Saturday, February 16, 2013

The best thing that happened to me today is...

I bought Sage (formerly Peachtree) Complete Accounting Software 2011 for a darned good price (thank you Ebay!). 

I've decided I need to take my business to the next level, and in order to more easily accommodate that, I really needed a better (and faster) method of tracking expense and inventory etc.  After reading a bunch of reviews online, I decided I should either have Quickbooks or Sage. 

Both have top-of-the-line products for small businesses (like mine!).  Quickbooks has an advantage because it seems to be more widely accepted and many financial institutions have software that works with them. Sage seems to score higher on overall accounting needs - and inventory management (which I liked).  Both have a Premier/Premium version which I really coveted... but in the end, I didn't have a lot to spend which meant that neither high-end version was in my reach.

I looked at numerous retail locations (including Amazon and Ebay).  I finally managed to find a pretty inexpensive (and relatively recent) version of Sage Complete (which is the next step down from Premium).  I think it will meet my needs nicely and I'm excited to get it and use it!  I'm hoping it will help me do a better job of documenting my expenses - especially for tax season!   Wish me luck!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Computer Tip-of-the-Week: Initial Blogger Setup and Blog Banner Size

Hi there!

Are you having problems getting your banner picture-size to fit the Blogger Header?  I know I did, and my friend just switched to Blogger and experienced a similar issue. 

The frustrating things is that Blogger books don't address the issue directly - and all of the forums and blogs we've checked don't really offer much advice beyond "just keep playing around with the size in Photoshop".  NOT helpful!!

We spent a great deal of time trying to troubleshoot this issue and thought that if we had this problem, maybe others out there in blogger-land might have similar issues.  So, here is what we came up with to deal with the banner-sizing issue.  This is a rather long posting - but it takes you pretty much step-by-step through how to find the size of your blog and how to size your banner picture.

First, I want to do a quick summary of initially setting up a blogger account because I don't want to assume what you do or don't know. 

The first thing you'll need to do is to get yourself a google account (you must have one in order to set up a Blogger blog).  Once you've done so, you'll need to follow Blogger's process for setting up a blog.  It's been streamlined a bit since I had set mine up, but basically, you'll be asked to provide or choose:
  • Your Google account logon and password
  • A Title for your blog (my example in the above printscreen is: MY NEW BLOG NAME
  • The web address you'd like to have listed with Blogger (In my printscreen above, I typed: MYBLOGNAME2).  In real life, my Re-Covered Treasure's blog address is  FYI, you can add a custom domain later (through Google) or point your own domain to your blog (which is what I do with my domain
  • Choose your Template (which means you can use the scrollbar to scroll through the general template styles available and then click on the one you like the best).  Don't worry, this can be changed easily later... just pick one that most closely resembles how you think you'd like your blog to look (you can personalize it with colors and backgrounds later - you really want to look at how the columns and main blog area appear).
  • Then click Create Blog
Printscreen of Blog Setup screen in Blogger
Now you have the basic blog ready to post to - which you might want to do.  Click the Posts tab on the left-side menu and then click the New Post button.   You might want to have a post titled something like  "Stayed Tuned For Our New Blog"  in the title and then something like "Our blog will be available soon, please check back with us or subscribe to our blog and you'll see each post as it arrives!" in the post body.  And then click the Publish button at the top.  Now your potential readers will have something to look at when they find your blog.

 Ok so now that you have a blog - you will want to personalize it.  There are two ways to do that: Layout and Template

Template is the original design you chose.  Template is how you'll fine-tune the look of your blog (meaning colors, layout style, font, background picture or where you can remove the background picture if you'd rather just have a plain background!).  This is also where I finally discovered the little trick of how to size your banner to your blog!

Layout is based on the template you choose but you don't personalize the colors and styles here.  Instead this is where you add (or remove) gadgets.
This is a printscreen of my layout for
Gadgets are the neat little features that let you add fun things to your blog (for instance a Facebook Icon and link, an Etsy Store Link, or a Flickr Photo Slide Show).  Your banner, blog posts, blog pages, and Navigation Bar are also considered gadgets here.  Usually your template will allow you to add quite a variety of gadgets but it already has gadgets that Blogger felt you should have... so here is where you'd remove gadgets or add new ones . 

Layout is also where you add in your Favicon (little thumbnail picture representing you or your company) and where you add your banner picture, title, and tagline.  THIS is where my friend and I experienced an incredible amount of frustration because you upload your banner picture to the banner gadget and it looks great and then you click "preview" and find out that your banner is totally messed up!  Too big, too small, cut in half, or totally pixilated or blurry, or a bazillion other problems.

So here is what we discovered about Banner Pictures created in Photoshop Elements
  • You can try resizing based on inches.  This is a great way to get your initial picture adjusted to a length and width that is appropriate for a banner.  I find that between 2-4 inches wide makes a nice-looking banner.  And your width can be anywhere from about 7 inches to 15 inches.  But inches can change from computer to computer, or web-browser to web-browser!  (we have found that Internet Explorer was harder to work with when dealing with Google products, and that Mozilla seemed more Google-friendly - but that is just a personal observation!!).
  • It is better to re-size your banner based on pixels! But how do you know what pixel size works best??  That's where you need to click on your Template.   When you click on Template.  A group of templates appear and at the top is a large thumbnail picture with the caption Live On Blog - which is your blog and how it currently appears.   Click the CUSTOMIZE button and it will take you to the screen where you get to play around with your colors, fonts, and styles etc.  Remember from here, NOTHING is saved until you click the Apply to Blog button!!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Challenged to Become More "Green"

Hello Friends!

I have been inspired by various books I've been reading, to become even more green/eco-friendly.  I feel like I do a pretty decent job of recycling where I can.  Here are a few thing I am currently doing:

  • Recycle whatever food container items we are able to
  • Pull as many items out of recycling (or the garbage) as possible for reuse (example: plastic fruit cups are used to hold water while painting - or to mix paint, cracker and cereal boxes are cut apart for their cardboard to be used in all sorts of ways, shipping and packing materials are saved and reused)
  • Food waste is put either in the yard waste bin or our yard waste pile
  • Shopping at local thrift stores whenever possible
  • Sharing or donating unwanted items with others
  • Turn of lights, power strips, etc whenever not in use
  • Re-use and re-purpose whatever I can

My latest inspiration is to find even more creative ways to save items from the garbage (while keeping my house from becoming a horder's paradise!).   

 SO in honor of that, here are a couple of new ideas to try:

    My new art-journal decoupaged with papers originally used as
    table protectors - then augmented with acrylic paints
  • Put down paper (as a dropcloth/table-protector) underneath your craft projects.  When the projects are complete, look at the paper as a new art medium.  Is it textured with glue or paint? Are there interesting new patterns or colors on it?  Could you cut it up and use it in other ways besides just being a drop cloth?   
 I have large paper sheets that I kept from the last time I moved (the kind that is wrapped around your china to keep it safe while moving).  I often use it as a table-protector.   The last time I did so, I had alcohol ink that bled through my project and ended up making beautiful stains all over the table-protector paper.  From there I added some acrylic paints using a variety of techniques including scraping and splattering, and then I decoupaged the paper to the front of what is becoming my Art Journal (more on that in a later post).  

    Avery is just one brand of labels you can use!
  • Label backings.  Do you use a lot of labels (or do you know someone who does)?  If so, save the slick paper backings.  I remove the little edges of left-over stickers (which could be used as frames in artwork!) and then I am using the slick paper backings as table protectors instead of wax paper!  They work just about as good as wax paper (and actually they seem to work better for me!!).  They are free since most people just throw them out (I got a bunch of mine from work) and now you can save money on wax paper (which I use quite a lot when I'm doing my various craft projects that require glue.  

Permanent Markers (there are lots of brands!)

  •  Old Permanent Ink Pens or Coptic Markers.  Do you have any lying around (they must be permanent to work with rubbing alcohol)?  Try using them to color fabric or paper or both (the drip, spray, or pour rubbing alcohol on top of the ink to make fabulous patterns).  Then you'll have beautiful fabric and paper to work with.  
Also, are the pens usable or are they ready to toss??  If they are ready to toss (or if you find some at a garage sale or thrift shop), consider making your own alcohol ink out of them!  Open the pen up, and pull out the felt insert that holds the ink.  Cut the insert up and let them soak in a small amount of rubbing alcohol.  The rubbing alcohol should pull out whatever color is left in the pen.  You can then use that colored rubbing alcohol to decorate various surfaces.  I highly recommend trying to dye fabric with it!!... then use clear rubbing alcohol to create even more interesting textures and looks (do a search on Youtube if you need more information - there are some great tutorials there!!)                                                                                      
A great calendar for artwork!
  •  Old Calendars can be cut up and their artwork added to collages or journal pages.  Or you could use the pages as surface protectors... while they will get sticky, they are pretty tough and can stand up to quite a bit of abuse. 

 These are just a couple of the latest things I'm trying.  I love these ideas!!  And I love that I am reducing my garbage/waste!   What can you think of to do??

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Trying a new way of blogging

So I thought I'd try a slightly different way of blogging for a little while.  Kind of micro-blogging (for me anyways).  The idea is to be given a starting-sentence and then to fill the in the rest of the sentence with as much (or as little) as you want. 

My sentence starter today is: "The best thing that happened to me today is..."

And my finish to that is:  "that the fire I started today (in the microwave at work) didn't cause any damage".



YES that is my sentence  - and that should give you a good idea of how much fun my day was when the best thing that happened was that I DIDN'T cause any damage from a FIRE!  oh my. 

How did the fire start - with the stupid, thoughtless act of placing a burger wrapped in foiled-paper into the microwave to warm up.  It got warm alright!  Pretty sparks and fire too!   Hopefully won't ever do that again!  Kudos to my quick-thinking coworker who not only saw the sparks, but immediately leaped to her feet and pulled the plate (with the burger on it) out and blew out the fire.  whew!!

There were other things that happened today, but they were not half as exciting, nor half as interesting as the microwave fire.  So cheers!  I have been reminded to be VERY careful in the kitchen, and nothing bad happened (it didn't even trigger the fire alarms - which is a miracle in itself!). 

Thank You God!