Sunday, January 25, 2015

Grow Your Blog


I decided to participate in a Grow Your Blog party sponsored by Vicki from 2 Bags Full.

2 Bags Full

It sounded like it would be fun to learn about how other bloggers got their start and to find some new internet friends and maybe followers.  So let me start by telling a little of my story and how I started blogging............

Funny how our lives can parallel the changing of the seasons. 

SPRING signifies birth.  Our formative years.  This is where I found my love of making things.  Put a crayon or paintbrush in my hand and I was happy.  As I grew, so did my interest in creating things. I learned things like crocheting, needlework, and sewing from my mother and grandmother.  I doodled in notebooks and branched out into macrame and jewelry making.  Woman's magazines were a source of great crafting ideas back then and if we had the supplies for something, or they were easily and cheaply obtainable, I was game to try.  


SUMMER - roots are firmly put down and opportunities arise.  This is when I learned that you can use your creative talents to make some money.  I took classes in calligraphy and stained glass and began to sell some of my designs to friends and family.  I also joined with some other crafty friends to expand our market.  We started doing "craft shows" and flea markets selling our handcrafts and crocheted items and managed to make a bit of a profit. I wish I had had a blog back then to document the crafts of the time.  Funny how I see some of these things becoming popular again on Pinterest boards and in blogs.  


FALL - Middle-age.  Still expanding my love of learning new crafts, I tried basketweaving, took decorative painting classes, and started dabbling in papercrafts.  I found another friend to partner up with and we sold our handcrafted and handpainted Christmas and decorative items at craft shows and consignment sales.  But as the family grew up, crafting slowed down, yet I never stopped.  The kids grew up and I found a new love - rubber stamping and whatever papercraft I could get my hands on. I was lucky enough to be able to create my son and daughter-in-law's wedding invitations and all my cards (Christmas, birthday, thank you, sympathy, shower, baby, etc.) are handmade.  I started carrying my camera with me wherever we went and about 6 years ago decided to start blogging and sharing my crafts and photos.  Blogging also helps me document what I'm doing or what I've done. And what a resource the internet has become.   Not only can you get ideas for new and exciting projects, you can also take courses and participate in swaps and exchanges with friends from all over the world.


WINTER - This is the stage I'm entering now (and I hope it turns out to be a long winter), but I'm not slowing down creatively.  I'm still learning new things.  A couple of years ago I took a class in Zentangles and have been greatly enjoying the relaxing and meditative state that it puts me in.  I've recently tried a few art challenges getting back to my "roots" in drawing and painting, collaging and experimenting with all kinds of art supplies.  This is in addition to my addiction to rubber stamps and pretty paper and the things that I can do with all that.  My goal is to do something creative each day, no matter how small to keep my creative juices flowing and as a therapy of sorts, to keep me centered and counteract the craziness and hectic pace of my workday in the school office.  


I like to post several times a week and one of those posts is usually a Christmas card for the Jingle Belle challenges because I've found that by doing a card a week for 11 months greatly cuts down on the holiday crunch.  

The cards that went along with my "story" were created with a new Stampin Up stamp set called Sheltering Tree.


I will be giving away this set of cards on February 15 and all you have to do is leave a comment with a way for me to contact you to be eligible.  I'll print out the comments and have HWNSNBP (He Whose Name Shall Not Be Published aka my husband) cut them up and randomly pick a winner.


So I hope you enjoyed my little story and that maybe you'll come back now and then to see what I'm up to or check out some of my older posts and see what I've done!  

Thanks Vicki, for hostessing this blogging get together! 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

When Life Gives You Lemons....Make it a Happy Thing

There's something about the smell of lemons! That clean and refreshing citrus zing.  Sweet Melissa and Lemon Thyme are two of my favorite herbs with that wonderful lemony scent.   And I love to roast my chicken with sliced lemon and Rosemary under the skin and usually toss some halved lemons in the cavity also.   Yikes, I'm making myself hungry.  

Well, I had to have this new SU set A Happy Thing that contains this lovely lemon image (there's a bird in the set too which makes it an even more alluring purchase).   I paired the lemon up with some new Painted Blooms dsp (also SU), the new Spring Flowers embossing folder, and some sweet Crushed Curry polyester ribbon.  


I colored the image with my Blendabilities and added some Crystal Effects to give it sheen.


And then I did another card another way.  


I take my tea in the morning and evening with lemon and to make sure that I have enough on hand, HWNSNBP will pick up a whole bag of them at Costco.  

What I'll usually do with the whole bag is wash them, dry them, and then, using my kitchen planer, I'll zest them all.  I keep the zest in a container in the refrigerator and have lately been adding it to my tiny crockpot that I have simmering with some spices and orange slices to naturally scent the kitchen.


Then I use this juicer that I got many moons ago when I was a teenager believe it or not.  It was a promotion in a woman's magazine at that time and came with a citrus peeler and a mini grater that I think I also still have.  All of them yellow of course.  I think I had to send in a dollar for it.  I'm dating myself, but does anyone remember also being able to collect Oneida spoons for 25 cents with a coupon from a ladies magazine in the late 60's early 70's?  I remember picking the pattern and then taping a quarter to an index card and sending it in.  That was a real "Happy Thing" to receive in the mail.  This is why I have a bunch of single different-patterned spoons in the drawer.  But I digress........I juice all the lemons and put the juice in.........


a dedicated "lemon" cube tray.  Once they're frozen, I put them in a zip lock bag in the freezer and I can pop one out for my tea or to use in a recipe when needed.  Each cube is about the juice of 1/2 a lemon.  (You don't want to do this if you have a paper cut or any kind of cut on your hands!!!)


There's nothing like fresh lemon, but frozen lemon is pretty good too!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Sharing Their Creativity - Christmas 2014

I thought before I store these away that I should share them.  I love receiving handmade cards and this year I got a couple of pretty special ones.

The first one is from my Jingle Belles friend Lauren who I am determined to meet face-to-face this year as she only lives a few miles from me.  I think she's picked up on my love of birds and I am just head-over-heels for that ribbon and pin.  Yes, it is actually a pin and isn't it just perfectly placed? Notice that fine line of glitter around the bird motif also.  This girl knows how to rock all those layers too!  Thank you Lauren.

 

This next card is from my blogging friend Sabrina who lives in Ireland. There is so much texture and technique in this gorgeous scenic card.  Sabrina is no doubt the fearless Queen of Techniques. She is always trying something new and doesn't give up if things don't exactly come out the prescribed way. I am always breathless when I open an envelope containing a card from her for I know I will be gazing upon something quite stunning.  Thank you Sabrina.


And thank you also for this cool easel drawer card (and what was inside!).  How cool!  It's like a little treasure chest specially made for me.  Love it!


And coming in from New Zealand (where it's summer right now) is this lovely creation from Sunshine.  How beautifully delicate is that border and the colors so soft.  Sunshine did not do Christmas cards because she hasn't been feeling well, but I sure do love her "after Christmas card".  I hope you're feeling much better Sunshine!


I am so blessed to have made friends from all over via this blog that are so sharing of their time and talents.  Looking forward to another good year of keeping in touch!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Table 7 Meatloaf Cook-off and One More Jingle Belle Card

Let me quickly tell about this card and then I'll get to the Meatloaf.  

I'm (we're) still putting Christmas away and finding things stashed in some pretty strange places. I came across this beautiful green and white tissue paper that my friend Sabrina had used and the silver and green cardboard pieces were from boxes that held gifts. Actually, I think the green came from a box of candy or crackers or something like that.  And the green bow came from the package of Butterscotch Caramels I mentioned in my previous post.  


All that lovely green somehow came together in a pile of paper and ribbons that I was sorting through and I knew they had to be made into a card.  I used some snowflake dies to cut out the silver and green cardboard and wound up having to add some Crystal Effects and glitter over the center of the green one because the layered cardboard wasn't really meant for such a delicate cut out (lesson learned), but the cracks are camouflaged well.  The card backing (watercolor paper) is a little warped from gluing the tissue paper onto it, but I can play with that a little and get it straighter I'm sure.  I'm glad I saved all these cast-offs.  I've got about a bazillion other things saved and maybe someday they'll be like the toys on the Island of Misfit Toys and get used too.


So now, about the Meatloaf Cook-Off.

If you've been here before you may remember me referring to our group of friends we call Table 7. We have been friends forever.  Some of us since before high school.  To still be close with a group of friends from that part of your life I'm told is a little out of the ordinary.  There are 9 of us and the name Table 7 came from where we were assigned to sit at the first wedding of the oldest child from the group.  Subsequently, at each wedding from there on, we asked to be placed at Table 7, no matter where in the room they wanted to stick us.  

There are several annual events where we get together and this one had it's inception when we were together on Memorial Day weekend.  Someone had a hankering for meatloaf and was perseverating over it and the conversation turned into who made the best meatloaf.  There were two individuals who wanted to prove their recipe was the best and so the date for the cook-off was set for New Year's Eve at another of our annual gatherings.  It would be Team Linda vs. Team Bill.  

We had all that time in between Memorial Day and New Year's to come up with rules and things but it came down to the week between Christmas and New Year's when things came together.  One person suggested that there should be an award and so HWNSNBP and I set out to fulfill that request. I quickly drew up a sketch using mostly materials I thought we might have on hand.


There are some notes on that card now about the finished product.  But most of it we did have on hand.  I had just purchased some wooden ice cream spoons from an on-line source and I painted them metallic silver.  HWNSNBP cut the wooden pieces - oh, we did make a trip to HD for the piece of wood on the top, an oval cut in half, and the screws and nuts.  He glued all the body pieces together and gave it 2 coats of white paint.  I printed up the lettering on white cardstock and backed that with black cardstock and then glued it on.  

I printed up a flyer the night before the event with the chef's pictures on it and some rules outlining the procedure for the cook-off and mailed it to the group.  It was officially unofficial and a little tongue-in-cheek.

Anyone besides the spouses of the chefs was a judge and we learned last minute that we would have 2 additional judges so I quickly made some adjustments before we left that morning.  (We were meeting at our friend's house on Long Beach Island for the party, near our condo in Barnegat.)


Each chef got to choose an envelope that contained 7 toothpicks with either pink or green flags on them.  The judges did not know who got which color.

Each judge received an envelope with a score sheet (which we wound up not using) and 2 silver spoons with pink and green flags on them.

Once they were finished cooking, the chefs cut 7 bite-sized pieces of their meatloaf and added their flags and then they put them together on one tray and brought them to the judges.  

The judges tasted each (encouraged to cleanse their palates with something non-alcoholic in between bites - it was New Year's Eve after all!) and then they were to put the spoon with the colored flag that matched their choice into a bag.  


Then HWNSNBP and I took the bag into the next room, counted the spoons by color and attached them with the screw and nut to the top of the trophies (we put the washi tape flags on the back of each trophy so their wouldn't be any question about our counting).



As you can see, it was a close contest but Team Linda came out on top with 4 spoons.

Here is a picture of the chef's and their spouses.


And then we had a ton of meatloaf to enjoy for dinner!

This was a lot of fun.   What will Table 7 come up with next?

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Jingle Belles Wrap it Up and the Candy in the Wrapper

One more card for this lovely Jingle Belles challenge to use discarded wrappings from the holidays.


The holly, snowflake, and bird motifs actually came from the sample scraps of wrapping paper that are in the fund-raising booklets from the school I work in.  These are from this year's book (I have other's somewhere) and I hope that this doesn't disqualify me from this challenge.  Oh, but wait, the ribbon in the lower left-hand corner did actually come on a gift so, phew....... I guess I'm safe.


I layered River Rock and Whisper White cs for the sentiment.  The base is Cherry Cobbler with a panel of River Rock and some SU dsp in cherry cobbler also.  I just fell in love with these colors and I'm kind of sorry that I wasn't there when the fund-raiser was active or I might just have had to order some of this delicious paper.

Speaking of delicious..........the one thing that I asked HWNSNBP to get for me for Christmas is pictured below.


There's a little chocolate shop near the outdoor mall in Cape May, and every time we go there I like to stop in there to try something new.  Last year I found these wonderful American made caramels that they happened to sell individually - 

Béquet® Gourmet Caramels

I usually treat myself to a few different flavors but the butterscotch and the Celtic sea salt are my favorites.  When we were in Cape May for our anniversary in September I bought about a dozen of them and treated myself to one every now and then, but by Christmas my stash was pretty near gone. So I saved a wrapper and told HWNSNBP that if he could find them closer, that's what I wanted.   (And I even hinted that he could probably order them on line also.)  Well, lo and behold, I was pleasantly surprised on Christmas morning when I unwrapped not one, but two bags of each flavor. Yum! 

Then he told me that he found a store that sells them only 5 mins. from where he works.  Problem was, they didn't have the butterscotch.    But..........they were willing to order them although they couldn't guarantee to have them by Christmas.  So he went ahead and ordered them and surprisingly they called him the Friday before Christmas to say that they were in.  So in between his errands on that Saturday morning, he took at drive up there to get them.  He said the lady in the store was a little excited and said to him "Are you the gentleman that ordered the butterscotch caramels?"  He replied "Yes".  And then she went on to tell him that she just had to try them and she wanted him to know that they were the best caramels that she had ever tasted.  And he told her "I know. My wife has good taste!".

Yep, he's a keeper!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

It's So Cold........What's Blooming?

Today's high temperature was 22º.  The wind chill brought that down, down, down.  So I thought it might be a good time to document what I had blooming inside.

This orchid has been blooming since last February.  I guess it's very happy where it is.


This orchid opened up a couple of days before Christmas.  Several of my other orchids are in various stages of setting blooms too.


The white Oxalis has multiple blooms right now.


While the purple one is down to it's last bloom.


My pink Christmas Cactus has blooms and buds.  I see another bud on the yellow one and look forward to that blooming.


This African Violet is on it's last bloom for now but there are some buds at the base.


We have two Amaryllis' in bloom (the other one not pictured is on it's last bloom).  And there's a third almost ready to pop.  Of course, we still didn't get the timing right for these as they opened after Christmas yet again.


This pixie Spotted African Violet next to the kitchen sink makes me smile every time it blooms.  I just love the speckles.


My Godmother brought me this beautiful pink Primrose which we'll add to the outside garden once the ground defrosts.


This little pink Kalanchoe came from either Trader Joe's or Ikea (it's been here about a month and I haven't gone to many places since I've been home, but neither of us can remember where we got it).


And I do have some very fragrant paperwhites still blooming on the kitchen counter in a bowl of marbles.


You can see that we have a light covering of snow outside which they say will be around for a few weeks because this cold snap is going to be more than a snap.  


I wanted to revel in the beauty of the flowers today, and the silence of my home as I reflected on how lucky I am to be here to be able to.  Today is my Hysterversary.  I've been cancer-free for 6 years now, and although this last year was difficult health-wise, I feel good about the direction I'm going in.  Getting stronger every day and pain free.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Smash, Crash, Boom......... Happy New Year

Well, that was a little over dramatic but as I was trying to get myself in order today, gathering the holiday remnants to stack on the dining room table to be put away for another year, there was a loud thump at the sliding door in the back.  Kirby was a little distressed over it himself and started pacing frantically in his cage though the door had been open for him since I came downstairs this morning. (He is allowed to come out of his cage and sit on top when we're home, and now, since I am allowed to bend down, it is okay when I am home alone in case he takes one of his "There's something scary out there and I'm outta here" nosedives to the floor.)

There, in the light dusting of snow that we're getting right now, was a male downy woodpecker laying on the stoop in a stupor (sorry, couldn't resist).


My heart sunk as I tried to discern whether or not he was still alive.  His beak moved a little and I could see him trying to lift his head but I wondered if he would recover or if the cold temp (20º) and his state of shock would get the better of him.  Earlier I had been watching the birds at the feeder and had the camera nearby so I snapped some photos and whilst doing so, he picked up his head.  (He probably saw me moving around inside.)   I thought about going out and picking him up but then what would I do with him?  I couldn't put a wild bird in the Kirby's cage with him and the last time I tried to rescue a bird it got loose in the bathroom and when I caught it, bit me in the neck.  So I just decided to just keep an eye on it from inside.


I snuck around to the front of him and in these next two pictures, if you pay attention to the eye you will notice that on the second one he is using his third eyelid, or nictitating membrane which clears the lens in a horizontal movement and keeps it lubricated.  (I really didn't know all that off the top of my head.  I had to look it up. But now we'll all be ready for that question when it comes up on Jeopardy!)  



I wondered how long he would sit there collecting himself or if a hawk might spot him and snatch him up for lunch.  


As I sat at the table, catching up on some blogs, I was relishing the fact that it was so peaceful with the snow falling outside and the only sound was the frantic tapping of the solar snowman's arms like his heartbeat from an exerting workout or the ticking of a loud clock.  Then there was a little bit of chirping outside so I stood up to check it out.  It was a titmouse in the leaves behind a planter on the opposite end of the stoop, but it must have sparked some fear in the woodpecker (or maybe it was my shadow in the window) because he up and flew away.  Thank goodness!

I was going to include the story of our New Year's Eve Meatloaf Cookoff but this is already too long so I'll save that for another day.