"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

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 ;-)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Reading is for Everyone...

One of the blogs I frequent posted this not long ago, and I just have to share (go visit Karen when you get a chance--her Wordless Wednesdays are wonderful as well...)

I have been so very Blessed to always be able to find books--even when I was recovering from various less-than-pleasant periods of my life and moving around a lot, I would continually find the closest library. Of course, without an address, you cannot have a library card, so how do you get reading material to carry with you?

This book club is such a cool idea--as I remodeled, I donated books to Goodwill and to my local Friends of the Library group (and of course, listed and traded many on Paperback Swap).  My next stack may go to our local homeless shelters (Dallas actually has several...the need for them makes me sad, but the fact they are there is a good thing).  Another place that may need books would be our local shelters for abused women and children (again, our area has several but I wish the need for them could be eradicated).

What about you?  What do you do with the books you no longer wish to keep but which could still be read and enjoyed?  Are there shelters in your area that could use them?  The holidays are over--many of us are reorganizing our lives and our homes...perhaps our library shelves could be cleared and shared?  After all, words are food for the mind and soul...

(off to call some shelters and see if they could use some books...)

Monday, January 3, 2011

Historical Fiction--A New Reading Challenge for 2011

Found this on a blog I already follow--Historical Tapestry, a great blog for fans of historical fiction--and since the top level, "Severe Bookaholism" only requires 20 books for the year, and since I write historical fiction and since I already read one in 2011 (THE EXILE by Diana Gabaldon), how can I not sign up for this? 

So, yesterday's post regarding THE EXILE--AN OUTLANDER GRAPHIC NOVEL will serve as my first entry for this challenge and I only have nineteen more to go LOL!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

100+ Book Reading Challenge 2011--I Have Begun!

I mentioned this challenge in yesterday's post, but because I subscribe to the old adage that what you do on New Year's Day is what you will do all the next 364 days, I wanted to ensure I read for pleasure on 1/1/11--and I did.  Sign up and join us--all the details are on the sign-up page linked above and my reading list is currently housed at the bottom of my blog (until I can learn the art of setting up pages in Blogger).  There are other reading challenges listed here as well (the library challenge looks quite interesting and with as much research as I still have ahead of me, I may try that one as well; a book read for one challenge can also be counted for another).  But now to my first review of 2011--

I've never read a graphic novel; I tried comic books when I was younger but never got hooked.  However, when my beloved author Diana Gabaldon announced she was re-telling the story of Jamie and Claire Fraser from Murtagh's POV, I knew the time had come to "go graphic".  My autographed copy came during NaNo and I reluctantly put it away but I made sure I took time to honor it as my first read of 2011.  Once more, Diana did not disappoint.  Covering about the first third of OUTLANDER meant that it was a quick read (after all, the graphics are supposed to overshadow the story line, right?), but it was still superb--and the artist's renderings of Jamie and Claire and Black Jack are wonderful.  I will re-read this again simply to enjoy the drawings and also to catch the nuances between the depictions of Dougal and Murtagh and Kenneth.  OUTLANDER fans will not be disappointed, and newcomers to the series may enjoy a short peek into the saga.

So, one book down and 99 more to go...

Saturday, January 1, 2011

"The Times...They are a Changin'"

 I looked everywhere for a still photo of my favorite scene in John Water's Hairspray where Divine as Edna Turnblad is sitting with her husband Wilbur (played by the wonderful Jerry Stiller).  As much as I love the remake starring John Travolta as Edna, I miss what seems to me to be the signature line from the whole movie--"It's the times...they are a changin'".

That's my motto for 2011--the times are changing, and I need to be flexible enough to embrace those changes.  Changes at work are a certainty--a positive attitude regarding those changes helps the company realize I am an asset.  Changes are needed in my eating habits--that saying, "You are what you eat" should not mean I am fast, easy and cheap LOL.

Changes are needed here on my blog as well--a more disciplined approach to posting is forthcoming.  My intent is to post each Sunday at the very least, even if it is only what I shall call a "Sunday Snippet".  That snippet may be a quote, an interesting website I've found, a short book review, or perhaps a (totally unsolicited) product recommendation.

Stampin' Up! has given us a great opportunity to have a blog directly on our website, so my cards and other projects will often be featured there beginning this year (although I may post a picture here as well).  I intend to make my paper crafting more of a priority this year as it is the cheapest form of therapy I know other than reading.

Speaking of reading, we can tell from the list at the bottom of my blog that I failed to meet the 100+ book challenge for 2010...I did read a few more books than those listed, but rather than go back and try to recreate the list, I'm giving myself permission to move on.  Here is the link to sign up for 2011 and as I am an incurable optimist with these challenges, I'm heading over when I finish this post and signing up for this year.  Thank Heavens for my Kindle (and for Kindle for Android)!!

Finally--I am forging ahead with my writing.  Much of today was spent organizing research notes that had been stacked in various spots throughout the apartment, and a trip to the library is on the schedule for tomorrow.  As I found out during NaNoWriMo 2009, I do not write well when I am not organized, so I'm giving my OCD tendencies more control over my writing life.  I'll post pictures soon of my writing corner as I intend to spend many productive hours there this year.

If you have read this far, I thank you.  It was a long post but expressing goals and dreams becomes wordy at times.  To all of you--A Blessed New Year and may you experience many positive changes in this new decade...I wish love and happiness to you all!