everyday life to spend a long lunch in quiet solitude, meditating or just contemplating the beauty around you. 
  • Imagine the sense of accomplishment in learning a new skill. 
  • Imagine the joy and laughter that can be found in listening to a musical or theatrical performance. 
  • Imagine the pride and boost in self esteem of a child returning from their first time at camp. 
Music, poetry/literature, visual and preforming arts all provide both the artist and the individual exposed to the art with a means of emotional release and enrichment, which in turn improves the overall quality of life for both. 

As one of the top 100 places to live (according to RelocateAmerica) and 2nd on Forbes' list of best places for business and careers Sioux Falls obviously understands that lives are enriched through exposure to all forms of artistic endeavors.  A cursory look at the many cultural and artistic attractions makes it is easy to see the community's drive for artistic excellence. Yet since the closing of the Horse Barn Arts Center earlier this year venues for emerging artists are virtually non existent.

To meet this need The Retreat at Pointer's Ridge a non-profit arts organization is proposing the development of the regions first artist's retreat. "The Retreat at Pointer's Ridge offers a unique gathering place designed to stimulate imagination for individuals and organizations seeking to improve outcomes in life, health and commerce through artistic expression" *
This river creates one border of the property
Today I had the privilege of touring the proposed site for the retreat which is located less than fifteen minutes north of Sioux Falls. It was very exciting to see the potential this site has to offer. Nestled in a wooded area adjacent to the river this location offers a peaceful setting away from the distractions of the city in which to pursue and develop artistic talents. This former Jaycee Camp although overgrown and run down still holds a great amount of charm, beauty and potential.
Here is the A-frame and a view of the cabins, behind which are the woods.
With the renovation of the existing facilities the retreat will have eight cabins for overnight stays, an A-frame with loft and a large central lodge with fireplace, piano, restrooms, showers and a commercial kitchen as well as other amenities. In addition to these some of the improvements they hope to add are a contemplation garden, hiking trails, outdoor fire pit and playground.
Just past the cabins and to the right of the central meeting hall is this small playground area

Although they look small the cabins will easily sleep 4 to 6 campers
These photos show only a small portion of the 23 acre site which sits on a gently slopping hillside. I was happy to hear that there are plans to restore the many wall panels in the main lodge which contain artwork by staff and visitors from the 30 years it was in operation by the Jaycee's. Unfortunately I didn't take my tripod with me so the photos I took inside the lodge were blurry.  To learn more about the vision and plans for the artist's retreat please visit The Retreat at Pointer's Ridge on Facebook.

* Excerpt from The Retreat at Pointer's Ridge mission statement.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Family Recipes: Mango Salsa

In all my talk of preserving special family memories I almost forgot one of the greatest treasures that are passed down from one generation to the next. RECIPES!

I would like to write out the recipes for dishes that were taught to me by my Grandmother and my Papi, but there is a problem. I was taught to make the dishes by taste and not with exact amounts of different ingredients. So Today I am going to try to share with you the recipe for Mango Salsa my Papi taught me to make. If you try it let me know how you like it.


Fresh ingredients make the best salsa. Here is a list of what I used today:
3 Roma tomatoes
3 Habanero peppers
3 Serrano medium sized peppers
1 Red Fresno pepper
( These peppers are all hot and will make a fiery hot salsa, you can use milder peppers for a milder salsa. Click here for a visual guide for peppers)
1 ripe Mango
1 Medium yellow onion
2 8oz cans tomato sauce
12 oz apple juice (My Papi uses beer, water or fruit juice it just depends on his mood and what is available)
Cilantro (about 1 inch diameter hand full, with 3/4 of the stems removed)
Cumin (about 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons)
Garlic (fresh is preferred but I was out so I used 1 1/2 teaspoons of garlic powder)
Salt (about 1/2 teaspoon)

Finely dice or chop the onion and peppers and place in large mixing bowl. You can do this in a food processor or blender or use a vegetable chopper. I prefer my salsa chunky so use the vegetable chopper as it doesn't chop as fine as the others. DO NOT hold and chop the peppers as they will cause your skin to burn.

Peal and cut mango into small chunks. Place tomato sauce, apple juice (or other liquid) and the mango chunks in blender or food processor. Process until smooth. Add Cilantro, cumin, garlic salt and half of the chopped peppers. Process again until smooth, then pour back into large mixing bowl with the remainder of the chopped onion and peppers. For chunky salsa, finely chop the tomatoes and add them to the salsa. If you prefer smooth salsa add the chopped tomatoes in to the blender at the same time as the spices. Ladle salsa into jars and chill. 

Walla! Mango Salsa!
Sorry this picture isn't to great, taken with my cell phone
Does your family pass down special recipes?
Has your family put together their own recipe book?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Self Empowerment Through Inspirational Quotes


I was looking for an inspirational saying for today and came across this quote on a  great blog. One of my personal sayings is 'hold on to hope, for in hope anything is possible'.  I believe self empowerment is vital to individual fulfillment and happiness, and the Warrior Mind Coach definitely understands how to achieve self empowerment. The blog post not only contains 40 great inspirational quotes like the one featured here but goes into detail on how they can be used to promote self empowerment.

May your hopes be realized and then some.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Woodland Fantasy Project

Today turned out to be the perfect day to shoot the photos for my woodland fantasy project. I want to thank Mother Nature and her woodland sprites, Spring, Summer and Autumn for letting me photograph them. Here is a sneak peak at some of the photos for the project.



Oh I can't forget a big thank you to little K for being such a good sport!
I am anxious to get to work sorting through the 800 photographs for just the right ones to create the woodland fantasy multiplicities.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Interview: Anna Deskins, Childrens Book Author

Today I would like to share with you an interview with Anna Deskins, who is the author of a newly released children's book.

Book Cover 'The Adventures of Smitty'
Nita: Anna your children's book, The Adventures of Smitty looks magically. Tell us a little about it and what do you think makes it so special.

Anna: It's the story of a magical island of little creatures called Smilies and the mischievous little main character, Smitty. He's such a naughty boy. Haha!  All the moms and kids I've shared it with have been giving me such a wonderful reaction. I cannot believe it.  I have to tell you how excited I am to finally have a life-long dream come true. Writing The Adventures of Smitty was really about finding a story that I would want to read to my children at night. It has to be exciting but not scary so that my two daughters can go to sleep.  Basically, I was looking for that perfect blend to read to my kids at night and decided, "Why not try writing my own?"

We've had a lot of changes in our life recently, so I want to make sure that when I put my daughters to sleep that they feel safe.  I have short chapters because I know how busy we moms are but if you can just sacrifice 5 minutes at night reading to your kids, it makes a world of difference.  Your kids will never forget it. And although we're running around the whirlwind of life, our kids grow up so fast, and that time that we'd rather finish watching what happened in our favorite soap opera instead of reading to our kids will never come again.  I hope that The Adventures of Smitty and books like it help moms do exactly that.


Nita: I love the idea that this week your book is only 99 cents. Being recently divorced, can you tell us how have you been able to continue writing while at the same time going through such a major change?

Anna: Yes, it is by far one of the most challenging points in my life. To see a marriage you thought would last forever to not last forever was difficult for the two of us. I really learned a lot about myself and most importantly, it's brought me closer to my daughters.  I think that's what really motivated me to finish this children's book no matter what. When you're going through changes in your life like this, you need something to hold on to. There's a part of you that wants to prove that you can make it, that you will be a success even if it's not with the partner you originally imagined building a life with.  I had to keep writing, for my kids. I want to show them that they have to keep strong, no matter what.

We as women, as moms really need to stick together to support each other and our dreams. We're living in an age when I think we're finally realizing, although we want love, the men in our life aren't the answer to everything. We have to stand up on our own two feet and keep going. True love will happen, but until then, we have to keep moving forward. Our children depend on us and we depend on us.


Nita: In addition to being a children's book author, you're also a small business owner. How do you juggle taking care of two daughters and at the same time running a business?

Anna: Yes, I am a fashion designer and have a retail store. Any type of creativity is what I'm passionate about. That's why writing The Adventures of Smitty was so important to me.  Let me tell you, running a small business in today's economy isn't easy especially when raising two girls at the same time. But somehow, it seems someone's watching over me because my dreams are coming true no matter what. To have that many moms glowing about my children's book, means so much to me. And I know my girls are proud.

Nita: When do you ever have time to write?

Anna: You mean, in between laundry, running a business, chasing my girls around the house, cleaning the house, and flying back and forth from Miami to New York? Haha? That's one thing I've learned, when you really want to do something, you find a way.  Things fall into place if you just go for it and that's what I want to encourage all the moms who are reading this right now. Whatever your goal is, you can do it. Don't let the challenges in your personal life stop you from going for your dreams.  Just go for it and it's almost magical how things fall into place.


Nita: Where can we get a copy of "The Adventures of Smitty"?

Anna: Right now, it's available online by going to: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/94655 You can also visit my website:http://www.AnnaDeskins.com where you can read more about my writing process, my recommendations for other books and my own adventures in Mommyhood.

I'm so grateful for your support and the support I'm getting from so many wonderful moms who dream of writing children's books one day too.  Writing The Adventures of Smitty has been such an emotional experience for me, a true journey as I was going through so many changes while writing it.  It's truly been a blessing in my life.  It, along with my daughters, and that guy upstairs have really pulled me through a challenging time.

Nita: Anna, thank you for sharing a bit about yourself and your book with us. I am looking forward to reading The Adventures of Smitty and wish the best for you and your girls. To all with little kids and grand-kids I hope you will check out Anna's book. If we can support a fellow mom by getting a copy of The Adventures of Smitty today, and inspire the children in our lives to love reading how great is that?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Preserving Vacation Memories

I am a photo junky, that is right I can never seem to get enough of taking photos. This does at times present a dilemma. Especially when it comes to deciding which vacation photos will get printed and which will only be preserved digitally. Sorting through all the photos can take a bit of time, but it is a great opportunity to relive fun family adventures.

Last month we took two fun mini vacations. During our one day trip to the zoo I took over 300 photos and my daughter took another 200. I posted just a few of the photos in my Test Run post.  Using eighteen of our favorite photos from the trip I put together this memory photo to hang on the family memory wall.


Each of the kids will pick out up to twenty five of their favorite photos so that we can do memory photos for them to put in their scrapbooks.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Every Day's a Special Day

Memory photos are great for more than just special occasions. Here is one I did for a mother of her young son with photos taken during a trip shopping at the mall.

Monday, September 26, 2011

How To Choose A Memory Collage Design Artist

I recently had the privilege to view a new local collage artists' work. While it was beautifully styled, I noticed a number of flaws in the workmanship that reduced the overall quality of the artwork. Yet I realized it would be easy to mistake the expensively displayed samples for high quality art pieces if one did not know what to look for in a professional digitally designed photo collage, or did not take the time to look closely at the photo manipulation in the designs. Because I feel so strongly that everyone's memories deserve the highest care I would like to give a few tips on what to look for when choosing a Memory Collage Artist.

To start off here are two almost identical memory photos, one is professional quality while the other is of amateur quality. Personally I don't care for the faded image backgrounds but for this example I decided to use the same basic style that inspired this post. You may or may not see the differences even after looking closely, don't worry I will point them out in just a bit.

All images in this post will enlarge when clicked on.
If you click on the enlarged view it will zoom in larger than print size causing some distortion.
Sample #1

Sample #2

When choosing a memory collage artists it is important to find out how your photo will be printed once they have completed the design. Some artists print in house on an inkjet printer, while others use local or online quick labs. To achieve the highest quality you want your memory photo to be printed at a professional photography lab that chemically processes the photographs using archival quality products.  This will ensure your memory photo has the longest possible life span and is the highest  possible resolution print.
You do not want it printed on an inkjet or at a quick lab because:
1) Quick lab prints are printed at a much lower resolution and will not be as sharp as those done by a professional photo lab.
2) Both quick lab and inkjet prints fade faster than professionally processed photographs. Thus the life span is much shorter than a professional photograph. Ink jet prints can begin to fade in as few as five years. Some quick lab prints are not much better, starting to fade in as little as ten years.
I am glad to say the artist I observed does use a professional lab. I'm even pretty sure it is the same lab we use.

Now on to the workmanship. Don't let expensive canvas print samples or fancy framed samples trick you into thinking the artist is experienced or that they are superior quality.

Look very closely at samples of the artists' work.

1. If you will be having some or all of the subjects fully extracted from the original photograph as in the above samples, look closely at how the subject has been extracted.
zoom of sample #1
 If the subject looks like the one above or has a dark smooth edge all the way around, it is a sure sign they have not learned the finer aspects of their craft.
zoom sample #2
In this second example not only has the subject been extracted smoothly and completely but the edges have been blended and given a natural looking shadow along the left side only.

2. Look closely at the different elements of the artwork on the samples, such as frames, fancy designs and any scrapbook style add-on. As for frames there are two things to look for, one is that photos should not extend past the edge of the frame even slightly. The second is that frames should not look like they have been painted or drawn on the flat photograph but should have some dimension to them.

With regard to fancy designs and scrapbook style add-on's it is harder to say what is good and what isn't because this is very subjective. While I prefer the look that is achieved by adding a bit of dimension to at least some of these elements you may not.  However, I do want to point this out because if it is not present in any of the samples you are shown then it is most likely not something the artist is able to achieve. These next two samples will show a little of what I am talking about.

In this section from sample #1 the design elements have just been layered over the photographs creating a flat image such as you would get by making a photocopy of a scrapbook page. Although you just might get a bit more dimension with a photocopy.


In this section from sample #2 you can see that each element pops as if standing out from the background image. So far I have not ran across anyone that prefers the flat look of the above sample over this more polished look, but that doesn't mean one way is right and the other wrong. However, if the artist you choose does not know how to make the style pop you may want to consider finding a different one.

The next examples I would like to show you deal with collages in which multiple photographs are blended together to make your memory photo. The aforementioned artist had only two samples of what I would consider blended collages and in both samples I noticed three of the four most common errors made by beginning collage artists.

In this example I have used the four most common errors made by beginners.
1st is cutting the subject out in an oval with a slightly feathered edge (top left) and placing it on the collage. While this is acceptable when it is part of the design asked for it is not a blended photo collage. 2nd is a sharp extraction of part of the subject. (top right) 3rd is erasing the outer edges with a feathered eraser but leaving an obvious transition between the top image and the background image. (bottom left and right) 4th is poor placement of images limiting ability to blend smoothly. (bottom right)

When the same five photographs are blended together properly the transitions are smoother and it is harder to tell where one photograph begins or ends. 

3. Make sure the artist will include ALL the photos you wish to be in the artwork not just the ones they want to use. Some artists will limit the number of photos because they personally think more than their limit doesn't look good. This is a personal opinion that you as the client should have the right to decide. The artist should let you know however if the quality or number of photographs you are submitting will reduce the overall quality of the finished artwork. They should also let you know how you can get the best quality using your choice of photographs, such as a larger print size or applying special photographic or image effects. Then they should let you decide on whether to included the photos or not. Take for example the center photo in all of the samples to this point. The photo is somewhat blurry, and while a sharper photo would look more like a professional portrait shot and add to the quality of the overall photo the little girls mother still wants that photo as the background. I did add some image effects to the photograph that slightly improved the blur, but only so much can be done to improve a blurry photo.

4. Make sure they will allow you to pick all the elements of your artwork if you should wish too, not just the general theme and color scheme, or in what room you plan to display the artwork. You may be thinking "I'm not an artist, shouldn't I let the artist decide?" I am not saying you should or have to tell them exactly how to do their job. But you should be allowed to say I would like this photo as the background and these ones put in frames or blended or the little girl taken completely out of this photo, or if you want swirls or other added elements. The artist I observed is like many I have seen on line that give the client only minimal say in the overall design of the finished artwork.

These are YOUR MEMORIES and so should reflect YOUR STYLE not the artists' style, unless of course you happen to love the artists' style. To accomplish this the artist should be willing to consult with you about the overall design of your memory photo.  And to ensure your satisfaction the artist should provide you with a proof (either print or digital) and be willing to make at least one change if not more to that proof without additional charges before printing your artwork.


Most memory collage artists' offer only one or maybe two styles of designs and if you know what different styles are available and you like the style they offer then that is great. However, it is good to know what other styles are possible so you can decide which meets your needs best.

To make the styles easier to distinguish between we have created samples using the six basic styles we offer at Artistix Network LLC. A memory photo can be all of one style or can incorporate a number of different styles.




There is one more style I would like to share because although I consider it a blended collage it looks quite different from the traditional blended collages. In this type of blended composite photographic collage some or all of the photographs are merged together as if a double exposure has occurred.

There are many digital collage artists both locally and on line that do beautiful professional high quality work. However, there are many more who produce only amateur quality work and try to pass it off as high quality.  It is my hope that this information will help families and individuals seeking to create a memory photo get a long lasting high quality photo.

I want to thank you for sticking with me through this long post. I considered making it a two part post but breaking the information up just didn't feel right. If you have any questions or need help with a memory photo I am here to help.

If you have found this information helpful and informative please share this with others.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Strength of Time

When Beth at Daily Journey posted a beautiful photo of Crater Lake and asked if anyone had been there I was reminded of this poem.  In the late 80's and early 90's our family had the pleasure of living in southern Oregon, during which time Crater Lake became one of my favorite places to spend a relaxing afternoon. I hope you will enjoy my photo and poem of this gorgeous place.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Test Run

My sister and I want to take a trip to the Black Hills with her two children and my youngest daughter. Eleven year old B and eight year old D both have ADHD and have never been on a trip over an hour long so I thought it best to plan a test run.  The question was where do we take these two monkeys to find out how they will do on a long road trip? The trip to the Black Hills will be a six hour drive so we wanted a drive that would be about half that time. Luckily for us the Omaha Zoo is just about three hours away.

 I do not have DVD players in my van so this was going to have to be somewhat of an old school style trip. With coloring books, crayons, notebooks, pencils, pillows, favorite stuffed animal, lap blankets and few modern amenities [MP3 players and Nintendo DS's] we were just about set. Throw in some snacks and drinks and we were on our way.

The first hour went pretty smooth, but by the hour and a half mark both kids were getting whinny and restless. Thankfully we were just coming into an area that I knew had a small interactive museum just off the highway, so I decided to pull off for about a half hour to give the kids a break. Unfortunately the museum was closed for cleanup after the extensive flooding in the area. So instead of visiting the museum we wound up just letting the kids run around for a little bit. In retrospect this was probably better than going through the museum even though it is an interactive one.

Not long after we got back on the road it was apparent the kids were tired of the items we had brought with us and it was time to fall back on the ever faithful road games. The last hour of the trip we played various games such as the alphabet game and the car color game [each person picks a color and counts the cars or trucks of that color, the first to 20 wins].

The trip home proved to be more challenging as it was dark and although we thought both kids would fall asleep neither did and neither were easily entertained in the dark. So we have decided we can make the long trip to the Hills, but we will need to remember a few more easy road games and definitely not drive after dark. Of course we had the added benefit of spending a fun filled day seeing all the different animals at the zoo. Here are a few of the kids favorites:
wrapped around the branches is a snake

Hey it is Pumba!

What are you staring at buddy?

It was Love at first sight!

We're off to see the wizard . . .

Okay, so maybe this was one of my favorites.

Wait! photograph my good side!

Gotta love the invention of the zoom lens.
All in all it was both a fun and educational trip for both the children and us adults. We made lots of great memories and now know that we can take long trips and keep our sanity at the same time. I am excited to say we will be taking that trip to the Black Hills at the end of the month!