3.06.2015

Pay Off Student Loan Debt WithOUT Using Money From Your Bank Account

First off let me say I feel like a late night infomercial but the good news is that I am just sharing something with you not trying to sell you anything. This has been really fantastic for us and I want as many people as possible to find out about it because it works.

I shared with my friends and family on facebook about how Paul and I are making our monthly student loan payments without using money from our bank accounts.


One day while he was perusing the online world of FB my husband came across a post from a friend inquiring about Gradible. My husband is not such the skeptic like me, he signed right up and got looking into it. After I saw that he was making his payments, well there was no excuse for me not to sign up.

: : : : : : : : STEP 1 : : : : : : : : SIGN UP

The way it works is you create an account, login and fulfill one or some of the available options to earn LoanCredits. Once you have decided it is time to 'cash-in' your LoanCredits, simply redeem them to be credited towards your student loans. It is that easy!!! There are no monthly fees or membership fees to pay either.

Set up a free account to take advantage of this great opportunity or just look around their website and what options could work best for you. Use this referral link and when you sign-up you will automatically start with $2 in your account.

: : : : : : : : STEP 2 : : : : : : : : EARN LOANCREDITS

We signed up with them when they were still a really new site and things have changed a lot since then but let me give you a couple examples on opportunities to earn LoanCredits {LCs}.

Online shopping They have hundreds of links to places online. Using their affiliate links, you will receive LCs for the money spent. When you look up the shops in Gradible, it lists exactly how many LCs you will earn per $1 {USD} spent. 
example Paul bought my Christmas online from Target and got $45 of it back to put towards his loans. Um...Hello!!! That's awesome.

Surveys I used to get on and try one every once in a while but halfway through I always got kicked out and told that I no longer qualify for the survey. Ya, I don't waste my time doing these any more. Hopefully as time goes on they find a way to make these opportunities more worth our time.

Offers These are things like trial offers you sign up for.

Tasks These are on-line tasks and where we earn most of our LCs, aside from on-line shopping.
  • Internet Research: these vary some but mostly consist of finding contact info for businesses.
  • Facebook Shares: That is pretty self explanatory. Once you open up the task if you change your mind, simply 'unassign' it from yourself and keep looking.
  • Craigslist Post: A company has a lot furniture they are wanting to list so you get paid for every listing you do. These are super popular tasks, as you can imagine, because they are easy and you get the most LCs for your time. My husband and I have it down to where we can get 5 done in about 15 minutes. 
A little bit of simple math: if you do five Craigslist postings for 20 days out of the month that is $100 every month to put towards your student loans, {$5 x 20 = $100}. With this past winter season that could go a long ways for us, it seems that between the two kids, Paul and myself, someone is always sick and we are constantly at the Dr's and getting a new Rx. Whether you add it to your monthly payment to help work down the principle of your loans or use it in place of taking money from your own bank account....no matter how you look at it....an extra $100 {or more}, for 15 minutes a day, is a great deal!!

Transcription/Writing/Editing If any of these sound good to you these are worth the most in LCs. This section is new so I haven't had a chance to look much into it but am hoping to be able to once everyone starts feeling better and sleeping better at night {ugh, sick kiddos are the worst, but at the same time super cuddly so I am soaking up all the cuddles I can right now}. I will be sure to come and update this once Paul or I have had a chance to work on some of these.


: : : : : : : : STEP 3 : : : : : : : : REDEEM

Redeem your LCs Gradible is now set up to where you can add more than one loan carrier. Which is great because Paul and I both have FedLoans along with loans through our state. Simply add your loan carrier information, the amount of LCs you want to redeem {everything you have or just what you need to meet your monthly payment} and submit. That's it!! The next time you go to redeem your LCs, simply choose from the loan carriers you already have listed {or add another}, choose the amount of LCs to redeem, submit and repeat.

Redeeming LCs can be done at any time, whether you have 100 LCs {$10}, a 1000 LCs {$100} or more. In the resources section look over how a redemption process works because it can take a couple of weeks. The only thing I would suggest is if you are going to use this to cover your monthly payment, redeem your LCs at the same time every month. This way will help make sure your payments cover each month and don't double up one month and skip another.

: : : : : : : : STEP 4 : : : : : : : : REPEAT

I would be happy to help you take advantage of this great tool. If you have any questions or want tips on what has worked best for us, feel free to leave me a comment or shoot me an email AlwaysBeCreating.Designs {at} gmail {dot} com. There are plenty of places for money to go, might as well have someone else help pay our student loans.

If you decide to sign up and start using this program share in the comments section down here, what you have found works best for you to earn. We would love to hear how this has helped you.

Gradible graphics used with permission.

2.10.2015

Valentine Garland or Photo Back Drop

Were you wondering what I did with those hearts from my previous tutorial on how to bring a cut file from Adobe Illustrator into Silhouette Studio {without having to pay for the software}?

Well today is your lucky day!

There isn't a mantel here and I'm pretty sure we will be moving this summer, either somewhere else in town or someplace new all together, depending on Paul's job. As a result I have not been too enthused to put all our photos and frames up, or our shelves.

So this simple, vertical garland, was a great way to add a little something for our Valentine Decor, is super easy and cheap.



MATERIALS/SUPPLIES
Cardstock to fit the size of your cutting machine {color(s) are up to you}

Floss Thread
Cut File {or Printable Pattern if you are going to cut them out by hand}

TOOLS
Silhouette Electric Cutter {or Exacto}

Scissors
Tape

INSTRUCTIONS
I am sure there doesn't really need to be instructions here but I'll list a simple step by step so I can share a tip or two.




Download the cut file and cut out the amount of hearts you need. 

By Hand: Print out PDF on the back side of the card stock, use the draft setting on your printer, this way if any lines still show they will be on the back of the heart. Use Exacto knife if you want the 3D hearts to flap open.

TIP: I cut out extra of both styles and colors because I was not entirely sure of the pattern I was going to put on the wall and did not want to have to go back and cut more. Just take any extra and use them to add love notes around the house for each other or place them on your childs bedroom door because they love stuff like that and will know you love them.



Decide on how far apart you want your vertical garlands {mine are 9" apart}. Use a small piece of clear tape to anchor the top and bottom of the floss. 
TIP: Just in case, I tied a knot at the top of the floss to keep it from sliding out of the tape.

Pull the floss snug but not tight, you don't want to pull it out from the tape at the top, and tape the end down.



Create a pattern or place hearts randomly along the floss on the wall {mine are about 17" apart as they go vertically up the wall}. Just roll a piece of tape and stick the heart to the wall and floss. I didn't end up using any 3D gold hearts but the red ones I have up turned out great.

BAM!!! Heart Attack Vertical Garland or Photo Back Drop



I would love to hear from you and see your projects. Leave a comment or #AlwaysCreate on your photos in Instagram. Find me on Instagram {@AlwaysCreate} and follow along for behind the scenes and fun little extras.

1.24.2015

Amazon Prime for $72 ~ Today Only

Today....it's already Saturday in Kentucky....Amazon Prime is $72 to celebrate the two wins an Amazon original series "Transparent" received at the 72nd Golden Globes this year.

If you have ever wanted Amazon Prime, this is a great price to get it for the year. Share this so that all your friends can be sure to take advantage.


Here are the benefits that come with a Prime account.

  • FREE Two-Day Shipping on eligible items to addresses in the contiguous U.S. and other shipping benefits. For more information, go to Amazon Prime Shipping Benefits.
  • Prime Instant Video: unlimited streaming of movies and TV episodes for paid or free trial members in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. For more information, go to About Prime Instant Video.
  • Prime Music: unlimited, ad-free access to hundreds of Prime Playlists and more than a million songs for members in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. For more information, go to About Prime Music.
  • Prime Photos: Secure unlimited photo storage in Amazon Cloud Drive. For more information, go toAbout Prime Photos.
  • Prime Pantry: Access to Prime Pantry, where members can purchase and ship to addresses in the contiguous U.S. low priced grocery, household, and pet care items for a flat delivery fee of $5.99 for each Prime Pantry box. Prime Pantry orders cannot be shipped to addresses in Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico.
  • Amazon Elements: Access to Amazon Elements products, Amazon's own line of everyday essentials.
  • Prime Early Access: Get 30-minute early access to select Lightning Deals on Amazon.com and new events on MyHabit.com. For more information, go to About Prime Early Access.
  • Kindle Owners' Lending Library: access to members in the U.S. For more information, go toKindle Owners' Lending Library
  • Kindle First: Early access for members in the U.S. to download a new book for free every month from the Kindle First picks. For more information, go to Kindle First.
  • Membership Sharing: Prime members may invite up to four eligible household members living at the same address to enjoy the shipping benefits of a free trial or paid Prime membership at no extra cost. If you purchase a Prime membership as a small business, you may invite up to four co-workers to shop with this corporate account. For more information, go to Share Your Amazon Prime Benefits.
We live in a small town in Kentucky so this past Christmas season was saved by Amazon Prime. Everything was delivered to our front door and we didn't have to spend the hour+ drive {one way} to go shopping or head out every time we forgot something.

1.22.2015

Bringing a Cut File from Adobe Illustrator into Silhouette Studio

I was so excited when I got my first Silhouette Portrait. There were visions of projects dancing in my head, now I had a great tool to help them come to pass. 

When I first tried playing around in the Silhouette Studio I found the program a bit limiting, as far as being able to create my own unique projects. Adobe Illustrator is a program I have been using for years, some for school and some just for fun, and so I was much more familiar with it and believe I can do so much more {design wise} with it. Now the trick is figuring out how to get those AI files into Silhouette Studio to cut.

There is a plug-in that can be purchased now but I got familiar with this technique before that was available, and this way is free, so I will just keep doing this technique.


MATERIALS/SUPPLIES
Cardstock to fit the size of your cutting machine

TOOLS
Computer

Silhouette Machine
Adobe Illustrator {I am using CS5}

INSTRUCTIONS

Make sure your artboard in Adobe Illustrator is the same size as the cutting board in Silhouette Studio {ie. 8.5" x 11" or 12" x 12" etc.}. Create an image using a line weight of 1 pt, making sure not to double and triple your lines. It can get tricky doing a project with so many curves, if the design is kept simple it will transfer over to Silhouette Studio more easily. I would recommend playing around with a couple of shapes first: ie, circle, square, triangle etc.

Once the design is created it is time to get it ready and export from Adobe Illustrator.
  • Make sure to save your file  ex. ~ Hearts Cut Lines.ai
  • Clean up your file and remove everything except the line{s} you want transferred to Silhouette Studio to be cut.
  • On a different layer create an outline of the entire artboard area {ie. 8.5" x 11" or 12" x 12" etc.}. This will force the image to be placed on the cutting board area in the exact location it is in from the artboard area {Illustrator} when transferred to Silhouette Studio. This box will also help check that everything is proportionate once brought into Silhouette Studio.


To export:
  • File --> Export to save your image as a DXF file {AutoCAD Interchange File}
Settings:
  • AutoCAD Version: 2004/2005/2006
  • Click "Scale Line Weights"
  • Artwork Scale 1 inch = 1 inch {this is what keeps your art work the right size}
  • "True Colors"
  • "Raster to PNG"
  • "Preserve Appearance
  • No other options should be selected.
  • "OK"


Merging your DXF file into Silhouette Studio

Merging Preferences:
Click on "Silhouette Studio" in the top bar, from the drop down menu choose "Preferences". The menu will open to the right of your cutting area. 

*If using a PC "Preferences" will be found under the "File" drop down.

Settings:
  • General ~ Unit of Length = inches; Dimensions = click
  • Defaults ~ default fill style = outline only; Blade Type = cap blade
  • Import Options ~ When Importing DXF = centered, make white lines black, join lines into polylines
  • Click on "Apply"


To Merge:
  • File --> Merge; select your DXF file you created in the previous step


Your lines should appear centered on the cut area in Silhouette Studio. By selecting the outline created in Illustrator that outlined the work area, you can make sure that the scale stayed true. Simply select it and check the measurements, ie 8.5" x 11" or 12" x 12" etc. If it's all correct, then go a head and delete it.

If your lines don't show up after merging them, try zooming out. I have found that a lot of times I may have missed a simple step and when the DXF file comes in, it is HUGE and you have to zoom way out to see it! Just go back to Illustrator and export again and double check all the settings.

If there is any last minute finagoling that needs to happen, now is the time.

Then simply cut like normal.

The original post I got all this wonderful information from can be found here. They talk about how to create a print image in Illustrator and cutting it with a Silhouette after printing it.

Next I will put together a tutorial with simple techniques about designing in Illustrator for when it will be transferred into Silhouette Studio.

Here are some other projects I have done using this technique.

  



If you have any questions on this tutorial, please leave me a not in the comments. I would be happy to help you be able to create your projects any way I can.

1.19.2015

Lady A's Birthday Party Bunting

Lady A. turned three a few months back, all she wanted was Princess everything. While I couldn't do everything, there were a few fun things I could do, and that was going to require my Silhouette. Yippy!!!

We couldn't have just any princess either, it had to be Princess Sophia! Which I don't mind. She is a cut little princess and a lot closer to my daughters age, dealing with the same stuff....friends, telling the truth, etc.

Bring on the purple!


First things first....we needed the invite. Check it out over here. So easy and we found some great images to use. I also like to send cards to family, even though we know they won't be able to come since we live too far away, but we want to make sure they feel included. With a digital card, since it was so last minute, I could just email it to them.

It would be fun if I had all the time and money needed to put on one of those perfect Pinterest parties that you see everyday, but I don't, so I do the best I can with what I have. We had just moved again and most everything was still in boxes.

Instead of having the perfect Pinterest party I sat back and reminded myself that this was for Lady A., not to keep up with someone else, not for me and she turned three, she was more excited to have friends over and make a mess then posing for photos.


Now for the bunting. I was going to hang it but LadyA. wanted it close enough to touch and show her friends so we taped it to the wall ... no biggie. Happy to please her with such a simple request.


I am going to break this up into two tutorials because this can get really long and involved. This one will explain what I did and the other will cover simple techniques and tricks on how to design in Illustrator for projects that will be transferred to Silhouette Studio once it is ready to cut. O.K. maybe three. The final one will give instructions on how to transfer your project from Illustrator to Silhouette Studio. I think simple, basic tutorials are better than one monster post that becomes too much to read and follow.


*This tutorial takes into consideration that you know how to work out certain steps. It is NOT for the beginner unless you,  like me, are willing to work out things on your own to help you learn. Trial and error are sometimes the best teacher.

MATERIALS/SUPPLIES
Cardstock to fit the size of your cutting machine {two different colors}
Silver Sharpie
Adhesive for the wall

TOOLS
Silhouette Machine or other cutting machine
Exacto Knife
Glue Stick

INSTRUCTIONS
Find an image of Princess Sophia's tiara to trace. When tracing or creating designs to cut I like to use Adobe Illustrator, it is what I am familiar with, I can do so much more in it and I already have it on my computer instead of paying for the design studio.

Trace the image making sure not to double and triple your lines. Trace only where there will be a cut. Since the tiara is symmetrical I did one side then mirrored it. I thickened the line to 4 pt so you could see exactly where I traced. In your project use a line thickness of 1 pt.


Now copy the shape as many times as you need for your bunting. Lady A's name is 7 letters long but two of the letters are used twice....hence 5 tiaras.

Decide on a letter, font and size, overlay it on the shapes until you have the look you want. Change the letters to 'outlines', remove the fill color and copy and paste a second set, then place them off to the side of your 'design board' or even on a different layer {lock it or hide it}**. Offset the the out lines to be a bit larger than the actual letter, this will give the illusion of a tracing or a thicker outline for your letter. You can see that I left the original letters in place so I could get a better sense of what the letters would look like once put all together. Then cut out overlapping lines to 'merge' the two images.


**If any changes need to be made to the letters doing it once they are outlines would be the perfect time, before the copy is made and placed to the side. I did not like the 'L' in the font I chose so I manipulated it until I was satisfied.

*You can also merge the shape with the letter once in Silhouette but keep in mind it will just do an over all exterior tracing, the interior detail will be lost.

Time to create your 'pages' that will be transferred to Silhouette Studio. I fit two of the tiara letters on a page then put all the original letters {the ones we copied and moved to the side of the 'design board'} on another page since I wanted them to be a different color. The font I chose also had interior detail so I deleted all that for the tiara alphabet outline. Then left it for the white alphabet so that the background purple would pop through.


Open in Silhouette Studio {Tutorial coming soon}

Cut out accordingly, assemble, add some bling {silver Sharpie, sticker gems would work great too} and wa-la!!

I used the Exacto knife to help cut out some of this tiny little accents inside the letters.


Yes, that was involved. But I LOVE how they turned out and so does Lady A. Three months later and we still have them up because she loves them so much.

1.07.2015

Two Ingredient - Super Moist Pumpkin Cookies

I have gotten into a baking mood lately but with Paul being so busy with work and two little girls who get all my attention, there is not a whole lot of time to spend in the kitchen.

I found the remedy for that. Cake box cookies!!!



These are so easy to make, very moist and work great when an extra surprise is tossed in {craisins, chocolate chips, nuts, etc.}.



Add some cream cheese frosting and a craisin on top to dress it up a bit.


White chocolate chips are a family favorite here. When the chips melt and caramelize a little, well, it’s just simply delicious.


INGREDIENTS
Duncan Hines Spice Cake Mix
One can {15 oz} Pumpkin
Any additions {craisins, chocolate chips, nuts, etc.}

*You can also double the recipe if you need more and they turn out great as well

SUPPLIES
Cookie sheets
Baking mats
Hand Mixer or Wooden Spoon

INSTRUCTIONS
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place baking mats or parchment paper on cookie sheets.



Mix the spice cake mix with the pumpkin. Once it's completely mixed, it will be sticky, add any extras you want. I didn't measure specifically but I usually added about 1 C -1 1/2 C of white chocolate chips. It just depends on your mood.



Drop table spoon sized balls onto the cooking mat and bake for 11-13 minutes {depending on your oven}. I usually flatten them out a little because they don't really spread out as they bake. When I first started making these I would poke with a toothpick to make sure it came out clean.


Yum!

Another bonus to cake box cookies is the amount it makes. Usually I can get around 3 dozen snack sized cookies that will last us a week or so…..you know, as long as I don’t make them when I’m hungry and eat most of the first batch.


I would love to hear from you and see your projects. Leave a comment or #AlwaysCreate on your photos. Find me on Instagram {@AlwaysCreate} and follow along for behind the scenes and fun little extras.

1.02.2015

New Years Traditions

With the New Year comes new traditions. Now that Lady A is a bit older and able to participate a little more in family activities we have had a lot of fun coming up with our own family traditions, especially since we live away from the rest of our family and won't always be able to make it out for the big events and holidays.

I'm not much of one for New Years Eve events, trying to keep my toddler up until midnight does not sound fun right now. She would be so tired and fussy by the time midnight came and the following day we would all still be paying for it.

But it is still a good reason to celebrate so for now we will celebrate on New Years Day!

We are new to Kentucky, we got here the weekend before the college semester started in August. While the winter has been pretty mild compared to what we are used to {we are from Utah and spent the last three years in Connecticut for Grad School} but we are told that the cold comes mostly in January. Here is my mug and saying for the year.


We all can use a little pep talk every once in a while.


Lady A joined in and created her own as well!
We need to encourage those little creative minds


The back detail


Paul helped her a little bit.
She wanted to use the mug I had done a little trial on. The gold dots were "oh, pretty!"

SUPPLIES
Paint Pens / Sharpie Markers
Cheap White Mug {I got mine from Wal-mart}
Vinyl {optional}
Silhouette Portrait {optional}
Saying, Quote, Shapes etc. {optional}

INSTRUCTIONS
I do not care for my handwriting on the mugs, it just never turns out the way I want. Instead I busted out my Silhouette Portrait and quickly cut out a little saying. 


Clean the surface you are going to be placing your design. I used a cotton ball and rubbing alcohol and went over the area once to wipe away any dirt and oils on the mugs.

Place your stickers, shapes, or vinyl where you want it. Now so to town with your paint pens and markers to create your one and only mug.


I used CraftSmart paint pens. I had more colors on hand with the markers so Lady A decided to use them.

Bake the dish int eh oven by placing it on a cookie tray. With your mug in the oven set it to 425 degrees, once the temperature is reached bake it for 30 minutes. Prop the door open, turn the oven off and let it your oven cool with your mug still in it.


A close up of the back detail.



I love how they turned out. Lady A is pretty pleased with herself too! Now that she is getting older and wants to join me in my creative activities I am so excited to see her creative personality emerge.

TIPS: 
I took two days to do mine because Lady A wanted me to wait so that she could finish her master piece before we placed them in the oven. When using a paint pen to fill in or around a letters and shapes, I would recommend taking them vinyl off before the paint has time to dry too much. Taking it off in the morning after the paint had time to dry and get tacky pulled up some of the paint from my letters so they don't look as smooth as I would like.

On the dishes I have made so far I have found that the Paint Pen stays great to wash in the dishwasher on the top shelf. Sharpie marker is best washed by hand. Do Not scrub! Use a soft washcloth and mild soap


Here is another Sharpie marker project with different tips and tricks.


I would love to hear from you and see your projects. Leave a comment or #AlwaysCreate on your photos. Find me on Instagram {@AlwaysCreate} and follow along for behind the scenes and fun little extras.

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