Sunday, September 30, 2012

31 Days Of Photo Props

Crochet hats, chairs, chalk art, the ideas for photos are seemingly endless. This year, I am participating with The Nester as she blogs 31 days about the same topic. There are few things in the the world that I think I could blog 31 posts about, but my passion is and always will be photography, so I thought I would share some of those ideas with you.

During the month of October, every day I will share a short and sweet post about something fun you can do with your next photo shoot, some will be straight up props and others will be fun things you can find at certain locations. Some days the photo post will be the only post and other days, there will be two, so to keep up with Wednesdays on the Web and such.

I am excited about this project and hope you will join with me as I spend 31 days talking about some of my favorite photography things.

Check out the other 31 dayers, here.

Day 1: Lipstick
Day 2: Towels
Day 3: Mirrors
           Day 4: Single Flowers
    Day 5: Hat Boxes
                    Day 6: Letters and Numbers
         Day 7: Crochet Hats
      Day 8: Fall Leaves
    Day 9: Pumpkins
Day 10: Cake
             Day 11: Mom and Dad
                Day 12: Alphabet Blocks
     Day 13: Religious
                      Day 14: Musical Instruments 
        Day 15: Santa Hats
Day 16: Toys
                     Day 17: Pearls and Feathers
   Day 18: Baskets
    Day 19: Cocoons
          Day 20: Chalkboards
                Day 21: Special Blankets
Day 22: Water
      Day 23: Costumes 

Friday, September 28, 2012

Striped Boo Halloween Sign


I am on a wood sign and vinyl roll. I love all the different things you can do, simply with some paint, some vinyl and a block of wood. I told myself when I embarked on my wood vinyl sign journey that I wouldn't make any two projects the same. I have two-toned my projects, glittered them, used curly ribbon and covered them in scrapbook paper. Today I bring you cute stripes!

This project is three pieces of vinyl on two wood blocks: one 6" and one 5". Although you use a 5" block with this project, you lay it on its side, which makes it 3 instead. I got my kit from Fabdecor.


Since my vinyl was purple and green, I selected those colors for my paint. I painted each block the opposite color of the vinyl I intended to put on it. The B was very straight forward. I just painted the block green and then added the purple B vinyl first and then placed the spider vinyl on top.


Since my vinyl eyes were green, I painted my smaller block with several coats of purple paint. After the paint was completely dry, I covered the block with masking-tape stripes.


Then I painted the open purple areas with black paint. You can do this type of stripe with any color, just make sure to paint the lighter of your two colors on the block first. The best way to get clean edges with masking tape is to paint away from the edges of the paint, pushing paint toward the center of the stripe instead of toward the edges, where paint can get under the tape.

After the black dries, pull off the masking tape and touch up any areas that might need it. Then apply the vinyl with a credit card.


You want to know what is so cool about this particular vinyl? The eyes glow in the dark.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

WotW: What Do You Do On Facebook?

What do you do on Facebook? Sounds like a dumb question, right? You probably post status updates, follow what's going on in the lives of your friends and do a bunch of liking and commenting. But what do you really do? Do you know how many posts you've done? Who's your biggest fan? Which countries are your friends from? How long is your average post and what words do you use the most?

You could lock yourself in a room for a month with a spreadsheet and crunch the numbers, or you can harness the power of WolframAlpha and let it do the work for you.

We've talked about WolframAlpha on this blog before, and it's amazing. Recently, they've added a feature that allows you to analyze your Facebook data and habits. And it's free.

To get started, go to WolframAlpha.com, and type the search terms, "facebook report," in the search field and press enter on your keyboard.


You will be taken to an authorization page which will verify that you want WolframAlpha to analyze your Facebook data. Once you press the Analyze My Facebook Data button, you will have to sign up for a free WolframAlpha account and authorize their app on Facebook, just like you would with any other Facebook app.
 If you're like me, you might be hesitant to give up control of your Facebook account to an outside organization. Fortunately, WolframAlpha only holds on to your data for one hour, enough time to give you results, but not enough to spy on every intimate move you make.


Depending on how fast your Internet connection is and how much data you have on Facebook, it may take a few minutes for WolframAlpha to process your data. Once it does, you will be given a comprehensive report.

If you look below, you can see my posting frequency over the past year and a half. The colored bars represent the different types of posts. From this data, I can tell that in the past year I've made a bigger effort to post links and/or images, although plain status updates are still my bread and butter.


Another cool feature is the posting time distribution chart. This tells you what day(s) and time(s) you post the most. From the chart above, it seems I am a big Saturday poster (no surprise there since it's my day off work). I also post a lot on Tuesdays. I don't have a good explanation for that one.

WolframAlpha also calculates all your posts, likes and comments. One thing that stood out to me from these results was the average post length: 28.52 words. Compared to most Facebook users, that's a lot, and it would never cut it on Twitter, though I definitely condense my thoughts on Twitter.


One of my favorite features is the word frequency section. Ever wonder what you talk about the most on Facebook? From these words, I can piece together that I've talked a lot about school (what a shocker for a former school teacher), technology reviews (hence the words new, great, good) and time. So apparently I need to mix things up a bit. You can even select the Show Word Cloud button and see all your words in a much more visual format. Speaking of this, above nearly every chart is a button that allows you to drill down to more data.

I can also see the gender breakdown of my friends, as well as their relationship statuses. Most of my friends tend to be married.


The map feature quickly pinpoints how far your social network reach really is.


One of the weirdest features, but most amazing, is their Friend Network chart, which shows how you and all your friends are connected. Dots that are grouped close together show commonalities (perhaps your coworkers or college). If you hover over a dot, you can even see which friend that dot represents.


The charts I've shared are only a few of the many available when you let WolframAlpha analyze your Facebook data.

So why would you want to do this? Besides pure curiosity, it can be helpful to spot trends. Maybe you see that you only post status updates. Perhaps you see that your most commonly used words are kind of negative and you want to fix that. And maybe you just want to spend a good 15 minutes of self absorption analyzing all your data like some computer nerd. Go on, I won't judge you.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Glittered Halloween Sign


Who doesn't love glitter? My brothers loathe it, but I for one love it. Some of my favorite memories from my childhood include trying to glitter my unsuspecting brothers, although I am pretty sure those memories don't rank among their favorites. I have a stash of orange and black Halloween glitter that has just been begging to be used and this seemed like the perfect project. 


I started out with a project kit from FabDecor. The kit came with two pieces of wood (7 inches and 9 inches) and the vinyl in your choice of lime green, purple, orange or black. 

For this project, you will need:
  • Two blocks (7 in and 9 in)
  • Vinyl
  • Black paint
  • Mod podge
  • Black glitter
  • Orange glitter
  • Clear spray paint 
  • Magazine



The first thing you need to do is paint the blocks black. The paint is mostly going to be covered later on, but having a base is a good start. 


After the paint dries, lay the blocks on top of an open magazine and coat the front part of each block in a thin layer of Mod Podge. Sprinkle a generous amount of black glitter on top of the block until it is coated. Tap the block on top of the magazine until all of the excess glitter has come off.


Hold the magazine, almost closed, using it as a funnel to put the excess glitter back in the container.


Repeat the same process with the orange glitter, on three of sides of each block. I didn't do the bottom of each block.


Once the the blocks are dry, spray them with clear gloss, to seal the glitter. Without the spray, you will lose little flecks of glitter everywhere. After the blocks dry, add the vinyl. The vinyl for these blocks takes a lot of patience because of the bumpy surface. I had to pretty much hand apply each letter, but it was worth the effort. I think these blocks might be my new favorite Halloween decoration.


Even my brother, who hates glitter, had to admit this craft turned out pretty cute. I might convert him to the wonderful world of glitter yet.

Note: If you are having trouble getting the vinyl to stick to the glitter, take a toothpick and a small amount of glue and tack the vinyl down in a few places.

Monday, September 24, 2012

World's Best Homemade Play-Doh

My little girl has an obsession with Play-doh. Play-doh isn't my favorite thing in the world, but my mom has been feeding her obsession. She is still young and likes to mix the colors, but then she doesn't want to play with the mixed up blob, in order to not go broke from buying new colors, I dusted off our tried and true family favorite. This recipe does require a stove, but the play-doh comes together so nicely I make it over other recipes.

You will need:
2 cups of flour
1 cup of salt
1 teaspoon cream of tarter 
2 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon food coloring
2 cups water
a drop of your favorite essential oil

I used to always search for a recipe without oil or cream of tarter, to make things simpler, but I have since discovered they really make the dough wonderful. Sometimes being slightly less simple is worth it!

Directions: Mix ingredients in a sauce pan over medium heat until the dough pulls away from the sides of the pan. Remove from heat, when cool to the touch, knead until soft and then form into balls. Store in an airtight container or bag when not in use. You don't have to use essential oils in this recipe, I just love the way it makes the play-doh smell. 

We absolutely love this play-doh. I have tried just about every recipe and I keep coming back to this one!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Creepy Books to Read in October

Halloween may be more than a month out, but it's never too early to start your Halloween book list. After all, you want to make Halloween a month-long affair, not just a one-day frenzy at the end of the month.

I'm not much of one to be creeped out, but Halloween just begs to add a little fear in your life. At least with books, I can always stop reading and I'm limited by my own imagination, but when I watch scary shows those images stick in my mind forever.

If you're not much of a scary book fan, it can be hard to think of something creepy to read, so I've compiled a quick list of good reads for the month of October.

Dracula by Bram Stoker
Perhaps the original haunted thriller, Dracula is still as good today as it was when it was written in 1897. What we know of Dracula from popular culture is very different from the Dracula of Bram Stoker's masterpiece – and his Dracula is far more terrifying. The characters are brilliant and the storyline is rich and compelling. A must-read, especially for anyone into classic literature.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Like Dracula, the way we perceive Frankenstein is far different from the character in Mary Shelley's book. We usually think of Frankenstein as this brainless, lumbering idiot with bolts sticking out of his neck. Not so in the book. Dr. Frankenstein's creation is brilliant, malicious and downright scary. The book plays on human emotion and you find yourself vacillating from feeling bad for the creature and loathing his existence. This book can drag at points, but it will also leave you looking over your shoulder for a creepy creation that stalks your existence.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
Is there such thing as a horror fairytale? We Have Always Lived in the Castle is the story of an ostracized family living in their big house in a small town, ostracized because at family dinner one night, four people didn't make it out alive. Only two sisters and a uncle remain, living secluded lives. One of the sisters is arrested but eventually acquitted of the murders, but that doesn't change the fact that the entire town thinks she did it. This story is kind of oddball, told from the perspective of the slightly unhinged younger sister. It is thought provoking and creepy, perfect for an October read.

The Journal of Professor Abraham Van Helsing by Allen C. Kupfer
Perhaps the most unsettling book I've ever read, this book plays itself as the real journal of Abraham Van Helsing, the famous vampire-hunter character in Bram Stoker's Dracula. While this book is fictional, you would have a hard time guessing it from the way it's written. It reads and feels like the real deal and gives glimpses into the deeper world of vampirism and its history throughout the world. This is a must-read if you want to stay up at night.

The Shining by Stephen King
Most people know this as only a movie, with a crazed Jack Nicholson staring through a door, but it was first a novel by Stephen King. I first saw the miniseries adaptation of this film when I was 12 and was fascinated/terrified by it. Last year, I had the chance to read the book when I found it at a yard sale. It's the first book by Stephen King I've read and I was impressed by his ability to craft a brilliant story that wasn't so much scary as it was unsettling. There's no big monster that jumps out; rather you see the transformation of Jack from a struggling father to a crazed madman, and it's all in his head. Plus, the fact that the setting of this book is in an isolated hotel far up in the Colorado Rockies in the winter makes it a perfect location to have you scared.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

WotW: Get Your Voice Heard on Capitol Hill

With the presidential elections coming up in less than two months, there's a lot of political discussion going on. Personally, I think the power of the President is vastly overstated. We tend to put the blame for everything bad on the current president and anything that goes well surely must have been his doing too. For more on this, see the Freakonomics website.

So, if the president doesn't matter that much, who does? Congress. These are the elected officials from your state who have the power to craft and vote on bills that become law, and those laws directly affect your life.

If you're like me though, you don't have time to watch C-SPAN, the bills are written in such complicated legalese that they're impossible to understand, and trying to get a balanced view of anything political is nearly impossible. So how are you supposed to stay on top of what your elected officials are voting on?

Now there's a simple solution: Popvox, a website designed to keep the average citizen informed on the proposed bills in Congress. Not only that, it tracks how your elected officials vote on each bill and allows you an opportunity to tell your congressman/woman if you support or oppose a bill. This is going to be juicy, in a very nerdy, political sort of way.

Before I go any further, I just want to clarify that I'm not trying to push any particular political viewpoint here. I don't really care how you vote, as long as you actually take the time to know about the issues. Popvox is a great service that can help guide you along these issues.

To get started, go to Popvox.com and click the Join or Login link in the top-left corner. Here, you have the option of signing in with your Gmail, Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn account. This simplifies your login process and Popvox only uses your account to obtain login and e-mail address information.

Once you're in, you are taken to a screen that lists a slew of proposed bills. You can scan through the list to see what's interesting, or you can click on one of their featured bills.

For instance, I clicked on H.R. 6079: The Repeal of Obamacare Act. While at this screen, I can scroll down and view what other Popvox users think of this bill. I can also read what supporting and opposing organizations have to say. For some bills, you can even read the bill text... if you can understand it.

You'll notice below that I have two options: Support or Oppose. Once you're knowledgeable about a bill, you can sound off by supporting or opposing. This is familiar to all of us in the Facebook age, but you might be thinking, "Who cares if I support or oppose it?" The answer: your congressman/woman.


As soon as you click Support or Oppose, you are taken to a new screen that starts a series of steps to send your vote to your elected official. In this way, they actually hear from you, their constituent, in real time. This is politics evolved to the 21st century. No more can they get away with sitting far away in Washington, D.C. and do whatever they want. You can tell them what you want, which is the whole point.

So, after you click Support or Oppose, you have the option to simply finish, or write a quick comment/letter to your congressman/woman. A warning though: whatever you write will be sent to your elected official and it will become a public comment on the site.


Once you've previewed your comment, you will be asked to input your address and phone number the first time you do it. They keep it on file after this for quick reference. This information is required for Popvox to send your letter to your elected official, which they will as soon as you approve your comment. Below, you can see the letter I wrote addressed to my elected official. As soon as I press "Finished," the letter is sent off. I did my part as a responsible citizen.


Another useful tool on this site is their map which shows what people think based on districts. This can help you see what your fellow citizens think.


One of my favorite features is their Congress Match option, which allows you to look up specific members of Congress. You can learn about them, the bills they sponsor or co-sponsor and how they vote. This helps you keep tabs on these sneaky politicians.


Another feature of Congress Match is it will show how your elected officials match up with your viewpoints on the issues you Supported or Opposed. Over time, this will give you an idea of if your elected official is really representing you or not.


While Popvox is a cool service, it does involve a lot of interaction and time commitment on your part to make it worthwhile. The more time you spend supporting and opposing bills, the better you'll be able to see how your elected representatives are doing. But imagine how powerful this would be if all your Facebook friends supported or opposed even just the hot-topic bills. Our elected officials would be reminded of the phrase "We the People," and we can get a say back in the affairs of this country.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

How Pinteresting: Keep a Child from Falling Out of Bed with a Pool Noodle

Have you entered the giveaway for the Witch Cutout yet? Enter Here!

When I saw a pin on Pinterest that offered a solution to keep your child from falling out of bed, I knew I had to give it a try. Nine times out of ten, my daughter is asleep on the floor by morning, either that or she falls of the bed and wakes up and then we both end up, up all night. 

This pin said to take a pool noodle and slide it under a fitted sheet. It should then sit on the edge of the bed and keep the child from falling off. Did it work? Yes and no. When the noodle stayed in place, it worked like a charm. She spent an entire night in her bed. Miracle! Then, I am not sure what happened. I am not sure if the sheets were stretched out a bit because of the noodle being in them, but eventually the pool noodle would no longer stay put, it fell off the edge of the bed and stayed on the side of the bed. Not very effective.

We have tried a little velcro, but it doesn't love sticking to the mattress, so we end up with the same problem after a day. Right now this pin is going in the Pinterest fail column, but I am determined to  make that noodle stay. Any ideas?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Ringling Brother and Barnum &Bailey Circus in Salt Lake City

The Circus is coming back into Salt Lake City this month and my girls couldn't be more excited! Our favorite part of the Circus is always the BMX riders and the pyrotechnics! It is absolutely amazing! Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® Presents Circus XTREME which includes: 
  •  Xtreme Sports display featuring BMX freestyle riders, energetic parkour performers, trampoline acrobats and slack line gymnastics tricks
  • Caravan of Camels – the only act of it’s kind in the world featuring 6 twin-humped Bactrian camels
  •  Bungee Skydivers aerial acro-ballet
  •  World’s youngest human cannonball Gemma “The Jet” Kirby has been shot from the cannon nearly 500 times
  • Mongolian Marvels strongmen create a human pyramid with a combined weight of over 880 pounds


                     WHEN: September 24-28

WHERE:         EnergySolutions Arena 

TICKETS:      Ticket prices range from $20, $35 (VIP) and $65-70 (Front Row)*
                                Kids (ages 2-12) tickets available for only $10 each for select seating on weekday showsSave 50% on Opening Night discount tickets  (select seating only; not valid on VIP/Front Row levels) I
                      
Use the Smith’s Tix Code, MOM, to get $5 off your tickets! It is valid on these performances:  Friday 3:30pm & 7:00pm, Saturday 11:30am, Sunday 4:30pm, Monday 7:00pm

Feeling Lucky?! One Housewife Eclectic Reader will win a family four pack of tickets! Enter using the Rafflecopter below! 

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The Delany Sisters' Book of Everyday Wisdom by Sarah and Elizabeth Delany

What is the secret to living to be 100? In their book, The Delany Sisters' Book of Every Day Wisdom, sisters Sarah and Elizabeth, who lived to be 109 and 104 respectively, talk about the things they have done in their life that have helped them live so long. 

I can't lie, I often judge a book by its cover, and by the cover this book didn't seem very exciting at all, but it was full of wonderful wit, recipes, and honesty. It was so refreshing to hear somebody tell it exactly like it is and with such simplicity. These wonderful sisters felt no need to mince words and share just what they do in their lives. 

The sisters talked about going back to the basics, that we need to remember our family and who they were because they are part of who we are. They talked about not being bitter and not letting anyone affect your attitude. They talked about exercising every day and living within your means. They said all of the common-sense ideas that we all should be living, but often aren't. 

This book is a very quick read and easy to get caught up in. I finished it very quickly and loved all of the stories of their childhood and the simple, but tried and true advice they gave. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to read a heartfelt book that will remind them to live a full and happy life. 

“As long as you can see each day as a chance for something new to hapen, something you never experienced before, you'll stay young.” - Sarah Delany

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Double Sided Fall Blocks

I love seasonal decor of all kinds, my problem is I have very limited storage space. I want to decorate my house to the rafters, but then I would have nowhere to store the decorations in the off seasons. The easiest, a.k.a, my husband's solution, would be to have less decor. My solution? Make decor work for more than one holiday.

Craft blocks are super easy to make for more than one occasion. This set of blocks is ready for general fall on one side and Thanksgiving on the other. This craft kit comes from Fab Decor, where you can buy the whole kit or just the vinyl. I love the kits because the wood comes sanded, getting rid of my least favorite step. If you want to just buy the vinyl, you will need three 2x4s in sizes 3.5", 4" and 8".
For this craft, I wanted to make the blocks two-toned. I really wanted the natural wood to show through so I took some painter's tape and taped in the center around the edges of each block.
I painted one side of each block orange and one side brown. I only did one coat of each color. I wanted to be able to see the grain of the wood through the paint.
After the paint dried, I removed the tape, giving me crisp lines of paint and a beautiful line of natural wood showing through.
Arrange the blocks so that one block is flipped around to show the opposite color. I made the block that had my turkey/pumpkin on it be the block that was offset color wise. Take a credit card and apply your vinyl to the blocks.
After you have applied your vinyl, take a few strands of raffia and make a bow. Glue the bow to the middle edge of the taller of the two blocks to give the project a completed look.
This two-sided craft will give you decor for the entire fall season. It is easy to put together and I love the cute little turkey and pumpkin.
Go here for the kit. Want to win either a complete set or the kit to make one? Enter below. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

WotW: Stick It In Your Pocket and Read It Later

Once upon a time, people read books, magazines and newspapers. Today, people read online news feeds, blogs, Tweets, status updates, eBooks and more. There are so many different sources out there and so little time in the day. I'm sure, if you're like me, you've reluctantly glossed over many a story or blog post that seemed interesting, but you just didn't have time.

I have a solution for that. No, it's not extra time. As soon as you figure out how to make that happen, let me know. It's a website/app called Pocket, formerly known as Read It Later.


This free site and app allows you to bookmark stories, images and videos that you would like to read or see, but just don't have the time. It stores it in a digital "pocket." The idea is when you have some time freed up, you can quickly open up your pocket and read/view whatever you'd bookmarked. This is especially useful when you install the app on a mobile device because you can view it when you're stuck in waiting room or are suffering through a junior high band concert.

To get started, register for a free account from GetPocket.com.

As soon as you register, you will be taken to a screen with bookmark options. This is a very important page so don't skip it. Look at the yellow +Pocket button below. You need to drag this to your bookmark bar (it will work in all major browsers). This little bookmarklet is unique to your account and is the way you bookmark information to your account. You can also get a browser extension specifically for Chrome if you'd like.


This is what it looks like in your bookmark bar.

Let's demonstrate how this would work. Let's say you came across an amazing blog post and you want to read it, but just don't have time right now. That's OK, simply click on the little +Pocket bookmarklet in your bookmarks bar.


A little dropdown will appear underneath the bookmark bar that will tell you it saved the page/video/image (yes, it even works with YouTube videos). Here you can also add tags to help you categorize all the stuff you might throw into Pocket. You can also directly view your list from here.


Let's take a look at what your Pocket list looks like. You will see a listing of all the things you have bookmarked. If you hover over a specific link, you will see a checkmark (mark a story as read), an X (delete it) or a star (mark as a favorite). If you click on the link, you will be taken to the viewing panel.


The viewing panel gives you a nice, clean reading view, stripped of all the background distractions on whatever site it came from. This is especially nice when you get stories or videos from very busy sites. It makes it so easy to read. You can also adjust text size and brightness to maximize your reading comfort.


One of the best uses of Pocket is its app. Save all your bookmarks on your computer and then when you're stuck somewhere, whip out your mobile device and you can read everything right there. You never have an excuse to be bored again.


Perhaps you're wondering why this is better than just doing a normal bookmark in your browser. It's essentially the same idea, but the beauty of this is you can better organize your stories with tags. This makes it easier to find stuff later. Plus, the mobile app brings it to a whole new level, allowing you to read what's interesting to you whenever is convenient for you.