Sunday, January 31, 2010

T is for Technique

I'm sitting here enjoying this COLD, rainy, very dreary weather we are having because it means I have an excuse (like I really need one) to sit in my house and scrap to my heart's content! Now, I know that I COULD be doing things like washing clothes, scrubbing floors, cleaning bathtubs and toilets, but I am working on the Flylady system which means that for every 15 minutes of concentrated cleaning, I get 45 minutes of scrapbooking. It's a win/win situation. My house stays clean and I get lots and lots of time to play. My flylady habits will be a post for another day, but seriously, go check out her site at She's made me a believer!

So, one of the things I absolutely love about scrapbooking is there are so many different techniques you can use to create a layout. It's never the same thing, never repetitive (unless you want it to be). The best part is that most of the techniques are so simple to do and yet look fantastic - ideal for someone like me who is majorly artistically challenged! So, I have included a picture of my Love that perfect Smile layout that showcases a few of my favorite techniques (and products) that I am using right now.

One of the things I did was make all of the pictures but one black and white. I've found that having several black and white and one color photo or several color and one black and white photo really provide an eye-catching contrast. This technique is super easy, and you don't need a camera that will shoot in black & white mode. I have been using Picasa, a free download from Google, which I absolutely love. It's simple to use, it's free (did I mention that?), and it has a great effects selection, including black and white, sepia, film grain, and focal black and white (a current fave that gives you just a splash of color in an otherwise black and white photo). There is other photo-editing software out there so find the one that works for you.

Another technique I love is using different mediums for the title, which makes it more visually interesting and less like the "traditional" scrapbooks where all the letters are uniform and everything is evenly spaced out. I've used a combination of premade chipboard letters, two small word stickers and letters that I cut out using my cutting machine. Truly, though, there is no limit to the ways you can mix and match to create titles. I've seen combinations of: chipboard, hand cut construction paper or cardstock, stamped, handwritten, labelmaker, scrabble tiles, newspaper or magazine clippings, old cards, paint, felt, stitching. It all looks great!

And what do you think of my "o" in Love? I used a lollipop flower in place of the "o" which is so simple to make! All you have to do is cut out a few circles, crumble each cut up piece of paper and then straighten it out (this keeps the flower from being completely flat) and add a brad in the middle to hold it all together. I also run a distress ink pad around the edges of my circle pieces of paper because it makes the flower feel more finished to me. But I've also seen people sand the edges of the paper, use stickles or paint around the edges, and even doodle a line with a pen or marker around the edges. All look really good!

For simple shapes, I really love using a shape punch. Punches are great because you can easily and quickly make certain shapes using different papers. They are perfect for those leftover scraps that you might otherwise throw away. They are moderately priced, normally ranging from $8 to $15 per punch, but many scrapbook or art supply stores that carry them also frequently offer coupons for 25% to 50% off, which makes them very affordable especially since you can use them over and over again. On my layout, I used the Fiskars small heart squeeze punch - a great little tool that lets you see exactly where you are punching.

I put pop dots under my hearts and bent the edges of each heart up to provide more dimension. Pop dots are great because you can stack them on top of each other and create as much of a 3-d feel as you like to your layout. Next, I used one of my new favorite products, Smooch ink, to paint the paper hearts. Smooch ink is incredibly easy to use. It comes in a little bottle that looks (and goes on) much like nail polish. The only exception is that instead of a soft brush, the tip is harder and less flexible, almost like a stylus, which allows you to make thin, precise lines if you like - great for outlining! The ink dries extremely quickly, and I usually apply a second coat to really make it bold and shiny. I love shiny things!!!

A final technique that I included was adding fiber to my layout. Just like fiber is good for your body, fiber is definitely good for your layout! In this case, I used a rough-textured floss that I found at my local scrapbook store for 29 cents a yard (can't beat that!). I think it's a simple addition, it can be used in as many ways as you can imagine, and it really makes the layout stand out.

So there you go - some (but not all) of my current favorite techniques. What are yours? I would love to know what your favorites are - I'm always searching for new ideas!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Trauma: Life in the (Vet) ER

I want to tell you about the experience I had yesterday now that I am no longer hysterical. My little Chihuahua, Coco (named after Coco Chanel of course) almost died. Coco is like one of my children. She is my answer to not being able to have any more babies, and I would have been beyond grief-stricken if she had died!
I came home from the grocery store and let the dogs out in the back yard while I put the groceries away. I always leave the door cracked open so they can just come in whenever they want. Coco, however, LOVES the outdoors and is always the last to come in. It took about 15-20 minutes to finish with the groceries , and I went outside to call Coco in. I noticed she was laying under the patio table with her head weaving from side to side and a completely dazed look in her eyes. As I got closer, I saw she had vomit down the side of her mouth and had defecated on herself. As long as I live, I will NEVER forget her head weaving around like that and just how WRONG she looked! I picked her up and she was a limp as a noodle. She was barely breathing, taking very shallow breaths with too long an interval in between. At first I thought she was choking and suffocating on something. I pried her mouth open but couldn’t see anything, but her gums and tongue were completely white. I have a magnet with my vet’s number on the fridge so I called them in a panic and they told me to bring her in immediately.
I ran out of the house with her and sped all the way to the office, which is about 15minutes from my house. I ran two stop signs and would have run a stop light if cars had not been in front of me. Coco was completely non-responsive, and the only way I knew she was still alive was because she would take an occasional gasping breath. I was terrified she was going to die before I got there! A vet tech was waiting outside the clinic for me. He took Coco, ran inside with her and took her to one of the back rooms.
My vet, Dr. Purser, came out about 15 minutes later and told me that he thought she had a severe allergic reaction to an insect or spider bite, and she was in anaphylactic shock. Her blood pressure was extremely low, her body temp had dropped 4degrees and she was in severe respiratory distress. They had started an IV, gave her antibiotics, steroids and Benadryl and were doing blood work to make sure they weren’t missing anything. He went over the blood work thoroughly with me when it came back and said it supported anaphylactic shock – said that with her weighing so little, it wouldn’t take much venom from an insect or spider to send her into it if she was allergic.
Thank God and my vet, Dr. Pursher had Coco sitting up and looking a little aware of her surroundings within 45 minutes. He let her go home with me after 3 hours. He kept the IV catheter in her leg and gave me his cell number to call if I noticed any change at all overnight (one of the reasons I love my vet so much). I took her back in this morning for Dr. Purser to check her out and take out the catheter, and he says she should make a full recovery.
There were no obvious bite marks, welts or stingers so we may never know what it was. I am having my pest control company come out, though, and thoroughly spray my back yard for anything and everything! And, whether she likes it or not, Coco won’t go out anymore unless I am sitting outside with her!
Right now, she is sitting next to me, wrapped up in a little blanket which she loves, and I am so thankful and grateful she is here to share this day with me!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

I love a challenge

I am a member of a great website (currently my favorite) called It's a fantastic site that has really helped me to grow tremendously in learning how to create different scrapbook layouts. There are so many techniques to learn - NOTHING at all like the days of gluing a picture or program to a piece of black paper and then writing the name and date under it!
One of the things I most love about is that they have a challenge forum. It's just what it sounds like - you are challenged to create a layout or altered project using a specific technique or paper or item. The photo above is my most recent layout from a scraplifting challenge (Scraplifting is copying another person's design).
As you can see, the photos are mostly black and white with a little bit of coloring added to them. I have been using Picasa for my photo-editing lately (free download from Google) and it has a really neat effects feature called Focal B&W, which I used for these pics. The drawback to this feature is I couldn't get so specific with the color placement as to only color in the scarf or legwarmers. I will need to use PhotoShop Elements for that, which I really NEED to learn.
I used the definition of the word "recalcitrant" in place of journaling. I think this is a neat option if you don't have a specific action or event to journal about and just want to remember the mood at the time the pictures were taken. To get the definition, I went to online dictionary on the internet. I then cut and pasted the definition into a word document and printed it out on cardstock. I cut the cardstock into pieces. I then distress inked the edges and used pop dots under each strip; this combination helps the strips to stand out.
A second challenge that I have been LOVING is the Words with Friends app on my (new) iPhone. This app is also totally free making it the best kind! Words with Friends is basically Scrabble. The beauty of it is that you can play several games at the same time with various people (either random people or invited friends) AND you can play as fast as you want or at a leisurely pace. There is no time limit. I have some games running that I have been playing for 5 days - only playing one or two words a day; then I have several games that I have played straight through until the end. I (heart) games that challenge the brain!!!

Friday, January 15, 2010

I'm a Cheater

Last night I stayed up late working on a project. As soon as midnight rolled around my stomach began grumbling - not just grumbling but loudly demanding, "FEED ME!" I guess my body decided it was a new day and it had not yet been fed. So, did I have a banana or an apple or even a little bowl of yogurt? Nope. I had a bowl of junk food ceral. It was a regular sized bowl, and I did have 2% milk added to it, but I cheated plain and simple.

I guess the grumbling stomach and craving for an unhealthy snack is an incentive for me to go to bed a little earlier - before I have a chance to get hungry (and go crazy) again.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

19 Days to Go

Someone once told me that it takes 21 days to establish a habit. This person was a runner, and he said that for the first 21 days he made himself run every single day no matter what. He would tell himself that, even if he didn't feel like it, he would at least run for five minutes. After that he could stop. Often, he would find that once he started running, he also started feeling better and would end up completing the entire run.

Four years ago, I was about 25 pounds overweight. For someone who used to be able to put anything in my body knowing my metabolism would quickly burn it off, it was a shock to wake up one day and realize I was no longer thin. In a panic I took diet pills, began eating next to nothing and sporadically worked out. All in all, this was a horrible solution which was ultimately doomed to failure.

I managed to keep most of the weight off until this past year primarily because of the sporadic periods of exercise. However, I became more and more sedentary and, as of the beginning of this week, I am exactly 1.6 pounds shy of once again being 25 pounds overweight. In other words, I am right back where I started four years ago! So, I have to make some serious lifestyle changes; I have to do things right this time!

This time I am watching what I eat. I am writing everything down and sharing the information with a group of friends so that I can be held accountable for my choices. I am not restricting myself from anything I really want to eat and that freedom has actually kept me from eating the junk food my brain would be telling me I HAVE to have.

Most importantly, I am committed to exercising every day for the next 21 days. It doesn't have to be the same thing, but it has to be something, anything, that will get my heart rate going for at least 20 minutes - preferably 30 to 40 minutes. I need a serious jumpstart and this is the only way I know how to do it!

Yesterday, I hauled my butt to the Y and did 30 minutes of intervals on the treadmill. On the flat part of the course, I ran (or more accurately, I did a stately jog). During the inclines, I walked at a fast pace. I sweated and I moaned and groaned and I thought about stopping (tried and tried to rationalize why I could) at least a dozen times. But 35 minutes later, after I completed the entire thing, I felt SO GOOD about myself!

Today, I absolutely did NOT want to run on the treadmill again. It was raining and kind of gross outside so really I didn't want to go outside. So, just to see what I could find, I hit my cable's on demand button. Sure enough, my cable company features an exercise channel that has various fitness routines. I chose the Billy Blanks, Jr. Cardioke one. I am soooooo glad I did! Yes, cardioke is just what it sounds like - it is doing cardio-dance routines and singing along. Thank God I was in my house because I looked like a crazy fool - but I had an incredible fun time despite the fact that I was sweating like a pig and was more huffing and puffing than singing the words to the songs! Billy had me doing some Motown Doo-Wop moves, the pony, the electric slide and best of all....the Bird! That's right, this 40 something year old was doing her darnedest to channel Morris Day and laughing like a loon while doing it! Say it with me now, "Wa-aw-awk! Hallelujah! Whoa-oh-oh-oh-oh!"

2 days down - 19 to go.