Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Irish Eyes Will be Smiling Over These 8 Great St. Patrick's Day Clipart Collections

Such a treat the past few days have been weather-wise in this little corner of the world. As we celebrated our Family Day long weekend we were welcomed by temperatures well above freezing at a time of year when the chill of winter is so damp and deep it normally seeps into our very core.

Where typically we are buried under snow, longingly looking ahead to warmer days and burgeoning life as we enter the last week of February, currently we are seeing patches of boggy lawn with streets lined by banks of crusty grey snow. Rather than shivering and shaking we've been out and about in light jackets —  bareheaded and un-mitten-ed.

And it sounds like we can enjoy more of the same for several days to come. Temperatures are actually expected to soar into double digits later this week.

No matter what the rest of winter has in store for us, though, there's no question that we have become inspired to gaze expectantly ahead. We look to spring, to that time of year when existence just becomes a little more carefree. We will doff the heavy outwear and cumbersome boots, our worries over travel on snowy roads ends and we surge forth from our winter cocoons.

Spring is in the air and our daydreams colour with shades of pastels and green. The latter plays a big part in a celebration that arrives just days ahead of winter's demise. St. Patrick's Day, with its images of happy leprechauns, cheery rainbows and verdant shamrocks is a fun and lively party.  Like a charming ebullient friend, the Irish holiday chases away any leftover weight of woeful winter to lighten our hearts and brighten the end of the season.

When I think now of St. Patrick's Day, my mind first wanders back to my childhood school days, when the theme was prominent in our arts and crafts. We didn't understand much about the occasion, nor did we know anything about its origins. The story of Ireland would be buried deep in the roots of some of our family trees, but few of us were aware.  March 17 was something we celebrated regardless of our lineage. What we did know was that there was something endearing about the day.

St. Patrick's Day is still almost a month away, but with February drawing to a timely, and lovely, close it's not too soon to turn our thoughts that way. Particularly when it comes to preparing. Whether you're an educator looking for images for the classroom, or an establishment contemplating how to promote that green beer, you'll be in need of a great graphics resource. Here are some great collections from iCLIPART.com and Clipart.com, royalty-free subscription services.








Friday, February 17, 2017

Focus on Farming First With These Unbelievable Collections of Thousands of Agriculture Photos

Yesterday was Canada's Agriculture Day. Given that this wide, open country is home to some of the richest and most diverse agriculture worldwide, taking time to showcase the industry is a wonderful idea.

Celebrating the farming life in February might seem a tad incongruous. Yet, it's the perfect time for reflection, which is what this day's all about.

While most fields lie fallow under soft blankets of winter white, while rural roads are quiet with fewer tractors, combines and wagons travelling farm to farm, while livestock huddles in the warmth of barns and coops rather than open pastures, we wander grocery aisles in search of fresh produce, great cuts of meat and whole grains. If you don't know that everything you're seeking is because of the people who work the land and raise the animals, then it's time to think about that.

Living as I do in a rural community, my neighbours and I have a front-row seat to the activity that takes place each spring in fields and gardens. We watch the first tilling of the soil, rich black earth churned to the top. We travel behind and around the sudden influx of gigantic machinery on our backroads and along our highways. We monitor the crops and live by such adages as "knee-high by the fourth of July", an observance on the corn's progress.

There is a good reason to celebrate agriculture. We do it very well in the late fall and early autumn here. A neighbouring community annually hosts a homey, but huge, homage to country living of yesteryear with its Thresher Reunion and Steam Show on the weekend following Labour Day. Thousands come out to see the big machines that once toured the communities with crews to get the work done. There is a gigantic craft sale, and an antique car and tractor show. Demonstrations range from the archaic — belt-setting — to the entertaining — bag tying and log sawing.

Then there are the plowing matches, both local and international, held before the end of the month. From the Queen of the Furrow contest to competitions on the field, from displays to entertainment these events are much-anticipated happenings, attended not just by country folk but urbanites too.

Of course, no rural community would be anything without its fall fair. Though changing lifestyles have seen many of these struggle to survive, in the true spirit of coming together that is synonymous with a rural community, they always manage to wrap up with their sights aimed fiercely on the next year.

Why? Because around here agriculture matters. Those of use living in rural communities have a complete and total knowledge of the importance of agriculture and the dedication to its continued role. However, while we immerse ourselves in the activities of farm life during the spring, summer and autumn, come winter we perhaps can use a reminder of what the efforts during those days do for us. As noted earlier, Canada has a rich and diverse agricultural industry. Yesterday,  we took time to celebrate that.

Agriculture More Than Ever lists 10 reasons why:

• 2.3 million Canadian work in agriculture
• Canada sells over $50 billion in agricultural exports
• 98% are family operation
• It contributes over $100 billion to Canada's GDP each year
• Farmers are proud environmentalists
• Follow recognized codes of practice for the care and handling of animals
• Innovations
• Canada ranks number one in global food safety performance
• Study proves Canadian agriculture is a trusted industry
•Agriculture is a passion and way of life

With all of this in mind, it seemed appropriate that today's photo collections will pay tribute to agriculture and the people who bring us our daily bread — not just in Canada but all around the world:

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Prepare for Spring With These 2 Spectacular Clipart Collections

It's there. I can feel it.

Stepping outside this morning, the first thing I noticed was blue sky and sunshine. It's been a really long time this dark, dreary winter since that bit of brightness broke through.

Squinting gladly, I tipped my face towards the heavens and let the brilliance wash over me before turning to set out. It was then I noticed that this day was far removed from a typical deep February frigidity. With no breeze and the glowing rays of that cool winter sun, the slightly below freezing temperatures had a quality we are all eager to experience.  Spring is in the air.

Maybe this time, I thought,  that silly groundhog got it right and we are going to enjoy that promised early end to winter.  It can't come soon enough for me.

There are, of course, people who make the most of the ice and snow,  who aren't bothered by the cold and chill, who find the stark white beautiful, who, with a if-you-can't-beat-it-join-it attitude, turn the barren landscape into a playground for skiing, snowshoeing, etc.

For years I pretended I was among them. I rode along behind my hubby as he piloted our snowmobile across groomed trails. We flew, it was kind of fun. Until it wasn't. I don't know when it happened, but suddenly the adrenaline rush of speeding over the fluff, the beauty of the icing-topped bare branches of woodlots, were diminished by the chill that seeped into the bones and failed to leave for hours after finding my way into warmth.

So it is spring that excites me. Rain might sprinkle down upon me in the warming months, but when that season shines it's perfection. April showers clear the detritus of winter, washing away the drab greys and browns of muck and mire. Then May blooms —  a month of rebirth and awakening that beckons us outside into a land transformed. Grass greens, flowers springing from rich soil.

And that sun! Warming with each passing day it chases away the last vestiges of fatigue, depression, aches and pains.  It has everything we love without the mugginess and bugs of summer.

During those months, signs of spring are everywhere — above, below and around us. Until then, I eagerly watch for that first robin sighting, a visual confirmation that while there might be snow again, it's days are most assuredly numbered. From that point on, every moment outside is spent ever watchful for more and more and more.

As we prepare for the season of revival and rejuvenation, we plan our spring projects and promotions. Obviously the perfect graphics will be needed to inspire people out of their hibernation before winter has completely left us. There are plenty of spring illustrations to be found online that are guaranteed to enhance your work and deliver the message that while there might still be snow on the ground, spring is in the air. You really can feel it.

From budding blooms and flowering trees to Easter and April showers, you can find it all in these sensational collections:

Find something for every type of project at this terrific website. The vast inventory of web-ready and vector graphics, as well as photos, fonts, sounds and animations make this the world's number one royalty-free clipart subscription site.

Thousands of spring illustrations can be found among the impressive inventory of 13 million on this popular subscription website for royalty-free clipart.

Friday, February 10, 2017

7 Amazingly Appealing Collections of International Food Photos

When you grew up in a rural Ontario community in the 1960s as I did,  you were going to be served up good solid meat and potatoes fare at mealtimes. Hearty soups accompanied by sandwiches made from thick slices of homemade bread and leftover meats were typical lunchtime dishes. At supper we could expect roasted chicken, beef or pork, fried sausage or baked ham fortified with salad, potatoes, vegetables,  and gravy.

Eventually casseroles were introduced into the menu, but these too were traditional stick-to-your ribs cooking, influenced by what people knew. Out in the boonies, culinary adventures rarely took family cooks far from the traditions of their ancestors. These people were primarily of Irish, English, Scottish and German descent; the meals they prepared reflected that heritage.  Besides the straightforward, my Mom would often bring such treats as fish and chips, shepherd's pie, meat pies, schnitzels and cabbage rolls to the table.

But jaunts into more exotic ethnic cuisine was unimaginable in those days. These dishes were left to restaurants. While it bordered on insulting for Mom not to prepare the food her family ate, it would never have crossed her mind to try making something like Chinese food or pizza herself. These were treats, brought in rarely for special occasions.

How the times have changed. With the melting pot of cultures that enrich our society now, we are familiar with foods from a vast variety of other countries. Our recipe boxes fill with everything from paella to curries, from jambalaya to  falafel. Our cupboards and refrigerators have been introduced to quinoa,  polenta, tofu and saffron.

Dining out too is now an international experience. Urban areas are host to just about anything your taste buds might desire with ethnic restaurants dotting corners throughout our cities. People are generally eager to try it all — from Thai to Indian.

My kids are among those people. The younger two, who are vegetarians, quite frankly prefer stepping away from the traditional dishes to cross over into more exotic cuisine — dishes far more adaptable for their diet restrictions than pot roast for instance.

Taking me out of my dietary comfort zone on the other hand usually requires one of  two things. The first is cheese. Basically cover whatever you're making in this and I'm sold.

The second, if we're speaking of restaurant food, is a great photo. After our son invited us out to a favourite Korean place recently, I decided I better take a look at the menu on their website and figure out what, if anything, would appeal to me. Sadly it didn't happen. Even if I thought the food was palatable by the description, the pictures completely turned me off.  There is a reason that food photography is a speciality. Restaurants need pictures to make you salivate.

Finding a photographer however might not be convenient and can be expensive. Another option then is to use stock photos. If you're in the food services industry and need great shots for a website or menu, here are some yummy collections from iPHOTOS.com:

From cheese to croissants all of the rich decadence of French cooking can be found among these great pictures.

 Pasta reigns in this collection of photos, highlighting everyone's favourite international cuisine.

Whether it's sushi from Japan, Turkish dumplings or Chinese stir-fry you can find an appetizing photo from this appealing collection.

We love our fish and chips. You can find colourful photos of that staple as well as some other traditional English fare in this collection.

These terrific photos are sure to spice up your designs focussed on this flavourful cuisine.

You can find images for a lot of the hearty dishes enjoyed in this European country.

Food with a kick, that's what you'll find in these super pictures highlighting Mexican meals.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

3 Absolutely Adorable Sticker Packs for Valentine's Day

"Valentine's Day is the poet's holiday." — Ted Kooser

On Feb. 14 we distribute flowery, romantic cards filled with fancy verse and sentimentality galore to the loves of our lives. The message contained is, one hopes, a reflection of true feelings for the recipient.

While there are people out there who view Valentine's Day as a silly holiday, as an excuse for commerce to extract money from consumers during the mean, lean winter shopping months, for others it's an opportunity to express what the heart knows all year long but lips can often not say.

When I first met my husband several decades ago, he was more realist than romantic. Finding gestures, let alone words, to warm my heart, didn't really come easily to him. However, there were enough glimpses of a romantic for me to believe this dude had potential.

With training of course. The progeny of no-nonsense, hard-working, country folk,  his role models seriously lacked sentimentality.  Then there was me — sappy and romantic all the way.  One of the first lessons, therefore, was simple — getting him to realize there was no ignoring Valentine's Day. It was soon made clear that while only a card was necessary,  there had better be one and it better say what he thought.

He learned well. So much so, that after working a long night shift and remembering as his head hit the pillow what day it was, he got dressed and wandered downtown in a stupor to get me a card.

Spying it on the table later, however, I noticed it hadn't been signed or even put in the envelope. It seems that exhaustion is probably not the best condition to be in when picking out a card. The inside verse was beautiful. The cover though said, "Happy Valentine's Day — to the 'man' I love."

From the earliest days of handing out Valentines we know it's the thought that counts and that thought had best come through in the message. Who can forget those early school days when the process of deciding which classmate was going to get "Be Mine" and which would get "Hi, Valentine." was painstaking?

Now in addition to traditional cards, people are as likely to email or text their personal messages to a Valentine.  Rather than looking through a selection of cards, one can now search online for the appropriate words.

Of course, no matter how beautiful the verse,  the addition of a graphic will make it more appealing.  While any number of romantic backgrounds and elements can be found on sites like iCLIPART.com and Clipart.com there are those who prefer to keep things a little lighter with messaging. A great option is to add stickers. This adorable pack is available from iTunes for iPhone and iPad:

What's not to love about these charming stickers? They'll add a touch of whimsy to any iMessage. 

If you like to keep your expressions of love a little lighter, these cute heart emoticons are perfect.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Super Cool Sticker Pack Animations from Vital Imagery Ltd.

I'm not a youngster.  I was actually born when people still listened to 45s, when a bottle of pop could be had for a dime.

I was even born before most homes had rotary phones.  The operator hooked us up with the person we wanted to reach. If you lived in the country, as my cousins did, you were probably on a 'party' line, which meant you not only waited for someone in your own house to get off the phone, you could potentially find yourself waiting for a neighbour to end a call before you could make your own.

We got three channels on our television and Dad's fiddling with the rabbit ears hopefully got rid of most of the snow on the screen.  If I wanted to play games I went outside or sat at a table with some die, a board and tokens.

With the advancements in technology, life has certainly changed from those times for all of us, particularly in the last few decades. The internet has opened doors of communication that many people, especially those of my generation and older, couldn't have imagined.

Despite certain issues social media, we all know it has its benefits, most notably in how it has connected us to others. Think of the 75-year-old gentlemen who lost his fishing partner and posted a request for a companion to accompany him on his angling adventures. The response was huge and what could have turned into a lonely existence suddenly meant a continued fulfilling life.

Think too, of the posts of lost pets, and more importantly missing children. Whether you like it or not, there's no denying that used as intended,  social media is an indispensable tool.

New technologies too have brought us all kinds of 'toys'. GPSs instantly come to mind. When I think of the days when my husband and I would travel to unknown places, a map spread out on my lap in the passenger's seat, and a wrong turn or squabble imminent.   Now some friendly voice patiently guides us, remaining calm when we opt to not listen.

Cellphones have made landlines almost extinct, though a few dinosaurs likes my husband still hang on. The positive attributes of this technology are as known as the less so. Sadly, we've all had that dinner with a friend who seems far more interested in that phone than in conversation with you.

Putting the negatives aside, however, I'm a big fan of most of this. Social media has linked me to family and old friends in a way that wasn't possible before. And the convenience of texting,  while at times annoying,  is undeniable. Message sent, get to it when you can.  The ball, as we say, is in your court.

One of my favourite texters is my four-year-old granddaughter. Since she can't spell enough yet to carry on much of a conversation, she chats in her own style — with oodles and oodles of stickers.  From her favourite 'neigh'neighs' to hearts and smiley faces she inundates me with adorableness.

Since Mom and Dad just happen to have iPhones, I can hardly wait to tell them about the new stickers available on iTunes created from Vital Imagery Ltd's AnimationFactory.com. From Animal Chores to special holidays, there are a number of categories from which to choose delightful stickers to enhance  iMessages.  It's as easy as a touch or a drag. 

What better way to get in the spirit of Super Bowl weekend then with these terrific game time stickers. Such a fun way to talk about the game.

Celebrating  winter's game with a cool collection for hockey fans.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

5 Photoshop Tutorials for Personal Valentine's Day Projects

"Doubt thou the stars are fire,
Doubt that the sun doth move.
Doubt truth to be a liar,
But never doubt I love."

Oh, that Mr. Shakespeare did have a way with words.  His romantic thoughts transferred to elegant verse can be positively swoon worthy. My heart melts when I hear those words from Hamlet.  My soul sighs when Romeo speaks upon seeing  his beloved Juliet: "Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight! For I ne'er saw true beauty till this night."

Of course,  nobody talks like this any more. In today's harried and hurried society we have come to rely on texting and social media for conversation, and yes, even to convey our heartfelt thoughts. Albeit in acronyms and within 140 characters.

There are still some old-school folks who remember what it was like though, to keep things personal, when love notes were hand-written and shared discreetly, rather than shouting their feelings from the proverbial social media rooftops.

I would be among them.  My hubby and I have been together a long time. The life we had before each other has become a blip in our personal history compared to the one we've built in the decades since.  While neither of us is overly romantic we're no slouches either when it comes to wooing each other. Practise makes perfect so they say. Our gestures are more thoughtful than cheesy,  more about building meaningful traditions than grand overtures.

We use opportunities like birthdays, anniversaries and Valentine's Day to say through a card what we haven't been able to put into words ourselves, believing that a reminder of one's devotion to another can't happen too often. Every one of them has been saved.

There have even been some of those little handwritten notes over the years. And it is these that are most cherished. They might not have been as eloquent as Shakespeare but they are personal which means more.

As Valentine's Day approaches it's a good time to think what you can do to make this one special. There will be romantic dinners. Many marriage proposals will happen.  Florists, card shops and chocolate stores will be kept busy. And those gifted with the romantic gene will come up with unique and individual ways to express their love and passion. 

You could also, while combining the technology of today with old-school, make this Valentine's Day special by creating something unique  Whether it's a card or some inspired artwork, Photoshop can help you put your own spin on a personal project. Here are some great ideas and tutorials to inspire you:

A general video tutorial, not geared specifically to matters of the heart, but a perfect way to showcase some of your most personal  pictures in a very special gift.

An excellent tutorial that combines two images into a romantic piece of art.

With this relatively easy tutorial you can create a romantic card that includes a photo of you and your sweetheart.

This step-by-step video guides you through the process of creating your very own cards, a perfect, yet simple way to make your message personal.

Another simple video tutorial combines vintage images with a photo and text for a fun Valentine greeting.