Monday, November 29, 2010

Candied pretzels and other holiday projects

Though it surely places me in the annoying water cooler chatter category along with people who say things like "hump day" and "it's another Manic Monday" I'm left with little choice but to say, "Where the hell has the year gone?"

Wasn't June a month ago? Weren't we wiping August sweat from our collective brows just last week. 'Twas only yesterday when ... okay, honestly, it was freakin' cold here yesterday ... there was no doubt about the month.

Anyhow, what all of this brings me to is an apology, and a hope: I apologize that I won't be around much for the next few weeks and I hope you'll be here when I am ... or at least when I get back to a regular blog "schedule."

I've been surprised and grateful for the people who stop by now and then, read my yammering and give me input. It's like having a whole world of friends! This post is for you, my friends, because I wish to make sure you know how important all of you are to me.

Surely you don't need to be told how much we enjoy the holidays at our house. After all, it's the season of joy and lights and giving and the warm embrace of kith and kin (did anyone else hear Clark Griswold?).

It means fun and happiness and sharing and caring! Yay!

It also means tree decorating and end of year work projects and, hopefully, lots of evenings spent sipping hot toddies while watching Mother Nature's wintertime show.

This week particularly it means lots of candied pretzels and a first attempt at homemade gingerbread houses.

So, if you don't see me as much as usual, don't worry. I'll be back, I promise, and I'll be thinking of you while I'm gone.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Shopping hangover: A Drunken Stampers Challenge

This week at Drunken Stampers we're challenging you to join us with your vision of a Shopping Hangover!

My own shopping drunk begins around Halloween when I decide just how much My Guy and I are going to spend this year, and ends the day I pay the post office or UPS to deliver the last, absolute final, I'm really not sending any more packages this year package.

Then, hopefully, it's off to the pub to meet friends for an evening of shared cheer and stories of happy holidays past.

For Christmas 2010 I'm shooting for December 10 as the final day of my shopping/shipping drunk. So, I'll let you know how I'm feeling on December 11.

Perhaps your shopping drunk began and ended with Black Friday? Maybe you're a Cyber Monday maniac?

Either way, celebrate your own Shopping Hangover with us by participating in the Drunken Stampers challenge, which ends at 11:59 p.m. December 2 (yup, Thursday, because we have a special surprise for you that begins Friday!).

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanks to you, from me and The Falls

A favorite childhood memory of mine is "Going to the Falls" for breakfast.

My family lived in a former ranch hand house that was surrounded by fields on three sides with a road running in front.

At one end the road led, eventually, to one of three or four main roads that went to Twin Falls, Idaho. The other end led down to Shoshone Falls. A gorgeous and much-loved waterfall and boat drop and canyon area.

But the waterfall and park where we had breakfast so often was one turn east, one turn north and lots of turns hither and yon from our old road so far from "town." It was again in the canyon, but the technical property of Idaho Power. We really owned it, of course, along with several hundred other Twin Falls-i-ans, but definitely not some "company."

We owned it. We who arrived in the dewy summer mornings with Bisquik pancake mix in  Tupperware pitchers and Grandma with her picnic basket full of plastic plates and bacon and electric skillets and General Electric percolators.

We own it still, in our memories. Even if we're not physically gathering at the Twin Falls namesake, Grandma still joins us from her glass "urn" on the bar (where she is surely happiest), and her percolator sits on our counter cooking home-ground coffee beans. And every time we sip a cup of coffee, we know that it was poured by us just as much as it was by Grandma with the rumble of the waterfall behind her.

So, this Thanksgiving Day and every other day, the message I send is thanks for the family and the friends who have made my life so fun and silly and stupid and annoying and irritating and worthwhile. So. Much. Thanks for So Much.

It's been a lovely, odd and wonderful endless Breakfast At the Falls.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Page 40: A Studio L3 Compendium challenge

Wow! I love this week's Studio L3 Compendium challenge!

First, we have our sweetest-ever Linda who is giving us Two Weeks for the challenges through the Winter Solstice Celebration (aka: Christmas for folks who celebrate with a tree, but not the birth ... or who celebrate with nothing more than ruddy cheeks and jolly smiles).

Then we have this super cool Compendium of Curiosities Double distress technique from page 40 of the Compendium, which incorporates one of my favorite things: Embossing!

Really the only way you wouldn't know that about me is if you've never, not ever been here at Not a Moment to Spare, or at Drunken Stampers, or anywhere at all that I've ever been.

Embossing, whether pressed or heated, is the most stupendous way to upgrade recipients' reactions. What would have garnered an "Oh, that's neat," becomes "Holy crap! You made that? Cool!"

Of course I don't know that's what will happen. It's only how I imagine the exchange. Because embossing is way cool. And so is Tim Holtz. And most of all our Linda is the coolest!

Can you imagine such a person in fantasy or reality? She works her rear end silly keeping the Compendium challenges fun and surprising and fair and inspiring and perfect ... and she thanks us, her readers, for doing so much for her.

Yeah. Pretty much the modern world's version of Athena.

Do your own part to celebrate our favorite real-life goddess by putting together a piece of art using Tim's double distress technique, then share it with Linda and her followers before 8 p.m. Mountain on Dec. 5.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

No stamping: A Drunken Stampers Challenge

Everyone at Drunken Stampers did so well last week with their stitching!

Of course, we knew you'd love that one! This week we're giving you a challenge that might make your brow furrow at first, but we're sure you'll love it in the end.

No stamping!

Oh yes, you read that correctly. This week's Drunken Stampers challenge is to create your card or scrapbook page or altered art without a single stamp!

My first reaction to this challenge was more or less "No problem." After all, I'm far more knowledgeable in nearly every other craft technique. Stamping as a regular addition to my creations has been somewhat limited, and even then was usually as an accent or appeared as the single image used for a one-time-only project.

Unfortunately my second reaction, shortly after starting to work on this piece, was "oh fuh-dge" (but like in Christmas Story, so not fudge so much as that other one).

Which brings me to this seemingly unrelated story: I try to shut down my computer once a week and live e-free for a day. Otherwise I begin to feel as if I'm stuck here in a rolling chair with my fingertips constantly ticking at the keyboard. I being to feel that there is no way to tell my parents how great they are without e-mail. No time for new projects because blogs and e-mails and random news must be read. No way to do anything at all without the reassuring hum of a electricity bringing the world to my desk top.

This week I realized that perhaps occasionally I should also go technique-free: Shun the stamps and reach for the Cricut or close the Cricut and dig out the stencils.

Because it turned out to be quite a trial trying to get through one silly little card without the use of a stamp of any kind (and especially without the use of any inks for edge highlighting, but that aspect was self-imposed, not challenge imposed).

Obviously what happened here is that I leaned heavily on the Cricut. It's a fun little card, isn't it? Very happy and silly, which is perfect for my niece. OK, perhaps a bit juvenile for my 7-year-old niece who is probably a lot cooler than me, but I'm her aunt so she's stuck saying nice things about this dorky stuff.

Ah, and the second one, the ladybug, is for my second niece. Who also is cooler than me.

I know you'll create something much hipper than my little cards, so let's see it! Craft the day away, then meet us at Drunken Stampers before midnight Nov. 26!

And don't forget to schedule your own technique-shunning days!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Alcohol ink splatter: A Studio L3 Compendium challenge

My card for this week's Studio L3 Compendium challenge (page 52, Alcohol ink splatter), makes me happy for so many reasons, not the least of which is that it's among those rare creations that comes very close to my original intention.

The crazy background flows hither and yon with splotches of bright white shining through. It looks to me a lot like stained glass or those faux stained glass made with tissue paper.

My Guy said it reminds him of banners, and I can absolutely see his vision: Two jousters, faces hidden by elaborate helmets, waiting for a fair maiden's handkerchief to drop while the beats of a dragon's wings cause flags and banners and skirts to flutter ... suddenly, the drumming of horse's hooves ...

You can see the banners, can't you? I knew you could, you incredibly creative and intuitive people.

Another thing that makes me happy about this piece is that the dragon stamp was one of those *forehead smack* I Have The Power! moments. It all comes down to this: If you own a Cricut, buy some of the Cricut stamp material.

My dragon stamp is cut from the Cricut Pagoda cartridge! No being forced to use something I don't want to use ... I'll just make the stamp I want! Yay!

OK, so the other supremely cool thing, in my opinion, is the quote stamp "It is not recommended to leave children and hungry dragons alone. -Dragonology"

This stamp is from Firecracker Design by Pamela. Unfortunately, Firecracker is holding a fire sale with better-than-Black-Friday prices because they're going out of business. Fortunately, they still have a few of their awesome and well-made products (including this dragon quote).

Gosh, how am I going to sleep tonight with all of this excitement? I don't know.

But you shouldn't worry about that: You don't have time to sleep because there's only five days until the end of the week's Studio L3 Compendium Challenge!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Perfect distress: A Studio L3 Compendium challenge

Whew, where's the time going? We're nearly at the end of 2010 and already at the twenty-first Compendium challenge at Studio L3!

This week we were asked to create something using the technique on page 38 of the Compendium, Perfect distress.

It's a perfectly fun technique, with lots of inks and shimmery powder and water and heat guns and if your craft room was clean before it's not now, sort of stuff.

My favorite part of this technique is that the finished image always looks like a fresh tattoo: A bit raised and raw, a bit shiny and wet.

Which is exactly how it should look after being put through so much stressful craftiness!

Now, since I'm all for the idea that we're not supposed to tell the tale of Tim's techniques, I won't reveal to you how things are done or with which products. That said, I'm sure Tim will not be offended when I offer the following recommendation.

Choose stamps with thick lines and shapes. Stamps with finely-detailed lines will be pretty, but will absolutely not result in the gorgeous visual "pop" that this method can produce.

See? No smoldering hair from being zapped with a Holtzian lighting bolt (I'm sure glad I wore my tin foil hat today).

OK, go forth people! Dig into your stash of stamps, grab your Compendium and stop by Studio L3 before tomorrow's 8 p.m. MDT Compendium Challenge deadline!

A stitch in time: A Drunken Stampers Challenge

Welcome to this week's introduction to the Drunken Stampers Challenge inspiration: A stitch in time.

You don't have to save nine as the challenge is actually about including something related to sewing. Real or faux, whichever.

I think I cheated a bit as my piece doesn't have either: That adorable little American Crafts flower is probably more crocheted than sewn and even my almost faux stitching on the sentiment frame ... well ... sometimes I have a hard time sticking to a challenge.

You see, I started with the "... saves nine ..." phrase, then drove w-a-y out to the overlook where I considered creating something with a Teddy Bear in need of repairs before I finally hit the turn signal and U-turned back to Main Street.

Come to think of it, my final project actually turned out to be further from the challenge than the idea from which I ran away. And, you know what else? If I slow down and give it more thought, there's the confession that I didn't want to do something with a Teddy Bear, because cute didn't sound like something I wanted to be today.

Which makes perfect sense when you look at my card here, because it's obviously not in any way cute with lots of pale pink and baby blue and butterflies and little crocheted flowers.

Huh-uh. No cute here.

Oh well, at least I finally snuck one of those clever little trinket pins onto a project.

So, drop in with us at the Drunken Stampers pub to show off what you can stitch up -- cute is entirely optional.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Recycling wax and Guinness cans

We burn candles at our house every day during the winter and most days during the summer. Often they're wee tea light or votive candles that melt away and become goo in the air (causing epic diseases, one assumes).

Occasionally, though we manage to burn through the usefulness of a pillar or multi-wick candle. These always result in a pile of smelly wax that is then collected in bins along with emptied, rinsed and dried Guinness cans.

Obviously when I say "emptied" I mean poured into glasses and drank with the gusto only us immortals can muster.

Keep in mind as we go along here that you could probably use soda pop cans or even other beer cans. We don't drink any of those things, though, so we don't have those cans.

Plus, of course, Guinness cans are slightly taller and slimmer than those other cans. You see, candle making is a lot like baking: There are rules. Your wick to wax to scent to size ratios have to stay within set parameters, otherwise you'll have a candle that constantly puts itself out or melts too quickly and ruins the carpet. Again.

What we discovered is this: Following the instructions I'm about to give will lead you to some sort of crazy Einsteinian parameters that make perfect candles. Or Guinnessian. Whichever, it always works.

Using tin snips or kitchen shears, very carefully trim the top off of the Guinness can (past the "neck").

Puncture the bottom of the can, exactly centered (or mostly centered), with a 16-penny nail. Next, pull enough large-sized Yardley wicking through the hole and to the top so that you have plenty to tie off onto a brace.

Tie a tight knot in the wicking near the bottom of the can, then tug the wicking so that the knot "fills" the hole in the bottom of the can. Trim excess wicking from the bottom, if it is keeping the can from sitting flat.

Returning to the top-side, find something to use as a brace that will hold the wicking taut while you pour wax (we like bamboo skewers, but you can use whatever you prefer as long as you know it'll now be for candle-making only).

Place your Guinness molds on a disposable or only-to-be-used-for candles baking sheet.

Finally, in a pan that you are Never Going To Use For Anything Else, melt leftover wax until it's melted (I know, I read it, melt until melted ... I'm tired, OK?).

Pour this melted wax into the Guinness molds. As the filled mold sets it will develop a crater caused by cooling and bubbles from the wick area.

This means that the rest of the "recipe" is up to you. Either wait for the wax to set completely, strip off the mold and trim the candle so it's pretty. Or, keep melting and filling until that sucker is completely and totally full, then do the stripping and trimming.

Tada! Guinness candles!

Now, for those of you who've never dabbled in candle making:

1. When the wax is fully melted it's hot. HOT! Send you to the emergency room if you spill it on a body part hot. Be careful.

2. Wax is going to get on things. It's going to drip onto the floor. It's going to drip onto the stove top. Do not make candles if you're going to freak out in the months to come when you discover *another* splotch of dripped wax. You might manage to find and clean up every drip as it happens. You might not. Be the Buddha.

3. Your leftover wax is probably full of scented oils. Remelting this wax in large quantities, as for this project, causes the scent to stink up your house like a brothel. Or an incense factory. A very sexy, stinky, disease-causing factory that should probably have open windows. And fans.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Punch me baby!: A Drunken Stampers Challenge

Everyone has a punch or two, hell even people who don't really craft have one. So, there's no excuse for you to miss this week's Drunken Stampers Challenge.

You know how it is. You're in the dollar and less store, the craft store looking for stickers, anywhere these little paper-munching tools exist -- you've been there and seen one, or two or maybe even three, that you thought "I could use that to make confetti," or like so many of us who has no money, but large amounts of crap stuff, "Surely I'll find some way to use that neat punch!"

As a lover of all things winter and snow, I can't pass snowflake-shaped punches. I mean, literally, I try to avoid the punch sections in stores because if I see a snowflake ... home it'll come.

It turned out to be a bonus this week, though, with the Drunken Stampers Punches challenge because I got to combine my snowflakes, in various glittery and shiny papers, and a Close To My Heart clear card.

My Martha Stewart snowflake border punch/embosser as well as a little "let it snow" stamp came out for the project, too!

Just one thing ... can anybody tell me how you write a note on a clear card without ruining the design? Attach it on a sticky note, I guess ...


Editor's note: If you need to fix something that didn't post, as this was supposed to have done yesterday ... take a look at the post "date and time" ... if the year is 2011 ... you'll solve a lot of troubles by changing that last "one" to a "zero" ...

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

I forgot the Sangria!

Why didn't anybody remind me? Why didn't someone say something? Why are all of you still waiting so politely for the Sangria recipe I promised way back on September 17?

Had someone promised me a new cocktail recipe, then not handed it over, I'd be knocking on his or her door before you could say "Where's the bottle opener?"

I guess you guys are just a lot nicer and more patient than yours truly.

Since you've been so good, here we finally go ...

You'll need a 2-liter bottle of Sprite or other lemon-lime soda, one bottle of peach brandy (schnapps is OK) and a box of Franzia Fruity Red Sangria, along with at least one each fresh orange, lemon and lime (or two each if you're smart, because a smart person knows that one pitcher isn't going to be enough).

Stir together six cups wine, three cups soda and one cup peach brandy. Slice an orange, a lemon and a lime into rings. Using your strong crafters' hands, squish the juice into the pitcher and drop in the macerated fruit, too.

Even if you're not into the whole mixing and slicing thing, try the Franzia Fruity Red Sangria by itself. I've never, ever been a red wine girl, but this stuff is sweet and mild and yummy.

Plus, you can cut the Franzia Founding Family photo off of the box for a craft project ... just like I did for my Compendium challenge fragment charms card on October 17.

Oh yeah, if you comment below, please add a thanks to my parents who introduced My Guy and me to Sangria ... our local liquor purveyors are certainly thankful, and I know you will be, too.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Industrial grunge: A Studio L3 Compendium challenge

Maybe it's only the addition of the rosette die to my repertoire of possibilities, or perhaps my juices are still flowing after finishing last week's challenge only yesterday.

Either way, I once again peeked very early at Linda's Compendium of Curiosities challenge and was inspired after work to leave a pile of dirty dishes in the kitchen so that I could hide in the craft room with page 54 of Tim's book -- and the new rosette die, of course.

This also means that My Guy got a little gift, too.

You see, when I say "T.I.M." at a craft store, My Guy would like to have a word or two with our Zen master of grunge. But, when I mention that same name here at home: There are no jealous rages. No upset scowls or even frustrated lonely sighs. No. Here at home "T.I.M." translates to "Holy crap! She's going to leave me alone for HOURS! Woohoo!"

Anyhow, it has been more than six hours since I began playing with Mod Podge and alder boards meant for smoking and grunge pieces and inky goodness and crackly stuff.

And this is what I have to show for it: A sort of vintage, circus, aged poster. Thing. I really like it ... except ...

I'm not going to complain *again* about how the flash always creates annoying shine and crackle doesn't show up at all and the multiple ink colors are slightly off and the metallic-look bits are washed out. Whew. I'm so proud of myself for not complaining.

... all of you kind readers should know that this challenge has been one of my favorites. Obviously I got to play with the rosette die some more, but truly this week's challenge technique is going to be something all of us will use again and again.

It's easy and beautiful and your friends will be very impressed with the cool: Plus, if you attempt it, you can join in Linda's challenge by Sunday 8 p.m. Mountain Time.