31 December 2007
Being an introspective person, I have a tendency to get a bit morose at this time of year. Bogged down in the guilt of what I didn't do, didn't say over the past few months.
Going through some papers today, however, I found a piece I wrote a couple of years ago which offers a better alternative than focusing on what might have been. So I'll repeat it here because I think it bears repeating. To myself, at least.
It's a new year. Where are the party pictures?
The short answer is: I don't have any. Because for me, this is not what the new year is about. Rather, it is about taking some time to think about who I am, what I like about myself, and what I want to do differently.
It's a chance to turn the page, to start fresh. To be a better person. To take time to listen. To stop being so serious and learn to play.
To be present and experience life.
It's a new year. A chance to become a new me.
29 December 2007
This year, I have taken thousands of pictures. THOUSANDS. But I haven't printed a single one. The one thing I have going for myself is that we back up the files to an external hard drive occasionally. But even that is not fool-proof. (Lest you think I never scrapbook, that's not the case...I'm just working on past years now.)
So now I have a huge backlog of unprinted photos stored on the computer. Since I use Picasa, they are in some semblance of order, but they are only loosely categorized.
Yesterday, I asked for suggestions from the Peas on how to approach this daunting task and received some good ideas. I am going to start on it this weekend, and here is what I'm planning to do:
* Start with December photos and work my way backwards.
* Identify all of the "events" and "moments" that need to be captured for each month and create sub files.
* Move printable photos to those sub files. December's photos are now in one big file, labeled descriptively "December, 2007". In the new and improved system, I would have multiple files for December, 2007, labeled with the name of the event or subject. I'll also put the word "print" in the file name so I can easily sort those out. Radical, huh? :-)
* Now here's the hard part for me: Actually take the photos on the memory card to my local developer and have them printed. I get bogged down at this step since I have to stand at one of those machines and load them all, and sometimes people build up in line behind me. I'm kind of slow at that part, and I always feel bad about people having to wait, so I stop and let everyone behind me go ahead of me. You can imagine how long it takes me. (I use a local place to print my photos because the quality is amazing for the price and the guy gives great service. It's only somewhat creepy that he calls me "hon".)
* Going forward, do this on a monthly basis so I won't create the same mess for myself in 2008.
Since we're having teenagers over for New Year's Eve, I'm thinking I can plow through several months while keeping an eye on the revelry. :-) It'll be my "Year in Review" kind of experience.
If you've had a similar photo backlog, I'd appreciate hearing how you've handled it. Is there a better way to approach this daunting task? How can I prevent this from happening again?
27 December 2007
* A can of ocean whitefish food. They never have canned food, so this is a big deal. YUM!
* A bag of their favorite Friskies chewable treats, also in ocean whitefish flavor. More YUM!
* New Starbucks straws for Lily, as requested in her letter to Santa. YAY!
In addition to these goodies, Tinsel received a book and Lily got a portable fan from Grandma. You see, back in August when Lily entered the state fair cat competition, we discovered that all of the cats had fans in their decorated cages. We were unprepared for this aspect of the competition, so we had to keep Lily cool with a couple of those dinky little fans you hang around your neck. It was, as you can imagine, completely inadequate. So Grandma decided that if Lily is going to compete with those fancy cats, she needs the proper equipment. Lily has already been practicing for the fair by sitting in front of her new fan.
All in all, a lovely Christmas was had by all. Thank you, Santa and Grandma!
26 December 2007
Around holiday time each year, I fantasize that I'll re-create the first Thanksgiving dinner and make my family come dressed in character. Each year, I have to give up that dream, knowing I'd be laughed out of town. Then I start thinking about how I'd like to prepare a traditional Christmas dinner like the one the Cratchit family shared in A Christmas Carol. Just what is figgy pudding, I've wondered, and why is it so celebrated?
Well, a few days ago, NPR ran a story which seemed to be directed precisely at me: It was all about figgy pudding. It didn't sound complicated at all, and with ingredients similar to a fruitcake, how could it be bad? So I borrowed my mom's bundt cake pan and purchased all of the ingredients without telling anyone what I planned to make. The only part I was concerned about was lighting the figs and raisins as they simmered in brandy (remember, I'm not that handy). For safety reasons, I summoned Spouse to the kitchen.
"You're making WHAT?"
In reality, the figgy pudding was very fun and simple (even festive!) to make. The instructions were clear, and even spouse enjoyed flaming the brandy. Figgy pudding is not what Americans would think of as a pudding: It is actually a fruit-studded spice cake, prepared by steaming it in a bath of boiling water. I had never done anything like this before, yet I was delighted with how well the process worked. And while Spouse and Daughter would have no part of it, I served my beloved figgy pudding to my parents and my in-laws, and they all loved it.
In addition to the figgy pudding, I also tried another new recipe: cinnamon spritz. This recipe (from Martha Stewart Living, December, 2007) called for scraping the seeds from a whole vanilla bean, something I'd never tried. Again, the recipe was simple to follow and the cookies turned out extremely well. Following the spritz, I made a batch of my favorite gingerbread cookies. The best part about gingerbread cookies (other than the taste, of course) is the wonderful smell that permeates the house as they bake.
All told, my Christmas baking (all done in one evening) went surprisingly well this year...that is, until my dipped pretzels stuck like glue to their drying plates and had to be chiseled off and my peppermint bark nearly overflowed its tray. I managed to mangle two simple recipes which could easily be made by young children.
But my figgy pudding worked, and I think that it is a sign that I need to make it again next Christmas. Spouse has a full year to prepare for his role as Bob Cratchit.
23 December 2007
Last year, I used a 6x6 pre-made calendar base by Boxer Productions. I liked the size, but I didn't like having to fill in all the numbers with microscopic stickers, so this year I made my own. I set up a table in Word for each month and just cut/pasted the numbers. Much faster!
My finished calendar pages are 6x6 and the photos are 4x6, so there was very little trimming involved. I chose photos that were taken in each month of the year. Thank goodness for digital photography! I'm thankful to be able to easily select and print out the photos for these kinds of projects.
And the best part is that I had plenty of cardstock and even leftover Karen Foster calendar paper from last year's project, so I actually didn't have to purchase a thing to create it. AND I used up supplies in the process.
(And we all know what that means: Room - and reason - to buy more!)
21 December 2007
aunt's cat, Sam. (Yes, our cats exchange gifts -- Lily and Tinsel get gifts for Sam and he gets gifts for them. Nothing elaborate, mind you! They are on limited budgets. Last year, they got feathers. :-) And yes, sometimes I have to help Lily and Tinsel with the shopping!)
Anyway, Sam is adorable (and HUGE), as you can see, but he is hard to buy gifts for! He suffers from a few health conditions, which means that he is on a special diet and medication, so we can't buy him treats. He already has every toy known to cat, so that isn't an option either. My aunt doesn't scrapbook or take many photos, but she does write in journals, so Lily and Tinsel decided we should make a little 4x6 book for her to keep track of all of Sam's information.
I used 4x6 index cards as the pages for the book so that my aunt can easily add to it if necessary. I cut front and back covers, as well as three dividers, from cardstock. The first tab is labeled "My Story". On the index cards that follow, my aunt can write about Sam's daily activities. The second tab is labeled "Food". She has to keep track of the type and quantity of food he eats, so this will give her a place to record that information. The final tab is labeled "Health" and provides space to record information about Sam's frequent visits to the vet.
This weekend I hope to pick up some side-opening envelopes to place at the back of the album.
Incidentally, I made this record-keeper completely with scraps...leftover odds and ends. I even had a package of index cards. I love using up stuff!
This was a fast and easy project. We really hope Sam likes it!
20 December 2007
One small problem: I love the handle so much that I have yet to open the toilet paper. I'm just carrying it around.
Now I'm going to have to go buy another package of toilet paper that I CAN open.
18 December 2007
Ode to My Sock Monkey Jammies
Made from a sock and a bit of red thread,
A sock monkey sat on my wee childhood bed
With large ears of brown and pointy cream feet,
And a cheerful red mouth which was ever so sweet.
But time came and went and I grew up fast,
My days of sock monkeys -- they all too soon passed.
Life filled with stresses, obligations galore,
Sock monkey, sock monkey -- he was no more.
Until December '07 -- at Target I shopped,
Looking for jammies when, "Wow!" My eyes popped!
Sock monkey jammies! Could it be real?
But at $24, they weren't a steal.
"They look a bit odd," my mother did say.
"I think so, too," and went on my way.
But dreams of those jammies flooded my mind.
How could I leave them? What else could I find
That could possibly bring back those feelings of old
And be toasty and warm in the winter so cold?
So back to the Target I drove at great speed.
I tried on two sizes to see what I'd need.
I looked at their faces...their eyes were so bright.
They would cheerfully keep me quite warm through the night!
Now I'll find my old monkey and display him for all!
He'll be happy to see me! He'll sit proud and tall!
No penguins or plaid prints or snowmen, you see...
My sock monkey jammies are perfect for me!
So this year, I made 46 Christmas cards from leftover bits of this and that. The only thing I have had to purchase is adhesive. The scary thing is that I could make at least that many more with the materials I have on hand. I even found that I had a stack of white, pre-made card bases, so I used them all up in making these cards. I love using up the last little bit of this and that. (Unless, of course, it is product that I am hoarding...such as those American Crafts felt snowflakes and mittens. In that case, I will not use them all. I shall keep some just to touch lovingly now and then.*sigh*)
Last night, Spouse suggested that I stop making cards and actually put them in the mail now, so that's what I'm doing today, along with the dreaded holiday letter.
Note to self: Before beginning a project like this, be sure to check your list to see how many cards you actually need. I ran 20 short, and while materials are still abundant, time is not.
Thank goodness for Hallmark.
17 December 2007
I'm in a transitional hair period. I need the proper equipment and products to handle my new spiral perm. Imagine my alarm when yesterday, my turbo curling iron completely shelled out. Because I can never throw away something that could possibly be fixed, I dug around in my drawer of deceased curling irons and tried to find one that would heat. Only one crusty old iron heated enough to curl the ends of my spirals, so off to the store I went to purchase a new one. Although I hated to do it, I actually threw away four curling irons yesterday.
Do not test whether or not a curling iron is hot by placing it on your arm. That is not even smart. Not sayin' that anything like that actually happened...
Along the same lines, it is generally not a good idea to iron an item of clothing while you are actually wearing it. I can only imagine that it might be be kind of hard to explain to people why you have the pointy tip of an iron branded on your chest. Purely hypothetical situation, you understand.
Today, my ionic hair dryer with the diffuser shelled out. You may recall (actually, I'm sure you won't) that I waxed poetic about the dryer last year. I am completely bummed out about this, and I'm actually in a real pickle. In order for my spiral curls to look "just so", I MUST have a dryer with a diffuser. If Spouse can't fix it, off to the store I'll go again. Curse you, Mr. Conair, or whoever you are.
I love ColdPlay. Right now, I especially love the title track to A Rush of Blood to the Head and another song from that same CD, Amsterdam. Listen to the way it builds at the end. Both of these are amazing songs.
Always put the lid on your Diet Coke, preferably tightly. Otherwise, when you drop it, it will squirt all over your newly painted laundry room. Not sayin' anything like that actually happened...
I really should start my Christmas shopping. Any day now. On the other hand, there is still plenty of time left, according to my Starbucks Advent Calendar.
I was saddened to hear on NPR this morning that Dan Fogelberg passed away. His album, Netherlands, was (and still is) one of my absolute favorites. Beautiful music. I especially love the lyrics to the title track. Simple truths.
My friend, Connie, sent me a video about Glow in the Dark Cats. Pretty amazing. I really wish that Tinsel and Lily would glow in the dark, or maybe just stop sleeping on the steps.
Peppermint Mochas from Starbucks are pretty darn good. Not a good as triple caramel lattes with whip and drizzle, heated to 170 degrees, but they are close. If you pair a Cranberry Bliss Bar with a Peppermint Mocha, however, there's some serious synergy for ya.
Do not put small objects, such as the tiny, removable end of a ball-point pen, up your nose. Just don't. This is good advice for anybody, and I don't think I've shared this previously on my blog. Not sayin' anything like this ever happened...
16 December 2007
It seems that while Spouse and Daughter were at the kitchen table this afternoon, this little opossum strolled across our patio.
Spouse had the presence of mind to grab the ever-ready camera, dash outside, and snap a couple of photos before the little fellow waddled away. We've seen a couple of opossums in our yard during the summer months. (In fact, we think they are living the high life under our patio.) But we've never seen one in the winter.
Just take a look at that coat! In spite of the intense cold, this little guy looks really warm. And look at the snow on that little pink nose! Could that possibly be any cuter? And check out those chunky legs! Don't know (and maybe don't WANT to know) what he's been eating, but he certainly looks well-fed. And see how he is smiling? It's as if he's saying, "Ah...winter! It's all good!"
Too bad I've nearly finished my Christmas cards, otherwise this little guy would have graced the front. I can picture it now...
"Warmest of wishes!"
15 December 2007
I made this layout last Christmas season to feature one of my favorite photos. It was taken a few years ago at our annual Christmas gathering with my extended family, an event which has taken place for over 50 years. This particular year, someone had brought along a Santa hat and DD took a turn sporting it. She happened to receive a sequined purse as a gift, which I thought made for an interesting combination with the hat.
Although it's not her favorite, I really like how this photo captures the joy of the season. The quote seems to sum it up perfectly for me. (The journaling is included on the other Christmas pages from that year.) I chose the paper because the prints remind me of the tablecloths in my grandparents' basement, where (until they moved) we used to have our potluck dinner on Christmas Eve.
For a variety of reasons, I'm not a huge fan of scrapbooking Christmas photos, but I definitely wanted to use this one. For me, it's one of those "moments to remember".
13 December 2007
This past week, DD was busy setting up all kinds of staged photos to illustrate various passages from To Kill a Mockingbird. As part of this English class project, she took artistic photos around our neighborhood, set up a mock jail cell, and photographed interesting objects to symbolize themes in the novel.
I thought the project was relatively "highbrow" until Sunday evening, when I passed through the dining room and caught a glimpse of a most unusual photo shoot: DD had carefully posed Lily at a make-believe tea party, complete with antique dishes, to illustrate the following passage:
“After all, if Aunty could be a lady at a time like this, so could I.” (Scout, To Kill a Mockingbird)
In fact, Lily was the perfect lady. And DD got an A.
Breathtaking beauty, right in our own back yard.
12 December 2007
I created this layout using last year's Christmas cards based on an idea presented in Life Artist and on Ali's blog. I love the idea of creating a mosaic of favorite images from Christmas cards as a way of "summarizing" the season and re-using old cards. (I kept a few cards intact and put them in a pocket page for safe-keeping.) In fact, I may put together similar layouts using cards or photos from other holidays.
This layout was really enjoyable and easy to create, and it was nice to make a page without worrying about photos. It was surprisingly fun to punch images from old cards and then arrange them with an eye toward balance of color and design. With my trusty (ginormous) square punch and Xyron adhesive, the layout came together very quickly!
11 December 2007
I've been working on this little accordion album as a take-home project for the store where I teach. It's a 6x6 album with 5 "pages" on each side. Accordion albums are easy to create and provide a lot of design options.
For this project, I tried out the new Bazzill "In Stitch'z" cardstock. This new line comes in several colors and features basic shapes created with holes along the side or bottom of the page. You can sew through the holes with floss or ribbon (hence the name). For my project, I chose to cut around the hearts from the cardstock and use them as design elements. On one heart, I filled each hole with an eyelet or brad. On the other one, I "sewed" like you would on a child's sewing card with some pink floss from my stash. (That's about as much sewing as I'm capable of!)
I chose the new Scenic Route Loveland line to complete the album. The colors are bright and easy to work with. The chipboard set comes with several small pieces which are easy to sand.
It was fun to take a break from Christmas projects and work on something for Valentine's Day!
10 December 2007
* Friday evening, Spouse made three Christmas cards. Granted, he followed a simple pattern and used punch-out die pieces, but hey -- he used adhesive and lined up his squares pretty well. I think he has potential.
* I've been making Christmas cards from scraps. So far, I'm up to 37 cards. Still plenty of everything left, except adhesive.
* Those of us who grew up in the 60's and 70's listening to Led Zeppelin are surely aware that tonight is the big reunion. According to the BBC (which I was listening to in the middle of the night) it is POSSIBLE they will tour next year. Now wouldn't that be just about the coolest concert EVER?
* I have put up three of my six Christmas trees. All are now tethered to something, and all are still standing. Lily chewed the string (and presumably swallowed it) off of one ornament yesterday, but so far nothing else has been completely destroyed.
* I love crab cakes. I love, love, love them. Even bad crab cakes are good.
* My box labeled for 2007 photos is completely empty. Does this mean that I have scrapbooked them all? Does it mean that I took no photos during 2007? Nope! It means that I have not printed a single photo for the ENTIRE year. People, this is NOT a good situation.
* Lily can fit an entire mandarin orange slice in her mouth at once. I'm not sure that's a good situation, either.
* When the temperature is below freezing, it is not a good idea to leave the garage door open all night. That's all I'm saying.
* At Target, there are flannel pajamas with sock monkeys on them. I really like sock monkeys, but on pajamas, they scare me just a little bit. But not as much as those dreadful flying monkeys from the Wizard of Oz. My friend, Connie, says that in the new Tin Man series, they're actually called "Mo-Bats". Who knew?
* Let's see...there are 15 days until Christmas, according to the Starbucks Advent Calendar. Have I started shopping? Nope. Don't be alarmed. This is typical.
* Speaking of Starbucks, I noticed that they have now marked down the calendars to $9.99. At our Starbucks, there were plenty left. I'll watch them a bit longer and see if they mark them down even further. Last year, I snagged mine for $5.
* I have nearly convinced (read: beaten down) Spouse to paint the entry way a cinnamon/spice color to coordinate with our new green and gold paint. Stay tuned on this one.
* If you're willing to risk being offended and need a laugh today, check out the David Sedaris YouTube link at the right. For those of you looking for a holiday gift for the man in your life, this may be just the ticket.
07 December 2007
This year, I decided that I would outsmart Lily. Motivated by my desire to hang my growing (and very fragile) collection of Shiny Bright ornaments, I tethered the tree to the bay window with fishing line and twine in four places.
While not especially attractive, the tethering does seem to be working. This morning, one ornament was on the carpeted floor, but the tree was still standing. I'm sure its days are numbered, though. Even as we speak, Lily is testing my resolve with her very sharp teeth.
She obviously thinks SHE is going to outsmart ME...and I think she's right!
06 December 2007
Earlier this fall, I made a few projects using some of the newer Christmas lines, such as this one by Making Memories. I ended up with a lot of leftover odds and ends, so rather than put all of that seasonal stuff away, I saved everything in a box for Christmas cards.
As you can see, each card is different, mainly because I typically have only one of a particular item. But I also can't stand to make more than one of anything...it's a little quirk of mine!
Based on our Christmas card list, I would guess that I need to make at least 50 cards. Based on my stash of leftover supplies, I could probably make twice that many. I love using up leftover product, so this is a good challenge for me.
Plus I'll do almost anything to avoid putting stuff away!
04 December 2007
I've been putting up my Dickens Village over the past few days, with more than a little help from Lily. She particularly enjoyed inspecting the Styrofoam boxes (and sampling some) as I unpacked 30+ buildings, a forest of trees, and a crowd of cheerful townspeople.
I only hope that we get through this holiday season without Lily launching into the streets of merry olde England.
03 December 2007
We replaced the border and covered the plum paint with a light and dark green to coordinate with the kitchen. And although the green is somewhat bold, it is actually much more understated than the old color. The paint no longer clashes with the woodwork, and I'm very happy with how the furniture stands out against it.
The room is not completely finished yet. We will be replacing the chandelier and the switch plates (all shiny gold) with pieces in a darker bronze finish. I would love to be able to remove the table cloth (until Lily, we never kept the table covered), but I doubt that will happen anytime soon (I'll probably change it to a different color, since there is already so much green in the room). The china cabinet needs to be cleaned out and re-organized. And the small Christmas tree (which I have tied to the window with fishing line to prevent Lily from knocking it over) has yet to be decorated. But in spite of these remaining tasks, we have made noticeable progress, and that is a good thing!
Next stop: the two-story, floral wallpapered entry way, but that will have to wait until after the holidays. And Spouse has told me that he will not be involved in that little task. So stay tuned. You may see me on a scaffold. (At least it would be good blog material, huh?)
Since then, my nut and pinecone creations have been the subject of great ridicule (and even some inappropriate jokes) each time I bring them out for Christmas display. It is so bad that I don't often get them out anymore. The nut balls in particular have been the object of most of the scorn. The family does not understand why someone would glue nuts to a Styrofoam ball and call it decorative. I've even been told that the nut balls resemble medieval flails. (Here's a picture for comparison. You be the judge.)
Emboldened by my recent success with the Styrofoam button tree, I decided that this was the year to bring back these lovely creations. So I hung them festively in the newly painted dining room to a chorus of "No....NOT THE NUT BALLS!"
Yes, the nut balls are back. Now, I have decided that to make them more appealing, I must improve their smell. In years past, they were studded with cloves and had a sweet, spicy aroma. Now, most of the cloves have fallen out and the nut balls no longer have a fresh smell. In fact, they smell like...well, nut balls that have been packed away for awhile.
So I plan to fix them up with a good helping of cloves. Perhaps that will win over the family.
Or scare off any intruders. :-)
01 December 2007
For the pages of this little album, I used a few pieces of 6x6 chipboard, 6x11.5 scalloped cardstock (cut in half), the transparency (cut in 6x6 pieces), and several tags from the Creative Imaginations Creative Cafe. The pages are different sizes and shapes, which is a great way to use up odds and ends in your stash.
The journaling stickers prompted me to think of different things about myself that I probably would not have thought to include: My most embarrassing story (you'll have to wait for another day for that one), something I love to buy (for those of you playing at home, Cranberry Bliss Bars is the correct answer), and my favorite room in the house (now, the kitchen). If you sometimes struggle with journaling, these stickers provide a relatively painless way to tell a story or two!
And if you haven't tried making a mini-album with varied sizes of pages, I'd encourage you to do so immediately! This is a great way to get yourself out of a rut or a slump. The possibilities for creativity are endless!
And owls, as cute as they may be, are really NOT required. Although they ARE strongly recommended! :-)
30 November 2007
"You'll never achieve my supreme level of grace and refinement, you miserable little twerp!" retorts Tinsel with a haughty sniff.
28 November 2007
Right now, the dining room is a complete mess, but we are making some progress. We replaced the ghastly "What Was I Thinking?" border with a much more neutral one and we've covered the burgundy portion of the walls with a deep green (it's not as bright as it appears in these photos). Spouse is now in the midst of painting the top portion of the dining room a very light green. The light and dark greens in the dining room coordinate with the olive green in the kitchen and the gold in our Pirates of the Caribbean bathroom.
As I've said before, these particular shades of green are not for the faint of heart. But the reality is that they look a whole lot better than the previous color scheme. Our table and china cabinet no longer blend into the walls. The tone of the woodwork doesn't clash with the paint. At first I was worried about the green, but now that more is painted, I love it.
And here is a very funny note: The single photo above is the back of our china cabinet. We bought it several years ago from an older neighbor. We had the entire china cabinet stripped of paint because she told us it was constructed of mahogany. Guess what color it was painted before we stripped it?
Olive green. Almost the exact shade we're painting the dining room, as evidenced by the bit of paint we saved on the back of the cabinet.
I don't think Spouse sees the humor in this.
I've been working on a couple of classes for 2008 using goodies from the Creative Cafe. This one is a little ring-bound album using the library cards and cardstock stickers that are part of this new line. Of course, since I'm "all about felt" these days, I couldn't resist adding a few felt flowers.
This project holds 14 wallet-sized photos and could be expanded to hold as many as you'd like. The library cards (on the reverse side of each cardstock piece) provide ample journaling space for each photo. And since I use Picasa to manage my photos, it was super-easy to select and print them in the wallet-sized setting.
I love projects that come together easily like this one. I think it's really good for the psyche to, every once in awhile, be able to start and finish a project in a short amount of time. Everyone needs a sense of accomplishment from time to time, right?!
26 November 2007
After thinking about it for awhile, I realized I had recently seen Lily "at work" behind our puppet theater, constructed by my parents for DD when she was considerably younger. The puppet theater does not get a lot of use these days, and I had forgotten about the basket of finger puppets which sits on the floor behind it.
Sure enough, Lily must have found it in that basket.
To verify that this is the way it actually happened, I staged a small "reenactment". I planted the finger puppet back in the basket and plunked Lily down beside the puppet theatre. And just like clockwork, she dug through the basket and pulled out the cat, leaving the lamb, the bird, and other small animals for another day.
"Dis one looks like me, Mom!" I could almost hear her say.