Thursday, July 31, 2008

SU! Convention 2008 Day 1

First, let me give you another stamp set tease! This morning I was too rushed to retake a photo, so here it is this afternoon. There is an entire line of stamps called Silhouette that captures wonderful nature elements in--wait for it--silhouette! There are 5 sets in the line, and coordinating designer paper called Urban Garden, rub-ons, ribbon, accents and elements, brads, and chipboard. I can HARDLY WAIT for you to see it, and the entire catalog!! Also, there's a fabulous sale coming, starting Aug. 11, so be on the alert and watch for updates here, at my new catalog open houses, and via email from me. It's GREAT!

Okay, here are a few shots from today. Here is a picture of the uber-wonderful gals I'm spending the convention with, Neelam and Lydia, from Understand Blue!!! We finally got to meet face to face, and I feel like I've known both of them much longer than 24 in-real-life hours! They are making convention for me, truly!

Here is my brush with fame in the stamping world, particularly SU! stamping land. THE Kristina Werner, whose color inspiration challenges I've posted here in the past, works as a graphic designer for SU!, and she is working the convention!! I am not starstruck, in general at all, but to get to meet someone who is as genuinely nice and seemingly amazed by her celebrity as Kristina was very cool! She has a set of designer paper coming out in the new catalog that she created--you know that'll be on the list.

Today was a big awards day, with folks who earned lots of money through sharing what they love with others getting to walk across the stage. The company's first person to sell $1 Million--a very humble woman from WI named Mary Polcin--was acknowledged, and she shared her tips in a breakout session called Demonstrator Theater. So so so inspiring, and the principles she shared were transferable. One of the highlights of the day.

Another cool thing that I noted as I was looking through the catalog today was that a suggestion I made has been implemented!! I suggested to demonstrator support that the colors of card stock that coordinate should be published underneath each package of designer paper so that you would immediately know what to use with it when you make projects. They also included the names of the stamp sets that coordinate with the Simply Scrappin' Kits. I most likely wasn't the only one to make this suggestion, but what if I was? How cool is that that they listened?!!

In her keynote address this morning, co-founder Shelli Gardner announced that she's starting a blog on Monday, Aug. 4. It's called Tomorrow she's also debuting her own signature line of items. But more on that tomorrow...

One of this morning's main session was all about decor elements, a brand new vinyl decorative rub-ons for your walls. AMAZING! Lydia's camera worked much much better, so go to her blog to see pictures that she will post about these. Much more to come, gals!!

The rub-on collection has been expanded extensively, exponentially, and a great benefit for a visual person like me is all the ideas that the creative staff share about how to use them. Oh, we are SOOO going to make something BEAUTIFUL for Thanksgiving, gals!!

There was also a beyond cute bear card that Brent Steele, our director of creative services, demonstrated, that you have to go to Lydia's blog to see. I don't even want to spoil it, but it is NOT to be missed. As I'm posting, I've checked her blog and her pics aren't up yet. I'm sure they will be in the morning, which is probably today for most of you reading this, so go see! (second Understand Blue link for your convenience).

Well, this has been a lot of words without a lot of pictures, so I'm going to close. Tomorrow I'll share about the culinary experiences of the day. Sweet, spicy, and fowl are my hints. Good night! Thanks for reading, and for your comments. Let me know what more you'd like to know about, and I'll see what I can share!

Live from Salt Lake City!

After about 8 hours and 2 flights--one in seat 45F, the last seat on a 150 seater, and the other in seat 2D, the first row!--I arrived in Salt Lake City. I've been through here once before, but it's always special to be greeted by the sight of mountains. Went to the convention center and picked up my bag of goodies using my golden ticket, and found 3 stamp sets inside (scroll to the bottom of this post if you can't wait to see them), as well as the new SPIRAL BOUND catalog! How wonderful this is is just beyond words. You'll see when you thumb through yours in a about a week.

After getting settled in my room with my roommate Neelam from Austin, TX, we went on a tour of the headquarters. This picture is from the lobby. What a beautiful thing to greet you and to set the tone for your work day as you enter the environment. The only funny thing is that we discovered, upon closer inspection, that the trees are FAKE! Still, a water feature and live plants that surrounds the cafeteria--it's a good thing!

The thing that impressed me most during our self-guided tour was this arrangement of core value statements that are posted in the Ideas Room. The categories were:

Personal Development
Positive Environment

The way several were defined really struck me as they were applied to a business. For example, BALANCE was defined this way: We are dedicated to those who strive to create balanced lifestyles centered on serving family and others while nurturing their own self-esteem and growth. WOW--a company that comes right out and says that a personal effort you bring to them of trying not to be a workaholic is a GOOD THING!

The other one I really liked was INTEGRITY: We build our businesses through trust, fairness, and kindness with the thought that people are more important the products. We encourage everyone to give their best effort every day to provide positive support to those around them, and to exercise creativity in performing their tasks. Isn't that a great way to think as you interact with others over the course of each day?

I could go on, but it's now 6:22am, and I need to get in the shower. Here are the pictures of the stamp sets. More to come!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A Small Tease

When I got home from work this morning, I found that Mr. UPS had visited and I knew what was inside the box--the new InColor Collection for 2008-2009! One of the perks of being a demonstrator is the opportunity to pre-order items, and the company was offering a bundle of all the InColor ink pads, reinkers, and a 24-piece package of card stock in every color at a great price. It just made sense to make the leap. Here's your first glimpse--what do you think? You can click on the photo to see them MUCH larger.

Another "toy", er, TOOL that was available for pre-order was the scalloped edge punch. This is really easy to use, and I have high hopes that I will be taught at convention how to use it to make very cool square and rectangular mats for images and sentiments. I'll keep you posted...

So, excited? Just think...I haven't even shown you any stamp sets yet!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Cheater's Watercoloring

I should be making dinner, but I set the frozen salmon out on my covered grill this afternoon to thaw, left it out longer than I intended, and it cooked! Yep, it's THAT hot today! I'm not sure we should eat it, so I'm going to check with hubby and suggest we order pizza instead.

Anywho...that gives me time to chat with you! On Saturday, I read about a technique using watercolor paper, SU! Stampin' Write markers, and an aquapainter on Cami Turnbow's blog. It sounded easy peasy lemon squeezy, so I pulled out a piece of watercolor paper from a package I bought from SU! recently and had laying around, and started experimenting.

Where has this been all my stampin' life?!? Oh my word was this ever fun, relaxing, and EASY! All I needed in addition to the already mentioned supplies was Staz-On, which is a waterproof ink that SU! sells (I used the only color I own, which is black).

Just use the brush tip end to place a line of color where you want it, then use the aquapainter to pull the color from that spot and fill in to whatever extent you desire. It's VERY forgiving too. Get too much water on it? Just add more marker color and continue! I love that!

This is a close-up of what the sheet looked like when I finished. I was so excited that I didn't know what to do next to showcase it! I had used all Bold Brights markers--Real Red, Only Orange, Yo Yo Yellow, Pink Passion, Gable Green and Tempting Turquoise--so I took my "masterpiece" to my shelf of BB card stock and started pulling out sheets from the color family to use as the card's base. I finally settled on Green Galore. I matted the watercolor on Whisper White and tied a simple black gingham ribbon at the top to add a bit more black accent to it. Look, Sandra--I used a BOW!

This is going to be a thank you card for whoever services my room while I'm at convention. This would cheer me up and make me feel special, so I'm banking on it having a similar effect on this as yet unknown to me person. Look around for someone this week who is performing some service for you, and make an effort to express your appreciation. It may require nothing more than making eye contact and saying a sincere "thank you". I'd love for you to post what you do here!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Goodbye, Shawn

Shawn is a Starbucks partner/friend who is transferring to another store in the neighborhood where she lives, and I wanted to pass a card among my co-workers, since some will not see her before her last day. What better way to commemorate her time than with a coffee cup card!

The original design template for this card came from Amy Voida, who sent me this card to congratulate me on my new job at Starbucks. It's hard to believe that I'll celebrate 1 year there in about 5 weeks.

This monster from Starving Artistamps is called Zot, but I prefer Coffee Zombie. The color combination inspiration came from the DSW bag that I toted my new sandals home in yesterday. Elegant Eggplant and Gable Green are the colors of card stock, but Coffee Zombie is colored with Green Galore, which is just a tinge darker and seemed more "monstery." I stamped the image twice so that I could pop up the coffee cup and his eyes (don't you love the Lavender Lace bags he's sportin'?).
I also stamped CZ in LL on the Whisper White card stock and colored it in so that he would have a proper shadow. Stamp-A-Ma-Jig strikes again! Click on the photo to view more details. (The secondary shadow in front of the image is photographer's error. Please disregard.)

The stamp that wraps around the card is from a retired Hostess Level 1 set called Riveting, which was from the Fall-Winter 2006-2007 catalog. I had it my pile to sell, but now I'm rethinking that decision!

Sorry I've been so quiet this week. Lots on my mind, and I'll reveal what it has been early next month. This coming week, I'm leaving Wednesday to travel to Salt Lake City for the SU! Convention. I'm getting more and more excited, although I really don't care for air travel. I'm going to be sharing what I see and hear HERE while I'm THERE, so check back starting Thursday!

I need to go and make a thank you card for the maid who will be servicing my room while I'm at the hotel. These gals are usually unseen during our stays, and it struck me that they do so much that deserves to be recognized and appreciated. Who do you know who does something without expecting acknowledgment who needs to be told they're valued by you? Have a good rest of the weekend...

Monday, July 21, 2008

Elegant Baroque Motifs

I was making some business cards to take with me to the SU! annual convention next week, and I pulled out Baroque Motifs because it's so sophisticated. To me, it communicates the professionalism I strive for in my cardmaking. When I was finished, I still had the ink pads out, so I grabbed some card stock and went to town.

I had an idea to make a border of flowers using the smallest stamp in the set. I didn't want it to turn out unevenly spaced, so I stamped it first on my grid paper to get a good idea of how many stamps were going to be placed in each direction. As you can tell, it took two tries to get the 5.5" spacing correct. Once I had it the way I wanted it, I just lined the card up parallel and stamped! Easier than the Stamp-A-Ma-Jig.

Then I stamped the large swirly design in Soft Sky on Whisper White and trimmed it to the proper dimensions so that all the flowers could be seen around it. It needed a little somethin' somethin', so I pulled out a leftover piece of Close to Cocoa ribbon and fiddled a bit with it. I contemplated a saying, but decided to leave it blank for when I need it.

I am so glad this set is not retiring, as it is so dependable for a classy, contemporary, elegant card every time. Speaking of retiring, the retiring accessories list was released today, and there are certain items that are 25% off! Check out the link. Also, I'm wondering if anyone has a great idea for what to do with that empty punch tin pictured at the bottom of the $3.95 each, it's something worth contemplating! Let's put our heads together and see what we can come up with. Contact me to place your order for retiring accessories or stamp sets. Aug. 10 will be here before you know it!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Usin' Up Stuff that's Laying Around

I saw a great layout while I was blog surfing after work, and someone referenced the weekly sketch challenge at SCS. I took a look and created a CASE of the one I saw at Dawn Easton's blog, Treasure Oiler Designz. Just loved the whimsy of that bow at the top, and I knew I had some of that candy striped ribbon in orange.

Pretty simple and not a lot to explain. The bow is tied separately and adhered with 2 glue dots, and the stripe that runs vertically is just long enough to be tacked in place on the back of the Bali Breeze DP. The base is Pumpkin Pie, the base for the focal image is Tempting Turquoise, and the mat for the birthday greetings is also from Bali Breeze. The list of retiring accessories from the Spring-Summer 2008 catalog will be released on Monday, and I'm wondering if this DP will be on it. It's such a departure from other things that have been produced...we'll have to wait and see. It's gone Aug. 10, so keep that in mind if you want to put some in your stash.

The image is from Block Party, and I colored it with Rose Red, PP, and TT SU! markers. This set has challenged me from the beginning, but I'm pleased with how this one turned out. I already know who the recipient for this card will be, and I'm pleased with myself that I'm ahead of the game by several weeks!! How often am I stamping right before the deadline? More than I'd like to admit.

Just wanted to encourage you to get your cards in the mail! Our creations are better shared than hoarded, and the blessing of giving just makes room for you to create more cards.

I have the weekend off from Starbucks, and since the rest of you are too busy to stamp, I'm going to go do something fun with my family. Have a great time, whatever you're doing!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Never Trust a 13-year-old's Opinion

I've been having a thing with my hair for several months now. The lovely profile picture that my friend, neighbor, and amazing professional photographer Heather Smith(click here to view some awesome pictures) took last fall isn't a true representation of what I've looked like since the spring. I've been growing my hair out, going for a longer, sleeker, chic look. It ended yesterday; just wasn't workin' for me. I'm not chic; I'm spunky--at least that's what I want to communicate with my hair.

So, I had it cut yesterday. Michael's first words once we were out of the salon were "it's ugly." He says it looks like I have a brain growing out of the side of my head. Refer to headline for this post.

Now, gals, I know I'm not wearing any makeup in this picture, but come on--it doesn't look like I have a brain tumor, does it? The boy just doesn't know style...

Bob, who is unusually opinionated about my hair, has yet to see this cut. He was at rehearsal last night, and I was asleep before he came home and left this morning while it was still dark. I took a shower and redid my hair after my 8-hour shift at Starbucks (where I have to wear a baseball cap!) so as to put my best self forward for his scrutiny. He probably won't like it, although he'll try to pretend he does. Doesn't matter really. I LIKE IT. 'Nuf said.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Circles, an Oval, and News

Sorry for the days that have passed without my posting. I made 2 cards to share yesterday, but the camera was AWOL when I went looking for it, so I couldn't put them up for you to see. DH came home and nonchalantly said, "Here's the camera back." Oh. Then Blogger had issues with uploading pictures this afternoon, so that stalled me until now. Thanks for hangin' with me through the technical difficulties!

On Saturday, Amy Westerman posted a simple card featuring a large circle. The two I created were inspired by her design.

I started by looking through my collection of DP to see what I might want to work with, and came across this paper that goes with the Polka Dots and Paisley stamp set. Since I have run out of Old Olive card stock, I chose its kissing cousin, Always Artichoke. I used my Coluzzle to cut three circles, and I layered them on Tempting Turquoise, So Saffron, and Whisper White and handcut the mats. I positioned them, adhered them, and then decided that it looked too plain. Thank goodness SNAIL isn't permanent. Anyway, I pulled out the set and used the paisley image to create a background.

The second card I made is much closer to Amy's original design, and I had fun making that tailored bow. I used the paper piercing template I have to get the dots equally spaced around the oval, and then went over them with my white gel pen. Not real pleased with this pen, but I've heard that Sharpie makes a white marker. Going to have to check that out. If anyone knows where I can buy one, please leave a comment.

This card was designed to celebrate my cousin's new baby girl. The saying on the front is from the set Full of Life, and some may think it's for a wedding, but it speaks to me of the journey of parenthood. Almost the first thing I did as a mother was to see if Michael would grab my finger, and a new life to lead speaks to me to the responsibility and privilege we parents have in guiding our children as they grow.

I shared here a few posts back about the possibility of my Starbucks closing, and I'm happy to report that we are not on the chopping block! Everyone's happy to be able to continue to connect over coffee, be they baristas or customers.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

What do you think...

of my new header?!? My very generous, talented fellow blogger, Lydia, at Understand Blue, volunteered to create this for me. Isn't it GREAT?!

It's a takeoff on this card, and I couldn't be more pleased.

Thanks a million, friend!! I feel so "official" now!

Got Milk?

Inspiration comes when you least expect it. While I was coloring this character from Starving Artistamps called Numnum, I thought about the cookies he was holding and it hit me--make a cookie card for him to sit on top of! I had already been working with Creamy Caramel as my base, so I grabbed the Coluzzle circle cutting system and began to consider sizes. I found the one I wanted and had my circle. Getting the bite out of the cookie was also simple because I'd seen someone do something similar with an ice cream bar and the scallop punch. Voila! Partially eaten cookie.

I needed chocolate chips though. I searched through several of my sets, knowing I wasn't going to find anything quite right. Then I realized that I had leftover rubber! I cut some chip shapes, stuck them to the sticky backing, inked them up, and added chips! Getting hungry yet?

The striped panel with "numnum" on it came about because there are mini versions of each of these creatures included on the large sheet of rubber, and each one's named. I separated that quickly from the image so that I could use it for the application you see. The rest came together quickly, but now there's the dilemma: plate or napkin?

Friday, July 11, 2008

A Departure

I have sweet friends. One of them, after I made a comment on her blog about one of the creature images she featured on a card, sent me the entire set of images (made by Starving Artistamps) so that I could play with them and make my own creatures! Isn't that so nice?!

I've tried to play with these guys for awhile now, but haven't had an idea that really struck me as one I could carry through to completion and have it look like I wanted it to. But they continued to stare longingly at me from my craft table and beckoning me to play with them, so I tried again today.

They say that trying things outside your comfort zone is a good exercise. Well, this was that for me! These guys are very cute and strange and wacky, and I wanted that to translate to my card.

I chose Yapples. Doesn't "WHAT?!?" seem like something that would come screaming out of his mouth? I tried to keep the card focused on him, and I think his red body made it pretty certain where I wanted you to direct your attention. It was a fun card to make, although next time I'll use black ink as the outline.

These stamps are red rubber cling mount stamps. They come as a full sheet with no backing. You cut them out, adhere them to sticky foam mount, and then they cling, with static electricity or some other sort of magic, to a clear acrylic block. It's very nice, because you can see where to position the image on the paper! It was a completely different stamping experience, and I'm glad I persisted. What other sayings do you imagine Yapples saying?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Said I'd Be Back Later

...and I just realized it's 9:37 pm, I've been up since 3:30 AM, and I'm not tired yet. What's up with that? Must've been somethin' in the chemicals I used during my housecleaning blitz. Clean hardwood floors, clean bathrooms (2 out of 3 ain't bad), and professionally cleaned carpets (goodbye red paw prints!!!) Whatever! I'm taking advantage!

I was perusing some of the demonstrator-only preview materials from the new Fall-Winter 2008 Catalog, and this color combination was shown. I would NEVER have thought to pair Rose Red, Perfect Plum, More Mustard, and Old Olive, but it looked good in the picture, so I pulled out said colors and began crafting.

This card utilizes the Garden Silhouettes set, which is a retired Hostess set from the Fall-Winter 2007 Catalog. It's so straightforward that I'm not going to insult you with the details. Besides, it's getting late and my carpets will dry better if I'm not hovering over them waiting for them to!

I'm not sure I chose the right base color, and I can picture this with some antique brass hardware or ribbon, but I don't have any of either that would work and wouldn't be certain where to put said stuff, so they're not included. I'd welcome any suggestions though!

I pulled the sentiment from A Beautiful Thing and re-stamped it in a vertical layout thanks to my Stamp-A-Ma-Jig (definitely the best investment this year). Love all those mini layers!

Okay, I really should wash my face, brush my teeth, and collapse. I don't work tomorrow, so don't expect to hear from me in the morning!

I'm Not Sure What to Say...

but I think "THANKS!" is my first response to your feedback on my last post! As I thought, body image is something that's on our minds, especially here in the US, and I'm not so sure if that's such a good thing.

To my fellow stampers in Norway (and yes, I do know where it is!), thanks for helping this American get a little perspective on the whole matter! :-) It's not that I don't like Krilla; please don't misunderstand! But I do think it says something about the image crazy culture I live in that it caused me some angst instead of enjoyment as I created the card. Sad, really...

Some made the analogy that a recipient of a card with a cow image on it wouldn't consider that the sender is trying to infer she's a cow, and I can see that point. However, I wouldn't put a picture of a cow on a birthday card and put a sentiment with it that said, "Happy Birthday and many Moooore!" I do want the image to reflect the occasion of the card and I really design my cards with individuals in mind, so my choice is very personal. Above all, I strive to encourage through my cards, and I don't want there to be any opportunity for a misunderstanding. That's all.

As my Dove dark wrapper advised, "Don't think about it so much" and so that's what I'm going to do.

Really, though, I appreciate your comments SO much, and it's good to know you'll speak from your heart and share your thoughts. Be back soon with another card...

Monday, July 7, 2008

Happy Birthday and a Few Questions

Rarely do the cards I make create questions in my mind, but this one did, almost from the get go. I'd really like to know what you think too, so be sure to weigh in with a comment.

First, do I like the main image? I think the girl/young woman has a very sweet face, and I enjoyed being able to create her outfit. HOWEVER, would YOU like to receive a card with this image on it? Am I the only one who might wonder what the person sending it to me was trying to subtly communicate if I opened an envelope and this is what I saw? I know how sensitive girls are about their body images these days...

The image is one of a few sent to me by Nicole Cooke at stampin library girl. I don't have the cool Copic markers everyone else has, but I still like how this turned out. The company that makes this and other images in this same design vein is scrapmagasinet, the Norwegian stamp company I referred to in this post last week. Oddly enough, most of the girls are drawn this way, while the boys are stick thin.

The layout was inspired by this card I saw by Jen del Muro. So much going on with design and color and pattern, it made me want to imitate it. This leads to my second question: did I succeed? I'm thinkin' not exactly. I created my own strip of card stock that looked sort of like her Cuttlebugged (is that a verb now?) dry embossed paper, but I didn't have a large piece of patterned paper that matched the color scheme I'd chosen days before when I colored the image. Also, I think her card is bigger than mine, giving her more space to work with. Oh inspired me and that's really what counts. What would you have added though?

So, what are your thoughts about the questions I posed? Let me know what you think, okay? Your feedback really helps.

We had a nice holiday weekend. Went to Alpharetta to see GINORMOUS fireworks Friday night, went out on our boat tubing with a friend Saturday night, went to church Sunday, and ate homemade chocolate brownie ice cream (that Bob made) later that night. Friends of mine are in town from PA all week, so I'm looking forward to seeing them at some point. I've met my girlfriend's family, and she's met mine, but our families have never met each other. Should be sweet! Have a great week.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Makin' it Work...

You may or may not remember that two weeks ago I posted a card that had as its inspiration a large piece of DP that I'd purchased at a chain craft store that I tried matching SU! products. Well, after I completed the other card, I still couldn't bring myself to throw the DP away. After all, I really like the pattern, and I am a self-professed tightwad.

I started messing around with the different pieces I had of the stuff and matted them on Whisper White card stock. The end result was very pleasing, if I do say so myself! Salvage success!

Fun and Fast Circles and Squares

This past SAB season, I earned the So Many Scallops set. When I'd punched out the diecut stamps, what I was left with was this. I stashed it, figuring it would come in handy later for something. Lo and behold, as I was surfing blogs yesterday, I came across a card featuring 4 circles! It included a tutorial on how to create a template for such a design, but I already had one, so I was one step ahead.

The circles I had were 2 inches each, a little larger than I'd anticipated, and I didn't have a punch that large. I did use my Coluzzle circle cutting system to make short work of those circles. To think I used to cut them by hand! Looks so much better with the knife cut! The larger spaces gave me an idea to create a little bit of a story in the four circles. I pulled out 2 of the stamps from Fun and Fast Notes and inked both for the first time! I used my Old Olive, Regal Rose, and So Saffron Stampin' Write Markers to stamp the flower in 3 of the circles. (The Stamp-A-Ma-Jig was put to use, of course, to help with positioning.)

Then I used my Taken with Teal, Tempting Turquoise, and RR markers to ink up the cute little porcupine. He looks a little forlorn by himself doesn't he? Reminds me a bit of Eeyore...Anyway, I stamped him sitting alone in the second circle, and then added the butterfly that sits on his nose to the third circle. A little Dazzling Diamonds glitter helps highlight the addition.

I'd separated the sentiment and the image when I assembled the stamp, so that made it somewhat easier to position the words the way I wanted them in the last circle. The addition of the coordinating circle of DP (a retired package, don't ask me the name) actually masks a shadowing of words that had been previously stamped that bled even though the stamp was thoroughly cleaned between inkings. Hate it when that happens.

The layout is an old one from Nancy Riley that I really like, and now I"ll be on the lookout for the right recipient for this cute little card.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

2 CASEs for the 4th

Having not stamped in over a week, I thought I might not be able to come up with something. I was inspired, though, by Laurie Schmidlin's color scheme and one of her design elements, as well as one of Taylor Van Bruggen's layouts. At first I thought that I didn't have a star stamp, but I found one in the proving-ever-more-versatile-all-the-time Fun & Fast Notes set.

The color scheme is River Rock for the base, Blue Bayou for the background (can you see how it's scored on the diagonal--a nod to Laurie here), Ruby Red for the 1.5" squares (they're distressed with scissors to fray the edges), and 1.25" Very Vanilla squares for the stars. BB ink, RR Stampin' Write markers, slot punch, BB double-stitched ribbon, and silver brads complete the list of items used.

I know someone who has a special birthday today, but I don't think she'll mind receiving this a day or two late. It's the thought that counts, right?

I hope you take time tomorrow to be thankful for our freedom. As you enjoy being with friends and family, take a few moments to pray for our troops who are giving so sacrificially to defend it.

P.S. The word from my coworkers is that we won't know if our Starbucks is one of the 600 that is being closed until mid-month, so I'll keep you posted. The number of people asking over the past few days has to be an indication that our store is well-liked, right?

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

My Little Summer Vacation

Hi there! I'm back from my little escape, and here to report all the fun I had. I really have to be honest and admit that there was only one time when I had the urge to get online. Other than that, I enjoyed being disconnected from the world.

Here are a few photos that highlight our trip. After my folks picked us up at the Indianapolis airport (only way to make the ticket price affordable despite a $400 travel voucher for each of us), we stopped off in a little town called Upland, IN. It is the home of Taylor University, my alma mater (and USNews&World Report's #1 rated liberal arts college in the Midwest), and Ivanhoe's. Ivanhoe's has been around since 1965, but since 1965 has developed a list of 100 different shakes and 100 different sundaes. Michael chose #50: the IWU Wildcat #2 (IWU stands for Indiana Wesleyan Univ., a short distance away in Marion, IN). Mint choc. chip ice cream, topped with a whole Kit Kat bar cut up in pieces, and drenched in hot fudge. I had something that used to be on the menu but isn't any longer: an Oreo fudge shake, in the mini size (9 oz.). Soft serve vanilla, blended with hot fudge, and then chopped up Oreos stirred in.

The Ivanhoe's experience was a blatant bribe of Michael so that he would tolerate walking around campus, seeing various buildings and getting a general sense of the place. One of the buildings I hadn't seen is the new Prayer Chapel, a lovely place for individuals and groups to gather and lift up their needs and praises to God. This is view from one of the porticoes toward the south side of campus.

This is a view of the ceiling and opening to the heavens that is in the center of the building. Students pass through it on their way across campus, so it has a section that is open as well as meeting rooms.

After that experience, we went home and relaxed. Sunday was a quiet day. We went to church in the morning, and my aunts and uncles and a few of my cousins came for dinner that evening. We laughed and laughed and laughed! Always good to see everyone. It had been 15 months since we'd been home.

Monday was a down day, with nothing scheduled. It was amazingly peaceful to be at my parents' house! It backs up to a pond and it was so much fun to watch the wildlife: the blue heron that came to eat in the morning and early evening, the ducks and their adolescent offspring, the little robin that was searching for worms for breakfast. The weather was idyllic--70s and sunny--and that contributed to the general good mood of each day. Since we had nothing to do, Monday was game day for me and Michael. I think I played about 15 rounds of Uno, at least 6 rounds of a version of Scrabble called Take 2, and Chinese checkers. We really had a blast! He had unplugged too, not bringing a laptop to play any computer games.

Mid-afternoon my aunt Laura called and asked if I'd like to go see the cool Starbucks downtown. Of course! It's in an old tire store, and the front garage bays were preserved as an open-air lounge area. It was neat.

That evening, my quest for nostalgic ice cream experiences was completed when I went to Zesto. Zesto is an area soft serve ice cream stand that only operates seasonally, and it has the best vanilla soft serve cones bar none! I've been eating this ice cream every summer since I was a young child--a food memory is a strong one, and this one dates back to about age 4, I'd guess--and as you can tell, I was excited to be able to have this treat again. Sorry this last pic's a little blurry; I think Michael was laughing too hard to hold the camera still.

Yesterday we went to a local gourmet chocolate company and toured its kitchens. I didn't take any photos, because I didn't want you to think all I did was eat! Some did make it home for Bob, who stayed behind to work. I also saw my childhood best friend, who is stateside from Vietnam to do master's work for a month. Blessed be the ties that bind...she's a dearheart, and we don't need much time to go deep and share our hearts. Our families have been friends for decades, and I was able to see her parents, as well as one of her brothers and his children. We played bocce in their backyard and chatted in the gazebo.

I'm glad to be home, but a little sad to leave my IN home. Thanks Mom and Dad, for making this trip possible! Gotta hit the hay--the alarm goes off at 3:45 am tomorrow! I'll let you know if my Starbucks is on the chopping block or not. Sure hope not!