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Malware, Lock-outs and How to Check if Your Blog is Infected

I’ve been having a hard time with my blog. On one hand, I have REALLY enjoyed having it.

On the other hand, I am sick of the spam.

Earlier this year the blog stopped working properly. After some online research my husband and I found that someone (or more likely some thing) had infected it with malware. Eventually David was able to get advice from a co-worker and learned how to identify and strip out the bad code. Unfortunately, it just kept coming back. Over and over no matter what security measures and plug-ins I tried. Then, just recently, they locked me of my own site.

Jerks.

So, you may notice that the blog looks and works differently now. It was a hassle, but my husband kindly took the time to switch service providers (this is a self-hosted wordpress site). Some things were lost, and its going to take some time to put back what I can find. Then we updated to a newer, less vulnerable WordPress theme, changed to a stronger password and took steps to make everything more secure.

Not surprising, this whole situation has left a bad taste in my mouth. I had to seriously think about whether the blog was worth saving and how much I’m willing to invest in something that may again disappear out of my reach. And maybe it won’t ever happen again.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………

Meanwhile, if you’re curious about your own blog you can go to Securi Sitecheck and type in your web address to be scanned. I’m happy to report that thepaperseed.com is “verified clean”, and I truly, truly hope it stays that way.


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5 Impressive Cake Frosting Techniques + Tutorials

Petal Frosting by La Receta de la Felicidad

These days, happy bakers everywhere are upping the ante with beautiful frosting techniques. Not only do we want to enjoy our slice of cake, we want it to look good too. Not sure how to accomplish that? Here are 5 impressive techniques, including tutorials, to inspire you.

1. Smooth Frosting  Let’s start with the basics. Nothing says modern like the clean lines of this perfectly frosted cake. Check out How to Frost a Cake by Whisk Kid.

2. Textured Frosting  Want a more relaxed and traditional-looking topping? How to Frost a Cake by The Paula Deen Test Kitchen will show you.

3. Ribbon Frosting  This classic design is always impressive. The Sew*er, The Caker, The Copy-Cat Maker shows you the Ribbon Frosting Technique with lots of step-by-step photos.

4. Petal Frosting  This is one of my personal favorites. Such a stunning visual created with such easy steps. Check out My Cake School’s Pretty Petal Effect or Bird on a Cake’s Petal Tutorial. The pink cake shown here is the Ombre Petal Cake by Java Cupcake.

5. Rosette Frosting  A timelessly romantic design.  Girl. Inspired has a great tutorial called Tips for Making a Swirled Rose Cake. I am baker also has a well-done Rose Cake Tutorial, and provides a Rose Cake Video Tutorial as well.

Happy frosting!

 

 


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How to Paint a Craigslist Dresser in 4 Easy Steps

I finally had it one day with our cluttered hallway. It was full of plastic bins, boxes of diapers, items destined for Goodwill, and all sorts of odds and ends stacked precariously. We knew that some day in the future we would make built-in cabinets, but for now it was screaming for some TLC. So I began looking on Craigslist for some possibilities.

Tip: Use a Craigslist mobile app – so helpful when you’re not at a computer.

Step 1: Choose your dresser
Using the app, I found several that suited my needs both aesthetically and size-wise. I was looking for something kid-friendly and streamlined, no knobs or funky carvings. Just basic. One in particular was priced just right at $20, and solid oak to boot! No particle board for me, thanks. Ironically, there were two of the same model of dresser for sale (see above photo). The other was selling for $195 (and in much better condition)!

Step 2: Clean & Sand
After bringing the dresser home and taking out all the drawers, we noticed some mouse droppings in a few of them. Alarming, but not a deal-breaker. I looked on the CDC website how to properly clean and disinfect the dresser, including making a homemade bleach solution of 1 part bleach to 10 parts water. It sucked, but I wasn’t going to take any chances. Then came the sanding. I was expecting to do the work myself, since my husband wasn’t crazy about my plan, but he kindly offered to do the remaining work for me. He used a palm sander and gave it a good once-over. I recommend using a mask and eye protection. A benefit of this dresser’s flat, no frills style is that there aren’t any details that require special sanding.

Step 3: Prime
We have a huge 5 gallon container of primer left over from when we did our home addition last year. Some people skip this step, and that might be okay on rarely used pieces, but this will be a working dresser. If you don’t want to see chips in the paint the first time you use it, or anytime soon, then you need to prime. Tape off any areas you don’t want to paint, or when a crisp line is desired. Use a roller for ease of coverage, but have a paintbrush handy to swipe corners and other details. We decided to not paint the inner drawers, but I plan to use drawer liners. Once the primer is dry, give it a once over by hand with fine sandpaper (and maybe a sanding block).

Step 4: Paint
Because we were looking for a small budget solution, we decided to use the leftover paint from our bathroom – a medium gray semi-gloss with a bit of blue called “Still Creek”. Make sure to roll it on smooth and constantly check for drips. You can see from the photo that David had a little helper. I thought this might leave streaks on the drawer fronts, but it doesn’t as long as you roll over it while it is still wet. Chloe loved “helping” daddy.

Now that the painting is done, don’t rush to use the dresser until the paint is fully cured. The longer you wait, the harder the finish will be – up to two weeks. Otherwise you risk smudges and marks. I asked at Home Depot about a top coat, but he assured us that one wasn’t needed as long as we waited for it to fully cure.

Ta da! Here’s our dresser sitting in its new hallway spot. Soon it will have a framed wall display to go above it, but that project is still in the works. I hope to be able to share it soon. Until then, good luck and happy painting!


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Ribba Wall Display: Frame Layout Process

As I mentioned, the last time we went to Ikea we bought a bunch of Ribba frames. David finally agreed to let me put up a family photo wall, in the hallway, and I am in the process of laying out the frames to best fit the space. If I had my way completely, I’d be putting up a display wall in the greatroom, where these photos might actually be seen. However, the hallway is as far as the husband is willing to concede. (Wives out there, if your husband is the kind that gives you free rein with the decor, count your blessings).

Now, about our hallway – it is short, dark and narrow. Did I mention dark? Yes, there are hall lights, but we don’t use them during the day, and at night only if we’re looking for something. I’d love to install a sky tube (mentioned here), but I have my work cut out for me if I want to wear the husband down enough for that.

Arranging the frames was trickier than I thought it would be. I knew I wanted a somewhat symmetrical grid, and the same amount of space between each frame, but the sizes that the Ribbas come in make that difficult. I now know Ribba frames are best for those who prefer a random or asymmetrical approach (this one is a nice example).

With all the frames on the floor, and a measuring tape handy, I began to shuffle them around, sort of like puzzle pieces. This was the first layout I was happy with, but it was too long for the wall space.

This is the best possibility so far, and what I’m probably going to use. It is much more linear than I initially wanted, but again, if I want a certain amount of symmetry (and equal space between frames) this is probably my best bet. It is also fewer frames, and therefore photos, than I had wanted to use.

And now the hardest part – picking the photos. So many to choose from. Wish me luck!

 


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Beaded Baby Teether Necklace

Have I mentioned that Leo LOVES hair? Grabbing it, pulling it, playing with it, burying his face in it and even eating it. Sometimes after holding him I feel crunchy places in my hair where he has been sucking. He also sometimes rubs and pulls his own hair to soothe himself. Perhaps I’m raising the next Vidal Sassoon? All I know is that what once was cute when he was less strong is now becoming a bit painful at times. Just ask his poor sister. She basically cannot come within reach of him or she gets grabbed or scratched. Oh yes, he’s also a scratcher. Naturally, he doesn’t mean to, but those little fingernails… well… ouch. I’m just hoping that scab on my nose doesn’t scar.

I made the teething necklace above as an attempt to divert his attention. I’ve seen several fun and funky looking ones, and they are easy enough to make. Basically, you

1. Sew a tube of fabric big enough to insert wooden craft balls.
2. Tie a knot in the fabric between each ball
3. Sew the ends closed and add a ribbon to tie it (or twill tape, in this case).

Leo, however, is only minimally interested. It isn’t hair, after all. And so it doesn’t get  a ton of wear. I tend to prefer smaller jewelry anyway (which I don’t wear now, so as not to have it yanked off and swallowed). Ah, well. Gentle admonishments will have to suffice for now…


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Foaming soap pump makeovers

We like foaming hand soap in our house (see the previous post for just one of the reasons why). For kids, it’s less messy than bar soap, and it pumps out, spreads and rinses off easier than regular liquid soap. We even use it in shampoo form – more suds for the hair and less running into the eyes.

Seeing two empty pump bottles laying around made me wonder if we could re-fill them with our own home-made version. And guess what? All it takes is just a portion of liquid soap mixed with water. We filled our pump containers about an eighth full of regular liquid soap and filled them the rest of the way with water. Voila! Turns out the technology isn’t in the soap formula, but in the pump itself.

I’m so happy we discovered this. Now a bottle of regular soap lasts us so much longer, and each amount of soap costs a fraction of what it did before.

Extra fun: I peeled off the labels on our used soap pumps and gave them each a makeover. See the “before” photo here. The colorful one above is for Chloe’s bathroom and the black and white one below is for ours.

Update: Even though I used “permanent” Sharpie markers, the ink actually comes off if scraped too hard. They’d probably last longer if sprayed with a fixative. I wonder what would be a better medium? Some sort of paint?

Floral designs inspired by Sandra Isaksson.


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Lavender

Our lavender is in full bloom, making all the bees and butterflies around here crazy happy. It is such a beautiful color. And the smell… gorgeous.

At the end of summer I’ll dry the stems and place the scented buds in my drawers or hanging in fine mesh bags in the closet. I didn’t get around to it last year, so I want to be extra good about it this year. There are about a million things that can be made out of lavender, too – from salt or sugar scrubs, sachets, wands, to even ice cream. So many choices, so little time.

And here’s a whole long list of lavender recipes and projects from Martha Stewart.


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Make your own bean bag chair

Check out this cool bean bag chair by Joanna at Stardust Shoes. I never thought I’d say this about a bean bag chair, but I think this one is so fun. I wish I had one like it for Chloe’s room. She would totally dig it. Not only does she love to climb on chairs in general, but also to get in and out of boxes, bounce on cushions, and land in piles of dirty clothes on the floor. Wouldn’t playing with an oversize bean bag be like all those things?

Joanna offers both an adult-sized (shown above) and child-sized pdf tutorial, so technically I could make one myself. Maybe I will someday. Right now I’m stuck with a halfway finished spring top. I can’t seem to figure out the next step, and I’m not sure how best to move forward (Sandy, maybe I can ichat you and hold the instructions up to the camera?). Also strange is that I can’t find a single reference of anyone sewing this top, or any photos on Flickr or anywhere else. Maybe because it was written for teenagers and there aren’t any teenager-sewing-bloggers? Oh well. I might just try and wing it.


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Valentine Idea: Day 10 – Origami Love

Origami Love – Paper is truly a remarkable material, and an inherent part of Valentine’s Day! How about spreading a little love around by folding a batch of these beauties to share…


Origami Kusadama Flower


Origami Fortune Teller


Sweet Origami Hearts


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Making Freezer Paper Stencils (free pdf download)


What do you think of Chloe’s new tee shirt? See below to download the dragonfly stencil.

Freezer paper stencils are awesome! Not as “perfect” as screen printing, but easy and fun for single projects just the same. Watch out family, you may all be getting stenciled items for Christmas this year…

Wading through all the tutorials available, I found this one to be pretty helpful. Originally, I hadn’t been able to find freezer paper at my local supermarket (although I did see it recently at Fred Meyer). I opted to go with the large freezer paper sheets from Dharma Trading Post, since I was going to order some t-shirt blanks anyway (1,2,3,4). The nice thing about the rolls though, is you can make your stencil any length, but I think I read somewhere that craft freezer paper may have a better bond.

I’ve tried two brands of ink so far – Speedball Fabric Screen Printing Ink (which my husband already had from previous screen printing projects) and Jacquard Professional Screen Printing Ink. I don’t know if the Speedball ink was just too old, but it took two applications to get good coverage. Afterwards, the directions say to iron for 3-5 minutes on each side to set, which seemed like a really long time. I prefer the Jacquard. It applied better, nicely staining the fabric, and just needed one application for full coverage. Plus, it only took 1 minute to heat set.

While some of the ideas shown above are mine, others came from places like Arthur’s Silhouette Clipart Plants and Animals and Briar Press. I’d love to hear in the comments section if anyone has a favorite, because sometimes I just can’t decide. Also, Greta was sweet to post a photo of the yellow butterfly top and matching socks I made for her daughter Ava’s first birthday. Want to make your own butterfly, dragonfly or flower shirt?

**Click here to download the free stencil pdf.**

Postscript: I also have bird silhouette templates available to download that I made for another project, which would also work well as freezer paper stencils.


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Baby Craft Tutorial Roundup

A while back I started a page devoted completely to cool baby craft tutorials. There is a tab below the blog header that links to it. It contains a mix of my own tutorials and other people’s projects. So far there are tutorials for baby hair clips, appliqued onesies, felt baby shoes, burp cloths, kimono wrap, diaper and wipes pouch (poopy clutch), knit hat with earflaps, LED baby booties, diaper cake and embellishing baby tees. I hope to add more as I come across them on the net, so check back if you’re interested, or let me know what some of your favorite ones are and I’ll add them to the list.


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Bottlecap Pincushion Tutorial

I was perusing swap-bot this morning when I came across the cutest little tutorial for a bottlecap pincushion. Love it! Jen also provides a link to more little cuties and other handcrafted cushions for sale in her etsy shop Schmaltzy Craftsy and her on her blog. She even has a book out called Pretty Little Pincushions. I think I’m going to have a go at making a couple myself. You can join the Bottlecap Pincushion swap here.

If you’re interested, it’s not too late to join my plastic pendant giveaway! Just leave a comment on the previous post. The drawing will be held tomorrow!


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How to paint a wooden box

After reading this post on Paper Kitty’s blog, I looked up Swap-bot, a swapping community where you can join or host different swaps. To give it a try, I signed up for one called “painted wooden box.” It was listed as an international swap and my particular partner ended up being from Malaysia. Malayasia! How cool is that?

Here are some pics during the painting process. By reading my swap partner’s profile I learned that red, orange and green were some of her favorite colors, so that is what I used on the outside. The inside I filled with red-themed items, a mixture of handmade and purchased goodies. I don’t want to ruin the surprise by showing everything, on the off-chance she somehow finds her way to this blog. This was really fun though. I can see how swapping can get addictive, and I haven’t even received anything yet!


This is the original unpainted box that I picked up on sale at Craft Warehouse. I covered the
glass on the lid with tape and then stained the box with a black walnut colored stain.

While the stain dried I printed and cut this lotus pattern on heavy cardstock.

I traced the stencil onto the box and then painted the image using acrylic paint.
To seal, the outside of the box was sprayed with a light coating of matte finish spray.

For a finishing touch, I cut a piece of stiff craft felt for the interior bottom, then filled the
box with goodies and a card, and prepared it for shipping.


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Easy Halloween Fun on a Mac

inverted mac screenshot

Want to have a little fun by dressing up your mac in orange and black for Halloween (and giving your co-workers and boss a good scare in the process)? Here’s how:

1. Click on System Preferences in your dashboard (the silver rectangle icon with the apple logo on the right and a light switch on the left).

2. Click on Universal Access, shown near the bottom right corner, in the “System” catagory.

3. Now click the radio button for White on Black under the “Display” catagory.

This will automatically “invert” the colors on your screen. For example, anything that was once white, will now be black. If you want to change your desktop color to invert to orange, like the picture above, you have to start with a blue background (because blue inverts to orange).

To do this go to “System Preferences” and choose “Desktop & Screen Saver” near the top under the Personal catagory. Then choose any blue background under “Apple Images.” Repeat the steps above to “invert” and then show off your spooky computer.

To change back, simply click again on the “Black on White” radio button under Universal Access.

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