24 March 2017

Feline Friday: Tinsel's Mini Me

 I've shared before that Rory (on the left) and Tinsel (on the right) have some similar traits. Of course, the most obvious one is that they look a lot alike. The most noteable difference is that Rory's eyes are gold and Tinsel's are green. In addition to their physical appearance, both are good jumpers and both like to sit on piles of papers at precisely the moment you need them.

And now we've discovered another similarity: Both build tunnels! 

 Bailey came home one night this week to discover that Rory had built a blanket tunnel in the bedroom. She has already shown herself to be a master tunnel builder!

 The very next day, I came home to discover that Tinsel had made her own blanket tunnel, the first one she's made all winter. Note the similarities!

Check out more of Tinsel's past tunnels HERE
and HERE. You can see that in cold winters past, Tinsel was always building and burrowing. This winter has been mild, making tunnel sightings rare. 

And of course it's quite warm now in Texas, which makes it all the more sweet that Rory made a tunnel this week. Even though they've never met in purr-son, it seems clear that Tinsel is passing on her tunnel skills to her little Mini Me. :)

22 March 2017

The Cobbler's Children...

Have you heard the saying about the cobbler? The cobbler's children have no shoes. Presumably that's because the cobbler gave all of his or her time and energy to the business.

Similarly, we could say that the card instructor's card basket has no cards. SERIOUSLY, no cards, other than a few weird cards that I will probably never send. True confession!

 Now envelopes? I've got you covered! :)
This is a very strange situation. I make LOTS of cards for classes. I'm ALWAYS making cards, and that's no exaggeration. If I'm not making cards for class projects, I'm making kits for card-making classes.

But take time to make cards for myself? I rarely do that these days. If I need a card, I rush around and make it at the last minute (something I tell my students never to do!) or...wait for it...I sometimes buy a card at the grocery store. *gasp* Now that, folks, is a shame, when I have enough card-making supplies to last for 100 years!
  Well, I recently rectified this unfortunate situation and made 12 cards in one evening! I started out with a sheet of cut-apart paper which is made for cards and gives you a 3x4 piece for each card front in a variety of themes. Then I added more paper and do-dads, and that was that! These cards were quick and easy to make and, while they're nothing to write home about, they'll do in a pinch and I won't be running around trying to make one at the last minute.

My trusty helper, Tinsel, was on duty for this card-making event. Whenever I'm working in the craft room, she's almost always with me. Bless her little heart.

When I was done with the cards, Tinsel and I put them into my basket. It was a good feeling filling that basket up. Well, it's actually filled with envelopes, but adding a few cards makes it LOOK a little fuller.

So yay for my sweet craft room helper. And yay for card baskets with actual cards!

20 March 2017

A Clean Craft Room!

I'm a terribly messy crafter. That fact might surprise people who know how much I love organizing, but it's true. While I'm working on a project, it looks like a hurricane hit! And when several projects are in the works, every surface in my craft room -- including the floor -- is covered with stuff. Unfortunately I've been in such a funk lately that I've been working on projects and not really cleaning up between them, resulting in a lot of stuff lying about. The end result was a very cluttered space with no clear surfaces. AND...this is a first: I actually bought the SAME COLOR OF INK PAD TWICE last week because I hadn't put the first one away!

In my craft space, I want (and need) everything put back where it belongs. It's too easy to accidentally throw something away -- like a stamp or a die -- if it wasn't put away properly. When it comes to my creative space, there are few things that make me happier and more productive than CLEAN AND ORGANIZED! So over the weekend, I finally spent a few hours putting everything away, re-organizing a few things, and giving the craft room a deep clean.

As a side note, I've noticed that especially when I feel out of control with life's circumstances (such as right now with Tinsel's very sad situation), organizing stuff makes me feel a little bit better. For me, it's about controlling a tiny part of my environment and creating a more peaceful space for myself.

So here's a bit of what I worked on this past weekend as well as some thoughts on various organization systems!

After a few years of working in this space, I still enjoy it. There are a few things I might do differently, but I don't feel strongly enough about any of them to change them at this point. Case in point: My Target cubes are functional, but they're not super-sturdy as they're just made of particle board. As a result, they wiggle a bit. But they're good enough for my craft room and they do hold a LOT of stuff.

I started with two sets of cubes but added an additional two which sit back to back. Since the cube backs are unfinished, having a second set allows me to put them in the middle of the room instead of against a wall.

This past weekend, I emptied and dusted all of the cubes, then I moved all of my ribbon and small baskets together and grouped the canvas bins in one area. I have a similar set-up on the other side.

When I first got the cubes, I struggled with how to make them functional and still work with my color scheme. I don't like a lot of stuff stored out in the open as I find that visually distracting, so I decided that anything that is on display has to match. So my ribbon jars are covered with coordinating paper so you don't see the various colors of ribbon inside. It's weird, I know...

I also struggled with how to make the best use of the canvas bins that fit in the cubes. I could not imagine just tossing stuff into them, so I found containers that could fit down inside to keep like items together. At first I thought it might be a bit cumbersome, but I've grown to really like the system.

This is what it looks like inside my "embellishment" canvas bin. Most of my embellishments are stored by color family in these containers.

 This is my "ink" bin. The canvas bins, when organized this way, hold a LOT of stuff!

I took measurements of what I needed to store and bought these containers (called Really Useful Boxes) at Office Depot. They stack together very nicely. 

 All of these containers fit in the "ink" bin with room to spare.

 If I were to do things over, I might look for a bigger table but this one works for most of my projects. When I'm making kits for a class, however, I usually have to move to the kitchen and dining room tables.

I recently decided to bite the bullet and replace my post-bound family albums with 3-ring binders. I had several that were "in process" with chronological layouts, but the inconvenience of that format has been a real barrier to finishing them. If you're a scrapbooker, you probably know how much more convenient binders are to work with than post-bound albums. In order to add different sizes of page protectors to that type of album, you have to completely dismantle it. Binders make it SO MUCH EASIER!

 So I sold several of my albums and replaced them with binders. Now I can easily add in the memorabilia that has been sitting around for YEARS. Woo hoo!

Dismantling 10+ albums and moving all of those pages around created a big mess. I took time this weekend to organize everything so when I get back to it, I'll be ready to go. This bin has all of my blank page protectors and pocket pages.

 See those black tubs in the back of the closet? They are filled with memorabilia -- school papers, programs, other non-photo items -- which needs to go into my binders. YIKES!

 I've also been working on a heritage album project and that stuff was scattered all over the floor. I finally gathered it all back up and got it organized so that it's ready for when I get back to it. SO MUCH BETTER.

Last year I re-purposed this old cart which came from my dad's garage. The black baskets hold tools and other items for upcoming classes, a simple system that has been working really well for me. After I'm done creating class projects, I put the tools into the basket so they're ready for when I make kits and teach the class.

This part of the closet has remained pretty much unchanged since the first day. The computer cart (which was going to be tossed!) at the bottom of the alcove is on wheels but I never need to move it. The middle shelf, which houses my dies and embossing folders, pulls out which is very handy! 

 When I'm done with a personal project (like the Christmas cards I made in December), I often have leftover die cuts or punched pieces that I opted not to use. I keep those pieces and use them on future projects. Over the weekend I sorting them into baggies and added a piece of scrap cardstock to keep them standing up straight in the basket instead of flopping over. It's a little thing but it makes me much happier!

I found this "wood grain" vintage metal tray at Goodwill recently for 99 cents. One can never have too many trays! I use them all the time to organize supplies for projects and this one will be great for seasonal decor in other parts of the house, too. (You can see the basket with my extra die cuts in the photo below.)

 I still love my simple paper and scrap organization system. Cardstock and papers are organized by color, and the scraps are sorted the same way in the drawers. I had a huge pile of leftover papers and cardstock to put away this weekend. I vow to do better with my cleanup! It would save me so much time to just put things away after each project.

All in all, cleaning and organizing the craft room was time well-spent. I can be much more productive if everything is put back where it belongs, and I finally feel like I can breathe again with everything tidied up. I only wish I were more disciplined at KEEPING it that way! Maybe these photos will inspire me! HA!

17 March 2017

Feline Friday

Today's Feline Friday is all about Rory. She just could not be any cuter. Seriously. Her sweetness seems to be increasing exponentially!

Rory is an expert climber, and I do mean EXPERT. There is no surface too high! It amazes me that she jumps from the kitchen counter up to the top of these cabinets. I've seen it. STRAIGHT UP. And without hitting her head on the ceiling. Her jumping skills are amazing.

Rory also has great napping skills. She has perfected the definition of "cat nap". One minute she's in a deep sleep, oblivious to the world around her, then the next minute...boom! She's awake and running around again. Or on top of the kitchen cabinets.

In the last few months, Rory has been working on her "lap kitty" skills. When you've got so many things to do -- and cabinets to explore -- it's hard to have time to cuddle. But Rory's getting better at it each day. Practice makes purr-fect!

Her mama recently bought her THREE new t-shirts! Pink is her color. Heck, every color is her color. :)

 But perhaps one of her best skills is nighttime cuddling. When it's time for bed, her mama puts her in jammies and she settles right down. At night, Rory sleeps so soundly that she goes completely limp. She feels so comfortable and safe with her mama that every night brings the sweetest of dreams...
 ...at least for the one hogging the pillow! :)

10 March 2017

Feline Friday

Many, many thanks to all who have asked about Tinsel. If you didn't know her well, you might not realize anything is different. She's still doing her morning patrols, still jumping up on the bathroom counter, still watching goings-on outside the window. She's even been quite playful on some days. Thankfully she doesn't seem to be in pain, but it hurts me terribly to see her little face distended.

Her appetite swings seem even more pronounced to me, but that could just be my over-sensitivity. She's had a few days when she would not leave her blankies, and that's ok. Room service is available, any time day or night.

If she doesn't feel like getting up, I've found that she enjoys watching bird and squirrel videos on YouTube. I prop up my phone next to her, and it's almost like looking out the window. She always seems to perk up after a video or two. Here she is making biscuits on her blankie.

 Now that we have new blinds in the bedroom, she has a chair set up in each corner window for nature viewing.

 One nice afternoon, we took a walk around the yard. Next time we go outside, maybe there will be a few of her favorite green things to nibble on.

Tinsel has been more receptive to being held, so I'm doing as much of that as I can. Perhaps you can see in this photo how her chin is distended. The lump extends around the side of her jaw to under her chin. It breaks my heart to see her sweet little face misshapen. :(

As for me, I'm struggling. Spouse reminded me that she's sensitive to my moods, so I'm trying to be less weepy around her, but it's really hard. My heart breaks that there is nothing I can do to fix this situation.

So I'm following her lead and we're muddling along as best we can, trying to do the things that we always do for as long as we possibly can. Making the best of every day.
 Sometimes the smallest things take up the 
most room in your heart. 
Winnie the Pooh

07 March 2017

Heritage Albums

A sincere thanks to all who have reached out to me about Tinsel. She is doing pretty well, probably better than me. In the two weeks since I learned of her diagnosis, I have struggled a lot. I really appreciate all of your kind words and prayers!

A few weeks ago, I shared that I was starting work on a family heritage album series. I'm happy to report that the first album is coming along well. Thank goodness for my grandma's genealogy binders which have been the saving grace! If not for her painstakingly accurate names and dates, I would be in a state of confusion!

I'm starting with my paternal grandfather's side of the family with a goal of putting together an album series with photos, memorabilia, and an accurate family tree. To verify my grandma's work and gather additional information, I joined Ancestry.com. WHAT AN AMAZING TOOL! Through Ancestry, I've even been able to take Grandma's research back a generation...and I'm just getting started! 

Through Ancestry, you build a family tree by sourcing and checking information about relatives. Each time you add a person to your tree, hints about that person are provided to you for verification. The hints may point you to primary sources such as birth records or census documents or other people's family trees. I've found that you have to be very careful in verifying data because there are lots of misspellings and date discrepancies to work through.

You can display your working tree in a "pedigree" format, showing your direct lineage. Or you can display it in a more traditional "tree" format which shows siblings to those in your direct lineage. I will eventually print trees of both formats to include in my album. (Sorry for these very bad photos of my desktop computer screen, but you'll get the idea!)

As you add details to each person, Ancestry compiles a story line which helps to flesh out his or her life. You can add in historical events which help put your family members' lives in context.

 I've found that you have to be a detective when doing this kind of work. For example, my great great grandmother's maiden name appeared with five different spellings and I didn't know for sure which was correct until I found the grave of one of her male siblings! After coming to live in the United States, it seems that her French family name must have been difficult for Americans to spell. Correct spellings and dates are essential to ensure that you're researching the right person!

Grave stones are really helpful for verifying spellings and dates. Ancestry links you to cemetery information and, if you're lucky, someone has even taken a picture of the stone. 

For the album itself, I'm starting with the oldest photos and memorabilia. I'll eventually have a section and tree for each part of the family. I want this album to make sense to whoever is reading it!

 I've added formal family portraits and...

...I've also included some snapshots. On this particular page, I included a photo of notes from my great grandma's Bible. This was a completely accidental find! As I was working on the album, I remembered that my grandma had given me a very old family Bible but couldn't recall who it belonged to. When I opened the Bible, I saw that it belonged to my great grandma, the very person I was researching, and that she had made some notes in the back about her parents who were both born in Germany. So now that I understand the family lineage, this family heirloom is even more special to me!

I'll eventually turn my attention to the other side of dad's family, but that may end up being a separate album.

I'm happy with the progress I've made so far on this big project! The research component is interesting to me. But even more importantly, this project is helping me feel connected to family I never had the opportunity to know. Stay tuned for more progress updates!