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.