Saturday, October 31, 2015

Halloween from top to bottom : Pumpkin Carving, Party Snacks and a Costume Throwback

Happy Halloween folks!

It's nearly time to get trick or treating, and this year I'm more ready than most.

First of all, I actually got a little festive around my apartment with some decorations and a pumpkin or two.

And I filmed and YouTubed the carving process of my pumpkin, it took about 55min of speed carving, the video is sped up tho (since who would want to watch that in real time?)

And don't you just love this adorable cross-stitched pumpkin? After seeing these on the cover of a home and garden type magazine, I just knew I wanted to give it a try. Here's the How-To Video! No skills required.

So with my apartment sufficiently festive, I had to get my stuff together for our annual pumpkin carve off. A traditional boozing and pumpkin extravaganza. Kevin and I were very critical of the pumpkins we selected, and spent about half an hour digging through bins of pumpkins at the Co-op. These were our final 4.

During the carve off, we have two 30 minute carving periods and 4 alcoholic beverages that need to be consumed, needless to say, people have bled on their pumpkins in past years. Not this year tho. I loved the way my creepy pumpkin turned out!

Everyone else's pumpkins turned out great too. As per usual, I've censored a few, I left the unicorns, which Kevin carved (back-story there's a prize given out for the naughtiest pumpkin) since that's just nature. (sorry mom)

If you want to see past carve off pumpkins, you can go read my post from last year.

This year, I also stepped up my ultimate house wife game, and brought snacks and jello shooters to the party. I promptly forgot to take any pictures of the shooters, which were of the pumpkin pie and candy corn variety. Also of the massive seven layer dip. But I did remember to grab a picture of this guy.

These Halloween Guacamole Pumpkins are all over pinterest. and are super easy to make. Just whip up a large batch of your favourite guacamole. Then grab a small pumpkin (I used a pie pumpkin) and carve up the face you make when you've had a few too many tequilas. Put some of the guac in the pumpkin and spew the rest out from it's mouth onto a platter. So easy!

Now on to my costume for this year.

I decided to go with a recreation, inspired by a jacket I picked up on ridiculous mark-down at Scotch and Soda last Christmas.

Here's the original childhood costume. Wasn't I just adorable!

So good.

Here's the line up for this year.

Jacket is Scotch and Soda, Dress from Top Shop, Shoes are Spring and Purse is H&M. Wig is painted white with acrylic arts paint... also it's mirror reversed (oops!)

I'll share some photos all done up tomorrow, as I'm off to go channel my inner Glenn Close, do my makeup and head out the door!

Happy Halloween Folks!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Have you tried Pexels yet? Free Creative Commons 0 Photography, perfect for bloggers.

Just thought I'd take a minute to share something I found on the old interwebs recently.

Ever find yourself writing a blog post, but don't have the right graphic for it?

Now you could just go with an all text post, but blog posts with pictures get 78% more views, according to a statistic I just made up.

You could also go with the norm, do a quick google search and then find whatever picture you like, maybe link back to the original website (maybe not).  (and let's be honest, we're all guilty of this copyright infringing method at least some of the time)

Or you could go with stock photography.

Stock photography, however, is not cheap!

Shutter stock images start at $29 for 2 images.

iStock (by getty images) runs at 3 for $36.

And Adobe's new Stock photos are $9.99 a pop.

Of course all of these services and more offer discounts the more images you buy, or monthly and annual pricing plans. But for the hobby blogger, well these just aren't reasonable are they.

And yeah, you can take your own pictures, and usually I do. But sometimes you just want a great image that captures the feel of your post. And you don't want to have to pay anyone for it.

Enter Pexels (it's like pixels get it!)

So I stumbled across Pexels from either a blog post about it, or twitter, a few weeks back, and thought, neat. What they are is a one stop shop for high quality stock photography.  They have over 3800 photos, and about 70 get added monthly, so probably enough to handle your regular blogging needs.

And best of all, it's all free!!!

And not just a little bit free either, all of the photos are licensed under what is called the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license. Which means they are completely free, even for commercial use. And you don't have to include any attribution, or link back.

Plus you're free to edit and change the pictures however you want.

Like putting this valley village in a whole new setting.

Or moving my brother and I from the mountains to Egypt! (traditional cheesy photoshop for the win).

Alright, clearly I've got too much time one my hands (or am just procrastinating hard on paper writing tonight), but seriously check Pexels out. They didn't pay me to tell you that, but I wish they had. Oh well, I'll settle for some awesome stock photos.

PS... I'm thinking Mark and I are a little over dressed for Egypt... guess I've still got a lot to learn about photoshop!  lols

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Learning How to Edit a Photo in Photoshop

One of the perks of being a student well into my 20s is having access to student discount prices. And for the Adobe Creative Cloud package of software, the discount is pretty respectable.

So I've decided to take full advantage of that, and not only have the software, but really learn how to do it.

Then, because why not (I mean what else is a blog for), I thought I'd share the process with the world wide web (that's a three word alliteration we don't use much anymore isn't it? I mean we've pretty much dropped the www altogether).

Anyways, Adobe has some great tutorials right on their website, so I thought I'd start there with this intro to How to Edit a Photo in Photoshop CC.

And in doing so I turned this picture (as provided for the tutorial):

Into this picture:

And dudes! don't I feel all professional and stuff.

This simple 19 minutes of videos took me though the basics (like cropping, re-sizing and straightening), through how to edit out defects like magic (look the crack in the yellow base is just gone, also the dot in the sky and I moved an island), how to recolour, black and whitify and show selective colour. And more!

Basically I feel like I can handle anyone's photo retouching needs now!

Here's a list of keyboard short cuts I learned (mainly for the sake of writing them out again to remember them).

z- zoom tool
b - brush tool
v - move tool
[ - make brush smaller
] - make brush larger
ctrl 0 - fit to screen
shift F5 - open fill dialog box
ctrl u - open hue and saturation box
and of course ctrl s is save

So yeah, maybe not a super interesting post, but frig has photoshop gotten a lot more powerful then when I used to use it to make those pixel paper dolls back high school.

don't know what I'm talking about... these things....

Basically you just drew outfits and hair on a body shape, and there were online communities and blogs and contests and stuff.

This is what I did on my computer until the wee hours of the morning... cause you know I was cool like that.

Wow this post took a random turn.

Happy Tuesday.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Ninja Master Prep Food Processor Review: Chops fruit, veggies, ice and fingers

Let the title of this post be a warning, things might get a little graphic.

Once upon a time, when I was a young undergrad student, I had a magic bullet. 

And long story short, it sucked.

It struggled with frozen fruit, often just spinning chunks around without blending them. Ice was another no go. And don't get me started on the time I tried to make hummus in it.

So pretty much I was left with a cupboard full of cups and rims and lids and disappointment.

So I let it go, and moved on to a very regular blender. Like the 19 dollar variety from Walmart. And for a while life was good. It made smoothies, soups and sauces with ease. And on the weekend? well let me just say welcome to MargaritaVille.

But eventually I grew tired of the pain it was to clean the stupid thing. the space it took on my counter, and it's true inability to make a green smoothie. Rather than blend spinach or kale into the smoothie making it a beautiful green colour, I'd end up with a sad pink smoothie with little bits of green leaf throughout.

Plus I began to dream of bigger and better things, a true food processor. Something that I could through vegetables into, without anything else and chop them up into itty bitty pieces. So when Kevin moved to Medicine Hat, I sent my blender friend with him, to start a new life making protein smoothies post workout.

And last month I treated myself to a Ninja.

A Ninja Master Prep to be specific. Something that could dual function as both a blender and a food processor. Something that comes apart for cleaning easily. Something that I immediately fell in love with. And on sale for only $40, how could I say no.

Right away a put it to the test, and it breezed through crushing ice, making fruit smoothies and chopping onions. I pushed him further, into the world of pumpkin puree, hummus, cauliflower rice. And never an issue.

It seemed those gleaming ninja blades could slice through anything like butter.

And I had no idea how right I was about that.

The damn thing sliced right through my finger.

So now we've settled into a working relationship where I have a healthy dose of caution and respect for my ninja. He does his work for me, and I never let my guard down.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Great Scott Marty, it's Back to the Future Day - A tribute to my own personal Doc Brown

Yeah I know, if you haven't gone about your morning completely isolated from social media, or the world in general, you probably know already that it's Back to the Future Day!

That's right, it's October 21st, 2015, the date when Dr. Emmett Brown and Marty McFly arrive in the Future. It's also the date that old Biff sees that odd DeLorean again after all those years and heads back in time with a vintage sports almanac. But everyone always forgets about Biff. Oh wait! more importantly, people forget about Jennifer... she visited 2015 too!

Now I could write a long winded post about all of the predictions made in B2tF part II, and how some where more accurate than they could have guessed (3D movies and FaceTime) and some were not quite on target (fax machines for everyone!). But there's about a million other websites that have done that already today. Just google it.

No instead I want to take my Back to the Future Day, and dedicate it to someone who has been the Doc Brown in my own life.

My dad of course! And maybe we haven't gone traveling in time together, but I would say the quote "Roads? Where we're going we don't need any roads." is wholly appropriate.

So here's to you Dad.

Because you got me hooked on Back to the Future before I can even remember.

Because you might not have built a time machine in our garage, but you did build an airplane there, which kind of makes me believe you can build anything in our garage.

Incidentally, you also built the garage, and hung the roof trusses solo.

And we never had a DeLorean in our driveway, but we did have a rotating stream of increasingly awesome Beetles.

And although I might shake my head and put my face in my palm every time you tell me about how another movie just copied the plot from Back to the Future (including those filmed before B2tF, which can of course be explained by time travel), you did instill in me, from a young age, a belief in the unlimited possibilities of science, and that most problems in life can be engineered away in the garage provided you have some basic tools and stop to think carefully about them.

If Doc Brown was able to rig a train and a busted DeLorean into an 88mph time traveler, in a period before most people had access to electricity, well I suspect that if you found yourself in the same position you could too.

Only it would be an airplane for sure.

Anyways dad, you inspire me, in this and in many other ways. I wish I could be home in the Sault with you to marathon watch all three movies today, but I'm out here in Calgary. So instead I'll just watch them with my lego DeLorean, and call you later to make sure your 2015 has been everything the Doc and Marty hoped it would be.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Odds of winning 1 million dollars in Monopoly at McDonald's

Short story.

You just can't.

And so my heart and hopes were dashed.

The other day I was in the car with Kevin and we drove past a McD's advertising the arrival of another game season of Monopoly, and I made a confession to Kevin.

"You know I don't believe I can win the lottery, or gambling at a casino, but I hold fast to the belief that I could maybe win the Million dollars at Monopoly."

Two which Kevin responded something along the lines of how I didn't need to be eating that much McDonald's. I sheepishly agreed, and then proceeded to buy us McDs breakfast the next day.

I won a small soda. That's right... not a beverage, of any size so that I could get a medium or large and the play again. Nope. A small. And that is just one of the ways Monopoly at McDonald's has gotten sh!ttier this year.

How do I know this... well once I get an idea in y head I just can't shake it, so I spent about an hour reading the fine print, and putting together this little video last night.


So yeah...  I guess I should just go ahead and buy some lotto tickets... it would be better for me as far as being in swim suit shape when we go to the Dominican next month.

So to that end, I'm swearing junky take-out for the duration of this years Monopoly Game.

Will you be collecting stamps this year?

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The thing about Japanese Toilets

Ok, I know, this might be a strange starting point for sharing my experiences in Japan. But I still have a pile of photos and videos to sort through and organize into something I would call 'good content', rather than just mass upload pictures from my phone.

If you are insatiably curious for a taste of Japanese non-bathroom related culture, you can check out the mini photo collages I posted during my trip on my Instagram account, @turner_sr

But until then, let's talk toilets.

First of all, at many points during my trip I thought to myself, I really need to take a picture of that toilet, but I always refrained from it because, I donno, taking pictures of toilets seems weird. But now I kind of regret not doing it.

I encountered three types of toilet on my trip, in separate locations, and in the instance of the public bathrooms of Narita International Airport, all three types at once. Thank god for airports and choices.

Narita airport was in fact the only point in the trip where I encountered regular old fashioned western toilets, much to my happiness. It was comforting to be able to pee without the awkward toilet anxiety of the past 10 days.

For the toilet weary traveler. A bathroom stall marked with a symbol like this probably indicates a western style toilet.

Now I sure you have all heard of the crazy Techno-Toilets of Tokyo (which would probably make a good band name or something). And the majority of the toilets I encountered were variations on this theme.

If you see the picture of the regular toilet, alongside the picture of the butt fountain, then elaborate toilet technology awaits you. And you should proceed with caution. Because if you think they have a thing for bidets in France, that's only because you haven't been to Japan.

I had heard enough horror stories about toilets spraying water sky high while flashing lights and singing songs before arriving in Japan to make me avoid pressing any of the many buttons on or around my toilets there.

Here's a sample of the kind of options you might see.

And as I didn't take any toilet pictures myself, I borrowed this one from Alaska Girl At Heart's visit to Narita. But you can see that the functionality is exceedingly complex... it also raises a conundrum for me.

You notice the blue 'Butt Fountain' button, when labeled in English it is called spray. The pink button, with the person (although more often than not it featured a woman) is labeled bidet. These two buttons were always colour co-ordinated blue and pink. Making me think, one is for girls and one is for boys.

Which in turn makes me think that the 'Butt' portion of the 'Butt Fountain' is not a butt at all, but something rather more (in the words of Jenna Marbles) Ball-Sac-ier.

Which then brings me to the conundrum of why they used this symbol to label the techno toilets in the women's bathroom at the airport?

Beyond me.

Anyways, lets get back on track, I never touched any of these buttons, preferring my toilets to be as inanimate  as possible, but that still doesn't mean I wasn't subjected to advance toilet functions against my will.

The first time I actually settled my wait onto a Japanese toilet (preferring of course to hover over strange toilets), I immediately launched myself back off of it. Because the seat itself activates a function, and in my moment of fear, surely the toilet was about to come to life. Turns out, sitting down on the toilets just turns on a flow of water into the bowl, for some reason.

But still, moment of terror.

Also, some of the toilet seats were heated. Which when you have a hotel room all to yourself, gives you the creepy sense that someone other than you was just sitting on your toilet (#toiletghosts).

Finally, I was bemused to see that in places with high incidences of foreign tourists (hotel lobby bathrooms in particular) the bathroom stalls all featured an emergency help button. I can only assume these buttons were installed in response to confused tourists flooding the bathrooms when they inadvertently turned the sprayers on when looking for the flush. Pro-tip, the flush may be located on the wall, far away from the toilet.

Now if that was not enough strange for you, I'd like to introduce you to the third style of toilet I encountered in Japan.

If the symbol looks like this.

This is what you can expect.

Oh yeah. And in some places, like the University Hospital Research building in Nagoya, this was the only option.

Yes I was in the women's bathroom. I double checked.

I can tell you one thing, I was really happy to see my crazy techno toilet when I got back to my hotel that night.

And that my friends is how you write over 860 words about toilets...which should tell you a thing or two about just how lasting an impression they left on me.

Thoughts from October 1 AM

I've been awake for 23 hours y'all.

I want to say y'all there because I'm reading Jenny Lawson's new book, 'Furiously Happy', and as she's from West Texas, I, as a Canadian, naturally imagine that 'Y'all' would be a thing she would say. Despite copious evidence from her books and blogs to indicate otherwise.

Wait... I googled it.... she totally says 'y'all'...y'all. (I couldn't help myself, apparently when I'm sleep deprived I think I'm funny.)

Anyways, I wrote about her when I read her first book (the first time) and how it left me feeling inspired to write more, and write my own one day. (post here). And again I am certainly overwhelmed with that feeling, but not yet. 

Although I really do have an idea that's been percolating for about a year in my brain.

Ironic word choice since I don't drink coffee.

Even more irony then that I am awake at now 2:00 am.

24 hours Y'all!

So let's bring this round circle. Right now I've got the Bloggess on my mind not only because I'm reading her new book, but because in said book she talks about struggles with insomnia. And hello, 24 hours awake (which I know doesn't even remotely compare, but I'm feeling a little kindred right now).

Also she talks about a trip she took to Japan. And I literally was just there! I mean I got back yesterday... wait technically it's Thursday now... I got back on Tuesday.

Also she talks about the seriously strange things going on with the toilets in Japan... and that my friends is a post for tomorrow.....or maybe I really just mean later today?

Anyways. The point I'm trying to get to, (you see my thought process above has all been very clear and linear to this point) is that I'm going to write more.

So thanks for the motivation Jenny. Now I'm off to tweet this post at you, so I can imagine we are internet friends or something.

Really I need to go to sleep.


Related side note.

I bought one of those fancy wake up light alarm clocks today, and I am super excited to try it out. The idea is that it starts getting brighter a half hour before your alarm to mimic sunrise (important here in Calgary since we've entered the season of crappily short days) and then you wake up all magical and relaxed and refreshed.

And I'm assuming feeling like Cinderella when her bird and mice friends sign her awake.

Not sure how refreshed I'll be when it starts it's thing in 4 hours yeah, more feedback on this to follow.


And before I forget, please go buy and read Jenny's books. They are wildly hilarious, incredibly honest, and whether or not you've ever struggled with depression, anxiety, mental health etc., I promise you will find something in her to relate to.

Also, holy crap! It's October already. Frig this year is flying by!