Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Gift from My Niece and A Graduation!

I think I've told you a couple of times (yeah, right - make that thousands of time) that I absolutely LOVE handmade gifts. And, I love when that gift is truly unique. 

Well, my recent post on my pressed flowers entitled " My Pressed Flower Pictures - Now That's A Great Idea!" reminded me of a gift that I received over a decade ago from my niece. 

Now given that I am extremely biased when it comes to my loved ones, but I think my niece, who just graduated from a very prestigious art school last month, is an extremely gifted and beautiful artist.  Beautiful with her art and beautiful inside and out.  I couldn't possibly love her more or be prouder of her, her art, and her accomplishments. 

My niece is a very talented and creative artist with an unbelievable imagination. Some of her unique and whimsical creations are of the type where you have to wonder exactly how she came up with that idea. 

Well, the gift that she gave me over a decade ago is shown in the picture at the beginning of this post and it was an amazing and unique gift. The picture doesn't really do it justice as you can't really see the vivid acrylic colors and the pressed flowers. 

I absolutely LOVE it because - well, my niece gave it to me for one thing - and because it combines her love of art with her love of nature and gardening.  And, I think you all know how I love combining ones interests into a single creation! 

The gift from my niece is hanging in my hall and is the first thing you see when you enter my home.  It's a beautiful creation from a loving niece, whom I could not be PROUDER of.    


Friday, July 16, 2010

All Those "Social" Websites? Who Are They?

Back in 2008 I wrote a post about all the social networking, news sharing, cataloging, social shopping, and bookmarking websites out there. Since then much has changed and social networking and social media has literally exploded online.  It's everywhere.

What hasn't changed is the Internet is still growing and adapting. What may have been in a few years, months, or even days ago might not be in now. Not only have all the social networking services, social news sharing services, social cataloging services, social shopping websites, and social bookmarking services websites exploded, but there are social media management tools now to help you manage all your social networking accounts.

While all the social media websites, applications, and services are all just a little different what they do have in common is they are basically social media type websites where you can interact with them and contribute to them in a various number of ways, either by joining their community, suggesting websites you like, sharing your lists and collections, sharing your likes and dislikes, rating various items, commenting on various things, blogging, sharing photo's or video's, sharing news stories, interacting with people who share similar interests, buying products or asking for suggestions as to what to buy, asking questions, looking for suggestions, sending a message, scheduling a get-together, or just telling them what is going on in your life.  You might be asking for advice, sharing some advice, asking where to go for advice, or trying to learn something. Just about anything and everything is handled via social media these days.

If you're unfamiliar with the terms social media, social bookmarking, social networking, social cataloging, social shopping, social news sharing, social network aggregators, or social media management systems and tools here's what they mean:

a) Social media are interactive websites and tools that use the internet to communicate and share information either using: text, audio, video, images, podcasts, blogs, forums, and other means of communicating.  Also known as user-generated content (UGC) websites.  According to Wikipedia, "Social media technologies take on many different forms including blogs, business networks, enterprise social networks, forums, microblogs, photo sharing, products/services review, social bookmarking, social gaming, social networks, video sharing, and virtual worlds."  For more information on social media please CLICK HERE.

b) Social bookmarking websites allow users to share, manage, search, and organize bookmarks of their favorite URL's. Sometimes they contain descriptions, comments, tags, keywords, and votes for or against. Sometimes the bookmarks are public or they have your restrictions on who may see your bookmarks. They may or may not have web feed capabilities, and other social networking features like groups, email capabilities, etc.

c) Social networking websites are usually groups of people who share common interests or activities. Usually they contain individual users profiles, social website links, email or instant messaging capabilities, blog capabilities, photo storage capabilities, etc. Usually there is a sharing of ideas, activities, events, and interests by each user. The focus is individual versus forums which would have a group focus. The social network's niche might be old friends, classmates, books read, music liked, interests, services offered, and more.  Social networking is accessible through desktops computers, laptops, tablets and mobile devices.

d) Social cataloging websites help users to catalog and share things owned or of interest to them, like: books, CDs, DVD's, recipes, photos, hobbies, crafts,  etc.

e) Social shopping and social commerce websites offer shopping and selling over the Internet in a social networking and information sharing setting.

f) Social News sharing services are websites where you can submit and share a news story and have the users of that website vote on it. Social news sharing websites may also be aggregator type news sites that gather and catalog articles by interest and then provide an RSS feed for those interests.

g) Social Network Aggregators are tools and services that collect all the information from multiple social networking services and gather it in one place for you.

h) Social Media Management Systems and Tools are websites, apps, and systems that allow you to easily manage your online social media presence or update and/or schedule posting to all your social media accounts from one application. 

The various social bookmarking, social networking, social news, social shopping and social cataloging websites are always evolving - even to the extent that it's difficult to tell some of them apart. The lines are blurring.  For sure - there are many of them, with many more to come as the trend towards connecting, communicating, and selling over the Internet continues to grow.

You see the buttons everywhere to share this URL, page, comment, or blog post on the various toolbars, blogs, websites, and social networking websites. But, who are all these social networking services, social news sharing services, social cataloging, social shopping, and social bookmarking service websites? Here's a summary of some of the more popular services:

Thursday, July 01, 2010

My Pressed Flower Pictures - Now That's A Great Idea!

I'm always looking for something different to make or give as a gift.  For me there is nothing as wonderful as receiving a handmade gift from someone.

I love receiving them and I cherish and retain all of the handmade gifts I have ever received.

Now you might be wondering "cherish and retain" - what exactly does she mean by that?  Doesn't she throw anything away?  She can't possibly keep everything she has received for decades on end?  Or, can she?

Well, no - I'm not a hoarder, and yes - I don't throw away handmade gifts.  I might not be displaying all of them, but those that aren't on display are safely packed away.  And, yes I still have all of them.

As you know I LOVE dolls, but I also LOVE flowers, flower arrangements and silk floral arrangements.  Well, I've  always loved to garden and one summer I decided that I would love to have a fresh flower arrangement inside everyday so I could really appreciate the beauty of some of the flowers - like the blue iris, peonies, dahlias, etc.  So, every couple of days I changed the cut flowers in the vase I had in my kitchen.  Unfortunately, hubby has allergies and the cut flowers weren't exactly helping them.  So, I had to stop bringing them indoors and had to be happy just looking at them outside.

Well, as you probably can imagine,  I was only happy doing that for a short period of time.  Then I decided that maybe I should try drying them so I could have them as dried floral arrangements.  So, I picked the flowers when they were in full bloom, bunched them together with elastic bands, and hung them upside down on coat hangers from the rafters in my basement.  Unfortunately, to my dismay, most of the natural flowers did not dry well and, well, there was a moth problem.  So, I stopped doing that.

Of course, I wasn't happy that didn't work out and decided that I could preserve my beautiful flowers with their colors intact by pressing them.

I decided that the old, fat yellow page telephone books would be the perfect way to press the flower heads and leaves.  They had hundreds of pages and I could press multiple numbers of flower heads within groups of pages and when done transfer them to a notebook for storing.  I would use paper towels to absorb the moisture and be able to use the yellow pages over and over.  I would use bricks to weight down the pages so the flowers would be pressed correctly.

So, I opened the yellow pages to the back of the book and put a piece of paper towel down on the page and then added some of my flowers.  I added another paper towel over them and them several pages of the yellow pages on top of that.  Then I added another paper towel, some more of my flowers, another paper towel on top of that and then more pages of the yellow pages.  I continued in this manner until the yellow page book was filled up. Then I placed a brick or two on the top of the yellow pages to weight it down.

As with everything I do, nothing in moderation, I ended up with many yellow pages with bricks on them in my basement for a couple of months. When the flower heads were done I transferred them to three ring binders with individual construction paper pages that had clear plastic covers. I was hoping that would preserve my pressed flowers for awhile.  Of course, by the time I was done transferring everything I had many, many three ring binders full of pressed flower heads and leaves.

I had bought a couple of finished boxes that had picture inserts on the covers and thought they might make wonderful pressed flower gifts during the holiday season.  So, I made 6 pressed flower boxes like those shown in the picture to the left and gave them to my mother, sister, and sisters-in-law that Christmas.

I had also decided that I wanted to make pressed flower pictures that I could hang in my house and also give as gifts.

I had an idea for my younger brother that would be 4 individual pictures hung in a square matrix pattern with each picture representing a different season - Spring, Summer, Winter, and Fall.  I had been collecting the pressed flowers from the Spring until the Fall so I had flowers for just about every season.  I had also cut and pressed some of the white pine, evergreen, and spruce tree branches so I could use those for my Winter season.

I decided to use 11"x14" pine frames for the matrix pictures with double matted dark green mats.  The pressed flowers were going to be glued to 11"x14" press-board with the double mats providing enough space for the pressed flower heads and leaves.    When my four season pressed flower pictures were done I was pleased with the result.

I gave it to my brother for Christmas and he was very happy with it.  In fact, he still has some of the pressed flower pictures displayed in his house to this day.  A couple didn't make it.  Some of the flowers lost their color - others turned brown.  But, some have retained their colors.

During this period I also decided that I wanted to give my Mother a present and thought a pressed flower wreath might make a wonderful present.  Her favorite color was blue so I chose a gold frame with a light blue double mat and different blue and white pressed flowers.

I decided to use some pretty printed paper I had bought for the backdrop and placed it on top of my press-board.  I glued the pressed flowers to it in a circle and added a small ribbon bow to the top.  I gave my mother the pressed flower wreath shown in the picture to the left and she loved it.  In fact, it moved from house to house with her and hung in her home until she passed away this winter.  It now hangs in my hall.

I also decided that I wanted a LARGE pressed flower picture for my master bedroom to hang over the bed and chose a dark blue double mat for it.  I used a combination of hydrangea's, iris, daisy's, mums, and various other flower heads and leaves for the picture.  I was very happy with the way it turned out.

This pressed flower picture is shown in the picture to the right.  It's still hanging in my master bedroom, but, sadly, the flowers are now fading.  So, it needs to be replaced.  Unfortunately, I don't have any pressed flowers left anymore so I can't replace it with a similar picture.  I've decided, however, to replace it with a large Victorian cross-stitch picture.

One of my favorite pressed flower pictures is the one shown at the beginning of this post.  It hangs in my hall and was done in a combination of dark blue and white flowers.  Unlike some of the other pressed flower pictures that have faded or turned brown it still retains its beautiful blue colors.  I don't know why it has been so wonderfully preserved, but it has.

I thoroughly enjoyed making my pressed flowers and have enjoyed seeing how well they have stood up over time. Not only have I been able to enjoy them all these years, but the recipients of the gifts have been able to enjoy them as well. Were the pressed flowers a good idea? I think so.