Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Oh What a Beautiful Baby...

Did you have a wonderful Christmas?  David and his family came over on Christmas Eve and I squeezed and pinched and kissed the baby until I was sure he'd scream at the sight of me for the rest of his life.  And as predicted I was headed for bed at 4am where I tossed & turned, trying to get comfortable until  the clock went off at 5:10am to start my day.  ARGH!

I'd seen a digital laser beam thermometer on Martha Stewart's show and thought I wanted it.  Well, I got it; all $90 of it!  So now I'm mortified and thinking I shouldn't keep it.  Will I really make candy?  I never have before.  If I keep it I'll have no choice, right?

Have you ever seen anything as sweet as this little guy?  I could just eat him with a spoon.
So as great as my gifts were this year, getting to play with Tiny Tot two days in a row was the best gift of all.

I'm sick with icky ears & throat, and of course my voice is gone, but at least I didn't start getting sick until the day after Christmas.  Merry Christmas to me.

Here's looking forward to New Year's.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Happy Holidays!

Are you ready for Santa?  Really?  How'd you do that?  Every year I swear I'll do better and yet, every year at 4am on Christmas Eve I'm sitting in the middle of the living room floor wrapping gifts.  Forget ribbon.  It never happens.  Ever.

Remember I wanted to do something different this year with my cards?  Well I've done something different.  They're all stacked in a pile with mail.  Think junk mail and medical statements and Harbor Freight sale papers.  Not exactly what I had in mind.

I've been a busy bee in the kitchen for over a week now.  Yes, you heard me right...I did say kitchen.  I've now baked 32 loaves of pumpkin bread, half with pecans & half without.  And I've made 12 batches of Chex Party Mix.  Wish I could tell you I was done now, but alas, I'm only halfway done.

Every year I prepare gift baskets for the neighbors filled with miniature candy bars, pumpkin bread, party mix, a small potted plant, a pretty dish towel, and toys for the kids.  We were in Rocky Mount last Friday night and dined at Cracker Barrel where I found these tiny wind up toys that are retro chic.  There's a clown with a ball on his feet that jumps and spins around, flipping from his butt to his back, and my favorite, a tiny monkey clapping symbols together as he walks around.  Honestly, I'd like to keep them for myself instead of giving them away, but I won't.

There are also gift baskets to be prepared for my co-workers and hubby's co-workers and of course family & friends.  The list is never-ending.

My son and his family will come over on Christmas Eve and of course I don't want anything to keep me from squeezing tiny tot the entire time.  My new favorite thing:  put him down on the floor on his back and watch him immediately roll over and start belly crawling away from me.  He's just like David at that age:  refuses to get up on his hands & knees.  What's up with that?  David would belly crawl using his elbows to drag himself across the room.  From there he progressed to crawling on hands and toes, butt high in the air, never putting his knees down on the floor.  And then it was walking, moving from one piece of furniture to another.

Little Jackson will belly crawl away from me and at the last minute I grab his feet, drag him back, and flip him over on his back.  He laughs.  I laugh and squeeze him til I'm sure he's bruised, and he's flipped back over and begun the great escape again.  I could do it for the rest of my life, assuming I could keep him frozen in time at this age, which of course won't happen.

Shopping for a 9 month old at Christmas is no fun at all.  Sleepers, yawn.  Nerf balls in every shape and color, ...slightly less boring.  But I'll be honest with you...remember that photo of David sitting in my big yellow dump truck?  I found a truck by the same manufacturer, almost identical except that this one has oodles of buttons for different sounds.  Yes, I read the box and yes, I see it's for ages 3 and up.  I'm going to take out the batteries and squirrel it away til he's old enough to play with it.  Just like that rocking cow that's also stored away. 

Can you hear that hollering coming from Apex?  Yep.  Hubby says enough already; quit buying toys for the kid he's gonna be one day, and enjoy the kid he is today.  Gotcha.  Did you guys see that new toy...

For the first time in the 8 years we've owned this house our tree is (a) artificial and (b) in the first floor living room rather than the second floor family room.  I didn't put it there, trust me.  Nor did I wire on the extra strings of lights (they are fabulous), nor did I hang a single ornament.  (Well, to be honest I have gone back over it and moved one or two or twelve).  But other than that, and my armchair critique from the loveseat or the stove, I didn't do a thing.

Since we now have a TV the size of Baltimore permanently hung above the fireplace I had to tweak my mantle display.  Those 18" reindeer that are made of heavy steel coils that bounce and sway and bob and weave are now displayed on the new foyer table amidst ornaments, berries & elves.  My snowman collection isn't displayed, though there are about a dozen in the kitchen, hidden behind canisters of party mix and stacks of pumpkin bread loaves. 

There are Barbie doll mermaids & twinkling fairies, bags of candy & wrapping paper, rolls of curling ribbon and boxes of Christmas cards, rolls of tape and at least 3 pair of scissors all over the table (and the chair seats & backs), but the decorative red tablecloth has been located and lost.  If it turns up I'll eventually clear off the table and put it on there, with a fabulous centerpiece right in the middle.

Surely before the baby arrives on Friday.  That's the goal.  Well, the goal is sooner, but I'm clever enough to know it won't happen until Friday.  A realist to the end.

Yesterday I had an email reminding me gently but firmly that my Stampaway submissions haven't been received.  Tick tock, there's a deadline you know.  So next week I'll be up in the studio, nose to the grindstone, creating fabulous art projects to dazzle everyone.  But first there are about 100 gifts scattered on the living room floor that have to be boxed and wrapped.

Merry Christmas to me, and to you of course.  Wishing you joy & laughter this holiday season, and hoping you'll come back to visit after the madness calms down a notch or two.

And before I forget, Santa came early this week in the form of new Droid phones.  I've finally figured out how to answer my phone which is more than I can say for someone who shall remain nameless.  Unfortunately I keep tapping the wrong contact name and once the phone dials and I hear it ringing I don't know how to make it stop short of powering off my phone.  Less than desirable results don't you know.  Gotta figure that out!  Sooner rather than later! So if I've inadvertently dialed you, I apologize.

If you call and I don't answer, not to worry.  I can't say I've figured out voicemail completely but I got in there once already and would bet I can do it again.  Don't have a clue about texting or checking (much less sending) email, so fuhgedaboudit!!

Listen for jingle bells and the laughter of children and enjoy the upcoming week.  The New Year will be here before you know it.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Still Here, Weary, but Well

Has cold weather arrived for you yet?  I heard a rumor that we were down in the 20's this morning.  Have mercy.  I might just have to pull out a coat this week, which is unheard of for me.

Did you overeat during Thanksgiving weekend?  Surely I wasn't the only one.  I've now cubed the last of the leftover turkey to add to a slow cooker of homemade vegetable soup this weekend.  Did I mention I don't eat vegetables and have never tasted vegetable soup?  Chicken noodle and chicken & rice are my only soups, but hubby will take care of it sooner or later.  My freezer drawers and big freezer are running over with vegetables from my mother's summer garden so it's time to take drastic measures.

Have Christmas cards begun to arrive at your house?  The first came from our investment broker, then one with the newspaper the other day from our carrier and now one from my little brother & his wife.  Guess that means it must be time to shop for cards because we all know I'm not going to make them.  Me, making cards.  Yeah, that's gonna happen.

I've always displayed them on the front door but this year I'm going for something different.  Perhaps on the foyer mirror like this, or on the bannister like the first photo.  Decisions, decisions.

Tomorrow both my husband and my son will celebrate birthdays.  And you know the rules...nothing Christmas is displayed until after the hoo hah of the big day.  It's a rule.  Doesn't mean I can't think about it...just means I can't act upon it.

No doubt you've wondered at least once in recent weeks what happened to me.  I've been a busy bee in the laboratory, um studio, designing class projects for CHA in January.  Once again I've been invited to teach classes as well as setting up a demo booth and filming some quick technique segments for a manufacturer.  Hard to call it "work" when it's so much fun to dig around for supplies and unexpected elements.  There are bits and pieces of paper items, corrugated white cardboard, balsa wood, inks & other colorants, plus adhesives, and dare I say it, glitter everywhere.  Particularly glitter everywhere, and you know I ban that product from my home, so drastic times are at hand.

No sneak peaks I'm afraid.  Top secret, hush-hush type work.  Once these are complete it's time to finalize my convention submissions.  Deadlines just slay me.

In the midst of all this creativity there are changes afoot in the studio.  Hubby hired a handyman to work on my empty house in Garner and the man rented it for his family.  Great for them but not my pocketbook since a few minor repairs were required as a result of the last tenant.  They were in need of a table & chairs so I'm loaning them the one I originally used there, which has been stacked high with all my purchases from the last 2 years.  If you've been in the studio you know the farm table I'm referring to...the one with piles on it and under it when you first enter the room.  Don't ask me where I'm moving those piles because I'm clueless, but the chairs are already gone and the table will be this weekend.  Yikes! 

I also did a little shopping recently for paper, but not just any paper.  I'm talking 750 sheets that measure 28" x 40" and another 750 sheets of heavier paper that measure 25" x 38".  And then there's the pile of chipboard that measures 25" x 35".  Can you tell when I'm cooking up new classes?  And of course you know one of my farm tables is completely covered with all that, so once again, storage ideas are much needed but slow to arrive.

Next time you visit the studio let's hope everything has found a new home, out of sight!  And in case you're wondering, no, I don't see a holiday open house in my future this year...at least not one that includes the second floor.  Although I'm just dying to show off my new wool rugs and the new furniture layout and drapes, so we'll see...

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Art Journals in Action

Last month our stamp club project was twinchies...2" x 2" works of art that we could incorporate onto the front covers of a journal made from a composition book.  The twinchies (which I didn't think to photograph yet) were fabulous...so much so that no one wanted to risk damaging them by adhering them to the front of a journal that would be tossed into a tote bag.  So I took one of mine since I had an extra and added it along with other pieces to create this fun cover. 

The red horse was cut from an IKEA postcard.  I included one of these in everyone's kit for the night.  Art is all around us if you just start looking, so whether its a cracker box, a frozen entree, or a magazine, take a few minutes to really look.  The phrase "live happier" came right from a magazine page.  I trimmed it down and sealed it with a piece of clear packaging tape, then mounted it onto blue cardstock.  Now that flimsy magazine page is sturdy enough to weather the storms I toss its way.

The "altered journal" came from words I stamped on different colors of cardstock, and the image of the art chick is from Zettiology. 

I used a punch to make colorful tabs for everyone.  Mine say Create, Appointments, Notes, Calendar, Travel, Food, Movies, Books, & TV.  This little girl is again from a magazine page that advertised detergent.  It had little blue dotted lines telling you what the stains were, so I simply trimmed the photo down and added my own notes, which of course would be colors of ink.

I stamped the phrases and added them around the page.  And as you'll see on the edge of this and all other tabbed pages, I wanted to give them strength.  I began by using a glue stick to adhere 2 pages together, then added the tab, and then ran a length of 3" masking tape, overlapping front & back of the edge.  On top of the masking tape I added decorative packaging tape with polka dots.  Too fabulous, yes?

This section of my book will include blogs & websites I want to check out, as well as notes to myself for class ideas or conventions I should investigate for teaching.

I know people are using their phones, etc for reminders these days, but I love the written page, so I devoted a section in my journal for appointments.  The watches were a magazine ad that I trimmed to fit and then added a transparency over the top that says TODAY.

My section for notes could have been my To Do List, or anything for that matter.  Just because these are the headings I came up with shouldn't keep you from choosing tabs that have more signifigance for you.

I included a section for monthly calendars and included a month-at-a-glance calendar for Nov & Dec of 2010 as well as one for each month of 2011.  Which means this section has 14 pages but that gives me plenty of space for making notes each month or even adding photos.

My travel section should probably have been much larger than the number of pages I allowed.  Goodness knows I'm always headed in a different direction.  Several of the pages behind this tab include stamped images as well as sections of maps, clip art of postcards, etc.  No matter what graphics I add to a page, the key is to leave room for my journaling.

The food section will be used in multiple ways.  I might jot notes about the restaurants where I ate the last 3 nights in a row, or perhaps I'll remind myself of some new tool I need for my incredible new kitchen.  The more I experiment with new recipes, the more I discover I don't have everything I need in the drawers and cabinets.  Tsk Tsk.
Sitting in the hospital Monday while hubby had his surgery, I made notes on this page, running my line all around the outline of hunky Tom Selleck.  Subsequent pages are also covered, but here's another shot from the TV section before I began using the book.

Clearly I subscribe to a lot of magazines, so I can tear out pages, trim down sections and make use of them in my book.  If you don't have magazines of your own, visit the local library.  We have a huge magazine rack and basket filled with donated magazines that are free at ours.  That's where I take all of mine when I'm through with them.  In fact, I have 18 on the back seat of my car right now to be donated today.
Books.  Have mercy.  Another section that could be a book of it's own.  I added the library pocket & tucked in a library card on the main page.  On subsequent pages I've already begun my notes on books I've read as well as a separate page for books yet to be read.  I can see myself adding extra pages in here.  Suggestions for that are easy.  Take plain white copy paper, fold the sheets in half and use a rubber band running down the fold and around the outside spine of the book. 

This is my movie section so of course I thought a popcorn bag was appropriate.  I gave all the girls one of these as well and showed them how to trim it down, fold it, tuck it, and create a pocket for ticket stubs. 

And finally, my little giraffe.  No relation to the art journal, but certainly a Happy Halloween for me!
I'll photograph my twinchies and post later this week so you can see the variety of talent.

Ya'll come back now, hear?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Older and Wiser and Still Laughing

Meet my mother-in-law, Frances, who just happens to be my birthday twin.  Well, 33 years apart, but still we were both born on the same day.  As I've done every year for the past 13, I chose to spend part of my day with her so we could celebrate together.  This year her sister Mamie Lois and her brother-in-law Charlie, joined us.  Charlie will be 91 in January and they've been married 62 years.  Can you even imagine?  Those two are real characters, not unlike good old Frances.  I hope to be as entertaining when I get to be their age.

This past weekend we were in gloriously sunny Myrtle Beach SC for a bit of fun, and I'm pleased to say we had a fabulous time.  Driving along Ocean Drive was wonderful but it was alarming to see so many homes for sale. 

On Saturday night we went to the Alabama Theatre to see The Oak Ridge Boys.  They're still as incredible as they were the last time I saw them, over 30 years ago.  How is that possible?

And on Sunday night we were back for the house show, ONE, which was spectacular.  The comedian Ricky Mokel is the reason we went and trust me, he did not disappoint.   At intermission we went out to the lobby and bought two of his DVD's, which he graciously signed for me.   Haven't watched them yet, but I can hardly wait.  Check him out on You Tube when you've got a few minutes to laugh.

Now I'm trying to figure out when I can get back down there to see their Christmas Show.  Performances begin next week and based on the regular show, I know it will be amazing. 

Yesterday I finished the last Dick Francis book, Crossfire, that was published after his death.  It was just as gripping as the first one I read, and re-read, and re-read again.  I own all his books and have read several of them multiple times.  Now I'm waiting for the last Robert B Parker novel, Painted Ladies, which features his Spenser character.  It's still hard to believe there won't be more books coming from these two incredible authors.

I still haven't found my skeleton to put out on the front porch, but I did find the witch's shoes.  And I made a few more Halloween purchases while in Myrtle Beach that are now displayed with all the others, along with the pansies and pumpkins.  Can't wait for Sunday night when all the little ghosts & goblins come calling.  Baby Jackson is supposed to be paying me a visit.  Squeals of delight will surely be heard all over town, so listen for me.

And if you're in the neighborhood, come on over.  The candy bowl is overflowing once again!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Celebrating Life

Many of you know that I attended the first Stampaway convention 18 years ago in Cincinnati.  Each subsequent year I've made my travel plans to get there, budgeted my money to have funds to squander, and revelled in seeing good friends year after year that I would only see at that show.

One of those friends was Mike Meador, owner of Coffee Break Designs.  He was a wickedly funny, quirky, joyful man that came up with such ingenious kits and products that I was instantly smitten.  Every year I would incorporate his products into my classes, sending all the ladies rushing to his booth on Friday night to clean out his inventory.  By the time I'd arrive he'd be all grins & smirks, pleased as punch with the crowds who'd descended on his booth, filling their little baskets with his loot.

Just last summer I designed 2 classes around his kits .  My Shadow Box Collage class, which has become my benchmark class at Stampaway, was created around his little chipboard towers as he called them.  The end result was so far from the ordinary gray chipboard that most people wouldn't have recognized them as the same product.

And my Whimsical Assemblage class used his ATC-sized Elevated Box Kit.  Again, I took them in a direction he'd never have gone, but he was tickled when I presented him with my samples and displayed them in his booth right up until he sold the last of his inventory.  (That happened on Friday night, so if you were in his booth on Saturday, you never saw them.)

I chastised him once for not replying to me in a timely manner and his response was classic Mike.  He informed me he was on "Mike time", as though that said it all.  And you know, it really did.  He was worth the wait, whether it was for a return phone call, an email, or my turn in line in his crowded booth, waiting for a chance to giggle with him for a few minutes.

He was adored by many people and I was certainly one of them.  I miss him more than words can say.  But I have a huge stash of his products in my studio and will think of him fondly with each and every creation I design using those goodies.

Love you Mike.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Fall is in the air

I celebrated my birthday last week with a trip to the fair, a steak dinner, and a movie.  (RED with Bruce Willis...fabulous!)  My mother-in-law and I share the same birthday so we spent 3 hours with her down East and had a "large time" as little old people say in those parts.  My husband bought me a Maxine birthday card that speaks, which drove the doggies insane, a cake with my favorite butter cream icing, and a helium balloon that says "Over the Hill".  That boy should be careful; all I'm saying.
We stopped by Mom's on the way to visit Frances and picked up two pumpkins for my front porch.  And there's the difference between city life and country life in a nutshell.  Her neighbor has fields of pumpkins and told her to take all she wants.  Here in town you pay for even the tiniest one.  I'm pleased to say I have 2 very nice specimens.  Now I have to decide if I want to paint them, carve them, or decorate them at all.
I love Halloween.  I've got my witch and black cat out on the porch already.  The witches shoes and the skeleton go up next. 

I've got 2 strings of those little jack-o-lantern string lights and ghosts to hang from the lanterns on either side of the garage door.  I've had bags of that spider webbing stuff that you stretch and pull and use in trees that I've been saving for years til I actually had trees large enough to use it well.  Wonder if this will be the year?

This weekend I potted pansies in the window boxes mounted on the back deck and also in a couple of pots.  I've placed one out front with the pumpkins but I might need a little something more.  My mums have grown so large in the rock garden along the side of the house that we've had to prop them up with a wrought iron door mat.  Unfortunately no one sees them but us and the next door neighbor. 
The bowl in the foyer is filled with Halloween candy...again.  And I dare say more shopping is in the cards since trick-or-treating is still 2 weeks away. 

My stamp club meets in the studio on Thursday night and we're swapping Twinchies, plus decorating composition book fronts with them before moving on to working inside the books.  It's going to be a fun project and I'm excited to see how everyone incorporates all the goodies I've been putting together for them.  Check back Friday for photos of the fun and the end results.  I'm betting we'll knock your socks (or boots) off!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The First Day of Fall & Mom's Birthday

Fall has arrived, which is hard to imagine here in NC since we're going to hit a high of 95 today.  Sheesh!  But I'm ready for it and the cooler temperatures it promises to bring. 
I'm ready for the leaves to turn and hope to make a trip to the mountains while the display is at it's best.  I've got a few things to change in the house to mark the change of the season as well, though it's hard to pull out afghans when it's still in the 90's.
Today is also my mother's 76th birthday.  Happy Birthday Mom!  They're coming to spend a night or two and I'm looking forward to that.  I made 4 batches of Chex Party Mix and wrapped 2 of the big plastic containers with white tissue paper & streamers of curling ribbon.  Not really her gift but she'll be tickled.  We'll eat from the unwrapped container while we play dominoes tonight.  And I'm making apple dumplings using a recipe from my friend Lynda, instead of a cake.  Totally different from my mother's recipe, so I'm hoping she'll be impressed.  Is it too early to start baking????

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A bit of fun with the STARS

Many of you know I began a local stamp club ages ago called STARS (Stellar Triangle Area Rubber Stampers).  Last Thursday night it was my turn to come up with a project so I decided to use some IKEA frames I had left from another class.  Our swap for the month was to make at least one large background, any technique, that would be cut up to share.  So I suggested we take it a step further and use hand punches and die cuts to create flowers to decorate these frames.

I had made several 11x17 sheets and used a vine die cut so everyone had a base for their flowers.  My color palette was made up of greens & blues with a little raspberry thrown in for good measure.  I'd also made sheets with other colors of course.  Those of you familiar with my "motherboard" will recognize the dimensional pearls and dabber dots & stripes you see on flowers in all these photos.

We began with ink pads to color the frames, then punched oodles of flowers.  One of the girls brought lots of hand punches with the tiniest flowers you've ever seen, and those were a huge hit.

I had asked another member to bring along her Big Kick and a few more flower dies, which she did, so no one was standing around waiting for anything.  In the above photo you'll notice lots of dimension created by curling the petals on each flower. 

No two were alike, which is always the case with this group of talented ladies.  Our backgrounds were also different.  There was overstamping in brown (rather than the black I always use), embossing, textures, even inking and painting over scrapbook papers.  Clever girls!!

For the members who couldn't be with us this time, you missed a LOT of fun!  For those that came, thanks for playing along.  And for those of you out of town and out of state, wish you were closer!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Ah, to be a kid again

This is probably my favorite photo of my son...taken more years ago than I prefer to think about.  The truck he's sitting in actually belonged to me.  One of the best Christmas gifts I ever received as a child.  It ran on batteries and would go forward, in reverse, the wheels could be turned with the little steering wheel inside, and best of all, it would really dump.  I played with that truck for years and years, then saved it for the day I'd have kids of my own.  And then Tiny Tot destroyed it.  As a child David couldn't tolerate a sticker on anything.  He'd start tearing off the decals while waiting in line to pay for a toy.  I can remember when he bought himself a Nissan Pathfinder.  You wouldn't have known what it was if you saw him driving it because I swear he removed every emblem, be it metal, plastic or adhesive.  What's up with that?

This was another favorite photo, only because he's wearing his little hogwashers.  He always kept his hands tucked inside them, just as he's doing here.

Labor Day weekend I had some of my family over for a cookout and David had these old photos on a disc for me to download, including a few of my grandson shortly after he was born.

Now that's a keeper if I ever saw one, simply because of that goofy hat.  Am I right?  Next weekend they're having family photos taken because he's 6 months old as of today.  Can it really have been six months ago that he was born?  Have mercy.  Time flies whether you're having fun or not.

I know, it's shocking, but yes, that's my high school portrait.  Back then I thought I knew everything, so in that respect, nothing's changed.  I still think I know pretty much everything.  And of course, I didn't then and I certainly don't know.

But I do know that I'm a happy little camper most of the time.  So here's a huge thank you to my family and friends who keep me laughing.

And here's to being a kid again.