Friday, November 30, 2012

Origami Christmas Trees (A Tutorial)

My husband loves origami. I have a beautiful vase full of origami roses he gave me for Valentine's Day when we were so poor he couldn't give me roses. They were packed in their own separate box on the move here because I couldn't stand the thought of them being squished. Every so often, I think he has forgotten about origami and then he surprises me with something new.

Do you remember these stars from last year? He discovered how to make me a wonderful Christmas tree using them. It is pretty simple and requires simple supplies that you probably have on hand! First you will need to make some stars. Four with 12 x 12 paper and two with paper cut down to 6x6.

You will need:
a square piece of fun Christmas paper (The one in the photos is 12x12)
a glue stick
a pencil

 Make sure your paper is square and then fold it in half.
 Then fold it in half again.
 Open up your paper and you should have four squares.
 Make a triangle fold across the entire paper.
 Unfold the paper.
 Fold a triangle fold the opposite way.
 Do not unfold from this triangle fold. Your paper should look like this.
 Now take a pair of scissors and on the two outside folds cut about half way up the fold.
 Your cuts should look similar to this photo below. Careful not to cut to far.
 Repeat on the other side. Your paper should look like the photo below.
 Unfold. You should now have four equal diamonds.
 Take one edge of one of the diamonds and fold it to the middle, kind of like when you are making a paper airplane.
 Do the same with the other side of the diamond.
 Your paper should look like the photo below at this point. Repeat with the rest of the diamonds.

 After you have all four diamonds folded into points, pull out your glue stick and glue one side of one of the diamonds.
 Slide the glued side of the diamond under the other side of the diamond. This will make the paper puff up into 3D.
 Slide a pen or pencil down the point to help push the point of the star out so that it isn't flat.
 Your point should look like the photo below. Repeat with the rest of your points until they are all 3D
Your stars should look like this when they are completed.

You will need:
Origami Stars
Hot Glue

Take six stars, four made from 12x12 paper and two made from 6x6 paper and stack on top of each other. Start with the 12x12 paper, stack one on top of another, offsetting the points to give it the Christmas tree look. Use a hot glue gun to glue the two stars together. Repeat this with the remaining two 12x12 stars and then finish with the two 6x6 stars, making sure to offset them and not stack them so all of the points are going the same directions. When you are done gluing, you should have a great little tree! This would be perfect if you need a little tree for an apartment, or just want some fun decorations for around the house!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Christmas Ornament Advent Calendar

 The Christmas season is finally upon us. Our little Elf on the Shelf named Pixiedoodle is checking in on us, our tree is up and the Christmas lights are hung. My little girl can hardly contain her excitement for Christmas to come, so of course, we are counting down. There are lots of different ways to count down to Christmas this is how we are doing it this year.

This year, I bought a teeny tiny tree at Hobby Lobby. This cute little tree was only a couple bucks and is just the perfect size for my little one. I bought a package of ornaments and a package that had a star in it. I recommend buying the little ornaments that come with the threads already attached. Threading them was frustrating to say the least.

Everyday my little girl will get to put a tiny ornament on our tiny tree. The perfect advent calendar for my tree loving girl!

What kind of advent calendar are you using this year?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

WotW: Build Your Own Custom Multimedia Playlists with Minilogs

How many times a day does a friend share a cool YouTube video, or song, or movie trailer with you? You watch it and then forget about it until something sparks your memory. Unfortunately, you didn't save it, so you can't remember what it was called. First world tragedy.

Of course, you can avoid this problem by bookmarking the page, but the problem with bookmarks is pretty soon you have a giant pile of them and it's too daunting to sift through to find what you really need. I've shared some resources in the past on how to stay organized with new bookmarking tools, most notably Pocket. Today, I want to share an amazing bookmarking tool called Minilogs.

Like other bookmarking tools, Minilogs lets you quickly and easily bookmark items for future reference. What sets it apart though is what it bookmarks and how it organizes the bookmarks.

Minilogs is essentially a universal playlist. You bookmark multimedia items from around the web and organize them in similar playlists. This allows you to quickly go back and find what you're looking for. Plus, it makes for a great entertainment tool for you and your friends to enjoy.

Imagine creating a playlist of 80s rock bands. You bookmark songs from Grooveshark, a station on Pandora and some Vimeo and YouTube videos. These are all in one convenient playlist, allowing you to head bang all night.

Creating a Minilogs account is free and easy. You can register with your Facebook account if you want. Once you're signed in, you can create a playlist. You do this by clicking on the orange +New log in the top-right corner of the page.

To get started, you need to copy and paste the URL to a site with a multimedia item on it. For instance, if it's a YouTube video, copy the video URL in the address bar and paste it in the Create a Log field on Minilogs. Press Add.

Your playlist is now created and should have that first multimedia item in there. To play it, all you have to do is press play. By default, your playlist doesn't have a name. You can fix this by clicking in the Untitled text area and type a new name.

You can continue to add multimedia items to your playlist by copying and pasting URLs into the Add a Link field at the top of your playlist.

One of the things I like best about the playlist is how you can see where each item came from. This is done by looking at the little icon next to each item in the playlist.

By default, your log is private. You can share it with people you want via the share button, but it is not public. To make your log public, you need to Publish it – a setting at the top of your playlist. You can also make your log collaborative (another setting), which lets others you designate add items to the log.

Minilogs is also a social network of sorts. You can explore other logs. You can show your support by "hearting" a multimedia item you like. You can also favorite a log (click on the star next to the title). This will place the entire log in your playlists window.

As you may have noticed, you can embed your log on another site, such as your blog. This way, your friends can see your log and experience your favorite things. This is better than other playlists because it doesn't autoplay – a sin on par with drowning puppies.

Copying and pasting links can be a pain though. Fortunately, Minilogs has a couple solutions. One is a bookmarklet, similar to Pinterest. You can download the bookmarklet here. Just click on the bookmarklet when you come along an interesting multimedia item and it will save it to your Minilogs account.

The second, and better option, is for Google Chrome users – an extension with one-click functionality. You download this from the Chrome Web Store by searching minilogs and clicking on the Extensions option. Press the +Add to Chrome button to add the extension to your browser.

Once this extension is in place, you have two methods of saving a new item. One is to click on the extension icon in the top-right corner of your browser.

The other method is to right click on the page and select Save this Page to Minilogs.

This is a service I'm sure you'll find will get a lot of use. Plus, since it's an online service, you can access your playlists from any computer. What will you make a minilog about?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Christmas Angel Favor

 If you are like me, you need lots of little Christmas gifts. I am always on the lookout for something easy and affordable to make for the kids in my daughter's preschool class or the kids at church. These little angels are easy to make and the materials for them can make quite a few.

You will need:
Film canisters
small treats like M&Ms to go inside the film canisters
lace trim
silver pipe cleaners
large wood beads
paint (for the wood beads)
sharpie (for the eyes)
curly fake hair
hot glue gun

The first thing I do is paint the wooden bead, so it can dry. I then wrap the lace trim around the film canister one and cut it to fit. I then cut one more strip of lace trim the same size. I glue both strips to film canister, one slightly above the other. Tie about half a pipe cleaner into a bow and glue on the back as the wings.
Draw the eyes of the angel on with a Sharpie. Hot glue a small mass of hair on the bead. Take a small section of pipe cleaner and twist it into a circle for a halo. Glue on top of the curls. Glue the bead to the film canister. Fill the canister with small treats.
These little angels make the perfect little favors for a Christmas party and they are a snap to put together!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

31 Days of Photo Props: Just Like Mommy

 What little girl doesn't want to be just like her mom? When little girls are very young, like in the 18 months to 2-year range, I love to "Just Like Mommy" photos. These fun pictures use some of mom's things to express the personality of both the subject and mom in the photographs.
Some prop ideas for these pictures include, mom's jewelry, sunglasses, high heels or running shoes (depending on what mom likes to wear), purses, cell phone and mom's soft drink of choice.
 These pictures are easy, because mom has all the props on hand for them already and because what kid doesn't love a chance to play with things they aren't normally allowed to?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

WotW: Summarize the Web with One Mouse Click

We've all been there – you go to a blog/website/article and you're excited to read it. Then you see how long it is. Your brain does some quick mental math:

length of article x time spent reading / reward level = read?

Typically this equation amounts to the common phrase, "Too Long, Didn't Read." (TLDR). All because an article is either too long – or appears too long due to poor web formatting – we would rather skip it than benefit from whatever information might be contained therein. We can't blame ourselves too much though because we're busy and there are too many things to read. We only want to invest time in reading if we get some sort of benefit from it (this is one of the keys of a successful blog).

Now there is a great tool to simplify this process. Fittingly, it is a Google Chrome extension called TLDR. With one click of the mouse, this amazing extension will automatically read through an article and summarize the most important information. In one paragraph you can get an idea if the story is worth investing more time in reading. If not, well, you only spent time reading one paragraph.

You will have to have Google Chrome to use this extension. If you aren't already using Google Chrome, repent now and download it. It's free, in case you're wondering.

Once you've loaded Chrome, click on the Web Store icon in the bottom right corner. In the search box, type: TLDR. The search results will by default return nothing. You will have to select the Extensions tab and TLDR will be the first option. Be careful – there are multiple TLDR options out there. You want the one from Click on the extension. A pop-up window will appear. Click the blue Add to Chrome button in the top-right corner.

When the extension is installed, you will see an extension in the top-right corner of your web browser that looks like this:

Now, go to any website, particularly one that has a lot of text. Perhaps it's your friend's blog and they're rambling on about their family vacation. While you're interested to some degree, you don't want to invest a lot of time. TLDR can help.

For this demonstration, I'm going to use an article from the American Psychological Association about stress and how men and women deal with it differently. I saved this in my Pocket awhile back and now want to see if it's worth the time to read.

Once the page is loaded, I simply click on the TLDR extension in the top-right corner of the browser. I can also access it by right clicking anywhere on the page and select the grammatically incorrect phrase, "Less words, please!"

You will see a processing animation for a few seconds.

Once processing is finished, a pop-up window will appear with a one or two paragraph summary. Remember, this is a quick and dirty summary, so don't expect everything. But it will have a decent synopsis of what the story is about.

Let's say you're intrigued and would like to read a little more. TLDR also includes options for short, medium and long summaries. Or, you can read the original text from within the TLDR overlay, which is nice for pages with small text. Once you're finished, click the X in the top-right corner of the overlay and you're back to your article. Because this is a pop-up overlay, you never actually leave the page you're on.

Another cool feature is the final option on the left, which sets TLDR to work finding similar stories to the one you just read.

This extension has incredible uses. Imagine being a student and having to do research. This can help simplify the research process immensely. TLDR uses a complex algorithm to analyze the text of an article. Because it is simply summarizing, it will leave out information, so if you want the whole picture you'll still have to read the story. The real beauty of this extension though is its ability to help you quickly decide if you want to read the whole thing. And that is worth every penny of this free extension.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

How to Make A Little Girl Happy

Take two little girls, dress one up as Snow White and the other as Pocahontas. 
Add a dash of Finding Nemo, especially Bruce. 
 Make sure Mickey Mouse makes an appearance. 
 Dance through a fairy tale with their favorite princesses.
 Add a little Yee-Haw with Jessie, Woody and Buzz. 
 Watch a ginormous whale swallow Pinocchio. 
 See Mulan go from spilling tea to chopping her hair and becoming a solider. 
 Work out with the Incredibles...
 and feel the love tonight. 
Needless to say the girls were thrilled with Disney on Ice. I think we have decided to make it an annual tradition!
(I received Disney on Ice tickets in exchange for posting, all opinions are mine.)