Christmas Tags, Part 2

Whenever possible, I try to involve Trevor in my crafting.  He loves doing anything artistic and I love sharing my passion for crafts with him.  (Of course, crafting with a 5 year old automatically means the project will take twice as long and result in twice the mess, but that's ok.)  As he's gotten older, I've been introducing him to a wider variety of media and techniques.  On today's agenda: heat embossing.

Trevor was positively giddy.  A chance to try out Mommy's stamps, inks AND the embossing powders he bought me for Mother's Day?  Pure heaven!

We started by using stamping snowflakes onto tags using Versamark, then adding white embossing powder.  He did these steps on his own.  I've mentioned before that I don't have a heat tool, so I heat emboss by holding a hot iron upside down in one hand and carefully holding my item above it with the other hand.  Needless to say, I did not allow Trevor to do this step!

After the embossing was complete, we added ink and Glimmer Mist to the tags to make the snowflakes pop. 

Our final step was add stickers.  Here are our completed tags:

Trevor's are the two on the top and mine are the two on the bottom.  Trevor is SO proud of his.  He can't wait to make more tags and try heat embossing again!


Snowman Gift Tags

I love snowmen.  I have a huge collection of snowmen and always make lots of snowman-inspired crafts before Christmas.  This year, I started off my holiday crafting with snowman gift tags. Aren't they cute?  Other than a lot of drying time, they are very easy to make. Affiliate links below. 

Snowman Gift Tags



Color the top third of each tag to make the snowmen's hats.  No need to do a good job, as you're just providing a base color for the Stickles. 

Paint a layer of Stickles over the ink. Use the black Enamel Accents to create the snowmen's faces, being careful not to touch the wet Stickles. Set the tags aside to dry.

In the meantime, cut triangle noses from orange cardstock. Apply a layer of orange Stickles and set aside to dry.

When the tags and noses are dry to the touch, use Pop Dots to put the noses in place. 

Apply Snow-Tex (a textured paint that looks like faux snow) to the edges of the hats. Set the tags aside until they are completely dry.

Add cording and attach to a gift. All done and super cute!


Tis the Season of Advent

Happy Advent! For those who don't know, Advent started yesterday, November 27. (It always starts on the 4th Sunday before December 25th and is the first day of the church calendar.) During the season of Advent, Christians prepare for the celebration of Jesus' birth. The season is marked by the color purple or dark blue, representing hope. Advent ends when Christmas begins.

Cute hand-crafted Advent calendars are popping up all over the web. I love Advent calendars. I love Advent.

I've actually never made an Advent calendar, though I've made plenty of Advent wreaths and chains over the years. Since Trevor was born, we've had both an Advent chain and an Advent calendar in our house. We start the Advent chain on the first day of Advent (yesterday) and use a commercial Advent calendar starting on December 1 (this year he's getting the LEGO Advent calendar).

Here is Trevor with his Advent chain. We cut construction paper into 8" x 1" strips- yellow for Christmas (at the top), dark blue for the Sundays of Advent, and then alternate red and green for the rest of the chain. 

While we start our Advent chain on the first Sunday of Advent, I have no problem with commercial Advent calendars starting on December 1 (even though Advent can start anywhere from November 27 - December 3). It's convenient, easy to remember, and means that the calendars can be used during any year. But do you know what drives me crazy? Absolutely nuts? When businesses, blog authors, etc. celebrate "The Twelve Days of Christmas" from December 1-12. Why do they do this?! Christmas is not the 1st, the 12th or any date in between. Christmas is a 12-day season that starts on December 25 and ends on Epiphany, January 6. December 1-12 is part of Advent, not Christmas! Aargh!

Thanks for indulging my rant. I feel better.

Tomorrow I'm going to share a tutorial for making adorable (if I do say so myself!) snowman gift tags. Happy Advent to you!


Our Giving Tree

In the spirit of giving, Lead Fiskateer Angela Daniels challenged the Fiskateers to create a "Giving Tree" in our yards, decorated with edible ornaments for local wildlife.  I loved the idea and knew that Trevor would be thrilled.  I decided we'd do a play on the classic pinecone smeared in peanut butter and rolled in birdseed. 

We gathered supplies: a slice of bread, a cookie cutter, a straw, yarn, a knife, peanut butter, and sunflower seeds.

We used the cookie cutter to cut a star shape from the bread, reserving the negative to create a second ornament.  We used the straw to punch a hole in the star shape, then added yarn to both of our ornaments. 

Trevor carefully spread peanut butter on the bread, then sprinkled on the sunflower seeds.  We pressed the seeds on so they were secure, turned the ornaments over, and repeated on the other side.

We selected our tree and hung up our ornaments.

So pretty and such a fun craft!  We'll definitely be adding to our Giving Tree over the next few weeks.


Happy Thanksgiving!

Every year, our playgroup has a potluck Thanksgiving Feast for lunch on the Monday before Thanksgiving. Each family signs up to bring one traditional Thanksgiving item, but with a kid-friendly twist. So instead of turkey with gravy, we might have turkey roll-ups. Instead of mashed potatoes, we have tater tots.  

This year, I signed up for cranberries. Each year I've chosen a different item to force myself not to make the same thing I've done before. I didn't want to do something that anyone else had done before either, so I Googled "cranberry treat." All I got was about a thousand articles about using cranberry juice to treat urinary tract infections.

I had much more success with "cranberry dessert." One caught my eye immediately: Frozen Cranberry Treat. It sounded delicious, kid-friendly, and definitely something we'd never had at our Feast. Other than needing to be frozen overnight, it was quick and easy. Can't beat that!

I cut a sample slice to photograph before racing off to the Feast. Other than the obvious marks from the serrated knife I used (lesson learned), isn't it gorgeous? And it tastes even better than it looks.

Here is the recipe as I made it, followed almost exactly from Cooking from Scratch. (Which, by the way, is an awesome blog. So glad I found it!)

Frozen Cranberry Treat

                                    4 oz cream cheese                                          1 c. heavy whipping cream
                                   16 oz whole cranberry sauce                         1/3 c. powdered sugar
                                    8 oz crushed pineapple, drained                  1 tsp. vanilla

Let the cream cheese sit until room temperature. Beat for one minute until smooth and light. Stir in cranberry sauce and pineapple. In a separate bowl, combine the heavy cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla. Whip until it forms soft peaks. Fold into the cranberry mixture.

Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap and pour the mixture in. Smooth the top and cover with another piece of plastic wrap. Freeze overnight. Unmold and cut into slices. Serve immediately.


The Paperclipping Roundtable

My favorite part of my Wednesday morning routine is listening to a scrapbook podcast called The Paperclipping Roundtable.  It was started by Noell and Izzy Hyman of Paperclipping fame.

Each week, Noell and co-host Nancy Nally invite one or more guests to chat about a topic related to scrapbooking.  Recent topics have covered scrapping the 1980's, stamping, and blending family history with scrapbooking.  Every show is interesting, funny and very informative.  They've had a huge variety of guests in their 90+ episodes, each bringing such a different perspective to the show.  And it's completely free!

If you're a scrapbooker, I'd strongly recommend The Paperclipping Roundtable!


"Ask Cindy"- Reading Blogs

I recently attended a scrapbook night with my MOMS Club friends.  We had a discussion about reading blogs, following blogs and subscribing to blogs.  They had a lot of good questions, which means others must too, so I'll do my best to answer them here.

I'm certainly not an expert, so if any of you have something to add or correct, please do so in the comments.  Because I blog with Blogger, all my answers relate to Blogger.  Other blogging platforms might do things a bit differently.

*Cindy, is there an easy way to read a blog?  I hate having to type in the address each time.

 If you read less than 5 blogs (like my mom, who reads exactly 1 blog), the easiest way to read them is by subscribing via email.  Any time there is a new blog post, it will be delivered to your inbox.  You can read it there, or click on it to go to the blog.  You'll never miss a blog post and you'll never need to manually type in an address.

To subscribe to a blog, find the place where it says "Subscribe via email" and enter your address.  A surprising number of bloggers do not make it easy to find this!  Mine is on the right hand side, below the "Categories." (See bottom arrow.)

*What if I want to read more blogs than that?  I don't want my inbox all clogged up.

If you read a lot of blogs, I strongly recommend Google Reader.  It manages all the blogs you read and allows you to see at a glance if there is any content you haven't read. 

To use a reader, find the place on a blog where it says "Subscribe in a reader" or "RSS" or "Atom."  (See top arrow in above picture.)  All of these will then give you the choice to subscribe in a reader or on the homepage.  I prefer the reader.  With it, I'm able to read hundreds (yes, literally) of blogs in less time than I used to read several dozen.

Here's a screenshot of my Google Reader:

On the left, you can see that the blogs I read are listed in alphabetical order.  The ones with unread content have a number next to them.  When I open one, the content shows on the right and the title of the blog is highlighted in red.  I have my own blog listed in my Reader so that I can be sure the feed is pulled and sent to my subscribers each day.

*What is RSS?  I see that everywhere!

RSS is a format to deliver web content that changes (for example, a blog that is updated).  The acronym stands for a bunch of different things, depending on who you ask.  I've seen Rich Site Summary, Really Simple Syndication, and RDF Site Summary.

*What does it mean to Follow a blog?

Every blog gives you the opportunity to become a Follower.  Basically, this means you are interested in the blog and would like to have an easy way to return in the future.  You can follow a blog publicly (in which case your screen name will be listed on the blog) or privately.  When you become a Follower in Blogger, the blogs you follow will show up in your Reader.

To follow a blog, either find the "Follow" button on the home page of the blog, or go up to the very very top, above the blog's header, and you'll find a skinny bar with "Follow" as one of the options.  Click either one and it will ask you if you want to follow publicly or privately.  It is perfectly safe to follow publicly, so I'd recommend that.

I hope that answers everyone's questions!  If not, or you have other questions, I'll answer them in an upcoming post.


Coloring Eggs

Ah, nothing like coloring traditional Thanksgiving Eggs! 

No, I'm just kidding.  This picture is from Easter.  I used this sketch from Shannon White.  I love the little string of hearts and knew it would be super cute with a row of eggs.  I liked the stitching detail so I "stitched" (drew) a line of zig-zag stitches across my eggs. 

A layout with only one photo- pretty much unheard of for me!


"Ask Cindy" - Holiday Gift Giving

Today I begin an exciting new feature on the blog called "Ask Cindy."  In it, I will answer made-up questions that someone theoretically could have asked me, but didn't.  In the event that someone asks me real questions, I'll answer those in a future "Ask Cindy."  Today's topic is holiday gift giving.

Q: Cindy, I need a Secret Santa gift for a scrapbooker.  I don't know anything about scrapbooking.  The limit is $20.  What can I get?

A: An excellent question!  It can be risky to guess what tools a scrapper has, so I always recommend giving consumables.  Any scrapper would love getting an assortment of Stickles or Glimmer Mists.  There are literally hundreds of colors to choose from, so you could give a fun selection of colors and quite possibly not repeat any your scrapper already has.  If you do happen to give her one she already has, it's fine because she probably goes through her favorite colors often.

Q:  Cindy, the scrapper on my list is into the latest and greatest.  Is there a hot new tool this season?

A:  Yes, and it's fairly inexpensive!  I'm seeing the We R Memory Keepers Sew Ribbon everywhere and it is getting great reviews.  It's just hitting stores now, so your scrapper probably doesn't have one yet.  Each is selling around $15 and there are six different designs.  You could pick up some cute rolls of ribbon and put together a gift a scrapper would love to get. 

Q: Cindy, the scrapper on my list has mentioned several paper manufacturers that she likes, but the names don't mean anything to me.  There's no scrapbook store near me, so is it ok if I just go to my local HugeMart and buy some random paper?  I mean, paper is paper, right?

A: NO!  All paper is NOT created equally.  Please do not assume that your scrapper would want random paper from the HugeMart.  She might, but if she's mentioned certain brands, she'd appreciate receiving those.  There are many excellent places to shop online, including scrapbook.com, which has an easy search feature that allows you to type in brand names.

Q: Cindy, can you recommend one go-to tool that would make a great gift?  

A:  You can't go wrong with a punch from Fiskars.  The quality is outstanding and their customer service is incredible.  I am very picky about what punches I'm willing to store in my limited space.  I use Fiskars' Scalloped Border Punch constantly! 

Q: Cindy, I would like to buy you a gift.  Do you have a wishlist somewhere?

A: Well yes, and thank you so much for asking!  I maintain a wishlist at scrapbook.com.  I also put scrapbook items on my Amazon.com list.


Oatmeal Scotchies

Nestle's Oatmeal Scotchies are probably my all-time favorite cookie.  This is saying a lot, as I absolutely LOVE cookies.  When I make them, I follow the recipe exactly.  That is notable as I almost never follow recipes at all, other than as a general guideline.  Even when baking, I'm far more likely to tweak things than to do things 'correctly', step by step.  But Oatmeal Scotchies are so good that they need no improvement!

However, this time I started making the cookies without realizing that we didn't have the full amount of butterscotch chips required.  I didn't want my cookies to have inadequate amounts of butterscotch chips, so I made the batter as directed, split it in half, and added half the required amount of chips to one half of the dough. 

What to add to the other half?  I dug around in the pantry and found white chocolate chips and Craisins.  The resulting cookie was delicious!  Not as good as Oatmeal Scotchies, but definitely fantastic.


Disney Name Art

Back in July, I posted some of the Disney name art that I made.  For a couple of months, I've been mulling over how to mount those images for us to use for our Disney scavenger hunt.  I decided to glue the names to black cardstock and then put a large eyelet to the left of the name.  I was then able to hang them from a binder ring.  Each family group has their own binder ring.  The top ring is for my sister Kari, brother-in-law Brian, and nephew Timothy.  The bottom ring is for my parents, Dave and Kathy.

Of course, I also made a set for us.  I'm looking forward to using them during our next Disneyland trip.  I'll let you know how they hold up to actual use!


Privacy vs. Sharing Layouts Online

When I finished a layout about Trevor's first day of kindergarten, I was really excited to share it online.  I love how it turned out, especially the way I used a photo of the School Crossing sign as part of the title.  Then I stopped.  Did I really want to post a layout with a picture of Trevor's school with its name prominently featured?

Deciding how much to share online is an incredibly personal decision.  Some scrapbookers post absolutely everything.  Look through their online galleries and you can learn their children's full names, where they go to school, their daily schedule, their address, and how long their house will be empty as they go on their annual 4th of July vacation.  This scares me a little.  I'm a little more cautious about what I post online.

I made the decision to post the kindergarten layout, but first I blurred out the name of Trevor's school.  

When I posted the layout about my frequently misspelled name, I blurred out my address on each of the labels.  I even blurred out the ones from a house where I no longer live and a school where I no longer work.  It's not that hard to find out where I live, but I figure that I shouldn't make it any easier for someone who might have nefarious intentions. 

For the first 3 years of Trevor's life, I did not post any layouts that included his full name.  I did not use my real last name for anything online.  For that reason, I never posted this layout about Trevor appearing in the newspaper at age 2.  As I've become involved with Design Teams and my real name was linked to my work, I realized it was futile to hide Trevor's last name.  So here's a layout from 2008, which is appearing online for the first time:

So what don't I post?  I don't post my address or phone number.  I don't show the last names of other people's children unless they've told me it's ok.  I don't post anything specific about our daily schedule.  We don't take annual trips over a specific date, but if we did, I certainly wouldn't post anything that references when our house would be empty each year.  (For that matter, I never talk online about an upcoming vacation.  I only mention it once we've returned.)  Basically, I don't post anything that I wouldn't mind the whole world seeing.

What are your thought about privacy vs. sharing layouts online?


Photographing Cards

I have a lot to learn about photography.  While I feel like I know how to compose a good photo, I know very little about how to translate my vision to a well-taken photograph.  I've read quite a bit about the basics and have done a lot of experimenting with the manual mode of my little point-and-shoot, but I'm just barely learning how much there is I don't know.

I usually scan my layouts, but I prefer to photograph cards.  Since I often use dimensional elements on cards (and almost never do on layouts), a photograph is a better way of showing off a card.  Except my pictures always looked flat and distorted.  I couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong. 

So I finally asked my husband for help.  Steve is a very knowledgeable photographer and immediately identified my main problem.  After putting the card in the light tent, I was standing very close and using the macro setting, which led to distortion.  He told me to back way up and use the zoom.  The difference was immediately apparent.  This photo won't win any awards for Excellence in Card Photography, but it's one of the better pictures I've taken of a card, especially considering that it was taken on a dark, rainy day:

I showed Steve a few blogs I follow that have excellent card photography.  He noticed something they had in common and gave me another suggestion.  Look closely at the back of this card:

See the way the back is ever-so-slightly elevated?  A lot of the best pictures had that in common.  Steve had an idea to test.  Here's a side view.  Propping the card up on a very thin Lego both keeps it stable and creates dimension in the photograph. 

Two little changes and already my card photography is improved.


An Open Letter to Inventors

Dear Inventors of Products for Scrapbookers,

As I've been adding things to my Christmas wishlist, I can't help but notice that some of the things I want most of all do not appear to exist. I'd really appreciate your help. Would you please make the following items in time for the holidays?

*A 12x12 scanner
     I know that you must not think this is cost-effective to make, but I swear to you that thousands and thousands of scrapbookers will buy one.  Please.  If a 12x12 scanning bed isn't feasible, can you at least make one with that's 12 inches in one direction, so I only have to scan twice instead of four times before stitching?  Most scanners already have an 11.5 inch bed- could you just make one 0.5 inch longer?

*Self-sharpening blades on all trimmers and electronic cutters
     I have had a self-sharpening Fiskars guillotine trimmer for years.  It does not get dull.  I love it.  It is incredibly irritating that the blades in my my other trimmer and my electronic cutter get dull so quickly.  Could you please be the one who invents a self-sharpening blade for other applications beyond the guillotine trimmer?

(Self sharpening blade.  Awesome.)

*Adhesive that starts out temporary and becomes permanent over time
     If such a thing exists, I have not found it.  I want to be able to apply an adhesive, put the element down in the correct spot, move it if I make a mistake, and then leave it in place once it's perfect and have it there permanently.  I do not want to use temporary adhesive, put it in the correct spot, then lift it off, add permanent adhesive, and hope I put it back in exactly the right place.

*Ink that can be erased with a special tool
     I love the look and ease of stamping, but hate that it is so easy to mess up a project with my lousy stamping skills.  I want an ink that I can erase if I mess up, but that will stay permanently if I happen to stamp it correctly the first time.  I'm thinking there would be a special tool that would erase the ink so that there wouldn't be any accidental erasing or smearing. 

                                                                                           Cindy deRosier


Another Use for Foam Dots

When I make cards, I frequently use foam dots (affiliate link) to pop up an element on the card. Here's one of many sheets of dots that live in my adhesives basket.  

Years ago, I used to throw out the sheet when I used up all the dots. Then I realized I should save the unused parts to cut apart to make pop-up strips for larger items. Now I've discovered another purpose for used-up sheets of foam dots.

They make a perfect template for rows of Stickles!  Here's a card I made using that technique. Check out the perfectly even dots of Stickles on the background cardstock.

"A friend is a treasure more precious than gold." Happy 30th birthday Courteney!

Expect to see many more dotted Stickles backgrounds from me in the future!


Rice Chowder

As I've mentioned before, I'm cooking my way through several decades' worth of recipes I've torn out of magazines. I decided to try a recipe called "Wild Rice Chowder." Well.... I started out with the good intentions of actually following the recipe, but that was immediately foiled when the grocery store didn't have wild rice. They had rice blends that included wild rice, but no stand-alone wild rice.  At that point, all hopes of following the recipe were over. You can't make something called "Wild Rice Chowder" with no wild rice. 

So I made up my own recipe that was loosely inspired by the original. VERY loosely. Here's what I made. It was SO good. Definitely a new family favorite.

Rice Chowder

                                       1 T. oil                                                         1 c. water
                                       3 oz. ham, chopped                                 4 c. vegetable broth
                                       1 stalk celery, chopped                            2 T. flour
                                       3 carrots, chopped                                   2 c. milk
                                       1 garlic clove, minced                              1 c. swiss chard, chopped
                                       1/2 c. uncooked rice                                1 oz. Parmesan cheese

Heat oil in a large pot. Add ham, celery, and carrots. Saute over medium high heat about 8 minutes.  Add garlic and rice; saute 2 minutes. Pour in water, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low. Cover and cook 15 minutes. Combine flour and milk, whisking thoroughly.  Add to soup.  Cook uncovered for 10 minutes.  Add swiss chard and cook for 5 more minutes.  Ladle into bowls; top with grated Parmesan cheese.


Why I Don't Believe in Providing Patterns When Kids Craft

I've briefly mentioned before that I do not provide kids with patterns when making crafts. There is a time and a place for patterns... sewing, for example, where the fit of a garment matters. Patterns are great when you want every project to turn out exactly the same, but that isn't what I want when teaching crafts to kids. Half of the fun is seeing how each person's turns out. Back in my teaching days, my class of 5th graders would produce 32 different projects that reflected their unique personalities. Walk into a classroom where the kids used a pattern on a project and you'll know it immediately.

But surely that only applies to older kids, like 5th graders, right? Absolutely not. I introduced Trevor to scissors at age 2 (safety scissors, of course) and helped him learn how to cut basic shapes. Now that he is 5, his motor skills have improved and he is more competent with the scissors. When we do a craft, I show him what the general shape should be, demonstrate how I cut mine, then give him the freedom to create. Sometimes he is frustrated with his motor skills and feels like he didn't cut it the way he wanted it to look; in that case, I provide him with more paper to try again. 

Here are the pandas that we made in May. Trevor's (age 4) is on the left. Mine is on the right. Notice how different they are. If I'd provided Trevor with templates to cut nice round eyes or a triangle nose, he would have never created his awesome panda. I love his. In fact, just about everyone who feels comfortable being honest with me said that Trevor's is cuter. My mom told me that mine looks deranged! 

Here are some monkeys we made, also in May. Again, Trevor's (age 4) is on the left and mine is on the right. Trevor really liked mine and wanted to trace the pieces so that his could be the same. I told him that he had to make his own first, then he could trace mine if he wanted to make another one. Well, wouldn't you know it... he cut his freehand, loved the results, and chose not to trace mine. 

And here are the turkeys that we just made. Trevor's (age 5) is on the left; mine is on the right. I had Trevor sketch out the basic shapes of the turkey body parts on the back of the construction paper, then make any modifications until he was happy. He then cut around his sketched shapes. It would have been faster to give him a pattern to trace, but speed is definitely not the goal. He's far more proud of his turkey knowing that he did the whole thing 100% on his own. 


Coffee Filter Turkeys

Time to start crafting for Thanksgiving!   This is one of my all-time favorite crafts.  You will need: a coffee filter, a few colors of Folk Art acrylic paint (diluted with water to a thin consistency), paper towels, and construction paper.  You'll also need scissors, glue and a black pen.

Step 1: Flatten the coffee filter, then fold it in half.  Continue folding it in half four more times.

Step 2: Dip just the tip of the folded coffee filter into one color of paint.  Remove it quickly- if the paint is sufficiently diluted, it will travel quickly up the filter.

Step 3: Dip the other two tips into two other colors.

Step 4: Put the wet coffee filters onto a few layers of paper towels, then set them aside.

Step 5: While the coffee filters are drying, use the brown construction paper to cut a turkey body (approximately the size and shape of a pear) and two turkey wings (leaf shapes). Use the yellow construction paper to cut two feet (I like whimsical upside-down t's) and a beak (a small diamond, folded in half). Use the red construction paper to cut a tiny waddle.

Step 6: Carefully unfold the coffee filters to reveal the designs. Every one is completely different and they are all beautiful. Set the moist coffee filters back on the paper towels and leave them undisturbed until they are completely dry. Obviously, this depends on temperature, humidity, and how dilute your paint was. Ours were dry in an hour.

Step 7: Assemble the finished art by gluing the coffee filter to a piece of construction paper, then layering the feet, body, wings, waddle, and beak on top. Trevor had the idea of tearing a piece of brown patterned paper to make a hill for the turkey to stand on, so we did that.

Step 8: Use a black pen to add eyes.


Aren't they adorable? I did this craft with my fourth and fifth graders every year. I taught over 400 kids and every single one of their turkeys looked different.