Thursday, August 16, 2018

A Colorless Card and Adjunct Explanation

First up, since this is a stamping blog, is a card I forgot to share last week in all the press of visiting family and meetings at the college. It's one of those that I love with my whole heart, but it's colorless...and often those don't play well on the blog. Color sells, after all. Maybe I should put a red nose on the deer. Or not.

This card plays on the white-on-white trend with accents of silver ink (Delicata) for subtle shimmer. The deer and peace die cuts (both Papertrey) are stacked in two layers for more definition. The swish keeps the deer from floating in space, and the star (which should float in space) adds a third element to the card that moves the eye around better. Small star, weightier deer, and even weightier sentiment (underlined for grounding) settles the eye like a snowflake dropping into a drift. I like that peaceful simile!

Next, let me tell you that planning my syllabus has been PURE JOY! I'm completely geeking out here. The biggest challenge is figuring out how to build the website for the class, but tomorrow I'll get mentoring on that. Everyone in the English Department at Sinclair Community College has been enormously helpful and kind.

Reader Marilyn asked for an explanation of adjunct instructor. Adjuncts are part-time instructors at colleges and universities. They receive no benefits, are paid poorly by the credit hour, rarely have offices or parking spots (I have neither at Sinclair), and have no job security as they are hired under contract on an as-needed basis. From one semester to the next, an adjunct has no idea how many (if any) or what courses might be available for them to teach.

Most academic departments require adjuncts to have at least a masters degree in their field, while professors almost always have doctorate degrees. Adjuncts often teach the bulk of introductory courses (the dreaded freshman composition classes in English, for instance) which full professors often find tedious or uninteresting as they pursue loftier intellectual interests. Professors often have additional duties to the college or university (committee work, publishing, grant-grubbing), while adjuncts generally just teach.

Basically, adjuncts are the lowest-ranking faculty at any college. As I hold a masters degree, the highest I could hope to go in the college-teaching hierarchy is full-time lecturer or instructor. For now, I am VERY content with adjunct status.

Adjuncts provide essential cost savings to schools. At places like Sinclair--a very large community college with LOTS of introductory classes and a commitment to affordable education--adjuncts are numerous, and good systems of support are in place for them. Even though I don't have an office, I have use of the Adjunct Faculty Support Office, which has mailboxes, copying services, cubicles for meetings, a kitchen with coffee pots, and message services. I've been very impressed by the training and inclusive meetings, continuing education, and support Sinclair provides for us part-timers.

So there you have it. I'm the lowest of the low, and happy as a bird with a French fry about it!

I predict by the end of next week, I will be back to stamping again. I miss it so much! But for now, all my creativity is being poured into lesson plans and assignment schedules and letting my elder son go off to college (which is both gloriously joyful and bittersweet). It's all good...just not enough hours in the day!

Thanks again for all your wonderful comments, emails, and encouragement. Y'all are the BEST!!!

Mercy, grace, peace, and love,

stamps: Papertrey (Silent Night, In the Meadow, Holiday Wet Paint, Faux Ribbon) and Hero Arts (discontinued swish)
ink: Delicata silver
paper: Papertrey white
accessories: coordinating Papertrey dies, glue, rhinestone

Monday, August 13, 2018

My New Obsession

No stamping today, but here's a little glimpse of what's been keeping me from my craft desk.

Today was college-prep intensive, with a new adjunct orientation (including an active shooter video from campus police); getting a faculty ID card, mailbox, and locker (since adjuncts don't get offices); and a visit to human resources. Oh, and a stop at Starbucks. Which is in the library.

Isn't that heavenly?

I also got the key to my classroom on the main campus.

This level of technology in the classroom is completely new for me. I do NOT like how the monitors divide up the class. As a vertically-challenged individual, I worry that students won't even be able to see me or hear me. Oh, well. We will make it work. Somehow. Maybe I can ask George to make a box for me to stand on.

Would the symbolism of getting my getting up on a soapbox be counter-productive?

One thing gave me confidence, however. I turned on the computer and projector, logged into my account, and synced the monitor and projector properly on the first try. Like. A. Boss.

Now, if only it works so well on the first day of class....

With classes starting next Monday, my next task is developing the syllabus for the two classes, which I can finally begin because my computer account is fully up-to-date.

Oh how joyous it is to plan a semester again!

Thanks for your understanding in this time of transition.

Mercy, grace, peace, and love,

Sunday, August 12, 2018

An Unexpectedly Long Break

Well, that was an unexpectedly long break from blogging. I missed y'all so much! Lots of good stuff going on in life to keep me from stamping and blogging about it, though. Not enough hours in the day to get all the good stuff done. What a blessing!

So finally, here's the last of my poinsettia die cards.

My favorite aspect of this card is the bling. Those pale yellow rhinestones brighten the red and provide a lovely contrast.

I also love how the curvy label with two points and the pointy poinsettias with curvy petals work together. It's a simple card, but there's lots going on.

And now I have something for you to think about.

Some people have already started complaining about a rumor that Starbucks is going to sell pumpkin spice lattes early this year. Other people don't like seeing Christmas cards in August. I don't like seeing Christmas decorations up before Thanksgiving. We all have peeves regarding timing of things, don't we?

Social media can be a horrible place. Don't let anyone harsh on your joy! It's fine to express our peeves, but how we do so matters. Making jokes...great! Acting like other people ought to bow to our peeves or using harsh invective...that's another matter.

I'm going to get a pumpkin spice latte on the first day Starbucks sells them, no matter how hot it is outside. Nobody's going to harsh on that joy.

Don't let anyone harsh on your joy either.

Mercy, grace, peace, and latte love,

stamps: Papertrey Ways to Say Merry Christmas
ink: StampinUp real red, cherry cobbler
paper: Papertrey white; StampinUp real red and cherry cobbler
accessories: EK success label punch, Poppy Stamps poinsettia die, dimensional tape, glue, rhinestones, Copic marker to color the rhinestones

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Poinsettia Die, Part 2 of the Play

Playing is a great way to explore a new purchase, and playing with this poinsettia die from Poppy Stamps makes me very happy.

After using traditional red for the first card I shared using it, I decided to explore a non-traditional option.

Pure white and periwinkle.

If the white space of the first card freaked you out, this version should be more to your taste. The card is smaller (3.25" x 6.5") and utilizes a huge sentiment from Winnie & Walter's The Big, The Bold, The Merry.

In the red version, the poinsettia die took center stage, but here it's definitely supporting cast. That bold merry, with its pretty loops and swishes gets the focus. I adore this card, and not just because periwinkle is one of my favorite colors.

The hint of black in the word Christmas anchors the whole light and pretty design. 

I also pulled out pigment inks for this one. They give a little more weight and opacity to the stamped images, which is important, I think, in such a light design.

Keep in mind the rules of play...have fun and don't worry if you make pretty trash! Sometimes, play works out, and sometimes it doesn't. But if you turn off your inner censor/critic and let creativity happen, you just never know what will happen!

The crazy is ramping up at my house as we get ready to send our elder son to his first year in university, our younger son to tenth grade, and me to work. My time to stamp is predictably limited right now. Once the boys are settled, I will have more time (despite the work) to stamp and will get back to regular posting.

Until then, I will post when I can. Thanks for your patience!

Mercy, grace, peace, and love,

stamps: Winnie & Walter The Big, The Bold, The Merry, Hero Arts Holiday Sentiments (poinsettia on envelope), Simon Says Envelope Sentiments
ink: Impress Fresh Ink freesia, Memento Luxe black
paper: Papertrey white
accessories: rhinestones, Copic to color them, poinsettia die (Poppy Stamps)

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Poinsettia Die, Part 1 of the Play

I picked up a Poppy Stamps layered poinsettia die at Marco's Paper a while back, and decided to play around with it, seeing as I'm not terribly experienced with dies and this is a particularly pretty one.

Here's Part 1 of the Play:

Card Size 3.5" x 7.25"

The poinsettia comes with three layers, but that seemed too much for my CAS-lovin' self, so I used in cherry cobbler and one in real red (both colors by StampinUp). For those of you who like more layers, adding the third smallest layer in the cherry cobbler would be lovely!

The sentiment (Papertrey's Side-by-Side Sentiments) was stamped in Brilliance pearlescent ivy, which is a nice, dark green.

As you can see in the close-up, the dies deboss veins into the leaves. There's also a leaf to go with the poinsettia, but I usually don't like having red and green touching, so I skipped the leaf here. But side by side, red poinsettia and green sentiment, they look festive!

I like to decorate my Christmas card envelopes, so this one is stamped with a Hero Arts poinsettia from Holiday Sentiments. The center of the stamped poinsettia has gold gel pen as an accent since bling on an envelope is impractical. Also, the lines are from Simon Says Stamp's Envelope Sentiments.

There's a LOT of white space on this card, perhaps more than most of you would be comfortable using. That's okay. You could adapt this concept to a much smaller card or even on a gift tag. Simple sentiment, one poinsettia, one bling. Rearrange as needed to please the eye. Easy to mass produce. Striking and pretty!

Everyone wins.

Mercy, grace, peace, and love,

stamps: Hero Arts Holiday Sentiments, Papertrey Side-by-Side Sentiments, SSS Envelope Sentiments
ink: Hero Arts red royal, Brilliance ivy
paper: Papertrey white
accessories: standard envelope (Marco's Paper), gold gel pen, rhinestone, Copic for coloring rhinestone

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Yay, Me!

My interview went beautifully, and I am now an adjunct instructor at our area's largest community college. I will be teaching two sections of English Composition 1. 

I. Cannot. Wait.

Many, many thanks to all who have sent good wishes and encouragement in this, and for all who have prayed. I've felt it all and am beyond grateful.

Today's card has a bibliophile theme and takes me outside my comfort zone with a colored card base. No matter how hard I tried, the raised panel just wouldn't look good on a cream base. Nuh-uh. Not at all. 

After I'd edited the photo, it occurred to me that the banner with pointy ends really doesn't go very well with the soft deckle of the watercolor paper and the soft edges of the inked background. Wish now I'd used a deckle on one side of the banner. 

Oh, well, this is why we keep stamping. Always striving to improve and "get it right." If we ever do attain perfection, what's the point of going on?

Well, perhaps that's too strong. Yesterday's card was pretty perfect to my eye, LOL!

Anyway, I made the background using an old Hero Arts shadow stamp inked up with peeled paint and faded jeans, spritzed with lots of water, and stamped on watercolor paper. The edges are particularly uneven because I spritzed too much water, but I like the results. The color is nicely intense anyway. 

Books do make me happy. If you like reading novels, may I recommend Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman? It's the best novel I've read in months. 

And I read a lot. 

Mercy, grace, peace, and love,

stamps: Tim Holtz, Clearly Besotted, Hero Arts
ink: Distress faded jeans, peeled paint; Archival potting soil
paper: Papertrey, watercolor paper
accessories: craft foam, rhinestones, Sharpies/Copics for coloring the rhinestones

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

First-World Problems

It's annoying when you ink up an image, stamp it, and get this.

Hero Arts dye inks tend to smooth out as they dry, but not this time. This stamp and the ink (robin's egg) are from Hero's February 2018 kit. After rubbing the stamp with an eraser, cleaning it well, and re-inking it, this happened.

Grrrr. So I decided to use an Archival ink (cornflower), which is oil based and generally provides perfect coverage, but this happened.

(Note this ink isn't as dark IRL as it looks in the photo.)

Well, isn't that special? (Reread that question in the Church Lady's voice.) I cleaned the stamp again very well, re-inked, and this happened.

Much better.

And here's the final card. (The ink color is accurate on the card but not on the above samples.)

To get a bit of height on the label, I stacked three die cuts together. That gives some lovely--and solid--dimension that won't crush in the mail.

The Hero Arts February 2018 kit is lovely, but that robin's egg ink is finicky. This has happened before. I love the color but wonder if there's something wrong with the formula. The Hero Arts raspberry jam ink looks great on the flowers with no rubbing of the stamp necessary.

Oh, well. Archival cornflower certainly works great!

Mercy, grace, peace, and love,

stamps: Hero Arts February 2018 kit, Papertrey sentiment
ink: Archival cornflower, black; Hero Arts raspberry jam
paper: Papertrey white
accessories: coordinating dies, label die (SSS), rhinestones, black sharpie

Monday, July 23, 2018

Color Layering Extra

Okay, so this card uses the same color-layering set as the past two cards, but this time, I carried color layering to an extra level. Not only are the stamps color layered, but so is the background, which was made by xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssAQZ```````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````

Well, Daisy helped me blog there. Dog chins are not literate.

Which begs the question: is my chin literate? Things to ponder.

Or not.

Yes, I petted her. She has me well trained.

Anyway, I made the background by lightly inking a scrap with tumbled glass Distress Ink and an inking tool. Then, I placed a stencil over the scrap and added more of the same ink to create the graduated dots.

Subtle and fun layering!

Let me also point out, just for the record, that today's seahorse uses three shades of orange, yesterday's used three shades of aqua, and the first card used three shades of purple. That's nine shades of dye ink...not counting the inks on the shells. If I didn't have so VERY MANY ink pads, using color-layering stamps would be so much harder.

Just sayin'. If you need a reason to buy more ink pads.

I'm helpful that way.

Mercy, grace, peace, and love,

stamps: Hero Arts Color Layering Seahorse, Clearly Besotted Tiny Type
paper: Papertrey white
ink: Hero Arts soft vanilla, soft wheat, soft brown; Memento canteloup; Archival tiger lily, potting soil; Distress tumbled glass
accessories: coordinating dies, banner die, dimensionals, stencil, rhinestones

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Color Layering, Part 3

It's no secret that I'm a fan of white space and don't care too much if my focal point floats around in that white space. I'm a amateur, not a professional designer, and violating those rules about grounding doesn't keep me up at night.

But when I saw the top left card on this pin, I wanted to experiment with speckles as a way of grounding my fabulous aqua seahorse. Isn't he just darling?

The inspiration card uses more than just speckles, of course, to ground its seahorse-y scene, but I rather like how the speckles look all by themselves. My use of three elements, with the shell and starfish set slightly apart from the seahorse, creates a visual triangle (emphasized by the rhinestones) which allows the small sentiment to stand out a bit more.

The speckles were made using StampinUp's old, old, old Itty Bitty Backgrounds. To get the distribution right, I stamped a few, laid the elements down to see how it looked, picked them back up, stamped some more...and repeated until it looked good.

And there you have it. Another three-step color-layered image that makes me happy. One more seahorse card is coming your way, and then we shall move on to other stuff. Thanks for listening to my struggles with multi-step stamping. It seems that Hero Arts is scaling back on the number of layers in its newer releases, which makes me happy. My limit for future purchases is definitely three layers, with two preferred.

Let's keep things relatively simple, shall we?

As for the job search, Dr. Nancy West, one of my graduate school professors, graciously talked with me today, offering up encouragement and some wonderful advice for Wednesday's interview and for my return to teaching. She definitely made me feel more confident and more centered. I'll keep you posted!

Mercy, grace, peace, and love,

stamps: Hero Arts Color Layering Seahorse, sentiment; StampinUp Itty Bitty Backgrounds
ink: Hero Arts soft pool, soft vanilla; Archival black, aquamarine, paradise teal, saffron
paper: Papertrey white
accessories: coordinating dies, rhinestones, dimensionals

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Color Layering, Part 2

Before we get to today's card, I have to share the good news! This afternoon, right after I bought "professional" (read "uncomfortable") shoes to wear with an interview outfit, I received an email asking me to come into a college next week to discuss my availability for this upcoming semester! Woohoooooo!

Thanks to all who have prayed or sent good wishes my way on this. Let's hope it all works out. I am so very, very ready to return to teaching composition and literature!

And now to a color-layered image that has THREE stamps to it, which is my upper limit on color layering. Not sure why this Hero Arts seahorse makes me so happy, but it does. Before my MISTI, I struggled with lining up the third layer, but with my MISTI, it's relatively easy to line up.

Inspiration Source

As you may know, I almost never Copy-And-Steal-Everything (CASE) from a source of inspiration, but this card is VERY close to the original, especially in the placement of all the elements, mainly because the original is such a perfectly executed design using the exact same Hero Arts set. My colors are different (though still pastels), and my sentiment is on the card base rather than on a strip over the background paper, but otherwise, it's pretty much the same as Mariana Grigsby's original card.

She used designer paper for her background, but I stamped the wavy lines from Papertrey's Ombre Builders set, which always make me think of water.

Many, many thanks to Mariane for the AWESOME inspiration!

Mercy, grace, peace, and love,

stamps: Hero Arts Color Layering Seahorse, Papertrey Ombre Builders
ink: Memento angel pink, Lulu lavender; Ancient Page amethyst; Archival black
paper: Papertrey white
accessories: rhinestones, Sharpies to color them, dimensionals

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Color Layering, Part 1

Many stamp companies are coming out with color-layering stamps...images with two, three, four, or 14 separate stamps to give a life-like and vastly more interesting look to flowers, animals, scenery, and such.

These used to be called (by StampinUp, at least) two-step stamps, back in the day when all good-quality stamps were red rubber mounted on wood. I hated two-step stamps. Even when I used a good stamp positioner, the images NEVER turned out right. Two-step rubber stamps were (for me) an exercise in frustration and wasted paper.

Then photopolymer stamps became all the rage, the idea being that they would be EASY to line up for multi-step stamping because you could see right through them, and golly gee, isn't this amazing?

Except they weren't. Well, they were better than red rubber but not good enough. My hands are pretty steady but not steady enough to line up many two-step stamps perfectly enough to satisfy my perfectionist eye. More frustration. More wasted paper.

Until brilliant stamping gurus invented the MISTI. NOW it's supposed to be easy to do multi-step stamping.

Well, sort of. Again, it's an improvement, but it's still not perfect. Either I'm loosening up in my old age, letting go of my insidious perfectionism, or I've just stopped caring so much.

Lately, however, with Altenew's amazing floral layered stamps and Hero Arts' layered animals, this whole concept of color layering is reaching new levels of complexity and crazy.

So I thought I'd weigh in on the subject as I'm certain there are other stampers out there whose experience parallels mine...and they will feel vindicated and comforted by my bumbling mistakes on this front in my war to be creative.

Because it's war, folks. War between my Wish List and my Checking Account. Two sides in horrible, horrible conflict that leaves me bloody and bruised and wondering where everything went terribly wrong in my life.

I knew things were nuts when I ordered the Color Layering Sea Turtle from Hero Arts. We'd been to Hawaii and snorkeled with a sea turtle, so the set called to me.

Until I realized that the thing had not two, not three, not five, but THIRTEEN individual stamps to line up. Or, as I liked to call it after making a lot of trash, THIRTEEN OPPORTUNITIES TO FAIL.


With a MISTI, it took almost 15 minutes of futzing for me to stamp a sea turtle...and it still wasn't perfect. The color-layering peacock isn't much better at seven stamps, and the rooster has eight stamps. The sea horse, however, only has three, and the octopus a delightfully simple two.

Guess which sets I have kept.

Oh, yeah.

This octopus makes me so very happy, especially stamped in Hero Arts dark quartz and Papertrey's terra cotta. He's waving that tentacle to say hello, and darn it, he makes me smile. TWO STAMPS, people. And with a MISTI, he's incredibly easy to line up almost every single time.

Also, the branching coral in the set is one of my favorite stamps ever. Not sure why, but it is so very pretty and the coordinating die makes it incredibly versatile, too. It looks great with the Hero Arts ombre inks, too.

To make the water background, I rubbed an acrylic block with Tim Holtz distress inks (tumbled glass and mermaid lagoon), spritzed it with water, and stamped it onto Hero Arts handmade watercolor paper. The top panel uses a die (unknown) to create the window and is popped up using craft foam. The octopus is glued to the top panel and has dimensionals under him as well. The coral is popped using very thin dimensionals.

So my first piece of advice as you consider purchasing color-layered images for stamping is this: don't buy sets that have tons of layers to create an image unless you have a high tolerance for imperfection and/or a lot of time and huge paper stash for making mistakes and starting over again.

Just sayin'.

stamps: Hero Arts Color Layering Octopus
ink: Hero Arts dark quartz; Papertrey terra cotta; Archival black; distress tumbled glass, mermaid lagoon
paper: Hero Arts handmade watercolor paper, Papertrey white
accessories: frame die (Simon Says Stamp, I think but am not sure), craft foam, glue, coordinating dies, dimensionals

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Text Style Strikes Again

I woke up at 5:10 this morning in a panic over the job situation. Perhaps you know how it goes...your brain boards the Negative Train and, dang, that little engine can ruin sleep better than caffeine and police helicopters!

So I got out of bed, made coffee, and read a book in an attempt to derail that sucker. Feeling slightly better (because coffee and books make everything better), I checked my email and received a lovely, positive, affirming prayer from reader Patti M., who recently donated a bunch of beautiful cards to Karen's Card Shop.

With spring in my step and hope in my heart, I set about my day, which just ended with a doe and very tiny fawn cavorting across my back yard.

Take that, Negative Train!

So today's card is my version of a warm fuzzy shabby chic...without the warm or the fuzzy or the shabby or the chic. Okay, so I used Text Style askew. That counts, right?

Gray and grape are such a lovely color combination.

And now I'm off to the Land of Nod with a firm faith that whatever happens will be good, and I thank Patti for her confidence in God's plan and reminding me to rest in hope.

Mercy, grace, peace, love, and hope,

stamps: Papertrey Life, Text Style; Clearly Besotted sentiment
ink: Hero Arts grape soda, soft granite
paper: Papertrey white
accessories: Martha Stewart butterfly punches, rhinestones, Sharpie to color the rhinestones, craft foam, and love

Monday, July 16, 2018

Post Vacation Prayers

Wow. Why do I always forget how much there is to do when we come back from vacation?

We had so much fun kayaking, watching bald eagles and muskrats and loons, reading, swimming, eating walleye, and generally relaxing. Of course, no Raihala family vacation at Lake Vermilion is complete until someone's gone to the Cook emergency room (George this time...ear infection), but otherwise, it was great fun.

He's doing better, now. I, however, feel run ragged. And it's only Monday. Tomorrow afternoon, I'll have a little time to breathe and meditate and slow down before hitting the job hunt again. Next resume will be tailored for freelance/contract writing and editing jobs.

I really, really hope a teaching job comes through, though. If you're the praying kind, please say a little prayer for that.

Anyway, here's another card using Wildflower Garden from Altenew. Such a wonderfully versatile set.

The colors are Hero Arts robin's egg and bird nest, both from the February kit. I put some pearls on there to add some dimension and shine...but not too much shine.

Mercy, grace, peace, and love,

stamps: Altenew Wildflower Garden
ink: Hero Arts robin's egg, bird nest
paper: Papertrey white
accessories: pearls

Thursday, July 12, 2018

With Deepest Sympathy

Sympathy cards are always hard to make when you need them. I needed this one. Altenew's Wildflower Garden made making this card easier.

Can you tell I love this set?

The colors are soft and serene, but the movement of the stems adds interest and a bit of wildness to the design.

Our time at Lake Vermilion is winding down. Friday will be our last full day, with an early departure on Saturday. We've had a lovely week, and as always, I'm sad to be leaving and happy at the thought of getting home.

Here's last night's sunset from our cabin's deck, looking across the bay.

Mercy, grace, peace, and love,

stamps: Altenew Wildflower Garden
ink: Hero Arts soft granite; Archival sky blue, black
paper: Papertrey white
accessories: none

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Wildflower Garden Again

The next few posts will return us to Altenew's Wildlife Garden, which is a lovely and versatile set. Today's card shows how you can achieve a lovely watercolor effect with these stamps.

These stamps were inked with Memento inks and markers (StampinUp and Memento), spritzed with water, and stamped. I've found that, at least for me, Hero Arts and Archival inks don't respond as well to this technique. The stamped panel wasn't proportional to the card size, so I put the sentiment below the stamped panel. That placement also allows the plant to grow up out of the bottom of the panel rather than be floating above the sentiment.

So this card provides a really good reason to have Memento inks and markers. As if we need a reason to have any supplies.


*insert eye roll here*

Mercy, grace, peace, and love,

stamps: Altenew Wildflower Garden, Papertrey sentiment
ink: Memento, Archival black
paper: Papertrey white
accessories: Memento and StampinUp markers, water spritz bottle, rhinestones

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Visual Triangles

Snowflake cards are perfect for practicing visual triangles. Today's cards do just with a portrait layout and the other with a landscape layout.

The three snowflakes on a strip of background are arranged in a visual triangle. I've noted before that the best triangles are irregular. Equilateral or isosceles triangles yield odd-looking designs. I placed the two larger snowflakes on the left and the smallest on the right; balance is maintained by the sentiment. The rhinestones reinforce the triangle.

The background "grounds" the design, but note that the two larger flakes and the sentiment go outside the lines. That keeps the design from being too boxed-in and linear. Both backgrounds were applied with mini ink applicators from Tim Holtz.

The colors were experimental. I wanted a snowflake card that wasn't blue, hence the pink. I really like it, but it doesn't say "Christmas" to me. Pink is also a high-energy color to my eye, and the sentiment calls for something more blue violet.

My preference would be to make the blue-violet version in a portrait orientation. The triangle seems too spread out on the landscape version, at least to my eye.

And that is all I have for Christmas in July, so reader Marilyn will be happy for me to abandon Christmas in July for something floral and summery tomorrow.

We continue to relax on Lake Vermilion. I actually swam in the lake...first time in four visits since 2012 for this Girl Raised in the South, where lake water tends to feel like bath water. This summer, Lake Vermilion is warmer than ever, and I didn't scream like a little girl when I dangled my toe in water that was still ice at the end of April.

Did y'all know that Dante made the lowest level of hell a frozen lake? Being raised in the South, I had always imagined hell as a hot, hot, hot. But then I lived on Lake Huron a few decades ago and learned that, indeed, Dante was right.

Mercy, grace, peace, and love,

stamps: Mama Elephant Holly's Snowflakes, Hero Arts sentiment
ink: various dye inks
paper: Papertrey white
accessories: rhinestones, Sharpies to color them

Sunday, July 8, 2018


I am currently in northern Minnesota in a cabin on Lake Vermilion.


We find peace in so many ways, sometimes stumbling on it accidentally and sometimes working hard for it in our relationships, families, communities, nations, and world. It's also wise to cultivate peace deep inside of ourselves.

Today, I went out on the lake in a kayak. Guaranteed peace. There's something about skimming gently over the water in a kayak that instantly relaxes me. Today, I had the added treat of encountering a loon with two babies. The adult loon started vocalizing that wonderful, eerie call. The trio was shortly joined by another adult, exchanging calls with the first. When the newcomer was about twenty feet from the trio, the two babies paddled like crazy toward the newcomer. The four then floated off toward the shore.

This little reunion was so sweet, so gentle, so natural, so simple. What a blessing of peace on a day that started stormy and rough.

Seek after peace and pursue it. 

Here's a third card with Holly's Snowflakes from Mama Elephant. Peace on Earth, Goodwill to All.

Mercy, grace, PEACE, and love from the lake,

stamps: Mama Elephant Holly's Snowflakes, Papertrey Signature Christmas
ink: various dye inks
paper: Papertrey white
accessories: silver PrismaColor marker, ruler, rhinestone

Friday, July 6, 2018

Donations from Marcia and Patti

Thanks so much to readers Marcia and Patti for donating their beautiful cards to Karen's Card Shop! Many of your donations are out in the shop right now.

Cards by Patti

Cards by Marcia

Karen's Card Shop has brought in over $1,500 for our church in two years and has funded Cancer--Now What? books, training materials for our Stephen Ministers, and our general fund. Thank you all who have contributed and continue to contribute. 

Patti and Marcia and all the others who help keep the card shop stocked prove that stampers are the best people in the world!

Note: If you are interested in donating, please read the page Karen's Card Shop. We can always use thank you, sympathy, get well, birthday, and religious cards in a standard A2 size. Other themes don't sell very well. Please leave the insides of cards blank. Email me if you have questions! susanraihala at roadrunner dot com.

Mercy, grace, peace, love, and gratitude,


Thursday, July 5, 2018


So Hero Arts mastered the art of updating old supplies, packaging them coolly, and getting me to buy them even though I'd sworn never to buy another sequin ever again.


At this rate, it will take three of my nine cat lives to use all these sequins. Maybe four.

What supplies do you have in such quantities that you will need multiple cat lives to use them up?

Inquiring minds, and all that.

Mercy, grace, peace, and love,

stamps: Mama Elephant Holly's Snowflakes, Papertrey Side by Side Sentiments
ink: various blue dye inks
paper: Papertrey white
accessories: sequins by Hero Arts, glue

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

A Day to Celebrate

Happy Independence Day! May your day be safe and firework-y and full of food, family, and friends!

"You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence day every July 4, not with a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism." --Erma Bombeck

Mercy, grace, peace, and love,

stamps: Hero Arts
ink: Archival red geranium and Ranger 
paper: Papertrey white
accessories: craft foam, glue

Monday, July 2, 2018

Christmas Red In July

Have you ever felt that life was getting out of your control? That you're moving from one fire to the next, pointing hoses and barely averting catastrophe before another fire pops up to distract you?

Or maybe a better metaphor would be Whack-A-Mole. Yeah. That. I'm standing here in front of a table with moles poking their annoying little heads up for me to whack, but I'm always missing.

That's my life right now.

I might be just a tad melodramatic, but, well, I am.

Anyway, with the little time I had to stamp this weekend, I made a red snowflake card.




The stamp set is Mama Elephant's Holly's Snowflakes, which is simply a delightfully designed set with snowflakes of all shapes and sizes and ever so much fun to play with.

The card started off one layer, but I stamped everything about a quarter inch too high and to the right. The finished result looked terribly off balance. Trimmed it down, centered it on a card base, and sighed happily.

Maybe I can balance my life the same way, but it's more fun to simply split infinitives and mix metaphors.

Off to whack some more moles.

Mercy, grace, peace, and love,

stamps: Mama Elephant Holly's Snowflakes, Papertrey Signature Christmas
ink: StampinUp real red
paper: Papertrey white
accessories: red rhinestones 

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Some Days Aren't Monday...But They Are Anyway

How's that for a depressing blog post title?

Today has been a deeply weird and confusing day, and I'm just going to retreat into posting a card (the only decent one produced in two hours of stamping) and then go binge-watch Friends because, you know, laughter is the best medicine for a Monday that's really Tuesday.

Green and purple are a match made in heaven, aren't they? Add some yellow, and it's a match made in nirvana, but today I could only manage two colors, so heaven it is.

I know that last paragraph was bad, but it made me chuckle, so I'm lovin' it anyway.

More than McDonald's, at least.

Oh, my. I need to stop.

Go make something with purple and green, and then make bad jokes. It'll make you happier. I promise.

Mercy, grace, peace, love, and friends,

stamps: Concord & 9th Just Because
ink: Hero Arts grape juice; Memento Lulu lavender; Archival prickly pear and black
paper: Papertrey white
accessories: craft foam, scallop scissors (to round the corners of raised sentiment), rhinestones

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Pretty Background

If you're interested in my early career as a military spouse, read past the chit chat about the card on this post. If you're not interested, just look at the pretty background on today's card.

One of the easiest things to do with ink is make a pretty background with Tim Holtz Distress Inks and inking tool. Just keep adding color until it's pretty, then cut out the prettiest part to use on a card. Layer a die cut over it, add a sentiment, and Bob's your uncle.

These dies are Tim Holtz from my Hobby Lobby spree a few weeks back. So pretty in white, don't you think?

Perhaps I need to come up with another adjective than pretty?


This card is irregularly sized because the scrap I inked was irregularly sized, and I wanted the card base to mat the scrap evenly all the way around. No worries as it fits nicely into a standard A2 envelope.

And that's all I have to say about the card.

I had an amazing weekend going back to a place I once vowed never to set foot on again: Wurtsmith Air Force Base. It was not my favorite place George was stationed in his 20 years of active duty.

That's an epic understatement.

In fact, it was my least favorite place he was ever stationed.

But the people we knew back then in that place were stellar humans who went through a lot with us (including the Persian Gulf war). I love those people, and a bunch of them gathered for a reunion this weekend, which also happened to be the 25th anniversary of the closing of Wurtsmith Air Force Base. (Another reason I thought I'd never set foot there again!)

George was an Electronic Warfare Officer on the B-52 in the 524th Bomb Squadron, and all his old crew showed up for the reunion. R-36 was the only crew, in fact, with full attendance and all accompanied by their wives. Not one of these stubborn men has gotten a divorce. It was pretty surprising given that many of our friends have gotten divorced over the years.

What are the odds that these six crew members would still be married to the wives they had 25 years ago when they were young and had more hair and fewer wrinkles?

Left to right: George (electronic warfare officer), Susan,
Jane, Dave (aircraft commander), Stacy, Brian (radar navigator),
Shane (copilot), Trish, Joe (navigator), Jodi, Beth, Rick (gunner)

The women in this picture kept each other sane through some crazy times, and I suspect it's due to their competence (and tolerance of aviator types) that kept these six marriages working. We supported each other, cared for each other, fed each other, and basically became a family as our guys flew difficult missions, sat nuclear alert, deployed, went TDY to Key West and broke their jet and spent two weeks on sailboats while we wives were shoveling two feet of lake-effect snow in Oscoda, Michigan, in January. 

I'm not bitter about that last one.

Well, maybe I am. A little.

It was long ago. A sensible person would let it go.

Perhaps I'm not a sensible as I thought I was.

Anyway, we had a BLAST this weekend catching up with these and other friends from back in the day. People were talking with their hands (if you've been around aviators, you know about this), saying things like "remember when" a lot, and laughing. We wives had a chance to thank Shane the copilot once again for saving our husbands' lives (long story).

What a treat to be with people who affected our lives so powerfully so long ago. I suspect many of you have had similar experiences at reunions of various sorts. I've never attended a high school or college reunion, but this...this was a family reunion. And it was special.

Thanks for indulging my enthusiastic nostalgia! I hope your weekend was glorious, too!

Mercy, grace, peace, love, and reunions,