Monday, April 25, 2011

Get carded - birthday cards

Hello! Besides yesterday being Easter Sunday, my family also celebrated several birthdays. There's too many of us to celebrate each birthday as it comes, so we lump several together at a time. Yesterday we honored those with January-March birthdays. Ended up with five birthday cake, three of which were chocolate!

Of course, I made greeting cards for several honorees; two of these cards are shown in the photo below:

I'll describe the one with the white background first:

White cardstock
Painted, stamped blue background piece
Old library card stamped with homemade foam rubber stamp and blue acrylic paint
1890's ledger paper stamped with homemade foam rubber stamp and blue acrylic paint
"E" cut from dark blue leather-like piece and dabbed with dots of white acrylic paint
"Happy Birthday" stamped with black StazOn ink

Card with red background:

Red cardstock (thrift store find)
Dark red cardstock piece
Game piece from a children's game (not vintage but the graphics were charming, I thought - thrift store find)
"happy" cut from a child's school worksheet, circa 1965 (my husband's school paper)
Clown illustration from a 1957 children's dictionary (complete with crayon scribble from anonymous child)
"It's Your Special Day!" stamped with black StazOn ink

And there you have it. One guarantee - no matter how big the party, you can be sure that a homemade greeting card looks like no other card there!

Made it - A Bevy of Bunnies

Hello! Now that Easter has come and gone, I can show off a little project I did for the holiday:

Might be hard to tell through the cellophane gift bags, but I made six small stuffed bunnies to give to my siblings yesterday, along with a few Easter candies tossed in for good measure.

Used a pastel print fabric for my sisters and a blue and white check for my brothers. There was significance to these choices - both had been in our late mother's fabric stash. This was our first Easter without her (she died last Christmas Eve), so I thought it'd be nice to give my siblings a little reminder of her.

The bunny pattern came from the thrift store. Easy to make other than being a little tricky to sew around the curves since the scale was small - these bunnies are only about 4" high. Still, I'd rather use a small pattern than a big one; I think small-scale stuffed items are more charming. 

Hope you had a Happy Easter as well!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Goodbye, Auntie Mary

My husband's aunt died this past Friday and her funeral was yesterday in Chicago. She would have been 86 next month. 

In times past, Auntie Mary would have been referred to as an old maid or spinster, as she never married nor had children. However, these terms can call to mind the image of a prim, proper, demure lady. That sure wasn't Auntie Mary - she was too lively for those adjectives! She loved life in general and in particular, loved her family, her friends and the many pets she had over the years. She was quite a talker and quite a traveler as well - never had a lot of money, but traveled to Las Vegas a few times with friends to try her luck at the casino, went to Florida with my husband and a friend of hers, visited Hawaii with a church group and also came to see us a number of times in the various states in which we have lived. 

In fact, one of my favorite memories of her took place in 1996 - we were living near Philadelphia then and she flew to BWI Airport (Baltimore-Washington International), where we picked her up to begin her visit with us. My husband had already proposed taking her into Washington DC as a surprise, and we discussed how long it would take for her to catch on where we were going. I thought she would notice as soon as she saw us taking the exit for DC but my husband said no, she wouldn't notice where we were headed. 

He was right - she paid no attention to any traffic signs. We rode around Washington for awhile, pointing out the large monument (Washington, that is), the big white house (the White House), among other landmarks. We drove past numerous large federal buildings and museums - still no inkling on her part. 

Finally, after about 40 minutes of this, something must have  sunk in, for she suddenly asked, "Say, you kids don't live too far from Washington DC, do you?" It was then that I informed her that we were in Washington DC. She was speechless for a moment, which goes to show you that she was temporarily overcome by surprise and delight. 

My husband then found a parking space, and we got out and walked around for awhile - all the way from the Lincoln Memorial to the Capitol building and back. After this excursion, we took her out to eat at a local restaurant called America. Its claim to fame is that the menu has a signature dish from every state in the union. Auntie Mary ordered pork chops, which I seem to recall were representative of West Virginia. Although she enjoyed them (she always had a healthy appetite), she said they weren't as good as the pork chops in Chicago, her hometown. 

Yes, she was quite a character! The family shared many stories about her at the funeral home - all good, fun memories. I told my husband and his siblings that they were lucky to have had her in their lives. Every family should have an Auntie Mary in it, but how many do? Not only was she always ready for a good time, but in general she was very positive and not nearly as prone to criticism and judgment as most people are (me included, I admit). Although I was from a different background (small town, different ethnic group), she accepted me right away.

We know she's in a better place, free of the macular degeneration that had clouded her eyesight, the dementia that had clouded her mind, and the weak heart that had slowed her down. Just the same, we miss her and love her. 

Goodbye, Auntie Mary! 

Monday, April 18, 2011

Get carded - Spirit Jump cards

Hello! Over a year ago I learned of the Spirit Jump organization, a group dedicated to sending out greeting cards and gifts to those struggling with health issues, primarily cancer. People in need of "jumps" (a boost to their spirits) would send in a short bio of themselves and what they'd been going through. Volunteers such as myself would get an email with these bios, then we would email back which people we wanted to help. A second email containing the full names and addresses of these folks would then be sent to us. Then all I had to do was make cards, write some words of encouragement, then off my cards went.

Many of these folks were very, very sick and some also mentioned financial issues, no family nearby to help, etc. It was truly heart-wrenching at times to read the bios. Occasionally there would be a later email indicating that someone had died, and that was always sad. But sometimes there was someone who went into remission and out of this group, I would get thank you notes here and there telling me that my card had cheered them up. That was a good feeling! Yet my card efforts were really quite simple, deliberately so since I was dealing with strangers and so I'm not familiar with their tastes. 
In its more active stage, I got emails for Spirit Jump requests quite often and for awhile there I was sending out three-five cards a week. Due to time constraints, the amount of email requests sent out to volunteers has slowed way down - the people running it just don't have the time to keep up with it like they used to. That's a shame because it was such an easy way to help those very much in need of assistance.

However, out of the blue I got another request yesterday, so sent out two cards in today's mail:

 See what I mean by an easy card? Just a bird template, scraps of art paper and other paper scraps, one black marker dot for an eye, then "thinking of you" stamped beneath. The notecards are from a box I got at a Salvation Army - the Crane brand, which is a good name brand for stationery.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Made it - DIY stamps

Hello! You may recall my saying that I was going to make some rubber stamps  - in this case, foam rubber - from some odds and ends I'd gotten at the creative reuse place Learning From Scratch. Here is what my simple stamps look like:

I got the plastic holders, which do have handles, at Learning From Scratch as well. I can't take credit for the idea of combining foam rubber pieces and plastic pieces to make rubber stamps; there was a display at Learning From Scratch that showed this. The foam rubber pieces come with an adhesive side, so assembly was just a matter of sticking the shapes on.

I got out my set of acrylic paints, brushed different colors on the stamps and then stamped on various papers. I'll stamp and/or paint on just about anything I can use for a background paper - today I stamped pages from an old cookbook, some library cards, a vintage science textbook page, an outdated atlas, a house model plan from the 1960's, a sheet music page and a scoring pad from an old board game. 

Sounds weird, I know, but I like the funky look of these background papers when I use them in cardmaking (what the recipients think may be another thing entirely!)

While stamping away it occurred to me that I could change the shapes I was stamping by placing paint on only part of the stamp (such brilliance, eh?)rather than painting all of the foam rubber piece. Thus, I could make crosses, hearts, small dots, and so on with a flick or two of a paintbrush. 

I've got some greeting cards in progress so I can't show them until after they've been given to their intended recipients. Some of the background papers I created were used so I will try to get some photos up later so that you can see what I did. 


"Crazy" times in Milwaukee

Hello! As part of a trip to the northside of Chicago last weekend, we also headed up to Milwaukee - we've been there several times before and have always enjoyed our visits. You'll learn three reasons why in this post! 

Even before we got to Milwaukee, we stopped just over the state line to here:

This is the Jelly Belly Center near Pleasant Prairie, WI. There is a tour of the warehouse, which we took during our first visit. Now we just cruise the retail store looking for deals. There are often by-the-case sales at phenomenal prices (if, for example, you don't mind eating Valentine's Day candies after that holiday has vanished). There's always specials on the "Belly Flops", which are Jelly Belly seconds - misshapen, several stuck together and other quality control issues. Still the same great taste, though. The BOGOF pricing the day we were there meant that our Belly Flops cost around $2.00/lb, way cheaper than what Jelly Bellies cost. 

(In case you were wondering, a Jelly Belly factory tour is available at the Fairfield, CA facility. We went on that tour in 1997 and that was fun!)

Continuing on our way, our first stop in Milwaukee was this store:

If you're thinking that the wording on the sign portends an oddball store, you are right. AS & S is based in Chicago but we started going to the Milwaukee store while visiting a brother of mine who lived in Milwaukee for a year. AS & S specializes in surplus, which means there's a little bit of everything sold, or so it seems. As their name belies, there's all sorts of science stuff for sale and they also have a great section of storage containers in various sizes and shapes. Years ago I got a set of small food storage containers there and have used them constantly ever since, for lunchbox treats and small amounts of leftovers. They look as new as the day I got them; I don't think they'll ever wear out! 

Not everything they sell is as sturdy - there's flimsy made-in-China junk too - but it's a blast roaming the aisles just to see what's there. My husband had gotten me a Groupon from this store and it had to be used by July, so of course we had to stop so that I could spend it. I ended up getting things from the crafts and garden departments, but it was hard to choose among the many, many items for sale. (if your curiousity is piqued, they also sell by catalog and website). 

Still not "crazy" enough for you? Okay, then, how about lunch at Jalapeno Loco? It's a Mexican restaurant near the airport. Great food and quite a bit of it - there were enough leftovers from what my daughter and I had ordered (flautas for her, carne asada for me) for two lunches when we returned home!

There is a lot to see and do in Milwaukee, but that is all we had time for. It was fun though.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Made it - Anonymous Art

Hello! The very nature of today's post means that there are no accompanying photos - because I want to discuss a sneaky side to my crafting ventures.

Over the years, I've accumulated numerous small pieces of paper and other odds and ends - some vintage, some leftover from various projects, etc. At one point, I decided it'd be fun to use these bits and pieces to make small things to stash in my purse to leave wherever I want. I strive to make something that has a positive feel to it in the hopes of brightening up the day of the finder. 

By now I have left dozens of my little doo-dads in many parts of the country, literally from coast to coast. Of course, I have no idea what people do when they come across something from me (which changes from time to time, depending on what I feel like making). There's always the possibility that the finder will consider what I've left behind the mark of a kook and just toss it aside. But if it's cheered up just one person having a bad day, then I'm satisfied. 

Have you ever found an item that was deliberately left behind for someone to find and enjoy? If so, what was it? 

The term "guerilla art" is used for art that is left in public places for others to discover, but I'm not sure if my miniscule works count as such. Nevertheless, it's a fun, easy (and thrifty) thing to do, so I will continue on as the spirit moves me!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Thrifty Acres - Creative reuse @ Learning From Scratch

Hello! Have you ever been to a creative reuse store? Before moving to West Michigan, I had previously been acquainted with The Scrapbox of Ann Arbor, MI - a treasure trove of items donated by businesses as well as  by individuals - wallpaper sample books, pieces of fabrics, weird bits of foam rubber, crafting supplies, etc. 

After moving here I discovered Learning From Scratch, which was located in Grand Rapids, MI. I liked it even better than The Scrapbox because it had cooler stuff. But after awhile the woman running it lost her lease and Learning From Scratch closed. 

Some time later I was told that it had reopened in a new location but I only investigated this online a few weeks ago. I learned that it's now inside a thrift store called Worldwide Thrift, so off I went earlier this week to check out its new digs. 

I happily roamed the back room of the thrift store where Learning From Scratch is housed. I took my time, in part because I elected to do the $3.00/fill-a-bag deal for the unpriced items, and of course I wanted to get my money's worth. I spent a grand total of $12.00 and here's what I got:

Wood samples with distressed paint finishes, large wooden beads, yarn cones and small, colorful imitation leather pieces. I will stamp and/or collage the wood samples to turn them into decorative wall hangings. The yarn cones have fun printed designs on the top and bottom ends - I've just seen plain ones before this. Will decorate them in a way that takes advantage of those designs. Have plans for the beads and the "leather" pieces as well.

The $3.00 bag was crammed with matboard pieces, cardstock pieces, foam rubber pieces, wood samples, fabric pieces and punched-out pieces to use in stenciling. I will use the foam rubber and punched-out pieces with craft paints to make designs on cards and collage work. I will decorate the two fabric pieces and hang them up - both already have grommets on top.

A huge paint chip sample book; it measures 2 inches thick. Not only is it fun to look through, but paint sample chips can be used in various craft projects. I'll have fun experimenting with the colorful choices therein!

Also selected a fabric sample book that had some truly lovely pieces. If I can't find anything to make with these fabrics, then there's something wrong with me! I'm thinking cloth napkins and pieced tote bags.

Really a lot of cool, inexpensive things, most of which appears to have been donated by interior design firms and manufacturers. Lots of fun stuff for kids as well - for one thing, there was a bin of "seconds" in the form of childrens' wooden blocks. One youngish mom was there with her toddler daughter when I was shopping and the little girl was having a great time playing with the blocks and some of the other odds and ends there.
In case you live in the area and want to make a visit yourself, here's the info: Learning From Scratch - inside Worlwide Thrift Shop,1454 28th St SE,Grand Rapids MI,(616) 243-5310. Current hours: M T W 10-6, Th F 10-8, Sat 10-5.