How I Edit My Blog Pictures

Also known as “Kelsey’s Rachet Media School”

Welcome. My name is Kelsey, and I am your Professor.  Sit back, relax, and sip your coffee while I show you how to my favorite picture editing apps and how to use them to edit your pictures like a total pro. Or something.

How To Edit Blog Pictures Online For Free | Candidly Kelsey

1. I take pictures with my trusty iPhone 5s.  The camera is only so-so, and my photography skills are even less than. So make sure you have plenty of natural light, and also make sure to take at least 15,000 pictures at different angles.  At least one of them has to be in focus, right?

2. Then import picture into the editing apps I keep on my phone.  Depending on the picture I will do the following:

ALWAYS: Edit it in my favorite picture editing app called Afterlight. Here I will crop slightly, rotate it, adjust the brightness, exposure, shadow, highlight, or temperature, depending on what is needed. I always boost the contrast to make the colors pop.

THEN, if the picture has a lot of white space, I will then import the newly edited image into another picture editing app called Snapseed. Using the “Selective” tool you can adjust the brightness in individual areas by swiping left or right across the screen. Just click and place the little circle on the area you want to edit. You can also adjust the size area that you are editing by pinching the screen and zooming in or out. This can help make white backgrounds brighter, and be super useful if your lighting is uneven or heavily shadowed.

How to Edit Blog Pictures For Free | Candidly Kelsey

3. Then, I email the picture to myself from my phone so I can import it to my computer.

4. After downloading the image onto my computer, I then open the image on PicMonkey.com.

Here is where I do final resizing and cropping to fit my blog format, tweak brightness, exposure, highlights, and contrast a bit more as needed.

If it is a relatively simple image, like shown below, I add the writing using the text option.  I always make sure I am using the same fonts, and same colors that go with my blog theme.  When finished, I save the image to my computer and then I’m done!

How To Edit Blog Pictures Online For Free | Candidly Kelsey

5.  However, if it’s a more complicated image, like a chart, or something I want a more detailed design on it, I will then open the image in Canva.com.

Canva has a ton of free options to create more complicated designs on images.  For example, I used the tools on Canva to help create blank blank blank, as shown below.

What’s especially great about Canva is that it has a ton of templates already created for free.  If you ever get stuck and need an idea, it’s really easy to grab one of their pre-made images and adjust it to your brand.

Once I create an image that I am happy with, I name it and download it as a PNG file.  And voila, you have an image for your blog post.

How To Edit Blog Pictures Online For Free | Candidly Kelsey

See, now wasn’t that easy? Only 3-5 different picture editing apps, and two different electronic devices, and you got yourself a snappy image.  Only a little complicated, but all totally free online photo editing  — which is my favorite part.

Anyone else use these apps, or would be interested in a tutorial on any of them? Let me know! I not only use them for my blog, but also to create the marketing material for my day-job, so it really can be used to make great images if you take your time.  It would really pay off to become comfortable with these websites and all they can do.

Happy editing!

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Blog Goals for 2016

2016 Blog Goals
Alright, I’ll give.  I have hopes and dreams, and I’m not afraid to talk about it.  Here are my blogging goals for 2016:

Reach 100,000 views.  I want this for no other reason than I think it would be cool, and to feed my ego. Not sorry.

Start working a week ahead, and follow an editorial calendar.  I have struggled with posting on a schedule, and have missed at least one post per week for the past few weeks due to poor planning.  I’d like to continue posting at least 3 times per week, but want to work up to being at least a week ahead on blog posts so that if time does get the best of me– as it usually does– it won’t ruin things.  And having an editorial calendar will be far more organized than my current system of having 500 half-finished posts saved as “drafts”.

Do make-up tutorial posts or make-up look videos. A lot of my friends ask me for make-up advice now and I really do love talking about it, so I think it’d be really fun! And some things are so much easier to explain on video than in writing.

Start a newsletter. I’m late to the blogging game on this one, but I thought it’d be useless to start a newsletter if I can’t post consistently enough to use the newsletter  I mean, I could fill the blank space with knock-knock jokes, but that might get old pretty quick. Or not.  Maybe I should try it?

Do more personal posts.  I loooove reading personal posts on other blogs, so why not do more of my own on here? If I like reading them, I’m sure there are others who would like reading them too.  Plus I love to over share my life anyway. See my Twitter and Snapchat (@iamkelskels) if you don’t believe me.  I’m thinking 1-2 more personal posts per month would be a good start.

Register with a blogging network so I can go to in-person events.  That’s the beauty of living in a major city now: there are tons of things like this around Chicago. I need more real friends who blog too so I can stop calling and talking to my mom about things she doesn’t understand.  If you’re a Chicago blogger and want to be my friend, let me know! Let’s go get lattes and then Instagram them!

Become fluent in Google Analytics.  This is something I have been wanting to do since I started this damn thing, but still have yet to invest time in.  I don’t understand how to read Google Analytics, and I need to.  If anyone has tutorials, please let me know! I’d like to be able to start tracking my growth using more than just my social media stats and Blogger page view count.

Professionalize my blog.  I’d like to get some real pictures taken of me (not iPhone selfies) that I can use for branding, as well as have an expert take a look at my theme and simplify it all.  I’m sure my DIY attempts to do my own theme for free up has made my site run slower than it should, so I’d like to see if having it professionally done could make things run faster.  Because we need that instant gratification, ya know?

And that’s all.  Goodbye 2015, you’ve been good to me, but I have big dreams for 2016.  Think good thoughts for me and my work ethic!

Have any blog goals? Leave them in the comments, or leave a link to your 2016 Blog Goal post too! I’d love to read them.

 

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DIY Super Easy Holiday Fabric Garland

DIY Super Easy Holiday Fabric Garland

I got this idea after having a ton of leftover fabric from making my “Merry Christmas” Burlap Banner last year.  I loved the Christmas colors with non-traditional patterns, and couldn’t stand to see the extra fabric sit in storage all season. It was too cute!

I had been planning on doing a lot of Christmas DIY this season, but the idea of trashing my tiny apartment to do so did not sound fun to me. Then, I was shopping the Target Christmas decoration sale, and saw something super similar to this garland, but with tassels instead of fabric.  I didn’t have any yarn, but realized that I did have leftover fabric, and twine.  Easy-peasy.
You can obviously do this with any color scheme or theme. It doesn’t have to be Christmas, you could do blues for Hanukkah, or any colors for any sort of holiday.  I think this would even be cute for just daily decorations, especially in a kids room.  Customize it as you please!
DIY Super Easy Holiday Fabric Garland
To begin, cut your fabric into inch-wide strips.  You can make them as long as you like, just
keep in mind that after you tie them, they’ll be slightly shorter than half of their original length once they are hanging off the line.
I chose a mixture of 16 inch, 12 inch, 10 inch, and a few tiny bits to use up leftover scraps.  It’s going to be a mix-match no matter what, so as long as it is long enough to tie around and leave two little tails hanging off each side, it’ll fit in just fine.
It’s about 12 strips per every 12 inches, so keep that in mind when choosing the length you want your garland, and how much fabric you think you need.
Example: You want a 6-foot long garland? If 12 strips = 1 foot, then you need enough fabric to have at least 72 pieces of fabric.  12 x 6 = 72. #CraftingMath
This is assuming you want your fabric knots relatively close together, like I have pictured.  They are looped around the string, so you can adjust how far apart they are to the look you like, and to help decrease or increase the length.  Use your judgement here and arrange it the way you think is best.
On your twine, begin tying the fabric strips in a fold-over fashion, alternating colors and sizes.  If you want a more structured look, tie them so all the knots are facing the same direction.  I preferred a mis-matched look, so I tied them randomly.
DIY Super Easy Holiday Fabric Garland
Continue in this fashion until you have your desired length.  Fluff up your garland, and hang it where you please. Add some bows to each end, or hang a few ornaments. I hung a my tiny hand-knitted stocking from the middle of mine. I recommend getting those tiny clear Command strips to hang the garland, as it’s not too heavy. Works perfectly and super cheap without damaging your walls.
And voila, you have a gorgeous and cheap holiday garland.
If you make this, make sure to take a picture and tag me on social media– all my links are to the left! I’d love to see them all!
Got any other super easy DIY holiday decorations? Let me know!

 

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5 Ways to Stretch Your Grocery Budget

I love food, but I also love saving a buck.  Which is why I also love budget grocery shopping.

Other than rent, and food is my #1 money pit.  Cooking is so much fun, and I can get bored with food very quickly if it doesn’t taste good.

But damn, food is expensive.

I’ve done a lot of research (see: Pinterest-ing) on budget grocery shopping, cheap meal plans for one, and all those life hacks.  As a single lady*, I am very much into the ease of cooking a large meal and living off of it for a few days.  Bonus points if that large meal is delicious, extra points if it’s cheap.

Some hits I’ve had are crockpot taco bowls, super easy chicken and dumplings, and beef and mushroom stroganoff.  These have been in continuous rotation, along with some side bar affairs with chicken, pizza, and ice-cream-for-dinner, but we don’t have to talk about those.  For the most part, these are all pretty easy to make on a low-budget, and are easily adaptable if they’re not made for a low budget.  As the kind hearted soul I am, I wanted to share some of the hacks I’ve picked up along the away for budget grocery shopping. AKA: keep your grocery bill low, but your stomach full.

5 Tips for Budget Grocery Shopping

1. Use fewer ingredients.

The more ingredients, the higher the grocery bill.  If a recipe calls for tomatoes, but also green chiles, combine them: buy a can of diced tomatoes with green chiles already in them.  Almost every recipe calls for parsley.  I skip it, and save a few bucks.

Pictured above: Balsamic asparagus tossed with leftover baked chicken (cooked in salt and pepper) and whole grain pasta with garlic, olive oil, and parmesan cheese. Seven ingredients for a fully satisfying meal.

2. Shop your freezer and fridge.

If you have leftovers, alway stick them in the freezer; meals, ingredients, whatever. I had a bag of frozen peas left over when I first made the beef stroganoff.  I wanted to fluff up the recipe, so I added the bag of frozen peas. I also subbed the sour cream for milk, as I already had milk in the fridge.

Awhile back, I even read about grating carrots and keeping them in the freezer, then adding them to bulk up meals.  I’ve done this with my taco bowls.  You can’t even taste them, but it adds volume to the meal to make it go longer, plus extra vegetables!

3. Invest in better ingredients.

Budget Bytes talks about using “Better than Bouillon” concentrated stock instead of buying liquid stocks for food.  It’s a concentrated solid that you keep in a jar in the fridge, then add 1 teaspoon to 8oz of boiling water to make stock.  It was around $6 at my Walmart Fresh Grocer, and I’m pretty sure I’ll have them for the rest of my life.  Think about how much money I will save on buying liquid stock from now on!

 

5 Tips for Budget Grocery Shopping

Same with frozen vegetables, canned tomatoes, beans, spices, and more.  Watch for sales, and stock up when they’re cheap.

4. Bulk meals with pasta and rice.

This one may be controversial, because gluten/carbs/bread/grains/everything is the enemy, but it’s cost effective.

When pasta is cheap, I buy a few boxes; the same for bags of rice.  It’s really easy add some vegetables and protein to a pasta, or add rice to soups or other “pour over” meals.  They bulk up the meals, and keep you full longer.  To keep it healthier, just watch your vegetable : protein : pasta/rice ratio.  More vegetables and protein, keep the pasta as a filler as opposed to the star of the dish.

5. Meal plan, meal plan, meal plan!

Do not go shopping without a plan.  Visit a few different stores to get the best prices (no shame!), and don’t deviate from the list.  The easiest way to run up your grocery bill is to go shopping hungry, or without a plan.

I like to plan my meals for the foreseeable future (usually 1-2 weeks) and keep them similar to another so I can share ingredients.  Taco bowls, then stir fry.  Can use the rice for both, chicken for both, can buy frozen bell peppers (cheaper), and onions that will be used in both, so they don’t go to waste.  Pick recipes that compliment another to keep grocery bills low.

And if you really want to keep bills low, enter the chance to win free stuff! — See how I did that? Seamless transition, ya know?

There are only two days left to enter my The Body Shop 24 Happy Days Advent Calendar giveaway! It’s super easy, and the calendar is so adorable and has great stuff in it.

And that’s it! Got any more tips for budget grocery shopping? Let me know in the comments!

*You sang the song, didn’t you? Admit it.

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5 Tips for Working at Home

By some crazy accident, I’m managed to get jobs that have left me working from home for the last year.

First it was with the CSAC, where I interned from home (which is what prompted me to start this blog!) and then when they hired me on as a Director, I rotated between my couch, one of our schools, and the local Panera Bread as my work stations.

Now, at my new job in Chicago, we’re without an office space for a few months, so I’m back at working from home again.  Funny how that works out, huh?

Basically, I’ve become a master at working from “home”.  Other than the major perk being you can wear whatever you want, there are a few downsides.  And if you lack a specific home office— or even a desk—, that can be a huge problem. I’ve talked about how to stay productive at home before, but a whole year of experience has added some new hacks to the system.

Thankfully, for those of you struggling with (or without!) the home office, you have me to help you.  Allow me to share my vast experience in the world of working without an office:


1. Start your day like you would if you were heading to an office.

You wouldn’t head to a real office without brushing your teeth or putting on a bra, so you shouldn’t do that at home either.  Get up, eat breakfast, and get ready for the day as if you would be leaving the house.  I’m not saying put on a full face of make-up and your business casual, but the actual act of getting yourself ready for the day will help you trick your mind into getting into a productive headspace far better than if you just stayed in your pajamas.

2.  Plan your breaks and stick with them.

Keep your brain in “work mode” by planning your day like you would if you were working a typical job.  Work all the way until your designated lunch time, and don’t allow yourself to get distracted before then.  If you work from your couch, it can be super easy to forget that you’re working and just zone out in front of the TV, so make sure you plan for your “break time” and stick to those times.

3.  Don’t work where you play.

In Ohio, I worked specifically from the couch, or the kitchen table. Those were my designated “work spots” and my mind knew that.  Now, in my studio apartment, the only real sitting area is my bed (AKA, where I spend all my time) so I’ve designated my workspace as being the floor in front of my bed. Totally, glamorous, I know.  But the floor is way better than working on in the same position that I normally watch Netflix and cruise Pinterest.

If I ever feel distracted on the floor (or stir-crazy, because I never leave my apartment), I take my computer down to a local coffee shop, or anywhere with WIFI.   Sometimes the change of pace is good and you can re-focus yourself at this new space.  Wherever you choose to work, just make sure you associate it with only working to help keep yourself focused.

4.  “If you couldn’t do it at an office, you shouldn’t do it at home”

I used to constantly be watching TV when I worked from home in Ohio.  I would tell myself I’m sticking to only boring shows for background noise, but it was still super distracting.  Normal people probably can’t have Netflix playing in the background of their workday, so why should you?

It’s a major temptation, but totally worth it to keep the TV off while you work.  I used to be so bad at this, but since I’ve been actually making myself follow this rule, my productivity has increased so much.  You may think you can multi-task, but each time you stop what you’re doing, you’re losing your focus on your work.  So no painting nails, doing laundry, baking cookies, or cleaning the house while you should be working. Save those for your lunch break.

5.  Create your office atmosphere.

You won’t be productive if you are surrounded by chaos.  Especially chaos that is associated with your home life.   If you’re lucky enough to have a desk, set up to fit your working style.  If you don’t have a specific work space, make sure you have everything you’d need at arms reach, and you have secluded yourself as much as possible if there is chaos around you.  Move the basket of laundry that needs folded so it’s not reminding you of other things to do, and pick up all the cats toys so you won’t be tempted to finally teach her how to fetch.  Where ever you are, make sure it’s got a productive atmosphere with no distractions.

If you’re in a public space, I highly recommend getting headphones.  I love listening to Spotify EDM playlists when I work.  They are full of upbeat songs with very little lyrics to distract me, and the music keeps me awake and motivated. Time passes much quicker when I have Steve Aoki in the background.

And if all else fails, motivate yourself with good food.  Most offices have a pizza party at least once a year, right?  You’re your own boss at your home office, friend.  Pizza parties can be everyday. Or donut parties.  I highly recommend donut parties.

Got any working-at-home tips?  Share them in the comments!

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