Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Creating Collages: A Quick Tutorial

This may be a redundant post, but someone recently asked about making collages so I'm doing a quick tutorial with my limited expertise.

I use Picasa for viewing and editing my photos, it's free and easy to download. I store my photos on my computer, not on Picasa Web Albums.

To begin, open Picasa and choose your photos.
The green push pin icon in the bottom toolbar holds the photo, allowing you to select a number of photos. The red circle will take away any you don't want.

Click on "collage," found in the bottom toolbar.

The left window allows you to choose whether you want a picture pile (as above) or a mosaic, grid, etc. 

In this picture pile, each picture can be rearranged. Right clicking on the photo gives a number of options.

To set one photo as background, click "set as background." 

To change the border, click "change border," then "white."

Each photo can be manipulated as to size by clicking on the photo and scrolling up or down. When you click on the photo a circle will appear. The little orange button to the right of the circle enables you to change the angle of the photo.

When you're happy with your work, click "create collage" and voilà, you have a beautiful work of art!

Since my house is not yet decorated for Christmas (it's hard to decorate a dusty construction zone), these are photos pulled from 2008.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

November Woods

On Saturday morning I put one coat of paint on the dining room walls while Tim puttered in the kitchen, fixing some cabinets, then laying a few rows of hardwood. After lunch we decided to take a break.

Just 15 minutes from our home is the Little Qualicum River Fish Hatchery. The salmon have spawned and the river is full of dead fish. Dead salmon are a treat for bald eagles. They must not have very sensitive noses because the smell was quite potent. We saw about 25 bald eagles, sitting in trees and soaring over the river.

In the woods remnants of last week's snow lingered in shadowed hollows, the white a stark contrast to emerald moss and vivid ferns. A few leaves still cling to dark wet branches, their colour fading but still beautiful.

Signs of wild life abounded. Salmon skeletons lay in the woods, dropped there by eagles who gorged on the flesh. Deer tracks and droppings and a woodpecker. We spoke with another walker who said he'd seen cougar tracks. Signs warned of bears in the vicinity but we didn't see any.

An hour or two in the fresh air and the woods did us much good. Back home to put the second coat of paint on the walls and lay some more hardwood. 

For more Mosaic Mondays visit Mary at the Little Red House. There's sure to be some Christmas inspiration in the links you'll find there. 

Waiting Well

"I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord."
(Psalm 27:23-24)

Today is the first Sunday of Advent 2010. And once again I'm taking part in A Pause in Advent, hosted by Floss, a time for bloggers round the world to share thoughts, images, traditions, crafts of their own Advent preparations.

For me, Advent is a time to think a bit more deeply. Yes, I'm busy, very busy, with essays, exams, baking, decorating, crafting and more. Yet in the midst of the busyness I find my thoughts turning often to the anticipation of the celebration of Christ's birth, the fulfillment of Advent hope.

Waiting for Christmas to come is hard - especially for children. Even adults I know are eager for the celebration, maybe not because of Jesus' birth, but because then it's time to relax, then the shopping/baking/wrapping will be done, then, then, then. I find myself caught up, rushing through the season so quickly with my actions that my mind can't keep up. Instead, I want to wait well, focusing on the moments that make up the days and not just waiting for "then."

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Progress is being made...

The green carpet is slowly disappearing and is being replaced by birch hardwood. Tim took 3 days of vacation this week and the living room, hallway, entrance and office are transformed! 

I've been painting to stay ahead of him. This Saturday I'll paint the dining room and then he can continue with the hardwood there. Soon the golf course green carpet will be nothing but a memory.

Dining room, kitchen and breakfast nook still to go. Then baseboard. Little by little. I love it. I love him for taking on this enormous task. 

It's Thanksgiving for all my American friends. I wish you all the happiest of grateful celebrations!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Easy Appetizers

This is the time of year when I like to have easy snack foods available for company and for cozy movie nights. I'm an appetizer fan - the perfect meal for me is a collection of tasty bits on my plate. But I like them to be made from real food, not packaged things full of preservatives and chemicals.

I made these for the baby shower a few weeks ago and everyone seemed to like them. They hardly need recipes, but here's an explanation.

Crostini 1

Slice a baguette and brush each side with olive oil, then toast each side in the oven for a few minutes under the broiler until golden. Watch carefully - I've burned my fair share of these. Then spread some pesto on the bread and top with 1-2 teaspoons of fresh goat cheese, then a few shavings of rosemary ham (or whatever ham you like, prosciutto is good, too). Just before serving, bake for a few minutes to soften the cheese - 5 or 10 minutes at most, at 350 degrees.

Crostini 2

Prepare baguette slices as above, then top with tapenade. Make your own or buy it from a delicatessen. 
Serve as is, or top with a bit of freshly grated parmesan cheese and run under the broiler.

There were crostini leftover from the shower and I decided to try freezing them. It worked better than I'd hoped. Just freeze them in a single layer then seal them well. To reheat, place on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes or until thawed and heated through. 

Avocado Salsa in Endive

Low-carb, dairy and gluten free, healthy, fresh. It's like eating a bit of salad in your hand.

Dice an avocado (or two), a tomato (or three), some red onion (finely dice), a jalapeno pepper if you're feeling adventurous. Mix it all together with salt and pepper to taste, add the juice of one lemon and pile into endive leaves. 

Enjoy! and for my American readers and friends - have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 22, 2010

It's a Snowy World - Mosaic Monday

As I write huge flakes of snow are swirling outside my window. A flock of snow geese just flew by, white wings flapping madly to maintain their balance in the gusting wind.

These photos were taken on Saturday morning, the night after the first snowfall. Such an event is uncommon here on Vancouver Island and I'm loving the transformed landscape. It won't last long and I expect that soon we'll be back to the usual rainy, grey world that is a west coast winter.

In the meantime, I'll revel in the beauty that snow brings. This is Thanksgiving week in the USA and in that spirit, here are some things (other than faith and family) that I'm thankful for...

* a warm, dry house
* electricity!
* my five senses that enable me to enjoy the world God has created
* all of you who take the time to read my blog and comment - it's wonderfully amazing to me 

For more mosaics, visit Mary at the Dear Little Red House.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Winter Wonderland

By 3:00 pm yesterday afternoon the sky was sullen and dark. There was a smell of snow in the air that belied the drizzle of rain. By late evening the drizzle turned to snow. At 11 pm, Tim and I went for a walk. The streets were dark and quiet, few cars passed by, their noise hushed by the snow. 

Trees laden with heavy wet snow bowed their limbs. The temperature hovered just around freezing. We crunched along the street, our footprints accompanying earlier tracks of deer and rabbits in the newly fallen snow. Then home to bed.

This was the view from our window late this morning. I awoke around 5 to the noise of Tim looking at his cell phone. The power was off. We think the heavy snow snapped a power line. We ate a cold breakfast (oh, how I longed for a cup of tea), then went for another walk.

Two quail perched on the Japanese maple tree outside the window. More were lined up on the van roof. 

Snow here is not the norm for winter, so when it comes it's cause both for great rejoicing and great wailing. I prefer the rejoicing part - the beauty astounds me as my familiar world is transformed. 

Friday, November 19, 2010

Matchbox Inspiration Swap

Recently I took part in a matchbox inspiration swap. We used the large-size match boxes, decorated them, and filled them with all sorts of Christmas-themed delights. I sent my two boxes off to Texas and Missouri and received two in return. Isn't it amazing what can fit into a simple matchbox?

thanks Virginia and Esther (non-bloggers, so far)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Simple 01: Trace, Cut, Fold, Paste

A couple of years ago my mother gave me a beautiful calendar. The pictures were all blue and white - my favourite colour combination. 

Last Sunday afternoon rain pelted against the windows and I was restless to make something but didn't want to head down to my sewing room/studio. So I grabbed the calendar (I hate throwing pretty pictures away), an envelope, glue and scissors. I spent a fun hour making envelopes from the old calendar. 

To make envelopes, carefully take apart an envelope of the size you want, trace it onto the wrong side of the calendar pages (checking to see which way you want up), cut, fold and paste. Add a mailing label for writing the address.

By the end of the hour I had 12 pretty envelopes and put in some thinking time as well. 

A Simple Woman's Daybook

Outside my window... high clouds and wind after a heavy rain in the wee hours of the morning wind.
I am thinking... that Christmas is coming quickly and there are a lot of things I'd like to make but may have to adjust my expectations
I am thankful for... a warm, dry home filled with love
From the kitchen... my mother's cabbage rolls
I am creating... an essay
I am going... to take a walk this afternoon whatever the weather
I am reading... Tintin en Amérique and The Scorched Wood People
I am hoping... always
I am hearing... wet slooshes from the dishwasher, crisp clacks of the keyboard, the soft purr of my electric heater
Around the house... progress is being made. More painting this weekend, and the golf course green carpet will be lifted in stages to let hardwood take its place. Yesterday we had the furnace man, the insulation man and the ceiling repair man all here at the same time. It was wild. 

Thanks to Peggy for this idea of a glimpse of life.

Monday, November 15, 2010

City of Spare Parts

A few years ago our younger daughter made herself a birch bark belt. It looked great on her and everyone wanted to know where she found it.

She made another one this past weekend. And she opened her very own Etsy shop - City of Spare Parts. There's just one belt in the shop for now, and more will come. Her mind is whirling with ideas - fun, creative and unique ideas. I'm so proud of her.

This would make a great gift for someone who likes unusual accessories that really make a statement. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Autumn Pleasures

Wild windy weather combined with cold rain have stripped the trees almost bare. The other day as I studied, hordes of leaves gusted by my window, and I was glad to be indoors.

On Wednesday the sun showed her glorious face and I ventured out for my walk in the sunshine. Bare trees display a spare architectural beauty that rivals summer's full lushness.

Each season has its charms. I lived for many years on the equator where seasons did not exist. I missed the changing light and the descent into winter followed by the fine hope of springtime. Spring, summer, fall and winter provide a framework for the year on which to hang each day and later recall them to memory.

Autumnal pleasures I'm enjoying just now...

* warm cozy sweaters

* a mug of hot tea to wrap my hands around

* scuffling through leaves gathered along the roadsides

* more blankets on the bed

* soups and stews simmering on the stove

* watching the wind and rain from the window (preferably with my hands curled around a mug of hot tea)

* exhilaration from walking in the wind and rain

* rediscovering the goodness of apples, pears, and squashes

What are your autumn pleasures?

Lest We Forget

In 1976 I spent the summer in Belgium. I frequently wore a red zip-up hoodie with a Canadian flag on the sleeve. Frequently while traveling the countryside people stopped me to comment on my flag. These older and middle-aged people bore in their faces some of life's hard times. Without fail they said, "We remember the Canadians - they liberated us." 

Those who lived with war's reality every day, in view of woods where soldiers fought and hid, in view of field torn still by mines and bombs, in view of buildings destroyed, and memories of lives lost never forgot. 

And we, so far from war's reality, would do well to remember. Today soldiers from many nations serve their countries, and we who remain behind so far from war's chaos. Political rhetoric aside, let us remember.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you, from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

John McCrae, May 1915

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Beautiful Quilt

My mother is a wonderful quilter. She is precise and meticulous in her work. I'm much more laissez-faire. She quilts every week and some of her work has garnered high prices at an annual auction to benefit those less fortunate.

For Saturday's baby shower she sent over this quilt for the little one who will be her 7th great-grandchild. Isn't it beautiful? He or she is sure to be wrapped in love and warmth. 

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Sparkley, Pretty and Inspiring

Kathleen Ellis is a Lifestyle Designer. Her blog is filled with all that's pretty, romantic and helpful. I've been receiving her newsletters for quite some time and they are practical and inspirational.

Recently Kathleen held a giveaway on her blog and I won! Yesterday I stopped by the post office and picked up a parcel. 

A book, some glittery table sprinkles, a card holder and a necklace were all beautifully wrapped in tissue paper and such fun to open. 

Here's a closer view of the necklace. Kathleen is having another giveaway in November so click on over to visit and explore her beautiful blog. Thank you so much, Kathleen.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Words to Inspire

In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you
and wait in expectation.
Psalm 5: 3

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Anticipating Baby's Arrival

There's a party today. The guest of honor is oblivious, but his/her mother will be there. All sorts of baby loveliness will be happening. 

For my part, I sewed up these fabric baskets and some little necessities - receiving blankets, burp clothes and tiny toys. Oh, I've had fun! 

Sitting at my sewing machine is a good time for praying for my children - all of them. And for the little one soon to join us. Prayers for purpose and delight in life. Prayers for knowing God's love. Prayers for wisdom. Prayers for health and strength. A quilt stitched with prayer. 

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Morning Sky

The street lights were still on when I took the garbage out this morning. Pale morning light filled the sky, begging to be captured by my camera. 

A new day full of possibility lies before me. 

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Honey, Lemon and Knitting

There have been copious amount of tea with honey and lemon consumed over the past week. Friday and Saturday were the worst of and things improved steadily afterwards. I'm better. Thank you for all the well wishes. 

It was a time to not do too much - I kept on with my studies, but took time for a little knitting and lounging on the couch.

And today, the wind has swept the sky clear of clouds and grey. The low slant of sun through my window is cheering. I'm looking forward to an afternoon autumn walk.

Someone asked me if I had returned to the group that made me feel so unwelcome. Yes, I did. And although I don't feel much more welcomed, I discovered some other new people there who also need friends. So I'm slowly developing relationships - going for the occasional coffee or walk together. It's good. 

Days at Home

  Last night after dinner the sunshine illuminating the bouquet of peonies prompted me to grab my camera. I love the frilly elegance of the ...