"I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing." ~ Dame Agatha Christie

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Letting Go and Starting Over

"Letting go is an act of strength and courage.
It helps healing begin, frees you of the weight of the past,
and opens doors to a new future." 
~~Stephanie Tourles, Lift Me Up

My mother's voice is screaming in my subconscious, trying to strangle me into the belief that I failed miserably in 2011.  I did not complete my reading challenges.  I did not get 50K written during either Camp NaNoWriMo session, nor during November--in fact, I don't believe I got 50K written on my novel this year.  I did not make, much less post, a lot of cards--even my best friends did not receive handmade birthday greetings (some were lucky to get a quick e-mail acknowledging their big day).  I did not lose weight.  I did not pay off all my debt.  

Mother, I loved you, but your unrealistic expectations for me while you lived damn near drove me into insanity and helped encourage some really bad behaviors for years, so please allow me to kindly (but firmly) tell you to be quiet.  I'm grown and I make my own decisions (and accept the consequences of those decisions).

I hereby let go of the unfinished idealized list of accomplishments I had set for myself for 2011.  No more weighing myself down with regret or negative self-talk.  No more wallowing in what did not happen the way I wanted it to.

I did accomplish many things in 2011:
  • Attended on-site training at my job (which helped me stay actively employed all year)
  • Paid off one of five student loans
  • Kept my Stampin' Up! demonstrator status active (and increased my customer base)
  • Learned multiple new software programs
  • Set up a complete wireless network in my apartment to maximize the connectivity of my work equipment to the company network (allowing me to continue to work remotely)
  • Decreased my carbon footprint by decreasing my electrical usage in my home (even with record Texas summer heat)
  • Replaced my microwave after accidentally almost starting a fire in it one night while I was busily writing
  • Upgraded my laptop after managing to fry the hard drive in the old one
I also read for pleasure--primarily on my Kindle or my Kindle for Android app.  Between Paperback Swap and donations to my local public library, I succeeded in moving over 300 books out of my apartment.  On the other hand, I  brought in about 150 physical volumes because I still cannot seem to do historical research without actually highlighting passages and making margin notes LOL.

Speaking of historical research, I did a lot of it--and read quite a bit about the craft of writing and publishing (and about marketing yourself).  I didn't reach my goal of 100 complete books in this year, but I did manage to read portions of over 100--see, research to me doesn't always mean reading from beginning to end; some of the Civil War material I have accumulated may never be read cover-to-cover, but it is being read as necessary to help with accuracy for a specific scene.  The same with various texts on using software programs--most of these texts are getting used weekly and marked accordingly, yet only as the information is required.

Was I a success in 2011?  Why, yes--I may not be rich monetarily, or have a managerial position at my job.  I don't own a home or a car.  But none of these things define success for me.  I have friends.  I have a comfortable apartment and a lease until 2014.  I have a wonderful job with nice benefits.  I have my health.  I have a slowly increasing retirement savings account and a slowly decreasing debt load.  I have hope for both my future and the future of this great land (still the best place in the world to live). 

What else could a woman hope for?  My Blessings are many and my regrets for the past are very few.  With that attitude toward my future, my end of year message to my Mother's ghost is simply this--I am indeed a successful, happy human being full of delight in the present and ideas for the future. 

Here's to opening doors of wonder and delight for 2012!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Lessons Learned

To all those on the East Coast affected (however slightly) by Hurricane Irene, our thoughts and prayers are with you...

Six years ago today, I was sitting in a home in Picayune, Mississippi with my boss and her husband, watching Katrina in all her glory uproot pine trees that were over a hundred years old as if they were saplings.  We lost power and were unable to clear roads for several days--but we lived through the destruction.  I'm alive today in great part because folks who did not know me well insisted I evacuate with them rather than stay alone in my New Orleans apartment.  Many in New Orleans Parish and other areas of the Gulf Coast were not so Blessed.

It was interesting to me as I watched the various government agencies react to this weekend's weather.  As Catherine Aird once said, "If you can't be a good example, then you'll just have to serve as a horrible warning."  We all saw (especially in hindsight) many mistakes before, during and after Katrina six years ago this very weekend.  Some things worked back then (the good examples) and other simply became horrible warnings...

I was pleasantly surprised to see FEMA and local and state officials show they learned lessons from Katrina:
  1. Mandatory (and early) evacuations of low-lying areas prior to the closing of mass transit
  2. Early deployment of National Guard and other emergency personnel to ensure as rapid a response to emergency that weather would allow
  3. Shelters set up in advance with supplies available to house evacuees
  4. Coordination of every level of government to allow each level to handle its own responsibility with the knowledge that the next level up is already prepared to step in and take over if necessary
The hindsight pundits that today are saying this weekend was "much ado about nothing" are entitled to their opinion.  Frankly, though, I would rather see a coordinated, timely, forewarned response than the devastation in lives and property that occurs when we simply sit back and hope for the best and then scramble to react after the fact.

To those of you experiencing the horrific flooding, stay strong.  It may not look like you will recover now, but recovery is possible.  Things can be replaced.  The quotation on my desk calendar today is from Buddha and seems most appropriate:

"Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn't learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn't learn a little, at least we didn't get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn't die; so, let us all be thankful."

Sunday, July 31, 2011

I've Extended my Camping Trip

July's version of Camp NaNo kinda sucked...it started well, but the Texas heat plus my day job doing data entry made it very difficult for my right wrist/elbow/shoulder to allow extensive additional typing.  A series of surgeries over a decade ago left weaknesses in my right arm and while it usually causes me more trouble in extreme cold, this summer's extreme heat (today was--I believe--the 30th day in a row of 100 degree days; the second longest streak of consecutive days Dallas has seen) has totally worn out my arm.  (Extra weather trivia--the longest streak was in 1980; I was pregnant that summer with my youngest son, and pregnancy in this type of heat was no walk in the park either LOL.)

Okay--so little writing got done.  Not to be defeated permanently, I have changed tactics.  I'm allowing technology to help me for the August camp session.  I've loaded Dragon Naturally Speaking 11.5 onto both my personal computers, so I will be dictating "Louisiana Lightning" and hopefully be much more successful in "writing" 50K in 31 days.

I will confess that I did read a bit in July, and this past Thursday made time to see Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, Part 2.  I'll be adding the books I read to my challenge lists, and perhaps write reviews later.  The movie will receive its own review here soon.  Suffice it to say--I loved it!!  Thank heavens they split the last book...

July also started the new Stampin' Up! year and the new Idea Book & Catalog is the best I've ever seen!  Our Summer Mini catalog will end August 31, and the Holiday Mini will begin September 1 (I'll be able to post links then).  So, I'd love to be stamping and having fun--I miss my card challenges tremendously--and if the dictation works like I believe it will, my arm may allow some creating soon (I hope).

Stay as cool as you can, and I appreciate all my followers being so patient with me as I try to work thru health issues and get back to sharing online on a more regular basis.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

I'm Going to Summer Camp!

Camp NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow!  I'm planning on another 50K and since July has 31 days, I only need 1613 words each day to be a winner!  November was a bust for me last year--I was a "pantser" rather than a "plotter"--and so when the wonderful people at The Office of Letters and Light decided to have a summer camp program, I jumped at the chance to escape from the Texas heat and spend time in 1862 Louisiana (yeah, I'm still writing about the Civil War).

Not that I expect July to be an easy road of writing.  I have a working outline (no more being a "pantser" for me, LOL), but July holds its own set of writing challenges--the new Stampin' Up! 2011-2012 Idea Book & Catalog debuts tomorrow!  It's the yummiest one I have ever seen!  And of course, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II debuts on July 15...even though I know the ending, I have to see this one on the big screen as I have all the prior seven. 

However, I have a wonderful inspiration piece to keep me motivated.  My dear friend Beverly over at GottHeartArt is a published artist in several card making magazines and has recently branched out into mixed media.  She decided to gift me with a beautiful piece for my writing area:

Isn't this the most awesome gift ever?  The acorn idea came from reading Sage Cohen's The Productive Writer and I encourage any creative soul to read this book, as all the tips and techniques are inspiring for anyone who wants to pursue a dream.

So--even though my idea of camping out usually means a cheap hotel room without cable (I used to say with a black and white TV but that would really prove how old I am LOL), I am headed to writing camp!  I'll try to check in here more often than I have been (which would really be ironic given the scarcity of posts the past few months), but I will surely post my win come July 31 (nothing like the power of positive thinking LOL).

For any Canadian readers, Happy Canada Day on July 1 and for the Americans, Happy Independence Day on July 4!  If you are visiting from anywhere else--welcome and I hope to get to know you better ;-)

Monday, May 30, 2011

Thanks for Serving Our Country

Standing in the grassy sod bordering row upon row of white crosses in an American cemetery, two dungaree-clad Coast Guardsmen pay silent homage to the memory of a fellow Coast Guardsman who lost his life in action in the Ryukyu Islands., ca. 1945 ARC Identifier 513229

I chose this photo (courtesy of this site) in honor of my late father who served in the Coast Guard during WWII in the Pacific.  Thank you, Dad.

And thank you to all the other veterans of all the other conflicts and wars we seem to get enmeshed in...you protect our freedom and deserve our accolades.  May the Creator Bless you and your families today and always.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

"If You Can't Say Something Nice..."

Anybody old enough to be able to finish that phrase as it came out of your mother/grandmother's mouth?  If you wonder where I've been, life threw some curve balls recently. 

Because I understand the word "responsibility" to mean that I adjust my work schedule to help the company that pays my bills and buys my groceries, I just spent several weeks working odder than normal hours.  Blogging took a back seat, especially as I don't want to be known for ranting incessantly and recent American political events have certainly been rant-worthy in my eyes (although I did get quite a few laughs when Donald Trump attempted to make me take him seriously as a Presidential candidate).

I did get some enjoyment while away from the blogosphere--the Royal Wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge was absolutely breathtaking.  It was a real treat and so very different from the weddings of Prince Charles and Prince Andrew.  Yes, I'm a Royal watcher and not ashamed of it and feel that "The Firm" has learned much this past decade or so--the young Royals will serve Great Britain well (as long as Princess Beatrice picks a new designer for any future hats LOL).

And, I slipped in some historical fiction between work shifts--three wonderful novels set in the South during the American Revolution:  Paper Woman, The Blacksmith's Daughter, and Camp Follower.  All by Suzanne Adair, they can be read as stand-alone stories, but as they share characters, they work best read in order.  I loved them and can hardly wait for the next volume--without giving too much of a spoiler, she has created a villain that you absolutely love to hate.

My schedule at work may be returning to a sense of normalcy, so I hope to get back to regular posts--the Stampin' Up! catalog transition begins June 1st when the Last Chance Lists post in preparation for the July 1st launch of the 2011-2012 Idea Book and Catalog.  NaNoWriMo is holding summer camp this year--they'll be announcing more details on May 25...

Finally, I want to get back into my studio and participate in card challenges again (plus let's not even mention all the great movies coming out this summer), so I am quite grateful my job is allowing some time for some fun for the next few weeks.  Let's see if I can post some fun stuff here this summer ;-)

Friday, April 8, 2011

Facebook Phobia--Unnecessary Fear?

I love being "wired to the world".  Technology powers my day job in multiple ways, not the least of which being the cable modem that allows me to telecommute (a fantastic perk for someone who no longer drives a car).  I can barely remember a time without e-mail and web-surfing.  Shopping online and having items delivered is a fantastic option in saving time and effort.  I also love running my Stampin' Up! business online because it is a sideline job.  And let's just think for a moment about how much easier historical research is in the internet age ;-)

But social networking like Facebook scares me.  I have a lot of friends and family of all ages scattered across the country and most are on Facebook.  I know the value of Facebook as a tool to market products, so I know as a writer that I will probably need to set up a FB account for my writing sooner or later.  The scary part is the lack of control I may have over my personal privacy.

Many of us have made life choices that have caused consequences that were not what we had planned (and life seldom offers do-overs).  I love my life and who I am, but after having been abused, robbed, and stalked at different times in my life, I jealously guard my freedom and my ability to live without fear of those criminals finding me once more.

On the other hand, there are people from my past I would love to find..as an adoptee, I've often wondered about my biological roots, and Facebook would be a wonderful way to reconnect with school friends and far-flung relatives.

So, there is my conundrum.  Do I trust the privacy controls that Facebook states are in effect, or do I continue to isolate myself in a cocoon of my own making and risk falling further and further out of touch with people who mean a lot to me?

For now, I will do what I always do when making a major decision...I'll do more research.  And who knows?  We may meet on Facebook soon after all ;-)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Putting My Butt in My Writing Chair

Found this over at Confessions of the Un-Published! today.  Great "tough love" for writers!

It has been a really strange day for me.  My schedule change threw me for a bigger loop than I expected, because I am a creature of habit--I've worked a lot of jobs and worked weekends on many of them, but it has been years since my days off have not been consecutive...so today was spent doing housework, laundry, grocery shopping (aka general living), and I just looked up to realize a full day has gone without getting to write or create :-(

Jackson's great video reminds me that I will never have a finished novel if I don't write the danged thing LOL...similarly, I won't have any more cards made for OWH or challenges if I don't sit at my studio table and create them.  So, even though my TBR mountain has been calling my name, and there are many new Blu-Ray/DVD movies out that I want to watch, and I want badly to blog-surf to see what new inspiration is out there (like Jackson's video for instance), I am signing off the Internet for the rest of the night...TGAN and writing chair, here I come!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

March Madness (or, Where I've Been and Why I Haven't Posted)

Wow, March is almost over and I only posted once :-(

My Muse is no longer missing, but she has been told to sit quietly in the corner for a bit longer while general living takes precedence. 

I'm over whatever crud I suffered from in February, which is good, because I spent a week this month cross-training at the office.  What an eye-opener!  I learned that I indeed still enjoy learning new things, but that absorbing information and putting it into daily practice are two very different things.  I also learned that I function much better in a solo environment (I had totally forgotten how loud a call center environment really is).  Yet another lesson is that it is much easier to keep a positive attitude about work when exposure to negative attitudes is kept to a bare minimum.

I also found a fantastic place to stay--Homestead Studio Suites.  Clean, neat, friendly staff, reasonable pricing, and even "green"...they use toilet tissue made from recycled paper and CFL bulbs in all the light fixtures.  The kitchenette was super clean and as I had a refrigerator, stove, microwave, toaster and coffeepot, I only ate out because I chose to and not because I had to.  I couldn't ask for anything more from a hotel, especially since the bus stop was right at the end of the driveway and there was a Walgreens as well as multiple restaurants within a block's walk. Next time, I may even remember to ask for the senior discount, since they consider 55 a senior (I didn't learn that until after I got home).  The only downside was the dearth of decent TV...they lean heavily toward ESPN and news channels.  Thank the Creator I had my Kindle with me LOL.

So, I read.  I've added the titles to my 100+Book Challenge list at the bottom of my blog and I may eventually review the titles, but this post is already lengthy.  And life will be changing even more in April; I was notified today that my schedule is changing at work.  No more Saturdays off.  Instead, I will be off Thursdays and Sundays.  It does break up my week and it provides a differential for the Saturday hours, so all in all I am looking for the Blessings.

While I will no longer be able to attend any Saturday educational seminars at the library, I will have weekday bus travel available to use the larger University libraries in the Metroplex.  Many of my friends are retired, so we can still get together for the occasional lunch.  Actually, the more I think about it, the better it sounds LOL.

March was a madcap month.  April will be a month of adjustment, so posts may still be a bit sporadic.  At least some of my down time in April will be dedicated to Royal-watching, so don't be surprised if my blog turns a bit British in the coming days...

Sunday, March 6, 2011

My Muse is MIA

Try as I might this past week, no creating with paper was done :-(

Lots of general living occurred--work (of course LOL), the cleaning and bill-paying and shopping that had not happened recently due to illness, and the beginnings of a slight rearrangement of my crafting area.  For me, organization and creativity only co-exist when outlining chapters for my novel (and I did manage to roughly sketch out a couple of chapters this week, so all is not lost).

I was Blessed to receive a tax refund this year and chose to use a portion for Stampin' Up! products during Sale-A-Bration, primarily because of the great free product available with every $50 purchase.  The down side to ordering cardstock and stamps and ribbons and embellishments comes when you have to find a place to put all the goodies LOL.  So, instead of using the creative side of my brain (the part that was MIA anyway), I organized my dies and stamps and paper.  My brain stayed incapable of designing cards--what's up with that??  I even watched a few videos on You Tube to inspire creative thought, but all I could find was a blank slate...

That's not entirely true--I did conclude I had a few needs.  I need ribbon storage.  I need to find the instructions to my sewing machine (it has been unused so long, I can no longer remember how to set it for a zigzag stitch, much less use any of the more decorative stitches).  I need to find my muse...

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Billy Boyle WWII Mysteries

One of the first books I downloaded after I bought my Kindle last year was "Billy Boyle: A World War II Mystery" by James R. Benn.  Granted, at the time, I was looking for free or very low-cost Kindle titles having just dropped a chunk of cash on the Kindle itself.  This looked interesting and was free at the time.  Now that I've read it, I'm hooked on the whole series (and they are definitely worth paying for).  Great action, just a hint of romance (not too much for male readers), strong characters, and lots of information on WWII incidents that are not at all well known.

Billy is an Irish police office in Boston when America enters WWII.  His mother is a distant relative of Mamie Eisenhower and believes that the family connection would be enough to keep Billy safe from harm if he could only join "Uncle Ike's" staff.  Then General Dwight D. Eisenhower is appointed Commander of the US forces in Europe.  Oops.  And since Billy just made Detective, "Uncle Ike" decides to use him for certain investigations best left way out of the limelight.  Oops again.  Even though Billy isn't the desk-job type, he hadn't planned on any of this.

I recently read the next three books in the series:  "First Wave", "Blood Alone" and "Evil for Evil".  Each could be read as a stand-alone although the character development from one volume to the next certainly enhances the series.  We travel WWII Europe from England to Norway to Algeria to Sicily to Ireland.  Each incident is based on actual wartime events. 

I don't write spoilers, but I do give praise when it is deserved, and this series deserves great praise.  I'll be reading "Rag and Bone" between now and September because "A Mortal Terror" launches then.  Somebody needs to make a movie/mini-series/TV series from these tales!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sunday Snippet from the Sickbed

My plans for the past week or so were waylaid by the "crud"--no voice above a whisper, a throat that feels like it was scraped with sandpaper and then had acid poured down it, coughing until my chest hurts and I wet myself, fever that caused chills, stuffy ears that cause all noise to sound as if it is being heard through a muffler, no appetite (actually, that is a good thing if you are big like me LOL)--in other words, abject misery. 

The down side to all this?  No crafting because my brain did not want to function, therefore I missed several cardmaking challenges.  No energy to clean house, do laundry, grocery shop, or participate in any general living.  No research or writing on my WIP because my muse was as sick as my body.

The up side to this?  I could still work since I was not commuting and was also not exposing the whole office to whatever germs I have.  So, even though my customers heard a less than enthusiastic and softer than normal voice, they still got their accounts taken care of.  My company still had me available (even for overtime) since we were already short-staffed.  Because I could work, I saved my PTO for fun stuff (PTO=paid time off).  I even earned overtime pay ;-)

There was also one more up side--I read several wonderful books toward my reading challenges.  Reviews will be forthcoming on all of them, but I have at least added them to my 100+ Reading Challenge list (at the bottom of my blog).  (Reading is easy when you cannot sleep because you can't breathe or you keep coughing LOL).

I am really hoping to get a bit back into the groove of life this week...between starting to feel better and no (scheduled) overtime for the next couple of weeks, let's see if I can participate in a few challenges, read a few blogs, write a few lines, and take care of hearth and home.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Gingersnap Creations--Coffee & Cream

My cardmaking buddy Beverly of GottHeartArt turned me on to this great challenge blog and Yahoo group, Gingersnap Creations.  This is my first card for one of their color challenges--GC88, Coffee and Cream

All the products are Stampin' Up! 

The base is Crumb Cake and the panel is Naturals Ivory.  The ribbon is Chocolate Chip taffeta (retired) and the strip of ribbon was colored darker using the Chocolate Chip marker, while the bow is the regular ribbon.  Hemp twine strings the tags and the brads are retired from last year's Occasions Mini.

The two tags are from the "Puns from the Past" set and stamped in Early Espresso.  The "Take A Sip" wheel was inked in Chocolate Chip. 

I actually really liked the way this turned out (maybe because I love coffee so much LOL)  and I hope Gingersnap will like it too ;-)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Oops! Missed the Deadline (AKA Gotta Get More Organized)

Well, I misread the deadline for Jingle Belles this week and missed being able to enter the "No Red, She Said" challenge by a few hours :-(

I've tried to play there faithfully but just couldn't find my creative mojo this week where crafting is concerned (although I did outline a few chapters for my novel).  I need to work out a schedule of sorts I guess--a way to keep track of the posting days and the deadlines for the card challenges I enjoy.  So far, it's been hit or miss (mainly miss) and I want to get more organized. 

So, you card makers out there--how do you keep track?  On a calendar?  Make a daily/weekly chart?  What works for you?  All I know is what is not currently working for me...

Doily Card with No Red

This is a quick post under the wire for Bah! Humbug! and Jingle Belles...Bah! Humbug! wanted one or more doilies and Jingle Belles was "No Red, She Said" so once more I combined them and then I am hitting the hay for the night.  (OT again today LOL)  Maybe someday I will get more than one card done in a week?

Don't fault the picture please--the card is quite nice and dimensional in person (all products except the dollar store doilies are Stampin' Up!).  Baja Breeze background with snowflakes in Baja Breeze and Marina Mist; the brads are Tempting Turquoise and a single silver glitter brad on top of the tree.

The tree base is Soft Suede edged in Always Artichoke and is punched from the new Build A Cupcake punch.  The folded doilies were all crumpled and then inked (direct-to-paper)--the top one in Wild Wasabi, the middle in Garden Green, and the bottom in Always Artichoke.  They were then folded and inserted inside each other (just a tip--Sticky Strip is really needed to hold it all together without crushing the ruffly parts).

It's tactile but not girly; Christmasy but not red...hope you like it ;-)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

William and Kate: A Royal Love Story

I freely admit it--I'm a royal watcher...I have followed the English monarchy to a greater or lesser degree ever since 6th grade when I found out that George Washington was a descendant of English kings.  The Windsors are people who are sometimes forced into boxes not of their own choosing and although they have riches and power, they are able to make the same human mistakes as the rest of us.

I watched the wedding of Prince Charles and Diana Spencer.  Prince Charles is an environmentalist after my own heart who has been forced to forge a distinct path for himself while awaiting a job he was born to but yet he would have to lose his mother in order to claim that job.  He married for dynastic reasons--she was not the love of his life, yet he did not choose the path his great-uncle David chose. 

Princes William and Harry are a new breed--they inherited "the Firm" through their father and their connection to the "common people" through their mother's brief example in their lives.  I follow their careers with interest--and yes, their love lives as well.

"William and Kate: A Royal Love Story" is but one of the books that has been published in the short time since the official engagement announcement, but it had already been in the works for quite some time.  It was a quick read--enjoyable and I'm sure as true as the recollections of the persons quoted (both named and anonymous).  I wish the two young people the best--living in a spotlight cannot be easy, but they seem to be forging a path for themselves as a couple who will do the best they can in their own way for their country...we can ask nothing more of any of us, right?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Buttons, Bows and Scarves

Once more, a serendipitous situation for this harried crafter--my two favorite Christmas Card Challenges, Bah! Humbug! and Jingle Belles unknowingly coordinated their challenge so I could use one card for both ;-)

I had been putting this card together already for Bah! Humbug! who had asked for Buttons and Bows when I found out that Jingle Belles was asking for scarves, mittens, hats or earmuffs, and guess what my snowman buttons are wearing?  Voila--hats and scarves LOL!

No clue where the snowman and snowflake buttons originated--they are from my quilting days when I collected funky buttons, as are the tiny navy buttons.

The top fold card is Stampin' Up! Naturals Ivory, with a Whisper White Top Note die cut that was then run through the Perfect Polka Dots embossing folder.  Not Quite Navy Ink was used direct-to-paper on the die cut and sponged around the edges of the card.  I'm not usually fond of using wide ribbon on cards, but the Not Quite Navy striped ribbon loosely knotted here so resembles a scarf that I feel it is the perfect finish to the card.  I didn't use a sentiment because if I send it to OWH or From Our Hearts, it could be used for a winter anniversary or birthday or "thinking of you" type card...hope you enjoy it!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Alan Bradley--the Flavia de Luce Series

Mystery Fanfare's current contest is to win a copy of Alan Bradley's third Flavia book, "A Red Herring Without Mustard".  Flavia de Luce is an eleven year old girl in 1950 London, and Mr. Bradley won the Macavity Award for the best first novel at the 2010 Boucheron with "Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie."

I'm a big fan of Mr. Bradley as he was 70 when "Sweetness" was published which makes me hopeful for publication, since I'm only 55 LOL!  One of my best friends read "Sweetness" last year and has passed it to me saying that it is a "must-read", so I'm moving it up the TBR mountain (she also claims it is a quick read--we'll see...my reading time is so limited with this snow.  You would think snow would mean snuggling in front of a roaring fire with a good book, right?  Not if you work from home---grrrr--but I digress LOL)

Now, I need you to vote--do books set in 1950 count as historicals?  After all, that was over fifty years ago...heck it was even before I was born ;-) 

What do you think?  Historical or not?  Whichever you believe, pop over to Mystery Fanfare and enter the contest...

The Scarlet Pimpernel

Thanks to the Lauren Willig "Pink Carnation" series, I have gone back and rectified a serious error in my recommended reading list for high school and college.  Believe it or not, I never read many of the classics (tested out of several years of English and therefore missed many Literature classes).  This series, by Baroness Emmuska Orczy, was included in the "skipped" list until now.  I had seen the Leslie Howard movie version of course, as well as a TV adaptation once upon a time, but I'm happy to say, I've finally read the novel itself on Kindle (like many classics, it is free for various e-readers and probably as a PDF if you go looking; undoubtedly it would also be available on Paperback Swap).  This is being counted toward both my 100+ Book Reading Challenge and my Historical Fiction Challenge.

Wow.  Once you get past the period writing style (and the small errors in transcription), the story really moves quickly.  The plot line is short, sweet and to the point, and contains several false leads--I can see why the character became so well-loved and why so many adaptations have occurred.  I'll read the rest of the Baroness' novels to see what happened to the rest of the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel simply because they are fun reading, but I honestly like the Willig League of the Pink Carnation better ;-)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Altered Notebook (since Anything Goes) for Paper Players

Paper Players' Challenge this week is Anything Goes, so I chose not to make a card.  I am a notebook junkie, but I hate using plain, boring composition notebooks, especially when working on my novel.  I've wanted to use this Stampin' Up! Newsprint DSP for quite a while, and I needed a new notebook specifically for trivia about New Orleans...this paper just seems to put me into a New Orleans circa 1862 frame of mind LOL. 

The lace is the Raven Lace (recently retired from the Holiday Mini) and after cutting the Top Note die and using the outside to frame part of the paper, I took the actual die cut shape, turned it 90 degrees, and die cut it again to make the wonderful square medallion on the bottom (it also gave me a set of parentheses/brackets that will show up soon on a card...)  And once more, my apologies for the photo; the book looks much better in person.  The Take Note oval stamp is from the Notably Ornate stamp set.

The Paper Players Blog Hop is also still active, so go check it out and then play with us, since "Anything Goes"...they are a fun group of ladies!

Here's the video that inspired the new way of cutting my Top Note:

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Not MIA yet...But Close (AKA Why I May NOT be Posting Much This Week)

We have snow and ice--it's 19 degrees right now, with a wind chill factor making it 9 degrees.  I've teased with a few folks this week that we are doing this on purpose here in North Texas so the Packers fans and Steelers fans will feel more at home next weekend for the big game; after all, it was sunny and 76 degrees here Sunday LOL.

As usual, weather like this keeps people from coming to work.  That's probably a good thing in some cases, since many folks here don't really understand the concept of "drive slowly and carefully in ice" and many more don't believe in "do NOT tailgate the driver in front of you". 

So, our already shorthanded office is limping along without our two closers until the weather clears.  When I finish this post, I will be going back to work (i.e., walking into the back room and logging back in) and will work by myself the last few hours we are open.  No craft projects made today and no reading done towards my challenges and no research done for my novel.  Oh, well.  Things could be much worse--I have said this before, LOL--I have a job I enjoy and the world's shortest commute (approximately 20 steps, depending on whether I'm leaving my kitchen, my living room, or my bedroom).

But, if I don't post for a day or two, I've not fallen off the face of the earth--I'm just doin' the day job that pays for the fun stuff LOL.  I'll be back as soon as I can--and until then, y'all stay warm, dry, and safe, won't you?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Stampin' Royalty Sketch Challenge #56

Trying to squeeze this in under the Stampin' Royalty Sketch Challenge for this week.  This is another minimally embellished card because it too is headed to either Operation Write Home or From Our Hearts

The stamps are retired from Stampin' Up! (the Big Bold Birthday set), but if you have My Digital Studio, they are available in that awesome software program.  The whole card is Concord Crush and Whisper White (patterned papers are from the In Color hostess DSP pack).

Another card that is simple, quick and easy to reproduce in quantity should you have a need to ;-)

Paper Player's Blog Hop!

I just had so much fun (and ended up following several new blogs LOL)!  The Paper Players are having their first Blog Hop today (several stops are giving away blog candy ) and I learned a lot in a short period of time about all the wonderful great products Stampin' Up! is offering in our Occasions Mini--and with Sale-A-Bration going on until March 30, what better time to shop (who doesn't love free?)

Go check out the Hop (and play along with the newest challenge--Anything Goes)...I'm off to make something now ;-)

Jingle Belles' Sketch Challenge

I loved the sketch challenge at Jingle Belles this week--nice and simple.

Many of the cards I will be making for these challenges will be sent either to Operation Write Home for the troops to use to send to their loved ones, or to From Our Hearts for the same purpose, so quite a few will be embellished simply if at all (the flatter the better for these purposes) and will have white, plain insides to maximize the amount of writing space for the sender's message.  This is one of the cards designed with that in mind--mainly retired Stampin' Up! products:  Always Artichoke cardstock (current) with Deck the Halls fabric, Tags for Christmas tag and inked edges that are Cranberry Crisp and True Thyme (all these are retired).  The Cherry Cobbler seam binding and library clip simply set off the single embellishment.
Here's the Jingle Belles' sketch that was the challenge, so I think I may have kept it too simple, but I am still happy with the result and I hope the serviceman/woman who uses it will be happy with it too:

Oldies for Bah! Humbug!

Bah! Humbug! has challenged us this week to use oldies--stuff we have had stashed away and perhaps even forgotten we had. So, the only "current" Stampin' Up! item on this card is actually the Chocolate Chip frame and the piece of Very Vanilla the trees are stamped on...

I've loved this Patterned Pines set from Stampin' Up! ever since it came out, but it is retired, as are the colors I used here--Cranberry Crisp and True Thyme were both In Colors for 2007 but I always loved them and couldn't wait to pull them out for this card.  The herringbone DSP is actually from a retired set called Autumn Meadows and the corduroy button/brad combo were Kraft and retired before Kraft was renamed Crumb Cake.  The bottom piece is a button and the top piece was a Kraft brad that I rolled and smooshed over the Cranberry Crisp pad because unfortunately I was unable to get re-inkers in 2007 for any of the In Colors before they sold out (won't make THAT mistake again LOL).  Really Rust and Cranberry Crisp were patted onto the Very Vanilla cardstock layer with plastic wrap--I LOVE that technique...

And I love how simple and easy this challenge was after the "cracker" challenge last week--ladies, thanks for giving us a bit of a break LOL!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Rest In Peace, Ariana Franklin -- "Mistress of the Art of Death"

I've had this series on my TBR mountain for a while now and just haven't gotten around to reading them...sadly, there will be no more written.  Ariana Franklin was the pen name of Diana Norman, a British journalist who won awards for her historical mystery series.  While researching for this post, I found several historicals written under her own name as well--they look so good I will be adding them to my list of books to read "someday". Diana died, aged 77, this week.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Great Giveaway at Passages to the Past--"The Tudor Secret"

I love the Tudor period and this looks to be the start of a really wonderful series:  "The Tudor Secret" is book one of the Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles by C. W. Gortner.

Go over to Passages to the Past and sign up for the giveaway but I warn you, you may stay there for quite a while because there are some wonderful books reviewed on this blog (I added quite a few to my TBR mountain from there LOL).

Pink and Green Christmas Cracker

I'm not sure about pink for Christmas...of course, I am SO not a pink person ;-)

But I committed to a couple of Christmas card challenges for 2011 and boy, are they wanting me to stretch my creative muscles way more than I have in the past!  The Bah! Humbug! challenge this week is a Christmas cracker and as a good ole Southern gal from Texas, I'm not all that familiar with crackers, even if I have read a bit about them.  Then add in the Jingle Belles challenge of pink and green, and I was almost whupped.  But, I finally came up with this:

I used Old Olive, Pear Pizzazz, Regal Rose and Blushing Bride (all from Stampin' Up!), and even though the picture doesn't show it that well, the cracker is dimensional--it was crimped and then folded under top and bottom so the Pear Pizzazz DSP ends could be folded and tucked under the edges.   Another smaller crimped piece of Blushing Bride was inked with Regal Rose then the punched snowflakes (again Pear Pizzazz DSP) were added along with a smaller Regal Rose snowflake stamped onto Whisper White.  The "JOY" is a portion of a stamp from the "Season of Joy" set from SU!  (Thank heavens it is Sale-A-Bration because I really need to order some more Christmas sets LOL)

Okay, Jingle Belles did say light pink (Blushing Bride), dark pink (Regal Rose), and lime green.  The closest I got to "lime" was Pear Pizzazz (looks kinda like the inside of a lime to me) and Old Olive (which sorta resembles the outside skin of a lime, right?)...so I hope they let me slide by.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Pedestrians are People Too!

It may surprise some Americans, but not all adults in this country choose to drive.  I haven't owned a car since 2004 and usually don't miss one at all--even when I do miss having one, I don't miss the cost of owning a vehicle:  car payment, insurance, maintenance, gasoline, parking...need I say more?  And besides--my eyesight is too poor for me to drive (my peripheral vision is shot).

So, I take public transit and I walk.  I walk to the library, the post office, Starbucks, Goodwill, and various restaurants/grocery stores/drugstores.  To do so, I must cross streets--sometimes "major" streets.  Being a sensible woman, I cross at a light whenever possible and wait for the "walk" sign.  The signals in my community offer a person 30 seconds to cross 4-6 lanes, and have a loud, mechanical voice at the crosswalk counting down the last 20 seconds.  Gratefully, I am still healthy enough to cross in that length of time, even carrying groceries.

So, you may be wondering why I seem to be grousing...and I'll be happy to tell you.  Drivers,  please pay attention.  It is true in Texas that you can make a right turn on red after you stop.  People, pedestrians have the right-of-way, especially when they have a "WALK" signal.  I don't care what you drive or how much it cost you, hitting a pedestrian will cost you even more.  Yes, I know--you are in a hurry to get where you are going.  Well, guess what, I have important things to do, too, and I am paying attention to my surroundings because you are too busy texting/talking/eating behind the wheel to pay attention to the fact that I had to step back up on the curb and stand through another cycle of traffic signals to keep you from hitting me.  Is it too much to ask of you to wait 30 seconds for me to safely cross in front of you? 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Unmasking the Black Tulip--Willig Does it Again!

It's all Lauren Willig's fault I stayed up until 3 AM this morning--her second hysterical historical about a spy network operating from England into France (and another from Bonaparte's France into England) had laugh-out-loud moments as well as present-day moans of self-recognition. 

Again,we read a book within a book.  Just as in "The Secret History of the Pink Carnation", we  travel back and forth 200 years--from England in 1803 (the spy networks) to England in 2003 (the researcher and her foibles).  As both settings build on those from "Carnation", I highly suggest this to be a series best read in order.

I was delighted to return to her finely-drawn characters and even more delighted that so many red herrings were in place.  The fact that a bit of license was taken with history does not detract in this series as nothing is so blatant as to be jarring, and enough historical accuracy is present that I now want to undertake a study of that period of French history (one of the periods I have had little interest in until now).  I also like the way that bodice-ripping romance shares the stage with mystery and intrigue--it's almost like getting two books for the price of one LOL.

I hate spoilers and refuse to write them, so I will say no more of the plot.  I will say that since I have book three, "The Deception of the Emerald Ring", currently on my shelf, I am having a very hard time going about my normal Sunday chores--grocery shopping, laundry, housecleaning, card crafting--because I so desperately want to begin the next adventure (this one is set in Ireland).  But general living does not get easier with postponement and with a probable 50+ hour work week ahead, I have chores to do...

Saturday, January 22, 2011

"Lazy?" Really? Let's Look Again

I want so badly to scream sometimes when people think that because I work from home I sit around eating chocolate bonbons and watching TV while wearing my pajamas.  It is true that I eat too much and exercise too little and it is also true that I have music playing softly in the background while working (or sometimes I may play the sound of a documentary with the video off--my home PC sits behind me when I am working and I can turn off the monitor and listen to the audio track as background noise).  I do not however "play around" while on the clock; I stay tethered to my phone and to my data entry screen as much or more than anyone at our actual call center.  Even bathroom breaks are shorter because I don't have as far to walk LOL.

My brain is wired in such a way that if I am in pajamas, I am "lounging" and "lounging" is far different from "working."  It's true--I'm not in shoes all the time (I hate shoes), but especially on cold days, I have on socks or booties.  It's also true that I may be wearing a scrub top (I love the pockets) or a t-shirt and jeans, but I wear nothing while working that I would not wear on a trip to the grocery store.

We are quite shorthanded right now, so we are all working extra hours to ensure adequate coverage.  The folks in the office are often the recipients of catered lunches--pizza or boxed lunches are the usual choices.  Me?  I fix lunch here.  The result?  More dishes in the sink at the end of the day, and more electricity being used (let's not even talk about needing to keep a heater on in the office).  Sure I don't travel back and forth to the office...that makes it easier to count on me to work oddball hours like split shifts ;-)

So, am I lazy?  I think not...especially after watching this video again.  One of my favorite singers singing one of my favorite songs from one of my favorite movies:

I'd love to know your thoughts...what do you define as lazy when you are at home all the time?  Does working from home mean "hardly working" rather than "working hard"?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Voices in My Head...

I've often said my brain carries a full-fledged entertainment center inside it, ready to break out at a moment's notice.  Some people would think that makes me borderline crazy.  People who know me well are astonished at the amount of trivia my mind holds--bits and bobs of this and that, facts and figures that would bode well if I were ever brave enough to test for Jeopardy or Wheel of Fortune (which I am not--stage fright would undoubtedly turn me into someone who resembled a mannequin--you know, stiff and quiet LOL).

But I am hearing a new set of voices in my head these days.  Not only do I live much of my life in 1862 ferreting out facts and trivial bits to use in my current novel, but I have just rediscovered several pages of notes I made in New Orleans that are the beginning of a fantasy.  I have soldiers and poets and elves and healers and princesses clamoring to have their tales told.  Their world would seem ancient to us and has none of the "conveniences" available even in the 1700s, so this chronicle is much different from anything I am currently writing.

Nevertheless, these people are whispering in my ear and asking me to tell their story.  I'm starting to dream their world and their dress, their mannerisms and their speech patterns. They are in need of help from unseen forces who want to destroy their land--who am I to deny them that help?  Something tells me this will become the outline for NaNoWriMo 2011 if not written before November...

Guess I'll take the time to listen to the voices in my head...

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

More 2011 Reading Challenges--See My Left Sidebar

Peeking Between the Pages has set some fantabulous reading challenges for 2011 and I've featured them on my left sidebar, even though I may not participate in all of them.  "If I'm not participating, then why am I featuring?" you may be asking.  Well, two of the challenges--"Harry Potter" and "Outlander" are on my top ten all-time absolute favorite book series ever list and contain books I re-read (in order) on at least a bi-annual basis. 

I already plan to re-read "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" before the final movie premieres this year (July 15), but may not be able to fit the other six into my schedule.  Some of my friends tease that I spend way too much time in the world of Jamie and Claire Fraser--"Outlander" novels are truly sagas and aren't particularly short, so I may revisit the latest, "An Echo in the Bone" since I now own the U.K. paperback version (autographed, no less!), but I may not re-read all of them--I'd really like to read some other historicals this year and I also need time to write my own books ;-)

My TBR mountain has included the books in the other three challenges for a while, however, so don't be surprised to see reviews here this year for the Earth's Children novels by Jean Auel, the Wilderness series by Sara Donati, and the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris.  I read the first two Auel's many years ago, loved them, but got sidetracked and never finished the series.  I also read the first Donati while in New Orleans but that series got interrupted by a rude hurricane called Katrina.  And although I own most of the Sookie series, and I love "True Blood" (the HBO adaptation), I've never taken the time to read them because I would obsessively read one right after the other; I keep putting other books ahead of these (like my current read-a-thon of the Lauren Willig series).

Reading books I already own is frugal entertainment.  Crossing books off my TBR mountain is an accomplishment.  Let's see how well I combine the two and see how many of these three challenges I can complete in 2011.

Who wants to join me?

Harry's Law -- My Newest DVR Obsession

I love strong female character actors.  I love strong middle-aged personalities.  Put the two together into a sharply written, funny, morality play and put it on TV in prime time--voila!  A new hit--one that is already programmed into my DVR for the Monday nights when I may have to work. 

Harry's Law is the newest NBC drama from the pen of the brilliant David E. Kelley and it stars one of my all-time favorite actresses, Kathy Bates.  It also stars a funny young woman, Brittany Snow (you may have seen her as Amber Von Tussle in the remake of "Hairspray" starring John Travolta). 

If you want laugh-out-loud funny combined with a moral tone that is pointed but yet not overly-preachy, this may be your new favorite show too ;-)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Just Because...A Color Challenge

The Paper Players are running a Color Challenge this week:  River Rock, Rose Red, Baja Breeze, and Very Vanilla.  I love color challenges because I learn so much about putting different combinations together (that's something I am usually too scared to do on my own).  Once I have direction though, I can often make it work and I think it does here (all products used here are Stampin' Up!)

The card base is River Rock with a Baja Breeze layer punched on one side with the Scallop Trim border punch.  A Very Vanilla rectangle is stamped in Rose Red with the phrase from Notably Ornate, then the corners are ticket-punched and the piece is sponged with Rose Red.  Both the safety pins and the button brads are copper-hued Vintage Trinkets.  The phrase is mounted with Stampin' Dimensionals.

My flowers are actually River Rock cardstock stamped in Rose Red with the butterfly from the hostess set Punch Potpourri, then punched with the butterfly punch, edged with Rose Red, curved slightly and attached together with more of the Vintage Trinkets button brads.

The Very Vanilla seam binding is easy to gather if you are patient--cut a piece about half again as long as the card and very carefully (I used a silk dressmaker's pin) grab about the middle three strands of the binding on both ends.  Slowly gather from each end toward the middle by pulling those strands (it is much easier than it sounds as long as you are gentle and don't break the thread).  Gather until it is the length you need.  I used glue dots on the ends (which are underneath the Baja Breeze layer) and actually tied the two strings together in the middle and then used regular transparent tape to fasten the knot and ends to the cardstock--that keeps everything straight and taut but nothing on the front of the card has to be fastened down.

It's not country or Victorian or vintage or retro--I'm not quite sure what this card is stylistically, but I'm pretty pleased at the way it turned out and I hope you like it too.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Gingerbread Men for Christmas--A Stencil Project

Here's my stencil project for the Bah! Humbug! Challenge this week.  I have very few non-Stampin' Up! papercrafting supplies left these days, so when I saw the challenge was to use a stencil and I had none of our Decor Stencils to hand, I had to "phone a friend" and borrow something.  Since I have a decorative button collection that included gingerbread men/women, I decided that would be the theme.  Here's what resulted (everything except the stencil and the button in the middle are SU! products):

I ran Crumb Cake cardstock thru the Lattice folder and inked the edges with Cherry Cobbler.  The seam binding bow is Cherry Cobbler and the diagonal accent is Chocolate Chip edged with Cherry Cobbler (oops--now I'm hungry LOL).  The stencil was a Lasting Impressions brass stencil that I used as a pattern for the gingerbread men (traced and cut loosely around--I didn't really want them cookie-cutter perfect).  SU! markers colored the eyes, bows and buttons, while a white Signo gel pen was used for the icing lines. The small button is from Jesse James (I think--if I am wrong and you know the right company, please let me know; all my buttons are out of their packaging and stored by season). 

Quick, simple and non-fattening...

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation

Just read my second historical of 2011 for the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge and the first of the Lauren Willig Reading Challenge I mentioned a few posts back.  Please don't try to categorize this book because it is a blend of different genres: swashbuckling adventure meets romance meets intrigue meets comedy meets chick-lit...man, what a ride!

It doesn't seem on first glance that the concept would work--a main character researching the past and reading the reference material she reads--but it does work and on a delightful level.  I try never to post spoilers when reviewing a book and I won't start now, but suffice it to say, I was reading along and seeing Errol Flynn and Leslie Howard and Olivia de Havilland meeting Natalie Portman and Emma Watson and Meryl Streep.

I'm not a big fan of chick-lit so I had hesitated reading this when a few friends had given the book short shrift.  They were SO wrong--once the actual historical portion began, I was in for a wonderful read.  I laughed and cried and giggled and bit my lip--this was just the kind of rollicking escape from reality I needed right now and I am so glad I have the second in the series sitting on the shelf, because I am starting "The Masque of the Black Tulip" tonight!

Acrylic Paint Snow

I've never been a painter, but somehow I have a ton of acrylic craft paints.  The Jingle Belles Challenge this week is Use, Practice, Create with acrylic paints--easy, right?  Not for me...I'm not the do-over type at all, so there are a few things I might change here should I decide to make more of these, but once more, the card looks much better in person.  Not Quite Navy cardstock (Stampin' Up!) is the base and a very coarse sponge was used to make the snow out of white acrylic paint.  The SU! retired hostess set Pattered Pines was used for the trees--I stamped them multiple times in SU! Garden Green ink and simply eyeballed them on top of one another over and over until they were as dark as I needed.  The bottom of the card is actually embossed in white so the texture could be felt (I used Versamark ink direct-to-paper so that it wasn't perfectly smooth and SU! white embossing powder).  The Garden Green cardstock strip was crimped and the saying was actually from using a marker on one section of a stamp from "Seasons of Joy" that was then punched with the Modern Label extra-large punch and mounted using Stampin' Dimensionals.

Finally, I lightly sponged Not Quite Navy over the top of the "snow" and rubbed softly with a paper towel.  Sometimes less is more, so I left off any embellishments, which will make this card easy to mail.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

I am Wealthy

No, I did not win the lottery, or even get a raise...here's what I mean by wealth:

"The greatest wealth is health." ~~Virgil

Sure, I'm 55 (both AARP and IHOP consider me a senior citizen) and about eighty pounds overweight, but I am in pretty good health--no daily medications, fair eyesight, decent hearing, my own teeth and only the occasional ache/pain.  Maybe a migraine once in a while, and a few sinus headaches in the average year.  Sometimes a cold or a bit of stomach flu--all in all, a very Blessed life health-wise.

That is not to say I cannot do something to improve my health.  I know I need to lose the excess weight and I know it can be done because I've done it before.  Working from home took away my daily walks--to/from the apartment or the office to the bus stop.  But I can walk daily to the mailbox.  I can stretch and exercise here in the apartment (no jumping jacks or running in place--I'd scare the downstairs neighbors to death thinking an elephant was about to come crashing thru their ceiling LOL).  Exercise is possible.

And I can change my eating habits.  I have already cut back on ordering pizza--that has also improved my budget immensely--imagine that ;-)

So far, I have removed soft drinks from my life (the first thing I always do when starting a healthy eating regimen) and have started eating more vegetables and fruits.  Whole grains and beans have replaced "white" foods (rice, pasta, bread).  No more French fries.  Salt actually is not an issue because I haven't added it to food in years and don't eat salty foods (I actually don't even like salty foods LOL).

And I found a great series of books that will help...The entire "Eat This, Not That" series of books is awesome and easy to follow (who cares if Men's Health magazine sponsors the whole website?  Good information is good information no matter what the source and these books are helping me choose food items that are better for me). 

My biggest issue (oh, that was a bad pun LOL) is the fact that I simply love the taste of food and I am horrid at portion size.  Sure, I could blame the food packaging and super-sized portions on restaurant menus, but the ultimate problem is the amount of food I eat in a day.  I cannot blame other factors because they do not hold my mouth open and force food into it, now do they???  Of course not--I am responsible.

So--a public confession...I eat way too much.  12-Step programs all say that admission of the problem is the first step, so I admit the problem and am actively working the solution one meal at a time. 

If I want to keep my wealth, I need to work on my health.  I'll keep you posted...

Friday, January 14, 2011

I'm on a Search for the Pink Carnation--Wanna Join Me?

Here's to the Lauren Willig Reading Challenge for 2011!  Serendipity is running rampant in my life in 2011.  As part of my reading for the Historical Fiction Challenge, I was already reading the first volume in this series, "The Secret History of the Pink Carnation" and I was loving every minute of it!  Now I find a reading challenge dedicated to the series?  What a wonderful coincidence!  So, of course I have joined and have committed to the entire series in 2011 (eight books in all).  Come over and join us, won't you?  And, now, I'm off to read some more...

Thursday, January 13, 2011

To Perk You Up! A Colour Challenge

It may not perk you up, but I hope it makes the friend receiving it smile a bit.  A co-worker was in a collision Monday and has a concussion, so I wanted to make her a card.  She loves coffee, so I chose the old-fashioned percolator from the SU! "Puns from the Past" set and had decided to use Marina Mist and Old Olive--while mulling over how I wanted the card to look, I saw that Stampin' Royalty's Colour Challenge #54 this week was Old Olive, Marina Mist and Concord Crush.  Sure enough, the addition of Concord Crush to the mix was just what this card needed, so I am entering their challenge since they were the inspiration.  The Old Olive DSP is retired, but the filigree brads, Concord Crush DSP, stamp set and Marina Mist inks are all current.   Thanks, Stampin' Royalty because this wouldn't have come together this way without your input.

I have to confess--my flower is a dollar store mum I pulled apart and inked--not super happy with it but I had none of the wonderful SU! paper flowers and rather than trashing this mum, I recycled it.  (The next SU! order I place will be embellishment-heavy; our flowers take color so much better although this doesn't look too bad, and if I had already possessed some Marina Mist ribbon, it would have appeared here as well).

On another note--I've been really motivated this year with cardmaking and with blogging (and even with my writing), but the next several weeks may pose a challenge of another sort.  Until the recipient of this card returns to the office, I'll be working extra hours and some odd shifts.  I am determined to keep up the pace with this blog, but if I disappear for a couple of days in a row, it will likely be due to work.  Bear with me dear readers, and I'll try to keep creating and posting...and check out the great work other people are doing by clicking my sidebar links ;-)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Valentines Aren't for Lovers Only, Are They?

I haven't given a Valentine to anyone in years...somehow, my upbringing and life experiences combined to tell me that you will only receive a Valentine from someone who loves you (in the romantic sense) and you should never give a Valentine to someone you do not love (again, usually in the romantic sense, although exceptions could be made for your child or grandchild).  And of course, commercialism is rampant for February 14th.

This is however a new decade and a new Linda with new thoughts and ideas...so, I have decided that in the interest of spreading honest affection to those people who mean something special to me, I will make (and give) Valentines--and here is the first one:

I saw that The Paper Players had posted their first challenge for 2011 and it was for a Valentine; I love to follow them, especially since they use Stampin' Up! products, but didn't play actively there in 2010 and decided to do so this year.  This card went together very quickly (less than 15 minutes) and only used two pieces of the 6x6 DSP pad of In Color paper that is a level one hostess gift in the current catalog.  One sheet was Blushing Bride and the other was Poppy Parade.  A couple of flower brads, a quick word stamp from the "With All My Heart" set, some sponged edges, and voila, a simple Valentine for a special friend.

I actually like this layout so well, I may use it for other occasions sometime--I could see using stars instead of hearts for a patriotic card, couldn't you?

Anyway--hope you enjoy it, and I hope you'll come play over at Paper Players...

Monday Musings

"A great attitude does much more than turn on the lights in our worlds; it seems to magically connect us to all sorts of serendipitous opportunities that were somehow absent before the change." --Earl Nightingale 
I love quotes!  I collect them for inspiration and to put in my handcrafted cards, and sometimes use them for chapter headings in my various works-in-progress.
For 2011, in an attempt to post more regularly, I hope to share some of my favorites and will do so under various headings, including Monday Musings.  This one seems like a great choice to inaugurate the series...I've shared before that I am considered a Pollyanna by many, but famous people often make fortunes off the power of thinking positively.
I will not proselytize during these posts--my faith disapproves of preaching in any form, so what I intend here is a simple jumping-off point for your own thoughts.  Some quotes may resonate with you and others undoubtedly will not.  That's okay.  I hope somewhere, someone, sometime, finds one or more of them useful.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Countdown to Christmas 2011

I confess--I let Christmas 2010 preparations slide off into the pile of "good intentions" and never got my cards made even for friends, much less co-workers.  I of course used the excuse of renovation, then of NaNoWriMo and lastly of work, but in reality, pre-planning and less procrastination would have done wonders.

I already knew of (and visited from time to time) the great Christmas challenge blog, Bah! Humbug! (I had even played once) but I always let other things come before crafting last year.  Now, I have found a second Christmas challenge blog has just started (thanks, Sue for pointing us to this one on your great blog).  Jingle Belles are a couple of very talented women who are encouraging us to make a card a week (that's now 48 before Christmas--more than enough for my office and close friends LOL).

I had already decided to play at Bah! Humbug! and had decided on a gift card holder featuring holly.  Adding in the Jingle Belles challenge of inchies on a card seemed reasonable, so here's what I am entering for both blogs.  All papers, stamps, and punches are Stampin' Up!

This is the front of the holder; it is based on a great video tutorial from Holly over at Rubber Redneck but with several changes...the Always Artichoke inchies on the front are mounted on a belly band made of Crumb Cake.  The patterned papers are the recently retired Deck the Halls DSP and the stamps for the front are from the Tags for Christmas set which was also in the just-ended Holiday Mini.  Sorry I don't have measurements for anything--one of my best friends says I am way too OCD for my own good when I make cards and has encouraged me to "loosen up" and that's what I have done here.  I eyeballed everything, once I made sure the interior pockets would be nestled in well.  Speaking of the interior...

Here is the inside bottom flap (yes, I know--I need a photography class fast LOL...I promise to read my camera manual soon and also get a lesson in using my light box).  The green strip is actually the front of the bottom flap...I tried folding the top flap back all the way so it wouldn't show in the photo but couldn't seem to get it to hold still long enough to take my hand away, so pretend the top holly piece isn't there, okay?  You'll see it for real when you look at the inside picture below...
And finally, the inside.  The pouch is a Very Vanilla medium envelope that was sealed shut, then cut in half, so where the finger hole is on the middle panel, there are two pockets--one for a gift card and one for a hand-written note (or if the recipient is really special, a gift card in each pocket LOL).  The stamps on the bottom are from the Bells and Boughs set (again, recently retired--I still had all these things out so before storing them away, I decided to use them).  The red I used throughout is Cherry Cobbler--I love that color; it is a true blood-red and gorgeous!

So, I have one Christmas card/gift down for 2011...come join us at Bah! Humbug! and Jingle Belles, then we can all rest easy after Thanksgiving knowing we have our holiday cards done ;-)

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Fine Art of Recycling--Faux Metal Wall Art (It is Awesome!)

These are fantastic pieces of wall decor!  Great for any wall because you make them yourself so you can adapt the size to the wall space you have...and the price cannot be beat!  Like the site where I found this post originally (Totally Tutorials), I am not going to share the base material--see if you can guess...(I sure didn't).

Suzy's Artsy Craftsy Sitcom has some other fascinating "faux" tutorials-- and go check out what she does to make her beaded Faberge eggs (I bookmarked it for Easter decor--older kids could even do these, I bet).

Now, I just need to sort thru my recycling...

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Boss' Birthday Card (and a Challenge Entry)

My boss' birthday is today, so I threw together a quick card that had nothing wintry on it--when you have a birthday so close to Christmas, it's easy to get tired of red and green or winter-type cards.  These are the Stampin' Up! In Colors for 2010-2012--Peach Parfait, Pear Pizazz, Concord Crush and Poppy Parade, along with the Flower Brads and the Circle Circus stamp set on a plain Whisper White card blank.

I used a font on my PC (Matisse) and the Modern Label extra-large punch for the sayings which are edged in Poppy Parade (one of my new favorite colors).

I seriously need to learn to set up and use my light box properly--the Concord Crush circles are a beautiful rich purple but they sure look almost navy here, while the Poppy Parade items resemble a pumpkin orange color.  Oh, well, the card looks much better in person.  A quick FYI--with the weight and size of the brads, I mailed this in a padded outer envelope--and it required extra postage.

Then, as I was blog surfing last night, I realized one of my favorite challenge blogs, Stampin' Royalty, is celebrating their first birthday!  How cool--they are some very talented folks over there and I had wanted to play last year, but we all know where that idea went in 2010, LOL. So, I took to heart the fact that their challenge this week is for a birthday item, and I am entering this card there (if I can figure out how to link this post onto their blog).  Happy Birthday to your blog, ladies!  Go on over and get inspired ;-)