Go Green Tip of the Week #3

Today's tip comes from Ideal Bite

Got a stink that won't let you unplug your nose?

The Bite

No need to "plug-it-in, plug-it-in." Instead, hit that stink with a stick: reed aromatherapy diffusers, which work like lightly-scented candles or air fresheners, but last longer and let you stick it to energy waste.

The Benefits

  • Not "plugging it in." At about 2.1 watts, those plug-in deodorizers don't use tons of energy, but none is even better.
  • Sticking to what's essential. Some of those air fresheners are kinda dirty, containing chems such as carcinogenic phthalates; most reed diffusers use only essential oils.
  • The scents stick around. Diffusers last hundreds of hours - way longer than your average scented candle.
  • Hitting rooms with the pretty stick. Plug-in fresheners don't always go with your décor, whereas natural reeds in a beautiful glass look good anywhere.

Wanna Try?

  • Botura - great earthy floral scent with geranium and patchouli ($43).
  • Dani Eco Diffuser - comes in six nature-inspired scents, such as clover and fresh fir, and its packaging is biodegradable ($30).
  • Ilio Modern Air - made using sustainably grown rattan reeds; also in six fragrance choices, including clean- and sweet-smelling D'anjou Pear ($29).
  • Method Aroma Sticks - choose from cut-grass or sweet-water scents; has darker reeds and a ceramic vase ($15).
  • VI Reed & Cane Reeds - just reeds if you wanna create your own scent-and-bottle combo ($10-$16/100).
  • DIY Bite: Mix 15-20 drops of your fave essential oil with 3 cups of H2O in a spray bottle to use as a room spritzer.


If 10,000 Biters unplug their PlugIn for a month, we'll save enough energy to power a typical American house for about 17 months.

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Digital Toolbox: Lesson Four: Straightening an Image

Ideally, you'll want to shoot your images straight, in-camera. Since straightening also require you to crop your image, when you straighten, you'll end up lowering the pixel count of your image if you have to straighten it later. Nevertheless, there will be times when you'll need to straighten an image, because you were sloppy when shooting, or conditions didn't allow you to shoot level, or because it was difficult to tell what was level while you were shooting.

Photoshop, Aperture, Lightroom and Capture NX all have very good straightening tools, as does Photoshop Elements.

Step 1: Open the Image
File>Open or Ctrl+O


Step 2: Select the Ruler Tool
Photoshop doesn't have an actual straighten tool, but you can use the Ruler tool to automatically straighten an image. The Ruler tool lives in the Tool palette in the same cell as the Eyedropper tool.


Selecting the Ruler from the keyboard~the keyboard shortcut for the Ruler, and all other tools that live in hte same menu is I. If you press Shift-I repeatedly, you'll cycle through the Eyedropper, Color Sampler, Ruler, and Count tools.

Step 3: Define a Straight Edge
Click with the Ruler tool on one end of something in the image that should be straight. (I'm using the bottom of the metal garage door). While holding down the mouse button, drag to the other end, a straight line will be superimposed over the image.


Step 4: Rotate the Canvas
Choose Image>Rotate Canvas?Arbitrary, and Photoshop will present the Rotate Canvas dialog box. The Angle field, which specifies how the image should be rotated, will automatically be filled in wiht whatever value is required to straighten the line you defined with the Ruler tool. Click OK, and your image will be rotated.


Step 5: Crop the Image
After rotating, your image will no longer be rectangular. Photoshop will have automatically changed the canvas size to encompass the entire, now askew image.


Aperture, Lightroom, and Capture NX provide straightening tools that perform rotation and cropping at the same time, making for a simpler straightening process.

Ta da! Here is your final straight image!

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When the sandman comes a knockin'...

There isn't a place that my boy won't fall asleep if he's tired enough!


It could be while at the rodeo.


Sometimes it's while playing computer games on Noggin.


Other times it's while watching a movie on the couch.


He even falls asleep while playing "Power Rangers".


But his favorite time to let the sandman take over, is when he's snuggled up under a blankie with his baby!

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Works for me Wednesday-BzzAgent

What is a BzzAgent, exactly?

Agents are everyday consumers who believe in honest word of mouth. In other words, they like to:

  • Discover and check out new products, services, books and other cool stuff
  • Share their honest opinions with people they know
  • Have their input and feedback taken seriously by companies and brands
  • Build social capital by being in the know and always having something to talk about
What types of people become Agents?

Agents come from all backgrounds and walks of life:

  • The young to the young at heart
  • Big city professionals to small town, stay-at-home parents
  • College students to married CEOs with two kids

As long as you're honest and enthusiastic, you'd fit right in as an Agent. While you wouldn't be paid (since word of mouth is genuine, natural and unforced), there are a lot of perks to being an Agent.

Why do people join BzzAgent?

Because they like to participate in frequent word-of-mouth campaigns so they can:

  • Have access to and knowledge of products before other people.
  • Engage in productive, meaningful two-way communication with major brands and companies. Your voice will be heard!
  • Receive special offers and discounts, both for themselves and friends.
What do Agents do?

Agents participate in word-of-mouth campaigns to discover new products or connect with brands they already love.

In other words:

  • Agents try a product or service, then naturally share their honest opinions about it with others
  • Agents then tell about those word-of-mouth interactions (both the positive and the negative) by submitting BzzReports on the website
  • Agents get a personalized response to each report, with feedback, thanks and encouragement
How do I know if BzzAgent is right for me?

I have two questions for you:

  • Are you curious?
  • Do you like to share your opinions and ideas?
If you answered 'yes' then head on over to BzzAgent and sign up, tell them BzzAgent anna1978 sent you!

For more great WFMW ideas head on over to Shannon's place!

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Perfect Pasta Primavera

With spring upon us and vegetable season quickly approaching, what could be better than a meal full of delicious, mouth watering veggies? Mmm, mmm, mmm!!

This enticing entree has TONS of fresh veggies in it, but beware, there are NO meat products anywhere in sight!

Cook this delightful meal and please all the vegetable lovers in your life!

Ingredients needed:
Olive Oil
3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
½ to 1 small onion, finely chopped
1 cup broccoli, cut into bite-sized florets and stem pieces
2 carrots, peeled and sliced on the bias
2 zucchini, sliced on the bias
1 yellow squash, sliced on the bias
½ red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 package white or brown button mushrooms, sliced
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup whipping (heavy) cream
1 cup half and half, plus a little more for thinning sauce
1 small wineglass of white wine
Low-sodium chicken broth as needed
6-8 fresh basil leaves
Grated Parmesan Cheese
Penne pasta

In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter with 2 tablespoons olive oil.

Add onion and garlic and cook until translucent, about 2 minutes.

Now begin sautéing the veggies in batches, cooking only 1 or 2 minutes (at most) each. To begin, add broccoli and carrots to onion & garlic. Cook only for a minute, then remove to separate plate.

Add another tablespoon of butter to pan and add red pepper strips. Cook for one minute, then remove. Repeat with remaining veggies, being very careful not to overcook; veggies at this point should still be somewhat crunchy.

When all veggies have been removed and skillet is empty, pour ½ to 1 glass of dry white wine to pan. With whisk, begin to scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen all the nice, flavorful bits from the bottom. Cooking over medium heat, add ½ cup low-sodium chicken broth, 1 tablespoon butter, 1 cup whipping cream, and 1 cup half and half. Add ½ cup grated Parmesan. Stir together and cook to thick, adding salt & pepper to taste. Taste sauce as you go; don’t oversalt, but don’t undersalt either!

Chiffonade fresh basil leaves, and stir into sauce. Now add all the veggies, including frozen peas, at once. Stir gently to combine; if sauce seems to thick, add equal parts half & half and chicken broth to thin. Cook over low heat until warm, just a couple of minutes.

Dump in al dente penne pasta, stir to combine thoroughly, and pour onto a large platter. Garnish
with more basil leaves, throw on some more Parmesan, and devour!

Note: This makes a HUGE batch of food, so make sure you have lots of friends/family around to help you eat it all.

Recipe courtesy of The Pioneer Woman

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Photography Basics: Lesson Two

Today's photography lesson is choosing a mode to shoot in. Most cameras have a number of shooting modes that dictate what exposure decisions will be made by the camera and what decisions will be left up to you. The first task when approaching a shot is choosing the appropriate shooting mode.

The subject matter or style of shooting often dictates a shooting mode. For example, you may be shooting an event where the light is very low, therefore you will need to choose a mode that allows for control of shutter speed, to guarantee sharp images. Maybe you're in a situation with good lighting and decide to choose a mode that allows for control of aperture, so you can blur out the background.
Often, shooting on full automatic will be all you need to do. Don't worry that this will make you a "wimpy photographer". Each situation is unique, but there are general guidelines you can follow to determine when you should use each shooting mode. As you learn more about your camera and photography, you'll get a better idea of which mode to choose.

Full Automatic

Most automatic modes take care of everything. They select the white balance, shutter speed, aperture, and whether or not to use a flash. For the most part, the automatic setting will do a good job in just about any situation.

Program Mode

Program mode offers most of the automatic functionality of a fully automatic mode--automatic white balance, light metering, exposure choices--but allows you to override some options. Program mode will let you make your own selection of ISO, white balance, and exposure compensation. Program mode wil always prioritize shutter speed, to try to guarantee a speed that is fast enough to prevent blurring caused by camera shake.

Shutter Priority and Aperture Priority Modes

Automatic modes can yield excellent results, but they can also make assumptions about how you want your image to look.
Shutter priority mod
e allows you to select the sutter speed you'd like to use. The camera then selects the appropriate aperture. Shutter priority is ideal for times when you want to freeze motion, such as at a sporting event, because it lets you force the camera to shoot with a particular shutter speed.
Aperture priority mode works the same way, but allows you to select and aperture and leaves the choice of shutter speed up to the camera. Aperture priority modes give you control over the depth of field in an image, allowing you to control how much of the image is in focus.
Most shutter and aperture priority modes also yield control of ISO and white balance.

Manual Mode

Full manual mode gives you control of everything. Although this may seem like the ultimate 'power user' mode, you may find that you often only need control of one exposure parameter or another, and so you will choose a priority mode. On the other hand, manual mode is a must for complete creative freedom and for difficult lighting situations.

Special Shooting Modes

Some cameras offer special shooting modes for specific circumstances. In these modes, certain features are preset. Landscape modes typically focus on infinity and select smaller apertures to ensure maximum depth of field. Before you use any of these modes, check the camera's documentation and be sure you understand the settings that may be affected.

As you learn more about the decisions you make when you shoot, choosing a mode will become more obvious.

Previous lesson: Photography terms defined
Next lesson: White balance


Remember last week, when the guys had to break into the truck to save their precious fireworks? As if locking the fireworks in the truck wasn't genius enough, they then felt that setting the fireworks off about 10 feet from a group of children was just fine. Seriously, at times I think that the kids are smarter than them!

We had the kids get up in the bed of the infamous truck to watch the fireworks, even though they could've had their heads blown off at any second, they were completely enthralled!


The men set off firework after firework.




The kids were thrilled and all of them managed to keep all their limbs. The men got to play with their fireworks and they even managed to keep all their limbs! I guess in the end the trip back into town to get the fireworks, unlocking the truck to access the fireworks, and almost blowing up half a dozen kids, was worth it!