Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Holiday Trinity: Turkey Day Menu!

The cool thing about Thanksgiving, IMHO, is that it's a basic menu that most people follow, but there's room for individual twists and spins. I loooove reading housewifery magazines to see what variations they offer for recipes, but I'll admit that my own menu is fairly traditional because, well, I like the traditional stuff, and The Hubs is finicky so I don't even have that much room or point for variety. Seriously, of my menu, The Hubs will most likely stick to turkey, a little stuffing, and lots of mashed potatoes with gravy. That's IT. Sheesh. (Though in his defense, he loves my step-grandma's food, which is where we will eat on actual Thanksgiving - he chows down on her cornbread dressing and greens, and hell, I don't even like greens.)

So since I enjoy seeing what the possibilities are from other people, I figured it was only fair to share my menu and my version of the recipes. Hopefully this is helpful, and makes you hungry for Thursday!

Wondering where the rest of the meal is? I'm asking my in-laws to bring a dessert and my cousins to bring an appetizer, so all I have to worry about is the main meal and the drinks (which we already have leftover unopened bottles of wine, beer, so all we need is soda). I'm picking up a can of mixed nuts, too, so there's something to nosh on if people arrive hungry.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Holiday Trinity: Turkey Day Timeline!

So I'm UNEMPLOYED unemployed right now. It's a weird position; I'd been working rather steadily for most of Sept. and Oct., and then the work ran out. They might need me again, but so far no. In the meantime, I've interviewed and lined up some part-time work, but they're not going to start yet. I'll be taking some college courses soon, but that doesn't start until January. So in the meantime there's... nothing. Lots and lots of NADA. It's a weird place to be, at least for me, and it kind of sucks me into this vortex of lame, where I don't want to do anything. It used to be a lot worse (and last a lot longer), but now I'm feeling better and I think I'm crawling out of it.

One thing motivating the crawl out: The holidays. Big Holiday #2 is right around the corner, and this week is my big prep week.

Now, TBH, I will TOTALLY own it that I'm probably making a bigger deal out of it than I need to, but... well, what else do I have to do? Plus I LOVE hosting. The only thing I've ever hated about it is the guest list, and that's only if it's a strictly friends list or I'm inviting people over for the first time. If it's family, feh, it's family! I love my family (for the most part), and they already know my shortcomings. ;p

Either way, I seriously made an outline for the week. Curious? Of course you are. Keep in mind that my hosting of Thanksgiving is the Sunday AFTER, because it's for my in-laws and my MIL works the actual Turkey Day. So here's the plan:

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Product Review: My Memories Digital Scrapbooking Software

So I received an invite to review the My Memories Digital Scrapbooking Software for free. Which is awesome, because A. I love computer stuff, B. I love crafting, and C. I LOVE FREE STUFF! So I said a whole-hearted yes.

There's no such thing as a free lunch software download, though. I have to review the darn thing! Which meant I had to mess around with it.

Please keep in mind that I received the software for free for the purposes of evaluating it and promoting it on this blog. I will schill, but only honestly. ;D So my review is how well it worked for ME. Specifically, they offered me the big momma - My Memories Suite Version 2.0.

Downloading/Installing: Piece of cake! A breeze to download and install, and while I say this as someone who is computer-savvyish, I think even a relative novice will have no issue downloading it. The instructions on the download site were smooth and easy to follow.

Use: For the most part, I found the software REALLY easy to use. My suspicion is that this is designed for people who aren't computer-savvy or scrapbookers by nature. There were a few minor quibbles, though, so let's just break it down into pros and cons:

Pros -
  • It's mostly intuitive; I simply picked an album and started clicking away, no tutorial needed! But, again, I'm comfortable with computers. BUT they have a helpful-tips window that explains everything the first time you open the program, and it'll stick around until you tell it to go away:
  • They have a ton of pre-made layouts to choose from! They range from basic photo layouts, so you can choose what "papers" you want, to pre-made albums where all you do is add the photos! The example photos are using one of the pre-made albums:

  • You can even use the software to make COMPUTER-only photo albums - you can add music, narratives, videos, links to websites... it's pretty advanced options, but it's easy to add - you just click the menu you want to add stuff from, and then click the necessary buttons. I didn't mess with it too much, other than testing out adding music - took a second and was very easy!
  • These pre-made albums are completely customizable, too, see?
    Please note that I'm fully legal age and I'm allowed to drink - in fact, I was turning 30 that day and had plenty of reason to drink, let's be honest. ;p
    All I did was click on each individual item to change the paper or background, whatever you want to change. I did have to individually delete the dots and replace them with hearts, but that was easy, too.
 Cons - 
  • It runs kind of slow. I'm incredibly impatient, so having to wait for the program to catch-up with my key movements were REALLY annoying. This was mainly with keyboard manipulations (like using the keyboard arrows to move an embellishment), but you can move most items with your mouse, too - but there's still a delay. Again, though, this delay is all of 1 second, but I'm INCREDIBLY impatient. ;p
  • There are some random errors that weren't really... errors! I'd get these "Error" messages, but ultimately they weren't ERRORS, whatever I was trying to do would work fine once I hit the "ok" button. (To the program's credit, they have a tech support email listed at the end of each error description - I just didn't because, again, impatient and ALSO lazy - that "hot mess" isn't part of my screen name just 'cuz it's cute, y'know.)
Overall, I liked My Memories! It was easy to use, and the basic program has a lot of options. They offer more "kits", too, if you need more options than what comes with the basic package, at a variety of prices. Their website also offers non-download options to make your own photo albums and calendars, with a decent amount of variety.

I'm using the program to make our Xmas "card" this year! Instead of having to spend hours making each card, or buying a bunch of meh ones, I can create my own "card" with my own pictures and the program's easy layouts! Check it out:

This is just a prototype; my parents had us take family portraits with them and our own little family as well, and I plan to use those in place of the ones I currently have once we get them (although the current ones aren't so bad either). I like that it's part letter, part card, and part picture! Plus I can get them printed out on nice paper if I really want it to be all fancy-pants.

Interested? The software I used, the Suite, is $39.97. As part of my review, My Memories has offered a $10-off coupon code AND a free giveaway! I'll do the giveaway later this week in its own separate post, but if you just want to buy it now, here's how:
  1. Go to http://www.mymemories.com/digital_scrapbooking_software 
  2. Click on Add to Cart.
  3. Enter the Promotional Code STMMMS56332 in the PRomotional Code field on the shopping cart page
  4. Finish the checkout. To download the software, go to http://www.mymemories.com/my_accounts/downloads and click on the link to download the software. Your product key will also be displayed on that page (you'll need it for installation).
Let me know what you think, and show me what you create! I'm excited to see what you come up with as well. 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Holiday Trinity: Holiday 2, Turkey Day Prep!

So Halloween has come and gone. I'll admit, it's the least important of the Holiday Trinity for me. I like it, and as I've gotten older I've circled around to being MORE into it than I used to be, but it still pales in comparison for me to Turkey Day and Xmas!

Turkey Day is the middle child, unfortunately, when it comes to my excitement. Like Halloween, my excitement for it is growing as I'm getting older, but that's because I'm more involved in it now. Growing up, it was just a day where I feasted on Southern-style Thanksgiving foods made by my step-grandma, and we hung out watching basketball and movies. THAT'S IT. Boring, but delicious.

A few years ago, as my mother-in-law's work schedule started requiring her to work holidays, I offered to take over Thanksgiving, and we have it on the Saturday after. This benefits me nicely, in that I get to actually enjoy Thanksgiving the way I did growing up (yes, it can be boring, but it's also DELICIOUS), and yet I still get to host and cook the meal on my own! I've blathered about this before, so I won't repeat myself, other than to say that I'm aiming to extend the guest list this year. 3rd time's the charm, and the last 2 have been successful enough that I'm comfortable offering for my parents, siblings and their mom, and my cousins who live in town to join us this year. =)

I'm also going to work on more decorations this year. I bought the makings of a Autumnal wreath for the door at the Dollar Tree, and busted out my glue gun! For $6 and a podcast of "This American Life", I made this:

I considered making a tutorial, but honestly, there's not much TO this. I wrapped the ribbon around the wreath, then tied a knot and glued the knot to the wood. The pumpkin pieces were pre-"bunched" floral picks from Dollar Tree - all I did was bend the wire stems to wedge them in, and once I liked where I placed them, I used a glue gun to secure them. Then I picked some leaves from a bigger bunch of autumn leaves and filled in gaps where I saw fit.

Some tips for first-timers (in lieu of a step-by-step tutorial):
  • Fake flowers/plants are usually detachable and interchangeable - the second picture (which you'll notice is slightly different from the first one) shows me taking the "wheat" off the bunch on the left and adding it to a bunch on the right. I had an extra "wheat" and replaced another bunch that had a weird sprig-thingie on it. 
  • Use a variety of leaf shapes and colors - it's more visually interesting. Just place them around until you like how it all looks!
  • Start small and take frequent breaks to stand back and assess. This way you don't "gild the lily". I had to refrain from adding gold pinecones several times, but I'm glad I didn't use them (and I have other plans for them now, muahahahahaha).
  • Glue the pieces to the WOOD - plastic doesn't adhere well to plastic when the glue is hot, all it does is melt it. 
  • Use the individual leaves to cover areas where you can see the floral pick stems or where you could see the ribbon knot through the wreath (if you have that problem like I did). 
Other than that, it's all about individual tastes. Take it slow and enjoy the process - that's the whole fun of crafting!

I'll post my official Thanksgiving menu and plans for execution closer to the actual day, as well as my centerpiece/table decoration once I decide on it and how I plan to make it. (I'm fairly sure I know what I want!) Yay for the Winter holidays! Weather-wise, Spring is my favorite season, but the Fall/Winter holidays are my favorite time of year!


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween - doin' it my own damn way!

So I bemoaned the lack of Halloween goodness in my life last week. After I wrote it, though, I decided that rather than sit here and pout, I could figure out SOME WAY to have fun for Halloween.

Of course, I decided this on the WEDNESDAY before Halloween, so it's not like I had a ton of time. I chose to just have some friends over, cook them some fall-themed food (ever so kindly linked in the menu plan - the food was a big hit, btw!), and watch a scary movie. We invited our local "couples" friends, who were kind enough to bring some scary movies for us from which to choose.

Go figure, though, when we all voted, we ended up voting for "Clue" - which is a great movie, but not exactly scary. Hahaha, guess we're wusses! It was merely an excuse to hang out with good friends and call it "celebrating Halloween".

I didn't decorate the house, but I DID decorate myself!
My nails! I painted them myself! (Except for the heart & crossbones, that's a sticker. I'm not THAT good.)

Whipped up a quick ribbon brooch in Halloween colors!

I also wore my orange-and-black Swarovski crystal earrings that I made for when we go to SF Giants games (who have the same colors as Halloween, luckily), and a brown top. So I felt Halloween-y, even if I wasn't wearing a costume. So it wasn't a GREAT Halloween, but now at least I feel like I HAD a Halloween!

However, I'm saying it now: I'm having a party next year, come hell or high-water. I want to dress up! I had, like, a MILLION great costume ideas this year and no reason to buy/make/wear them! =(


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