Studio Musings

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Happy Birthday Pop Up Card

my work surface during the 'play' stage

Last week, I decided to make a birthday card for a friend who shares the same birthday as mine.   I knew I had to use the pop-up mechanism I learned at Cricut Mountain Make-a-thon for the interior.

pop-up mechanism installed - ready for the pop-out card
When I got to this stage, I realized I wasn't quite sure how to measure where to attach the pop-out accordion at left to the mechanism at right to make it all work.  I knew I had to glue top-right and bottom-left, but how far out from the center did I need to go?  Since we didn't receive written instructions from the class, I popped over to search Youtube, where I found a great, 7-minute video of the whole process (placing the pop-out accordion shows up at 5:40).  Thank you Srushti Patil!

I embossed the background squares before adding the lettering
I kept "Enjoy the Little Things", because it makes me smile.  And I liked how the embossed backgrounds echoed that theme.

But what to do with the front?  I decided to recreate one of Cricut Design Space's projects, Tiny Birthday Banners, with a couple of modifications.  I used a different font for the letterin, and changed the pennants a little.  Hot glue guns and I don't generally get along, so I added a little fold-over flap to the top of each banner, which made it super easy to attach them to the banner string. 

Ready to attach the banners to the card, I discovered I didn't plan the stages of work well at all.  I had to carefully unstick the edges of the inner liner paper (the sky blue) so that I could tape and glue down the ends of the two strings underneath.  Oops!

Despite that, I was pretty pleased with how it turned out.  Too bad I forgot to take a 'clean' picture of it!  Instead, you get this close-up with the scissors.  That's definitely the way things seem to roll for me these days.

Finished card, ready to mail. 

Want the links to these projects?  I've shared the links on my Cricut Profile page.  You'll find this card, and a full Happy Birthday banner I had to make afterwards.   Cricut's new interface doesn't currently allow me to link the projects directly from my blog - my only options for sharing are Pinterest and Facebook - they don't give me a link option.  If I have time, I may give them a call later today and ask for help.  In the meantime, my profile is a work around. 

I also plan to post a project that's simply as many miniature pennants as can fit arranged on an 8.5 x 11" page.   This one's for people like me who a) Hate to waste paper and b) May like having extra pennants hanging around, ready for that unexpected party.  Unfortunately, Cricut requires me to add a photo of my own of the project before I can post that to my profile.  Right now all of the pennants are tucked away in the closet of the guest bedroom where my niece is fast asleep, so any new photos will have to wait.  :) 

But hey, two blog posts in a single month!  I may be on a roll. 


Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Summer Camp Fun (aka Cricut Mountain Make-a-thon)

Love my new collection of pins! (the bag was mine)
Last week I went to summer camp, also known as Cricut Mountain Make-a-thon.  Three jam-packed days of creativity, new friends, and so much fun!  I've always loved summer camp - swimming, hiking, s'mores over a campfire, and my favorite - arts and crafts.  Cricut's Mountain Make-a-thon definitely delivered on the last. 

While it was announced back in May, I didn't decide to sign up until mid-July.  I really, really wanted to do something fun, because this summer has been filled with a number of not fun things, like deciding I need to let go of my studio outside the home (and figure out what to do with everything that's lived there for the past ten years!)  Signing up so late, a number of the classes were already full, but I easily managed to fill my schedule.

My biggest goal - to test drive Cricut's new Maker.  With it's expandable set of tools, it's designed to cut everything from fabric (with the rotary cutter blade) to chipboard and balsa wood (using the knife blade), as well as the normal suspects (paper, vinyl, etc.) that their Explore Air cuts so beautifully.  Over half of the classes I took were hands-on, using the Maker, and I got to watch it cut fabric, interfacing, fusible batting, felt, chipboard, paper, vinyl, iron-on and even crepe paper, as well as use the new scoring wheels to create a super-sized rosette. 

I started out with a card-making class - couldn't pass up the chance to learn a new-to-me pop-up mechanism. 
Add caption
Debbie O'Neal had designed on over-the-top card complete with pink flamingos, pineapples and a colorful toucan.  I stuck with dead-simple to make it easier to focus on how the pop-up works.  It's going to be such fun creating designs that work with this! 

We cut 4mm chipboard and patterned vinyl to create this cute banner
In "Cuts Like a Knife" I learned the knife blade doesn't try to cut all the way through thick materials in one fell swoop.  Instead, it makes multiple, very-precise passes.  It took fifteen passes to cut the 4mm chipboard shown above.  In the edge-on shot, I tried to show both the thickness of the chipboard, and how cleanly it cut.  

Sample projects from "It Cuts Like a Knife" class
I spent the first day literally running from class to class, and discovered that there was no 'passing period'.  If the schedule said Class A ends at 10:30 and Class B starts at the same time, they mean exactly that.  It meant I was a little late to several classes, because I had something like five classes all lined up, back-to-back.  Oops! Back in my hotel room that evening, I rearranged my schedule for the next day to give myself a little more breathing room. 

First up on Day Two? Audrey Fixation's Amazing Zipper class.  

Day Two - The Amazing Zippered bag
In an hour and a half, I cut out the fabrics, interfacing and fusible batting (using the cutting wheel), and FINISHED the phone case - including my first zipper in probably ten years.  Cutting, ironing, and stitching, done!  Wow. 

I finished a several projects on Day Two - I took this photo that evening as evidence
My biggest surprise of the Make-a-Thon was how much I loved their newest line of Easy-Presses

The newest Easy Press, in three sizes, from the Cricut website
Going into the conference, I thought I'd only want one if I really got into iron-on designs.  Cricut cleverly had several projects, including some universal make-and-takes, that used the different sizes of Easy Press.  We also used them in the sewing classes to press fabrics.  They are so neat!  My 10-15 year old iron had taken a fatal fall from my ironing board just before I left.  This left me in a vulnerable position, where I was way too susceptible to the lure of the bright-and-shiny.  Can you guess where this is going?  Yep, the smallest press followed me home, really.   We'll see how much I love it once I've used it a bit more at home.  At the very least, it's base design makes it much less likely to plummet from my ironing board.  :)

One of the classes I exchanged into was Lia Griffith's "Magical Crepe Paper Flowers".   I was waitlisted, but luckily a few someones didn't show up, so there was room.

Lia Griffith's crepe paper flower bouquets on the left, my bloom on the right
In just an hour, I made this Iris/Tulip hybrid (it looks more like an iris to me, but I think it's supposed to be a fancy tulip).  I could have used a little more time to blend the pan pastels, but I definitely got the picture.  This was another dangerous, dangerous class!  I'm now the proud owner of a signed copy of Lia's latest book, Crepe Paper Flowers.  I can't wait to try out some of her other designs.  Even better?  If you have a Maker, the book includes a download code to cut all of the pattern pieces. 

Breakfast time friends
Each morning started with a lovely buffet breakfast, usually followed by a general session.  This was a great time to meet others who love to create as much (or more) as I do.  Including Dewana, the admin for the Cricut Design Space Facebook Group, and a number of her friends from that group.  Such a creative group!

In each corner of the main ballroom, the Cricut Team set up themed Design-scapes for a little extra inspiration.  My favorite was the child's bedroom.  Chock full of ideas.  Love the animal appliques, and how they turned one into a stuffed animal!

Cricut Design Team's "Child's Bedroom"

Cricut Design Team's "Wine & Cheese" dinner theme

They had a selfie 'scavenger hunt' in order to earn the pins I showed earlier, hence my mug at bottom left.  And every day, we received another goodie bag, from Michaels, Joann's and Cricut! 

Conference Freebies in addition to class supplies.
Cricut also gave us all of the images and fonts used in the various classes, whether or not you actually took the class.  So I can try out Anna Griffin's scoring wheel designs at some later date.  The biggest challenge, was fitting everything into my small carry-on sized suitcase and the tote bag from above.  Especially since we received the Bright Pad as a parting gift at the end of the last day. (It's not small!)

Can you tell I had fun?  I've been home a week now, and I'm still jazzed by all the possibilities.  Just need to finish moving the studio home, and then I'll have time to create....

Monday, July 9, 2018

Finding my Way Back to Me

It's been so long since my last blog post!  As my desire to blog has slowly returned, I've debated whether I should try to revive my poor, neglected Baublicious, or whether I should simply start fresh with a whole new blog.  In the end, I decided there have been enough endings and transitions in my life this year, I'm not ready for another.

That elimination diet I mentioned in my last post, back in January?  The one that was supposed to last 30 days?  Well, I ended up having to stick with it well into April, continuing to refine and eliminate additional foods until I could find a stable spot for my body to start healing. The good news is it has worked.  My health has improved significantly in so many, many ways.  Even areas that I simply took for granted as 'the way things are', like seasonal allergies, haven't been as bad as previous years. 

The only fly in the ointment is I can't stay on my very restricted diet forever, and I'm still having significant troubles reintroducing foods. Yep, I'm still in stuck in the reintroduction phase - it's slow going. I still have bad days, when my body decides to reject the latest food reintroduction.  Thankfully, the bad days are interspersed amongst the much more frequent good ones.  The bad days help me remember just why I embarked on this journey in the first place. 

The good news is that for the first time in forever, my mind keeps turning to creative endeavors not because I feel like I 'have to' or 'ought to' do them, but because I truly want to.  At the same time, I feel like I'm relearning how to be creative.  Rebuilding my creative muscles and stamina.  Last month I focused on daily sketching.  I signed up for a 30 day "Find Your Flow" workshop with Karen Abend, and committed to drawing for at least a half hour every day through the month of June.  My biggest challenge was giving myself permission to create wonky, imperfect, and often incomplete sketches, and simply enjoy the process.  So far so good! 

This happened to coincide with an invitation from my mother-in-law to join her on an Alaskan cruise earlier this month.  So I have plenty to blog about!  I just need to retrain myself to put blogging into my routine.  For so long, it's taken all of my focus simply to accomplish the must-dos on my daily lists.  It feels amazing to have energy enough to reach out for creativity, for friendship, to find my way back to the me that makes me smile.  Makes me feel like dancing!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Two Down, Two to Go

This is a totally non-bead related, non-artsy post, fair warning.

Health-wise, the past few years have been a bit of a roller coaster as I've dealt with a series of auto-immune issues.  Things flared up again big time this past fall, to the point that I could barely breath during the day and only slept in 10-15 minute increments before waking up choking.  Really not good!

This fall I got to visit with a whole slew of specialists, including an otolaryngologist who sent me to another specialist to verify that my hearing hadn't actually been damaged (it hadn't thank goodness!), and gave me referrals for environmental allergy testing as well as a sleep study.  But he discouraged me from being tested for food allergies.  I believe his concern was that in the state I was then, the results would say I was sensitive to everything.

Instead, he suggested that I cut out specific foods to see if my symptoms would improve, and suggested that I do an elimination diet, what he called the "Gold Standard" to let my system heal, and then slowly reintroduce 'suspect' foods while keeping a food journal to track sensitivities and reactions.

With the holidays fast approaching, I decided to put it off until the day after New Year's.  January 2nd, I jumped in with both feet - cutting out everything that I seemed to cause problems, and a few extras that I was told to cut, just to be thorough.  Check out my "No Fun" list of all the foods I'm currently avoiding - isn't it fun?  (Not!)  This is supposed to go on for a full four weeks before I start the reintroduction process.  Weeee!

Here's what I've learned so far.

Week One: Cutting caffeine, sugar and wheat out of one's diet all at once is truly no fun.  In fact, it was pretty darned awful.  Crushing headaches, joint pain, fevers, nausea, other things best not to mention; if my energy levels hadn't been pretty good, I would have thought I'd caught the flu.  But the good news, is if you do it all at once, then when it's done it's done.  I don't think I could have gone through that multiple times.

Week Two was more of a mental challenge.  I don't love to cook, and this diet pretty much insures that I have to cook every meal at home because it seems that almost everything prepackaged includes something I'm avoiding.  Even luncheon meats - if it's not added sugars, it's garlic powder (my one cheat is a little bit of bacon).  Figuring out how to make large batches of food that still taste good as leftovers with my limited ingredient list when I'm sick of cooking - yep, that was my challenge.  Mostly, I was grumpy at all the things I can't eat right now. 

Early in the week I also dealt with some energy issues.  I'd head out to walk to the bus and find myself extremely light-headed, and my legs wobbly.  Finally figured out that I needed more starchy carbs in my diet - I'd better not develop a sensitivity to sweet potatoes, because they are currently my best friend.   Once I figured that out, I was even able to make it through a light work out at the gym on Sunday for the first time in months.  Baby steps - I keep reminding myself. 

Otherwise, I am seeing a definite improvement in many of my ongoing symptoms.  Yippee!

from Practical Paleo by Dianne Sanfilippo
Now, I'm heading into Week Three.  

Week One I put together a meal plan. Week Two, I kept telling myself to put one together, but never actually did because I was too busy being grumpy.  Week Three, I'm determined to make a real meal plan and try out at least three new recipes.  I'm debating a recipe for Broc-Cauli Chowder from Practical Paleo by Diane Sanfilippo.  Would it really taste good? Especially without the garlic?  Maybe I'd be safer with the Butternut Sage soup on the next page?  Hmmm...

Either way, I need a new blender, so I've been researching options.  Hoping not to spend too much, and I want something really, really easy to clean.  I hated our old blender (dead now for ten plus years); the glass container was too big and heavy, and soooo difficult to clean.  This time around I think I'm looking at a personal blender.  Lighter weight, and easier to clean.  Hopefully it will also work reasonably well.  Keeping my fingers crossed.  I'm also thinking about buying a hand-crank spiralizer.  Zucchini noodles may be in my future.

I fear that's where all of my extra bandwidth has gone, these first two weeks of 2018.  I am wide open to recipe suggestions; if you have a favorite recipe that fits (or can be made to fit) my limitations, I'd love to see it.  I'd also love to hear your experiences if you've done a similar elimination diet in the past (or are doing one right now).  Even with my nutritionist's recommendations, I really feel like I'm making this up as I go.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

A White Christmas & a Boxing Day Surprise

Had to take a 'housie' - it looked so cute all decorated in snow
Who says wishes never come true? 

Yesterday morning, we woke to a Winter Wonderland; the world outside our door decorated with a liberal coating of snow.  And it hadn't stopped snowing; there was more softly drifting through the chilly air like party confetti.  Snow Day!!!!

This being Seattle - we weren’t sure how long it would last.  By some accounts this was Seattle's eighth White Christmas since 1909!  Which is how we found ourselves wandering the neighborhood in the early morning light, drinking in the sights.  Pre-coffee, pre-presents, predawn, just us and the snow.

wandering the neighborhood in the half-light before dawn

Cherry trees limned with snow

It was a wet, heavy snow and I love how it highlighted all the little tree branches. 

These are photos of some cherry trees.  The snow made it easy to see the variations in branching patterns between different tree species.  Even the littlest branches of the cherry trees provided nice stark, dark lines of contrast.   That’s likely the reason they were also my most successful tree photos.

What an amazing way to start Christmas morning!  And sure enough, by late afternoon, the snow had begun to melt.  Today, there's still snow on the ground, but it's gone from all of the trees.

Snow equals Snowflakes!

In celebration of our first Snow Day in forever, our first White Christmas in even longer, and as a little gift for Boxing Day, I'm putting together a free bonus snowflake tutorial for anyone who has ever purchased my Snowflakes and Stars tutorial, or one of my snowflake kits.  This includes people who have taken one of my Snowflake workshops. 

How do you receive your copy?  Simply let me know where and when you purchased the tutorial (to the best of your memory).  On New Year's day, I'll send you instructions for the snowflake pictured in my earlier post, Hoping for Snow, (and below).  It's a 'decorated' version of my basic snowflake.  Make sure you include an email address, or some way to contact you!  If you send me a picture of one of the snowflakes you made, I may include a little extra bonus.  Yep, a little bribery because I'd love to see your work.  :)

Don't have the original pattern?  Purchase it between now and New Years, and I'll send you the bonus instructions, too. 

I'll send out instructions for this beaded snowflake on New Years

(Speaking of snowflakes, if there are friends who have a Cricut cutter and would like me to share how I made the paper ornaments, let me know.  They were really easy; the snowflakes are stock images that I combined with a circle frame).

 Happy Boxing Day! 

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Hoping for Snow

There’s potential for snow in the forecast, both today and tomorrow.  Like always, it’s still uncertain; everything has to go just right (or just wrong depending upon your perspective) for it to snow in Seattle. Today, there’s a chance that by mid-afternoon, the fluffy white stuff might grace our skies and leave a light dusting all around.  The original inspiration for glitter!  If it doesn’t snow this afternoon, there’s a renewed chance of snow tomorrow.  In either case, no real accumulation is expected.

If it does snow, it will be our first white Christmas since 2008. That year was definitely a case of too much of a good thing.  It started snowing mid-December and didn’t stop until December 24th. Over a week straight of snow!  Pretty much unheard of here.  I only want an inch or two; a little extra decoration for the holidays, that disappears in time for the Tuesday commute.

And so I’m dreaming of a White Christmas, while sitting at my local coffee shop in front of the (gas) fireplace enjoying the quiet magic of Christmas Eve.

Merry Christmas to all of my friends who celebrate the holiday.  In the immortal words of Irving Berlin:

May your Christmas be merry and bright, 
and may all your Christmases be white. 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Girls Rule, Especially at Geek Girl Con

This weekend I took a side trip out of the regular world into the wonderful, amazing, zany world of Geek Girl Con.  A world of games, science, imagination and fun where women took center stage for a change. 

Panels ran the gamut from sneak peaks and hosted play for upcoming games, to in-depth looks at the demographics of various genres fan bases and their actual representation therein, to DIY science and art projects, to a panel on building realistic fake languages and hardcore STEM panels such as Droid Building 101: Build Your Own Astromech and Build Your Own 2G Phone With that last one, the first 20 participants participated in the workshop, everyone else was welcome to simply listen in. 

For myself, I ended up skipping most of the hardcore panels this time and settled into a schedule of make-and-takes and games, including a group story building workshop. 

Saturday opened with a little Betrayal at Baldur's Gate
Betrayal at Baldur's Gate starts as a territory exploration game.  You and your fellow explorers build the board a tile at a time, gathering loot, battling monsters and uncovering periodic mysteries as you go.  Until the game suddenly turns into a pitched battle or adventure game, where your party must learn to work together to defeat the threat.  Worse, it may turn out that one of your party members is a betrayer, in which case you must defeat them to win the game. 

The designers at Avalon Hill have written 50 different scenarios for the second half of the game - circumstances within the game determine which one you will face.  As far as I could tell, every table in the room was faced with a different scenario, which makes for great replay value. 

I was the only one at our table who hadn't played the earlier version, Betrayal at House on the Hill (totally non-D&D). We encountered a pve (player vs environment) scenario.  We lost spectacularly, but it was still a lot of fun.   If you're a long-time D&D fan, the game has the right feel.  If you've never played D&D before, it's a fun adventure game (according to tablemates who fell into this category).

D&D Dinosaur Races with the Adventurers' League
My appetite whetted for some real D&D, I stuck around to play a new adventure from Wizard's of the CoastsTombs of Annihilation.  Wizard's hosted a hands-on game.  Totally unexpected, they gave each of us participating a dice bag with dice.  At the end of the game, they surprised us again with free minies - we each received a random 4pack!   

Sunday, I joined the local branch of the Adventurer's League for another scenario.  My fellow players were a mom who'd never played before and a passel of tween girls who'd played for the first time the day before.  This time we got to go to the Dinosaur Races!  Complete with cool maps and minis perched on dinosaurs. 

I've also learned there are sort of two different organized, drop-in D&D groups around here - the Adventurers' League and Pathfinders.  I'm such a geek!

But enough gaming, I did attend a few panels, too.

The Force is Female panel speakers
My favorite thing, hands down, about all of the panels I attended?  The speakers were predominantly women, unlike most other cons I've attended where at best there's a token female panelist.

a photo from a PAX 2017 panel for comparison
Back to the GeekGirl panel, I fear that I didn't stay through the full talk.  I discovered I was no where near a hard-core enough fan.  I hadn't watched any of the auxiliary series they referenced and couldn't begin to match their level of analysis of the source base as they referred to characters and scenarios with which I am wholly unfamiliar.   

Even still, much of what they said resonated with me.  One of the panelists also happened to be an engineer.  She noted that in one scene (I think from Rogue One), there's a call for engineers and a bunch of guys come running.  Her question, 'Where are the women engineers?'  I had noticed this too; that while the new movies were getting better about female leads, they still had a long way to go including women in bit roles outside of female stereotypes. 

Speaking of Star Wars, I happened upon these wandering the halls:

Daleks and Droids wandering the halls
And I learned a few new crafting techniques, including a great one for making quick, inexpensive masks.

My mask is lower left, but other participants let me photograph theirs

My mask, at the lower left, is unpainted.  The woman who made the black one in the upper left corner designed hers to fit over her glasses!  How cool is that?  These were all made using tinfoil and masking tape, that's all except for the paint.  

Moro and San from Princess Mononoke
I'd say at least half of the attendees showed up in costume.  Many were of their favorite characters, like this fantastic duo from Princess Mononoke, but just as many were their own original designs.  I  wish I'd taken a photo of the member of the Women's Badminton Protection League, dressed in slightly steampunk, but very proper Victorian attire complete with a spiked badmitton racket and shuttlecock 'grenade'.  Instead, I was focused on taking a photo of the band playing just outside the windows.

Band busking just outside the conference center
Equally cool were the men who attended the con.  Men of all ages; fathers, brothers, sons, boyfriends and friends of women.  Having a blast.  I'd say the male to female ratio was the opposite of other cons I've attended such as PAX.  A refreshing change.  The con also seemed much more relaxed.   I kept finding myself wishing my sister and her boys were in Seattle - there were so many panels and workshops that seemed perfect for one or another of them.