Monday, January 31, 2011

Valentine's Photo Tiles

Need a cute Valentine's gift for your husband or grandma? This make the perfect gifts and they are so EASY to make.
You will need:
A ceramic tile, I used 6x6 for this project
A digital scrapbook layout printed, I created mine using Picnik. You can follow my tutorial here.
Foam Brush
Mod Podge

First create your page, using my tutorial or you own digital scrapbook software. Print the page onto cardstock and trim. I had a LOT of trouble printing my collage from Picnik, so I downloaded it and printed it with Picasa.
Mod podge your layout to the tile, by applying a thin layer of mod podge to the tile, placing your layout down and smoothing out any air bubbles. Then applying a layer of mod podge to the top of the layout as well.
My biggest tip is to use CARDSTOCK, or if you are stubborn like me, you can use paper and then have to peel it off the tile when it tears and bubbles...twice.

handmade projects

Winner of $25 Gift Certificate to CSN Stores

And the winner, courtesy of is: 

Linda from Stray Stitches, who said:

Stray Stitches said...

Those socks look awfully darn cute and I'm always in the market for socks.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Free Effects- Black and White, Focal Black and White and Sepia with Picnik

Don't forget to go enter to win a $25 CSN gift certificate!

I have been focusing on some of the other features of Picnik recently and seem to have left out some of the basics, so here they are. One of the first things people want to know how to do is turn their photos black and white and sepia. Picnik makes this super easy, they also make making just parts of your picture color easy as well. The best part of the effects I am featuring today is that they are all FREE effects

These effects are found under the create menu. They are the first ones to pop up when you click on effects.

When you select Black and White, this is what the menu looks like. One of the nice things about this BW is that you can leave your photo full strength BW or you can bring up the fade dial to give your photo a muted color or desaturated look.
Next to the fade bar you will see a little paint brush. When you click on the paint brush, you get the menu below.
Effect painting allows you to do a focal BW, meaning you can make some parts of the picture BW while other stay color. Your photo will be in BW at this point and so you will basically be painting back on the color, If you choose 100% brush strength, you will be basically painting back on with full strength color. If you choose less than 100% you will be painting back on with a desaturated color. The harder your brush, the more exact a circle you will be painting with. Sometimes it is helpful to take down the hardness of your brush to be able to move around corners and such as you paint.

Choose a brush size that fits the area to be painted. If you are painting a really small area, you will want a smaller brush so you won't add to much color. The best advice for painting the color back onto the picture, is to go slow and be patient. If you add too much color, hit the undo button and it will undo your last brush stroke. If you decide that you want your colors to be the opposite of what you have already painted, just select the reverse button and it will change it for you.
Sepia is also a snap with Picnik. Select the sepia button and the following menu will pop up.
You will notice a color bar. You can change the color tone of your sepia. The far right is a yellowed sepia, the far left and orange sepia. You can also do desaturation with sepia, just slide the fade bar up and some of the original color will peek through underneath.
You can also effect paint with Sepia, using the same principals as from the BW description above.

Sometimes the simplest effects are the best and Picnik has made achieving those effects... well... simple. :)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

WotW: How do I love thee, Gmail... let me count the ways

Last week when we talked about replying to blog comments, I not-so-subtly told you of my love for Gmail. Today, I'd like to explain a bit more...

I love Gmail because, to me, Gmail is how email should work. Now, remember this is my opinion. Meaning it's just what I think, no real facts about it. And no, I'm not being compensated to gush about this product or any of the others that I gush about... I just like to share what I love. I would love to hear what you love about your email, too... just try and change my mind. :)

In case you're concerned, yes, I have used other webmail accounts and I semi-actively use both Hotmail and Yahoo, but mostly for receiving messages, not sending. I've been using primarily Gmail for 4+ years now and I have no intention of abandoning it now. :)

First and foremost, I love that Gmail helps me choose my recipient right in the compose view -- I don't have to EVER go to the address book to select a recipient. Even if the recipient isn't actually in my contacts, if they've sent me an email or I've sent them an email, Gmail remembers. Then as I type in a couple letters of a name or address, Gmail gives me a list to choose from (blurred by me, not by Gmail :):

 Yup, that is my absolute FAVORITE feature of Gmail. I think Hotmail and maybe even Yahoo have something similar now, but 5 years ago, that was unique to Gmail. Anyway... on to the other things I love about Gmail:

I love Gmail's threaded messages. If I send an email and the recipient replies, the messages are bound together because they're related -- the number in parentheses tells you how many messages are part of the thread This is fantastic for those email relationships that aren't on a regular schedule -- say, a bloggy buddy who you email with sometimes once a day and sometimes just every few weeks because, you know, you both have lives. (Hi Elizabeth!) Threaded messages makes it easy to scroll up and remember just what you were talking about, and then your reply is included in the same thread -- fantastic!

Gmail is great for spam control (remember, in my opinion... no statistics involved). The best form of spam control comes from you, of course -- not giving your email address to a source that might spam or sell your address. But if you, like me, have made a lapse in judgement now and then, Gmail will keep those spam messages out of your inbox -- just click Report Spam.

And, since you know that you shouldn't even OPEN most spam messages, you know, to investigate whether you actually do know the deposed king of Nigeria (you don't, I promise), Gmail gives you a short message preview to the right of the sender and subject so that you can see the first bit of the message before opening it. If that preview shows only a link, especially a weird link -- don't open it. Just don't. Trust me.

Gmail has a nice clean interface -- that's nerd-speak for how it looks. One big thing that keeps the Gmail interface better looking than others (in my opinion) is the text ads -- instead of ugly banner image ads, there are just small text ads above your inbox. I've even seen hacks to block them, but they don't bother me so I've never tried. Free email comes at a price, and that's most often ads. So kudos to Gmail for having the least annoying ads of the bunch.

Another of my favorite features of Gmail is the use of labels instead of folders. It does take some getting used to since most other emails and computer systems are folder-oriented, but labels are fantastic. Instead of putting a message inside a single folder, I can use multiple labels on a single message, allowing me to filter my messages better according to my own system.

For example, I receive email notifications for each of our household bills. I label each notification as a "bill", as well as from what company. Then, when payday rolls around, I can label each bill as "paid". And, if my labeling system ever fails or has a gap, the Gmail search is easy to use to find exactly what you're looking for, either in your email or on the web. 

The last feature I'll gush about today is Gmail Labs.
The labs are features that aren't fully a part of Gmail yet, but that are ready to be tested. Some features become popular enough that they graduate to become a Gmail setting; some stay in labs. Between the settings and the labs, Gmail is easy to customize to work exactly how you want it to work; instead of trying to fight to figure out how it works, make it work for you. I use Gmail Labs to do many things, including insert images right into the body of my emails, move my email signature up to the bottom of my reply message (instead of at the very bottom of the quoted text of other messages), and undo send -- thankfully I don't have to use that one very often. :)

So, I'd love to hear -- what do you love about your email?

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, January 25, 2011

Steak and Cheese Sandwich

Looking for the CSN gift certificate giveaway? Go here.

You will need:
Steak, cut into strips. I have used thin cut steak and cube steak. You just don't want really thick steaks.
An onion, peeled and sliced
A green bell pepper, cleaned out and sliced.
a package of mushrooms, sliced
Shredded or sliced Swiss cheese. I prefer to used shredded.
Worcestershire sauce

Add a couple of tablespoons of butter to a hot pan. Add the onions and peppers first. Stir for about five minutes and then add the mushrooms. Stir for 2-3 minutes longer. You want your vegetables to start to brown a little bit. Then brown the meat, in a couple more tablespoons of butter, in the same pan as the veggies. Add the Worcestershire sauce. I usually add about 1/4 - 3/4 a cup, depending on how much meat you have in your pan. Add the veggies back into the pan with the meat. Stir together. Place on toasted buns. I usually toast mine by adding butter to a pan and toasting them on the stove top. Add the cheese to the top of your sandwich and it is ready to eat. 

Friday, January 21, 2011

Book Review- Matched

Cassia has always had perfect faith in the Society. She has always known that they would help her, teach her and when the time came tell her what her job was going to be and who she was going to marry. On the night of her Match Banquet, Cassia's faith in the Society is only confirmed when she is matched with her best friend, Xander. But then something happens, right after Xander's face, the perfect match chosen for her by the society, appears another one flashes before her eyes. Now Cassia must decide if she is going to follow what the society believes her life should be like or to go after Ky, the boy she was never meant to have.

Matched, by Ally Condie, is set in a futuristic dystopian society much like The Giver or Hunger Games. It is a world where all care, all decision has been taken care of. You are assigned a spouse, a job, even your food is prepared for you for your optimal health. If you become stressed, you can take the green pill you carry with you to calm yourself down, the blue pill will help you survive if something out of the ordinary happens and no one knows what the red one does, but they all carry them anyway. This society has narrowed down outside influences, only allowing 100 poems, 100 paintings and 100 songs to survive into their present day. It is structured, and you never have to decide anything for yourself.

Many people have cried Matched a The Giver, or Hunger Games copycat, considering that all books in the Dystopian genre tend to borrow ideas from previously published novels. I would say that it probably is similar, but I loved it just the same. I loved both of the male leads in the book for very different reasons, although I did have a clear favorite with whom I wanted Cassia to end up. Cassia is a flawed character, but I think that is what makes her so interesting to watch. She is neither completely obedient or completely rebellious, but tries to hold to both tracks, to both boys, as long as possible. When she finally does make her choice, the choice that she feels will benefit everybody, she doesn't get to know the outcome.

One thing that I felt Matched was lacking was background. I wanted to know more about how the Society came to be, what led it to its present-day state with present governing officials. Since Matched is the first book in a trilogy, I am still hoping later books will fill in the gaps. However, even without the gaps filled in, Matched is an engaging and entertaining read, one that I would recommend to anybody who loves the dystopian genre.

Although this book does end in a cliff hanger, I didn't feel disappointed at the end, even though the next book is not out yet. This book ended surprisingly hopeful. I want to know what happens next, but I am not feeling that same desperation to know what happens like I did at the end of Catching Fire. Even without that feeling of desperation, I am adding this book to my highly recommended list. I loved it and you just might love it too.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Photo Thursdays- Digital Scrapbooking with Picnik

Did you know that you can digital scrapbook with Picnik? I told you, this program is amazing. Picnik offers scrapbook pages for Valentine's Day, Summer, Independence Day, Baby Boy, Baby Girl, Holidays, Christmas, Winter, Vacation, Heritage, Mother's Day, Father's Day, Halloween, Back to School and More. Many of the selections are free to use, but a few are labeled premium which means you need a membership*.

I am going to walk you through making a Valentine's Day scrapbook page. First under the create tab, you will want to find the seasonal tab.

Under the seasonal tab, find the one marked Valentine's Day.
Scroll down through the Valentine's effects until you see the selection pictured below.
When you click create collages, you will find all of their digital scrapbook pages. Since we are making a Valentine's collage, scroll down to there.
After you select which of the Valentine's Day selections you want, your page options will pop up on the left hand side. Scroll through the selections until you see a page you like. The empty spaces on the page, are of course places for the pictures. So if a page has two empty frames, it has two spots for pictures.
Your photo basket will automatically appear at the bottom of the page. Which is the last 100 photos you have uploaded to Picnik. If you don't want to use any of those photos, look in the bottom left corner you will see a drop down menu that says 'Get from Computer,' click on that drop down to select the source of your photos, you can get them from your computer, Facebook, Flickr, Picasa web albums and a few others. Once you have selected your photo source, select upload photos.

If you choose to upload from your computer, you will see the screen below, so you can find your photos.
Add your photos by clicking on them in the photo basket and then dragging them to the spot you want them to be. If you decide you want that same photo in a different spot, just click on it in the collage and drag it to another place on the collage. You can also select auto-fill in the top left corner, if you simply can't choose. Below are just some of the examples of collages, there are cards, 12x12 pages

Then you will want to set your quality level. Those with memberships* are allowed to chose the high quality option, which will allow them to print their page as big as a 12x12 scrapbook page. Those without a membership can use the normal option. After your collage is the way you want it, select the customize button in the top right corner. It will take you back to the create menu and you can add extra text, effects or stickers to your page.
Since text seems to be the mostly likely thing you will want to add, I have decided to highlight that. Select the text menu under the create menu. It is third from the left. After you do, this page below will come up. Type your text in the area circled in the picture below and then click add. Your text will be added to the page.
A close of up of the text and add button. You can change fonts by scrolling through the fonts underneath the add button and finding the one you want and selecting it.
Your font will appear on your page. Move it around to where you want it. Change the color of the text with the appearance box on the right hand side of the page.
After your color is selecting and your positioning in the right place, you can resize it by grabbing one of the four corner and stretching or shrinking.
As well as text, you can add a whole selection of stickers to your page. Select the sticker you want and it will be added to the page. You can change the color and size of it, just the way you would with the text. Then you can turn your page black and white, sepia, or leave it color.
Then save it to your computer, buzz, flicker, Picasa or print it to your printer.

* I recommend upgrading, more and more of my readers are sending me messages that they have upgraded and are loving it!  It is $4.95 for a month, $19.95 for six months or $24.95 for a year
P.S. I don't get paid anything to tell you to upgrade, I just love Picnik and hope you do too

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

WotW: Replying to blog comments

Happy Wednesday! Today we're talking about replying to blog comments as a blog author. Many of you may have read Mamarazzi's post wherein she started the Enable Email Movement and shared this awesome button with us all:


So what is the Enable Email Movement? A revolution to eradicate the "No Reply Blogger" epidemic. As Mamarazzi pointed out, you may be a no-reply blogger and not even know it. EEEK!
If your email isn't enabled in your Google profile... you're a no-reply blogger. That means that when your comment is emailed to the blog author, instead of coming from your email address, it comes from a no-reply-blogger email address... so that the blog author can't reply via email. 

If you've asked a question that others might also have, the author can (and should) reply in the comments of the post or edit the post, but... if you're like most commenters (me included) you don't check back in the comments for a reply. So, to reply, the author has to track you down and if you don't have a public blog... that can't happen. EEEK!

So why is this a big deal? Because, like we talked about here before, replying to comments is the difference between boring one-way communication and a pleasant, two-party conversation. You can read this previous post for instructions on enabling your email -- it's really simple and it will change your blogging world. Promise.

Today I want to show you how to set up a separate email address for your blog comments (and commenting) and use Gmail to manage both your personal and blog emails. A separate email address is nice to separate out blog comments from regular ol' emails and to be able to NOT use your personal email address (which commonly uses your full name), if you're a privacy person like me.

I chose Gmail because I'm a big fan. I just think that Gmail is how email should work. Hotmail and Yahoo have come a long way in recent years, but I heart my Gmail now and forever. :) (You can also use a program such as Outlook to manage two email addresses, but Outlook and I don't really get along, plus I prefer my web-based email.) 
Quick update: Jill asked "Do you really only need this if you don't moderate comments?" My answer... kind of. Really, this isn't a necessary step for anyone. Just nice. :)

I don't moderate comments myself, but from what I understand, if you moderate comments through your Blogger dashboard, you can't reply to comments there anyway. So having a separate email address is unnecessary since you're not communicating with your readers via email. But, if you are moderating comments through your email (and therefore are able to reply to those comments via email as well), then, yes, you might want to do this. Just to keep things separate and private like mentioned above.

However, everyone -- let me repeat that -- EVERYONE should enable their email in the Google profile, regardless of whether you moderate comments or not. An enabled email is a tool for you as a commenter, not as an author/blogger. Having your email in your profile allows the blogger whose post you comment on to touch base with you, such as answering a question or saying thanks for your kind words. Ironically, Jill, your email isn't enabled, so I can't answer your question via email, so I'll be coming by your blog as well. :)

First, set up a separate email account for your blog email -- I use so that my email address correlates with  my blog name and URL. 
  • If you already use a Gmail account for your personal email, you can set up another Gmail address or a Hotmail or any other service address -- just not Yahoo because you can't forward mail from Yahoo without paying to upgrade.
  • If you're using an email service other than Gmail for your personal email, I'd suggest setting up your blog email address in Gmail because, as I said, I heart Gmail.Then you can use Gmail to run both email addresses.
Next, we'll forward the messages from one account to the other account.

To forward one account to another:
  1. Log in to the account that you will be forwarding.
    • This is the email account that you won't be logging into, so I'd suggest forwarding the address that ISN'T the Gmail address. 
    • If they're both Gmail addresses, log into the account that ISN'T the one you sign into your regular Google account (for Blogger and such) with.
      • I log into Blogger with my personal account and forward my new iamjustlu address to my personal address. So for this step, I log into my iamjustlu account.
  2. Open the Fowarding settings for the account by clicking on Settings (usually toward the top right corner) and then Forwarding or Email Forwarding or something similar.
    • From your Hotmail inbox, click Options and then More Options.
  3. Select the button or option to Forward Your Mail or Add a Forwarding Address and enter the address of your other account.
    • Since I am logged into my iamjustlu Gmail account, I enter the address of my personal account. 

If you're forwarding from Hotmail, your messages will all be forwarded! If you're forwarding from Gmail, you have a couple more steps to confirm the foward:

  1. Log out of this new Gmail account (such as iamjustlu) and into the other Gmail account (for me, my personal account - probably the Gmail address you use to log in to Blogger) to retrieve the forwarding confirmation code
  2. Log out, again, and log back into the new Gmail address (such as iamjustlu) to enter the confirmation code and tell Gmail what to do with the emails that it forwards - I archive mine, but do whatever you feel like.
  3. Now you can log out of the new Gmail address (such as iamjustlu), since all of the messages for that address will now be forwarded to your other Gmail address (the one you log in to Blogger with). 
Phew! That gets a little confusing with the two Gmail addresses, but you're done forwarding!

If you want to import the old messages and/or contacts from your other non-Gmail address (so that you can use Gmail exclusively as I command, mwahahaha!), go to the Accounts and Import settings in your Gmail address. All you have to do is click the button to Import Mail and Contacts and enter the account (address) and password and you're set. 

Just one more step to complete the email perfection: sending mail from the new, forwarded account. Once you set up your Gmail account to send mail from your other account, no one will be able to tell that you are using only one account to manage multiple email addresses. Sneaky, eh?
  1. Log in to the Gmail account that you forwarded the other account TO. (Grammatically incorrect, but hopefully still makes sense. :) For me, this is my personal email account, the account I use to log in to Blogger.
  2. Go to Gmail Settings (at the top right) and select Accounts and Import
  3. Click Send Email from Another Address.
  4. Enter the other address, the one you just forwarded your mail FROM (such as, and the name you want attached to that email -- for mine, I put my first name and my blog name. 
  5. (if your other address is not a Gmail address) Select Send from Gmail unless you have a good reason to choose the other. :)
  6. Click Send Verification. Then log in to the other account and follow the instructions in the verification message.
  7. Once you've verified, log back into Gmail, go to Settings > Accounts and Import and select the option to Reply from the same address the message was sent to, so that when you reply to a blog comment, the reply comes from the correct address instead of your personal address:

Two finishing touches: make a visit to your Blogger profile and update your profile email address to the new email address so that when other bloggers reply to your comments via email, the message comes to the new email address.

This is also a good time to make sure that the Show my email address box is checked to enable your email. :)

Then, pop on over to your blog's comment settings and put the new email address in the Comment Notification Email field so that all comments on your blog will come to that new email address as well.

I use this system myself and the only glitch I have found is with subscribing to comments by clicking the little "Subscribe to follow-up comments" link by the comment thread. For some reason, those comments go to the email address that I use to sign in to my Google account with instead of the email listed in my profile. But it's no biggie -- when you reply, you can change the "from" address of your message by just clicking the drop-down menu.

Questions? I know you've got 'em because that was a lot of steps and a bit of confusing footwork there. Leave me a comment... I'll email you. ;)

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, January 18, 2011

Tasty Tuesdays- Lime Cheesecake

I love cheesecake. Pretty much any type of cheesecake and I can be friends. Right now I am loving flavored cheesecake and this recipe is one of my favorites. You can't beat lime cheesecake, except maybe with pumpkin cheesecake.

You will need:
One pie crust, This recipe makes one cheesecake.
8 oz of cream cheese ( I usually pop mine, unwrapped in the microwave for anywhere from 15 seconds to 45 seconds)
1/4 C. sugar
1/4 C. Sour Cream
1 egg
1-2 tablespoons lime juices, depending on how much you like the lime flavor

Combine the cream cheese and sugar. Then add the sour cream and mix on high for 3-4 minutes. Then add the egg and juice and mix for 2-3 minutes. Pour into your crust. Bake at 325 degrees for about 20 minutes for one of the round tins. Don't overcook or your cheesecake will crack. The center of the cheesecake should look almost set and done but not quite when you take it out. Let allow to cool in the fridge, overnight is usually best.

Serve with a lime wedge and try not to eat the hole cheesecake yourself!