Learning How to Use My DSLR

Photography ClassIf I actually learned anything in class, proof should be above.  I finally learned how to purposefully blur a background (anytime before this it was on accident).

Mr. P and I have had the new camera for a while now and I’m still sort of afraid of it.  A good friend of mine took an intro photography class and said it was so worth it.

There’s no point to owning a DSLR if you don’t know how to use it.  Truly, you may as well get a quality point and shoot camera or just use your cell phone.  Both of those can be great options!

Mr. P and I signed up for a class with Isla Studios, which offers beginner classes in San Francisco, Palo Alto and LA.  Beginner classes are 3 hours – not a huge commitment.  As a bonus, we used a Google Offer which gave us half off!

The Verdict?  The class was awesome and I recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about their camera.  I’m a visual learner and they did a great job explaining what a setting does to the camera and how the same picture can look different with setting adjustments.  The instructor took the time to make sure everyone knew how to adjust the controls on their own cameras.  It seems so simple and not scary now!

I’ve been practicing my newly-acquired skills on the Christmas tree, running out the battery and quickly filling up my memory card.  I’ll have something to show for my efforts on Thursday!

Trendy Font: Wisdom Script

Wisdom ScriptIf you read any scrapbooking or crafty blogs, you’ve probably seen this font recently.  It’s everywhere.  Am I the only one that’s noticed this?  I’ve even seen it used in posters at work!

I feel like a super nerd when I see a font used and can name it!

The font is Wisdom Script and you can download it here.  I’m a big fan of thick script fonts in my scrapbook, so I’ve added it to my toolbox already.  In case you were wondering, it cuts very nicely on the Silhouette!

Enjoy!

Yet Another New Photo Printer

Epson Stylus Photo R2000I’ve been waiting a while to tell you about this.

In my defense, I wanted to test this new machine before writing about it.  In reality, I was too scarred from dealing with another photo printer mishap and didn’t feel like writing about it.

Brace yourself for some printer drama.

Earlier this year, I told you about my new photo printer, an HP 5510, and the issues I had with it.  I was able to get a warranty replacement, but I did not recommend the product.

So I had the replacement machine.  I leave the house and the printer goes unused for a couple of weeks.  What happens when I return?  The same freaking problem that it had last time.  LINES all over the photos and everything turned orange.

I was pretty pissed.

I got a warranty replacement again.  It did not set my mind to rest.  How long would I have to wait before it broke again?  If it keeps breaking, how good are these photos?  I became convinced that if the machine was that flimsy, I’d probably find a couple of years down the road that the photos were crap.

That was it.  HP was dead to me and I decided to invest in a higher quality machine.  Mr. P agreed so he wouldn’t have to hear me complain since it would put my mind at ease.

Lots and LOTS of research later and after a chat with the lovely Ali Edwards, I bought an Epson Stylus R2000.  Yes, I spent a bit more money than on the last printer, but I was tired of second guessing the longevity of my pictures.  I do all my photo printing at home, so the machine matters.

I’ve been mostly pleased with it so far – still working out a couple of kinks, but the photo quality and speed are really good!

One thing though – it is a huge machine.  I didn’t need a wide format printer (it can print up to 13 inches wide), just one that was good quality.  Unfortunately getting that quality means a bigger machine with more bells and whistles.  I had to have a coworker carry it to my car for me and it almost didn’t fit on my printer stand!

So that’s it – so far.  I’m hoping I can keep this machine without incident for a few years!

Introducing Our New Camera

Almost Never Clever New CameraThere are a few watershed moments in my life of picture-taking.  The first time I got my very own camera.  The time I switched from 35mm to Advantix.  When I first switched to digital.  When I first started printing pictures at home.  Each one of those times significantly changed how I take pictures.

Mark this down as the time when I took the flying leap from point-and-shoot to DSLR.  Scary.  And it wasn’t my idea.

Mr. P and I were in Hong Kong earlier this year and I was taking pictures of signs in the subway station.  He told me if I was going to keep taking “artsy” photos, we needed to get a better camera.

Meet our Nikon D5100 Mr. P did all the research and picked it out.  He concluded that this model was a good place for us to start out with a DSLR, but not too starter that we’d want to upgrade really soon.  It also has a good battery, which matters to me when we are traveling.

I have no idea how to use this thing.  It’s also going to be hard to adjust to carrying a much larger camera when I want to take pictures.

How’s it going so far?  I really like the photo quality despite some growing pains.  My biggest issue is that sometimes the photos aren’t focused properly and I might not catch that until after the event is over.

More is surely to come on this.  For now, here are some pictures!

Almost Never Clever New CameraAlmost Never Clever New CameraAlmost Never Clever New CameraAlmost Never Clever New CameraAlmost Never Clever New CameraAlmost Never Clever New CameraAlmost Never Clever New CameraAlmost Never Clever New CameraAlmost Never Clever New CameraAnd yes, I was that girl at Buffalo Wild Wings with the DSLR taking pictures of her food.  We’d just gotten the camera and I wanted to try it on something.

Cool Free Fonts

Free Fonts from Almost Never CleverI’m always checking out and downloading new fonts!  Here are some neato ones that you can click and download yourself!

I love it when I see cool fonts on Pinterest, but I more often than not get irked because they’re not readily downloadable.  Most of my fonts come free from Dafont.com.

  1. Walkway
  2. Machine Script
  3. Dawning of a New Day
  4. Androgyne
  5. Yesterday Again
  6. Silver Dollar
  7. Elephant
  8. Miama

I used Miama for my graduation title page and graduation photo page in my college scrapbook.  I’m using Machine Script for a project related to my China trip!

Please note that most fonts are free for personal use.  If you want to use these fonts for commercial use (for example, to use on products in your Etsy shop), make sure and read the page carefully to make sure that is allowed.

Have fun with these fonts!

Vacation Photobook

Vacation Photobook

It’s getting time for vacation season!

We like to have pictures ready to show people when we get home from vacation.  Doesn’t everyone?  I don’t scrapbook with 4×6″ prints, so printing a bunch would be a waste.

Enter the MyPublisher Hardcover Pocketbook.  It starts at $19.99.  They have a soft-cover version starting at $9.99 but I like the feel of the hardcover.  The book is a little over 5×7.”

Vacation PhotobookThis gives us a durable, pretty album that we can take to grandparents’ houses and leave on our coffee table.

Vacation PhotobookI’ve been a MyPublisher customer for years because I love the quality and I can get great sales.

I plan the photobook as soon as we get home from the vacation.  I decide about how much I want to spend, how many pages that will give me and then divide up the pages to cover parts of our trip.

I know, I’m methodical.

Vacation PhotobookI put the book together and wait for MyPublisher to run a sale (which they do often).

Vacation PhotobookI made this one to showcase pictures from our trip to Egypt and Jordan last year.  I used the basic templates available on MyPublisher.  Since then, they’ve updated their software to be even more awesome and give you more template options.

Vacation PhotobookThis doesn’t replace the scrapbook.  I have tons of travel keepsakes that will go in a scrapbook with these pictures.  This is a compliment that conveniently shows a ton of pictures in portable form.

Vacation PhotobookAny products endorsed on this blog are products I actually use and like.  I have not accepted any freebies or payments in exchange for promotions.

Treating Fabric to Go in a Scrapbook

Fabric in ScrapbooksI am keeping some very special pieces of fabric in this wedding scrapbook.  I have a piece of my bridesmaids’ dresses on my dress shopping page and a huge piece of lace on my wedding dress page.

How am I keeping these fabric pieces from unraveling all over my scrapbook?  I’ll show you.

Here is the swatch from my bridesmaids’ dresses.  The edge is already unraveling.

Fabric in ScrapbooksAfter I cut the piece I wanted to use, I treated the newly-cut edges with Fray Check.

Fabric in ScrapbooksFray Check is made by Dritz and you can find it in fabric stores for a couple of dollars.  Dab the clear liquid along the raw edge of the fabric and allow to dry.  The Fray Check will seal the edges and prevent them from unraveling.

Fabric in ScrapbooksWith my wedding dress lace, I got a perfect edge to align with the pictures by cutting the lace with my rotary cutter and omnigrid ruler and treating with Fray Check.

Fabric in ScrapbooksSome tips for using Fray Check: Make sure to test it first on a sample of the fabric to make sure it won’t discolor it, Fray Check before attaching fabric to page, and let it dry for 15-30 minutes.

Wait, is it acid free?  Nope, I don’t think so.  I decided that I would rather have the fabric not unravel in my scrapbook than worry about this small part of it being acid free.

Did you cut up those dresses just to use them in the scrapbook?  Nope.  I had scraps of lace leftover from when my mom shortened the train.  When I ordered the bridesmaids’ dresses I asked the store for a swatch of the fabric so I could match it to other wedding stuff.  It never hurts to ask!

Sticky Stuff – My Favorite Scrapbooking Adhesives

Scrapbooking Tape and Scrapbooking GlueHere are the four main adhesives I use in my scrapbook.  I use these because they work and I don’t have to worry about something coming undone.  As usual, when I find something I like, I stick with it!

Every so often I may try something new but it doesn’t last long.

Scotch Double-Sided Scrapbooking Tape

This tape is double-sided and acid free.  This is the adhesive I use the most.  Underneath every photo and every large piece of cardstock are pieces of this tape.  I’ve been using it for several years and won’t use anything else.

Scrapbooking Tape and Scrapbooking GlueTrue, it can be pricey and it takes more time to use it and peel off the backing than something like a tape wheel.  I don’t trust tape wheels because they’re never secure enough.

Avery Permanent Glue Stick

Also acid-free and photo safe.  I use the glue stick when I have a lot of surface area to cover.  Often, I will put small pieces of double-stick scrapbooking tape in the corners of a large item and glue the rest.

Scrapbooking Tape and Scrapbooking GlueThis is a pretty standard glue stick you’ll find in most office supply places.  I tried a new scrapbooking glue stick recently and didn’t like it.  Aside from the weird stink to it, it didn’t work as well.  This Avery stuff is gimmick free and odor-free.

Zig Memory System Squeeze & Roll Glue Pen

I use this pen for gluing tiny, intricate items.  Every cut headline I make with the Silhouette is glued down with this pen.

Scrapbooking Tape and Scrapbooking GlueI love using this pen because it allows me to really control where the glue is going.  Even though the glue appears watery, it really really sticks.

Zots & Zips

Zots are little circular pieces of adhesive and Zips are the same thing but in strip form.  I use these when I have something really stubborn that I need to be extra secure.

Scrapbooking Tape and Scrapbooking GlueA good example of this is a layout that goes partway into the gutter of a page.  If the items glued on the page bend a bit with the gutter of a book, they can get unstuck.  These things work every time.

What are your favorite sticky supplies?

Photo Printer Fiasco

Photo PrinterYou all know by now that I use a photo printer to print all of my photos at home.  Here are the reasons why I use a photo printer.

If this reads like a long, whiny rant I apologize.  I’m still pretty upset about it.

Around Thanksgiving, my beloved HP Photosmart 7350 conked out.  It was ten years old and always printed gorgeous photos.  It’s really a long life for a printer, I know.

Off I went to scout Black Friday deals on printers.  I decided to stick with HP Photosmart because I liked the quality of photos I got from the last printer.  Note, I do not like HP printers for regular printing because I think they eat too much ink too quickly.  I have a different everyday printer by Canon.

I ended up with the HP 5510.  There were more expensive versions of it, but they did things I didn’t need.  Seriously, I don’t need a photo printer that can also scan, fax and make french fries.  I just want to print photos!

Initial Reaction to the HP 5510

Speed – I’ve been used to a slow ten-year-old printer.  The 5510 prints fast!

Quality – Impressive.  I was absolutely satisfied with the quality and it matched what I had before.  It also does a better job of edge-to-edge printing than my old model, which means I can squeeze an absurd amount of pictures on a page and save paper.

Setup – Pretty darn easy.  It’s wireless to boot so if I kept photo paper loaded at all times, I could print scrapbook photos from anywhere in the house.

Photo PrinterOverall I was very pleased and planned to test it for a couple more months before writing a post about it.

Then Things Went Terribly Wrong

One evening I was on a scrapbooking roll and had 4 pages of photos .  I had a set deadline to finish these layouts because we were going away for the weekend.

Errr-orrrr.  What happened to the photo quality?  When I printed the pictures, I got these organge-ish lines on them.  I wasted a few more pieces of photo paper trying to diagnose the problem.  I opened a set of new printer cartridges to see if that would fix it.  Nope.  Nada.

Photo PrinterMy printer was under warranty (thank goodness).  I had to spend at least 30 minutes on the phone with HP, running every little test they wanted me to do to see if it fixed it.

Tip: if you’re in for a long call with customer service, put on a headset.  That way you can craft while they put you on hold.  It’ll make you less testy.

Photo PrinterFinally, they agreed to replace the machine and I had to wait several days for it to arrive, since they charge $17 if you want it shipped more quickly.

You know that feeling when you’re on a crafty roll with projects and some unforeseen circumstance prevents you from finishing?  Yeah, that was me.

It Wasn’t Over Yet

Several days later, I ran home with the new machine.  Setup was pretty easy . . . until I had to put the cartridges in.  You see, this printer comes with special “setup” cartridges so you have to use the ones that come in the box to install the printer.

After I installed the cartridges, the printer decided to pretend like the pink one wasn’t there.  Great.  After trying everything I could think of, it was back on the phone with HP.

After running all kinds of tests again (I think this took at least another 30 minutes), they decide it’s a bad cartridge.  I was beyond upset at this point.

Photo PrinterThey offered to send me a new setup cartridge, but of course I would have to wait for a few days or I could pay $17 to have it sent overnight.

At list point, I lost my cookies.  I’m paraphrasing here, but I essentially told the guy on the phone, ahem, firmly, that HP had no idea how much productivity they had cost me during this situation, the situation was getting beyond ridiculous and they would send me the cartridge overnight free of charge.  They put me on hold for a while but eventually agreed.

All Better, for Now

The new cartridge arrived and all was well.  The new machine is back up and running and I printed the 4 pages of photos out immediately.

Where to from here?  Not sure.  After this fiasco, I’m pretty sure this is the last HP machine I will own.  Although I’m happy with the quality, I can’t recommend this product.

I still firmly stand behind my method of printing all the photos at home for all the reasons mentioned in my original post.

Custom Address Stamp from Paper Source

Paper Source Custom StampMeet my new return-address stamp, a gift from Mr. P for Christmas.

I love this new stamp.

Maybe that wasn’t clear enough:

Paper Source Custom StampSeriously, love.  I’m looking around the house for stuff to mail just so I can use the stamp.  I thought about stamping all the envelopes for our Christmas cards next year, but that’s probably overkill.

The Particulars

The custom stamp gift set is sold by Paper Source, but Three Designing Women is the company that actually manufactures and delivers the custom stamp plate.  This makes such a great gift because the set comes with the self-inking stamper, the stamp pad and a coupon code so the giftee can pick out and order his/her own stamp design.  The custom stamp plate is shipped free!

Paper Source Custom StampThe stamped design is about 1 3/8″ x 1 3/8″.  It is rather large on small envelopes, but I still love it.

I know, it’s hard to picture the design when I block out part of the address to keep the crazies from knowing my home address.  Here’s a clearer view of the design (image credit to Paper-Source.com):

Paper Source Custom StampPros and Cons

Pros:

  • It was very easy to order.  There are a ton of designs and I found the perfect one after I got over my initial shock all the pretty options.
  • Once it arrived, the plate was very easy to install.
  • The customer service at Three Designing Women was very helpful when I wanted to check the status of my order but lost my order number when my computer crashed.

Cons:

  • I wish I was able to preview my custom design before ordering.  It turned out great, but I get paranoid.
  • If I press the stamp too hard because I want the P to get fully inked, the little A’s in the address can get over-inked.  This doesn’t bother me too much because I doubt anyone is closely examining it.

Paper Source Custom StampCustom Stamp Gift Set from Paper Source, $39.95

I was not paid to endorse this product by Paper Source or Three Designing Women.  Neither company knows I am even writing this review.  I only review products I actually purchase and love.