Thursday, July 26, 2012

Free Fun Friday

I thought I would bring a feature I used to do quite often here on the old bloggity blog: Free Fun Friday. It's just a way for me to share things I come across that are good, clean (and free) fun. This week I wanted to pass along a few apps that are wasting a good chunk of my time lately:

I am going on the record to say that Draw Something is the new Words With Friends. I have a whole bunch of games going with my FB friends. It's like pictionary, with more pop culture. And hilarious...you try drawing Justin Bieber with a tiny iPod screen and your fat finger?

Availible in free or paid ad-free versions.

Viggle is a way to reward your inner couch potato. You get points for watching TV...news, reality shows, everything! I am currently on my way to earning a Royal Carribean cruise..only one million points ; ). It is very easy to set up and use. Sometimes you have to get very close to the TV to allow it to hear what you are watching, and you have to remember to check in,

Snapster is a new free photography app I've seen people using. They add the filters before they post them in Instagram. It has a really good interface, with tons of refining options. 

p.s. Speaking of Instagram-I have recently found Instaframe and Instacollage that you can use along with it. I am excited to play with those soon! 
I have only used it once or twice, it has a little learning curve, but hopefully over the weekend I'll have a few pictures to work on.


Oh Word Collapse.....I love you and hate you-all at the same time. See, here's the thing: the app is free and comes with about 500 puzzles to solve. But, I LOVE word puzzles so when I solved them all (which took me about two weeks), I wanted more!! That's where the hate goes in. You are welcome to buy more puzzles for $.99 a pop. Cheap, right? I am embarrassed to tell you how much I have spent on this "free" app. Pitiful. Another sneaky "free game that has more than enough of my money? 7 Little Words. I love it-too too much.

So, there you go-a little free fun for your weekend! Around these parts it has been crazy hot. If I can't find a pool, I might try to get out early and take some pictures. I have been dying to do a little photo walk. Or, I might stay in all day cooling myself with bowls of frozen yogurt.....we'll see.

Later,

Michelle

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Pinwheel & Wood Paintings

Hello there,

Having a nice weekend I hope? I am currently in Illinois hanging out with a few of my favorite peeps, so my weekend has been pretty great. I wanted to share two more projects I got into while I was off from work. Both used techniques that were new to me and took a little longer than expected. However, I love the way they both turned out.
{Wood Painting}


I saw this project on Elise Blaha's blog ( you may notice a trend here ; ) ) and I have always loved this quote. I needed something to hang on the wall that was a little longer than normal to cover an unfortunately placed electrical box. I bought a piece of plywood at Home Depot and they cut it into the right size for me!

 
1. I covered most of the plywood with white paint. I didn't worry about the edges because I was going to paint them black.
 
2. I tried to find old letter stickers to use, but I didn't have any that were large enough so I decided to cut my letters from vinyl using my Silohuette Machine. You could also hand cut letters, I think that would be kind of cool!
 
3. I finally had to draw lines to keep my letters straight.....it was driving me crazy. Using Elise's suggestion I did a light coat of white over the letters to create a seal. Then I paint over the whole sha-bang with two coats of black acrylic.

4. I let the paint dry then used an exacto knife to pry up the letters. Tht was easier said then done. I ended up fix a bunch of scraps, etc with a small brush.
 
Not sure if you see it in the picture, but the plywood gives it a cool texture. I really love the way this looks hanging in my kitchen.

{Pinwheel Painting}
Again, I was inspired by a project on her blog. I love love love hers, mine....I like it ok. I'm not sure why, maybe there is too much black in mine? I might add another color (maybe green?) over one or two of the black edges.

 
I didn't take any pictures in progress, but you can check out her project for details. Basically, you do one wedge at a time, using painters tape. Super easy, event though I went back over a few wedges with a different color. This guy is now hanging in my kitchen across from his pinwheel cousin. The kitchen opens up to the living room, so the colors were pulled from there.
 

Thanks for popping in, hope I've inspired you!

Later,
Michelle
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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Framed Rainbow Print

Hey y'all!

You may remember from this post that I had three weeks off between my old job and my new one. It was wonderful-I learned that I can easily fill up my free time...I am really looking forward to retirement now! I had time to finish up a few projects that have been on the to-do list forever. I thought I would share one today- 

{Framed Rainbow print}


I saw this project that Elise Blaha did with this set of paper tapes from Target and I knew I wanted to use them somewhere. Then I saw this print from My Southern Accent on Etsy. I laughed, because this is an expression I hear all the time. It's a southern thing. People say it when the hear bad news about someone, i.e. 'I heard Tiffany got in an accident in her new car, bless her heart'. It also can be used before you having something not so nice to say, i.e. ' He is dumb as a box of rocks, bless his heart'. ; ) It's said that southern women can be mean as a snake...as long as they follow it with 'bless your heart'.

I took a few pictures along the way, but it was a pretty straight forward process.


1. Cover a piece of cardboard or cardstock with strips of tape. (trust me, it's under there).

2. Flip paper over and trim/fold over edges

3. Use letter stickers or die cuts to spell out your message ( I used old foam Thickers).

4. I used a wood veneer heart from Studio Calico to finish it off. Mat and frame. Easy peasy.

The pictures from my room turned out such a funny color, terrible lighting, but i wanted to show where I hung it in my room. 

Thanks for stopping by, I'll be back soon to share a couple more (painting projects) I finished during my 'sabbatical'

Later,

Michelle
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Thursday, July 5, 2012

When In Paris

Hello again! 

Are you in vacation picture overload yet? ; ). Thanks for coming back to see the final installment in my Europe trip series.

Have I inspired you to hop a plane to Rome or make a stop in Geneva? I hope so!

The last week of our trip we stayed in Paris. I studied French in school growing up and I've always had a fascination with the city. Of course, there is the architecture, the food, but there's also the people. I think the French get a bad wrap from us Americans. Sure, our politics are very different sometimes, but I think sometimes that is an overblown fact. Most French people are like most Americans, they have only a passing interest in international politics and many of them question their government as well. Most every French person I have ever met has been super friendly and helpful. Sure, it probably helps that I can speak a fair amount of the language, but honestly, most people we've met there spoke English. Many wanted to speak English because they wanted to practice it. 

I guess my point is.....I enjoy the city, I enjoy the people. Don't judge them until you travel there yourself. 

My first trip to the City Of Lights was more than a little stressful. We have, ahem, mechanical issues and the rough terrain got he best of us. Oh, and we stayed in a seriously flea bag hotel. My friend and I decided to return to make a better go of it. I really wanted to replace all the bad memories I had with some good ones. We took another chance on the city, and little more prepared this time. Man, am I glad we did. I have a serious crush on this country. I could have stayed another week, but, alas, I am no trust fund baby and I had to go back to work.

Until I go back, I have my memories and about a million pictures to relive my trip. Going yourself? Thinking of honeymooning there? Here's a list of a few things you may/may not know about. Just click the name to get more information.They should all be on your to-do list:


Also called the Key Bridge, The Lock Bridge (and there are versions in Rome and Serbia). This might be the most romantic place I have ever been. There's a tradition of lovers coming to the bridge with a key inscribed with both their names. They attach the lock to the bridge, and throw the key in the river. Eternal love. Sigh.....I know, I know sappy, right?
 
But really, look at that couple? That is the SWEETEST thing I ever seen. I am definitely doing this when I get married someday. Consider yourselves warned, family. 
 
 
Conveniently, the Love Lock Bridge leads you to my next pick....


 
Notre-Dame is in my heart as one of the most beautiful buildings I've ever seen. Religion aside, there is so much history in its' architecture. Add in the religious traditions and all the symbolism it has held for Catholics over the years, and it's a must see. And, it's still a working church. The first time we visited we heard part of a mass. That was really cool.

You can walk all along the perimeter and see dozens of small chapels decorated with monuments, paintings and religious artifacts. Do yourself a favor and get the audioguide. They are free, and totally worth adding. It will help you see things you may have missed and also help you not get lost in the maze of aisles and chapels. 
 
Don't rush off when you get through the inside. The facade is amazing, covered with thousands of sculpture. Go around the back (the picture below is the front, the back is the side with the flying buttresses). There is a fabulous garden with plenty of photo opportunities.


3. Dinner/Boat Cruise
I didn't get any great pictures when we took our night cruise (it was raining), so just pretend that I'm riding in the boat sailing past the Cathedral. There are lots of boat companies, we took. They had a dinner cruise option, but we decided to eat first and take the cheaper tour only cruise. We entered the boat dock near the Eiffel Tower and ate at the restaurant owned by the boat company. Sooo good, I would highly recommend it. The city is so gorgeous at night, and you see lots of building you may not have from land. (p.s. you also get a good view of Parisian teenagers who have snuck down to the river to smoke pot and make out...free of charge)


I gave the same advice in Rome, and I totally believe it. The first time we came here, we felt the pressure to see 'everything'. Of course you can't fit everything in and you miss the chance to just wander, people watch, window shop and appreciate the architecture. You absolutely need to take time to sit at a cafe, order a teeny cup of coffee or a glass of wine and relax.  Another way to relieve yourself of the 'Igottaseeeverything' pressure...

We used the Red Car system, because it was the first one we found with accessible buses, but there are goobs of them to choose from.

If there are sites you have heard about, but you are just not sure that they're worth the extra effort to walk to them, you'll probably get a great view from the bus. For obvious reasons it passes all the touristy sites. Sites I consider in the category of 'nice to see but not nice enough to waste energy/time to walk to' include: l'Arc de Triomphe, The Bastille, The Music Academy, The Military Museum. 

Oh, and you get an audioguide to explain things as you pass by. I love audioguides.

Don't I look happy? That's because I'm eating a crepe with Nutella...but we'll come back to that.


As I mentioned earlier, the hotel we stayed in a few years ago was a real stinker. It was tiny, dirty and at the top of an obnoxiously long hill. This time I took a recommendation from Rick Steves and stayed at Hotel Splendid and it was perfect! It's right by a #69 bus stop (see below), and only a 10 minute walk from the Champ de Mars where not only would we catch our tour bus but also the most fantastic view of the Tower.  Day and night we would stop and snap a few picture. 

The hotel staff is very helpful, the neighborhood is busy, full of activity, but not too loud. It's also clean and very safe. The bathroom was big enough for my wheelchair, and that earns a bunch of brownie points for me.

7. Eat as much Nutella and crepes as possible. Much like gelato in Rome you really can't eat enough warm, street cart made crepes. Trust me. 



Versailles falls into the 'worth all the extra effort'  category (much like the Colosseum in Rome). If you use a wheelchair like me, it is not the easiest trip. #1 there is an RER line that goes right there and you can catch it at the Invalides station, but they trains are not accessible. I read somewhere that they kept a ramp at the station they could pull out for you to use-they were fibbing. Trust me. Best just to climb up into the train the best you can. I've done it twice now, and I would probably do it again. The palace is not to be missed. It's extraordinary, indescribably so. It is big and ostentatious, spark;y as all get out. Everything is covered in gold. Like the front gate.


p.s. This gate has got me thinking of gold leafing my front door...why not?
 \
Oh, and I probably need to paint my ceilings. And I need a few murals on the walls..

Adding to the trip this year was a modern art installation they had incorporated into the palace rooms. Really beautiful pieces they looked great with the antique decorations as a back drop. Two pieces of advice: get the audioguide, if for no other reason as it will help you figure out what each room was used for and keep you going in the right direction. And they're free. Number two: get a train ticket to access the gardens, the Grand and Petit Trinons (smaller buildings behind the main palace. You could walk, but why? It's far...and the train is cheap. And when it suddenly begins to pour down rain you will be covered (I may know this from experience). Ok, I have one last tip. I gets crazy crowded sometimes and the rooms are small. Keep your cool. I started getting VERY stressed out because I could see this/that and I couldn't move as fast as I would have liked. Really, I probably missed a few things because I was busy scowling at the other tourists. Note to self-stay calm.



Oh man, the coffee...its strong, rich, and served to you in teeny tiny cups. No, you cannot get it iced. It's SO good! 



Probably the most famous museum in the world, the Louvre was another frustrating experience from our last trip. Housed in a former royal palace, it is a maze of steps, people, and elevators. And most of the signs are in french. In fact, all the tags below the art pieces are only french (why? I will never get that...). Last time we felt the 'wegottaseeeverything' stress so we hunted out all the biggies- Mona Lisa, Winged Victory, Venus de Milo. We also missed just about everything else. And we left as soon as possible, frustrated and kind of cranky. This time, we were a little smarter. Firstly, we went later in the day, when it is so much quieter. Second, we decided to concentrate on only one wing of the museum and spent two leisurely hours exploring the Egyptian artifacts. It was awesome.
 
 

That's obviously not Egyptian, but isn't it pretty? We saw it on the way back to the elevator. Bonus tip: as you leave, take plenty of pictures. Sunset light is very flattering.


 Especially at night, the light show is fantastic. Watch it while eating a late dinner, or for a great and uncrowded view go to the Champ de Mars. We walked there every night on our way back to our hotel.

Also, on the river side of the Tower you will find a merry-go-round. Next to that you will find a snack shack that serves a ham & cheese crepe that will change your life. Maybe it's the view......

13. #69
Riding Paris buses are not for the faint of heart. They are crowded.......and crowded some more. But, if you learn to do anything, riding the bus will save you tons of money and time. The #69 is the route to learn. It goes EVERYWHERE. In general the drivers are very friendly and speak marginal English so you can ask them the name for the stop that you need, because you have to signal when you want to get off. 


Wow, that was LONG post, huh? Kudos to you if you read all the way to the end. I really do love this city, and I will definitely go back someday. Have I inspired you? Are you planning your trip right now? Do you need a translator? 

Thanks again for stopping by and as Rick Steves says ' Happy Travels!"

Michelle

Sunday, July 1, 2012

When In Geneva....

Hey y'all!

Thanks for coming back to see part two of my recent trip to Europe. I hope you found a few interesting places to add to your itinerary when you go to Rome. Because you will, right? Good. Tonight I wanted to share my experiences in Geneva, Switzerland. 

Why Geneva you ask? Well, when my friend and split up our trip so we flew into Rome and out of Paris. We knew we wanted to visit these two cities and we booked way early to get the best price. The more we talked about what to do, we thought it might be fun to add a third stop in between. So, we pulled my globe (I mean Google maps) and searched out cities in between. I suggested Switzerland. It's a whole other country, they have mountains, hot springs...and chocolate. Turns out my friend's cousin lives in Geneva. That sealed the deal. It was a last minute decision, but it turned out to be a really good one. There's alot to love about Geneva. Here a few of the highlights:


1. Train


I read a post on tripadvisor.com about taking a night train from Italy to France (sorry, I can't find the original link). The author had this way of describing the journey. I had visions of sipping a cocktail in the bar compartment while listening to French classical music, all the while enjoying the climb up into the Alps. So, it wasn't quite that luxurious, and....by the time we got into the mountains it was dark, but all in all it was a lovely way to travel. See my picture above? There was alot of this to see. I took ALOT of blurry pictures ; ).
You can find info on Italy's train system here.

2. CERN
 

Get your nerd on. If you don't know what CERN does (the only reason I did is because I read about them in Angels & Demons) they are a very progressive research center that is studying the origins of the universe. That's all ; ). Tiffany's cousin actually works here and gave us a tour! I understand about 60% of what he told me, but I found the whole thing fascinating! They have a learning center (called The Globe) that's open to the public and you can see the lobby area in the actual research center. Check out this mural, it gives you a visual of the LHC, the main man in the CERN house. This thing is buried under the ground.
 
The facilities are open to the public, and it was an easy train ride from downtown. AAANNDDD....

It has an emergency red button. That you can push. You know I did. 
You can find out more about CERN and public tours here.

3. Bains Des Paquis
 

I am still mildly obsessed with these trees. They were gorgeous, but as of yet I have been unable to find anything about them on the internet. Why are they covered? Who made them? Either way-so cool!

Bains Des Paquis is a small pier out into Lake Geneva. It has a beach where the public can swim and a fantastic restaurant. Do yourself a favor and don't even bother reading the menu, get the plat du jour. Word is it's always fantastic. Our lunch was duck, potatoes, veggies....yum. The view is spectacular. We would have sat there longer if the rain hadn't moved in.
 
4. Chocolate
The Swiss are known for their chocolate, and we spent a small fortune on some fantastic truffles. Worth every penny.
These are chocolates! 

5. Clarion Suites Excellior
Our hotel turned out to be a mixed blessing. It was actually on the French side of Geneva, about a 20 minute bus ride from downtown. It was country-with a capital 'K'. At first, it was a little frustrating, no where to eat, nowhere to walk to, etc. However, we soon realized that this little hotel was a great choice: it was about $100 cheaper than any hotel we found in Geneva proper. This is NOT a cheap city. It was a nice, big room. HUGE by European standards, average for an American hotel. It had a big soaking tub. I may or may not have taken two baths in two days. Because I could, and I needed a good soak after all the walking we did in Rome. It has a laundry room where you can wash your dirty clothes, so you can pack a little lighter. The bus to take you into downtown is super easy to catch and easy to ride. And then there's the view......

I mean, really. Who needs to be in a busy, noisy downtown when you can be here? Oh, well, there was the $70 cab ride because we were literally the opposite side of town...boo. Just be warned. 

You can find them here.

6. English Garden

Geneva is a great city to wander around in. The architecture is lovely and there are a few fantastic gardens. We spent an hour or so in the English Garden. Oh man, the flowers there are unreal. I think they feed them chocolate ; ).  

I practiced a bunch with the macro setting on my camera and I came out with a bunch of fantastic pictures. We went to the garden specifically to see this world famous Garden Clock, but, really, I would file that under 'not worth the effort'. It was really kind of lame and we had way more fun explore all the sculptures and landscaping.

The rain kept us from getting to everything we wanted to (we were only in town for one day), so here's a list of places I want to go-next time..



Thanks again for stopping by! I really enjoyed my two days in Geneva. It was a lovely surprise considering I knew zero about the city in advance. I would highly recommend it for a day trip if you are in the area.


One last thing to love about Geneva....

(sign on bus) Apparently, people in W/C's have more fun there ; )

I'll be back soon to share a few more suggestions. This time from our few days in Paris!

A bientot! 
Michelle
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