Friday, September 30, 2011

Easy Blog Banner

Have you used the free photo editor tools at FotoFlexer?

It's a lot like Photoshop but completely free and more user-friendly. You can upload pictures from your computer or through Flickr, Picasa, the web, etc. and then edit them.

One of the funnest tools they have is EV Collage and it makes it really easy to do a banner for your blog.

So, to make a web banner (ahem, Sis), go to the link above and click on "Upload Photos" then follow the guide to upload from Facebook, your computer, etc.

Under the Basic tab there is an EZ Collage button. Click on this and then click "don't save."

Choose the layout like 1 x 3 square (or whatever one you want). Basically, you are making all your pictures into one big picture that will be saved and then posted on your blog.

You can change the background color, spacing between photos and proportions.

Load each photo

Then you can click on the customize tab at the top to further edit. If you're happy with it as is, click save.

To type text over your photos, click the decorate tab. You can play with the size, font, background (I like transparent), etc. You can change the dimensions of the text box by clicking and dragging the little blue squares around. You can move the it around your photo by clicking in the center and dragging it to the desired location.

Fun tip: If want to smooth away blemishes and wrinkles, try the beautify tab. Also, the sharpen tab under the beautify tab makes your edges look more defined. And the animations tab is pretty fun as well (add the little butterfly like the Pioneer Woman)!

Once the photo is saved (as a jpeg) on your computer, go to your blog. For Blogger you go to: Layout, Header, Image from your computer, upload banner, then click "instead of title and description" under placement. You can use the resize tab in FotoFlexer to change the size to make it fit your blog. Make sure to have the "Keep Proportions" box checked.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment and I'll try to help!

Happy Blogging!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

3,650 Days

I wonder what these goofy girls were so excited about exactly 10 years ago?

Was it because it was Friday? Or Magnolia Heights Homecoming game was that night? Or was it because I was rocking Sis' wallabees and she was too-cool in her jeans with faux zebra and my Birkenstocks? Maybe Margaret had a new haircut? And Sarah had a date to the Homecoming Dance? Who knows.

All I know for sure about that night is a few hours later I met this guy:

Later on that weekend I learned:

1) His name was not Brian Poke

2) We went to Kiddie Kollege together

3) My friends at his school thought he was a really nice guy who did gentlemenly things like open doors

Four years later on the day he proposed in Memphis:

And 3,650 days later we plan to celebrate our 10th meeting anniversary with a 2001-styled date: supper Chick-fil-a and a movie at Malco. And then kick a few loops between McDonalds and Sonic (probably just one loop since there's not a Sonic close to our house!) just for the hell of it.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Roadtrip to Trinidad

Saturday morning Net and I took a little road trip to Tallulah, Louisiana where she grew up in Madison Parish. I love learning about her childhood - they didn't have a telephone, generated their own electricity from Delco batteries kept in the "lighthouse" attached to a garage and she regularly rode her horse down to the cotton gin a few miles away.

To get to Trinidad you go south of Tallulah about six miles and then turn left at Turntable (you'll see the Tallulah Country Club on your right) and go another six miles or so. After you pass the gin, there's a big curve and that's the start of Trinidad. The house where Net and her sisters grew up was built before the War.

Net says that her daddy and Mr. Young ruined the house - apparently it used to face the bayou and they added a porch that went across the front (formerly the back) so it would face the road.

Net is pretty sure that's the same mailbox - it was extra large to be able to hold packages!

The live oaks in the yard and along the driveway were planted by Mammy. There was also lots of rock plant closer to the house that we think is still around from Mammy's time here.

Granddaddy Buford first bought hunting land, known as Lost Ball, outside of Trinidad before he and Mammy married. Then at some point, he and two other men, bought Trinidad (meaning three in one) as a Spanish Land Grant. He farmed until it was time for Net, the youngest, to go to college. Then he and Mammy built a house on his family's land in College Hill and they sent Net to Ole Miss. Where she met Granddaddy and the rest is history!

We couldn't have had a more beautiful day for our drive - it was a perfect day for cotton picking!

The cotton fields were so white it looked like snow. You really needed sunglasses on because of the glare!

Unloading cotton into a module builder.

Packing it into the module builder.

Cotton module. Ready to be shipped to the gin.

We ate lunch in Vicksburg at Rusty's and ordered the special - crab po-boy with cheese grits. It was fabulous!

The bridge at Vicksburg.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chuck Cookies

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chuck Cookies 

Dry Ingredients:
2 cups brown rice flour
1/4 cup cornstarch (gluten-free)
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp xantham gum
1/2 tsp salt

Wet Ingredients:
1 cup shortening
1 cup blue agave
2 eggs
1/4 cup sunflower oil
1 tsp vanilla

The good stuff:
1 dark chocolate candy bar, broken up into chucks
1/3 cup almonds

Whisk dry ingredients in a small bowl.

Cream the shortening and agave in a large bowl.
Then add sunflower oil, eggs and vanilla. Beat to mix well.
Slowly beat in dry ingredients.
Stir in chocolate chunks and almonds, if desired.

Place by tablespoon full on baking sheet lined with parchmen paper.

Let sit for 30 minutes and then bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack.

I'm not very knowledgable on gluten-free eating and cooking, but I have found this information helpful: If you're in the Jackson area check out Rainbow Grocery for gluten-free brown rice flour. You can buy just as much as you need (two cups for these cookies). I bought the xantham gum at Whole Foods in Memphis and the agave (a sugar replacer) at Fresh Market in Ridgeland. Gluten is what binds flour together and so the xantham gum takes the place of gluten found in most wheat-based products. Agave is a syrup like substance closely related to molassas that is about 25% sweeter than sugar but has a lower GI (glycemic index) because it releases more slowly into the body eliminating a "sugar high" feeling. But don't quote me on any of this!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Ski Mississippi

Net and I went to Tallulah, Louisiana yesterday to wander around her childhood haunts. We decided it would be more fun to take the highway than the interstate. Along the way our "highway" dead ended about five times. But, we did get to see some beautiful cotton fields.

And this:

Always reminds me of this:

Saturday, September 24, 2011

10 Months of Photographs

I took a vacation day on Friday to get caught up on the house, spend some time with Doc (the first week of tests just ended!) and get ready for Net's weekend visit. One of my little projects was to clean off my camera card. Most of my pictures are on Flickr, but I'm always paranoid they'll somehow get deleted by the guy who runs the World Wide Web. So, to make myself feel better, I also back them up on the computer (where I'm sure my photographs are perfectly safe from hackers and viruses that wipe a hard drive clean!).

Anyhoo, it's kinda fun to look over the last couple of months!

Mom and Aunt Bonnye getting ready for the wedding!

The Givens clan at the rehearsal dinner in Baton Rouge...I'm rocking my first and last spray tan...

Pepe fit back into his Christmas sweater - thanks to our version of the Canine Biggest Loser. He won!!! Here, he is very disappointed he's not getting to try my sugar cookie dough...

Celebrated Martin's 1st New Year's - and next weekend we'll celebrate this 1st Birthday!

Elizabeth Magee was born on Feb. 20th and totally stole my heart...

Watched this precious doll baby grow up...Aunt Sis has already promised to buy her pony or two...

Made ice cream because this summer was way too hot to breathe without something cold in hand...

Celebrated our birthdays...

Took a trip to the Gulf Coast...

And then Doc started back to school and has been studying his tail off for the last six weeks. This year, his class has tests about every six weeks, one per day for a solid week. It's rough on all of us - poor Pepe has chewed a new bald spot in his tail. (Although, that could have just been because he's pretty dirty and not that he's exhibiting signs of sympathy stress).

Friday, September 23, 2011

Clothing Swap

My friend Andrea throws an annual "Clothing Swap" during a Wine & Cheese party each fall. She's a master at organizing parties and her's almost always have a fun theme.

Last year at the clothing swap, I got a little carried away and came home with just as much (or more than) I contributed. This year, I was much picker in the things I let come back home - I've worked too hard cleaning out closests to junk them up with crap!

Here's my loot from the night:

A long sleeve tee, one short sleeve tee, long button down shirt, t-shirt and two turtle dove throw pillow. I took about three skirks, two sweaters, one dress and some pants. We also bring home goods and husband clothes (but those don't really go in the choosing rounds).

So, here's how Andrea organized it:

We all took our contributions to her house before the party. The items were divided up into categories and placed in different rooms (skirts/pants/shorts, shirts/dresses/sweaters/home stuff/husband). Then we drew numbers to see what order to choose an item. Number 1 chose an item, then No. 2, then No. get the picture. At some point it makes since just to stop choosing and let everyone just divide up what's left.

The unchosen items were taken to We Will Go Ministries in Jackson. It's a ministry that reaches out to homeless people, especially to men, and they are now taking shoes, coats, blankets and sleeping bags to help Jackson's homeless get ready for the winter. E-mail me at if you'd like to donate any items to the store - it's open twice a week on North Congress Street and shoppers can pick out three items (two pants, one shirt or two shirts and one pair of pants) plus shoes, socks, etc.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

I [heart] Ikea

Have you been to an Ikea store? It is just wonderful - full of European goods that are a little on the trendy side but very, very functional. It's also a very environmentally-friendly company with a foundation that supports women's rights and children's education issues around the world. Okay, enough free PR for Ikea!

My favorite parts of the store are the display areas where they'll have a 400 square foot apartment and show how it can be fully furnished with Ikea products. There are only two stores that are relatively close to us (and by relatively I mean a six hour drive) - which is probably a good thing!

So, during my stay in Atlanta, Margaret was gracious enough to take me there - and she found a few cute things for Miss Ellie along the way!

A shelf for the kitchen

Magnetic knife thingy

New pillow for the guest bed

And a few items to get ready for E Magee's visit in just a few weeks like this cute cuddly frog

Please excuse the grainy phone pictures!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Good Reads Around the World Wide Web

I absolutely cannot believe that September is almost over and we're just two days from the first day of fall. What happened to the summer? The family reunion in June seems like forever ago, but, at the same time, it doesn't seem like it's time for blue jeans and football games.

Fun blog: A Cup of Jo and a great post earlier this week on Sleeping in Denmark about babies being left outside in prams while parents shopped or napped. It reminded me of Mama Jean's story of how mothers in Norway would leave their babies napping outside in their prams (all wrapped up) even in the dead of  winter. Two of MJ's children (who shall remain anonymous) may or may not have put snow around a sleeping baby and, of course, got in major trouble! There's a reason "they" always say preachers' kids are the worst!

Good article: Try out some of these recipes like Florida Johnnycake and Confederate Biscuits in this New York Times article "Food From North and South."

This weekend: Have a fun Sunday afternoon at Gluckstadt at the 25th Annual Germanfest at St. Joseph Catholic Church.

Eat a rippchenkraut and do the polka dance at the 25th Annual Germanfest hosted by St. Joseph Catholic Church in Gluckstadt. Music by the Die Mitternachters and MS Schwingen. You can also buy the new Parish Cookbook "Happy Village - Our Faith, Our Future" at the Country Store for $20.

Bring your lawn chairs and blankets, or make yourself comfortable on the nearest bale of hay. No coolers, no pets and no solicitations.

Witt, Katelyn and I had a blast last year.

Happy Hump Day Blogland!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Movie Review: I Don't Know How She Does It

DeeDee and I went to see "I Don't Know How She Does It" this past weekend and it's a must-see, hands down. Without giving too much away, the basic story is that Kate (played by Sarah Jessica Parker) becomes overloaded trying to "do it all" with a career she loves and a family she loves more and must make some critical life-changing decisions.

I think the question of stay-at-home mom vs. working mom is something that all women think about. For several of my friends, staying at home has been wonderful and they've loved it. For some of them, it has been right above torture but they feel like it's the best option for their family. For others, working is the only option and they seem to find a happy balance between big job and family time. Some, having part-time gigs that get them out of the house but also allow them to be mom during the day is the perfect compromise.

I highly recommend the movie! Here's the trailer:

Some other food for thought:

My journalism professor at Ole Miss,Curtis Wilkie (author of "The Fall of the House of Zeus"), had us read this essay called, "Housewife Confidential: A tribute to the old-fashioned housewife, and to Erma Bombeck, her champion and guide" by Caitlin Flanagan.

I passed it on to Mom and Net and it was interesting to hear them discuss this from the point of a working mom from the 1980s and 90s and from a 1950s and 60s housewife.

You can find it here:

Let me know what you think (especially you, Ashley!).

Monday, September 19, 2011

Weekend Phone Pictures

We celebrated DeeDee's birthday a week late with dinner on the porch at Rooster's on Friday night. Happy Birthday Dee!

Nothing like banana pudding with candles for a birthday cake!

Saturday morning DeeDee joined Pepe, Scout and me in walking in the Miriam Weems Memorial 5K Dogtrot benefiting the Animal Rescue Fund. Pepe and Scout have never been around so many dogs at once. It was easy to tell that most of the dogs there were rescues - let's just say there were some funny looking mixes there! 

There was lots of marking of territory.