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Friday, January 24, 2014

Friday afternoon, at the beach

Wait a minute, we thought you moved to Maryland?  

I did, but my job headquarters remained in Fort Lauderdale and I've been called back for the week.  I've had spasms of guilt about being in a warmer place while my family has literally been snowed in so the Facebook page is silent of my whereabouts.

And while its warmer than Maryland's single digits, it's still kinda cold for Florida, like 60's jacket weather, yet I've persevered, and am at the beach in my awesome motorcycle jacket.  I leave at 10am tomorrow so might as well enjoy what little time I have left!

XO from Florida!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Desktop backgrounds that make babies and kids very happy!

My kids love seeing this family photo on my desktop.  The youngest squeals "baby", the 3 and 5 year old point out everyone in the photo.  It's just a random airport photo taken before my last trip to Asia and the background is so plain. 

I read a creative blog recently that suggested spending one hour doing something really fun and creative.  You might think, hey, she works at a toy company - how could that not be fun?!?  She must play all day long.  No, lately it's been spreadsheets, schedules and email.  My right brain has been begging for an hour splurge on something silly.  I really don't have time to do a detailed tutorial so this is going to be a very simple step by step process. 

1.  Crop family in Photoshop. 

2.  Find simple park bench image by searching for park benches under Google images.  The straight lines are super easy to crop and the rectangles in the center even more fun.

3.  Add family to park bench, move to bottom of page.

4.  Think of wacky background that will totally surprise the kids.  They fell in love with these amazing orange mushrooms in the summer.  Why not scale our park bench photo to be UNDER the mushrooms.  That would be awesome!!!

Final result:

Kid reaction - speechless, awe and wonder!!!  Now if I just had time to add a few Brian Froud inspired fairies and gnomes...

Sunday, January 12, 2014

You'd think that someone with 12 years in the toy industry might be an expert at picking out toys? You'd be wrong!

For Charlotte's 5th birthday I wanted to pick an AWESOME toy.  It could not be a doll, even though she'd been asking for La La Loopsy because she doesn't play with dolls, they stay in the toy box, totally ignored.

My first mistake was going to Target instead of Toys R Us.  Our local Target is small and they scale back toys in June to nil, also they are under the assumption that girls only LOVE dolls.  So after much consternation, I selected the vtech MobiGo2 simply on the basis that she loves my iPhone so  maybe she'd be satisfied with her very own electronic device.

Second mistake - not checking the price of associated games.  They run on average $19.99 in stores and it only comes with 3 games.  Games on the iPhone are on average less than $5.00.

Needless to say, she got bored fast.  I didn't take the time to show her how to play each game so that probably didn't help matters.

Now I find myself six months later looking at this chunk of plastic and wondering what to do with it.  I finally went to the vtech website and have realized you must download the Learning Lodge program to order more games and get three free ones.

So just a mild word of warning - don't get them spoiled on the iPhone and make the time investment needed to get the game system set up with enough games to satisfy your little darling.  If not willing to make that commitment then this toy is not for you and your kids. 

Once you do download the Learning Lodge, wait for your computer to shut down unexpectedly and restart; finish cleaning your closet while it reboots.  Start again to download the Learning Lodge.  Finally success!  Reach the website, ooooh, it's like iTunes for kids!  Download free games, think they've transferred to MobiGo, try to find games.  Strangely enough they are not there!  Replug, see that you have to check to move games onto MobiGo, finally find games under Download button.  Don't see why they can't put all the games/apps on the front screen like an iPhone!  Then hand phone to husband who is just aimlessly poking around at his iPhone and demand he play the new games and teach daughter tomorrow since he doesn't appear to be doing anything important anyway. 

If you can get through all that, or maybe you're just smarter than me and this totally doesn't phase you one bit.  You love technology so much that you're thrilled to spend hours setting up your child's play thing.  It's like the tech version of a parent who sets up giant doll houses for their darling.  I'm the lazy parent who wants to hand over toys without any fuss!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

How to edit photos from the 70's

 Requirements - need Photoshop and Scanner

Step 1:  Must have Photoshop for this tutorial, I'm using CS5.
Step 2:  Scan your 3.5 x 3.5" awesome square photo with rounded corners at 600dpi as a TIFF file.
Step 3:  Open photo in Photoshop
Step 4:  Gaze at it's faded wonder and panic slightly but don't worry it will get better!

Step 5:  Go to Image/Adjustments/Levels
I found a great tutorial here on how to use levels.  I'm kinda lazy when it comes to reading instructions and am just happier moving the levels back and forth until I get the sharper quality I'm looking for.

Step 6:  Go to Image/Adjustments/Brightness-Contrast
I like to bump the brightness up, again play with this until you are happy with the results.

Step 7:  Image/Adjustments/Hue-Saturation
I find a little saturation makes things brighter and in this case I really wanted the car to POP out bright red.

Step 8:  Use the Clone Stamp to fix all the little holes, white dots/dust that you can only see when you zoom in really close and become obsessive like I.  Here's a great tutorial on how to use Clone Stamping.  The only thing this tutorial misses that I really like to use is adjusting the size of my clone brush which can be done easily at the top left corner.  I only say this because when you have big spot, it's great to use a big brush, when you have a small tiny spot that is very close to another color, then you need a tiny brush.  Always always always use the fuzzy brushes.

And here is my almost finished piece:

The last thing that really bugs me is the rounded corners are not sharp.  I could probably go into Illustrator and crop this but I'd rather use PicMonkey as an online source because it's fast and cute.  It offers lots of filters and editing solutions.

Step 9:  Go to www.picmonkey.com, open photo, select rounded corner option.  Save in the highest option possible.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Christmas in Orlando - 2010

My friend was 7 or 8 months pregnant when she quietly called to say she was slipping away with her little family to have a secret Christmas trip in Orlando.  It was secret only due to her history of complicated pregnancies and being so late in term.  We lived in South Florida at the time so of course we made arrangements to meet up!

We had no way of knowing that the 26th of December would be in the lower 40's with wind and rain - a horror story for Floridians!  We still bravely drove up to the park, paid for parking, got out with the children - Sam barely 6 months old, walked about 50 feet from the van and turned around.  That's right, we literally got back in our van and told our friends we'd meet them for lunch at Downtown Disney where we could stay inside buildings and keep warmer than walking the park.

Here is our parking receipt for driving in and right back out!

Despite the weather, we still had an awesome time!  After our lunch rendezvous, we agreed to meet at a character hotel for dinner.  This was one of those places where Mickey and his friends come out and chat briefly with you while you're eating.  This ended up being a highlight of our trip!  Charlotte was the perfect age to get super excited about the characters and never noticed what was left out of the day.

The last photo was at my favorite restaurant Mimi's on the way back from Orlando. 

Thursday, January 09, 2014

And today's educational value brought to you by working mom! Who is entertaining 1 and 3 year old while dad gets Charlotte from school!!

3 year old - loves numbers
Today's task - smash number molds into Play-Doh, educational value - very low but reinforcing LOVE for numbers!

"If you drop something from your Puter then I will get it for you" ~ said after I got up 3 times to pick up dropped clay.

1 year old - loves doing whatever 3 year old does
Today's task - stack Play-Doh containers and place round balls of clay (that mom has rolled) into said containers.  Gather all triangle crayons and place into chair for later.  Restack containers.  Ignore paper set out for drawing on.  Shout for more containers to stack.

"No Violette!  Draw on the paper, not the table!" ~ to which she replied with a motor boat ppppfftttt.

"Good girl Violette, draw on paper" ~ to which she replied with a motor boat ppppfftttt.

And 3 year old follows by repeating above statement followed by "Ahhhh, Ahhhh", in a high pitch squeaky voice.  "Don don don, ooooh, I made number three uppsy down.  Ah mama, I wov you mama, ah mama, I wov you mama.  Number 5!!!!   Yummy in my tummy, feels goooood, duttly dut, duttly dut!  Mama - whoa!".  Shows me clay smashed into number mold.

"Violette!  Don't eat the crayons!"  Violette, don't drop crayons on the floor!  Violette, draw on paper!  To which she takes a deep breath and PPPPPPPPPBBBBBBBBBBFTTTTT!  And I take away crayons so she retaliates by turning around to turn our light off followed by a large PPPPBBBBFFFTT!!!!

"I can't do Play Doh with this light turned off!" ~ Sam.

Um, can I go back to work now?

Friday, January 03, 2014

What does it mean to be really poor?

Two years ago I attended a Christmas outreach effort at Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale.  Our job was to work on an assembly line putting together a Bible, CD, DVD and Devotional to create a gift box for church members to give to friends and family. 

As we worked talk centered around holiday baking.  We discussed favorite recipes and the best place in town to get a giant bottle of vanilla - COSTCO!  One lady mentioned the Dollar Store in town sells Honey Wheat Bread for $1.00, which is typically around $2.00 at the regular grocery stores.  I launched into an epic tale of how I process pumpkins to save cost on buying canned pumpkin.

A lady to my left looked at me curiously and said, well how long do you have to cook the pumpkins in the oven?  About one hour I replied.  Her reply, I'll never forget it.  She said, I try not to leave my oven on for that long, it uses too much energy and costs too much.

There was a heavy pause.  I realized she was conveying her status in life.  This wasn't just a healthy competition of who can save the most money at the grocery store, no, this was a women who scraped together a life and was here, serving along side those with monetary privilege as equals.

I remember this women every Christmas as I turn on my oven to bake happily for hours. 

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

It's still called "Made In the U.S.A", even if it's only assembled here

In a series of posts that I'm simply going to label "Product Awareness", I'd like to start by highlighting an issue of products that have the label "Made In the U.S.A".  In a recent article by the New York Times titled "In Blue-Collar Toledo, Ohio, a Windfall of Chinese Investments", this issue is highlighted in the following paragraph:
"There have also been preliminary talks between local officials and a Chinese company about an arrangement in which industrial tools would be produced in China, shipped for assembly in Toledo and labeled “made in the U.S.A.,” which would allow them to be sold at a premium."
Be aware readers, "Made In the U.S.A" does not always mean fully produced in this country. 

Now, I'm not fully convinced that putting all production back in the US is necessary or prudent, how many people do you know who can sew or would even want to work in a sewing factory?

Let's be realistic here, production in another country can be a great way for a worker to make a living, provided their employer is creating a safe, healthy and fair wage work environment.  So don't misunderstand my intention here, I'm not saying we should bring back all production jobs to the US, I'm simply trying to highlight an issue of paying more for a product that you THINK is made here when it's simply assembled here.  And the fact that local officials in Ohio seem to endorse this behavior is a little sketchy, in my opinion. 

New Years Resolution - to not read TRASH on the internet! AOL, you are dead to me.

I got really excited when the Daily Beast first came out because it was like getting New York Times and People magazine in one.  Until they became obsessed with porn.  Every other day was highlighting a porn star, or something to do with pornography until it finally just got to a point where I realized they were clearly obsessed.  Even if I didn't click on any of the articles, I was still supporting the website by visiting in general.  So last year I stopped reading the Daily Beast.  I have not missed it.

Now I'm banning AOL because they are directly linked to Huffington Post which seems to find bestiality a hoot.  You think I'm joking?  See today's front page news titled "The 'Average Women's Magazine Cover' Parody You Need To See".  Sounds funny right?  But the bottom of the cover suggest women are so obsessed with sex that they'd be willing to give a baboon a blow job. 

Enough!  It's not even remotely funny.  It is disgusting and stupid.  So AOL, you are officially banned from my list of reading material.  Get an editor with a moral pulse because you are seriously out of control.

If you recall, right before Christmas, GLADD was horrified to read Phil Robertson's comments comparing the gay lifestyle to being one step away from bestiality so I KNOW I'm not the only one disgusted with this kind of talk.