All posts by AJ Arseneau

Best free photo editing app (Android/iPhone)

Are photos your favorite part of Facebook, Instagram, and online in general? Do you have a photo envy complex? Did you know that you too can make your photos rock without paying a cent on an app? I’ve used both Samsung Galaxy and iPhone and my favorite app is available for both!

Best free photo app: PicsArt

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PicsArt
 is available through Google Play and iTunes App Store

People may tell you that Facetune it the way to go, but PicsArt can do pretty much everything that Facetune can do and so much more. I paid for Facetune, but I never use it.

Today, I’m going to talk about my favorite photo editing options for portraits, but there are many more creative things you can do within PicsArt.

For portraits, I typically start with Edit. Using that I can open any photos on my phone to perform all of my favorite edits to create the perfect photo.

Within Edit, I primarily use Tools and Effects.

Tools

15731389_10155288479760016_462038569_nThe tools contain many of the basic photo editing tools such as Crop, Clone, Curves, Adjust, Enhance, and Perspective. So once you have decided your photo is worthy of editing, get to work to make it the best it can be.

My personal favorite tool is the Stretch tool. Why the Stretch tool? This tool allows you select part of the photo you want to not edit and then you can squeeze, inflate, swirl, or warp other parts of the photo. This means you can make eyes bigger, make love handles smaller, or just warp something completely for effect. It’s really fun to use.

Tip: Tap on an active tool for more fine tuning options in addition to the options displayed above the photo.

Now you like your photo, but you aren’t finished yet! There is so much more you can do with PicsArt.

Effects

Best Face Forward

When sharing a photo of friends or even yourself, you don’t want to hear any of the following complaints: I look so old! Look how yellow my teeth are! I didn’t realize how big my pimple was! Can you at least fix the red eye?

15801210_10155288514590016_465309033_nStart with Corrections! Here are the basic corrections currently available in PicsArt. I should mention that another great thing about PicsArt is that they constantly improve and add more features. Here are my favorite corrections:

  • Denoise: Use Denoise as the first step for removing noise imperfections from the face.
  • Eye tools:
    • Prism: Make the eyes pop.
    • Eye Color: Change the eye color.
    • Red Eye: Change red to grey.
  • Blemish Fix: Like Bandaid, use this to remove pimples and any other larger imperfections, like food in your teeth.
  • Face Fix: A blur tool specifically for faces.
  • Suntan: Darken with a golden glow.
  • Teeth Whiten: In case someone forgot to brush.

I also like to Blur the background and sometimes perform additional corrections to faces. It allows people to focus on the subject of your photo. There are many other Effects that you can try.

There are so many more actions you can perform on your photos and graphics within PicsArt. It’s a great thing to do while you wait for your kids to finish their favorite activity.

I love it! You will too! Have fun!

Example

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This selfie is over-edited. Be subtle with yours. I went nuts on this photo so you can see a comparison of the original snapshot and a heavily edited photo. The version displayed here uses all of the available corrections, plus a blurred background. 6 year olds do not require heavy editing, and neither do you!

Ideally, you should use the editing options in a realistic manner. The version of this photo that I personally posted on social media had a blurred background, lighting adjustment and contrast added.

Recommendation

Look at the correction you have made and reduce the opacity of the correction to fall somewhere between 25 and 50%. Subtle is best.

Want more?

Read Improve your Instagram Feed  by artist Kate Giffin.

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Christmas can be really hard.

15665533_10155275574620016_3294414847635670228_nChristmas can be really hard. It can be especially hard preparing everything when you’re on your own, kids in tow. And kids are smart. They know when you’re finding things tough.

And so, today while we were running through my lengthy list of pressing errands, my eight year old ran around the car and pushed me hard in the gut.

“What are you doing? Stop! Stop!” I was agitated. When did she become so strong?

She looked up at me with glistening eyes and pointed to the blue ribbon she stuck on my belly. She had won the first place ribbon during a competition and, years later, still carried it with her everywhere she went.

“You’re my number one, Mommy.” She held her eight year old finger up and smiled.

I was shocked as I pulled the ribbon off my jacket to examine it. Her prize. It had worn from the touch of her dear little hand. Much of the gold writing was faded, but the number one and the Olympic torch remained legible.
That very morning we had been discussing priorities and how we needed to decide what was the most important, because there is never time for everything. Some things could wait, so we need to focus on what is most important.

15697941_10155275963930016_3419553298976549311_nThe enormity of her statement filled my heart as I brought her in close for a bear hug. ‘You’re my number one.’ Her little sister, not willing to miss a single moment, joined in.

“I couldn’t have wished for a better gift this Christmas.”

She beamed with pride. “Neither could I, Mom!” And the three of us held one another tightly.

We didn’t finish that errand, or any other errand today. Instead, we headed straight for home. And when we got home, we didn’t worry about tidying in case someone dropped by. We decided not to worry at all.

In fact, decided to take the time for ourselves. To take the time to sing, to play, and to laugh together, because everything else just really isn’t that important.

So the cards will be sent. The house will be tidy. And the laundry will be finished. One day. Just not today.

Merry Christmas everyone! And God bless us, one and all.

Grandma Rossie’s Christmas Dinners

My mother, who is affectionately known as Grandma Rossie, did everything for us growing up: cooking, cleaning, driving, teaching, and anything else she felt needed to be done. She was lucky enough to be a stay-at-home mother, which was much more common in the 1970s through 1990s.

I, on the other hand, have my girls working as hard as I do at home. I couldn’t function if I had to do all the work at home on top of working full time! Honestly, sometimes I don’t know how we all make it through the day. But we do make it through and at night we all sleep well knowing we have to start again the next morning.

This year I’m heading to a potluck for Christmas dinner. I am in charge of only a small portion of the dinner, but for more people. I’m looking forward to a lot of laughs with friends and family. It should be much easier on me than my childhood dinners were on my mom.

Christmas Dinner

The most exhaustive work that she did had to be our Christmas dinners. Grandma Rossie invited our entire family. It didn’t stop there! She also invited anyone else who might not have family nearby at Christmas time. It was wonderful! Well, it was wonderful for all of us. Maybe not so much for her.

She was in the kitchen for days, when she wasn’t cleaning the entire house, often on her hands and knees scrubbing our floors. She served the Christmas dinner to everyone and even did all of the clean-up. I barely remember her sitting down even for a moment, although I do remember she was always at the table for Grace. Did she even eat?

In her words…

Grandma Rossie talks about our Christmas dinners and the unsolicited feedback from her father-in-law at his final Christmas dinner. Sometimes you have to hear it from somebody else.

What girls want for Christmas

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Maybe your kids don’t show you their Christmas List for Santa.  Maybe your kids are too overwhelmed to tell Santa what they’d like. If your kids are like mine, you might have to hit half a dozen Santas. Well, I’ve done that for you! (The real one is at Market Square.)

Girls really want Shopkins, Dragons, Kendamas, and Bunchems. So what are all these fad toys? And what are this mom’s picks?

Christmas picks

Watch my children’s wish list video and then read more below.

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What are Shopkins? Shopkins are tiny bits of plastic about the size of the top joint
of your middle finger. They look like grocery store items with a happy face painted on them. Kids collect and trade these plastic pieces of garbage (some are actually little garbage cans, so that comment isn’t just a comparison). The sparkly ones are worth more, so if you happen across a package of sparkly ones, your kids will love you that much more. Elementary school-aged kids love them. Parents hate them. At least I hate them. If you don’t hate them, wait until you step on a few.

Cost: Buy more for a lower price and you’ll pay about a $1 per Shopkin.

dragonFurReal Friends Torch, My Blazin’ Dragon

I panicked a little but when my daughter asked Santa for a fire breathing dragon that cooks marshmallows. Another mother let me know that it was “just a toy that costs over one hundred dollars.”

I chuckled at the kids’ lists, until Santa looked at me and said, “Santa delivers!” Maybe Santa should deliver, because over a hundred bucks is insanity! That was on a Friday night. The next morning, the toy dropped to less than half price at all the local stores, so I guess Santa did deliver.

What is this fire-breathing dragon? The FurReal Friends Torch, My Blazin’ Dragon is a cute toy that you fill with water and he sprays an orangey mist to look like flames. He also burps, which kids adore. Kids can also pet his nose for a cute response. He comes with a marshmallow on a stick that changes color from the dragon’s “flames” to look like it is torched. It’s definitely a gimmick, but FurReal Friends are still better than Hatchimals. I certainly wouldn’t pay full price for one.

Cost: These are up to $120. Look for the half price sales, which likely will remain until the current batch is sold.

Kendama

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Kendama < $20

Kendamas are the toys every schoolboy and girl wants this year. They are built to last, require no batteries, and provide long-term appeal, so both you and your kids will be happy.

What is a Kendama? A Kendama is a Japanese wooden cup-and-ball toy. The ball is attached by a cord to the handle, which has three cups (sides and bottom) to catch the ball and a spike on top to store the ball. Kendama is a well-constructed toy and actually holds kids’ attention long term, unlike most of the battery driven toys. It helps to develop hand-eye coordination.

Cost: This classic costs less than $20.

bunchemsBunchems

These are multi-colored plastic burdock burrs that stick together to make whatever you can imagine.

What are burdock burrs? If you ever had a round spikey thing from a small bush stuck to your clothing, in your hair, or on your pet, you know what they are. The are so sticky and annoying that they inspired the invention of velcro.   Read more on wikipedia. So they serve their purpose, but can you imagine intentionally bringing these into your home?

Cost: Who cares what they cost. They are multi-colored plastic burdock burrs.

Mom’s picks

My standard Christmas shopping list is: Dress, PJs, Doll, Book, and Art supplies. The dresses arrive before the Christmas concerts. The PJs before all the Christmas parties. So that just leaves the Doll, Book, and Art supplies for Christmas morning.

I always start my shopping at L’il Shop of Science in Brunswick Square. Read more…

Gifts for Parents

And what about a gifts for parents? Everyone I talk to would love:

  • Furniture, especially shelves—Getting rid of furniture? Single, divorced, or new parents really need it! Offer it to them first, even if you are selling it. It’s hard to find affordable quality furniture. We’ll pay!
  • Free babysitting—This costs you nothing, but a few hours of your time.
  • Hats and mittens—This is actually for the kids, but really helps parents. Decent hats and mittens are pricey and kids always lose the last set long after they are out of stock in stores.
  • Anything else—Ask. It’s okay for Christmas gifts to not be a surprise.

Christmas Shopping Uptown at L’il Shop of Science

I love Christmas shopping. I really do! I know that running around looking for gifts can be a nightmare, so I choose the easiest way to shop. I shop in uptown Saint John, which makes life a lot easier for me as a parent. Because I work uptown, I can also shop during lunch or on the way home from work. What could be easier?

My favorite store in Uptown Saint John

I love to Christmas shop in uptown Saint John. And my favorite place to shop has to be L’il Shop of Science in Brunswick Square! Carla Salazar greets everyone with a smile and provides the latest interactive educational toys for kids of all ages. She makes sure the store is well stocked with the standard goodies: Rockets, Telescopes, Chemistry and Physics sets, Rock Tumblers, Anatomy sets, puzzles, and games. She also brings in heaps of specialty items: Turbospoke bicycle exhaust systems, SmartPhone Science, and  Puzzle Lights kits, to name a few.

I took my kids shopping at L’il Shop of Science during Uptown Sparkles and aside from Goo, they were most interested in the following : That’s Gross Science Lab, Spa Day, and Kendama.

MUST HAVE TOY!

Kendama
Kendamas in every stocking this year!

Kendamas are all the rage right now and my girls begged me to buy them that very night. I insisted we wait to see what Santa would bring. A Kendama is a Japanese wooden cup-and-ball toy. The ball is attached by a cord to the handle, which has three cups (sides and bottom) to catch the ball and a spike on top to store the ball.

Personally, I was excited to see the pogo sticks. Yes, that’s a hint. There are only so many years I’ll be able to hop on one! Hopefully, Santa will remember me this Christmas!

My shopping excursion at L’il Shop of Science

I asked Carla Salazar if I could vlog while Christmas shopping at L’il Shop of Science to help other parents decide what to buy. She was nice enough to agree! So enjoy, like, comment, and share! Support businesses in uptown Saint John. Brunswick Square has so many wonderful businesses. Let me know what your favorite stores are and what you’ve bought for your kids this year.

Finding happiness after highschool

I remember that time of my life just after graduation. I went to university right out of highschool and struggled to find a balance between meeting my parents’ expectations and following my own passions. My personal battle was between engineering and fine arts, which eventually led me to my current role as a technical writer.

My career happiness

I’m a technical writer. Basically, I figure out what developers and engineers want to make for people and I provide the details, so that the rest of us can use products. I’ve made help content, manuals, textbooks, videos, and all kinds of publications to make your life easier.

It took me about a decade before I finally made it to this career path and there were times I struggled to find fulfillment at work. Now, I work at a company that has higher employee satisfaction than Disney. That’s right! My workplace is better than Disney! Not many can say that.

Kate’s Path

These days, I am lucky enough to watch and hopefully support my niece Kate on her road to happiness. Kate’s a strong, smart woman with great talent and strong work ethic. Below she shares confessions of her firsts this year that tug at my heartstrings.

You can probably imagine why I am excited for Kate as she starts on her own path. Perhaps I’m reliving my past and realizing it all works out for the best. Perhaps I am living vicariously through her. Perhaps I just want to help her achieve her dreams.

After graduating, Kate was smart and took a year off before beginning her studies in Fine Arts. Finally, this past fall, she made the leap. Already, I see brilliant photography and paintings filling her instagram accounts and I am so excited to see what her her future holds.

First times

My heart was overwhelmed when I watched Kate‘s video about First Times. She’s had a lot of firsts this year! When you get to the one-minute mark, you’ll hear why she melted my heart! Hearing what she has to say makes me believe she is on the right track in life and I am so proud of all she has done to get there. I know we all will be there to support her when the road gets rough (and not just so that she’ll support us in our old age). Her journey is an exciting one.

Here is the video from Kate and her friends’ collaboration Youtube channel called Just Us. Skip to 1-minute mark to melt your heart.

Why I started a YouTube channel

How was my YouTube interest sparked?

My smart, sweet, sassy niece Kate Audrey invited me to VidCon last year. Since she was a highschool graduate, I decided I had to go! How many more chances would I have to be her embarrassing aunt? I was pretty happy that her parents kicked in some air miles, because my original plan was to cash in some RRSPs and rely on Kate to care for me in my retirement. It’s always good to take a little pressure off of her. The topic of money is always tough for college kids. She’s pretty good with money and works on top of studying, so I am pretty sure that when I move in with her someday, she can handle it.

What is VidCon?

VidCon is a conference about creating online content put on by YouTube for Community, Creators, or Industry! I registered as a Creator for two reasons. 1) I make online content for a living, which includes creating online videos. 2) I registered so late that I couldn’t afford the late registration fees for Industry.

  • Community is for YouTube fans. Fangirls and fanboys that make up most of the demographic. They run after YouTube stars, outstretch their hands dramatically, and squeal. Many scream.
    From VidCon site: For people interested in online video, its creators, and its culture. Q&As, discussions, concerts, interviews, Expo Hall, parties, VidCon Prom, movie nights, meet-ups, and more.
  • Creators create videos.
    From VidCon site: Perfect for anyone looking to make better content, grow their channel, enter the industry, and meet fellow creators. Includes extra access to a ton of panels, networking, and workshops as well as all Community activities except the Meet & Greet Hall.
  • Industry is the next step.
    From VidCon site: For attendees working in the online video industry beyond content creation, including anyone who is part of a production company, network, channel, or who works in talent management, software development, venture investment, etc. This track allows access to all Industry, Creator and Community track content.

Was it Work or Fun?

When I told my manager I wanted time off to go to the conference, she told me it was training, not vacation. The best part of that was it meant I still had days left to use as vacation time after the conference. But it also meant that I had to do at least one presentation about how to improve our online videos at work (Spoiler: My presentation went well). 

My expectation for the conference was that it would be a lot of fun and I was not disappointed. I am someone who loves to learn and try new things. I got to meet and learn from a few stars including Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks. I loved talking politics and discussing the differences between the parties at the provincial (state) and federal level. People ask what he’s like and I reply, “As expected.” You already know what you think of him and that likely wouldn’t change in person. He’s authentic. As far as learning about online videos, I learned the most from the industry professionals. Between the sessions, there were meet and greets, cool hangout rooms, and entertainment. And, of course, I can’t forget to mention swag. There were a lot of freebies throughout the event.

New Friends

The best part is that I met some great people and expect we’ll remain friends for life (at least online). The Kate Audrey (YouTube) and I shared a room with YouTubers Get Messy and Frequently Falling. I hung out with another chaperone Kevin Williams, who was there with his daughter Awkward Amanda.

I couldn’t believe how much fun it was and want to go again in 2017. Now to figure out the money part…

Videos out of VidCon 2016

AJ Arseneau: Eat at In-N-Out restaurant for the first time

AJ Arseneau: Last Day in California

Our last day in California shopping in Downtown Disney, visiting Hollywood, and finally flying home. We missed our connection and flew standby, so we were sleepless.

AJ Arseneau: VidCon Tips

Useless fun.

The Kate Audrey: VidCon 2016

Kate’s video about our trip.


This is a Blog Site to accompany my YouTube channel, Instagram account, and Twitter account.