Monday, May 31, 2010

How to make a korker bow

Most people who know me, know that I am a bow fanatic. I love them. I love to buy them and have bought many but, I have also made quite a few too. Such as the bows in the two pictures below. These curly bows are called korker bows. They have always been among my favorite, so I tried to make some before my little one was even born. They are super easy. Here's what you do.

You will need wooden dowels, (I used wooden knitting needles.) You are going to wrap the ribbon around the dowels, so you need the size of dowel to match the size of curly you want.

Next you need ribbon. The really tiny ribbon makes really tiny curly and the same with the big ribbon. I usually go with about 1/4 inch or 1/8 inch ribbon.

You also need a squirt bottle, liquid starch, clothespins, wire, fray check and a cookie sheet. Mix 3 parts water with one part starch and put into your spray bottle. Twirl the ribbon completely around your dowel, so it looks like a little snake has wrapped its body all the way from the top to the bottom. Clothes pin the ribbon on at each end. (When you wrap, you want the ribbon to be fairly close together so your curlies aren't spread really far apart.)
Spray the dowels with ribbon on with the spray bottle. Bake in the oven at 250 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes. Let cool.

Pull the ribbon off and cut them into segments. Fray check both ends of each segment. Pull together a small bunch of them all laying the same way. I used about 20ish for each one. Slide the wire underneath the ribbons and pull it tight around them until you have a little poof. Slide a barrette or clip into the wire and then secure the wire by sliding it through the all ready wrapped part. The wire needs to be TIGHT or the ribbons will fall out. This part may take a little trial and error. (update: My sister-in-law says she sews hers together. I have never tried it but she says it works great! Also she uses a lighter to heat seal her ends instead of fray check. I can never get a lighter to work right but it is worth a shot!)
Afterwards you have a darling bow that looks like you spent a fortune on it.

The war no one will fight


I shy away from politics. I really don't know that much about the issues. I read all about them and still feel like I know nothing, so I say nothing. The border is something I feel I know a little about and this has been budding inside me for a long time and I need to say it.

I live by the border and I love it. There is a Mexican flair here that is beautiful, tasty and the people are, for the most part, kind and genuine. There is a secret side of life at the border. It is less of a secret and more a matter of people not caring enough to ask. There is the drugs, murder, rape, sexual slavery side to the border that no one is talking about.

The people who live here are under attack everyday. The Mexican drug cartels bring the drugs and murder with them from their side of the border. They work through corrupt border patrol and Mexican Federales agents to move their products (human and drugs) and when that doesn't work, they fire upon AMERICAN border patrol agents, forcing them to call for the nearest backup. When the backup comes, the drug cartels move the drugs through the holes left by agents going to save their friends.

When the drugs reach American soil, who do the cartels seek to handle them? Men? No. They get heavy jail sentences if caught. Too expensive. The best people to do the work are the young teenagers and preteens. They seduce these children with promises of money and worldly possessions that most people working honestly in the Rio Grande Valley have little hope of obtaining. They get these young children to peddle and move their drugs, keeping their hands clean.

Is this really a problem? I think we have all heard stories like this, but it has never hit home. My husband is a 8th grade teacher at a local middle school. One day, while he was out ill, one student dealt drugs to his entire class and the entire class got high during class. Where was that substitute, I would still like to know? These drugs have infiltrated our cities and our classrooms and it needs to be stopped.

If there was a sniper sitting, waiting with his rifle, picking off one 13-year-old at time, the American people would be furious. They would demand action. How is this different? These children are being picked off one at a time, being degraded to lives of addiction, drug dealing, jail time and probably their death. They make the mistake of joining up when they are 13 and they are in for life. No drug cartel is going to let anyone walk away.

What ever happened to just say no? It is interesting down here to witness red ribbon week. There are no happy pep rallies that teach the kids to say no. There are gory videos from border patrol agents who tell our children that if they double cross the drug cartels, they will be murdered and so will their mom, their dad, their girlfriend and probably the family dog for good measure.

These children are having their childhoods ripped from them. Some students at my husband's school make more money a year than he does. We watch one of the poorest areas of the country be filled with the latest computers, iPods and everyone knows there is drug money involved somewhere.

The border patrol needs more man power, they need more help. The border is at war and they do not have the resources to stop it. Going up against the drug cartels could mean death, but doing nothing is certain death. Many down here believe we would be better in Mexican hands because the leaders of America have chosen to do nothing to protect us. My only hope is that the people in Washington realize what is happening before it is too late, before the cartels overrun the country, not just the border towns.

I am not anti-immigration. Immigration has made this country what it is, but the border, as it stands today, brings drugs, weapons, murder and gangs into our country. We need to protect our children because today it is a problem in the border towns, tomorrow it could be everywhere.

There is no simple solution to this massive problem. If we close down the border we lose all that trade with our neighbor. If we throw open the doors, we break the dam that has kept America from flooding with the same problems the bordertowns face. We need more man power to patrol the miles of border. We need more solutions for corrupt border patrol agents. We need help, but no one seems to have noticed, or if they have noticed, they sure aren't doing a thing about it. So now we are left with prayers that the cartels won't rip our country apart before the help arrives.

Friday, May 28, 2010

How to decorate plates so you can eat off of them

Do you remember my post about decorative display plates? Those plates are great if you are just going to hang your plate on the wall, but, what if you want to eat off it? This is the solution.

Decorate your glass plates with Pebeo Porcelain paint pens. I got a set of four at Michael's for about $15, this would be a great item to use your 40% off coupon with. Color your plates or trace your hands with the markers. Afterward, let your plates dry for about 24 hours, then bake them in a 300 degree oven for 30 minutes. Voila, your plate will hold up to the wear and tear of eating. It has actually held up to the dishwasher too.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Photo Thursdays - Masks- How to do focal black and white

Now that we're getting good with Photoshop and/or PIXLR, it's time to learn a new technique. One of the most popular photo enhancements today is the focal black and white, where most of the picture is in black and white except for the focus of the picture, which is in focus. Hence the name focal black and white. It seems like it would be incredibly difficult to do, but it's actually quite simple.

To get started, select a photo you love that has some element in it that is really unique. Maybe it's some sort of unique color, maybe it's a specific person, maybe it's a flower. Whatever it is, your picture needs to have some sort of focus that you really want to draw attention to. Now, go ahead and open this picture in Photoshop or PIXLR.

Next, go to your Layers palette and right-click on the default layer. In the menu that appears, select "Duplicate Layer." You now have two identical layers.
To avoid confusion, we should name our layers. To name a layer, simply double-click on the layer name and rename the layer. Rename one layer Black and White and the other Color (or choose something more creative if you want).
Next, select whichever layer you named Black and White. Go to the Adjustment menu (Image menu, Adjustments submenu in Photoshop) and select "Hue & Saturation." The shortcut key in both programs is Ctrl+U. In the dialog box that appears, drag the saturation to as low as it goes. Your layer is now in black and white. Don't worry, you still have a color layer.
Now it's time to create a mask. A mask is fancy way of cutting out parts of a layer without actually cutting out the layer. This allows you to "add" back parts of the layer if you accidentally cut them out.

This is where things get tricky depending on which system you are using. If you're using PIXLR, make sure the color layer is on top. To move a layer, select the layer you want to move and press the up and down arrows at the bottom of the Layers palette. You can also drag the layer to where you want it to be. This works in Photoshop as well.

If you're using Photoshop, you want the black and white layer on top.

Make sure you select the top-most layer. To apply the mask (in either program), go to the bottom of the Layers palette and find an icon that looks like a circle inside a square. This applies the mask. You'll notice an additional icon has been added on the same line as the top layer. This shows you that a mask has been applied.
Unfortunately, we have another problem depending on which program you're using.

PHOTOSHOP
If you're using Photoshop, you will now select your eraser tool and start erasing the part of the picture you want in COLOR. You use the eraser tool because you're erasing the black and white layer and that allows the color layer below to shine through. You will likely have to zoom in close and use smaller brushes to get the tiny edges.

If you make a mistake, don't worry. Select the Brush tool (B) and then go over the area you want to "add" back. Because you added a mask, you can do this. Pretty slick, huh?
PIXLR
If you are using PIXLR, you will use the Brush tool (B) to erase the part of the black and white picture that you want to appear in color. For some reason, PIXLR works backwards from Photoshop. So, if you erase to much, you will use the eraser tool to "add" back parts to the picture.
When you have finished removing the black and white that you don't want, you should see your picture developing nicely. You'll also notice an outline in the layer mask in your Layers palette. This shows you how much of the picture you have erased using the mask.

One important note is that even though you're using a mask, you still have two separate layers. This is nice because it allows you to really fine-tune the adjustments for the black and white layer and the color layer. Just make sure you select the correct layer in the Layers palette before attempting to adjust the color.
Once your image is complete, you need to flatten your image. You have two separate layers and a mask. That's a lot of stuff going on with a picture. You need to combine it into one picture. Go to the Layer menu and select "Flatten Image." All your layers will now combine into one complete picture. However, be warned that once you do this, you can no longer edit each layer individually. Any adjustments you make now will be to the picture as a whole.

The final product can be seen below. I boosted the richness of the color of the blanket and increased the highlights on the black and white layer. I also added a film grain effect on the black and white layer.

This is such an easy technique that every wedding photographer is probably cursing me right now for giving away their dirty little secret about how simple it is. While it may be easy, it is time consuming. But the final product is well worth the time and effort.

Show off your impressive use of the mask by uploading your masterpiece here.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Wednesdays on the Web: Facebook

Happy Wednesday! For you newcomers, I am Lorene (aka Lu) and I guest post here once a week about various web topics. If you want to see what I'm doing the other days of the week, come on over to my blog, just Lu. Now, on to today's topic... Facebook.

If you haven't been following the Facebook privacy discussion, well, there's a lot going on! Facebook's CEO, Mark Zuckerburg, has been under fire lately (just check out some of these news articles!) for the social networks privacy settings, which are complex and often hard to understand. On Monday, he wrote an op-ed piece for the Washington Post which clarifies a few things and discusses his vision for Facebook's future. 

Update 5.26.10: I just found this article from the ACLU that discusses the top two privacy issues, as well as recent changes. It's definitely worth a read if you want to know more.

Recently Facebook unveiled an Instant Personalization Pilot Program that allows selected partners access to information you share on Facebook to help these partners better personalize your experience. The program itself isn't the problem--the fact that you were automatically included in the program was.(If you haven't yet opted out of the program and would like to, this tutorial from mashable.com will show you how.)

With Facebook making changes like this fairly regularly, how can you make sure that you retain your privacy?

I use and recommend these two tools to check out what you're sharing through Facebook, both intentionally and accidentally.

Add the Scan for Privacy button from ReclaimPrivacy.org to your browser's bookmark tab to scan your Facebook privacy settings and identify any potential vulnerabilities.

It's easy! Once you've added the button to your bookmarks tab, log in to Facebook and open your privacy settings by clicking Account in the upper right corner and selecting Privacy Settings. Then, just click the Scan for Privacy bookmark.

This tool is constantly changing based on user input and Facebook's changes, so it's best to scan your settings regularly. I scanned my profile last week and all of the areas came back secure, but the scan today, which checked more areas than the scan last week, told me that I have three caution areas where some of my information is available outside my circle of friends:
The report includes links to the specific privacy setting in question and a button to re-scan just that area.

Keep in mind that just because this report labels an area caution, that doesn't mean you're broadcasting that information to everyone on the web: the scan will only tell you that all areas are secure if you aren't sharing any information with anyone other than "Friends Only."

I chose to allow "Friends of Friends" to both see my profile pictures and add me as a friend. It doesn't make sense to me to have "Friends Only" able to add me as a friend :) and if I am searching for a friend, I want to be able to see their profile pictures to make sure I'm adding the right friend. With this in mind, I make sure that the photo I'm using for my profile picture is one that I'm okay with sharing with the whole world. Check your individual settings and set them however you're comfortable with.

Run the profile scan at ProfileWatch.org to show exactly what information any Facebook user can see about you. If you are a parent whose child uses Facebook, you can use this scan to see what information about your child is public. With ReclaimPrivacy's privacy scanner, you must be logged in to Facebook, but with ProfileWatch you can either log in and use the ProfileWatch app or just copy the URL of any Facebook profile.


The ProfileWatch scan gives you an online privacy score of 0.0-10.0 based on how safe your profile information is. Before I ran the above ReclaimPrivacy scan and made the recommended changes to my security settings, my score was a scary 5.5. After the changes, I scored a perfect 10.0 (you can call me Nadia if you must ;) but you should go watch the video either way because her routine is amazing).

ProfileWatch features articles that can help you understand more about your Facebook privacy and how to ensure you are in control of your information, and if you want to read more, here are some helps:
Even after you've run these scans and secured your information, the best tip for Facebook privacy? If you don't want someone to know, don't share it at all. :)

Happy Facebooking and I'll see you again next Wednesday (unless you stop by my blog in the meantime, hint hint...)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Tasty Tuesdays- Fish and Mango Tacos


I am not normally a huge fan of fish. It is just too.... well fishy. My husband absolutely loves fish of all kinds and has spent years trying to win me over with fish recipes. This is one of the first recipes I have gone back for seconds on. It is light, crispy with the perfect touch of mango.


Fish Tacos: 

  • 4 tilapia fish fillets 
  • panko bread crumbs
  • eggs, slightly beaten
  • flour
  • shredded Monterrey cheese
  • green cabbage
  • corn tortillas
  • limes

Chipotle Sauce:

  • ranch dressing
  • chipotle sauce


Mango Salsa

  • 1 1/2 c. chopped, peeled mangos.
  • 1 medium red sweet pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 small jalapeno seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/4 c. thinly sliced green onions;
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil;
  • 1/2 tsp finely shredded lime peel;
  • 1 Tbsp lime juice;
  • 1 Tbsp vinegar;
  • 1/4 tsp each salt and black pepper. 




For the fish: Coat the tilapia in coconut flour and then place it in an egg wash. Coat the tilapia in gluten free bread crumbs and let the fish sit in the fridge for 5-10 minutes to help set the crumps.  Place in an oiled pan with a small amount of lime juice. Rotate the fish every few minutes until it is golden brown.

For the salsa: Combine the olive oil, lime peel, lime juice, vinegar and seasonings in a bowl. Toss the mangoes, green onions and peppers into the dressing and coat thoroughly.

For the sauce: Make sauce by combining equal amounts ranch dressing and chipotle sauce.

Assembly: Place a small amount of fish in a corn tortilla. Top it with finely chopped cabbage, shredded cheese, the chipotle saucce and mango salsa. Finish the taco out with a light spray of fresh lime juice.

Who would you make this for?

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Monday, May 24, 2010

How to make dollar store hair flowers

My mother-in-law helped me make these while we were visiting her for Christmas. They are so easy to make and they are super cheap!

You will need:
A bouquet of dollar store flowers
E-6000 glue
buttons or rhinestones
alligator clips
Take your dollar stores flowers and separate them from the stems and pull them apart. The cutest flowers come from mixing and matching the flowers. When you found a combination that you like take the individual layers and glue them together separately. Then glue the rhinestone or button on top. If you want to cover your alligator clip with ribbon, use hot glue. Then glue the flower to the clip with hot glue.
Voila, a cute, cheap flower to adorn your child's head.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Satin Flower Belts in other colors

You know the flower satin belts I made awhile back? I wasn't sure they would lend themselves to other colors but I think they turned out pretty good! I made the yellow one with rhinestones in the center for my husband's youngest sister and the navy blue ones with the pearls, I made for the sisters just younger than him.

If you want to learn how to make them, go here for the flowers and here for the belts! These flowers also make great hairclips, just glue to a barrette.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Photo Thursdays - Photo Cutouts

You've probably seen it before -- the perfect picture. You know, the cute couple kissing in front of the Eiffel Tower. Then you think to yourself, "Wait a minute, he's way too cheap to ever take her to Paris. How'd they get that picture?" Answer: Photoshop. Or, in our case, PIXLR.com.

This tutorial will demonstrate how to replace the background on a picture to make it more exciting. I will use this photo of my brother and his fiance. It was a rather drab day and the photo was taken in the parking lot of a motorcycle dealership. But, it has all the makings of a cool photo -- one Speed Racer would be proud of.

To get started, open Photoshop or PIXLR. Because not all users have Photoshop, I will do this demo in PIXLR. It works the same either way.

Open the picture you want to edit. Then, go to the Layers palette and double-click on the lock on the Background layer. This will change the Background Layer to Layer 0 and allow for editing.

Next, go to your Tools palette and select the Eraser tool. Yes, it looks like the classic pink erasers you used as a student.
Once the eraser is selected, go above the Tool palette to where it says "Brush" and click on the number (default:50). This will open the eraser brush options. Unlike Microsoft Paint -- as wonderful as it wishes it was -- you can choose just about any shape for your eraser. I would recommend using circles because they fit around objects better than other shapes. You will notice there are varying sizes of brushes. The higher the number, the bigger the brush. You can hover your mouse over your picture after selecting a size to see just how big the brush is. You will also notice there are solid brushes and brushes with fuzzy edges (called feathered edges in design-speak). You will use both, but start with a large, solid circle brush to eliminate the majority of the background. Once you have selected your brush, click on an unimportant part of your picture to get started.
With that large eraser brush, erase the background. Be careful not to go too fast or you might erase the important parts of the photo. As you erase, you will notice a white and gray checkered pattern appearing in the background. This will not actually be in the photo. It is there to represent a transparent background, not unlike the transparencies your teachers used on the overhead projectors.

Enjoying yourself? Good. This is the easy part. It's about to get more difficult.
Once you've erased most of the background, it's time to get up-close and personal with your photo. Using the Navigator palette, zoom in on the picture with the slider bar to the area you want to edit. You will notice your brush seems much larger now. It's not, but you're so much closer to the picture that it seems larger. If it feels too large, go back to the "Brush" options and select a smaller brush. Now, carefully erase along the edges of the important parts of the photo that you want to keep. Be very careful. It's OK to erase a small part of the picture you want to keep, however don't cut away too much or make your eraser marks jagged or this will be very obvious to the viewer.

TIP: A fast way to move around from one part of the picture to another is by pressing the "H" key on your keyboard. This selects the Hand tool, which lets you click and grab the picture and move it wherever you want. This works in most updated Web browsers. To go back to the erase tool, press the "E" button on your keyboard.
When you are erasing solid objects, like the motorcycle or clothes in this picture, it is OK to use the solid brush. When you get closer to skin and hair, you will want to use one of the feathered brushes. This will make it seem more natural and not so harsh. Play around with it to see what you like best. You can always undo any mistake you make.

WARNING: It is extremely difficult to cut out hair. Most of the time, it's not worth catching every little fly-away. If it won't look weird, go ahead and erase it. Nobody will know and your hair will look more well-kept. Also, this is a great way to trim off some of that excess arm fat. Don't do too much or it will look obvious. Oh come on, don't feel bad about doing it. You don't really think all those actresses are naturally that perfectly built?

Once you have finished cutting out your picture, it will look something like this. You will notice the checkerboard pattern is very obvious. This means you have an empty background that can be replaced with, well, just about anything you want.

Next, find a background that you would like to put behind the picture you cut out.
WARNING: Make sure you find a background picture that is LARGE. At least as large, if not larger, than the photo you are editing. Otherwise, it will come up short and look stupid. Once you have found your background, go to File and Open your file.
Your background should open in its own window. Go to the Edit menu and select "Select All." Go back to the Edit menu and select "Copy."

Now, click over to the window that holds your original photo. Go to the Edit menu and select "Paste." This will paste your background in front of your picture.

NOTE: It may paste too small. In this case, go to the Edit menu and select "Free Transform..." which will put a draggable box around the background image, which you can expand to the size you need.
If you look at the Layers palette, you have two layers: your background layer and the layer with your photo. They are in the wrong order. This is easy to fix. Grab the bottom layer and drag it above the top layer. This will put your cut-out image above the background image, which will achieve the effect you want.

You may notice there are remnants of the old background still hanging out. This is because it's very difficult to perfectly erase everything the first time. You can see below that I didn't get the hair. So, grab the eraser tool and erase. You will be able to easily see your progress now that you have your background in place.
The end result can be seen below. Looks cool, right? This process is not overly difficult, but it does take tremendous amounts of patience. The end result is usually well worth it.
Try it out yourself. I'd love to see what you come up with. Please share your results by uploading your replaced-background photos at my Flickr group share. (The Flickr group is also a good place to go if you want to see the crazy replaced background photos my husband made for me while we were dating.)Good luck with the editing.