Thursday, September 30, 2010

Photo Thursdays- Making slideshow movies with Picasa

Want to get started with Picasa? Go here to download it for free.
Did you know that you can make slide show movies with Picasa? Picasa is not a movie making program, so if you really get into this type of thing, you would be better off purchasing a program. If all you want is a short slide show movie with some music in the background, Picasa can do that for you.


First select the pictures you want to use in your movie and then click on Create in the top menu.Scroll down and click on movie.

This screen will pop up. It is what the first screen in your movie will look like. Here is where you set how long you want each slide to last and what the transition is going to be. Pick a transition you like because it sticks for the whole movie.

If you want to add music, click load in the top left corner and find your song. Then you can adjust if you want to fit your pictures into the music or not.

Next, at the top you see three menus. One is called movie and the next on is called slide. Click on slide and this where you can change what the name of your movie is. The background color and such of that first screen.

When you are done with your movie. Hit create movie and your movie will process. After it is finished. You will see this screen which will allow you to export your movie or upload it to Youtube for all to see. Let me know if you have any questions on creating your Picasa movie.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

WotW: The Quest for a Blog Button (part 2)

Welcome back to part two of our quest for a blog button! I trust you all did your homework (found here in part one of our quest)? If not... go do that first. If you're in need of some additional button inspiration, Elizabeth at twelve crafts features a variety of great buttons in her weekly Monday's Buttons segment.

Once you've accomplished those three homework tasks, you have advanced from a lowly page to humble squire. After finishing today's quest, you shall be a knight... one of the proud Knights of the Blog Button!

{ahem... pardon me for getting a bit carried away with the medieval-ness there... on to the tutorial...}

In Picasa, open your chosen image (photo/digital paper/solid white-for-now) that you selected based on the information in part one of our quest. I chose to use the creme paper from this free Boho Chic kit by Brandy Buffington found on Two Peas in a Bucket.

From here, this tutorial becomes a bit like a Choose Your Own Adventure novel (remember those?)...
  • If you are using a photo or a digital paper, follow the Crop instructions first and then skip the instructions for changing your background color. 
  • If you are using the solid white background that I created for you, skip the Crop instructions and go straight to Change your solid background color.

Crop the image to the correct proportions
Remember as you crop... your finished blog button will be small (under 2 inches square) so don't try to include too much or too many small details in your little square. Less is more, simpler is better. (Repeat this mantra to yourself as needed.)

1. Click Crop (in the upper left corner).

2. From the drop-down menu, select Add Custom Aspect Ratio (at the very bottom of the list).

3. In the window that opens, enter 2 x 2 for the dimensions and Blog Button for the name and then click OK

4. With your new Blog Button aspect ratio selected from the drop-down, click on one of the crop options below the menu to place the cropping frame on your photo.


5. Click and drag the corners of the frame to make the cropping frame larger or smaller and move the frame around until the area that you want to use for your button is selected. 
  • Click Preview to see a quick view of what your cropped selection will look like.
6. Click Apply.

Change your solid background color
1. With your solid white background open, select the Effects tab.
2. Click Tint.

3. Click on Pick Color and select the color that you want.

4. Once you've found the color you want, click Apply.
If you'd like to add a little more oomph to your solid color, you might consider also using the Graduated Tint or Film Grain effects (found under the Effects tab).

Add text 
1. From the Basic Fixes tab, click Text.

2. Click anywhere and enter the text you'd like on your blog button. (I'd advise putting only your blog name to keep it simple and easy-to-read. The button will be a link to your blog, so you don't need your blog address.)

3. Use the options to change the font, size, color, and alignment of your text until your happy with it.
  • Remember... your image looks big now, but it will be small when you put it on your blog. Make sure that your text is in a readable font (mine is Lane Upper), sized fairly large, and in a color that contrasts well with your background. 


4. You can also rotate the text by clicking the orange dot/arrow.

5. When you're happy with the text, click Apply.

***Now, take a step back and look at your button. You are *done* with the creation part of the process. The only tasks left in our quest are saving, uploading, and adding it to your blog. March on, brave knights! ***


Save and upload your image
1. Select File > Export Picture to Folder (or press Ctrl + Shift + S).
2. Click Browse and select the location where you want your final-product blog button image to be. Be sure to remember this so you can find it when you upload it.

3. In the image size section, select Resize to and enter 150 in the pixels box.
  • There is no real "standard" for blog button sizes. Some would say that 150 is standard, some would say 175, some would say 125. Both of mine at just Lu are 175, but I shrink the display size of the buttons from other blogs I post to 85. So... select a number in there somewhere. I chose 150 for this tutorial because I felt like it. ;)

4. From the image quality drop-down, select Normal. This keeps the file size small while maintaining a moderate image quality.
  • If your blog button looks grainy (pixelated, in tech speak) when you view the exported image, you can export the image again and select a higher image quality.

5. Click Export.
  • Your exported image won't show up in Picasa. Don't worry; this is automatic so that you won't see duplicates of the same image. Your image is in the folder on your where you told Picasa to put it a couple steps back.
6. Upload the exported image to your image host of choice.
  • Picasa Web Albums, Photobucket, and Flickr are some popular image hosting sites, but you can upload the image wherever you already have an account. If you don't have an account with any image hosting sites, I'd suggest Picasa Web Albums -- it's linked to your Google and Blogger account automatically. 

Add your button (plus code for others to grab it) to your blog (in Blogger) 
1. After logging into your blog, go to the Page Elements section under the Design Tab.
2. Click Add New Gadget.
3. Select HTML/Javascript from the list of gadgets.
4. In your new HTML/Javascript window, copy and paste this HTML code, replacing the highlighted sections with the correct information -- blog name (twice) , image direct URL (twice) and your blog address.
<img alt="My Blog Name" src="http://whatever.com/myimageDIRECTurl" /><textarea cols="20" rows="3">&lt;a href="http://myblog.blogspot.com" target="_blank"&gt;&lt;img  border="0" alt="My Blog Name" src="http://whatever.com/myimageDIRECTurl"/&gt;&lt;/a&gt;</textarea>
  • Remember back to the HTML basics: be sure that each piece of information you put in stays in quotes (") and that your image direct URL and blog address both begin with http://
    To add to your library of HTML knowledge:
    • <img alt> is the attribute for the alternate text for your image. This text will show if/when your image doesn't and, depending on your browser, will also be the little text tag that shows when you hover over the image.
    • <textarea> is the tag for a text input box. This is the box where you put the button's code for your readers to copy to their own blog. textarea is defined by the variables cols and rows. cols sets the width (in average character width) and rows sets the height in text rows. Depending on your sidebar width, you may need to adjust the cols number.  
    • &lt; and &gt; are the HTML code-speak for the < and > signs. You use the typed out code when you need the < s to be visible (and copy-able) instead of being interpreted by Blogger/your browser.
    • <img border> is the attribute that sets the width of the image border. I generally set it to "0" to avoid the blue/purple border that is standard on links.
  • You'll find your image direct URL wherever you uploaded it. Here's what it looks like in Picasa Web Albums:

5. Click Save.
6. Check out your new button in your regular browser and at least two others. The battle against wysinwyrg is never-ending!
6. Bask in the triumph of yet another quest completed, fair maiden saved, and dragon conquered.
7. Add your finished button to the Housewife Eclectic Photo Share on flickr or leave a comment here so that I can come see your beautiful button and vicariously bask in triumph. :)

At the successful conclusion of this quest, I dub thee, all of thee, Knights of the Blog Button and bid thee good day!
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 crafts and whatever else comes up at just Lu.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tasty Tuesdays- Shrimp Scampi

My husband loves shrimp. He and Lu's husband from Just Lu, will sit and eat them like popcorn. This was my attempt to get them to put the bag down and let me cook them. This is now one of my husband's favorite recipes.

1-1.5 lbs of shrimp. I put the frozen stuff because the thought of shelling a shrimp makes me want to cry. I may or may not be kidding.
2 T. olive oil - really use olive oil. It makes this recipe have a smoother taste
2 T. lemon juice
1/4 t. salt
2 green onions thinly sliced. I use scissors to cut mine. Don't tell on me to the culinary masters.
2 cloves of garlic finely pressed
grated Parmesan cheese

Heat the oil in a skillet. Cook all the ingredients except Parmesan cheese in the skillet for about 3 minutes. Until everything is heated through. If you buy the cooked shrimp,  you are just warming up. If you buy uncooked you need to cook until the shrimp are pink and firm. Sprinkle with cheese and remove from heat.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Branding Your Blog - SWOT away your worries

Branding all boils down to identity. Understanding your identity is a challenging quest though, one that takes serious thought and effort. In the last Branding Your Blog post, I talked about the importance of knowing your core values. These values shape your identity. Once you have a clear idea of who you are and what you stand for, you need to know what to do with that identity.

It may seem kind of obvious: write blog posts. But is that all you do? Aren't you also an entertainment station for some people? A sanity saver for others? You're probably a knowledge hot spot for many. Or perhaps you're a bit of everything. Your identity is your brand, and if you don't even know what your identity is, you're very distant from having an effective brand.

One of the great tools PR and other business professionals use to help them understand their identity is called a SWOT analysis. Sounds painful, I know, but it's not too difficult and the results will change the way you look at your blog brand.


SWOT is an acronym that stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. A SWOT diagram places each letter in a different quadrant on a grid. From there, you analyze each item individually, taking care to fully flush out your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.

Because blogs are a bit different than a traditional business, I took the liberty of placing some starter questions in each quadrant to help you get going.

STRENGTHS

Be honest with yourself, you know your blog has some strengths. Maybe it's your writing style. Maybe it's a particular segment or reoccurring post you do. Perhaps you excel at creating inviting and classy graphics. Understanding your strengths helps you play to those strengths and you can brand your blog in a way that really brings out those strengths.

WEAKNESSES

Just like you have strengths, you also have weaknesses. Not necessarily as a person (though I've never met someone without at least one weakness), but your blog will have some weaknesses. It's natural. Blogging is an interesting phenomenon that has gradually evolved, so there will always be rough edges and things to improve on. Identifying weaknesses can help you turn those weaknesses into strengths as you focus on them.

OPPORTUNITIES

There are many opportunities for you as a blogger, but you are the one who must decide what those opportunities are. These tie into your goals for your blog. If you're after a certain number of followers, that's an opportunity. If you want to do giveaways, that's an opportunity. Other opportunities may include branching out to different subject matters, changing to a custom URL or having a professionally-designed blog. Identify your opportunities and seize them.

THREATS

I know it sounds silly to have threats, but there may be things that pose a threat to your blog. If you're a competitive person, other blogs that post similar content could be seen as a threat. Fortunately, the blogging community is very sharing and has an attitude of "the more, the merrier." Potentially the biggest threat that faces every blogger is the question of, "When is the blogging bubble going to burst." It would be very arrogant to believe blogging will forever be as dominant as it is now. Sure, it will probably exist for decades to come, but once the "Next Best Thing" comes along, what's going to happen to your blog? Are you going to evolve? Are you going to incorporate this new fad in with your blog? Looking ahead to these potential threats will help you maintain a positive brand that people will stick with for many years to come.


SWOT analyses do take time to complete, but they are very rewarding and will help you better create and understand your blogging brand.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Tips on how to style your bookshelves

I walked into my parent's office while I was there a few weeks back and found their new furniture find in complete disarray. I am the type of person that can't seem to bring myself to just walk away and so I found myself restyling their bookshelf. I got weird looks from some and help from one of my aunts but I love the way it turned out.
Here are my tips for making your bookshelves pop.
1. If you are going to store things such as CDs on your shelves, put them in cute baskets. Baskets will keep that clutter away from the eye but still allow the things you want close to be at your fingertips.

2. If you want your bookshelves to be super classy, it is time to put some of those knick-knacks away. As cute as the Mickey Ninja was in the top photo, his days on the bookshelf were over.

3.Always include a natural element. A large shell, a plant (even if it is a fake one), flowers. Something that will bring a little life to the shelf.

4. Don't use straight, matching sets straight across every shelf. The matching books in the top corner flow well because the older books in the other corners are mismatched. Offset  your similar books by gathering your old, eclectic looking books.

5. Add some small photos that make the shelves feel like your own. Old pictures work really well on bookshelves. It gives your library or space that full of knowledge feel.

6. If you have several bookcases in a row, it is OK to fill a couple of them with minimal styling and then style the middle one to bring your eye to the center.

7. Don't be afraid of blank space. It can be your friend. If you completely fill your bookshelf, there may be so much to look at that nothing gets looked at.

8. Remember this is your space, not the IKEA catalog. If the style doesn't work for you. Change it up. 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Photo Thursdays- Photo Organization on your computer with Picasa

Today, I am going to show your how I organize my photos. Keep in mind, this is just one way to organize your computer.
First off, I use the my picture folder to store all photos. Then I break them down chronologically. I start with one year folder as in below. There is one folder for 2006, one for 2007 and so on.

Then when you enter into the year folders, there are 12 folders. One for each month. I put numbers at the beginning of my folder names so they stay in order when I arrange them by name. I know, I'm OCD.
After the folders are broken up by the months, then I break them up by event. Each even not matter how small gets its own folder. So I know exactly what is in each folder just by looking. 
Even though I keep my folders super organized on my computer, I still use Picasa to help me find them all. Now I am going to show you how Picasa can help you find your pictures.
When Picasa first imports all of your photos, they will look like this. They are in chronological order at this point. The programs reads the digital time stamp on the photo and knows where to put each folder. Keep in mind that it puts the folder in the place of the oldest photo in the folder. So even if all the pictures in one folder were taken in one month and one was taken a week earlier, it will be at the week's earlier place in the lineup of your folders.
If you hate the chronological look, you can switch it by clicking on the other button at the top. It is circled in the above screen shot. This will make your folders look as they are organized on your computer. If you keep your photo folders organized than this may be a good option for you. If you don't, you probably want to stick with chronological.
You can change the name and date of a folder in Picasa too. Just find the folder you want to change the information on. Right click on the folder name and hit edit folder description.
It will take you to this screen where you can edit the name of your folder and when it was taken. You can also add a description to aid you in searching later.
One of my favorite features of Picasa is the ability to create albums. Albums are a gathering of your photos in Picasa without actually pulling any of your pictures out of their original folders. I can have an album of all of my favorite photos on Picasa but if I went looking for those pictures on my computer, they would be right where they are supposed to be in their month/year folders on my computer.
Create an album by selecting your photos and right clicking. The second option from the top says add to album. Select an album from the list or scroll down and create a new album.
The new album screen looks very much like the edit folder screen. Your albums will appear at the top of your Picasa above your folders so you can find them easy.
Now that you photos are organized, you can find them easier. See that search bar in the top right corner of Picasa, if your images are sorted by events you can just type the name of the event in their and those pictures should pop up.
Any more questions on photo organization? Leave a comment and I will help you out.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

WotW: The Quest for a Blog Button (part one)

Hello again and welcome back to Wednesdays on the Web! I'm your host, Lorene, and we're here today talking about a very important blogging topic: the blog button.

If you're hopping around the blogosphere much, you need a blog button.

Let me say that again: you need a blog button. 

You know what it is. You've seen one on every blog. You may have even coveted a button that you saw on another blog (shame on you! ;). So... why don't you have one? What is preventing you from having a blog button of your very own?

While I can't answer that question for all of you (and many of you do, in fact, have your very own blog button), for most of you button-less readers out there, the barrier between you and a blog button is comprised of one-and-a-half things: lack of technical know-how and a smidgen of fear.

So, that's why we are gathered here today. To overcome that smidgen of fear and show you that you do not have to be tech-savvy to create a blog button.

Okay... let's get started. You may have noticed the (part one) in the title of this post. Today, we're just dipping your toes in the technical waters so that you can be ready to dive right in next week to the actual creation process. This week is preparation, like learning to add before you can multiply, or washing and pressing your fabric before you begin sewing. It's not as much fun, but it's a necessary step.

You have three assignments today:

1. Install Picasa. We'll be using Picasa to create your blog button. You may remember Picasa from some of Debra's Photo Thursdays tutorials. If you haven't already, go here to download and install Picasa. Open it and play around with it some, if you like. Some of Debra's first Photo Thursdays here were about Picasa, so you can check them out here (just click Newer Posts at the bottom to see more).

2. Select a background for your button. We're using Picasa to create this button, so your background will need to be an image of some type. In selecting a background for your button, keep in mind that you'll be placing text on top of whatever you choose, so make sure that your background isn't too busy. You have a couple of options in your image search:
  • A photograph. You'll want the photo to be representative of your blog but also have plenty of empty space for your text. You don't want your text running across an important part of the photo. If you feel like a couple of photos would represent your blog better without being too busy or too hard to see/read, you can choose a few and I'll show you how to combine them into a single image for your button, too.
  • A digital scrapbook paper. Digital scrapbooking kits are just fancy-looking images, so you can use them in Picasa just like they were a traditional photo. And there are lots of free digital kits available.... you know how I love free! Two Peas in a Bucket has a wonderful selection of free kits available (select Price Low to High from the drop-down to see the free kits first), and Shabby Princess has some awesome free kits too. As you're browsing, though, remember that you'll be putting text on top of whatever design you choose, so it's best to keep the design simple.
  • A solid color background. Depending on your style, you might want just a solid color background. My button at just Lu is actually just text (thank you, Wingdings!) on a white background. If that's more your style, you can go here to download a blank white background that I created just for you. (Just click Download and then Download photo.) As part of the tutorial next week, I'll show you how to change it to whatever color you want it to be.
Remember, your blog button should represent your blog and also correlate to your blog visually. You don't want a hot pink background on your blog button (even though it would definitely attract attention) if your blog's main color is a nice mint green. Your blog button should coordinate nicely with the actual design and color scheme of your blog. For example, Debra's button for Housewife Eclectic uses one of the images from the blog header; my blog button over at just Lu uses the same color scheme and square motif as I use for my header, navigation bar and favicon (that little icon up in the address bar).

Be sure to keep this correlation idea in mind as you're selecting the background for your blog button. And if you find a color scheme or design that you absolutely love... well, you can always change your blog background and/or header to match! My color scheme over at just Lu originated from a premade blog background from Hot Bliggity Blog and evolved from there. :)

3. Select a font for your blog button. Again, this should correlate with your existing blog design (unless you are redesigning because you are so excited about this blog button, kind of like having to remodel the house after buying a new picture because the picture makes the paint look dingy, and then the new paint makes the carpet look crummy, and then the new carpet makes the entryway look to small...).

You don't want to go too crazy with fonts, though. Generally, two fonts will suffice: one that is easily readable for your main post text and one that is a little more unique (but still readable) for your blog header and blog button. DaFont is my favorite place to get new fonts. {Once you've downloaded a new font, instructions for unzipping the folder are below, and then just follow the How to install a font directions on the DaFont homepage.}

A note about zipped folders

As you're downloading digital scrapbooking kits and fonts, you may notice that the files are in a zipped folder (shown by the little zipper across the traditional yellow folder). A zipped file isn't a flavor additive (like the tangy zip of a certain sandwich spread), but it definitely serves its purpose! A zipped file is also called a compressed file because it is, uh, compressed. Smaller. When files are stored on servers and distributed around the web, it's important they they are as small as possible so that they don't take up unnecessary space on the server and so that users can download them more quickly.

The main reason that this whole zipping thing matters to you is that you need to unzip the folder or extract the files before you can use any of the contents of the folder. It sounds complex, but it is sooo easy. Here's how easy it is:

On a Windows PC:
  1. Locate the zipped file folder that you just downloaded. 
  2. Right click on the folder.
  3. Select Extract or Extract All from the right-click menu.
  4. Unless you want to change the destination of the extracted files, click OK.
On a Mac:
  1. Double-click on the zipped file.
    (the simplicity appeals to you, eh? makes you want a Mac? maybe it's just me ;)
Done! Your extracted files will now be in the same location on your computer as the original zipped folder was, in a folder named the same thing as the zipped folder. You can tell the difference because one folder has the zipper and the other is just the plain yellow folder. 

And, in case you are wondering, yes, you can also zip files yourself. If you're distributing a group of images or files (of your own creation, of course, so that it's on the up and up) on your blog or by email, you'll want to zip the files so that the upload/download doesn't take as long. Even if your files aren't large, zipping the files allows you to attach or upload a single file instead of individually uploading those twelve PDF pattern pieces. Zipping a file is just as easy an unzipping one:

On a Windows PC:
  1. Select the files that you want to zip by holding either shift (for consecutive files) or ctrl (for non-consecutive files) and clicking.
  2. Right click on one of the selected files so that the files remain selected.
  3. Select Send to and then Compressed (zipped) Folder.
  4. Enter a name for your newly zipped folder.
On a Mac:
  1. Select the files that you want to zip by holding either shift (for consecutive files) or command (for non-consecutive files) and clicking.
  2. Right click on one of the selected files so that the files remain selected.
  3. Select Compress # Items.
  4. Enter a name for your newly zipped folder.
So, there's your homework plus a little extra info so you can show off your smarts to all of your friends. As always, register your questions, complaints or suggestions in the comments (compliments are also always welcome ;).  Happy Wednesday! Don't forget your homework!

Continue on part two of the Quest for a Blog Button here.

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, September 21, 2010

Tasty Tuesdays- My Sugar Cookies

OK, I know there are about a million sugar cookie recipes out there. This is the one I like, but if you have a great one, go ahead share it with me. I can always use another cookie recipe. :)

1 c. butter - cookies are better with the good stuff. Just sayin'
2 c. sugar
3 eggs
1 c. sour cream- It took me a long time to convince myself that it was OK to put sour cream in cookies.
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. vanilla
4 c. flour

Mix your softened butter and your sugar then add eggs, sour cream, the baking soda and the vanilla. Then add the flour. Roll out dough and bake of a greased cookie sheet at 375 until they are lightly browned. These sugar cookies are great to cut out shapes with and are especially delicious with cream cheese frosting.

Monday, September 20, 2010

School Decoration: ABC Blocks

You know me, I love to decorate for every occasion. I wanted something cute for Back to School and this is what I came up with. I love theses ABC blocks and they are so easy to make.

You will need:
Wood pieces (Mine are 2 inches tall by three inches wide)
School scrapbook paper (I am so in love with this chalkboard paper)
Wooden Letters
Paint
About a yard of ribbon

Sand and paint your block to your liking. Cut your scrapbook paper to be slightly smaller than your blocks. My block are 2x3 and so I cut my paper to be 1.75x2.5. Mod Podge the paper to your blocks. Paint your letter and glue one. Tie the ribbon around the edges! What could be more simple than that?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

PR and Your Blog - Branding Your Blog - Know Your Core Values

(PR and Your Blog is a series written by Seth Hawkins (Debra's husband). Seth is a PR professional turned school teacher, who is sharing his knowledge of PR. Catch up on the first two segments of his column, PR and Blogs- a Mutualistic Relationship and Branding Your Blog- Creating a Quality Product.)
The other day I was eating at Jason's Deli, one of my favorite places to enjoy a bite to eat with my family. While savoring my delicious croissant sandwich, I couldn't help but notice a series of signs around the walls that proudly proclaimed the core values of Jason's Deli:

1. Be a great place to work
2. Hold the highest personal standards
3. Provide "out-of-this-world" service
4. Serve the highest quality of food
5. Be a healthy, growing company

In a world of marketing gimmicks, half-truths and rampant fraud, I was impressed to find a company that, first of all, had values, and had the courage to convey these values to their customers. As I thought on their values, I could see how these values shaped everything about the place.

So, what does Jason's Deli have to do with blogging? Everything.

As a blogger, you are creating a product for others to view. You have an audience who follow your blog and expect something from you. What is it they expect? Do you even know? For that matter, what do you expect from yourself?

Understanding your core values as a person and a blogger will allow you to answer those tough questions. Core values are rarely talked about these days. People used to have values and stuck to them, but in today's overly politically correct society, core values are often shunned in favor of vague and shapeless courtesies. This explains how easily companies can scam clients and customers without even blinking an eyelash.

What are core values?
Simply stated, they are the things you believe in and stand for as a blogger. To help you develop your core values, try answering these questions:
  • What do you want to accomplish?
  • Who are you writing for?
  • Why are you writing this blog?
  • What will you write about?
  • Is there anything you won't write about? Why or why not?
  • What do you expect from yourself?
  • What should your readers expect from you?

By answering these questions, you can compile a list of core values that will shape how you approach your blog. You may or may not choose to post these values, but having them written down somewhere will guide you as you write your posts.

Branding all comes down to core values. A company with a set of core values is solid and that shines through everything they do. The same thing is true of a blog. Your core values will guide what you post, how you post and how you interact with your readers, and your readers will know they can turn to your blog as a reliable source of whatever it is they are after; be it news, information, entertainment or leisure.

I'd recommend writing down your core values and doing a post about these so your readers can see them. It's a challenging task, but one that will guide your blog to greater success and more effective branding.

Friday, September 17, 2010

A cute way to make your adult party more kid friendly

I always thought in order to make your party kid friendly, you had to loose some of  beauty. Devout part of your party to the kids and loose out on the aesthetically pleasing part. My mom and aunt did a beautiful job of pulling together my brother's wedding dinner and they made it kid friendly too.

My aunt pulled together these gorgeous center pieces on half cloth/ half paper tablecloths. Then they left boxes of crayons on the paper tablecloths. The kids has a blast coloring and playing and they even stayed in their seats because their attention was on what was right in front of them.
The kids thought the party was fun and it was still so beautiful. It also helped that my mom hired a bounce house and hid it in a corner of her yard. :)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Photo Thursdays - Dodging is Not Like Dodgeball

Last week, we discussed a photo touch-up tool called burning, which adds some color and depth to an image. Today, we'll examine the exact opposite effect: dodging.

Yes, dodging sounds like an exciting game of dodge ball, but it's not nearly as entertaining or painful, though just as aggravating if you are prone to being the first person knocked out in the game. Dodging is simply a process of removing dark areas of an image by adding more light to them. Remember, this is an artificial process, so dodging can look very fake if done in large amounts or in the wrong locations.

Similar to burning, dodging is a fine art, one that takes considerable amounts of practice and a whole lot of patience.


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

Step 2: Select the Dodge tool in the Tools Palette. The Dodge tool shares the same location with the Burn and Sponge tools, and all three are located just above the Text tool (which looks like a capital letter 'T').


Step 3: Adjust your brush size in the tool options palette at the top of the screen. It's better to choose a bit larger brush size than a smaller brush size to avoid splotchy effects. If done incorrectly, dodging can make Michael Jackson's unfortunate skin condition look good. Ah, I miss your good music, MJ.


Step 4: Just like with burning, you have the option of working with highlights, shadows or midtones. I would suggest starting with midtones. If that doesn't do enough work, try the shadows out. There are limited uses for the highlights. Also, make sure you select the airbrush setting (the pen with the squiggly line underneath) for a smoother application.

Step 5: Lightly click, drag and release your mouse over the dark image you want to lighten. You need to do this as quickly as possible. The longer you hold down the mouse, the more pressure will be applied and the stranger your picture will start to look. Remember, you can go over the same spot again, but you need to get a light first coat down. Continue to apply the effect until you achieve the desired result. A little goes a long way.



It may take multiple mistakes, but eventually you will get it down. It's not the world's greatest effect, and it doesn't always work quite the way you would hope, but it definitely has its place in the photographer's toolkit, especially when you find yourself in strange lighting situations.


Click on the image above to enlarge and see the effect more clearly.