I feel bad…

In more ways than one. Still rather under the weather, virus gone, something else has kicked in. Basically I have spent another two days on the sofa, under blankets, watching movies. Doesn’t sound too bad if it is by choice, right? But if it is because you feel completely rubbish then it is not so darn great, frankly.

The second reason I feel bad is because I have put my faith in something that has let me down. Namely the WordPress app for my tablety-thingy. I don’t usually use it very much for WP, although there have been days where I have relied on it completely, but generally I prefer a proper keyboard. However with the pc a whole other room away it seemed a good solution to be able to keep up with everyone’s blogs whilst lounging around feeling sorry for myself.

It looked like everything was pretty quiet out there in blog land. I saw some posts from regulars, but not that many. I figured everyone had maybe started Christmas preparations, or were perhaps just slumped over the kitchen table, trying to rally themselves to hit the shops or internet with November’s pay check.

So I went back to the movie watching. Then today, as I was scrolling through, I noticed that the posts in my ‘followed sites’ feed jumped from -3hrs to -20hrs. It seemed a bit unlikely that NOBODY had posted ANYTHING four hours ago, or eight hours ago, or twelve…you get my drift.

I fired up the pc and, guess what? Posts aplenty! Loads of which I have missed. They simply do not show up in the app, or maybe it is the version I have? I don’t know. Although it has always been a bit temperamental: it keeps stopping, you have to wait 10 seconds after you have ’liked’ before you can move on, sometimes comments or likes on your posts don’t show up and so forth.

So I am sorry if I missed you, and I will try to catch up with everyone as best I can.

In the meantime, this (approximate) quote from one of the several thousand Christmas movies I have watched tickled me. I’ll set the scene. A mother becomes disillusioned with her life for various reasons. And, because it is a Christmas movie, she ends up in an alternate life, married to the wealthy chap she had dated previously. Because the money is all new to her she goes mad, and maybe makes a few OTT faux pas on the clothing/hair/makeup side. She also now has a kindly maid. The woman gets dressed up for what she hopes is a hot date night with her husband. She asks the kindly maid “What do you think? Do I have too much jewellery on?” The maid (kindly) says “well for a float in a parade, no. But for a person, yes”.

Maybe I have just watched one ten too many….

 

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Put that reindeer down!

It’s official. I am obsessed with reindeer imagery. I had a lightbulb moment of realisation recently. You know the kind of thing, when you look at your wardrobe and suddenly notice that almost everything is black, or white, or pink (insert your colour here). So many of the cards I have made for Christmas this year feature reindeer in one form or another. And the thing is, I have more reindeer stuff I haven’t even used! Maybe there is a term for this condition. For my dignity and self-respect I hope it isn’t simply ‘fruit loop’.

Anyhow, just a quick post today as I am still feeling a bit queasy. Luckily you can’t catch this sort of virus online. So, another reindeer card. Sorry! Hope there are no reindeer-phobics out there. This card isn’t actually radioactive as the look would suggest. Just silver, with winter sun catching on it. I quite like the incandescent look though!

reindeer-header-1

This was made using a Die’sire header die that I either bought last year or was maybe a freebie with a magazine, I can’t actually remember which. I can’t find the packaging and I am not sure if it is still available, but I think they do something similar anyway. I also used the Crafter’s Companion Elegant Snowfall embossing folder, plus Marianne reindeer and Anna Griffin Joy dies, again from old stash.

 

Giving, and Thanks.

Last night we had another power cut, blacking out most of the evening. Initially I was grouchy. I hadn’t yet cooked dinner and having been a bit peaky for a few days I had a lot of blog catching up to do. Then I got a grip. We were safe, warm (as long as we stayed in the one room), and a supper of cheese and biscuits would often be a guilty pleasure anyway. The situation was hardly dire or dramatic. Having some of your creature comforts taken away for a few hours does sometimes give you a bit of a reality check and remind us how lucky we are to have a home at all.

So, I have a story to share. I also tell this story every time I listen to someone complaining about people living on the streets.

In the UK in the 1980s there were a lot of visible homeless people, or beggars (there is a difference, one does not necessarily mean the other) on the streets in central London. Those years were so difficult for so many, and so lucrative for a small minority. I was OK. I was in my first job, with a decent starter salary and most of my income was at my own disposal. Not exactly a ‘Have’, but lucky enough not to be a ‘Have not’.

Newspapers and TV would often comment on the numbers of homeless, some sympathetically and some not. There were warnings that you should not give money, that it was a trick to steal your purse, or that some people were ’professional’ beggars and went home to a nice cosy house at the end of a lucrative day. Many also said that you were being made a fool of if you gave anything.

I found it hard to accept that all these people were con artists. Another line taken was that they deliberately chose to be homeless. Maybe some did, maybe some preferred this way of life, but I couldn’t believe that was the case for all. You had to consider that if they had made the choice to run away, or live on the streets, what awful things happened at home to make this the better option? Maybe this was not intended, but things had simply not worked out and there was no way back?

Anyway, whatever had happened to someone, however they had gotten there, I (and of course thousands of others) could not simply walk by every day and ignore a person on a pavement. I made a decision that I didn’t care if I was being ‘conned’, or made a fool of by some: that would be their problem, not mine. I didn’t give money to everyone I saw, but used to give a decent amount of money, so a few pounds, not pennies, to some, hoping it meant they could definitely eat that day.

It was Christmas Eve, and we finished work around lunchtime. As was traditional, a visit to the pub was in order for a couple of white wine and tonics (really, not sure I would like that now!!) and then a few of us headed to London’s Oxford Street for some last minute shopping. It was cold, getting a bit dark, there was festive music coming from almost every shop and a sea of Christmas lights. The pavements were thick with shoppers and sightseers, making it difficult to progress, or even just keep track of your friends.

But someone caught my eye. She was a young woman holding a notice. The notice was brief, and I have to be honest and say that now I forget the exact details, but I think it just said she and her small family had been recently made homeless, and asked for any spare change. She was not confronting anyone, not even speaking, just standing quietly. I made a quick decision that I wanted to do something nice that afternoon. My purse was full of cash so I went up, tucked a £20 note into her hand and walked on as she was saying thank you. Now in those times, this amount of money would easily buy enough food for a week. Some of my work colleagues told me I was stupid, that she had probably been given many times that amount of money already, I was lucky my purse hadn’t been stolen etc etc. We carried on up towards Selfridges, with them still telling me I was daft.

And then the worst thing happened. She started to follow me. Someone I was with saw her dodging through the throngs of shoppers “oh look, she’s after you!” Stupidly, we sped up. Now I could hear her calling out ‘Miss, Miss, wait!’. There was a comedy chase on for a few moments and then she caught up with me. I honestly don’t know what I expected to happen next. For sure I didn’t think I would be mugged as all the dire warnings would have me fretting was likely to happen, because she just didn’t seem like that kind of person.

But I was definitely not expecting to hear “this is a lot of money. Are you sure you meant to give me this much?”

I told her I had meant to, and she seemed a bit bemused, or surprised maybe. She thanked me again, quietly. I hope we wished each other a Merry Christmas, but you know, this is not the Hallmark Channel so I cannot be certain. But I remember this woman every year, and I always hope she is OK, that things worked out for her. I hope she had a good Christmas.

To me, I actually don’t care if she raked in ££££s that day, but I really don’t think she did. If she was doing well enough standing where she was, and was unscrupulous enough to ask for money when she had no genuine need, why bother to chase me? No. She was a decent and honest person, that for some reason was in a bad situation and had no other options. I think I got more from the encounter than she did, to be honest.

So this is my ‘giving, and thanks’ story. Happy Thanksgiving to all those that celebrate the holiday.

Oh, and whilst we were in semi darkness last night I managed to make a card.

blue-merry

Supplies: Tonic Rococo Build a Wreath dies; Anna Griffin ‘merry’ die; The Works for the smaller sprig die (it doesn’t seem to have a name)

 

3D Thursday: It’s Shakespeare, Jim, but not as we know it…

Sorry Trekkies….

Last year on Pinterest I saw lots of Christmas ornaments with a honeycomb paper look. Now, I can just about remember from childhood many Christmas ornaments being made from honeycomb paper. They would be something like a bell, or a tree, probably about a foot long. They would be multicoloured, and be able to open for the festivities and fold closed again to store for next year. The honeycomb effect would be quite elaborate too. The ornaments I saw on Pinterest were handmade, and therefore much less elaborate, but really appealed. Also many were made with book pages. I wanted to try it last year but never had the time. I know some people feel that books should not be cut up, or cut into, but I feel differently. I love books. I love to read them, flick through them, even pile up old interesting looking ones simply for decoration. But I also just like the look of the text and the feel of the pages, so using them as a craft material is fine, for me. Otherwise these books are sitting alone and unloved in a charity or second-hand shop somewhere. Where is the glory or dignity in that? If you feel differently, it’s ok, just look away now and come back another day maybe?!

Still here? OK. So, yesterday I watched various YouTube clips to see how to make the honeycomb paper effect. Then armed with some knowledge I waded on in. The method I came up with was a bit of a mixture of the videos I watched. Isn’t that often the way? If anyone wants to know specifics just let me know in a comment and I will put something together, but really if you fancy having a go there are plenty of tutorials already available.

I used an old book of Shakespeare plays. Probably just a twisted amusement at making something which vaguely resembles an Elizabethan ruff from The Bard’s works. Or shall I pretend it is in homage?! But for the record I don’t actually see Shakespeare’s visage in honeycomb paper, or on my toast, like some people do…

As I said, I won’t go into masses of detail, but basically you cut your shapes, fold them in half and then stick them together one on top of the other, but alternating the sticking points. Really, seriously, I can try to explain this more but other people have already done it way better so I won’t. YouTube is great for this!

Once you have your basic shape done, again you have choices for the hanging loop and decoration at the bottom. Or at least you would have choices if you were a crafter with a selection of beads to hand. I am not, so ended up using a snowflake charm that was free with a magazine about a million years ago.

I wanted more bling. I wanted those pages GLITTERED! A rifle through my glitter stash and I plumped for Smoky Quartz by Martha Stewart. It is an old-fashioned kind of colour, exactly what I had in mind. So late last night I was sitting painting diluted pva glue onto the edges of the pages and then liberally sprinkling with glitter. Some pages are a bit more glittery than I would like, but too late now. Next time I will do the job in better light. I also decided I loved the glitter so much that I added it to some simple die cut holly leaves too and stuck these at the top of the ornament.

book-page-ornament-1

 

What I learned from this first one is that it is worth taking some time to work out the position of your fixing points. This ornament could have looked better with a different choice I think, but now I know.

Also, glue dots seemed to be the weapon of choice for a lot of the YouTube-ers, but I gave up on them pretty quick. You simply cannot easily see where you are putting them because of the carrier paper. I just used a sticky tape runner and it worked fine.

I know you would have to be very careful about where you placed a decoration like this but I do find them interesting to look at. Again this is another project that you absolutely could replicate without a die or die cutter. Just draw half a simple ornament shape, cut it out, draw around it on your already folded book pages and you are good to go.

 

The die I used was the largest from Spellbinders 2010 Heirloom Ornaments

 

Three degrees

deer-family-multi

Whilst rummaging in the craft room at the weekend I came across some snowy acetate I bought a couple of years ago. Nothing like rediscovering an old friend, is there? I decided to give it a bit of a workout. Also, those who read my posts regularly may remember that a vital Christmas die went missing a few weeks ago. The guilty party is either the cat or a poltergeist, because the die was returned last week. Left in the middle of the living room floor. Hmmm. I am pretty sure forensic testing would detect kitty DNA, or at least tuna… Anyway, it is back so Christmas is no longer cancelled.

To the cards, then. The first ‘degree’ of difficulty, is well, not in the least bit difficult really. I used the Deer Family die as it is, plus a banner greeting. A square of the snowy acetate was layered over royal blue card for the background sky, 3D foam and done. Total absolute beginner level. I think it would be good for a male Christmas card, maybe?

deer-family-simple

For the second degree, well there was a bit more thinking required for the composition, but once that was done it was simple to put together. Here I have used acetate to make the base card: it is sturdy enough to stand up with no problem. This time for the Deer Family I cut away the circular dome, so they are just silhouettes on a strip of card. I stamped and embossed the sentiment onto vellum and then wrapped the vellum around the layer with the Tree Landscape and adhered this to the piece with the deer. For acetate cards you need to tidy up the inside too, so nobody sees the gluey mess that is your shame. Just cover it up with another bit of card and nothing to see here! You also need somewhere to write. Well, unless you don’t like the recipient enough to bother, but then why are you sending the card?! My top tip for this (only thought of it today) is to flip the card over so the front is facing down on your work surface. Now you can easily layer a panel to line up with whatever is on the card front. Then you can turn the card the right way up, open it and align the interior panel perfectly with the one you have stuck to the very back of the card. Hurrah!

deer-family-acetate

Now, the third degree of difficulty. I could have done with a lie down in a darkened room after this. All the dies are from different companies, so not intended to be used together but I had in my head that a diorama style would be fun. Fun for who, exactly?? I jest. It was a good thing to try and I felt I had achieved something. I’m not going to explain how I did it, because part-way in I had a bit of an epiphany and may have come up with a better and easier method. I will test it out and share if it works.

deer-3d

I do have a question to throw out there though. I want a detail gold embossing powder that is a really rich, bright, warm gold. The one I used on the first card here is, to be fair, at least 12 years old, but it is too ‘muddy’. Also, it MUST be a detail powder. Anyone got any recommendations? Oh and acetate, nightmare to photograph. I think you can see the roof of the house across the road in one of these shots and our guttering in another….how picturesque!

Long list of supplies today:

Clearly Besotted Tree Landscape and Mini Basic Banners dies; Lawn Fawn Village Border die; Memory Box Deer Family Circle die; X-Cut Rectangle Parenthesis Large dies; The Ton Holiday Lyrics (Dashing Through the Snow); Clearly Besotted Mini Basic Banners III stamps; Hunkydory snowy acetate. Rest of supplies from stash.

 

 

Another Galaxy…..

This time an overcrowded one. Stars jostling for position. Poking each other and seeing who can twinkle the brightest. And of course there is the big old lairy fella at the end…

Sorry the photo is a bit rubbish, but it was one of those days where the light changed in seconds from too bright (so loads of odd shadows) to gloomier than the inside of an undertaker’s suit pocket.

stars-1

A quick post today. To make this I used two different sets of star dies and a selection of gold and silver card. I then just moved the die cuts about until I was happy with the positioning. Basically I was trying to make sure that there weren’t any odd or ugly shapes or gaps made where the stars or points overlapped. Some are popped up on 3d foam, because I have to. And although it probably means I need to make a box for it now, I deliberately wanted the stars going over the edge of the card, just because I think it looks better really!

This is a card that could probably be rustled up with ready-made supplies from a craft shop. Bags of assorted stars are often available should you feel tempted to pick up a glue stick and get stuck in.

Dies:  Sizzix Bigz Stars and Intricutz Swirling Layered Stars

 

 

The return of the 3d foam…

No, this is not an Edgar Allan Poe rip off.

Today I had a fancy to make a Christmas card that takes a bit more time, hopefully one of the ‘special‘ ones my mum likes to give to immediate and extended family. I decided to park postage cost considerations too, but that was it, no other real plan, except to cut a whole load of shapes and see what happened.

Colour scheme: gold and ivory initially. So I die cut a load of leaves and berries using various Tonic dies. These particular ones are quite large as they were intended to make wreaths I think, so I wasn’t too sure how, or if, I could make them work on a card. But if you don’t try, how will you find out?

So, I had lots of gold shapes to play with, but whilst I was trying to make an arrangement I felt the open areas of the images didn’t work so well with the overlapping effect I was going for – it just looked a bit muddled to me. A background colour was in order, and I decided to use the ivory for this.

I have seen demonstrators doing what they call ‘undercutting’ to make a two-coloured embellishment: basically sticking the die cut to the backing and then cutting around the edge, but at an angle to make sure the edges are clean and neat and don’t have the background colour showing. I can’t do this very well myself. I think you either have scissorhand skills or you don’t. I don’t. But these shapes gave me the option of grabbing the ‘negative’ left from the die cutting and drawing inside it, then snipping just inside the pencil line. Perfect layers – hurrah!

Then I wanted a bit more drama than just gold and ivory, so found a satin red DL card which I cut in half (one side was a bit scuffed), wrapped with ivory ribbon then layered onto a plain ivory DL base card. I arranged and glued various leaves and cones, cutting into some of them if necessary to get smaller pieces, and using a small amount of 3D foam here and there. I also only glued some of the sprigs at the top, under the cones, so they are able to make a shadow.

Finally an extra knot of ivory satin ribbon at the top and time for the mug shots.

tonic-pine-cone-1

Supplies: Tonic Rococo dies Pine Cone; Pine Leaf, Mistletoe Sprig, Holly Leaf, Berry Sprig. Ribbon from The Ribbon Room. All card from stash.

 

So rudely interrupted…

Bit of a late post today! I had something different planned, but we have just had a lengthy power cut. I know for some, maybe those living in more remote areas, this is perhaps hardly worth a mention. But in South London it seldom happens. We are plugged in to just about every bit of kit and technology going. The ground under our pavements is more connectivity and cable than it is soil and rock.

When everything when ‘phut’ (technical term, find it in any electrician’s dictionary) early this evening I was happily wandering through blog land, checking in with everyone. I was just commenting on something lovely I had seen and ‘click’, the world went dark.

I did all the usual checks and it became clear it was an area outage. Because these things happen so rarely we don’t have one of those emergency kits ready and waiting. You know, wind-up torch, battery torch, batteries, rations (chocolate and wine water), space blanket, emergency generator…. So, with dusk rapidly approaching I am scavenging for and lighting scented candles like it is the final hope for civilisation. I didn’t even consider if the scents would go together. Desperate, I know!!

And then what? What do you do when you have no power? Well, within about 20 minutes you turn into a grounded teenager. ‘I can’t watch TV? I can’t use the internet?’ So. Un. Fair. Seriously.

Now last time such an outage happened, several years ago, I remember the power was off for about ten hours. I didn’t plan on being awake that long today, which meant candles were not a good, safe or sensible option past bedtime. I had two torches but that was not going to be enough.

So, on a cold mid-November early evening, I am digging out the battery operated strings of Christmas fairy lights and distributing them: not in the places where they look prettiest, but just where, without the benefit of dimmed lighting, I might otherwise fall and break my neck. How did it come to this?!

The irony of having made a few lumieres this year was not lost on me.

One hour into the power cut. Safety (twinkly) lighting installed. The heating won’t work except for the fire in the living room, so sensibly emergency fuel (a croissant) is ingested. Just to be safe, you understand, as there will probably be no dinner. Now. What. To. Do? Housework is not an option without electricity and you can’t do any paper crafting without at least half-decent lighting.

I could clear my craft desk a bit though! Hurrah! Doesn’t need much lighting for that, surely. Hmmn. Two paper cuts and a puncture wound from my previously mislaid pokey tool later I am heading to the pitch black bathroom for a plaster. I step in something moist. Turns out the cat has chosen the cover of darkness to barf up a fur ball. Peachy. I retire grumpy and bloodied to the sofa. A book, by torchlight, seems the best option.

Then the land line phone handset started bleeping. ‘Do we have juice again?’ I think. No. The phone is just telling me that the battery is low. No matter what buttons I pressed, it continued to do this every few seconds. You can hear it from under several cushions. Or from a room away. Trust me. Power restoration could not come quickly enough.

Now obviously it is the fact that I couldn’t use electricity-reliant technology that just frazzled me a bit here, but also it was a daylight issue. If it had happened hours earlier, or in the summer, it would have been only a mild inconvenience. Light, power and warmth are still pretty basic needs, even now, with all we have at our fingertips. Maybe it is good to be reminded of this.

Oh, and if it was your site I was commenting on, so sorry if you got half a comment, or a ‘like‘ but no comment. I am so traumatised I am not sure what happened or where I was! I think I might be a bit giddy from the scented candle clash too…

 

3D Thursday: Chirps, cheap as chips!

This is a quick project as I have not had time to make much this week. I did though have time to pay a visit to The Works, a shop I have only relatively recently discovered has a selection of craft items, often at really good prices. Amongst other things, I bought a birdcage die. I know birdcage imagery has been around for a long time and is probably out of fashion again now, but I have always liked ornate wire cages: whether fashionable or not, I just think they are very pretty. And at only £3 for a die which is nearly 10cm (4”) tall, well it would have been rude not to make a purchase. Of course I overdid the politeness and bought a lot more besides but we will gloss over that.

So, today I needed to make something for 3D Thursday. I had a few ideas in my head but all were quite time-consuming, then I thought about trying to 3D the birdcage. It is symmetrical apart from the bird on the top (I am glad he is sitting on the cage and not in it!) so in theory it should work. And guess what? This time the theory was right!

birdcage-lumiere

I cut the image four times for each cage from decently thick card, one lot in white and the other in silver, then folded back the small curlicues at the sides on the lower sections. I then glued these together to form the basic ‘square’ shape. Next came some semi-complicated and totally unnecessary faffing about with the tops of the cages: I cut the bird off the back one as it pointed in the opposite direction and looked odd in a photo. I also cut the bird and curlicues off the two side pieces, then pinched and glued them together to make a kind of dome. In practice this makes them look a bit complicated in the photo, although they do make interesting shadows. What I really should have done for an easy life is just cut the tapering top section off all but the front piece. Never mind, I know now!

Once this was done I die cut the bird only from silver glitter card and stuck it over the plain bird. He even has a little wing you can fold out. Nice to know he is capable of escape should he wish. Also a pearl for an eye as we don’t want him crashing into the furniture. I could have gone on and decorated the cage more, but I had no time.

To make them each into a lumiere I rustled up a quick sleeve for the battery tea light from white vellum, just to diffuse the light a bit. They could though also be used for tree decorations. For a quick project I am pretty happy with the results!

 

 

‘Tis the season to be blingy

Put your shades on, people….

Now in essence this is a quick card. In practice, far from it. We went through more reinventions and incarnations than Madonna. I think the problem was that I started with the premise that I HAD to use a gilded reindeer but could not find my large antlered beast anywhere, so used a much smaller die instead. I tried stamps for the sentiment because they were to scale, but the embossing powders could not compete with the blingy reindeer. I only have a few Christmas greeting dies and they are too big for this so just overwhelmed the poor little chap. Eventually I decided to cut one down, just to the word ‘Christmas’ which was fine. Then all the positioning went out of whack. Should there be snow up at the top, or snow down at the bottom? Ditto for the greeting. Everything I did fought against something else!

Eventually I decided on putting all the action into the middle of the black layer to give a border of peace and tranquility top and bottom. I think with such a full-on bling thing it was possibly a wise move! This means my brave little Blitzen is now dodging a gold meteor shower, just to bring some Christmas cheer. I hope we are all suitably grateful for his efforts….

blingy-reindeer

To make this card I cut a card blank in gold, then a smaller layer in black. I used the Avery Elle Falling Snow die to create my stardust/meteor shower in the black card and a cut a gold Tattered Lace Happy Christmas, minus the Happy. The recipient will have to take it as given. The reindeer is a Marianne die I have had for years. He doesn’t seem to have a name, just a serial number LR0179. Seems kind of unfriendly, hence the renaming to Blitzen.

blingy-reindeer-detail

Blitzen was a lot easier to gild than the tree decoration from last week. I dug out some double sided sticky paper that is meant to be used with detail dies to save you trying to get adhesive neatly on the back, but of course if you use it in reverse the front of your die cut becomes sticky instead, ready for gilding. So no gluey mitts this time.

I have to confess that the reindeer is raised on 1mm 3D foam, but otherwise the card is again totally flat and will easily meet the lowest postage charge criteria. Lets hope he makes it through the storm!