Wednesday, June 30, 2010

WotW: Rearrange your house -- virtually!

Thanks so much to those of you who took my survey last week! Your feedback helps me determine what kinds of topics to discuss here every Wednesday, so please speak up! If you didn't get a chance to take the survey (or you missed the post about Google Doc forms and surveys), you can see last week's post here.

My husband is a school teacher, so he's home for the summer. Home a-l-l day. Pudge (my baby boy) and I love having him home, but the summer relaxing is starting to turn into summer stir-crazies for all of us. (We're saving all our pennies for a big family trip/vacation/reunion so we spend a lot of time at home trying to thing of things to do.) Add this to my yard sale love and addiction to new (at least to me) furniture, and, well, we're going to need to do some rearranging this summer to accommodate a few new additions.

Rather than making my husband move the furniture from one side of the room to the other and then back, and then upstairs, and then back downstairs, and then maybe we should just put it back where it was to start with, I'm rearranging our furniture virtually. Pull out your measuring tape (I keep mine in my purse!), and you too can rearrange your house without reconfiguring your husband's vertebrae.


Arrange-a-room by Better Homes and Gardens helps you quickly and easily lay out your room. Just select a room shape, customize the dimensions, and add your furniture. You can also resize the furniture as needed, but resize before rotating to avoid some strange furniture stretching. Once you've arranged the furniture where you want it, you can change each piece's color. Save your room or email it to a friend to preserve your home decor masterpiece.
Account: BHG or Facebook/Google/Yahoo
login and then go to arrangearoom.bhg.com

Floorplanner offers all the same features as BHG's Arrange-a-room, plus more. The free version does contain a few small ads for you to skip, but it is chock full of all the features you can ever dream of! In addition to laying out your furniture, you can create a whole blueprint for your house, from room to room, upstairs and downstairs. There are more furniture options, which is nice but also makes it more of a search to find what you're looking for. You can view your room in the standard 2D (shown above) or in a 3D walk-through.

For both BHG's Arrange-a-room and Floorplanner, you'll need to create a free account. If you're looking for some simple furniture shuffling, Arrange-a-room will more than suffice. For a more in-depth layout revamp, Floorplanner will knock your socks off (and then place them in the laundry hamper for you).

Happy rearranging!
Lu (or Lorene if you prefer) is the mom of one squirmy boy and the wife of a singing and dancing elementary teacher. She is the proud author of this weekly Wednesdays on the Web (WotW) segment here on Housewife Eclectic and spends the other days of the week blogging about books, crafts, recipes, and whatever else comes up at just Lu.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tasty Tuesdays- Oriental Lettuce Wraps

3/4 C. Soy Sauce
2-3 Tbsp. Sesame oil
1 tsp. granulated garlic (Or you could use fresh)
1/4 C. packed brown sugar
2 pounds stew meat
carrots, sliced
red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
celery, sliced
green onion, chopped
green lettuce
cooked rice

Combine the soy sauce, sesame oil, brown sugar and garlic. Marinate the beef and vegetables in the mixture for about 30 minutes. I usually start the meat and then make my rice, letting the beef marinate while the rice is cooking. In a large frying pan, dump the entire marinating bowl mixture into the pan. Stir until the meat is browned and the vegetables are slightly softened. Serve with rice in big leaves of lettuce.

My husband loves to eat this in lettuce, I on the other hand just use a fork. It is good either way and one that never seems to take much time to make.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Photo Thursdays - Filter Gallery [Part 2]

So, last time we talked about how to use the Filter Gallery to add some neat effects to your photos. Today, we're going to continue with that. I hope those of you who have Photoshop took the time to experiment with it. If not, maybe this post will inspire you.

Most of the filters are pretty self explanatory and easy to use. But, one category is not so easy to understand. In fact, it frustrated me for a long time until I realized what was going on. I'm talking about the SKETCH category.

This has some really neat effects, but they may not appear to work unless you do some preliminary work.

WARNING: Like I mentioned last time, effects are not great for every photo. In fact, as I did this post, I realized how few of them worked for the particular photo I was working with. But, some of them really do add neat dimensions to photos.

Step 1: Open a photo in Photoshop that you want to edit.


Step 2: Next, go to your toolbar and locate the two offset color squares near the bottom of the palette. These are your foreground and background colors. The color on top is the foreground and the color underneath it is, well, the background color. You can easily flip these by clicking on the curved arrow in the top right corner.


To effectively use the Sketch options, you must have a foreground and background color selected. This is really where your creativity comes into play. Don't worry so much about what colors are already pre-existing in your photo because these effects by and large ignore them. Choose two colors you think go well together and would fit the mood of the photo.

Step 3: Click on the Foreground color. This will bring up the Color Picker window. This allows you to select the precise color you're after. If you've never used this before, it can be a little overwhelming.

Start with the skinny bar that has a rainbow of colors. Click at the approximate color you want. You'll notice I selected a purple/pink area. Next, go into the large 'Select Foreground Color:' field and move your mouse around. As you do so, you'll notice the color in the box to the right of the skinny bar is changing. Whatever color appears in this box is what you have actually selected. The color beneath it (green in this case) is the previously selected foreground color.


Once you have selected the color you want, press the OK button.

Step 4: Repeat this operation with the Background color by clicking the Background color in the Tool palette. You should end up with your desired foreground and background colors.

My Foreground color is a light purple and my Background is a bright baby blue.

Step 5: Go to the Filter Gallery by selecting the Filter menu option and selecting Filter Gallery...
Step 6: Go to the Sketch options by clicking on Sketch within the Filter Gallery. Remember, if you need to zoom out, those options are in the bottom right corner.

Step 7: I'm going to start with the Bas Relief option. You'll notice it used the foreground and background colors I selected to execute this effect. You can play with the customizable options on the right-hand side of the screen to make it just the way you want.


That's all there is to it. Now, play around with the other options in the Sketch category. I'll show you some samples of my favorites, at least for this photo.

CHARCOAL


CHROME
I don't know if this really has any great application other than making someone look like the bad terminator from Terminator 2.

HALFTONE PATTERN

STAMP

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

WotW: Easy-as-pie online surveys

Have you ever wanted to ask your blog readers a question or two? Or have you ever needed to make a decision for a group and needed to know everyone's preferences? In situations like this, a survey can help. But there are so many online survey services--which one to choose? There are free services, services that offer free versions, 30-day-free trials, or paid services (blasphemous!).

I use Google Docs forms for my surveys. It's free and sooo easy. I spent 15 minutes creating the short survey below to see what you think about WotW. Take the survey (5 minutes, tops!) and then scroll down to learn more about making your own survey using a Google Docs form.



Thanks for taking my survey! Here are the basics of making your own survey and putting it in your blog like I've done here:

Create the form
  1. Log in to Google Docs at docs.google.com using your Google account (the same account you use to sign in to Blogger).
  2. At the top left corner, click Create New and select Form from the drop-down menu.
  3. Enter your form title and (optional) description.
  4. Create each of your form questions by clicking Add Item at the top left corner and selecting which type of question to create. (I've used all 7 types of questions in my survey above to show each kind.)
  5. Click Done to save each question when you are finished creating it.
  6. When you've created all your questions, be sure to click Save in the top right corner.
  7. To add a design theme to your form, click the Theme button, select a theme to preview it, and click Apply to add it to your form. I used the Expresso theme for my survey above.
Embed the form
  1. Click More Actions and select Embed.
  2. Copy the text and paste it into the Edit HTML view of your blog post or into an HTML/javascript gadget to place the form on your blog but not in a specific post.
  3. Click Publish Post (or Preview) for a blog post or Save for a gadget (for Blogger users... Wordpress users will be similar, I'm sure).
If your form is cut off in your blog like it was for me, you'll need to change the size of the form by entering new values for the height and/or width of the iframe that the form uses.
  1. Go back to where you just pasted the text (<iframe ....), and look for height="XXX" and width="XXX".
  2. Enter a new value for whichever dimension you need to change. You can guess-and-check, or Firefox and Chrome users can use my favorite add-on, MeasureIt, to determine the right dimensions.
  3. Be sure that you do not delete the quotes around the numbers.
Tada! Easy peasy, right? When respondents fill out and submit the form, that information is entered in your Google Docs spreadsheet. Go back to your Google Docs homepage and click on the title of your form to see the spreadsheet responses. To see the responses graphed, select the Form menu and click Show summary of responses. If you need to edit the form, select the Form menu and click Edit form.

Google Docs forms also have a bunch of other fun and useful features to play around with, but this will get you started. Enjoy!

Lu (or Lorene if you prefer) is the mom of one squirmy boy and the wife of a singing and dancing elementary teacher. She is the proud author of this weekly Wednesdays on the Web (WotW) segment here on Housewife Eclectic and spends the other days of the week blogging about books, crafts, recipes, and whatever else comes up at just Lu.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tasty Tuesdays- BBQ Crock pot Chicken

I love a good crock pot recipe. This one is simple but delicious.

You need:
9 chicken thighs
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1.5 cups of BBQ sauce
1/2 c. honey (I know this feels like a lot but it really makes a difference)
2 tsp. mustard
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/8 tsp hot pepper sauce (You could honestly leave this out without too much problem)
A dash of garlic salt and chili powder (again, if you don't have the chili powder, it is not the end of the world.)

Put the chicken in the crock pot. Sprinkle the salt and pepper on top of the chicken. Combine the other ingredients in a separate bowl and then stir into the crock pot and coat the chicken.

Cook on Low for 4-6 hours, depending on how dry you like your chicken.

This easy chicken makes a great addition to any BBQ. We love to eat it in the middle of the summer because it just feels so summery.

Monday, June 21, 2010

How to make a simple pioneer toy


I come from a religious background that celebrates its pioneer heritage often. We had many activities as young children, dressed up as pioneers. This is a simple pioneer toy that my mom often made for us because, well, it is simple and it kept us quiet.

This is called a buzzsaw. You can carve and whittle and drill your own center piece of wood like the pioneers did, or, you can be lazy like me and find the biggest button you can get your hands on.
After you have found the button. Take a long length of thread, crochet thread works the best. Thread it through both holes, until there is plenty to both cords on BOTH sides of the button. Tie off the string and you should have something like the picture below.


To play the game, hold the buzzsaw like the picture below. You then begin wrapping it over itself.
Until it has become tightly wound like in the picture below. You then pull on the edges, which still have your fingers in them, and you see how many times you can get it to wrap and unwrap. It is a simple game but has entertained me many an hour.

Excuse the flour on my shirt, I was making the most delicious calzones that I shall give you the recipe for shortly.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Top 10 reasons why my husband is the best dad

You know me. I couldn't do a regular post. So here, in my quirky way, I will tell my husband Happy Father's Day.

My husband is the best father ever. End of story. Don't believe me? I will tell you why.

#1. He knows how to make the most realistic snowmen toppers. Do your snowmen toppers look this real? I thought not. Of course, your snowmen toppers probably don't scream either.


#2. He knows that Utah State Aggie Basketball is the best thing ever and he makes sure he passes on the passion to the younger generation. I have a feeling this little one will be yelling at the ref before she knows it. I can hear it now, "Take his whistle...."

#3. He'd fight off a lion for his young. Even when she thinks jumping into his mouth is a fun game. He'd protect her.

#4. He already has in-depth intelligent conversations with his young children. Talking about how easy it would be to swim the Rio Grande, while gazing over the Rio Grande. A poignant lesson on immigration.

#5. Not just lions, this guy would taken on eagles for his young.

#6. He is already helping her out with his daughter's modeling career. He shows the child everything one could possibly need to know about facial expression.

#7. He believes in cooking and eating good food. He is definitely showing the little one the world's good eats.

#8. Would your daddy play dress-up? It takes a man to wear hot pink clip-ons.

#9. This reason is more for me. I just like that I can use the phrase, "Hot for Teacher." Thank you, Van Halen.

#10. He got up with our daughter about once a night until she was two months old. Oh yeah. Beat that. (Considering she was the worst sleeper ever until she was two months old. This one enabled me to get one stretch of four hours a night. I would have gone cuckoo without his help on this one.)


Happy Father's Day.

Friday, June 18, 2010

How to make USA blocks (4th of July Decoration)

4th of July is easily my favorite holiday. I love everything about it. My family has major traditions and so we have always celebrated with them. This is the first year that I am going to miss the celebrations with the family. I am major disappointed since my mom gets to ride in the parade this year (she was my city's Mother of the Year, yup she's amazing.)

My husband always jokes that in Kaysville, UT the 4th of July is not a holiday, it is a way of life. It is true. Who else has a parade that ends in a water fight fueled by fire hoses?

Anyways, I am trying to cheer myself up out of missing the 4th of July in Utah this year and so I am crafting to get through it. My first project were these blocks.

For this project, you will need wooden letters ( I got mine at Hobby Lobby), a 2x4, paint, modge podge, sandpaper, scrapbook paper.

The first step is to measure your wooden letters and decide how big your pieces need to be. Then the second step is to cut your wood, or in my case, convince the hubby to cut it for me.
Then sand it until smooth. After it is smooth, paint it the color you want. This is also a good time to paint your letters so they are all dry at the same time.

After it is dry, measure your scrapbook paper to fit and then cut. Modge podge the paper onto the front of the block. Then hot glue your letters on top after it dries.

Isn't it cute? I love it. If you are looking for the cute stars, I think they were bought at Target.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Photo Thursdays - Filter Gallery [Part 1]

One of the great things about Photoshop is the ease in which you can create powerful effects that can transform an ordinary image into something amazing. The iconic Obama campaign poster was nothing more than a simple Photoshop effect. While there are a myriad of effects to be achieved in a variety of methods, we're going to focus on the Filter Gallery.

We will use the filter gallery to play with this picture.

Step 1: Open your picture in Photoshop and go to the Filter menu and go down to Filter Gallery...
The Filter Gallery will bring up a new screen with a slew of options. Don't panic. It's easier than it looks.

Step 2: Go down to the bottom left corner of the screen, where it says 100%. Click on the 100% and select the option Fit In View. You'll notice there many viewing options. You can change your view as many different ways as you'd like throughout this process. I find it's easiest to view the whole image and then zoom in from there.
The Filter Gallery has 6 main categories: Artistic, Brush Strokes, Distort, Sketch, Stylize and Texture. Each of these categories has at least one (usually more) option to transform your photo. Today we're only going to focus on the last two categories: Stylize and Texture.

Before we go any further, let me put in my two cents about the Filter Gallery. Yes, it is very fun. Yes, you can make really neat effects. However, it is not perfect for every image. It's fun every now and then, but not all the time. It's also a great way to kill a few hours when you're bored. Use it like salt... well, maybe not how I use salt, otherwise it would be over everything!

Step 3: My Filter Gallery defaulted on the Texture category. Yours might default somewhere else. Either way, please go to the Texture category and select the Grain effect. Your image should change as soon as you select an effect. You may not be able to notice the change right away. Some changes are subtle. There a couple methods to really examine an effect.

METHOD 1: THE EYE
Look in the lower right corner of the screen and you'll see the word Open and an image of an eye next to it. This eye means the selected effect has been applied. Clicking on the eye will remove the effect so you can see the original image. Now that you have the original image firmly in your mind, click on the place where the eye used to be and the effect will be applied. I find this method particularly useful when trying to determine whether or not I actually want to apply an effect to a picture at all.


METHOD 2: ZOOM IN
The other method to examine an effect is to zoom in on the image. Go to the bottom left corner of the screen and you'll notice a + and - button. Click these to zoom in or out. As you zoom in and out, you can click and drag the picture with your mouse to reposition it to your liking. If it's a picture of a person, you'll likely want to focus most of your attention on the face since that is where the eye naturally gravitates.

Step 4: Zoom in to a focal point on your picture. I found 66% was a good view for this particular image.

Step 5: Select the Stained Glass effect. It will -- surprise, surprise -- make your picture look like a stained glass window. However, the default settings may not look impressive. Don't worry, you have control over these. Underneath the OK and Cancel buttons, you'll notice three options for the Stained Glass effect: Cell Cize, Border Thickness and Ligh Intensity. These are fairly self-explanatory. Adjust them to your liking.

Every effect has options you can adjust to make that effect really work for you. Because every picture is different, I can't tell you what the best combination of settings is for your effect. That's the fun part of this. You get to explore. Don't worry about something not turning out. You can try as many times as you want and nobody will ever know your first 129 attempts were awful.

Step 6: Try out each of the Texture effects and adjust the settings on each. Also, try out the one Stylize effect.

Step 7: Once your image is just how you like it, press the OK button. If you've really messed up, press the Cancel button and go back to the Filter Gallery and start over again.

I saved some of my experiments below...

CRAQUELURE

This effect simulates a painting on a wall. It adds a bit of texture to the image. I find using less does more in this effect. That is true with most of the texture effects. The idea of adding texture is to add just a little, not make it the dominant focus of the picture.
GRAIN
Usually this effect is used to achieve an old-fashioned picture effect. In this case, it really brought out the contrast of this image. I was very pleased with the result of this effect.
MOSAIC TILES
To be quite honest, I rarely use this effect. It's kind of cool, but I can never find just the perfect picture to use it with.
PATCHWORK
This effect can be really in-your-face or subtle depending on how you manipulate the settings. I went with a more subtle effect and it's kind of neat, even if it does make the image look a bit pixelated.
TEXTURIZER
This effect has four subsettings. Find where it says Texturizer and there will be a dropdown menu to the right of it with four options. Each of these sub-options has its own set of settings you can manipulate. I find myself using the texturizer effects more than any other effect because they are so subtle, yet effective in changing the mood and feel of a picture.

BURLAP

BRICK
SANDSTONE
SANDSTONE
This is sandstone again, but I increased the relief option.
CANVAS

STYLIZE - GLOWING EDGES
This effect is under the Stylize category. I thought it turned out pretty awesome, like some sort of plant straight out of Avatar.

So there you have it. Well, at least the effects in two categories. Most of the other categories are pretty self explanatory, but we'll examine those in future posts. For now, explore and have fun. Please share your creations with me by uploading your pictures here.