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Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Suddenly Online Teaching- how to make an overhead document camera

Like most college educators, I have found myself suddenly online teaching. This series will hopefully help other educators, or new home office users, who have similarly found themselves in the same position, to be helpful.

Five quick tips!

1. Your IP address will change so each day that you log in with the second webcam, you will need to enter the new address. It is at the bottom of the camera screen.

2. You will need to make the same adjustments each time you log on. 

3. Do not spend time locating extra lighting, the system will auto-correct for lighting.

4. You do not need to have a SIM card in the phone if you have it connected to your wifi.

5. This is fiddly, just know that going in and be prepared to fiddle. Get it together before class "starts."

The back story:

As an interior design instructor, I need to demo drawing techniques live so that I can answer questions or repeat a technique again. Thus, I needed an overhead camera than integrated with my laptop so that I could "share my screen." I do not have a separate webcam from my laptop, nor did I want to burden my college when they have so many irons in the fire with everyone all of the suddenly teaching online.

So, I had to get creative.

 The idea:

I thought that I could just plug in my cellphone and use the camera, but my iPhone and Surface Pro do not talk to each other. So, I looked on the web for a solution (article from here) and it was to take an old cell phone that is the same type of operating system as the laptop. On a quest for an old phone at home, I found my 7-10-year-old android cell phone. It still charged up and I had a cable.

I was cooking!

The plan: 

You will need to get the cell phone camera to broadcast on your laptop and from a height above the workspace.

I installed IP Webcam for Android app on my phone and followed the online instructions to create the linkage (found here). Then, I entered my IP address from the phone in my browser. The web address can be found at the bottom of the cell phone screen when the app is running.

And magically on my computer screen came the image on the camera. I couldn't be more proud of myself. But that was only half the solution. I still needed to get in to float over my work table.

The equipment:

charging cable
something for height above the table surface

When I hatched the plan to do this about a week ago, I ordered a "selfie ring with camera holder" from Amazon. The key to this product was that all the parts articulated so that I could set the height and turn the phone holder parallel to the tabletop.

This allows me to have an effective, though rather crude overhead camera that connects to my laptop that I can demo live drawing techniques with my student through screen sharing.

So, what if you do not have a selfie ring? You can still float the camera above the table with a different method. You might have a camera tripod with a cellphone holder. You could use a lightweight table or child's chair to attach the cell phone to and place the table above the surface. The IP webcam app will zoom the image for you, so distance is not as important as you might think.

If you have one of those new "C-tables", that would work very well because you can snuggle the table closer to the drawing surface. The one to right is from West Elm (found here). With this table, you could simply lay your phone on the table with the camera over the end and pointed down!

Because my cell phone is an old gal, I need to keep it plugged in and charging. So for me, the charging cord is a must. But if your phone holds a better charge, you will not need to do this.

Now, I am able to DUAL webcam with the zoom meeting. One camera of my face on the laptop camera and one that I can flip to on the laptop that allows me to "share my screen" and see the drawings. 

I hope you and your family are well, your students are happy and staying away from people and that you teaching is superb!

Please check out my other Suddenly Online Teaching series for more ideas coming this week.

Monday, October 28, 2019

travels to Europe- Ghent at Midsummer

I recently had the chance to travel to Northern Europe. An amazing experience and one of my favorite places that we visited were the city of Ghent- a beautiful dark horse of a city.

Below you will see why this was a fave. This image was taken on the Lys river on the old town river walk area near midnight a few days before the Summer solstice.

Cloudy cool night at Nautical Twilight on the river Lys. It could not be more beautiful!

Monday, January 1, 2018

Interior Design Term of the Month- Wabi Sabi

My student, Ellie, lamented that she wants to know more terms to talk about design. And, in giving that some thought, I decided that blog posts were the best way to offer knowledge in a creative way that allowed for inbox delivery and promotes the idea of lifelong learning. So, for Ellie, and all those looking to improve their design vocabulary, I am starting a series of interior design terms of the day. Sometimes short, sometimes long, or sometimes illustrated, these posts are as much for my students as for anyone wanting to learn more about interior design.

Wabi Sabi

I define Wabi Sabi as a celebration of the imperfect as well as an improvement on the perceived imperfect. It is a Japanese term that is not about design, but about life and acceptance of the flawed and the passage of time. However, it can be applied to design and we see it throughout the history of things and currently in some aspects of the green movement.

From typical antique repair techniques, like the Kintsugi repair work with china repaired with gold to the Victorian era repair of staples, both seen below.

Gold repairs in classic blue and white pottery.
Yellow mug circa 1820's with many staple repairs from blog Past Imperfects
To a more modern aesthetic of George Nakashima, known for his "live edge" furniture, like this example below from
George Nakashima Table with Fissures 1
To the ubiquitous Tobacco Baskets that adorn every newlyweds mantle as a placeholder until they buy the "good art".
Antique Yellow Trim Tobacco Basket - Image 1 of 5
Tobacco basket from
This is now so ubiquitous that Ballard Designs is now having them made and selling "perfect" ones.

Wabi sabi acknowledges the passage of time, the bumps and bruises that can come along with it, and the "fixes" that occur. It is the celebration of the perfectly imperfect, or as a antique dealer recently referred to it as "the make do's" of the world.  A key point to know is that Wabi Sabi is not about poor craftsmanship, it is about allowing the excellent craftsmanship to live another day and sometimes in another way.

So tell me, what do you want to know about? What is wabi sabi in your world?

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Cell phone Camera Obscura for the eclipse and beyond

I have searched the web for days looking for some instructions to make a Camera Obscura for my iPhone for eclipse photography to no avail.

So, I decided to make my own. Here is what I scavenged from home to make it. It's quick... it's dirty... but I don't have to wear a box on my head in public!

Step 1- Scavenge a good sized box. I used a box from my recent order. It is about 18" x 9" x 9". Does the size matter? 
I have no idea.

Step 2- Seal all corners with tape and some aluminum foil, or that silvery tape for HVAC ducts. Also, seal the bottom of the box in the same way. This will keep out all light, except the light you want.

Step 3- Cut a square about a 1/2 inch in the center of the short end of the box. You can use a mat knife, box cutter, steak knife, etc.

Step 4- Place white paper inside the box at the opposite end from the square hole. I used a sheet of label paper, because it is sticky and easy.

Step 5- Position your cell phone on the box to determine where your camera will view into the box and trace your camera. I used my cell phone case to align the camera hole. I also dallied with the idea of gluing the case to the box for quick positioning, but changed my mind.

Step 6- Measure the size of the hole on your cell phone camera compared to a drill bit, then drill the hole in the box. Clean the hole to be neat and get the most from your camera.

Step 7- Go outside and test the box. Hold the top closed or temporarily tape it closed and try some pics. Is the view hole too big? Does the camera hole work? Is there any light leaks? 

Step 8- If it all looks good... then seal the final box opening with the tape and foil and get ready for some eclipse fun. If it doesn't look good tweak it! Make the holes bigger, smaller or cleaner. If they are too big, use the tape and foil to make them smaller.

After the Big Day, don't throw your box away! This is still the modern version of  Leonardo da Vinci's camera obscura. And, it still works as a pinhole type camera. Go out there and blow up Instagram with your brilliant cell phone camera obscura photography!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Wedding gifts: New in Porch and Parlor on Etsy

It's wedding season and I am heading to one today. So, I thought I would add a post about the new items in my Etsy store that is perfect for wedding gifts. Check them out!

Wallace Sterling Silver Cordials - Wood Box Set Of 4 - wedding gift - 72g FREE SHIPPING

Wallace Sterling Silver Cordials - Wood Box Set Of 4 - wedding gift - 72g FREE SHIPPING Only $79 and so classic!

Blenko owl glass bookends- Rich Amber. very heavy. MCM

Blenko owl glass bookends- Rich Amber. very heavy. American Mid Century at its finest from the classic American glass manufacturer Blenko. $94

Brass Pineapple centerpiece candle holders. Large size. Great Mid Century style. Holiday SALE with FREE SHIPPING

Brass Pineapple centerpiece candle holders. Large size. Great Mid Century style. Holiday SALE with FREE SHIPPING $599.00
Perfect for table decor in any season and so many ways to configure it!

Vintage Liquor Decanter set. pump dispensers. set of three. no etching

Vintage Liquor Decanter set. pump dispensers. set of three. no etching $134

Stocking the bar parties would be more fun with these beauties as your gift! All in working order!

Black Dansk Danish modern candle holder, with original box, MCM design

Black Dansk Danish modern candle holder, with original box, MCM design $24

Czechoslovakia glass bowl white glass with clear glass ruffled edge small bowl

Czechoslovakia glass bowl white glass with clear glass ruffled edge small bowl  $24 each

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Inspiration everywhere: Eat the World with Emeril Lagasse

I tell my students that inspiration is everywhere and provide an online folder of articles and inspiration that they can see and explore. So, why not post about some as well!
Eat the World with Emeril Lagasse in The New Nordic

Last night I discovered Eat the World with Emeril Lagasse on What a beautiful show and in so many ways. Emeril is excited and humble. He wants to share his quest to learn more and highlight the chefs in the world that are making these inspiring dishes. That alone is worth watching, but the visuals are beautiful! The colors, patterns, architecture... I hope that the filming team wins awards for this because it is inspiring. 

Below are some stills that I screen grabbed off of and below them are links to each episode. Now the only question is, do I binge the rest of the episodes, or savor them like the enticing dishes that they are presenting!
Eat the World with Emeril Lagasse- The Shanghai Soup Dumpling

Eat the World with Emeril Lagasse- Culinary Enlightenment
Eat the World with Emeril Lagasse- Culinary Enlightenment
Eat the World with Emeril Lagasse- Modernist Masters
Eat the World with Emeril Lagasse- The Best Pizza in the World
Eat the World with Emeril Lagasse- Forbidden Cuba

I think like all dishes I love, these will be tasted again and again. The six episodes are all under 30 minutes and are a perfect taste before your "feature" movie or as dessert before going to bed!

How do you use this inspiration, you ask. Easy. Look at how they put colors together, how they compose the images to apply in your space, see what catches your eye and think about why and then consider if that is something you want to adapt to your world!

What has inspired you recently? I'd love to hear about it!

Monday, January 9, 2017

Your dry weather friend Aquation Lotion

Not my pic, but very illustrative of the type of weather that cripples the south.

It snowed in Southtown, well actually it was ice pellets on my mountain, and the air is so dry in the house I am battling to keep it above 27%. I prefer it to be around 50%. I have a small humidifier in the bedroom, a steam humidifier in dining room and...


this behemoth (that I received from Influenster a couple of years ago) blowing out moisture in the den... and the house is still about 27% humidity. P.S. This humidifier is 2 1/2 feet long!

Fortunately, I received this lotion in my recent VoxBox from Influenster called Aquation Lation. It is not a brand I am familiar with, but I can sing it's praises! It can take you from itchy sandpaper to soft silky skin that is itch free. I am quite pleased that I don't have to reapply during the day and that I'm not itchy!

Thanks Influenster!