Friday, August 1, 2014

Favorites Friday: Cooking along this summer

Hello all! Long time no see!
I've been so swamped with preparing for "Fiddler on the Roof" and working my full-time job, that I haven't had much time to do anything else. But don't worry. I didn't forget about ya'll!
Here are some of my favorites this week, that I think you all should check out!

1. Campbell's Skillet Sauce- Thai Green Curry: I picked up a pack of this just to try it, and BOY was I blown away by the flavor. It is easy to cook with and made such a fantastic meal. I'm looking forward to trying their other sauce flavors.

2. Office 365: This past week I was in training at work for learning the new Office programs- Office 365. Everything will be going to the cloud and this makes life easier! I am actually looking really forward to the launch date at my workplace.

3. McDonald's Premium McWrap Sweet Chili Chicken (Grilled): I tried this the other day just to see if I could get a healthier alternative at McD's, and was surprised that it actually wasn't half bad- and the Weight Watchers Points Plus on it are pretty good, considering it is from McDonald's.

4. Fiddler On The Roof: Next Thursday is opening night for Newtown Arts Company's "Fiddler on the Roof", where I will be portraying Tzeitel, the eldest daughter. It has been a great theater experience and the cast is fantastic. I am so excited to be a part of it, and I know audiences will love it. If you're in or around the Bucks County, Pennsylvania area, check it out!

5. ProSeries 16' x 48" Above Ground Pool: We saw this baby go on sale at Walmart online. Hubs messaged me in a frenzy- "should we get it?" We've been wanting one like that for ages, but were not willing to spend more than $250 for it. Sure enough, it went on clearance and we got it for $250. There was none in stock at our local Walmart, but they shipped one to the store, and we picked it up this past weekend. So far, it has worked beautifully, and I'm so happy with it!

So how has your summer been going? I'd love to hear from you!
Have a great weekend and Friday!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Lessons Learned the Hard Way: Why you should always take the time to watermark your images

We all have moments in our lives where we wish we could jump back to our past selves and shout something at them. This is one of those instances.
It all started back when I decided I was going to “brighten up” my deck this past spring. I had great plans and after much thinking, decided to fix up my outdoor benches and make a coffee table out of a piece of glass I had lying around from a broken table, along with 2 tires recently removed from my vehicle.
I spent a lot of time on that project, and was so excited to share it with friends,  family and my blog followers. Because of this, I quickly uploaded the photos to this post, without any editing to them, whatsoever. This was problem #1.
As I’ve grown my blog from its itty-bitty conception, I’ve become more and more concerned with getting my projects/posts up online quickly- meaning something had to give- and that was the extra time I had been taking to edit my photos, adding a watermark to them and metatags. To most people, these aren’t that important, but when you projects are out on the internet for all to see, especially in the age of Facebook and Pinterest, it SHOULD HAVE BEEN more important to me. I SHOULD of took the time to put watermarks on, and just be a day later getting my posts up. But alas, I didn’t for many projects in the past few years, and now, not doing so, has come back to bite me.

Going back to my deck project- my tire table got some major attention on Pinterest and on blog hops I participated in- everyone thought that was the coolest thing about my deck seating area transformation, whereas for myself, it was just an idea I had that was just a part of the “room” as a whole. 

Most people adored this image from my post:
Then this Buzzfeed article happened.

 One day in June I pop on my blog and my pageviews had skyrocketed. I was like, “What the heck?” and sure enough, Google Analytics said boatloads of people were coming from a Buzzfeed article posted over the weekend. I was happy, excited and quite ecstatic that little ol’ me had a project worthy of being in a roundup of “The Coolest Backyard Furniture DIYs” (I was #19). A few other sites that basically rehash what Buzzfeed posted also picked up my picture and link to my project, driving a few more people to my site. This is when things start to head south.
Because Buzzfeed has become synonymous with Facebook, I knew the article would be shared all over the place and didn’t think much about it. What I forgot about this though, is people often steal- meaning, they download the photos from articles or blogs, and then repost them on Facebook like it was their own image, with no link back to the original post.

This came to the forefront when a few days ago a friend sent me a message on my Facebook wall with “This looks familiar”- a popular thrifty blogger had posted my tire table image with a link to Pinterest where you can Pin it- however, the link on Pinterest did NOT go to my site, nor was my site mentioned anywhere in the Facebook post. It went to the image only, off floating in cyberspace, with no recognition whatsoever that I did it. No links, no mention of my name, nothing. I contacted the blogger, who once found out it was my project, linked things to my blog. This was after it already was liked over a thousand times, shared over 500 times and commented by about dozens of people- so that means those hundreds of people, didn’t know it was done by me! 
After all that stress of getting things tracked back to my original post from that point forward, I asked where they got the image from in the first place- they said they got it shared from another blogger’s page. So again, I track down that blogger and tried to let them know that it was my project, and can you please link it back to me.
The blogger shaming began even more with this second instance, than the first blogger I had conversations with. “We only share photos that we don’t have sources to on Facebook, we would never share unknown sources on our website.” “But, you should really have a Watermark, so we at least know where it came from,” “Do you know how to do Watermarks?” Etc, etc.
My stomach started to turn, as I see the hundreds upon hundreds of shares, likes, comments on these various posts by other bloggers who shared my image, but had no idea it was MY PROJECT!  On top of it, I was sick at the feeling at how dumb and “lazy” I had become as a blogger- I’m a graphics designer for God’s sake! I can make a watermark in 2 seconds, but I just didn’t think I had the time to do it for all my photos on my blog- I just wanted the posts up as soon as I could, often making posts from my phone or ipad.
Then my head started buzzing- “How many people have liked, shared this image, and they didn’t know where it came from? Think of how many new followers I have lost from this!?!” I wanted to bawl my eyes out at this point.
After much discussion with the second blogger, we figure out a way to get the image updated with a version that has my “new” watermark on it, but again, all the people who shared or liked it before, would not see that updated version. 

So a lesson has been learned and I am slowly but surely trying to update the majority of my blog post images with watermarks on them (which might take me all month to go back and do that to many years of blog posts). But at least from here on out, even if someone saves the photo to their desktop, you see clearly on the photo where it came from. I probably won’t watermark my “thrifty finds” as they are products, rather than crafty projects or d├ęcor, but everything else from here on out, is getting watermarked.
As many bloggers I am sure have come across, Facebook/Pinterest can help and hurt your blog at the same time. All too often we find spammers or malicious stealing people who download a blog image to their computer, re-upload it as their own, with no way of knowing the original source. Often I see recipes posted by fellow friends that have the recipe listed below the photo with no source whatsoever as to who it came from. This bothers me greatly. 

Currently, I don’t blog for money. I blog for fun, and to share my crafty and DIY projects with the world, in hopes at least someone learns something new or gets inspired to try some new way of creating something. But even though I don’t blog for money, this whole situation still bothers me greatly.

So, I urge you. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE watermark your images if you are sharing them online. And if you are sharing a projects you found online, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE include the link somewhere in the post back to who created it if you can.
Don’t let this happen to you, let alone, don’t be one of the people who did this to someone like me.

Normally I don’t blog about things like this- normally I’m just a share my projects to the world, kind-of blogger. But I thought this was something that needed to be shared and said, so no one else makes such a horrible mistake like myself, even if it is a reminder to just take the time to do it.
I’ll never be able to get back the thousands of shares that people have spread across the web without crediting me in the photo or in the comments, but at least from now on, I can help try to prevent it from happening again.

Thanks for stopping by and listening/reading all- sorry for the wall of text.
On a happier note, I hope you all have a lovely day!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Thrifty Thursday: Shopping for Costumes and new work clothes

Hey all! Welcome to another Thrifty Thursday!
(I know, I'm a day late, but personal family situations caused me to be a little behind in finishing this post- better late than never I always say!)
Last week I went thrift shopping for some costume pieces for an upcoming production of "Fiddler on the Roof" where I will be portraying the eldest daughter, Tzeitel. I stopped at 3 different thrift stores in my area (luckily all quite close to each other) and got many pieces to complete my costumes AND I scored some awesome finds to help add to my work wardrobe. Starting next week, I will be starting a new job at my company (in the video department) so I am excited to get some new threads to add to my work attire.

Here's the thrifty lowdown:
Good Stuff Thrift (2 trips) Total spent: $34.42

I stopped here first on my treak for costumes, and ended up finding more items for my closet than costumes! I went back the next day after finding the one item at SalVal that I remembered seeing matching shoes at Good Stuff but didn't buy on day 1, but was sad to find that they had already been swiped by another shopper, though I did score some awesome fabric scraps and shoes on day 2 at Good Stuff.

Day 1: Blue and gray striped Xhiliration dress: $7

Day 1: Black vest: $4

Day 1: Blue Ann Taylor Loft top: $4

Day 1: Salmon Blouse (was my backup top for costume, though ended up going with floral top found at Goodwill)- was 40% off, so it was: $2.40

Day 2: lace curtain to be turned into veil: $3

Day 2: American Eagle shoes, great condition: $6

Day 1 & 2: 5 fabric scraps (ranging from 50 cents and $2 each): $7.46

Salvation Army (2 trips) Total spent: $30.27

I had seen the wedding dress there the first day of thrifty shopping, but I was on a mission to get my main costume done and didn't have as much time as I'd like to shop- so I bypassed trying it on, sent the picture to the director and the costumer. After they approved it, I went back the next day, and to my delight, a) it was still there, b) it was now 1/2 off- unlike the day before and c) is sorta fit (we are adding a panel in the back- my boobs are too big for its current state. lol). (Not shown- plain white mens dress shirt for $3, that will be shredded for "Dream scene" in show.)

Day 2: Lace wedding dress for show: Was 50% off!: $20 after sale- so much lace!

The train on this dress is ALL lace ruffles. LOVE IT! We are going to cut down the train a tiny bit and use the lace from it on the back panel to make it fit my big boobs. lol
Salmon skirt (was 50% off): $2

Old school picnic basket: $5

Goodwill (1 trip) Total spent: $3.66

I didn't really find a lot here, which is SO unlike me- though I was happy to find the top, since it matches the skirt perfectly. I was glad I found this cute little teal guy to dress up my dining room (which I'm trying to add pops of teal to) and he was so cheap!

Floral top (on sale blue tag): $2.63
Teal blue man (50% off)toy/decor thing: $0.97

Check out some of my finds put together:

Fiddler on the Roof Costumes from finds:

skirt+floral top+vest
Tzeitel's wedding Dress (I couldn't zip myself in, but when the panel gets added in the back, the sleeves will fall on the right spot.)

Casual Work attire (mixed with a belt I got at Good Stuff a while ago, and pants I got from my mom, when she was cleaning out her closet):

Total spent between 2 days at 3 stores: $68.35 (though I'll be getting $20 of that back, from the costumer for the show, unless I decide I want to keep the wedding dress), so technically $48.35! I know that isn't the absolute cheapest amount, but for the amount of stuff I got, I think that is fab!
I think I did quite well, to be honest.

In other happenings, we had a fantastic 4th of July get together at our humble abode. I didn't really snap many photos- I was starting to get the feelings of a cold coming on (which kicked my butt that whole weekend trying to fight it), so my photography was a little scarce, but here are some pics from the fun event.

4th of July!
We tried a 3 layer punch- Cranberry Juice, Blue Gatorade and Diet 7-Up. We used the Blue Hawaiian Punch on round 2 since we didn't have another bottle of Gatorade.

My toilet-paper roll firecracker decor. Super easy and quick to make. (Also, my cat became obsessed with the strings, when I brought them inside)

My 4th of July attire. Casual Red, White and Blue!

The full firecracker decor. I had another one on the other side of the deck, but it looked the same as this.

We've been busy doing rehearsal for the show, so we haven't had a whole lot of time to do much around the house. With me starting my new job next week, my afternoons will soon be free (I will be getting out at 4pm when my new schedule goes in fully!) so I'm sure to have more projects on the way. Have I mentioned how happy and excited I am to start this new job? I'll be doing graphics for our video department, along with video editing. I am SO looking forward to this fun opportunity. I can't wait!
So have any of you found any fun thrifty items this week at your local thrift stores or yard sales? I'd love links to your finds! (Leave links in the comment section).

Hope you're having a thrifty Thursday!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Favorites: Trying to be healthier and craftier

This is a little belated from my usual Friday time of Favorites, but better late then never, right?
Here are some of my favorite items these days:

1. Flatout Soft 100% Whole Wheet flatbread (wraps): I picked some of these up a while ago to try with a Lean Cuisine wrap filler, and the wraps were perfect! They are low calorie (only 100 calories) and make perfect wraps, flatbread pizzas, or tacos!

2. Everbilt Dropcloths: This is the dropcloths I purchased to re-cover my deck bench cushions and make curtains for the deck. They are easy to cut, just enough softness, but nice and thick to cover unsightly patterns. ;) Check out my post on making no-sew dropcloth curtains and no-sew seat cushion covers.

3. Smirnoff Sorbet Light Mango Passion Fruit: While cruising through the Wine & Spirits store to pick up some wine for a friend's party, I came across this lovely bottle. I decided to give it a shot and add it to mixed drinks at home. It is a perfect addition to our bar. We mixed this, mango rum and limeaide- which made an AMAZING margarita (recipe to come later). So good and less calories!

4. V-8 Fusion Energy Orange Pineapple: I tried another V-8 Fusion energy drink a while back when the marketing department at my work had a box of them for people to try. I hated the Pomegrande, but loved the Peach Mango. I was glad to see that they had the Orange Pineapple at my local grocery store, so I gave that one a shot. Was great as well! And so low Weight Watchers points plus for a caffeinated beverage!

5. Lean Cuisine Chicken Pecan: Saw this at my local grocery store too and gave it a shot, as the picture looked good- I had never seen this one before. It was a pleasant surprise. I enjoyed the sweetness of the cranberries and apples mixed with the tasty chicken, sweet potatoes and rice. Loved it!

Hope your weekend is going fabulous! Enjoy your day!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Thrifty Thursday: Free stuff is always the best stuff

Welcome to another installment of Thrifty Thursday! 

So, my neighbors must think I'm a horder or something, but recently I've been loving all the free items they throw away (put out on trash day). In the past month, I've scored some awesome freebies, that I easily updated with a nice coat of paint or fabric. ;) Check out my scores!

Score #1: Two lovely end tables
The one woman down the street from us was throwing away the below tall long table (left). I immediately knew I wanted to dress it up for our front porch with some plants/flowers on it, but I wanted it green. I walked on down with the hubs to pick it up, just as she is coming outside (unbeknown to us)- almost startling us as she opens her front door and says "I have another one that is a little smaller, but same color and similar legs, that I was also getting rid of- just didn't bring it down stairs yet- you want that one too?" "Totally!"
The original tables were purple.

 So we scored 2 free tables! The next day I immiately painted the big one dark green (which that color paint we stocked up on a lot, because it matches the shutters to our house) and it worked out perfect for out front on the porch. I just need to get better plants, as the current ones are looking a little ratty, and the other two that were in the green containers died (so embarrassingly I have just dirt in those, till I get new plants- I'm waiting for some sales on plants to happen- flowers are expensive!)
The front porch currently- with new end table.
Just awaiting some more flowers to dress everything up!
(I might repaint the boots too, as they are fading)
The newly green table (I swapped out floor mats to the brown one after this pic was taken. lol).

The other table- for now is in our bedroom, but might end up changing rooms eventually- once I figure out where I like it.

Score #2: Four patio seat cushions
You might of seen my previous post on my Deck Oasis update, which included adding seat cushions to our hard-butt benches. Again, I found these cushions out by the curb awaiting the trash man. They were in decent condition- just faded all to hell.

Original ugly cushions.

So lightbulb went off and I knew they had to be turned into cushions for the benches. With a single 9 x 15 ft drop cloth ($21) I recovered all 4 cushions, which fit perfect on the deck.
I recovered the cushions with drop cloth...
Now the cushions look almost new!

Score #3: Free wood
Hubs brought home 2 broken picnic tables from his work, which we quickly took apart for various projects. One project is to turn the 2 tops of the tables into a wooden walkway to our pool, along with a little side bench- so you don't have to walk through the grass from the deck/parking space- so not as much grass in the pool. We still have to paint them, but it serves its purpose.

In the process of making this area work and not look so trashy.

 The other project was adding a mini bar to our bare wall on the deck. We used the one seat from the picnic table, added 2 support legs, and tada! Instant bar! Not going to lie- it was one of the smartest things we've done- as it quickly cleared up space on the deck and allowed for more room for food/drinks. Already, it has gotten good use on our grilling days with friends.
New side bar from free wood!

Perfect for grilling time. ;)

I also scored a few free pallets from my work (which I've been told, that if I want more, I am welcome to them). Since I work at a newspaper, they use pallets to bring various things. I saw a few out back and asked our maintenance man if I could have them- he said sure, and then added- "You want more? We have a boat load of them on the loading dock." I agreed to take a few- as there is only so much that will fit in the car, but they were perfect. Some were a little broken/beaten up- which we took those to be firewood, but there is a few I hope to turn into easy gardening spaces or bookshelves.

So many pallets!
 We also scored some spare firewood from a friend who didn't need it- so we are starting to stockpile the firewood- which is good, since my hubs and our friends all LOVE the firepit. haha

Score #4: Free flowers
Two of my co-workers/friends just purchased a home recently and have been making their gardening their own. They had a boat-load of these lovely flowers that they didn't want where they were on their property but didn't want to throw them away, as they were nice (but hadn't bloomed yet), so I aquired about 4 stalks. I am happy to say, they finally started to bloom (this was my first time planting these kind of flowers), so I'm so glad all 4 have bloomed! Woo!

Pretty in bloom!

(I ended up putting them in the empty spot between our rose bush/tree and bush by the side.) They are a little taller than I thought they'd be- and might get transplanted again once we finish the fence, but for now- I'm glad they're alive. haha

Score #5: (not free though) Yard sale website drop leaf table
We also scored this lovely drop leaf table (which is what I've been wanting for our dining room since we bought the house) for $25 on a online yard sale site for our area. I also managed to sell our current round table for the same price, so for a new table change- $0 in the end (as we sold our table we previously had for the same price we bought the new one).

The drop leaf table- right after bringing it home.

 It has a few spots we have to work on- going to eventually try and re-stain it as it is a very similar color to our buffet wood, so they match. For now, I'll just throw a table cloth on it, till I can re-stain it.

Other thrifty updates:
Other thrifty updates are taking things we already had around the house, and added a quick update of paint to add a pop of color to the room.
I had an ugly cart in the dining room (was left by the previous owners of the house)- I eventually decided to make into a tea/coffee corner. It looked similar to this one- just without handles and actually has a panel on the back to close the space.

A nice coat of teal (not the same bright teal that our outdoor benches are, but a beautiful darker teal) brightening the ugly thing right up.
Energy station!

Making the cart pretty...
The most beautiful shade of teal- Lagoon (used on coffee cart).
Updated coffee corner.
Eventually I'm going to add some nice knobs on the doors, but for now, it adds a nice bit of color to our very neutral dining room that is slowly getting a makeover.

Another update: I also found these chrome plastic urn thingies a while back at a thrift store (not sure if they are planters or whatnot)- I finally decided to paint them white.


... After

The now hold flags!
 For now they have rocks in them to hold our little flags, but eventually I'd like more flowers.

I also had one spare tv table that we often would use to put spare items on the deck when having parties outside (the other tv tables are in use in the barshed and/or no longer around due to being broken). With a quick coat of teal spray paint- it matches the rest of the deck!

Bright tv table!
So all in all, a LOT of thrifty stuff recently. 

Have you scored some great finds recently? I'd love to see what you've scored- leave links in the comment section!
Have a thrifty Thursday!