Saturday, August 25, 2012

Blogger and iPhoto Woes

A while back Vee had a post where she talked about photo storage for her blog and how we should check ours and how she keeps from using up so much by resizing her pictures.  While I found the discussion interesting, it was all a bit above my head and I thought it didn't really apply to me since I uploaded my photos directly from iPhoto onto my blog.  So I went blithely on my way.

Well, ignorance is NOT bliss, and two weeks ago I got the notice that my Picasa Web Albums file was nearly full (and I have been blogging only a few months, not for years like Vee!).  So, if you too have been blogging "unawares"  here is what I have learned so far (don't laugh even though most of you already know all this).

Blogger keeps all of your uploaded photos on a Picasa Web Album, whether you knew it or not.  You get to it by having your gmail account opened and going to  There you will see your photos, and at the bottom of the screen it will tell you how much space you have left (you are allowed 1Mb of free space with your blog).  BTW, your photos are not really THERE, they are still wherever you left them, so if you delete them from your original file they will also be deleted from your blog!

I have been doing two things wrong.  First of all, I uploaded photos willy-nilly to the blog because I like to look at them on the preview before I decide what I will actually publish:  the idea being it is easier to take away photos I don't want than to go back and look for more photos to add.  This would have been fine IF I had gone into my Picasa Web Album and DELETED the ones I didn't use, but I never did this because I never even went to my Picasa Web Album at all.  So if you are committing this error, get into your Picasa Web Album and delete those unused photos -- they are wasting valuable space -- even though they are not really there (confused yet?).

The second error I made was uploading directly from iPhoto without resizing.  I click the photo icon when writing my post, go to "choose files" at the top, and then enter my iPhoto Library and choose the photos I wanted to upload. Easy.  BUT when I do this there is no option for resizing the photo, and my photos were uploading often around 4,000 x 3500 (resolution -- is that the right word?).  Apparently a good choice for blog/web photo size is around 800 (-- resolution?) and medium quality -- a big, big difference.

I am not opposed to purchasing extra space from picasa, but the price has gone up ($36/year for 25 GB), and I really don't NEED the extra space yet if my photos were a more realistic size.  Easy fix, right?  I simply need to resize my photos.  But HOW TO DO THIS?

I am hoping there are some straightforward answers, but the search for them has been anything but.  Pretty much any information prior to summer 2012 is obsolete.  Part of the problem is with iPhoto and part is with picasa/blogger.  As far as I can find out, you can only resize photos in iPhoto if you are exporting them.  That's not so bad, as I do want to export them to my Picasa Web Album, but I cannot find out how to do this.  There was a simple plug-in for this that you downloaded from Google, but Google has now done away with this.  Now they want you to download Picasa 3.9 for Mac, but I'm not sure I want to do that.  That seems unnecessarily complicated.

Picasa could make this whole problem a lot easier if they had a setting that you could choose that would automatically resize your photos.  They actually do have this setting -- it's just that they decide when to use it, not you.

So, I have a lot of questions.  Googling for information on this issue has not really gotten me anywhere.  I think I am going to have to break down and go take an iPhoto class from the apple store,  but that's kind of a pain because it's an hour or more away.  If you have any answers or corrections, please send them my way.  Right now I will be spending less time on blogging and more time on learning how to use my computer, which, even though I do it reluctantly, might not be such a bad thing;)  I didn't realize that this fall was going to be back to (computer) school for me!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Mountain Fun

Lower Falls at Graveyard Fields
We didn't just stay in town during our time in North Carolina.  The other great thing about Asheville is that it is near all the fun things to do in the mountains.  The above waterfall was at Graveyard Fields off the Blue Ridge Parkway.  The pool at the bottom was icy-cold but my youngest was bravest and jumped into the pool off the rock!

These next pictures are at Sliding Rock, near Brevard.  It's a natural waterside that dumps you out at the bottom in another icy-cold pool.  I had been here with my church youth group about 30 years ago (!!!!).  Remembering how fun it was, I really wanted my kids to do it.  They of course had a blast.
Number Five coming down
Lots of other people (of all ages, including grandparents) were there, too -- you can see a little bit of the line on the left -- but it was quick-moving, not much of a wait at all.  To me this was way more fun than an amusement park (and a LOT cheaper:  $1 per person for as much sliding as you can do).
Numbers Three and Four zipping down
Just a mile or so down the road from Sliding Rock was Looking Glass Falls.  You could do some swimming there too, at no cost:)  If you look in the distance there is a person getting close to the falls.
And that adventurous soul who had to touch the waterfall is my daughter!

On our way home from our water adventures, we passed this beautiful field of elephant ears and canna lilies.
These elephant ears were nearly as tall as my eleven-year-old!
I was sad my older two sons weren't with us, but they were manning the house and pets and jobs back in Texas.  They were not sad to miss the hours and hours cooped up in a car, and they enjoyed keeping their own schedule (playing music and dribbling basketball in the house until 2 am!).  When we got back to Texas, the house was reasonably tidy and everyone was doing fine.  Although I miss all the green, I always am glad to get back to my OWN house, and I was glad to have the family all back together after being scattered for a month.  Is this how you feel after a trip?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Visit to Asheville

In late July my two younger sons (13 and 11) and I drove across the southeastern U.S. to be with my husband and daughter for my husband's last week of study leave (although not much studying took place that last week).  This makes twice this summer I have driven by myself with the kids across the southeast, and four total trips when you add in the return journey.  Pshew!!  

This was the first time the two youngers and I had done anything like this, but for the most part the journey went remarkably well.  On the way we spent one night at a hotel in Memphis, one night at my brother's home in East Tennessee, and on the third day we drove into Asheville, N.C., where my husband was house-sitting for a friend.  The house was right in town, so it was a very convenient location, and my husband had almost made himself a regular at a neighborhood diner in three short weeks.

Asheville is in such a beautiful location in the mountains of western North Carolina, only an hour and a half or so from where I grew up.  I love, love, love those mountains so green.  Asheville is very, very artsy and self-consciously diverse.  Think Austin, if you're in Texas.  The downside to that is there is lots of occult and new-agey stuff going on, and everyone's opinions are in your face.  The plus side is all the emphasis on craft, from foods to beers to textiles to pottery to art to music. Part of this is that the southern Appalachian area, for all its reputation as backward, has also been a hotbed of creativity.  Perhaps this is because people had to make do with what they had versus buying the latest and greatest; I don't know.  I do know I grew up in an area where lots of people made things.  And all the variety of expression is a breath of fresh air compared to all the architectural and stylistic homogeneity of much of anything new where I live in Texas.

(Disclaimer:  all the pictures in this post were taken by my husband, not me.)

These gorgeous beehives were in a backyard garden that was visible from a street bridge near the diner my husband frequented.
Here's a wider view of the actual garden.  Everything was so green.  It rained almost every single day in July.
These are all pictures of colorful homes in a beautiful neighborhood just across the bridge from where we were staying.  I love all the colors and the variety, not just in the houses but also in the landscaping.

Wouldn't you like to peek inside some of these?

Almost all of them had wonderful porches.  I will say the mosquitoes were pretty terrible, so unless you happened to be smoking a big cigar, I'm not sure how long you would be able to sit out there.

This was just one small neighborhood out of many. The downtown was also very vibrant.  Then there was a section down by the river that had been converted to artists' studios which are open to the public.  It was a pleasure and a privilege to walk through and see the artists at work.  One of the studios we visited was Hofman Studios, where we admired Michael Hofman's beautiful porcelain wares.  Much of it is imprinted with vintage lace patterns.  I had to exercise great self-control not to run my hands over each piece in his gallery (although actually Mr. Hofman encouraged handling, to show how durable the porcelain is).  The art there just seems more accessible.  By that I mean it makes me feel like I want to get in there and make stuff, too.

I wasn't the only one that felt that way.  So did my husband.  He met two artists at Broken Road Studio, Stephen St. Claire and Phil DeAngelo.  They both do fantastic work, and they graciously invited my husband to come and paint with them.  I brought a painting from Texas that he had been working on before he left, and he took it down to the studio, where Phil gave him some pointers.

Here's the painting as it is now:
We really enjoyed our stay in Asheville, pretending we were locals.  Sometimes I think that's the best way to enjoy a place, don't you?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

August Note Card Party -- Harvest

Vee at A Haven for Vee is hosting her monthly Note Card Party.  It's a great way to look back through your blog photos and put them together a little differently, and it's lots of fun to see what other bloggers do with it as well.

This month I chose the theme "Harvest."  I know that's a little early for a lot of you, but here in Texas my summer garden has come and gone.  August is the month you just kind of live through, every flower, blade of grass, and certainly any garden burnt to a crisp (at least that's how it is in my yard).  The good side is I will get to plant a small fall garden soon.

Anyway, these are some pictures of some of our little garden bounty this year, which we really enjoyed.  (And there is still some for us to enjoy -- either stored in the freezer, canned, or simply kept in a cool room temperature, dark place.)



Zucchini, Squash, Potatoes, Onions 
Please go here to check out some other notecards by some very talented bloggers.  Maybe you will consider joining in yourself:)

Saturday, August 11, 2012

McCalls 6559 -- Short Dress

front view
This is the short version of McCalls 6659.  This knit fabric (also from Jo-ann Fabrics) was heavier and less drapey than the first knit I used.  But I already had it and thought "why not?" (And yes, those are my white legs, which probably explains why I need vitamin D supplementation).
Back view
I decided to use the racerback version, which you can see a little bit above.  But maybe because the fabric was stiffer, this dress turned out way larger than the first one, even though I cut the 16 on both of them.  I actually had to trim out a two-inch wedge from under each arm because the sides stuck out so far on the body.  It's still too big in the top, so I'm planning to raise the armholes by taking in another inch at the shoulders.

The fitting issues also may have been because I decided to bind the seams instead of flip them under, and I didn't trim off the seam allowance first.  Now I did this on purpose because the neckline runs a little low.  The first dress I simply raised the armhole a bit.  I thought not turning under the seam allowance would be enough for this one, but I think it made the shoulders too wide.  I think if I make another with bound seams, I won't trim the seam allowance on the neckline, but I will on the armholes.

This dress is super casual, so casual you could throw it on over your bathing suit, which is not necessarily a bad thing -- clothes like this have their uses.  I'm also happy because I practiced some new-to-me techniques.
Neck and Armhole Binding
First was attaching knit binding.  I got the binding by cutting two-inch-wide strips from a worn-out T-shirt I had that matched the print.  I followed the directions on this tutorial from The Beauty of a Stitch blog, and I was very pleased by how it turned out.  (BTW, I keep a lot of this kind of information on the Sewing Help board of my Pinterest account.  That seems to be a good way to keep up with these little bits of information that are quite useful, but not always easy to find when you actually need them.)
Twin needle Hem
On the hem I still used the knit fusible stay tape, but I also put two needles in my sewing machine and threaded it with two threads to get the twin needle look above.  I need to play with my pressure and tension on this a bit, I'd like it to lay just a bit flatter, but it's not bad for my first try.  (My sewing machine can accomodate two separate needles, but there are twin needles of various sizes you can buy than can be used on almost any zigzag machine.  Your machine should have directions.)

If you'd like to see the first version I made of McCalls 6559,  just go back one post to here.  Again, this dress is all over the internet.  Just do a little search and you will see many, many versions.

And this is for Deborah of Square Grannie, who asked to see my sewing machine:)
Singer 401
This is a close-up showing the settings I used to sew the narrow zigzag for the stretch seams for knits.  I put my knobs on B-L (that's the coordinates for the zigzag stitch).  The red lever on the right sets the width of the zigzag, which I had set on 1 1/2.
This is my stitch length lever, which I set on 15 stitches per inch.
Your sewing machine will have different ways to set this up, but this should give you a little starting point if you are new at sewing knits.  My best advice is to be bold and get in there and experiment a bit.  You are not going to get a grade, and unless you are a professional sewing is for your own pleasure, so don't let a fear of messing up get in your way.  Just my two cents worth;)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

McCalls 6559 -- Maxi Dress

My husband was away on a study leave for the month of July.  He took my daughter with him, and she spent the month in various locations -- at my mom's, at an old friend's, just with her dad.  I stayed to man the home front with my four boys.  It was a little different being a single mom.  Parts of my life were simplified because there was no husband and one less child to take care of.  Parts were more complicated because I was, in effect, a single parent, so all errand-running and problem-solving fell to me.  

But I did end up with some extra time here and there, and I used it to sew some things for myself;)

I made this maxi dress:
front view
The fabric is a very comfortable rayon knit from Joann Fabrics.  I used a universal needle, and I sewed the side seams with a short stitch length and a narrow zigzag setting on my sewing machine.  I raised the neckline by using a 6/8" seam allowance on the shoulder seam instead of a 5/8".

The pattern is McCalls 6559.
Dresses made from this pattern are all over the internet, and with good reason.  It sews up quickly, is comfortable to wear, and generally is flattering.  I cut a size 16, but it ended up a little large, so next time I may try a 14.  (It's taking me some trial and error to figure out what size actually fits me.)

There are only two pieces to this pattern -- a front and a back.
back view
To finish the neckline, armholes, and hem I used Londa's knit fusible stay tape.  I simply fused it to the edges with an iron, folded the edge over, and stitched using a straight stitch and a longer stitch (10 per inch on my machine).  I love that stay tape.  It really added stability and kept my stitching from being wavy.  I highly recommend it for sewing knits.  This dress stitched up with NO problem, and remember I sew on a vintage Singer 401.

This picture shows what the finish looks like on the outside (left) and on the inside (right).
Right now my goal when making clothes is wearability.  Sometimes I fall short.  A dress I worked on painstakingly -- it was fully lined, with princess seams front and back, just did not pan out.  After all that work, it did not fit right so I had to chalk the whole thing up to an "at least I learned something" experience.

This maxi dress, while definitely not perfect, is wearable and practical in this summer heat.  I learned some new skills -- I'd never used that stay tape before -- and worked on conquering a fear of sewing with knits.  For me, sewing is one of those things that I can get stuck thinking about and reading about and getting inspired by others, BUT I really need to just get in there and SEW and make mistakes and try new things to figure out what I'm doing.  And the enjoyment really comes from getting in there and DOING.  In a lot of ways, this has been a summer of DOING for me.