Friday, December 19, 2008

More Boxes...and Goodies!

Anyone else find this picture attractive? My name is Jenn and I'm a member of Containers Anonymous. My fetish started out as just one of the tasks I perform weekly as part of my job. I unload the paper order when it arrives on Thursdays. (BTW, this is time management at its best, because I don't have to feel like I need to go to the gym after all the boxes I schlep from the lobby of the cafe to various places in the back room. Imagine me on a stepstool, and you'll get the idea.)

As I unpacked things, I came across sturdy cardboard boxes. Harmless to you, but to someone who sees many mundane containers as possible altering opportunities, it was the beginning of the end. It was the packaging for the retail products that really got me in trouble. A beautiful blank canvas was what I saw, and since I knew their final destination is the recycling dumpster out back, it became my own little mission to repurpose some of these beauties for a better end.

Such is the case with three of these. They came stuffed with dark chocolate covered graham crackers in packs of 4. I loved the flap opening, and claimed them immediately. I have not felt all that much in the spirit of the season, but yesterday a wild hare of an idea snagged my creativity and my love of baking. Okay, that's just a fancy way of saying that I finally got my rear in gear and made cookies and altered the boxes to prettify them for the neighbors.

I employed the same simple fold as you go method that I used on the smaller Christmas Countdown boxes, and each box used a 6 5/8" x 12" piece. This didn't cover the bottom of the box, but I didn't care. Who looks at the bottom of a box of cookies anyway?

I used up some more of my stash of retired Dashing DSP, and pulled sentiments from Snowflake Spot, Sincere Salutations, Many Merry Messages, and Peaceful Wishes to create the card. I wanted to keep it simple, so I used Real Red and Baja Breeze and embellished them with Felt Flurries and some of that great non-SU! (Michael's) ribbon.

Now I just have to deliver them, and I want to do that after the mailman completes his rounds. A side note: the cookies are called cream cheese spritz cookies. They are the best little sinful things you'll put in your mouth, I promise! They're called "spritz" cookies because the shapes are made using a cookie press, which spritzes them out. (I don't know why really, I just made that up.) They can be made as cookies you roll into balls and bake, and they taste just as good!

Here's the recipe. Double it, or you'll be sorry!

1 stick butter (no substitutions), at room temp
3 oz. cream cheese (you can substitute lowfat or fat free here)
1 C. sugar
1 egg yolk
1 t. vanilla
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. baking powder
2 1/4 C. flour

Combine the ingredients in the order listed and chill if desired for 30 min. Bake on UNGREASED cookie sheets for 13-15 min. at 350. Sprinkle with colored sugar BEFORE baking if desired.

Let me know if you try them, and what you think!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

CC Box Bonanza and Fellow Crafters' Cards

Okay, so I remembered that I have everything I need to get me through to the end of the countdown, once we reached last Friday. I forgot, though, to act on that knowledge. So, being that last night was "Media Free Tuesday", I decided to get us "up to speed" to some degree at least. Five boxes were hidden throughout the main living area, and the topic was a legend regarding the "real" 12 Days of Christmas.

You can follow this link to learn more, but here's the skinny: in the 16th century, England's government took over the church and didn't allow any teaching other than what went on in its formal settings. Therefore, if you were not of the same mind as the priests or clerics and wanted to instill other beliefs in your children, you had to get creative. So, the 12 Days of Christmas carol was used to instill doctrines of the faith. Seriously, follow the link; it's interesting. It was amazing how quickly Michael picked up on some of the ones I thought were more obscure, and we just covered the first 5 days.

Since I'm not making Christmas cards this year, I'm going to share two handmade ones that I received from fellow crafters. The one on the left is from Nadine Amy, a fellow displaced Midwesterner. It uses Home for Christmas, some beautiful DP, and a perfectly tied bow. How kind of her to include me in the many she sent out. Thanks, Nadine!

Lydia's card is stunningly simple and very elegant. Of course it uses blue, her signature color, and birds, which she loves (but not enough to own as pets). The interesting printed paper fringed with Dazzling Diamonds is from the Russian Bible, which I'll bet she bought at her favorite used bookstore. The passage is from Luke, where one of the accounts of Jesus' birth is found. I love that the bird is carrying a snowflake! Kudos, dearie!

Tonight we're off to hubby's corporate Christmas party. The menu looks fantastic--spring rolls, among other things, for appetizers, several choices for the main course (I'm leaning toward the maple cured pork chop, but salmon may win out), and a chocolate torte and creme brulee (Bob's FAVORITE--he's at the gym right now in order to afford the calories!) for dessert. In case you're wondering...I went to the gym this morning.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Michael's Recital

This is really for the benefit of grandparents who live far away, but I hope you'll enjoy a few minutes of piano playing by our son.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

More Cards for PakMail

Today I have more time to give you some deets on the cards that I just completed for PakMail. For this batch, I went back through my photos of cards I've made this past year and chose the layouts I liked best. It's fun to get to make these again!

This first one utilizes that lovely print from the Ski Slope DSP in Baja Breeze. A hot combination in the stamping world is BB and Kraft, so I used that to make the spinning greeting. The ribbon really makes the layout, I think.

Card #2 puts to use a template I created of this coffee cup card that was originally sent to me by Amy Voida. I think this one won't be in the bin long! It's just so eye-catching and relevant to the culture. The 2-year-old Riveting Hostess set continues to be pressed into service for this card. The stripes and the circle are from Garden Green and, while not a perfect match of the Starbucks green, a fair facsimile.

I had fun with this next card. It's not a repast of an old layout, but a nod to Kristina Werner, who frequently uses chipboard letters! Since I received some in my freebie pack of goodies at convention, I decided they needed to be made the star of this card. I inked them up using Craft White, allowed them to dry awhile, and then sprinkled them with a mixture of white detail embossing powder and Dazzling Diamonds. A little heat from the heat gun and they look sparkly and sassy! I attached them using glue dots, and they weren't goin' anywhere. The asterisk, or whatever you want to call it, is from the Wow Flowers set, and I LOVE how it looks inked up in the Bold Bright color family. A Basic Black base with some Whisper White card stock on the inside and this card was complete.

I needed some thank yous to fulfill the order, so I pulled out all the different stamps I have that use the word "thanks" or "thank you" in any way. It took some work with the Stamp-A-Ma-Jig to get these where I wanted them, but the Always Artichoke base and the Manchester DSP really help create a great coordinated look. That ribbon is a scrap I've had in my ribbon drawer for over a year--I save nice ribbon when it comes my way--and it really looks good with that DP.

Speaking of providing new life for ribbon that would've ended up in the trash, this next card made use of a scrap left over from some gift baskets I made at work. Too short to make a bow out of doesn't mean it's not good for anything!

This card was also inspired by this shirt that I saw in the J.Jill catalog. I loved the cascading flowers, and thought immediately of my Garden Silhouettes set. Basic Black card stock, versamark ink, and Clear Embossing Powder were the recipe components for this cool look. Figuring out a sentiment was the biggest challenge, and I finally settled on one from the Always set. That was heat embossed with Silver Embossing Powder. I like it!

I hope you're enjoying all these photos! The last card I made was a blank card using Pacific Point and an oldie but goodie layout with Garden Silhouettes. The sentiment is from God's Blessings. As I signed it and dated it, I thought about how something I started as my way of expressing my specific message of love to my family and friends has expanded to include people I will never meet. I am excited to know that even though I won't know the hands that ultimately hold this card, someone will be encouraged by my creative efforts just the same. Cool...

I just realized that 2 of the cards weren't photographed! Oh well...they were made using the Wow Flowers Simply Sent kit, and let me tell you those stickers and DP really make for quick and easy card making! Sometime I'm going to host a class using a kit so that you can see how many cards you can get from one set of goodies!

I'll leave you with one "proud mama moment" photo from last night's piano recital. There were 18 students who participated in the program, and Michael is one of his intermediate level students. He played his own improvised rendition of "Amazing Grace" and an arrangement of "O Holy Night", which, next to "O Come All Ye Faithful", is my favorite Christmas carol.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Have Mercy! Catchin' Up...

I really should be making cards right now, but I'm feeling the need to catch you up on what's been going on here of late.

Let's start with an update on the PakMail cards. Leah has ordered 20 more, including 6 Christmas cards! Since it has been SUCH a long time since you saw some card art, here are photos of the cards I've made so far.

If you have questions about any of them, feel free to ask me via the comments section, or email me privately (you can find my email address in my profile). I'm pleased that I've had the chance to remake some older favorites, as well as experiment with some new layouts. More to come, obviously.

Now about the Christmas Countdown Experiment. Well, things fell apart at the end of last week. I lost my motivation and my creativity, and so there wasn't a box until this past Tuesday.

The subject was the Magi. Here were the questions:

According to the Bible, the following statements are either True or False about the visit of the Wise Men.

1. There were three wise men that came to visit Jesus. T F
2. The wise men presented Jesus with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. T F
3. The wise men came from the area of Babylon on camels. T F
4. The wise men followed a star to Jerusalem first, before finding Jesus. T F
5. Jesus was an infant when the wise men visited him in Galilee. T F
6. Herod knew of Jesus’ birth, but didn’t know where he was born. T F
7. Magi is another name for magician or astrologer. T F

Answers 1, 3, 5, and 7 are FALSE. There is no record of the specific number of wise men who visited Jesus. There is also no record of their country of origin, other than that they were from the East. Jesus was probably not an infant when the wise men visited, and they didn't visit him in Galilee. The term Magi has many meanings, but according to Greek, the term means wise man.

Since the wise men followed a star to find Jesus, we went out and drove through several neighborhoods nearby to look at Christmas lights. I don't know how many more of these I'll do, but if my creativity returns, there will be more entries on this subject.

What else? The final number of Christmas cards my Starbucks customers signed, made, and delivered is 300. Isn't that great? Next year, we're vowing to get an earlier start.

Okay, I think that does it. We're updated. I'm going to make some cards tonight and tomorrow, as I want them to be available for impulse purchasing during this season of spending, I mean giving. Thanks for hangin' with me through the quiet spells. I'm sure you're busy too! Be sure to take some time to enjoy the season, before it's gone again for another year.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

It's TIME to SHOP!!! Retiring Sets 10% off, FREE shipping

If you've ever wondered when the best time to shop for SU! stamps and materials is, I'm tellin' you TODAY, NOW, THIS MINUTE is THE best time!! SU! has published its list of retiring stamp sets, and ALL of them are 10% off.

Besides that good news, ALL orders placed between TODAY and Dec. 23 that are $70 in merchandise or more (not including taxes and shipping) will receive FREE SHIPPING. Save on stamp sets AND get it shipped to you FREE! That's an early Christmas present if I ever saw one!

Sorry for all the exclamation points, but this is good stuff, peeps. Just click on the button at the upper left and get shoppin'!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Don't Believe Everything You Read

ARGH!!!! I'm very frustrated right now. Thanks to a loyal reader, I was informed that the innocent email I received several weeks ago providing information leading me to believe I could send Christmas cards--why would I suspect this to be untrue?--was BOGUS. Walter Reed Army Medical Center will NOT accept cards addressed to "A Recovering Wounded Soldier".

The GOOD NEWS is that the Red Cross is collecting cards and will distribute them to recovering soldiers and veterans on my behalf. The BAD NEWS is that the deadline for posting these cards is Dec. 10! If you'd like to put some cards in the mail for these heroes, here's the CORRECT address to send them to:

Holiday Mail for Heroes
P.O. Box 5456
Capitol Heights, MD. 20791-5456

The cards that were made on Sunday were just a fraction of the cards that have been signed by my customers the last few weeks, so we will still have a very good stash to send out on Wednesday. Live and learn, peeps! Thanks a BUNCH to Teresa for alerting me and saving the day for the cooperative effort at Starbucks!!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Stampin' at Starbucks

WOW! What a fun afternoon I just had! Today was the first day for customers, friends of mine, and anyone who just happened in off the street to make a Christmas card for a recovering soldier spending the holidays at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Things started off slowly, and I was feeling a bit vulnerable sitting in the cafe with all my supplies set up and nobody to stamp with. But then they began to arrive. My first stampers were a family with 2 elementary aged boys, Spencer and Hunter. Their mom Alecia, is a regular. Her husband even came along and made a card, though he claimed he wasn't crafty (he did great!).

When they finished, Kayla, a high school student, and her mom Julie, along with 7-year-olds Ramsey, Ashlin, and Kim sat down and put together cards. The girls were very happy to use their muscles to punch out the circles, and even more serious about the messages they wrote inside. They moved to a separate table so they could take their time to write and free up the stamping space. Precious, I tell you!

Next was Robby, another regular, who loves to stamp but just doesn't have a group of gals to do it with! We just found out about our shared passion for papercrafting this week, and she sent out an email to her friends about what I was doing! I hope she comes to my stamp-a-stack sometime.

Lisa and Jennifer and their daughters Katie and Kaitlyn (also 7) were next, and these girls really went to town decorating the inside of their cards. I know whoever receives these will be touched.

James, an avid crafter already at the age of 5, waited the longest, almost 15 minutes, for the table to clear so he could stamp with his mom, Jodie. Over and over, families thanked me for doing this, and asked if other Starbucks were doing this as well. To my knowledge, we're the only one, and the real kudos should go to Kimmy, my manager, for approaching me with the opportunity to stamp in the store. James was adorable, because he not only punched out circles, attached ribbon, and signed his name, he copied the words "Merry Christmas" in his own, very clear handwriting from one of the stamps I had...and included the fine print "copyright 2006 Stampin' Up!" wording on the stamp as well! So sweet.

The last two stampers of the day were "accidental stampers." They happened to sit at the table adjacent to my stamping area, which had been being used by stampers all afternoon. I was in the back of the store doing something when they took their seats, so when I came back, I said, "Oh, are you here to make a card?" The dad said that they were just sitting there, but Stirling's interest was piqued and she wanted to make a card. This sweet little 6-year-old worked very hard to make the card--she and everyone else commented about the mono adhesive!--and signed her entire name in large letters on the back. Then her brother, Ian, decided he wanted to make one. The children's grandparents were along for the afternoon outing, and they offered to buy me coffee for what I was doing! Ian stamped a few greetings on his card, and signed his name too.

It was so great to have our regulars respond to this opportunity, and to meet some new friends along the way. 18 hand stamped cards were created today, and I'm sure encourage health and healing in whoever receives them.

If you'd like to join the cause to bless a soldier this Christmas, feel free to join me at one of the following times:

Wednesday, Dec. 10, from 7-9 pm
Sunday, Dec. 14, from 2-4 pm
Tuesday, Dec. 16, from 1:30-3:30 pm

If you're not local, but you'd still like to participate, here's the address:

A Recovering American Soldier
c/o Walter Reed Army Medical Center
6900 Georgia Ave. NW
Washington, Dc 20307-5001

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Christmas Countdown Box Experiment--Day 4

Today we barely finished our activity before calling it a day! The question today had to do with "The 12 Days of Christmas" song. If you received every gift given during the 12 days, how many gifts would be under your tree?

I was surprised to find the answer in a list of Christmas trivia: 364! After Michael spent some time trying to figure out the answer (which you get by adding 1+ (1+2)+ (1+2+3) and so on), Bob went to an online site which has been keeping track of the actual cost of these gifts and services for almost 25 years. This year's cost for the 12 gifts would be $86,000. Makes whatever's on your list this year seem affordable, huh!

Good night!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Christmas Countdown Box Experiment-- Day 3 and A Card

For those of you who have been patiently waiting, here is the card I made today. I swore last year I would NEVER use pink for Christmas, but then I realized that I'm okay with pink poinsettias and red pointsettias. At Hobby Lobby I even saw a blue pointsettia (all aglitter and FAKE, mind you), so this is my homage to the Christmas flower.

I liked this retro feel that Lydia created in her card yesterday, so I set about to incorporate it into mine today. So I pulled out Season of Joy and got down to business.

I have enjoyed using my own concoction of Dazzling Diamonds glitter and clear embossing powder to get my glitter to stay put. Each of these flowers has it, and was stamped with Versamark. I tried stamping with the classic ink and then lining up the stamp with the ma-jig to go over it with Versamark, but that was too much trouble and didn't result in a more vibrant color at all.

I used Pretty in Pink, Cool Caribbean (remember this color from the ORIGINAL InColors?), and Real Red. Quick, simple, and clean. The size is a little different--3.5" x 10.5". Why? Just because...

Now, for those who are stopping by to hear about today's Christmas Countdown Box, here's what we learned. Did you know there's a verse of "O Holy Night" that we don't sing? It's true! I wrote it out (you can read it here, courtesy Wikipedia) and asked whoever found the box to guess what carol it belonged to. Michael guessed immediately, since OHN is the carol he's playing for his piano recital next Friday.

I gotta confess that these are getting harder to come up with by the day! Bob says I need to start putting some kind of reward in the box--like CANDY. I suppose he's right. Still, I'd like to come up with some cool stuff that would really engage everyone and be creative. I should've started this project earlier!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Christmas Countdown Box Experiment-- Day 2

As you can tell, the prize winner really enjoyed his winnings from Day 1's competition.

Today, the question was in honor of the snow flurries we had yesterday: how many snowmen decorate our house? The total is 47!

The Scripture for the day is Isaiah 1:18, which talks about how our sins are like scarlet, but they will be as white as snow because of God's forgiveness.

I have tomorrow off, so I'm hoping to be inspired to make some Christmas cards! Thanks for stopping by today!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Christmas Countdown Box Experiment--Day 1

Well, today's the day, the deadline to start the Christmas Countdown using the boxes I blogged about in my last post (scroll down to the bottom of the post to see what I'm talking about). I thought about this yesterday, but nothing really came to mind. I work best under pressure anyway.

I woke up with this thought in my head, which had lingered from our worship time yesterday at church. Mandy Miller shared Zephaniah 3:17 before we sang the song, "Mighty to Save":

The Lord your God is with you,
He is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.

So, I created a little "open book quiz" using this verse and placed the box on the main floor between the sofa and the railing that leads to the basement. I then announced that there was a box hidden, and that whoever found it and answered the question correctly would win a prize.

They couldn't let it rest until this evening, so they started hunting. They looked for a LONG time--at least 10 min.--and couldn't find it. Bob said, "This reminds me of looking for my keys, and it isn't fun anymore!" Michael begged for clues, which I finally gave. Did they think I'd make this easy? Ha!

Michael found the box and together they found Zephaniah in the back of the Old Testament and filled in the blanks. The prize today? A peppermint mocha twist from Starbucks after school for the boy.

What I loved about this is that it was short, sweet, simple, and FUN! It also provided me with an opportunity to talk about it a little more with Michael as I drove him to school.

I like setting the tone for the day with something to think about, and I told him that there are those who are mighty, but do not share their strength. He wasn't making any listening noises, so I said, "Like those who could talk, but choose not to, like you!" He laughed and I continued by reminding him that our God is not like that. He is mighty and He does save! I also shared that I was excited about the part of the verse that says that God will rejoice over ME with singing! I can't wait to hear the song He has for will have the coolest lyrics, be my style of music, and He will sing it in perfect pitch--ALL FOR ME! Talk about a gift!

I already have ideas for the days ahead, and Bob wants in on the writing too, so it'll be fun to see what he comes up with! We may even let Michael write one that we have to search for. This is off to a good start...yay! BTW, thanks to those who offered suggestions. L, too bad that book you recommended is in the UK! M, I like your suggestion as well. Look for it in the days ahead.

I need to design some more Christmas cards, so be on the lookout for those in coming posts.