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Sunday, August 28, 2011

$HAMELESS $AVINGS - And why you should NEVER pay for custom framing

Has anyone out there ever (foolishly) gone into a framing store and gotten a quote for custom framing only to find out that it costs like 5 times more than you had ever imagined it could? I did that about 5 years ago and was literally dumbfounded by how expensive it was, even after calculating the savings from a 50% off coupon! After scraping my jaw off the floor, I found a way around this predicament. In true Lauren fashion, I was 1) not about to pay a gazillion dollars for something that should cost $30, 2) not about to give up and 3) going to get what I wanted. I decided right then and there that custom framing is for suckers. Why? Because you can do it yourself for so much less!

So back to the frames. There are lots of pre-made frames for sale in the framing store. Here in Houston, we have a store called Aaron Brothers Framing. I've found that store has the best selections in the styles I like, but you can apply this method in any store that sells pre-made frames. The general rule of thumb is I try to allow for a 2-3" mat all around the artwork, and I buy a frame in the style I like that fits that criteria. So, for instance, if you have an 8x10" photo you'd like framed, pick out a nice frame sized about 12x14". Now if you're going for a super glam kinda modern look, you can allow for a wider mat. In my living room, I have 8x10" Barbie drawings framed in 16x20" frames with super wide mats. 
One note on frame savings: Many stores (including Aaron Brothers and Michael's Crafts) have coupons all time time. So don't forget to google around for a coupon, which are usually found on the store websites, and print it out to bring with you. Most of the time I will save at least 40% off at Aaron Brothers using a coupon. But if I have a big project in mind, I wait and save 50% during their buy one get one for a penny sale, which happens in July and January. 

But how to solve the issue of the mats? Art doesn't always come in the standard sizes of the pre-made frames. Plus those pre-made mats are pretty darn expensive too! Which brings me to my next point.
You need to know about It's kind of awesome.
There is literally every kind of mat quality and color you can imagine. They sell everything from your standard grade mat board to the best archival quality mats. You can enter in your own sizes, down to 1/16 of an inch, and they will make it for you. You end up with a custom made mat, which is EXACTLY what the frame store is doing for you except for they are charging you an arm and a leg for it. And... AND... it's way cheaper than buying those pre-made mats in the stores. For instance, a pre-made basic white mat for an 8x10" picture will run you about $12 at Aaron Brothers, but to order the same mat online, it will cost you around $6. Now, you can always use a coupon in the store to reduce the price, however, the coupons are usually only good on 1 item only. So if you're buying more than one mat or you need specific cuts, online is definitely the way to go. The only time I would recommend purchasing a mat in a store (with a coupon of course) is if for some reason it is an extremely unique mat that you cannot find online. For example, the extra wide mats for my Barbie prints have a silver lining that shows through around the print. I used 4 separate 40% off coupons in 4 separate trips to the framing store so I could snag those puppies at $12 each instead of $20 each.
If you decide to go the online route, here's a tutorial for how to enter in your sizes.
I recommend drawing out a picture of what you want to accomplish. Like here on a project I'm working on, I have a 24x36" frame with plans to frame a 9x12" picture. You want your mat to overlap 1/8" on all sides, so deduct 1/4" from your picture size. Here, I'm really working with a 8 3/4" x 11 3/4" picture. Make sense?
Since the width is 24", I'm left with 7 5/8" on each side. The height is 36", so I'm left with 12 1/8" on the top and bottom.  This is exactly the information I need for my order.

 24 bucks??!!
I've placed my order, and now I'm just waiting for the mats to come in the mail, which should happen this week.  Soon I'll be able to share the project I'm working on!

So now you know how to get the best deals on frames and mats. What to do next? Get your frame home, and open it up very carefully (I'm sure there's a tool for peeling back those metal clasp things on the back of the frames, but I just use an old pair of scissors).  Once you get it open and are ready to slide your artwork in, ensure there are no stray fuzzies etc on the glass. You don't want to get your frame put back together only to find a piece of fuzz or a paint chip floating around inside. Then put in your mat in first, followed by your item being framed, then the back of the frame. Push the metal tabs back in all around the back, and attach the hanging hardware onto the back of the frame. Voila! You now have a professional piece of framed art! And you aren't broke!

Happy framing everyone,

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hello Kitty makes me want to giggle like a Japanese school girl

Japan is pretty awesome. It's definitely at the top of my countries to visit list. I mean, think of all the things Japan has invented... Sushi, Harajuku Girls, Green Tea, Iron Chef, Origami...
I don't really know what a Harajuku girl is... but look at their outfits! How are they not awesome!? Plus Gwen Stefani likes them, soooo... you should also.

And now for the best of all Japanese inventions..... HELLO KITTY!!
I freaking love this stupid cat. I don't know why. I don't even like cats. But seriously, it's kind of an obsession. I remember when my sister and I were little, and there was a Sanrio store in our mall. We used to visit there with my grandma, and we got to choose a toy. The toy I most remember is a tiny Hello Kitty gumball machine with tiny tic tac sized gumballs in the shape of hearts. I never wanted to actually chew the gum because I didn't want it to run out... I was such a weird kid. I wonder how I even knew about Hello Kitty back then? I mean, there's no Hello Kitty cartoon or anything like that. How has it become so popular here in the US anyways? Enough with the rambling... Let me get to the point. Two weeks ago, while I was visiting Malibu Ken, low and behold I stumbled across THE HELLO KITTY STORE!
Sanrio is Japanese for Hello Kitty

And I looked at stuff...

Both of these items are from the "Nerd Collection" (at least that's what I'm calling it). I love it. There were lots of different sections in the store.
Cute overload
Then there were some weird Japanese things, like this. We thought it was an air freshener that attaches to the vents in a car.
These are the directions?? OK!!??

And there were tons of different cell phone covers, however sadly, Japanese people are anti-android, so the sales lady told me there would not be any android covers coming out in the future :(
I did end up finding 2 awesome things to purchase.

The gold and ivory luggage tag... Because there's no reason for your luggage not to be glam.

The navy lunch container with the spoon an fork included! It actually fits in that little clear section in the lid and is the cutest thing EVER.

I hope I've made you all Hello Kitty lovers just like me. And I leave you with two disturbing images that I found while googling around for Hello Kitty pictures on the interwebs.

Peace, Love, and Pigtails,

Monday, August 22, 2011

Fasten your seatbelts and grab your sickbags, I flew an airplane.

So technically I flew the plane... Meaning, I took the wheel and pushed the pedal for like 5 seconds, 3 times. I was trying to do a "coordinated turn" but uhhhh... well... it didn't really end up being so "coordinated".
It all started with a friend of Malibu Ken's named Airplane Tony. He lives on an airport. Nope, didn't know that kind of setup existed. Sorta like, hey welcome to my house, this is the kitchen...we're putting on a new patio, oh and...don't mind the RUNWAY in my back yard. Airplane Tony ever so nicely agreed to take Malibu Ken and I up one morning.
Hey Airplane Tony!!

There's me trying to act like I know what I'm doing.
We flew all around Rosamond, where Malibu Ken and Airplane Tony live. We even did some thing called "Touch 'n Go" where Airplane Tony landed the plane on another dude's runway only for a quick second (one of them was dirt, which I was told was impressive) and then took off again. That was thrilling. One thing I have to say about the whole experience is that it was super fun and I wasn't scared at all! I must be a dare devil at the heart.

That's when I'm giving the flying thing a go... I decided flying wasn't my strong point. Sort of like killing bugs, washing my car, and mowing grass.

I think this is when we were doing "touch 'n go". Don't I look like a natural?


The inside was very small, but it fit me, airplane Tony & Malibu Ken very comfortably. Airplane Tony takes his kids out alot too which is sweet. If I had an airplane, I would definitely take Lola.
Thanks to Airplane Tony for taking us! And for those of you wondering what kind of plane this was, it was a Cessna 170. Has anyone else had any flying experiences? Am I the only one who wasn't scared or am I just a fool for not being terrified?

Love, Aviator Barbie

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Patio Furntiure - It's About Time

I've been working on this house for over 5 years now. Room by room, I've slowly filled them with furniture, painted their walls, and cost effectively decorated and redecorated. So far, I hadn't made it outside to my back patio yet. While I have visions and far away dreams of a giant pergola covered paver stone patio with planter walls, plenty of crate and myrtle trees, fruit trees, a shed , compost pile, rain barrel and a garden, I have started the first step by purchasing patio furniture. My dad got me a World Market gift card for my birthday, but so far, I was not able to stomach paying the high in-season prices for patio furniture. So I waited paitienly until the end of the season. Finally last week, prices were discounted to 50% off, and nothing makes this girl happier than a sale!

Happy sale dance!!
I decided to get the bench, 2 occasional chairs and the coffee table. And... AND!!! I had a 15% off coupon! For all 4 pieces (and a cute tray that was also on sale), my total was $311.82. After using my gift card, it was even less than that... Not bad ehhh?
I brought the bench and the coffee table home and put it together that night. And I picked up the 2 chairs after church the next day, since not all pieces would fit in my car in one trip. I put the chairs together last night and hauled it all outside to my back paito.

See Lola likes it too

The nautical pillows aren't actually outdoor pillows, but the sales person at World Market said the cushions should be stored indoors, so I figured if I was going to be only keeping the cushions and pillows outdoors whenever I was using the furniture and storing them inside all other times, it would probably be fine to get regular throw pillows. These are from Overstock, and I got a good deal on them too. (coming to a $hameless $avings post near you)

So does anyone out there have any outdoor furniture stories? Anything I should know about the new additions to my paito? Or does anyone else have big patio dreams like mine?

Saturday, August 6, 2011

$HAMELESS $AVINGS - There's An App For That

It's time for another addition for Shameless Savings. This week, we're going to talk about gas prices. And before you whiners start in with idiot statements like "You lose the savings you would have gained by driving around to find the good deals" and "If you're only saving a few cents per gallon, it's not really worth it", pause for a moment and allow me to school you on the subject. Yeah go ahead and laugh... we all know that choosing the easy and convenient way is always the cheapest and smartest way... NOT. Oh yeah and I mean, who wouldn't be perfectly happy to turn over more profits to the oil companies that are taking over the world? So yeah, your way sounds awesome.
Allow me to introduce GasBuddy... One of the best apps EVER in the history of the universe. 
That's what the app looks like if you want to go download it. Sorry for the fuzzy picture.

It's idiot proof to use too! All you have to do is type if your zip and all the stations with the prices of fuel come up.

This morning I was low on gas and needed to fuel up. The problem is I was already running late. In the past, I may have stopped at the Valero near my neighborhood, not knowing there were better deals down the road. But lucky for me, I had GasBuddy. This morning, I used it to find a better deal further down the highway (yet still on my way to my final destination). 
And I'm sure you want to know how much I saved this morning. Gas at the Valero close to home was $3.59/gallon. I ended up finding it for $3.42 about 2 miles away. Yeah I'll take the 17 cents/gallon difference thankyouverymuch.
So now for the nerd calculations. Here we go. My tank was pretty low. The light came on yesterday on my way home from work, and I ended up refueling after driving about 3 miles away from home, so I probably had about 1/2 gallon left over in my tank. According to the VW manual, I have a 14.5 gallon tank. So, let's say I put in about 14 gallons into my tank.
17 cents/gallon over 14 gallons is $2.38.
When you have to fill up 2 to 3 times per month, that's $57-$85 per year and that's no small savings people.
Has anyone out there figured out a way to save on the fuel bill each month? Any crazy methods like those special gas station credit cards?

Penny pinching and smiles, Engineeringirl

Friday, August 5, 2011

Maple Syrup, Mounties, and Whatnot... Let me tell you aboot Canada

Recently I was sent to British Columbia, Canada on a work trip. Specifically I was doing the planning and operations for a 10 day underwater mission to study rare microbialites in freshwater lakes called the Pavilion Lake Research Project. Come on, let me show you.

This is a microbialite underwater
Here's what it looks like when the divers deliver it to the lab
The scientists think they are super awesome with double rainbow powers. 
They study them in their laboratories

And stab them with tweezers
Besides studying the microbialites in their labs, the team uses submarines to study them in their natural environment. And for this year, that was Kelly Lake, located about 5 1/2 hours North East of Vancouver.

This is the most naturey picture I have ever taken. Go me. BTW all the other pictures are by Henry Bortman from Astrobiology Magazine (he's the

That's one of the scientists and pilots, Mars, inside the sub (her real name is Margarita)
The subs would get lowered into the water and off they go into the depths of the lake. The lake was about 135 feet deep.

So yeah, these subs go in the water and drive around on a pre-planned traverse (path). They take videos, and we can even talk to the pilots from the mobile Mission Control Center (mMCC). 
That's the outside of the mMCC. It's basically a giant trailer with lots of computers inside.

Here is the inside. That's me in the corner, but you probably can't tell. Inside, we can hear the sub pilot, talk to the pilot, see where the sub is going, and view the video coming from the sub.

That's a full on microbialite moment. The scientists were having quite a joyous time

Here I am working on the plan. I would track how the subs were doing on their timeline and feed that information to the Flight Director who would decide to tell the pilot to speed up, slow down, or move to the next point along the path.
 So let's talk about wardrobe. My friend Lindsey got me these fab boots. And I was prepared with 700 jackets, scarves, and even mittens should I require them. It was July, but temps got down to the 40s and 50s, and it felt even colder out on the lake.
Needless to say my foot wear was a hit
This was a pretty neat project to be a part of, so thank you to the people of Pavilion Lake Research Project. And thank you to the amazing staff at the Cariboo Lodge in Clinton, BC, where we stayed. Also, thank you to Henry for taking these fab pics (especially this last one). 

Peace, Love and Universal Healthcare,