A couple of answers to recent questions via email, blog comments and comments over at The Digi Show.

On Android

Asus Transformer Android Tablet

Q |  I’m sure I missed this, but have you said what kind of tablet you have? I’m in the market for one and yours looks fantastic. And most importantly to me, I know you are not an apple girl. I’m not either and I want to stick with windows/android. Anyway, I’d love to know what tablet you have and if it syncs up with your phone or computer?

A | I have an Asus Transformer (TF-101) which is the previous generation of their tablet (the Transformer Prime TF-201) is the current generation. The reason I chose the Asus was because there’s an available keyboard dock that turns the entire thing into a 10″ netbook of sorts. As for synchronizing, most of my “things” are cloud-based at this point so everything is accessible across all my devices. I’m heavily entrenched in Google as far as email and calendar go, so that’s all integrated into the OS for me. For transferring of individual files I can hook the tablet up via USB to my computer, or it has an SD card slot so I can bring files along with me that way. I mainly rely on Dropbox for files I want to access on multiple devices, though.

Q | Loved Peppermint’s pick this week – my new Android phone will be arriving soon and I would love it if Peppermint would make a list of all her favorite Android apps. Pretty please!

A |  I download and try out a lot of apps (because I hate to think that I might miss out on something awesome) then I wind up uninstalling the majority of them because I don’t actually use them. The ones that are heavily used and that I couldn’t manage without are:

  • Dolphin Browser – I use it instead of the stock browser (which is Chrome) on both my phone and my tablet because I use LastPass to handle most of my passwords and it just integrates so nicely with the Dolphin Browser. Also I can set it up to always access the desktop versions of websites instead of defaulting to the mobile one. I hate mobile sites (even though I have one on this site). Dolphin Browser also has a feature called “Sonar” that lets me web browse via voice recognition, which blows Nicholas’ mind, and also it has screen “gestures” that I can program so that I can draw something on my screen and have it assigned to a bookmark. I don’t like typing on a touch screen that much, so these features eliminate a lot of that for me.
  • Feedly – I use Feedly as my RSS reader (it syncs with Google Reader) on every device – computer, phone & tablet. Lately my phone is where I manage to catch up on the majority of my blog reading since I always have it on me when I find myself with some spare time.
  • Dropbox – to keep files accessible between all my devices, especially photos taken with my phone or tablet. I have auto-upload enabled for all photos and videos, so a few seconds after I take the photo I can access it on my computer.
  • Evernote – if you’re not an Evernote user this will be useless, but I have all my recipes stored in Evernote, so I use this app a lot when I’m at the grocery store and want to look at the ingredient list for something or for when I’m in the kitchen actually cooking.
  • Gentle Alarm – there may be dozens of other alarm clock apps available, but I’ve used this one since I got my phone and have never had any complaints about it. My phone is also my alarm clock, since it charges on my nightstand every night while I sleep. The main things that I love about Gentle Alarm are that it allows me to use my own music as the alarm (either an individual track or a playlist I have set up on my phone) and it has a “fade in” setting that makes the alarm start out at a very low volume and gradually build. When I DO manage to sleep, which can be a bit touch and go for me, I don’t appreciate being startled awake. Plus I have a husband who is on a different schedule than I am and I’m a very light sleeper, so I wake up even when the music is still really faint. Plus it’s always more pleasant to wake up to one of my favorite songs.
  • SwiftKeyX Keyboard – Frankly the most intuitive keyboard I’ve used, and I’ve tried several on my phone. I’m not a fan of the stock touch keyboard on my DroidX, and I’m slightly more pleased with Swype, but SwiftKeyX has really amazing auto-complete that saves me a ton of keystrokes (and it’s constantly learning, so it’s hip to my typical vocabulary). Plus the voice recognition is nothing short of brilliant, which is what tips the scales for me. I rely on that voice input a lot, because (as I said above) I’m not a fan of touch screen typing. I’m fast at it, especially with this keyboard, but I still like to take the lazy way out. (On my tablet I use Thumb Keyboard, because SwiftKeyX didn’t have a tablet version yet. Now they do, but I’m used to the other one.)
  • TweetDeck – I use the desktop version to manage my Twitter account, so I also use it on my devices. If you use HootSuite they have an app, also. I used TweetDeck, switched to HootSuite for a while, then moved back to TweetDeck. I’m not great with change. I use Facebook’s app for Facebook, but overall I don’t check in a ton on social media with my phone or tablet. They’re sort of my safe, quiet place.
  • Zedge – I like regular, non-song, short and mellow ringtones. So I use the search term “Business Notifications” in Zedge and it brings up tons of options that are only a couple of seconds long and very inconspicuous. If you’re into funkier ringtones they have plenty of those, too. All of them free and easy to download and activate right from within the app.
  • Jewels Star – I have to throw one game in, and games change over time for me. A member of The Flock (pointing at Becky Derby) is a fellow Android user and from time to time we sabotage one another’s lives by recommending a particular game that’s consuming our days. This is the latest game that she sent me a heads up on, and the amount of time I spend playing it (to get THREE STARS ON EVERY LEVEL) is really not something I’m proud of, but everyone has their vices.

On Food

On Food | Question & Answer

Q | I want to know what four recipes you always keep ingredients on hand for? Coming up with ideas is the hardest part for me! I would love some of your ideas!

A | This one is from Episode 38 of The Digi Show where we discussed our “Life Hacks” and I said that I had 4 recipes that are “go to recipes” for me on busy nights, and I try to keep ingredients on hand for at least two of them at any given time and at this point they’re so embedded in my life that I can make any of them from memory.

The reason they’re versatile is because they use a lot of shelf-stable ingredients, they use up leftover portions of more perishable items used in other recipes, and the last two especially can be varied up to use whatever meat or veggies I happen to have on hand. We’re not a family of picky eaters, so your mileage may vary with these:

  • Spaghetti with Artichoke Hearts and Tomatoes (via The Pioneer Woman)  – one of the few recipes I make that uses canned anything, but it’s super easy for me to keep a couple of cans of artichoke hearts and diced tomatoes in the pantry. We always have pasta of some sort, and I also keep heavy cream on hand perpetually because it’s an ingredient in a lot of recipes I make. This recipe uses up any leftover heavy cream I may have from other recipes, so I add it to the menu in an effort to be frugal and not toss that out. It’s also meat-free (but not vegetarian!) so it’s cheap and easy to make.
  • Breakfast for Dinner – a family favorite. We almost always have eggs, bacon and baking staples on hand for this particular pancake recipe (except I use butter, margarine is evil) or these Swedish thin pancakes if I have leftover fruit to use up (I add a teaspoon of vanilla to the batter and it’s exactly like I remember from my childhood). I never make breakfast for actual breakfast, I don’t like heavy breakfasts. Perfect dinner fare, though.
  • Buffalo Turkey Burgers with Blue Cheese Dressing (from Rachel Ray’s 365 No Repeats cookbook) – I stock up on ground turkey or ground chicken whenever it’s on sale, and we always have celery and green onions around because I use them in a lot of other recipes. I use Marzetti Ultimate Blue Cheese dressing because we always have it on hand. This is just an all around great poultry burger recipe, and for Nicholas I omit the hot sauce bath at the end and put regular burger fixings on his. For those who are anti-blue-cheese, ranch dressing or plain sour cream are fine, too. The most I ever have to do for this recipe is stop at the store for hamburger buns, which we don’t keep on hand. (If you’re feeling Greek, you can make these without the hot sauce and top them with some feta cheese, red onion and cucumber slices and kalamata bruschetta. If you’re feeling Asian you can add some minced ginger and teriyaki sauce to the meat and top with broccoli slaw tossed with a little lime juice, minced ginger and teriyaki. It’s really adaptable.) The only thing I will say is different about this online recipe as opposed to the original – and I feel like it’s a big deal – is that it’s not just any two stalks of celery – it’s two of the small ones from the VERY inside of the bunch. The ones that are really light yellow and mostly leaf. Chop up just the leafy bits from two of those inner stalks – that’s where the good stuff is at.
  • Thai Peanut Satay – I’m insane for peanut sauces. As far as I’m concerned any recipe with peanut butter in it is a good recipe.  This one is good for using up random vegetables that are nearing their demise, like broccoli or carrots. I don’t include all the vegetables in the recipe, I just toss in whatever is around. I always have these shelf-stable Asian ingredients on hand (including the Sriracha – it’s my go-to heat for most recipes, Asian and Mexican alike). The only wild card is the ginger root, so this recipe makes it into the rotation when I have ginger root leftover from another recipe. I’ve made it with chicken, beef and shrimp. I have no complaints about any of them.

On Shadowing

Q | I love your “Mind Blowing Drop Shadow Tutorial” and have it printed out on my desk because I was wearing the bookmark out! ;) The one thing you don’t really talk about is how you shadow things like lace, loosely woven fabrics and wispy things like tulle and feathers (specifically the tulle in your Worn collab with Sahlin Studio, which I can’t manage to get a realistic shadow on). Any tricks for those?

Yup! But I’m hoping you’re a Photoshop user, because I’m not entirely sure if these same options are available in PSE. (These are the settings for the “Lace & Fabric” layer style in my Shadow Like Me Styles, though, so hopefully those work in PSE!)

For tulle, lace, and “light wispy things”, first I apply a drop shadow with these settings:

Blend Mode: Linear Burn
Color: I use #2c1901 but whatever color you use is fine
Opacity: (varies) 15~30%
Distance: (varies) 10~20px
Size: 10px

Then I add a second Outer Glow layer effect with these settings:

Blend Mode: Color Burn
Opacity: (varies) 20~30%
Color: I use #2c1901 again
Technique: Softer
Spread: 0%
Size: (varies) 10~35%

That Outer Glow is what makes it yummy.

Drop Shadow Settings for Tulle | One Little Bird Designs


Got Questions?

Let ’em fly! Hopefully I have answers!