Greener Pastures Farm - Current News

Jon kneels down to let the pregnant Cascade Farmstead ewes check him out. Visit our website to learn more about these great little low-maintenance, no-shear, meat sheep!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Scrapbooking With Taste, Part 2

If you already create pages with a scrapbook program, this may not interest you much. But if you are new to digital scrapbooking, have I got help for you!

First, you don't need to spend any money to dip your toe into the water. Digital Scrapbook Artist offers a nice scrapbooking program for free, which you can find at DaisyTrail under the Free Stuff tab near the top of the page. You can do quite a bit with this free program, called Digital Scrapbook Artist Compact; I created some really great memory pages using this program.

DSA Compact comes with a number of kits, including some Photobook kits, some with frames, and my favorite has no frames at all. Here is a quick tutorial on how to create a really great double page spread. (I almost always make double page spreads, because I like the 2 pages to look nice side by side in my photo album.)

When opening the program, click on "Choose a Theme" and click on "Photobook, No Frames." Then choose the "Photos" tab at left and upload at least a dozen photos from a particular event that you want to document. With these photos in mind, open the "Layouts" tab below the Photos tab, and choose a few layouts that you like. Pick a couple that have photos off to the side. You can always delete pages, but right now you are just messing around. Open the layout that has 3 photos on the right side of the page, with lots of open white space on the left. Delete the text, then open your Photos tab again and choose one that you'd like to see really big and close up. Drag it over the left side of the page, and then enlarge the photo using the corners to drag it until it covers your page. Don't use the sides to drag; this will distort your photo. Once the photo is big enough, use the tool on the right hand side of your screen, under "Arrange" to move the photo into the background, behind those 3 photos on the right hand side. I now have DSA2, which I received for my birthday and adore, so I don't recall if DSA Compact allows you to make your photo transparent, but sometimes this is a nice effect, and DSA2 allows me to control how much transparency, if any, to use. If you want to include a lot of text, make the photo background as transparent as necessary for easy reading of the story you are presenting.

Next, drag a photo into the top photo frame. The tool on each frame allows you to zoom in and move the photo around inside the frame so that your subject is placed how you want it. Repeat with the other 2 frames. If you haven't already done so, add some text, including the dates of the photos and you are done.

If you'd rather use a simple background instead of a photo background, click on "Add Items from Digikits" and scroll through the options. Dark backgrounds will make your photos really pop on the page.

Some really beautiful and tasteful black background papers are available for free from Cuddlebeez. She also offers a really great paper kit, called Mystical Romance, that goes beautifully with the older black and white photographs from the 50's. She has lots of free items on her site, and restraint is difficult with so much to choose from. My favorite kit from her store is Preserving The Past, which I use without all the doodads. She offers the matching Alphabet for free.

There are lots of little girl kits available, but if you are searching for a great boy kit, Been There Wrecked That is one of my favorite kits from Kelly-Jo's Scraps, and used with restraint, I can produce some really great pages without overpowering my cute kid photos. She has more free kits, and like Cuddlebeez, now has her own store, but maintains her website of free stuff.

There are a lot of artists out there making digital scrapbook items for us, for free or for sale. There are lots of programs to use these kits in. I happen to love DSA2.

Tasteful scrapbooking done easy.

And I click "Save" and keep my work on an external hard drive until we recover from this economic crisis and I can afford to get my work printed.

Scrapbooking With Taste

I learned to scrapbook with real paper and photos developed from film. I took a class and received some really good tips on layout and cropping, and the necessity to tell the story with words to accompany the photos.

I made some mistakes with really pretty paper that totally overwhelmed the photos they were intended to preserve and "frame." And I learned to love understated simplicity. I learned that my photos showed up better when there was less "stuff" on the page to distract from the photo. A background paper that was subtle and in the same color family as the background of the photo, or leaning toward black or dark green, became my preference.

A decade and a half later, I began to embrace digital scrapbooking, which works nicely with our digital cameras. I played around with all the fun backgrounds and the many "embellishments" like foliage, ribbons, bows and a multitude of stuff. I'll pat myself on the back and mention that, from the beginning of my digital scrapbooking odyssey, I stayed away from the wacky frames that have tons of the aforementioned embellishments already attached to the frame. As an artist, I know better than to use those.

After my initial euphoria with all the new "toys," I re-learned the need for simplicity. And as I read scrapbooking blogs on "how to" or "here's what I have for sale," I feel really sorry for all those folks making scrapbook pages with one tiny photo surrounded by tons of patterned paper, embellishments, ribbons and bows and other stuff, to the point that the photo is lost.

I really do appreciate all the artists out there creating papers and frames and alphabets for purchase (many offer these for free!), and I've patronized several, and applaud their efforts. However, I've communicated with several and they know they need to cater to the general public, and therefore include in their kits a lot of stuff that I don't want or need. But they do work hard on their art, and they do appreciate input from customers, and if you have an idea or a request for particular patterns or colors in kits, they love to get that inspiration and make you happy, and even they will recommend that you don't have to use everything in the kit; they are just trying to appeal to the masses.

Tips on scrapbooking with taste:

  • Frame the photo with complementary colors, or dark colors to make the photo "pop." The eye should be drawn to the photo on the page. Background means background.

  • Keep the "stuff" out. Embellishments for embellishment's sake does not make a pretty page. I like the 30 year rule. In 30 years, will you or your descendants say "Oh good grief, that was made during that awful period when people put everything but the kitchen sink on a scrapbook page, and I WISH I could see the photo instead of all that silly stuff."

  • Stick with the right era. As I begin to organize all the 50 and 100 year old photographs that I inherited, I work to make sure that any backgrounds, frames or fonts are in keeping with the era of the photo, not the era of now.

  • Instead of using somebody else's photo for a background, use your own! That anonymous photo not only may confuse your future audience (where was that taken?), but it means nothing to your family, friends, descendants.

  • Journaling. Tell the story. What good are these photos in 30 or 50 years if nobody knows who is in them or what they were doing or where they were taken?

I just finished creating photo pages for my son's graduation ceremony. He's limited to 5 photos, which will be shown on a large projection screen during his part of the ceremony. I made every page count, and used some of our own photos for backgrounds, placing smaller photos over the less important areas. Simple, tasteful, and packed with memories. Yes, I did use a digital scrapbook kit for the last 2 pages, the pages in which he's a young man and wanted to look cool. But it was no frills, no doo-dads, and when he admired an embellishment in the kit (cool pocket watch, Mom, put that in!), I responded with "Let's take a photo of YOUR pocket watch; that will be much more meaningful... you will recognize it, your friends and classmates will recognize it, and we'll keep this real."

And we did. And he loves it. It looks really cool. Tasteful, too.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

DVDs by Mail

We live frugally. And we have been living even more frugally in the last year or so. No cell phone, no tv, cable or otherwise, no movies in theater, no dining out in restaurants, no vacations.


Netflix was the very last indulgence/luxury item we kept while we are trying to ride out the current economy.

So when a month went by without receipt of the movie that my hard-working, doesn't-ask-for-much husband really wanted to see, I was getting annoyed. When several months went by without receipt of this movie, I got mad. I called Netflix. The first person I spoke to was polite, but unhelpful. The supervisor was slick, accusatory ("I've been waiting for this movie for 2 months, too. Should I put YOU at the top of the list?") and unhelpful. I called the owner of Netflix (Reed Hasting, phone: 408-540-3700) and received no response.

After doing a bit of research online, I discovered that there have been a number of complaints since December about this very thing; Netflix members are waiting months for newly released movies. I was going to add a link to this, but there are so many websites mentioning this current problem, I couldn't decide which to add. Search "netflix complaints" to find plenty.

So I looked for an alternative. One of the companies that received good reviews was Blockbuster Online, and the prices are comparable, with the one disadvantage of no streaming movies for free. But the reports were that they ship newly released movies. I called Blockbuster and asked if the movie my husband wanted to see was in stock, and if I joined, would it be shipped. Yes, it was, and yes it will. I signed up for the free trial yesterday afternoon, and the movie was shipped this morning. Good service. All the other new releases, which have a very long wait at Netflix according to my Queue, are available now through Blockbuster's DVD by mail division.

One of the things I really like about Blockbuster is the feature that allows me to see what movies have been released this week, what movies were released last week, what movies will be released next week. With Netflix, we had to go to the IMDB website to see what is currently being released, because that information was not available at the Netflix website.

Bottom line: Netflix is great for obscure movies and tv shows; they have a huge inventory, and if you need to rent something out of the ordinary for the kid's high school research project, Netflix is a great tool. And they have a rotating library of movies to watch online for free. But if you want to see current movies when they are released, Blockbuster is the way to go.

I told the Netflix supervisor that if they didn't resolve my complaint, I was going public. He didn't, and I did.

Post Script
I received a phone call from one of Mr. Hasting's assistants seven (7) days after my complaint. She seemed sincere, and expressed plans for improvement at Netflix. In the meantime, we received currently released movies from Blockbuster one day after ordering them.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Greenest City in the USA... Again!

Portland-Vancouver-Beaverton area ranks number one, again, as the greenest city in the United States.

I can't argue with that. I love green, and I love living here.

On a different note of green, our pastures are lushly green at the moment, which the sheep are enjoying. Only another month until lambs, and I can hardly wait!