Washington Monument Update

The Washington Monument remains closed and may remain so for some time.  Washingtonians are expecting an update on Monday.  Here is a link to the local story.



Earthquakes and Hurricanes - all in one week

The east coast is livin' la vida loca!!  We literally started the week out with a bang and will end it with a fury.   With so many monuments and buildings with cracks and structural damage, I don't know what further harm will come to them with high winds and rain.  I hope DC only gets a smidgen of the storm.  I would hate to see more damage done!  Here's hoping all that are in Hurricane Irene's path plan wisely and are able to find safe haven.  We are wishing you well, New York, New Jersey, and New England!

Cracks in Washington Monument

Blogging with my Droid

I have finally entered the world of smart phones and am loving it!


My New Ride

I can't believe I found a scooter so quickly and within my price range.  A 2009 Suzuki Burgman 650 Executive with less than 600 miles - practically brand new.  Hubby and I are driving down to NC to pick it up next Saturday.


Crafting Isn't My Only Hobby

I enjoy doing many different things in addition to my papercrafting.  I love to read, photography has been a passion since college, traveling in our rv is something my husband and I just don't do enough, and motorcycle riding, to this point a solitary activity, has been one of the most enjoyable and relaxing outdoor activities I've ever done. 

Due to health issues, I haven't ridden since 2006, but with recent improvements in my health and continued weight loss (an ongoing process), I am finally feeling as if I can get back on the road again.  My husband, who road with me once and said never again, has agreed to riding back roads and our favorites like Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway. 

Age supposedly brings wisdom, but it also brings loss of stability and other fine motor skills.  For safety's sake, we will ride an automatic transmission "super scooter" with a trike kit installed.  Specifically, we will ride a Suzuki Burgman 650 Executive with ABS breaks with the Trinity Trike kit installed.  The trike kit is being milled from raw aluminum as I type this, and I hope to have it delivered by the end of September for installation.  Here is a photo of someone else's ride.  Mine may be a different color, not sure yet as I haven't bought the bike.

I hope that John and I will get a couple of rides in this fall before it turns too cool.  It should be a hoot to ride!  Any other crafters out there ride on two or three wheels?  Give me a shout!




Camper's Near Death Experience - or what we did on our summer vacation

Imagine, if you will, a mild mannered camper walking his trusted companion late one night deep in the wooded campground.  He hears the thundering hooves of a rushing animal.  He turns quickly but sees nothing.  Then, he is startled by the sound of a large animal crashing into brush off the side of the road.  He whirls around and locks eyes with . . .

the C R A Z Y  D E E R  from HELL!

Thinking quickly, he whips out his only weapon, a flashlight and sends his mighty beams into the deer’s eyes in hopes of preventing a charge.  The deer didn’t budge.  The camper and deer locked eyes.  Soon it was clear; the deer thought the camper had stolen its fawn (also known as the camper’s trusted companion). 

Murphy as fawn

Keeping his eyes on the deer, the camper walked backward slowly toward the sanctuary of his RV.  The deer continued to stalk the camper until another camper called out and the deer ran away.   The brave camper and his trusted companion made their way home safely with quite a “tail” to tell.

So, BEWARE when you go out into the woods.  You never know what might be watching YOU!


Memorial Day 2011

Today we honor and remember those who gave their lives so that we could enjoy freedoms that we often take for granted.  Please take some time today and reflect on our American way of life and the ultimate price so many paid for it.


Rolling Thunder 2011

Each Memorial Day weekend, hundreds of thousands of motorcyclists converge at our nation's capitol to ride in Rolling Thunder.  Started in 1987 to raise awareness of prisoners of war and those missing in action, Rolling Thunder has evolved to an impressive show of patriotism and support for our troops and veterans of all wars.  Roll on, brothers and sisters!


YouTube University

YouTube University?  Yep, that is what I call it.  That is where I go to learn quickly.  For example, in my last post I noted the unique (to me) cutting layout of the Cricut Expression vs the screen of Sure Cuts A Lot 2.0.  After I posted, I hopped over to YouTube and watched a couple of videos and lo and behold, one showed how to change the screen to reflect how the Cricut actually cuts (properties > document).  Watching videos is great and I will watch all the ones I can find about the Expression and Sure Cuts A Lot 2.0.  However, the manuals can be pretty comprehensive, so I'll grudgingly read through those a little at a time, since it is not my best way of learning.  Here's a video from one of my favorite Sure Cuts A Lot "professors".


Sure Cuts A Lot 2.0 - New User Perspective

After realizing that Provo Craft was never going to enable the Cricut Imagine to use stand alone software like it did for the Cricut Expression, I decided to buy an Expression and Sure Cuts A Lot 2.0 (SCAL).  I got a great buy on a used Expression on eBay ($63) and SCAL was a very reasonable $60, so my buy-in price wasn't too bad.  I had also read on some message boards that the Roland cutting blades were superior to the PC ones, so I bought 5 of those for around $2 per blade on eBay (versus almost $4 for the PC blades).  I bought the 60 degree blades although you can easily buy the 45 degree blades (60 degree = PC deep cut blade; 45 degree = PC regular blade).  Both sizes fit in the regular blade housing.

Operating the Expression and the Imagine are very different and I was a bit intimidated.  Same with SCAL, but I'm not real big on reading manuals at first.  I'd rather dig in and try my hand at things and see what I can come up with.  My first order of business was to find some files that worked with SCAL.  The Internet is a treasure trove of all sorts and getting free graphics is no exception.  I found some very nice (FREE) .svg files that would work with SCAL and downloaded to my hearts content.

My first cutting attempts with SCAL were made using my regular card stock and I wasn't very happy with my results.  I had to experiment with pressure and blade settings to get things right and then find paper that would release from the cutting mat without making me spend too long struggling to ensure it wouldn't rip.  I ended up giving up on my regular stuff and started cutting some pearlized paper end cuts I bought from Paper Works.  WOW!  Nice crisp cuts, fine details.  comes right off the mat.  OK, now I'm happy.  Here is a picture of a heart.  It is made up of three cuts:  the base, the heart, and the swirl.  I used a glitter pen as an experiment.  I usually don't use glitter as it is a no-no for Operation Write Home cards (glitter can put our troops in harms way - 'nuff said).

I then decided to try to print and cut.  This is without benefit of reading any directions from the poster of the graphic and template.  I would imagine those are available but I'm not even sure where I downloaded the items from, so I had to use trial and error.  I cut out the template as-is on my first cut.  Boy, that was one big cut and I had the paper in the wrong position - ugh!  Then I printed out the graphic.  OK, no way they match up!  Fortunately, SCAL is very accurate about showing you where your cut will happen on your mat IF you take note of the unique perspective.  I don't know if the Expression is always like that but what you see at the top of the screen is NOT what cuts at the top of the page.  The Expression's starting point is upper right on the cutting mat and cuts sideways as you look at the mat, so top to bottom is actually right to left.  The Imagine's starting point is upper left on the cutting mat and cuts just as if you were reading a book, that is, left to right.  Long story a little shorter, I finally came up with this nice printed graphic of a tea cup with flowers and then cut it.  I trimmed a little here and there with my craft knife and then glued it to some white card stock that I cut out after making a couple of slight modifications to the template.  Here is a photo of the card I made from the tea cup.

First impressions:  I'm loving the flexibility of SCAL and the Expression.  I'm really glad I have both the Expression and the Imagine.  I think I have the best of both worlds.  I'm very happy with the added capabilities of the Expression and look forward to exploring those in the future (you'll see my posts on my experiences).  Thanks for reading and please come back soon.  If you want, go to the bottom of my blog and sign up for the RSS feed.  That way you'll know when I've added something new.


Finding Inspiration

If you are coming from Linda Kaiser's The Paper Boutique, welcome! Linda is very kind in showing a card I made, inspired by the very creative Joy of Obsessed with Scrapbooking.

I've learned a lot from both Linda and Joy and they continue to inspire me to go beyond merely reproducing what they have done. I am always on the lookout for new ideas for card designs as I make cards for Operation Write Home. I really get a great deal of pleasure making cards that troops will send home to family and friends. I had been pushing myself to ship over 100 cards per month. That necessitated some expedition in the card making process. After about 6 months of that, I've reconsidered and decided to not make as many and focus on trying new techniques and materials. I am going to try to make more detailed cards with more elements and layers, some "fussy cuts", and possibly even try my hand at dimensional and pop-up cards. As I work my way through, I'll post the results here. You'll see the good, the bad, and the ugly (well, my pride might not allow me to post the ugliest mess of all, but you get the idea).

I am in the process of learning how to use the Cricut Expression and Sure Cuts A Lot 2.0.  As I start experimenting, I'll certainly write about my experiences and how I find working the Expression into my usual workflow of the Cricut Imagine.    I hope you will decide to visit again and leave comments about my cards and other projects.


Operation Write Home sends Millionth Card!!

I am so proud to have contributed just a small drop in a rather large bucket. Here's to the next millionth card and beyond!


May Cards for Operation Write Home

Just finished my small batch of cards for May and will ready them for shipping later today. Here are some pics.







Web Candy - Nadia's Beautiful Mess

Nadia of Nadia's Beautiful Mess is giving away a Martha Stewart Crafts Elegant Cake Art Cricut cartridge to commemorate reaching 500 follows of her blog. Be sure to click here and follow directions for your chance to WIN!


Video Explaining Advanced Calibration for Cricut Imagine

Provocraft posted a video that covers several user questions about the Imagine.  Among them - advanced calibration.  Chris Dodge, beloved by many Imagine owners who frequent the Cricut and Yahoo Imagine message boards, gives a great explanation about how to get the best calibration possible.  Enjoy the video!


Some of my Favorite Blogs

I love to see what other people are doing and creating, probably because I am not very creative myself.  I have several blogs that I check every day without fail and thought I would share them with you.

The Paper Boutique   http://paperboutique.blogspot.com/  Linda Kaiser does a terrific job of demonstrating projects on her blog. Her written directions are clear and often she shows you how to make a project by means of videos embedded on her blog and on YouTube.  Always my first crafting stop with my morning coffee.  She also owns an Imagine and is very good about mixing in Cricut Expression and Cricut Imagine projects to keep the creative juices flowing.  A must read!

Creative Critterz Imaginations  http://imaginecritters.blogspot.com/  Primarily a Cricut Imagine focused site, you will find a stable of design team members who provide ample inspiration for your next big project.  One of my top five sites to visit daily.

Everyday Cricut  http://www.cricutholiday.com/  A mix of projects for all Cricut machines, Everyday Cricut does a good job of covering the Provocraft water front.  Always refreshing and never tired ideas for ways to use the Cricut machine you own.  Includes tutorials and "recipes".  Another top five site I visit daily.

Capadia Designs  http://www.capadiadesign.com/  My go-to site when I need inspiration for design and layout.  This lady is an artist working in paper crafts.  She freely shares her design ideas.  A top five site for my daily blog reading.

Nadia's Beautiful Mess  http://nadiasbeautifulmess.blogspot.com/   I enjoy Nadia's site because she focuses so much on the Cricut Imagine.  Sometimes all I want to see is what someone else has done with the machine and cartridges I own.  Nadia's is a great resource for that.  Her blog rounds out my top five blogs to visit each morning.


Cricut Imagine Cartridge - Better Together

I as I was preparing to purchase my Cricut Imagine, I purchased some of the original Cricut cartridges that appealed to me.  Since receiving my Imagine in September, I've decided to buy only Imagine cartridges and then only the ones that really catch my eye.  It seems that am awful lot of the artwork on the cartridges is "cute" in nature and I am not a person that is drawn to the that sort of thing.  Not that there is any thing wrong with that but it is just not my taste.  That is one of the reasons I was reluctant to buy the Better Together cartridge.  It just looked so "cute"!  What turned me around was seeing some of the patterns on the cartridge.  I saw the cartridge for a good price on sale so I decided to take a chance and buy it.  I'm glad I did as it has turned out to be my go-to cartridge lately.

If you look at the digital handbook  http://www.cricut.com/res/handbooks/BetterTogether.pdf  you will be able to get a good idea of the quality of the patterns.  For me, they make great backgrounds for my cards.  Even some of the pieces of art and phrases have come in handy.  My last batch of cards for OWH was made entirely from this cartridge.  Sure made my life easier!  I think this cartridge is especially useful to card makers.  If you are looking for card shapes, look elsewhere.  But if you are looking for a nice assortment of cheerful backgrounds, with coordinating artwork, the Imagine Better Together cartridge is a great choice.


Japan Earthquake

Extending thoughts and prayers to our Japanese brothers and sisters so devastated by the massive earthquake and subsequent tsunami March 11.  May you find some sense of security in the coming days and weeks.


My Experiences in Making Cards for Operation Write Home

I thought I might share some of my experiences and lessons learned while making cards for OWH.  I have set a goal of making 100 cards a month and keeping to that schedule has allowed me to understand some simple truths for myself.  In not particular order I will talk about budget, the creative process, the assembly process, and keeping up with needed stock items (papers, adhesives, inks, etc.).

How much money one chooses to spend making cards is is highly personal.  Since my own goal is for 100 cards per month, I have decided to forgo lots of little bits and adornments and stay with cleaner, simpler layouts.  That means I don't have to buy lots of buttons, flowers, ribbon, and bling.  $$$ Savings!  With the Cricut Imagine, my primary expenses are paper, cutting mats, blades, and ink (it prints and cuts). Other than my Cricut, expenses include tape, glue and envelopes. Secondary expenses include enhancements like stick-on jewels and pearls, ink pads, some rubber stamps, paper punches, corner rounders, and ribbon.  Throw in craft knife blades, paper trimmer blades, markers, and a bone folder or two and you have the bare bones of what is needed.

In one months time I will go through a minimum of  80 8.5x11 sheets of paper, 100 sheets of 12x12 paper, 2 36yd rolls of 3M ATG tape, 3 cassettes of Mono tape, 2 Zig 2 Way glue pens, 15 yards of 3M foam tape, 2 Cricut cutting blades, 2 Xacto #11 blades, 2 Cricut cutting mats, 100 envelopes, and 2 paper trimmer blades.

However, money is not the only item that must be budgeted.  Creating, printing, assembling, stamping, gluing, taping, and wrapping all take time.  A simple card might look like it took no time at all, but it can include elements that have 4-5 small paper layers that had to be individually cut, glued,  taped, and assembled.  Some of these can take much more time than anticipated.  If I can find a general layout that works with three or four different elements using the same color scheme, then I can produce three or four sets of ten or twelve cards without too much trouble.  When I really get a rush on, like when I made a quick batch of cards for kids, I spent 4 10-12 hour days getting it all done.  You wouldn't think it took that long by looking at them, but those cards had more bits and pieces and layers than my usual cards.  I usually do cards several days at a time in batches and I can get twenty or thirty done in about 3 8-10 hour days.

I really enjoy that sense of satisfaction when I package up the cards for shipment.  After that box goes out, I tidy up my crafting table and get ready for the month's batch of cards.


Operation Write Home - Cards for Kids

I was reading on the Operation Write Home web site that parents serving abroad were looking for cards they could send their young children.  In response, I quickly put together these four, in groups of 10.  I hope the parents and kids enjoy!


Why I Love Making Cards for Operation Write Home

I have always enjoyed making cards to give as gifts and once I found Operation Write Home, I had a mission and set some goals for myself.  At first, I thought I'd like to ship 100 cards.  OK.  I did that.  I didn't think my next shipment would add up to much but it turned out I made 50 cards in only 3-4 days.  So now my goal is to make and mail 50 or more cards per month.

The Operation Write Home web site provides the card makers an area where we can read feedback from service members who receive the cards.  Tonight, after reading some particularly touching messages, I am happier than ever that OWH serves as a clearing house so that heroes serving overseas have handmade cards to send home to family and friends. 

Several parents mentioned how much their kids enjoy getting cards from them, so I am going to focus my energies on creating a number of child friendly cards in addition to my usual thank you, miss you, and thinking of you cards.

If you want to learn more about Operation Write Home, click here or click on the OWH icon below.


More Cards for Operation Write Home

I read on the Operation Write Home site that they really needed more Thank You, Miss You, and Thinking of You cards, so I put a few together rather quickly. I also was able to make two different layouts for Valentine's Day cards. Those needed to be post marked by January 7, but I got a hustle on and got them done in 2 days.  Most images and layouts  are taken directly from the Cricut Imagine cartridges Imagine More, Imagine More Cards, and Best Friends.  You'll find photos below.  Forgot to take a photo of the second V-day card.  It was of an owl standing on a mushroom and I stamped "Owl Always Love You".  It ended up pretty cute because I left most of the leafy pieces loose to give the card more dimension.  My first time using glue dots.  I thought a box of three hundred would last a while, but I made 24 V-day cards and used most of the dots.  Go figure.  It did save me time over cutting the 3M foam tape I usually use.  These cards photoed very flat but they are somewhat dimensional.  I'll use better lighting next time.