Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Layout Inspiration and a Huge Thanks

First, the huge thank you to Kathryn and Pat for their generous and lovely donation to Karen's Card Shop!

Kathryn's cards

Pat's cards

These beauties will be stocked within the week. 

Today's card layout was directly inspired by (copied from!) THIS PIN


The inspiration card is light and lovely, but since I don't really have many delicate word dies, my design is a bit more weighty, with darker colors for my flowers and bling arranged in a visual triangle to anchor and unify the design. 


I went totally old school with the deckled edge, creating it with a very old pair of deckle edge scissors. But those are kind of awkward to work with, so I ordered some dies with deckle edges...along with a few other supplies.


Another smaller order came yesterday. I felt the need to try some new inks (Simon Says and Altenew). I already have more ink than I need, but I'm loving the gradations of color in these two lines. A few more Distress cubes and Archival inks were added to my already big collections of those inks. 

I may or may not have a problem. 

We shall see.

Mercy, grace, peace, and love,

Susan

Monday, June 20, 2022

Black Makes Colors Pop and a Mental Health Update

Stampy Stuff

Today's card began life as a white-on-white card, but the great colors of the butterflies looked anemic on all that white. I switched to a black mat, and the colors now pop!


The squares were cut with the Hero Arts Infinity Squares die set, stamped with Memento tuxedo black and butterflies from Hero Arts Antique Engravings clear set, and colored with Copics. The squares are 1.5", the mat is 5.5" x 2" (for 1/4" matting), and the card is 7.25" x 3.75". The squares are popped up, and though it's hard to tell in the photos, it looks great in real life. 


The speckling comes from watercolor crayons, which I scribbled on a scrap piece of acetate, dissolved in water with a small round brush, and tapped gently over the squares. The speckles add just a little bit of interest and softness to an otherwise rather bold and high-contrast design. 

Now that my stamping mojo is back, I'm trying to use some long-neglected supplies...like the watercolor crayons I've had for years. 

Neocolor II are water-soluble. Neocolor I crayons are not.

My artistic talent with watercolors may best be described as "minimal," and it's not a skill I feel motivated to improve. So I like easy, straightforward techniques like speckling (or splattering, if you prefer a more vulgar term) for watercolor media. 

Now let's shift to an unrelated stampy topic. I have a question involving clear stamps that have lost their stick. I have a number of older photopolymer stamps that have lost their stick. Most are sentiments. I've washed them with Dawn dish detergent and let them air dry, but they still don't stick well. Suggestions?

Personal Stuff

I mentioned a few posts ago that I'd update you on my mental health. The medication is working! It took a while, but my mood is much improved. I'm less anxious and more relaxed, and getting better sleep. The hormone replacement therapy is keeping the hot flashes to 2-4 a day. 

The doctor figured out the nightmares were caused by melatonin, which ordinarily gives me vivid and weird dreams, but given the heightened anxiety, the dreams went from merely weird to anxiety-provoking. No more melatonin, no more nightmares. 

My therapist and I are spacing appointments out a bit more. We are working mainly on building resilience to anxiety (stamping regularly is a part of that!) and on helping me strategize ways to manage boundaries better when I return to teaching in January. I should NEVER care more than college students about their success. Students and professors need to be partners with very clear responsibilities, or learning doesn't happen. My taking on more emotional commitment than I should doesn't help anyone. 

On a very happy note, one of the students who received an incomplete in May turned in the missing work, so I submitted a grade change to a B. He had a rough semester but got the work done! So yay! 

The other student who was going to turn in missing work has gone dark. I'm not at all surprised. 

The bottom line of my sharing this mental health journey is to help others who might be hesitant to ask for help. The help HELPS! Truly. Talk to your doctor if you're low. Many doctors get that medication can take the edge off, and the good ones insist that medication be accompanied by therapy at the same time. Many health insurance plans pay for psychological counseling, and telecare often carries no copay. I'm doing cognitive behavioral therapy, but other therapies can also be effective with treating anxiety. Your doctor should know where to point you.

If you're just feeling a little blue or off-kilter, consider a Stephen Minister. Stephen Ministers (SMs) are laypersons who are trained to provide one-on-one care for people going through a crisis or a chronic situation. SMs meet once a week for about an hour with their care receivers to listen, encourage, and help them process what they are going through. Most SMs bring only as much religion into the relationship as the care receiver is comfortable with...although that does vary from SM to SM. 

We provide care for grief, divorce, new moms or crisis pregnancies, the unemployed, the aging, the mildly or moderately depressed, and people who provide care to ill or disabled loved ones. We also care for loved ones of people struggling with serious mental health issues, drug use, or alcoholism. 

People with addiction or other serious mental health conditions (schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, personality disorders, anger control issues) are not eligible for Stephen Ministry care as they require professional help. SMs are not professionals...we are volunteers with excellent training for what we do and a clear understanding of what we don't do. 

If you need a referral, I can find out what churches in your area offer Stephen Ministry. It just takes a quick phone call to Stephen Ministries headquarters, and I can point you in the right direction.  

In other words, if you're struggling, ask for help. And keep asking until you get it. I practice what I preach, and may my sharing help others to reach out!

Mercy, grace, peace, and love,

Susan

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Black and White Bubbles

First of all, many thanks to those who answered the question on the last post about what you want to see on Simplicity. Today's post has design explanation, personal stuff, and a dog picture...the big triad of your requests! Read only what interests you.

The Card

Today's card was inspired by the coasters in THIS PIN. The simplicity of the white circles with black outline images captured my attention, and the card rose out of that. 

I experimented with different size circles and different proportions of cards. The background rectangle was sitting on my desk, and it's embossed with a woodgrain plate from Hero Arts. It's subtle (I couldn't quite capture it in the photos) but adds a bit of interest. The long rectangle base and woodgrain strip ground the bubbles and follow the "angles love curves" rule. Whenever your card has too many curves, add some angles; too many angles, add some curves. 

After dorking around with placement for a bit, I settled on this arrangement. The three stamped circles form an irregular triangle, with the sentiment toward the bottom to add some weight to the bottom and let it feel as if the other circles are rising up.  

Note too that the bottom leaf is pointing toward the sentiment, which is overlapped by the middle leaf, which is pointing up to the top leaf, which is pointing to the edge of the card. "Open the card," it's saying! Inside, I stamped a happy birthday sentiment. 


This feels like an excellent card for a man. It's high contrast, bold, and not flowery! The leaves are from Stampa Rosa, very old and precious! Sentiment is from Papertrey.


The Personal Stuff

Today is Father's Day, and that's always a weird day for me. My earthly father and I haven't spoken in over 36 years (and that's a blessing), but on the other hand, I had a grandfather and uncle who stepped up and served as amazing father figures during my formative years. 

So a really cool coincidence happened. Yesterday morning, I was out walking, heard an old airplane flying over, looked up, and a B-29 (WWII-era bomber) was overhead flying low over the neighborhood. Cool! Later that day, George told me that a B-24 was also in the area. They were open for tours on Father's Day at the Springfield, OH, airport. 

So what was the coincidence? Well, my wonderful grandfather, David Lee Willis, was a pilot during WWII and during the Berlin Airlift. He flew both of these types of bombers...among other planes. The B-24, he flew in combat in the China-Burma-India theater...over the Hump of the Himalayas. 

My handsome Papa

One of his planes was called the Dippy Dave and His 8 Dippy Diddlers. The Dippy Dave was shot up pretty bad and leaking fuel as it returned from a bombing mission. The crew had to bail out over China. Dippy Dave was the last man out...as was appropriate since he was the pilot. All the crew got back to base safely. 

The Dippy Dave is commemorated in a book on Vintage WWII Nose Art


So today, I stood in the cockpit of a B-24, behind the pilot's seat. 

Sadly, they wouldn't let me sit in the seat, but it's a good thing Papa wasn't a big man because there wasn't much room there. 

What a treat to have that connection. There's a B-24 called The Strawberry B*tch at the Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson AFB here in Dayton, but it's a static display with no option to get inside. Only two B-24s are still airworthy, and now I can say I've been in one. 

Like I said, cool!

Dog Picture

And now, a gratuitous dog picture. 

Cooper...the Good Boy

Mercy, grace, peace, and love,

Susan

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Weird Email Update and a Card

Okay, so I happened to check my junk email when I noticed there were 25 emails in it, and I found a bunch of emails from people regarding the blog. This makes no sense to me as I did receive some emails in my inbox with no problem. Why some went to spam and other to the inbox is a mystery!

My apologies for not replying in a timely fashion, and I will reply today. Thanks so much for all the support and love you've shown since I returned to blogging. Y'all are the best!

Several of you have asked about donations to Karen's Card Shop. We could use more cards, especially Hello, Friendship/Love, Sympathy, Get Well, Thinking of you, and Faith. We already have a lot of birthday and thank you cards, but of course we will take whatever you can send. Remember that I supply white A2 envelopes and package the cards in cello bags. 

Please email me with questions or for my address. I promise to check my spam folder regularly!

I need to take a new picture of the card shop display. The church redecorated a few years back and painted the display black. It looks great. We also added a payment lock box when money began disappearing from the honor-system envelope we were using. How sad is it that people were stealing inside a church? Anyway, the lock box works great and was only about $35 from Amazon, for those of you who are running your own version of our ministry in your church.

And now for today's card, which was inspired by a bath collection from Macy's. The pin keeps defaulting to a picture of the toothbrush holder, but it shows the high-contrast blue-and-white color scheme I used with this oh-so-fun octopus stamp from Hero Arts, along with some Hero sequins. I just love that the octopus is waving hello!


The seaweed die was run through a texture plate from StampinUp, and the sentiment is from Papertrey's Peaceful Garden set. The dotty background is from the ancient StampinUp set Itty Bitty Backgrounds. 


Tomorrow, I will post an update on my journey through anxiety. Things are definitely looking up! But I'm curious to know what you would like to see on the blog. What sort of questions do you have, or what would you like to see in posts? Do you like series (how to use supplies, one set three ways, color variation, design lessons)? Dog pictures? Personal stuff? What would you like to read?

Mercy, grace, peace, and love,

Susan

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Cancer Sucks

For a friend who's dealing with a recurrence of stage 4 colon cancer. 



Cancer sucks. 

Mercy, grace, peace, and love,

Susan

Sunday, June 12, 2022

CASE-ing Myself

After making a bunch of pretty trash searching for inspiration from other stampers, I decided to recreate a card I liked from my own Pinterest Board. I stuck with the same basic design and just changed the theme and colors.



I thought this would make an excellent guy birthday card...and those are always a challenge to me. So yay!

Best of all, this jump-started my stamping mojo, and I've since made quite a few cards! That has felt good. 

Also good is the fact that we've hit upon a good dose for the Zoloft. I'm feeling more like myself now, and definitely less anxious and panicky. My sleep has improved, too. So more yays all the way around!

Mercy, grace, peace, and love,

Susan

Friday, June 10, 2022

Organizing Embellishments

Today's brilliant idea originally came from the brilliant Stacy Julian, the editor of Simple Scrapbooks magazine and author of The Big Picture:


In The Big Picture, Stacy recommends organizing embellishments by COLOR, not by type. When I read this bit of genius, it changed my life. I'd been forgetting what embellishments I had, finding bins of, say, embroidery floss or buttons only after finishing a card. It was frustrating. But as she points out, we actually USE embellishments based on the color, and so organizing them by color makes perfect sense.

Now, there's no such frustration. All my embellishments are in 12 x 12 drawers right beside my craft chair. Easy peasy. 

The drawers make it easy to purge unused supplies, and I go through them at least once a year for that purpose. I realized while taking these pictures that I recently combined the yellow/orange and green drawers into one but haven't changed the labels. Must take care of that little OCD detail. 


You'll note the trays that keep items organized. Those are lids and bottoms to Christmas card boxes. Since I mail out so many Christmas cards and can't make them all, I buy cards at Barnes and Noble every year. The boxes make excellent (and cost-effective) trays for keeping embellishments organized.


These drawers used to be packed full of stuff, but over the years, trends and my taste have changed, so things like eyelets, buttons, ribbon, and brads have mostly been culled as a result of disuse. 


That funky stick on the left of the metallics drawer is a stone burnishing tool for gold leaf. Just in case you were wondering. And you'll notice I do still have a few brads and eyelets and paperclips. Those occasionally get used on non-card crafts, like Christmas ornaments or bookmarks. I used to have those locking "pill-case" containers for every color. They contained buttons and other small but bulky embellishments. After not using them for years, I moved them out of the drawers and into storage. I recently gave them all to a friend who collects craft supplies. She appreciated them!

I recently pulled out my seals and sealing wax to play with. Those are extremely cool, but the wax can be oily and of course rather bulky for cards. Still, it's beautiful and has its uses.



I'm trying to use up all my colored gemstones. They are often not the exact color I want, and it's easy enough to use Sharpies to color clear gemstones. You can even blend Sharpies on gemstones to create just the right shade for a project. 

So if you're feeling frustrated, give Stacy Julian's idea a try. It's truly genius!

Mercy, grace, peace, and love,

Susan

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Is That Leather?

Every now and then, something turns out quite unexpectedly. Such was the case with today's card. I made this months ago and can't remember if there was a specific inspiration for it (likely there was!), but I adore how the colored cardstock resembles leather. 



The stitched rectangle dies were a gift from my local stampy friend Eva, who gave me her unused Cuttlebug and a bunch of dies a few years ago. Layering them this way, with the three different shades of cardstock, really made for an interesting, yet still clean-and-simple design.

I need to play around with different colors of cardstock and different textures as well. This design could be quite versatile, especially given how many Tim Holtz stem dies I have amassed! It also gave me a chance to use some of my larger rhinestones, which tend to pile up as I mostly require the smaller ones. 

In tomorrow's post, I will address storage for embellishments. Someone sent me an email--which has since disappeared!--mentioning trying to find the right embellishments in all her stuff. I have a trick for that and will share tomorrow, with photos.

Today, however, I will leave you with this picture. You're welcome.


Mercy, grace, peace, and love,

Susan

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Easy Watercolor Fun

Today's card is a CASE of a CASE. I first saw THIS GORGEOUS PIN long long ago, and it inspired THIS CARD. While looking for more inspiration from my own cards on Pinterest, I dove into this design. 


The mat is vellum that's been textured with a StampinUp texture folder. The sunflower stamp (Hero Arts wood-mounted rubber) was inked with markers and spritzed with water, then stamped on watercolor paper. 


And that's all I have to say about that. Except that I love the results!

Mercy, grace, peace, and love,

Susan

Monday, June 6, 2022

Subtle Inspiration

Today's card was inspired by this incredibly beautiful card by Daniela Gundlach. Daniela is a much better photographer than I am, too. 

I simplified her design and flipped the orientation to landscape instead of portrait, but the inspiration is clear. And let me say I adore the way the tails of my twine bow flip happily up. Wish they all worked out so well!



So in a recent post, I complained about not having enough sentiments. Today's complaint is not having enough ink colors. The text strip (Papertrey's Text Style) is a bit too pale, but the next shade darker was definitely too dark. Trust me, I tried it. Even tried off-stamping it, but no luck. I just didn't have the "perfect" shade of brown.

This fruitless quest will no doubt drain my bank account.

Therefore, I conclude, stamping is a hobby that leads us in search of the "perfect" _________. Fill in your blank. What is it that you can't find the "perfect" of?

Mercy, grace, peace, and love,

Susan

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Warm and Cool Redux

So I posted a pair of cards last week that explored yellow/orange versus purple color schemes, and now I'm doing it again. I still don't have a preference, but some of you did before. I imagine it's the same for you now. This stamp set from Altenew (Wildflower Garden) has such lovely flower stamps in it...perfect for the marker-and-water-spritz technique. 





The stamping mojo still isn't back yet. I shall persevere and break through the block, though. Onward!

Just keep swimming....

Mercy, grace, peace, and love,

Susan

Friday, May 27, 2022

Ombre Ink and a Knock Out

Today's card was inspired by THIS PIN by Harriet, an amazing stamper. She arranged the three blossoms so perfectly into a strong visual triangle on her one-layer card, and I wanted to do something similar with mine. 

The stamps are from Tim Holtz; the stems and blossoms are separate, foam-mounted rubber stamps. I used a Hero Arts ombre inkpad to ink up the blossoms and love how well that worked. It was so easy and the results so pretty! The light-and-airy feel of the outline stamps works well with the white-on-white layering, too. 



So here's a follow-up on my stamping mojo issues. BC (before COVID), my creative process usually began as it did with this card...an inspiration from another stamper or a great design of something like towels, wallpaper, commercial cards, book covers, beer cans or wine bottles, home décor, etc. That process sometimes led me far, far away from the inspiration piece but almost always led me somewhere productive and satisfying.

Lately, however, starting with inspiration has led to more dead ends and frustration than successes like today's card. Yesterday, I decided to start with a stamp set and see what happened. Ideas flowed much more easily. In 45 minutes, I'd made two color versions of the same design, and both made me happy. I'm going to run with this idea and will share those two cards soon. Let's see if starting with the stamps leads to a more productive and satisfying process! 

My mom complains that she can't grow knock-out roses in her Maryland yard. My Ohio yard, however, has no such problem. 

The first two bushes planted in 2017.

The three bushes late last week. The two oldest
are almost as tall as I am. We dug out the old
and ugly evergreen thing and replaced it with a rose
two years ago.

Keep in mind that I am generally a plant hospice worker...I ease plants home to Jesus. The success of our knock-outs is a result of soil and climate favoring the plants, not anything I have done. But the riot of color makes me so happy!

And now, a gratuitous dog photo. Just because.


The Paw Pillow


Awwwwww. 


Mercy, grace, peace, and love,
Susan


Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Bold Blue and Commitment

Today's card was inspired by THIS GORGEOUS PIN. My version evolved over several hours and failed attempts at paper tearing and faux watercolor stamping into this crisp, bold, and high contrast version. My skills are definitely rusty, but I happily persevered and got there in the end!

The card is 7.25 x 3.5 inches.



It took a shocking length of time to find a sentiment that fit here. I wanted to make a birthday card but not one sentiment in my extensive stash worked. Which reminded me of a Murphy's Law of stamping: You will NEVER have enough sentiments. Never. Ever. 

Alas.

In my last few posts, I've shared a bit of my mental health struggles over the past year or so, but now it's time to share a huge positive on the physical health front. 

Before last July, I could barely climb a flight of stairs without feeling winded. My feet hurt from plantar fasciitis, my joints hurt, and I could no longer carry a 40 pound bag of water softener salt to the basement. I was taking two different heartburn medications and still popping Tums like candy. My average resting heart rate was 72, and my blood pressure, though normal, was creeping up. I was chubby, had a very unhealthy diet, and did almost no exercise. Who am I kidding? I did NO exercise. 

I needed to eat healthier foods, get fit, and hurt less. But I had no idea how to get there.

Last July, I visited my family in Maryland. My sister had lost 45 pounds and looked amazing. She moved more easily and felt better than she had in years. That inspired me to start Noom, a weight loss app that has changed my life in some very encouraging ways. (Note: Noom is NOT sponsoring this post. I'm just sharing my experience.)

Noom taught me lifestyle changes that are permanent. You learn to customize a healthy lifestyle that you can live with forever. Diets work on deprivation, but that's not a long-term solution. Instead, Noom teaches you to exercise common sense by identifying thought distortions (like portion distortion or food "rewards") that get in the way of health. 

Here's a specific example. My son loves Cheetos. When I would see the bag, I would think, "I'll just have one handful. I deserve a handful of that orange crack!" Which would lead to two, three, four handfuls, and then I'd feel gross. Now, when I see the bag, I think, "Those make me feel gross." And I don't want them anymore. The same has happened with mochas and other high-calorie drinks. Black coffee and a Hershey's kiss satisfy much better and leave me feeling better, too!

Because I'm not giving up my three favorite things--coffee, chocolate, and wine--altogether. Let's not get crazy. Now, however, I weigh my wine so I can accurately record the calories in the app. Two ounces of wine isn't much but, sipped slowly, tastes heavenly. 

Best of all, although Noom doesn't have a guide for exercise, it does encourage movement. The more you exercise and record your workouts in the app, the higher your calorie budget for the day. I found this HIGHLY motivational! As someone whose hobbies (reading, writing, stamping) are almost entirely sedentary, getting into a regular workout routine has given me more energy, made me stronger, and reduced my pain.  

I lost 35 pounds in five months and have easily kept it off for five months. My resting heart rate went from 72 to 60. My plantar fasciitis is gone. I exercise almost every single day and feel so much stronger and more flexible. I can heft the water softener salt bags easily or squat down at the grocery store to get items off the bottom shelf and pop back up despite two bum knees thanks to Peloton yoga and my rowing machine. 

Bottom line: committing to a healthier lifestyle is one of the best ways to take care of yourself. And you'll feel better for it. 

2021

2022

And no, I didn't finish that whole glass of wine. I'm 55 and still teachable. 😊

Mercy, grace, peace, and love,

Susan

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Towel Inspiration

Today's card took almost two hours to make and was inspired by THIS PIN of a towel that's too pretty to use. 

I puttered. I searched for things in my craft area...not surprisingly, it seems I've forgotten what I have and where everything is. I had fun anyway, and the results of the puttering made me smile!




My first effort included three lines on the bottom, just like the towel, but it looked weird on a card. I redid the stamping without the lines and was happier for it!

Now for personal stuff. If you're here just for the cards, feel free to skip the rest of this post.

A lot has happened since I posted last year. I'm taking a sabbatical from teaching for the rest of the year. Bottom line, I'm burned out and need to refresh myself. The past two years have been draining and stressful. A friend told me--accurately--that I cared more than my students did. That's not healthy or helpful for them or for me. I need a little distance and boundary-building. Thankfully, as adjunct faculty, I'm blessed to have the option of stepping away temporarily and have the full support of my department chair. 

My heart hurts for all who don't have that option, regardless of their profession.

On the plus side, I've been able to get out and see some performances in the last few months. First, a Jeremy Camp concert in Kentucky with my son Jack. I enjoyed this one much more than the first we went to because I had hot-pink earplugs. We were in the 5th row. 


For those of you who identify as Christians, you might find my breakthrough at this concert interesting. You see, I'm definitely not a conservative Christian, and what goes on at Christian rock concerts makes me a little uncomfortable. Emotionally manipulative fundraising for a children's mission and a marketing pitch from a Christian app for the first half hour made me itchy from the start. I went fully prepared to suppress eye-rolls for the sake of my son who thinks Jeremy Camp is the bee's knees. 

During one song, a man went to the stage, leaned his head on it, and started sobbing. Another man, in the front row, crossed over to him and began...well, I don't know what he was doing, but he was shouting and laying his hands on the man. Perhaps he was praying over the man, but he seemed to be talking to the man, not God. 

The Stephen Minister in me turned on. "Just shut up!" I telepathically shouted at the stranger. "Listen to him! Don't jump in and assume you know what's going on! Quit shouting at him! Listen!"

But then it occurred to me that no matter how loudly the ministering man was shouting, the other man couldn't possibly have heard a word because they were right in front of a speaker on the stage. Their insides were vibrating and ears completely overloaded. This was not a Stephen Ministry moment.

Then, the ministering man started praying. Now it was obvious. And the hurting man was praying, almost falling in his emotional state. The ministering man kept hands behind him to catch him if he fell. 

Finally, the man calmed down, stood up, and hugged his ministering stranger. He seemed so peaceful and joyful and grateful.

I'm a good Methodist who occasionally says "Amen!" in service...when the pastor asks for it. So more emotive forms of religious experience aren't part of my faith life. If I ever spoke in tongues, I'd immediately commit myself to the nearest insane asylum. But I learned a lot in this brief experience, including a little humility and respect for the Spirit moving as it will in so many different ways that I'm too limited and ignorant to understand. God is so much bigger than we want to make Him.

As you judge, so shall you be judged. Scariest verse in the Bible. I learned a lesson in it that night.

And therein concludes the sermon.  

Just last Friday, Nick and I saw Something Rotten, a musical about Shakespeare's competitor Nick Bottom. It was hysterically funny and quite well done, with the unforgettable rhyme "Don't be a p*nis, the man is a genius!" 

I think the Bard would approve.  

It's good to be able to get out to performances again, although still a bit scary. Nick and I debated putting on masks as the theater filled. We chose not to do so, but it felt...strange. I wonder how long it will take before the trauma begins to wear off and we can feel "normal" in crowds. With news of the monkey pox in recent days, I really do wonder. 

Mercy, grace, peace, love, and good health to you all,

Susan