Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Perfect Programs

You don't want to know how many design programs I have purchased just for finding the perfect user friendly program for me. Yes, I have spent hundreds of dollars and spent endless hours trying to learn some of the most difficult programs and few hours learning the basic programs. I think I have finally found the easiest and least expensive programs around.

I cut my teeth on PhotoShop CS by Adobe and have since upgraded to CS3. I still love the program and use it most often. However my original CS did not come with Illustrator and I didn't want to pay the astronomical price just to have it. Therefore I purchased SerifDrawPlus2 to create vector images. It's ok but not what I needed or wanted.

From there I went to CorelDrawX3. I had to purchase the entire package in order to get Corel Photo Paint that came highly recommended from a friend. It was a good deal and CorelDrawX3 is known for it's vector images. However it is the most complicated and user unfriendly I have attempted to date. I really do love Photo Paint however I just can't get the hang of Draw.

I've also learned how to use Quark and SmartDraw. Neither is on my computer any longer and I think CorelDrawX3 is about to leave too. I'll have to see if I still need it to convert files to compatible files for other programs.

The one thing that all these programs have in common is that it's very difficult to find compatibility between them. One only takes .pdf's another .xml and so on. Therefore what you create in one, will have to be opened in another, saved as some other file to work on it in the one that will give you a finished product. Ok, I'm sure you didn't follow that. In short, none of them met my total needs in one stop. Frustration was the word of the year, until July 1, 2008.

During one of my surfing the Internet trips I came across and educational site that was pretty good. No, I don't recall the site but I do know it lead me to the best design software that is so user friendly and can do everything in one spot, design, vector images and most importantly, 3D!

Are you ready?

Educators, graphic designers and of course novice web designers, this is your big day to stand out from the crowd! Have fun exploring the cool things you can do at Firecrackinmama's TextDesign. If you like it, you'll definitely like the price.

However if you want more then just text with all its features you need to check out

I can't tell you how much fun I'm having with it although it's a very new program for me. I guess you'll see as I start uploading some of my products developed through XaraXtreme.

As you can see I'm truly a semi-novice. So if you aren't sure check the media reviews.

I do like what I was able to do with my FirecrackinFootWear Banner.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

You're Invited

We've all been invited to hostess parties. If it wasn't Tupperware it was The Pampered Chef or Illuminations. I really dread going to those types of parties. Just give me that catalog and I'll order from that. Well, last Friday night I was invited to a Pickle Party. My daughter's best friend was hosting it so I had no way out. You may be asking yourself the same question I did when I was first invited, what's a Pickle Party?

Let's see we all gather at this house and twenty different brands of pickles are available for us to taste test? I'm not sure that wine would be the drink to cleanse your taste buds on this one. Oh, maybe someone has come up with a different type of pickle? A purple or red pickle? Or perhaps we are having a social gathering to discuss someone who is in a pickle? Nope, none of the above thank God.

It was a hostess party though. However it was new to me and I truly had a good time. This party was along the lines of something I've always loved: pocketbooks. Like shoes are to some people, pocketbooks are to me. I don't often change purses. Generally I'll carry the same one around for a couple of years but I'm always looking.

This is the Pickle Pocketbook my daughter bought from a previous party:

As you can see it is very cute and has the pickle logo on it. You are able to choose how many pockets you want inside and whether you prefer zippers to open pockets as well as the pocketbook itself. The lining is an adorable poke-a-dot fabric.

She has carried it around all summer and of course took it to the party. I was surprised at how many others already had a Pickle Pocketbook. At any rate I thought this pattern was so cute that I designed a pair of women's pumps to match.

My daughter wasn't really impressed that I had done this but it appears that Zazzle was very pleased as they gave a red ribbon for today's best. Now I can't wait to get my new Pickle Pocketbook as I'm going to make myself a matching pair of pumps.

We were fortunate to have the owner of the company present to us on Friday night. Amazingly enough she has a store right in Philadelphia. The name of the company is Viv Pickle. Everyone should stop by her site and take a look at the amazing job she does. I'm headed back shortly to see if my fabric is on the site. If it is, I'm going to design my pumps tonight!

Actually I should have a Pickle Party but as I mentioned earlier I don't like to go to them nor do I like to host them. That is why I have my Firecrackinmama Online Parties.

Speaking of which don't forget to stop by Firecrackinmama's Online Halloween Party for all kinds of goodies!!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Ghosts of the Revolution

Today is recovery from jet lag so that means the mind is working and the body ain't. Thank God for the computer, it requires little exercise. Therefore I decided to work on postcards today. Can't decide whether I should open a separate gallery for them or just continue to place the postcards in my Firecrackinmama's Gallery. For now I think I'll just leave them there.

Earlier this summer we went to Williamsburg, Virginia for a week. It was our family vacation minus our youngest as she lives in CA. We used to go every summer then for some reason we hadn't visited there for around five years. I really needed a Mint Julep fix. The best place in Williamsburg to get Mint Juleps and the best food in town is of course King's Arms. So we ate there twice.

I just love Williamsburg as it's truly a time tunnel to the past. The energy that the folks put into re-creating what it was like during one of the most significant eras of our country is incredible. We've witnessed the transitions of the reenactments from way back in the seventies to now and they just get better and better.

This year we were there for the Collapse of the Royal Government 1774-1776 and Citizens at War 1776-1781. Programs were presented each morning in the Revolutionary City reenacting what it was like for the ordinary citizen, the choices they had to make and the anxieties of what independence would mean for the people of Williamsburg.

Citizens gathered in front of the Capitol building for public announcements. Today representatives were arriving to read the Declaration of Independence.

The reading of the entire document sent chills up and down everyone's spine. During the reading other actors mingled within the crowd playing their parts and discussing their concerns with visitors. I particularly enjoyed the responses of kids to the actors. Most were very knowledgeable about the issues of the time.

After the reading of the Declaration of Independence a celebratory firing of cannons put the proverbial icing on the cake of realism.

We also had the privilege of celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Fifes and Drums.

As you can see it is well worth your time to go back in time.

It was amazing to me how little things have changed. We attended a program in front of the Raleigh Tavern where a patron dared to voice his opinions about the colonists' rights and liberties. He was apprehended, tried and subsequently threatened with tar and feathering if he didn't change his attitude and mind. It reminded me of the Patriot Act of today. Be careful of what you say or you'll pay.

Another relevant program pertained to a carpenter who had fallen on hard times and could not support his family. Even though he was too old to be a soldier his only alternative was to enlist in he army and contribute the bonus money to his family in order for them to survive.

After a full day of participating with the actors visitors are provided with evening programs. We chose the Cry Witch program at the Courthouse. A re-creation of a trial for a woman accused of being a witch was quite interesting. The time period was early 1700's in a British conducted courtroom. At the conclusion the visitors were the jury and determined whether she was guilty or innocent. Unfortunately the records were destroyed in Richmond during the Civil War so we never did learn of her true fate.

So if you are looking for a good vacation that is family friendly then Williamsburg, Virginia is the place to go. The above image is available as a print, mousepad and greeting card at Firecrackinmama's Zazzle. Just click on the link or the image and enjoy. Other pictures of our adventure are being presented at Firecrackinmama's Home.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

So What's New?

Well, I'm home again in God's country on the East coast. I already miss my daughter but back to the real world. And the real world is what? Washing, cleaning, catching up on the mail, telephone calls and of course the Internet businesses are the priorities of the day. Yuck.

A highlight of arriving home was to find that my postcard invitations for Firecrackinmama's Online Halloween Party arrived and are beautiful. The orange print came out a bit too light as I didn't bold it but the essence of the invitation is there.

It doesn't start until September 1, 2008 but it is going to be a fantastic deal. Everyone has the ability to sit at home in front of their computer and shop multiple artists' galleries for Halloween decorations, trick or treats and costumes. If Halloween isn't your thing then have fun browsing the shops.

Last year I had Firecrackinmama's First Online Christmas Party which went very well. Therefore you can be sure I've already started on Firecrackinmama's Second Online Christmas Party. So if you have time stop on by and see what kind of Firecrackin noise you can make.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Old Mission Santa Barbara

The Old Mission at Santa Barbara was quite a sight to behold and the view from there was quite a sight to be held.

There were clouds so the coastline could not be clearly seen.

We took the tour through the mission. It was very impressive and the historical preservation of various artifacts enhanced the imagination of walking back through a time tunnel to the days of yesteryear. I understand they still conduct mass on a daily basis.

The reconstructed altar and the garden

Come visit Firecrackinmama's on August 15, 2008 for more photographs and some history about the Old Mission that left an impression on me.

Santa Barbara

Ah, there is more to California then Los Angeles and Burbank! Yesterday we went on a road trip to Santa Barbara. Now that is the picture most people get in their minds when you say California. Beautiful mountainous coastlines with Palm trees, beach, wind surfing, and of course a wharf projecting out into the Ocean that can be seen for miles as you approach it on the PCH. Right, isn't that what it's called, Pacific Coastline Highway?

We actually parked on the wharf. You don't get to do that in Jersey. We wandered around there for a while so I could some great shots. While my husband and daughter were being patient with me, they did move along and occasionally we would lose sight of each other but not for long. During one of those times I found a Pelican that was actually posing for me while I took it's picture. Check this out:

As you can see he was about to take flight. And once he did we learned quickly that he had been hooked by the fishing pole on the right. Everyone was quite helpful. I grabbed the line which easily dislodged from the hook. I guess it still has the hook lodged somewhere in it's body. The amazing thing was that a short while later the Pelican returned for another photo session, although in a different place.

He posed and posed for quite some time. You'll be able to see more when I post them at Firecrackinmama's Tropics.

After exploring the wharf we headed towards town. On Sundays they have artists, photographers and crafters present their work to the public in hopes that they will increase their income while marketing their wares. It was very successful for those merchants with whom I had encounters. Yep, they emptied my pockets while my husband stood by having arrhythmia. I tried to explain to him that I needed the jewelry to accent my professional wardrobe (which I haven't purchased yet). I start back to work in a few weeks so now I can match my wardrobe to my jewelry. Doesn't everyone do that?

From there my daughter took us to the Old Mission - check it out in my next blog!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

You Know You're Old When

You know you're old when you see cars you used to drive when you were young in a local car show. Yep, every Tuesday night I'm told they have an impromptu car show here at Bob's Big Boy in Burbank. I didn't take any pictures of the cars we drove during our teens and early adulthood, but I did get some good shots of those my mother and father may have driven.

These impromptu shows occur on the East Coast as well, so it wasn't a "WoW" but it was cool! We used to have titles for this station wagon but anymore the meaning has changed drastically.

Now, I can remember riding in a car such as this although we didn't have the surf boards on top. The third, seat if I recall, faces the rear of the car. We were visiting my aunt and uncle in Florida at the time. They lived in Ft. Lauderdale. My uncle decided that we should take a road trip to the Keys. So we set out in the car and three of us had the responsibility of sitting in the rear seat to watch for the police. I guess my Uncle Charlie had a heavy foot. It seemed like we were going pretty fast.

My Uncle Charlie was of German descent and when he spoke, you listened. Well, at any rate, it was a long ride and if you know kids, they get tired easily in a car. Yep, we fell asleep and didn't wake up until the sirens were upon us. Hmmm... I remember he was really, really, really mad at us. As a matter of fact he made his kids pay for the ticket. My brother and I were exempt as we were guests and it was our first time on the job.

We had a great time in the Keys though.

I found myself at this car show, as well as at some others that I've been too, fascinated by the guys in how they not only look at all these beautifully kept cars but how they examine the engine. Engines must be a guy thing because they all look the same to me.

Ok, so here are 3 engines that guys really seemed to be into. They are very shiny and clean. I'll let it go at that

I had to take a picture of this car since I have pictures of my mother and father in a Rumble seat - I think that's what they called it. I can still remember when I was very little one of my parents' friends came by and gave my brother and I a ride. It was one of the coolest things. How do I remember, we went to get ice cream of course. The wind blew our hair and everyone on the road looked at us. The car was a novelty back then.

As you can see the interior of the car has dramatically changed. Sometimes I long for the slower pace and less traffic of those days, the noise only being the wind, and the exercise of steering and changing gears. It was easy to read the gauges during the day but I wonder if they were lighted at night so you could see them.

We wandered around for a time and I took more pictures which I'll be displaying on my website when I get home. If you would like to stop by feel free to light the link to Firecrackinmama's!

Look What I Found In The Middle Of LA

Ok, I've busted on LA as being one big bumper car arena and parking lot with "I don't know what attracts people to stay here". I've commented on the scenery away from the city proper and of course the climate. It doesn't rain in California as far as I know. But on Friday I found something that you would never find in the tri-state area:

Yep, you can rent horses and see those mountains in the back? Well, it is all open country, right here in Burbank which as far as I know is part of LA!

No, I didn't go riding but I did think about it. The last time I went riding I bounced up and down so much that I couldn't walk for days. Even had bruises.

There's the beginning of the trail. On one side of that fence there is a busy city and on this side of the fence you can see for yourself. Maybe the next time we come to Burbank I'll bring a lot of toilet paper to stuff in my pants and go take a gander at what's in those hills. After all when I was little I watched every cowboy show on Saturday mornings and wished I could be there. Now look I'm here and too old to play. I still have my cowboy Saturday's though.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

LA From the Back Seat

I've been to LA several times and am quite fascinated by the way native Californians drive. It appears to me that the highways are just one great big bumper car arena where everyone avoids being bumped. Speed is of no concern, drivers are either going 80 mph or 25 mph and less. Either open highway or traffic that has no beginning and no ending.

The other oddity here is that pedestrians have rules on crossing the roads and if they don't obey them, they'll be reprimanded by drivers' horns whether the driver is close enough to hit them or spotting them from way down the street. It appears as though Jay walking is a no no and whatever you do, don't cross until the little white icon pops up.

I'm going to guess that my daughter is a native Californian now. She's lived here for quite some time and seems to drive like everyone else. Although I don't know the number of years you have to live here to become one, she's been here for 8 years and loves it. Hmmm... I'm still trying to figure out what it is she loves here. I think mainly the climate and when out of the city, the views.

We went on a road trip with her the other day. She had to run an errand to her workplace. I rode in the back seat with my little camera ready to snap some pictures. Searching for perfect shots kept my mind off of other cars attempting to ram us and from her instantaneous moves from one lane to another. Thank God for the carpooling lane! Mind you in southern NJ the scenery along our expressways aka freeways is not the best but it is different from LA scenery.

We definitely do not have any tunnels to pass through in major cities.

Then LA through the sun roof:

LA from the side window:

We don't see mountains along the roads as we travel in NJ either. All in all it is certainly an adrenaline high when you travel on the freeways in LA. So those of you who may be like me and need a distraction, take your camera and look for some good shots.

I took many more beautiful shots. I'm busy now putting together our vacation in Burbank via LA. You'll be able to view them at Firecrackinmama's so come on by!

Monday, August 4, 2008

The World Through Firecrackinmama's Lenses

Welcome to the world through Firecrackinmama's lenses.

Photography has always interested me however the digital world of photography has me looking at the world in whole new way. It's amazing what is captured in the lense with just one quick flick of the finger.

I've spent the last year working in using my pictures instead of abusing them by burying them in some box under a bed or lost in a file on the computer. I've met some fantastic artists and photographers who are much better then me. For an introduction to Firecrackinmama's World feel free to check out my home page.