April 30, 2009

3 Ts of blogging — tools, tips, and thanks!!

Party3 Thanks to Julia at Hooked on Houses for hosting the weekly Hooked on Fridays blog party :-)

We reached a bit of a milestone this week — our 100th post. That’s an average of about a post a day — I think it’s safe to say that Victoria and I are hooked on blogging!!

On January 16, 2009, Victoria and I launched DesignTies. Victoria came up with the name, because “we’re tied by design”. This was my first-ever post: Passion + Focus = Following your dreams

And here’s Victoria’s first post: A Smidge of Creativity, Collaboration… and Where It Takes You! Have you noticed that V is just a bit wordy?? ;-)

We’ve learned a lot about blogging since our first posts, and we’d like to share what we’ve learned with you :-)

Blogging tools

(Click the logos to go to the web sites)

WLW logo

If you have a Blogspot blog, you know how annoying composing your posts in Blogger can be. Why do images INSIST on going to the top of the post?! Argh!! Totally NOT user friendly. Luckily, there’s a better tool out there, and it’s free!! Windows Live Writer isn’t perfect, but it’s a lot better than Blogger. It lets you do cool things with pictures, and it’s totally WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get). It’s easy to use and there really isn’t much of a learning curve. Unfortunately, WLW doesn’t work with MACs. But hey, you MAC users can brag about having the best commercials out there!! So it isn’t all bad :-)


FEEDJIT is a cool little widget that shows you where your blog guests come from, how they arrive at your blog, how they leave your blog, and other neat stuff. It’s easy to add it to you sidebar.


FreeOnlineUsers lets you check out the stats for your blog. It keeps track of the number of raw hits and unique visitors to your blog every day. It probably does other stuff too, but those are the only stats we check :-)


Paul at Kitchen and Residential Design is a huge fan of SketchUp. I’ve downloaded it, but haven’t gotten too far with it because the learning curve is pretty steep and I’m technically inept :-) But if you can master SketchUp, you can create fabulous 3D models of rooms, furniture, home exteriors, or anything else that you care to turn into 3D :-)



I love SnagIt. I’ve been using it at work for years. SnagIt lets you take screen captures of your entire screen, the active window, a specific region of the screen… anything you want. And it’ll automatically add cool effects for you, like a faded edge, drop shadow, torn edge… It comes in really handy when you want to save a picture that doesn’t allow you to select the Copy or Save As options. Just take a screen cap with SnagIt!! You can download a 30 day free trial.

paint logo

Every PC keyboard has the Prt Scr (Print Screen) key. It’s easy to use and is an alternative (albeit an inferior one!!) to SnagIt.

1. Open the screen you want to take a screen cap of.

2. Press Prt Scr.

3. Open Paint (or any other graphics program)

4. From the Edit menu, select Copy (or press Ctrl + V).

The screen cap appears!! If you just want a certain part of the screen cap, crop the image down to the section that you want to keep.


How cute is that logo?! Another tool Paul recommended to me is Gimp. I haven’t tried it out yet, but it’s an open source image manipulation program that you can download for free. It’s similar to Corel Paint Shop Pro, which I wrote about here. Have a picture of a great view but there’s a crane in the way?? You can fix it!!

Blogging etiquette

There are some unwritten blogging “rules” that everybody should follow.


If you visit a blog and like what you see, leave a comment. It’s good manners, and your comment will not only be appreciated, but will probably result in you acquiring another visitor to your blog, because…

Returning the favour

When someone comments on your blog post, it’s good manners to go to the commenter’s blog and leave a comment there.

Make commenting easy

Here are a couple of ways you can make commenting easy for your visitors:

A. Turn off the word identification thing

It’s really not that useful, and it can be frustrating to type in those weird letters and numbers. Especially if you’re participating in a blog party and leaving lots of comments!! We don’t use the word verification thing on our blog, and we don’t get any spam. This is how you do it (all screen caps taken with SnagIt showing different effects):

1. In the upper right corner of your blog page, click Customize.


2. Click the Settings tab.


3. On the Settings tab, click Comments.


4. Next to Show word verification for comments? select No.


5. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click Save Settings.

B. Set up your comments so that the comment box and the post being commented on are both visible on the same page.

When I leave a comment, I like to be able to see the picture or text that I’m commenting on. I have a REALLY bad memory (or maybe it’s a short attention span!!), and I forget things fast!! If you use Blogger, you can change the comment format like this:

1. Follow steps 1 to 3 above.

2. Next to Comment Form Placement, select either Pop-up window OR Embedded below post. DON’T SELECT FULL PAGE!!


3. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click Save Settings.

Why we love blogging

The best thing about blogging is “meeting” so many interesting and creative people through our visits to their blogs and their visits to our blog :-) We’ve made blog friends in Australia, Jordan, USA, across Canada…

There are loads of wonderful inspirational pictures and ideas out there. In fact, this picture of a David Collins room from Studio Annetta may have finally answered the question — “what the heck am I going to do with my dining room?!”


Another fab thing about blogging is that we have complete creative control!! It’s awesome to be able to write about whatever you want, whenever you want :-) Blogging allows me to combine two of my greatest passions — writing and interior decorating/design (for Victoria, add home remodelling to that list). We both love doing anything that’s creative, and blogging is a great way for us to let that creativity flow!! :-)

We want more!!

More evidence that we’re hooked — we’re always looking for ways to improve our blog so that you’ll want to come back every day to see what we’re up to :-) For example, we have a new colour scheme in mind for DesignTies. If you love home décor, you can probably relate — sometimes, you just can’t resist the urge to roll a new colour on the walls and freshen things up!! :-)

We’ve hit our 100 post milestone, and now we’re aiming for 200… 300… world blog dominance…

toy story

See, that’s how hooked on blogging we are!

And finally, a big thank you to everyone who visits DesignTies, whether it’s every day, a couple of times a week, or just now and then. We hope that the topics we cover are interesting and informative, and that you like what you see. We hope you have as much fun visiting our blog as we have writing it :-)

You know what to do now… leave a comment!! :-) And then head on back to Julia’s blog party, go visit more blogs, and leave comments for them too!! :-)


If you have a blogging tool or technique that you use and love, please let us know about it!!

Check out Maria’s post at Colour Me Happy about the 10 things she’s learned about blogging in 4 months.

Coffee table APB

I want this coffee table (sorry the picture is fuzzy, but it’s the best I can do):

house table

It’s in Cuddy’s office on House. I love it and I really, really, REALLY want it. The fact that I have nowhere to put it is just a minor detail that can easily be overcome, I’m sure :-) The fact that it’s probably way too expensive is a bigger detail that might not be so easily overcome!!

Have you ever seen this table?? Any idea what it’s called, who makes it, where you can buy it… anything??


April 29, 2009

Stylin’ summer gear for the fashion-conscious canine

pet parade Today is the first-ever Pet Parade Blog Party, co-hosted by Gayle at Planet M Files and ELK at red or gray depends on the day. If you have a pet (or two or more), love animals, or just want to check out some fun pics of pampered pooches and cuddly kitties and other furry friends, go check out Gayle’s blog and follow the links to visit the other Pet Parade participants :-)

A couple of weeks ago at the dog park, we met a girl and her dog, Max. Max is a Black Lab/Boxer mix who loves chasing after balls and laying down in puddles and mud… see??


Max wears a very handsome blue collar. I asked Max’s owner (that’s how it works at the dog park — you know the dog’s name, not the owner’s name) where she bought it. She told me that it’s called a Smoochy Poochy. She said it’s the best collar for dogs that like to get wet because it’s made from vinyl, so it doesn’t get all gooey and stinky from being in the water like leather and nylon collars do. And it’s really sturdy. Max, her puddle-and-mud-loving pooch, has had the same Smoochy Poochy collar for 1-1/2 years, and it still looks as good as new.

smoochy poochy 1

…for the fashion-conscious canine

So I decided that Squirt needs a Smoochy Poochy collar. Because she swims all summer long, and because I’m bored of her black leather collar ;-) And I thought I’d get one for Jackson too, because his cool lime green collar with the silver paw studs is unfortunately getting worn out. Kylie is a total suck when it comes to water, so no new Smoochy Poochy for her!!

(No collar for me, I stick my tongue out at you…)


I decided on red for Squirt and blue for Jackson…

Squirt 3

OK, enough with the pictures, I’m bored…

Squirt 2

Jax 3

Jackson looking like he’s all-that, hanging out on the deck…

Jax 11

I think they look very fashionable and ready for summer in their brand new Smoochy Poochy collars :-) But not as ready for summer as this guy…


Or these guys & gals… barktini, anyone??

martini dogs

Just hanging out on the dock…

doggle dog

Or maybe cruising with the top down is your summer thing…

doggles yellow_lab

These things are called Doggles. Seriously. Really, I’m NOT kidding. I swear to you. Go here for proof. And here too. I don’t know about your dogs, but there’s no way those things would stay on my dogs for more than three seconds!!

Surf’s up, dude!!

surfing dogs

To see what other fashionable fuzzballs are up to this week, go check out all the Pet Parade participants at Planet M Files

 Paw 2 sig

Related posts:

April 26, 2009

Some juicy colours for spring

meta mondayIt’s that time of the week again — time to head back to work, weeehoooo!! ;-) Maybe not so much, eh?? But it’s not all bad, because there’s Metamorphosis Monday to distract you from all the bad things about Monday. Thanks to Susan at Between Naps on the Porch for hosting :-)

Monday’s weather forecast is 27 degrees and sunny. That’s 27 Celsius — double it and add 30, and you get a balmy 84 degrees Fahrenheit (give or take a degree or two). Which means that spring might REALLY here!! Although I once had a softball game that was snowed out in May, so you never know for sure that winter is truly over till about July ;-)

There’s a reason why spring is a big deal around here. I took these pictures in March 2008. Ever lose your house in the snow??

bank 2

See the man in the next picture?? He’s a regular sized man. See the height of the man compared to the height of the snowbank?? That’s a whopper sized snowbank!!

bank 1

This is our street. One of those snowbanks on the right is ours…


And this is the lamp post in front of our house. I guess it’s about 6 or 7 feet tall.

post 1

At this point of the winter, I was rooting for enough snow to bury it completely so I’d have a good story to tell. But that’s as high as it got.

So that’s why we love spring around here — NO MORE SNOW!!! And I think that’s also partly why I’m drawn to colour. After so many months of brown trees branches and white snow, I want to see colours that are vibrant and cheerful and that just say “spring” :-)

drum table 1 I was at HomeSense a couple of weeks ago and saw a fabulous bright green planter. I popped in into my shopping cart, but then I started thinking that 60 bucks was pretty steep for a planter. Especially when I already had planters at home. But they were boring gray plastic. I did pick up this orange ceramic drum stool for the backyard, though.

Then the brain kicked into gear and I thought, why not paint a planter that I already have bright green?? So I picked up a can of spray primer and a can of bright green spray paint at Home Depot for about 11 bucks. I went back later and bought orange and blue too.

I pulled out a couple of other planters, as well as a little concrete pagoda that I put in the front flower bed. I washed them and let them dry, then I went spray paint crazy. Here are a couple of before shots (I decided to hold off on painting the bird bath for now). I don’t know how old the pink planter is, but the price tag on it was 99 cents and it’s from a store that went out of business in the ‘80s!


Before 2

A few pieces primed and ready to paint….

Primed 2

And the final results — juicy colours for spring!!

planters 1

The green spray paint is almost exactly the same shade as the ceramic planter that I already have. That was pure luck!!

four close

I like the texture on the now-blue planter.

blue close

Close up so you can see the glossy finish…

green close

I just love the little pagoda :-) The concrete seems to be a really good base for the spray paint.

pagoda 1

pagoda 2

The plan is to put the blue pieces in the front yard and the green & orange pieces in the backyard (I have plans for an orange & green colour scheme back there).

Not sure what I’ll put in the planters. Here’s what I did a couple of years ago:

pots left

pots right


The gardening expert on Cityline says that planters need “thrill, spill, and fill”. If you have any plant suggestions for me, please let me know :-) Oh, and I’m planning to re-paint the front door purple :-)

So take a look around your house and garden and see if there’s anything you can freshen up with a can of spray paint. Trust me, once you get started, you’ll want to spray paint EVERYTHING!! Even kids are fair game… ;-) (If you’re wondering, these are NOT my kids!!!! And if they were, they would have been in REALLY BIG TROUBLE!!!)

painted kids

Head on back to Between Naps on the Porch to check out more Monday transformations :-)


What I used for this project:

Tremclad spray primer in Gray

Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch spray paint in Lime, Orange, and Deep Blue