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Archive for April, 2011

Two Music Shows Saturday (Fabulous Heftones)

Friday, April 29th, 2011

Morning Singing
Lansing friends: We (Brian and I, The Fabulous Heftones) are performing Saturday 4/30/2011, at Foods For Living in East Lansing (almost to Okemos) on Grand River Avenue.

Our performance is from 10a-noon. This store is across the street and just east of Coral Gables Restaurant. They are having a huge truckload sale- it should be quite a festive scene.

Dinner Serenade
Then later, from 6:30 – 8:30pm, we will be returning to our home venue, Altu’s Ethiopian Cuisine. It is at 1312 Michigan, East Lansing (east of Frandor & west of Harrison, on the north side of the road).

It would be great to sing for you, if you are in town. See you soon?

Random Hint #2 – Polishing Silver

Friday, April 29th, 2011

Here is another quick tip out of nowhere:
Toothpaste is a good, nontoxic silver polish. I love sterling silver jewelry, and when I want to wear some earrings I’ve ignored for a while, toothpaste is right there and easy to use.
Just wet the silver item, and put a little toothpaste on a finger or a cotton rag. Rub gently, rinse and dry. Easy!
Perhaps finer silver needs a finer grit than this, but it’s great for everyday jewelry. Go to it and shine!!!

Image added May 1: handcrafted earrings I purchased in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in early 2005. First one unpolished, second one shiny from a quick rub with toothpaste.

SG3xpress for WordPress Blog Tour!

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

I feel very lucky. Recently I’ve been gifted with several opportunities and products, which sort of “fell from the sky” into my life.

I’ve wanted to update the look and function of my weblog for a long while. I’ve had the blog since November 2002, and it has had only two “looks.” The last time I spent any time on the site itself was in late 2007 when I put up my shopping cart. I’m still not in love with that, but it took SO much work to set up I’ve been living with it.

My blog, though, is the page where more people visit me than any other. I want it to reflect my energy, and I think it does not express that as fully as it could.

I first accessed the web back when some web browsers could not display images at all. At the time, America Online/AOL was one of the most popular ways for folks to get online. The AOL system could only show .GIF formatted images. It could not show (what are now standard) .JPG/.JPEG images, and there was no hope for the newer-technology .PNG images most computers easily display these days.

In 1995, I was one of the few women I knew who was using the internet. In my day job, I was training corporate students to surf the internet and use email, which were very new subjects in a business setting. I had to write some of my own materials to teach the classes.

My first web page came about when Brian and I went on a trip to Mexico. I started to write a letter to friends about the trip.

The letter came out to 20 pages. This was too much for a paper letter, too much even for an article in a magazine, and not long enough for a book.

I was stumped as to how to share my story. Brian suggested I break it into chunks and put up a Mexican Travelogue web page (he was already making web pages at that time).

The below photo was part of that first web page. It is a .GIF image, saved in all capital letters on my Windows 3.1 computer because it could not save any other way. (The person at right, white shirt  and hat, is Brian halfway up the main pyramid at Chichen Itza. This pyramid is no longer open to climbing, and we were lucky to both climb to the top that day. Interesting note, the line up the middle of the stairs is a metal chain which one could use as a support/handrail.)

Making a web page at that time really required coding HTML from scratch. Word for Windows said they had a feature which would save documents as web pages. I knew Word very well. I tried the feature and it was sadly lacking. I knuckled down and learned to program in HTML.

Fast forward to 2002. I started my first blog in one software program, and several years later I switched over to WordPress to handle the complex coding needed for archives, searches and the like.

WordPress uses templates coded in something called CSS which is something somewhat related to HTML but much more complex. I clunked around in it, making changes and looking at what changed after I tweaked. I found a look I could live with and never touched it again.

Then online/knitting friend Donna Druchunas (author of Arctic Lace) asked if I wanted to be a test site for the new SiteGrinder Express product she works with. This program lets you set up a multi-layered Photoshop document which then is converted into a WordPress template (which makes the site look pretty and navigate well). SiteGrinder Express installs as a plugin for PhotoShop, an easy process.

I’ve been using PhotoShop since version 3, which I am pretty sure I ran in Windows 95. At first I used it for simple web photos, but in recent years I make multi-layered image documents for advertisements and the like. One of my recent efforts was this ad for my new Colorama Crescent Shawl. (I ended up using another image for the actual paid placement.)

I have had an intense over-scheduled month or two and am now very excited to have time to learn this product. I’m excited by the possibilities for the blog area of my site.

I asked Donna to write a bit about what the SiteGrinder Express PhotoShop plugin product could do for others who have WordPress blogs. I’m happy to share her input here today.

Hi Lynn, thanks so much for being part of the virtual roadshow to celebrate the release of the SG3xpress Photoshop plugin from Media Lab.

We’re very excited to have this new product that can convert files PSD to WordPress themes, and even to stand-alone blogs, from inside of Photoshop. Since I know your blog is not about technology, but about artful living, I’m going to take this opportunity to present a very basic introduction to SG3xpress. There are so many creative people who blog! Fiber artists, designers, writers, painters, illustrators, musicians — you name it.

Those of us who are creative just have a drive to share what we create with the world. And many of us use our blogs to do that. But I know that many right-brain oriented artists feel uncomfortable getting into the left-brain logical side of creating a website or blog. We may have lots of fun coming up with beautiful designs in our sketchpads and even in Photoshop, but when it comes to writing code to move our creations over into the world of technology, we’d probably rather be doing our taxes.

The whole purpose of SG3xpress is to allow artists and designers to do almost all of the work of creating a website in Photoshop. The grunt work is done by our software product, and you just use the way you name and group your layers in Photoshop to tell SG3xpress which layers are buttons, menus, blog posts, and so forth.

Let’s take a look inside a Photoshop file and see how it’s set up, starting from the bottom of the layers list.

See that layer called “browser-background”? Guess what that is? You’ve got it, the page background for the blog webpage in the browser. It’s got Layer Style of a Pattern Overlay applied to it that creates the tiled dark-grey wood-grain background that you see (click for larger image).

The next layer is called “this-quickblog”. Guess what this is? it’s the layer that creates the whole blog, including the posts, comments, next and previous post links, the add-comment form, and so on. Although SG3xpress lets you build a blog element by element, using the quickblog layer is much easier.

You just create a new layer, make a colored rectangle in it, and add “-quickblog” to the end of the layer’s name. The color you put in this rectangle won’t show up on your blog. It just shows you where the blog posts will be on the web page. You can customize the color of the posts, and even add borders and shadows, later on in SG3xpress.

Next up are two layers called “title divider” and “blog title-text”. The title divider is an image layer that has the white line below the blog’s title. This layer will be made into a JPG, GIF, or PNG file by SG3xpress. The title itself is a type layer. Because it has “-text” at the end of the layer name, SG3xpress knows that this layer will be text in the web browser, not a JPG, GIF, or PNG file.

Above the blog title layers, you’ll see a layer group called sidebar stuff. Inside this group are a couple of graphics lines and these layers, which will be used by WordPress:

“this-wp-sidebar” tells WordPress where the blog sidebar will be on the page
“this-wp-widget” tells WordPress how to design the widgets such as the calendar, search box, and so forth, that you can set up for every WordPress blog
“widg-title-blogdata” sets the font for the widget titles in the WordPress theme
“widg-con-blogdata” sets the font for the widget content in the theme

Next up are two layer groups with “-button” at the end of the layer names. Guess what? These will be buttons with links! A button can be made out of a single image layer, a single type layer, or several different layers combined together into one Photoshop layer group.

The two top layers in the Photoshop layers palette are called “Menu 1-menutree-wp” and “top-menutre-wp”. I bet by now you can guess what these do. They set the style for the WordPress menu tree. The layer called “top-menutree-wp” sets the style for the menu items that will go across the page. “Menu 1-menutree-wp” sets the style for the submenus. Because the beginning of the name matches one of the text items in the top menu, this submenu will be used in conjunction with the top menu for the blog.

I hope that gives you a good idea about what it takes to design your blog or WordPress theme inside Photoshop. It almost all comes down to how you name your layers, something that almost every Photoshop user knows how to do.

There are a few more steps, and you can watch some videos about the rest of the process on our website , and follow along on our blog to learn more during the rest of our roadshow. Here’s an overview:

1) Select File > Automate > SiteGrinder 3 from Photoshop’s menu. SiteGrinder will open and the first thing you’ll see is a report where SiteGrinder will let you know if it found any mistakes in the way you’ve named or grouped your layers. Isn’t that nice? It’s one of my favorite parts of the process because I don’t have to build the blog and then find out I made a mistake. (It’s kind of like having someone make a gauge swatch for you.)

2) Build the page(s) in SiteGrinder. This opens up a web browser so you can see what your page will look like. Here you can make selections from menus to customize the CSS styles for your blog, such as changing the color of links when you click on them, and so forth.

3) Deploy your WordPress theme. This saves the finished files to your hard drive and you’re ready to install them into WordPress.

That’s it. On our next roadshow stop we’ll look into these later steps in more detail, so follow along on our blog so you don’t miss anything. I hope you found this interesting and informative. Thanks again for being a part of our roadshow!

Media Lab, Donna
aka Donna Druchunas
Author of Successful Lace Knitting and other knitting books

I have been clunking around in SiteGrinder for about a week. I have a bit of an idea of where I want to go, and am doing a learning curve on the specific features of SiteGrinder. I think this is going to be fun, but there is no escaping the learning phase of anything.

The part I realize now, is that one must first have a clear idea of what they want something to look like before one can begin. Funny how that goes!

Side note: I had to update my version of WordPress (my blogging program) in order to make SiteGrinder work. In the process, I’ve added a few new functions to the blog already. The new comment system allows you to have a conversation with other commenters. If you don’t want to register for a new username/password for the Disqus comment system, you can just be a Guest.

I’ve decided that now I have a little of an idea of the new “look” I’m going for in my pages, I’m going to do an intermediate change. While plugging around in SiteGrinder I made a “header” image for my site which feels more like the LynnH I know to be me. I’m going to plug in that top image for now, just changing one inch of the top of all of my pages.

Here is the “before” version of my header image:

Here is what I think the top of the blog will look like soon, while I work on a complete SiteGrinder update (I am still working on the text colors, working on readability):

Meanwhile, I’m tooling around in this clever SiteGrinder Express program. I want to see what I can do to make the whole site look more like what you might find here. I also aim to make it more comfortable for you to navigate around the site.

Here is what my PhotoShop screen looks like right now:

I am a long way from done. I need to be sure you can read the words I write, so I’m considering a white column where the dark purple one is, with the same purple text I use now. I’m learning how to make the menus work properly. I expect it will look a good deal different than this when it actually functions on my site.

I am having fun with the ideas in my head. Of course, finding out how to make them play out in real life is a constant learning curve for an artist, no matter if it’s knitting a sweater or working in a new computer system.

I’ll come back with a wrap up when I get things tucked into bed properly. Stay tuned!

Earth Day Music at Foods for Living

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

Quick Earth Day Event announcement for folks in the Greater Lansing (MI) area:

We (Brian and I, The Fabulous Heftones) are performing today, Friday 4/22/2011, at Foods For Living in East Lansing (almost to Okemos) on Grand River Avenue.

Our performance is from 2-4pm. (I believe there will be other musicians there after us.) This store is across the street and just east of Coral Gables Restaurant. Park Lake Road dead-ends into their parking lot.

This healthy-food grocery store is employee owned and well run with great merchandise. We love to shop there, we love to sing there. It’s all good, and we are thrilled to be back. It promises to be a bustling place for Earth Day!

There is no cover, just shop and listen. It’s not a concert venue, more of a thank you to their customers. We would like to thank Jason for asking us to return. Fun!!!

Purple House Happiness!

Monday, April 18th, 2011

I collect photos of purple houses. Here is a Victorian I found in Laingsburg, northeast of Lansing. It’s a lovely community, and this house is a real beauty.

In Mid-Michigan, the grass is green and we have a few bulbs pushing up and blooming. Our side yard has many violets which were blooming happily on Sunday.

Monday/today? Enough snow that in the morning one could not see the grass underneath. Luckily, it’s melting well. I’ve seen a few flurries, very light snow, on my travels today.

What to Cut?

In unrelated news, I’ve had two people I respect deeply ask me the same question in the last week. They want to know what I can possibly stop doing, remove from my over-busy life. I know they are right to ask.

Last year I was not quite busy enough (due to an inability to speak/teach much), so I cleaned house/decluttered for a few months. Now I’m faced with too much to do.

My main problem with this question is that I really like my current life. Nothing is obviously out of place in my schedule.

There was a time when I said yes to requests I did not want to pursue. I’ve stopped doing that. I think when I started only saying yes to things I wanted to do, I somehow thought I could do everything I truly wanted to say yes to.

Not. Passionate people always love more things than they can fit into one life, at least at one time. One must drop one obligation to pick up another. It just is.

Again, Again…

Every six months or so, I come up against this same truth. I love so many things, that I can not do them all. I say yes, and yes, and more yes. I only say yes to things that feel right to me.

I have good people in my life. I have good work. I have many, many things I love to do. However, one can only put so many drops of water into one teacup. I may not be overflowing but it’s very close.

Bonus Years

I’m 52, and my dad died at 40. I really do feel I am in “the gravy years” now. I’ve had a dozen more years than my Daddio.

However, cramming too much into a day means I skip sleep or meals or run late on obligations. Must. Stop.

Meanwhile I think of you often. The blog stays, don’t worry.


Spring finally Sprung?

Saturday, April 9th, 2011


Usually in Lansing, we get some early-spring flowers blooming in March. This year I saw a few very sickly violets, but I could only see them if I went looking in my yard. They were not hardy enough to be seen from the sidewalk.


The first day I saw proper spring flowers was last Thursday, April 7. This is a few weeks later than usual. We were starving for spring color here, or at least a few of us were.


Friend Cynthia and I went for a walk around Old Town Lansing and on the River Trail Thursday. I took all these photos on that walk (except for the final one which is my own south yard).


You can see that things are not yet fully “popped” out, and the grass is still mostly dormant in many places. However, the first few glimpses of growth are a source of joy for me. I hope these images give you a smile, as well.


Tomorrow/Sunday, we expect summer-warm temperatures along with thunderstorms. I am determined to put on one of my African dresses/caftans, hang up my hammock, and sit on the porch drinking tea… for at least a bit of that time. Thunderstorms or not, the first porch day of the year is a very big deal to me. Bring it on!

Still Life(?) with Strawberry

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011


Why? Because it made me smile.

That’s all.

Random Tip #1: Cutting Hot Brownies/Food Category

Saturday, April 2nd, 2011

I keep realizing I know cool hints that other folks might like to know, too. This seems frivolous, but I keep coming back to the idea.

Hints/tips don’t need photos most of the time. Maybe this will help me post more regularly for you. Let me know how you like the idea, OK?

First tip on ColorJoy:

Cutting Brownies while Still Hot

If you need to cut brownies or other sticky baked goods before they have a chance to cool off, use a plastic knife. Brian theorizes that the plastic does not heat through as quickly as metal, and one must admit that plastic knives are more slippery than most metal knives.

It helps to let them cool a little bit, but you do not need to wait as long as usual. This tip has made my life more pleasant on brownie-baking days. Today my 6-year-old friend (Fairy Goddaughter) Isabel and I made brownies together. I used this tip to get our treats sooner than normal. You can imagine that the child was delighted.

Thanks to friend Cynthia for sharing this one. She learned it from someone at a potluck once and shared it with me. This is the best sort of folk art, don’t you think?