Monday, February 28, 2011

OCD Confession

This past weekend, I discovered the joys of creating my own inspirational photo cards -- why buy when I can make my own, right?  Unfortunately, when I discover a project I enjoy, I tend to get a little crazy and want to spend all the time in the world working on said project.  The cards are the latest craze to take over my life.

It takes just a few minutes to make each card and envelop.  That is, it takes only a few minutes once I have an idea and can Henry Ford the process.  But getting to that point takes forever!  How do I decide what photo to use?  What quote?  What font?

This project was one of the first where Honey was actively excited.  Yes, Honey puts up with all my crafting and even likes the end result of most things.  This weekend was different.  This weekend Honey said "You could sell those!" and then proceeded to figure out what I would have to charge per card in order to make it worth the time and effort.

We did not calculate the amount of time it would take me to look through photos, choose quotes, print 4x6s at Costco to make sure everything looks as good in person as it does on the computer.  I selected 20 photos and different quotes and created the images this weekend.  Honey said "There are so many photos that we can use!" or something to that effect, which reminded me that we have years of travel photos that we love.  To me, they all deserve cards.  All the photographs really want is a purpose to their existence.  This can give them that existence.

But where am I going to find the time?

(Side note: Honey also suggested hiring one of the teenagers to do the manual labor.grunt work.  I like the idea of being the "creative genius" behind something crafty but having someone else do all the dirty work.  We'll see what happens. I'll keep you posted. :-)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Finally, a good use for an old frame.

My grandmother gave me a wooden frame one year.  It has no glass.  It's just wood stained a greenish color.  But because Grama gave it to me, I've hung onto it all these years thinking that I would do something with it.  (This is unusual for me -- I always get rid of things that haven't been used within the past couple months. Just ask Honey. It's one of Honey's pet peeves.)

Tonight, I was inspired: memo board for my ugly office!

I bought a foam board at Michael's for $1.50 and had Honey cut it to size.  I had all the other supplies on hand:

I sprayed the foam board with tacky glue and then pressed the fabric onto it.  I only had scraps of fabric and so used ribbon to cover the seams.  I like it!  Finally, something to do with the frame.

March 24, 2011 -- Update. I'm linking this project to a $5 craft challenge here:

How to make your own inspirational greeting cards

I have a theory that most women are obsessed with stationary.  Who doesn't like pretty paper, a beautiful greeting card, and -- most important of all -- the possibility of receiving such a thing in the mail unexpectedly?  I know that I love to send notes, letters, and cards to people because I enjoy the surprise of receiving something myself.  Back when I had a bit more time, I used to make it a point of sending out at least one card or letter a week.

Unique cards with pretty paper are a personal favorite of mine.  I especially love beautiful photos with inspirational quotes as greeting cards.  One day I was looking through Etsy and realized that I could probably do this myself.  Could I?  How much would it cost?  What would it look like?

Honey and I love globetrotting and taking pictures of the beautiful scenery around us.  Who wouldn't want to remember a beautiful place?
Sintra, Portugal
I recently discovered Picasa, Google's free photo organizer/editor, and so I decided to try my hand at creating photo cards.

What you need:
1. Picasa (which can be downloaded at
2. Cardstock
3. 12"x12" paper
4. scissors, ruler, pencil, rubber cement (or similar glue)

Download Picasa.  It will access all of your photos on your computer.  Once it's done that, choose the photo you want to use for a card.  Picasa allows for easy photo editing, if you want to add/change colors, texture, etc.  You can also add text to your photo, so choose a good quote!  Once that is done, click on the button in the upper left hand corner, next to "Import," to create a new folder for photo cards. Click and drag your modified photo with text to the photo card folder.  When inside that folder, click on the lower right hand side to export the file folder.  This will allow you a separate folder for the photo cards that you can then upload to a printing service.  I use the photo printer at Costco.
Hanoi, Vietnam

When you have your photos printed, glue them to cardstock.  I used a template that I created from cardstock to make sure that all of my cards were the same size.
When folded, the cardstock gives a border of about 1/8" all the way around the photo.
I sprayed the back of the photo with a spray adhesive and pressed it to the cardstock to make my card.  Then, using the card and a ruler I traced a rectangle on the backside of some pretty 12"x12" paper, making the traced rectangle 1/8" bigger than my card (on each side).
On the top and sides of the paper rectangle, I used the ruler to draw triangles.  I then free-handed a smaller, rounded-corner rectangle at the bottom.  This was my envelope template.
I cut around the template, folded each piece, and then glued the bottom of the envelop to the sides using rubber cement.

Be careful not to use too much rubber cement -- you don't want it to ooze out on the rest of your paper or your card. Once it is dry, you can use it with your card.  The top can be sealed with a touch of glue or with double-sided tape.

I made six cards this weekend, but I am thinking of making more.
Total cost:
$0.13 per photo
$0.08 per sheet of cardstock (purchased in a package, 50 sheets for $3.99)
$0.19 per sheet of 12x12 paper (since I only buy it on clearance at Micahel's)

Cost per card: $0.40!!  That's much better than a $3 Hallmark or $5 farmer's market card.

The cards took me about two minutes per card once I had the photos.  The longest time was spent choosing what photos and quotes I would use.  I think that I am going to make about 20-30 different options and then print them and make a bunch of cards.  Who knows, maybe I'll even try selling them in a friend's little boutique.  Are they good enough for that?  We'll see.  But they make me happy and that's what counts.

I'm linking here:
Momnivore's Dilemma

The Girl Creative

Olivia Renn

Party Button

Catch a Glimpse Button

Using Mod Podge reminds me of Grama

A few weeks ago, toward the end of January, I bought a box of Christmas ornaments on clearance for around $0.35.

I couldn't resist the price and knew that I could think of something to do with them.  I just didn't know what at the time.  What would I do with green ornaments?  I don't tend to decorate for the holidays since we're always on vacation at that time, and I don't use this shade of green for anything.  And so the ornaments sat for a while.

They sat until I was digging around in my fabric box looking for something to finish another project and I came across some scraps of colorful, sheer-like fabric.  A woman I know was going through her dress-making stage and gave me all of her scraps for my quilting projects, but this material was just not suitable for quilting.  It was too pretty to just toss, even if the scraps were small, so I hung onto it hoping to find a solution.

That was when I remembered my grandmother, "Grama," and her love of Mod Podge.  When I was very young she took a cardboard reindeer mold and showed me how to mod podge Christmas fabric onto it to create a decoration.  That was fun.  I wonder if I could do that with ornaments...

I removed the gold cap and used my little finger to hold the ornament as I brushed it with Mod Podge.
Yes, my fingers are always covered in spray paint.
I took a piece of scrap fabric, about 4"x6" or so, and cut it into tiny pieces (small piece work well because they wrap around the ball a bit better).
I placed each small piece on the ornament and covered it with Mod Podge.  The pieces of fabric overlapped like a collage.

It took a while, so I only made three...for now.
One of my brothers asked why I was doing this because it seemed like a waste of time.  I said "Some people like this sort of thing."  He was too little to remember all of Grama's Mod Podge projects, so I don't expect him to understand the sentimentality of such a project.  It was fun for me.

I used Mod Podge for another craft this weekend, one that I've been meaning to do for a long time: make  coasters.  I had leftover tile from my chalkboard coaster project that I made as Christmas gifts for a few people.  (I was really obsessed with chalkboard spray paint in November and December, but that's another story.)  Using the tile, pretty paper, Mod Podge, and some Anita's Polyurethane Sealant, I set about making some coasters as gifts.

Many people in BlogLand create coasters.  If anyone has discovered the secret to keep the paper from bubbling, please let me know!  I think I only achieved that about 50% of the time and have no idea why some coasters bubbled and others did not.

Regardless, it was a fun and easy project, even if it took a long time for things to dry between coats.  If they really turn out, then I'll add them to the gift box in the closet -- I always need a small supply of gifts on hand. One never knows when one might suddenly need a gift!

I'm linking here:

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Flew-Wa-Ditties and The Great White Beast

For several days, the weather-guessers have made dire predictions about a late-season freak snowstorm hitting our Valley area the end of the week.  We all knew not to hold our breath -- we've been lied to before about snow.  We live in the Pacific Northwest, which means that we don't see much snow.  The exception was a snowstorm two years ago that dumped massive amounts of snow and shut everything down for a couple weeks.
This was still early on in the snowstorm of 2008-9.
Snow can be bad here because we're not prepared, but what makes things really treacherous is the ice.  I think we'll have plenty of that tonight because our current snow is melting but the prediction is we'll be well below 20 degrees tonight.  Icky!

Last night I had to pull another long night in a series of long nights, staying up until 2AM to make a deadline for an editing job.  At 2AM we did not have snow.  When I got up at 6:30 this morning, this is the sight that greeted my tired eyes:

We live in a hilly area and it was icy enough this morning that today was officially a snow day.  Perhaps the rest of the country is sick of hearing that, but for me it was great -- a cancellation of meetings, a time to get caught up on work and maybe even get a nap on this first snow day of the year.

Nora and I both like the view from the front window.
This view is why we bought this house.

Nora is fascinated by snow.

As I sit and type, the snow is slowly melting because the sun is out.  It is beautiful.  And it does make me wonder if we will actually have more snow as predicted.

Yesterday I called my sister to bemoan the fact that every time I hear we may have snow I get my hopes up only to have them dashed.  The weather-guessers really have no idea what's going on, it seems.  This makes me miss my grandpa, Bumpy.  If there was one thing that he knew, it was weather.

Bumpy was a funny old man, always teasing, bringing donuts "for the kids," working long hours in his yard (until he was too old to continue that).  He had his own vocabulary -- whatchamacalits, flew-wa-ditties, doo-wa ditties, fahaberdauberfaber, weather-guessers, wingnuts and dingbats.  He also had his own turn of phrase, like "Believe it or else."  "Or else what, Bumpy?" "Or else don't believe it!"
 We called him Bumpy because one of my little sisters couldn't say his name or say "grandpa" when she was little; she called him Bumpy and it stuck.  It's hard to think of him as anyone else; as hard, in fact, as "putting rollerskates on a mosquito."

If we ever wondered about the weather, Bumpy would let us know what to expect.  He would explain the weather patterns -- sometimes, if we were good and nice and paying attention -- and he was never wrong.
Yesterday as I read countless weather reports I found myself wishing that my Bumpy was here because he would tell me if the weather-guessers were right.

Bumpy passed away eleven years ago.  Of course I've missed him over the years -- especially when a big storm threatens to roll into town and I want to know what will really happen -- but I find myself more nostalgic than usual right now.  This could have to do with my Grama's recent passing.  With the two of them gone, it's the end of an era.

And while they both were old and sick and had memory issues and we all knew it was time, our memories of them in their prime are still alive and well.  In our rough childhoods filled with many unpleasant (and downright unhappy) memories, Bumpy and Grama were the highlights of our young existence.  It is on days like today that I wish we could go see them, have a snowball fight in the backyard, and come inside to drink Ovaltine and have toast. (Hmmm, is this where I get my obsession with toast?)
Grama in the 80s 

Bumpy in the 80s (I think)

Bumpy and Grama, I miss you.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Picasa (I may be a bit obsessed)

I love taking photographs.  I also love greeting cards.  Some of my favorite greeting cards involve quotes that speak to me in some way superimposed over a photograph.  I've always wanted to do something like that myself, but I never wanted to spend money on photo editing software.

Enter Picasa, a Google tool.  Wow, is it ever amazing!  Now I'm probably a bit late to the game -- maybe Picasa is sooooo 2010 -- but that's okay.  I'm having fun.  I downloaded the program from Google about a week ago and have learned two things:

  1. It immediately organizes all photos/images on the computer into handy files.  Nice!
  2. If you are easily distracted, like me, you will spend hours messing around to see what you can do to your photos.
I don't know much more about Picasa.  Like I said, I've only had it a short time.  But last night and tonight I was inspired to create a few card templates using some old photographs that Honey and I took on a few of our trips.  I may print these later in the week to see how they turn out and then see about making greeting cards, but for now it's just fun to play around and I wanted to share.
"God enters by a private door into every individual."

"When you look at me, when you think of me, I am in paradise."

"Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads."


Monday, February 21, 2011

Week Six: Recovering a Sense of Abundance

I'm returning to my "go through one chapter a week" plan with The Artist's Way.  Week five derailed me for a bit, for whatever reason, but I'm back! And not a moment too soon.  Week six is all about tackling a "major creative block -- money."

Confession: I have a serious money problem.  And it's not just a spending problem.  It's a problem discussing money.  Period.  Oh sure, I have the "If I won the lottery, I'd..." conversations, but when it comes to a serious conversation I freeze up.  And run away.  And avoid it at all costs.

Confession #2: I am actively working to overcome this issue.  Needless to say, it's made life a bit difficult, since said life is supposed to include a partnership over budget issues.

I can stretch a penny like nobody's business. For example, I can usually figure out how to feed 12-16 people for under $50 and still have it look like this:
If the budget for the meal is even smaller, the dinner may look like this:

And, for the past few months, I've kept it to under $25, which means only making one or two dishes (usually a huge pot of stew or soup and a salad), but I can still feed everyone.

My sister wins in the buying-things arena because she can coupon shop better than anyone I know and can usually bring home a carload full of goods from Target or Rite Aid for next to nothing.  We both had to learn, growing up with very little.  We know how to stretch, how to make do, and how to enjoy.

Confession #3: I hate the word "budget."  I feel like I'm going into convulsions when I hear it.  For years I didn't know why, and I still don't think that I truly understand everything, but now I have a feeling that it probably has something to do with budget = not enough.  At least in my mind.  And I always worry about not having enough.  Ask my family.  They'll tell you that usually I make too much food.  That, I think, is left from the days of always being hungry, eating very little.

Growing up, money always caused fights.  Perhaps that's another reason why I avoid it.  I don't like confrontation.  Oh sure, I'll become Darth Vader on steroids if I feel someone is threatening one of my babies, but other than that I avoid conflict. (I'm working on that, too.)

Julia Cameron writes that most of us believe that work is work, play is fun, and the two don't intersect.  We somehow feel like what we have to do with our lives and what we want to do are two different things.  I know I definitely believed that growing up!  Now I have a few lovely women in my life who show me that life can be different.  They have embraced their creativity and their desires and have found a way to work from this depth.  It's truly inspirational.

And so as part of this week's tasks, I'm to write in my morning pages about the god I believe in and the god I want to believe in.  Those tend to be two different versions of reality.  And yet if I go back to the beginning of my journey into The Artist's Way I remember that my creativity and desires come from someplace.  If I believe that they come from God, then shouldn't I also believe that this Creator has given me the means to use my own creativity?

It seems Peanuts was on the right track:
Our Puritan work ethic here in the US seems to tell us that hard work = value/good, so something that is easy must have a lesser value.  Why is that?  Maybe we have certain talents and so particular tasks just seem easy or more fun or less stressful because we are working from within our talents instead of fighting against them.  It doesn't necessarily mean less work, just a different kind of work.

Part of this old cliche, "let go and let God," really seems to be about money.  If I believe in scarcity, then that is what I'll face.  If I believe in abundance, then that is what I'll see.  I've tried this on a small scale, being intentional about little things, trusting that everything will work out, and when I am really focused on that intentionality, life tends to appear very abundant indeed.

Julia Cameron has a different way of putting this, "Because art is born in expansion, in a belief in sufficiency of supply, it is critical that we pamper ourselves for the sense of abundance it brings to us." Pampering may take many different forms.  For me, there are a few things that make me feel really good, and they aren't even that extravagant:
A good cup of coffee

A good book
Pretty stationary, usually greeting cards

A meal from one of my favorite fast food places -- Pizza Scmizza or Burgerville or Baja Fresh
But I realized recently that even though these are little things, I don't always indulge.  I would really love to go to a coffee shop by myself and sit for an hour and just write.  So why don't I do that?  I have plenty of excuses -- many legitimate -- but I can't blame God or the Universe or whatever for holding me back when I don't take the first step myself.

And so the tasks this week are focused on allowing little luxuries and looking at abundance:

  • Find five pretty or interesting rocks or flowers or leaves as a reminder that abundance is in nature.
  • Bake something. (There is a nutmeg donut recipe I've been wanting to try!)
  • Send notes -- postcards or the like -- to five friends.
  • Reread the Basic Principles and the Artist's Prayer each day.
  • Say "yes!" to freebies.
  • Collect images that represent what you'd love doing in life.
  • Change or clear something in the home environment.
This week is a busy week, full of more work assignments and school assignments and other pressing tasks than I care to admit.  But I am going to find the time to create a little luxury in life, let my artist breathe a bit, and reflect on life's abundance.
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