Thursday, February 28, 2019

Travel Break: Helping out a Blog Buddy and a Caution for Us All

This is a short post about good news and bad news (or at least, a caution.)

The good news is the Diane's Blog, Lavender Dreams, is back. So if you are a follower and missed her story, you can find her right where she always was. If you haven't yet discovered her, you may well enjoy her beautiful walks and the wonderful wildlife she photographs. Cheers and a toast!

The bad news is that for some heart-stopping days, her blog was removed by Google -- not because someone reported her for anything but because an automated piece of software (a bot) roaming Blogger for pre-programmed words of woe detected some glitch and killed the whole blog -- without warning or notification or any idea of how to fix it. Diane was sick at heart. She's been bloggging in one way or another since 2005 and Lavender Dreams for ten years.

Somehow or other, Diane got it back. But it serves as a warning to us all -- BACK UP YOUR BLOG! In blogger, go to Settings / Other / Save Blog to Computer. It doesn't take long. Good luck!

Now, time for tea.

Or something stronger.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Travel Break: Someone Is Two!

Our Little Big Guy turned two this week! It hardly seems possible that two years ago we were near the end of the Oscars when we got the phone call that he was ready to pop! And that calls for a party! So we joined with all his grandparents and most of his aunts, uncles and cousins for a celebration!

I'm going to try hard not to overdose you with the "cute" but here were a few of my favorite moments of the day! Here are the grands and the great-grands with the birthday boy -- who would rather have been playing!

The theme of the party was his favorite movie, "Cars." So I painted a birthday card for him!

And he got plenty of cars.

And a big rig, too!

His cousins were on hand, but none of them wanted to pose for a photo!

Tears were shortlived, though -- until we had to pull him away from the big rig to have birthday cake!

Then he was back on it. He enjoyed his cake courtesy of Grandpa!

Of course, he wasn't the only star of the show. Little Little Guy was pretty cute too!

And he delighted us with his crawling. At seven and a half months, he's pretty close to walking, able to push the "lawn mower" and take it step by step with support. We expect him to be running track by April!

Mighty proud of it, too.

And he's a cuddler!

All in all, a lovely day. But boy, does that time fly!

Pretty soon, they'll both have drivers licenses!

I hope we can hand them over a world that isn't too messed up. I'm not terribly optimistic on that front, but I'll keep my fingers crossed.

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Monday, February 25, 2019

Travel Break: Cork Poppers Go Strolling!

The Flaneur

A "flaneur" is a "stroller, saunterer...The deliberately aimpless pedestrian unencumbered by obligation or sense of urgency...he wastes nothing, including his time, which he spends with the leisurely discrimination of a gourmet, savoring the multiple flavors of his city."
Cornelia Otis Skinner

My house is small. Our group is large -- fourteen if all the Cork Poppers join in. So rather than having a sit-down dinner as we usually do, I decided our theme would be "wines to enjoy after taking a stroll" and we would have a "strolling dinner."  All things we could enjoy standing up if necessary or while sitting in various rooms in the house.

This meant, of course, getting the house ready. Pretty flowers, a vintage table cloth, and mom's silver for the table that would soon load up with yummy food.

We'd be in the living area to taste and I covered that table with one of the tablecloths from Rita's wonderful "purge." It has a little wine shops on it! (And that's WINTER tree, not a Christmas tree!)

We started, of course, with the wines. We had six to sample on this day and since our resident white fan wasn't there, they were all reds! And of course we supplemented all this with a great selection of crackers and cheeses from Bob and Dick and Rick's baguettes.

Dick started with "The Bridge", a 2017 Lodi California red blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syriah.

We agreed that it was a good starter and as Dick said, a wine he'd enjoy after a stroll. He bought it for $9.99 but apparently the list price is $20 so a good buy!

Clayton and Anne brought a 2017 Louis Jadot Beaujolais, 100 percent gamay grapes.

It was light and as (I think) Barb said, Louis Jadot is "dependable." Clayton said it was a good summer wine and it had more than a few "ooohs!" when sipped. It was $12.99 and is fairly available nationwide.

Barb was up next with Michael David 2015 Petite Petit Syrah, a combination of 85 percent Petite Sirah grapes and 15 percent Petit Verdot.

The winery is Michael David from California and its alcohol content was 14.5 percent. She found this for $14 at Costco. It was very dry (and as Dick said, "It's drying out my mouth!") and I thought quite tasty. It clearly won the label design contest, hands down, with wonderful graphics and great copywriting!

Rick offered the Italian Marramiero Da Ma Montepulciano d'Arbuzzo, 2016, DOC.

The label was elegant and it was one of my favorite wines of the day. At $11.99, a good buy. It had a nice finish and was dry -- but not too dry.

Kate was next with Bula 2016. Rick and I agreed it was our favorite of the day, a combination of 40 percent Grenache, 40 percent Manzuelo grapes and 20 percent Syrah and was from Spain.

For liking it as much as we all did, it had the most unique conversation when Kate started out that it smelled like a barnyard, maybe fresh cow manure. (I TOTALLY don't agree -- I think it smelled WONDERFUL!). Rick said, "Cow manure is grainy," and then Bob said it was better than horse manure.

Rick said, "This has NOTHING in common with the barnyard. It's excellent. A good one." And we all agreed that everything we'd had so far had been delicious. At $15 from Whole Foods, this one certainly was.

Our last wine, from Bob, was another common favorite, Josh North Coast Reserve Caberet Sauvignon 2015. I thought it was very good.

We commented that the copywriting on the label was also very nice and Bob had a good buy. Usually $20, he found it on sale at Meijer for $13.

Tasting over, it was time to stroll and dine!  The main dish was ham sliders. This is a great recipe and easy to make ahead for a crowd. If anyone is interested, mention in the comments and I'll post.

Barb and Mike brought a deviled egg and olive platter and some yummy meatballs, too!

Kate put her knowledge of pickling from our "Sour" class to work and brought picked and marinated veggies on skewers...

...with a yummy salad served in wonton cups.

I'm sorry I don't have photos of Anne's wonderful dessert duo. It was your choice (or both!) of apple cake or caramel fudge brownies. I think everyone had both!

As people left, they got their take-away -- a very cute mug from Dollar Tree filled with shortbread and cinnamon chip cookies.

Another good Cork Poppers with a great selection in a variety of reasonable price ranges. Give some of them a try!

(All our Cork Popper posts are archived here -- see the menu bar for an overview by category, such a "French," "Italian," etc.)

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Friday, February 22, 2019

Making Friends with Your Old Photos

I'm wondering if you might not be like me -- you have boxes of photos representing decades of a life. Or, more likely, many lives.

They may be ones you took yourself, photos taken by parents of you and your siblings or their life before they met or even those taken by grandparents. Some are in albums, others scattered.

And you look at them and might have these thoughts:

Who are those people anyway?
What in the world am I going to do with them?

It can feel a little overwhelming -- and a little scary, so one step at a time!

As anyone who has tried to pull together photos for a picture board at a graduation, funeral or milestone birthday knows, it's tough to do it when you are under pressure. And these days, often a video is the preferred form of viewing and how in the world do you make that happen with this odd collection of paper memories.

I have those boxes and photo albums (my own and my parents), along with literally thousands of photos on my computer and external storage devices and I've wrestled with that issue -- trying to get them in some rightful order and to get the photos to those who might really care about them after.

Here are my tips -- feel free to add some of your own in the comments.

Rule Number One! Identify people. You may know who these folks are but as I've been doing my family history I've encountered a lot of anonymous faces that show up often. They must have been important to someone but I have no idea who they are! (Below, I can pick out four people in this group.)

A pencil marking on the back of hard copy (or a thin sharpie or specially designated photo markers) are fine. Just something to tell future generations if those are people they should care about or their great grandmother's next door neighbor's grandson playing with the family dog.

Two: Get them digitied. For the golden oldies -- two options.

The one I don't like is to take your camera or phone and photograph the piece. Sometimes this works. But you need a good camera and you need to be sure the photo is flat (lots aren't). And you if you are shooting an entire scrapbook page, you need to know how to crop. Not hard, but not the best method.

I prefer getting a scanner. A good scanner that can also do slides. The default for many scanners is 200 dpi and this is fine for most uses -- certainly the computer or smaller prints. If you are planning on making a printed book or bigger enlargement, go to the 300 resolution setting for the best outcome.

Rule Three: As technology changes, transfer the media while you can. Trust me -- if you look at a pile of old floppies you can't open containing old photos you'll cry. Everything changes. Transportation. Communication. Technology.

Think of the betamax, eight track and records. OK, I know vinyl is coming back, but the principal is the same.

One other tip. If you are going through the mechanics of doing all this, consider color correcting or brightening up the faded colors while you're at it. Your gray snow will look whiter, you may even pick up details on the photo that had faded. Many scanners have this feature. If you are looking at your regular photos, consider a program like Picassa where you can edit by color/brightness modification and crop. Some of these basic programs are free.

What's Next -- Or, How do I Find It?

So, you scan (and scan and scan). And now you have all these photos on your computer. On top of the ones from your digital camera you've already put in there. And you still can't find anything.

Everyone will have a different system but mine works pretty well. Here's how I do it, bearing in mind that I use a camera, not a phone. (The same principle would apply to phone or tablet shots, once they are downloaded.)
Here you can see some of the folders I use when I initially subdivide.

  • For new photos, as I download them, I name a file with the year, month and then an idea of what's in the file. For example: 2018 June -- Lizzie, Ditch, Lake
  • Then I make a file for all 2018 June and when the month is over (and you could do it before, I just don't) put all the individual files there. And then one for the year -- 2018. When the month is over, I move all the 2018 June to the 2018 file.
  • At the end of the year I have all the photos for one year in one file.
Do a junk edit -- these are things you know you don't want to save to an external.  Photos of book covers done for a reading post? Gone. Six photos of the same smiling group from a birthday party? I delete at least four and keep the best one or two.

Back up your best to an external drive or the cloud.

Then I edit. Again.  I delete things with a vengeance. I do this with everything. This edit will probably be less if you did your work well before the back-up!

And it makes a big difference to your computer. I still have to edit half of 2018 but so far I picked up 34 gigabytes of memory on my computer!

After I have saved the "Best of" on an external drive or flash, I go back through and subdivide. Flowers go into a file called "Flowers."  Family goes into "Family" and then gets subdivided ("Mom Only," "Mom and Dad," "Dad Only." The same for friends by name or group (like "Cork Poppers"). There are Travel US and Travel International and each is subdivided.

The "Family" folder

SO, when I am looking for photos for a blog post or to pull together a Shutterfly book for a friend or family, I know right where to go.

Photos Not Scanned or Otherwise on the Computer

The other ways to save and share photos are online, printed books, videos, old-time photo albums and scrapbooks.

Online: You can save the photos on the cloud. I have a google drive I use for family photos that I can share with the cousins. I also have a Shutterfly share site that has some of Rick's family things. I'm sure there are others; I just don't know them because I don't use them.

Google drive

Shutterfly folders

Printed Books: I use Shutterfly because it is what I started with but I have seen beautiful MacBooks, things from Snapfish, Blurb and other sources. These can get expensive but when they do I think about how much I used to pay for a) film b) developing c) all the bad ones you throw away after you got them back from the processor.

Shutterfly project page

Almost every year I make yearbooks for Rick and me -- an overview of friends, family, trips and such. These we actually look at because we have chosen the best of the pix and don't have to thumb through all the bad ones!

 You can even add text. Or bad poetry.

Videos: There are loads of easy ways to make video slide shows on your computer and share them with youtube.

Traditional Methods:  And sometimes you want to paste things into a book. I do. Maybe it's a beautiful handmade book or journal. If you're doing that, make sure it is a book worthy of your time and that it uses acid free paper as a background.

And if you still have photos in those magnetic page things -- pull out the good ones, dump the bad. Just get them out of there.

And when you are done -- well, if you no longer want those photos, you have a couple of options. I've used both. Toss them. Or, send them off to whomever is in them -- or knows those people -- and let them make the choice to save or toss. Half the time our friends never see all the great pix we took of them in the way-back machine and it's kind of fun to see yourself looking a whole lot better -- or at least younger -- than you are now!

Oh, here's a parting tip. We're all going to die. If you want photos shown at your memorial, choose them now. Make a folder called "funeral" and tell someone where it is and put in all your favorites. They will thank you and that really lousy photo of you in your swimming suit at the family reunion isn't going to show up -- unless you looked better than I did!

OR, make them yourself. When a friend's mom was nearing the end of her life, she began making the photo boards for the memorial so that she wouldn't have to do it in a short period during the grieving time. I have been thinking about making large collaged posters of the ones I would like for that time. I haven't done it yet because it doesn't seem too imminent. But then, we never know. And it would be so nice if Rick didn't have to worry about that.

If you've read along so far, thanks! And if you do anything -- please label!

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