Category: Uncategorized

IF: Tales and Legends

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This is from January last year . It was the first time in years that I had tried painting. I was stuck in bed with nothing to do (no tv and out of books) until a friend brought over a full set of tube watercolors, lap easel, and paper that she had bought for herself before she got into photography. It is based on the sketch below was from a month or so before–capturing my Essie engrossed in a book. I am still not happy with the dragon but oh well–it fits the theme well. 🙂

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For more Illustration Fridays visit http://illustrationfriday.com . There are some brilliant artists over there.

11 years

Today my husband and I have been married for 11 years. It is amazing how quickly it has gone and how much closer we are now than we were then. God is good.

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Sunday we are going to attempt to see a movie and go out to eat (we got a gift card for each for Christmas and my mom and step-dad are taking the kids sled riding and feeding them.)

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BTW–if you click over to his site you will see our wedding picture (he is ever so much handsomer now than when I married him.  Actually he is just taking better care of himself.   He is an awesome guy and a super genius to boot. :))

IF: Plain

Thanks to Mike Leonen I am joining in on Illustration Friday this week. (I do feel a bit out of my league but decided to use this to push me beyond my usual style. In other words this is just for fun and maybe it will get me out of my rut. :)) So, this is not my usual more realistic style nor are these my normal materials—my mom got me these watercolor pencils and paper for Christmas (I usually use tube watercolor paints or oils and block watercolor paper.) It was fun and let me play a bit which is something I don’t normally do–I am too serious when painting. And so, without more ado, my interpretation of this week’s theme:

A plain apple in a plain tree with a plain sky on a plain hill.

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A Day in the Life 6: The Snow Fort

It is still a work in progress. The kids have been working on it over the last few, very cold days. Today it was warmer but we got lots of snow–now Rachel is out there building it up more so she can add a sled roof.

The hobbit-like door was pretty cute and now everything is covered in a carpet of white. (These pictures were taken yesterday when it was 7 degrees outside. Brr.)

Pagerank, SEO , and other bits of Geekiness

Since I just spent the past week setting up this new site I figured I would make sure I optimized it in the process. This meant a little research. I go in spurts when it comes to what interests me and this week I was on a technology spur–updating my understanding of Page Rank, Sitemaps, and SEO. Things have changed a bit since I started doing this and sometimes it is hard to keep up. I found some information that will not only benefit those who have websites through me but anyone who has heard these terms being thrown around. (For those who have websites through Elasah.com–in the next week I will be optimizing your sites for search engines–yeah!)

First, I am sure most of you have read here and there about page rank and SEO, and while some are all on top of this stuff and already get it others are scratching their heads.

First, what is Page Rank?

Page Rank is Google’s way of determining how important a website is on the internet. (You can check yours here.)

I found a very detailed, mathematical explanation of how Google’s page rank works here. Very cool but a bit too much explanation. Basically it is a way for Google’s spiders, without having to actually understand the page, to look at all the links in and out and in between and decide its importance based on this information.

This is important to you (if you care about such things), much more important than those cute little movie rating or getting a great vote on Homeschool bloggers because it determines how easy you are to find by someone looking for you. It affects whether you get on the front page for different searches. This isn’t that important if you are running a small family website for fun or a personal journal type blog, it is VERY important if you are trying to make money from ads on your site, if you are trying to be a big blog/website, or if you have something to sell.

That said, getting a Sitemap and keeping it updated helps Google better index your site. Sitmaps used to be a big deal when I first started designing web pages (about 10 years ago), then they weren’t for a while, and now they are BIG. So what is a sitemap and how do you get one and submit it?

The simplest explanation of a Sitemap is here. It is a page on your website that shows the organization of your site, listing vital information like when it was last updated, it’s importance, and other useful (for search engines) information. This page has a special format that the spiders from search engines can navigate and recognize. (In order to make it accessible to humans you have to make a copy of the page in .html.)

You can create one by hand using the protocol (I wouldn’t recommend this if you are uncomfortable around code) but you can create one for free using http://www.freesitemapgenerator.com. It still takes some technical knowledge and the ability to access your ftp server but once you get it going it works pretty well. (As I said, those on my server will soon have this occur automatically since I am in the process of doing all my sites and those I serve.)

While you are waiting for it to generate you should be setting yourself up on both Google Analytics and Google Webmaster control. Once you have submitted your site to Google Webmaster control and have your sitemap finished you can submit the sitemap in the same location you submitted your website.

Another thing you can do while you are waiting is read up on what Google has to say about SEO (Search Engine Optimization. Very good advice, especially good since it is right from the source.) There is a brief and easy to comprehend overview here and the full document can be found here. If you follow these guidelines you are more likely to have a decent Pagerank which means more readers will find your page.

Finally, once you have done all that you will have time to explore the wonderful stuff available at Google Webmaster Control and Google Analytics. There are some interesting and helpful bits of information there, and enough fun bits to keep you busy for hours–for instance: Google Analytics shows you where everyone who visits your page is from, in fact–if you click on the map it will show you the states and then the cities. You will also learn what your most popular articles are, which outgoing links get the most clicks and all kinds of other fascinating things. Have fun.

Business

For those who are interested, I have a new button for my art site–as I mentioned I am pulling back from doing the web design work due to health issues and wanting to focus on my artwork, this button reflects that:

If you are interested in putting it in your sidebar let me know and I will send you the code.

Saturday Photohunt: Important

(Yes, I have moved from Gracedbychrist.com to here. Welcome to my new home.)

I had a painting that I finished just in time to share but couldn’t get a decent photo of it due to poor lighting. Sigh. Instead I decided to share a most important event of this week, and one of my daughter’s most important dates so far–her tenth birthday. Yes, my oldest is now in the double digits and on her way to becoming a young lady.

She felt it was VERY important that we make a “Hummingbird Cake” for her birthday so we bought a whole Pineapple and dried the slices so it could be decorated just as she wanted. She was very proud of her heart shaped hummingbird cake. (The recipe is here.)

It’s a Start

Things aren’t all in place here but you are very welcome. More tweaks to the theme, explanations, and posts to come. I have some stuff to add which isn’t there yet and will be doing an actual post soon.

Today was Rachel’s tenth birthday so I am still recovering from a very busy week (which will get busier before it settles down.)

A frugal recipe: Spring Rolls

When I wrote about our attempts to stay home instead of going out to eat several people requested some of our recipes. As I mentioned most of the quick stay at home recipes are really convenience foods that I have found are cheaper than making from scratch (like Aldi’s Asian Style frozen veggies with sauce) but some of the foods, though worth it to avoid going out to eat still are expensive and with our eldest’s food allergies VERY expensive to get versions she can eat. Spring Rolls are one of those foods.

Aldi’s egg/spring rolls are roughly $3.50 a package of four making them nearly the same price as those at the restaurant. Problem is that they are kind of tricky to make and if you buy the wrappers to make them yourself they are still fairly expensive. Enter the spring roll wrapper recipe. It takes some practice but Rachel LOVES making them and then you can fill them with whatever your heart desires. (These take a lot of strength to roll to the right thinness–we have yet to get them there which means they are a bit to thick–you really need a pasta roller to make them thin enough.)

We use this recipe for the wrappers although we found that you don’t really need to refrigerate it to make it work (we don’t, it is hard enough to roll as it is without having it cold.) Because we can’t get them thin enough we make a quadruple batch to make 10 egg rolls, if you can get them thinner you can make a smaller batch and make many more.

For the filling:

I had used ready made broth that Rachel can eat (Swanson organic–I think) to make some soup

because it had been yucky out. We threw a 1lb bag of regular carrots, two leeks, and an onion in the food processor to be sliced and threw that in the broth while it cooked. That was our filling. In the future I would throw in some sliced cabbage and some texturized soy protein (we don’t eat much meat but you could throw in some left over pork or chicken.)

Once everyone was done eating soup I put a strainer over a bowl and let the liquid drain out of the veggies.

We then followed the recipe for the spring roll wrappers, quadrupaling the recipe.

First we put the eggs, flour, and water in the food processor (I LOVE my Bosch), putting it on high for about 12 minutes–you want the gluten to do its work and the dough should be hard to the touch but very elastic. Once it prepared you will want to separate it into 1-2 inch balls. If you can roll it super thin or have a dough press/noodle press then go with the smaller balls. We were hand rolling and it took a lot to get them as thin as we did.

Grab a ball of dough (cover the rest because otherwise they dry out pretty quick) and smash it as flat as you can with your hands (this was Issac’s job.) I use a silicone baking mat for all rolling–it is one of the few things I have found that doesn’t make a sticky mess and require tons of flour. Once flattened roll dough out as thin as you can, flipping and rotating every few minutes. This is a great job for kids who love rolling dough–the dough is not sticky and doesn’t require tons of flour. Hold it up to the light every so often to find thicker areas. Ours were too thick –you want them to be only a little over a millimeter thick, if that.

Once you have it as thin as you want moisten the top of the wrapper then add the filling (make sure the filling is relatively dry). Cover the filling with the side closest to you, pull wrapping it tightly then fold the sides in (very similar to making a burrito) then roll it over itself until the whole thing is wrapped. It is best to have it super thin and have several layers although ours only had one layer–this makes for a thicker shell though the kids liked it as well.


Finally, fry the rolls until golden brown. It is better to deep fry them though if you rubbed oil over them you can put them in the oven. This is where a thin wrapper is best as frying a thicker wrapper means you have to cook it longer to get the inner wrapper cooked through.

Yeah it is more work to start but if you get the kids involved it is fun. Plus you can freeze a whole bunch and warm them when you are in the mood for a quick meal. We also make all kinds of perogie/calzone style dumplings along this same lines–I make a biscuit or pizza like crust (usually I just make extra dough when I am making biscuits/pie/pizza and freeze it for when I have filling ready) then add similar fillings, boil or fry them then freeze for a quick, easy to heat, and VERY filling meal.

It saves us a lot of money and if the kids are involved they learn a lot about how their favorite foods are made, not to mention how to prepare healthy alternatives to ready made junk food.

Wordless Wednesday (or look at our new play shelter!)

Cool damp weather brings out the worst in me–this week I am taking it easy as I am relying on my herbal supplements, eating right, and wisdom to keep my arthritis from having a full-fledged flair-up.

So of course I would decide to help the kids build a new shelter today, this time out of wood and tarps instead of just bungee cords and tarps. 🙂

It is comprised of an old apple tree, an old wooden climbing toy, scavenged wood, tarps, lots of bungee cords, some nails, plus an old sliding board from the climbing toy. All aspects of this shelter were scavenged, nothing was purchased for the project.


Yes, this project included hammering, and sawing, and carrying heavy things. Yes, I know those are not wise things to be doing when you are already fending off an attack of rheumatoid arthritis.

(The kids helped a lot and did a lot of the planning though I had to do the sawing and some of the carrying and hammering.)

It was well worth it. I spent the rest of the day resting and playing Animal Crossing and Harvest Moon, huddled in a pile of blankets trying to keep warm–which was nice in its own way.

I have actual work I need to do but was not up to that so just sat and rested.

The kids spent that time playing in their new shelter and discussing how the next one will be even better ( Rachel spent quite a bit of time perusing Issac’s new “The Dangerous Book for Boys” for how to build a tree house–I have a feeling that will be their next such project. :))

(This shelter is nice because it is out of the wind and when we do get snow will provide a place for the kids to get out of the elements without having to climb the hill to our house. 🙂 They can’t wait for snow!