Friday, April 29, 2016

About Those Bathrooms

I feel the need to weigh in on a topic that has been in the news lately.

But perhaps not the one you're thinking of.

We need to talk a LOT about where it's appropriate to use the bathroom.

Specifically - we need to talk about where it's NOT appropriate to use the bathroom. And by that I mean, THE DRESSING ROOM OF LARGE RETAIL CLOTHING ESTABLISHMENTS, TARGET INCLUDED.

Who are all these people who are rampantly peeing or letting their children pee in dressing rooms in America?

Don't even pretend like you've never smelled pee in a dressing room either - I am not having any of your denial. It even smells like pee in the Stein Mart dressing rooms, and those are way fancier than Target.

If there's something America should be focusing on right now (aside from the shortage of decent limes) it's the problem of pee-soaked dressing room carpet.

I call on our lawmakers to pass an across-the-board, equal-opportunity, pan-gender, pan-racial, all-inclusive death penalty on dressing room pee perps immediately. Just put everyone to death on their first offense. That's what we call a deterrent down here in the Lone Star State.

Then all of us can feel safe again when we are trying on overpriced clothes from China with scratchy tags that give you the hives.

It is necessary for us to move ahead as a unified people.

Glad to have that off my chest. It's been bothering me since the mid-70s.

Today I'm hosting the MIX-Ability challenge at Splitcoast, and since it's just been raining non-stop here since like the 1400's, I picked an April showers bring May flowers theme. If you play along in the challenge, you need to create free-form, not stamped, watercolor flowers. No-line coloring is not allowed. It needs to just be you, some water and some pigment. I can hear people crying all over America, but look how fun they are!

MIX170 - Freeform watercolor flowers by Understandblue
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For mine, I just put down blobs of water, not trying to paint a flower shape at all, and then touched three colors of Mission Gold watercolor to the blobs and let the colors spread on their own. I painted these on Strathmore Ready-Cut watercolor cards.

I let them dry naturally, and then added a stamped sentiment from the Love and Affection stamp set, which you will see in the new catalog, and added my new favorite obsession to the center of the flower - Nuvo Drops - along with some clear Wink of Stella.

Nuvo Drops are sort of like Stickles, or Dazzling Details, but a different consistency. They dry faster and you can make your own enamel dots with them. Very fun and a huge array of colors - the turquoise is gorgeous!

The color I used here is White Blizzard.

So to prove to you that you can create free-form flowers in under four minutes, here's a real-time video to prove it.

This quick technique leaves you tons of time to go round up the dressing room peeers, so off you go now.


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Stamping With My Tribe

I'm spending a two week period with my tribe this month. I just got home from OnStage in Salt Lake, which was the best gathering we've had in 15 years. It was a-m-a-z-i-n-g.

Here's a pic of our team dinner. Melanie Hopes, James (Lee's husband) and Diane Belcher joined us, and look who was sitting in the corner! :) We love the Red Iguana - it's a must-eat if you visit Salt Lake.

We had a great time, the spring weather and flowers in Utah were AMAZING, and we had a blast seeing all the new goodies you'll get to see soon.

Now I'm home for just a few days and then off to a crafty retreat so it's a busy spring!

Today, I'm hopping with friends from Concord & 9th, and My Sweet Petunia to celebrate the April release which is beautiful! I laughed so hard when I saw the You Crazy Cat set! I had done a guest spot on Brian King's team call a while back and when I gave him my bio with all the info about me, I also added "and I'm not a crazy cat lady - I only have two cats." It's like they read my mind with this set because look what it says.

HA! See - I'm one cat short of crazy.

So I wanted a collage of all these sentiments and the solid images but I just wanted to highlight "crazy cat lady."

To do that I arranged ALL the stamps on the Mini MISTI and got them all perfectly straight.

Then I stamped them all in Smoky Slate on a piece of watercolored paper. I overstamped the grey several times to get it dark and solid. I didn't want black here because I wanted the gold to be the star.

Then, because of the MISTI, all I had to do was peel off the words I didn't want embossed, and re-overstamp the "crazy cat lady" and the solid images in Versamark and then emboss them in gold. Neat trick, eh?

That's the first time I've done a spotlighted collage in the MISTI. I'm assuming I invented it - please don't burst my bubble if I didn't.

Crazy Cat Lady by Understandblue
Then I just matted that on gold glimmer paper and put it on - SURPRISE - a white card base. :)

Now because I'm totally NOT a crazy cat lady, I have another cat project for you before I get to the giveaway.

I saw this ADORABLE cat coaster tutorial thanks to a friend on Facebook and I had to try it.

I loved it so much I went crazy and bought a bunch of felt, so I am selling little pre-cut cat coaster kits if you want to buy one. You just have to tell me what two colors you want the cats, and I'll send you all the pieces. This is beautiful wool felt from Italy.

Felt Cat Coasters by Understand Blue

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These are for a friend I'll be seeing this week. You might even be able to guess who it is from the cats, but don't tell her - they are a surprise. Aren't they the CUTEST? I don't even know if I could put a drink down on them.

So now that I have THREE actual cats in this blog post, does THAT make me a crazy cat lady? You be the judge.

On to the hop! My sweet friends Greg & Angie will be giving away a Flourish stamp set from this release, which is spectacular - be sure and watch Angie's video on all the different ways this set can be used, and My Sweet Petunia is also giving away a Mini MISTI. All you have to do is leave a comment on all the blogs on the hop by Friday at noon Mountain time.

 >> Understand Blue <<

Have fun on these awesome hop stops and good luck in the drawing!


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

What Time Is It?

I had some experiences this week I'm not anxious to repeat.

First up - my phone battery went off the rails. Ever since two iOS updates ago - battery life has been nuts. My phone is pretty new and has always had really good battery life until these apocalyptic software issues.

Several months ago, they made me do a factory reset to try to eliminate some microphone issues I was having. That worked, and then #batterygate with an iOS update. It almost righted itself until the second update came along and then everything went to hell in a handbasket. The phone would go maybe an hour before being totally drained, and would randomly shut off at about 30% battery. Nonsense. Why in the world anyone would buy an electric car after owning a cell phone is beyond me. What I can tell you is, their brains will be the first snacks of the zombie apocalypse because their cars will be bricks all over the road. And if you will recall, this was the opening of the Walking Dead, in case you doubt me - dead cars everywhere. Zombie snacks. Zombie poppers. Zombie amuse-bouche! Gives the rest of us a head start - I'm okay with it.

So I made a genius bar appointment, like the Apple slave I am, and they told me that my battery was "passing their test" - which apparently means that to get a D, you just need to last an hour. They could see clearly on the diagnostics - he showed me the graph - that it would tank after an hour, but this registered as passing on the "every battery gets a trophy" chart, so they ordered another reset. I reset my phone, spent two hours re-organizing my apps and re-entering all my passwords, and lo and behold, nothing was fixed. So they tell me to come in the next day and they will replace the battery.

The timing for me is important because I'm headed to OnStage and a retreat next week, so I had exactly one day I could make this work. Genius bar appointment #2.

I bring the phone in, and they tell me to leave it for the repair and come back "in 30 minutes."

I leave the store, and then I realize I have absolutely no temporal reference whatsoever anymore.

I don't wear a watch - don't even get me started on the Apple Watch, whose purpose is to tell you you have a call on your Apple Phone which is one inch from your watch - and I realized as I wandered around the mall, that our society has stopped telling time all together outside of the cell phone.

There were no clocks anywhere - not in stores, not outside of stores. There was no clock on the store directory. My surreptitious glances at kiosk cash registers while simultaneously trying to avoid the creepy yelly people in kiosks who try to tractor beam you yielded nothing. Store after store after store had no temporal references anywhere visible. It was sort of like the relationship Las Vegas wants you in with the inside of their casinos - no way to tell if it's night or day.

I finally sought out the jewelry department of Dillard's, and saw that all their watches had different times - probably from lack of use - and I headed back to the Apple store where they told me I was ten minutes early.

I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone. I tried to channel some primitive timekeeping methods, but you can't see the sun inside the mall, so I was stymied.

I might have to buy a sundial at Brookstone that I can strap to my arm like the sort of anti-Apple watch.

Anyway, when I finally guessed properly and went back, they were oddly slow about bringing out my phone. And when they did, they had both my phone and a new phone in a box.

I knew something had gone horribly wrong and that a good half of my work day was about to be obliterated. It's the modern technology version of a police officer knocking on your door.

Sure enough - while trying to remove my battery, they broke my phone. They broke it so completely that they could not even power it back on to kill it once and for all. So they gave me a new phone for the price of the battery I was going to buy (at that point I didn't think I should have to pay for that, honestly) and then I sat there restoring from backup for the next hour so that I could go try to reclaim what was left of my life, after God only knows how much time had passed.

The good news is, this battery seems to be marginally less terrible so I will probably actually be able to update you all from OnStage next week - yay me!

I thought for this theme a technology-related card would be appropriate, so I made a card inspired by The Craft Bunny in this ADORABLE video where her stamps take selfies. Seriously almost died of cute overload when I watched it.

Mine isn't technically a selfie since you can see his hands, so he's either operating the selfie stick with his feet, he pressed a magic button on his Apple Watch, or his friend is taking the picture. No matter what, he's cute and that's all I have to say about that.
Bunny Selfie By Understand Blue

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Well maybe not ALL I have to say about that, because I'll tell you how I made it.

I stamped the bunny from Made With Love in Memento. I stamped him again on a Post-It and cut out a mask and covered him up. Then I stamped the houses from Welcome Words in Memento. Then I set all that aside and punched a scalloped circle with this punch from a scrap and used that as a mask with Tempting Turquoise ink and my Clarity Stamp Stencil brushes to create the cloud background over half the white panel.

Then I punched a scrap of white with my 1 3/8" square punch and then trimmed around it using the eyeball method to make a Polaroid shape.

Then I colored my bunny scene with Copics and used the Clarity stencil brushes again with Pear Pizzazz and Tempting Turquoise around the images.

I mounted the Polaroid frame with foam tape to the scene and then cut away the extra, and glued that down to the panel. Then I used Cheerful Critters (retired) for the sentiment.

I love the insecurity of this bunny. I feel like he's all "please don't post this on FB - I'll be so mad - I look terrible!"

Anyway, I DO like your face, and I hope you'll tune in here and on Instagram for updates and shenanigans from my mini-retreat on Wednesday in Salt Lake and then OnStage madness.

Speaking of the retreat - I have one of the projects available as an online class starting today - and this one is a little different. I call this class "One Ink Wonder", and it's designed as a mini technique class. There are six techniques in this class, all using a single color of ink and a few accessories, and they all fit in a little mini fold up book. This class is great if you're looking for inking techniques, or want to do your own technique series class with some fun simple projects that really focus on everything you can do with an ink pad.

The class is available now on my class page!

So I'm off to hang out in Salt Lake with my tribe. Hope to see some of you there and take little bunny selfies with you.


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Incident of the Scallop in the Nighttime

The word nighttime is defined as follows:

"the time between evening and morning; the time of darkness."

The time of darkness.

It is darkness which I come to speak about today.

A story has slouched towards my blog to be born today, and that is the incident of the scallop in the nighttime.

I was raised in Texas, which, contrary to popular belief, is not in "The South." Is it in the southern portion of the United States? Yes. But "the South" is a bunch of Eastern states more clearly known to Texans as "The Deep South" or those states in which people talk funny, pollute tea with sugar and eat crawly "mudbugs" born in storm sewers. Texas is firmly located between the South and the West. Truth be told, Texans, as children of the Great Republic of Texas, in general do not consider themselves to be a part of any group of like things, because as anyone will tell you, there isn't anything like Texas.

But that being said, Texans are Southerners in the sense that we do have good southern manners. We say yes ma'am and yes sir - even to people in AT&T Customer Service, we open doors for people, we pull over and STOP for funeral processions and fire trucks, and we don't air our dirty laundry in public.

We also accept gifts, regardless of our feelings about said gifts, with a warm and sincere thank you, even if we are shuddering on the inside. The thing about Southerners, unlike, say, Facebook, is there's actually a difference between our INSIDE and our OUTSIDE, and that, at its core, is the essence of being a Southerner.

Hence the scallop incident in the nighttime.

One evening, in THE TIME OF DARKNESS, my sister and I went to one of our favorite haunts in Austin - a very upscale restaurant which I shall not name. At this restaurant, we were such frequent guests that we had a familial relationship with a server who was from a city and state we were very familiar with, as we had family there, and we became friends with this server and requested him every time. We were such fixtures in the restaurant - we always came during senior citizen hour because our favorite dishes were half price - that he always bought us some dish or dessert that he knew we'd love as a gift. He picked out some amazing things that we loved. But it was an extremely busy place, and sometimes he forgot that there were foods that neither of us would eat even if we'd been waterboarded mercilessly prior to the suggestion.

Such as a giant diver scallop, which arrived one night, compliments of our server, and sat jiggling between us like a fishy Jell-O mold from hell.

We. Were. Horrified.

Our faces began to sweat and we knew we didn't have much time to dispose of the body before our beloved server came over and asked us how it was. The problem was, the thing was the size of a chihuahua. This wasn't a small problem.

We quickly decided - cue the Frasier theme music - to put the body in a napkin and take it to the bathroom and flush it.

No, sadly, I'm not kidding.

What happened next is what happens sometimes when you are going out of your way to be polite, and by that I mean complete chaos, followed by embarrassment far worse than just saying no thank you to the scallop would have been, even for two people with manners.

The scallop, which was wrapped in a napkin and on an unnamed lap, ready for transport, fell onto the dark, beautiful carpet next to our booth.

The screaming inside our heads had barely begun when another server came by and said "WHAT IS THAT ON THE FLOOR?" and immediately got the sweeper, which spread the 48 pound scallop into a 4" x 3 foot long white streak of guilt and shame - a HIGHWAY of smashed scallop - next to our booth. A river of stinky, expensive and highly visible good intentions.

Inevitably, our server returned and said "WHAT HAPPENED HERE?" when he saw the mess, to which we feigned obliviousness and changed the subject.

It was at that exact moment that we both started carrying paper towels with us wherever we go. I buy purses now solely on their ability to conceal and transport diver scallops safely to the place they belong - the toilet.

There is some history here too. My sister, who hated milk, nearly since birth, went to great lengths not to drink it. I remember distinctly being at a restaurant on a road trip when I was little, and a waitress coming over and saying "Is that a glass of milk on the floor?"

So while manners might be our forte, we probably both need a little work on subtlety. And for the love of God, please don't ever send a scallop to someone. It's not really a universally acceptable gift.

However, if you DO want to give someone a gift, might I recommend a favorite childhood toy?

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Do you see the toy? It's one of those toys that I feel like might have turned me into the person I am today. Or just spoke to the person I am today.

Fashion Plates. Did you have these? I LOVED them so much. I'd put this in the box with my Lite Brite, the Spirograph and Super Elastic Bubble Plastic.

I freaked out when my friend Mary Dawn pointed out that you can get them - complete with a super cute carrying case, on Amazon. These are the ones I got:

I can't wait to use the Action Plates one! SO fun!

But for this card, what I did was set up some random plates, and then used my Derwent Inktense Blocks - well, BLOCK - just blue :) - to rub the images onto Strathmore Ready Cut watercolor paper.

Then I just spritzed them with water to blur out the images a bit.

After they dried, I went back in with Mission Gold Watercolor in Ultramarine (on sale on Amazon right now with only a few left in stock) just to add some painted areas and a smooth contrast to the textured areas that preserved the rubbing detail.

Then I used my mini MISTI to stamp the sentiment numerous times to make sure it was solid on the watercolor paper. The sentiment is from one of my fave sets EVER - Feel Goods.

Maybe that's not the right sentiment for my story, but I don't have a stamp that says "she tried to flush an expensive diver scallop down the toilet in a high end restaurant, but she couldn't."

So this will have to do.


Monday, April 4, 2016

The Most Beautiful Day

I am bringing you an antidote to our cold, rainy weather we've been having lately - with some GORGEOUS flowers and a fun blog hop.

My friends at Hero Arts are releasing their April My Monthly Hero kit today and it's SPECTACULAR, so I'm joining some of my buddies in a little hop and giveaway to celebrate some spring stamping fun.

I almost fainted when I found out that this kit comes with - wait for it - a CUSTOM Daniel Smith watercolor dot card with colors designed for these stamps. I seriously wanted to just stare at them instead of using them - his watercolor is just divine. The colors were chosen perfectly, IMHO for very realistic rendering of these beautiful botanicals in the kit. I fell in love HARD with Quinacridone pink, which I used on my sample, along with Quinacridone Violet, Green Gold and Serpentine Genuine. The violet is especially beautiful for shading both the pink and the greens. I stamped it first in a light pink from an earlier kit, so that the outlines wouldn't show - that allowed me to stamp images on top of each other without worrying I'd see the lines crossing over after they were painted.

The dot cards already indicate the transparency for you, so if you use Dawn's swatch exercise from the Online Card Classes Intermediate Techniques watercolor class, you will already have that info for these watercolors and won't have to guess. I HIGHLY recommend that class if you like watercolor.

I stamped it on Strathmore Ready Cut cold press watercolor cards - I like these because they start at 5x7, so they are fun for little field sketching or a perfect for cutting down for a card front, and they are 100% cotton, so high quality and a nice white.

I chose just the smaller buds, because I thought they were so realistic and beautiful - I'm so ready for my roses to bloom. I saw my amaryllis peeking out at me this morning through the gloom.

I cut this down to a 4 bar size and then mounted it on a Melon Mambo card base, stamping the sentiment from the set in Versafine with my Mini MISTI - so I could stamp it three times and get it perfect on that bumpy watercolor paper. Oh, how life-changing that is.

Since it was so gloomy today - I tried out my new toy - the Foldio lightbox. I'm in LOVE! It lights the card so evenly! Normally I take my card photos outside but all this rain is putting a hitch in my get-along.

I couldn't believe the ingeniousness of the magnetic folding assembly of this simple box and how much white, even light is generated by the little LED strips. I'm extremely impressed. I believe this product started as a kickstarter too - I love that. Beautifully done, and I'm really happy with it. The light was so perfect it made me want to put some pretty objects in with the card a la Debby Hughes, but I knew I'd screw that all up, so I didn't.

Now I just have to figure out how to keep the cats away from the backdrops that come with it.

Hero Arts Kit by Understandblue

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So check out everything that comes in the kit - the dies cut out each layer of that larger flower, and you'll see what that looks like farther down in the hop. There are notecards, pearls, and the beloved Daniel Smith dot card AND a water brush. This month they also have some optional add-ons for Mother's Day, which is fun.

And because they are nice people, everyone who comments on all the stops on the hop today will go into a drawing for this kit!

So leave my friends some love - you probably had better just drop your jaw now, because these ladies are amazing.

The next stop is my sweet friend Kathy's blog - hang out there a while - there's nothing that woman can't do. Then visit the rest for your chance to win!

The Hero Arts Blog
Yana Smakula
Lucy Abrams
Mariana Grigsby
Amy Tsuruta
Kelly Rasmussen
Clare Prezzia
Wanda Guess
Joan Bardee
Sandy Allnock
Lydia Fiedler << You are here :)
Kathy Racoosin
Libby Hickson

Thanks for stopping by - and good luck with the giveaway!


Saturday, March 26, 2016

Explaining Things To Martians

When I was little, I had a conversation with my dad that I distinctly remember.

It was about explaining the concept of "left" and "right" to a Martian, and even to ourselves as bi-laterally symmetrical beings.

I was pretty young, so I was all OMG LEFT IS THE ONE ON THIS SIDE. I'm sure he laughed.

But it got pretty complicated pretty fast, actually. What if the Martian is a TRULY symmetrical being? Just a blob of something? What will left mean to it? What is their reference point? Even with bilateral symmetry it's weird to think about.

I should really have had a Salt Lake City resident handy for this conversation, since they have the insane street system (stifle yourself if you're yelling out - it's easy! It's a grid! Right now. Stifle. I'm serious. STIFLE.) in which every street  name is south or west or north or east, but unless you're from there you don't know what you are south, west, north or east OF! When they're all like "oh, it's easy, it's the TEMPLE" you yell at them BUT I DON'T KNOW WHERE THE TEMPLE IS SO HOW DO I KNOW WHERE I AM?

You don't. Until you go back home. Where things make sense.

But really - take a moment to explain left and right to yourself right now. Better yet - subject a small human to this thought and break its tiny brain forever.

Salt Lake City navigation for foreigners is exactly how a Martian will feel when you tell your little blobby friend to turn left. Left in reference to WHAT exactly?

Color is the same way - how do you communicate what a color is to a Martian? You're welcome for the insane brainworm I've now given you that will lead you to question everything in terms of how it could be explained to a Martian.

So this morning I was on an insane quest in the car and I was wondering how I would explain driving to a Martian.

This is what I came up with. You get into a 6,000 pound metal box and you make it go fast, slow, turn and stop with your arms and legs.

It's pretty weird when you think about us all maneuvering 6,000 pound metal boxes around with our arms and legs all day every day. It's quite a feat and I think we take it for granted, honestly. The amount of coordination it takes to do that without killing yourself is astonishing.

This wasn't a TOTALLY squirrel thought though - on the way to my quest, on the lightest Austin traffic day of the year - Good Friday - someone managed to flip their car on a nearly empty stretch of our southernmost expressway. That's what started the Martian avalanche in my brain.

 So you're welcome. It's my dad's fault.

(I've already lost you, I know because you are still stuck on left and right. Welcome to my world. Next up - Salt Lake City!)

Sometimes I feel like that's what it's like to explain stamping to people. It's very hard to tell people what I do. Let's take classes. "I teach stamping classes" to most people sounds like "I don't know what you just said."

People first think of postage stamps. And then they feel sorry for me, locked away in a room looking at postage stamps under a magnifying glass in a dusty library.

Then if you modify it with papercrafting, they think you are folding swans or gluing macaroni to construction paper.

It's just not easy to describe. To humans, much less to Martians.

That's why it's good to have a tribe. Your tribe speaks the same language and understands you.

Thank you, tribe. Now explain left and right to me.

I'm filling in for Audrie on the Inspiration Challenge on Splitcoast this weekend, and I thought it would be fun to feature a local friend and watercolor inspiration - Kathleen McElwaine.

I met Kathleen through a friend that I worked with at an image-based startup a few years ago. He was a very creative person, and introduced me to her when she was developing her portable watercolor kit you can see here - she wanted some feedback on it. I fell in love with it and it's what I take to all retreats and mobile painting expeditions like holidays with my family or at my sister's community garden. It has everything you need to make watercolor portable. Genius.

It was this kit that got her through her long commutes from Georgetown to her work at the University of Texas, and it's how she earned her nickname - the bus painting artist. Her work is now licensed on lots of different textiles, sold in local stores and online, and she has a studio in Georgetown where you can come paint with her. She also has step by step watercolor instruction books in her Etsy shop.

She is an awesome lady - kindhearted and creative, and her art has this whimsy I just love.

So I chose her for this week's challenge - look through her prints and be inspired. Use keyword or hashtag #IC538 when uploading to Splitcoast, Instagram, etc.

I, unlike Kathleen, can't draw, so I started with a stamp image and tried to use watercolor and pen in a way that reminded me of her. These deer from In the Meadow are so, so sweet, and such an iconic Texas image it was perfect for a tribute piece.

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I stamped the image in So Saffron with my mini MISTI, colored with this Koi Watercolor, and outlined with this marker. I hope I did her style justice.

I did a quick video for you of the process - this was truly a 5 minute card. And I think the less you fuss over things, the better they come out.

So big thanks to Kathleen for being our inspiration this week. Come play along if you want. If you are a NEW challenge player this week and reference this blog post in your Splitcoast gallery post, I will send you a surprise in the mail :).

PS - my friend Dana bought me the COOLEST thing - I'd been seeing these online and it was like she read my mind. You MUST have one of these! I store my glue upside down in it so it's ready to use. It sticks to any surface and has a ruler on top - they also have them for drinks and they have mini ones!  - I LOVE it so much I might get a few more! It's called the Hobby Holster! It's a crazy heat resistant silicone and you wouldn't believe the way it grips your desk! And yes, it comes in turquoise :).


Thursday, March 24, 2016

Spoiler Alert - You Don't Need a Crockpot!

I realize, that once again, I'm broaching a topic that might get me killed like Karen Silkwood.

But the truth must be told, and it's my lot in life to tell it.

Despite what Pinterest says, you don't need a crockpot.

(Try to hold yourself together. I'll wait.)

My poor friend Vicki - who owns like 20 crockpots and has amazing crockpot parties, is having a heart attack right now. However, at her parties, she actually cooks like 12 different kinds of chili, each in their own crockpot. So Veee has a permanent, transferable lifetime crockpot exception to what I'm about to tell you.

I have a very tiny kitchen with the smallest amount of cabinets humanly possible. About 50% of the cabinet space is unreachable, which is a rant I'll indulge myself in later.

It's actually one of the reasons I like my kitchen - because it's open to the breakfast area and living room which is fun and makes it the brightest space in the house. And thankfully, I'm very anti-appliance so that helps.

But for a long time, I had a very nice crockpot. It was a huge one - I raved about it here - where I also shared my amazing pea soup recipe.

I followed all the Pinterest crockpot boards, the Crockin' Girls on Facebook, and regarded my crockpot as the magical shrine the internet told me it was.

Until I realized that that particular emperor has no clothes.

A crockpot is a large baking dish to which heat is applied.

That is all. There are no little fairies that make it cook your food more perfectly than the oven does. It's a baking dish that gets warm. People have been getting baking dishes warm for a long time.

So I tested all my favorite crockpot recipes in a baking dish in the oven to test my theory. For the record, the temperatures I use are 200 for low, 300 for high. That's it. Covered baking dish.

Here are the recipes I used, and each came out perfectly. One of these we eat nearly weekly - the Thai chicken.

Split Pea Soup
Mac and Geez
Whole Chicken
Thai Peanut Chicken
Crockpot shredded chicken

I have a start/stop timer on my oven so I can set it and forget it like the crockpot, and don't even start with me about the oven being more of a fire hazard than a crockpot. Everything that has power to it is a fire hazard. Your compost pile is a fire hazard. Let's not worry so much.

So I've reclaimed about 6 square feet of space in my cabinet with this revelation after selling my crockpot on Facebook.

I do still have my American-made 360 Cookware vapor seal cooker though. This little thing is amazing for smaller sides or prep work. It's so hard to find American made cookware, and so I was thrilled to find this after emptying my kitchen of all Chinese products after Spotty died. You can use it on their base or directly on the stove, so it's a multi-tasker.

But speaking of machines, I DO have a magic machine to tell you about.

This week at Splitcoast we had a Product Focus on Epson's scrapbooking printers. Lori got to play with the printer and told me to pick something to print on "anything I wanted." Now a few years ago I had taken a class with Golden where we ran ALL SORTS of things through Epson inkjet printers - fabric, canvas, even big things with sticks and other rough textures using Golden digital grounds. So I knew they could do amazing things. But one thing I'd never tried is cold press watercolor paper. So I sent her a free printable floral and dared her to print it in a light grey on cold press watercolor paper and send it to me to paint.

It worked like a charm! Up and down over all the texture, every section of the image was not only perfectly inked but waterproof.

AND, Lori has a great tip on how to test your printer ink for compatibility with Copics on her blog - I never knew this until this week. So smart.

So I just watercolored most of the image in Winsor & Newton Cotman Payne's Grey and then did one flower in blue and added a greeting from the Greetings Thinlits.

Epson Surecolor test by Understandblue
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One of the most common questions we get in the forums on Splitcoast is printer ink compatibility with different mediums, so it was very cool to see what all this printer could do.

Now I have some important breaking news for you.

Paper Pumpkin is celebrating both its birthday and the shipment of the MILLIONTH kit! So they are doing a little giveaway - if you are already a Paper Pumpkin subscriber or sign up to be one before April 10th, you will get an EXTRA, exclusive stamp set in the April kit! I can't wait to see what it is! You can buy a pre-paid subscription, or a monthly subscription, which can be paused and re-started. Subscribe with me here and get a little surprise in the mail! :)

And if you want to get your paws on one of Shannon West's #imbringingbirthdaysback stamps, just purchase the ULTIMATE bundle before March 31st, and I'll send you one!

Until the end of March, you'll get $155 worth of whatever you want for $99. You'll also get to attend my team retreat in July, which my celebrity chef is returning for. We are all looking forward to her amazing food! Oh, and the stamping I guess :).

And one last thing - recently I've gotten several orders where the customer chose "No Contact" - which means no information is shared with me at all - I don't get your name, your email address, nothing that allows me to thank you or send you a card. This makes me sad. So please know that I appreciate you and would love to send you a card! Feel free to email me if you were one of these. And in the future, click "Yes" on the second question here to let me thank you with a card :).

 So go forth into your weekend, free of crockpots, reveling in your spacious cabinets and full of stampy joy.

We will have a quiet Easter weekend as I prepare for my Salt Lake retreat and OnStage - are you coming? If so I am looking forward to stamping with you!


Thursday, March 17, 2016

When Life Gives You Limes (But Charges You For Lemons)

I have not darkened the door of a grocery store for nearly two years since Instacart came to Austin.

It's glorious. Grocery shopping just sucked so much time out of my day - I now can use that time for cooking with the delicious fresh ingredients Instacart delivers to my door.

But today - because I am making my world famous Irish stew for St. Patrick's Day, I broke the pattern and went to pick out my ingredients myself, mostly because my Instacart shopper (normally quite accurate) does not know the difference between a 1015 onion and a completely substandard regular onion, and I cannot subject my stew to the wrong kind of onion.

So I went to HEB.

I went super early this morning so as to avoid all the worst things about shopping (like the people) and encountered a situation which we must now discuss.

The angry person tipping point. Specifically - the unjustifiably angry person tipping point.

I see this a lot on the internet, but don't often get to experience it in real life (thankfully, because I work from home), so it was amusing to me in a scientific way to see it play out before my eyes.

Here's the situation.

There are people who believe that their entire lives have been an incredible sequence of micro-injustices, back-to-back - a relentless, day after day conspiracy of misery, and they ultimately land in a situation where they just cannot take it anymore (and by ultimately, I mean daily) and they HAVE to unload this anger on the nearest unsuspecting human.

This unfolded before my eyes at 7 AM at HEB.

I was in the self-check line, and my receipt didn't print, so I went to the self-check helper person and asked for a copy. As he was working on it, a woman appeared behind him with a giant palm tree in her cart, hand on hip, clearly SEETHING about something. She radiated this palpable anger that I think might actually have COOKED the chuck roast in my cart.

I smiled at her and said "Wow - I didn't know you could buy those here!". She glared at me until I could smell my own hair being singed. I averted my eyes, and closed my hand around my pepper spray.

Since the receipt process took a little longer than the nice young man expected it to, he turned to Seethy McAngryson and said "So sorry ma'am - this will take just a minute - can I help you with something?"

And like VOLDEMORT, this woman just explodes into a human fountain of rage on the poor guy, clearly after having held in the micro-injustices for far, far too long.

"YES YOU CAN" she barked.

"I BOUGHT limes, but I WAS CHARGED for lemons."

He and I both recoiled from the white hot rage this woman expelled - it was like Mount Angry had just erupted and shot lava all over the store and we were running for our lives from the molten hatred.

It was a ridiculously disproportionate response to what seemed like a) a fairly easy problem to solve and b) an awfully benign, friendly and previously not jaded young customer service agent who was totally unaware of the lemon/lime micro-aggression and certainly not part of the conspiracy that was depriving this woman of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

I, as is my custom, dissolved into a hysterical fit of laughter at the ridiculousness of it all, which I don't believe really helped the situation any, but it was 100% involuntary and a great start to my day. I think plastic surgery should fix the eye holes she burned into me as this occurred.

The young man, who was too frightened to laugh, suggested she go to the customer service desk, whose employees he apparently despises.

Or he was just trying to save his own life.

He made the right choice.

I truly don't understand the philosophy of chaining all inconvenient or unpleasant things you've ever experienced together to make it seem like your whole life is terrible. If you get a cold, or have a flat, or God forbid - get charged for lemons when you're buying limes - you really don't have to Hoover up every other negative thing in your life to compound the lemons into a Greek tragedy at HEB at 7 AM. You really can just walk it off, get your 17 cents back and go forth into the day.

You can. I've done it.

You can also do the opposite - you can snowball all the really super awesome things that happen to you into a giant ball of happiness that you carry around and share with people.

The fact that it even involved lemons made it so much more poetic that I could not resist telling the story. I am 100% sure this poor creature has never made lemonade.

You make your own luck, as my dad often told me - and I do most definitely believe that.

So the universe gave me the perfect St. Patrick's Day story. :)

I actually wasn't going to blog or even make a card today, but how could I resist that timing?

So I took out my NEW favorite watercolors  - oh my goodness bless Kristina Werner for introducing me to these - Mijello Mission Gold Watercolor (crazy low price for them right now too) - and I used three colors just as a test for my first experience with them - to paint some four leaf clovers.

They are so easy to blend and move and the transparency is just gorgeous. I used Rose Opera (WOWZA do I love this) in the background, and Olive Green and Greenish yellow for the leaves and stems. I accented those with some of the Rose Opera and that's what creates that fun rust color. I used Strathmore Ready Cut watercolor cards - another Kristina recommendation - for the watercolor panel. 

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The stamp sets for the sentiment are Project Life Remember This and Concord & 9th Beautiful Words

And - it IS a lucky day to be you, by the way - my newest online class, featuring three duplicatable CAS designs with the Happy Home stamp set is now available here. This fun class features one super unexpected use for this set that I'm kind of proud of :).

Now I'm off to enjoy the rest of St. Patrick's day - and I hope you are too.

I hope you ball up all your happy moments and carry them around with today and always, instead of not making cherry limeade out of the limes you were charged lemon prices for. 

May the blessing of light be on you—
light without and light within.
May the blessed sunlight shine on you
and warm your heart
till it glows like a great peat fire.

And not like a volcano of doom. :)


Saturday, March 12, 2016

The Attack of the Average Recipe

I love to cook. And I'm super picky about who I get my recipes from, because some chefs clearly do not write or test their own recipes. #inagarten #jamieoliver

Some people are SUPER reliable and have thoroughly tested, always yummy recipes #altonbrown #marthastewart #giadaeventhoughitpainsmetosaythat

Twice in the last few weeks I've tried recipes that clearly weren't tested, and it made me quite sad. Especially since I am in the business of giving "recipes" for cards online - I would never tell people how to make a card I hadn't made myself - I'd be terrified it would be wrong, and also - that would mean I hadn't had the fun of making it myself. Just doesn't really make sense to me.

So since tomato season is coming up, I thought I'd share a recipe I've personally tested and loved, so as to correct the bad recipe juju in the universe. I made this last summer with the 80 million pounds of Sun Golds we grew.

Yellow Tomato Jam
(makes 3.5 pints or 7 half pints)
4 pounds Sungold
3 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice

Cut Sungold tomatoes in half. Combine tomatoes and sugar in non-reactive pot and stir. Let sit for at least one hour, or until the tomatoes release their juice. Prepare canning pot and jars and place on high heat; add lemon juice and bring to a boil. Boil 35-40 minutes, stirring frequently, until the tomatoes have softened and syrup is thick.
Pour jam into prepared jars. Wipe rims, apply lids and rings. Process jars in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes.
Remove jars from pot and let them cool on a kitchen towel. If jars don’t seal properly, tuck into fridge for use. The rest can be stored in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.

I cut this in half and it made 2.5 half pints and is LIFE CHANGING. My favorite way to have it is on a grilled cheese, but it's also really great just on a toasted English muffin.

After you've had some of this delicious jam, I think you will feel super creative and want to make an adorable card in three minutes.

I am still obsessing over the stencil brushes, and I wanted to use them to create a hyper-realistic shadow out of the negative space of a die cut. And since the Easter Lamb was still on my desk after my class last week, he became the subject of my experiment - MUAHAHAHAHAHA. I even did surgery on him before performing experiments - I don't like greetings attached to my image stamps.

SQUEE - look how cute this is!!
Perfect Shadows with Stencil Brushes by Understandblue

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The stamp is Easter Lamb, and I cut him out with a die from Dies by Dave. Then I used that negative space as my stencil with the Clarity Stamp Stencil Brushes to make a perfect shadow, that covers the adorable box die from Mama Elephant (All Prettied Up) and spills onto the ground. The sentiment is from Grateful Bunch.This is inspired by Linda Callahan's sketch on Freshly Made Sketches.

I did this card in three minutes, and here's the video - enjoy!

He's such a cutie, and I think everyone should have a little baby lamb in a cardboard box. I feel quite certain that would bring about world peace.

Happy Daylight Savings Time, by the way! Yay for it not getting dark before dinner anymore! I will vote for anyone for president who decides THIS is the time we will always have. #moresunplease If you want to stick with the dark times all year long then we just can't be friends.

I opened registration for my summer retreat this week and I only have a few spots left, so you'd better hurry. We are in a different retreat center this time and my celebrity chef is returning to cook you three hot meals and amazing desserts! We also have a spa room with a masseuse you can book, and of course amazing classes, prizes and fellowship with some great humans. Registration details are here.

See you soon!


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