Monthly Archives: July 2012

iPhoneography 2: Pixlromatic

I only discovered Pixlromatic this week, and I already love it. This app pretty much speaks for itself. It’s user-friendly and has lots of fun options. The free app includes plenty of options to have some fun. The “plus” option is only $1.99 more. I haven’t quite figured out what “extras” I got from upgrading to the plus yet… So stick to the free one until you know if you like it.

Here’s a demo of what you can do with your photo in Pixlromatic:

I took a super cute photo of a super cute baby for this demonstration.

Don’t worry, that’s not road rash.  Baby X had just finished eating blueberries for lunch.

This edit was super easy.

Step 1: Choose your “film”. I simply choose a film style called “Hagrid.”

Step 2: choose an effect. I didn’t use one here, but this option allows you to add some really funky stuff like flares, bokah, vignettes and all sorts of neat “light” tricks. Didn’t suit the style I was going for here, but have found it fun to use on all sorts of other photos.

Step 3: pick your frame. This option not only puts a border around your photo, but some of the frames include an overlay effect. The one used in this photo was called “dirt.”  It helped exaggerate the whole theme of the photo.

Step 4: save.

Yep, it was that easy. Can you see how this becomes addictive?

The following series of photos also uses Pixlromatic, but combines with Instagram and Bokehful.

 The first photo is unedited, this is the starting point.

The second photo is edited with PicFrame  (see link for PicFrame how-to) & Pixlromatic.

I made the photo 1:1 ratio with PicFrame, then uploaded it to Pixlromatic. I used the “Antonio” film.

The third photo shows the frame “clean” by Pixlromatic added. Then the photo was edited in Instagram. I think I used the lo-fi setting.

Fourth photo: now this effect is really cool too. The app is called “Bokehful.” I discovered it after reading a blog called “iphoneography.com” Thought I would try it out, and I loved the effect.

Well, that’s it for now. Please feel free to ask my questions, or recommend new apps to me.

I have a lot more apps that I like to play around with. I will try to touch on the following apps in future posts: Hipstamatic, Photosynth, and Camerabag.

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iPhoneography 1: PicFrame

iPhoneography, it’s an actual thing! A whole class of photography on it’s own. It makes sense though, right? An iPhone has it’s own series of advantages in the processing of photos. There are so many things that you can do with an iPhone that you couldn’t do with your DSLR or point-and-shoot digital. Not to mention the instant results.

For those of you who are just getting into things like Instagram, or posting your iPhone photos to Facebook, this is part one of an introduction to the things you can do with your iPhone camera.

This post is going to focus on an app called “PicFrame“, used in conjunction with Instagram.

1) step one: take a picture. Sounds simple right? I think most of us know how to do this step, but I am going to give a few pointers for the technologically impaired.

– Focus: when taking a portrait, or a close-up photo of something, give the camera a moment to focus on the subject. A quick tap on the screen will help your iPhone figure out what your focal point is. Otherwise, just hold your camera still for a second and let it automatically focus.

-Lighting: whenever possible, don’t use your flash. Get outside if you can, or near a window with some natural light shining in. At the very least, turn some lights on.

-Hold still: the steadier your hand, the better chance your camera has to capture your shot clearly.

2) Editing photo size: Apps like Instagram use square photos. You can bring your photo directly into Instagram and crop it there. You can also use apps like PicFrame ($1.99) to compose your photo before you bring it to Instagram or Facebook. PicFrame also allows you to add some design to your photo, or give it some flair:

– set up a square or rectangular ratio

– bring in multiple frames so that you can include more than one photo (like a collage)

– create borders around your photo.

– add labels (text) as an overlay

– add effects to your photo

You can really get a lot of editing done with this app. I’m going to give you a few pointers to start you off.

Step 1: Choose your ratio. If you are editing your photo for Instagram, use a 1:1 ratio. If you are using it for Facebook, you can use whatever you would like. Note that Facebook profile pics (as well as many avatars for different websites) are also 1:1 ratio, so any borders you make on a rectangular photo will be cropped off on two of the sides if you are using it for a “square” thumbnail.

Step 2: Pick your frame. The app includes about 72 different layouts in which you can put anywhere from 1-9 photos.

The example shown here is a 2 x 2 frame:

Step 3: Photo placement: tap one time on the square that you would like to put your photo into. You can choose from any of the saved photos on your iPhone. If you’ve taken photos with another camera, and uploaded them onto your iPhone, those will work too. Fill each of the frames in your layout.

Step 4: You can move your photos around in each frame. You can use two fingers and spread them to zoom in, or pinch to zoom out.

Step 5: By double-tapping the photo, an editing menu will open up. If you click on the Fx option, you will be able to scroll sideways through 21 different effects that you can add to your photo.

Step 6: On the main screen, click the top-right corner where it says “options.” A menu called “corner & shadow” will appear. Play around with these until you get the desired effect. This allows you to round corners or create shadows to make your photos stand out from the background. If you don’t want the frames around your photos, skip to step #7.

Step 7: click on the “style” button on the menu at the bottom of the screen. The top line reads “width” and by moving this right or left, you can make the frames around your photo wider or narrower. You can even make the frames disappear. You can colour the frames or choose a pattern for them if you like.

Step 8: Labels. Like in the photo shown above, you can add text to your photo. Type in your text, then click “style.” Here, you can choose an existing preset label, or you can format your own. If you are making your own, there are lots of fonts available from the main “label” window.

Explore a little with all the functions, you’ll get the hang of it.

Step 9: when you are done editing your photo, I recommend “sharing” it the following way. When you press “share” click on the option to “save” to your photo stream.

Reason #1: the app will not write that annoying “used such and such app to create this” on your photo. Some apps do that. I’m not sure whether this one does.

Reason #2: if you save to your photo stream, you can choose where you want to upload your photo to, you can save it to your computer, and most importantly, you can bring it into other apps to do further editing.

My next post will talk about another app for editing your photos called Pixlromatic.

Little White Lies – when is lying to your kids okay?

I haven’t quite figured out the criteria for when I should lie to my kid and when to be honest. Everyone has a different perspective of this, and I’m still trying to establish my own opinion.

There was a time when my son asked grandma why the cat died. Grandma explained honestly that the cat died because she was very old. My mind went into panic mode. To my son, a teenager is very old. Not to mention me. Or grandma. I could almost see the little ferret running around in his brain making the connections. He asked “How old?” “I replied “three hundred.” Phew, dodged that bullet. Except, my good friend called me on it. She asked how I could be so insistent on being honest about something like sex, but I can lie about things like death?

Well, that’s why I’m writing this post. I’m putting my thoughts down on paper so that I can try to untangle them.

My mom told me something to the effect that when you have a bright, precocious child, you don’t want to give them so much information that you make them neurotic. Sometimes you can go overboard, and then they go overboard.  Keep it simple.   I felt like this situation fit the criteria. If I told him that the cat was 19 years old and died of age, I think he would go into a full-fledged state of panic.

There are a lot of parenting advice people that say that you need to talk about sex honestly and matter-of-fact with your kids. Answer what they’re asking, but don’t go giving them a bunch of information that they didn’t ask for. I’ve tried to follow this advice, and so far my kids are taking it in like it’s no big deal.

See this video for a perfect example of talking to your kid about sex. (HILARIOUS!) Wait… finish reading, then click on it.

Sex is a real-life thing. I don’t want my kids to learn about it in a way that isn’t sensitive to the feelings involved and the responsibility that goes with it. I feel that it’s my job to prepare them for things like sex, so they don’t learn about it from an uncomfortable teenaged situation that they’re unprepared for. Same with drugs. And alcohol. And social skills. Their friends aren’t going to explain the concept of being in a loving, committed, adult relationship when they explain sex to your child. Your kids will learn the cold, hard, dirty facts. The last thing you want is for your child’s sexual education to come from playboy magazines, and someone’s mom’s copy of Fifty Shades of Grey. Kids asking questions about these things is a golden opportunity for a parent to instill values, ethics, confidence and responsibility into the minds of their children.

By teaching them the facts as they grow up, it’ll be a lot smaller of a pill for them to swallow. You can’t teach values in one conversation, they have to learn it repeatedly, over time. Things they could learn at age one might be a simple thing, like having respect for their bodies by using proper terminology for their bits. A girl should be confident that they have a vagina, not embarrassed by it. Not so confident that they strip down naked in public and flaunt it. That’s where the “respect yourself by keeping some things private” conversation would fit in.

Being honest will teach your kids confidence about the questions they are asking, because you are taking them seriously. Imagine the embarrassment your child would face if they repeated a smart-ass, made-up answer to a serious question to their buddies. (i.e. “other peoples private parts are poisonous unless you marry that person. If you touch them, you will get really sick, and might die.) It’s our duty as parents to be honest about the things that matter.

Over-sharing is the part you have to watch out for though. That’s where the gray area begins. There has to be a point where you say “that’s enough for today, we’ll get into more details about that when you and I both agree that you’re ready for them.” Keep in mind that what you teach your kids, they are going to share with others.

The part where I feel like little white lies are acceptable is with the stuff that doesn’t matter. That’s where I like to have a little fun every once in a while.  Sometimes I forget to filter my smart-ass comments. I forget that I’m talking to a child, for one thing. And I also forget that my kids are likely going to repeat this information to someone.

Sometimes the “stories” I tell my kids aren’t exactly lies, they are just embellishments of the truth. Sometimes they are, in fact, outright lies. I tend to tell “stories” to my kids when they ask me silly questions and I feel like they warrant silly answers. I tend to over-exaggerate the truth when there’s a lesson I can work into the scenario.

Like “why did the ants come into our house.” “Because you left all your toys on the floor and the ants thought you were inviting them over to play.”

“Why does that man have tattoos all over his body?” “For decoration.”

“Why do those clouds look different from the ones over there?” “For decoration.”

“What are you putting on your eyes” “Mascara” “Why?” “For decoration.”

(Remember those two little words people, they are the ticket out of a long drawn-out conversation that you sometimes don’t have time for.)

I told my little one, “If you don’t wear a shirt and shoes, they won’t let you into the restaurant and you’ll have to go home.” This one was followed by my son’s statement that “if my sister doesn’t wear any clothes, she won’t know how to get home, and she’ll stand in the middle of the road, and the cars will squish her.” Miss Sassypants got dressed pretty quick.

Well, I don’t know that I’m completely untangled yet, but I think I’ve said enough for today. I will leave you with one more “too honest” remark I made to my son…

“Mommy, Grandma said her cat is in heaven,” “Okay, do you have questions about that?” “Well, are all cats in heaven?” “No sweetie, only the dead ones.”

90’s dance party dance off

 

Be prepared, this post requires your feedback 🙂

My friend mentioned to me the other day that she had a 90’s dance party with her daughter on the weekend. What a fun idea, I had to share it.
She opened the music videos from YouTube and away they went, and her 3 year old daughter loved it!
Dance parties are pretty popular in my house too, but I’ve never gotten carried away to the point of making a theme out of it!

So, I thought it would be a pretty rad idea to have a kids 90’s music dance party dance off. In the ‘hood. A whole block party themed around this cool idea. If we get our kids dressed up, make a few mixed cd’s, grab some prizes for dance moves and costumes… I think we’d have a pretty epic night! All while having the opportunity to teach our kids they have to “fight, for their right, to paaaaarty.” Oh wait… that one was in the 80’s wasn’t it? Meh, the kids wouldn’t know the difference.

While thinking of us, living in our “gangsta’s paradise,” try to come up with your own take on this one. Maybe you can work it into casual Friday at the office. Maybe you’re throwing a kegger on the weekend. I know these theme parties have been done before, but I’m saying, what are you waiting for? Join in!

So here’s what I need from YOU:
Leave me the names of the songs from the 90’s that define the decade for you. Even if you could think of one song that you would be a little excited about if you heard it on the radio right now.
Thanks for participating!

Meet Little Miss Sassypants


She was an easy baby. Much easier than her brother. To the point where I distinctly remember telling myself that this was the calm before the storm. I knew I’d pay for it one day. Although, I thought it would be the teenaged years before payback started.

Well, I’ve learned in the past year that two is the new twelve. I thought I’d lived the terrible twos, but I hadn’t seen nothin’ yet! This girl is sassy! She is the most stubborn person I’ve ever met! Her phrase of choice since around 18 months: “ME DO IT!”

To the untrained eye, she appears to be a very content little girl. But that is simply part of the “arrangement.” As long as I don’t tell, suggest or force her to do anything, she’s a perfect little angel. So the arrangement is, when we are in public, I try REALLY hard to gently shepherd her in the right direction without telling her what to do, where to go, how to go about it, etc. Bribes are an essential part of any outing. (Although I steer away from the word “bribes” and often opt for “physical objects [or food] to encourage persuasion of difficult people.”)

Well, let’s just say that she sure knows how to tell ME where to go! (Not in so many words of course, more so in high-pitched screams, with head tilted back and fists clenched – and if she really wants to make a point, throwing herself onto the floor.)

As soon as she clues in that I would like things to go a certain way, she will go out of her way to steer things in the complete opposite direction. One minute she’ll be asking to leave the park, and as soon as we agree, she doesn’t want to leave. Or she’ll beg for a pair of socks to wear to bed when it’s over thirty degrees outside, only to scream at you that she doesn’t want them after all and she wants them placed back in the same drawer they came from one minute ago, immediately. These things, in writing, sound rather inconsequential. But what you must understand, it is a continuous stream of difficult behavior from this child from dawn until way past dusk. Every little thing is a battle.

Bedtime is the worst. I could probably get by just fine if it wasn’t for bedtime. We’ve tried routines, we’ve tried “crying it out”, we’ve tried to do things her way, our way, grandma’s way, and nothing works. If we do things her way, she tells you exactly how it’s going to go. She wants a book. Now another. And now the first one again. This loop could last for hours, but usually we have to put our foot down. [buzzer] First mistake: cutting off the books. You receive 5 minutes of screaming for your infraction. Now she wants her blankie. And another. And the one with the polka dots, can’t forget that one. And where’s the one with the stripes? Laundry? Uh oh! [buzzer] Second infraction: penalty is repeated whining “ I need my striped blankie”, followed by full-on sobbing on a broken-record repeat cycle until you finally cave and get the damn blankie, dirty from being dragged around the neighbourhood all afternoon, and let her have it. The bright side is, all this blankie drama has distracted her from her other 12 favourite blankies that she MUST have in her bed or she won’t go to sleep. Moving on now to “babies.” Stuffies, dollies, random troll dolls from the nineteen-sixties that she found in the basement at Grandma’s house, the baseball she stole from the neighbour girl that we keep meaning to give back (except that it’s made it’s way into the way-over-complicated bedtime routine and might take a few more days to slowly phase out.) Her water cup. Her back-up water cup. Really child! You’re going to bed, not on a cross-continental trip to Tibet! Although, perhaps you could use one of those. There’s probably a LOT you could learn there. Like how to go to BED!

The bedtime routine continues. She wants you to lie down. She wants to chat about the boy at daycare who hit her FOUR WEEKS AGO. She will repeat this story every night for the next six months I’m sure. (What she won’t tell you is what she did to have it coming! That part is conveniently forgotten.) She wants to hold hands. She wants you to sing “I want to hold your hand.” As adorable as the swaying interlocked hands and the two year old’s Beatle reference is, it is now an hour past bedtime. You don’t want to hold anyone’s hand. You want to hold a glass of wine, a good book, food you can binge-eat, the tv remote… anything else! But you cave, and sing about three rounds of the chorus and then finally give up.

Now, little too late, you try to regain control of the whole event. “Close your eyes, or I’m going to go.” After way too many warnings, you finally get up out of the bed. (Screaming picks up again.) Then the nightly bedtime threats: if you don’t stop crying I’m going to go. I’m going to close your door. I’m going to leave this house and never come baaaack!!! (The third one is reserved for extra special nights only.)

Well, you can see where this is going. Nowhere. It usually ends in both of us screaming, until she finally gives up and goes to sleep.

I don’t know how our neighbours live with us.

Please tell me it gets better for a couple years between now and the hormonal years!

In the meantime, I will live for the daytime, and the moment when the house goes silent at night. I will disregard the two hours of agony in between. The day always comes to an end, and bedtime always finds its place one way or another. Even if, at the end of the day, little Miss Sassypants happens to be wearing flip flops to bed (or clip-clops as she calls them.)

PS: You still want to trade RL?

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Sasquatches

When I was about five years old, give or take, the family was out for a drive somewhere. The topic of Sasquatches came up because I believe there was a bike race or music festival of some sort aptly named after the creature in our itinerary.

I didn’t know what a Sasquatch was, so I asked. I wish I never asked. I wish I never learned about the creepy, giant, hairy, man-beasts that lurked in the forests.

Instantly, I feared that these beings not only lived far away in forests, but in fact that there was one who lived under the basement stairs. Little did mom know, it was the highest form of punishment to ask me to go fetch something from down in the basement.  It took years to get over the fear of a big, hairy Sasquatch arm potentially reaching between the wooden frames of the wall next to the staircase. In fact, I think I was a teenager when dad actually put the wall up and finished the basement. That helped a little bit.

I still to this day, get rather squeamish when anyone brings up tales of the mythical beast in the wood. Sasquatches are creepy. I’d really rather not think about it. Ignorance is bliss.

The other day, while walking past the miniature train in the park, I saw this set-up:

There was a whole Sasquatch-themed operation going on in the park. In the heavily wooded park. A Sasquatch village.  They had plywood cutouts of Sasquatches, they had t-shirts, they even had a puppet show! The miniature train drove through the forest, which likely would have had a man in a yeti-suit jump out and scare all the kids on the train.

My statement is simple: I ask you, what is the target audience for such a set-up? God knows I won’t be bringing my kids there! What the hell were they thinking while putting this together? Did it not occur to a single person that this might terrify children?

I’ll tell you how it would go if my kids noticed that there was a train there. “Mommy, mommy, can we go on the train?” (Except repeating the request about a million times in the whiniest little voices they could muster.)

What I think—>No, you can’t go on the damned train! That train will give you nightmares, which needless to say, don’t have any effect on your energy levels the next morning. Mommy doesn’t get a nap time to recover from the Sasquatch nightmares that will keep you up all night for the next seven f*cking years.

What I say —>”No. Keep walking.”

Branding

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“mommy, that beer is made out of deer, right?”

My kid has been noticing logos a lot lately. He has proudly pointed out that the garbage truck with the maple leaf logo is a “Canadian garbage truck.”
It’s actually quite scary how many things a 4 year old can figure out with only a few clues. Soon, the world of bullshit answers will be behind us, cause he’ll be able to figure out for himself when we’re full of it.
In the meantime, I’ll gladly tell him that cats need to be 300 years old in order to die of age… (in response to grandma answering Jacob’s question “why did your cat die” with “she died because she was very old.) I’m not ready for him to be aware of realistic lifespans. Don’t judge, he’s an anxious kid and to avoid a string of a million questions ending in “when are you going to die grandma?” sometimes you just have to give him the answer that helps him sleep at night.

a round of applause would suit me just fine

Some days when I pull into my driveway, the neighbourhood kids come running, chanting my 4-year-old’s name. “Jacob! Jacob! Jacob!” They can’t wait for him to get out of the car so he can run and frolic and play with them.

I have yet to determine why I don’t have the same effect on them, but that’s beside the point.

My point is, why shouldn’t we all get this kind of treatment wherever we go? You know, the “Norm!” from “Cheers” phenomenon. In our usual places, I don’t see why it’s not the way we naturally greet those we’re excited to see. My usual places include the grocery store, work and my kid’s school… so is it really too much to ask?

Perhaps I should write my co-workers a memo:

“in lieu of the regular “good morning” banter, I would like the “how are you’s” and other such rhetoric to be replaced by lively chanting of my name.”

While on the subject, I can suggest that they replace “thank you’s” with rounds of applause. A gentle hand clap for a mundane task? What better morale-boosting camaraderie than a standing ovation for a job well done? Although at the end of the day, I suppose a paycheque will suffice.

So in the spirit of my friend Roxy’s “random acts of kindness,” perhaps mine will be to applaud my friends and co-workers just for being the awesome people they are. Ha ha, who am I kidding, I would be doing it 100% just to fuck with them!

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