Wednesday, March 30, 2011

WotW: Google really is listening!

Remember last week when I told you how Google may or may not be stalking me?

Well, the may not was the correct part.

Google is not stalking me.

It is more correct to say that the Google PTB (powers that be) and I share a brain link.

image source

Normally brain links are limited to best friends who are always online just when you need them. (Hi Debra!)

But in this case I'll make an exception and concede that my mental powers (limited as they may be somedays!) may be linked with the thoughts of the PTB at Google.

Why?

Last Wednesday I shared my Blogger wishlist.

Last Wednesday Blogger asked for my (and your) two cents.

See what I mean? Brain link.

Unfortunately, Blogger has since closed that survey (sorry!)... but their feature suggestion page is always open! And it's really a pretty cool system they've got going.

You log in with your Google account, and then you can either vote on other people's suggestions (yes it's a good idea, no it's not a good idea, or meh), or make your own suggestions:


So head on over and make your vote(s) count!

Thanks for reading!



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, March 29, 2011

Tasty Tuesdays- Malts

Malts are something my husband grew up on. I had my first one after we were married. I used to come up with excuses for my sister-in-law to come over and then all of the ingredients would 'magically' appear on the table and I would tell her that it would be shame for her to not make them. After we moved out of state a while later, we had to learn to make them for ourselves, except I still try to get my husband to make them. For some reason, treats always taste better when I didn't have to put in all the work. :)

You will need:
1 large cup of milk
5 heaping tsp. malt
5 heaping tsp chocolate powder
Lots of ice cream (The way my father-in-law puts the amount is, "more ice cream than you think you could possibly need.)

Blend and serve in cups. This amount made enough for my husband and I both to have a cupful and a small cup for our daughter with some left over.
What kinds of treats did you grow up on?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Push Pin Flowers

After creating these cute magnet flowers, I was sad that the flowers were only on my fridge and other magnetic places. So I decided to make flower push pins, to brighten up any area.

You need:
Fake flowers (I get mine at the dollar store)
Yellow push pins
Take apart the flowers, removing the centers. Add a couple of layers of flowers until you get one that you like. I tend to do about two layers for the magnets or push pins. Hot glue the flower layers together and then push the pin through the center and add glue underneath it to keep it in place.

Now I can use the cute flower push pins anywhere. They can really brighten up a cork board or any other place you would normally just use plain ole' push pins.
How about you? Are you more likely to need magnets or push pins?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Photo Thursdays- How to make boogers less noticeable

It has happened to me so many times. I will be taking pictures of my little girl and her face will look completely clean to me and then I will get the images on the computer and realize that she did have something on her face. No problem, just use the healing tool and her face is clean again. What if the problem is a little booger in the nose? It is harder to use the healing tool in this area, so let's take a different approach.


Zoom in on the problem area. You want be close enough that you can see the area clearly, but not so close that you can't see the colors of the big picture.

Select your burn tool, it is shaped like a little hand. If you have another tool in the area of the burn tool, such as a little sponge, you will need to right click on the shape and change the menu to the burn tool. You will then need to select your brush size. I like my brush is be pretty small, about a 12. Then select your range, if the problem area is really dark, then select shadows. Set your exposure about 50 percent, this will make the burn less noticeable.

Click over the booger, until it fades. Be careful not to click too much or it will be obvious that one area is darker than others. You are try to darken the booger to match the rest of the nose area.
Then you should have either a vanished booger or one that is extremely less noticeable. 

How about your family, is this a problem you run into a lot?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

WotW: Google may or may not be stalking me (Hi, Google!)

That's right, you heard it here first -- Google is quite possibly stalking me, watching my every move.

image borrowed from here and edited a bit

Flattering, eh?

What makes me suspect this?
March 16, 2011 -- 1:42 pm
I publish this post about the pros and cons and how-to's of email subscriptions using Feedburner.

March 16, 2011 -- 4:02 pm
Google publishes this post about a new Blogger feature: integrated Feedburner email subscriptions via the new Follow by Email widget.


Just TRY to convince me that I'm imagining this...

Anyway, since obviously the powers that be at Google are watching, they must know that I'm a big fan. So, I figure I'll throw them a bone yet again and talk up their newest Blogger feature, the Follow by Email widget:

I like it. 

Why?

Reason #1: The widget is MUCH better looking (i.e., simple) than the widget code you get from Feedburner.

Compare:

Simpler, easier to make match your site, and a significantly smaller chunk of sidebar real estate. Win-win-WIN!


Reason #2: It's automatic. Just a few clicks to add the widget (instructions in Google's article) both sets up the Feedburner email subscription for you AND creates a Feedburner feed for you, using the whatever part of your http://whatever.blogspot.com address to become the http://feeds.feedburner.com/whatever. If you want a different Feedburner address, then set up your Feedburner feed first (like I talked about here) and the email subscription will follow that feed address.

So, Google PTB (powers that be), while I've got your attention... I'd like to make a few more requests:
Can you add a little checkbox to my link window that will include the target = " _blank " in the specific links I create? I've detailed my reasons here.

I like having the easy small-medium-large image size options -- but can you make it simpler to set those sizes to be what *I* want, so that the difference between large and extra large isn't so huge?

And while we're talking images, I *love* the new image uploader/insert box and its options. I'd love to see one more option added: sorting my Picasa albums in the image insert box by the most recently updated. I can set this in Picasa Web Albums, but that doesn't carry over to the image insert box, so I still end up scrolling through my many albums to find just the right one.

Let's face it: Wordpress (and Co.) has you WHIPPED with the whole comments thing. On a Wordpress blog, I can be part of a conversation where it's easy to reply to another comment in a threaded series AND see the author's comments/replies highlighted. Get with the program. Err, I mean... can we please...? :) And if my reply to a comment via email (as a blog author) could also be put into the comment thread on the post, that would just rock.

I love Blogger Pages -- but I'd love more than 10. If that can't be arranged (and even if it can), I'd really love to have nested labels, so I can use categories and subcategories to help organize my blog posts. And it would be really awesome if I could choose from a couple different layouts for my label pages (you know, the pages that show all the posts for that label), such as as-is (the full post shows), just the title of the posts with that label, or the title/blurb/thumbnail from the posts with that label.


Thanks, Google PTB... I can't wait to see what you do with my suggestions. And thanks for paying attention to lil ol' me. Oh, and I'm sure my readers here have some of their own suggestions...
(Go, readers, go! Google is LISTENING...)




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, March 22, 2011

Homemade Macaroni and Cheese

I have a confession to make. I LOVE macaroni and cheese straight from the box. I really love it. Although, I am a bit of a Kraft Macaroni and Cheese snob, I have discovered that most people WAY overcook the noodles, turning it into something I am not sure anybody could love. ANYWAY, since I really love Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, I have never really felt the need to make it from scratch, until I found this. Now, I love both and we have double the macaroni and cheese around here.

macaroni- cooked to packaged specifications
1 stick butter
4 heaping tablespoons of flour
3 cups milk
1/2 cup- cup shredded cheese

Melt the butter in a pot. Add the flour and whisk together, letting them mix for a minute. Then whisk in the milk. After this is mixed, add the cheese, whisking so the cheese will melt. You can add as much or as little cheese as you want. I typically like to add cheese until the sauce starts taking on an orange tint. You could also make this with any other shredded cheese you have on hand. Mix the noodles into the sauce and serve. Do you make macaroni from the box or from scratch?


Monday, March 21, 2011

Pebble magnets turned into flower magnets

Last week we talked about making pebble magnets. Later on in the week, I had a bunch of dollar store flowers out to make hair pieces for my daughter when I decided to combine the two. Here is a cute, easy way to get flower magnets with your favorite sticker centers.
First of all, you will make your centers, just like you do with the regular jewel magnets. You will need Mod Podge, a foam brush, stickers, cardstock and the large pebbles.
Put the stickers onto your cardstock.
Add a layer of Mod Podge and then press the pebble down firmly to squish out all of the air bubbles.
You will be able to tell your pebble is dry when  the Mod Podge becomes transparent and you will be able to see the sticker better. Take a dollar store bunch of flowers and pull them apart until you have just a few petals. Make sure to pull the center out of the flower, so they will lay flat. First hot glue your layers of petals together. I did two layers on both of my flowers. and then glue your pebble into the center.
Then I hot glued a magnet on the back and I had cute flower magnets for my fridge.
Do you use magnets on your fridge?

Tip Junkie handmade projects

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

WotW: Email subscriptions

Don't forget to come join us for the
just Housewives March Madness Bracket Challenge!

Good Wednesday! Today's topic comes to us from Judy of Cranberry Morning who wrote:
Hi Lu,

I am wondering if, in an upcoming blog post, you might address the issue of a subscription option on our blogs.

I had the e-mail subscription option on my blog, but then took it off when I realized that people who subscribed by e-mail were not seeing any of the sidebar images (which include my SoapnSuch store and my
Second Chance - A Tale of Two Puppies book). Also, they were simply replying to the email rather than commenting where other commenters would be able to view their comments.

Is there an advantage of putting an e-mail subscription option on my blog? or is it only an advantage to the subscriber?

I appreciate all the useful posts you write to help us bloggers navigate through the Slough of Blogdom.

Thanks so much,
Judy

Thank you, Judy, for submitting an AWESOME question! And for reading faithfully every week. :) And, dear readers, if you have likewise awesome questions (even if you might doubt their awesomeness) -- please leave me a comment or drop me a line at iamjustlu@gmail.com.

Now, on to Judy's question: What's up with the whole email subscription thing?

Let's look at this in an age-old format: the pro-con list.

The PROS of offering an email subscription:
  • Your blog (potentially) reaches more readers because it is available to them in a different format -- and one that they may prefer. 
  • You have another (potentially) fun stat to look at in your Feedburner account.

The CONS of offering an email subscription:
  • You miss those hits to your blog because people are reading only in their email accounts instead of coming to your blog.
  • Readers don't see the contents of your sidebars, or click on any of the links in your sidebars (such as sponsors). 
  • It takes readers a few extra clicks to come and leave a comment, so they may not leave a comment or, as Judy said, they may just reply to the email they received instead of commenting.

Does that list sound familiar? It should, because it's pretty much exactly the same as the pro-con list for allowing a full feed on your blog. Actually, this whole topic is a sister topic to that topic, so rather than reiterate everything, I'll give you the nutshell version:

Offering an email subscription is a service to your readers -- not necessarily to yourself and your blog. It's just another way to cater to your readers' wants and needs.

Subscription options are one of the few blog topics where I will say that the Golden Rule isn't the first and primary rule, because only offering your blog in the format that you prefer best means that you may be missing out on a substantial amount of readers who prefer to receive their blog updates in another format. (The main formats, in my estimation, are direct reading on your blog, via a feed reader, and via email, with Facebook and Twitter as two additional but probably not mandatory formats.)

So, even though an email subscription may not be as convenient for you as a blog author in terms of getting what YOU want (page hits, comments, sponsor clicks, etc), it's a good idea to offer one anyway so that your readers can get what THEY want: your blog delivered to them in their preferred format.

But, as Judy pointed out, readers who receive your blog via email aren't seeing any of the sidebar content and they often miss out on the comment conversation by either replying directly to the email or by not coming to the blog to see the comments. These are the same concerns that crop up with a full feed subscription, and, again, the solutions are similar (read the extended version of these tenets here): 

Encourage your readers to subscribe to your blog (via feed or email subscription) by posting meaningful and relevant content regularly.

Encourage your readers to support your sponsors by including a sponsor on individual posts.

Encourage your readers to visit by referencing and linking to other relevant posts or features of your blog in your posts, such as a similar project or a post on a similar or related topic.

Encourage your readers to comment by giving them easy opportunities to give you feedback -- ask a question or seek an opinion. (However, you probably want to limit how many questions you ask and opinions you solicit, however, at the risk of becoming a needy must-have-validation type blogger.)

Most importantly, however, encourage your readers to comment by being yourself and responding to comments.
 
So, now you want to set up an email subscription for your blog? I'll show you how. :)

First, log into your Feedburner account. If you haven't set up a Feedburner account and burned your feed yet, follow these steps to do that first and then come back.

Now click on your blog's feed title and then click the Publicize tab:


Select Email Subscriptions from the menu on the left.

Click Activate... and.... dun dun! Your blog now has an active email subscription that you can personalize and tell your readers about.

Under the Email Subscription link in the left bar of your Feedburner account, now you'll see four new sections:

  • Subscription Management: subscription widget and link codes to copy to your site to publicize your new email subscription option.
  • Communication Preferences: change the "from" email address, personalize the subscription confirmation email.
  • Email Appearance: personalize the title, logo and email fonts/colors for your messages.
  • Delivery Options: set the timezone and daily message delivery time.
And, just like with your blog's feed, it's a good idea to subscribe to your blog's email subscription. This just occurred to me today (yesterday, by the time you read this), but I still think it's a good idea. :)

Happy email subscribing!



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, March 15, 2011

Tasty Tuesdays-Pico De Gallo


We love Mexican food, so this simple and delicious Pico De Gallo recipe is a staple in our house. We usually make this and our guacamole together. You can find the guacamole recipe here. 

3 tomatoes, seeded and diced. (This means you remove the gooey stuff in the middle)
1/4 an onion, diced small
small handful of cilantro, chopped
1/2 a jalapeƱo seeded and chopped. (This isn't completely necessary, so if you are worried about too much heat, leave it out.)
a squirt of lime juice

Combine all of the ingredients and serve with chips or on tacos. We usually do a combination of the both.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Clear Vinyl and School work make an easy learning table cloth

Somewhere along the line, I got my days and nights screwed up. I am currently in the mode to stay up all night and then sleep for a few hours in the morning. In so many ways it is bad, but I am discovering I am way more creative at night. More creative and addicted to watching Veronica Mars while I craft. (See honey, I am being productive. Kind of. Sort of. A little.) Anyways, since that project needs a few finishing touches before I can share, I thought I would take you with me into a glimpse into my sister's house.

My sister is fun, creative and always thinking of ways to help teach her children. She has taken to putting the worksheets that her children get from Sunday School and school on her kitchen table under a piece of vinyl so they remember to talk about what the kids are learning at dinner each night. I witnessed her family do this many times while I was out there visiting and the kids love it. They love displaying their worksheets and getting to talk about what they do at school each day.


The vinyl is something my mom did when we were kids. She loved the color and look of her table and so she didn't want to cover it up but she didn't want us to ruin her nice table. Clear vinyl was her answer. She bought the vinyl by the yard and then used it to cover the table so everyone could still see the table and she knew it was safe from her kids. My sister than took the idea one step further and added the artwork. They change the artwork/worksheets out every couple of weeks and they always have something to talk about at dinner.
What are some things you do at your house to keep your kids learning?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

WotW: Change your clocks... and your passwords

Daylight Saving Time begins (at least here in the States) on Sunday, so you know what that means:

Change your clocks
(spring forward)
and
change your passwords!

Oh, and change the batteries in your smoke detectors.

Why do we do these things every 6 months?

Well, to be honest, I can't explain Daylight Saving Time. I understand the concept and all, but it doesn't seem as relevant in these days where we are not mostly farmers cultivating our fields nor involved in a war that requires us to sacrifice and conserve energy (...). I do enjoy the long summer nights however. 

For the others... we change our passwords and change the batteries in our smoke detectors to keep us safe! An estimated 1/3 of smoke detectors in US homes have missing or dead batteries. Changing the batteries every 6 months ensures that your batteries are fresh so you smoke detector will work properly in the event of an emergency. Changing your password every 6 months (or more often) helps keep you and your online accounts safe. And both are, luckily, pretty easy.

Most people who know things about things like this (like, the people who are trying to keep people from hacking your various online accounts) recommend changing your passwords every 3 months. It's a great suggestion and one that I try to follow, but since it can be hard to keep track of, I change my passwords at least every time the time changes (with a few exceptions... see the ** below.)

If I happen to remember to change my passwords more often, I give myself a big pat on the back (and a cookie), but I figure I'm still being more proactive in my online security by changing passwords every 6 months than the average Joe who NEVER changes his password. And, to some degree, online security is about not being the bottom of the totem pole, not being the person who is the easiest to hack. Plus it feels nice to know that you're ahead of someone somewhere, right?

Quick tip: if your password is "password"... you are at the bottom of the aforementioned totem pole. Buried in the ground at the bottom of the totem pole. DEEP in the ground. Go now and fix this and never speak of it again.

But... I have a LOT of accounts. It can be very time consuming (although worth it) to go through and change all those passwords in one fell swoop. So, I don't spend a whole day going through and changing every password of every account I've ever created -- how boring would THAT be? I'd much rather be obsessively reading each and every blog post in my reader. :) 

Instead of spending one big chunk of time updating all my passwords, I update as I go. On the designated day (that is, the day when my clocks either spring forward or fall back and I am mostly either late or early everywhere), I select new password(s) and then take the time to update each account to the new password the next time I log in. So, my email account is usually the first to get the new password, where my eBay or Craigslist password might be a week (or so) later in getting the new password. 

For the most part, my online accounts use a root password and then an individualized prefix or suffix based on the account name -- part of the site title or something else that I can follow a convention for and easily remember. NOT something obscure like the first three letters of the zoo animal that starts with the first letter that follows the middle consonant of the site's URL. Something that you'll remember easily for those accounts that you only log in to every 6 months.

I do have one big exception to this root + prefix/suffix password pattern:

**my online banking accounts**

Of all of the accounts that you want to protect most... Facebook isn't it... (Remember, Facebook only knows what you tell it, so don't tell it anything you don't want people to know!) ...but your bank is.  

My different online banking accounts are the only accounts that I actually regularly remember to change more often than every 6 months. It drives my husband nuts because he is just learning one of my convoluted (and therefore safe, theoretically) numbers-for-letters and random-capital-letters passwords when I change it to a new one. But if it felt terrible having my email hacked... I can't imagine the feeling of having my money hacked! Better safe (and with an aggravated husband who can't see the checking account ;) than sorry, in my book.

We've talked a bit about passwords before (in this post here about basic web security), but as a reminder, a strong password...
  • is not a word that can be found in the dictionary
  • does not include personal information for you or your family (names, birth dates, etc)
  • contains 7+ characters
  • uses a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters (* . ?)
  • is easy for you to remember and hard to guess, such as a the first letter of each word in a line of your favorite song or a unique phrase
But of course -- once you've created a strong password, you'll find a site that won't allow something about your password (and then the mouse will ask for a glass of milk...). The password is too long, contains an unacceptable character (such as * .  or ?), or, like my local library, requires a completely different type of password, such as a 4-digit PIN. 

In that case, when I know I will never remember that I altered or changed my awesome password in such-and-such way for such-and-such site -- I write it down.Don't record enough information that someone who found the paper or file on your computer could use that to access your account(s) -- just enough information to jog your memory. And, if in the end your memory still fails you, every major site nowadays has a password recovery system that works quickly -- use it to your advantage. :)

Password questions? Concerns? Leave me a comment :)




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, March 8, 2011

Tasty Tuesdays- Beef and Rice (Crockpot)



What do you do with leftover Sunday Roast, or those steaks from last night. Beef and Rice is a delicious answer to that question.This is one of my favorite meals, even better it is made in the Crockpot.

You will need:
leftover steak, roast cut into cubes
2 or 3 beef bouillon cubes
1/2 an onion

Place the beef in your Crockpot and then cover the beef with water. Add your bouillon and the onion. Cook on high for several hours. Make a thickening to add to the mixture of a couple tablespoons of flour in 1/2 cup of water. Stir together and then add to the beef to make the gravy thick. Pour beef and gravy over rice. Bask in the delicious tenderness that is this dish. Yum.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Make magnets from stickers

Just after my daughter was born two years ago, I put together this magnet board for her room. I wanted to go out and buy really cute magnets but my husband was in the middle of his Teach for America training, something they don't get paid for, so money was pretty tight. These magnets were made out of stickers I already had on hand and they have been durable.

You will need:
the large clear, glass pebbles (don't buy the iridescent ones, it makes it hard to see the stickers)
card stock
stickers small enough for the pebbles
Mod Podge + foam brush
hot glue
magnets (usually these are too heavy for sheet magnet, so I use the small round discs)

Place your stickers on the card stock (trust me, use card stock, not paper.) far enough apart that you can place a pebble over each one and they won't overlap. Using the foam brush, coat the back, flat area of the pebble with Mod Podge. Place over the sticker and press firm, getting out all of the air bubbles. Allow to dry, this actually took a couple of days for me until the Mod Podge dried clear. When it is dry, hot glue the magnets to the back. Two years later and we still love them. Have you ever made magnets this way?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Photo Thursdays - Creating a Comic Strip with Your Photos

Be sure to check out Lorene's awesome purse organizer giveaway here! Hurry quick it ends tomorrow!

Everybody loves comics. What if you could make a comic strip with your very own pictures? That's exactly what we'll explore today.

If you missed last week's discussion on SuperLame, you'll want to check that out by clicking here.

To begin, you'll want to select a few related photos for your comic strip. Most basic comic strips have only a few panels. The more panels you choose to do, the more complex your design will become. For this demo, I decided to do a three-panel comic strip using the theme of Gummi Bears.

I brought each image into SuperLame and created a separate file for each image. The result is as follows:




Now that you have your panels, it's time to put your comic strip together. You can use any number of programs to do this. I chose Pixlr.com because it's free and everyone can access it. You can apply these same steps using Photoshop.

Step 1: Create a New Image. This will bring up a dialog box that asks you to select the dimensions. This can be a bit tricky. To start with, you'll need to go to the folder where you saved your panels and see what the width and height is for each panel. This can be done by clicking on the image and leaving your mouse hovering over the image. At the bottom of the little window that pops up there will be a number like 571x482. This means the image is 571 pixels across and 482 pixels high.



Unless all your images are a standard size to begin with, you will want to select the image with the largest width and multiply by 3. This will be the width of your comic strip. For the height, select the image with the largest height and add at least 100 pixels. This will be the height of your comic strip. For my strip, I did 2400x620.



Step 2: You will now have a long, narrow strip. It's time to place your first image. You do this by going to the File option and selecting "Open image..." Find the first panel you saved from SuperLame. Once this file is open, select your Marquee tool on your toolbar. This looks like a little square with dashed lines.


Step 3: With your Marquee Tool selected, go to the Edit menu and click on "Select All." Then return to the Edit menu and select "Copy."

Step 4: Click over to the blank comic strip canvas you previously created. Go to the Edit menu one more time and select "Paste." Your first panel should have pasted itself in the middle of your canvas. You will probably want to move it. To do this, select the arrow tool from the toolbar and click and drag your image to the desired location. Remember to leave some space at the top for the title of your comic strip.


Step 5: Repeat steps 2-4 for the remaining panels of your comic strip.

When you are finished, you should have all your panels on one strip. If you look to the right at your Layers pallet, you will notice each panel is on a separate level, which is great because you can manipulate each panel independent of the others.

Step 6: Now we're ready to add the details like typing. To type, click on the large, capital A. Then click in the top-left corner to begin typing the title of you comic strip. You can change the font, size and color of the font in the window that pops up.

You may need to reposition your typing, but once you're done, your finished product should look a little something like this. (You may want to click the image to see a larger version...)