Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Does this make me look like a good photographer?

I read about a free downloadable program many months ago on several different blogs. I starred in my reader and finally found it again the other day. Check out Poladroid for making any image look like an old Polaroid shot. And the interface is the cutest! If I was really ambitious I would take a video to show you the process, but I'm not. Take my word for it.

Here are a few shots I transformed:

You can change settings to make it more look older or more rustic and you can capture the image at any point in the "development" stage.

They even have a Flickr group.

Top Five Idol Fashions

Please read Boo Mama for more American Idol recaps, and BigMama for fabulous Fashion Friday posts. Thank you Dayton Daily News for keeping me in photos, except for missing a shot of Kris this week! Sorry.

Kris Allen - He looks a little uncomfortable in that suit; it's not really his style. But he looks great! The stylist did a great job picking something current, and it fits him very well. The cut is much more fashion than classic, with slim pants and a tapered waist on the jacket. It's perfect for Rat Pack night. I wonder how he would look with a different hair style - I'm thinking all slicked back. (Sorry again about the no photo - I'll keep looking.)

Allison Iraheta - She looks so beautiful! It's nice to see her in something more pretty and less rocker. She does keep it a little tough with a fitted black satin bustier. The skirt is frilly, poofy, and has a gorgeous black & white pattern. I love her hair. The makeup is a bit heavy, but probably appropriate for her look. The platform black shoes are hot! The whole thing is a nice change for Allison, but I imagine she'll be back to her rocker chick next week.
Note: Thanks to Jamie Foxx for saying she's too young to be in love and to think about her family watching over her. Kudos, Jamie.

Matt Giraud - I'm so glad he is sticking to the fedora. And of course it's perfect for Rat Pack week. His suit is kind of modern, a little too much in my opinion. I think it's the blue shirt; I'm not loving it. The fit is nice, but he just seems a little too buttoned-up and uncomfortable. It's very different from his normal look, hat notwithstanding.

Danny Gokey - He looks like he's ready to get married, rather than entertain. The suit looks great, but not right for the Rat Pack. I think my biggest problem is the fit of his collar. It's so loose it fits like a polo or something. And his glasses are wrong too, as much as I love them. In short: he looks great, but not for the theme. And that would be fine, if this were his normal look, but it's not. If you're gonna dress for the night, you have to get it right. (Loved his song though.)
Dude, just noticed from the picture that he was wearing a vest. Nice try, but it's too low. You couldn't even see it in most of the shots.

Adam Lambert - only Adam can get away with a white suit, especially one as shiny as this. It fits him great though, and if you're gonna wear a white, shiny suit then you gotta go with the black shirt and white tie. There's nothing else to do.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

It's Like Spring for Your Hair

Need to add some spice and color to your look? Try this headband pattern from Larissa at mmmcrafts. I just found her blog today through How About Orange (thanks for all the awesome links, Jessica!) and spent an hour looking through the great posts. There are bunches of tutorials, patterns, and downloads - FOR FREE.
I'm going to make a couple of these headbands from fabric scraps I have lying around. It will be like a spring makeover for my hair!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Top Seven Idol Fasions (Take 2)

Remember, for other American Idol recaps check out Boo Mama. And Big Mama always puts together a lovely Fashion Friday post. As always, Dayton Daily News is da bomb with the photos.

Lil Rounds - Lil is wearing a black one-piece jumpsuit. I am going to refrain from saying anything about her booty. Her hair and makeup is great and from the waist up she looks amazing! Her decolletage is very nice, and she has a very slim middle. The bottom half is okay, the bell bottoms & black shoes make for a clean line. Still trying not to talk about her booty - it's the elephant in the room. Literally.

Kris Allen - Kris rocks the classic white tee look. The grey chinos are casual, but have a very different feeling than jeans. I think he's wearing white tennis shoes or something. This look is simple & great for Kris, but certainly not very interesting for disco night. He seems a little scared to take wardrobe risks, but I guess he leaves that for the music.

Danny Gokey - I'm glad to see him wearing his glasses again, and sporting the facial hair. And wearing jeans. Some things just work and you should stick with them. The black jacket is super cool, although I wish I could see the details a little better; ie wear a different colored shirt underneath. Danny continues to be on the mark fashion-wise.

Allison Iraheta - Wow. She is wearing skin tight pleather with a shiny apron type thing on the front. It's weird, but suprisingly flattering for her figures. I love the shoes and the jacket, but am a bit skeptical of the middle parts. She is amazing to dance around on those 5 inch heels. I am glad that she stays true to her fashion look every week, even when she gets negative feedback. (I'm sure she totally reads my blog & I hope I'm not too negative.)

Adam Lambert - Oh, he looks great. I'm glad he went with a little more formal look; the hair takes us back on it's own. He looks great in a suit, even a shiny one that I'm sure was very expensive. He keeps those Adam touches though, like the earrings. And did you see that ring? I am glad that he wore a white shirt and properly fastened tie, you don't see that much on Idol.

Matt Giraud - The fedora is back! Love this look on Matt. It's perfect for disco night, but is what he always looks good in. That jacket is great: an interesting color, soft leather, and a good cut. And I think the jeans and sneaks keep it just casual and cool enough. I'm gonna miss his fashion looks (love him but he's just not as good as others).

Anoop Desai - He looks so good with facial hair! He suddenly looks so cool thanks to that & the hairstyle. I kind of like Anoop's look the best week to week, although it's not my favorite look tonight. But the preppy Kanye West thing looks really good on him. I like the suit, and I'm glad he keeps the pink going. The tie & sweater are great, and he keeps it casual with the shoes & the untucked look.

I've been finding some other great spots online that feature American Idol fashions. I think I'll add one every week. Check out the official Idol site. The weekly fashion spot is written by the actual stylist, Miles Siggins. There is a blurb on each contestant for each week, though they do run a couple weeks behind.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Tiling the easy way

I've been slowly fixing up the boys' bathroom - I painted, repaired a hole, and then finally got around to changing the flooring. We had linoleum, which I hear is making a comeback. I love linoleum - it's durable, environmentally friendly, one-piece (no water seeping into cracks, great for bathrooms), and comes in tons of looks and patterns. Check out this article about linoleum on This Old House. Unfortunately, real linoleum is quite expensive and most dealers and big box stores just stock vinyl, which often gets called linoleum too (even though it's not).

My family is not sure how long we will be in our house, but it could be several year still. We wanted different flooring in the bathroom, but didn't want to spend a lot of money. In the end, I opted for vinyl tiles. They are cheap (around $1/sq ft), easy to install (self adhesive), and durable enough for us. They also come in lots of patterns, many mimicking the popular ceramic and slate tiles.

I chose to install the vinyl tiles right over my linoleum for a couple reasons: if water seeps between the tiles, the linoleum underneath is seamless and the water won't get to the foundation, but mostly because I was too lazy to rip out the old flooring and scrape glue off the concrete underneath.

When laying vinyl tiles over existing flooring, you have the choice to butt them up against the baseboards, or remove the baseboards and replace them again afterwards. I wanted new baseboards too, and since the cost was minimal in a small bathroom I ripped mine out. I did it during nap time one day on a whim. It took about 5 minutes. Unfortunately I didn't get around to installing the tile and new baseboards for about a month, but baby steps, right?

Here are the steps for removing baseboards:

1. Cut through the caulk between the baseboard and the wall. If you don't do this you can peel the paint right off the wall, or even the paper off the drywall. You can do the whole wall at once or work in 2-3 foot sections.

2. Use a tool to pry the baseboards from the wall. I use a special, angled screwdriver with a claw tip, but a regular one will do in a pinch. I use a hammer to wedge it in, then push out the moulding. You just have to be careful not to damage your wall. That's why I like the angle of this tool, because I have more room for leverage. Some people want to save the baseboards to re-install, but I was tossing mine, so I didn't worry about them cracking, splintering, or breaking. Demolition is very satisfying.

3. Vacuum up all the detritus that ends up underneath your walls. Are you sad that I'm covering up this gorgeous linoleum?

On to installing the new tile:

The first step is to make sure the floor is clean and dry, no matter what you are laying the tile over. The vinyl tiles have adhesive backs, so you just stick them down, but if there's dirt or dust they won't stay down well.

It is important to map out how you will lay the tile before you start. It's nice to start with one tile in a corner, to make for less cutting, but that's not always the best idea. You need to make sure your last row of tiles isn't less than 4 inches or something (whatever the directions say). Here's an example. This is my bathroom, roughly. I actually laid these tiles out, without attaching them. The figure on the left shows that the last tile will need to be cut a little. The figure on the right shows that the last tile will be a little short. And rather than have a small tile, it is better to cut the tiles on both ends of the row.

Do you have this?

You need to do the same for the width and length of the room. If your walls are not square you can end up with rows of tile that don't align with the walls. This is a bigger issue when you are tiling a larger room. With vinyl tiles that just match up to each other in the seams you can start in the middle of the room if you want. You don't have that luxury with tongue and groove flooring like laminate.

I started in the middle row, but next to my tub. I wanted a full tile next to the tub, where we stand a lot - even if that meant a slightly shorter tile on the opposite side (but still more than 6 inches). Basically I have the figure on the left and just cut down the last row of tiles a little. I laid the row next to the wall slightly past the linoleum underneath, so that they would extend about 1/2 inch underneath the new baseboards. This did make for a short row next to the wall behind the toilet - but no one walks back there so I didn't mind.

Now you just peel and stick. You have to peel the paper backing off slowly, so it doesn't rip. The adhesive is pretty good, but not like glue where you couldn't peel a tile up and reposition it. Place the tiles as close to each other as possible, keeping the seams exactly square at the corners. Once you put a tile down, secure it all over by applying pressure. Here's a shot of my first few tiles.

And now comes the cutting:

It's pretty satisfying to lay down whole tiles and you cover the area very quickly. And you can do all the whole tiles first if you want. But at some point you will get to the edges and need to cut a tile to fit. Vinyl tiles can be cute with heavy scissors, a utility knife, etc. The scissors worked the best for me. But even with a small bathroom my hands were sore and almost blistered the next day from the cutting - it's hard work! Straight line cuts are pretty easy. I used a measuring tape, a dry erase marker, and a straight edge. You can just measure the area you need to fill, mark it on the tile, and cut.

The official method of cutting tiles (of any material) is as follows:

* Lay a loose tile directly over the last tile in the row
* Lay another loose tile flat against the wall/bathtub/flat edge, overlapping the first loose tile
* Draw/cut along the line where the two loose tiles meet
* See the cutaway diagram below

The hardest part of laying tile comes when you need to cut for irregular objects. For bathrooms the round toilet base can be tricky. Vinyl tiles have an advantage over other tiles because you can do a curved cut. I will tell you how I fit these tiles, but I'm sure there are better ways. I was glad my tiles were only $1 each because I did start over a couple times.

I cut the tile down to roughly the correct size if necessary, then cut out the curved shape I needed. I totally free handed it, drawing the shape as shown, and then cutting in down again and again until it fit well. This is why my cutting hand was sore. Does anyone know a better way than this? It was labor intensive, but it worked for me since there were only a few tiles to cut this way.

When you finish all the tile, you can choose to caulk the edge in some spots. I caulked along the tub and around the base of the toilet. i just bought white bathroom caulk and followed the instructions roughly, although I use my fingers to smooth.

Here's a shot of the finished product. The new baseboard against the right wall was just laid in place to see how it would look. Watch for my upcoming post on installing baseboards! It's already half-way written.

Please check out my other Do It Herself projects. I'm very proud of them!

I submitted this post to DIY Day at A Soft Place to Land.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Top Seven Idol Fashions

Allison Iraheta - This outfit is not very flattering for her. She's a teensy bit heavier and all that extra fabric around her hips doesn't look good. Especially not over red leggings. Bare legs would have been better with such a voluminous middle. The belt and above looks good though. Allison looks good in black, but I'm always glad she has some color in there too. I don't even want to discuss the gloves. She's not ready for those yet.

Anoop Desai - I love Anoop in a tie! Still not sure about his jacket, with the white arms and stripes, but the jeans, button-up, and tie look great. He somehow looks cooler than usual tonight too, maybe because I loved his song. His hair seems a little more messed & casual.

Adam Lambert - Here's my rock star back. Love the jeans & jacket. The tee is okay. Plain white would have been more classic. The only place he misses the rock star image, and seems more in line with a drama performer, is in his physique. I'm no one to talk here, but he seems a little soft in the middle and most singers from this genre are ultra skinny. We'll see what happens in a few years once the money and fame has kicked in and he's turned to drugs. That always seem to take the weight off. (Please don't let that happen to Adam!)

Matt Giraud - I miss the hat a little, but I guess he is showing off his new 'do. I like the facial hair a lot. The haircut goes well with this classic ensemble. White shirt, black tie & vest looks good but doesn't distract from the performance at all. Not so exciting to write about, but sometimes that's better.

Danny Gokey - He looks different tonight, not the same old thing. I like the casual, holey jeans. But I'm not sure about the Miami Vice blazer with pushed up sleeves. Maybe. Danny's got a new haircut this week too, or something, and I like it. That and the facial hair make up for the missing glasses. I'm so glad for something new, rather than a black blazer. What's up with those white shoes, though?

Kris Allen - He looks good, but a little bit like he's trying too hard or something. I think it's the upturned collar on the jacket. Doesn't seem like him. The rest is good though - jeans and a basic tee go so well on Kris.

Lil Rounds - Why does she have different hair every week? That's strange to me. I love her earrings. She looks chic in some close-fitting clothes. The black looks good & I love the pattern on just the shoulders. The shoes are cool, and it's nice to see a little skin down there, although I think a skirt would have been a good choice for her - to show off her legs.

Friday, April 10, 2009

If You Print Them, They Will Call

One of the goals from my list was to get business/blogging/mommy/calling cards for myself. I used Vista Print to order a box of blogging cards, which will probably sit for a long time unless I attend an event or conference. But this morning I found a free download from a wonderful, new-to-me blog, Cottage Industrialist. DIY, printable calling cards! I printed a page of eight cards and put them in my bag so the next time we're at the park and meet some nice people, we can invite them for a playdate.

(found via How About Orange, one of my favorite design bloggers)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Top Eight Idol Fashions

My husband and I were at a Polynesian Poolside Party last night - with Elvis. So I didn't get to watch American Idol and check out their fashion ensembles until this morning. But just try and tell me this wasn't worth it:

Danny Gokey - he looked good tonight; he always does. But I'm afraid that with his looks, as well as his performance, good starts to get a little boring. I did like his black tie against the pop of color with his fuschia shirt, but even that crazy white jacket from a couple weeks ago was more interesting. I also think he looks better with the black frames on his glasses, rather than the rimless. It does a lot more for his face.

Kris Allen - I think he is perfecting his casual style. He seems to feel more and more comfortable on stage, and it shows in his clothes too. I loved the military style jacket over a black tee. The jeans were a good fit, and the lighter wash gave them a more casual feel than dark jeans. And with Kris, cute & casual is perfect.

Lil Rounds - I loved her hair and makeup this week. And that leather vest was hot! Did you see the cut-out in the back? Paula said she looked hot too. The skirt flattered Lil's figure and showed off her great legs. And the diamond covered shoes were amazing! She looked the part of a star this week, even if she didn't sound like one.

Anoop Desai - He's like a fresh breath of spring in a sea of black mens wardrobes. He has a preppy look that is original to this season. The colors look good on him, and the cardigan, tie, and jeans work well together. Bravo! (loved the singing too. loved simon's singing yo-yo analogy.)

Scott MacIntyre - poor Scott just always looks out-of-date to me. The pattern on that shirt is from the 90s, and the pants with the black racing stripes down the sides seemed like he was trying too hard. And the hair! Oh, the hair. I don't know how to make him look more modern. I'm thinking some facial hair would help. Make him look a little more rugged. He had a hint of a mustache this week - let's see some more.

Allison Iraheta - I really like the top half of her outfit: the leather jacket and various chains. And I like the skirt, it shows off her legs and looks girly tough. But I don't like the top and bottom half together. I don't know which one she should have gone with, but somehow the top and bottom distracted from each other. The hairstyle was nice, but I still don't love the red hair.

Matt Giraud - This guy can pull off a hat easily! I loved it; the hat added a lot to his overall look. The leather jacket, jeans, and shirt were fine, looked fine - but the hat pulled it all together. I still wish for a pop of something to break up the monochromatic black/grey scheme. Even if it was a little white.

Adam Lambert - Although he pulls off other looks well, I'm a little relieved to get back to the real Adam. The lighting made it kind of hard to see - I think he was wearing white pants and boots. Hey, he totally looked like Elvis from the waist down, minus a few sequins. Okay, it's a grey/beige leather hoodie thing with matching scarf - weird. Just like him. I thought his song was weird too, but there is no denying his talent. I predict he'll be in the top 2, so we'll get to see a lot more fashion choices from him.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Bzz Reports

I belong to a website called BzzAgent. You can sign up for free to be an agent in different marketing campaigns. You get samples of products, or other services, and are then asked to share your honest opinion with people you know and then submit reports to the website. I joined recently at the invitation of a friend, and have been enjoying it. I have only participated in two campaigns so far, but have been meaning to post about them. I look forward to more in the future!

Chili's now has a section on their menu called the Guiltless Grill. They sent me 4 vouchers for free entrees from their offerings of 6 items. My husband and I used these vouchers on 2 great dates (staying within our budget) and we were impressed by the food. Honestly, we would never go to dinner at Chili's - we like to think of ourselves as wannabe restaurant critics, but both of us have eaten there plenty of times over the years, mostly for lunch.

The carne asada steak, which my sweetie ordered both times, was a very excellent entree. The seasoning was perfect, there was a great pico de gallo on top, and the meat was tender and cooked perfectly to order. I ordered the honey mustard glazed salmon on our first trip and thought it was great. He thought the glaze was a little overpowering, but I liked it. The fish was moist and flavorful. Next time I ordered cedar plank tilapia. It was okay. The fish was cooked well, but the seasoning was pretty bland. Also, it was served on the cedar planked it was cooked on and it was really hard to eat. All our entrees were accompanied by steamed broccoli, topped with fresh parmesan cheese. Tasty & healthy!

Here's our final take: the portions are much smaller than you are used to, but appropriate for a guiltless meal. It's all about portion control, right? I was certainly not left feeling hungry. The prices range from about $8 to around $14 for the steak. And we recommend the steak. I don't think we would go to Chili's just for their Guiltless Grill - but will order from the GG menu the next time we are there.

My other campaign was for Palmolive pure + clear dish soap. A box arrived for me containing a full size bottle of soap and ten cute little samples, with 10 bottle-shaped coupons for $1 off. Now let me tell you - I haven't thought much about the dish soap I buy. I get it in bulk at Costco or Sam's Club and generally I like the ones that smell like apple or orange. I couldn't even tell you what brand it was. I looked & turns out it was Palmolive too.

After using an entire bottle of pure + clear, I am planning to stick with it for a while. The smell was divine, but with a lighter fragrance than most dish soaps. And the bottle is simple and well-designed. The label is plastic rather than paper, so it doesn't get all gummy and gross when you use it around water (duh!). Right now I have the pure + clear bottle refilled with the last of my old, bulk soap. And I will pick up some pure + clear at the store in the next few weeks.

Here's the real point of pure + clear - the part that many people will care about (much more than I do). It's made with less chemicals, non-irritating dyes, and no heavy fragrances. The cleaning ingredients are biodegradable, and the formula is touted as hypoallergenic. Even the bottles is made of 25-75% post-consumer recycled plastic. It's made in America and is even certified Kosher (I thought that was just for food). So, if you purchase products that are friendly to the earth and easy on your skin and body - try Palmolive pure + clear. I'll even send you on of my leftover samples & coupons if you e-mail me!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Skillet Baked Ziti

I haven't posted a recipe for a while, and the theme for this month's Recipe Box Swap is pasta, and I made this baked ziti this week, and it's super yummy and easy - so, here it is! It came from America's Test Kitchen.

1 tablespoon olive oil
6 garlic cloves , minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
3 cups water
12 ounces ziti (3 3/4 cups)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup minced fresh basil leaves
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

To complete this recipe in 30 minutes, preheat your oven before assembling your ingredients. If your skillet is not ovensafe, transfer the pasta mixture into a shallow 2-quart casserole dish before sprinkling with the cheese and baking. Packaged pre-shredded mozzarella is a real time-saver here. Penne can also be used here.
Serves 4

Making the Minutes Count: Measure the water and the pasta before you begin cooking. Prep the Parmesan and basil while the pasta cooks.

1. Heat Oven: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 475 degrees.

2. Simmer Ziti: Combine oil, garlic, pepper flakes, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in 12-inch, ovensafe nonstick skillet and sauté over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add crushed tomatoes, water, ziti, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cover and cook, stirring often and adjusting heat as needed to maintain vigorous simmer, until ziti is almost tender, 15 to 18 minutes.

3. Add Cheese and Bake: Stir in cream, Parmesan, and basil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle mozzarella evenly over ziti. Transfer skillet to oven and bake until cheese has melted and browned, about 10 minutes. Serve.