Monday, December 30, 2013

Christmas Thanks

First, an announcement! The new, updated One-Layer Challenge will be posted Tuesday at midnight, to help you stamp in the New Year. You'll find a link to the new challenge right here, so check it out after the ball drops. We've made some significant changes that we hope you'll be as excited about as we are!

Now, we have a card that is very timely. After receiving gifts for Christmas, it's time to say thank you. And here's a perfect card for just that!

The pine bough is an old PSX stamp, and I chose the sentiment because it is so loose and sketchy, just like the boughs. There is a visual triangle of trios of red berries made with Stickles. Click on the picture to see it bigger if the berries aren't clear.

And finally, here's to a wonderful 2014, full of health, peace, and inky fun!

stamps: PSX (bough), Clear and Simple (sentiment)
ink: Memento
paper: Papertrey Ink
accessories: corner rounder, red Stickles

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Of Pens and Ink and Birthday Cards

I'll give you the cards first today because I have lots to blather about them that has nothing to do with stamping. You come here for the cards. The blathering is optional.

I rarely do collage-style stamping, but these two birthday cards are special. They are going to our adult nephews, whose birthdays are in the first few months of the year.

And yes, those are real, honest-to-goodness, old-fashioned pen nibs attached to the cards. The bulk doesn't matter because these cards will be mailed in boxes that include a fountain pen. And a check. Because young 20-somethings might have a bit of sentiment, but they can always use money.

Most of you know I was a writer long before I became a crafter. And from a very young age, I had a pen fetish. In college, as poor as I was, I treated myself to new pens whenever I felt blue...roller balls, felt-tips, even the cheapest ball point pens were an uplifting treat!

You can say it. "She's a geek."

Yeah, like you didn't already know that.

When my mom invited me to take a calligraphy class with her one summer during college, I jumped at the chance, and started enjoying old-fashioned dip pens in addition to the regular kind.

My fountain pen addiction began after my grandfather died. Papa wasn't a writer. He was a barnstorming pilot in the early days of aviation and then a captain in the United States Army Air Forces, flying a variety of bombers and heavy cargo aircraft during World War II and the Berlin Airlift. After all that flying, he settled down and worked as an auto body mechanic at a Ford dealership until he retired.

At some point during or after 1948, he purchased or was given a Parker 51 fountain pen. The Parker 51 began production in 1941, but Papa's pen has the aerometric ink bladder design, which wasn't produced until 1948. He kept the pen on his desk--a drop-top desk that he built himself--for paying bills.

After Papa died while I was still in college, my mother gave me his Parker 51, which gave me the bug to collect fountain pens. The 51 leaked a bit, and it was far too precious to take out of my house, so I bought a similarly designed (and inexpensive) Parker 45 to carry in my purse, where it still resides today.

Soon, after saving my pennies, Waterman fountain pens expanded my collection...the Laureat and Carene and Tuxedo. A few Shaeffers joined the fun. I returned several pens I ordered because they didn't write well, including a Montblanc (it leaked) and some Italian pen that was gorgeous but not smooth at all. For me, the collection was about using the pens, not merely displaying them or hoarding them as works of art.

When I left my job at Micron Technology, my friends collected money to buy me the mother of all Parkers...the Parker Duo Fold. I still smile when I hold it.

Since I had children, however, the time needed to care for fine fountain pens, to clean them and refill them, rub them with diapers, has diminished. Other than the Parker 45, I rarely use them anymore, although they are displayed on my bookshelf.

But as I said, display isn't a good reason for owning a pen for me. The Duo Fold and Carene and Laureat will be mine forever, as will Papa's 51. But the others are not so precious, and I've decided to gift them to the next sons, our nephews, our niece.

Fountain pens require care and now that Matt and Eli are adults, its time to send them theirs. I'm particularly excited about sending Matt a pen because he, like my grandfather, is a mechanic. I will tell him the story of my first fountain pen, and maybe it will mean something to him that I'm passing on one of mine to him.

I hope so.

If you made it this far, perhaps you'll share your story of your favorite pen in the comments. I do love a good pen story!

stamps: SU Letters from Home, Papertrey Ink Birthday Basics
ink: various
paper: Papertrey white
accessories: dip nibs, dimensionals

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Another Quick Notecard Set

My husband committed us to a black-tie dinner on New Year's Eve, and now I have to buy a formal dress to wear. The two formal dresses in my closet no longer fit because my husband prefers cooking high-fat, high-calorie food, which I must eat in large servings or he goes all Italian-grandmother on me. "What? You no like-a my cooking?!?! You don't looooove meeeeeee!!!"

It's all his fault I have to go to the mall today.

I do not like shopping for clothes. Stamps, yes. Clothes, no.

How can I best punish him for this injustice? Suggestions?

Oh? Maybe you don't care about my first-world problems and would rather see some one-layer notecards that would make a lovely--and very quick--gift for someone.

I don't blame you. Cards are much more interesting than clothes.

The following cards were made with Papertrey's Happy Trails set. I made two of each, for eight cards total, which fit nicely into Papertrey's clear card set boxes.

Off to the mall. Wish me luck. I'm going to need it.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Three Variations

Welcome back, y'all! I hope you all had a very happy holiday and are now gearing up for New Year's Eve.

Hard to believe 2013 is almost over.

Anyway, today's three cards show different variations on one layout. In the first, the elements are centered on the card and are floating around in the white space, rather like the thoughts in my head, actually.

Card A

Verisimilitude. That's what the first card represents, and I love it.

The second card grounds the same sentiment and flowers (in different colors, of course) on a stamped woven background. From a design standpoint, grounding the elements is an improvement, but I am perverse and prefer the first, float-y card. You are free to disagree with me. You are probably right anyway.

Card B

Finally, the elements are still floating, but on a much smaller, raised panel. Perhaps this gives the illusion of more "groundedness." Whatever. I like it.

Card C

Do you think about grounding your design elements when you make cards? Which of the three cards do you prefer? Why?

stamps: I'm not sure where that sentiment came from...I made these in June.
ink: Memento (probably)
paper: Papertrey Ink white; SU and Papertrey assorted colors
accessories: Martha Stewart hydrangea punches, half pearls, dimensionals, glue pen

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Super-Quick Notecard Set

BTW, I'm enjoying the responses to yesterday's post. Some of you like the first card, some the second, and others don't care. I love all that ambiguity, especially since I was so surprised by my own agnosticism on the choice. So strange how "correcting" the "mistake" of the first card made me change my mind about there being a mistake in the first place!

Anywho, if you're looking for a super-fast gift, consider making a quickie notecard set like this one:

I made two of each color combo and packed them with 8 envelopes in a Papertrey Ink clear card box.


The set takes advantage of Memento's light and dark shades of the same colors, but other ink brands offer similar light/dark combinations. You can also off-stamp the border a darker shade on scrap paper, then stamp it on the card, and then use the same ink full-strength for the big sentiment.

But having lots of ink to choose from is less fussy.

Any excuse to buy more ink. Seriously.

This will be my last post until after Christmas, so I wish you all a very merry Christmas!

stamps: Papertrey Ink Text Style, Botanical Silhouettes
ink: Memento
paper: Papertrey Ink white
accessories: none

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Does It Make a Difference?

Today's card comparison has to do with placement. I made the following version of the card first.

Something bothered me about it. The pinecone seemed just a titch too close to the W of Wonderland. It felt crowded and cramped. Just a bit.

But it niggled at me.

So I stamped the same card again, giving just a little more space between image and sentiment.

Odd thing is, now I like them both. The first one no longer feels cramped to me, and the second one also seems fine.

How totally weird is that?

It was hard to get a picture that showed off the shimmer of this card. I filled in the blank areas of the pinecone with Sakura Stardust Clear pen, and highlighted the green needles with it as well. The effect is absolutely lovely in real life.

So what do you think? Does the difference in placement make any difference to you? Do you prefer the first or second card?

Inquiring minds want to know.

stamps: Papertrey Peaceful Pinecones, unknown sentiment
ink: Memento
paper: Papertrey
accessories: Memento markers, Sakura Stardust clear pen

Friday, December 20, 2013

Sure Sign of Mental Illness and Valentine's Day

Nothing motivates me to clean and organize like needing to avoid making a bunch of cards for Christmas presents.

No. Thing.'s my specialty.

Here are the before pictures. So, so sad.

Yes. It was snowing when I got a wild hair to clean and organize my craft nook. That's the flywheel to my rowing machine in the foreground. I've actually been using that thing lately. It feels good.

But back to the mess.

Leaving my drawers open and stuff on the floor is dangerous. Daisy ate an entire roll of hot pink Doodlebug baker's twine one day, filched shamelessly from an open drawer. It's unlikely she'd try to chew my border punches (they're in the open drawer in the picture), but all that nice cotton paper on the floor beside the printer cabinet is vulnerable.

Here's my desk. Not the worst it's ever been but kinda crazy.

Now, here are the after pictures.

That's so much better!

It's amazing how the green tablecloth improves the space. I'd taken it off to wash it and really missed how it pretties up the space.  I replaced cards on my inspiration boards with birthday cards and left room for the lovely Christmas cards I'm receiving.

The left side of my nook is the work station. The L shape of the two tables works great for me. Everything is convenient, although I do still have to move around, stand up, bend over, etc. Striking a balance between convenience and the need to move was much easier than I expected when I first organized this space, and it's worked out well for the long term.

These drawers house embellishments (organized by color), and the photo boxes hold various cards...OWH stash for future shipments, Thanksgiving Crusade, well as reinkers. The tiny three-drawer unit holds markers, sponges and other stamping accessories that I don't use all that often but like to have close by.

The right side of the nook is storage space. I keep my card stock over here so I do have to move around a bit on a regular basis. The white photo boxes house mostly wood-mounted stamps by theme. The green and white baskets allow me to organize larger projects, store cards that haven't been photographed yet, and keep things generally contained.

I wish my desk looked this clean right now, but alas, it's a mess again.

The tea towel has a story behind it. If you're not interested, simply scroll down to see today's card.

In the early 1990's, when George was stationed at Wurtsmith AFB in Michigan, my friend Wendy was pregnant and due to have her first baby. She went into labor the day before her parents arrived, so I drove to Saginaw to pick them up at the airport and drive them the two hours north to Wurtsmith.

Wendy's parents, Don and Pam, were cool. They were theater people. Both acted, and Don taught theater at university. They had stories--funny, strange stories--and totally related to my fascination (not shared by George) with Shakespeare. The night Wendy was still in the hospital, they came to my place and watched Kenneth Branagh's Henry V. We discussed it afterwards. Delightful!

When they had returned home, they sent me a box full of all sorts of goodness, including this tea towel of the Wife of Bath from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. They'd picked it up in their travels and thought I would appreciate it. Well, duh. A few years later, I wrote my master's thesis on the Wife and her tale.

So now she resides on the wall of my craft nook, a reminder of lovely people as well as my former life as an English nerd. She makes me smile.

Wendy's parents continue to send us Christmas cards...long after Wendy quit. Early this year, I received a lovely letter from Pam telling me that Don had passed away. Pam's Christmas card and letter were among the first I received this year, and I'm so glad she's continuing the tradition.

How wonderful that we've stayed in touch for over twenty years via Christmas cards. Whenever you think about cutting someone off your Christmas card list, remember me and Don and Pam. Those long-distance relationships are precious, no matter how awkward they are to maintain. They are worth the effort.

And now let's shift gears and once again take a look at a Valentine's Day card for the troops. I'll be stuffing envelopes and packing cards for shipping to Sandy on Monday.

Yep. That's washi tape. I'm giving that cool product another try. Just bought six rolls at Office Depot. Maybe this time, I'll figure it out. If not, expect a give-away sometime in the future....

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Stuff and Things

I hope everyone is happily getting ready for the holidays. I am.

Just a few items.

1. Jonah's second batch of cards was delivered Tuesday. He was sick (a tummy bug that passed quickly, apparently), so I didn't go inside...just left the gift bag of cards on the door knob. Hopefully, I'll be able to hand him a bag on Monday with a few more cards. Since Tuesday, eight more pieces have come in, including one from South Africa!

If you sent a card, you can check the Jonah Cards page to see if it has arrived. I add cards each day as they come in.

If you want to send a card, please use the following address: Jonah, c/o Susan Raihala, 7430 Waterway Dr., Waynesville, OH 45068. I will continue delivering as long as the cards come in!

2. I will resume posting projects/cards soon. Things have been busy with real life, and online life is taking a back seat to things like baking cookies and attending the Cincinnati Ballet's performance of The Nutcracker with my 5th-grader and his class. Who knew twerking would work in a classical ballet?

3. The cookies I make are sometimes called Mexican wedding cookies. In my family, we called them Angel Balls. When I took a plate to our Stephen Ministry party and called them by that name, only my friend Karen almost blowing diet coke out of her nose.

Karen and I are what Anne Shirley called "bosom friends."

4. If you don't know who Anne Shirley is, go out immediately and buy Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables and read devour it. You have somehow been seriously deprived and must correct that as soon as possible.

5. Get a box of tissues and read this article about Cecil and Orlando. It'll do your heart good.

Good night!

Monday, December 16, 2013

And Now for Something Completely Different

Because it has snowed a lot in Ohio this December, I feel the need to remember snorkeling in Hawaii.

Yep. I've done that. With sea turtles, no less.

Unfortunately, I don't have a stamp of a sea turtle.

That makes me sad.

But then I look at this card, and my sad face turns upside down. Because this card is awesome.

Notice the kelp in the bottom right corner? Notice how it continues up onto the raised panel, thus connecting the base of the card and the stamped panel in a tiny bit of brilliance that only a really good glass of cabernet sauvignon can produce.

Or maybe it was an old vine zinfandel. I can't remember. I made this card in June.

Anyway, whenever you get inspiration from a wine bottle, make sure you have only a little nip of the inspiration. Too much inspiration, and you'll NEVER get the two pieces of card stock to line up properly. Of course, you probably won't care that they don't line up, either.

Until the next morning and you see the mess you made under the influence.

Please drink and stamp responsibly.

Thank you.

stamps: A Muse assorted
ink: how could I possibly remember? was made in June
paper: Papertrey Ink white
accessories: Copics and Bics (which means the fish was stamped in Memento ink), dimensionals

Sunday, December 15, 2013

My Blue Valentine

Remember that the deadline for Operation Write Home's Valentine's Day shipments is December 31st. Get those cards in...the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines need to be able to send some love to their honey-bunnies back home.

Here's another Valentine's inspiration card for you...and I KNOW you're just thrilled that it's not your typical red heart. It's blue. With bling.

I'm working on some gift card sets for teachers right now and hope to post pictures soon. I'm also trying to get Christmas cards addressed and mailed out, and Christmas packages mailed, too. Oh, and I'm making bags of Russian tea mix and some cookies for my Stephen Ministry friends. Our party is Tuesday night. It all sounds like a lot, but other than addressing the cards, it's really not that much, and I'm remarkably stress-free about it all.


What are you working on as we count down to Christmas? Are you feeling stressed or cool as a Christmas cucumber?

stamps: Papertrey Heart Prints, Grunge Me
ink: Memento
paper: Papertrey White
accessories: rhinestones, post-it, heart punch (for the mask)

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Look What I Got!

Is anyone else sick of Valentine's Day already? I've not had much time to read blogs lately (having so very many of my own to suck my time, you know?), but this morning I poked around my Bloglovin' feeds, and oh, my! Valentines are everywhere.

I get why this is, and have contributed my share of V-Day posts right here on Simplicity to promote sending lots of heart cards to Operation Write Home before the deadline at the end of this month.

But how very annoying Valentine's Day is in December.

And in February, for that matter.

I don't like Valentine's Day. Or, more accurately, I don't like the lavishness with which it is celebrated. It's like Halloween. Trick or Treating wasn't enough for everyone, so now we have an entire month of over-the-top spooky/zombie/spidery decorations and parties and bags of candy coming home from school to make us fat even before Thanksgiving and Christmas get a chance to carry out that traditional duty.

Valentine's Day...a day to say, "I love you"...has become something consumerist and competitive, a time for women to complain how thoughtless and unloving their husbands/boyfriends are, a time for men to feel clueless as to why they aren't getting, ahem, "love" because their wives/girlfriends are snippy.

Or am I a Valentine's Day Scrooge? I'm sorry. I love saying I love you. I don't need a special day to feel competitive about it.

But the deployed troops...they need to have LOTS of love cards to send home because how else are they going to say I love you to their loved Bah, humbug. Nothing works so well as a card when you're stuck back-of-beyond in service to your country.

So I will be posting a few more Valentines, but just for the benefit of the troops and not as part of the crass commercialism of a pink holiday. I hope you'll understand.

Today, however, I'm taking a break from posting Valentines to bring you a retrospective of the handmade birthday and Thanksgiving cards I received from some of YOU last month. Thank you, thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

A stash of goodness from Marty

A gorgeous rock-n-roll Thanksgiving Crusade Card from Marty

Audrie rocks the one-layer card...and sends pearls!

Sue C. glitters her way to beautiful birthday wishes

And there are little spots of liquid pearls on these, too! How lovely!

My husband wishes me a happy birthday with bombers.
Note the visual triangle.

My son Nick came up with the sentiment. He's good at creating
unity in a design. :)

Marty spoiled me with Thanksgiving and Birthday greetings.
I love, love, love her placement on this card, and the colors.
And the bling.

Patti rocked my happy color and butterflies and added
lovely texture stamping to the mat.

Y'all are so sweet. Just think about Patti's sentiment: Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old. We stampers see beauty everywhere we look. It keeps us young and grateful for all the beauty the world offers us.

You are all beautiful to me. You share your time and talents and comments and emails with me. I love you.

See? Didn't need a Valentine to say that, now, did I?

Friday, December 13, 2013

This Is Why

This is why we send cards.

This smile, beaming. This joy. This awareness of love...of loving and being loved.

This child we have taken into our hearts to love and encourage and hurt for.

Jonah enjoys opening his cards and packages. There are so many that he's opening a few a day. Molly, Jonah's mom, texted her mother the following:

Jonah is "reading" some of his cards as he opens them [please realize Jonah can NOT read! but here is what he is saying:] "You are smart, Jonah" "You are my hero" "And heaven and nature sing and heaven and nature sing" " J, O, N, H I, Ha-ha Hee Hee."

Heaven and nature sing in Jonah's voice.

For those of you not following Jonah's Facebook page, there was great news this week. Jonah's scans last Friday were free of metastatic disease. Praise God! Praise the healing hands of the doctors! Praise his parents who are taking such great care of him! Praise the brave boy who is, indeed, our hero in this journey.

May this state of affairs continue.

Last week, I had lunch with my friend Mary. Mary had colon cancer, and she's now well three years later.  When I told her about Jonah, she thought about those things people did for her that had the most positive impact on her state of mind. At one point, she and her mom counted the number of states where people were praying for her. The number gave Mary great comfort.

That got me thinking. What if Jonah had a way to keep track of who was sending him cards? Wouldn't that be cool? I went to a local education supply store and bought the map you see in the picture above. The reverse is a map of the whole world. Using a sharpie, I marked the states and countries from which cards had come. Molly can add the new ones as I deliver them each week.

When I made the delivery on Tuesday, Jonah had received cards from 22 states and four foreign countries.

We can now say 23 states.

Let's grow those numbers!

You can check out the list of cards received HERE. If you send something, check that posting to confirm that I received your mail.

The USPS has let me down before. Just sayin'.

If you want to send a card (handmade or store-bought...doesn't matter!), please use this address:

c/o Susan Raihala
7430 Waterway Dr.
Waynesville, OH 45068

Once again, many thanks to all who have sent and all who are sending cards to this family. Know that when I check my mail each day, the kids and I are even more excited about "Jonah mail" than our own...and several of you have sent me some amazingly beautiful Christmas cards! But the Jonah mail is extra special.

I also want to thank all of you who are praying for them. As my friend Mary experienced, prayers mean something powerful and wonderful is happening.

Let's keep them going up for Jonah, Molly, Ben, and the rest of the family. They need them. They need comfort and courage and peace and joy and hope and love.

Thank you.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Who Said Valentines Have to Be Red?

Okay, I'm something of a traditionalist when it comes to Valentines. I usually stick to red, pink, and black. But as I perused Take Ten (so many wonderful details in the latest issue!), I noticed a Valentine that was...wait for it...

wait for it...


Seriously? Orange?  Well, why not?

So inspired by the orange Valentine, I played around with some funky color combos and a little funky masking.

Cool Caribbean and tempting turquoise (both from SU) don't blend as nicely as I expected, but hopefully the bling makes up for it.

Hot pink and orange (Memento) always add energy to a design.

By the way, the color red used with spatter stamps makes me think of slasher movies, which I never watch, but the movie posters...well, I'm not going there. I've been screening comic books for my 14 year old, and comic books simply didn't have blood spatters in the olden days when I was 14. We had speech bubbles covering punch impacts with onomatopoeic words like "Kapow!" or "Blam!" Now, blood splatters from severed limbs and, well, again, I'm not going there. It's all rather nauseating.

And try telling a 14-year-old boy he can't have the Batman comics he wants for Christmas. Just call me Scrooge, or the Meanest Mommy Who Ever Lived. I'll own it.

All this by way of recommending that you don't use red with spatter stamps. Please. I don't need the nightmares....

Pink and orange, or blue, and feel free to happily spatter away.

But it might not work for Valentines. You be the judge.

I remain unconvinced.

stamps: Papertrey Grunge Me, Heart Prints; Hero Arts (Happy Valentine's Day)
ink: SU and Memento
paper: Papertrey white
accessories: heart punch, post-it note, rhinestones

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Look, Ma! No Stamps!

About a year ago, I bought a set of red rhinestone alphabet stickers. And in the drawer they sat...until two days ago.

I could probably eek one more word out of them, but my enthusiasm ebbed after these three. It's extremely difficult to get the letters down right, and they are not all the same size, either, which makes the words look a little odd to my obsessive-compulsive neat-freak eyes.

Nevertheless, bling is bling, and who doesn't love it?

I rounded the corners because the cards looked a little unfinished with poiny corners. Rounded corners do look much better.

Nothing is worse than rounding corners and having the card look worse. Fortunately, that doesn't happen very often.

I can't wait to share with you my visit with Jonah and his mother Molly. Just need to get permission to use one of Molly's photos. Keep those cards coming, folks!

stamps: NONE!
ink: NONE!
paper: SOME! (PTI white, if you must know)
accessories: red rhinestone alphabet stickers, heart punch, corner chomper

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Custom Christmas Card

If you're reading this in email, please note that this is the second post of the day. Scroll down to see a couple of important announcements!

Every now and then, I find a product or stamp that is perfect for someone I know in real life. When I found wood veneer paper at Michael's, I knew instantly that it was perfect for my aunt Linda, who has amazing woodworking skillz.

5" x 7"

 It's kind of a cool story, so let me share. My grandfather was seriously handy, and he had an extensive workshop in a detatched garage behind his house. After he died, my aunt would sit in his workshop because she felt so close to him there. Finally, one day, she asked my grandmother if she could have his woodworking tools. Of course my grandmother said yes, so Linda moved all the tools into her basement and took a bunch of classes at the community college.

She now makes museum-quality furniture.

My boys have the very best rocking horse in the world.

Anyway, this is my aunt's Christmas card, which uses two shades of the wood paper and an awesome Christmas tree punch. The trees are so big I had to use a larger card base...5"x7".

Do you ever make custom Christmas cards for people? If so, what product or stamp makes you think of them?

stamps: Papertrey Peaceful Poinsettia
ink: Memento
paper: wood veneer (Michael's), Papertrey white
accessories: star and tree punches

Three Very Important Announcements

Today, I have three very important announcements.

Okay, two important announcements and one major whine. But whatever.

Announcement #1

The One-Layer Wednesday challenge is about to get a facelift. The team and I are working on a fresh new approach to it that will, hopefully, be as exciting to you as it is for us! In the meantime, the challenge will be on hiatus until January 1.

Announcement #2

I'm going to drop off cards at Jonah's house this afternoon! Yippy! Can't wait to meet the little guy in person! I have 47 cards, two packages, and a large envelope from a kindergarten class in Tennessee to deliver. Bet it will take a while for Molly, Ben, and Jonah to open them all.

More cards are coming in each day, so I will continue making drops at their house as long as you are willing to send them to me. The address to send them to is Jonah, c/o Susan Raihala, 7430 Waterway Dr., Waynesville, OH 45068. Feel free to join our merry band of Happy Mail Elves any time!

Major Whine

I've been trying to load pictures into blogger all the durn day and my computer keeps locking up. I've tried rebooting, using HTML view, all sorts of stuff. Nothing works. I'll keep trying, but if you don't get a post with a picture today, just imagine my avatar with a big black-and-blue bruise on the forehead from banging my head on my desk. Grrr.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Inspired Steps Toward REALLY Clean and Simple

The winter issue of Take Ten magazine is pretty good! (Wow, it's been a long time since I've said that, hasn't it?) There are more CAS cards than usual, at least to my discerning eye, and I'm finding a lot of inspiration this time around.

The first card I felt inspired by was submitted by Anne Jones, and here it is:

Card by Anne Jones, Published in Take Ten, Winter 2013

Anne's card has some wonderful design going on. It's beautifully unified in theme and colors, it takes advantage of the rule of thirds, and it creates a background with a fab combination of light, curvy script in horizontal lines contrasting perfectly with strong vertical lines.

My plan to CASify (or clean-and-simplify) her design was to shrink her card onto a smaller panel and mat it on a large frame of white. My theme was chosen for Operation Write Home...their upcoming deadline for Valentines is the end of December, and they can always use Miss You cards. Here's my first attempt.

What I kept: 1) the contrasting backgrounds of script and a strong geometric shape (squares because I didn't have stripes), 2) string accent on a solid border, 3) single color plus a neutral (red and black rather than yellow and brown).

What I changed: 1) orientation from vertical to horizontal, 2) centering one main image rather than offsetting the main focal point and a second accent piece (because I didn't have a secondary piece and I didn't think a simple knot would have balanced the big heart well on that black ribbon).

My version is just not quite as successful as Anne's original card (though I don't think it's exactly bad). The scale of everything just isn't quite right. The stamped panel looks too busy with the squares (Anne's stripes are ever so much better!), and the centered hearts are too...centered. The sentiment is a bit too formal for the distressed checkered background, too.

Of course, I had to try again. And of course my approach was to CASify further.

Well, that's one way to do it! Taking away all the patterned stamping certainly is cleaner and simpler, but notice how I returned to Anne's original layout by off-setting the hearts and even setting them at an angle rather than straight. Anne's sunflowers are heaped...not in a tidy OCD arrangement.

Changing the thread from a solid to black-and-white baker's twine ups the punch of the card considerably, giving a bit of pattern without too much busyness on my smaller panel. I also added an extra heart (BLING!) to build up the focal point more like Anne's original does with those lovely sunflowers piled on each other.

The change in sentiment allowed me space to add the bling, but it also adds interest because the whimsical arrangement of the four letters is looser and much more interesting than the very traditional Miss You sentiment.

Overall, I'm extraordinarily pleased with the final card. It definitely says, "LateBlossom made me!" But I never could have gotten there without Anne's card as inspiration.

Try something similar yourself. Either take a simple card and complicate it, or take a complicated card and simplify it. Feel your way to a balanced result that reflects your style as inspired by the original.

It's fun!

I'm just too gosh dern tired right now, but if you want to know I'll tell you. All the stamps are from Papertrey. Off to the land of Nod.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Simplicity Christmas Tree Trimming

Yesterday, the day after a snow storm, we went out in the snow and sunshine of Ohio to cut down our tree. Unfortunately, the tree farm had already cut all the Canadian firs we prefer, so we chose a beautiful one from the barn.

George was disappointed he didn't get to lie on the ground in the snow and saw it down himeslf.

But the tree was covered in ice, so it's been dripping onto towels all night and hopefully will be dry enough to trim this evening.

In the meantime, I've mostly finished all the other decorating, including putting up my artificial tree in the basement living space. Our main tree upstairs has no theme. Its ornaments come from all over the world: some are handmade, some are mass-produced, some are kinda ugly but sentimental anyway, some are pretty and have no meaning at all, some are from our grandparents, some were made by our children, some are patriotic, and there's at least one from every state we've lived in (nine in all).

Eclectic Family History. That's our theme.

In the basement, however, within full sight of my craft desk for maximum inspiration and festivity, is a tree trimmed in paper ornaments. Shocking as it might sound, I have made a lot of paper ornaments over the years, including a whole series of miniature books. They've been scattered on our regular tree in the past, but this year I'm putting them all in one place.

And I have made a few more.

These three ornaments use an old Hampton Arts Da Vinci alphabet set, a square punch, and dimensionals from SU. Easy and fun!

Blogger's giving me fits about uploading photos, but eventually, I will include pictures of the trees.

Do you have multiple trees? Do you have a theme for your tree/trees, or is your theme like ours...Eclectic Family History?

stamps: Hampton Arts discontinued
ink: Memento
paper: Papertrey Ink
accessories: square punch, 1/8" circle punch, dimensionals, ribbon

Friday, December 6, 2013

Two Ovals Get Grounded

Today's cards demonstrate the effect of grounding...that is, anchoring a design element to the card. It's not always necessary, in my opinion, to ground every element every time...some of my favorite layouts involve an image floating in vast, glorious white space. But generally, good designs ground their elements.

Take a look-see at the two cards:

First, note how large the sentiment is on the first card. There's very little white space on that oval, so the grounding boughs need to be balanced to that idea. They carry good visual weight on the card. Also, the asymmetry of the pine cones adds interest and moves the eye from upper left to lower right...a natural movement that fits into how we read the sentiment in between!

Now, consider all that white space on the second card. The oval is smaller than on the first card, and the sentiment doesn't carry much visual weight, even if its color scheme is punchy. The holly sprigs (made from green velvet paper...not quite as dark as the photo implies) are spiky/curvy like the letters and leave plenty of white space on the card. Your eye is kept very tightly on the smaller focal point, without a lot of movement at all.

I like both of these cards and think both have solid design in them, although (surprise!) the second makes me happier with all that glorious white space.

Which do you prefer and why?

stamps: Papertrey various
ink: Memento
paper: Papertrey
accessories: Creative Memories oval cutter, dimensionals, holly punch