Friday, February 16, 2018

Get Carded: Happy Valentine's Day!

Hello! Valentine's Day is a busy holiday for a greeting card crafter. In my previous post, I showed off some of the cards I made for the Valentines for Vets project. After making those, I switched gears to make cards for family and friends. Below, you'll see how the Valentines for our daughter and my husband turned out. 

For our daughter:

And a couple of close-ups:

Materials used:
  • white card stock
  • hand-stamped paper scrap on right side of card; one of the stamps used was a hand-carved heart I'd made
  • portion of time card (piece with pink border on the left)
  • pink floral scrapbook paper piece
  •  piece from children's memory-matching game
  • heart cut from art paper scrap
  • "el amor" cut from Spanish flash card set 
  • "happy valentine's day" stamped in red ink on scrap of 1890's ledger paper
Hmm, the card turned out a bit "busy", but our daughter liked it anyway. As for myself, I really liked the graphics on that piece from the children's game; so charming!
 Moving on, here's my husband's card:

And a close-up:

Materials used: 

  • white card stock
  • scrapbook paper piece (reproduction of vintage ad), painted over with ivory acrylic paint to tone down the yellowed-paper look
  • paint chip piece; the two visible paint names are "Heartfelt" and "Valentine" (couldn't go wrong with using that paint chip for this occasion!)
  • game piece from children's memory-matching game (pink with red heart)
  • red and white scrapbook paper heart affixed to game piece
  • "happy valentine's day" stamped in red ink onto 1890's ledger paper
  • "el corazon" cut from Spanish flash card set
  • red eyelet
  • red and white baker's twine threaded through eyelet and tied. 
You'll notice that there's a few common elements in both cards: the Spanish flash cards, the pieces from the children's game and the same stamp used on the same vintage ledger paper. Using some of the same elements makes card crafting easier, a must at a time when many cards were being made over the course of a couple of weeks. 

I jokingly told my husband that the eyelet might very well be older than he is, and he was born in the late 1950's. About a ago I bought a vintage eyelet plier and various colored eyelets, all in the original packaging. Cost me just one dollar at a church rummage sale. I could tell by the packaging that the set is from sometime in the 1950's. The pliers are fun and easy to use, and I like the way an eyelet adds a bit of color to a corner of a card. Plus, I can  add further color by tying a piece of ribbon, cording, etc. through the eyelet, which I'd done for my husband's Valentine. 

I liked how his card turned out, and he did too.



Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Get Carded: 2018 Valentines For Vets

Hello! With Valentine's Day being just one week from today, it's time to get this year's Valentines for Vets cards in the mail. As I've been doing for the past several years now, I made 24 valentines, wrote a short greeting inside, and bundled them up to go out in today's mail to a regional medical facility. It didn't take much time or effort on my part, and I'd like to think it's a nice way to show 24 vets that I appreciate their service to our country. 

Here's a sample of what's going out in the mail:

And a close-up of one of the cards:

Materials used in the above card:

  • White card stock
  • Border cut from 1890's sheet music
  • Heart cut from scrapbook paper
  • rectangle cut from decorator-weight fabric
  • "Love" stamped in red ink on card stock scrap
  • Fabric and "Love" paper piece affixed to card with foam sticky-back pieces; the foam gives the card a bit of dimension
The border was cut using a scrapbook tool, Borderlines (made by Creative Memories). I found a set of these recently at a thrift store for a dollar. I'm not a scrapbooker myself but have learned that many supplies produced for that craft work well in other paper-based projects. 

I almost didn't buy the set because I thought even a dollar was too much for what's merely thin plastic shapes. But then I saw a current Amazon listing, asking almost $15.00 for a set of three out of the four I came across at the thrift store. So I realized a buck for four was a good deal after all!

The cards I made varied a little, in regards to the fabric scraps and decorative papers used for the hearts. But all had the sheet music border design and "Love".

And all are being sent with gratitude to the veterans.


Saturday, February 3, 2018

It's InCoWriMo!

Hello! The title of this post mentions something called "InCoWriMo" - you may be wondering what the heck that means. So I'm here to tell you. 

"InCoWriMo" (I'm still having trouble remembering the name) stands for "International Correspondence Writing Month". Participants are   supposed to write one handwritten piece of correspondence a day for the month of February. It doesn't have to be a lengthy letter, a quick note or postcard will do. In fact, today's email from the organization mentioned that you can even write a note to yourself to count as a daily correspondence. 

I tend to get the winter blues real bad around this time of year, especially at the moment since the mild weather we had most of January has morphed into a colder, snowier February. That's a drag. So I thought InCoWriMo would serve as a nice pick-me-up.  

And truth be told, I always liked to write letters, back when that was an important way to keep in touch (ie before email, texts, etc). I went through a time of living far away from family, and leaving friends behind as we moved from state from state. I valued writing letters and sending cards to loved ones then. As a Christmas "gift" to my mom one year, I told her I would write her one letter a week during the next year. And yes, I did just that.

(After my mom died, I learned that she had seemingly kept every letter I'd sent her from that year, plus those written other years I lived out of state. I say "seemingly" because I've yet to have to heart to even look them over, let alone re-read them. But if I ever do so, it'll be like having a journal of my life for whatever time period in which my letters had been written.)

The InCoWriMo folks explained that they picked February because it's the shortest month of the year, and so it'd be the easiest month for people to handle a daily correspondence. I don't know if I agree with that, since after all it's a month when folks might be sending out Valentines. Thus, they're already doing more correspondence than usual. I typically send out 24 cards for the Valentines for Vets program. Does that mean I'm covered for 24 correspondences? I suppose InCoWriMo could argue no, since all the cards getmailed out at once, to one address (a regional VA facility). 

But February is the month they'd chosen, so be it. Thus far I've sent out two thank you notes and one birthday card. Beyond that, there are other Valentines I can send out, besides my Valentines for Vets bunch. 

We've slacked off over the past few years with sending Christmas cards, but still have a few stalwarts who sent us Christmas cards this past December. So I can always return the favor by dropping them notes in return. 

Closer to home, I can make Valentines for neighbors. It may sound like a lot of card-making to you, but by now I'm an experienced in that craft. I also have a rejuvenated sense of creativity due to the recent relocation of my studio from a drab, dark basement to a sunny 2nd floor room. And I've come up with a simple Valentine card design this year, so there's that. 

As for the "international" aspect of InCoWriMo, the website has a link to this year's address submissions. A quick perusal showed that's there plenty of folks from other countries who would love to hear from other InCoWri writers.

If one would prefer to keep postage costs down, there's loads of American addresses as well. But personally, I think I have plenty of American family and friends to write to, so probably not much need to write to my countrymen/women on the list - unless I spy an address from a town or region of particular interest.

I realize that so many folks are extremely time-challenged these days. I happen to be an empty nester who tends to burrow indoors during the winter months, so as I'd said earlier, this is a good project for me. And judging from the long list of address submissions on the InCoWriMo site, I know I'm not the only one!

If this project interests you, go here. The link goes to the website where I first learned about InCoWriMo. There's a link within the initial post that mention the project, links to the InCoWriMo site, and also shares links to other correspondence sites. 


Thursday, January 25, 2018

Room Makeover #2

Hello! In my last post I showed before-and-after pics of our daughter's old bedroom, now forever rid of a less-than-stellar color scheme. Today's post will give a peek into how this room's usage has been transformed: it's now a combination small bedroom for a guest, and a studio for me! Both are a work in progress, but so far, so good with the transformation. 

In the bedroom section, white curtains, a vintage plant stand used as a side table, a small bedside lamp, a twin bed, a framed print over the bed and a vintage, unframed oil painting waiting to be hung up. 

Another view of the bed and the other window. 

Near the doorway, a small wire rack. Our daughter slept here during her recent Christmas break, and so I'd put a small, decorated artificial Christmas tree on that rack. 

I "shopped" from our house to furnish most of the room. The only thing I bought was a new set of curtains and a thrifted twin-size comforter. The decor will do for now, but I'd like to find a nicer-looking bedside lamp and a replacement for the beat-up quilt at the foot of the bed. 

I was glad to set up this small bedroom area, but it was really the studio that I was looking forward to putting into place! We moved into this house in 2002, and since then my studio had been in the basement. I know it's common to set up studios in that part of a house, and while house-hunting we looked at houses whose basements would have been fine for my studio. But for various reasons, we bought our current house. 

Our basement is a full one and so there was plenty of room for my studio. And to help organize my arts/crafts supplies, a number of metal storage racks were already in place, left behind by a previous owner. There was even an unopened box containing the components of another metal storage rack, which I put together in due time.

But I hated working down in that basement, which was dark and was chilly-to-cold much of the year. The addition of several lights barely helped dispel the darkness, although a space heater did make things toastier for me by my worktable. 

Actually, it was much nicer working down in the basement studio in the summer; then it was comfortably cool. But the problem that time of year was the trend toward unwanted visitors at night: I'd be happily immersed in collage work or a sewing project, only to suddenly be unnerved by a bat flying by. Yikes! That would send me scurrying up the stairs! We were never sure how the bats got down there; perhaps from the weird outside entrance to the basement. They always seemed to find their way out, and without messing things up, but I still didn't like the possibility of their surprise appearances!

Then, too, there was the general dustiness and mustiness of our old-house basement. I have a dust allergy and so it wasn't healthy for me to work down in the basement for any real length of time. 

And so eventually my most-used arts and crafts supplies migrated to several rooms on the 1st floor. And supplies what stayed down - or, in the case of "new" supplies from thrift stores, what went down - to the basement tended to pile up into barely-organized heaps. Needless to say, it was often frustrating to locate a particular craft book or piece of fabric. 

But that was then, this is now! I began my studio set-up by putting two work tables into place, one for sewing and one for paper crafting. I was thinking of putting another table in the room for painting, but I'm not sure if I'll have the space, so I'll wait and see on that. 

The worktable here is an old metal folding table that had belonged to my in-laws. My sewing machine is a mid-80's Singer. It needs a tune-up now and then, but basically still runs fine. Various containers behind the machine hold patterns, sewing scissors, rulers and other supplies. 

For decoration, I propped up this vintage sewing kit box on the window frame behind the sewing machine. The box had been in my mother-in-law's sewing basket, which was given to me after she died. 

Adjacent to the sewing table is the papercrafting work area. The table, which had been left behind by a previous owner, has a wood top and metal legs. Certainly not a top-of-the-line piece, but it's perfect for this space! To the right are several small plastic storage units with drawers for small art paper pieces, and to the left are a couple of storage units for storing rubber stamps and stamp pads. More rubber stamps are in a storage container underneath the table, and more stamp pads are in a basket on the table. 

Getting ready for doing a spread in my current scrappy journal: the journal itself, a bird I'd made from art paper scraps, small scissors for detail cutting, a glue stick and a stamp pad. The large paper you see underneath these objects keeps the desk surface clean. Over time a paper used as such collects paints, stray rubber stamp images, markers tested to see if they're dry and so on. When the paper gets filled up, another one is put down - and I then have another "art paper" to cut up and use. On the windowsill is a brayer (I use it to press down glued items in my collages)and several small storage containers.

I took these photos last week, when I was in the beginning stages of setting up the studio. Since then I've hauled up what seems to be a never-ending amount of fabrics, crafting books and magazines, ribbons, more art paper pieces, stenciling materials, paints, glues, vintage matchbooks, vintage playing cards/flashcards, and on and on. It sometimes seems like it'll never end! The books will go in a small bookcase our daughter left behind, supplies used the most will be stored on one of those metal storage racks, and other things
are destined for the closet.

I still haven't brought up my felt collection, nor the vintage board games,vintage bingo cards, my bag of vintage rick racks, a basket crammed with vintage jewelry parts, counted cross-stitch stuff, and more.

And then there's the Christmas crafting supplies - books, magazines and vintage holiday doodads like jingle bells and adorable gift tags. Since Christmas crafting is still a ways off, I'm not in a hurry to bring up these materials up just yet.

Yes, I have a lot of stuff! Too much, really, so I'm taking the time to declutter as I go along. But I probably haven't gotten rid of as much stuff as I should. 

Oh well, Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither was my studio. In spite of the work involved in setting it up, I'm thrilled to finally get out of that dark, cold, dusty basement! 

And now if you'll excuse me, I have to go up to my studio and work on another scrappy journal page! (I have a goal of doing one page a day for the year.)


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Room Makeover #1

Hello! I admit, I've come late house redecorating (we've lived in four houses during our married life thus far). In part, this was due to years of not staying in a house long enough to get tired of the previous owner's choice of paint colors or wallpaper. (One house in particular had been tastefully done over shortly before we moved in.) And in part it was due to general laziness on my part - and a bit of fear too, I think. I had visions of upending a opened paint can or something like that and creating a huge mess all over the place. (Don't know why I thought that, probably read that somewhere.)

Well, my hand was finally forced a few years back when a burst pipe caused water damage to a few rooms in our house. Insurance paid for a painter to redo ruined walls, but this included only portions of the kitchen and dining room. And of course, the walls and trim that were freshly painted made the undamaged, unpainted sections look bad by comparison. So I had no choice but to start painting.

And like with every new task, I learned by doing and got better at it as I went along. By now I've repainted about 2/3 of our interior, but had never gotten around to doing any before-and-after photos. Until now. 

Our daughter moved out of our house for good this past summer. She'd already gone away to college, but she'd always lived in furnished rooms while there. Her bed, dresser, desk, chair and other belongings she had no room for stayed put in her bedroom here. But then came time to move on to grad school and move into an apartment. So of course her bedroom furnishings moved with her, leaving an empty room.

I had plans for that empty room, but first had to get rid of the less-than-attractive color scheme:

A weird shade of blue was on the walls, with apple-green trim. The white you see to the right of the window frame is the result of some wall patching. 

Another view of those colors. 
The door had a rough appearance, especially the upper right panel. I think someone had made a stab at removing the paint, but gave up rather quickly. 

Thankfully, those colors are now a thing of the past! Here's how this room now looks:

This is the window you see the full view of in the second photo from the top. The colors look more muted than they actually are because it was an overcast day outside. 

The wall color is the Sherwin-Williams version of Behr's "Swiss Coffee", a warm white. The Behr color was picked through a misunderstanding with the painter who came in to redo our ruined walls, but I ended up liking it fine. The paint trim is Valspar's "Ultra White" - again, due to the painter. I wanted to continue with the white trim that the dining room and kitchen had been painted with, so he picked that paint to redo the damaged trim in those rooms. I figured if it was good enough for a professional painter, it was good enough for me!

A much-improved door:

You would hardly think it was the same room! It never ceases to amaze me how much bigger a room appears when the color scheme changes from dark to light. I've seen this in other rooms in the house already: I've taken them from brown, dark red and purple/green/lemon yellow/turquoise (the latter was another unusual bedroom decorating scheme)to the same brightening tones of warm white/white (yes, I've been using the same paint colors throughout, the better to show off my eclectic decor). 

I should add that I've actually shown only half of our daughter's old bedroom above. The other half had already been painted; I just hadn't taken any "before" photos of it. I say "other half" because it's almost as if her room is two rooms in one. The other half is slightly larger because it has a closet. There's a wide doorway that leads directly to the second half, the portion of the room I just finished painting. Each section has its own door leading to the hallway; that's why I think of the entire room as two sections. 

And from now on, that's how this room will be treated. In my next post, I'll show off what I mean by that!


Thursday, January 11, 2018

More Holiday Travels

Hello! Meant to post more about the trips we took in the last half of December, but I guess I was too busy traveling to do so then. So, under the heading of "better late than never", here's some of what we saw and did. 

My previous post featured one highlight of a trip we took to central PA - the making of candy canes at Purity Candy near Allenwood. But there was plenty more to see as we continued south on US15 that day.

First stop: the historic town of Lewisburg.

Lewisburg is loaded with charming older buildings such as these two. As it's not a large town, the downtown area is small, but plenty of nice shops and restaurants beckoned. But I only made one purchase, a baking book at the used bookstore Mondragon Books. 

But my shopping wasn't done yet, since my husband agreed to travel a bit further down the road to Selinsgrove. I had read somewhere that supposedly the largest thrift store in the US is there, so of course I wanted to check that out. 

Indeed, the business - the Community Aid thrift store - was housed in a large building. I asked a clerk what had previously been there  and she told me a Value City store. 

Well, I can't say that bigger is always better; it wasn't in this case. Most of the items for sale were clothes. That's great if you need clothes, but if you're me, you want to zero in on kitchenware for your daughter's first apartment, vintage Christmas stuff for your holiday decor, or craft supplies to fuel your creativity. There wasn't a huge selection in these three categories, but I managed to find one vintage Christmas ornament and two sewing patterns. 

I was surprised that such a large retail space didn't have much furniture to speak of, as they certainly seemed to have the room for it. A clerk said they didn't get much furniture in, so what they put out on the floor was usually snatched up right away. 

It was interesting to see what the so-called "largest thrift store in America" looked like, but I can't say I was overwhelmed. Still, proceeds go to churches and non-profit charitable organizations, so I felt good about buying something from this business. 

After being in Pennsylvania for a few days, we began to make our way home. One stop along the way was the incomparable Jungle Jim's in Fairfield, Ohio (suburban Cincinnati). One feature I love about this grocery store is its international foods section, which is a huge section of this massive place. Each country or region of the world gets its own section of product shelving, with the more popular locales getting several shelves apiece. 

I guess German cookies are popular at Jungle Jim's, or maybe the supplier of these treats had a holiday promotion going on:

Above, a large cookie house had been constructed. The decorations are various German cookies. The signs on either side of the house say "Please Do Not Touch". I imagine it was hard for children to refrain from doing so.

A close-up:

Looks good enough to eat!

Our last stop on the trip was to pick up our daughter in West Lafayette, Indiana for her Christmas break from grad school at Purdue. With her in tow, we returned home on December 22nd - to about 8" snow in the driveway. 

The forecast for the days in between Christmas Day and New Year's Day was for yet more snow, accompanied by very cold weather. My husband proposed going out of town to get away from the snow. 

So where did we go? Chicago and Milwaukee. They were even colder - but had far less snow. I'd say there was no more than 5" snow on the ground in either city during our visit. It did snow a bit one day in Milwaukee, but the roads were in pretty good shape. There was the matter of driving through lake effect snow in southwestern Michigan and northwestern Indiana, both coming and going, but we made it through those snow bands unscathed. 

For the third year in a row, we visited the Mitchell Park Conservatory in Milwaukee, which is set up as a grouping of three domes. One dome features tropical plantings, one dome is dedicated to desert growth, and the third is reserved for various special exhibits throughout the year. 

I'll focus on that last dome, since it was sporting a holiday theme during our visit. I think the theme was "Naughty or Nice", with various scenarios of elves working on gifts and goodies to pack in Santa's sleigh. 

Close-ups of a huge, festively-decorated Christmas tree. 

The same tree, seen from a distance. 

A "bakery" building. Inside, dozens of pretend gingerbread cookies were being made in assembly-line fashion. Note the attractive rows of poinsettias and other plantings in the foreground.

The other side of the same building. 

Nary a red poinsettia in this bunch!

Alas, we didn't stay at the Domes as long as we had in previous visits. It was quite crowded; perhaps people wanted to see signs of plant life in the midst of a severe cold spell. But we still had a very nice time there. 

We had one more trip to go on, and that was to take our daughter back West Lafayette. We stayed down there for a couple of days, which included a run down to the Indianapolis area. A new Ikea had just opened in the fall in the suburbs, so I wanted to check it out. We also trooped over to the Fashion Mall, which might be the swankiest mall in the state. We all just window-shopped, as we weren't there long enough to do serious shopping. It was fund to  look though! 

It got down to -15 the last night of our stay in West Lafayette, and it was still only -2 when we left our daughter's apartment after breakfast. That's a far cry from the 56 we experienced on December 22nd there! What a difference a couple of weeks can make. 

Ran into more lake effect snow on the way back home near South Bend. Saw about 8 slide-offs, including a car that landed upside-down in the ditch. An emergency crew was just arriving on the scene as we passed that vehicle. Hopefully the driver was okay. 

Needless to say, after that we were glad to eventually arrive back at our house, safe and sound. It had been a busy period of trips, sandwiched between holiday events. Now it's life back to normal...until the next holiday or trip comes upon us!


Tuesday, December 26, 2017

See Them Being Made: Candy Canes

Hello! Now that all the cooking/baking/crafting/gifting/decorating tasks of Christmas are over, I can switch gears by blogging about a fun little trip my husband and I took shortly before the holiday. 

I've blogged several times about Purity Candy, near Allenwood, Pennsylvania. Their chocolates are delicious and there's the added bonus of seeing them being made via three windows in the back of the retail space. 

During one visit several years ago, one of the employees informed me that Purity makes candy canes by hand; production begins after Thanksgiving. 

This sounded fun to me, so I hoped that someday I'd get to see this in person. (hey, you have your "bucket list" items, I'll have mine!). That "someday" became a reality on December 16th, as our schedules worked out for a trip to Purity then. 

We drove over to Purity's operations from our hotel in Williamsport. This is what greeted us as we approached the building:

Like movie showings, the candy cane "showings" were at 10, 12 and 2. 

We were used to visiting Purity during times of relative quiet, with plenty of space to walk around the retail store and view whatever candy making was going on that day. Not so on this day: the store was packed, with young children clustered close to the one viewing window where the candy canes were going to be produced. And directly behind these kids were the adults who'd brought their kids there, leaving no room for anyone else to get a glimpse of the operation. 

I would have been disappointed if we'd come all this way and not be able to see anything happening, but fear not, Purity had set up two large monitors for watching the event unfold. An employee stood near the kids and narrated the action for the gathered crowd.

Above, as seen in the monitor, an employee has just finished coloring a portion of the batch red; the part that would remain white is in the background. A 25-pound batch of the candy mixture had been made. 

And now the green portion has been made. 

Toward the end of the "showing", the kids and the adults with them left the store, so I had a chance to go over to the viewing window and get pics of the shaping process. So I'll skip ahead to show off the better-quality photos I got then:

The red and green portions had been added to the white. So now the colors are all together, but it just looks like a fat blob at this point. 

The employee rolled that fat blob into a much skinnier length, which you can see in the lower right hand of the photo. Mounted on the wall behind him is a 35-pound candy cane!

After rolling out the mixture into that desired diameter, the employee cut off stick-like lengths and put them on another table for shaping. Note the several raised sections on the table - the "sticks" are held against these sections to keep them straight while the curved part is formed. 

The shaping continued on and on. As you can imagine, it takes awhile to use up a 25-pound batch of candy cane mixture!

It's possible that I might have missed the use of a scale for measuring, but I don't think so. So the employee merely eyeballed the amounts of the mixture to remove to create the portions that would be colored red or green. And it appeared that similar eyeballing was done when cutting the "stick" lengths that would become the actual candy canes. 

Of course, these steps were done by someone with a practiced eye, but I still enjoyed the low-tech nature of the process. I'm sure at some big candy cane plant everything is pre-measured to the nth degree - no irregularities allowed!

So why were the kids who'd been present no longer at the viewing window? They had already completed the last portion of the "showing", during which a Purity employee set up two card tables. Then the kids took turns gathering around the tables, receiving a small "stick" of their own, and shaping their very own candy cane. For packaging, Purity also supplied small plastic bags and stickers for closing the bags. 

Happily, after the kids were done with their efforts, kids at heart got their chance at making candy canes too! Several adults participated, yours truly included. The candy cane mixture was still slightly warm, making it easy to shape:

Ta-da, my very own hand-shaped candy cane! It tasted very good, by the way. I think it had a cleaner taste than the mass-produced ones do. 

(Purity also makes larger candy canes in a variety of flavors, but I'm a purist who prefers peppermint).

Candy canes weren't the only star of the Purity show that day though:

Large Santas and Christmas trees had been created, and pretzel rods moved along on a conveyor belt toward their chocolate coating. (a short while later, bagfuls of these pretzels whose coatings were less than perfect showed up in the "bargain basket" near the cash register). 

The making of the chocolate-covered pretzels was noteworthy since it was a Saturday, a day in which the production lines are usually idle.

We also noted that Purity was staying open until 5:00 this day, and would also be open for business the next day. Typically the store is only open until 3 on Saturdays and is closed on Sundays. 

The extended production and business hours highlighted how busy the Purity folks are on the days leading up to Christmas, so I really appreciated that they take the time to welcome people to their candy cane "showings". Even as crowded as the store was this day, I was glad we'd made the long drive from Michigan to see candy canes being made!