Tuesday, August 31, 2010

WotW: Celebrate (good times, come on)!

Happy Wednesday! Happy Emma M. Nutt Day! Merry National No Rhyme (Nor Reason) Day! Today we honor the first woman telephone operator and un-rhymable words like orange, purple, and silver. But what about tomorrow? and next week? and next month? Because each day (and week and month) is worth celebrating (and sometimes we all just need a little celebration to get us through the day, if you know what I mean...), here are some resources to help you find a reason to celebrate today.

Holidays on the Net gives you the "fun and wacky" daily holidays all across the globe, plus calendars and explanations of religious holidays and in-depth explanations (and separate pages with loads of information) for some of the most well-known modern holidays, like Chanukah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa. While you're there, check out Holidaypedia: the who, what, when, where, and why of holidays, festivals and celebrations. Holidays on the Net also features crafts and recipes, e-cards, and a holidays widget. If you just can't get enough, sign up for newsletter or text message reminders or subscribe to their blog--the holiday season never ends!

Brownielocks also gives you daily holidays, wacky and traditional in either a printable calendar or list format. Along with the holiday calendar, they also have sendable cartoons, jokes and riddles, limerickspalindromes, the history of the mullet (no joke!), and more. You may want to turn your speakers off, however, unless you enjoy a soundtrack to your browsing. :)

Just in case Holidays on the Net and Brownielocks don't have a celebration for the day you're looking for, check out gone-ta-pott.com, your directory for holidays observances and celebrations. Despite its questionable name, gone-ta-pott is better organized and more, er, aesthetically modern than the others. It also includes a food holidays directory... yum!

And wondering what all these holidays really mean? Answers.com has a handy listing that shows you the observances by date, with links to the origin of each observance or holiday.

Phew. All this holiday-ing has worn me out. It must be about naptime... zzzzzzz....

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.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Once Upon a Time... It was my SITS day!

Bienvenidos! If I was a radio station, I'd be broadcasting live from South Texas, but since I'm a blogger, I'm posting semi-live from my personal computer. It's all the same really, right? If most radio DJs are broadcasting recipes and crafts across the airwaves, then I guess it is the same. I want to say welcome to all my SITSters joining me from SITS today!
I'm Debra. I am a newspaper reporter/photographer turned stay-at-home mom to a toddler entering the terrible twos, who started blogging because a professor told me to and kept blogging because I truly love it. I spent years scared of my sewing machine and I am still terrified of being forced to do dishes, but those fears aside, I love to sew, read, cook and photograph, and this is where I bring all of those loves together.
Every Tuesday is a Tasty Tuesday, where I show you all the recipes I am cooking up, including Utah State's famous Marv N' Joe. On Wednesdays, my real-life best friend writes a segment about the web. She evens show you how to find your lost phone. On Thursdays, I share a tutorial on how to take better pictures or how to edit them. I love to answer readers' photography questions and help y'all out for your family photo shoots by giving you ideas of what to wear for family pictures. All around those days, I publish book reviews, movie reviews, and all of the crazy crafts that pop into my head, including making origami roses. Sometimes I get a little personal and write letters to my world.

Other than my crazy amount of eclectic posts, we have something kind of special around here. The Housewife Eclectic Blogshare Community is a free blog listing where you can list your blog in any number of categories, including coupons, mommy, family, recipes, reviews, giveaways and such. The Blogshare Community allows readers to find your blog and helps you find new blogs in categories that you are interested in. So, go ahead, sign up your blog, you know you want to.

If you are looking for a little more, you can check out my recipe bar, or my book review bar, both located on the left-hand side of my blog. They are there to help you find your next family dinner or your next must read.

Quiet Book Tutorial- Doll with all her clothes

You will need:
Two sheets of felt in a plain color
Felt in a whatever skin color you want
Felt in whatever hair color you want
Felt piece in brown for the wardrobe
Assorted colors for clothes

Download the templates from this post. Cut out one doll in skin tone felt. Cut out one swimming suit in white and then cut middle part out to form underwear for the doll. Sew the underwear onto your doll (I guess you could fabric glue if you are anti sew.) Cut hair out you in color of choice. I cut my hair free hand so there isn't a pattern. Then sew a face on with embroidery floss. Sew doll to background piece.

Cut piece for wardrobe. My piece is six inches by seven inches. Sew a T shape onto your wardrobe so that when it is completely sewed on, the wardrobe will look complete. Add a small running stitch for handles on either side of the base of your T. Sew the wardrobe onto your background. DO NOT SEW THE TOP TO THE BACKGROUND. That is why you sewed a T, so that this can stay open and form a pouch to store your clothes.

My pattern includes a shirt, pants, a skirt, a swim suit and a dress. I cut all different ones from different colors. I used some of the printed felts to make the polka dot shirt, the dress with the purple tie die and the butterfly and frog shirts. I added some stripes to some or some free cut wavy stripes to others. Have fun with them. I hand sewed all of the embellishments onto each piece. You can hardly tell but in the bottom left of the picture is a plain black skirt and plain black pants, so she can mix and match practically any of the outfits. Go ahead, make your dolls stylish.

handmade projects

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Tutorial: Chore Chart with paint chip cards

My husband had the brilliant idea of making a chore chart using paint sample cards. They are perfect for this project because They are stiff and sturdy. Here is how to make this cute chore chart.
You will need:
One board (mine is two feet)
wood letters that spell out chore chart
paint sample cards, decide how many chores you want to include and then get that many sample cards in two different colors
small hooks

First I measured the board and decided how far apart the hooks should be. My hooks are drilled two inches from the edge, four inches from each other and about two inches from the top of the board. Drill your holes. Screw each of your hooks into place. Decide if you want to use the full length of the card, if not cut them down. I cut my cards down just a little on top so they would fit.
Glue two cards together. One color on one side and another on the other. Mine are pink and blue.

Write your chores on the cards. I am super lucky to have a SIL with fabulous hand writing and so she wrote these for me.
These are the letters I bought, they come in 4pks at Hobby Lobby for 77 cents. If you do it this way, you need one package of Cs, one of Hs, one of Rs, and then a package of Os, Ts, As, and Es. I painted my words in two different colors and then hot glued them just above my hooks on my board.
I then took a needle and poked a hole through my cards and then threaded them onto the hooks with my pink chores facing out. That way when she finishes a chore, she gets to flip it over to the blue side.
This chart turned out perfect for our family and the best thing is that the paint samples are so easy to get that if I ever want to change the chores on my board, it is a snap.
I am linking up with the Iron Crafter secret ingredient challenge today!

Photo Thursdays- What to wear for family pictures

(I'm Back!! After days with no internet. I want to thank Lorene from Just Lu for helping me out for a few days!)
Here it is. My answer to the number one question I get asked. What should we wear for family pictures?
Most of the e-mails I get, often start with the phrase," I am really sick of the jeans and white shirt look, what else can you recommend?" While the white shirt and jeans look will always be a classic family picture look, I agree, I wish we could move onto something a little more tailored to each family. Here are my favorite looks for family pictures.
#1. Matching to an accessory. None of these girl are wearing matching clothes but they have striped scarfs or hats and all of their clothes match those accessories. It is a clever way to give the picture a feeling of coordination without having to restrict the individual styles of each girl. While super cute, this works best for groups of girls, although I have seen it pulled off well with men involved, they just don't wear the accessory and are dressed it a complimentary color.

#2 Wearing opposite shades of the same colors. Dress all the girls in tan (or any other color you have picked.) and all the men in dark brown. You can make them wearing matching shirts or let everyone express their own style as long as it is the right color. It is totally up to you how similar you want the people to look.

#3. Wearing the same color but not the same patterns. While I am the first to tell you that bold patterns are a don't for family pictures, simple stripes can do a lot to add dimension to your photo. This family may all be in Navy, but the kids break up the block of navy with their white stripes. This look works best when you select a group to be solids and a group to be stripes (or any other small pattern). In this picture, parents are solids and kids stripes. The kids wearing blue and white striped shirts also open the door for some people to wear white without the picture looking weird.

#4. Wearing exactly the same shirts in different colors. Find shirts for your kids that are the same but made in a few different colors. Dress them each in a different color and then dress mom and dad in colors that work well with those shirts.

#5. Have an accent color. In this family, the parents are dressed in shades of blue but the baby is in red and therefor a nice accent to the picture. You can do this by dressing a family in a certain color, say black and then allowing an accent, such as letting the girls wear red camis under their shirts and giving the boys red ties. That way there is a little color without it making too big a splash. If there are very few children, or a newborn, then this is a great opportunity to dress them completely in the accent color like in the above photo.

#6. Different shades of the same color. Pick a color and then dress people in any shade of that color. It allows everyone to be different and show they style with an underlying theme.

#7. Different colors but same intensity. Let everyone dress in a different color but keep the shades to the same intensity. Let everyone wear a different pastel or as in the above photo, let people wear a bright but solid color shirt.

It is more acceptable than ever for people to wear different colors in photos. Green/yellow are a hot combination right now, as are orange/yellow. Just remember the more outrageous and bright your clothes are, the more people will just see the clothes in the photo and not the faces.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

WotW: Usability 101 - Helping your blog load faster

It's Wednesday again, which brings us to the last Usability 101 segment. You can find the first three segments here:
image source
Today's segment is about helping your blog load faster or, as I like to say, appreciating your readers by providing instant blog-loading gratification. Don't make your readers do the dial-up dance while they wait for your blog to load. Most likely, your blog readers aren't the Slowskys -- they're busy people who probably have a limited time period to be online (you know, like naptime or the amount of time it takes the kids to get bored and start whining). You want them to spend that time reading your posts and browsing your blog, not waiting for your blog to load.

First things first, how fast does your blog load?
The colored bars show how
long each element takes to load.
To find out, go to Pingdom Tools to run the full page test. Just enter your blog URL and the full page test loads your blog and tracks the time each element, such as an image, takes to load. Scroll down to the bottom and look in the gray box for your blog's loading information. (For information about the other stats listed, click on the Full Page Test tab at the top and then scroll down to the bottom. The descriptions are in the same grey box where you found your blog's information.) Stopwatch can also tell you how quickly your blog loads, but without the added information and stored results that Pingdom provides.

A Pingdom full page test report
Running the tests on Housewife Eclectic, Pingdom reported a 5.5-second loading time and Stopwatch 3.56 seconds. On my blog, just Lu, Pingdom's report was 3.6 seconds and Stopwatch's 3.7. The difference in times is due to how the different tests load different elements. Don't worry too much about a difference of a couple seconds between the two tests. If you run either test regularly, you might see that the time fluctuates a little because your front page of your blog is changing with each new post, and your browser is caching the site so that it will load faster.

So... How fast should your blog load? "Expert" opinions range from 2 seconds to 8. Even though 10 seconds is fast if you are waiting in the checkout line at the supermarket, 10 seconds waiting for a webpage is more akin to the 10 seconds it takes you to haul your screaming toddler from a pin-drop silent church meeting: it feels like an eternity. A 10-second-plus page load time is delay that is visible to your readers--they're watching your sidebars or your header image or your posts load.

Even if your loading time is low (under 8 seconds), you can lower it to make sure that your readers aren't waiting on your blog to load. The load times from Pingdom and Stopwatch are based on your browser and internet connection speed--if your readers' browsers or connection speeds are slower than yours, they'll wait longer. So it's always a good idea to make sure that your blog is loading as quickly as possible.

Cutting precious tenths of seconds off your load time isn't difficult and doesn't require you to be a tech guru (I'm certainly not!). Especially if your load time is longer than 8 or 10 seconds, try one of these suggestions to help your blog load faster.

As you consider these suggestions for your blog, keep this in mind: page load time and aesthetics (visual appeal and layout) have a give-and-take relationship. Generally, visual elements on your blog require some time to load. The key is to decide which aesthetic elements are most important to you, remove the unimportant elements, and streamline the important ones. That's where you find the happy medium between a bare-bones UG-ly blog that loads very quickly and a very aesthetically involved blog that requires a significant amount of time to load. 

Minimize image size and/or resolution. Hopefully you don't have a lot of unnecessary images on your blog; if you do, remove them! But we all know that blog posts with images are so much more fun to read, so don't feel like you have to get rid of every image. Instead, help the images load faster by reducing the image size and/or resolution of each of your images using a desktop image editor such as Photoshop (following this tutorial) or Picasa (following this tutorial) or using this online image optimizer from Dynamic Drive.

Reducing the image resolution saves your browser from loading more information than it needs to. If you upload a full-size print-quality image to your blog, Blogger will automatically change its display size to fit in your blog layout, but your browser will still load all of the information for the full-size image. Basically your browser is loading a full-size image and then just shrinking each part (or pixel) of the image. Reducing the resolution of the image reduces the number of parts (or pixels) in the image so that your browser isn't loading information unnecessarily.

Remove unnecessary widgets and other unnecessary elements. Some elements--especially music and video--take a lot of time to load and aren't necessary or important for your readers. Ditch the music playlist (most readers find it annoying anyway). Switch a video in the sidebar to a text link to a video on YouTube. If you can, reduce or remove the ads, too--they can slow down your page load more than you might think. If you have a hit counter, consider using your blog statistics (like we talked about two weeks ago) instead of the widget.

Once you've whittled down your widgets to the ones you deem necessary (such as followers), organize them so that the widgets that take the longest (shown in your Pingdom test) load last. Most blog layouts (those that aren't extremely customized) load from left to right and top to bottom, so place the slower-loading widgets in the right sidebar or at the bottom of your blog.

Reduce the number of front-page posts. If you write wordy posts (like I tend to) or lengthy tutorials with photos, you're better off to have 3 or 4 posts show on your front page. If, on the other hand, your posts are shorter and use fewer images, you can have 6 or 7 posts on the front page without slowing down your blog-load time. Reducing my front-page posts from 7 to 3 reduced my blog's already-low loading time by a full second. You'll find the front-page post setting (titled Show at most) for Blogger in the Formatting section (under the Settings tab).

Those are the top three ways to reduce your blog's loading time. If you're interested in learning more, see one of these articles:
And this brings us to the end of Usability 101. {sob} I'm so proud to see all of you moving on to become upstanding blog citizens! I'd love to hear what you thought about Usability 101 -- love it? hate it? didn't understand it? bor-ing?

If you have any questions, now or ever, leave me a comment or email me at iamjustlu@gmail.com. Don't fret - even though this is the end of Usability 101, I'll be back next Wednesday (and every Wednesday for the foreseeable future) with more inspiring, useful, or just plain fun web goodness. Until then...

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, August 24, 2010

Tasty Tuesday - Chicken Salad Sandwiches

Do you need an easy and nutritious meal? Perfect for summer outings, school lunches, or an end-of-summer picnic? Come on over to just Lu for today's Tasty Tuesday recipe for my yummiest ever chicken salad sandwiches. Trust me, you'll want to try these. And then eat them all day. :)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Fabric Covered Frame Tutorial

Hello, it's Lorene again. Nope, it's not Wednesday yet. Debra is having trouble with her internet, and it will be a few days before they can get it fixed, so she asked me to fill in here for a bit.

I made this frame for my mom for Mothers Day back in May. I originally intended to just cover the frame with paper, but the frame front was curved instead of flat, so the paper wouldn't stick properly. I needed to finish the frame that day (since Mothers Day was the next day... oops), so I used what I had: fabric scraps!

The inside of the frame is a twill tape photo holder from this tutorial on Crafterhours, and here's a step-by-step for covering the frame with fabric.

Before you start -- take a good look at your frame. You need to understand how it all fits together so that you can make sure that your fabric doesn't get in the way, like blocking one of the twisty doohickeys that holds the back in the frame. Once you have a firm understanding of the operation of your frame (which shouldn't take more than a minute or so :) ), you're ready to go.
  1. Gather your materials:
    • Photo frame, any size
    • Scraps of fabric, wide enough to cover the frame
    • ModPodge
    • Scissors (which may get a bit of ModPodge on them)
    • Foam brush
    • Sandpaper (100 grit or finer)
    • Pencil
  2. Lightly sand your frame to give the ModPodge some texture to stick to. 
  3. Select your fabric scraps. The scraps just need to big large enough to wrap completely around the frame. Mine were about 2.5 inches wide in varying lengths. 
  4. Place your first fabric scrap on the frame at the corner where you want to start. Lightly draw a line on your fabric from the outer edge of the corner to the inner edge of the corner and then down the inside of the frame.
  5. Cut along the line you just drew.
  6. Line up the fabric with the corner and make sure that it's cut how you want it. Trim if needed.
    • The diagonal cut should line up with or overlap the diagonal of the frame. Err on the side of overlapping -- you don't want part of your frame showing.
  7.  Apply ModPodge to the corner and the first couple of inches of the frame. Be sure the ModPodge is all the edges of the frame except the back.
    • If your scrap is shorter than the frame, apply ModPodge the length of the whole strip. If your scrap is longer, only apply the ModPodge to the first couple inches so that you'll be able to trim the other end.
  8. Gently press the fabric along the frame where you've just applied the ModPodge.
    • Be sure not to stretch your fabric too much, just enough that it is tight against the frame.
  9. For long scraps, trim the other end to match the corner of the frame, like in steps 4 and 5.
  10. Apply ModPodge to the corner to secure the trimmed corner.
  11. Secure the fabric to the back of the frame with ModPodge. Depending on your frame, you may need to trim the fabric.
    • If your frame is solid (like my black and red frame), trim the fabric to about 1/2 inch and ModPodge it to the back.
    • If your frame is hollow (like my blue frame), ModPodge the inside of the back of the frame and tuck the fabric inside. I used a chopstick (one of my favorite crafting tools!) to make sure it was secure.
  12. Turn the frame over and check your hardware. Trim around it as necessary.
  13. Continue tracing, trimming, and ModPodging your fabric scraps to the frame, gradually working your way around. 
  14. Leave a bit of overhang at each corner and ModPodge it.
  15. If your scraps are smaller so that you can't leave enough overhang, just trim the fabric even with the edge of the frame.You can cover it up with your next piece of fabric -- I'll show you how in step 16. :)
  16. Instead of tracing the diagonal, cut a square out of the corner of your scrap. 
  17. Then cut a slit from the corner in. (The square is where my thumb is.)
  18. ModPodge the frame and fold the long piece around, folding (and ModPodging) the other piece on top to cover the whole corner. 
  19. Continue trimming and ModPodging your scraps until you've covered the whole frame.
  20. Double-check that the fabric is secured to the back of the frame.
    • If your frame is wood, you can staple the fabric if needed.
  21. Apply one (or two) coats of ModPodge on top of the fabric and let it dry.
Add a cute picture (which means you'll have to actually print one...which I forgot to do :) ) and you're done!