Friday, October 29, 2010

Scrapbook Layout. And it's really really blue

I like this layout in person, I really do.  But every time I think about posting it, it's just so blue I bypass it in favor of something, anything, else.   So many times blue is a great choice for my photos of little boys, but it's hard to go for - give me green any day!

On this set, though, I had printed this 12x12 photo of the sky through the trees (on the left side of the layout) that I had taken on a fun family outing and it begged for some blue to complement it. I added velum to ground the smaller photos without covering too much of the very large photo or making it too busy.  Silver and clear, shiny accents completed the wintry mood (although you can tell from our shirts that the weather was more "Texas" than "winter"!). 
Most of the photos were from a trip to Boggy Creek Farm here in Austin.  It's right in the city but a fun, small farm to visit with little ones or to score some farmstand produce.  It's really fun to be reliving Sammy's almost-one-year-old days through scrapbooking!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Sammy's Psyched for Halloween

You think Sammy's excited to be wearing his dinosaur costume to school today? He woke up asking, "I wear my costume dinosaur? I wear it to Turtles Class?"

My mom made this last year for my nephew and I'm beyond thrilled that it fit's Sammy this year. He's mighty proud of that tail.
After school he wanted to wear it to Walmart. I said sure. I mean, we were an over-tired extra-whiney spectacle, but at least it was a cute over-tired extra-whiney spectacle!  He didn't want to take it off to nap but I assured him he had a few more days of costume wearing to enjoy.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Roasted Winter Squash

Here is a super easy way to a great veggie side dish.  The winter squashes tend to be hard and really sweet - more like a sweet potato in flavor than a zucchini.  This is a Red Kuri squash but the method is the same for Butternut, Acorn (peel more of it because the peelings are just too tough) and all the odd winter squashes you see in the store.  And even though I'd never heard of Red Kuri, it didn't matter because this method is so versatile.

The only downside is that you need to start a little in advance of dinner - you can't walk in the kitchen at 5 and be done by 5:30!  But, once it's in the oven there is nothing left to do and you can focus on the rest of the meal.

*1. Peel as much of the squash as you want.  I like it about half peeled.  My sister leaves all the peeling on or you could take it all off (the peeling, that is). 
*2. Cut a sliver of the bottom end off so it will be stable on your cutting board and cut it in half.  Scoop out the seeds and such with a spoon.
3. Chop it into bite-sized pieces.  Toss with olive oil and coarse salt and pepper.  Add some rosemary if you like. 
4. Bake in a single layer at 425 for 25-45 minutes (it just depends on how big you cut the pieces and how much crispy caramelized edges you like). 

*If it's too hard to peel or cut, prick the skin all over  with a fork and microwave it for 3 minutes, then when it cool enough, peel and cut it as directed.

So sweet and tasty! 

Monday, October 25, 2010

First Fieldtrip

First ride on a school bus.  First out-and-about with his school class. 

Exciting days.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Scrapbook Layout: Valentines Day

Here is a layout showing Sammy's first Valentines Day. I had to go back to this post detailing Zack's imagination about Valentines presents to remember the full story. 

As far as the creative highlights for this layout go, there are several things that I thought were really fun to do.  You may recognize that curvy shape around the two red pictures as the frame left by the Top Note* die for the Big Shot. I love those frames as much as the note itself.  The white journaling block is also a Top Note, that was cut, then turned horizontally and cut again to leave a square note and two curvy bracket shapes.  Awwwe-some!  I didn't think of it.  But I like it a lot.  I did fine tune it a bit - the brackets left by a single cut are a little heavy-handed looking, I think.  I scooted them in and ran them again to make them a little skinnier and give a more delicate look.

The second fun thing was a new embossing powder I have in a color called Red Chile.  It's a really interesting combination of clear, red and black embossing powder.  I used it at the bottom of the red journaling paper over clear ink, on the chipboard pieces and on the metal hearts.  The chipboard was all raw pieces which I inked with brown and red in a mottled pattern.  When I melted the embossing powder on the flower, the color wasn't quite right so I inked and embossed again, which ended up burning some of the embossing powder.  The burned powder changed to a matte color with a whole different look! I decided I liked it that way.  

The metal hearts were hand cut with regular scissors out of some (washed!) heavy foil takeout packaging.  I find it really satisfying to make something out of throwaway stuff - like it increases the total amount of beauty in the world.  Cheesy, yes but hey, it's true!  The embossing powder behaved differently on the metal too - it melted and moved around, blown by the heat gun.  Interesting stuff.

*Top Note die - this is an exclusive Sizzix die from Stampin Up.  I have a favorite drug dealer Stampin Up consultant, but when I link directly to products it takes you to a generic site, not giving Cheryl credit for all the inspiration and design work she contributes to my papercrafting hobby and not giving you the preferred pricing you get by going through a consultant.  Which is a very long way to say - if you actually want to buy the Top Note, go to this Stampin Up site, click Products / Shop Now, and search for "Top Note". 

** Edited to add: Stampin Up added a feature so that I can make my links go directly to Cheryl's site - yay!  You can use that link now and go directly to the product, benefit Cheryl and get preferred pricing.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

I love my new bird punch

I have a new paper punch and it's so much fun!  I just got the EK Success Extra Large Two Step Bird Punch from Stampin' Up!.  I don't think the descriptor "two step" really makes sense - you punch once and get three pieces: the bird, the wing and a little branch.

On this card I punched a whole set - bird, wing and branch - out of chocolate brown and inked it with gold.  I also punched some wing shapes out of a patterned paper to put behind the bird like leaves.  I had been wanting to make something with a random ruffly look after seeing this layout.  The green spotted fabric is a scrap from this quilt - I didn't cut it to a specific shape or anything, just took the wedge I had and bunched it up, gluing it down with Glossy Accents for a really good hold. 

That raffia bow turned out really thick.  I had to double up my foam raised adhesive to get it tall enough for the bird to sit over the bow!  Everything was just kind of piled up for a free form look.  A little different that what I usually do, which made me happy. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Port Aransas

We love to spend a weekend at the Texas coast each October. We've normally visited an elderly friend there and gone with a group of friends and other families. This year nobody could make it so we weren't planning to go... but Zack had a day off school and we just hated to miss it. So we went just the four of us and ended up having a fabulous time.  We stayed in the same condo place we like, the Sandpiper, and brought groceries for our meals.  That way we didn't have to drive to the beach or to meals and could really enjoy our time.

Zack has always been wary of the waves, but this year he just ran right in. We couldn't believe how much braver he was about getting knocked over and getting water in his face.
See Zack waaaay out in the distance (above) ?

Sammy was much more inclined to play in the sand. I can't blame him - those waves are a lot higher on him compared to his hieght than on the rest of us!
I borrowed my dad's big digital SLR camera and tried it out to see what I could capture.  I really don't know what I'm doing with it, but it was fun to experiment.  I would have liked to do more but I was nervous about getting sand or seawater on it.  I definitely need to try playing around more with the camera to see what I can figure out!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Yippee for my Vintage Flower Frog!

Have you seen how people sometimes photograph cards or layouts standing up in a vintage flower frog?  Here's an example from Jennifer McGuire Ink. I like it for a couple of reasons.  For one, it's sometimes easier to see how a card looks when it is standing up.  But mostly I just love the vintage look of the flower frog!

I've been keeping an eye out for a vintage frog at garage sales and thrift shops for a while, but I just don't get to them often and hadn't found any.  A lovely woman at church found out I was looking for one and gave me three! This is the large one, plus there are two small ones that I thought I might use to stand up a layout.  They are heavy - James thinks possibly lead (therefore, he says, I should avoid licking them.  Hard to resist, right?).  They belonged to another church friend's grandmother who liked Japanese flower arranging.  So awesome.

Oh, and this is the thank-you card I'm sending!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Progress Report - Kit Quilt

Do these fabrics look familiar?  This is a quilt I started from some bargain quilt block kits I picked up just because I liked the colors.  It started out a little randomly and has continued on the same path!

I posted about piecing it with my mom (amidst some harassment for never finishing sewing projects!) and about leaving in the mistakes instead of trying for perfection (which I'd never manage anyway).  This September during my mom's visit we made yet more progress on it.  It is now bordered and backed, pin basted and ready for quilting. 

The batting and backing was a bit of a study in imperfection itself.  We calculated the amount of material we would need for backing, but then decided to add a border in the backing material.  For some reason, we thought we could get the borders out of the backing scraps, so we bought the same amount of material we had calculated for just the backing.  Well, duh. That didn't work.  We got the borders on and then didn't have enough material to do the back.  We had to go back to the store and get more and then piece together a back with multiple seams.  I guess that's no big deal (yes, it made me twitch). 

Then, we cut off the batting material at just the right length for the measured size of the quilt.  But when we sandwiched the quilt top with the batting and backing, guess what was too short?  The already cut off batting!  So dumb.  How hard would it have been to sandwhich and pin and then cut off the excess batting!??  Most people don't even cut it off, but I'm quilting on a small machine and I didn't want extra bulk to fight with.  I know how to patch the batting it but it's discouraging so I didn't do it (ha! what does reveal about me?).

After the visit I made a little more progress. I quilted a few lines in it (starting from the center and going out to the side with enough batting) but then I needed the table space back and my scrapbooking was calling me so I (again) put it away.  I guess I like sewing together more than sewing alone?  Or maybe I have to do too much of the work myself when my mom isn't around!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Roasted Potatoes

Don't these roasted potatoes look tasty? I bet they would have been really good. But, Sammy got sick right as I took them out of the oven, so by the time we ate them they were cold.  Chilly doesn't really do potatoes justice.  James had recently seen roasted potatoes somewhere (a steaming plate being taken to someone else's table?) and wished he was having some.  He asked if I could make us some this week.  I was disappointed to serve them "as is", but I didn't really know a great way of reheating them either.  And I was tired by that point.  

I also had trouble with the garlic cloves.  They were supposed to roast, in their skins, tossed in with the potatoes.  But, they smelled like they were burning.  I kept checking them to see what was up and finally just picked them out and threw them away, letting the potatoes finish roasting without them. 

Do you have a tried and true roasted potato method?  I'd love to hear it!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Awesome Candy Card

Check out this great card Julie made Zack for his birthday! It is filled with skittles and as you can imagine, was a big hit with Zack. It went with pirate party perfectly.

The candy box is made from some packaging - very cool recycling! And, she made a slide-out back so that the card doesn't have to be torn to get to the candy.  Cheryl's Halloween treats are done that way too this year and I really like it.  Clever stuff.  

Saturday, October 09, 2010

That's Mister to You

"I not a cu-tie pie. I a mister cu-tie pie," said Sammy.  The child cracks me up.

Happy Saturday!

Friday, October 08, 2010

A Scrapbook Layout: First Christmas

This was a really enjoyable layout to assemble. The original design was Cheryl's and looked like this:

I made it at one of her Stamp Classes - so much fun!  Some of the white pieces are smooth and some are textured.  The pearlescent pieces are resist-printed paper that we got to ink with Smooch inks to create this richly colored, shimmery look.  I chose a different pattern of resist-paper than in Cheryl's example and you can see the difference created in the final look.  I also intentionally left more color variation when I did the inking, liking the more artsy look.

I was really excited to find that the red and brown went perfectly with my pictures from Sammy's first Christmas.  I love using a little spin on traditional color schemes to freshen up the effect.  But when I went to add my photos, I had to make some adjustments. Although there was plenty of room in the original design for multiple pictures, I wanted a certain number of photos with a certain combination of horizontal and vertical alignment.

I also found that my own photos were so visually busy that I needed to free up a little whitespace (well, redspace and brownspace) in the layout to give the eye a little room to rest.  The difference in the pattern of the resist-paper and the variation in ink color only increased the need for open space.  When I thought the layout was finished, those open spaces were totally blank.  The effect was too stark in comparison to the visual intensity of the rest of the layout.  At the advice of my favorite scrapbook consultant, my sister, I added those tone-on-tone leaves (cut with my Big Shot) to the brown side and just a little accent to the red side.  I love the whole sparkly result!

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Chicken Alfredo Pizza with Basil and Roasted Tomatoes

This pizza was so easy.  I used leftover Alfredo sauce, leftover chicken, basil from the garden and some grape tomatoes I had left from another recipe.  It is really tasty and goes together quickly.  I go through stages when I make my own sauce, but this isn't one of them.  I go through other stages when I think I'm going to start making my own crust, but this was a refrigerated crust.  It turned out delicious.

To roast the tomatoes, toss them with olive oil, salt and pepper and put them in the oven at 400 for 10 minutes or until they've all burst.  You can use a roasting pan or a cast iron skillet.  Bursting them in the oven ensures they'll be cooked to a sweet caramelized state by the time the pizza is done and prevents you from having an unappetizing puddle of tomato liquid on your pizza.

Spread alfredo sauce on the crust, top with cheese, cooked chicken and fresh basil leaves.  Add the tomatoes straight from the roasting pan using tongs (discard the liquid) and cook at 450 for 9-11 minutes or as directed for your crust. 

Garnish with Parmesan and freshly ground pepper.  Yum!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Cool Videos and Perfect Pearls

I have to tell you about this cool set of crafting/scrapbooking videos by Jennifer McGuire. Jennifer posted a series of classes to the scrapbooking website Two Peas in a Bucket last summer.  There are free photos, a video, a downloadable PDF and discussion in each of twenty-seven classes! It's a great introduction to multiple products and techniques but also provides multiple ideas for expanding how you use your products.  There is so much awesome information here! 

For example, one product I am really loving lately is called Perfect Pearls.  I usually mix them with water and spray on finished decorative elements to give them a little sparkle (like in the picture here).  Now that I've had some for a little while I'm ready to expand what I do with them.   I just re-watched this video class and I'm so excited to try the things she recommends.  I'm going to go make some dots out of Glossy Accents and color them with perfect pearls right away!

Please, somebody, go check out these video classes and let me know what you are trying out!

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The Littlest Kindergartner

Zack in his Kindergarten Room
I am loving getting to go help in Zack's classroom.  I go once a week and Sammy comes with me.  I like getting to know the kids and seeing how the classroom operates.  This past week his teacher put me on a job I'm going to be continuing for several weeks - helping the kids sound out and write words for a repeating project.  Since all the kids are at different stages, I am really learning a lot.  It's interesting to see the different order in which skills develop - something you don't get a sense of when you are only watching your one child.  I'm also getting little tidbits here and there about how to teach.  Very rewarding.
Sammy at the Sand Table

Sammy has been shockingly easy to take along.  He seems to think he belongs there.  He would go every day if we had the opportunity.  The kids do get distracted by trying to hug on him, but other than that it hasn't been a disruption even.  He loves the class centers so between that and his snacks, he is entertained the whole time we're there.  The only time he interrupts is when he thinks it's his turn to do the Kindergarten projects!

Monday, October 04, 2010


I've been checking out the new (to me) world of Discovery Toys. My sister is a new rep for them so we've been talking about the products. I remember this company as the one who made the Tangrams I loved when I was a kid.  I'm not normally one to be into a lot of toys but I've been impressed with the combination of simple + educational + fun. 

We have a little friend turning three.  He loves boats so I had a a boat puzzle picked out, but it turned out to be a little old for him.  I instead got him one of Julie's recommendations, the Giant Pegboard. She says her three year old loves it. I got it, but I wasn't really sure what the point was. There are 25 pegs in five colors and five shapes. They go in the pegs or stack in each other. I got it out of the box just to see what one would do with it. I didn't want to give something that was too young for him or that I didn't know how to play with.

My kids really loved this thing. I sent Sammy to check it out and he was thrilled with it. The pegs are plenty big for his chubby fingers but require enough dexterity to be challenging. I sent Zack to check it out and twenty minutes later he was still proudly making patterns based on the shapes and colors.  I think it's pretty good if my six and two year old enjoy it!  I sat down with Sammy and felt like we were really having fun, educational play. I was pretty pleased by the time we took it to the birthday party. I felt compelled to warn the parents that it didn't look like there was much point but it had performed really well with the kiddos. A few hours later my friend sent me this picture:
Almost-eight year old sister is sitting and playing with it too! Fun stuff.  We're doing a few more of these toys as gifts and for our own kids, so I'll keep reporting back on what we think!

Friday, October 01, 2010

A layout: Sicky Baby

This was a fun layout because I used this cool piece of postage stamp cut paper that I've been hoarding forever! A friend gave it to me back during our Scrapbooking Retreat and it's so cute. It is shimmery with that great cut-out border shape. I spread it over two pages to bring the double layout together.

When I originally started this layout, I had a little 2 x 3" piece of paper designated for journaling. When I started writing on scratch paper, however, I remembered so much about this time that I wanted written down as part of the story.  I just went back and looked at my blog post for this time and now I realize there was even more I'd forgotten!  That's ok, I like the feeling of having my version of the story at the time (even longer than the journaling here) and my version in retrospect. 

A few interesting crafty notes - the cork is an actual cork, just sliced with a kitchen knife and glued on.  The green accent pieces are not purchased embellishments but circles of the paper I cut out by punch or by hand, depending on the size.  The graph paper was the backing to a sticker set that I liked.  Its very glossy and I was concerned my journaling would smear, so I wrote it all, then used embossing powder and heat setting.  The words are not all embossed, but anything that was still wet is and it's firmly set with no smears.

Sammy really likes seeing these layouts on my worktable.  He's so excited to identify Granny or whomever is in the layout, but has no idea that baby is himself!