September 25, 2011

The new Facebook Timeline will be so cool--here's why

Blog, it's been like a soap opera on Facebook this week...

  • Will the new "news ticker" drive us all into going postal?
  • What "huge change" is coming this week that will "revolutionize the Facebook experience?
  • Will our friends flee to Google+?
  • Will the FB versus + question accelerate into a battle that rivals PC versus Mac?
  • And what about Naomi?

People do panic about change, Blog...which I find interesting because dealing with change is, by now, a part of everyday life. Be that as it may, change can be good or bad, and we'll never all agree on which one. My personal opinion is that I'm going to love the new Facebook Timeline, and for what it's worth, here's why.

[The Timeline feature launches automatically the end of this week...I got a jump on it by following this easy tutorial.]

The Timeline turns your past record on Facebook into a sort of digital scrapbook. Your profile page becomes a two-column, magazine-style illustrated narrative. It does this automatically. You can tweak it, but you don't have to put more than five minutes' effort into it if you don't want to. For example, I created a new image for the "cover" picture. The profile looks like the image above right, Blog--or did at that time.

The little do-hickey at the upper right lets you pinpoint anytime since you were born. And key events, like family members' births and your graduation year, are already on the Timeline based on information you and those users already put in Facebook. You can add photos (I put in baby and high school graduation photos of myself) and "life events" as you see fit.

You can also delete anything you choose from the Timeline if it's lame, boring, or embarrassing. The post stays in the database but disappears from the Timeline. It's just another way to make it into the "scrapbook" you want it to be.

I discovered, looking at my Timeline, that it seems I accidentally have been the kind of Facebook user who will doubtless benefit most from this feature. I post a lot of photos and videos, and chronicle fun and interesting events both personal and pop culture. Text-heavy posters may not find the Timeline so exciting, but many of us will really enjoy just perusing past weeks. I did, and it made me laugh and smile and generally feel fortunate to have my life, home, family and friends.

So, as for how I'm finding this changes my outlook as a Facebook user: Already yesterday I found myself thinking in terms of how best to chronicle the day and capture the mood. So, when I decorated the house for fall, I made sure to post some pics. I might have done this anyway, but I was even more motivated knowing I could eventually be looking back at the day from years in the future.

Blog, there's nothing truer than the old adage, "You can't please all of the people all of the time." I know some Facebook users will hate the new features, some will gripe at first but learn to live with them, most will roll with the changes without too much fuss. But some of us are really, really going to like the Timeline and it will actually enhance our lives a bit.

September 19, 2011

How to make f'opals (faux opals)

Blog, I find it fascinating that lately we're getting thousands of visitors to the post we did about crazy homecoming mums, when I've never even made crazy homecoming mums. I have, however, made my own brand of faux opals which (thanks to my uberpal Martha's idea) I call f'opals. Why look, here's a f'opal I made now--check it out!

Our readers can make f'opals just like this, Blog! That is, of course, if they have the required items on this Required Items List:


  • translucent polymer clay (and the usual tools/equipment for working with same)
  • opal colors of clay, in metallic or pearl varieties (I used blue and green; peach, yellow, pink and purple would be good too)
  • Perfect Pearls metallic powder in opal colors (see above)
  • iridescent glitter
  • Dremel tool
  • bits for rough sanding, finer sanding, polishing and drilling
  • Future floor polish
  • Optional--iridescent or opal colors of thin foil


The general thing about making f'opals, Blog, is that you are trying to recreate the random, translucent, crystalline aspects of an opal. So start by making yourself some globs of translucent clay tinted into pastels, by mixing a bit of metallic or pearl color clay with translucent. Don't mix it too much...go for swirly.

When you have two to five colors, roll them into ropes of varying thickness. Then combine the ropes by twisting and smooching to produce a random, only slightly mixed ball of the various colors.

Get out your Perfect Pearls powders of choice, as well as your iridescent glitter. You can also prepare some tiny teeny snippets of foil if you want, but make them teeny. You can also take some metallic colored clay, roll it out very thin, and chop it into tiny bits...but remember if it is dark colored, you will get an effect not totally opalescent (but still interesting).


Slice the multi-tinted ball of clay into thin layers. Take a layer and paint with some daubs of Perfect Pearls, or sprinkle with some glitter, or top with a piece or two or three of foil or clay fragment. Top with another layer, and repeat. Continue in said fashion, going for random and multicolored.

When you've stacked and festooned all the layers, press together and form into a spheroid shape. Twisting a little is fine--just make sure all the layers are pressed together firmly.

Cut your f'opalescent glob into any number of smaller globs, the approximate size you want the ultimate f'opals to be. Gently roll each piece into a sphere.

Roll some plain translucent clay into the thinnest possible layer. Cover each sphere with this clay and then round into a ball again and make sure any seams are smoothed out.

Bake as usual for the type and size of clay (I did 20 minutes at 270 degrees).


So, Blog, up until this point my technique was not really different from other people's you can read about in online tutorials. But at this point things took a hard left turn onto Freaky Street.

In the oven, all my f'opals cracked. For whatever reason, the outer shells cracked and half came off, and some of the inner parts cracked as well. As it turned out, though, I think this is what made my technique end up to be really cool.

You will want to prepare a big bowl of ice water and set it near the stove. When it's time to remove the f'opal wreckage from the oven, dump everything at once into the ice water. This is what makes the clay go as clear as possible.

Now it may well be (highly likely, I'd say) that your f'opals don't crack in the oven. Not to worry. When they are cool, just dry them off. Lay some paper on a hard surface like your concrete basement floor, put on eye protection, and smack those suckers with a hammer. Gather up the resulting f'opal wreckage (some small pieces, some tiny) in a small plastic bag and you're good to go back to your claying area for the next step.


The little bits of f'opal wreckage have all kinds of fun crystal-like qualities. Choose a piece or two that you especially like, and then coat them once again with plain translucent clay and roll the result into a ball. If you can't exactly get a smooth ball, that's okay--you don't need to.

Re-bake, and re-plunge into fresh ice water. Your new and this-time-for-real faux opals will look like what you see in the photo.


Time to literally crank that Dremel tool, Blog. Don your mask and eye protection, and a smock or old clothes. Start with the rough sanding bit in your Dremel. Take a baked, cooled, dry f'opal.

Use the Dremel to sand, with two goals in mind: to shape the f'opal into its desired ultimate shape, and to expose some pretty areas. Under the plain outer shell, underneath you'll find really interesting colors and patterns and sparklies. The color, intensity, and shine of these will increase with the later steps. It's like digging for buried treasure!

When you have the basic shape you want, switch to the fine sanding bit and make the f'opal smoother all over.

Lastly, switch to the buffing bit and buff the heck out of that little guy. No doubt it will fly out of your hand a bunch of times (and shoot under the most cobwebby shelving in your basement, possibly), so keep a good grip if you can. Don't stop until it seems almost perfect.

Wash any dust off, dry, and get out the Future and a small paintbrush. Give the f'opal two coats of Future (one side at a time, so that's four steps total), allowing 20-30 minutes drying time in between coats. Now it will gleam just like a real opal!

Drill a hole through the f'opal if you wish to string it, and you're done! So here's the choker necklace I made with a few of my batch of f'opals...

Blog, I've wanted to make my own opals for a very long time...they are my favorite semi-precious stone. Now I have the next best thing at a fraction of the cost. That mother-of-all-f'opals focal-f'opal is my pride and joy!

September 6, 2011

The secret garden that I built

Our story begins, Blog and dear readers, three weeks ago when Davie, my uberpal Martha, and I traveled to Cedarburg, Wis. to dine and shop. While exploring the clearance tables inside the Settlement Shops, I came upon a plaque with a crazy, fancy doorknob affixed thereto.

Something about this doorknob, aside from the greatly discounted price of $15, attracted me.

I went back to look at it twice, and the situation brought to my mind the old adage, "No matter how fancy, a doorknob is only good if you have some use for it." Well, there is no such adage, but it's still true. I knew I should only get the doorknob if I had a purpose for it. It was fastened to the plaque with a bolt, washer and nut, easy enough to remove. But then what?
On my third stop at the clearance table, all at once, I had a vision... I told my companions, "I'm going to get this doorknob. I know what to do with it, and it's going to be awesome."

And, as you can see, it is. I call this shadow box "The Secret Garden."

In fact, this summer I read the book The Secret Garden and thought it was fascinating. There's something enchanting about the concept of a hidden place where beautiful things grow. Perhaps the book was bobbing around in my subconcious as I stared at the bargain table. For in my mind's eye I saw that doorknob floating in space, as such a magical looking doorknob would, and beyond it a mystical, lovely place...yes, why not a garden? And that idea turned into a shadow box, with the doorknob mounted right on the glass, and little plants and treasures within. I could do it....

As it turned out, Blog, I did do it, largely with items I had on hand at home.  All I needed was the frame (bought on sale at Michaels for $11) and some silk and plastic plants (another $15 at Michaels on sale, with tons of leftovers). There was only one hitch:

I was really worried about drilling a hole in a piece of glass.  Especially unremovable glass, which if cracked would cost me the entire frame.

I researched like crazy how to drill though glass. I even watched videos. The trick was to build a little ring of clay (of which, as you know, Blog, I have tons) around the drilling spot and fill it with water. And to use a diamond bit in your Dremel tool (check and check). And to go very slowly. It all went off like a charm...I had a perfect hole in my glass!

So, it's fairly obvious where I went from there:  Screwing on the doorknob, filling my shadow box with plants, moss, faux grass and polymer clay rocks for a path, and driftwood, all held in place with styrofoam, wire, electrical tape, and fabric glue. (The box is a couple inches deep; you can't see the little incline at the bottom, but the stone path really goes uphill.) I hung the secret key to the secret garden with a tiny ribbon from the foliage. Ta-da.....?

But wait--there's more!

Look inside the keyhole...look close...closer....what do you see?

Inside there is a tiny garden, with a path continuing on, and trees and plants!

What's the secret to the secret garden in my secret garden? I found a perfect photo of a garden path, reduced it to the proper size, printed it, and mounted in the shadow box behind the keyhole.

Meanwhile, I took apart one of those LED votive candles to expose the little light bulb, and strategically mounted it to light the photo without showing (no easy feat). The candle creates just enough light, with a mysterious flicker. By daylight, you can see the picture okay even without the lamp on.

I do believe, at least according to my Web searches, that this Secret Garden Shadow Box is the first of its kind.

And that, my friends, is what I saw in my head that told me to go ahead and buy the doorknob.

September 5, 2011

10 Random Facts Which Are, In Fact, About Me

So, Blog, at the kind invitation of my friend Tameri Etherton, today I am participating in a Ten Random Facts About Me blog thingy. I would have been happy to post Ten Random Facts about You, Blog, if the list was that long. But really, there's not too much we know about you except:

1. You are a disembodied anthropomophized being.

2. You are gender-neutral with a masculine vibe.

3. You occasionally like to interview other anthropomophized beings like our cookie jar, Professor Snowcaps.

And that's about it.

So while I may not be as fascinating as, say, Ashton Kutcher or one of those Jersey Shore peeps, at least we can come up with Ten Random Facts about me, Blog. So tally ho!

1. I can do ecclesiasical embroidery.

2. From 1998 to 2002 I published a weekly ezine called "Hockey Snacks." (Remember those? Today we call it blogging.) It consisted of original humor about the NHL and was hosted by Shinny, aka my right index finger wearing a miniature goalie mask.

3. When I was in the fourth grade I wrote and directed a musical puppet show called "Soggy Wheat." I am truly not making this made sense at the time.

4. When I was in my 30s I taught myself a couple years of piano and composed a theme-and-variations piece for pipe organ which was performed publically (although not by me, because I didn't know how to play the pipe organ).

5. My first celebrity crush was on Michael Rennie as Klaatu in "The Day the Earth Stood Still." That movie was made in 1951 so that gives you a hint how ancient I am. My latest celebrity crush is Christian Kane who plays Eliot Spencer on "Leverage." The only thing they have in common is the ability to kill people at will. I can only speculate on the psychology happening here.

6. I maintain a biligual biographical website about the French Canadian hockey star Guy Carbonneau, which is currently at 316 pages of material. I've talked about it on Quebec radio and TV, in French, even though I am terrible at speaking French and was terrified.

7. I love to make things. The smallest thing I have ever made--it was out of polymer clay--is the blue bird from Angry Birds. For scale, this is my cat Selke with all the Angry Birds.

8. When I was in junior high I mixed cream cheese with green food coloring, made it into balls dusted with cracker crumbs, called them "Moon Marbles" and brought them to my social studies class (which also made sense at the time...sort of). Everyone agreed they were disgusting.

9. When my husband and I were first dating, we invented a sort of death-metal rock band called "Ham Carving." We thought up all the members and their histories, the names of their albums, song lyrics, etc. It was a poor man's Spinal Tap, but we liked our band.

10. I am pretty obsessed with LOL cats and cat videos. Okay, totally obsessed to the point of pathology. I have not succeeded in making a funny cat video of my own yet but I did make this just sort of nice one.

And that, Blog and dear readers, is as the kids say "all I got." Again, I never promised you Ashton Kutcher...and thanks for reading.