Entertainment

Are you on Instagram? Do you wonder how people get all those cool effects onto their photos? (In case you aren’t familiar with Instagram, it’s kind of like Facebook or Twitter but you use pictures for your updates.) I really resisted instagram for a long time. Mostly because it offended my artistic sensibilities that all photos have to be square. But I’ve made my peace with that and now I’m having endless fun. (Want to follow me on Instagram? I’ll follow you back! Look for @heyhildie).

Whether you’re a fan of Instagram or just want to upload pictures to Facebook or message to friends, it’s terribly useful to be able to make your iphone pictures look tip-top without having to export them to a computer. There are piles of apps that will make your pictures look fantastic and are incredibly fun to play with. The big problem with editing pictures directly in your camera is that each app usually just performs a couple of functions. If you want your photo to have all the bells and whistles (labels, a font, some cool effects), you’re going to have to run it though several different apps. This sounds like a chore but really it’s super fun. Let those creative juices flow!  These are my favorites apps:

(Not sure how much of this applies to other smartphones. We only have iphones around here).

Instagram has a few filters you can apply and a tool to crop your photos to be square but I like the flexibility of an editing app. In an editing app you can adjust lighting and exposure and sometimes do some color correction too. You can also add frames and sometimes special effects. My favorite app is PhotoToaster  (99¢) There are lots of different filters but unlike other apps, you can adjust saturation, color, softness, vignette size and other sorts of things. It has way more control than other photo editing apps and I really like it. I’m also a fan of Camera+ (99¢). This is probably the easiest to use of the apps–once you figure out how to import the photos. That took me a while–Each filter is adjustable so if you like your pictures to have an Instamatic look to them, you can make them look just a little bit Instamatic or get the full effect. I LOVE this feature. PhotoToaster doesn’t have that. PicFx  ($2.99) is another good editing program, although it specializes more in fun effects rather than improving the quality of your photo. PicFX requires you to make all photos square whereas the other two apps will let you keep them rectangular. It has tons of cool filters and also some nice bokeh features.

TouchRetouch. The best 99¢ you will ever spend! (Don’t even bother with the free version. It’s no good.) This is a pretty amazing app that lets you remove unwanted items from your picture. It takes a while to get the hang of (fortunately it has some very helpful in-app tutorials), but once you do you’ll love it. It can take anything out of your photo, from a zit to a car in the background. Pretty incredible considering it’s a tiny screen and you’re using your fingertip. Just keep in mind that it doesn’t have transparency settings so it’s not going to look so good if you’re trying to remove wrinkles or undereye circles. Here are two shots before TouchReTouch (on the left) and after (on the right). I removed some stray floaties in the background and a dead tree limb on the left side.

Phonto is another app I could never live without.  Phonto is simply the best app for putting words onto pictures. Not only are there a ton of fonts to choose from, you can upload your own fonts from your computer! It’s incredibly easy to resize them, change the colors, add shadows, change the spacing and pretty much anything you’d ever want to do with words. Best of all it’s free!

Diptic  (99¢) is my preferred app for making collages. It’s incredibly intuitive and easy to use. You can make the edges of pictures rounded or squared. You can make the entire collage rounded too. Like super rounded. As in a circle! Fun!

 

Making Tape (99¢) is another app that will keep you occupied for hours. It makes it look like you’ve stuck really cute washi tape (which is sort of like fancy masking tape) on your pictures. Perfect for labelling! There are hundreds of tape designs to choose from. There are fonts available too but as the app is Japanese, most are not-so-interesting English fonts. I love this app but occasionally it can be difficult to figure out.

Another cool labelling app is called LabelBox. It is a little more polished than Masking Tape (since it isn’t supposed to look like masking tape. Duh). Some of the fonts I like and some I don’t (you can’t pick which font you use in Label Box). Whether I use Making Tape or Label Box I usually add the label with no words on it, save the picture, then run it through Phonto to add words in a font I like better.

LensLight (99¢) has every sort of light, bokeh or lighting effect you could possibly want. Need a sun flare? Shooting stars? Streams of sunshine? Heart-shaped bokeh? (Bokeh, by the way refers to unfocused areas around the background/edge of photos. Usually they look like blobs of light.) This is the app for you. Less is more with this app, but you can get some really cool lighting effects with this app. P.S. I spent about half an hour trying to figure out how to “undo” in this program. There is no undo because each effect that you like must be saved (“rendered”) if you want to add another. I am not a very intuitive person.

 Bubbleframe (99¢) is right up your alley if you’re at all scrapbook-y. It’s a super girly app for one thing. But it reminds me of really easy digital scrapbook layouts. Except for the background, though, everything is in circles. Cute backgrounds and fonts make this very-intuitive app very easy to use. This took me about 90 seconds to create:

I hope you have fun using some of these apps. Just try not to ignore everyone for too long while you’re editing and uploading a picture during dinner/at the zoo/hanging out with friends.

Y’all, I still don’t have a computer. I can fight the kids to use the playroom computer, but mostly I’m limited to using my iphone. Blogging on an iphone is somewhere between maddening and suicide-inducing.

I can’t believe I’m not blogging about the Olympics! It’s been a frustrating ten days because not only do I not have a computer, we only have a TV that gets NBC and PBS. So I can’t watch anything. I shall not address the fact that the jerks at NBC have made it impossible for me to watch any of my favorite sports. You might think that the Olympics are an event for the world to come together but you would so very foolish. They are en event for only the people with cable to come together. But let’s discuss anyway.

I’m a huge fan of the lesser-known sports. (Although how things like Archery count as a sport, I have no idea.)  It infuriates me that NBC has decided that all I am interested in is swimming, gymnastics and running.  Don’t get me wrong, I like backflips as much as the next person. But I find the whole hair issue of female gymnast baffling to the point of distraction. Why are they wearing scrunchies? Do you know that their leotards cost around $500 each? And what do they think will compliment these pricey leotards? A scrunchie!  But who can see the scrunchie when there are approximately 17 hair clippies surrounding it? Gymnasts, please have a chat with some ballerinas. They have figured out how to keep their hair in place without looking like an elementary schooler who’s gone crazy at Claire’s.

Also, having painted nails is against the rules for gymnasts. Outlandish eye makeup is not (especially if you’re Russian). The fact that our poor Olympic girls can not have amazingly patriotic toenails is downright criminal!

The male gymnastics are a lot more interesting. Not just because I have a weakness for muscle-y arms and there are all these fantastic feats of strength (that pommel horse is cool!), but because there are contestants like these:


Nope, it’s not Napoleon and Kip Dynamite’s other brother. It’s Tomas Gonzales from Chile. And if that mustache doesn’t make you want to start singing YMCA then I don’t know what’s wrong with you.


You might think you’ve seen this Uchimura guy before. And you have if you watch Yu-Gi-Oh. I mean he looks like he walked right out of some Japanese animé cartoon. That kooky hair just makes me smile.

Enough about gymnastics; let’s move on to swimming. I personally have no feelings for or against Michael Phelps. I never root for him. I am a lover of the underdog. And Michael Phelps is the opposite of the underdog. All I know about M.P. is that his swimsuit always looks like it’s about 1 centimeter from falling off. He must use that tape to keep it in place like beauty pageant contestants. It makes me very uncomfortable.

Also swimming-related: I have a hard time supporting a sport where the women look just like the men. When they’ve got unitards and bathing caps on, they could be either one. Call me old-fashioned but women look better with breasts. My husband assures me that he believes this too.

My mother made me take swimming lessons at an indoor pool when I was very young. Swimming across the pool terrified me to no end. I was sure that I would drown right in the middle, being a very weak swimmer. To this day, walking into an indoor pool–hearing the echoes, getting a huge whiff of the chlorine–makes me have some sort of PTSD. (Also, I don’t like getting wet to start with.)  Thus, I cannot fully enjoy swimming.

I have so much more to say about the Olympics. I think I’ll try to chase my kids off the computer and blog again soon. What have you liked or hated most so far? At the end of it all I plan on having a beauty pageant and voting for the best looking athletes, so mark your choices down and let’s discuss.

 

 

I’ve got a bunch of miscellaneous tutorials stacking up (making jam! And tablecloths! And doing a facial!) but I just don’t have the time to get them done what with all the parties and end-of-the-school-year shenanigans going on. Let’s just say that I have probably been to more choir/band/piano recitals and concerts than you have. And hey, how about that teacher appreciation week? That was fun. And let’s not forget Field Day. And the 100 water balloons they asked me to donate. What I’m trying to say is that I’m busy. So get off my back, OK?

But I have made some room in my schedule for movies. Because Mister and I do love the picture show.  We saw three good films this last month. I love when that happens!

Salmon Fishing in The Yemen.  It will take you half of the movie to wrap your brain around the idea that the country is not called Yemen but The Yemen. Once you’ve moved past that you will be rewarded with a great little romantic comedy. Well, a little more highbrow and thoughtful than your typical Rom Com. But it’s a super date movie. Ewan McGregor sounds all Scottish and dreamy and Emily Blunt is adorable too. Mister and I were both pleasantly surprised. In our town it’s only playing at the artsy-fartsy theatre. I have no idea why. Everyone would like this movie.

 

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Loved this! But I have to tell you that we were the youngest people in the theatre by far. The cast is so phenomenal. Maggie Smith and Judy Dench have been two of my favorites since A Room With A View and here they are together again. Also the hilarious and super underrated Bill Nighy. Cousin Isabel from Downton Abbey is here too. Mostly this film was shot in India–MARVELOUS (obviously I’m a big fan of India since I named my daughter after it). Marigold Hotel is really funny and poignant and thought-provoking. It’s a gem.

 

Bernie.  This one stars Matthew Maccaughnehey (too tired to google the correct spelling of his name) and Jack Black (who is really superb and not an over-the-top goofball as he usually is). This movie might not be too popular around the country yet but keep your eyes out because I think it’s going to get a lot of noteriety. It was filmed right here in Central Texas and is perhaps the most Texas-y movie ever made.  The characters in it are hilarious and I laughed through the entire thing. But the movie gets kind of serious at the end and by the time the credits roll I was going “no way!”  I don’t want to spoil anything so I won’t tell you more. It’s better just to go into this movie not knowing anything. I give it my highest praise by saying that I just can’t stop thinking about it.

All these movies are PG-13. There are some swears so consider yourself forewarned.

I nearly forgot that today is the official Star Wars Day. (The unofficial Star Wars Day for fans is the other 364 days of the year). I can’t believe I came this close to not reminding everyone. Fortunately I have Kacy who keeps me apprised of all the milestones in Science Fiction.

My son York is fifteen and Star Wars is pretty much the most important thing in his life (he has never had a girlfriend, strangely enough). I would like to think that I, his mother, am most important. I only gave him life and read Things That Go three thousand times to him.  You know, nothing special. Nothing like the things Darth Sidious has done for him. But he doesn’t have a corner of his room dedicated to me.

 

Nor does he have an assortment of posters with my face on them (you guys, this is only two of the Star Wars posters in his room.)

Nor does York have a clock featuring scenes from my life.

So I shall shrug my shoulders and make myself some cookies. Shortbread X-Wing fighter, anyone?

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I meant to write a review of all the books I read in 2011, but I could only remember about three of them. So I’ll try to dig around my bookshelf and jog my memory. But movies are much easier to remember. Mostly because there aren’t as many to choose from.  As I’ve mentioned before, I see a lot of movies. Nothing scary because I hate scary movies. And nothing too dirty unless the guy in it is on My List. Then it is OK. (You weren’t familiar with that loophole, were you?)  Before you turn your snooty nose up at me for watching Rated R movies, I have made a New Year’s Resolution not to see any in 2012. And so far I haven’t seen any (except for The Descendents because I had already seen that in 2011. And naturally that means it doesn’t count. Which is another loophole you might not have known about but I do, being an expert on commandments and loopholes. Just governing myself here, people, like the Prophet Joseph said). Without further lame excuses, here is my list, in order.

My Most Favorite:

Midnight in Paris. I have always loved Woody Allen (except for that stinker The Jade Scorpion). This movie was enchanting because it was funny (natch), clever (allusion to “Miniver Cheevy”, one of the poems I really love? Check.), took place in Paris, and had to do with time travel back to the good ol’ days. I saw it three times in the theatre, I loved it so much.

Buck. This was a documentary about the real Horse Whisperer. His name is Buck (short for Buckshot, so he had no choice but to be a cowboy) and he grew up in a very troubled home. He got his act together and became absolutely amazing with horses. It’s both fascinating and feel-good. It’s a very quiet, thoughtful movie but I showed it to my kids and they all were mesmerized. Side note: I want his daughter’s hat incredibly badly.

Crazy. Stupid. Love. Yes, the worst movie title all year.  I had really low expectations for this but I was very pleasantly wrong.  It was so funny, so poignant, so true.  The cast is terrific and has the most hilarious scene of any movie all year (yes, even funnier than Maya Rudolph having diarrhea in the street.) I just adored this movie.

ContagionMatt Damon and pandemics: my two favorite subjects. If you don’t want to stock up your food storage after seeing this, you have problems.

I Am. This was a documentary that the critics hated because the idea is about trying to prove the importance of compassion and love. The guy who made this movie was a Hollywood big shot who got deathly ill and finally realized that his  life was pretty pointless. He set out to discover what is really  in the world. While it was not the best-made movie I’ve seen, it was super interesting and incredibly joyful. (By the way, the movie’s title refers to the question “who is responsible for making the world a better place?”.)

 

My Most Hated:

Just Go With It. I’m going to go out on a limb and say this was my most hated movie of all time. Not surprising since it’s Adam Sandler, who has made only one good movie in his entire life (The Wedding Singer). The premise is idiotic on so many levels (“my assistant is Jennifer Aniston and because she wears glasses I never noticed that she’s hot”). This is one of those movies based entirely on telling one lie after another which makes things incredibly complicated (hilarious hijinx ensue! Theoretically). As a very frank and honest person, I find this so incredibly frustrating; almost frustrating enough to scream in the middle of the movie. Also, there are very sassy kids in this movie. Sassy kids are not funny; they are horrid. I think they are encouraging people to accept underage sassiness in real life. Seriously.

Sherlock Holmes: I’m sorry. I couldn’t stand it.  Filmmakers: If you don’t want to make a movie that takes place in the Victorian Era, then don’t. But don’t pretend that you do and have it be completely modern in every way except the costumes. Also, there are lots of explosions.  Explosions are to adult movies as farts are to kids’ movies: they’re a cop-out and a sign of poor storytelling.

J. Edgar. It was choppy, confusing, the makeup was terrible and J. Edgar seemed like nothing more than a power-hungry wacko (not in a good way. Just in a I-wish-he’d-hurry-up-and-die-so-this-movie-would-end way).

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Did you know it’s possible to make an incredibly boring and slow spy movie? If you didn’t, check this out. Because who doesn’t want to see not just one but two (!) scenes of Gary Oldman swimming slowly across a lake.  Even Colin Firth can’t make this interesting.

Hop: Yes, it’s a kids movie. But it was painfully stupid. Even James Marsden, whom I love (and who loves me too, I just know it) couldn’t make this movie palatable. It was like Alvin and the Chipmunks but with only one chipmunk. Who makes candy.

 

Movies I Refused To See For Idealogical Reasons:

The Smurfs. I totally worshipped the Smurfs growing up. I bought my kids Smurf stuff a decade ago when I could only get it on ebay. But when I saw this preview my blood ran cold. Cartoon characters in Manhattan??? Uh, I already saw that movie and it was called Enchanted. The Smurfs need to stay in a European forest where their shenanigans are accompanied by classical music, just like the cartoons. The Smurfs are gentle (except for that dumb Jokey who’s always giving gifts that explode) and slightly goofy.  They need to stay that way, Hollywood.

New Year’s Eve. I saw Valentine’s Day and it was atrocious. Why would I see it again?

Footloose. I hate musicals. I hate remakes. I especially hate movies whose theme is “dancing makes everyone get along”.

If you have children you probably have quite a collection of DVDs. If you children are old enough to work the DVD player, they probably take them out and leave them lying all over the floor. That’s not just my kids, right?

Perhaps one of our DVDs will make it out to the car and somehow end up with juice spilled all over it, wedged between the seats. That’s just a hypothetical. Things like that never happen for real around here. Never.

OK, fine. It’s a sad life to be a DVD at our house.

That’s where Fast Disc Repair comes in. It’s a great company that can repair just about any DVD, CD or video game. This isn’t just cleaning a DVD (did you know that saliva is the best cleaner there is? Try making your kids lick their dirty DVDs and see how they freak out!). This is actual resurfacing. Unless the disc is actually cracked, it can probably be fixed. And if it’s not fixable, they won’t charge you. How great is that?!

Here’s how it works: you pop your disks in a padded envelope and send them off, and they’ll be fixed and mailed right back to you in New York or Timbuktu or wherever you live. Or if you’re in the Austin area, you can drop by the business in Cedar Park (right across from City Hall). All for $7 a piece! Think about the alternative: tossing your badly scratched discs in the garbage and having to buy new ones. If you’ve paid $50 for a game, your only other choice is to throw it away, and that is just painful. It makes economical sense as well as environmental sense–keep all those messed-up discs out of the landfills!

I can’t rave about this enough. We have so many movies that we haven’t watched for years, simply because they skip really badly or freeze up. Now they’re good as new. Fast Disc Repair even fixed the dreaded circular scratch on one of my friends XBox games.

The nice Fast Disc people are allowing me to do a giveaway of their services. Leave me a comment by Wednesday 7/27 at 10 pm (central time) and I’ll choose a winner to receive free repair for four discs (CDs, DVDs or games). You can enter no matter where you live. Even on the other side of the Earth. Just get your discs to Texas and they’ll take care of the rest.

You can get more info here. And no, they are not paying me for this. I just love it so much.

605 N Bell Blvd.

Suite 103

Cedar Park, TX 78613

512 633-9195


Good Gravy, the last few days have been crazy. When did summer get so busy? (Answer: this week.) I thought it might be easier to explain things as story problems, although I always hated them when I was in math class. Instead of figuring out the dumb problems, I always got all existential instead. Why did Jose and Sally get ten cookies and Mark only get three? Who was the dunce handing out cookies and why didn’t he do it right to begin with? And why do I care what time two trains arrive, travelling at different speeds? They get there when they get there. Sheesh.

Let’s see if I can come up with some story problems that are a little more relevant.

1. If Jennie and Mr. Jennie are celebrating their 19th anniversary, what presents do they get for each other?

A. The 19th anniversary gift is traditionally bronze.

B. Dinner and a movie at the Drafthouse theatre. That way they can eat and watch a film at the same time and thus aren’t reminded that they ran out of things to talk about seven years ago.

C. Earrings for her, Sex for him.

D. Presents??? The entire budget will be spent on Jasper’s birthday three days later. Thanks for being born two weeks early and messing up the anniversary, Jasper!

Answer: B. (Sort of.) We did go to a combo lunch/movie at the Drafthouse to see Midnight in Paris (which was excellent). But we only went there because the popcorn is so good. Mister and I still have plenty to talk about even after all this time.

2. Which of these activities can be performed in the most coma-like state?

A. Picking up mother from the airport at 11:15 pm. Because of course that’s the cheapest flight.

B. Picking up teenage daughter up from a party at midnight, the very last minute before her curfew. Apologize profusely when you realize you’ve rung the doorbell at the wrong house.

C. Tapping at Scout Leader’s door at 6:00 am to pick up son from Scout sleepover in order to get son to Cross Country running practice. No other Scouts or leaders may be disturbed or points will be deducted.

D. Taking 6 year-old back to bed because, “the sun is mixed up and it’s shining but really it’s still nighttime. So go to sleep and don’t get up until the first number on your clock is a seven.”

Answer: D. At least I think that’s how it happened. I was so tired I don’t really remember the details.

3. Name the activity least likely to be performed while trying to make Jasper’s birthday cake:

A. Giving 12 year-old a beginning hammered dulcimer lesson because Jennie “promised and swore that Thursday would be the day”. Never mind that it requires 20 minutes tuning the stupid instrument first. After wasting ten minutes looking for the tuner.

B. Cleaning up cat barf. Twice.

C. Dropping everything to go to the grocery store because there are still items Jennie forgot despite two grocery store trips earlier in the day.

D. Like it really matters. It’s so insanely hot here that the icing will melt and run down the cake, looking like something from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

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Answer: B. The cat did throw up twice but I made India clean it up.

I loved When Harry Met Sally so, so much. Naturally I was excited to see that a sequel was in the works. With Helen Mirren! Check out the preview. Hope you’re not drinking anything because you’re going to laugh! (There are a couple of swears. Sorry!)


There is something going on in our family that I haven’t wanted to talk about. It’s been very traumatic for me and I’ve had a hard time dealing with it. But I need to be upfront. I need to get this out in the open.

My husband likes country music.







You guys, I’m from Detroit. I never met anyone who listened to country until I went to college. I always thought that the people who like it are the countriest of bumpkins. (I know this isn’t really true because the hickest people I’ve ever known all liked Heavy Metal.) It was the kind of music that everybody made fun of when I was growing up; the musical equivalent of living in a trailer. And now my husband likes it. Not just likes it but buys it! He even goes to concerts. Since I can’t bring myself to spend a lot of money on music I don’t care for, he has been taking India to concerts with him. And now she likes it! (That plan really backfired on me.) Next think you know he’s going to chew tobacco and buy a pick-up truck.





Oh wait, he did buy a pick-up truck. I thought he was just being practical.





The funny thing is that I imagine that I am embracing the “country lifestyle”. I mean, we live in Texas! By choice! And we love it! But there’s only so far I can go. You can take the girl out of Detroit, but you can’t take Detroit out of the girl, I guess. Maybe I like The Country the way it’s portrayed in movies. All the houses are darling and have pies in the windows and every town has a cute little main street. There is no mention of WalMart, double wides, or people wearing camo with every outfit.

Mister explained why he likes country music. “The lyrics are uplifting. The songs are about things I identify with like being a good person and having a family.” And then he played me some song about a dad whose little boys prays because he sees his dad praying. And it made me cry.



I sort of get it.




And then he played me a song about riding on a big green tractor.




Don’t push your luck, Mister.




Excuse me for going AWOL. I finally, after months of hemming and hawing, got an iphone. My texting days of pressing the button three times to get an “s” are over. Praise be!

On top of that I had to get a new hard drive for my laptop. All my music was backed up on Mister’s hard drive (which he misplaced for two months!) but it was a complete mess when I restored itunes. I lost all my playlists (because of course my ipod died at this exact moment too). This has been very distressing to me because I spend a lot of times getting my playlists just right. They are finely crafted and the songs have to flow perfectly. I like to base my playlists mostly on my moods. Cheery music (both cheery classical and cheery vintage) and pensive music. I have my Western Swing playlist (Come on, I’m in Texas!), my workout playlist, my sassy playlist, my playlist for when it’s a sunny, beautiful day and I’m just in the best mood, my Jane Austen playlist, my playlist for when I’m making dinner (I have a couple of those). The playlists go on and on.

Have I mentioned that I pretty much only listen to old-fashioned music? (Sometimes I think I was born in the wrong decade/century. But then I think how much trouble I would get in for my smart mouth and how I hate being bossed around which would be my lot in life as a woman a hundred years ago. So then I’m really glad that I do live now.) Yes, I sound like an old grump when I hear those young whippersnappers and their crazy music (is it just me or does every song nowadays sound the same?) But I like what I like and so what if I pull up at the stoplight and have Fats Waller blaring? (Fats Waller is the best, by the way.)

That was a very long explanation for why I haven’t been blogging. Instead of blogging I’ve been trying to get my life in order, musically speaking. And I’m trying to figure out my iphone, which is only somewhat intuitive despite what my husband claims. I got a nice calendar app with lots of alarms since I have turned into a complete space cadet in the last couple of years. And I have the scriptures app so I can pretend to be following along in Sunday School but can really be reading about celebrity baby names (I never brought my scriptures anyway. Why should I? They always read the scriptures out loud.)

I know most of you are not Luddites like me and have had an iphone for years (including Mister who waited in line all night to get the very first iphone back in ’07.) What advice would you give me? What apps are your favorite? What can you just not live without?

P.S. I’m also over at Segullah talking about hating Utah. Sort of.