holidays


Most of you know when I visit your blog, it is sporadic and I try to catch up what I have missed. This is not because I do not feel like blogging/visiting or because I am goofing off.  It is because I am busy. Granted, much of it is self-imposed busy, but busy I am.

Last week I looked at my life since Thanksgiving, and there have been THREE days since then in which I did not have a specific deadline of something that HAD to be done on a day. Now I do not have a “real job,” so my deadlines are not usually reports or presentations; they can be anything. (For my church treasurer job, I do have reports and presentations due at least monthly, however.) It may be a Friday, and those days always mean a ton of food has to be made because I cook for Friday and Saturday on Fridays.  My point is that the things I have to get done may not seem like deadline material, but for me there is always a reason something has to be done by a specific day.

So I thought I would show you some of what I have been doing for the past three months. (It is MARCH? Christmas is just around the corner!)

It started with Chic’s birthday. Since it was the Christmas season, she requested poinsettia cupcakes for school.

There are 13 children in Chic's classroom, but her teacher refuses to do cupcakes before school is out. (What's wrong with lunch?) This irritates me because when Chic gets cupcakes for a birthday, there is never one for her sister. I made sure every sibling of every classmate had a cupcake, too. (I wanted to leave out the teacher, but I was polite.)

Remember my Elf Escapades? Here are a few things I made for that.

Clockwise from top left: Napkin rings, box to hold napkin rings, "Merry" bag for the 12th night, tree bag. I made all the things shown. I loved it, but it does put a dent into one's time.

Clockwise from top left: 1) Napkin rings. 2) Box for napkin rings. 3) "Merry" gift bag for the last night. 4) Evergreen tree gift bag.

This was the best Elf Victim yet! On the 9th or 10th night, I was met at the door by this.

Sorry for the lousy picture, but I didn't want to get caught! This was the 12th night of Elf Delivery, and the front door and garage door of this house were OPEN! I took Chic with me for the experience, but it didn't help with the stealth. On the door are all the notes I left with gifts (the notes appeared on the 9th night), and there was a gift for me, too. I have never been so wonderfully welcomed!

Next is the Christmas ornaments and boxes. Since 1995 I have made a Christmas ornament yearly. It started as a gift to the infant daughters of very close friends and has grown to a few other girls (some now in high school) like my daughters and niece and some other special friends/family (aunts, etc.).

This year I made 36 "icicles" and boxes to hold them all.

For the staff Christmas party at school, there was an ornament exchange. This is the box I made, and inside was one of my annual ornaments, left over from about 3 years back.

This box was very last-minute, but I just loved how it turned out.

This is the holiday treat we give E.V.E.R.Y.O.N.E. They are called pizzelles and are Italian, waffle-like cookies made in a special iron.

I can't remember how many of these we made, but I know it was over 1000. I made the first 1/3 of them, then Prince Charming did the rest. (Bless him!)

Don’t forget the school treats. I made about 30 of the ones on the left for Chic’s classmates/friends plus the kids in my class at church. (She painted the sticks.) Chicklet’s class treats were on the right. I only had to make about 10 of those.

This is one of my favorite things–a gift for my nephew. When we visited Missouri in November I learned that he (who is Chic’s age, eight) is really into seeds. I was walking around my yard one day and noticed so many seeds. I started to gather them for him, then I thought I would just make that his Christmas gift. So I made seed packets (with pictures if I had them–stamped or drawn if I did not) for all of them and instructions for growing.

I never realized how many seeds I had in my own yard!

Next is the annual gift. Last year I made “winter” banners as holiday gifts for close friends/family. This year I did “spring.” (Can you guess what it will be next year?) I made 17 of these. Each one takes 2-1/2 – 3 hours. Call me an idiot!

Another rotten picture; I was pressed for time. But the good (?) news is that I have an extra of these. If you would like to be in a drawing for it, e-mail me at louisestamps at aol dot com to let me know. You have until Monday, March 8, to e-mail me.

Let’s move to Valentine’s  Day! (We left shortly after Christmas to drop off Chic in Tennessee. I was home one day before a business trip, then 1-1/2 weeks before visiting Chic. January was a blur.) These are the boxes I assembled for my Valentine’s for all the students in my art classes.

I made up about 55 of these boxes.

These are the cookies that went in the boxes above. VERY. BAD. to have these things in my house! Very bad!

I have no idea how many cookies I made, but it was about 8 or 9 batches. (I did double/triple batches in the mixer so I cannot remember.)

These are boxes I made for special people such as my friend in TN who is taking care of Chic and some special people at church. I made them from flat, chipboard hearts.

I made 8 of these boxes.

Something had to go in these boxes, so I made homemade truffles. It was a first for me. Slightly time-consuming, but really no more so than anything else I do.

The dark ones are Oreo truffles and the light ones are Italian truffles.

As I was making the heart boxes above, I kept thinking of other people for whom I would like to make some. The problem was that I only had chipboard hearts to make eight. But I had regular chipboard, so I die-cut square scallops to make four more boxes.

The left one was for someone VERY into brown, so it does not look much like Valentine's Day.

There were also quite a number of Valentine treats for classmates of which I forgot to take pictures.

The below items are also for special people for Valentine’s Day. They are super fuzzy socks wound to resemble ice cream. I made “cones” for them and packaged them. I also put chocolate oil on them. One recipient still has not opened hers because she thinks it is so cute. I made 18 of the bigger ones for adults and 6 of the smaller ones for children.

Clockwise from top left: 1) All of the socks put into their "cones." 2) The finished packages. 3) Notice the finished packages have "sprinkles on the cones. I made them by punching out holes. 4) This is some of the paper left over after the punching.

Being so industrious means that eventually the holidays will slow down and I can move on to other things. The next two are “name frames” I made for girls I visited a year ago. I took pictures of their rooms and just now got around to making the 8″ x 10″ art for them.

Clearly Kendra's mom is good at decorating!

Kayla is Kendra's older sister who had just redecorated her own room. (The decorating thing must be genetic.)

Just last weekend Chicklet was invited to a birthday party. She could not go because CHIC IS HOME FOR SPRING BREAK THIS WEEK!!!!!!! But I made a container quickly to take on Friday and filled it with craft items. I thought it turned out well.

This is a large canister that used to hold SlimFast. I love the size of these so I collect them to decorate at such times.

This week I am not doing anything of the sort because CHIC IS HOME FOR SPRING BREAK!!!! We have had several other activities already and have more on the agenda.

If you comment, be honest with me. Tell me if you love this or hate it. Tell me if you think I am insane. If you knew me in real life, would all of the above make you love me or love to hate me? (Your answers do not matter that much because I do these things because I love to do them, but I am interested in perceptions. I have all viewpoints in my “real life” acquaintances.)

Next projects? Easter!

Monday afternoon we finished the last bit of outside decorating for the holidays.  I could not  help but notice how beautiful the sky was, and I loved this angle with the bells.

To see LOTS more terrific sky pictures or to find out how to participate in this meme, head to the SkyWatch blog.

Note: All the pictures in the post go with the second part of the post.

“On the first day of Christmas an Elf gave to me…..

“OK, this technically is not the first day of Christmas, but this Elf has no idea if you are going to be around for 12 days starting on the actual first day of Christmas.

“You have been selected by an Elf for a corny, yet hopefully fun, 12 days of Christmas.  This is not intended to match the song (where am I going to get 12 Lords a’ Leaping?), or even loosely match it.  It will be possibly holiday related stuff based on the whim of this Elf.

“SO…..

“On the first day of Christmas an Elf gave to me……

“One flaming candle (you have to make it flame for obvious reasons).”

The above is the first note in this Elf’s “Twelve Days of Christmas” series. The Elf is beginning her 4th year of this mischief, and she is already having a splendid time.

I know a lot of people do this, but I think more should get into it. Each time I have done it, all but once I have somehow seen a little of how fun it was for the recipients, and I am sure it is WAY more fun for me! I usually pick someone I know only barely know so they would never suspect it is me.

What kinds of things do I use? For me,  usually things useful around the holidays. Tonight will be “Two Packs of Gift Tags.” There will also be “Five Pounds of  Sugar,” “Ten Pounds of Flour” and “Twelve Rolls of Toilet Paper.”  For the boring gifts, I try to add something fun (like for 11 eggs, I fill the empty space with an ornament) or have nice packaging for it that they can re-use. Some of the things are just fun like “Four Christmas Candies” and “Seven Packs of Hot Chocolate.” Some change each year based on things I find that I like. (Christmas Crackers, Place Card Holders, Napkin Rings, etc.)

Although this is a mostly Christian neighborhood, I really do not think non-Christians would be offended by this. Am I wrong? (I do not make this a religious thing by any means anyway.) My other questions to you are: 1) Have you ever done this? 2) If you have, what kinds of things have you done for different days? (Or if you haven’t, what are some things you can think of that would be good ideas for the different days.)

My other Elvish holiday practice just began this year. I have planned to do it for two years prior, but was very sick both years and just did not manage to get it done.

Here is the letter that goes with the basket shown in the pictures in this post:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

SPREAD THE CHEER BASKET

Just a little holiday hello to make you smile.

Please spread this to another neighbor very soon. Here’s what you do:

-Take a holiday sticker and stick it to your doorbell. This means you have received the basket and no one else will give it to you again.
-Keep what you want from the basket. Please don’t hesitate to keep all of it if you like the things and can use them!
-Refill the basket with a few holiday items. Make it all new, or put back some things that came in the basket that you can’t use. (I wanted to include something homemade in this, but since you don’t know who gave it to you, I thought you might be uncertain about that. Remember that when passing it on.)
-Please don’t forget to put this paper back in the basket so the next person knows what to do!
-Please don’t forget to put the stickers back in the basket as well!
-Leave it on a neighbor’s doorstep—preferably at a time when they won’t see you!

If everyone is speedy about this, there can be a LOT of people in this neighborhood that have had the little basket of cheer. Keep it going through Christmas!  (Maybe the last person to get it will start it over for next year!)

If you do not want to/cannot participate, please go ahead and put the sticker on your doorbell so you won’t get it again, and just pass the basket as is to another neighbor.

Have a Happy Holiday Season!

Love,
A Neighbor!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I know this is not unique to this Elf, either. My other questions for this are: 1) Have you done this or received such a thing? 2) What other fun Elvish things do you do for the holidays?

If some of you lived closer, you can bet I would be sneaking to your house right before I go to bed!

Note: I am only telling you this because I blog anonymously and most of you live so far away that you cannot tell on me. For those few of you who know me in real life, I am sure I can trust you to keep my secret.

Some of you will think I do nothing but travel. It is not true, but I know it seems that way. (Some of my friends think I travel ALL the time.) The past two years have had a little more than usual, I will admit.

Anyway, we are heading out for Thanksgiving. And at our destination, internet access is quite limited. I can see my e-mail periodically, but no blog visiting unless I go someplace that has wireless, which I usually do not have time for. We will be visiting Grandpa M and Grandma D. A year ago Grandma D was very sick, and she has not fully recovered. I will be cooking and such while we are there.

Chic and Chicklet are excited beyond belief. They LOVE visiting there. Grandpa M’s yard is 3 acres. That’s just the part he mows. They are not used to so much space and revel in it. (So do I.) They also get to see friends they love more than anyone. It will be a nice time.

I am slowly working through all the very heartfelt and nice comments from my two “tolerance” posts. But if I do not reply to your comment right away, know that I appreciate it. I was hoping to have more on this series by now, but life is busy, and the story has many facets. I do want to say that those posts were more of a background. The tolerance issue has bothered me for a long time, but how it applies to our family is the background for the much bigger story. I promise to get to it; it consumes my mind a lot these days.

So I will not be here for My World Tuesday or SkyWatch Friday, so I’ll leave you a couple of pictures and a recipe.

What I saw when feeding the birds a couple of chilly mornings ago.

A new bread I tried last week. I think it was called Armenian Peda bread. I have no idea if it is authentic, but it was really good, and actually quicker than most yeast breads I make.

I apologize I do not have a picture of the following recipe. I only make it on Thanksgiving, and last year I got sick that day so did not care much about taking pictures. It is my very favorite Thanksgiving food. (I turned it into Thanksgiving food.) Prince Charming does not like it (he has a few vegetable hang-ups), so I triple the recipe and eat the leftovers for a few days.

Company Brussels Sprouts

4 bacon strips, diced (I use soy “bacon”)
1 dozen Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
1 medium onion, chopped
2 Tablespoons snipped, fresh chives,
1 carrot, thinly sliced
10 stuffed green olives, sliced
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon olive oil
pinch of salt

In a skillet fry bacon until just cooked. Drain, reserving 2 tablesppons of drippings. Add remaining ingredients; cook and stir over medium-high heat for 10-15 minutes or until Brussels sprouts are crisp-tender. Yield: 4 servings.

That’s the official version. Since I do not use “real” bacon, and I try to be healthy when it does not impair flavor, I do the soy bacon in the microwave, then saute everything in the wine for a while (leaving out the olive oil), then add the bacon at the end.  I LOVE this stuff!

Have a Happy Thanksgiving if you live where it is celebrated. If not, just have a wonderful two weekends and a terrific week in between!

I promised myself (and you) that I would not post anything but my two weekly memes until I got caught up. But I cannot help it. No, I am not caught up; not even close, but there is so much spinning around in my head that here I am, making a post rather than visiting you and answering e-mails.

And this one has very little to do with what has been going on in my head.  I have had a chaotic week filled with a sort of conflict.  No upfront, bold conflict, but mostly the backbiting/stabbing kind. Or the kind in which someone smiles and pretends to be in total agreement when I am present, but turns around and does the exact things as before, and maybe even in a harsher manner as if to punish me for even questioning something.

But today is not the day for those posts . (Though I fear I will not be able to keep quiet about it forever.)  This is a random post about some of the nice or funny things that have happened to me in the last couple of weeks.

First, to my Maine trip. I have more of that coming up by the way. I visited three states, all new  to me, on that excursion. While I was in Portland, O’Mama and Mrs. Chili were kind enough to cover considerable miles to meet me for lunch.  Do I have pictures? No,  not really. I must admit that except for my kids, I am really lousy at getting people pictures. I do not think of it, and it is not my forte anyway. So no pictures except for the lovely pizza I had for lunch at Flatbread Pizza. I had never heard of Flatbread Pizza. Generally I am mostly opposed to franchise food operations, but this was different. Maybe it was different because I had never been there before, but it was GOOD.  O’Mama and Mrs. Chili are willing to rack up some mileage for this food, and I completely understand why. There is one in Maui. I told them I would be happy to join them there for pizza as well. (In another state to which I have not been.)

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My pizza. I can't remember it all, but it had artichokes, yellow peppers and cream cheese for sure.

I just have to say something more about the two women I met. The reason I read them is because they are honestly two of the most sensible (albeit, honest) women I know.  They each have two daughters with similar age differences as mine, but slightly older and a little older than that, and they are amazing parents. They are both teachers, and what a different place our educational system would be if all teachers had their values and principles.  I am not slamming teachers in general, and I know there are a LOT of good ones out there and even some good ones who read this blog. I am just saying that I appreciate their points of view, and they are vocal about them.

Last week was Chicklet’s half-birthday. We usually do not celebrate it because her birthday is in April, so we do not need to celebrate it. (Chic’s is at Thanksgiving, so we just do a small family party then and her friend party at her half-birthday.) But the girls are getting older and notice the disparity, so we had to have some acknowledgment of Chicklet’s half-birthday. We actually forgot, but had a dessert last weekend and remembered to put candles on it. She was elated.

Double Chocolate Cherry Dessert Pizza with 5-1/2 Candles

Double Chocolate Cherry Dessert Pizza with 5-1/2 candles.

Last Sunday morning I checked the weather and there was frost in the forecast. After returning from New England, it had been pretty much beastly hot, so it was a bit of a surprise. I always work in my garden early Sunday morning. Well last Sunday I spent 4 hours picking all the green tomatoes and peppers of any size worth picking and finding places for them to ripen. I have them on every inch of counter space and in three produce bins in two  refrigerators. I am hoping to be able to make fresh salsa with some of the tomatoes for Christmas. (Stranger things have happened.) By the way, it did  not frost that night, but it did later in the week, and Sunday is the only day I would have had enough time to take care of that, so I guess it was not a wasted effort.

Tomatoes

Cleaning out the garden before a potential frost

When I woke up yesterday morning, the thermometer said it was 19 degrees. OK, it gets cold in New Mexico, even colder than that. But NOT IN OCTOBER! One of my posts one day will be about one of my eccentricities which involves a cold house, so I was not amused by the temperature.

Then later in the day it warmed up… enough to snow. And not just a little, but coming down harder than it did when I was in Vermont a couple of weeks ago. Clearly still October. It was even sticking to the ground. Had it not been so hot a few days before, we probably would have had more than two inches sticking. The good news is that we are already returning to regular October weather.

2009-Oct-29. Seriously?

29-Oct-09 in Albuquerque. Not amusing. And the center of the picture is the cosmos bed where the picture from the last post was taken.

This week I have spent some part of every day except today making Halloween costumes for my girls. Below is what they chose. Chic is an Indian Princess and Chicklet vacillates between Laura and Mary Ingalls. Today we got a surprise bonus when Prince Charming called to say there was Trick-or-Treating at his work after lunch. I dressed up Chicklet, and she has already made a haul. We think the weather is improving enough that they will not get frostbite tomorrow night.

I have always liked Halloween, but I love it more since I moved here. Our neighborhood is quite festive, and we usually get about 200 Trick-or-Treaters. The streets are full of  parents and children, and it is wonderful.

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Chic and Chicklet in their Halloween costumes. They picked out the fabrics themselves, so don't judge me for Chicklet's apron that doesn't really match the dress.

I hope you have a fantastic weekend and a Happy and Safe Halloween if you celebrate the holiday.

2008-07-04.3FlagsThe promised post about the winners of my giveaway is not going to be now. I made extra cards which have not been photographed. The banner has to be made with materials I need to order (ASAP). And there will be photo cards which I have not yet assembled, so I will save it until everything is ready–which could be a couple of weeks.

The winners have all been notified and responded, but I’ll tell you who they were. (And if you know me, I did not only pick two. There were four.)

Maria of One Day in Hania and Organically Cooked won a small pile of hand-stamped cards.

Painted Maypole won the “summer” banner. The colors she likes are exactly the ones I was going to use to make my own, and the paper for that JUST because available.

Leia of We Love Luna won another pile of hand-stamped cards.

Fishing Guy won photos cards–my choice!

Thanks to all of you who entered and read this blog! There will be more giveaways from time to time. I love to make stuff, and I especially love giving it away!

Dogs and horses, especially horses are always dressed up for the occasion.

Dogs and horses, especially horses are always dressed up for the occasion.

So usually for Independence Day we go to a small-town parade in a neighboring town. We have done this every year since moving here, but we will not be going today. It’s a bit of a bummer, but we went to an even SMALLER parade when we were in North Dakota last month (and got WAY more candy), so I think the girls will survive this year.

The images in this post are from last year’s parade.

My two girls and a friend, anxiously awaiting the next candy throwing, but intrigued by the horse-mess clean-up--maybe the most integral part of the parade!

My two girls and a friend, anxiously awaiting the next candy throwing, but intrigued by the horse-mess clean-up--maybe the most integral part of the parade!

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When Prince Charming and I first started dating, he had some difficulty with me in the department of gift-giving.  I personally believe I am relatively easy to please (and do not expect gifts in the first place), but to  him, I was an alien creature.

The first thing is flowers. Let me state for the record LOUD AND CLEAR that I do not MIND red roses. If anyone is in a mind to get me anything–no matter what it is, I am elated at the mere thought of it, grateful and appreciative. However, if the gift is flowers, I prefer something besides red roses. My reason for this is that red roses can be common. Every male knows about buying red roses.  I have always been a little “different” (as those who  know me in real life can affirm) and liked to be different, so why should flowers be any different for me? Red roses are beautiful, but peach roses, orange and yellow roses, white roses with red tips, anything else besides red is less common. Less common means I like them  more. And although I love roses, I am quite as happy with other flowers like unusual mums, giant sunflowers (my favorites), tulips or anything that is not quite so common. And if it is clear that the male in my life (which has been Prince Charming for almost 12 years) put some serious thought into it, my heart is completely stolen.

img_0461sunflowersThis was an adjustment for Prince Charming because being a thoughtful guy, he had given the flowers some thought and had decided that all women want red roses all the time. He was educated that I am not “all women” and that also, most women might appreciate some variety once in a while. In this he has been a brilliant student.

(Please do not leave me nasty comments about how I should appreciate any gift. I do. I appreciate all gifts. I appreciate gifts I loathe because someone thought enough of me to give a gift.  I just see nothing wrong with educating my husband (or intended husband, as it was) about my preferences. He was grateful.)

Next was jewelry. Apparently one of the easiest gifts for men to give women is jewelry; it is a sure-fire hit every time. The problem here is that I do not wear jewelry. None. Not the tiniest little thing. (I will admit to wearing an engagement and wedding ring for a few years, but neither of us wear them anymore. And I will also say that when he was shopping for engagement rings, I assured him I did not want a diamond because everyone has a diamond. We did see some brown diamonds I liked, but I wound up with an alexandrite, which I loved because it was quite rare. The expense of rarity was not important to me, but the  having something different was.) So Prince Charming was at a loss when we first started dating. No red roses, no jewelry. But he was up for the task!

Prince Charming became personal friends with the sales people at Bath and Body Works because I love bath stuff and candles and great scents. I still get gifts from there occasionally–quite enough to keep my Friday Night Bath scented and varied. But my “difference” has presented him with the opportunity to show how wonderful and creative he is, which he did yet again this Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s Day can be another problem because I am the accountant in this household. I know how much flowers cost on Valentine’s Day, and I think it is preposterous to pay that much for them. I have at times gotten grand bouquets the week after because he SO wants to get me flowers (as he is also personal friends with a local florist), but it is definitely taboo to get me flowers for the holiday.

So Friday I was wondering what he would do. It would be fine with me (really, it would) if he did nothing, but he is the romantic, and he will always do something.

He arrived home from work bearing the above-seen pie. I genuinely squealed. One of my favorite desserts is Key Lime Pie, and I had some when I was in Orlando last month and have been hankering to have it ever since. Was that not a terribly creative gift for someone like me?!

Yesterday morning I got a beautiful card and some wonderful chocolates as well (including Godiva), but the hit for me was really the Key Lime Pie. And the best part? My girls are not that enthused with it. That means it is all for Prince Charming and me. And he is at a meeting this morning, so that is what I am having for breakfast.

2009-02-15klpsliced

I hope all of you had Valentine’s Days as wonderful as mine! (And I hope to have time to get to at least a few blogs today to find out about it!)

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Soulbrush in the UK tagged me for a photo meme. I have actually done this one before but had to cheat because of the photo, but I decided to do it differently this time, and lo and behold, an acceptable photo was in the right spot. This one is the 6th photo from the 6th folder. I chose the 6th folder in 2009, and the above photo was there. I find this slightly amusing because I took the picture just because. All of the boxes are ones I made to hold Christmas ornaments for my girls. Yearly I make ornaments for a LOT of girls and make boxes for them, but for my own girls, I also make boxes for their loose ornaments that are special. I do this to keep them safe and to have a place to write when, where and why they got the ornaments.  When I was putting away holiday decorations, I decided to take a picture of all their ornament boxes that I had made.  I do not know why, but it was useful today!

I never tag others for memes, but please do not hesitate to consider yourself tagged if you want to display the 6th photo from your 6th folder and have no other good reason to do so!!

Next, Fishing Guy mentioned that I keep talking about my stamping trip in other posts, but I have not showed what I stamped, so I told him I would try to do that today. So here it is:

2009-02-03bagboxstampstamppadThis was a box that was part of the make-and-take at St*ampin’ Up!’s Leadership Conference in Orlando near the beginning of January. The only thing stamped on this box is actually the “good friend.” Everything else is chipboard covered with Designer Series Paper or colored in some other way, or just Designer Series Paper as a layer. Below the box is a stamp pad and the stamp I  used for this box. (Please note that all stamp designs in these photos are copyright St*mpin’ Up!)

We also made the things in this box which included three cards, another, smaller box and ten little bookmarks that go in the smaller box.

2009-02-03bagboxcontentsI LOVE all of this! I must first say that I would have never purchased this stamp set just looking through the catalog. But it was part of what we received for attending the Conference, and now I love it. I love this whole set of stuff so much that I am going to have a class duplicating all of these things either in April or May. Also, I modified the colors on the smaller box and small bookmarks, and will make several for Valentine’s Day teacher gifts this year. I LOVE the idea of having a box full of bookmarks. I am always losing them, so ten is perfect. And I also love that I do not have to go shopping for other items for this gift because I have all the supplies at home. (No trip to Target, the $100/hour store!)

So that is what we stamped at Leadership  Conference, but there was a whole lot more to learn. Lots of new products (I am most excited about some new dies for our die-cut machine and the CHOCOLATE glitter–color, not flavor!) and great break-out classes to help with motivation in January and give new ideas.

And some of you have asked about my “job.” No, I don’t work at Universal Studios! I was just there for a party that St*mpin’ Up! threw for some of us.  It was just one of the many perks. (My best perks have been two cruises to Bermuda, but I had a conflict for the first one so have only been once.)

This is a card we made at a recent Stamp Club class.

This is a card we made at a recent Stamp Club class.

I am a St*mpin’ Up! Demonstrator which means I teach people how to create all kinds of things (cards, gifts, scrapbook pages, gift packaging, home interior items, etc.) using stamps and paper crafts. My pay comes from commission on the things I sell to people who want to do their own things. I have always said that I am not sure why St*mpin’ Up! pays me because it is so. much. fun! But I am glad they do. (Because I usually just put the money into more stuff!) There is a part of me that must say that I am not a sales person. I could never be a sales person; my personality would not support it. I teach people how to have fun and find a creative outlet, and the sales just come. (The fact that I will not even put the name of the company in here without an asterisk should tell you about my lack of selling personality!)

So how do I go about this? The “meat” of the business is in-home “workshops” in which I go to homes and teach people how to stamp. Sort of like a Tupperware party, but it is a fun, creative evening. My business also includes a monthly Stamp  Club in which a group of people commit to being in the “club” for a year by purchasing a small amount of product monthly. For this they get a free monthly class. It is a BLAST! Some of my Stamp  Club members have been in the Club since it began about 6 years ago. The other major aspect of my business is classes. Normally I have some sort of class monthly at my house. I charge a fee, and people come to make the projects. My customers LOVE this because I prepare everything for them so they do not have to think; they just come and create. I love it, too, because my life is so crazy in other areas, this gives ME time to create and to also  hang out with the girls. (I know I would never make such time if it were not my “job.”) Customers do not have to order from events, but can order any time (even online), but I really like the events because they are a stress-reliever for me.

And lest you start leaving comments about how artistic and creative I am, please be aware that I rarely come up with my own project ideas anymore. There are so many resources provided by St*mpin’ Up! that I do not have to think myself–just copy. I will admit to occasional “tweaking,” but usually not much.

So tonight I had a class for  Valentine’s Day Projects, and below is what we did.

2009-02-03v-dayclassallAbove are all the projects. The class was $15, and they made everything–except they only did one of the bowls. (There are two to show two options.)

2009-02-03happyheartThis was the simplest card we made. After I made this one, I actually changed it so that the greeting inside the heart was on the white shimmery paper instead, in red ink, to match the cardstock and ribbon. We all liked that version better. (But I had already taken this picture.)

2009-02-03heartbowlraisedflowerThis version of the bowl used stencil paste over a brass stencil to make the design. I got these little bowls at Michael’s for $1 each.  They would be adorable with ANYTHING in them. (My favorite would be Valentine-colored Jellie Belly’s. But the teachers in my daughter’s school will not be getting them because the contents would require a shopping trip which I am not willing to make. And I would like bookmarks  myself anyway!)

2009-02-03heartbowlrub-oninteriorThis is the inside of the brown bowl. This is a rub-on–a quick and easy way to decorate nearly anything. There were also white ones so they could put one on the inside of the stencil-pasted bowls, too.

2009-02-03hugskissesWhen I saved this card in a smaller size, it altered the color a little. The real thing’s colors are a bit softer. But it is cute even like this. It is difficult to tell, but the big heart is covered in iridescent glitter.

2009-02-03pantiesEvery Valentine’s season I do a “naughty” card at one of my classes. This is always a favorite, and I love this year’s version. (I always love them!)

So that is all about my “job.” I have many “jobs.” The two most time-consuming are the art teacher at  my daughter’s school and the head treasurer at my church. Both take a LOT of time and have no compensation. That is fine, but the time they take makes my life unbelievably hectic. Stamping sort of unravels some of that. It is therapeutic. It makes me happy. In fact, I am always happy when I am stamping–nirvana happy. And I get paid enough that the largest room in my house is devoted to my stamping hobby/business/addiction, and I have never, in 13 years, spent my personal money on the gazillion things in that room. (Maybe someday the ENTIRE room will be tidy at the same time and I will be willing to photograph it for you!) And yes, this can take up a lot of time, too, but it is WAY more fun that anything else I do that takes up a lot of time.

2009

Here you learned that I was without computer. We were not happy. Who is when that happens? But it was right at the holidays. We thought it was going to be a week. It turned out to be two weeks, and it’s still not back to where it was yet. There is still stuff to load back onto it, and we have two computers now instead of one. (And my new one, though unbelievably small and cute, is difficult for me because the keyboard is so small.)

A lot of the things I do (besides blogging) involve using the computer. The thing I do most frequently with it is keep the records for my church’s finances. Prior to the crash, there had been a series of problems that put me behind in that department. Then with the crash, each passing day put me a little further behind. (I just started catching up today. And it’s year-end, so it is not as if I have the option about taking my time to get caught up.) That caused me a lot of stress. But in the end, what could I do about it?

Another major consumer of my computer time is blogging–both my own blog and visiting others. Obviously that was not happening, either.

But in the end, it turned out to be one of the best things that could have happened. Why? Because if I had had a computer and been able to work and blog, I would not have managed to do all the holiday things I did. As it was, it was the worst holiday season I have ever endured. Prince Charming and I have no intentions of ever living through such a fiasco again, but it would have been so. much. worse. had our computer been working and then be able to spend NO time on the computer. Though disguised, it was a gift to us.

Only the cat did not mind the chaos. Here she is on my work table.

Only the cat did not mind the chaos. Here she is on my work table.

Every year I do more for the holidays.  In this case, “more” takes on many meanings: in the form of more time-consuming  cards to send (200 of them), more elaborate ornaments to make, and more handmade gifts. The whole of 2008 was crazy. Much of it was “good” crazy, but it was an unusually busy year, and very little for the holidays was done ahead of time. So when the computer crashed and my list of how many ornament boxes to make and for whom was gone,

Ornaments boxes in process. In the end, I made 37 of them.

Ornaments boxes in process. In the end, I made 37 of them.

How the ornament boxes looked when completed.

How the ornament boxes looked when completed.

my list of who got handmade banners was gone,

I made 15 "winter banners (the snowflakes dangle) and 4 "merry" banners as gifts.

I made 15 "winter banners (the snowflakes dangle) and 4 "merry" banners as gifts.

my Christmas card list was gone (I did not remember to take pictures of the pile of Christmas cards. Suffice it to say they were cute and had many steps), never mind all the work I could not be doing; I was a little stressed.

With my husband’s work computer we managed to use our external back-up drive to retrieve some of the information which I hand-copied (barely legibly) to complete everything. But the problem was there was not much time left, and much had to be sent or shipped, and I was doing more than ever.  It was horrible.

Prince Charming got on board as he always does and helped me. He could not do everything, but there were things he could do to help. The week before Christmas, we stayed up until midnight or 1 a.m. every night making cards, gifts, whatever. He did all the packaging and labeling and postage printing, and I did the most of the making and wrapping.  Prince Charming also made all the “treats” we give away this year. We usually do several things, but this year it was only pizzelles (for more than 50 families), and he did all of it. I did not make even one. And all day long while he was at work, I did more making and wrapping. Truly, it was horrendous.

This was a baby gift for someone who happened to arrive in this time frame. I loved making it, and the parents loved it. But I have to say it wasn't easy fitting a 10-letter name into a frame! (They call her "Halle.")

This was a baby gift for someone who happened to arrive in this time frame. I loved making it, and the parents loved it. But I have to say it wasn't easy fitting a 10-letter name into a frame! (They call her "Halle.")

It is not like we never make our own cards or many of our gifts, but this recent holiday season just went over the limit of sanity. But the thing is that we do not want to change what we do. We LOVE making handmade gifts. Most of the people to whom we give gifts have plenty of anything they need, so handmade things just seem nicer; we are giving more of ourselves. And it has nothing at all to do with the fact that I hate shopping.

So what we decided is that we are going to force ourselves to work on everything as soon as possible and all through the year. The ornaments are usually done in February, but the boxes are never done before the holiday season.

This year's ornaments. I made the tops and put them on the gold balls.

This year's ornaments. I made the tops and put them on the gold balls.

Nor are the cards or handmade gifts. We have to start plugging away in any spare moment during the year–both of us–so we can have a relaxed, joyful and peaceful holiday season next year. (This year we got only a small fraction of the decorating done. I did not even get the autumn decorations off of my front door.)

Now Christmas is not my very favorite holiday, but I still love it a lot. I love the festivity and the way people tend to be more happy and generous a lot of the time. This year, however, PC and I could not fully get into the holiday spirit; we were just too tired. And that is not OK, especially for our children — it’s not their fault we the year unfolded the way it did and we did not force ourselves to do more all year long. There must be changes. So we are determined to make it happen.

Are we already working on Christmas cards, ornaments and gifts? No. Right now I am working on wedding invitations for a friend. They must be finished by Wednesday because they need to be mailed soon, and I am going out of town on Wednesday. Before I leave, I also need to make 100 swap cards to take with me since I am going to a stamping event. (And I am not even sure of the design for that yet.) After that I will make myself deal with Valentine’s teacher gifts and get them done right away, and after that holiday things will begin. The goal is to have everything finished and ready to mail by Thanksgiving. Everything. No exceptions. This is no small feat, because even after everything is ready, there is still wrapping, and like everything else in my life, I have to do that just a little bit more than ordinary. I always buy the wrapping, ribbons and trims right after Christmas, so there is no reason that gifts could not be wrapped and ready as made and purchased. (Yes, a few are purchased, but mostly through fundraisers my children have so we do not have to make them go sell stuff to friends and family.)

I love wrapping gifts, but it is another time-consuming thing. But part of the joy of getting it finished early will be enjoying the beautiful things under our own tree for a while!

I love wrapping gifts, but it is another time-consuming thing. But part of the joy of getting it finished early will be enjoying the beautiful things under our own tree for a while!

So while without computer, I realized that I could probably very happily live without it for a good, long time. I was way too busy to miss it much. I thought I would miss the blogging more than I did, but I really did not have time to even think about it. HOWEVER, when I started looking at Sky Watch contributions yesterday, I realized what I had been missing. The reason I got so enamored with blogging so quickly after starting last summer was that I love the blogs I visit.

And I will be visiting again, and soon. But I have not looked at my reader in over 3 weeks. That probably means it has more than 3000 unread posts. That means I will not even attempt to catch up. If I try, I never will, so I am just going to start with what is new.  I tried for three months to catch up and could not, so I think it is better to just start fresh.

Back to my goals. I never do New Year’s resolutions. Does anyone really even remember what those are after a week or two? For me these things are goals, and most of the time when I have goals, I meet them. It is going to take some diligent determination, but I know I can do it. And next year, the holiday season is going to be more meaningful and joyful and fun and full of festivity, not last-minute misery. I promise!

 

click photo to enlarge

click photo to enlarge

This picture was not taken today, or even in this state, but the sky looks almost the same as it does today here.

The picture was taken in June in Missouri from my dad’s house. They had 11 Canadian geese that flew over every morning and evening while I was visiting last spring. I found them at a nearby pond one day during the day, but I do not know where they were most of the time.

I did not have any turkey pictures with sky in them, so I thought that geese would have to due to Thanksgiving.

If you are in the United States, I hope you are having a relaxed and festive day, and that you eat exactly the right amount to make you happy!

To see LOTS more terrific sky pictures or to find out how to participate in this meme, head to the SkyWatch blog.

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