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.