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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Instagram vs. Facebook + a Challenge

I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook.   Well, actually, it is more of a like/hate relationship. I find myself constantly on the verge of completing deleting my account, especially lately.  I enjoy re-connecting with old friends, keeping up with friends and family,  and the easy access to information about scheduled events in which I participate.  But, I despise the bombardment of advertising, the plethora of erroneous information that is presented as good and true and the political posts of friends, regardless of which way they lean.  I sometimes hide the posts of FB friends who are particularly offensive, but more often than not, I just scroll past many posts, looking for someone's vacation pictures or news about my next workout or high school reunion.   I am a bit "old-school" in thinking that political opinions and such are private matters and a dissenting post by a friend on Facebook is not going to change anybody's mind about an issue---in fact, it generally does just the opposite by making them even more set on their own opinion.  (And it certainly makes me less likely to read anything they post at all).

Therefore, I find myself enjoying Instagram more and more as my primary social media platform.   Because it is visually based, there is not a lot of room for ugly political posts or arguments between people.  I know some exist, but they are generally limited to comments of strangers that are hidden from my day-to-day view.

On Instagram, I can view family vacation photos of friends, keep up with what's going on--from the ordinary to the adventure, and even find inspiring photos and quotes.  I can choose who to follow and who follows me, and I find myself inspired to see the beauty rather than the ugliness in this world.  There are no advertisements on Instagram (at least not yet), yet if I feel inclined to purchase something pictured, most websites are easily accessible through comments and hashtags.  I do try to protect the privacy of my young grandchildren, and rarely post their faces without the express permission of their parents.  I also try to never post a location when a child's face is showing because you just never know.  Recently, I have had a couple of spam comments or "likes" on one of my photos, but as soon as I notice them, I block them from my account to try to keep things safe.

And speaking of Instagram, toomorrow is the first day of August (how is that even possible??) and it is time for a new photo Challenge.  August is hot in this part of the country, and in many cases, school begins in just a few short days.  For me, August brings the first day of my official retirement and I hope there will be a few fun adventures in store for me, and you as well.  If you'd like to give this a try, simply post a photo each day and label it with the hashtag listed below.  (I generally click on the photo below and choose to save it to my phone so that I have it readily available when I forget that day's prompt)   Some days, the prompts are easy and I immediately see a way to capture it, but other days are more difficult and I have to play catch-up a few days later once inspiration strikes.  That's the nice thing about this challenge---it really doesn't matter.  :-)

If you are new here and you'd like to play along, leave me a comment below with your Instagram name so that I can follow you.  Your photos might just be the inspiration that I need to complete that day's challenge!

Friday, July 29, 2016

Red River Balloon Festival

A couple of weeks ago, the National Finals for Ballooning were held here in Shreveport.  I had a friend that had volunteered to help with the scoring one day and met her out at her location early on a Friday morning.  I had just come from working out, so I looked a sight, but the weather was beautiful and I didn't want to miss the chance to see the balloons.  When I arrived, I was quickly recruited to help with the scoring as well and we scurried around to set the targets up and measure the boundaries.
After that, we waited.
It wasn't long before spots of color began appearing over the trees.

It was so beautiful and peaceful to see them float closer and closer.
We could tell early on that most of the balloons were not headed for our target, but one loomed overhead briefly before the wind sent him on a different path.
It would have been fun to watch them drop at our target, but the weather dictates so much of how a balloon travels and it was not in the cards for us this time.  We could watch some drop at another location a couple of miles away.

That evening, we went to the Rally, hoping to hear the headline bands of Phil Wickham and Rend Collective and seeing a wonderful balloon glow.  However, as soon as we arrived, the fields were evacuated for a pending storm.  We were all directed to the nearby gym with the assurance that they would re-open as soon as the storm passed.
I went out to check at one point and the storm clouds seemed to be getting heavier and heavier.  The entire crowd eventually came outside as well, but we decided to leave and get some dinner.  Thankfully, just as we left, the bottom fell out and it stormed for several hours.
The next morning brought sunny skies and high humidity, but Ron and I ran the First Balloon Rally 5K.  It was a flat course and a smallish crowd, so it was fun.
That evening, we braved the heat once again to go back out to the Rally.  This time, Callie, Jordan and the boys joined us.
It was HOT and there was little shade except around the perimeter, so we set up in that area.
Baby D kept cool with some "green ice"and by misting himself (or should I say drenching himself) with the little fan I brought.

Baby D2 played with mama and rested.
When the balloons finally arrived, we watched them set up and give people rides.
Callie and Jordan opted to leave in time for a regular bedtime for the boys, but Ron and I stayed and enjoyed watching the rest of the balloons arrive and set up.
The balloon glow was really nice
as were the fireworks that followed.
I'll leave you with a bit of a twinkle that I caught on my phone.

Silhouette - One Color Vinyl Cutting and Application

When I first bought my Silhouette, I was a little bit overwhelmed with the software and the capabilities of the machine, so I decided to go to a local class to become acclimated with it.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that the software interacts very similarly to Photoshop in design aspects, so I became much more comfortable with it.  The class helped me to figure out the general process for cutting and I wanted to share some basic info with you today, just in case you are new to the machine or need a little refresher course.

The following information is how I cut and apply vinyl to a project, but the general cutting information would hold true for any cutting project.  Two important things I learned about using my Silhouette with vinyl:

**  Glossy Vinyl = Permanent (use on most projects such as cups, etc. that will receive hard use)
     Matte Vinyl = Removeable (use on walls or other short-term projects that you will want to easily change)
**You do not have to use a full sheet of vinyl when cutting.  This may seem self-explanatory to you, but, it was quite freeing for me to know that I could just cut a small piece and save the rest.  Of course, it also means that I can save every scrap because it could be used at a later time. This is especially important when you are doing a design with different colors or several designs at one time, which I often do.

This particular tutorial is for basic, one-color vinyl cutting and application.
Let's get started.

  1.         I always move my image to the upper left corner, to conserve as much space as possible.  Looking at the measurements, I can tell that I will need a piece of vinyl approx. 4"w x 5" tall.

2.     I don’t have a picture of this part, but . . .If you are using a brand new cutting mat, it will be too sticky.  This sounds weird, but turn it face down on a rug or other fabric surface and press down and remove a couple of times to make it a little bit less sticky.  If you don’t do this, you may not be able to get your pieces off after cutting.

3.     Position the piece of vinyl on your cutting mat, in the same spot as your design is located.  

4.     Click on the “Cut Settings” icon in the top right of your Silhouette software.   Here you will see all the settings appropriate for your cut.  Be sure that you have selected “vinyl” as your material type.

5.     Now, take your blade out of your machine by turning the handle to the left so that it will pop up.  Check what number it is set on.  (Mine was set on #3).

6.     Looking back at my “Cut Settings”, I can see that the recommended blade setting is for #1.  Personally, I have found that it does not always cut through at #1, so I prefer a #2 setting. 

7.     To change my blade, I set it in the hole in the front of my machine.

8.     Turn the blade handle until you see the 2.

9.     Drop the blade back in its holder.

10. Turn the handle to the right to secure the blade.  Now you are ready to cut.

11. Load your machine by lining up the left edge of your mat with the raised line on the Silhouette bed.  I keep one hand on the mat while I press the ENTER key.   Occasionally, it will grab the mat and pull it in crooked.  If this happens, press the ENTER key again to unload and try again.  It is important that it load straight.

12. This is what it looks like when it is loaded and ready to go.

13. Be sure that you have clicked “out” of the design boundary, so that the design boundary is no longer showing.  I learned the hard way that if not, it will just cut the portion of the design that is outlined and in some cases, that is not the entire design that you are trying to cut. (this picture shows the design boundary—Click out of this so it is not showing)

14. Press the “Send to Silhouette” button at the bottom of your screen.

15. Once cut, you will press the "ENTER" button to unload the cut.  It is sometimes hard to even tell unless you have really good lighting.

16. Carefully peel away the unwanted vinyl from around your design.

17. Use a pick to get the small inner pieces.

18. Cover your design with transfer tape.  I try to always be sure that I have a straight line at the top and bottom to make positioning easier.
(I have some Main Tape Transfer Tape left from other projects, so that is what you will see me using.  The process would be the same for Cricut brand, Expressions brand or whatever, but they might sheet style, rather than a roll.)

19. Use the side of your fingernail or the handle of your pick to burnish the vinyl to the tape by rubbing all over the design.

20. Carefully lift the tape from the design, making sure that the vinyl adheres in all areas.

21. Place the design on your surface and burnish again with your fingernail or handle of the pick.  Pay special attention to any thin, curly areas of your design.

22. Lift one corner of the tape to be sure that the vinyl is adhering to the surface.

23. Slowly remove all of the transfer tape.

24. If you find an area where the vinyl is not sticking to your surface, place the tape back down and burnish that area again.

25. Remove the tape and Voila’! 

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