Friday, January 27, 2012

Wizarding World Of Harry Potter, here we come.

Our plans for our surprise vacation are moving along swimmingly thus far.  We bought plane tickets and have a rental car reserved.  We're currently scanning deals for a place to stay in or around Orlando.  One of my awesome cousins (who I adore, but don't get to see nearly often enough) offered to let us stay with her for the second half of the trip.

Our flight leaves early in the morning, so we're limited in what we can do for our big reveal.  That means there won't be time for a big Harry Potter-themed scavenger hunt or anything of the sort.  

So I think what we'll do is pack the van the night before while the kids are sleeping.  Then, in the morning, get them up and tell them we need to go out.  I think I'll ask them to check the mailbox where they'll find envelopes addressed to the big three (the 2-year-old will get over the fact that she doesn't have one, I assure you).  

I spent an hour last night creating the text for the envelopes and finding playing around with fonts so that they're very similar to Hogwarts acceptance letters.  Our twin daughters will get letters explaining that this is in honor of them turning 9 and 3/4.  I even used graphics from The Graphics Fairy to design tickets to mimic the Hogwarts' Express ones (my favorite part is the bottom portion. The original ticket from the movie read "Journey subject to the rules and regulations of the Hogwarts Express Railway Corporation."  Ours says,  "Journey subject to the rules and regulations of your parents.")  

Our son will get a letter which explains his dearest wish is coming true.  
You see, the last time we got Chinese food, his fortune read, "Your dearest wish will come true."  He hung that up on the fridge and announced, "My dearest wish is to go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter."  SWEET!  So his letter works with that.  He made it easy on us.  I was wracking my brain trying to figure out what his letter would say until he made that wish.  Thanks, kid.  
This is one of his sisters' letters (identifying information has been removed): 
The geek in me must note that I'm assuming McGonagall would still be headmistress by this point.  Jo Rowling has said she wouldn't be in 2017, but I'm going to assume McGonagall would be in 2012.  And yes, I realize that the deputy headmistress/master is usually the one responsible for sending the letters, but I don't know for certain who that would be (Flitwick?  Sprout? Sprout would make sense because we know Neville takes her position in 2017, but we just don't know for sure).  So I took some creative liberty with that portion of the letter.  Let's wait and see how long it takes my middle daughter to pick up on that and argue about it.

I am SO freaking excited about this trip.  We're going to have a blast.  We've never been able to do anything like this for the kids and I can't wait until we tell them.  I've almost slipped up a few times, so I need to be careful or I'll spoil the surprise.

This will be our first ever family vacation AND we'll be able to surprise our kids with something they want so badly.  I'm so freaking excited about this.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Cancer and loss

Cancer is taking a friend of mine.

Here I am making plans for a vacation, trying to decide if I want to venture out on the snowy roads, trying to find time to write, bundling kids up to play in the snow, going about my usual routine and a friend of mine is dying.

This is not, by far, my first experience losing someone to cancer.  I've lost grandparents, cousins, aunts, even my brother to cancer.  A number of my friends have lost their mothers to various forms recently.

Still, this shakes me to the core.  Losing others doesn't diminish the loss of this soul.  I really thought she'd beat it.  She and her family have the strength, resources, and the knowledge to do anything and everything possible and they have done just that.

I'm so heartbroken and so sorry for her and her family.

Please daven (pray) for her and her family.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Pinterest: Tips & Tricks

I'm addicted to Pinterest and have been for quite a while.  It's incredibly useful for collecting links and making them accessible from any computer plus it's a fantastic way to find new ideas.  Nearly all of my recent projects, crafts, and decor have been inspired by Pinterest.

There are a few tips and tricks that not everyone seems to know and I've wanted to compile them all for some time.  So here we go.

#1.  Pin the direct link.  I've seen this rule broken time and time again and it makes it impossible to find the project, image, or link pinned.  For the love of all that is holy, do NOT pin the entire freaking blog.

The easiest way to do this is to click the title of the post.  For instance, if you wanted to pin my Lumos canvas, you don't want to pin  You also don't want to search "canvas" and then pin the search result page.  Nor do you want to click a photo and pin just that.  Click on the title and pin the direct link.  At the bottom of most blog post, you'll find the date and/or time or a link title, "Trackback."  Clicking any of those will bring you to the blog post.  Pin from there.

On Tumblr, it depends on the layout.  On some layouts, you can click the date/time on top of the post and that will take you to a direct link.  If that's not there,  look towards the bottom of that particular post.  You'll see "Notes."  That will take you to a direct link.  Click that and then pin from there.

For some reason, certain Tumblr accounts won't pin.  I don't know why this is, but I found a way around it.  Go to "Notes," and click one of the others who reblogged it.  Click their link and it will open up a new blog, but the same graphic post. Try pinning from there.  That usually works.

If you Google an image, please click the link to go to the website or directly to the image (it may be necessary to follow the steps already mentioned to get a direct link).  Please don't pin the Google Image results.  Click through to the link and pin there.

#2.  When repinning, please change the text to something suitable and accurate.  In some cases, you can leave what others have written.  For instance, if you repin a recipe and someone used the title of the recipe in the description, you go right ahead and keep that.  If, however, someone has a personal note on that photo, please don't just repin with the exact same personal note.

This can cause confusion for everyone.

One of the great features of Pinterest is that you have the ability to search a ton of creative ideas.  That search, though, relies on accurate descriptions.  So please keep that in mind when you pin.

#3.  If you highlight text within a link before you click "Pin it," that text is automatically entered in the description box.  That's an easy way to avoid problems with #2.

#4. Pinning existing links is more useful than uploading your own images.  Don't upload something unless it's not already available on the web.  User uploaded pins are a pest.  Sure, they're pretty, but they don't provide any additional information.  If you made it yourself and you don't have a blog, upload away.  If you downloaded the photo from another site, please search for it and pin the link.  Professor Google is your friend.  Finding the link (see #1) is always best.

You'll notice both images I used here were uploaded by users, so I haven't been able to accurately credit them (although I tried).

#5.  Ask for an invitation.  If you don't have a Pinterest account, don't suffer in silence.  When you request an account through, it can take quite a while before you're approved.  If a friend, who already has an account, sends you an invitation, though, you're in instantly.  An invitation is so much faster.  So post on FB asking if any of your friends can help.  Tweet about your burning desire to be part of the few, the proud, the pinning.  People WILL help you out.

#6. At least for the first few weeks that you have an account, activate your notifications so that you can see when someone repins one of your pins or follows your boards.  When you get the notification, click their name and check out their boards.  There's a good chance you'll find that they have a board you want to follow as well and/or that they've pinned something you'll want to repin.

I've found TONS of people and boards to follow this way.

It can get overwhelming once your boards become popular (you could get quite a few notifications every day), so you may want to stop then, but at least early on, it's very helpful.

#7.  If you find a pin you like, check out the "Also from" on the left side of the pin.  That shows other pins from the same domain.  If you like a recipe pinned from one blog, chances are you might like another one that shows up under the "Also from" tab.  This is another reason #1 is so important.  If you don't accurately pin a link, it may not show under the related domain.

If you want to immediately see what pins are pinnned from a specific site, you can see the results by going to

For instance, if you go here:, you can see all the pins from people who didn't follow rule #1 and pinned google results rather than a direct link.

#8. Change your boards to suit you.  Don't be afraid to create more if you need to.  Don't just limit yourself to the default titles and number of boards.  Change them to suit your needs, wants, and sense of humor.

#9.  Every once in a while, check out everyone.  By default, Pinterest shows you those you follow.  There's a whole world of pins out there that you're missing.  Along the top, it gives the option of clicking "Everyone" and then use the drop-down menu to find something that interests you (DIY & Craft is my favorite).  Then have a look around.

#10.  Categorize your boards.  I realize it isn't always possible to find one category that fits the board, but go with one that seems to fit the best.  That makes #9 easier for everyone.

#11.  If you're inspired to make/do/cook something by a pin, give credit to the original creator/blog/website.  It only takes a second to add a link in your blog post.

#12.  You can add prices and tags to your pins.  $ before an amount will show a price in the corner of the image.  # before a word creates a text tag.  If someone is following you, you can tag them in your pin to make sure they see it.  Type @ and begin to type in their user name.  If they're following you, their name will auto fill.  Just be careful with that because not everyone gets notifications about their tags.

So realize that there's a chance they won't see it.  If you @ tagged your best friend when you pinned that horribly ugly hat because it was just perfect for her, but she never commented, don't get offended.  She may have missed the tagged entirely.  Then again, maybe she did see it and she thought you were out of your ever-loving mind for assuming she'd love that leopard print disaster.

This is what I have thus far.  Anyone else?  I reserve the right to come back and add more as I think of them or as others share them.

Image from the title courtesy of The Graphics Fairy