Yesterday, during a little break from everything, I visited Gennine's blog and was particularly engrossed in this video of her stamp making process. She is so very talented and always inspires me. She does everything I can not. I really admire her painting abilities.

I remember taking a watercolor class in college and quickly finding that I didn't have much patience for it. The irony is that papercutting illicits a "how do you have the patience to do that!" comment from many. Go figure.

As I watched Gennine, I completed a very simple thank you card for a friend. Would you believe that I had to borrow my kids coloring pencils? I couldn't find mine and that made me realize how long it's been since I've used them—so sad. I hope you don't get bored of my leaves. I happen to be using them in upcoming products for my shop.

do you know the name of this flower?

I'm dying to know. My apologies for the bad photo. I couldn't keep my hand steady enough for my cell phone. Apparently, it also has a hard time with close ups.

We were at the Houston Children's Museum on Saturday and had a wonderful time even though it was packed (everyone escaping the heat?). When we went to the outer area of the museum, these flowers just jumped out at me. They look amazing in person and it seems that they grow in vine fashion.

EDIT - Gosh you're all so fast! So, it's a passion flower. Thanks everyone!

recycling project no. 18 - packaging turned toys

Some big boxes and packaging materials, that I received in the mail last week, unexpectedly turned an afternoon into a very creative one. Once they knew it was ok, the kids snatched everything up in a heartbeat and got to work.

We certainly aren't the first to think of this type of recycling project, but if I don't post it there will be some hurt feelings around here. We worked on these on Friday and all I heard was, "Mom, show our projects on your blog!"

Little C and I worked on making a building. She used crayons to color the top of the garage and the back of the building. I cut the white cardboard 'floors'. She sat at the table playing for a long time after we were done. I love watching her use my old Fisher Price toys.

D took all his materials into his room and just went for it. He didn't even want to bother with scissors, as you can see. He wanted no help and led me to his room for the big unveiling when he was done. It's an obstacle course for cars.

He's so proud of what he made, on his bed, that he hasn't been sleeping in it (totally his idea) for three days straight. I must convince the artist to relocate the 'piece' soon—maybe today.

You can barely make it out in the tunnel, but as you can see Sharpie markers also work as objects that cars can run over.

Sometimes the best toys are the cheapest ones. Aren't they?

EDIT - Thank you to those of you that have posted comments. I've been reading them all to the kids. They are all smiles now. ;)

why I make

As I was driving home yesterday, the kids fell asleep and I listened to a fair amount of music and a few podcasts. Diane's latest podcast (awesome as always), titled "Why do you make stuff?", left me thinking about how I'd answer the question. I decided that writing a list about it was in order.

I make stuff because:
  • I have to. The digital world is awesome but I need more. I need the tangible.
  • It keeps my creativity, mind and deameanor balanced.
  • It gets ideas out of my head. I think I'd explode otherwise.
  • I like to see if my ideas will really work.
  • I love the process (almost more than the results).
  • Problem solving is awesome and/or frustrating but still very interesting.
  • It gets me away from the computer.
  • Surprises are always around the corner. I start with one thing and I may end up with something else.
  • I like the mental challenge of coming up with ways that test the limitations of a medium or material.
  • When I do it with family or friends, I always have a memorable time.
  • Regardless of what I make (good or bad), I always learn something new.
  • I relish improving store bought items.
  • It gives me an excuse for a quick break from 'regular' work.
  • I like sharing what I've come up with.
  • I can't help it. It's in my genes. I blame my Dad.
So, why do you make stuff?

Enjoy your weekend!

skipped town for a bit

Sometimes the best plans are the ones that don't involve too much planning. Last night we got back from a quick two-day trip to Austin. I went with the kids to visit friends and we had an awesome time. Sadly, I don't have much photographic proof of the experience. One of the highlights of the trip was feeding (from afar) deer that come to our friend's backyard on a daily basis. Yes, I took photos, but none are blog worthy.

Yesterday afternoon, I got to play with paper and a Cricut at Rachel's (Average Jane Crafter) house. Our kids got along great and played together while we sat at the kitchen table to experiment. I'm so used to working alone, that being around another creative person, that likes to jump right in, was such a treat. She opened up my eyes to so many other possibilities and new ideas started brewing right away. If you're curious and because she wrote about it so much better than I ever could, visit Rachel's post, about our crafty time together.

Lesson learned? I need to dedicate more time to creative afternoons with friends. For sure.

For those of you that know anything about Texas geography, I offer you an opportunity to make fun of me. Our trip back home was an hour longer, because as we were leaving Austin, I obviously made a mistake. It pissed me off because I rarely if ever get lost and knowing that I have an iPhone with GPS doesn't help either. Actually pissed doesn't quite cover it. This was our route towards Houston: Austin -> after a moment of @$# realized I was headed to San Antonio (awesome!) -> New Braunfels -> Seguin -> finally Houston. Talk about running in a big circle.

Now, I'm just doing the fun after-trip laundry and catching up. But it's all worth a little time away from the routine.

cricut expression - review (part 2)

Today I'll start with another small disclaimer. As I mentioned yesterday, I don't do any scrapbooking. I think it's also important to mention that I don't own any other cutting machines. So, I can't tell you if this particular machine is better than any other. So far, I've only used my very high-tech Xacto blade for my work.

The projects (very simple ones):
- This purse/bag was so easy to make. The Cricut did all the cutting and I just scored and glued. Little C and I made and decorated a round version which I forgot to photograph. These would make very cute party favors.

- I told you that the hang tags were fun. This was a quick banner I made with the Provocraft textured cardstock. The longest part of the project was tying the tags evenly spaced out.

- A butterfly that took me a couple of minutes to make turns a fun colorful pencil into something a bit more special.

- This is a shadow box frame that I've added to little C's room. The raspberry colored C is cut using the same dimensions as the white C but with one difference. It was cut out by using the shadow option I mentioned yesterday—very handy. The Cs and the bottom left flower are raised.

- So far, this paper lamp is my favorite project. I can see myself making this over and over again with different motifs, letter and/or numbers. I used the initials of our first names, middle names and last name all combined. It's 12" tall and 4.5" wide. I can add this to my growing list of paper lamp ideas.

White-on-white always makes an appearance in my work doesn't it? I can't help it.

My only concerns with the Cricut are:
  1. The upfront pricetag for the machine and each of the cartridges. My husband suggested that I purchase the previous model (several times) and I simply couldn't bring myself to go for it. Having said all that, I realize that in the long run the Cricut may actually be cheaper than buying all the scrapbooking supplies as individual pieces. It's not something I'm well versed in, so someone please correct me if I'm wrong. For a non-scrapbooking person such as myself the price does seem hefty.
  2. This may be a given but I'll say it anyway. I don't like being limited to cutting what's on the cartridges. I have many more ideas for 3D projects (such as my gift boxes) but I'm always limited by the handmade aspect of what I do. If Provocraft would be willing to make custom cartridges with images I supplied them, that would be incredible. The logistics and costs of making a program like that available to any crafter are probably insane but wouldn't that be fabulous?
  3. Not related to the machine directly - As a crafter that is concerned with being more 'green', one of my first thoughts is related to the scraps and scraps of paper that I now have after making these projects. This isn't to say, that I don't have scraps when I cut paper by hand, but these projects came about at a fast pace so the piles around me got me really thinking. I have a scrap drawer that gets a lot of use and some projects that these are all destined for. I wonder what everyone else does with their scraps.
  4. Speaking of being green. What will happen to the machines that get discarded once a crafter decides to upgrade to this new one?
Regardless of how this Cricut is used, it certainly is a great tool. It also is much, much cheaper than a laser cutting machine I looked into purchasing at one point. I'm really looking forward to exploring what else I can come up with. I know I've only scratched the surface. I also know that we will be able to use it for many projects such as: school projects, parties and celebrations, stationery, wall art and paper lamps. I'm specially looking forward to combining the machine cut pieces with the ones I create by hand. That's going to be exciting. To recap the good points:
  1. Very easy to use
  2. Fast! Saves a ton of time.
  3. Limitless possibilities within the cartridge options.
  4. Educational. My little C was reviewing her alphabet in a fun way. I can see why teachers would love the Cricut.
  5. The Cricut helped us spend some quality crafty time with the kids. Good music + Cricut = fun times.
  6. Although I did state the price as a concern, I can also see how it saves money in the long run. I know it's all contradictory. I guess it depends on how you look at it. If the Cricut isn't in your budget, why not purchase it as a group (among sisters/friends)?
  7. Definitely fun to use.
For those of you that would like to know - The cartridges we used were: Simply Sweet, Jubilee, Plantin Schoolbook, Home D├ęcor Solutions and Stand and Salute. Aside from the white and gray paper, the sheets I used are all sold by Provocraft—see options here and here. I also received rolls of vinyl which I haven't had a chance to get to. When I make something with them I'll definitely post it here.

Once again, thank you to Provocraft and Rachael/Todays Mama for the opportunity of participating in this review. Remember to participate in the giveaway and good luck with the opportunity of winning a cruise.

And... thank you for reading these super long couple of posts after my days of absence. Summer is just moving slowly around here. It's probably this insane heat!

cricut expression - review (part 1)

Our summer has had a lot of craft making, so, I couldn't have been asked to review the Cricut Expressions (by Provocraft) at a better time. To be perfectly honest, I was a bit hesitant to accept to do this because I do no scrapbooking. But, now I'm glad that I did, because I've realized that it doesn't matter whether I'm a scrapbooker or not, I can still make great use of this new machine. For those of you that enjoy scrapbooking you'll be hearing the words of a novice, so bear with me.

Let's jump right in. Here are my thoughts on the Cricut Expression (so far):
- I highly recommend viewing the instructional video that comes in the box. It answered a lot of my initial questions. You can see other videos here.
- After some initial mistakes I got the handle of it quite quickly. The machine is so easy to use, that my kids (6 and 9 years old) are using it very confidently after only a few supervised tries.
- The time saved is incredible! I'm so used to cutting everything by hand that using this machine feels like I'm cheating. But like my artist brother said to me the other day, "Tools don't make art. The artist does".
- The options of what can be made are limited only to the cartridges that you own, the paper that you have and your imagination.
- I like that the cartridges have so many more options than are apparent at first glance. One character/key has so many variables depending on the use of additional keys (akin to holding down the shift key and getting a capital letter).

- I love mobiles, so it doesn't surprise me that this was one of my first projects. Yes, it can be made using simple hole punches. But, instead of spending the time punching paper I was able to get dinner started while the machine did all the work. I was just getting my feet wet and again, the time saved was incredible.

- One of the great things about this particular Cricut is that the same character can be cut in heights from 1/4" to 23". I used only one key and just changed the size of it for each new flower. - This is the first envelope that I make where the only hand work was folding and gluing. It was cut entirely by the Cricut.

- For some reason, I'm particularly fond of the hang tags. These are just some samples of the ones I made within minutes. I'm now completely stocked.
- The teal flower demonstrates another one of the nice features of the Cricut. Almost any shape or letter found in the cartridges are also available as a shadow and/our blackout (with not outside border) with only a click of a feature key.

- I couldn't resist making some simple bookmarks. I think this is my favorite use of some of the shapes (from this cartridge)—part paper and part hand drawing.
(Random: The book is one of a few of my original Nancy Drew books. I've been saving them for my little C. I loved them all and read them three at a time, like they were the best books on the planet.)

- These are the poster sized (24" x 12") pieces that the kids worked on. D opted for a illustration/cut out combination, which I'm proud to say I did not suggest. It was completely his idea to take the pieces he needed and add whatever other details he felt were missing. He used the new Stand and Salute cartridge.
- Little C (green poster) was happy to simply cut out shapes she liked using different colors of paper. She was so determined to fill in the entire page.
- These posters took up an entire afternoon and were such fun to make. The kids took turns using the machine and we had such a great crafty time.

Thank you to Provocraft and to Rachael/Today's Mama for the opportunity of working on this review. For those of you that would like the opportunity to win some cartridges sign up here. Twenty of the latest cartridges being sold, have tickets for a 7 day cruise for two. Good luck!

I'll post the second part of this review in a few hours. If you have any questions, I'll try to answer them to the best of my ability in the comments section.

Click on any of the images to see them slightly larger.

drip dot swirl

I love great mail days. Today, I was giddy to get my copy of Drip.Dot.Swirl. by Von Glitschka. He is an illustrative designer that I admire very much. His talent is only equaled by his generosity and humor. The book is a must-have resource of 94+ diverse patterns that just seem to just pop off the pages. I can imagine using them in so many ways. I am guilty of not having Von's first book, Crumble.Crackle.Burn, but that will be corrected as soon as I head over and order it. I don't know what has taken me so long. He's working on his third book now and I'm sure it will be another must-have.

Drip.Dot.Swirl. includes examples of how the patterns where applied by ten designers and illustrators. I am flattered beyond belief that Von invited me to be part of the group and that I was able to add my small contribution. I took some pictures of a couple of spreads but they don't do the book justice. So, I'll just show you some old images that I believe I've posted before.

For more information regarding this book visit Vonster Books.

• • •
I've been a little MIA because we've been busy with the kids and I've been working on projects I can't show you just yet. It's so hard to keep quiet! I'll share when the time is right. Promise.

Admittedly, I've also been away from the Internet because of mental overload. Sometimes I just need to get away from it all—like I need to hit the reset button. I find that this creeps up when I'm concentrating on new work. I feel the need to simply absorb my own avenues of inspiration, be that through my sketches, my photographs or my surroundings. Do any of you go through this?

Tomorrow we're headed out on a short road trip to see how they make ice cream at Blue Bell. I hope it helps us put up with this insane heat. I can't even imagine what July and August are going to be like.

a new chapter

Our kitchen table can be the coziest place to draw. A cup a coffee and a few minutes later this is what I ended up with. I can't seem to stop drawing the leaves I drew on our wrapping paper project.

I've received emails asking me about the wall art section of my website. Yes, it is completely empty at the moment. I've decided that I'm ready for renewal. My printables will continue but the artwork will change.

I could delve into a diatribe, several paragraphs in length, of complaints regarding why I've decided to do this. But, I will save you the negativity and leave it at—it's time to evolve. Change is good.

Speaking of renewal, it's also affecting our home. I have bags and bags of things ready to be taken to goodwill and the library. The kids' closets are done and I've tackled a part of ours. The latter is taken longer than expected, because it includes my craft stash (scary!).

We live in a small house, so I've tried to keep things as uncluttered as possible. With two kids and my crafty habit it can get out of hand at times. Every now and then I get the urge to purge, purge, purge. I'm in the middle of that and it feels so good to get rid of the surplus. It's so freeing. I'm not done, but I'm feeling lighter already.

Our summer is moving along slowly and I love it. The kids are only worried about playing with their friends and asking for lemonade every few minutes, because the heat has definitely set in. I couldn't be happier about being away from the computer during the day. The early morning thing is working after all.

New season. New habits. New work. Love it.

recycling project no. 17 - cardboard tube experiment

Unexpected results are a common occurrence with craft projects. Last week it was our turn to prove that.

I set out some fabric paint and cardboard tubes, that we were going to use as brushes, and explained to the kids that we were going to be printing on napkins. At first, they thought I was kidding (You're going to let us paint on fabric?!). D opted for keeping his tube as a circle and C decided she wanted the leaf shape (what you get when you crease the tube lengthwise). We practiced a bit on scrap paper and that's when I stepped away from the kitchen because of a phone call. Are you grinning?

As you know, I'm in the subtle-is-better camp, so my original idea was to print only on one edge of the napkins. The kids had other plans. It didn't help that I had completely spread out both napkins in front of them. When I came back, I was surprised to see that 60% of the napkins were completed. They each had a pattern going and were completely engrossed in what they were doing. Their work is not what I had envisioned, but being the Mom that I am, lots of praise and high-fives went all around. I stayed on the sidelines and watched them proudly finish. I think the quirky results are charming (as any mother would) and so them. They were so fast I didn't even have time for photos.

D said he was inspired by the Olympic rings.

C stuck with the pattern we had tested before I stepped away.

The idea of using the cardboard tube as a tool/brush is still a valid one, but, definitely not for fabric. The kids had little control over how much paint was on the end of the tube, so some spots were too thickly covered with ink. I think this would make for an awesome project on a large canvas. It's something we will definitely try soon.

I worked with a potato stamp. One edge of the napkins and the entire edge of the tablecloth is now decorated with a simple design I carved.

Thanks to a quick shout-out on twitter and the kind responses of Sam and Jesse I saved an enormous amount of time by setting the ink in an unexpected way. I placed everything in the oven, completely wrapped up in a baking dish and aluminum paper, for 10 minutes vs ironing. Hooray, for time saving ideas!

ahh, the weekend

Birthday party, housewarming party, watching some baseball and basketball, yummy milkshakes, a tiny bit of shopping and strolling. That sums it up.

Serendipitous photo - I just wanted to take a quick shot of the flowers for an idea I have. The kids were standing right next to me and the wind blew the balloons in my direction. It reflects how I feel about our weekend: happy and carefree.

Summer is the time when one sheds one's tensions with one's clothes, and the right kind of day is jeweled balm for the battered spirit. A few of those days and you can become drunk with the belief that all's right with the world.
- Ada Louise Huxtable

• • •

Thank you to Irene for featuring my alphabet party sets, on Friday, on her Bloesem Kids blog.

Now, I must get ready for the filming of a local TV segment. I will be joining Sarah, who will be leading several of us in making t-shirt totes. Wish me luck!

Happy Monday!

all to myself, again

The first week the kids are off from school is always a bit topsy-turvy. I started my work summer routine, where my schedule is either shifted to the late night or the very early morning. I'm trying the latter for now. So, most every day this week, I've been up and at it for a few hours before the kids are up. It'll take me a while to get used to this. Coffee has always been a good friend, but lately it's been my savior.

I'm being more adamant about my schedule, because I still carry some guilt over last year's summer. All I did was write, write, write. Yes, I feel proud of the result, which you just saw this week, but the guilt is still there. The family/work balance was completely off. This year, things will be different. That's what I hope.

A great thing about having the kids home, is that it brings me a touch of what it was like to have them all to myself as babies. We do have moments of bickering and tantrums—of course—but for the most part laughter and giggles abound. I've also had a taste of one of my favorite things. I love catching, either one of the kids, alone and in the middle of pretending one thing or another with a toy. Typically, I listen to their monologue for a bit and if I time it just right, I get to tiptoe away without them hearing or seeing me. I avoid interrupting them because I hate breaking the spell.

Speaking of spells, we seem to fall under one when we're tackling our crafty projects. We're always amazed at how the time just flies by and it's hunger that makes us stop before anything else does. I love watching their hands and mind at work and laugh at myself when they're so picky about a poorly drawn line or sticky glue in the wrong place. The genes have definitely been passed on.

So this week, I can safely say I conquered the balancing act—with the glaring exception of folding the laundry (it's not just me, right?). Not bad for week one. We'll see if I can keep it up.

Random :: This book looks like it's going to be amazing! (via Paper Forest)

Have a great weekend!

simple prints, loads of fun

I've printed using linoleum blocks but never potatoes. It's such a simple technique and yet I had never tried it. My chance came around because Rae Grant's lovely book, Crafting Fun: 101 Things to Make and Do with Kids, inspired us to give it a try.

We cut out some random shapes and the kids jumped right in with the printing. Little C had a hard time holding the potatoes because they kept slipping out of her hand. So, I stuck a pair of toothpicks in each one to make it easier for her.

Things got a bit messy (part of the fun!), but I could tell the kids were enjoying themselves. They said something about using their prints to decorate cards for their grandparents—not a bad idea at all. So, I think that will be our next step. For now, we can't eat at our kitchen table, because all our artwork is drying on it.

We also printed simple designs on a set of white napkins and matching tablecloth. As soon as I finish the endless amount of ironing I'll have to do, in order to set the ink, I'll show you how everything turned out.

Tomorrow we're going to tackle a recipe in Rae's Cooking Fun: 121 Simple Recipes to Make with Kids book. Predictably the kids want to try something from the dessert chapter.

What I really like about Rae's books is the fact that all the projects and recipes are very simple and easy to follow. There are no big set ups or complicated materials/ingredients to buy. In addition, most of the pages contain vintage illustrations of the 20's and 30's, which add so much to their charm. We will definitely be putting these books to good use.

By the way, our wrapping paper is still hanging on the wall. I'm so tempted of adding a simple rod at the top and bottom to keep it there as artwork. We'll see.

• • •

Thank you so much for your kind message and emails regarding my book. I'm so touched by all your support. If you're interested in purchasing a book directly from me, please stay tuned for details.

what I got in the mail today

I've waited for today to come for a long time. It's finally here. I don't know exactly what to say and I find myself unexpectedly choked up a bit. All I can coherently say is that I'm really happy and proud. I think I just need a quiet moment to sit and read it as if it were the first time I laid eyes on it.

So. Very. Happy.

Home, Paper, Scissors
can be pre-ordered now. It will be published on August 18th of this year.

• • •

Thank you Natalie for posting our homemade paper project on Craft yesterday!

homemade wrapping paper

So the summer has officially started in this household. The kids finished school last week and today we tackled our first small project for the summer. We decorated butcher paper that I had on hand and turned it into wrapping paper. It was an extremely easy project and it didn't take that long to do at all.

I spread the roll over our kitchen island, letting it hang down the sides. It was a great surface for all of us to work on, because we weren't in each others way and we could walk around the table as needed. My little C just needed a small chair to be at a comfortable height.

I love how crayons strokes look. They seem so sincere and authentic, if that makes sense.

My original plan was to use only orange and/or yellow, but the kids wanted to add more colors. They wanted to use green right off the bat but I explained a little about thinking out of the box, so we started with yellow. Once we got going, I had them take turns deciding what color we should work with. I drew, they colored and we love the results, although my favorite (as I predicted) are the orange/yellow leaves. How about the look for wallpaper?

me/marker + kids/crayons

• • •

Thank you so much for sharing all your accomplishments in my giveaway post. I'm amazed by all that you have done. I was struck by the thought that too often we admire what others have done and don't realize that we need to acknowledge our own hard work too. So hats off to all of us!

The winner of the framed flower is: Jeff
The winners of the printables are: Stitchinscience, Heather and Busy Vee.
Congratulations to all the winners. Please contact me at info at alittlehut dot com so I can send you your goodies.