Valentine’s Cards

We had a lovely Valentine’s Day. We’ve always made it a family day. We’ve tried once or twice going out for dinner, but the restaurants are so crowded it took a long time and wasn’t enjoyable. A few years ago for Valentine’s Day I used the recipe for Li’l Cheddar Meat Loaves but shaped the loaves into hearts, and that has become a tradition. (Note on the recipe: I use oatmeal instead of bread crumbs, only about 1 1/2 Tbs of brown sugar instead of 1/4 cup, and I omit the mustard because it gave it more of a BBQ flavor).

It’s also become a tradition to make heart-shaped cupcakes…

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..and peanut butter cookies with Hershey’s heart candies on top.

img_0083I received flowers and candy from my dear husband and cards from him and Timothy.

img_0084Jason and Mittu and Timothy also gave us these cute magnets from Photo Barn.

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I’ve also been making my own cards the last few years, and I know some of you like to do the same, so I thought I’d show them to you. I collect card ideas on Pinterest – I have one board for cards and one for Valentine’s Day. So when I have occasion to make a card, I’ll scroll through those for ideas plus the Cricut Design Studio. My generous husband gave me a Cricut Explore a few years ago, which can be hooked up to my laptop. They have “make it and take it” designs, which will allow you to cut the needed elements piece by piece and tell you how to layer them (the computer sends the design straight to the Cricut). Or, if you have an idea of your own, you can search for particular things, like “mug,” and it will show you several designs to choose from and then you can cut them out with the Cricut. So I peruse a lot of these ideas beforehand and see which one seems to “fit” the ones I am making a card for. I seldom copy a design exactly. Some times, like last Christmas, I don’t use the Cricut at all; this time I used it for every card. Of course, many things, like a mug, can be cut out without a machine like this. I can wing it with some things, but not so much with others. 🙂

So here’s what I came up with for this year:

For my husband:

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For my oldest son, who lives out of state:

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I had planned to put something like “Sending love your way…” on the front, maybe on one of the clouds. But I thought this looked balanced as is, so I put that on the inside.

For Jason, a coffee aficionado:

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For Mittu (it’s nice to be able to do one girly one. 🙂 ):

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I was particularly excited about this one for Timothy. He likes anything on wheels right now, and I had seen one design with a dump truck with hearts in it that I was planning on using. But when I saw the design for an excavator, I had to use it. He’s very much into excavators right now (and it is so cute to hear him say it) thanks to this guy, and can even name all the parts.

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I was thankful to find stick-on letters (for sale half price!) for that one and the next one at Hobby Lobby.

This was Jesse’s. From the time he was very little, he’s always had a bright, happy spirit, so this seemed perfect for him.

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And this was for Jim’s mom. My machine had some trouble with the small cuttings – I think maybe I need a new blade, but I didn’t have time to run out for one. There were four hearts layered for this one.

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I enjoy making these as my gifts to my family.

All in all we had a great day. 🙂

Family Christmas Cards

I hope you had a special Christmas. We had a nice day with all the family here. Someone, I think my son or daughter-in-law, had the idea of putting our photos in stickers on the Christmas gifts so Timothy could help pass them out to the right person that way. He was very patient as we got breakfast and read the Nativity story, then passed out a few gifts to others, then said, “Baby presents?” like, “Hey, shouldn’t I be getting one of these?” 🙂

The last few years I have been making cards for my immediate family, so I thought I’d show you the cards I made for Christmas. As I scouted Pinterest for ideas, I noted that several I had pinned had snowmen, so I decided to go with a snowman theme.

For this one for my husband, I looked up “snowman template” and cut out this little couple, colored them with colored pencils, then decorated around them. The background paper has phrases from “The Twelve Days of Christmas” on it.

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This was for my oldest son. I used the Cuttlebug to emboss the snowflakes on the background. I love the perspective of this one (I can’t take credit for it – I saw it on Pinterest. 🙂 )

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This was for Jason. I love the cheeriness of this one.

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This was for Mittu. I was delighted to find wintry paper that had purple in it.

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This cute one was for Timothy.

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This was Jesse’s. I think I got something a little askew with the hat…

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This was for Jim’s mom. I had seen the idea for “JOY” with a wreath in place of the O, and changed it for a snowman’s face.

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Then I stayed with the same theme for our anniversary card with a different template:

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I used punches for some of the circles and squares and buttons and eyes, stickers in some places and markers in others.

Overall it was fun to do while listening to the Instrumental Christmas station on Pandora. Most of it was done after the toe injury and thankfully after I had almost everything else done but the cleaning, which my husband graciously did. I think they all liked them.

I’m working on some end of the year blog posts of books read this year, my favorites of them, and a wrap-up post for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge. I’m afraid they will overlap a bit. 🙂 And usually around this time I look back over some of my favorite posts of the year. So, as time allows, that’s what will be up the rest of this week.

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A few cards

At our ladies’ Christmas party last week, we were to bring three of the same item ($5 or less each) to give away that were some of our favorite things. At the party, we each had an opportunity to share why these things were our favorites, then three names were drawn and our three things given to those three people, and we each went home with three gifts from others.

After mulling over what I could possibly share, I came up with note cards. Even though people don’t send them as much as they used to, there are still occasions for them. Making cards when I have time is one of my favorite things, and I have a stamp that says “I’m thinking of you prayerfully,” which covers a lot of situations. So I made six cards in different designs and combined them two to a package for my gifts. I thought I’d show you how they came out.

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The brown above was meant to be a suitable for a man or woman, and I think it is, but the flocked butterflies make it maybe a little less masculine than I had intended. 🙂

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This blue one turned out to be one of my favorites.

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The leaves on this one were from one little square stamp. Some years ago someone showed me the technique of rotating it a quarter turn while stamping it in a row so it looks like the leaves are tumbling. And a multi-colored stamp pad accounts for the variety of color. Though I can see that for the phrase stamp, it would be better not to end of begin the word in the yellow part – it makes it look like it is fading out.

Part of me thought I must be crazy trying to do this in a busy Christmas season, especially when I have family Christmas cards to do (I make Christmas cards for my immediate family but buy them for extended family and friends – it would take too much time to make them for everyone we send them to). But I kept them pretty simple, didn’t use the Cricut at all, and the trim and flowers were either cut with a straight edge and glued on or were stick-on. I like how the flowers on the blue cards add some texture but aren’t over-fussy. I don’t like a whole lot of stuff sticking out from the card, but a little is nice.

They afforded a few pleasant afternoons of creating while listening to Christmas music, and I hope the recipients enjoy them.

Ornaments for Timothy

I mentioned a few weeks that my son and daughter-in-law were going to put a mini Christmas tree in my little grandson’s room and asked if I would make some ornaments for it. I decided to go with felt because it’s obviously not breakable and hopefully will hold up to being handled by a little one. I wanted something he could be free to be “hands-on” with. That was part of the idea behind his own tree.

So I researched Pinterest (love that place) and got several ideas. One included free patterns; some I cut out freehand; for others I googled things like “gingerbread man template,” “candy cane template,” etc., and found basic designs.

I thought I could machine-stitch most of them, which would have made the construction go much faster. But it was a little hard to control, especially for the small ones.  So I looked up how to do a blanket stitch (if I had ever learned it before, I had forgotten it). By the last few I was pleased that my stitches were getting more uniform and even. I think the blanket stitch overall makes them look cuter though it did take a bit longer.

I’m learning in my (ahem) middle age that I have to have good lighting to see to stitch well. My craft room doesn’t have the best lighting except in the afternoons, so I’d go in there for a couple of hours a day and open the blinds, and that worked best. Sometimes I was motivated to do more, but my neatness fell off after a while, so it ended up being a good thing to work on it only a limited time each day. Sometimes my lack of dexterity in my left hand, leftover from transverse myelitis, was a bit of a problem. Even though I’m right-handed, holding the ornament in my left hand just right to be stitched was sometimes problematic, especially when trying to hold those tiny buttons in place. But overall I was pleased that even with “issues,” I could still do something like this.

I used Wonder Under on some of them (like the fox and deer ornaments) to fuse a design on, both to make it more sturdy and to use less stitching. 🙂 I also used it to fuse a basic woven fabric to the back of some of the designs that had a lot of buttons, because the newer felt is kind of thin, and I didn’t want the buttons to be pulled off due to the weakness of the felt.

There is an old-fashioned kind of felt that is thicker but also pliable (I am thinking it might be made of wool, but I’m not sure). Then there is a newer synthetic version that’s very thin and worked well for fusing on top. There is an even newer synthetic version that is very thick and not very pliable. I tried to cut the gingerbread people out in a double layer and nearly gave up because it was hard to get more than a blob: the finer details, cutting around the neck, etc., were hard to do. I came back the next day and cut the layers separately, and that worked much better. I was glad I persevered because they turned out to be some of my favorites.

This first one I did not make: I bought it. I saw it on Pinterest, clicked through, and found it was from an Etsy shop, and, unfortunately, got a notice that the item was sold out. I messaged the seller and told her my little grandson loved Batman, and would there be any possibility she would be making any more. She said she happened to have one left, and she sold it to me. Yay! I had given some thought to trying to make it on my own – but she did such a great job, I was glad she had one left to sell.

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Here are the ones I made:

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Free patterns for the deer and fox ornaments are here.

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They’re Starbucks aficionados, thus the Starbucks-type coffee cup. 🙂 They always ask for a small empty cup for Timothy so he can have “coffee” with them.

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I think the gingerbread family are my favorites. 🙂 They’re supposed to roughly correspond to my son’s family, thus the blue eyes for the Daddy. etc.

I stuffed some of them, others I left flat, just depending on what I thought looked best for each one. The first one I completed was the little house, and got it kind of over-stuffed, but that taught me that they just needed a little. I had thought about using one type of hanger for them all so they’d look more like a set, but it seemed better to vary them with what I thought would look good for each one.

I found a sturdy gift box from W-Mart which had a lid that just lifted off, so Timothy would have a box to keep them in and also so it would be easier for him to open rather than unwrapping something.

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We took the box over to him on Saturday. He enjoyed checking out the ornaments and putting them on his tree.

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Sorry that’s a little blurry – it looked clear on my camera. 😀

I hope they hold up well – I hope he can use them over and over again for years to come. It’s been a long while since I’ve crafted anything besides an occasional card, and I enjoyed doing something creative, especially something to contribute to Timothy’s Christmas. 🙂

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Cards

Someone commented recently that they’d like to see the cards I had mentioned working on, and I am happy to oblige. 🙂 When I make cards, I usually peruse my Pinterest board for cards unless I have an idea already. I try not to copy them exactly but rather just get ideas and inspiration.

Before the spate of Valentine’s cards last week, I made this for a lady at church to go with her baby shower gift. I used a cute little elephant punch I had gotten for Christmas, but it could be done with stickers or punches of anything that might look like a baby’s mobile.

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This was my Valentine’s card for my husband:

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This was for my oldest son. I think the brown hearts look like chocolate ones. 🙂

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This was for my middle son:

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The design on the butterfly paper was raised and velvety (flocked). I love the masculine feel of the tans and rich browns.

This was for my daughter-in-law:

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This was for my grandson – I think it is my favorite:

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This was for my youngest son:

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I should have made the jar from a different colored paper or outlined it so it showed up better.

This was for my mother-in-law:

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The monkey, branches, birds, and jar were cut from my Cricut. Most of the hearts were done with various sizes of punches. Everything was done with things I already had on hand. Anything with words I type out on the computer, along with the sentiments inside, then print them off all on one sheet and then cut them out and paste them. The Cricut Explore has various fonts but I haven’t quite figured out adding words with it yet. On the heart on my mother-in-law’s card, I turned my heart punch upside down so I could center the words where I wanted them before punching the heart out.

I’ve made cards off and on for years, but started making them in earnest when they got to be so expensive in stores. I had a lot of papers, cardstock, equipment, etc., accumulated from years of sales, coupons, and gift cards to craft stores, and felt I needed to either use it or get rid of it. Of course, I have to watch out for this kind of thing:

craft humor🙂 But I usually ask for craft store gift cards for my birthday and Christmas, so that supplies my habit. 🙂

So even though I started for economical reasons, I do enjoy being able to give something unique and personal. It’s a bit more pressure Valentine’s Day and Christmas when I am making cards for all the family at once, as opposed to individual birthday cards through the year, but I enjoy it.

Crafty Organization

I mentioned last week that I had been able to do a bit of reorganizing in the craft/sewing room, so I thought I’d give you a peek.

My dear husband very generously gave me a Cricut machine some years ago. It took up a good deal of space on my work table, so a couple of years ago I told about painting an inexpensive TV cabinet on wheels that would fit under the table and keeping the Cricut there. The only problem was that when I did start to make cards, I didn’t want to take the time to pull the Cricut out and plug it in and set it up. Plus all my cartridges were in a file box, which was ok, but not the best solution.

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Former location of Cricut cabinet

Cartridges in file box

Cartridges in file box

Finally somehow a light bulb went off over my head, and I pulled the cabinet out and placed it against an empty space on the wall. I put the cartridges on one shelf and the other things on the bottom shelf.

Newly organized cabinet in new location

Newly organized cabinet in new location

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Now the Cricut itself plus the cartridges are more accessible, so hopefully I’ll use them more. I feel guilty for having all this stuff and not using it. I’ve started making cards this year since even the basic ones at Wal-Mart have gotten up to$5 and $6 and since I do have stuff to make cards.

I feel like I need to say, too, that a lot of what is in this room has been bought with gift cards given by my family on various occasions and often on sale or with coupons. Plus this is the accumulation of 35+ years.

Also, I had my Cuttlebug embossing folders in a file box, but they didn’t need all that space.

Cuttlebug folders in file box

Cuttlebug folders in file box

I had this cute little plastic box I’d found at Target but hadn’t found a use for it yet, and they fit perfectly. Now they are much easier to flip through.

New Cuttlebug box

New Cuttlebug box

As you can see in one of the above pictures, the Cuttlebug, box of folders, and laminator all occupy the bottom shelf of the TV cabinet.

By the way, does anyone know what happened to Cuttlebugs? I don’t see them in craft shops any more. I guess they probably got replaced by some new machine that I don’t know about. But I love the Cuttlebug. I used it on this card for my son and daughter-in-law:

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I still like the idea of a storage cabinet under the table. though. They still have these cabinets at Wal-Mart, but only in black, and I am not fond of the idea of painting black cabinets white again. I’ve looked at kitchen carts (usually too tall) and other ideas, but everything else is either too expensive or doesn’t fit the space. So I’ll have to think about that a while.

Also, I didn’t think to take a “before” picture, but I did some work in the closet as well. I had a corner cabinet in there that was tipping forward because the stuff I had one it was too big and heavy. Jesse helped me put some pieces of cardboard under the front corner so it wouldn’t tip forward, and I traded all the smaller things that were in the middle bookshelf onto the corner shelf and put the big photo albums and such that I’d had on the corner shelf onto the middle bookshelf (one of those, “Duh, why didn’t I think of that before?” moments). Then I just had a bunch of stuff piled into the right corner. It just recently occurred to me that I could get another corner shelf for the right side (another “Duh!” moment!) I couldn’t find one like I already had on the left, but I found this one on Amazon and was able to get it free with accumulated cash-back points from the credit card. So picture the before photo with a mess in both corners, and now (I ended up having to take two “after” pictures because I couldn’t get both sides in the frame):

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Left closet corner

The pink plastic drawers on the left are two stacked on top of each other. I wasn’t sure if that would work or if they’d topple every time I opened a drawer, but they have worked wonderfully. I did think about them for that under-the-table space, but I was wanting more open shelves there. But they might work – still thinking. 🙂

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Right closet corner

I’m delighted that those corner shelves have really made the best use of that space.

Also, for good measure, I thought I’d show you this:

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All of those boxes on the left-hand shelves hold photos that, hopefully some day before I die, will make it into some of the albums I’ve accumulated through the years. That was before photos went digital.

So — getting things spiffed up in there is inspiring me to spend more time in there – if only I could!!! But getting it more organized will make it easier to do things in there when I do have time.

I am linking up with Tori‘s To-Do Tuesday.

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A new gadget!

One evening while my husband perused some of the “deal of the day” sites he follows while I was making dinner, he asked me if I wanted a new sewing machine.

No, I replied. My little faithful, uncomplicated Kenmore had served me well for 30+ years now, and I figured I’d just keep using it until it gave out. Besides, those newfangled computerized ones would probably require a significant learning curve to become comfortable with, whereas I knew my Kenmore so well I could operate it almost without thinking.

But he began to read some of the features of the one on sale, and the more he read, the more attractive it sounded. And, I began to reason, when my machine does give out, there might not be a deal like this readily available. So I said, “Sure, if you want to get it for me.” 🙂 So he did.

It arrived last Saturday, and thankfully he was here to help me get it out of the box and figure out some of the diagrams to get started with it.

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This photograph with the light on isn’t as good, but you can see the screen display:

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Some of the basics like threading it and the bobbin were a little hard to figure out: some of the specialty stitches were easy, and I had fun playing with those a bit.

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It will take a while to feel “at home” with it, but that should come with use. It’s supposed to have an automatic needle threader which I haven’t figure out yet but which should come in really handy: I keep a little magnifying glass in the desk drawer for help with threading now. One feature I really like is that there is a little push button on the side that opens a little drawer for all the extra presser feet, bobbins, etc., thus freeing up crowded drawer space.

And, as an added bonus, the sewing machine cover I made for my old sewing machine last year came out a bit too big for it, but – you guessed it, it fits this one nicely. It’s a bit snug, but it still covers it.

As I moved my old sewing machine and began gathering all its attachments, I felt like I should give it a hug for all its good work through the years and pat it and tell it what a good job it has done. But when I feel sentimental about appliances, this video comes to mind:

So even though I am a little intimidated at figuring out things with the new machine, I am looking forward to it as well, and I am thankful for my husband’s love and generosity.