[Home Improvement] New Lights!

So, due to an unfortunate event, my boyfriend and I have moved into my mom’s house to take care of my little brother. Being as my grandparents owned my mom’s house, they asked if Tim and I would like to go ahead and purchase the house. We said that would be a good idea, and to make a long story short, now we own the house. It’s a pretty nice place, however it definitely needs some sprucing up. Mostly because we would like to sell it to move into our own home once we’re married. With that being said, we’ve decided to make a few changes! One of the first things we’ve decided to do is change the lighting in the house.

Here’s the original lighting that we have throughout the house: (photography by my little brother, Deonte =])

Most of the rooms didn’t even have the covers over them. Which was really ugly, because they looked like this:

Definitely not cute, right? Well, Tim works at Lowe’s. When he’s at work, he finds deals on clearance items and also gets some great deals from his manager. =) So, these are the first lights he picked up:

Pretty nice, right? Yeah, I love ’em! And to make it even better, our dining space is in the same space as our kitchen and there’s another one of these over the table! It’s definitely pretty. Now I’m just waiting on him to find someone to put in the dimmer switch he bought! *hint hint*

This is the second light; he bought 2 of them:

I plan on hanging these in the hallways, but I still need one more to make it work. (One of the hallways has 2 lights.) I love the black & white because of the photos I have hanging in one of the hallways. They’re monochromatic photos of a boating/fishing town that I found at a yard sale…bought 4 of them for $2 total! (I love a good bargain…especially at a yard sale!)

And….as of last night, I now have these beauties:

There’s one in the living room, one in the master bedroom, and soon to be one in the master bathroom. In each room, this one little light does something different, which I adore! In the living room, it’s dim, but it adds mood lighting. If I need bright lighting, I just turn on the 2 side lamps I have. In my bedroom, it’s actually better than the original light because it’s more focussed. And as for the bathroom…well, I’ll let you know. =)

What types of home improvements are you completing right now? What do you think of the new lights?

Photography Favorites (It’s Been a While)

Welcome back! I’m sorry it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything through this blog…there has been quite a lot going on in my life. LOTS of changes. But now I’m hoping to be back for good…at least for a while anyway! So, to start this off right, I’m posting some of the awesome sites I’ve discovered recently.

I’ve been doing a lot of browsing both for creativity and photography purposes. I always feel as though there’s more to learn, more to see, and DEFINITELY more to be inspired by! Therefore, I’ve compiled a list of some of my new favorite sites to visit…enjoy!

  • Total City Girl: This beautiful lady from NY has got it down pat when it comes to everything I love- creativity, photography, AND New York City! She creates a weekly field trip to special, not-so-visited places in NYC (my favorite part about the blog) and also shares her ventures in photography and creativity. Definitely check out her etsy shop if you’re looking for some cute hair things or personalized candy bar wrappers!
  • iHeartFaces: Discovered this one by reading through Stacy’s blog (TCG) and really enjoyed reading some of the posts. They offer photo challenges, contests and GREAT tutorials on anything photography related. The main aspect I love about the site is that it’s mainly focussed on capturing the human face in photography (portraiture is my specialty!) and most of the contests/challenges are judged based on such.
  • Fonts for Peas: I found this site by reading a post on iheartfaces and completely fell in LOVE! I’ve been venturing into more creative ideas in my photography and their HUGE inventory of FREE fonts makes this even better! The coolest part about the site (not including the fact that it’s a part of a bigger site that includes other cool things like recipes, scrapbooking and crafts) is that every font is provided by the blog’s followers’ own handwriting! So you can just submit your own handwriting sample and if it’s accepted, you would be able to use it in your own creative ventures! AWESOME!!
  • Adobe Support: I know this one is a little less imaginative, but I’ve come to learn, it’s more helpful than any other site when it comes to Adobe products. I learned about this site while still in art school, but never got around to actually using it to learn how to use my software. Now that I have a little more free time to browse and create, I’ve found that this site really is the best! When you get to the main page, you are able to choose which product you need help with (my choice is usually Photoshop, but I’ll be looking into Lightroom soon as well). After that, all you have to do is search for the topic you need help with (like creating a vignette) and let the site help you out. There are also some pretty great video tutorials on a few of the subjects as well as the step-by-steps.

 

I get the cutest handwriting fonts at Fonts for Peas! kevinandamanda.com/fonts

 

That’s what I have for now…I’ll add more as I discover more awesome blogs/websites. Check out my blogroll for any other sites not mentioned as well. Hopefully you’ll enjoy browsing through these sites as much as I did! Have a favorite of your own? Feel free to post them in the comments section and I’ll take a look at them…maybe there will be a future post on YOUR favorite site!

Improving Your Social Network

I was sitting at home a couple of days ago, wondering how some people have very small social networks/circles and others have the largest network/circle of people around them. Is it that certain people have better opportunities than others to make their networks grow and expand to every facet of their lives? I wasn’t quite sure what the answer was to my question, but I was sure there are ways to improve one’s social network/circle. I then began listing different ways to do so and I came up with the following list:

  1. Get a job: For those of us who are unemployed at the moment, our socializing is certainly limited. However, working will offer an abundance of people to socialize with. Also, the larger the company, the better chance to make friends or network with other co-workers.
  2. MySpace/Facebook/Etc: Although most of the online world uses some type of social networking website, most people neglect to actually socialize with those thousands of friends we’ve accumulated on the site. By writing/messaging/commenting more people on these sites, you will increase your own “fan” base. The more people you conversate with, the better known you will become because people will be more likely to remember your name and conversate back to you.
  3. Go out: This is one of the easiest ways to meet people. Going out to clubs/bars/events and meeting new people will aide in your socializing. The more you go out, the more noticeable you will become and eventually people will get to know you and want to befriend you.
  4. Volunteer: Involve yourself in a charity or volunteer group and you will meet new people through your volunteer work. If you get involved in charities or volunteer groups that you are interested in, you will be very likely to meet people with those same interests.
  5. Meet your friends’ friends: Usually, people like to stay within their own circles and are less likely to open up to people from the “outside.” Instead, meet some of your friends’ friends/associates/co-workers. You never know if a “friend of a friend” could be the great friend or social networking opportunity you have been looking for!
  6. Join a sport or hobby group: By playing sports that you like/love or getting involved in your favorite hobbies, such as scrapbooking or photography, you will be able to meet other people who will obviously have the same interests as you. Look up groups for your specific hobby or sport online or in newspapers and commit to joining.
  7. Make friends with your loved one’s family: I know, not everyone’s family is as perfect as yours (lol), but open your heart to these strangers who are a large part of your loved one’s life. Even if they don’t like you (so you think) or vice versa, you never know if there may be a sibling/cousin/family member’s mate that you may get along with. After all, you all will have at least ONE common interest: you ALL love your loved one!
  8. Forgive/apologize to old friends: Yes, this is probably the hardest thing you have ever had to do, but swallowing your pride and being the bigger person are healthy for you and the other party involved. Sometimes the disagreement isn’t as big of a deal as it may have seemed, so you should just forgive and forget. This will most likely help you to gain back the friends you once lost because of an argument or disagreement.
  9. Rekindle old friendships: Likewise to regaining friendships through apologizing, rekindling old friendships you may have lost through relocating/job change/etc. will aide in gaining a larger group of friends. So, if you have lost touch with old friends, organize a dinner or small event in which you can regain your old friendship.
  10. Leave the house: I know, this is the most simple, easiest thing anyone could ever do, but it really is the best solution. Getting out of the house will broaden your horizons and you never know who you could bump into while you’re out. So, go shopping, go out to eat, go to your local coffee shop, or even walk around your neighborhood or downtown area. Just do something outside of your home where other people are dwelling or enjoying themselves!

So, I hope this list aides you in gaining a larger social network/circle of friends. These tips are not scientifically proven to work, but from what I have gathered from television/movies and real life experiences, people are starting in these general categories. Also, I have a few tips for those who are more apprehensive to socializing with people they don’t know:

  • Don’t be afraid to talk to people or be the first to strike up a conversation.
  • Be approachable- smile – FEEL happy and it will show!
  • Carry around a cell phone or address book. Also, make sure you have a notepad/paper and a writing utensil at all times- if you can’t call someone or get their number, how will you be able to socialize with them?
  • Be patient and stay positive- all good things come to those who wait.
  • Don’t speak about negative topics when you first meet people; save that for those committed friendships!

Visual Inspiration

Welcome back to my blog! As I promised, I am creating more posts for your entertainment and creative experiences! The inspiration for today’s post came from a site I was viewing titled It’s Nice That. The site is somewhat of an online gallery and the author explores all types of artists, photographers, and designers. While viewing some of the designs from graphic designers and pieces from fine artists, I saw plenty of pieces that reminded me of things I’ve just learned in my first quarter of art school (which just ended by the way). I was very proud of myself to be able to notice the types of work that I saw and I was even able to compare one artist to another that I had heard of. This inspired me to view more and more of the online gallery so that I could get a feel for different types of art and design.

After viewing so much of the site, I was inspired to create a new goal for myself: by the end of my third quarter, I will be able to cite at least 10 of my favorite artists and what their personal styles are. This goal will take a lot of work on my part because I will need to do a lot of research on different artists and studying the different styles and personal tastes of artists. I will need to continue what my principles of design instructor has already began: he gives us an assignment and he asks us to go online and view websites of artists that are related to that assignment. I think this is an awesome idea in order to expose myself to different aspects of art, design, and photography and it helped me to learn a great deal about varying styles.

So, with that being said, I think I will start off by showing you some of the art I saw on the It’s Nice That site. These pieces were both interesting and inspiring to me to create something new. We’ll see how that goes in the coming weeks! Anywho, here are the pieces that caught my eye…enjoy!

dominicwilcoxThis first piece is by Dominic Wilcox. I thought this idea was completely genuine, if not humorous. I always try to find things that are ironic or humorous, especially if there is some new idea included in it.

This piece is similar in that same fashion of humor and original ideas. It is a piece by Karl Toomey. The scale has celebrity names on it instead of numbers. Toomey also designed scales with animals or monsters on it instead of the numbers. I want one of these for myself! It’s such a cool idea and lightens up the idea of dieting and weighing yourself. celebscales_karl toomey This piece is also another one of the original idea types. It is a large clock created by Swedish designers Humans Since 1982. The clock is made up of 24 analog clocks  to act as a digital display using the clock hands to read the time. I didn’t quite get the photo at first, but once I read the description I felt like and idiot! I love different types of clocks and I especially love intriguing design pieces! This is something I would LOVE to have in my house!

clock_humansince1982 This photo is of pieces that ultimately form a chair. It is created by designer Eric Ku, who was inspired by contemporary artist Joseph Kosuth. This is titled Chair/Chair (Mission No. 2). It is a part of  Ku’s Mission Redefinition, in which he is exploring the idea of redefinition to a series of subjects through the application of graphic design. I think this is a great idea because I’m always trying to think of ways to redefine items in my world through photography.chairchair_eric kuI hope you enjoyed this post and the artists/designers featured in it! If you would like to view more, please visit the It’s Nice That site. Also, for more inspiring ideas, visit Inspired Magazine’s article on 40 Fresh Websites for Daily Visual Inspiration. There are plenty of ways to be inspired through each type of  application of art, design, and photography! Have a great time being inspired!

A New Birth

Wow…so it’s definitely been a while since my last post, which I apologize for. After being enrolled in school, trying to complete difficult projects, and enjoying the life of being a god-mother…that’s right! My friend Jamie gave birth to a beautiful baby girl named Alayna Justene on Memorial Day (May 25th) at 9:44pm! I was so excited to watch my baby girl come into the world and I’m even more excited to watch her as she grows and learns more about the world around her! I can’t wait to teach her everything I know about life, love, and creativity!! So, in lieu of a new birth of life, I’ve decided to catch back up and open new doors to this blog! This includes, but is not limited to, a new look for the blog, more posts, and even more creative and innovative ideas! So, to begin a new chapter, I’ve decided to post a few photos of Alayna, from birth to the first few days, and also of some of my art projects that I’ve created for school! I hope you enjoy reading this blog and don’t forget: sour lemons always make the best sweet lemonade!baby_AlaynaThis is Baby Alayna, only seconds after she was born! It was a miracle to watch her come into the world after watching and waiting for so long for her to come. I’ll never forget what a blessing it was and I’m anxious for the years ahead of her!Jamie&Alayna I was teary-eyed when Alayna came into this world, but nothing compared to the love and joy of her mother, Jamie. She went through the pain like a brave soldier and I was so proud I couldn’t hardly stand it. It is the ultimate sacrifice to give your body to your child at such a young age (Jamie is only 20), yet Jamie went through with it and was completely selfless. It was such an honor to be in the delivery room as mother and daughter met face-to-face for the first time. In this photo, Jamie is giving her baby girl the first kiss of the millions more she will shower her with during her lifetime.Alayna's_GodparentsAs I was standing there holding Alayna, I couldn’t help but imagine what the future would hold for her. All I could think about was how I was going to protect her from everything that was in my power to control. I knew I would be teaching her so many things and aiding her in experiencing a world she could never have imagined! I knew my boyfriend, Tim, and I would be the best godparents she could have ever hoped for!

If you would like to see more photos of the first week of this beautiful baby girl’s life, check out my Flickr!

March Party Ideas: St. Patty’s Day

As the second part of my series, I’ve decided to do the most obvious of party ideas for March: St. Patrick’s Day! This is a day, especially for those of us who are of Irish decent, to celebrate the anniversary of the death of St. Patrick and his religious feast day. So, grab your green and your shamrocks and read along on how to make the most of an inexpensive St. Patty’s Day celebration!

Decorations
This is probably the easiest part of the party itself; you only need one color: GREEN! But here are a few extra tips to get you started!

1. Use green streamers throughout your party area.
2. Buy a few green light bulbs and use them in the lamps in your party space.
3. Find a big rock (or make one out of Styrofoam or papier-mâché) to be your Blarney Stone. Position it near the door so people can kiss it when they enter. (Legend has it that kissing the actual stone is supposed to give the kisser the gift of eloquence and persuasiveness; this makes for a great ice-breaker as your guests arrive!)
4. Gather as many gold-wrapped coins as you can find and place them around your party area. You can use bowls (pots of gold) or vases. (These also make nice table decorations!)
5. Get a box of Lucky Charms cereal and pour some into a jar (pickle jars, jelly/jam jars, etc.) with a lid. These also make for a cute party favor for your guests. Give them away at the end of your party as a reward for attending!
6. Use thick paper (like poster board) and cut out shamrocks. Make some with 3 leaves and a few with 4 leaves. Place them around your party area on the walls and doors. Hide the 4 leaf clovers if you would like to make a game out of it! BONUS: If your guests find the 4 leaf clovers, give them an extra treat as a prize. Gold coins and Lucky Charms are a good start!
7. Make a “treasure chest” of gold coins and create a rainbow to find the “pot of gold.”

Food/Beverage

Dinner:
The best (and cheapest!) way to create an Irish dinner for your St. Patty’s Day party is to invite your guests to bring traditional Irish dishes. BONUS: Using your invitations, place a recipe card for each food item you would like them to bring. This serves two purposes: there won’t be repeat items and it saves your guests the research time!

Here are few ideas for dinner dishes:
1. Cornbeef and Cabbage
2. Irish Lamb Stew
3. Mini Reuben Sandwiches
4. Irish Soda Bread
5. Shamrock Salad
6. Pistachio Pudding
7. Irish Scones
*For a longer list of food items, check out Hannaford Supermarkets’ website here! The page includes a shopping list at the bottom!

Sweet Treats:
These are ideas you can use to decorate AND eat!
1. Bowls of: green jelly beans, green M&Ms, or any other green candy you can find.
2. Shamrock cookies: use a shamrock cookie cutter (VERY cheap at a local grocery store or Walmart) and decorate using green icing (food coloring in vanilla flavored icing) and/or green sprinkles. BONUS: Walmart has Green Apple flavored green sprinkles!
3. Green Cupcakes: use food coloring to dye white/yellow cupcakes; decorate with green. BONUS: use Lucky Charms (only the marshmallows) for decorating the top of the cupcakes!

Beverages:
Depending on whether your party is alcohol-free or not, you will have to gather different types of beverages for everyone’s tastes.
Here’s a few suggestions:
1. Dark Irish beer (if you don’t know which beers are Irish, just ask your liquor store attendant)
2. Irish whiskey (this is probably better used if used in Irish coffee; here’s an easy recipe)
3. Green gatorade or Kool-Aid
4. Black & Tans
5. St. Patty’s Day Punch

  • Lime punch (Hawaiian Punch is great in the green flavor)
  • Lime sherbet/Pistachio ice cream/Mint chocolate chip ice cream(just a few scoops; you can always add more as needed)

6. Irish Jello Shots (alcoholic and non-alcoholic)

  • Use small plastic cups (such as Dixie cups)
  • Lime gelatin
  • Vodka (any kind)

Hopefully you will be able to throw the best St. Patty’s Day party with these ideas. If anyone has any extra ideas of their own, please comment and let me know what they are! Enjoy!

March Party Ideas: Dr. Seuss’ Birthday

Being as March is the month of St. Patty’s Day celebrations and St. Patty’s Day is the ultimate party time, I decided to write a series on March party ideas. In leiu of the current economy and the need to be as frugal as possible, these party ideas will be inexpensive to execute and prepare for, yet creative and enjoyable for all your guests.

Dr. Seuss’ Birthday Party: March 2nd
We all know the genius behind The Cat In The Hat and Green Eggs & Ham, but not many people appreciate his works of art for children of all ages. So, in order to show just how much you love Dr. Seuss, why not have a birthday party in his honor?

Here’s some ideas:

Decorations

  1. Gather copies of Dr. Seuss’ books and place them around your party area. These can be found for cheap at yard sales, thrift stores, and used bookstores.
  2. If you don’t want to splurge on buying books, borrow as many as you can from a local library. Just be careful because you will have to return them!
  3. Cut out large stars from yellow paper. Using a sponge, cut a star shape out of it and dip in in a green stamppad or green paint. Stamp only SOME of the yellow stars with the green stars. Place on walls and doors. BONUS: hang the stars from the ceiling! (Sneetches)
  4. Hang socks around the party area. BONUS: use funky colored and patterned socks! (The Foot Book)
  5. Make nametags for your guests (especially if this is a meet & greet type of party) with strange names that are similar to their real names. EXAMPLE: William aka Buffalo Bill. (Too Many Daves)

Food/Beverage

  1. Green Eggs & Ham: a little twist on a classic book; serve deviled eggs (dyed green of course!) and sprinkle bacon bits or shredded ham on top as hors d’oeuvre’s; BONUS…serve them in a box, in a car (a toy one of course), in a house (a doll house that is), in a boat, etc.
  2. There’s a Wocket In My Pocket: this can be used in several different ways; one is to serve hot pockets, another is to serve pita club sandwiches (with lots of shredded lettuce for the crazy wild hair known to Seuss’ books!)
  3. One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish: this is the easiest of all the food ideas; just pour colored goldfish into a large clear bowl for a quick snack; a cute (and sanitary) way to allow guests to get the snack is to buy a CLEAN, BRAND NEW fish net from a pet store and allow them to use it to get the goldfish out of the fish “bowl”
  4. And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street: make “Mulberry Punch” by mixing a dark fruit punch (grape Kool-Aid, Hawaiian Fruit Punch, and strawberry Kool-Aid) or by creating a dark blue punch (“Ice Blue” Kool-Aid and grape or tropical punch Kool-Aid)
  5. The Cat In The Hat: there are 2 variations for this book; the first is to make a cake representing the cat’s hat, the second is to make cupcakes as small hats; the instructions are as follows:
  • Hat Cake:
  1. Bake 3-5 round cakes (size doesn’t matter, just make sure they are all the same). The flavor of the cakes is up to you, but chocolate would be a nice touch for the black cat!
  2. Use a large platter to place cakes on; platter should be white, but once again, it is up to you.
  3. Ice the first layer of cake with a mixture of white icing (cream cheese, vanilla, etc.) and red food coloring. If you would like a different flavor for this layer, you could also use a strawberry flavored icing and just add more red food coloring until it is to the right shade. Ice the entire layer thoroughly while on a cake stand or the platter you will serve on.
  4. IMPORTANT: DO NOT place the second layer on top of the first layer until AFTER icing it!! This will make your job much easier to achieve successfully! Ice the second cake layer using white icing (cream cheese, vanilla, etc.). This may be difficult depending on your skill level because of the dark cake. The best thing to do is crumb coat the cake first, then do a couple more layers of icing to make it as white as possible without the chocolate showing through.
  5. AFTER icing the second layer, place it gently on top of the first layer.
  6. Continue icing layers of cake until the cake is complete. Serve on the large platter and allow your guests to “ooh” and “ahh” over your pastry genius!
  • Hat Cupcakes:
  1. Bake cupcakes in your desired flavor (chocolate is what I am recommending). Depending on the size of your guest list, it is up to you how many cupcakes need to be baked.
    **Note: it is recommended that you bake the cupcakes using liners and then remove the liners once they are finished baking. You could also just remove the liner from the sides of the cupcakes and keep it on the bottom to use as a small “napkin” for the bottom.
  2. Cut off the very top of each cupcake so they are flat like the top of a hat.
  3. Using white icing, ice HALF of each cupcake white.
  4. Using the red icing mix, ice the remaining half of the cupcake red.
  5. Serve on a large platter and once again, allow guests to “ooh” and “ahh” over your pastry genius!

I hope these ideas will help you in your quest to throw a great party! If you have any suggestions, please comment! Stay tuned for the next party theme coming soon!

Au Courant

Definition: in the current. I decided to title this post in this fashion because a current event has inspired me to create this blog. First, though, let me explain why I titled the blog itself.

“Innovative Stimulus” means for me to creatively act in a manner in which I wouldn’t have thought of beforehand. For example, the reason I began this blog. I was attempting to make hamburgers for dinner, which didn’t turn out so well. Instead, though, Tim (my boyfriend) and I decided to make a more contemporary hamburger. We browned the meat as you would for tacos and melted cheese on top. We then placed it on the bread and called it the Sloppy Bo. Therefore, this ultimately leads me to the title of this blog. A current event (au courant) has inspired me to create something new.

This is how I intend to further my blog posts. I will show my fellow bloggers and the rest of the world how to, as they say, “make lemonade out of lemons.” Hopefully, it will be successful….if not, who cares? At least we all learn something along the way!!