Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Internet Killed the Copywriting Star

Those of you who are old enough to have breathlessly turned on the television for the first ever broadcast of MTV will no doubt remember the first video they played - the Buggles' "Video Killed the Radio Star." But not until after repeating that MTV was IN STEREO about 40,000 times while being generally hairy and disheveled. It was more glamorous in my memory than this:

But the first video could not have been more perfect.

And they were right - it did kill the radio star. Or, alternatively, it gave birth to both the video star and the talk radio star. And the Ipod, Iphone and everything else after it. Then, MTV killed itself like a Dalek by not being MTV anymore and we all wandered off and did something else.

But we are again in an era between two things that work right now. A broken, crack of a space with terrible.... copywriting.

The internet, apparently, leaves us no time for pesky details like grammar and spelling. And I'm not throwing stones, because I compose my posts live too - we all do - and it's easy to hit send/save/publish with an error. It's a modern plague, really.

But it represents an opportunity for a HERD of really excellent copywriters to fan out to news organizations and advertising agencies and make the world better while getting rich.

I'll give you two examples that just kill me every time I hear them - these are radio ads I hear about twenty times a day.

"If you don't replace your XYZ, then you're really going to be kicking yourself in the head."

Now I'm sure Jean Claude VanDamme can kick himself in the head, but I don't believe most people can. It's like they didn't read that one out loud to themselves at all before they sent it to the voice actor.

And then this from a Mercedes Dealership: "We do things one way, or we don't do them at all."

Okay... well that was a lot of words to say absolutely nothing.

I am a big fan of reading computer-composed text out loud. I do it for my blog posts and it really helps me avoid super egregious errors, but it also ensures that my words really reflect the way I actually speak, which is always how I want to come across.

Well, not always. I would never put in print what I say in my car to other drivers, for example. But I can promise you it's heartfelt :).

For today's card, I borrowed a technique from +Jennifer McGuire to whip up a clean and simple holiday scene.

I just masked off the triangle with low-tack tape and then sponged pink and orange ink through our Dots & Stripes Decorative mask and stamped the greeting from Cheerful Christmas on top. I love how clean and modern it looks. I deliberately made it darker on the left to add some dimension. I also did the sponging on watercolor paper - I like the way the ink works with that surface - I seem to always make a mess when I do this on white - the watercolor paper's tooth keeps me in check.

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Of course every time I see this greeting I hear Buddy the Elf saying "The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear."

Of course, Buddy the Elf has never heard me sing, so there's that.

The internet killed the copywriting star. So what comes next?

I can guaran-darn-tee you it AIN'T autocorrect.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Picking Change Out Of My Bra In a Post-80s World.

I was reminded today of a quote I've posted here before:

"Only man is capable of work, and only man works, at the same time by work occupying his existence on earth. Thus work bears a particular mark of man and of humanity, the mark of a person operating within a community of persons. "
                                                                        ~Laborem Exercens: On Human Work - John Paul II, 1981

I love me some John Paul, but based on this, it won't be hard in the future to conclude (for the aliens who will occupy the earth after the zombie apocalypse) that he had never been through a fast food drive through in the post-80s world.

I worked at McDonalds when I was 16 and to this day, it remains a huge influence on my perception of good employment and good training. It was run like a very tight ship, and we were trained and re-trained monthly. The management at McDonald's at that time understood that the objective of the work was to serve human beings both good, safe food (stifle yourself if you feel like ranting about McDonald's - you're missing my point) and a pleasant experience in the store and at the drive through. The majority of our training was focused on the nuances of providing a good service experience and on friendliness and courtesy, and the minority was on the technical perfection that was expected of us.

Post 80's fast food franchises have as their objective total ticket times and orders per hour. The customer experience generally is not a factor.

In the 80's, we were trained to look a customer in the eye, ask them how they were doing, say yes ma'am and no sir and please and thank you. (I will say that this is still clearly the directive at Chick Fil-A, which is an exception to everything I'm about to say.)

All that was and is just ducky, but it still isn't the pinnacle of good post-80s service at a fast food counter or drive through.

The absolute TOP level of service in this current day and age is when the person "serving" you is not trying to fling your drink, your food, your three foot long receipt, your 68 coins and your three dollar bills at you all at the same time, waving their arms like a millennial baboon if you don't respond quickly enough (with what I can only assume they believe is your 8 arms and your mastery of the space-time continuum, allowing you to process all of these things and put them in their correct places in exactly one nanosecond) and then floor your vehicle, rocketing it out of their way and through time so that the next customer can have things flung at them.

We were actually trained to hand a customer their coins (which, newsflash - go in a separate container from the bills, not just into a giant Mary Poppins catch-what-is-flung-at-me-like-a-fast-pitch-softball bag) and wait until they put them away, THEN hand them their bills, and lastly, their diminutive receipt, which in the good old days was about two inches long, not three feet long. Then and only then would we ask them if they wanted condiments, put those in the bag, fold the bag over and hand it to them, thanking them for their business and telling them to have a good day. None of this was done with baboon gestures, grunting, or buffalo snorting at the inordinate amount of time a surprised customer spends picking french fries out of their eye and dropping change into their bra while trying desperately to catch an airborne iced tea with their three foot long receipt.

That's all I'm saying.

Stop it.

The world isn't going to end if you allow me four seconds to put my change in my wallet before handing me the next thing. It really isn't. And if you allow me those four seconds, I might not blog-shame you, Taco Bueno. And everywhere else besides CFA.

And can we get rid of four foot long receipts everywhere? Is that too much to ask? I wonder if millennials TP their friends' trees now with receipts instead of actual TP. I know I could lob a Michael's receipt up into a 100 year old oak tree and both ends would still touch the ground.

After I picked all the change out of my bra, I played in this week's Mix-Ability challenge, which was a spray challenge. I knew JUST what I was going to do because I have my brand spanking new Hooray It's Your Day kit from the upcoming Occasions catalog, which comes with this GORGEOUS rose die cut. These are SO pretty just stuck on colored cardstock, but I can't say goodbye to one of these so I decided to make a permanent stencil out of it and keep it forever.

To do that, I just painted both sides with gel medium. I love gel medium because it dries fast. Not fast food order time fast, but fast. I let it dry on waxed paper.

After it was dry, I taped it down to some watercolor paper with low tack tape

OOH - you know what else comes in this kit? Little wood embellishments like this one that says hello. I colored it with a black Sharpie and covered it with Crystal Effects.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. I sprayed the paper with three colors of ink spray - hot pink, orange and also Gold Glow Smooch Spritz

After it dried, I used a fine paintbrush and some Golden Iridescent Gold Deep Fluid Acrylic to paint around the flowers. I love the orange-y red and gold together. 

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Fun eh? Then I just used a little dot or two of Crystal Effects to tack down the wood element and mounted the whole thing on black cardstock.

Now this project resulted in another WAY cool technique that I'm not going to fling at you right now - because I'm better trained than that.

I'll be back tomorrow after you put your change and your receipt away to show you that wonderfulness.

In the meantime, it's been a pleasure serving you. I hope you have a great day.


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Do More of What Makes You Happy

This Christmas, we are reviving the best Christmas we ever had at my parents' house - the all handmade or re-gifted Christmas. What was cool about this event was that NO ONE had to venture into a store in December. We had more time to bake, to do our Christmas cards and to just RELAX in December.  Unheard of, right? The only gifts that were allowed were either handmade or they had to be something in your house you were re-gifting. This resulted in some HILARIOUS gifts, believe me.     

We then fell off the wagon for a few years, but now it's back and I'm really looking forward to what everyone comes up with.

I have a pretty crafty family, so this can be a challenge, but luckily, my friends at Uncommon Goods are enabling me this year, by sending me a few things I am quite sure are going to make you squeal. I squealed. So here goes the Christmas 2014 edition of the Blue List.

The first one might be our Christmas family craft, because it's so easy and portable and fun - it's their Hedgehog Needle Felting Kit.


First of all, if there's any craft I l can truly say I love as much as stamping, it's needle felting. Maybe that's why I always say that things make me stabby - heh. It's a very zen-inducing process - repetitive motion, forgiving medium, tactile - and one that is as close to sculpture as I'll ever get.

Felting is like magic. The wool (in this kit it's from New Zealand and is so soft and beautiful) WANTS to stick together, and jabbing it with a needle grants that wish. I really enjoy "free felting" where I hold a little ball of wool in one hand and hold the needle in the other. I hold the needle like this - with just a tiny bit extending past my pinkie finger so that I know how deeply the needle is going into the wool ball and I won't accidentally jab myself.

 However, I don't recommend this for beginners, because you will definitely stab yourself and be mad at me. Try it after you have a little experience.

The instructions in the hedgehog kit are exactly what beginners need to use - placing the felt on a soft surface, like a pillow, or, what I did when I was working on the tiny pieces like the ears and noses - a kitchen sponge.

Speaking of instructions - they are fantastic. You do not need to have experience felting to make these cuties with the awesome step-by-step photos. It's quite the opposite of Ikea furniture. (Just bracing for December 23rd when my computer desk arrives. #twitch)

Now I don't usually present graphic content on my blog, but I thought you'd like to know how a cute felted hedgehog has a baby!


I know - it's weird that they are born without their ears and eyes - but hey - I'm not The Master.


The kit is a grand total of $17. I have no clue how you get this gorgeous wool here from New Zealand and package it up in an adorable Chinese takeout box with needles and beads and perfect full-color instructions for $17, but mine is not to reason why, mine is just to felt - OH MY!

There's OODLES of wool left over after making this momma hedgie and her baby - the kit says it makes two, but it makes much more than that! The mom is 3" long and 1.5" wide and baby is 1.5" by .5". Oh - and the beads are for the eyes, but I decided to felt my eyes.

Now while you're felting, you'll need to have some nice hot tea. Depending on what time of day it is, I recommend a London Fog (Republic of Tea Earl Greyer tea steeped in milk with sugar and vanilla) or a soothing cup of Tazo Rest, which I love. But there's no buzzkill like having your tea tag slither off the side of your cup and land in your hot tea, making the whole thing taste like an old library book.

So, I present to you a perfect, perfect tea cup. Yepper - it holds the tea bag for you so you are free to felt.


BOOM. Problem solved.

And finally, they sent me one of the most beautiful things I've ever laid eyes on - a Lumen shadow projector.


If I had had one of these when I was a kid I probably wouldn't have left my room.


First of all, they are made in Brooklyn, and mine - the Nest design - is so beautifully and perfectly made. It comes with two oil bottles, which surprised me. The wicks are pre-fed so you just pop off the childproof cap with a screwdriver and light it.

I played with different distances from the wall for different looks.


This is going to be on all the time in my remodeled studio, should it ever be completed. You'll notice the disassembled card catalog base the projector is sitting on. :D Keeping it real over here.

The oil is unscented (thank you!) and I truly cannot describe how magical this little projector is. I think my next one will be the Pine design for my guest bath.

I've loved Uncommon since I found them, because I know if I buy a gift there, it will be something no one else will get - gee, I wonder where they got the name? - and my absolute favorite thing about the site is that I can filter my search results just to see products made in the USA, and you all know how strongly I feel about that. They also have a zillion products made in OTC countries (Other Than China).  Here are some of my other faves from their site - these are all from their under $50 section:

I wish I had seen this fun gift before my neighbor's daughter's bridal shower - I would have loved to have given her this wishing ball. Super cool idea - made in Rhode Island. See more of their Christmas gifts here and stocking stuffer here.

Life is short. Do fun things, like making felted hedgehogs and wearing unicorn horns.

OH - and open your pre-order and play with it. Then enable other people to hedgies and teacups and projectors and stamps.

Below is a sneak peek from both Sale-A-Bration and the Occasions Mini catalog. If you need one or want to come to my spring classes with these goodies, let me know!

This one features the stamp we all screamed about during the catalog premiere. It's called Lotus Blossom and is a three-step stamp, only available during SAB. I used Tempting Turquoise, Pacific Point and Basic Black. Then I added a greeting from Hello Life (Occasions) and embossed it in gold.

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It's great advice, really.

Here - you better have another look at the hedgies before you go just so that I know you really are doing things that make you happy. I'm always thinking about you.


Friday, December 5, 2014

The Eternal Mystery Of The Feline Mind

I've been an animal whisperer all my life. Ask my parents.

I've never had trouble communicating with creatures, furry or feathered or creepy or crawly.

Until Splotchy.

And, to clarify - I can communicate with him (her) just fine. And much of the time s(he) communicates effectively with me.

But then, there is the song of his people. At 4 AM. Or randomly during the day.

Sometimes he tries so hard it sounds like English. Seriously.

We did try with moderate success, the Jackson Galaxy method of not reacting at all to the 4 AM sounds and that worked at about an 81% rate, I'd say. But this cat is like Oprah. There are a certain number of cat words that have to come out of that thing every day and not God, not man, not Jackson Galaxy, not a voodoo doll, potion or spell are going to stop that from happening.

I realized today - during a particularly talkative session that happens every time either we humans are in two different rooms, or one human is in the bathroom, or GOD FORBID, there are humans in two separate rooms and Maddie is also in a non co-located space with Splotchy -what sort of little beast (s)he actually is.

Splotchy is a herding cat.

Like a border collie, except a cat.

This cat is COMPLETELY wigged out if the herd is not all within about a 10 square foot space. His little kitty mind breaks. He stands at the PRECISE midpoint between the two humans - one watching golf and one stamping - and attempts to speak English. For hours at a time. When one human moves within the acceptable range - squeaking and talking halts.

Maddie? Maddie bases the happiness quotient on this question: "Is there a human or cat in this room I can sit on? Yes > happy. No > howling."

So if any of you have Wikipedia links to share on the lineage of my rare sheep herding cat, I'd appreciate you sharing them. Thanks.

Today I'm hosting the MIx-Ability challenge and I decided on a blast from the past - INCHIES! My challenge is to have 1, 2, 3 or 4 inchies with at least two mediums each - all different - on your card.

I used a gelli print for mine - and surprised myself because I'm not a fan of purple, but I really liked this one.

After I cut up the prints into 1 3/4", 3/4" and 2" squares, I dipped the non-brush end of my paintbrush into some Viva Precious Metal and made dots - I love the sparkle. Be warned though - this stuff does have a solvent odor. I'm not a fan of stinky art supplies, but I'm sort of sensitive to that, so if you are, you might want to substitute a sparkly acrylic. But this stuff is gorgeous and very metallic. It has enough body to it that it makes those pretty perfect circles, but it's much thinner than paint.

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I made the diamonds on the gelli print with that plastic mesh they give you at Costco or the grocery store for your oil or wine bottles. It makes a great mask!

All of the gelli prints are from one single piece of cardstock. The greeting is from Happy Day (retired).

Sort of has a Mardi Gras look, I think.

I love the inchies because they let you preserve a CAS look with little vignettes of mixed media.

No but seriously - please research herding cats. It's important.


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Shine On, Friends

 Goodbye is hard. I think that's why they put good at the front so that you don't think as much about the bye.

Today we are saying an official farewell to a real pillar of the stamping industry - Paper Crafts & Scrapbooking Magazine, which provided many years of incredible inspiration, and whose editorial team provided endless enthusiam for, and support of, papercrafting across the globe. It's hard to be happy about that.

But there are things to be happy about, always. I'm very grateful to have met some of these ladies and also just to have watched them shine over the years. To a (wo)man, it was never just a job for this team. Their love of art and flair for curation made all of our days more colorful and fun.

And you know what? They still will - I have no doubt at all.

Shine on, my Paper Crafts friends. Thank you for years of inspiration. Thanks Cath for your amazing work on Moxie Fab - even though you have moved on, it's hard to think of PC&S without you. Thanks Teri for your incredible talent, your sweet heart, and that big hug you gave me in the airport when we found out we were in the same terminal on Twitter. Thanks Susan for your positivity, your energy, your COLOR, and for introducing me to things I never dreamed existed, like sketchbooks with a visual plan for every outfit you're going to wear on vacation! #whoknew

I know great things are ahead for all the shining stars at Paper Crafts - Holly, Stacy, Matt, Jennifer, Kerri and everyone else. I know it. But you will all be terribly, terribly missed as you find your new place in the crafty or publishing firmament.

You may have arrived here from the blog of my sweet friend & co-worker at Splitcoaststampers - Lori. See below for the next blog and the full list of awesome human beings participating.

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I wanted to keep the focus on this card on the message, so I stamped the star from Bright & Beautiful in Smoky Slate (stamped off once), added clear embossing powder and embossed it (love that about the new firm foam ink pads) and then stamped the message from Banner Blessings in black. I added a few sparkly rhinestones and some tinsel trim and it just shines. :)

One last thing that I feel like I have to say, because not to say it would really be a sin of omission, and my Catholic ancestors would roll over in their graves. So here it is.

If there's something you love and would miss if it were gone - pay for it. If you're lucky enough to have an independent craft store where you are (we no longer do) - spend maybe 80% of your craft budget there, and save the rest for other sources. If there's a magazine you love - buy a subscription. If you use Wikipedia - donate during their donation drives. If there are other sites you use every day - buy a premium subscription, shop at their advertisers, make a donation. Every dollar you spend represents part of the foundation of the businesses that will remain. If you are constantly looking for free things, the best shipping price, etc. then don't be surprised when the things you love, but never paid for, go away. It's cause and effect, and we are all responsible. Like every other business in every other industry, craft-focused businesses have to be profitable. I think because we're all having so much fun, that we forget that there are real people and real jobs and real families that are paying their light bills with whatever money we choose to spend with them, and they get laid off and their businesses close when we don't make that choice. Love is grand, but it doesn't pay the mortgage. Reward the people, the companies and the websites you love with your disposable income, and they will shine, too. That's my Christmas wish. :)

Next up in the hop is my sweet friend and fellow Dirty Dozen Alumna - Julie Campbell. Now THERE is a girl who sparkles.

Enjoy the talent on this amazing hop.

A squillion thanks and much, much love to the PC team for an inspiring and joyful production that brought us all a wealth of knowledge and tons of fun.

We will miss you.


Monday, December 1, 2014

The Darkroom Gets Off Scot-Free!

I was reading something on Facebook last week by someone grumbling about photoshopped images and arguing with a photographer about a particular photo and how it had been "altered".

I was thinking to myself that since you can't take a picture with your eyeball, and since your eyeball sees things differently than my eyeball does, that it seemed like a bit of a nitpick.

But a few days later, I remembered what I used to do in my high school photography classes, which was basically Photoshop in a chemical bath.

We DRASTICALLY altered photos through the developing process and even retouched negatives. There's not really any such thing EVER on the planet as an un-retouched image. You could even alter images in camera in the olden days just with double exposures.

So I'm not sure why digital photographers get so much flak. It seems like a Star-Bellied Sneetch issue.

Why can't they just be friends, the film Sneetches and the digital Sneetches?

Speaking of friends, my friend Mary Ellen Stites at Create with M.E. nominated me to play along in the Creative Blog Hop - a very cool daisy-chain of blog posts by amazing people! Since she was so sweet to include me I had to whip out my beloved Banner Blessings set and some squirrels and make a friend card! Hard to see here but the little heart has Crystal Effects on it.

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There are four questions that go along with this hop and these were fun to answer!

1) What are you working on? I decided Thanksgiving weekend would be a good time to completely rip my studio apart and create chaos in my house that I'm sure will last the whole holiday season! Yay me! It was time for something new - my space isn't really working for me anymore and I've been working around it for 12 years. So the weekend started like this:

ended like this:

Try to contain your jealousy.

Do I have new furniture for the room yet? Nope. I'm going to try things in the room with temporary tables and drawings of the space to make sure when I do get something, it's perfect. So don't come over - the entire contents of this room are in bags and boxes in my living room. It's pretty crazy. I might not live through it!

2. How does your work differ from others in this genre?

I describe my style as CAQ - Clean and Quirky. I love clean and simple stamping - I'm a power consumer of white and crumb cake cardstock, but I also love quirky animals, funny, offbeat greetings, monsters, etc. and I pride myself on making clean mixed media projects. I like bright, saturated complementary colors and if you just look at my gallery on Splitcoast you'll see I'm drawn to the same color combos for most of my cards.

3. Why do you create what you do?

That's a good question. I've been making art since I could walk. Every waking moment that isn't spent working or cooking or walking is spent making something. Pair that with my love of teaching, and it's a powerful driving force in my life.

4. How does your creative process work?

I absorb a LOT of online content in my job at Splitcoast. So during my work day, I see many inspiring projects. Those all go into my head, and when I walk in the mornings or when I'm falling asleep at night, some elements gel together in my head into an idea. I do my best design work away from my studio - mostly deep in the woods.

Now I get to nominate two people to hop along - their posts will happen next Monday so be sure and follow them so you can see what they do!

The first is my good friend, long time Splitcoast moderator, Creative Crew Challenge coordinator, downline member and fellow Texan Bev Gerard, also known as TexasGrammy. Bev has the kindest heart and best laugh of anyone I've ever known. She has welcomed me into her home and her FABULOUS detached stamping studio on my trips to what I call "Southern Oklahoma" and what she calls "Dallas." She is an amazing artist - I'd describe her style as Modern Classic - she has a real flair for design that is warm and welcoming.

The second one is Ceal Pritchett - a deep southern girl who lives in Colorado and who I met through Splitcoast, where she is a gallery moderator. I got to meet her in person at Convention this summer and I didn't want to let her go back home! Her sweet southern accent and her mischievous sense of humor made me feel like I have known her all my life! Ceal's style is CAS with a real sweetness about it, just like her! She also has a mind-blowing studio at her home.

Wait - maybe I'm sensing a theme here! Studio envy!! :).

Anyway, watch for their links in the chain next Monday! Big hugs to Mary Ellen for including me!

Wednesday is the Occasions Mini Catalog and Sale-A-Bration catalog premiere at the movies! I can't wait and will share some peeks with you.

In the meantime, don't forget - the Online Extravaganza and discounted Starter Kit only last two more days - time's a wastin'!


Friday, November 28, 2014

Breaking Pie

Still got your stretchy pants on?

I do - and I already have plans for tortilla soup with the remains of the turkey.

BUT - before turkey, there was PIE.

I cooked my pies on Wednesday night and started Thanksgiving Day with a pie taste test breakfast.

One pie I cooked my normal way - with pumpkin pie spice.

But because I had made some amazing Indian food last week and used garam masala, I had been thinking I wanted to try the garam masala instead of pumpkin pie spice in one pie and then compare them. I decided I would be the pie chemist and break tradition. The Walter White of pie. Going rogue on a holiday which is known for tradition. BOOYA!

So I sat down to breakfast with two tiny slices of pie. The garam masala pie was much darker in color with visible flecks of spices.

I tasted that one first and it was SPECTACULAR.

But in the absence of comparison, I couldn't really tell if it was better than the traditional because I love pumpkin pie.

So I took a bite of the second one - the one I've made and loved every year of my adult life.

I was shocked to see that it tasted like WATER compared to the first one.

Not anywhere close to the same animal at all. Incredibly bland.

Can you be pleasantly shocked? If so, I was. I will ONLY make garam masala pie from henceforth. Try it! Here's the particular spice blend I used - I believe each garam masala blend is slightly different.

Frontier garam masala


The chicken recipe that inspired this experiment is below.

But now, a little joy! Today's Mix-Ability challenge is hosted by Anna Wight, and her challenge was to create a snowy scene. I had seen a beautiful White Christmas card by Sandi MacIver on Facebook a few days ago and decided I had to make a card for today's challenge with that set.

First, I taped off a rectangle on a piece of watercolor paper. Then I lightly sprayed the masked area with a mixture of Tempting Turquoise re-inker and rubbing alcohol. Next, I stamped the images from White Christmas in Smoky Slate.

After that, I took a Kemper Splatter Brush and splattered white paint all over the scene.

I know people like to use toothbrushes for this, but I find that the spatter brush makes it much easier to control and regulate the spattering with that ingenious construction with the rotation against that little rod. Highly recommend. 

It's hard to see in my photo but since I didn't dilute the paint, the spatters are 3D and very cool looking. I decided to add a little color to the background and break up the blue, so I watercolored with Daffodil Delight, Orchid Opulence and Tempting Turquoise reinkers.

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In the trees, I added some silver Dazzling Details for a little sparkle. Then I cut out the snowman and popped him up with dimensionals.

Finally, I cut the "joy" out of watercolor paper with the Wonderful Wreath framelits.

Now I have a busy three days ahead of me. I'm ripping apart my stamp room! I've sold my desk and I'm looking forward to a new configuration in the space, with less furniture and less stuff in general. It's been nearly twelve years in this space and I think I finally have a better idea of what will be functional, easy to use, organized and pretty. Yeah, I'm a slow learner.

And yes, I'll post before & afters.

Hope you have a fun & relaxing weekend planned. Come play along in the challenge today if you have time to stamp!

Here's that delicious chicken recipe:

Chicken in a Creamy Cashew Sauce
1 garlic clove
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons garam masala
Juice of 1 lemon (I actually didn't have a lemon, so I used the equivalent amount of True Lemon
1½ cups Greek yogurt (Fage 2%)
3 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into pieces

2 tablespoons coconut oil, divided
2 onions, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeño, minced
2 tablespoons garam masala
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons turmeric
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
One 28-ounce can whole tomatoes
1 cup chicken broth
¾ cup raw cashews
¼ cup heavy cream

To Finish
Steamed rice, for serving
Frozen peas
½ cup chopped cilantro, for garnish
1. Make the marinade: With the side of a chef’s knife, smash the garlic clove and salt into a paste. Transfer to a medium bowl, then stir in the garam masala, lemon juice and Greek yogurt.
2. Place the chicken in a 1-gallon Ziploc bag, and add the marinade to the bag. Seal, then massage the chicken to coat it with the marinade. Refrigerate while you make the sauce.
3. Make the sauce: In a large pot, heat 1 tablespoon coconut oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until very tender, 7 to 9 minutes. Add the garlic and jalapeño, and sauté until fragrant, 1 minute more.
4. Add the garam masala, cumin, turmeric, salt and pepper to the onion mixture and cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until the spices smell toasty, 1 to 2 minutes.
5. Stir in the tomatoes and chicken broth, and cook, using the end of the wooden spoon to break up the tomatoes a bit while the mixture comes to a simmer. Add the cashews and simmer for 15 minutes.
6. Blend with a stick blender until smooth
7. Cook the chicken: In the now-empty pot, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon coconut oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken pieces to the pan, shaking gently to remove excess marinade, and sauté until golden brown, 7 to 9 minutes.
8. Pour the finished sauce into the pan and add the heavy cream. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Cook, covered, until the chicken is very tender, 20 to 30 minutes more.
9. Cook rice, and add frozen peas when rice is cooked and cover until ready to serve.
10. To serve, spoon the steamed rice onto a plate or into a bowl. Top the rice with a portion of the cooked chicken and sauce. Garnish with the cilantro.

Pumpkin Pie - I use the recipe on the Libby's can, EXCEPT - instead of sugar + evaporated milk, I use one can on sweetened condensed milk, and instead of all the spices listed, I use 2 tsp. of garam masala. DELIGHTFUL. Slightly modified from original Pure Wow recipe here.


Friday, November 21, 2014

This Word "We" - It Doesn't Mean What You Think It Means

So when you're a good little child, raised in a nice small town in SE Texas, you learn manners.

You learn to say sir and ma'am, speak when spoken to (I wasn't so hot at this as I sort of love the whole speaking process) you learn the difference between adults and children, and you respect the adult / child boundary.

I remember when my parents had parties, we had to be upstairs. Did we spy on them from the top of the stairs? Yes. But there was no mingling. They had their fun and we had ours.

We also learned that there were multiple authorities with control over us as children. Neighbor parents, for example. If a spanking was required, they were authorized - encouraged, even - to deliver it. Teachers and principals as well.

Custody of us was transferred each time we were within sight of another adult. This is a great system and should make a comeback.

But one day, in ninth grade, it all broke.

I remember quite distinctly the day that I learned that it was completely okay for me to tell people with a wide variety of experience/age differentials to stuff it.

It was the day that my biology II teacher, who, by the way, I really liked and respected, told the class we'd be dissecting cats.

Yeah, lady, I thought - you keep using this word "we" - I'm not sure it means what you think it means. I'm not your huckleberry there. There is no power in the universe that could make me do that. I wouldn't even do that at gunpoint.

Mind you - the whole class was horrified - not just me. But we were good kids. We didn't tell grownups to shove it.

Until I did.

I said - Sorry Mrs. Loving - I'm just not going to do that.

I left the class. And I was not summarily executed or forced to leave the planet. It was actually surprisingly uneventful.

I got an F. The very first and last F of my life, and the grade I am MOST proud of. I'd like a thousand more F's for situations just like that. Because you know what? I did fail. I EARNED THAT F LIKE A BOSS. I owned it. I didn't even try not to F. It was the perfect score. Any other grade would have been a travesty.

She was surprised and, I can't lie - mad - I think just because she really loved teaching, not because she felt disrespected, but she didn't duct tape me to my seat. She just watched me leave. And she told me I'd get a failing grade. Failing, as I remember thinking, was a wee bit relative in this particular situation. I'm pretty sure I won.

But it's good to find out that just because someone tells you you have to do something, doesn't mean you have to do it. You really don't have to do anything at all. And I'm not an anarchist. I just think that there are times in your life when you should say no thank you. Firmly. And not regret it. And embrace all the things that come with it.

I'd love to say that F had no impact on my life, but it did. It's something I earned, and it's something I think of and cherish every time I say no to something that just isn't quite right for me.

And Mrs. Loving, if you're out there - you were an awesome teacher. I loved the little maps we made when we were studying genetics. Maybe that's why I loved biology and hated chemistry - I remember biology being very visual, and chemistry being very math-y. Also, my chemistry teacher was no Walter White, but that's a horse of a different color.

Luckily, none of this interfered with my dream of NOT being a doctor or a medical examiner! Yay me!

Today's Mix-Ability challenge is hosted by Tiffany Johnson - and it's about FEATHERS!

I decided to try an experiment. For some reason when I do gelli printing, I can't bring myself to throw away the ugly mistakes. I don't know why - it's not like the process is expensive. I guess I keep thinking I'll print over them - I do love that you can fix a bad print a lot of times by printing on it again.  But sometimes I don't fix them and they just sit in a drawer. So today I decided to take an ugly print and use it for my feathers.

Here's the ugly print:

It's just awful. It had some cool shapes, but the colors weren't right. I realized when I used it today that what it needed was red or orange.

I stamped a few feathers from the Four Feathers bundle and die cut them. Then I used a skewer that was on my messy desk, dipped it in some Vat Orange Golden Fluid Acrylic and whacked the paint loaded stick against my finger to spatter it. It was just the right color.

I made circles in the background with a sponge dauber and yellow ink, added sequins from the Frosted Sequins collection, and stamped the greeting from Banner Blessings in black.

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Of course, if I hadn't wanted to do any of that, I could have just said no thank you. :)

Try it sometime!


Friday, November 14, 2014

Shine Like Stars In The Universe

So it really wasn't much of a week. I mean, we just landed a little spaceship on a comet and whatnot - no biggie!

My sister and I renamed the little comet Chigger, because the scientific name is stupid. Why do people have to make everything so complicated? Call it something fun and quit being so stuffy and egomaniacal.

Now last night, I woke up in a cold sweat from a terrible nightmare in which I won a trip anywhere in the world. I had to decided right then while the people who told me I won were there. It was awful. I could NOT decide and still hadn't decided when I woke up. I'm clearly not prepared to win a trip anywhere I want to go, so there's a lesson for a Friday!

In more earthly news, the best stamp set ever was released.

 And I bought it.

Behold its wonder.


I LOVE that hand drawn look. After the comet kerfuffle settled down and I was over my free trip nightmare, I couldn't wait to play with this, and this week's Mix-Ability challenge was the perfect opportunity.

I have discovered that the universe is binary. You either shine or you don't. You're grumpy or happy. You're the comet or you're the spaceship. You're in control of the switch.

I say shine. Shine, little Chigger! Shine! :)

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Speaking of shining, holy MOLY do I have an awesome recipe for you.

You know I'm a soup lover. There may or may not be someone in my house who does not believe soup is food, with few exceptions.

THIS soup was an exception! It's RIDICULOUSLY delicious.

Butternut-Boursin-Bacon Soup

Recipe from: Cathy Pollak for NoblePig.com | Serves: 4-6


  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1/2 of a large onion, diced
  • 4 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 (3-1/2 lb) butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 (14.5 ounce) cans chicken broth
  • 2 (5.2 ounce) rounds Boursin Cheese with Garlic and Fine Herbs
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 6 pieces cooked bacon, crumbled
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped chives


  • In a large (7 qt) Dutch oven, melt butter over med-low heat. Add onion and celery and cook until slightly softened, about 2-3 minutes. Add butternut squash and thyme leaves, cook for about 8 minutes more. Stir several times. (It is okay if squash begins to brown a little.) Add flour and stir until fully incorporated.
  • Add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Turn down heat, cover and simmer on low for another 10 minutes. Squash should be soft. Using a hand-held blender or regular blender, puree squash mixture until smooth.
  • Add soup back to the pot (if you removed) and add Boursin cheese, salt and both peppers. Stir until cheese is melted.
  • Garnish each bowl with crumbled bacon and chives.

    This soup is seriously a religious experience!! You MUST try it.

    The only things I think I would do differently next time is hold back on the salt by maybe 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon - (the Boursin has plenty of salt in it) and maybe add a teeny bit of ground crushed red pepper for bite.

    But it's seriously perfect the way it is. Unbelievable fall dish. I can't wait for lunch.

    For now, I'm off to ponder where I'd take that trip, so next time it's offered to me, I can shine. :)


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Stop Poking Me With Your Elbows!!

I've been getting massages since the 80s.

I am one of those people that develops world record back knots.

Some of this is my artist personality - I can sit for five hours watercoloring a tiny squirrel to get it *just* right. I don't realize that there are humans and animals that require food, or that deadlines have come and gone or that I haven't moved my neck in four hours. I just get... lost.

Part of it I think it just genetic. I think some people's muscles knot up and some people's don't.

Someday I will win a Nobel prize for correlating my horseradish allergy and aversion to seafood to back knots. Then I will curse the shrimp cocktail eaters with my whole face and my million dollars.

In the meantime, I try to cope with massage.

When I was slaving away as an awesome child laborer in the health food store my mom and her BFF ran in Bryan for $1 an hour (BTW - John Mackey, before he hit the big time, delivered to our store), I met the first great massage therapists of my life. These people were born to do this work and they were GREAT at it. We also had a reflexologist who worked in the store. Oh, to find a good one in Austin!

So I started there, and then went on to have massages everywhere - Santa Fe, New York, a fun B&B in Fredericksburg, Lifetime Fitness, Massage Envy and a million others.

And for many years, the experience was the same. Massage therapists used their fingers to untie my knots. It was - while sometimes painful - an excellent experience. And then, sometime in the 2000s, massage took a dramatic turn for the worse.

Someone started teaching people to start poking all of us with their bones.

For YEARS I've been getting massages where NO ONE uses their fingers to untie knots - they are all digging their pointy elbows into me, or "massaging" me with their radius and ulna.



You are making something that used to be awesome painful and scary. You aren't feeling my muscles, and I am only feeling your pokey bones. QUIT IT. I have a pokey bone or two I might retaliate with!

Here endeth the rant.

NOW - speaking of getting obsessed and doing something for four hours straight, that happened to me yesterday. (Which is why my back hurts and I'm protesting modern massage methods.)

I saw this glorious exploding pyramid box project on Splitcoast and I had to try it for myself.

Because it was SO elusive on the Googlewebz, I had to just wing it. If ANYONE knows who made this project - it was a sample from the Stampin' Up! convention in Brussels - please let me know - I'd love to give him/her credit - I fell in LOVE. (UPDATE - the artist contacted me - YAY! She is the incredibly talented Jo Blackman - here's her post about it. It was a design contest entry at convention. Thank you Jo - you are amazing!!)

My engineering skills - well, I'm lacking in the math and all, but I think I did okay! :) Here's the inside of the box - the outside looks just the same.

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Here's what I figure out. You can make a perfect triangle exploding box with a piece of cardstock that is 10.5" X 12". Mark the center on the 12" side and cut from the corners to this point to form a triangle. Then, fold one point of the triangle to the center of the opposite side. Do the same with the other two points. You now have a triangle box - BOOM!!!

To make the DSP triangles for the inside and outside, cut pieces that are 5.5 x 4 11/16. The 5.5 side is the base of the triangle, so on the 5.5" side, mark the center at 2.75 - cut from the corners to this point. Boom - triangles! You need six of these to cover both sides of each side of the box.

For the tree - I used 16 punch outs from the Tree Punch - I just lined it up at the edge of the DSP so I wasn't getting the stem - just triangles. Fold each triangle in half, and glue each to another folded half. 8 make up the bottom layer of the tree. For the top layer, you'll insert a folded triangle into a crease in the bottom of the tree. Then add the next one in the next crease and make your way around the tree.

I used three stars punched out of glimmer paper for the topper - be sure and line them up precisely and hold them for a bit while the glue dries. Tombow Mono Multi is a MUST - don't use any other adhesive!.

Then, I deconstructed some cottonballs. I covered the base triangle with glue, and stuck down my fluffy "snow." Then I put a BIG puddle of glue in the center, stuck my tree into it and used my bone folder to put some more cottonball fluff around the base.

If you look at the second photo you'll see I added some glimmer paper snowflakes - the ones that look like jacks - on top of the snow - LOVE.

I colored some rhinestones and stuck them on my tree.

The points of the box are the same on the outside and the inside. I stamped with Holiday Home the little houses on watercolor paper and die cut & colored them with reinkers. I stamped the sleigh image right on the All is Calm DSP with Lost Lagoon.

Now the only thing I can't figure out is how she made that little topper to keep it closed - can you figure it out? I tried a folded circle but it was too small and the box popped open. Let me know if you figure it out!

Whew. Now I really need a massage!

I hope you try it - it really is adorable in real life.

But get up and stretch while you're doing it. :)


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