Friday, August 27, 2010

Shutter Card

Did I mention that my sister sent me the most beautiful birthday card?  It's a shutter card, which means it unfolds in an elaborate triple accordion.  I made a shutter card myself at one of Cheryl's classes and just stamping it and putting it together from the prepared pieces what quite the project!  I feel very honored.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Big Shot

Happy Birthday to me!!

My husband got me a super cool new papercrafting tool for my birthday. It's called the Sizzix Big Shot and it is, to borrow a phrase from a cheesy script I recently used, rockin' awesome.  It is basically a platform and some rollers - it squishes things.  It may sound boring but it turns out very cool.  You put dies through it to cut shapes.  You put embossing folders or plates through to add raised textures.  I did a lot of comparing between digital systems (like the Cricut) and manual systems (like this one but there are many other brands).  There were a few things that sold me on this one.

First, this particular machine uses dies, folders and plates by all the different manufacturers, not just its own.  It makes it very versatile, plus I feel a psychological benefit to not being locked into one brand (and what does that say about me, eh?).

Second, I really love the embossed textures.  The digital systems don't do that.  Here's one I love but unfortunately photos don't really do it justice.   This embossing texture is so complete (meaning every part of the paper is pressed up or down) that it gives the paper a fabric-like texture. 
Third, the dies from Sizzix are very strong - the full size ones will cut through up to six layers of fabric, through chipboard, cardboard, acrylic and thin metal.  Wow!  And Stampin Up! partners with Sizzix on unique designs that are really lovely.  Here's the one I currently have - it's a scallop edged shape called the Top Note that is great for scrapbooking and cardmaking.  That's a random piece of cardboard turned into something cool!  The only downside with these is that the full thickness dies are pretty expensive - around $20 each.  But, they can be used over and over and you can also get thinner dies that only cut through paper or cardstock.

Fourth, you don't waste a lot of paper. I definitely have a mental hangup in this area.  I enjoy using scraps of paper (even if they're teensy) so when I have them, I can't stand to throw them away.  I think using a Cricut would send me into a some kind of downward spiral!  With the Big Shot, the frame left after I cut something has as many uses as the something itself - I used the Top Note frame at least as often as I use the Top Note.

Even though I just had my birthday, I've had my new toy for a little while (it was on sale...).  You'll see the results popping up in stuff I post, I'm sure!  If you are thinking about buying one, here are a couple of tips:  Check Overstock and Joanns Online - they seem to have the best prices on bundles at Overstock and the best sales at Joanns Online.  Be sure it comes with the multi-use platform and a set of cutting pads (it usually does).  The extended cutting pads would be nice if you are going to want to use the extended dies.  Finally, check out the great designs from Stampin' Up! and from Tim Holtz - both are awesome!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Red Pepper Bruchetta-like Yummy Things

I'm not sure what this recipe should be called.  It should not be called "Pepper Surprises" as it is titled in the cookbook, The Occasional Vegetarian.  Nobody wants to eat something with "Surprise" in the title.  But the result was delicious - kind of like a bruchetta on roasted pepper without the acidity.  Here is how I made it (reduced for a family dinner, slightly modified, instructions simplified), though I also really recommend the book.

The kids liked the filling but I think they need to warm up to the red pepper.  They usually eat it either cooked through (as it is in a casserole) or raw with dip.   Still, I loved it.  Some pine nuts would be a great addition to the filling.
Red Pepper Roasties?  would that be a good title?

1 red pepper
2 oz mozzerella cheese, shredded
1 oz feta cheese, crumbled,
1 T sun-dried tomatoes with oil
1 T of basil leaves

Quarter the pepper longwise, then slice it horizontally in thirds (12 pieces).  Rub some of the oil from the tomatoes on the skin and roast it on a foil-lined sheet at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes.  The edges will be a little charred.

Chop the tomatoes and basil and mix with the cheeses.  Pepper to taste.  Put a dallop in each red pepper "boat" and cook at 425 degrees for 5 more minutes or until melty.  Serve hot or room temperature.

Monday, August 23, 2010


Hard to believe my boy is so big. Hard to believe my boy who looks so big to me is so little compared to the rest of the school.

He did great this morning. Took everything in stride and marched along to class. We're so excited.

(And so tired. Man, school is early.)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

What's the Plan, Man?

Do you have a neat way to showcase your kids' art and schoolwork?

In just a few days, Zack will start school and I know the onslaught of worksheets and art projects coming home will begin again.  The next week, Sammy will start pre-school and he'll have items too.  I hate how disorganized I feel about saving them and how hard it is to throw them away. I wish I would date everything immediately - how can I get myself do that?  I'd like to save just a small selection of compelling or representative items, but how to choose, and where to store, and what to do with them later?

Earlier in the summer I polled my friends and got some ideas. Two have an art wire where they hang current projects. One has a portfolio where she keeps a selection of "keeper" pieces, that then get weeded out and replaced as the portfolio gets too full. I am working on incorporating some form of those for our family. I also need to deal with all the stuff they will be bringing home from school that isn't necessarily "art". 

Here is one awesome book I like that showcases the schoolwork and art from a single year.

I like that but if I ever hope to do anything like it (or just keep from having piles of incoming junk sitting everywehre!) I need a plan for what to do with pieces as they arrive.  I want to work on that over the next few days... because a few days is all I have left and then it's school time!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Road Trip 2010 Mini-Album

Scrapbooking on the Go has to be called a success for me, because I have the album finished! It was really nice to finish this little book before I was past ready to be done with it. I had so much fun making it and am already enjoying looking back at the photos and memorabilia.  This mini-book has a lot of pages in it, but I'm going to show just a few to explain what I like about how it came together.

First, I like that the pages are all different sizes.  As you see in this one, there are little mini pages (made from a 4x6 photo cut in half with the two halves glued back to back), 4x6 photo pages (again, photos are just glued back to back to form the page), scalloped pages printed (at a size to make the tops stick up out of the book) and cut out, and the 5x7 cardstock pages with which I started.  In this view you can see four layers and then peel them back to reveal the layer underneath.  I like the feeling of seeing glimpses of what's ahead.
Sometimes I added little elements to make things stick up above the top of the book or out beyond the page.  On this photo of Zack walking along the path there is an embossed paper butterfly at the top corner - on the reverse side another butterfly in a different color mirrors it so that the "tab" formed by the wings is a double thickness.

Second, I loved putting in the ephemera of our vacation.  Most of the maps from cities and attractions I cut into 5x7 pages (that's the zoo map in the background behind the butterfly page above).  We spent a lot of time looking at various maps while we were on the trip so I like looking at them now and the feeling of being back there, exploring.  It was fun to combine brochures and pictures... and sometimes even food wrappers and pictures!
I didn't worry about the archival quality of anything.  I have the pictures on disk (and backed up on an external drive) so it was more important to me to enjoy adding real life pieces of our journey than to only use acid-free supplies.  That freed me to put in some of Zack's art that told stories along the way:

The whole thing was fun - both the process and the result.  As a vacation should be, right?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Scrapbooking on the Go

I wanted to make a mini-book for our summer trip. I loved doing the book I made last year for a weekend in San Antonio and I knew this would be a memorable vacation. What I didn't want was to come home to a thousand pictures (1207 to be exact) and an overwhelming project. I know myself well enough to know that at that point it would become a "someday" project rather than a reality. Even if I did tackle the project, I didn't want to be working on it long after the buzz of the trip was gone (like I was with my December Daily mini!)

Of course, it would be fine to just make an online photo album and send links to my family. I do that pretty often. But I really like all the "stuff" that you can collect when you go to a fun event or attraction and I wanted to do something with those items as well. Also, when I scrap on trips it's just more fun. In the past it has been taking things along on family visits so that my sister and I could work together.

But then I found this Ali Edwards article about Scrapbooking on the Road and was so inspired! I decided to put myself together a book and a kit and take it with me. I cut some chipboard covers and cardstock pages to 5x7, used my Crop-A-Dile to punch holes, and put them together for a blank starter book (that's it in the third photo of the Crop-A-Dile post). James found a metal, box-style clipboard at a yard sale (for two dollars!) so I filled it with basic supplies, some embellishments that followed my theme, tools and my book.

I used it a lot! I worked in the car but I found I had other times to use it too. When we're in hotels I end up stuck in the room (or more often in the hall) during naptimes or early bedtimes supervising sleeping children. It was so lovely to have something creative and inspiring to work on. I picked up brochures, maps and little memorabilia along the way and then just puttered with it - cutting out the cool bits to save, making pieces into additional pages, etc.

Eventually I needed photos to continue: hooray for wi-fi! I usually download my pictures often and go through them, picking favorites and deleting the many duds, so it wasn't too much more to check google maps for a nearby photoshop, upload the pics and pick them up on our way to our next outing. Not waiting until we got home for printed pictures made it so much fun.

I found that scrapbooking on the road helped me remember the stories along the way helped me focus on the best of the trip. Sure, we're in the car for hours on end - but I'm doing something I love, with people I love. I thought about the funny things the kids said and did and how to capture them. My mind was occupied with the good and memorable, instead of the little annoyances along the way. I'm so glad I did this and hope to both finish my book and do it again.

p.s. Here is the finished product!


Thursday, August 12, 2010

The St. Louis Zoo

One of the hottest spots for kids in St. Louis is the Zoo.  Even though it's been a while since we got back from out trip, it was such a neat place that I just have to tell you about it.

The Zoo is in Forest Park, a large urban park with lots of opens spaces but also the Art Museum, History Museum, a beautiful greenhouse attraction called the Jewel Box, an outdoor theater, the Science Center and other attractions.  Many, including the Zoo, have free admission.  It's really quite a wonderful collection of places, all in a beautiful park. 
The Zoo itself was great fun.  We went as early as we could manage to get there (what with feeding the kids and checking out of the hotel and so on) with the intention to explore until naptime and then get in the car and drive to central Indiana (here's the problem we often have with that plan: my idea and James' idea of what time "naptime" means are never really match up).

We went straight to the penguin's area, knowing we had probably missed the feeding but thinking we'd just check and see.  We arrived just as the feeding started and it was so entertaining.  The zookeeper knew all the birds by name and told us who was related to whom and little details about their individual personalities.  Some were big eaters, some had to be coaxed to eat, some wanted in her lap, some shied away... we could even start to see how she could tell them apart. It was one of the highlights of the visit.

We enjoyed the other animals and the plantings were really beautiful too.  In fact, we enjoyed the flowers in the the whole city - many of the business streets in the smaller areas had beautiful annuals planted along the roads and sidewalks.

As the kids were getting more tired and the heat was wearing them down, we realized we still hadn't ridden the train, one of the highlights of the Zoo.  What we should have done, we saw in retrospect, was use the train as a little transport to each different area.  They have the train ride structured so that you get four portions of your ticket and can use them in a row or get off and back on at each station for a full round trip.  If you go, we definitely recommend that: get your train tickets, then get on and off to see each of the main spaces. 

When we got on the train we were so relieved to be under the shade and out of the blistering sun.  It had gotten hot enough that the humidity had begun to feel oppressive.  We were wilting and the train was a nice break.  We saw the areas we had visited from a different view and got a little taste of the spaces we had run out of time to see.  As we were finishing our ride, the sky started getting dark.  The wind picked up and the temperature was suddenly bearable.  Light sprinkles were falling and we were again glad to be under cover.  It quickly became clear that it was not going to continue at "light sprinkle" status.  The sky got darker and darker.  We jumped off, realizing that for once, we weren't going to have to have a "discussion" between James and I about whether we should go straight to the car or keep stopping to look at exhibits along the way.  There was no question!  We were practically jogging as we quickly rushed up the stroller ramps and to the exit.  By the time we hit the parking lot those light sprinkles were light rain that was hitting us sideways.  We tossed the boys into their carseats, threw our stroller on top of the rest of our belongings and leaped into the car.  The sky opened up and POURED.  We rolled out of Forest Park in a driving rain.  We couldn't get on the highway because we just couldn't see anything.  We wanted to get some food but maneuvering in an unfamiliar area in that downpour was almost impossible.  We were very glad to be in the car anyway, and headed ourselves across the river and out of town!  I'd say we made the most of every second of our Zoo time... and maybe a few seconds more. 

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Gardening on the Kitchen Counter: Sprouts in a Glass Jar

We were at the garden shop this weekend and I saw a display of sprout seeds and sprouting trays. I love sprouts - alfalfa but also the spicy blends. I had a vague recollection that you didn't really need special equipment so I got a pack of seeds and came home and googled - there are lots of sources but they all say about the same thing: just grow them in a jar on the counter!   It was supposed to be extremely easy, and so it was.

My tablespoon of seeds turned into three cups of sprouts after they were fluffed.  They are nice and crisp and tasty.  I started with alfalfa but plan to see if my grocery store has the seeds in bulk so I can do radish or rocket - YUM.  There wasn't much to it and it was fun to see them change and grow so quickly.  The kids liked it too.  No delayed gratification - this is my kind of gardening!

Here is the method:
Use a glass jar, about a quart size, a piece of cheesecloth or nylon stocking (like pantyhose), and a rubber band or jar ring.  Keep the jar on the countertop (it shouldn't be warmer than about 80 degrees though).  It doesn't need light while soaking or growing.
  1. Add about 1 T sprouts to the jar.  Put the cheesecloth or nylon stocking on top and secure it down with rubber band or jar ring.  You'll be adding and pouring water out through the cloth so that the seeds stay in the jar.
  2. Add about half a jar of cool tapwater and soak overnight. 
  3. The next day, pour off the water (through the cloth) and add new water to rinse.  Pour off the rinsewater to leave the seeds damp but no puddles in the jar.  Roll the jar around the spread out the seeds over the surface of the glass and leave the jar on it's side.
  4. Continue to rinse and spread out the seeds daily (or twice a day), leaving the cloth on the whole time.  You'll see the sprouts growing.  
  5. By day four or so, the sprouts will be grown and ready.  Put them in the sun for 15 minutes to green them up and activate the phytochemicals.  
  6. Enjoy!  You can store them in the fridge and continue eating for several days.
The purpose of rinsing is to keep them damp but prevent any bacteria from growing in the water.  You shouldn't smell a funky smell - if you do, rinse more or keep it somewhere cooler.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

The St. Louis Arch

One of the cities we visited on our summer vacation was St. Louis. James was really keen to go through there on our way to the Indianapolis area. I didn't know anything about St. Louis so I was unaware of what a great place it is. The first thing on our agenda was to go see the arch. I was game to go along but not excited or anything... It's an arch with an elevator inside, right?  On the way, James told the boys about how his father was just outside St. Louis the day they placed the final section in the very top of the arch and remembers them pulling the outside pieces in slightly to meet the middle section.

When we got there, I was very impressed. I see now why St. Louisans (St. Louisites?) are so crazy about their arch and have it on every image, sign or symbol for the city. The size and grace of the structure are quite striking, and after having seen it up close, it retains it's beauty when seen from afar.  Standing below felt momentous and I realized, "I really like this city."
(We are trying out a new point and shoot camera, so I often hand Zack, my budding photographer, the older one. I love seeing him work hard to get a good photo angle. He took the image of the arch at the top of this post.)
The "must do" thing at the arch is to visit the underground museum below the base and ride to the top of the arch to look out. You can enter from either side of the base which opens to a large continuous space below filled with a theater, a museum, a gift shop and tram stations. The ride to the top is taken in these little capsules that seat five in a semi-circle, knee to knee. The downside to the visit is that you stand in a line to get tram tickets, then in a line to be called for your tram boarding, then in another line to get your boarding passes, then in a line to have your boarding pass called, then in a line to board. In all these lines you are toe to toe with a crush of people. So. Many. People. So little room to stand. No place for small children to move. In some cases your assigned space is a yellow square that it's impossible to get into if you are holding a small child on your hip. There is no place to sit down until you are in the capsule, then you are very conscious of being unable to avoid touching strangers. The attendants said it wasn't even particularly busy that day.

The view from the top is nice.  Is it nice enough to counteract all those lines and all that congestion?  Yes... I think so.  Or rather, the experience of having been is enough to make me glad we went.  It was a good and fun thing to do, it just didn't compare to the beauty of the structure from the outside.

Although, there was another cramped stand-in-this-tiny-yellow-box-with-your-hip-touching-a-stranger line to get back down. 

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Thinking of You Card

This past month, Cheryl had a challenge for her stamp class: bring a card inspired by a magazine layout or similar item (check out her card for an example). 

When we were on our trip, we were given this flyer for a winery across the street from our hotel.  Even though we didn't go over there, I kept the flyer with my trip memorabilia because it was just so pretty.  On the afternoon of stamp class, with nothing to bring for challenge, I finally realized that was exactly the sort of thing that could inspire a card.

This card has a tan base that has been stamped with a secondary image (meaning I stamped once on scrap paper and then several times on my card for lighter images) of my floral branch (the stamp set is the retired Eastern Influences from Stampin' Up!).  The main branch image was stamped on white cardstock and then cut out.  As you can tell, it wasn't the best candidate for cutting out - lots of detail work later, it still doesn't quite have the clean silhouette I wanted.

I painted in the branches with Twinkling H2Os by LuminArte , which has a pretty shimmer that doesn't really show in the photos. The cut out branch was still too wet when I tried to adhere it (hey, class was about to start!) so I tore it in a couple of places!  I glued it on ok, though and "accented" the torn spot with some gold Stickles

The bottom third of the card has the Woodgrain background stamp.  I used some flourishy stamps to barely decorate the edges of my white circle for my "Thinking of You" sentiment and put a scrap of leftover ribbon in the bottom corner.