blackbird

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Cross-Bloggenate - New Word?

I think we all know bees as well as other insects are involved in a process called pollenation, the transfer of pollen from one plant to another, and if the genetic make-up of one plant is different, then it is referred to as cross-pollenation.

(Don't you just love this picture! I took it in my backyard, this guy was so busy -get it? busy as a bee- that he didn't even notice me all up in his personal space)

I was pondering the similarities of bees buzzing from plant to plant picking up tiny particles and transplanting it to another plant and blog readers. We read other's blogs and glean bits of information or ideas and transfer them to others sometimes expounding upon the idea and sometimes just repeating what we have read (with adequate credit to the original source, of course!) and sometimes just letting the information spark a new line of thinking. So if we were to give this process a name would it be, cross-bloggenation? I think so, besides taking information, we also reference each other and promote one another to create a blog community of like thoughts or common interests. Thus we work together to create a beautiful garden of thinking, blooming extensively and constantly changing.

After writing this post I have found the word mentioned once in a post spelled cross-bloggenation and once spelled cross bloggination. So, poop, I don't think I invented the word........

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Here Kitty, Kitty

Well, once again I am displaying my own version of animal magnetism. I'm an animal magnet that is, now I am not home, I am on my way to watch my niece play softball in Houston (she is on the Purdue team). But I am going via Oklahoma which is where I am now. I am from Kansas meeting my sister from Missouri, in Oklahoma to fly to Texas to watch my niece from Indiana, play softball. I know - crazy. Anyway, sitting here at my aunts house last night and I hear a sound. I was just sure I heard a cat. Now if they had a cat here that would not be such a big deal but they don't have a cat......they have a dog, a really big dog. I made the comment that I heard a cat and my aunt argued profusely that it was not true. Finally I was just sure and went to the door. And sure enough a little adolescent kitten was outside but desperately wanted inside. I opened the door and she came right on in and when I picked her up she immediately starting purring. She seemed extremely skinny so I went in search of food. I decided on the gourmet meal of dry dog food mixed with a little sour cream. MMMMM, she loved it, or at least she ate it. I checked her over seeing no fleas or bugs or otherwise unhealthy looking problems so I let her stay in with me. It was bedtime so I let the cat sleep in the room with me. She was very good and woke me up at 5:00 AM to go outside. She has decided she likes me and follows me everywhere. She has also decided that I should not work on the computer at all, the minute I start typing she wants to sit on the keyboard or on my shoulder. But now she is sleeping kind of worn out from all the exploring. I haven't named her because I don't want to have ownership..........but i was thinking about Dot - because she has a big white spot on her side and Dot is short for Dorothy and after all, Dorothy is a very Kansas name.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Paige

This is a picture I took of one of my co-workers daughter, Paige. We needed some shots of a elementary age child reading so she popped in and obliged. I was very pleased with the outcome, especially with no set up or pre-planning she was a super star. In this photo, I loved her expression, especially her eyes. The effect was achieved by first desaturating the photo (make sure you keep an original full color, just in case : )  turning the slider down to 0 (in Photoshop) and then I did not use the standard sepia filter, I put a slightly transparent color of brown over the top. I went back to the original colored layer made another copy and placed it on the very bottom. I reduced the saturation color until I was pleased that her lips were a faint pinkish, I went back to the black/white layer and erased with small increments of percentage of the eraser tool until the color of her lips was barely visible. I did basically the same procedure with her eyes and at the end put just a slight color on her cheeks. I love how this turned out.

Monday, February 15, 2010

25 Surprising Household Tips

25 Surprising Household Tips

1. Take your bananas apart when you get home from the store.  If you leave them connected at the stem, they ripen faster.

2. Store your opened chunks of cheese in aluminum foil.  It will stay fresh much longer and not mold!

3. Peppers with 3 bumps on the bottom are sweeter and better for eating.  Peppers with 4 bumps on the bottom are firmer and better for cooking.
 
4. Add a teaspoon of water when frying ground beef.  It will help pull the grease away from the meat while cooking.

5. To really make scrambled eggs or omelets rich add a couple of  spoonfuls of sour cream, cream cheese, or heavy cream in and then beat them up.

6. For a cool brownie treat, make brownies as directed. Melt  Andes  mints in double broiler and pour over warm brownies. Let set for a wonderful minty frosting.

7. Add garlic immediately to a recipe if you want a light taste of garlic and at the end of the recipe if your want a stronger taste of garlic.  

8. Leftover snickers bars from Halloween make a delicious dessert. Simply chop them up with the food chopper. Peel, core and slice a few apples. Place them in a baking dish and sprinkle the chopped candy bars over the apples. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes!!!  Serve alone or with vanilla ice cream. Yummm!
                                                   
9. Reheat Pizza
Heat up leftover pizza in a nonstick skillet on top of the stove, set heat to med-low and heat till warm. This keeps the crust crispy. No soggy micro pizza. I saw this on the cooking channel and it really works.

10. Easy Deviled Eggs
Put cooked egg yolks in a zip lock bag. Seal, mash till they are all broken up.  Add remainder of ingredients, reseal, keep mashing it up mixing thoroughly, cut the tip of the baggy, squeeze mixture into egg.  Just throw bag away when done easy clean up.

11. Expanding Frosting
When you buy a container of cake frosting from the store, whip it with your mixer for a few minutes. You can double it in size. You get to frost more cake/cupcakes with the same amount. You also eat less sugar and calories per serving.
                                       
12. Reheating refrigerated bread
To warm biscuits, pancakes, or muffins that were refrigerated, place them in a microwave with a cup of water. The increased moisture will keep the food moist and help it reheat faster.

13. Newspaper weeds away
Start putting in your plants, work the nutrients in your soil. Wet newspapers, put layers around the plants overlapping as you go. Cover with mulch and forget about weeds. Weeds will get through some gardening plastic they will not get through wet newspapers.

14. Broken Glass
Use a wet cotton ball or Q-tip to pick up the small shards of glass you can't see easily.
                     
15. No More Mosquitoes
Place a dryer sheet in your pocket. It will keep the mosquitoes away.

16. Squirrel Away!
To keep squirrels from eating your plants, sprinkle your plants with cayenne pepper. The cayenne pepper doesn't hurt the plant and the squirrels won't come near it.

17. Flexible vacuum
To get something out of a heat register or under the fridge add an empty paper towel roll or empty gift wrap roll to your vacuum. It can be bent or flattened to get in narrow openings.

18. Reducing Static Cling
Pin a small safety pin to the seam of your slip and you will not have a clingy skirt or dress. Same thing works with slacks that cling when wearing panty hose. Place pin in seam of slacks and ... guess what! ... static is gone.

19. Measuring Cups
Before you pour sticky substances into a measuring cup, fill with hot water. Dump out the hot water, but don't dry cup. Next, add your ingredient, such as peanut butter, and watch how easily it comes right out.   (Or spray the measuring cup or spoon with Pam before using)
 
20. Foggy Windshield?
Hate foggy windshields? Buy a chalkboard eraser and keep it in the glove box of your car When the windows fog, rub with the eraser! Works better than a cloth!

21. Re-opening envelopes
If you seal an envelope and then realize you forgot to include something inside, just place your sealed envelope in the freezer for an hour or two. Viola! It unseals easily.
 
22. Conditioner
Use your hair conditioner to shave your legs. It's cheaper than shaving cream and leaves your legs really smooth. It's also a great way to use up the conditioner you bought but didn't like when you tried it in your hair.

23. Goodbye Fruit Flies
To get rid of pesky fruit flies, take a small glass, fill it 1/2' with Apple Cider Vinegar and 2 drops of dish washing liquid; mix well. You will find those flies drawn to the cup and gone forever!

24. Get Rid of Ants
Put small piles of cornmeal where you see ants. They eat it, take it 'home,' can't digest it so it kills them. It may take a week or so, especially if it rains, but it works and you don't have the worry about pets or small children being harmed!

25. Dryer Filter
Even if you are very diligent about cleaning the lint filter in your dryer it still may be causing you a problem. If you use dryer sheets a waxy build up could be accumulating on the filter causing your dryer to over heat. The solution to this is to clean your filter with with a toothbrush and hot soapy water every 6 months.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

AHHH, Red Hot Nostalgia.........

OK, let me set the stage- Years ago, Grandma's house......some sort of family dinner, no special occasion, because back then, you didn't NEED a holiday as an excuse to go to Grandma's house for a meal. Grandma has been busy in the kitchen cooking up all the stuff you can't eat now, because it's sooooo bad for you. I mean life tasted so much better when we were ignorant of our apparent imminent demise. For this meal you had Fried Chicken, Mashed Potatoes, Gravy (Grandma's gravy, ummmm), some sort of vegetable, let's say ...... corn, because we knew nothing of carb overload...... and jello. Grandma's have a way of taking jello and being some sort of artiste with it. Why on earth they added the things they did......that will be a culinary conundrum forever. But let's just say it is around Valentine's Day so....duh.......the color of jello is red. You sit down and what's this? Jello should not be opaque, and there is no visible chunks of mystery, so with some trepidation, you take that first bite. OMGosh! This is good, this is REALLY good. Gram what have you done?! She explains what is contained in this red heaven - Cherry Jello, Cinnamon Red Hots, Applesauce........ WHO KNEW? You gobble it up and keep that blissful feeling in the recesses of your memory. Now and again you pull out the recipe and make it and sure enough, every time it is a trip down memory lane. I would be the first to admit that NOTHING tastes as good as when Grandma made it, but Grandma would certainly be proud we are continuing the Jello tradition.


RED HOT JELLO
2 Packages Cherry Jello
1/2 Cup red hots
2 Cups Water
2 cups Applesauce
1 Tbsp. Lemon juice
Put water and red hots in saucepan over medium high heat. Stir until red hots melt and water boils. Remove from heat. Add Jello and stir 4 minutes. Add applesauce and stir. Pour in serving bowl and chill overnight.

Valentine's Sinfully Delicious Oreo Truffles

I totally stole this from the Kraft website, but they are soooooo good!
Easy OREO Truffles

prep time 30 min
total time 1 hr 30 min
makes 3-1/2 doz. or 42 servings, one truffle each

1 pkg. (1 lb. 2 oz.) OREO Cookies, finely crushed, divided
1 pkg.  (8 oz.) PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened
2 pkg. (8 squares each) BAKER’S Semi-Sweet Chocolate, melted (RECOMMENDED!) - (or in this case with white almond bark)

MIX the cookie crumbs and the cream cheese until well blended. Shape into approx. 42 (1-inch) balls. (I used my handy dandy cookie scoop from Pampered Chef)

DIP balls in melted chocolate (my only issue was that since I used almond bark it is a little thicker and kinda gets crumbs in the covering, still tastes the same though); place on waxed paper-covered baking sheet. 

REFRIGERATE 1 hour or until firm. Store any leftover truffles in tightly covered container in refrigerator.

 








How to Easily Dip Truffles
To easily coat truffles with the melted chocolate, add truffles, in batches, to bowl of melted chocolate. Then use two forks to roll truffles in chocolate until evenly coated. Remove the truffles with forks and allow excess chocolate to drip back into bowl before placing truffles on prepared baking sheet.

Drawing a Heart for your Valentine

Now it's no secret I have a friend, Kevin Honeycutt, that is a tremendously talented speaker. He does presentations on bullying, cyber-bullying, digital citizenship, and internet safety. But he is also a very talented artist. He has put together a series of dvd's, that just teach snippets of drawing techniques and most are tied to the standards in various subject areas. When I asked him to do a short little video on how to draw a heart to post here, he just laughed. He already had one. I really should explore the site a little more I guess. You should visit too, it's amazing, it is called Artsnacks, a network (from around the world!) of students, teachers, and just people interested in art. It's got videos of drawing, drawings from others and photographs. Now, since this has kids on it safety is important so you will have to join the network to view anything, but it's not hard. I know it's a pain, but by golly if I still had younger kids, I would want that extra comfort. So visit, and if you have kids, have them give it a whirl, not everything on the internet is mindless drivel. :)


Find more videos like this on Art Snacks

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day

 

Happy Valentine's Day. I made this graphic for my kids valentine's day cards. If you would like to print some out I have them on an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet format and just download, print and cut.  They fit into the standard 5 3/4 x 8 3/4 greeting card envelope and share the love. How easy is that?

Monday, February 08, 2010

Another work project -Just Desserts or Go Ahead, Make Their Day

This is a graphic I created for our specialist ReneƩ Smith to use in her podcast for parents. It is called "Just Desserts" and is dinner table learning games parents can use with their kids to help maximize the time the children are "captured". The podcasts will be located at the site, My Kid's Turn. Since the theme was desserts I used a graphic I had made for some greeting cards I had made. The original image was on a card with the inside sentiment of "You were born to be a star". I used this card to send to kids I knew that had done something good. It's always nice to get an attaboy from someone other than your parents. I took the picture in my kitchen one day when I was baking cookies and once again used my very favorite in the world filter for photoshop - Topaz Labs - to get the effect. So when it came time to pull together something for the Just Desserts project, I knew exactly what I wanted to use.

I am putting a blank one here at the bottom feel free to use it to make your own card. All I ask is the you don't take credit for the graphic yourself or make money from it's use. Make someone feel like a superstar today!
In case you either don't feel comfortable enough or tech savvy enough to create your own card, I have linked to one you can just download, print and sign. There are two cards to a page and they will fit in a standard 5 3/4 x 8/ 3/4 greeting card envelope (available where computer supplies are sold).

Sea Monkey progress

I am so bummed......the sea monkeys are hatching but are too small for the camera to pick up. They are about the width of a human hair but with a magnifying glass you can definitely see them. I counted 6. As soon as they are big enough to see with the camera, I'll take pictures......

Friday, February 05, 2010

Bullying.........Recognizing the Agony

I have been posting some photos I have taken and projects I have worked on personally. Today I am posting a series of posters that I created for use with a presentation on bullying. Kevin Honeycutt, a specialist here at ESSDACK, travels around the country doing presentations about bullying, his presentations are customized to his audience, he has presented to elementary kids, secondary students, parents, community members and educators on all aspects of bullying. Bullying does not just happen in the neighborhood or on the playground it, like our society, has moved into the technology realm and cyber-bullying is running rampant not only among kids but even to adults. Sometimes kids, as well as the adults that are there to protect them just need a view visual reminders of what to do or how to recognize bullying behavior. So, with camera in hand we took some photos and came up with a series of classroom posters. These posters in the can ordered in the size of 24 x 36. The price is 15.00 each or 4 for $50.00.

I was noticing that even Dr. Phil had a show on the topic of bullying. Oprah did a show as well. It just seems extremely sad to me that we as humans choose to be so cruel to one another that it pushes some people to drastic measures just to escape the torment. If we could just learn to not take our insecurities and low self-image and rise above it instead of trying to pull others down by inflicting those ideas on others. When will we all learn to just play nice with one another?

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Chronicles of Brine-ia -Day 2 of the Sea Monkey Birthing Process

 
 The eggs have been added, WOO HOO, baby on Board! The hatching process can take up to 7 days, but I feel like my bundles of joy are going to arrive earlier.
 



I should start thinking of names. Probably pretty much any name I can think of because there are going to be quite a few crumb crunchers to name. Move over octo-mom.........you don't got nothin' on me.
Just for kicks, here are the top 50 baby names of the decade:

Girls' NamesBoys' Names
    1EmmaAiden
    2EmilyJacob
    3MadisonEthan
    4IsabellaMatthew
    5AvaNicholas
    6SophiaJack
    7KaitlynJoshua
    8HannahMichael
    9HaileyRyan
    10OliviaAndrew
    11SarahCaden
    12AbigailTyler
    13MadelineDylan
    14LilyJaden
    15KayleeZachary
    16EllaConnor
    17RileyLogan
    18BriannaCaleb
    19AlyssaNoah
    20SamanthaAlexander
    21LaurenJackson
    22MiaBrayden
    23AlexisLucas
    24ChloeWilliam
    25AshleyNathan
    26GraceJoseph
    27JessicaJustin
    28ElizabethDaniel
    29TaylorBenjamin
    30MakaylaChristopher
    31MakenzieJames
    32AnnaGavin
    33ZoeEvan
    34KaylaAustin
    35SydneyCameron
    36MeganBrandon
    37NatalieMason
    38KylieLuke
    39RachelAnthony
    40AveryChristian
    41KatherineGabriel
    42IsabelOwen
    43VictoriaDavid
    44MorganJohn
    45KyraJonathan
    46JasmineSamuel
    47AllisonSean
    48SavannahHunter
    49JuliaElijah
    50JordanThomas

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

A cure for the empty nest- Day 1

Well, I think I may have found a cure for the empty nest....... A dog? you say? NOOO, those need supervision and close care,  - a cat? nooooo, although indifferent and somewhat maintenance free still not the perfect option.......the answer is.......SEA MONKEYS! No dirty diapers, no waking in the middle of the night, SRS nor PETA care if you leave them alone for days on end - it's parenting utopia!

Now if you were raised by wolves, or just not of a privileged background, you may have been deprived of the experience and may be asking just what exactly IS a sea monkey? Never fear, I am going to enlighten you. They are a variant of brine shrimp or Artemia salina, a species which enters cryptobiosis, a natural state of suspended animation, allowing their cysts (dormant saclike embryos) to be sold as a dry powder. When the powder is poured into water, live shrimp appear within hours, and can grow up to an adult length of 2 centimeters within one year.

So, to help me battle the depression of my little birds leaving my nest, I am going to become a surrogate mother to a tribe of little sea monkeys. And of course you can accompany me on this magnificent journey into parenthood! So today - day 1 - I am preparing the crib, the home for my little offspring. I have filled the plastic birthing center with purified water and tomorrow will add the eggs to the watery incubator. Stay tuned!

Monday, February 01, 2010

Snow.

 
Snow. The very word evokes a plethora of emotions, sometimes the emotion varies by the person, sometimes the emotion varies within a single person. Much of time the emotion is dependent on the activities at hand. I know for me, if I don't have anything planned and can just stay at home and snuggle beneath a blanket, curled up with a good book, periodically looking out the window  and watching the big, white, fluffy snow falling is a peaceful feeling. However, if I know my kids have to travel it brings out fear and uneasiness. 

Now ask a school age child what he thinks of when he hears the word, snow, and I'm sure you will be rewarded with a big smile and perhaps one simple word -FUN! Last year when we had snow around Christmas time, my boys were playing out in the snow with their young cousins. I am not sure who was having the most fun but it was obvious they were enjoying themselves. 

I decided I wanted to make a collage of a few of my favorite pics from that day and embellished with some of the phrases from some of my favorite "snowy" songs. I have this picture at my desk and it makes me smile every time I see it. I mean who wouldn't smile when they see the pure joy and simple smile on a child's face? Even the coldest day can't keep you from feeling warm inside.