Monday, December 15, 2008

Chanukah Scrap Book Pages

Today's scrap book challenge at Mother's and Daughters Creations (you can find the link to their challenge blog on the left under their logo) is to incorporate numbers or a list of things to do to count down what's left to do before Christmas.

I have this "thing" about scrap book pages - it's sort of like eating potato chips - I can never make just one. Even if the topics are different, I always make pages in pairs that coordinate at least in terms of color. It offends my eye to open a scrap book and look at two adjacent pages that don't work well together color-wise or worse, absolutely clash.

I made two pages for this design challenge featuring numbers, and since we are Jewish, I made them for Chanukah. There is not a lot of "stuff" out there for making scrap book pages or cards for Jewish holidays. But it's easy to incorporate almost any pretty paper into a Jewish theme. I used the Cricut Expression "Joys of the Season" cartridge to cut the menorahs, which are one of the primary symbols of Chanukah, the other being the dreidel. Blue is a popular Jewish color, and the Daisy Bucket paper I used has a beautiful shade of blue and a floral design that went well with my plan to make ornate numbers (also cut with the Cricut) and decorate them with flowers that I stamped and painted.

Why make pages ahead of time? This is such a busy time of year, by the time I finish making and sending holiday cards, cooking, cleaning, shopping, and entertaining, it’s hard to squeeze in the time to work on my scrap book. In Chanukahs past, I’ve even forgotten to take critical pictures! And then, after the holiday rush, I don’t want to go back and deal with holiday things. I’m eager to put everything away and move on to Valentine’s Day, Passover, and Spring.

Before an event or holiday, while am eager with anticipation, it's easy for me to be motivated to make the scrap book pages. So I often make the pages ahead of time and slip them into page protectors where they're ready for me to finish, which is a very quick task. When I do this, I take whatever extra little things I've made that I didn't use on the pages already, along with the scraps that are left over and if I have any left, a sheet or two of the design paper and card stock I used, and slip it all behind the pages I've made in their page protectors. That way, if I want to add anything or even make some extra pages, everything I need is handy.

Chanukah is late this year; it begins on December 21st and ends on December 28th. During the eight nights of Chanukah, I’ll take pictures and it will be a simple enough matter to sit down at some point and download them, print out the best ones, and add some journaling or a recipe or two, even as we celebrate the holiday. Since I may want to adjust thesize or placement of the picture boxes slightly, I have adhered everything with removable glue dots for ease in both repositioning and adding pictures. Once I get all of my pictures set the way I want them, I’ll secure them with permanent dots or adhesive and add them into our family album.

Now, all I have to do is to remember to keep the pages handy and take the pictures!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Modifying Envelopes for Square Cards

The post office charges a higher rate for square envelopes and cards with bulky embellishment and this is definitely a consideration if you are making cards that you plan to mail. I’ve always hated to mail square cards in a rectangular envelope which is the obvious solution for saving on postage. They slide around in the envelope and they look mismatched and well, tacky.

For yesterday’s square “Snowy Jo” card, I modified 5-7/16 x 7-1/4 inch greeting card sized envelope to accommodate his square shape and the end result is an embellished, matching envelope that fits the card snugly and can be mailed with regular first class postage.

I got the idea for this modification from something I recently saw on Julie Ebersole’s (JulieHRR at SCS) blog. Julie modifies an A2 envelope to fit a small square card. You can see Julie’s original post here:

First, a Bit About Envelopes

It’s easy to modify a first class postage approved envelope for an “off-size” or unusual shaped card but first, here’s a bit about envelopes in general. Of course, you can always make your own envelope for any card, but you may still run into the issue of surcharges by the post office for over-sized, bulky, and over-weight cards.

A2 envelopes are the standard invitation size envelopes and are a terrific choice for smaller square cards. They are designed for cards measuring 5-½ inches by 4-¼ inches. These are cards made from a half sheet of letter sized card stock (8-½ by 5-½ inches) folded in half and are a staple for most card makers. At 4-3/8 by 5-¾ inches, A2 envelopes can hold up to a 4-¼ inch square card.

A2 envelopes are made from a heavier weight (24 lb or higher) stationery grade paper (vs 20 lb paper for regular business envelopes) and they are readily available at office supply stores such as Office Depot and Staples in bulk (boxes of 50-60 up to 250 and 500) in white, cream, and pastel colors and are economically priced (less than 10 cents each for the smaller boxes and as little as 2.5 - 3 cents each for the largest ones). Compared with the cost of buying envelopes in a craft store at a cost of as much as much as 50 cents or $1 each even with a card, the invitation size envelope is perfect for most “small card” needs.

A 5-7/16 x7-1/4 inch greeting card size envelope is another card making staple and probably the size I use most often. These are also known as A7 envelopes and can hold square cards as large as 5-¼ inches. There is also a slightly larger envelope (approximately 5-7/8 by 8-3/4) available in bulk at office supply stores. I have a box of these labeled “greeting card” size, but they are more commonly referred to as catalog size envelopes and are designed to fit a sheet of 8-1/2 by 11 inch paper folded in half. As long as they don’t go over the maximum weight (0.5 ounce), these can also be mailed for regular first class postage.

Regardless of which size envelope you use, it’s a good idea to select the envelope before you cut the card base so you can be sure that your card is going to fit whatever envelope you have.

Lastly, if you are mailing a card with brads or other 3-D embellishments, if you slide a plain piece of card stock over the front of the card inside the envelope, unless the embellishments are unusually large, it will keep the outer surface of the card flat enough and will provide adequate protection for the card to be able to safely pass through the sorting and postmarking machinery at the post office. If the envelope can’t pass through the machinery, you’ll get hit with a surcharge (which means that the card will be returned to you for additional postage) and worse, the machinery might actually damage the envelope and card if the embellishments get caught in it.

Modifying the Envelope

For Snowy Jo, because of his size in relation to the sketch for this challenge, I wanted to make a larger card and so I chose an A7 greeting card size envelope and based my card size off that. To make sure I had ample wiggle room for the card, I made the card 5 inches square.

To embellish the envelope, I stamped Snowy Jo on the lower left corner of the front of the card in Versafine Vintage Sepia and clear embossed him. The post office does allow decorated (stamped or stickers) envelopes with embossing and glitter at no extra charge.

I cut his hat and scarf out of the stamped image. To do this, I slid a piece of very heavy corrugated cardboard into the envelope under the image and cut those areas out with an Exacto knife using fairly light pressure. The cardboard keeps you from penetrating through to the back side of the envelope when you cut.

I cut a strip of the plaid paper that I used for the card 2-1/4 inches wide and 5-1/8 inches long. Before I adhered it permanently in place inside the envelope, I put the card into the envelope with it to verify that it was the correct size for the space next to the card. It fit well, with about a quarter inch to spare, which is plenty of wiggle room for the card to be easily slid in and out of the envelope.

To set it in place, I put adhesive on both sides of the strip and carefully slid it into the envelope on the image side (return address side) of the envelope with the pattern facing the front, showing through the cut out area of Snowy Jo’s hat and scarf. I pressed to adhere the adhesive and voila, I had an envelope that fit my card perfectly. Just be careful not to put adhesive over the area of the strip where it’s going to show through the envelope!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Darn, that New England Weather!

Today we awoke to a glittery surprise. Overnight we had a significant ice storm and as a result, we had no phone service, Internet access, or cable TV. We were extremely fortunate: unlike a million other people in New England, including much of our own city, the shopping center up the road, and most of the neighboring towns, we still had electricity.

I enjoyed the peace and quiet and spent the day finishing up projects and getting caught up on blog writing with our three little Cavaliers cuddled beside me.

I made this card for this week’s Design Challenge at Mothers and Daughters Creations. Click on the picture for a larger view. You can find their weekly card and scrapbook challenges on the MDC Challenge Blog. There is a link on the left side of this page – scroll down for the “MDC Design Team” information right under the MDC banner.

This week’s card challenge is a sketch challenge designed by Maria Levine. I love Maria’s sketch and I had the perfect paper sitting for it right on my work table – the same paper that I used for a gift card holder I made earlier this week.

The snowman, “Snowy Jo”, is from MDC’s Snag’em Stamps line. These adorable stamps cost $1-$2 and are a real bargain. The paper is from Basic Grey’s “Mistletoe and Pear” collection and is a light card stock weight.

This is a square card which ordinarily would result in a 20 cent surcharge over normal first class postage rates. I modified a standard envelope for a 5 by 7 sized card in a decorative way so that the square card fits snugly and can be mailed for regular first class postage. Check back tomorrow for detailed instructions for modifying and embellishing the envelope.

To make the card, I started with a 5 inch by 10 inch piece of the red paper for my card base, scored and folded in half. Next I cut a piece of the brown about 4-1/2 inches square. (Don’t attach the brown square to the red card base yet!) For the four corner boxes, I cut four squares 1-1/4 inch on each side and layered them onto red. I attached them to the brown square, placed symmetrically in each of the four corners, and then tied a piece of 3/8 inch wide ribbon in a knot around the middle of the brown square.

I stamped Snowy Jo in Versafine’s Vintage Sepia on white card stock and again on a small piece of the red paper and clear embossed both. I trimmed the red piece and matted it in the plaid and the solid brown. Next, I cut Snowy Jo’s body and hat and each of his mittens out of the white card stock and glued them over the image stamped on the red paper. At this point, when I made the gift card, I had stamped Snowy Jo twice in red and cut his hat and scarf out of the red. This time, I cut them out of the plaid and glued them onto him. I cut out three pom pom shapes (white) and layered them as well. Then I attached Jo and his mat to the brown square over the ribbon using pop dots.

The greeting,"Winter Wishes", comes with Snowy Jo. I stamped it on a scrap of brown and matted it in plaid, red, and more brown and attached it under the center square. To finish, I attached the brown square to the card back and added a brown eyelet at each corner as a decorative touch.

Remember, come back tomorrow when directions for the matching envelope will be posted. In the meantime, stay warm and safe

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Yesterday’s sketch challenge at SCS was the inspiration for this card. And seeing the lovely work done by Sharon Johnson (No Time to Stamp)and LeeAnne Pugliese with minimal stamping gave me the courage to submit a card to SCS that had no stamping at all in the design, just in the greetings. For some reason, I've felt that having a gallery and submitting cards for the challenges at SplitCoast STAMPers, the majority of my card should be STAMPED. Silly, huh!

This card (click on the image to enlarge it and see much more detail!) was fun to make and took almost no time at all with the help of my Cricut Expression. The paper is from Basic Grey’s “Mistletoe and Pear” stack. I love the unusual palette for a Christmas design, so reminiscent of vintage designs. Added to that, the edges of the printed pages and the surface of the solid pages have the appearance of being sanded and antiqued.

To cut the letters, I used the Cricut “Storybook” cartridge which offers several varieties of ornate lettering. The letters are made in three parts: a background shape using the “shadow” feature, the letter itself, and the ornate, filigree accent piece. I brushed each piece with Chestnut Roan (ColorBox) ink to carry through that antique feel in the design. I also brushed the right edge of the long thin panels that were edged with a Martha Stewart lace edge punch.

The cartridge includes a variety of accent pieces. I cut a fancy corner piece to cap a strip of the same designer paper I used on the cover to add a decorative accent to the inside of the card.

The ribbon was a lucky find. A Martha Stewart ribbon, it’s a perfect match for this Basic Grey paper. The only problem I had was choosing between the blue and brown (seen here) and the green and brown, also a perfect match to the pale green background of the design paper. The stamped sentiment on the front and the inside greeting are from Papertrey's "Holiday Wishes" set.

A Cricut is not essential for making a similar, simple and elegant card. Punched snowflakes, ornaments, bells, hearts, or even butterflies would make an equally lovely card. For a complete list of materials, visit my gallery at SplitCoast Stampers. There is a link on hte left under "My Special Places".

Monday, December 8, 2008

Snowman Snow Globe

This week at Mothers and Daughters Creations, the card challenge is to make a holiday card in the shape of a holiday symbol. I made a snow globe with the help of Cricut Expression's "Joys of the Season".

With the Cricut Expression, using the "shadow" feature, I cut a 6-1/2 inch basic snow globe shape on very heavy blue card stock, since this was going to be a single thickness (not folded) card. The shadow feature cuts a shape a minimal fraction larger than the "regular" size so that when a "shadow" and a regular image are cut in the same size, they can be overlayed to give a small outline around the edge of the regular sized image.

With the shadow feature off, I cut another image in brown and cut off the globe, saving just the base. Then I cut the globe separately on vellum. I stamped the base with a wood grain stamp I got in a clearance bin at Michael's. (That was a super lucky find!) Then I stamped my image in white on the vellum.

I used the vintage mica paints to give touches of color to the image. I didn't want to completely color in the snowman - I was going for a more translucent look - so I mixed a very small amount of white acrylic paint with a watercolor iridescent medium and put a wash of that over the snowman's face and body and then used the white acrylic paint to redefine his eyes and mouth. For the white pompom and brim of his hat, I used the same mix but added more acrylic paint to it, swirling it with the tip of the brush as I painted.

After I adhered the vellum (using a tape runner specially designed for vellum that I got at Michael's and am really disappointed with)and glued the base on, I added a row of punched snowflakes across the top of the base.

I punched a tag in a scrap of the same brown paper, stamped it with the wood grain stamp, and hand wrote a message and signed our names in white gel pen on one side. I stamped snowflakes on the other side in white.

The card stands up on it's own with the help of a scrap of heavy blue card stock cut in the shape of a picture frame stand and glued to the back.

To finish, I embellished the punched snowflakes on the base and the stamped snowflakes on the tag and on the globe with clear rhinestones. I tied a red satin ribbon around the base and tied the tag on with gold cording.

Click on the link to my gallery at SplitCoast Stampers (scroll down the column on the left side of this blog)to find a detailed list of materials used.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Our First Snow of the Season

Yes, you're at the same blog site. What's changed is our weather. Overnight, we were graced with a light dusting of snow, and all day, the snow showers have been lovely to watch. The large snowflakes swirling in front of the windows is right out of a Thomas Kinkade landscape.

I must confess, I don't like winter. I love to garden, love to tend my herbs and roses and perennials, and I hate being cold. Snuggling in front of the fireplace with DH and our pups makes winter bearable for me. But no one can look out of the window today and say that the Earth hasn't been brushed by the hand of God.

If only it would be 60 and sunny tomorrow! (And by the way, if you click on the image, a larger version will open in a new window. ;)

Cookies for our Soldier in Iraq

As part of Sharon Johnson’s Stamp Simply celebration, Janine at 2bkrafty ( challenged visitors to her blog to bake up some cookies, create a festive package for them, and then share the packaging and the recipe. This was a perfect opportunity for me to make some cookie bars to send to our adopted soldier in Iraq. If you click on the image, a much larger version showing much more detail will open in a new window. ;)

We are the very proud “Angel” parents of a soldier who we adopted through Soldiers’ Angels. This wonderful group matches US soldiers who need support and encouragement from home with individuals and families who “adopt” them for the duration of their deployment. Over the past four years, we’ve adopted a total of 7 individual soldiers, six of whom have returned safely to US soil. And at various times, we’ve also adopted entire platoons and even a special forces unit. It has been rewarding and humbling. We lost ten members of one of our platoons in 2006 in three separate incidents all in the same week. It brought the war right into our kitchen when the sergeant emailed us pictures taken of a memorial to the soldiers who were lost. We got a fresh appreciation for the sacrifice our children are making by being there, and in a very personal way. For more information about Soldier’s Angels, please visit

The cookie canister was an oatmeal box in another life. DH loves hot oatmeal for breakfast and it just so happened that we emptied the box this week, and this made a perfect cookie box for shipping cookies to Iraq.

I decorated this cookie box with a little bit of everything. The ornaments were cut with the Cricut Expression, borders were cut with border punches, and I even used some stickers in addition to stamping snowflakes and the greeting, “Peace on Earth”. I got the wonderful snowflake ornaments I used to decorate the lid from Marnie (stamplady_13 at SCS) in a “Pay it Forward” box and I left the loops on them so he can hopefully hang them up as decorations. The card is one I made specifically for Tim in the November Cabaret VSN at SplitCoast Stampers.

As for the recipe for these super easy cookie bars, honestly, I’m almost embarrassed to tell you that these cookies are made from a Devil’s Food boxed cake mix. It’s a very versatile recipe, and I have substituted marshmallows and peanuts for the walnuts and coconut, and I’ve also added Health Bar pieces and M&M’s for color and crunch. You can’t make a mistake with this recipe! It freezes well and it mails well, so it’s great for care packages to kids in college too. For mailing to Iraq, which takes about 10 days, I layer them with wax paper and stack them in a vacuum sealer bag and vac seal them. They stay amazingly fresh and travel well.

Easy Bar Cookies


One regular size (not Jiffy) Devil’s Food cake mix
One stick of butter (4 ounces)
8 ounce package of cream cheese
2 eggs, beaten
¼ cup sugar or equivalent non-sugar substitute
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ½ cups chopped walnuts
1 ½ cups shredded coconut
½ of a regular size bag of chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 by 12 inch baking dish with cooking spray.

In a microwave safe mixing bowl, melt the butter. Add the cake mix and mix until all of the dry ingredients are moistened. The mixture will be dark and crumbly. Spread the mixture evenly over the bottom of the baking dish and pat firmly.

In a microwave safe mixing bowl, soften the cream cheese. It takes about a minute to get it soft, fluffy and easy to mix. Stir in the eggs, vanilla, and sugar and then mix in the nuts, coconut and chocolate chips, Spread the mixture evenly over the “cake” layer. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes – until the top just starts to get golden brown.

Let them cool completely in the baking dish before cutting. I find it helps to run a knife along the inside edge of the baking dish while they are still fairly hot. I usually cut them into about 18 squares, but you can cut them larger or smaller according to your personal preference.

Friday, December 5, 2008

I'm so excited!

Well, the news is in and I'm thrilled to be able to share with you that I've been chosen to be a member of the Mothers and Daughters Creations Design Team. I went to bed tonight not knowing the outcome of the search. (I'm not sure how I managed to fall asleep, I was so anxious!)

I don't know what woke me up, but something did and so I decided to check my email, and there in my In-Box was the news I'd been waiting for: a note of Congratulations from Tamara telling me I'd been chosen.

I guess I'll head back to bed and try to get some more rest before I start in on MDC's latest weekly card challenge. Drop by their challenge blog at and join in the fun! They post card challenges every Thursday and scrap book challenges every Monday. You can also find some wonderful things on their web site at

Good night - well, good morning, actually - for now!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Holiday Postcards

Darlene Pavlick of Dar's Crafty Creations (see the link on the left under My Favorite Blogs) challenged visitors to her blog to make postcards for holiday cards. What an awesome idea! Postcards are "green" (at least half the paper, and no envelope), economical (they only cost 27 cents to mail instead of 42 cents for a first class letter), and they are quick. You can't add any embellies (ribbon, brads, Primas) and no layers either. You can emboss and add glitter, but other than stamping and painting, that's about it.

I made four postcards today, and plan to make a dozen or two more. We don't send a lot of cards out but for those we do, this is a perfect idea, and I like to write my own greetings anyway. Two of the cards I made had some special touches that didn't photograph well but in real life give these cards an amazing appearance.

I used the same image stamp, a country snow couple, for both cards. (Detailed information about the stamps and other supplies is included in the gallery at SplitCoast Stampers.(There is a link to my gallery on the left.) One card was made with a "vintage" style, the other with a more modern or contemporary style.

For the "vintage" card, I used a Basic Grey paper, Granola's Vanilla Bean. This paper is a pale linen with a distressed or antiqued look that is perfect for a vintage post card. For the other card, I used plain white heavy weight card stock.

On the vintage card, I added color using mica paints. These colors are more subdued but they shimmer. For the snow and snow people, I used an acrylic pearl white, which has a similar shimmer. I wanted to stamp some ornate snowflakes but to keep the vintage appearance yet add some "bling", I mixed a little bit of white embossing powder with some clear irridescent powder. Then I stamped snowflakes with embossing ink and embossed them. The result is a glitzy snowflake that is not quite as dramatic as a pure white one, which would have overpowered the vintage tone and background of the card.

On the more modern card, I painted in color with watercolor pencils and then added some shimmer with acrylic pearl paint for the snow. Then I sponged some colonial blue and after heat setting the ink with my heat tool, I washed the entire card with an iridescent medium, making the entire card shimmer.

I use Winsor and Newton's Iridescent Medium. This is a water-based product for use with watercolors. You can paint over something with it or you can use it as the "water" for water color painting. I love the effect. Unfortunately, from a photography standpoint only, it's a headache to try and get a picture without any glare or "hot" spots anywhere on the image.

Vintage Holiday Blessings

Today's color challenge at SplitCoast Stampers is a combination of neutral colors - sand, black, and vanilla, which is the palest of pale creams. What a fabulous combination of colors! I love neutrals because they work so well with vintage themes, which I adore.

For this card, I used the Cricut Expression to cut a vintage style hanging sign and used platinum ink to edge it and "antique" it. The wooden placard is touched up with black watercolor paint. Simply draw the lines faintly with black watercolor pencil and streak them with a wet brush. I actually used a Sharpie marker (use a very light touch if you don't have a fine point marker handy) to make the nails.

The image I used is one of four that come together as a set from Crafty Individuals by Magenta. I think they're delightful and can't wait to use them on some other cards. They are about an inch square and would be perfect for "inchie" projects.

I used a tree stamp for the background for this card but wanted a subdued background - I didn't want to detract from the sign post and especially from the image, which would have had to compete with darkly stamped trees. So I "stamped off", that is, I stamped the inked stamp several times onto scrap paper until I got the image to a degree of lightness that was still quite clear but still had enough contrast to show detail. Then I sponged platinum ink over the background.

When stamping off, ink the stamp and then stamp the image repeatedly without re-inking to find the image that has the "right" depth of color and contrast for your project. Then, each time you ink the stamp, stamp off to that point and then stamp your card. I found that I could stamp three times between inking and get satisfactory images, so it's not a lot of extra work to do this.

Shimmering Cherry Blossoms

For this week's technique challenge at SCS, Lynne taught us how to use Simple Green to make a speckled background. I didn't have any Simple Green, but Spray 'n Wash worked equally well.

I chose an array of shimmery inks - Amber Satin, Raw Silk, and Ruby Satin, all from ColorBox (available at my local JoAnn Fabrics and AC Moore's) - for the background. The only coated cardstock I have is textured, and while it made painting details on the flowers a challenge (no, make that "impossible" LOL), it actually worked well for the challenge.

I love the subtle speckling and was loathe to "cover it up" with a large image. This branch of cherry blossoms worked well and the colors I have traditionally used with this stamp were also perfect for the background. I painted the blossoms with mica paint and I regret that the photograph could capture the shimmer. It's lovely!

I made a treatment for inside of the card that imitated the cover of the card, using the same card stock colors but in a different arrangement. One satin bow makes a card hard enough to mail - putting a bow on the inside would make it impossible! But these bows, made with the Cuttlebug (they are part of a Christmas ornamnet die set) are perfect, and I'm starting to use them more and more on cards I want to mail as well.

If you've been considering purchasing e a palette of the mica paints but hesitate, wondering if they'll be easy to use, go for it! They are no more difficult to use for watercoloring than watercolor pencils. You just load your brush with water and moisten the pot of ink and water color as usual. You can also use them with watercolor pencils, adding shimmering elements over what you've colored already and mixing them with other colors to give you a broader rainbow.

I bought the "Vintage" palette and the colors are absolutely wonderful. I've blended them with both taditional watercolor pencils and acrylic paints and find them easy to use. And I love the wonderful effect of the shimmer.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


One of the challenges in the recent VSN "Cabaret" was to create a card with the appearance of snow falling..... having the snow appear to be falling in the image.

Living in an area where we experience blizzards on a fairly regular basis has no advantage in a challenge like this! But here is how I created that effect in my card, which I made for our adopted soldier in Iraq.

In order to create the illusion of snow falling around the snowman, I first created falling snow as a back drop. I did this using my trusty hairbrush and white acrylic paint.

I put a few drops of white acrylic paint (FolkArt's Wicker White) into the foam plate (which I reuse all the time) and tap it with the bristles of the brush, tapping in the paint and off to the side as well, to leave just a bit on the bristles. Then I tap it onto my card stock.

When I tap on the card stock, I tap it first on an area off to the side or on a scrap just to see if I have too much or too little paint, and how the paint is going to "take". It usually takes a very light touch, and, you want to just tap the paper randomly. Then, once I have the "feel", I tap "snow" onto the area where I want to cut my background. I generally cut my background piece from the piece I tap with "snow", rather than cut the paper piece and tap it. That way, if I smudge or get a little too much paint in one area, I can work around it.

In the case of my soldier snowman, I wanted him to appear to be into the midst of the blizzard, so I took a piece of acetate and tapped snow on it the same way. Acrylic dries very quickly on acetate. Then I layered the acetate over the snowman, so he looks as if he is right in the midst of a snowstorm, with snow falling all around him.

For the card I made for today's Sketch Challenge, I used this tapping method to make the snow fall background for my snowman. I like this technique because it give s a very "natural" look and it is very quick and easy.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Marching Band Scrap Book Pages

Well, they don't LOOK like "traditional" fall pages, but what could be more closely associated with "fall" than football? And what is more integral to a college football game than the marching band's half time show?

Our son, Jacob, has been a proud member of the University of Massachusetts Minuteman Marching Band, first on the tuba line, and then playing mellophone. The UMMB is one of the highest ranked college bands in the country. The director, Mr. George Parks, has been the band director for 31 years and he is credited with developing the modern band style and techniques you see in many college band performances today.

And oh, the places they've gone (and we've gone with them)! Army, Navy, exhibitions at Allentown (PA), Montreal, Symphony Hall in Boston to play with the Boston Pops, and last fall, as the premier band in the country, to play an exhibition performance at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis for the Bands of America National Championship.

DH and I flew to Indianapolis while the kids traveled by bus, a 22 hour trip that culminated with an absolutely breathtaking performance and then an hour and a half rehearsal after the performance. Then this awesome group of kids spent the night camped out on the floor of a local high school gym.

Here are the first four pages I've made to record and commemorate the trip. I stamped the background for this page, which shows the kids rehearsing after a long bus trip and show, using a stamp of the first couple of lines of music of a winter song.

First I laid out the pictures on the page and secured them with some removable two-sided tape so I could adjust the position and make sure everything was even. Then I used a white gel pen to draw a box around each one and gto draw a border around the page with a 3/4 inch margin.

Next, I removed the pictures and masked every place I didn't want the background to cover... the margins and each of the boxes for the pictures. Lastly, I inked up the musical score but not the song title, and stamped the background for the page.

The background for this page was made with torn strips of red and white paper. The flags and stars on both of the next two pages are stamped.

The stars were stamped with white ink on metallic gold paper and embossed with white embossing powder. The flags were stamped three times: on gold with gold ink, embossed with gold; on white with cranberry ink and embossed with cranberry; on white with navy blue and embossed with navy. The pieces were then cut out and assembled into flags.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Baby Cards

What could be more adorable than a baby card shaped like a baby dress and pinafore? I found the template for this card at Stampington & Co., a great source for stamps, papers, and best of all, publications where you can get fantastic ideas for cards and other projects.

Here's a link to the template for this card:

I enlarged the template slightly so it would make essentially a 5 by 7 card, since it would then fit into an envelope for mailing when it was done. I traced the template onto white card stock, and then scored and folded it over at the fold line (shoulders).

Using the dress half of the card as I pattern, I traced around it onto designer paper, cut it out, and adhered it to the inside of the card. I then trimmed around the edges to even them.

I decided to treat the pinafore as an embroidered apron. First, I edged the entire pinafore by brushing it with an ink pad, daffodil for the yellow card and rosebud for the pink one. Then, I lightly penciled in a scallop, continuing along a gentle curve between the scallops on each side of the apron on the yoke area of the pinafore. I painted the scallop in with watercolor pencil paint, "floating" the color along the curve. To do this, load the color more onto one side than the other of a chisel edged or flat edge brush, not a brush with a sharp point. Place the heavily loaded side against the line and draw the brush along the scallops

I stenciled some "baby" designs from some wonderful stamps I got from Mothers and Daughters Creations across the lower curve of the pinafores. I used bronze ink on the apron for the yellow card and platinum ink for the designs for the pink card. I stamped the chick onto white card stock, painted and cut it out and glued it over where it was stamped on the pinafore. I also stamped some additional flowers onto card stock, then painted and cut them out. I stamped a flower cluster twice onto the apron itself and painted those flowers, but I wanted to add more blooms to make the flowers more dense.

Inside each card, I placed an oval with a message and a small floral element stamped right onto the oval and painted them.

To finish, I added a bow to the front of each pinafore, and used a gel pen to add small white dots along the edge of the sleeves and hem of the dress. These are perfect cards for a new mom who is making a scrap book or keepsake album, especially if made with acid free - lignin free paper.

Tutorial: Making Window Cards - and Reversible Images for Windows

Recently, I made an acetate window card for one of Mothers and Daughters Creations challenges and then I made a similar but not as complex window card for the recent VSN. These were very easy cards to make, and here is how I made them. For details regarding stamps and products used, visit my gallery at Splitcoast Stampers by clicking the link on the left.
The Acetate Window Card:

I used the Cuttlebug to cut out 12 ornate squares to use as window panes. I glued six of them to a piece of acetate aligned in three rows of pairs, let the glue dry, and then turned the acetate over and glued 6 more over the original six, so the window on both sides of the card would be "finished".

I cut a piece of designer paper in a speckled gray design that I thought looked a lot like stone to use for the front of the card and taped it with removable tape at the four corners to my card base. Then I laid the acetate over it, centering it, and ran my scoring tool around the edge of the window to mark where I needed to cut. I cut the window through both the card front and the designer paper with an Exacto knife. (Be sure to open the card when you cut, and only cut through the front. Don't even ask how I know this LOL!) Otherwise, the back of your card will also have an unpected window.

After cutting out the window, I removed the designer paper, laid the acetate window over the opening, and touched up a couple of places where the cut wasn't quite perfect. Then I adhered the acetate to the card base and adhered the designer paper over the acetate.

I wanted the front of the card to look like a brick/stone wall, so I stenciled an architectural element onto a scrap of the designer paper, cut out several images, and placed them strategically around the window. The rest of the window card is simply "window dressing" and you can decorate it for any season or holiday.

Reversible Menorah:

I made a reversible menorah to place in the window, as I thought it would be clearly seen from the inside as well. I stamped the menorah onto acetate and embossed it with gold embossing powder.
You have to use a light touch with the heat tool to prevent the acetate from curling. Acetate can actually withstand a high temperature (these are designed for copiers, and they do get hot) but not a sustained high temperature, so your best bet is to wave the heat tool back and forth over the area you're embossing, changing the angle of the tool to direct the heat directly onto the embossing powder.
After embossing the menorah on the first side of the acetate, I inked the stamp and laid it ink side up on my work table.
Standing over it and looking straight down on the image, I carefully laid the unstamped side of the acetate onto the stamp, lining up the image with the stamped side. Then I simply rubbed lightly with my index finger to transfer the ink to the acetate. Then I carefully lifted the acetate off the stamp and embossed it.
You end up with an embossed image overlaying another embossed image on each side of the acetate. This makes for a lovely addition to a window card. You can do this with any stamp that has symmetrical right and left sides.

Window Without Acetate:

For a similar window without acetate, the process is even easier. For this card for the VSN challenge, I cut four ornate images wtih the Cuttlebug. I wanted more glitz on this card, so I laid these down onto my embossing pad, pressed gently to coat them with embossing ink, and then embossed them with marcasite embossing powder. I glued them onto the card, and voila, I had a window. The ornate corners are from another Cuttlebug shape from the same package (Victorian), embossed the same way. That glitzy filligree background is a random stamping with a filligree stamp, then also embossed with the marcasite.

The wreath was the most time-consuming part of the entire window. I stamped the leaf clusters and bow elements with embossing ink onto vellum, dusted and embossed them with marcasite powder, painted them with watercolor pencils, and then cut them out. Even the painting goes quickly... it's the cutting that's so tedious! But I was still able to finish this card well within the 45 minutes allotted.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Basking (and Yawning) in the Afterglow…. Life After VSN

I’m slowly but surely “recovering” from this past weekend’s VSN. What a fabulous event it was! The Cabaret theme was fun, fun, fun, and I enjoyed every single challenge. But I have to admit, it was also a very hard weekend for me. DH was away at a four day conference, in-home help that had been arranged and that I was depending on canceled at the last minute, and I was at my low point post-chemotherapy -- my blood counts "bottomed out" and the fatigue has been oppressive. With no home care assistance, my physical reserves were already taxed when the first challenge was posted on Friday evening. BUT, I wouldn’t have missed it for anything!

This kind of intense weekend, though it may be hard for me, is something I really look forward to. One of my friends asked me, “Why in the world would you do this? Spend all this time holed up in your studio, working like a madwoman, and all by yourself? Ovderdoing, and you know you'll pay for that. Where's the fun in THAT?????”

I’ll tell you!

VSN is like a Virtual Retreat Weekend. Maybe they should rename it! Afterall, it’s MUCH more than JUST a night! I used to love to go to those retreat weekends where you totally immerse yourself in your work from breakfast to bed. Your food is cooked for you, and someone does the dishes, makes your bed, and brings your morning and afternoon coffee. There’s no one barking to be let out or whining for dinner, no one to cook for, no dishes, no one calling “Honey, I need you!” or “Mom, where is my [fill in the blank]???”

Those of us who immerse ourselves in a VSN have to work doubly hard to manage all of the potential distractions around us since we are still at home, still the “Mom,”, still “Honey”, still chief cook and bottle washer, still the “go to” person in our family. It takes a lot of advance planning to be able to organize your family and yourself to be able to “host” a “retreat for one" at home, with “family” going on around you.

By the same token, VSN can be for anyone – anyone who can take the time to do even one of the challenges. You don’t HAVE to do it all. You can make VSN as much or as little as works for you. You don’t need a reservation… all you need to do is log on if and when it works for you. So it’s all inclusive.

VSN challenges don’t just give us an assignment; they create a mood, an ambiance, an atmosphere. That is incredibly hard to do in a “virtual” situation, yet they do an amazing job of it. But more than that, VSN makes you reach beyond your comfort zone and venture into areas you might not visit otherwise. The challenges are like board exams – you know those long exams with multiple parts and time limits – you get a new exam every hour on the hour with barely time to catch your breath in between.

I love the anticipation – you simply have no idea what is coming next. There is no set schedule like with the SCS daily challenges and since it could be anything, and very often it is, there is also a certain degree of anxiety – what is it going to be? Will I be able to come up with an idea? You don’t have a lot of time to think and plan – you have to get an inspiration and you have to get cracking on it because the clock is ticking. It puts me in competition with the clock and with myself. I need to come up with an idea and plan something that I can execute in that limited block of time.

But I think what I like about it most, though, is the camaraderie, the support, the encouragement, the feedback. Each challenge has a thread and even as you are scurrying to finish a project, you can interact, get feedback, laugh, cry, and share. That, to me, is one of the most valuable elements of the experience!

For the past three days I have caught up on much needed rest and recharged my sorely depleted batteries. And now, as I get back to work, I’ll be looking forward to the announcements for the next VSN and I will bring to that VSN the lessons I learned from this one: better planning for myself so that I pace myself better and use my limited physical reserves for card making, not for chasing after four frisky dogs (who need to go out, then in, then eat, then go out again), answering the phone and the door, and dealing with “nuisancy” things not related to VSN on a VSN day! I also learned some valuable lessons this time about uploading cards and plan to do things very differently for the next VSN.

Just as I was better prepared for this VSN than I was for my first, so will I be better prepared going into the next one. I’m looking forward to what the coordinators and hostesses will come up with for the next VSN, and I know I’ll be there, eager once again to “reach” with each and every challenge. Hope you’ll be there too. ;)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Getting Ready for a VSN

SCS's "Cabaret" VSN, which I have been looking forward to participating in for weeks, is happening tonight and tomorrow. I’m a former classical musician and have played a variety of wind, string, and keyboard instruments. My disability has stolen many things from me including my ability to play several of the instruments I was quite accomplished with but it hasn’t affected my love of music, of Cabaret, of the entire performance genre. Oh, how I miss it! But oh, how I’m looking forward to what excitement lays ahead for us tonight!

This is my second full VSN as a member of SCS. I joined SCS barely two weeks before the August VSN but I jumped in with both feet and absolutely no clue as to what was involved, how to prepare, or even what to expect. The lessons I learned from that first, somewhat pathetic effort helped me to be better organized for both the World Card Making Day Challenges and the Mini Cabaret that was held a couple of weeks ago. I learned how to set things up for a much more successful (less stressful, more efficient) Challenge event, and that even guided me in how I’ve organized my studio.

Not everyone is blessed as I am with a room in my home that is devoted to my crafting. But there are things you can do to prepare your work space to maximize your efficiency for the timed challenges. Both the WCMD and Mini Cabaret took place before I moved to my “new digs” and here is how I prepared for both.

First, organize yourself and your family to minimize distractions and interruptions. Have dinner in the crock pot or already cooked and in the refrigerator, or plan for take-out. We have four dogs, three of whom have medical issues and need medications and special diets. When I fed them this morning, I also prepared their dinner so that anyone can feed them quickly and easily. I put their food, medication and supplements in little bowls, covered them with plastic wrap and taped their names on their respective bowls. These are in the refrigerator and ready to go when it’s time to feed the dogs. They just need 30 seconds in the microwave and a fresh bowl of water.

If you haven’t already done it, right now is a good time to check over your supplies and make a shopping list so you can restock things you’re low on and that you know you’ll need no matter what the challenges might be, such as adhesives, embossing powder, plain old cardstock, and watercolor paper.

Negotiate an area in your home that is off-limits to everyone else for the duration of the VSN, where you can spread out your work into “stations”. Then set up “work” areas” for different tasks in a logical way. Bring out the things you use the most – you don’t need to bring out everything you have, just the things you are most likely to use, plus whatever is on the VSN shopping list. But this is also a good time to organize your stuff wherever you have it and rediscover things you might have forgotten you have.

I am manic about cleaning my stamps and paint brushes immediately after I use them and so I set up a stamp cleaning area by the kitchen sink. I love micro fiber towels (you can get packs of 25 at Sam’s Club) and I use them for all kinds of cleaning chores. They are great for drying stamps. I do use a fair amount of paper towels as well so I make sure that there is a fresh roll on the spindle and extra under the sink. I set out my stamp and brush cleaners, a stamp cleaning pad, and a soft toothbrush, which is another one of my favorite cleaning tools.

For the Mini Cabaret, I commandeered our living room and dining room which is one large room. I had my husband set up a large folding table that I used as work station and planning area for designing the cards, gathering what I would need for a given card, and painting with watercolors or coloring with my Prismacolors.

I used the dining room table to set up stations for cutting, stamping, embossing, and assembling the cards, and also set up a “bling bar” on the china cupboard. I’m one of those folks who loves china and fancy things, and how I set up my tables for the VSNs as well as my studio reflects that. When I set up for the Mini VSN, I dug out silver serving trays and baskets and a pretty crystal goblets and bowls. When I moved into my new studio, these things went with me. I think being surrounded by beautiful things enhances my creativity. Certainly, having things organized and neat allows me to stay within the time restrictions of the VSN.

My cutting area has my rotary cutter, Cropodile, and CM cutting system, which I laid out on a quilt cutting mat. For cutting a single oval, the CM cutters are much quicker to use than the Cricut, and so despite numerous dies for the Cuttlebug and cartridges for the Cricut, they are still among my most favorite tools.

I set the rotary cutter on the corner so I can sweep small scraps right into a trash can. To the left of the cutting area I set out some paper – not a lot, just some seasonal stacks, some pre-scored and folded card backings, and some extra plain white cardstock. On a small step stool (so I don’t have to bend so far to get to it), right in front of the paper area and out of view is the plastic file box I store my scraps in. My scrap file is the first place I look for paper before heading to my large organizers, and when I’m cutting, I set new scraps on top for filing during clean-up. If I don’t clean up my areas after each card, my work area rapidly descends into complete and total chaos!

I also set out a basket with my most favorite punches, including the lace edge punches I use the most and some shape punches that I’m likely to use as well – mostly seasonal ones and some corner punches, plus a couple of different hole punches. Yes, I love the Cropodile, but if it’s set for brads, and I simply need to punch a hole for ribbon, a small punch is much more efficient.

Moving around the table, I set an area to stamp and next to that, an area to emboss. I found a package of two cutting mats for $2 at the grocery store that have proven invaluable at containing messes. These are pretty large – about 18 by 24 inches – and made of very thin, flexible, heavy duty acrylic of some sort. They are designed for chopping vegetables on the counter but I like them because they are a flat, smooth surface that cleans up easily. I am an expert at making a mess so I also lay out wax paper when I am going to stamp a background.

Again, I don’t bring out every stamp I have; I chose some old favorites and some seasonal stamps, and also some new ones I’m itching to try. I can always go to my stamp cabinet and get whatever I need, but it helps to have a few stamps already in mind and close at hand. Likewise, with the ink, I set out some of my favorite color stacks, plus the embossing ink, greeting ink, and the stamping inks I use most often. I also brought out the embossing powders I use most often as well. Although my heat gun is right there on the dining room table, off to the side is a an old TV tray with a wood laminate top that I use for embossing, so I can set the paper down on it, hold it with my tweezers, and heat it up, safely away from my wood table and other things I don’t want blown all over the place. I also have a hairdryer handy on the tray. I learned the hard way that a hairdryer is much safer to use to quick dry ink or glue or watercolors – I’ve burned too many projects to count trying to hasten the drying process with the heat tool!

The place where I actually put my card together is recreated from my work table in my studio. I have all of my adhesives, tape runners, Inkessential pens, pencils, ruler, my favorite little detail scissors and tweezers, paintbrushes, Exacto knife, and a mat to work on. In the basket are extra tape refills, glue dots, corner mounts, and adhesive. I don’t want to have to spend precious time on search missions for things I’m likely to run out of.

Our china cabinet was the perfect place to put the finishing touches and accessories. Again, I chose a selection of ribbons I use most often, plus twine and gold cording since I use those a lot as well. On a tray, I organized brads, eyelets, rhinestones, pearls, beads, and other things, and also set out glitter. I also have a fishing chest full of buttons and other little accessories that I set down in the corner next to the cabinet.

The last time I set up for a VSN, I think it took me an hour and a half. But that investment of time and effort allowed me to thoroughly enjoy the VSN and to make fully half of the cards without ever leaving this work area. Yes, there will be things you’ll have to get – different stamps, paper, dies and embossing folders – but having the area set up allows you to spend your card-making time very efficiently, and for an even like this, where you have time constraints and . One thing I set out at the last minute is a couple of clocks so I can keep track of time. While I have always made a supreme effort to stay within the time limit for the VSN, with the Mini Cabaret, I actually made a note of the amount of time I spent on each card, and that has helped me to see what kinds of techniques take more or less time, and also to help keep me on track for the time restrictions.

Back on Line….. and Ready for VSN

Whew! I'm baaaackkk!!!

First of all, let me start by extending a very big and very sincere "Thank You" to everyone who sent me a PM through SplitCoast Stampers or a personal email to inquire as to my absence not just from my blog, but from the threads I usually post to on SCS, and from my gallery, where there have been no new cards posted in a week. I’m incredibly touched – and honored – by your concern. Although I did lay low for several days following my last chemotherapy treatment, the reason for my recent “absence” has been a trip to Italy. JUST KIDDING!!!!! (But, oh, how I wish! Maybe next summer….)

Actually, the real reason has been entirely technical: Since early last week, I've been stymied with some major computer issues that are well on their way to being resolved. What a nightmare this has been!

Not only did we have a catastrophe with my computer, but we've also been contending with a network disaster. Our previously fabulous in-home network was dismantled when “upgrades” were installed to bring my husband's home medical office on-line with the local hospital. The Reader's Digest Condensed version is that my husband joined an electronic medical record collaborative, a national pilot project funded by the federal government and BCBS. Under the guise of "improving things", our own network was ripped out, replaced with one that served only half of our home, and this essentially shut down my studio. They networked my husband's office to the hospital but made no provisions for restoring our existing network in the rest of the house and left the kids and me floundering. The frosting on the cake was someone's misguided effort to program my computer to back up to a tetradrive as an extra (and redundant) back-up. Why they did this, I'm not even sure; but they programmed it to set multiple restore points on it's own D drive (instead of on the tetradrive), totally filling both internal hard drives. It then crashed and could not be revived. To say that I was unhappy is a bit of an understatement!

A new computer was no longer in my future – it had instantly become my here and now. Of course, the one HP notebook that DH and I both agreed would be the best one for me – especially since it was on sale everywhere for a fabulous price and we could actually afford this unplanned expense -- was also out of stock in all of the local stores. We collected rain checks and promises of delivery for the end of the month. That did little to appease me.

Finally, one store came up with something workable: DH was able to get the next computer up the technology chain, a step up from what I originally wanted at a similar discount. And to sweeten the pot, DH was also able to negotiate a fantastic price for a printer that he’d also been planning to get for me eventually. They tossed in a goodie bag full of extra printer cartridges and several reams of paper and for $100 more than we had originally expected to spend on just the computer, I have a beautiful HP notebook with what DH says is more memory than I’ll ever need and an Epson WorkForce 600 which does everything short of blow its own nose. Well, it will do all of that if I can ever find my way around Vista and get around to reading the printer manual!

The company that set up the new network had made numerous unsuccessful attempts to restore Internet access to my studio and the faily room where the kids have a computer they use for school. This was a pressing and serious frustration. My studio and DH’s medical office are at opposite ends of a long house. For me to have to go between his office and my studio when I needed to be on-line was not workable at all given my physical disabilities. But our home is built into a hill, with lots of walls, cement, and dirt for a wireless network to have to penetrate through and work around.

We were told that our only alternative was to run cable to the other side of the house and that meant going through finished walls and ceilings, not something the collaborative was willing to cover or that we could afford right now. (Never mind that our house has only recently undergone a major renovation and we were not eager ourselves to rip out sections of walls that were recently wallpapered, or bore holes in cathedral ceilings, or run unsightly cables along the walls of an open concept home.)

This week, the network company finally heard my desperation and they sent someone in who was able to work some magic and expand the wireless network to the entire rest of the house by simply boosting one access point, moving another from one side of DH’s office to another, and with the simple addition of a 25 foot CAT5 cable, I am delighted to report that at this moment, I am sitting at the desk in my studio, typing this post on my new computer and I’m going to upload it momentarily with a few clicks of the mouse!

But the best news of all is that despite the loss of my “old” computer, I have not “lost” all of my files and work. A year ago, I had the foresight to subscribe to Carbonite, an on-line back-up service that I highly recommend. (I have no financial interest in the company – I’m simply a very happy, paying customer.) Although I lost everything on both of my hard drives when the other computer failed, all of my files were safely backed up off-site. As we speak, Carbonite is slowly but surely restoring all of my files onto the new computer. The complete download is a slow process – it will probably continue through tomorrow – but when it’s done, all of my files will be retrieved from Carbonite and this past week and a half will be little more than a bad dream.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Snow Nativity

This is a second ornament card that I made for Technique Lover’s Challenge #TLC193. In this challenge, we were to use a technique developed by Becca Feekan to make an ornate inner border from a corner punch. While I was practicing, I cut various size circles with different punches and used this ornament shape to make a nativity shadow box with this technique.

I cut the ornaments and matching blue and white circles with my Cricut Expression cartridges – two round ornaments with no top (in navy and white), and two ornaments with the top (navy). One of the navy ornaments was used as a base. I cut the top off the other ornament with SU!’s scalloped circle cutter to make a top to “sit on” the decorative medallion. The white circle was used to create a background for my “scene”. The navy circle was used to cut a designer medallion with Becca’s technique.

After I cut the designer medallion, I brushed the medallion and cap piece with embossing ink and embossed with iridescent powder. The result was a glittery, iridescent, circle and ornament cap, perfect for making a shadow box. Before I cut the white circle, I embossed the piece of card stock with the Cuttlebug snow folder to use as a background for my scene. Then I cut the circle. I lightly brushed over the embossing with embossing ink and sprinkled iridescent powder on it to give some “glitz”. From the scraps, I trimmed down one snowflake to represent a star and brushed the edges with gold.

I stamped the Nativity in gold and clear embossed it. Then I painted it with water color pencils and cut the three main pieces with a craft knife and detail scissors. I water colored branches from a Martha Stewart punch for pine boughs to line my “Nativity Scene”

The Ornament

The ornament and holly sprigs are completed separately and then placed on a sheet of designer paper that has been carefully cut and trimmed to the exact size of the card that it will be applied to.

To assemble the ornament scene, the pieces are applied as follows: Snowflake round glued to ornament base. Snow Mary and Snow Joseph and pine boughs added next, laying them in place and checking with the medallion for proper placement before gluing in place. Then crèche was added next, with 1/16th inch pop dot. Then, the decorative medallion is added with multiple 1/8th inch pop dots, and the ornament top is also glued in place.

The holly springs were cut from white card stock with Cricut Expression, sponged liberally with bright green ink, and allowed to dry for several hours. I sponged them piece of waxed paper to confine the mess. After the ink was dry, I water colored them and then embossed the veins individually, by hand.

One complete holly sprig was attached with 1/8th pop dots to serve as a “hanger” for the ornament. The others were trimmed down and leaves placed sparingly around the bottom and next to the ornament cap. The bow was applied and then the green sheet with the entire scene was secured to the card.

The ribbon finishes it!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Today Started out as a Wonderful Day.... Then I got a Dose of Reality

Earlier today when I went for my final dose of chemotherapy, along with the laundry list of meds I was given, I also got a big dose of reality. I had miscounted. I still have one more dose to go. After the treatment, I was sent home to rest. Hopefully the medications they gave with my dose will keep the worst of the side effects in check. They've had me on a much better [Translation: more effective] regimen over the past several months.

Although I still feel a bit tenuous right now, I do plan to try to make some cards tonight and maybe even post a tutorial I've been working on. Okay, so that is a BIT ambitious.... I tend to think I can do more than I actually can. So I hope you stop back later to see what's new.

Thanks for all the support. We will get through this too!

Today is a Wonderful Day

After an absolutely miserable week last week, today is a wonderful day! (No, this is NOT a political editorial LOL, even though this IS a wonderful day politically as well!)

Many of you who know me, know that I struggle with a very severe form of MS. With the latest flare of the disease, I've required a ventilator and supplemental oxygen to breathe adequately, a wheelchair, and a gastrostomy feeding tube. Since I can no longer swallow and don't have a gag reflex, I get medication, "food" (if you can call it that), and fluids all through a tube that is hooked up to a pump -- running 175-225 ml per hour, 18-20 hours a day. The treatment for this form of the disease is high dose chemotherapy, which I have been getting off and on for much of my adult life. It has kept me alive and functional, but it hasn't been easy. I started this treatment protocol in 2005 and I've been getting chemo (and all the headaches that go with it) ever since.

Last week, the G-tube "broke". The internal part separated from the external part - it happens, but it couldn't have happened at a worse (or, actually, better) time. My surgeon was out of town at a conference, due back the next day. It took a full 24 hours to get it reinserted, and then a follow-up CT to check placement showed a breast lump. Follow-up mammography was recommended, and when the doctor's office called the central booking department, they scheduled me for an appointment at the end of November.

End of November, you say? That, they claimed, was the best they could do. Oh, and if she doesn't have her old films from where she lived and had her mammos before, the radiologist won't do the exam. Say what???!!! That's ABSURD! No, I had been told this last year when they declined to schedule me for a routine annual mammo, that's the rule: no previous films, no exam.

And now I had something in my breast. I couldn't feel it, but the CT saw it. If I was absolutely freaking, DH was beside himself. There is breast and ovarian cancer in my mother's family and I share a statistically significant risk of cancer of these organs with many, many women, some of whom I'm related to, many of whom are already living this nightmare.

"Double mastectomies," my husband announced. "If this is anything close to ductal, you don't need them, get rid of them both. We aren't taking any chances. You're more precious than your breasts."

My DH is not a hearts and flowers kind of guy - he gave me a pressure cooker for my birthday last year (now that's a subject for a future post for sure!). I was touched and humbled by his eloquent profession of his love for me. DH called directly to the mammography unit and had an appointment for me yesterday. The radiologoist met with us both as soon as the exam was done and he had the biggest, sunniest grin on his face when he walked into the conference room where we waited. He said, "I love to give this kind of news. The CT looked suspicious but this test is much more definitive. Everything's fine." The sigh of relief we both gave could have propelled a sailboat. I have had issues with fibrocystic changes causing questions on mammos in the past - this was more of the same. Nothing to worry about.

And today, I am scheduled for my last chemotherapy treatment of this very long protocol. I've never looked forward to a treatment the way I am looking forward to today. I'm looking forward to whatever improvement I get from this treatment -- it has been helping enormously -- but even moreso, I'm looking forward to being done, to getting my life back, to moving on.

Yes, today is a wonderful day!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Fabulous Stamp... Fabulous Products!

I found some wonderful stamps this weekend while shopping at A.C Moore. My husband spotted #80426 “New York Socialite” (Stamps Happen, Inc.) and a moment later, I found the perfect mate to it: “How Swank of You!” PC#296 (Paper Candy).

When I put this card together, I never expected the watercolor painting to go as smoothly and as easily as it did. I copied the image that was decaled onto the block and had no difficulty with it at all.

Putting the finishing touches on this card was also fun. I had
sent DH off to get me some black embossing powder a few weeks ago. He didn't find black exactly.... he returned with “Marcasite” by Stamp-N Stuff by Stampendous. I adore it! I used it to enhance the ring, necklace, brooch, and hat ribbon and the pictures don't do it jusstice. It has the deep rich color of gunmetal pewter, with an iridescence to it.

I applied it using another new "favorite", Martha Stewart's Artist Glue Pen. I was able to get tiny spots of glue exactly where I wanted them, dusted the glue with the embossing powder, and then heat embossed. Not the usual way we do this, but it worked!

I don't know about you, but I am delighted with the quality of Martha Stewart's line of stamping and craft tools, stamps, punches, and embellishments. The glue pen has not clogged or dried up. The punches are easy for these tired, weak hands to operate, even with card stock. I love her embellishments, and I love her inks, although I wish the bronze were just a teensy bit darker.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Tutorial: Simple Watercolored Roses

This weekend, SplitCoast Stampers held the “Mini” Cabaret VSN – a "teaser" for the November extravaganza scheduled for November 14th and 15th. The coordinators, Jean (naturecoastcrafter), Stacey (Little Lou's), JoAnn (sarahzoe), and each of the hostesses did a phenomenal job of putting together an exciting theme and 7 fantastic challenges.

The first challenge, the brain child of Michelle (shaddybaby), was to create a frame for a picture. Coincidentally, I happened to have a 5x7 print of my husband and me that was taken this summer at our annual family reunion. It had been sitting on my desk, begging to be framed. This was the perfect opportunity to make a decorative mat for it.

I use a method to create these lovely flowers that is similar to the technique demonstrated in Beate’s SCS Tutorial, “Stained Glass”. The main difference is that the images are embossed in gold and painted on the front of the vellum, not on the reverse.

The goal of this technique is to create a beautiful flower with a splash of color, not to create a shaded water colored masterpiece. Since the coloring is a very small part of the process, (the cutting takes longer!), they are simple and quick to make.

Tools and Materials:

Embossing Pad

Gold Embossing Powder


Watercolor Pencils

Paint brush, water, paper towel

Detail Scissors (I like CutterBees by EK Success)

Heat gun


The kind of stamps that work best in this technique are very detailed ones – the more detail, the better. And those with “smoother” – less detailed or irregular edges – also make the process easier and quicker. For this project I used a cluster of roses from “The Country Garden Collection” and rose leaves #A2491E, both from Rubber Stamped, and the rose from the “Classic Botanicals” collection, #96701 from Inkadinkadoo.

The rose on the left works very well for this technique, where the rose on the right, which has less detail, less overall “lines” to emboss, is much better suited to traditional watercoloring. The leaves, which are almost solid, are perfect for this technique. They will take little if any coloring, depending on the thickness of the embossing powder and your heat gun. I didn't color them at all for my mat project.

Stamp the images with an embossing pad and dust with gold embossing powder and heat to emboss. It doesn't matter if you catch an edge of your stamp or have any other imperfections because once they are embossed, you'll be cutting them out. You will see variations based on how thick the ink is and how much powder it grabs. I try to ink some lightly but thoroughly so I can add more color. Different thicknesses and colors give you more variety when it comes to designing your placement. After they are embossed, cut around them, leaving a wide margin. You want to have at least a half inch between the images so you can easily cut them apart to paint. When you paint, paint on the top side of the vellum, the side that you embossed.

Watercolor pencils can be used in two different ways. If there are large areas, you can put the pigment in the area, the same way you would with a regular colored pencil, but you don’t have to be very particular or exacting about it. You can always add more pigment as you're painting. The goal is just to get color in the image. Then, spread and even out the pigment with a damp paintbrush. Once my brush is damp, I just touch the last third of it into the water and that is usually enough water for this process. If you find that there is too much water on the image, you can blot it with a paper towel.

If you have to add more color to an already wet image, you’ll get better results lifting pigment from the paintbrush (described below). Some brushes drink more water than others, and if you find that you are consistently getting too much water on the brush, touch it lightly to a paper towel to drain and that usually gets enough of the excess off the brush.

If the areas are tiny, it’s almost impossible to get into the nooks and crannies with the pencil. When you can’t color onto the vellum with the pencil, get the color onto the paintbrush and apply it that way. To do that, wet your paintbrush and touch it lightly to a paper towel – you want it wet but not dripping. Brush it back and forth against the end of the pencil and lift the pigment right onto the paint brush. You’ll see the color on the end of your paint brush. If your paintbrush is not wet enough, you won’t be able to lift the pigment onto your brush. If you have too much water, it’ll puddle on your image. This is not a problem - just blot with a small piece of paper toweling. Paint over the image and don’t worry about getting the pigment on the gold. It won’t adhere and you can wipe over it with a paper towel and remove it.

What I did with this particular rose was to color in the larger petals with a dry pencil just to get pigment in the areas and then I wet them just a bit, minimally spreading around the pigment. Next, I loaded a fairly wet brush with a generous amount of pigment directly off the pencil. When you are loading the pigment off the pencil, you can see it thickening on the end of your brush. I painted over the entire rose with a large swirling motion. If you have enough water and pigment, you can spread it generously over a fairly large area. The paint doesn't adhere to the embossing so you don't have to worry about details - just cover the entire image with color. With a fairly small brush, I'm able to cover about a third of the rose with each loading from the pencil.

You can go back and swirl a darker shade of pigment if you want to give the images a little interest, but it really isn't
necessary with this technique.

Let the paint dry before you cut the images. If you are doing this under time constraints, you can use your heat tool or a hair dryer to dry the paint quickly. Then cut with detail scissors along the outside embossed edge. You can also use an Exacto knife, but I find that scissors go much more quickly, especially if the edge isn't very irregular.