Friday, February 27, 2009

Photoshop Friday - photo collage

These photo collages always come in handy - whether you're posting big groups of pictures on your blog or making one big print to hang on your wall.

We're going to make a collage with 4 pictures - but you can use as many or as few as you want. Get all your files open at once.

Now you're going to open a new file. I'm going to make a square collage, so I'm making this one 1600 x 1600 pixels. That's a big web image, but if I were making a large photo print (11x14" for example), I would make sure to set my dimensions accordingly.

To select your entire photograph, just click Control (or Command if you're using a Mac) -A and it will grab the whole thing. If you want just part of the selection, choose the tool that looks like a square with a dotted line and select the part of the picture you want to use.

Click Ctrl/Cmmd-C to copy. Go to your blank collage and click Ctrl/Cmmd-V to paste the image. Ctrl/Cmmd-T will let you re-size the image (if it's too big). Hold down Shift as you move the corners of the image around and that will constrain the proportions (that means it won't stretch or squish the image as it re-sizes).

Repeat this for your other 3 images. The hardest part to get used to in Photoshop is: you can only manipulate the layer that you have selected. Look in the image below and see how I'm working on the layer containing the top-right picture. If I want to re-size the top-left picture, I need to select that layer before I do anything. It seems like a pain at first but you'll get used to it. If you leave some white space, you can use the text tool to put a title or some journaling.

Oh, one more thing - you can move the order of the layers in the Layers palette. The top picture in the palette is the top picture on the screen. If you want your picture to overlap (instead of have the white space between them like I do) make sure that the picture you want on top. You can grab the picture in the palette and move it to the top, or whatever. Does that make sense? Just experiment with it and you'll see.

To finish up your picture, just choose Layers - Merge Down and it will combine all of your layers into one.

Obviously don't do this until you're satisfied with the placement of all the layers. Then save your collage as a .jpg and it will be ready to load into your blog page, album or whatever.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Progress so far

Because I know everyone (all two of my readers) was dying to know how our remodel is coming, here are some more pictures. The wall is completely gone and the closet/bookcase is roughed in (what used to be a hallway). And there is my trusty and precious Shop Vac. I don't know what the electrician-guy used to carve the hole for the new outlet but I think he would have had more success with a butter knife. Or his head. Which I would have gladly put through the wall for him.

While he did a bang-up job of putting the outlet covers on, the plugs (if you want to get all technical) didn't actually work. After three days he gave up and referred us to his boss. And since If You Want Something Done Right Just Go Ahead And Do It Yourself, Joe went ahead and did it himself. Wednesday, power was restored to 100% of our house and Joe is still The King.

And speaking of cute, check out my adorable clean-up crew. Also with the ultimate sucking power of the Shop Vac, it only takes one shutter-click to go from 'this is sure funny' to 'holy cow my hand is being eaten by the vacuum!"

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

St. Patty's Day wreath

Done the non-cheesy way (with no glitter or shamrocks)

I love wreaths. But the pre-made ones are never quite my style so I end up making my own (fortunately they're easy-peasy and it's fun to choose my own colors and embellishments). Our house has a nice covered porch that is shaded (so my door-hangings don't fade in the sun) and the door is pretty so I have really enjoyed changing the wreath every season. When I'm done with them, I cover them with a garbage bag and hang them on a nail in the basement for next year.

Roberts had a garland of this green... stuff on sale. I pulled the garland apart and stuck the bunches back into a bare grapevine wreath. If they seem loose, just secure them to the grapevine with florists wire. Easy and it looks really nice! When St. Patrick's is over, I am going to add some pink flowers in for a spring/Easter look. Double holiday mileage!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Calling all party-planners

I love planning a birthday party for my kids. Last year Minnie wanted a Mermaid birthday party so I made her an Ariel cake and we all made flowers to put in our hair (and combed their hair with forks!) and decorated the basement family room to look like Under the Sea. It was inexpensive and totally fun.

This year she wants a Fairy birthday party. She loves the new Tinkerbell movie and is totally in love with all the beautiful fairies and their talents. However... I'm really struggling with ideas. NOTHING is coming to me! I think it's the chaos of the house or something because my brain is just stuck.

So... ideas please? She'll be 5.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Latest design stuff

A few projects I've been working on. This cute blog header and background.

And a bridal shower invitation. The bride has a tropical theme and colors of turquoise and yellow - I had a lot of fun with the color scheme.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Cute giveaway

This blog is doing a giveaway for a pretty pretty princess tutu. Minnie would totally love this!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Photoshop Friday - Reducing Shadows

As promised (long ago) I'm going to start a hopefully-weekly series of tutorials on Photoshop. These will all be simple, beginner type things. If you're looking for more advanced techniques, you should probably take a class. And here is a great one.

When you're practicing with your pictures, always work on a copy of your original picture. Open your file and immediately Save As a different name. That way if you experiment until you totally alter the picture, you won't accidentally lose the original.

For this first technique, we're going to brighten up a picture where there are dark shadows. Lots and lots of pictures have this problem and it's sure frustrating to lose the details in shadow - especially faces! Usually these are shadows from intense, overhead sunlight. Since people turn away from the sun, the shadows tend to make eyes look dark and hooded or even obscure the entire face. For an example, I'm going to use these two pictures.

You don't want to increase the brightness. Although this will lighten up the shadows, it will also bring up the already-bright areas and make them look hot and blown-out. Instead we're going to use Levels. This technique is surprisingly easy. Simply chose Image -> Adjustments -> Levels.

It will bring up a series of slider arrows and a fancy-looking histogram, like this:

The left arrow controls the shadows and low-lights of the picture. It will make the darkest areas darker. The right arrow controls the highlights and will make the whitest/brightest areas brighter. For shadow-reduction, we are mostly concerned with the middle slider. As you can see, I've moved the middle slider to the left, brightening up the midtones of the picture. Make sure that your Preview box is checked. The nice thing about these slider arrows is that you can just move things around until your picture looks right. There's no guesswork! If you mess something up, just cancel out and start over.

If you notice that the whole picture is getting too light, you can bring the left slider down and darken the low areas a bit for contrast. After you've brightened the midtones up a little, you can try Brightness/Contrast a little bit too see if it makes an improvement. Just move everything around and see what it all does. Pretty neat yes?

If you have questions, go ahead and post them in the comments. Be sure to include any techniques that you are interested in learning.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

When one stress meets another

It being the Week of Weird Dreams, here is another.

In my dream I had to design a blog. I spent most of Tuesday doing just that, so it was kind of annoying to still be thinking about colors and pixels and vector shapes while trying to enjoy a relaxing sleep. Anyway...

I have a great idea for this design, but something is wrong with my computer. Maybe the power was out in a lot of the house (like it is in real life). So I'm running around with a jigsaw and a hammer, cutting intricate designs into giant pieces of sheetrock and wood. GIANT pieces. Like 6 feet long. And I'm desperately trying to hold these pieces up against the wall, layering them one on top of another, to illustrate to Amy what my vision is for this blog design. They are so HEAVY! And she is saying really helpful things like "I really like the front pattern but I wonder if you can cut it out in blue instead of green?"

Surprisingly, I woke up more tired than I went to sleep. I think tonight might be a doped-up-on-Tylenol-PM night...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

25 things you couldn't live without

Or at least I assume you couldn't live without knowing these 25 things about me, because at least twice that number of people have tagged me on Facebook and their blogs. So fine. Here you go.

1. I can't draw. For some reason I can design things, manipulate illustrations and compose pictures... but I can't draw a recognizable stick-figure. It's true. Ask my kids.

2.If I let something get past-due, it's almost impossible for me to finish it. The same goes for late library books and videos.

3. Even though I love to read and belong to two book clubs, I refuse to read for anything other than entertainment. I don't feel the need to 'stretch my mind' or explore new boundaries. If the book is depressing, graphic, profane or stupid... I just put it down. I don't care.

4. If I'm not good at something right away, I pretty much just quit. That's why I don't play video games. I have no chance against Joe. So I just don't play.

5. I love to exaggerate. I think it's hilarious.

6. I am a people-watcher. I could sit at the mall and just watch the different people. I also like analyzing people's personalities. I don't think I do it in a critical way... I just wonder what makes people act the way they do.

7. I am terrible at folding clothes. I just don't do it. I could live out of two laundry baskets - one for clean and one for dirty. Joe is the laundry-folder, and only if it's stacked up so much that it blocks the door out to the shop.

8. I bit my nails my entire life. I remember starting when I was 5 and my grandma polished my nails bright red. I didn't like it and bit them all off... and kept biting them until I was 21. When Joe and I were engaged I thought how nice it would be to have pretty nails for my wedding. And I stopped biting them.

9. I love cereal, but only the boring kinds. Chex, Rice Krispies and Cracklin' Oat Bran are my favorites. I don't love anything with marshmallows, dried fruit or anything that turns the milk an unholy color.

10. I don't love newborns. In fact, babies don't really interest me past the ooh-ahh phase. I love little kids though. I love to talk to them and have arts-and-crafts and play groups. That fascinates me. The baby thing... not so much.

11. I think Joe is the Shiz. Really, I think he is the manliest and the awesomest and could do anything in the whole wide world... except dance.

12. I am happy when I'm busy. But then I let myself get overwhelmed. I have yet to find the right balance.

13. If you are around our house during any mealtime, I will cook for you. And I will love it. I think I get this from my mom. You never leave her house hungry.

14. I didn't read Twilight. I did read the summary on Wikipedia so I could know what other people were talking about. And those were boring and lame so I didn't feel bad about not reading the entire book.

15. When Joe and I were dating, he would come to my apartment late at night when he got off work or home from school. If I was asleep, I would wake up 3 or 4 minutes before he got there, no matter what time it was. I teased him that I could sense him coming. Now when he works late or stays out with friends, I have the amazing ability to call him to find out where he is, when he is within 2 blocks of our house. I have no explanation for it. I don't even try to do it! I can just always sense when he's about to come home.

16. I am fascinated by genealogy. I love finding out about my relatives who lived in different times and different places. I hope that Heaven is like a big family reunion and I can ask them questions and get to know them.

17. I am constantly amazed that other people don't find this as fascinating as I do.

18. I love new socks. If I could have a fresh pair of socks, right out of their little stay-fresh pouch, every single day, I would.

19. I love to learn. I think I love trivia things the best, just short snippets of interesting facts. I like to ask people about their jobs. I love TV shows like Mythbusters and Dirty Jobs.

20. I have really good hearing. I can hear our cars coming from a long way away. I can pinpoint a celebrity who is speaking even if I can't see them (like if they're doing a character voice or a commercial). I can also remember conversations word-for-word, not because I've memorized what was said, but because I can simply hear your voice saying the words again.

21. I could have friends over every day and be happy. We are always trying to talk someone into moving in with us, so we can have 24-hour friends. I'm pretty sure other people get way more tired of us than we do of them.

22. In high school I took the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) and scored highest on spacial relationships and sequencing. I was recruited by the Navy (I told them I only took the test to get out of a day of classes). Weird, yes? But the spacial relationships come in handy when I do thinks like sewing, where I can tell how the pieces of the pattern fit together.

23. If I have creative ideas buzzing around in my brain, I can't sleep. I will literally stay awake the whole night. That's what I use this blog for. It's a place to put those ideas so I can rest. Jessica suggested that it was my own Pensieve and I think she is right.

24. Also if my feet are cold, I can't sleep at all. I used to get up and take a bath. Then I got an electric blanket. Heaven.

25. I hate all movies that don't have a happy ending. I don't devote hours of my time to be depressed. And with that...

The End.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

In which 2 rooms become 1

Well, here we are at the end of Remodel Day 2. The dining room and TV room are now officially one space. Hooray!

Apparently if you can't find earplugs to muffle all the noise, cheap ear-warmers and a carrot will work just fine.

Even though the house looks awful and messy, the pictures cannot do justice to the Unbelievable Amounts of Debris that ended up on the floor. I think that if the drywall had been taken down in a more controlled method (as opposed to Head Bashing) there might have been less of a mess. But where is the fun in that? So lets all take a moment to appreciate the supreme power of the Shop Vac and resolve to be kind to them in the future. I'm considering giving mine its own pet bed at the end of the hall.

Calling all dream interpreters

So last night I have the following dream:

We've decided that we'll start driving my Dad's old Mazda wagon. It's the car I learned to drive a stick-shift in. I think it was donated to the Kidney Foundation several decades ago so I don't know where or how we acquired the car.

**When this car was 'mine' (meaning I had to pretend it belonged to my Dad and share it with my sister Kelly) it was really old, semi-reliable and sounded like a prop-plane, so you could hear it coming from two counties away. The back end of the car was composed of equal parts rust and blue-and-white paint from where Kelly and I painted the car for every football game. The front end was MudPuddle Tan except for a patch on the driver's-side hood where my Dad hit a deer. There was a 1-foot square patch over the big dent. Either Dad couldn't find faded/antique car paint that matched the color, or he's possessed of such a frugal nature that he used off-white exterior house paint because it was "basically the same color".

So for some mystery reason, we've decided that we need to start driving the Mazda around again, except that Joe thinks it will be much nicer if it has tinted windows. So he calls his brother, who, at one point, knew how to apply window tint. Brett decides that the car is too old for tinted windows and instead installs aluminum window blinds, in a stunning color combination of red, white and tan (to compliment the house paint). So in my dream I'm arguing with the guy installing the blinds because the cord to raise and lower the blinds doesn't seem like it works very smoothly. I'm asking him how he expects me to drive when I can't reliably raise and lower the blinds that cover every window. This is when I wake up, still feeling stressed about arguing with the blinds-guy.

So dream interpreters... have at it.

**The part about the car's color and condition is true. I didn't dream it.

Monday, February 16, 2009

How to break through a wall with your head in 7 easy steps

Step 1: Select wall (It's best to check with your wife first. She knows what walls you do and do not need. She will have helpful input like "that wall separates the dining room from the shower." Or "that wall keeps The Outdoors from trampling on the sofa. We need that wall.")

Step 2. Make sure there are small children on the other side of the doomed wall who will be impressed with your manly man-ness.

Step 3. Punch wall with fist. If you are a Weaker Sort, you might consider a hammer. Or hiring a Professional Wall Puncher.

Step 4: Enlarge first hole. Take careful aim (avoid the long wooden beams, unless you enjoy concussions).

Step 5: Slam head into wall.

Step 6: Bask in screaming admiration of small children.

Step 7: Make small children assist in cleanup process.

Friday, February 13, 2009

I know I'm going to jinx it but...

I just noticed that today was Friday the 13th. And I'm still alive.

Unlike certain members of my Italian family, (Mom) I'm not really a superstitious person. I don't really believe in good luck or bad (I do, however, habitually throw salt over my left shoulder when I spill it). But you may recall that last Friday the 13th, my bike tried to kill me. And the one before that summed up something like this (I swear I'm not making any of this up):

Originally posted Friday, July 13, 2007

If you have a busy week, everyone else will plan things for the same week.

If you have an even busier week, Joe will switch shifts and be gone for all of it
If you have a million things planned, your child will get the flu. **Turns out it wasn't a stomach flu, he had that cryptosporida from the swimming pool and he ended up being in the emergency room overnight for dehydration. Awesome huh?

If your child gets the flu, he will somehow manage to puke on every single blanket and shirt he owns.

If your child pukes on all his clothing you will dress him in his sister's shirts

If you dress your son in his sister's clothing, your husband will give you The Eye. Not the good one either.

If your son barfs on all of his bedding, his shirts AND his sister's, you will have a lot of laundry.

If you have a mountain of laundry, your washing machine will break.

If you have a broken washing machine, a pile of laundry will build up, take over the basement and threaten to spill out onto the street to show your neighbors what a bad mom you are.

If you get frustrated with Laundry Mountain, your children will put all their efforts into tearing all the books off the shelves and dumping hundreds of thousands of Polly Pockets all over the house.

If you have piles of towels to be cleaned and a totally dirty house, you will forget it all and go on vacation for the weekend.

Since you can't do laundry you decide that you'd like to come home to a clean kitchen and do the dishes.

As you're doing the dishes the sink will clog and 12 gallons of water will pour out of a broken pipe all over the kitchen floor.

As you're trying not to use The Swear Words you leave your husband to fix the sink and start to pack the truck.

If you tell your daughter not to play around in the truck as you're packing it, she will tell you that "it's OK", grab the rear-view mirror, yank it off the glass and break the windshield!!!

If you (after a towel-throwing, door-slamming, screaming fit) decide to abandon the vacation entirely and send your husband by himself, he will have Guilt and take your daughter on a mini-fishing trip to a nearby pond.

If you take a three-year-old on a mini fishing trip she will catch a hook on her leg, cut herself and be afraid of fishing flies forever.

If your three-year-old injures herself at Adventureland Park you will vow never to return there ever again because this is the second time in a row that you have removed a bleeding child from that park.

When you get back to the house you will have two tired, dirty (bloody) children, a broken washing machine, a messy house, a soggy floor and a husband who gets to go on vacation without you AND your neighbor will back out of her driveway and try to crush you with her Tahoe.

If this happens, you will remember what day it is today. Then you will sit down on the wet floor amid the barf towels and the Polly Pockets and laugh until you cry.

So yeah. Friday the 13th has not so much been my friend. However, it's almost 6pm and that's 2.5 hours from bedtime. Even though we tempted fate by inviting several pre-schoolers over to decorate Valentine's cookies, I think we may survive. If anything fabulously terrible happens in the next little while, I'll be sure to post about it from the bunker in which I'll be hiding.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Because I love you - printable Valentines

If you, like me, left the Valentine-making until the last possible second, then here you go! Minnie and I had fun making these boy-and-girl friendly Valentine cards for her class this afternoon. Just print out as many or as few as you need. You can download a sheet of 6 of them here. If you use them, let me know! :)

Because I'm a giver

I have a good friend who works at an Italian chain restaurant. Using my constitutionally-protected right to parody, we'll call the restaurant Schmolive Gordon.

At this restaurant, all the waiters are obligated to offer a wine with every entrée. This makes me laugh because approximately 97% of the wait staff has never tasted wine, let alone possesses a working knowledge of it. Because I'm Helpful Like That, I sent over this helpful cheat-sheet when he started working at Schmolive Gordon. I'm posting it here in case anyone should ever need it.

This is a chart I've put together from knowing several wine-drinkers and from watching the Food Network. This should help with most pseudo-intellectuals. Anyone with a true understanding of wines will see right through you, but I don't think you need to worry about too many of them at Schmolive Gordon in this little town. Just fill in the blank with each section of sentence and act kind of snooty when you say it. If a customer disagrees with you, subtly roll your eyes and sigh, as if you're thinking "the customer may always be right, but YOU sir, clearly do not know wine".

The wine is _____________

with notes of _________________

and undertones of _______________.
black cherry

The finish is ______________

Apparently my waiter friend has had good luck with his wine cheat sheet because he's doing quite well there. Also last night he offered us a "smooth red with undertones of squirrel". And introduced me as his sister and gave us free cheesecake.

And then he poured water down my neck.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A new look!

My photo website was getting a little clunky and disorganized... so it was time for a remodel. Check it out!

There's still lots to do, so every link might not take you somewhere for a while, but I got a good start on it. And that's something.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Nick & Megan engagements

I've had a good number of photo jobs lately - I'm just really bad at getting the pictures uploaded! We had terrible weather over the weekend - rain and snow and wind. However, there was one break for a few hours on Friday that allowed us to get some great pictures of this cute couple.

I'm starting to realize that I love feet pictures. I have one in almost every shoot.

Always experimenting with new color processes...

And just in case we forgot that it was a rainy day...

Monday, February 9, 2009

Pickled eggs

While I do love eggs in all their varieties, 'pickled' is not at the top of my list. However, if you have a husband with adventurous taste-buds, maybe he will like this recipe as much as mine does.

12 eggs
2 cups cider vinegar
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup juice from a jar of pickled banana peppers
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon celery salt (or celery seed)
2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 large onion, thinly sliced

Hard boil eggs and set aside to cool. In a large saucepan, combine next 8 ingredients (everything but eggs and onions). Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 12 minutes. Peel eggs and layer them in a large mason jar with the sliced onions. When the brine has simmered, pour it over eggs and onions. Wipe the jar mouth clean and seal the lid. Let cool to room temperature. Store in fridge for at least 8 hours before eating.

I've made these before and a few people declared them The Best Pickled Egg Ever. So that's something! The smell from the brine is actually pretty cool and it makes me want to taste one of the eggs when they're done soaking. Joe (along with his friends and brothers) will eat an entire jar of these eggs in just a few days, but I keep the leftover brine and the onions and just put more eggs in when they're all gone. So it lasts quite a while. Also he eats the pickled onions on sandwiches.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

On vacation... sort of

If you're still checking in and wondering about the lack of blog posts, I've been on vacation (somewhere with much more sunshine and much less inversion). And have had the flu. At the same time. Didn't make for so great of a vacation.

Anyway, slowly but surely I'm plowing through the mounds and piles of things that are holding me back. Also, there's not much to blog about right now. Good holidays are over, it's not time to garden, have been doing not-so-much photography and I'm being a slacker about running. I have big plans for Photoshop tutorials though. Soon...