Tuesday, April 30, 2013

I Finally Get to Share....

... that I was selected to be one of the judges for One Crafty Contest!  I'm so excited!

One Crafty Contest is an annual crafting contest held each May/June.  Starting tomorrow, prospective contestants can link up one project.  Twenty crafters will be selected from all the applicants via reader vote and judges' decision.  They will continue on to compete in five crafting rounds, each of which features a different material.  To learn more and to see the schedule of important dates, go here.

There will be prizes for the winner of each round, as well as 1st, 2nd and 3rd place overall. More details are coming, but you can see the list of sponsors here.  You can see what last year's winners received here.

I'm so excited to be a part of One Crafty Contest!  If you think you have what it takes to be a contestant, please enter.  If you're not up to entering, I hope you'll follow along and vote for your favorites.  If the entries are anything like last year's, you'll see some AMAZING creations!

Copic vs. Prismacolor Showdown

I absolutely love Prismacolor markers. When I blogged about how much I love them, a friend commented if you compare Prismacolors with Copics, the Copics win hands down.  Ever since then, I've wanted to do a side-by-side comparison to decide for myself.  I finally got the chance when my friend Jennifer brought her Copic Sketch markers with her during our recent scrappy get-together.

The first thing I noticed is that the basic nibs of the two brands are quite different.  The Prismacolor's wide end is somewhat wider than the wide end of the Copic, and the fine tip of the Prismacolor is significantly smaller than the fine tip of the Copic.    

 
I should mention that Copics can be refilled and the nibs can be replaced (or exchanged for different sizes).  Neither of these is true for the Prismacolors.  But my goal was to compare the two brands as they are sold.  While I'm sure that there are many people who switch out the nibs on their Copics, I'd guess that there are at least as many people who use the Copic exactly the way its sold, especially given the cost (between $5 and $8 per pen).  

People who love Copics rave about how well they blend.  I was curious to see if there was a noticeable different in blending between the two brands.  I drew lines, colored designs, and filled in some images. I did not find much of a difference between the two.  What I did notice is that it was much easier to fill in tiny parts of a stamped image with the fine tip of the Prismacolor compared to the brush tip of a Copic.      

 
Next, I did a word art project, inspired by Artisan des Arts.  There's a tutorial on her post.

 
I made a second project, filling in all the spaces to see how it would look and to really give the pens a chance to show what they can do.


After all that experimenting, I came to a conclusion: I actually prefer the Prismacolors, mostly because of the fine tip end (which can be bought separately for Copics).  I can see a lot of reasons why the Copics are so beloved.  They are an excellent product, and the environmentalist in me really likes that they are refillable and the nibs can be replaced without having to throw out the whole pen.  The price tag of a Copic Sketch is daunting at double the cost of a Prismacolor, but for serious artists who go through pens frequently, they are probably more cost-efficient in the long run.  

What about you?  Copics, Prismacolors or a different brand of alcohol marker?

Monday, April 29, 2013

3 Papers, 7 Cards

When I get together with friends to scrapbook, I almost never actually do any scrapbooking.  I have a very hard time putting layouts together while chatting.  In fact, I can't even scrapbook with music or podcasts on in the background.  For whatever reason, scrapbooking takes my undivided attention.  

Cards don't.  I can work on cards while I talk, with music on, etc.  So when I get together with friends, chances are good I'll be making cards.  The last time we got together, I decided to make as many cards as I could from three coordinating sheets of Doodlebug paper that I'd recently unearthed.  The copyright date on them was 2002 and they had a notation of "Acid-free, lignin-free and laser friendly!" next to the date.  I have no idea what laser-friendly means.
  
As we chatted, I whipped out 7 simple cards before I ran out of paper.
  
  










It took well under an hour to make all seven, I used up some alarmingly old paper, AND I had a great time chatting with my friends.  Awesome!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

A New Look

If you're reading this via email or in a reader, you won't notice anything different.  But if you're visiting my blog, you'll see some major changes.  I'm so excited about the new look!

I've been wanting to change my previous header for a long time.  A really long time.  I never really intended the old header to be anything but a placeholder until I could design a header I loved, but the next thing I knew, two years had passed with the same old header that I didn't really like.

Along with a new header, I wanted a fresh look with a brighter color scheme.  While I love brown, cream and green together, not all of my projects are complemented by those colors. Switching to a white background would better showcase my photos.

I started experimenting with new header designs.  When I realized I could use my One Little Word tags as a header, everything fell into place.  I based the colors on the tags, changed some fonts, and kept tweaking things until I found the combination you're now seeing.

I took a screen shot of the old design before making the switch.  Quite a difference, isn't it?


The only downside to the new look is that I'm going to have to update it in January to incorporate my new One Little Word tag.  Oh well... it's well worth it.

Friday, April 26, 2013

April Flamingo Four

It's time for another Flamingo Four!  This month, three other designers and I worked with these products:


                   1) Pink Paislee 'Parisian Anthology' Corrugated Alphabet
                   2) Prima Raja Sequin
                   3) Maya Road Kraft Mini Calendar
                   4) Graphic 45 Metal Clothespin

This is my 7th time doing the Flamingo Four and I am definitely used to working with challenging items.  But my fellow designers and I agree that the metal clothespin in this month's Flamingo Four has been the most difficult item to date by far.  It is extremely heavy... much too heavy for most of the common uses of clothespins.  The fact that it has a word printed on it means you pretty much have to use it horizontally.  Quite a challenge!

I experimented with the clothespin.  If I put paper over it, could I do a rubbing and get a decent print of the engraved word?  Nope.  If I inked the clothespin and treated it like a stamp, would the word show?  Nope.  What would happen if I took the clothespin apart? Hmmm....

While I mulled over possibilities with the clothespin, I got right to work with the rest of the supplies.  I decided that I was going to use the packaging from the alphabet as the base of my project.  The clear window would be perfect for a picture, so I printed out one of my new niece, Allison and inserted it behind the window.  The box would be ideal for holding those little momentos that don't fit in a photo album, like her hospital bracelet.  

Next, I chose one of the round calendar shapes, then punched a circle from black cardstock.  I selected an A from the corrugated letters, covered it with lavender ink, and then brushed gold ink over the top.  I pulled out two of the sequins.

When I layered them all together, it looked like this.  

 
Here's the finished project:

 
Did you notice the clothespin?  I ended up dividing the two halves and gluing them toward the bottom of the box.  With the weight cut in half, the pieces weren't too heavy for glue to hold.  



To see what the other three designers made with these four items (and how they dealt with that crazy clothespin), head over to Flamingo Scraps.  It's always so fun to see how four people can use the same products with such different results!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Cardstock Koala Puppets

Trevor and I have been brainstorming projects for the letter K. (Click to see the rest of our A-Z crafts.) We decided to make koala puppets. Not only would puppets be fun, but "Make a Puppet" is one of Trevor's Cub Scout electives. Perfect!   



To make a koala puppet, you'll need grey and black cardstock or construction paper, scissors, glue, and a black marker. We used an awesome double-sided 12x12 mottled-grey cardstock that is dark grey on one side and light grey on the other. I wish I knew what brand it is, but I don't.

Fold your grey paper in half, then use the scissors to round off the top.    

 
Open up the paper and make a "candy cane" of glue on one side. Obviously, it is important not to put glue anywhere else or you won't end up with a functional puppet.

 
As the body is drying, use the grey scraps to make a light grey belly, two dark grey outer ears, and two light grey inner ears. Cut a black nose.

 

Glue all the pieces in place, then use the pen to add eyes and a smile. Here's Trevor's:

 
And here's mine.



We're making great progress - only three letters (J, U, and Y) left on our list!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Most Horrifyingly Awesome Art Project, Year 3

Steve and I are both graduates of the University of California at Davis.  As proud Aggies, we make it a priority to attend UCD's annual open house, Picnic Day.  Picnic Day is SO amazingly cool.  Each department opens their building for an activity, show, craft, or project related to their field.  This year, we built and drove robots, did a huge variety of multicultural crafts, attended the Materials Science Magic Show, did tie-dye, watched several dance performances, visited the police and fire departments, used a tool to remove popcorn kernels from dried corn, did a taste test of honey, and tackled a rock-climbing wall.  And we made this:


If you've been reading my blog from the beginning, you might recognize it.  If not, go here to find out how we made this masterpiece.

Each year, we show Trevor the schedule and map and ask what he wants to do at Picnic Day. It's only a one-day event, but there are enough activities that you could spend 2 weeks and still not see everything.  It's hard to prioritize, since there is just SO much cool stuff.  It's so hard to decide whether to do old favorites or try new things, so we end up doing a combination of both.  But no matter what else is on the schedule, there is one thing that Trevor insists on doing.   



 
2013:

 
2012: 
 
2011:

 
I can't believe that anything involving maggots has become a cherished family tradition, but somehow it has!  Horrifyingly awesome, right? 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Mythbusters Mini Update

As most of you know, I've been waiting impatiently for nearly a year for our Mythbusters episode to air.  I mentioned in a previous update that our episode did air in a few other countries, but it has not been shown in the US.  I am VERY tempted to watch it online, but I'm going to hold out a little bit longer because I know it will be much more fun watching it when it airs instead of viewing the feed.  New episodes will air on Wednesday nights, starting on May 1 with "JATO Rocket Car".. not our episode.  Fingers crossed that ours will be coming up soon after that.

I just stumbled on an interesting article on Mental Floss that refers to our myth.  It's called The Craziest Myths the MythBusters Have Tackled, According to the MythBusters. Skip down to the 6th item, The Craziest Myth from the New Season: Airplane Boarding.  That's ours!


I can't wait to see it! I'm really excited about the second episode we filmed also. I haven't seen anything about it anywhere online.  I hope we don't have to wait as long to see that one as we have for Mythbust Air!

Rabbit Dressage

Have you heard of rabbit dressage, aka rabbit show jumping?  Neither had we until about a year ago.  We were looking up something regarding bunny care and came upon an adorable video of jumping bunnies.  Trevor became obsessed with the idea of training Trouble to jump like that.  

For Trouble's birthday in October, we gave him a harness so that we could begin training. Let's just say that Trouble was not interested in wearing a harness and foot-flicked us repeatedly (the rabbit version of swearing) to show his displeasure.  Trevor was not deterred. Ever since, he's been asking Steve when they could build a bunny jump to start Trouble's training.  Finally, they built the jump.  Here's Trevor sanding the last part:  



And here he is after spending all morning building.



Trevor was DYING to try out the bunny jump, but the glue really needed to dry overnight.  He was having such a hard time waiting that we brought the jump indoors just before bedtime, clamps still on, and showed it to Trouble.  He was immediately curious and sniffed the whole thing, but didn't jump over it.  That changed when I got out a piece of broccoli (his favorite treat).


Within two days, we had Trouble successfully jumping over 3 bars.... when he wanted to, that is. I don't know if it's true of all rabbits, but Trouble is more like a cat than a dog when it comes to wanting to please us. Unlike a dog who will happily do whatever you ask him to do, Trouble knows what we're asking him to do, but chooses whether or not he feels like doing it at that moment. Sometimes he comes when we call him, but sometimes he just looks at us and chooses not to come, just like a cat. The same is true with the jumping. Still, we'll persevere.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Time to Prepare for the County Fair!

As you've probably noticed, I am a HUGE fan of county fairs. I've been involved with fairs for as long as I can remember. My sister and I grew up entering dozens of items in the fair each year - arts and crafts, baked goods, woodworking, preserved food... and the list goes on and on. (Speaking of my sister, one of these days I should tell the story of my sister, a 10 gallon bucket of pickles that were curing in the corner of the family room, and how she was doing cartwheels too near the bucket. It's a family classic.)

Anyway, my history with the fair is long. My first paid job as a teenager was as an Exhibits Worker at the fair. As an adult, I continued to enter my stuff in the county fair. When I started teaching, I would enter my students' work in the fair and take them on a field trip to the fair to see their work exhibited. Eventually I was asked to be a judge at the fair. I still enter items in the fair (though obviously not in the categories I judge!). I love everything about the fair. So does Trevor.


Unfortunately, times have been really tough on fairs. Entries are down. Fairs are losing money. It is possible, even likely, that some of our fairs will die out in the not-so-far future. That makes me so sad.

So what can be done to change the fate of the fair? Attending the fair helps. But I'd like to encourage you not just to attend but instead to consider entering something you've made, grown, or collected. Since you're reading my blog, chances are good that you enjoy scrapbooking, cooking, or kids' crafts and perhaps all three. You can enter all of these in your local county fair.  There are categories for gardening, photography, gift wrapping, poetry, preserved foods, and cake decorating. You can enter flower arrangements or display a collection. The list goes on and on. People are always surprised to hear just how many different types of things can be entered in the fair.

Entering is easy. Entering is inexpensive. Entering is fun. Entering can be profitable.

If you're local to me and live in or near Solano County, click here:


If you live elsewhere, simply Google "_____ county fair."

Most counties allow residents from surrounding counties to enter their fair, so if entering in your own county fair is inconvenient (perhaps you'll be vacationing during the delivery dates) or the deadline for entries has already passed, consider entering in a surrounding county.

And don't forget your kids! The age differs in each county, but Trevor has been entering at the Solano County Fair since age 3. Any child can enter - you don't need to be affiliated with a school or youth organization. The crafts your children do at school, the projects or drawings they do at home, the photos they take, the foods they make.... all of those are things you can enter. Here is Trevor showing off the ribbon he earned in the tablesetting competition last year.


Every year I encourage friends to enter things in the fair and each year I hear people tell me that their stuff isn't good enough. First of all, it probably is. Don't sell yourself short! The cards you make, the scrapbook pages you put together, the photos you take, the stitchery you do, the flowers or vegetables you grow, the cookies you bake... I'd be willing to bet there is something you've made or grown that deserves to be entered in the fair. And, to be honest, entries are down so much in some categories that there are fewer people entering than there are prizes. As a judge, I have awarded first place to the ONLY item entered in a category. A more popular category might only have a dozen entries, with cash prizes for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. Those aren't bad odds.

I hope all of you will consider entering something (and helping your children enter something!) in your local county fair  If you have any questions or need any help, please let me know. This is something I believe in passionately and am more than willing to help walk any of you through the process of entering. Long live the fair!

Friday, April 19, 2013

You Make Me Smile

My latest project was scrapping Trevor's annual Christmas picture.  The picture is gorgeous - one of my all-time favorite pictures of him.  His smile is incredible.  



I kept the layout really simple - a subtle grey stripe for the background, two pattern paper layers, and a black dot banner drawing the eye right to his beautiful smile.  I love how it turned out.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Paper Piecing, Inspired by Paul Klee

I was recently given this coloring book:


I'm not really a fan of modern art and know next to nothing about it. As I flipped through the book, I only recognized a few of the paintings and about half of the artists. Like all coloring books, this book has black-line drawings, with no indication of what color any particular space should be. The inside covers have color reproductions of the originals, so that you could copy a particular masterpiece if you wanted to do so. That wasn't what I wanted to do.

I chose a design that appealed to me (Paul Klee's "Clown") and scanned the page without looking at the color version. I don't know what Klee intended with this painting or what he was trying to say, but I knew that I wanted my version to be colorful and bright like I imagine clowns being. Rather than painting or coloring, my medium was paper. I started with a bright orange sunburst as my background, then carefully cut papers to fill in each section. Here's how my clown turned out.


Here is Paul Klee's original.


I've done a fair amount of Googling, but I can't find any analysis of this work. I'd love to know what he intended and how completely far off the mark my version is. Anyone out there know anything about this piece?

For the record, Trevor started this project with me, selecting a more abstract masterpiece to work on. He struggled to cut papers to fit exactly in the spaces and gave up after about 20 minutes. I think if we'd been painting or coloring, he would have happily finished. I tried to convince him to switch media, but he was determined that it would be paper like mine or nothing at all.

I think this would be a fun project to do with an elementary-aged art class... though not with paper piecing, as that is tedious and challenging! It would be fascinating to give each student black-line copies of famous masterpieces, have them select their own color/media to complete the project, then compare and contrast the student version with the original.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Christmas Layout #1

Even though I haven't scrapped all the pictures from summer, or even printed any pictures from our fall trip to Disneyland, Halloween, or our Thanksgiving trip to Hawaii, I jumped ahead to scrap our 2012 Christmas photo.   

 
I tend to skip around like that a lot.  There's no use working on a layout if I'm not in the mood - it's easier and more fun to work with what inspires me.  And for some reason, today it was this Christmas picture.  It'll eventually end up in chronological order in the album, using this system.  With all the Christmas papers and embellishments now out, it would make sense to scrap the rest of the Christmas pictures, but I'll bet that's not what's going to happen!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Project 41: April

In March, I introduced Project 41, my plan to try each flavor-of-the-month at Baskin Robbins with a different friend as a year-long celebration of my 41st birthday.  Ever since I announced Project 41, people keep asking me what I would do if I didn't like the flavor-of-the-month.  I wasn't too worried about it.  The only flavor that is regularly put in ice cream that I don't like is coffee.  I knew there would be a fairly good chance I'd be eating coffee ice cream at some point this year.  All part of the adventure, I guess.

As it turns out, that adventure came sooner rather than later.  April's flavor: Jamoca Heath, a "combination of coffee-flavored ice cream and crunchy Heath bar candy pieces."  


I can't stand the taste or smell of coffee, but I don't think I'd ever had it in ice cream before. I do love Heath bars though.

I talked with two friends who had commented on my original post that they wanted to join me, but scheduling didn't work out for this month.  As I thought about who else to invite, a former MOMS Club member named Maria popped into my head.  It surprised me.  No offense to Maria, but I hadn't seen her or even really thought about her in about a year.  But I had an overwhelming feeling that she was the friend who should join me.  I sent her an email asking her if she'd join me for ice cream, my treat, but that she couldn't pick the flavor... which, if you think about it, is a pretty weird thing to hear from anyone, let alone someone you knew from a club and haven't talked with in a year.

Fortunately, Maria didn't think I was insane and agreed to meet me.  I'm so glad she did.  We had a wonderful time together.


We talked a lot about my 40 Things, Project 41, and my efforts to Try.  I left feeling great about all that I've accomplished recently and excited about my plans for the future.  She left inspired to create her own lists of adventures and blog about them.  Within a few hours of saying goodbye, she emailed me about her plans for her first adventure.  I can't wait to hear how it goes.  I've already told her to plan on me joining her for at least one!  

So how was the ice cream?  I'm happy to report that we both really liked it!  I was very pleasantly surprised that it didn't taste like coffee at all, but instead it reminded me of a mix of caramel and butterscotch.  The Heath bar was delicious in it.  I definitely recommend it! 


Thanks again to Maria for such a wonderful afternoon!  I'm so excited to see what future months of Project 41 will bring!

Monday, April 15, 2013

My Latest Jewelry Project

A few facts:
  • I am a rabid Scrabble fan. I own 8 boards. Two are for my own use and six were for my classroom and the annual Scrabble tournament I held. I'm keeping all 8 boards, even if I never work as a classroom teacher again.
  • The last time I was in a thrift store, I bought an incomplete set of Scrabble tiles for $1, because a person can never have too many Scrabble tiles.
  • April 13th was International Scrabble Day.
  • Because of International Scrabble Day, Emma Jeffrey challenged all the Fiskateers to make a project incorporating Scrabble.  
  • I can't resist a challenge, especially a Fiskateer challenge.

I decided to make myself a Scrabble necklace. I dug through the tiles and found a C that wasn't too beat up. I used Diamond Glaze to create a nice domed top. When it was dry, I tackled the question of how to mount the tile.  The proper thing to do would have been to use an actual jewelry setting, but I didn't have any and didn't want to wait until I could get to a craft store to buy one.  So I decided to improvise. And for that, I turned to earrings.  

As a teenager in the '80s, I followed the mandatory dress code of pegged pants, multiple pairs of socks, striped polo and/or rugby shirts, and large earrings that matched my socks (which in turn, matched the stripes on my rugby shirt). All my earrings were in divided containers, organized by color. I still have my huge collection. Check out just a few of the fabulous earrings from the pink section.  

 
I dug through my earring collection and struck gold - literally. I found an earring piece without a mate that would work perfectly to mount my Scrabble tile. I used a strong cement to attach it and crossed my fingers. When it was dry, I added an old chain. 



And here it is! My new Scrabble necklace. I absolutely love the way it turned out!


I'm going to wear it during my next game to intimidate my opponent. Of course, my next opponent is probably going to be Trevor, who does not intimidate easily...  

Friday, April 12, 2013

Chocolate Walnut Bars

Recently, we were invited to go to a dinner event for an organization we're considering joining. Minutes before I headed out the door to get Trevor from school on the afternoon of the dinner, I found out that only the entree would be catered and the rest would be potluck. (We'd thought the whole thing was catered.)  While I can't imagine anyone would have turned us away for not bringing a potluck contribution, I absolutely did not want to show up empty-handed.

I dug through the pantry for something I could make in a very short amount of time, with no grocery store visit needed.  The previous time I needed a last-minute potluck item, I made Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars and they were a hit.  While I did have a yellow cake mix on hand, I wondered how the recipe would work if I substituted a chocolate cake mix.

As I mixed up the batter, it didn't seem quite right, as it was extremely thick and stretchy.  I added an extra 1/4 cup of water and that made a big difference.  I put the batter into the pan and crossed my fingers.  

Fortunately, it came out of the oven looking and smelling delicious.  I sprinkled chocolate chips all over the top of the hot cookies, then used a knife to spread the melted chocolate like frosting.  I sprinkled chopped walnuts over the top.



When the chocolate had set, I cut the cookies into bars.

 

So how'd they taste?  Really good!  They had a nice chocolate flavor and a good texture.  If I ever find myself needing another last-minute potluck item and I have chocolate cake mix on hand, I'd definitely make these again.


Chocolate Walnut Bars

                       1 chocolate cake mix             1/2 c. water
                       2 eggs                                   1 package chocolate chips, divided
                       1/4 c. brown sugar                1/2 c. chopped walnuts
                       1/4 c. melted butter


Combine cake mix, eggs, brown sugar, butter and water.  Mix at medium speed for 2 minutes.  Batter will be thick.  Stir in half of the chocolate chips.  Spread batter in a greased 9x13" pan.  Bake for 20 minutes at 375°.  Remove from oven and sprinkle remaining chocolate chips on top.  Return to oven for 2 minutes to melt chocolate.  Remove from oven and use a knife to spread the melted chocolate evenly.  Sprinkle with walnuts.  Cool completely and cut into squares.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Then-and-Now

As I mentioned yesterday, I am a huge fan of layouts that show people doing the same thing over time.  Then-and-Now, or Young-Me-Now-Me, or whatever else you want to call it, I love them!  I just started a new one, but since it isn't done, I'll show you some of the ones I've done in the past.

The first Then-and-Now layout I ever made was Big Boy.  I showed 4-year-old Trevor a picture of himself holding onto our baby gate at 10 months, then snapped a picture of him doing the same thing at age 4.  Thanks to Trouble, we still have our baby gate up, so I'm going to continue to take pictures of Trevor at that gate every few years!



My biggest Then-and-Now undertaking was at my 20th high school reunion.  I brought a picture of seven of us from 8th grade graduation, rounded up 6 of the 7 (the 7th didn't go to our high school), and had another friend take a picture of us in the same position as we'd done 24 years earlier.



Here are two that are more recent.  In Trevor & Grandma, the pictures were taken 5.5 years apart.  In Family Movie Night, the pictures are 4 years apart. 

 
 
While Then-and-Now layouts with a huge timespan between pictures are really fun, you don't have to wait years for an effective Young-Me-Now-Me.  Here's Trevor on the first and last days of kindergarten.  Even though the pictures are only 9 months apart, you can see a lot of changes and growth.

 
The pictures in "Homework" were taken during the 1st and 34th weeks of kindergarten.  Not only can you see a lot of change in Trevor, but if you look closely you can see that the homework has gotten more difficult!

 
 What do you think?  Are you a fan of Then-and-Now?