Saturday, 31 December 2016

Endings & Beginnings

This will be my last post of the year, and on this last day of 2016, I've been a little reflective. Last night I logged on to Facebook to find that a lady I'd made friends with via our love of cats had passed away. She had been ill for a while, but she was such a brave woman with such a love for her family and cats, never did I hear her complain about her lot in life, she tried to smile when it was dark and scary, she was a beautiful soul. Now I may never have met her, and I couldn't claim to be her best friend but I felt her passing and it saddened me.

This came on the back of another Facebook friend who I am close to having to make a brave decision to have her cat put to sleep when the vet discovered the cat had a brain tumour. It was sudden, it was a shock and my friend was devastated. When you're a cat lover only fellow cat lovers can understand how you feel when you lose your fur baby, to some its "Just a cat" and they don't get it. I don't know what I'll do when my own fur baby is no longer with me, she saved me from myself 5 years ago and has been a huge part of my world ever since.

I was feeling slightly maudlin so I shut myself away in my room, I turned out my 'Maybe Someday' box and found all the elements above that were experiments, leftovers or tests and my eye saw something in all the pieces as I layered them together and I'm really pleased with the way this selection of things that didn't have a use has come together to make a card that I hope will bring comfort to my friend and let her know that I understand.

Whilst I was rummaging in my MS box, I came across some leftover roses that I'd made when I first started playing with my Altenew 'Beautiful Day' stamp and die set. I pulled the bag of roses out and my eye was drawn to a new Darice embossing folder I got recently and hadn't used, its called 'Background Script' and the words are really rather powerful: -

"Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self seeking. It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails."

I decided to colour the backgrounds with distress ink in shades to compliment the roses, themselves symbols of love, the ink also helped the words to stand out. Orange rose got the Ripe Persimmon treatment, yellow got Squeezed Lemonade and pink got Victorian Velvet. Each panel glued to a A6 card blank and the leaves glued to the panel. I mounted the roses on some foam pads and finished the card off with some gold die cut 'Love' and 'Cherish' sentiments. They'll make good cards to send to friends in the new year to let them know I love them and cherish their friendship.

2017 I'm going to act more on what my heart tells me, try to be softer and kinder and let those close to me know what they mean to me, life can change at the roll of a dice, seize the day and all that! This time next week will be my birthday, its also my stepson's wedding so there is balance, whilst there are endings, there are new beginnings coming. Wishing you and yours a healthy New Year, if your 2016 has not been so great, here's hoping that 2017 will be better, and that you have much love and laughter in the coming year. Thank you for dropping by and reading my blog and for the comments you leave, it really does make me feel like I'm not so alone :)

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Rainbow Splotch Thank You Cards

I love how bright and colourful these thank you cards turned out, just perfect for sending to say thank to people who gave us fab xmas gifts this year, I made a set of 10 all in 1 day, I used my MISTI tool so that I could just line up once and stamp on each card, changing the stamp and going through all 10 cards again. I do like splotches and splatters on cards but I just don't seem to get them right if I do it myself with a brush. I was delighted when earlier this year I discovered a My Favorite Things stamp set called 'Distress Patterns'  which makes lovely splotches and splatters of colour that can be put together in lots of different combinations.

You can see my set in the above photo heavily stained from the inks used, this is a sign of a good quality stamp and despite becoming discoloured, if you've cleaned them properly then the colour won't run. For the set above I used a combination of Ranger Dye inks and Memento inks which gave lovely rich vibrant colours. I did have to stamp each image 2-3 times to ensure the image wasn't bitty with the dye inks.

In the image above I made a set of similar cards as a notelet gift set when I first got the stamp set, for these images I used a variety of Hero Arts Shadow Inks, these are dye inks, they stamped smoother and there was no blotches in the stamped image, but the ink really soaked in to the paper, which made the colours look muted and not as vibrant.

I've found that the Ranger Dye Inks stay bold, they give a really good stamp impression, even on solid stamps like the splotches, the darker colours like the 'Classic Cherry' and 'Grape Soda' do show through your cardstock but not to the degree that the Shadow Inks do. I'm waiting for some more of the Ranger Dye Inks to arrive and I think they will be getting a lot of use in the future. FYI the Memento Dye inks also stay vibrant on the card, they do have a tendency to stamp blotchy though so you need to over stamp several times if you want a nice crisp image.

I used two different sentiment dies in the gift set, one if a Sue Wilson 'Just A Note' die and the other is my Altenew 'Thanks' die which I've used several times since I got it for making thank you cards. The above set which I gave to my friend for Christmas I made the card blanks myself and a little box to hold the cards and envelopes together. I'm thrilled to say my friend loved them which made me happy, I really did get worried about giving people the papercraft gifts I'd made, turned out I needn't have worried, everyone I gave them to had nice things to say about them.

The image doesn't show the details as well as I'd like, but I used a Clear Spectrum Sparkle pen on all the 'Thanks' die cuts which I cut out of black card to give them a lovely shimmer. Then I added dots of 'White Blizzard' Nuvo Glitter Drops to the centre of each of the splotches. I stamped the images directly on to white A6 deckle edge cards which are 225gsm in weight.

I'll be making more cards like this and variations on the theme throughout the year, I may even make a couple of sets for presents again. I did stamp one of the cards with Ranger Dye ink 'Lily Pad' as you may be able to make out in the image above, that's a darker green than the Memento 'Pear Tart' I used on the other nine cards, which is more of a lime green and I wish I'd done them all in Lily Pad now. Point to note for next time!

I'm keeping pretty much on track with the tasks and challenges I've set myself, as well as keeping up with the 365 Challenge and making a few items for that. I've started work on a Wedding card for my stepson's wedding which needs to be done in time for the 7th January. I also have to make a New Year card for a special friend, who for reasons I'll explain when I post the card I couldn't send a christmas card to. Time to go and sort out something to eat now, then later some more playing with paper, its been very relaxing today, we went for a walk in the fog and watched a little TV, other than that its been crafting time. I hope your day has been just as relaxing!

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Tag, You're It!

I hope you had a Merry Christmas, if you celebrate it that is. We've had a few quiet days, which have been very welcome after all the hustle and bustle of the past few months. I've made a few none 365 Challenge cards, a simple 'Cherish Card' I'll share in the next few days. Also a card I made for my brothers birthday which needs to get posted tomorrow as its his birthday on the 2nd January, I'll post a photo after his birthday. I got some lovely crafting goodies for Christmas this year, my hubby got me an assortment of tools including a Crop-A-Dile, a 1" circular punch, some Gansai Tambi 'Starry Colors' pigment paints by Kuretake, and a 48 set of Zig Clean Colour Pens. I've already been playing with the pens today, colouring the images that I glued to a set of 10 tags I've made towards my 365 Days to Christmas challenge.

The Santa and Reindeer images on the above tags are all stamped using an Avery Elle 'North Pole Pals' stamp set and the sledging bunny is stamped with the Lawn Fawn 'Winter Bunny' stamp and coloured coloured with my Zig Clean Color pens. After colouring I die cut the images with the co-ordinating dies, then added some finishing touches, Ruby Slippers Nuvo Glitter Drops to Rudolph's nose and Glossy Accents to the collar and a swoosh of Clear Spectrum Sparkle pen to make the images pop. I added a few white dots with a gel pen on some of the backs of the reindeer. Santa got White Blizzard Nuvo Glitter Drops adding to his hat and coat trim and glossy accents to his boots and more sparkle pen, the bunny colouring was actually coloured with a sparkle pen used like a water brush.

The first few tags I made I stuck some of the images on to plain tags, then I had the idea to stamp a pattern on to the tag to create a kind of tone on tone effect (you can see it better in the gingerbread tags below). I used a stamp that came free with Cardmaking & Papercraft magazine a couple of issues ago and 'Love Letter' Memento ink, then gave the tags a little spritz of homemade shimmer mist. I have to say I prefer the stamped tags to the plain ones, the photo doesn't show the detail very well, it is subtle but it does make a big difference.

Back to gifts for a minute, only because my favourite gift of this year is craft related, I got an MDF rack for storing my Stickles and Perfect Pearls and a rack for holding my Distress Inks, from my brother and sister-in-law, it was decorated with the help of my niece and nephews, a real family affair with everyone doing something. It was just what I wanted as my distress inks were stored in a plastic box which made finding the right colour difficult, so I was blown away with the thought, effort and love that had gone in to my gift, it will be treasured for a long time to come. I've printed off some labels and will be making swatch labels to stick to the side of each distress ink so I can see which colour is which over the next few days. I'd love something similar for my larger ink pads, hubby says we'll look in to getting some laser cut in the new year.

As well as the red tags above, I also made a set of 'Gingerbread Man' tags, I used the same Xcut 'Christmas Gift Tags' frame die as I used above, cutting out 6 tags in cream card. I stamped the Woodware 'Snowflakes and Sparkles' image on the card in my MISTI using Memento Desert Sand ink. Then give the tags a spritz of homemade shimmer mist which I'd added peppermint oil to in a vanilla alcohol base which adds a lovely Christmas candy cane scent to the tags. Granted it will fade by Xmas 2017 but if I store them in a box with some scented pads inside they will remain fragranced and they will add an extra dimension to pressie wrapping next year. In hindsight a ginger scented spray would have been better, note to self has been made lol!

I used an Xcut 'Mini Gingerbread Man' die and some matt gold metallic card to cut out the gingerbread men, and I used a foam pad to attach the die cut to the tag. The set also contains small dies for buttons, a hat, holly leaves and a bow tie so you can decorate the gingerbread man how you like. I decided to add just the bow tie, and a sprig of holly to the upper part of the tag and give it a 'berry' with 'Ruby Slippers' Nuvo Glitter Drops. The tags were finished off with some red and white twine from my craft stash.

With these tags, it puts my 365 total at 20 items so far 345 to go and its not even 2017 yet :) I have done a few more projects, like a set of 'Colour Me' notelet cards but I haven't made the container for them, or sourced the pens I want to put with them so I'm not counting the set until its complete. Even though it will have 6 notelet cards, I'm only counting it as 1 item as its 1 gift on my list. I've loved making the tags and will be making lots more, to be honest I've made tags before by cutting up old christmas cards and I think the term is 're-purposing' them but not tags from scratch and I don't understand why?

They are really easy and quick to put together if you make a batch at once, do you make your own tags at all?  I've decided if I make too many of them for us, they can roll over to 2018 or I can bundle them together for the Cats Protection Christmas Fair.  I'm also going to make some for birthdays and other occasions, I have a few dies for cutting tags including a Tim Holtz set of tag dies and a rather elegant Tonic set that came free with Die Cutting Essentials this month which are begging to be used.

Before I go, I thought I'd share a crafting bargain I got in the sales, my Dad gave me some money for Christmas and told me to buy something for my cardmaking, he didn't have to tell me twice lol! I went in to the Range to pick up some pads of coloured card and they had reduced lots of the Christmas dies to half price or less in the sale. All 3 Sue Wilson Festive dies were on my wish list but I didn't want to buy them at full price and was hoping for a bargain at some point or to pick them up second hand on ebay, so I snapped them up. The other two dies were new to me and I kind of liked them and the ideas they gave me for their use, not bad, 5 dies for less than £23 RRP around £56, I like bargains like that, don't you?

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Candles in the Wind

Apparently 2016 has been a really horrid year in terms of losing celebrities, there has been a steady stream of them since David Bowie's candle went out in January, the year seems to have taken a large number of celebrities from my generation, wind extinguishing famous lifes seems to have turned to a slight draft putting them out of the game of life. Back in August, Kenny Baker the man who brought R2D2 to the silver screen, one of the most famous robots in the universe died, I had the pleasure of meeting Kenny on a couple of occasions and thought he was a lovely man, but I didn't know him. The latest celebrity loss was Carrie Fisher yesterday, as a huge Star Wars fan, the death of an iconic character is hard, it made me sad that a light went out but I'm just a fan. Carrie was a mother, a daughter and so much more, her family and friends know the loss, what am I to her?

I'm just a 'fan', she didn't know me, same as so many other people, but I'm hearing lots of can't wait to see the back of 2016 comments, and comments that 2016 has taken too many famous people, the can't wait for 2017 to arrive, in the hope that their will be less celebrity death! Why are people wishing their life away? Yes we have seen a lot of iconic people die this year but many everyday people have died as well and whether we like it or not, the grim reaper comes for us all one day.Is this huge out pouring of bugger off 2016 really about the celeb's lost, or fear that you're close to their age and maybe it will be you next?

Losing public figures isn't going to get any better in 2017 and beyond, and no I haven't turned in to Mystic Meg, its a simple fact. We live in a time when we have many more 'stars' and celebrities than our great grandparents did, they had just a handful of iconic figures. Today we all too easily put people up on a pedestal, we even have A list stars, B list stars all the way to Z list stars, the number of 'famous' people seems to be climbing exponentially, so its only logical that their demise will follow the same trend, the more 'celebrities' we have, the more deaths we'll witness.

I remember back to August 16th 1977 when Elvis Presley died, the world stopped, Elvis was my first crush, I loved his music and his movies, it shook me to the core that such a famous person could die, at 13 in my innocence I thought if you were famous you lived longer. Then one month later on September 16th Marc Bolan was tragically taken from us in a car accident, both events were on the news, the radio and in the papers. The year of 1977 also took Bing Crosby, Charlie Chaplin, actress Joan Crawford to name but a few. 1987 wasn't any kinder, that year we lost Danny Kaye, Fred Astaire, Rita Heyworth, Lee Marvin, Liberace, Patrick Troughton, Andy Warhol, Fulton Mackay and John Huston and again many more.

So was 1997 any more gentle as far as celebrity deaths went? Nope, the reaper of that year took James Stewart, Robert Mitchum, Burgess Meredith, John Denver, Princess Diana, and Michael Hutchence. 2007 wasn't any kinder either, it took Deborah Kerr, Anton Rodgers, Jane Wyman, John Inman, Luciano Pavarotti, Marcel Marceau, Mike Reid and Ike Turner. All those people if they weren't iconic to you, they were iconic to your parents or grandparents.

If you look at the IMDB index for celebrity deaths 1967 it lists 1,190 celebrity deaths and if you're a 50 something like me you'll remember some of those celebrities who died that year like Jayne Mansfield, Vivien Leigh, Spencer Tracy, Basil Rathbone, Brian Epstein, Ann Sheridan, and Claude Rains, back in the days of 3 TV channels, no internet and not so many movies and TV shows being made we found ourselves watching the stars of our Grandparents and parents eras, like Gone with the Wind and Sherlock Holmes there weren't as many celebrities so when a star was eclipsed it was like a supernova, now its a damp squib, because before you've come to grips with their loss, the public are demanding to know who will be next?

We even have websites dedicating to predicting who will die in the year, check out the Deathlist, some people must be so proud of the fact that they cleverly predicted the death of Zsa Zsa Gabor, Muhammad Ali and Nancy Reagan, some people are even placing bets on which celebrity will die next, get a life people! As an aside the Deathlist rolls over to the following year until the famous person on the list dies and then they do a little post celebrating the fact that they got it right, eventually we all die, its not a thing to be triumphant about! ::facepalm::

In 1977 there were 1,331 celebrity deaths; 1987 = 1,704; 1997 = 2,076; 2007 = 3,283; 2016 so far 3,641. Now keep in mind that I've used IMDB and they list only people in the fields of movie, TV and music, so famous sports people and professionals like politicians aren't included. But thus far the decade of 2016 is 358 up on 2007 and there had been 1,207 more celebrity deaths in 2007 than in 1997 so this year hasn't been as bad as we think.

The point of this ramble? We live in a time when we have more celebrities than we did 50 years ago, reality TV stars and You-Tubers are quickly given celebrity status in our frenzy to escape our own lives that we perceive to be mundane and live vicariously through our celebrities. Heck even I've been stopped and asked for my autograph in a supermarket because I've been on Robot Wars, I don't consider myself a celebrity, but to a fan of the show I apparently am.

The more celebrities we have, and the more people are on the planet, coupled with having access to instant information about them, then 2017 onwards isn't going to go light on famous people popping their clogs, their will be more of them. So can we all get a collective grip and can we see less of the 'not cold yet, lets be the first to report they've died' kind of twitter tweets and facebook posts, to the extent that celebs are being reported as having died when they haven't. Lets stop subscribing to the death wish list that the media is pumping so it has something to report, its rather unnerving!

People die all the time, its a fact of life, and for every celebrity that has died, hundreds of everyday people have died whose name is known only by their family, and some don't even have that! A celebrity is a person just like you and me, in the rush to take selfie's with a star in the background, see photos of who they're dating, what they're eating etc we lose sight of that. We forget that somewhere and to someone they are just a person; they have/had parents, loved ones, pets and do mundane and ordinary things, their loss when they are gone though mourned by the public is no different than the loss felt by Eric the postman's family when he died, its a loss people and a bloody painful one whoever you are.

We need perspective and to stop dwelling on lives that stopped and look at those that soared in 2016, look at the positive things that happened in the world, outside the bubble of social media and the news empires pushing negative news and gloom and doom at us. Amazing things have been happening in the world, those same amazing things will continue in 2017 and will become more obvious if we stop looking for the doom and gloom and learn to look for the positive stuff that happens in the world. There will be new actors, new musicians, new sports stars, its the cycle of life that stops things becoming stale and allows for new talent and fresh approaches and ideas.

If 2016 has taught me anything its that life is nothing to be taken for granted, we should learn to cherish people whilst they are there, tell them what they mean to you, don't leave it unsaid because you think they know what you feel. Sometimes they don't, we're not all mind readers. Love is important, its the kind of love that we hold most sacred that defines us, for example, I love the music of Rush, I love chocolate but those forms of love pale in to insignificance compared to the love I have for Simon or my Dad. I will be sad when the members of Rush shuffle of this mortal coil, and if the world ran out of chocolate I may feel a bit bad for a while. But when I lose those people that I really love, that mean the world to me that's something to mourn. Let's put more love out in the world people, the planet and people need it!

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Year of the Unicorn

2016 has been a very odd year for me and mine, it started with a call from Mentorn Media in January asking us if we wanted to be on the new series of Robot Wars and continued in pretty much the same fashion. More of that in a post I'll add to sum up the year towards the end of the month.

The year seemed to unfold like that pretty much for all of it, things we considered to be just dreams turned in to reality and it all culminated in October when my stepson announced that he and his girlfriend were going to have a baby. Which meant that I was going to become a Nanna, something I never thought was going to happen. In my head step parents didn't become grandparents. But apparently we do and I'm over the moon about it.

Consequently, the planned June 2017 wedding has been brought forward to January and the happy couple now get married on the 7th January which also happens to be my birthday! Not being able to have children of my own, I never thought that I'd have a son or a daughter. I got a son when I married Simon and next month I will finally get a daughter, in-law granted but it's the next best thing, and the bonus is she makes my stepson very happy, what more could a mother want? My future DIL has two children already aged 5 and 7 and we get to be Grandparents to them as well. The whole thing has given Christmas this year some sparkle and magic that had faded as my stepson and my niece and nephews have gotten older, and yes I'm looking at pink and blue baby things waiting to hear if we'll have a grandson or daughter so I can buy a few little things.

When I saw the Lawn Fawn 'Winter Unicorn' stamp and die set I knew that I wanted to make my hubby his Christmas card based around it, he sings that song to me albeit badly every year and throw in the unicorn after the year we've had and it was meant to be. The card base was made along the same lines as the Deer Christmas Easel Card I posted about a few weeks ago, the difference being I made it in to a shaker card for a bit of added sparkle. I die cut two lots of the Lawn Fawn Stitched Snowflake set and glued them to the shaker frame and card base and added a pale blue gem to the centre of each snowflake. I also matted the top and base on silver mirror card that I die cut with one of the Scalloped Circle Layering Die Set dies by Tonic Studios.

I've made some progress on my 365 days challenge as well, I've made the two cards above using Bebunni toppers I printed off from my PC using the Bebunni Christmas Papercrafting CD I got cheap in the sales last year. The backing papers came from the same CD, I'd printed off a lot of the toppers and they were in a box under the bed, waiting to be used. The snowflake panel on the bluey coloured card was in my 'Maybe Someday' box, its a piece of coredinations card that I embossed and sanded but then decided I didn't want to use it on the project I was working on at the time.

The sentiments are leftover from découpage sheets, the silver snowflakes were also in the MS box, they were left over from another project earlier this year. The holly leaves were die cut from a die in the Xcut Poinsettia die set, using dark green card, I folded the leaves down the centre to create a spine and rolled a pencil underneath them to create a 'curl'. The final touch was covering the leaves with a coat of Spectrum Clear Sparkle pen, I love those pens so much. The berries were created using 'Ruby Slippers' Nuvo Glitter Drops. I'd made a batch ahead of time so I just had to glue them in place.

The challenge is progressing well, with the two above and the snowman card I posted about the other day I have 3 projects complete and I've sorted out all the stamps and dies I want to use into a box. I've gathered items like backing papers I've printed out, and paper pads I want to use together and have begun work on two other cards with things I found in my MS box. I've stamped and coloured some cute Lawn Fawn Christmas images for other cards, and I've made a start on the gifting goal as well by cutting out a set of 12 gift tags. I need to finish the topper section, glue them together and add some twine or ribbon to them, but its a start.

I've also started making a gift set of 'Colour Me' Notecards after seeing a fab idea on Jennifer McGuire's blog the other week. I'm hoping that I can find some good pen sets in the January sales to add to the gifts, I have some friends that are mad for the adult colouring craze at the moment, so the idea would make a perfect gift for them! The cards have the floral element stamped on them, I just need to add a sentiment and they will be done, I can't decide if I should stamp, stamp and emboss or use a die cut at the minute. I also made a start on a couple of bookmarks, I thought I'd make a card with a bookmark attached and put a book token or voucher inside for some of the teenagers. So even though I haven't got many physical items completed currently, real progress is being made.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Snowflake Sparkle Christmas Set

I saw an article in issue 155 of Simply Cards & Papercraft by Sue Wilson on using the Cosmic Shimmer Pixie Powders and an assortment of Creative Expressions dies to create some stunning cards, the same cards from the article are on Sue's Particraft Blog. I did have all the Pixie Powder colours Sue used which were Midnight Blue, Peacock Green and Teal Wash but hadn't got round to using them. I didn't have all the dies Sue used though, so I used some snowflake dies that I did have which were a combination of XCut 'Snowflakes' and Crafters Companion Die'sire 'Snowflakes' dies and improvised. The end results were similar to the cards that Sue created and I'm really pleased with how they came out.

Amazingly the 6 cards I created above have elements/panels made from 1 A4 sheet of white card that I gave the Pixie Powder treatment to, nothing was wasted, even the trimmings were used to punch small stars from and were used on another card. In all I made 2 sheets but created another set of cards with the other piece.

The photos don't do the mica element of the pixie powders any justice, in real life the colours are stunning. I've since bought more colours plus all the new colours recently released. I'll be playing with them more over the holidays.

I cut the A4 sheet in to 4 x A6 pieces and cut a large snowflake into 3 of them, the fourth A6 piece I die cut 6 smaller snowflakes from. I used the Sue Wilson 'Frosty Swirls' embossing folder to emboss my A5 white card blanks and added a piece of white glitter card to the centre of two of the cards and I full silver mat to the third. I used Versamark and Cosmic Shimmer Detail True White embossing powder to heat embossed a sentiment on two of the cards using a stamp that came free with another magazine. Then I used foam tape to add the pixie powdered panels to the cards and added a smaller snowflake to the centre of the card and a small aqua blue gem to the centre.

On some of the cards I added a die cut 'Sparkle' sentiment in either white glitter card or silver mirror card, this was cut using a die from the Tonic Studios 'Girls Night Out Sparkle and Shine Die Set'.  The snowflakes that were cut out for the portrait cards were used to make a couple of landscape cards, the snowflakes were simply glued to the card after it had been embossed.

It seemed like a shame to waste any of the pieces so I decided to make a third landscape card using the 'waste' panel from cutting the snowflakes for the other cards. I made all 6 cards in under 2 hours which included making the pixie powdered paper. I've already made a few more pixie powder sheets which need to be die cut to make another set, these will go in my 2017 pile. I just love the rich and vibrant results you can achieve from the pixie powders, coupled with the fact that you can also use a small amount to create lighter effects. They team really well with brusho powders and color burst powders as well, more experiments to follow, watch this space!

Sunday, 18 December 2016

365 Plus Days to Christmas - 2017 Challenge

I just about managed to make all the cards I needed this year, but I didn't get any made for the Cats Protection which made me sad. So I've decided that during 2017 I'm going to set myself a challenge of creating 365 or more Christmas items throughout the year, be that cards, gift tags or gifts. I won't necessarily be making a Christmas card every day, some days I'll do batches of cards of the easy to mass produce kind.

By the end of the year I should have more than enough cards for me and to give to the Cats Protection for their annual Christmas Fair, enough gift tags to not have to resort to buying them and some unique gifts for friends and family as well.

Something in me kind of thinks that Christmas cards can only be made from October to December, but it occurred to me today that its my craft room, my craft blog, my time and I make the rules! Besides I have so much Christmas stash in the form of paper pads, dies and stamps it will take me a year or more to get through all the ideas I have.

I think the challenge will also be an excellent way of using up things from my 'Maybe Someday' box, the above project is the first item for the challenge, it uses up the snowman image I made when I did a lot of the images for cards last month, and also some Christmas trees I made well over 12 months ago that just sat in a bag in the MS box.

It's another stepper card, something else I started making in 2016 along with easel cards, I just love the fact that by changing the shape and style of the card blank, it can make a huge difference to the card. The Presscut Stepper Card die I use, comes with the pieces to cut the decorative centre and the side pieces that go on the respective panels, and you can cut the card blank in any colour card you wish. For this card, after I'd die cut the decorative pieces and then coloured them part way with Tumbled Glass distress ink, I then but the pieces in my Crafters Companion 'Elegant Snowfall' folder to give a textured look to the pieces.

I die cut two pieces of white glitter card with one of the Lawn Fawn 'Stitched Borders' dies to make a snow bank and attached them to the base of the card, trimming off any over hand from the edges of the card, and tucked the Christmas trees behind the banks. The sentiment is cut from the some plain white card using the Sue Wilson 'Starry Merry Christmas' die and I gave it a light coat of clear Spectrum Sparkle pen.

The finishing touch was a few white 'snowball' pom poms from my stash, I picked a bag up last year for 49p should be enough to make 15 - 25 cards depending how many I use. My hubby gave me the idea, when I showed him the card, he said something was missing and suggested snowballs, and I think they really do finish the card of nicely!

I certainly have lots of stash to use up and ideas so hopefully I'll achieve my goal, 1 down now 364 to go. I'm actually looking forward to the challenge and at least this way, I won't be panicking and my cards etc will all be made before Christmas 2017, well that's the theory! Lets see how I do!

Friday, 16 December 2016

New Baby Congrats in 3 Colour Ways + A Tip

Earlier this year one of my friends announced she was expecting, hurrah thought I, another chance to make a card, until I realised that I seemed to have loads of dies, stamps and paper pads etc to make birthday and christmas cards. But realised that my stash had very few items in that would allow me to make Sympathy, New Born baby and even Wedding cards! Given how the year went that was a sorry state of affairs, so I added some items to my stash over the following few months to rectify the situation.

The card above is the one I sent to my friend, who gave birth to a beautiful little girl in November, at the time I wasn't sure if she was having a boy or a girl, so I made the card in 3 different colour ways so I'd have a card to send whether she had a boy or girl. The 'spare' cards were added to my box of cards for future events so will become useful eventually.

To make the cards I made my own card blanks from some bright coloured card I bought at The Range, then I die cut some mats from white card and embossed them with a Craft Essentials Creative Embossing folder called 'Buttons'. Next I cut a circle of gingham paper that I'd printed out on my computer, from a free download I'd acquire a while back, using one the the dies from my Presscut Round Dies with Stitched Holes set.

I die cut a baby carriage from thin card in a corresponding colour using the Baby Carriage die from the new Crafter's Companion 'Little Angel' Sara Signature Collection, and used me MISTI stamping tool to stamp the New Baby wording from a stamp set from the same collection. I love the MISTI, it was an expensive purchase, but it really helps me get my stamping right when it matters and means if I mess up or don't get enough pressure on the stamped image, I can re-ink the stamp and go right back in to fix it, without messing up my card or ending up with a misaligned or fuzzy stamped sentiment.

I used Memento inks, again in corresponding shades for each card, in this instance it was Rosebud, Danube Blue and Dandelion and after inking gave the carriage die cut a mist of my homemade pearl shimmer spray. The baby carriage was then glued to the gingham paper circle and stuck down to my embossed mat using Cosmic Shimmer glue. I added a die cut 'Congrats' to the finished card which I'd cut using a Lawn Fawn 'Scripty Congrats' die, I cut the image in white card then used a finger dauber tool to colour it with the same colour ink I'd stamped with (see image below and tip below).

The final touch was to add a couple of gems from my stash to the centre of the wheels. These cards were super fast to create and I'm getting in to the habit where possible of making several cards of the same design, especially for standard events like these. I plan on making them in other colours like lilac, peach and mint green for those people who don't like to send cards in the 'traditional' boy/girl colours.

Crafting Tip

When I'm not crafting at my proper craft desk, I use the desk that my PC monitor etc sits on, which doesn't have very much space, so getting my large craft mat on it is a struggle. So I was delighted when I had a brain wave a few months ago and re-purposed something I was about to throw out! I'd been struggling with my Ranger Non Stick Craft Sheet on my small desk and was getting frustrated when things got knocked off the desk because the mat was too big.

I was having a clear out and was about to put two sheets I'd laminated for a course I was running that I noticed had spelling mistakes on, so I was going to have to redo them. As I was about to slip the laminated pages in to the bin, I realised they could possibly be perfect for little inking jobs and I was right! Now I use them a lot, they wipe clean with a baby wipe, so you can use over and over again, and are only A4 size so they fit in small areas and are relatively cheap to make, if you have a laminator or know someone that does have.

I've used them to tape down pieces of paper/card to when I'm using pixie powders and brushos! I'm sure they will fall apart eventually, when they do I can easily make some more. The laminated sheets also make the perfect surface to add drops of Nuvo Crystal drops to make your own 'enamel' dots, if you do them on a book or magazine for additional support, when you've finished adding the drops to the sheet you can easily pick them sheet up and put it somewhere safe whilst the dots dry! Brilliant don't you think? I don't impress myself often, but I did when I had this particular brainwave lol!

That's all from me today, hope you have a brilliant weekend, ours involves my future daughter-in-law coming to visit with her children for the first time, working on making a robot pangolin with a friend and going to see that same friend in her band when they give a concert on Sunday. Take care and thank you for stopping by.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Floral 80th Birthday Card Using Altenew Stamps

I've not been blogging about all the cards I've made which is a shame really, 2016 sort of span away from me more on that in a couple of weeks when I wind up this bizarre and incredible year. In the meantime I thought that I'd share some of the cards that I'm most proud of that I've made since May when I went blog silent.

In 2016 my love affair with stamps with matching dies began, it started with a free set of Altenew rose stamps and dies that came free with Simply Cards & Papercraft back in March and continued throughout the year, the latest set is a Newton's Nook set that I'll be playing with soon! I've collected several of the floral Altenew sets and a fair few cat combo's, some I haven't had time to play with yet but there is much crafting time coming up over the next few weeks I'm delighted to say.

The card that I'm sharing today was made back in June for my favourite auntie's 80th birthday, she's also my God Mother and taught me how to bake and create when I was a child, so I wanted to make her something special. To make it I combined two Altenew sets for the floral arrangement, the pink peonies were done using the 'Peony Bouquet' set and the rest of the flowers were stamped using the 'Beautiful Day' set. I didn't actually have the die set for the Peonies when I made this card, so I fussy cut them out which is why they have no border. I used a die from my Presscut Frames Ovals set for the easel card base which I cut from plain white cardstock and used a smaller size down to create the gold mirror card mats.

The lacy layers were cut from the same white card using two of the dies from my Spellbinders 'Elegant Ovals' set. I used the same gold mirror card for the sentiment and numbers that I used for the mats and used the Happy Birthday and Numbers dies from the Die'sire Essentials Only Words dies to create the sentiment.

The photo doesn't show the gold embossing very well on the flowers, in 2017 I need to work on my photography to enable me to catch my cards in a better light. Trust me though the gold embossing did look good, if I do say so myself and really helped make the finished card. I stamped the peonies using 3 shades of Memento ink Angel Pink (light), Rose Bud (medium) and Lilac Posies (dark). I waited for the stamping to be completely dry and then added the outline stamp in Versamark and sprinkled Cosmic Shimmer Detail Bright Gold embossing powder on and heat embossed the images before fussy cutting them out.

I used the same process to stamp the forget-me-nots and berried greenery from the 'Beautiful Day' set and painted the leaves and flowers with a variety of distress inks that I squished on a stamp block and then used a watercolour brush pen to apply the ink. I can't remember which colours I used though sadly, that will teach me to leave gaps between making a card and blogging about it, for 2017 I think I'll start a makes diary and make notes be them good or bad of what worked, what didn't and if there is anything I'd do differently etc, as well as note what inks/paints/papers I used.

The card was put together using Cosmic Shimmer glue which is fast becoming my go to glue for most of my projects, it dries quick and clear and is makes a super bond, so far nothing I've made with this glue has fallen apart! The sentiment and flowers were added to the card using foam pads to give the card more dimension.

My auntie loved the card, she called me to say how lovely it was, so I was really pleased, I always get nervous sending out things I've made, what I make isn't perfect, and I see the imperfections and assume others will as well, but most people it seems don't see the mistakes, or if they do they don't mention them. More from me soon, hope you have a lovely day whatever you're doing and your not getting bogged down with festive tasks and preperations!

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Making Homemade Beauty Treats for Gifting - Part 2

A little later than planned, here's part two of my article, these fragrant bath bombs and melts went down a storm, I also did a version of the bath fizzes in smaller sizes and used peppermint and lavender foot fizzes, which I've taken to using myself, they leave the feet soft and refreshed.

Lavender & Geranium Bath Melts

These bath melts are so fragrant and you can make them in a variety of fragrances see the suggestions below. The main ingredient in these fragrant and moisturising bath melts is cocoa butter which has several benefits to help keep your skin healthy it contains several fatty acids including oleic, palmitic and stearic acids which have antioxidant properties that can help to reduce the signs of ageing, cocoa butter can also help to reduce inflammation on the skin and soothe skin conditions such as eczema.

Makes 18 – 36 melts depending on the size of case you use.

200g Unrefined Cocoa Butter – You can use refined but the smell is better from unrefined.
100g Sweet Almond Oil
100 Drops Geranium Essential Oil
50 Drops Lavender Essential Oil
18 – 36 Pink Rose Buds for decoration
2g Beetroot Powder – Which will act as a natural colouring to give a pink colour to your melts. N.B. you can buy cosmetic grade dyes in a variety of colours.
Foiled Petit Four Cases or Cupcake Cases
Cosmetic Grade Colouring (Optional)
Large Heatproof Mixing Bowl
Large Pan – Big enough for the bowl to sit in and be supported by the pan rim
Wooden Spoon Heatproof
Measuring Jug

Method: First a note about essential oils, how much oil you add is up to you anything from 50 drops (2.5ml) – 150 (7.5ml) drops per 300g of combined cocoa butter and sweet almond oil. Bear in mind that if you use highly scented oils like clove, cinnamon, patchouli, peppermint you need to use a little at a time, these oils can quickly over power a blend.

These melts are very easy to make, place enough water in your pan to come 2” below the base of the heatproof glass bowl you’ll be using to make the melts, put the bowl on the pan and turn on the heat, it will take a few minutes to start to get warm.

Whilst you’re waiting for the water to heat up take about 1 teaspoon of your almond oil and place it in a cup, add the beetroot powder and stir to make your colouring. Once the water is at a steady simmer put the cocoa butter, the rest of the sweet almond oil and the colouring in to the pan and stir gently until the cocoa butter has melted and everything is thoroughly mixed.

Cocoa butter melts at around 93–101°F (34–38°C), turn off the heat and using oven gloves lift the bowl off the top of the pan. Then add your drops of essential oil, build up the layers a little at a time, remembering the important rule that you can add it, but you can’t take it away. Once you have the fragrance you like then pour the contents into a heatproof jug, you can skip this stage but I find it easier to pour the liquid into the little moulds than trying to spoon it in.

Leave the melts to set overnight, if you’re in a hurry as soon as the mix is cool, you can pop them in the freezer to harden. Note that these melts will melt at temperatures over 75°F (24°C) so don’t leave them near a radiator or in sunlight etc where the temperature can raise above this.

To Use: If you’re making mini melts then add 2-3 to the bath, simply pop into the bath just under where the hot water is running in to the bath. If you make cupcake sized melts then add 1 melt to the water. Bear in mind that when you’ve finished bathing the bath will be slippery from the cocoa butter and oil so be careful when you stand and in getting out of the bath. It should also be noted that some natural and artificial colour pigments may stain the bath, but the staining should be temporary and should clean off easily.

Geranium & Patchouli Bath Cupcakes

A twist on the bath bomb that doesn’t require you to have to buy an expensive bath bomb mould, these super fizzy bath ‘cupcakes’ not only look pretty they provide moisture for the skin and the citric acid can help even out skin tone, unclog the pores, help reduce ageing spots caused by pigmentation and can be soothing to the skin of people with mild acne.

The bicarbonate of soda is a natural alkali which also has antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. The Cupcake Fizzes are quick to make, require no heating, just mixing, and make an ideal project to do with children to give to aunties and grandmas. Not to mention they’re fun to watch them fizz!

Makes 12 Fizzes

400g Citric Acid aka C6H8O7, Sour Salt & Sodium Citrate
800g Bicarbonate of Soda aka Baking Soda
100 Drops Geranium Essential Oil
50 Drops Patchouli Essential Oil
20ml Jojoba Oil
Pink Rose Buds for decoration

Method: First place the cupcake cases in to a metal cupcake tray, this will help shape the fizzes later. Next put the citric acid into a bowl, then using a sieve, sieve the bicarbonate of soda on top of the citric acid and stir to combine, add the jojoba oil and the essential oils and mix with a metal spoon. Once the oils are mixed in, dampen your hands very slightly and shake a few drops of water in to the bowl, not a lot or you’ll start the fizzing will start! You want to have the feel of just damp sand.

Note that the mix will look very powdery, it won’t form a dough it will just look like dampened citric acid initially. Using a metal teaspoon, spoon the mixture into the cupcake cases, keep adding teaspoons of the mix and pressing down until the cupcake case is level with the top and firmly compressed. Do this for all 12 cupcake cases then press your rosebuds in to the top of the cupcake and leave them to dry out for 24-36 hours. At the end of this time your bath cupcakes will have set very hard and can be tipped out of the mould and packaged for giving.

Other Fragrance Combinations to Try:-

Lavender & lemongrass – Sprinkle dried lavender buds on to the surface of the cupcake for additional scent and decoration.
Mandarin & Chamomile – Decorate with dried chamomile flowers.
Patchouli, Pine Needle & Cedarwood – A Good earthy fragrance suitable for men.
Lime & Ginger – A unisex scent that is both refreshing and invigorating.
Rosemary, Lemon & Sweet Marjoram – Another combination perfect for men.

Friday, 9 December 2016

Quick Christmas Card Makes Using Up Stash

I hope everyone has had a good week? Mine has been up and down, this cold which has lasted almost 5 weeks so far and blossomed in to a chest infection resulting in a dose of antibiotics, finally seems to be clearing!

I've been trying to work through the Christmas cards that I need to make this year, and decided today that I wanted to try and use up more of my stash and the pile of backing and topper papers I've printed off over the past year from free downloads and CD's ready to use, then didn't. The topper on the above card was part of the free files that came with a Crafters Companion magazine CD last Christmas when they launched their Nordic Christmas range. I'd printed lots of pages from these designs but didn't get round to using them.

Today I cut a stepper card using some grey card and gave it a spritz of my homemade silver shimmer spray, then I embossed the panel with my XCut 'Snowflake Pattern' embossing folder, I added the topper to a mat of silver mirror card that I'd die cut with a die from my Presscut Die Cutting & Embossing Stencil Rectangle Die set. I added some sparkle pen shimmer to the hearts on the little houses and covered the hearts with glossy accents to make a lovely raised glossy finish.

The final touch for this card was to give a piece of scrap white card a spritz of DIY white shimmer mist and die cut some snowflakes using some XCut Mini Snowflake dies. These were randomly glued on and a little red gem from my stash added to the centre of each to finish the card off.

I made another quick stepper card using some papers I'd printed off a while back which were a free download that I can't recall where I got them. I die cut the pieces for the stag using my XCut Woodland Stag Wreath from scraps of brown and two shades of green card that I had in my scraps box. I mounted the stags head and greenery on some foam pads and finished off with some Ruby Slippers Nuvo Glitter drops for the berries and I got a little carried away and turned the stag in to Rudolph by giving him a red nose. If I'm honest I think it would have been better without that addition but hey ho!

The sentiment was in a drawer full of topper sheets I bought from Hunkydory and Crafters Companion when I first started crafting. As I began to experiment with stamping and embossing  I made more of my own toppers and stopped using the pre-made ones. But I've decided all these things need using up somehow and the sentiment I used on this card in particular went well with the backing paper.

I cut lots of stepper cards blanks out today in an assortment of colours and die cut backing papers to echo the card colour of the stepper card so that I can make more stepper cards this weekend.  They are very easy to do and look that little bit better than a standard 6" x 6" card and they are very quick to put together and look fab. This week I also made an easel birthday card for my niece who is turning 13 this weekend, it doesn't seem like 5 minutes since I held her the day she was born, where does the time go? I'll post a photo sometime next week after her birthday, I love making cards that are tailored to suit the recipient and I'm hoping she's going to love the card I've created for her this time.

This week I also picked up a cheap set of Pearlescent Watercolour paints for just less than £7, the set has 21 colours which look good on dark card stock, for cheap paints they work pretty well. I bought the cheaper set because I wanted to play with the effect before I plunged for the more expensive sets like Fine Tec. The test bits I've done this week I'm pleased with, and have found that the cheaper paints work better if you skimp on the water! That's because these cheaper paints are not highly pigmented so the more water you add the more the result is wishy washy and diluted.

That's all from me for now, I have a weekend of crafting planned as well as card writing and present wrapping, the tree is up and so are the decorations, I've finished the xmas shopping, I just have some cards to make for close family and a few gifts for friends to finish making, so its going to be busy for a while. I hope you have a lovely weekend whatever you have planned, and that life and the weather are kind to you and yours.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Making Homemade Beauty Treats for Gifting - Part 1

I thought today I'd write about something a little different and share some of the things I made for friends and family last Christmas which went down extremely well, so over the next few days I'll post a few recipes and methods, these kind of gifts appeal to the herbaholic in me, I love playing with herbs and essential oils to make a vast array of things from balms to pot pourri...

Because let's face it at some points in our gift giving endeavours we hit a brick wall deciding what to get for some people at Christmas and we end up resorting to buying flowers, potted plants or chocolates, the poor men folk get a worse deal receiving alcohol, socks or the dreaded Christmas jumper. It doesn’t have to be that way, with a little careful planning and a little time sourcing your ingredients you can make a selection of fabulously fragrant goodies for bath and body to give as gifts to 6 people and more if you’re so inclined!

I’m talking all 4 items in the photo above a sugar scrub, lip balm, bath melts and bath fizzers which will appeal to chocoholics and fragrant bath pampering addicts alike and they can all be made in just 1 day! My future daughter-in-law commented recently how much she loved her body scrub and said it was nicer than the ones you can buy, which made me smile. As this post would be huge if I added all the recipes at once, I thought I'd split it in to a few parts and start with the lip balm and body scrub today.

The beauty though of all these homemade gifts, is they contain no chemical nasties, they can be tailored to favourite flavours and preferred perfumes of the recipients and you can make gifting goodies for the ladies on your gift list and the men folk as well, because contrary to popular belief, men like to be pampered to, in a ‘blokey’ kind of way of course ;)

As gifts go, these items can be made any time of year for giving for birthday presents, a thank you gesture, to say get well soon, or for occasions like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. The Bath fizzers can also be made in small petit four cases and packaged in organza bags, then given as wedding favours to female guests, they can be coloured and fragranced to echo wedding décor and make a very personal and fragrant gift.

Remember when you give your gifts to include a list of ingredients either on the product or in a little booklet that you can give with your gift, and if you know that a recipient has an allergy, then don’t make items using things they need to avoid e.g. nut allergy, avoid nut based oils and use sunflower or grapeseed oil instead, dairy free don't add any dairy products! I know that part isn't rocket science but you'd be surprised how many people forget that allergens like nuts and dairy products can be in cosmetics and so many other things.

Chocolate, Ginger & Orange Sugar Scrub

Giving sugar scrubs and lip balms with chocolate box flavours will appeal to the recipients with the added bonus that they won’t pile on the pounds when they indulge in their chocolatey gifts. For several years we’ve made homemade sweet treats for giving as presents, but some of the recipients, although very appreciative of our gifts, made comments about weight gain. We took the hint and last year I decided that we’d give none edible goodies, so we weren’t giving too much temptation.

This deliciously scented sugar scrub is perfect for friends and family who are partial to chocolate orange and chocolate ginger chocolates, but are watching what they eat, it contains real organic cocoa powder as well as some of fragrant essential oils and smells heavenly.

To make it you'll need: -

300g Dark Muscovado Sugar – You can use demerara but the fragrance won’t be the same
100ml Jojoba Oil
2 Tbsp. Organic Cocoa Powder e.g. Green & Blacks
2 Tsp Orange Essential Oil
5 Drops Ginger Essential Oil

Method: This is so easy to make, place sugar in a mixing bowl and sieve the cocoa powder on top then stir, once the cocoa and sugar are evenly mixed, add the jojoba oil and essential oils, lick lips, but do not taste ;) Put into decorative jars and label.

To Use – First dampen the skin in the shower, then take a golf ball sized blob of the sugar scrub in to the palm of the hand and massage in to the wet skin, rinse off with warm water and pat the skin dry.

Try experimenting with fragrances, adding Lime Essential Oil will give you the smell of the old fashioned sweet ‘Chocolate Limes’, a little Geranium Essential Oil or Rose Oil and you have ‘Turkish Delight’, Lavender and Chocolate also work well together. If you want to use cosmetic grade fragrance oils you can make ‘Bounty’ style sugar scrubs by using coconut fragrance oil. Strawberry, mint and coffee are also heavenly variations. If you have time you can manufacture a whole chocolate box full of bath time delights.

Tip - If your recipient has skin that is dry or prone to flaking or itchiness then using Avocado Oil instead of the Jojoba Oil, Avocado Oil can be very soothing and moisturising for dry/irritated skin.

Chocolate Peppermint Lip Balm

This lip balm is really wonderful, make sure that you only use food grade essential oils to make sure they are safe for using in beauty items that may potentially be consumed. The hemp seed oil and cocoa butter are both very moisturising and contain antioxidants, they will help sooth dry cracked lips caused by winter winds.

To make 10 x 30ml Jars you'll need: -

100ml Hempseed Oil
60g Dark Chocolate (at least 70% Cocoa Solids – I used 85%)
30g Organic Unrefined Cocoa Butter
30g Beeswax
16 Drops Peppermint Essential Oil

Method: Place all ingredients with the exception of the peppermint oil in to a heatproof glass bowl over a pan of water that comes about 2” below the base of the bowl. Stir slowly until all the ingredients are melted and the resulting mixture is smooth and dark glossy chocolate brown. Pour the mix in to a heatproof glass jug - you can skip this stage but it’s easier to pour in to the pots from a jug. Add the drops of peppermint oil and stir with a metal spoon to combine everything together, then pour in to your jar or tins.

To Use – Use a lip brush or the tip of your finger to apply a little of the lip balm to the lips. N.B. Because this lip balm contains real chocolate it may stain clothes if it gets on them, it will also give the lips a slight chocolatey look if too much is applied.

You can experiment with other ‘flavours’ by following the suggestions in the sugar scrub recipe above, substituting the cosmetic flavouring or food grade essential oil of your choosing.

That's all for today, tomorrow I'll share my recipes for making bath melts and bath cupcakes!