Merry Christmas!

I hope you are all having a wonderful day, regardless of how (or if) you celebrate! It's time to announce the winner of my 1000 post giveaway. Congratulations to ....

Please email me at cindy.derosier at gmail.com and I'll get your Scrapbook.com gift certificate!

I'll be taking the next few days off from blogging to enjoy time with family and to get caught up with life. See you in 2015!


Thank You Cards

I've written before about our family's tradition of opening the presents to each other on December 23rd. We keep the calendar clear, then spend the day relaxing and enjoying our new stuff together before our whirlwind visits to both sides of the family begin. It works out really well for us.

This year, Trevor and I spent part of December 23 making thank-you cards. Before last year, we'd always made our cards after returning home from Christmas celebrations with family. It was hectic and hard to pull Trevor away from his new toys. Last year, we realized that making the cards before Christmas is absolutely the way to go. (See the 2013 Reindeer Handprint Cards here.) That way they're ready to write and send after all our Christmas visits are done.

Trevor chose a very simple design this year that shows off his new skills in cursive writing. Here are a few of my favorites:


If you haven't already done so, there is still time to leave a comment on this post for a chance to win a Scrapbook.com gift card. Hurry - I'll be choosing a winner first thing tomorrow!


Thoughts on Stamps

Postage stamps, that is.

When I was a kid, I collected stamps. My grandparents traveled a lot and would bring me stamps from around the world, plus they had a travel agent friend who would save me all her canceled stamps. My parents got me a subscription to receive the First Day of Issue stamps from the US Postal Service. I checked out books from the library to learn more about my stamps and the countries they came from. I was even in a kids' stamp collecting club for awhile. 

I loved getting new stamps and I loved carefully soaking and drying canceled stamps. I loved checking maps to see how far my stamps had traveled and I loved seeing the way other countries spelled their names on their stamps. I loved putting the stamps in my album and I loved going back and looking at the ones I had. 

But more than anything, I loved seeing the different colors, designs, and images on stamps. Every stamp was a work of art. Lots of countries featured beautiful flowers, landscapes, animals, and things like that. Many had featured a country's ruler or leader. I was especially fascinated by the countries who would honor American entertainers or athletes or even cartoon characters on their stamps. It seemed so strange that a country on the other side of the planet would randomly issue a Donald Duck stamp, for example. I learned a lot from my stamps. Did you know that the Rubik's Cube was invented by a Hungarian man or that the first Rubik's Cube World Championship was in Hungary in 1982? 

My stamp collection is at my parents' house. I haven't looked at it in years. But I've been thinking about it the past few weeks. It only occurred to me recently that by saving and organizing stamps, I was actually collecting art on a scale that was small enough and affordable enough for a kid. My stamp album was my own personal art gallery, where I could sort and rearrange and organize tiny works of art.


As usual, I bought holiday stamps to put on my Christmas cards this year. Usually, there is at least one secular set that I love, plus a religious set based on famous paintings. This year, I liked the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer set and the Winter Fun set, so I bought them both. 

It wasn't until I started putting stamps on envelopes that I saw a design flaw of sorts that I'd never noticed on a stamp before. Look at the Rudolph stamps. They're really cute as a group of four, but that's not the way they appear on an envelope. The Hermey and Bumble stamps are fine, but both Rudolph and Santa are facing strongly to the right. When they're on their own on an envelope in the upper right-hand corner, they lead the eye right off the side rather than to the address. That's a big no-no in graphic design. The Winter Fun stamps all face left, except for the couple who are headed right off the edge of the envelope.

I realize that stamps are primarily functional and that it doesn't especially matter if a stamp leads the eye off the side. But considering how much effort is put into creating beautiful stamps many times a year, I'm a bit surprised that this wouldn't be a consideration. I'm dying to look back through my huge stamp collection and see how often stamp subjects face left, right or center.  Stay tuned...


Owl Pet Rock

I did end up making an owl from my final pre-painted rock leftover from our Cub Scout Geology Night

Materials: rock (primed with gesso, then painted brown), brown felt, orange felt, googly eyes

Cut the brown felt into a matching pair of teardrops and adhere them on the sides of the rock. Glue the eyes in place, then add a small triangle beak. Cut talons and add them at the bottom. Done!


Meet the Newest Member of...

... the Craft and Hobby Association!

I am officially a Creative Professional! For years, it's been a goal of mine for years to turn my crafting hobby into a profession. Having my own CHA membership is the ultimate sign that I have moved from hobbyist to being in the industry. I am thrilled.

Over the years, I have worked for a handful of CHA members. But working for a CHA member is completely different than being a member in my own right. This is the direction I've been wanting to go. With each job I've been offered, I've thought carefully about how (or if) it would help me towards my goal. I put off applying for CHA membership until I was sure that my credentials were strong enough and that I was at the point that the membership would have benefit and meaning to me beyond just attending their awesome trade show. I'm there. It's so exciting.

I'm hurriedly making arrangements to attend the CHA Mega Show in Anaheim. It starts just 3 weeks from today. I absolutely cannot wait! Will any of you be attending? I'm starting to put together my schedule and I want to be sure to block in times to get together with as many friends as possible!


Creative Ways to Give Money as a Gift

'Tis the season for gift giving! But what can you give that your recipients are guaranteed to want and need, will fit perfectly, is just their taste, and costs exactly what you want to spend? Money, of course!

"But giving money is tacky and not very thoughtful!" you might say. Well sure, handing someone a wad of money might be considered tacky by some (though not all- feel free to hand me money) and doesn't necessarily show that much thought. That's why I like putting a creative spin on giving the gift of money. I've been working on some new ideas (which I can't reveal until the gifts are given on Christmas) that have me ridiculously excited. I cannot wait to share. In the meantime, here are seven (and counting!) creative, thoughtful, and non-tacky ways to give money as a gift.


$$$ Paper Money $$$

1. Make a Cardboard Tube Dollar Bill Dispenser.

3. Spell a Name with Dollar Bills and frame it. 

4. Make a Knitting Kit (or anything else that would be hilariously inappropriate for the recipient).

5. Hide Money in a Pop-Top Can. This works equally well with coins, gift cards, event tickets, etc.

¢¢¢ Coins ¢¢¢

1. Bake a Money Cake.

2. Put Money in Homemade Soap.


More money-giving ideas after the Christmas gifts are opened! 


Wire + Washi

Yesterday, I shared the yarn-wrapped wire projects Trevor and I made. Watching him wrap the base of his Christmas tree with yarn inspired me to try doing the same thing with washi tape. 

I started by choosing a holly leaf cookie cutter. I bent the wire around the cookie cutter, then secured the end and trimmed the excess.

Then I tore strips of washi tape and wrapped them around the wire.

I added a piece of coordinating cardstock to the sticky area in the back. Then I put a strip of red washi tape on a small cardstock scrap and punched three holly berries. I added them to the holly leaf with pop dots. Check it out:

I used the same procedure to make a star, only this time I didn't cut off the excess wire.

Leaving the extra wire meant that I could stick my star into a houseplant and brighten up my snowman display.

Trevor started by making a T. He punched a hole through the washi tape and added a loop of yarn as a hanger.

Then he made the most adorable rabbit. He bent the wire, wrapped it with silver polka dot washi tape, added a pink washi nose, and drew in the facial features. It looks so cute on our tree.

Trevor and I had so much fun experimenting with a craft we'd never tried. I'm totally inspired to dig through the craft room and pull out some random things and see what we can create.


Wires + Yarn

Any Restaurant: Impossible fans? We watched the Holiday: Impossible episode a few days ago. In it, Robert Irvine and his team helped remake the dining hall at the Double H Ranch, a camp for kids with life-threatening illnesses. Part of the new design included inspirational words that the campers made by bending wire, then wrapping it with colorful yarn.

Trevor was enthralled. He desperately wanted to try making yarn-wrapped wire designs. So we did. I dug through the craft room and came up with a package of 20-gauge floral wire. We experimented with bending the wire into legible words (not as easy as it seemed), creating recognizable shapes (easier), and making free-form designs that didn't look like anything specific (very easy). We picked a few of our favorites and tried wrapping them with yarn. Once again, not as easy as it seemed. More experimentation. 

Eventually, we realized that it was MUCH easier to wrap the wire with yarn first, tie off the ends, and then bend it into shape. To make this heart, I held red and white yarn together and wrapped them simultaneously around the straight piece of wire, tied them off, then bent the wire into a heart shape. I twisted the extra length of wire around itself to secure the shape and form a handle.   

It looks really pretty on our tree.

Trevor was determined to spell his name. He wrapped a piece of wire with color-changing yarn and then shaped it into his name. He left the tied ends long. 

Next, Trevor wrapped a piece of wire with red and green yarn. He bent it into a Christmas tree shape, then secured the ends by wrapping brown around the bottom. He glued a yellow wooden star to the top. 

Watching him make the tree trunk gave me an idea. I'll share that tomorrow.


Wax-Resist Snow Scenes

I came across a tutorial for beautiful oil pastel and watercolor snow scenes last week at Kids Artists. It struck me that this would be an excellent craft using my beloved warming tray. Here's how mine turned out:

Here's Trevor's. He added a fun snowball fight in the foreground.

Materials: white paper (heavier weight is best), Sharpie, warming tray, crayons, blue paint, paper towel

While the warming tray is heating up, draw a wavy line across the paper with a Sharpie. Add whimsical triangle-shaped trees with gifts underneath. Keep the details large enough to color with crayons. When the design is complete, move it to the warming tray.

Color in the design with peeled crayons. The wax melts just enough to give a smooth, vibrant color. Leave the bottom snow area uncolored. Dot the sky area with a white crayon.

The wax cools immediately as soon as the paper is removed from the warming tray. Prepare the paint. If you have liquid watercolors, use that. Otherwise, water down blue acrylic paint until it resembles watercolor paint.

Paint horizontal strokes across the artwork, avoiding the white area at the bottom. Immediately wipe across the design  with a paper towel to remove the paint from the wax-covered areas. Let it dry and then display your finished artwork.

I've hit a milestone today! This is my 1000th post here at My Creative Life. Time for a giveaway! Let me know what you like to see here (scrapbook layouts, cards, kid's crafts, recipes and cooking competitions, party plans, etc.) or what you think I should add to make the site even better. On Christmas Day, I'll pick a winner to receive a $20 gift card to Scrapbook.com. 


Project 41+

This was supposed to be my year to Discover 42, but that hasn't been going as well as I'd hoped. I haven't been nearly as motivated to work on it as my 40 Things or Project 41. I still have four more months, so I might finish up some of the activities I'd planned. Or I might not. No pressure, as this is my year to Enjoy.

As part of my quest to Enjoy, I have taken back up with a family version of Project 41, which I've nicknamed Project 41+. While the main goal of Project 41 was to connect with a different friend each month over ice cream, this year I've been treating myself to Baskin-Robbins' Flavor of the Month with Steve and/or Trevor. It's been a fun little way to enjoy time with them. I've already mentioned March and April's Project 41+, so I'll start with May.

May's Flavor of the Month was called Mom's Makin' Cookies, which featured "brown sugar-flavored ice cream filled with chocolate chip cookie pieces, chocolate-flavored chips, and a delicious cookie dough batter ribbon." Sounds fantastic, right? Sadly, I can only assume it is fantastic. We headed to our local Baskin-Robbins at the beginning of the month to try it, but they were already sold out. Over the next few weeks, we checked every Baskin-Robbins around. They were all sold out. Steve and I even checked the Baskin-Robbins in the Santa Cruz area during our anniversary trip. No Mom's Makin' Cookies to be had anywhere. Very disappointing.

When June rolled around and Baskin-Robbins announced Triple Chocolate as the Flavor of the Month, I knew that I wanted to invite our friend Justin to join us so that we could compare Triple Chocolate with the incredibly underwhelming Triple Vanilla that we'd had together a year earlier. Unfortunately, travels, illness, and the usual June insanity of Trevor's birthday, graduations, the county fair, Cub Scout day camp and everything else meant that I didn't try Triple Chocolate.

July's Flavor of the Month was Oreo 'N Cake Batter. (Does it drive anyone else crazy when someone spells "And" as 'N with an apostrophe holding the place of the A but not of the D?) By now, I hadn't tried the past two Flavors of the Month and I'd decided Project 41+ was officially over. I didn't make any special effort to make it to Baskin-Robbins.

On August 1, Baskin-Robbins announced the return of Oreo Nutty Salted Caramel as the Flavor of the Month. I'd ranked it my favorite from the previous year, so I was definitely interested in having it again. However, medical problems stopped me from making ice cream a priority. On August 2, I blacked out while driving on the freeway and spent much of the rest of the month doing every imaginable test to find out why. After ruling out a brain tumor, epilepsy, and other conditions, I was diagnosed with acephalgic migraines. In other words, I was having severe migraine symptoms without an actual headache. My episodes of total blindness were lasting from 5 to 30 minutes. I would get about 5-10 seconds of wavy lines as a warning that total blindness was coming. Terrifying.

I spent most of September doing further tests, working with my doctors to find the correct medications and dosages to help me, freaking out about the possibility of blindness striking me unexpectedly at any minute, and preparing for our epic trip to Canada. Obviously, I'd stopped driving, as blindness and driving are not a good mix. I had no time or interest in the September Flavor of the Month, Pumpkin Cheesecake. I like pumpkin and I like cheesecake, but not necessarily together and not necessarily as ice cream. The month passed by without me giving it a second thought.

October was a different story. For years, Trevor and I have gone together to eat October's Trick Oreo Treat. It's become one of our favorite October traditions. I still wasn't driving by then, but a friend took us so that we could enjoy our tradition.

By November, my medications were working and I'd gone long enough without an episode that I was confident enough to start driving very short distances. I took Trevor to the Baskin-Robbins 2.9 miles from our house to enjoy First Class Camouflage. It was a major accomplishment.

It was delicious. But even better than the ice cream was starting to get my life back again. Baby steps. 

I'm doing much better now. I'm dealing with side effects from my medicines and I am still very nervous about driving more than about 5 miles, especially in rain or darkness. But the medications are working and I'm very optimistic. 

A few days ago, Trevor and I headed to Baskin-Robbins for December's Flavor of the Month, York Peppermint Pattie. 

It was fantastic. It might be my new all-time favorite.

I've learned a lot about myself through this whole medical crisis and am continuing to learn more all the time. It's hard to say that anything good came of what might have been the most terrifying experience of my life, but I make it a point to look for the bright side whenever possible. Through this, I've come to better appreciate how wonderful my friends and family are. I've learned how to ask for (and accept) help. I've realized how blessed I am by fantastic doctors, modern medicine, and decent medical insurance. I've gained a greater understanding of what people with health challenges, especially hidden ones, face. I've been reminded that something as small as driving to the ice cream shop and enjoying a cone with your son can be huge.


Holiday Mode

I'm writing this on Tuesday. According to the forecasts, we're going to be hit by The Storm of the Decade Thursday, when this is scheduled to run. We're high enough that we won't have flooding, but I'm preparing for the possibility we might not have power. Fingers crossed that everything is fine and everyone stays safe.

We're in major holiday-mode around here. We have piles of gifts that need wrapping, crafts that need completing, and cards that need addressing. Trevor just finished making about 30 gift tags.

I've finished my big project of organizing my kids' craft tutorials by holiday and season. There is now a Holiday Crafts tab at the top of my blog. I currently have 23 Christmas and/or winter craft tutorials linked there.

And, as always, my kids' craft tutorials are listed alphabetically by subject on the Children's Crafts from A-Z page. There's a huge variety of crafts there, but if you're ever searching for a craft about something specific and can't find it, let me know and I'll see what I can do! I love a good challenge. 


Snowman Pencil Topper

Recognize this guy? 

He started out looking a bit different. 

They were passing these out at the fair last summer, along with coupons for free food. I didn't want or need a Jack in the Box antenna ball, but I'm not going to say no to free food, so I took the antenna ball in order to get the coupons. I put it away with the Christmas stuff with plans to rediscover it in December and change it into a snowman.

It was an easy transformation. I started by peeling off Jack's eye and mouth stickers. Then I poked down the top of his foam hat until it was flattish on top. I used a black Sharpie to draw the coal eyes and mouth, painted the nose with orange craft paint, and painted the hat with black craft paint. The last step was adding the final Christmas touch. I took a leaf sequin and cut it apart to make two holly leaves. I glued those to the hat, then added dots of red puff paint to look like holly berries. Transformation complete!

I could spray it with a sealant to make it weather-resistant and use it for its intended purpose, but I thought it would be more fun as a pencil topper.

So festive and fun!