Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Hunger Games, Home Edition

I saw The Hunger Games this week.

It was surprisingly good. Surprising in a few ways - first, because the narrator of the audio version of the book I listened to was so maddeningly annoying that it made me like the book less than I would have had I just read it. Secondly because the parts of the story they covered (they left a lot out, despite it being a very lengthy flick) were done very, very well. So well I don't think you'd have to have read the book to really enjoy the movie. Thirdly, I did not know that Donald Sutherland and Woody Harrelson were going to be in it, so that was a very pleasant surprise. Finally, I saw it at Alamo Drafthouse, which is always a fabulous experience. Nothing like having a gourmet mushroom pizza while you watch people fighting to the death for food, after all.

Speaking of food, I must add the new petite cherry pies at Starbucks to the blue list today - they are so yummy. Much better than the other petites in my opinion, because the others are all overly sweet. This is just like a yummy, small, tart cherry pie. And 170 calories.

Anyway, I have my own version of the Hunger Games right here at about 5 AM every day. It starts with a tiny little squeak. Just enough to wake me up. Then, it gets louder, and is accented with blinds batting and furniture scratching. Then, for the finale - a full on howl with accompanying crazy brain. Hunger makes one do crazy, desperate things, you know. Or at least it makes Splotchy do crazy, desperate things. It just makes me tired and mad. 

In the extra waking hours gained by the Hunger Games Home Edition, I had a little fun with the Bright Blossoms set this week. I was making a sample for our Splitcoast review of the Perfect Layers tool - I still have mine from when Stampin' Up! sold this tool. Until our review, I hadn't taken it out of the package, but I watched the video and finally understood how easy it is to use so I experimented a bit. On this card, I used a little waterfall of blue cardstocks, with the 1/16", 1/8" and 1/4" measurements on the tool.

I used Soft Sky, Pool Party, Tempting Turquoise and Island Indigo cardstock for my layers, and punched matching circles for the top of the card to pop up off the Bright Blossoms stems.
I thought it would make a fun, non-traditional blue Easter card, so I stamped the greeting from Delightful Dozen and resisted the urge to bunny it up. :)

Now - do you want to see something that will just warm your heart on this Wednesday? Then you probably should click here. Prepare for chills.


Sunday, March 25, 2012

I'm Banning Unsweet Tea - You've Been Warned

Here are the facts.

Tea, in its natural state, is unsweetened. My personal opinion is that this is the only way it should ever be consumed. However, unlike Mayor Bloomberg, I believe in freedom of choice and do not think that people should be telling other people what they can or can't eat or drink.

However, I'm more than happy to ban a word or two, especially a word that keeps me from the pursuit of happiness, and by happiness, I mean unsweet tea.

The problem with the word UNSWEET (aside from the fact that it's not a word) is that it contains the word SWEET and so it's misunderstood 100% of the time.

It goes like this.

Pull up to Taco Bueno.

"Welcome to Taco Bueno - can I help you?"

"Yes, I'd like a bean burrito and a large UNsweet tea."

"Okay that's one bean burrito and a large sweet tea."

"No, that's an unsweet tea."

"Okay I've got a bean burrito and a medium sweet tea."

"Um, no, that's a LARGE UNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNsweet tea." (Silently adding "you *#$*")

"Okay so your total is $3.14, please pull up to the window."

Where, of course, I'm presented with a SWEET tea. Disgusting.

So here's how it's going to go. Tea is tea. Tea comes unsweetened from God. If I say I want a tea, it will ALWAYS mean I want it unsweetened, like in the old days, before people from the deep south infiltrated the great Republic of Texas with their corn syrup. If you want to ALTER your tea, then please indicate the unnatural state that you'd like your tea in with a modifier such as "sweet" "peach" "raspberry" or any other descriptor indicating you'd like to pollute your tea with something.

I'm only asking for the same rights people who drink Coke have. You don't pull up to Sonic and say "Hi - I'd like a Route 44 UNcherry UNdiet UNcaffeine free Coke" - you say "I WANT A COKE."

I rest my case.

I feel better already.

Now at my monthly stamp class this month (where I drank buckets of unadulterated tea) we did the faux suede technique to make a little flower on a card inspired by this card. I loved how her bold design with the lattice die showed off her pretty pink flower. I couldn't figure out how to make my flower as fluffy as hers, so mine isn't quite as fancy, but you get the idea.

Stamps: Elementary Elegance 
PaperWhisper White, Melon Mambo Textured, Basic Black
Ink: Basic Black 
AccessoriesLattice Die, Island Florals Die, Brad, Big Shot, Edgelits, Adorning Accents Embossing Folder

We also made a matching fancy envelope with the Edgelits and the matching Adorning Accents Embossing folder, which as a blast. I love how pretty those turned out. Remember when you are making these, to cut the envelope flap before you emboss - if you emboss first, you will flatten out the embossing when you run it back through your Big Shot to cut. 

I'm filming some fun tutorials this weekend - using some pretty different techniques and toys, so I hope they turned out and you can see them soon. I think you'll be surprised. 

No go forth into the world, free from that horrid ex-word "unsweet" and enjoy life!!


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Cursing Bill Gates at 1 AM

That's what I was doing last night.

I took his name in vain nine ways to Sunday, believe me.

Here's what happened.

1 AM - the full force of a major tornado producing storm cell begins blasting Casa Blue, complete with extreme thunder and close lightning.

After removing my furry leg weights - Maddie & Splotchy - I bolt out to start unplugging electronics all over the house so they don't get fried. Down the street last year a lightning bolt blew a Bill Gates sized hole in a neighbors roof, so we can't really mess around when it comes to storms.

The problem with my big computer is that I constantly have about 80 tabs open in two browsers, Photoshop and Illustrator running and a gazillion other programs. It was a race against time just to close and save everything so I could power down and unplug.

I get to the point where I can hit the blessed "Shut Down" button, and what do I see?

Seriously??? At this point, it became as tense as that scene in War Games where Matthew Broderick is trying to delete all those files so we don't nuke Russia. I wouldn't have minded if my computer nuked the Windows mothership though, I'm not gonna lie.

I said some very unladylike things about Mr. Gates during the HALF hour of updates with lightning crackling all around me. I also played several games on my phone. I'm distractable like that.

I vowed to present the bespectacled he-devil with an obscenity laden bill should I have gotten zapped during this idiotic process.

Did I mention this started at 1 AM?

Hmph. Stupid Windows. It takes 1 second to shut down and power up a Mac. Have we learned nothing #$@(* Bill?

Guess not.

Well there's one person who will never get a birthday card from me!

Birthday cards are definitely reserved for people who don't keep me awake while they update my config.bat file in a storm.

I made this card for a VSN challenge on Splitcoast. I found a Crumb Cake card base with that swirly paper already stuck on it from some long abandoned project and though it would look nice with a little splash of blue. So I added some Everyday Enchantment DSP (Free w/a Sale-a-Bration order through the end of March) and stamped the birdies from the Up in the Air Hostess set in black. Ba-da-bing! The greeting is from Apothecary Art and the ribbon is Pool Party seam binding.

Perfect for a quick challenge card!

After all, spring has sprung. Officially. Today.

My newest book obsession is courtesy of Lori Craig, who got me hooked on this book about the crazy rich and just plain crazy Astor family in New York - it's called Mrs. Astor Regrets.
It's completely fascinating and very hard to put down. Seriously - rich people are crazy. Also, New York is like a little kingdom run by crazy rich people. Did I mention they were crazy? Bill Gates is probably a secret Astor.

I got the Kindle version for $8.99 here, but it's less than $6 on Amazon here.

I guess I'll yawn some more and poke pins in my Bill Gates voodoo doll.


Saturday, March 17, 2012

Why You Love Ireland (Bacon)

There are so many reasons to love my gene pool, really. Today, all of you have to admit that we Irish types are really the cat's pajamas in every conceivable way. Even if you only admit it after two green beers.

But there's one reason in particular that you should all love all the red or dark haired, feisty, funny, poetic, sarcastic party-hardy potato farmers in your life even more than you THOUGHT you did.



Here's the deal. St. Patrick, God rest his soul, is our saint for today's Saint's Day. For more than 1,000 years, my people have celebrated this day like good Catholics (or in my case, Lutherans), under the vegetarian restrictions of Lent. BUT, because St. Patrick was SO important, what with the snake issue and all, the Lenten rules were lifted for this day, and Irish people ate cabbage and blessed, blessed bacon.

I'm not gonna lie, I do have a suspicion that one of the reasons that St. Patrick was so revered by my homies is because it was a day of BACON in the midst of Lenten deprivation. Try to find fault with that logic.

I apologize to Ireland for breaking this story, but since I just read this book, I now know that lying, and believing lies, kills people, so I'm obligated to tell the smoky, crispy, delicious truth about ba- er, St. Patrick.

Maybe because I unearthed this truth, I had some bad luck with my St. Patrick's Day card. Or wait - I had some GOOD luck. I made a card that I was sort of happy with and I took a picture of it. But I wasn't REALLY happy of it, and it certainly wasn't bacon-worthy.

But then - like magic - it happened. I saw this card and that led me to this blog where I saw a technique I loved! I ripped my clover off my first attempt and used it with this fun sponging and masking technique for a nice, festive monochromatic card.

Stamps: Happy St. Patrick's Day Ink: Basic Black, Lucky Limeade Paper: Whisper White, Silver Glimmer Paper Accessories: Star Punch, Hearts Framelits, Stampin' Sponge

And yes, it's a four leaf clover, not a shamrock. And that's not because I'm not feeling St. Patricksy - it's because I didn't feel like making a stem, honestly.

First I cut four hearts with my Framelits die, and then I embossed the next smaller heart framelit into each of those. I LOVE embossing with the Framelits!

To make the green gradient, I just masked off a stripe with my big Post-It notes, using my grid paper as a guide to keep them straight. For the first stripe, I sponged a lot of Lucky Limeade. Then I masked a second stripe - hint - overlap them a bit so you don't get white space between  - and sponged a bit less ink. Repeat with a third and less ink. So fun. So easy.

Now, tonight I will be making my traditional, delicious Irish stew. I'd love to share the recipe with you, but I've never written it down, because it just comes out of my soul and into the bread bowls :).

But I do have a recipe for you today. I tried this last night and it's AMAZING. If you have a gluten allergy, this recipe is gluten free. It's Quinoa Mac & Cheese, and yes, of course I found it on Pinterest.

The original recipe is here, but of course I made a lot of mods.

Here's my recipe:

1.5 C. Quinoa, rinsed thoroughly
3C. chicken broth
2 green onions, diced finely, without the whitest parts
1.5 tsp salt (I like Real Salt - it really tastes amazing - try it on a baked potato)
2 C. grated extra sharp cheddar cheese (this is what I used)
Black pepper to taste
Olive Oil (This is my current fave - met the owner at Central Market)
1 C. half and half
2 large eggs
Panko breadcrumbs

Put a bit of olive oil in your saucepan, add quinoa and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, reduce to low heat and cover. Cook for 20 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed and quinoa is fluffy and tender, like rice.Whisk eggs and cream together in a large bowl. Add cheddar, salt, pepper and onions and mix well. Add quinoa and stir until blended. Butter a 13 x 9 dish and pour mixture into dish. Top with panko. Bake at 350 for 35 minutes or until heated through. 

It was so completely amazing it almost brought a tear to my eye. 

You know what would have made it better? Bacon. 

God bless my people. And speaking of blessing, here's an Irish one for you..

“May God grant you always...
A sunbeam to warm you, 
A moonbeam to charm you, 
A sheltering Angel so nothing can harm you. 
Laughter to cheer you. 
Faithful friends near you. 
And whenever you pray,
 Heaven to hear you.”


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Houston, We Have Radishes!!

So we've been having an adventure here at Casa Blue. We cleared out all our back flowerbeds and built ourselves some square foot gardening boxes and have planted two of them.

I'm probably on some sort of watch list now though, because the only place you can buy really high quality organic veggie seeds is from these survivalist type sellers on Amazon. I'm surprised some twitchy guy hasn't shown up at my house to offer me a bonus tinfoil hat or bunker building services.

But, those survivalists know what the heck they are doing because our little seedlings are coming up exactly according to plan!

The radishes came up first - 16 per square foot, just like we planned. You plant two seeds in each hole in case one doesn't make it, so we have to remove some of these. But it's so exciting!! (Sorry about the stupid oak leaves.)

We got this great book that we used to make our boxes, and it really is amazing. The guy who wrote it is an engineer, and he cuts all the wasted motion out of the process and makes it incredibly efficient. It's really, really fun.

Here's the book if you feel like getting your garden on.

The way he has you do it you have absolutely perfect soil, so you don't have to worry about the dirt in your yard - all the boxes will have exactly the same magic soil mix.

It's hard not to run outside every five minutes and check the seedlings. I would like to right now, but here I sit.

But today is good for more than just radishes! I have a tutorial in the Weekly Inkling today on Splitcoast! It's one of my fave techniques for marbling paper with Smooch. It's very fun, easy, and a lot less messy than shaving cream, so give it a try after you watch the video! Here's the step by step tutorial also.

And here's Marbled Smooch video.

You can really get super glamorous backgrounds with this easy technique. The hardest part is keeping your kitties from trying to drink your Smooch water! :)


Monday, March 12, 2012

But What About The Morning People?


I know all of you night crawlers are super stoked that you STOLE my hour of light I walk in early in the morning and tacked it on to your prime awake time, but what about ME? Walking in the DARK? Sleeping while it's LIGHT.

It's so not fair.

Plus it gives people heart attacks, stupid time change. No really - it does - look!

It's giving me a brain attack, I'll tell you that.

You can read about it in this book, and why it's so important and not just something we're all being dramatic about.


Well since they STOLE an hour from me, I didn't get as much stamping done as I wanted for VSN, but I did have time to do a few challenges. One challenge was to make a girly spring card. Now I really don't do girly cards very well - I'm more bold than foofy - but I did have fun with this one. I figured cupcakes and a chick flick counted as girly, right?
Stamps: Happiest Birthday Wishes Paper: Whisper White, Sweet Shop DSP, Attic Boutique Side Notes Ink: Basic Black

So if we all had our hour back, what would we have done with it?

I think I would have played Angry Birds. ;)


Friday, March 9, 2012

My Spiritual Gift

You know how some people are just born to do things? Like Mother Theresa, Gandhi, Van Gogh?

Well, I'm not like any of them.

But I do have a spiritual gift.


I can't help it - I just like to find cool things and share my wantmonster with others! One person that I've enabled beyond all reasonableness is my friend Leslie.

God only knows how much I've cost this poor woman over the years in stamps and accessories I've shown her that she HAD to have.

I enabled her into Twitter too. And most recently, Downton Abbey.

But what I want to do today won't cost her a dollar or a minute of her time.

I just want to enable her to have a very, very happy birthday. :)

Thanks for making every day fun from thousands of miles away, friend.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Why a Garlic Press Is Like The Internet

So I was making soup tonight.

Chicken enchilada soup, to be precise. You know - sort of like they have at Chili's?

Anyway, as I was squashing my garlic, I was amazed at what a great job the garlic press does, for such a simple tool.

How DOES it squish all the good stuff out of the little holes and leave the hull in the squishy part? Why doesn't it get clogged up? Why is garlic the perfect consistency for this miraculous little gadget?

I know Alton Brown would not approve of my use of a garlic press, and normally, I completely agree with him - I am not a fan of kitchen gadgets and appliances and do most everything with a sharp knife and a saucepan. But the garlic press, well, that's a unitasker that even I can love. Forgive me, Alton, for I have sinned. It's been less than a day since my last unitasker.

I was thinking about all the things the garlic press has in common with the internet. Gmail is a garlic press - squishing all my email into my box and holding on to the Russian and Chinese spam telling me how interesting my blog is, and how, because of this, I must be riveted by the prospect of making $3000 a week taking online surveys. It's quite good at this, actually. Google search is equally good at squishing out unnecessary trash and leaving me with what I want.

In the stamping world, challenges are a garlic press of sorts. Especially Virtual Stamp Night, where there's a time limit and I have to cut to the chase of designing.

But all challenges do the same thing for me. They peel away all my normal stampy bad habits and leave just a set of simple design rules. I think they always make my designs better, cleaner, less  over thought.

I saw today's technique challenge late last night, and just before I fell asleep I knew what I wanted to try.

The challenge is to use one color of ink, and no coloring. I love to color, so it really was a challenge. But right before the sandman came, I thought maybe what a monochromatic image needed was a really dramatic frame. So here's what I did.

Punchy, eh?

As far as I'm concerned, Poppy Parade is the BLUE of reds. It's perfection. So I used the middle two labels framelits - the smaller one to cut half a label in Crumb Cake cardstock, and both to cut a Poppy Parade frame to go around it. I glued the frame to the Crumb Cake, and then glued that to a white card base and stamped the greeting from Afterthoughts (hostess  set) in Poppy Parade.

That greeting cracks me up.

I think a good half or more of us go to birthdays AND weddings for the cake! :)

I distinctly remember the cake euphoria that set in each time I received a birthday party invitation as a child - do you?

If you squished all the extras out of a birthday party, I think what you'd have left is a nice, fluffy piece of cake. :)


Sunday, March 4, 2012

What I've Learned From Downton Abbey

Since I may or may not be the last human on earth to become addicted to the show Downton Abbey, if you are actually the last, please come on in, lock the door behind you and start watching it immediately!!

Luckily since I've started late I get to watch the whole thing on Amazon Instant Video, which you can do here. It's free for Season 1 if you're a member of Amazon Prime. Season 2 I had to pay for.

Anyhoo, here are some of the very important things I've learned from watching this show.

  • I love John Bates. I need to get Anna out of the picture. 
  • It DOES take a team of about 50 trained professionals to clean and cook for a house. So the rest of us can stop worrying about our dust and our laundry and meals and stuff because we just aren't properly staffed for that job. Until we are, we should brook no backtalk about what needs to be done. 
  • English ladies really should have been introduced to stamping far earlier than they were, because these broads in the show needed hobbies in the worst way. Seriously - they could have avoided a lot of calamity if they had just been embossing and glittering things. Perhaps all of WWI could have been avoided - just sayin'. 
  • I'm glad I don't have to wear a corset.
  • Carson and the telephone reminds me of me and Microsoft Windows. Some things never change. 
Please spend some time communicating point #2 to your families. 

Despite not having a trained team of servants, I did clean my office today and realized I'd forgotten to show you this card. It's perfect for the Downton Abbey theme because it features a set that is currently only in the UK Stampin' Up! catalog.

I made it for Beate's fabby tutorial on the Faux Letterpress technique. For the card base, I used Whisper White. I rubbed Sahara Sand ink all over the Finial Press embossing folder before running it through the Big Shot.

For the second layer, to coordinate it, I rubbed Early Espresso ink on the same folder and ran it through with Sahara Sand cardstock.

The main panel features my BELOVED Everything Eleanor set we got at Leadership - it's a sneak peek set from the upcoming catalog. I really like that distressed label shape. I added a few pearls and Pool Party seam binding. Don't you want to squeeeee at that bird? He's as cute as John Bates. Really.


Friday, March 2, 2012

Why Are You Eating The Window?

Yeah, so I was working today and I hear a really weird sound coming from the general direction of Maddie.

I look over towards the area where I stamp, and she has her hiney on my desk, both paws up on the window - you know the top of the part that opens where the latches are - and is GNAWING on the metal frame of the window!

I've always said she has pica. She tends to eat paper and dryer lint and weird things when she's being super dramatic about being hungry.

I would say eating the window qualifies as dramatic.

Speaking of dramatic - I decided to add a little drama to the week with an entry for today's Free For All Friday challenge on Splitcoast. The challenge was blue flowers - how am I to be expected to resist THAT, I ask you? I would definitely bite my way through a window to get to a blue flower challenge.

I spent like a squillion hours coloring this tiny image, but I just couldn't stop - it was soooo fun.

The stamp is from Apothecary Art - and I freaking love it. It begged for some blue. What do you think?

Stamps: Apothecary Art Ink: Memento Tuxedo Black, SU Early Espresso
Paper: Mocha Morning Specialty, Early Espresso, Whisper White 
ShinHan Touch Twin Markers: YR29, BR98, BR107, WG1, BR100, PB144, PB70, 
Aqua Painter with alcohol in it, Edgelits - Adorning Accents 

I left the rest of the colors in the sepia range to really let the blue stand out. I think those two ranges are really pretty together. Want to play along? Upload your card to Splitcoast with keyword F4A106 - there's no deadline.

The paper is shimmery in real life - I know it's hard to see here. It's the Mocha Morning Specialty DSP.

Okay now check out what I got today!! This crazy awesome Summer Smooches Bundle!

Look closely at the bottom right past the glare of general awesomeness from the other stuff - see that tiny purse? SQUEE!! That's a Big Shot Die!! It goes together with two tiny pieces of Sticky Strip! I LOVE IT! I've already made a squillion of them!! You can order all this from me starting April 1st, and I'm not foolin'!

My monthly stamp class is next Saturday the 10th - are you coming? I hope so!


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